Language Articles

The English language.

Double click on any word to listen to the pronunciation.

 


 

If I ask my children to do something a lot of different things may happen: They could do it , they might do it, they ought to do it, they must do it, they should do it.


 

Learning English can be so much fun, but those pesky little prepositions are often very tricky. They may be small and seem like no big deal to look at, but they can get on your nerves, get you into trouble and can mean the difference between: going with your friend for lunch or having your friend for lunch! Yuck!

 

There is an old fairy story, from France I think, about a princess who kisses a frog and he turns out to be a handsome prince. Out of this has developed the adage, 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs, before you find your prince'. In other words you will get what you want if you persist, but getting there might not be that pleasant.

 

My grandson had a great time over Christmas, being loved, hugged and given lots of presents. He is however only a few months old, so he won’t be able to remember it. Here’s hoping some of his presents last a while, so that he will at least have something to keep as a memento of such a special day.

A haircut?

The hedge needs a haircut.

As far as correct English is concerned this sentence ‘The hedge needs a haircut.’ although grammatically correct, does not make sense. Hedges grow leaves and twigs rather than hair, yet when I said it to my husband on Sunday morning he understood and replied ‘O.K. I’ll do it tomorrow.’, and a few minutes ago he came in and announced, ’I’ve done the hedge", and the fact is, even if he had said ‘I’ve given the hedge a haircut’, we would both have understood exactly what he meant.

In a survey conducted by Time Magazine in 2013, people were asked to vote on the most overused words, the top 3 were: Twerk, Selfie and Passion.

If I were asked to come up with a perfect word, there would probably be a different word every day, but one of them would definitely be ‘serendipity’, which means coming across something good very unexpectedly.  However, there are other words I’m not so fond of: I.M.O. ‘Nice’ is overused and so is ‘very’, even though they didn't feature in the survey.

Even new born babies soon learn to communicate.  They return smiles, they giggle and wave, and then comes the gobbledegook – the practise sounds that all babies try out.

After all, they’ve been able to hear for quite a while: 18 weeks after conception. So, they grab at their chance to try out all the things they've been hearing, all those sounds.


We’ve just been badly let down. Really I am furious, but can do nothing except be polite and wish them well. We had great plans and now there is nothing. I feel as low as can be, but at least experience tells me that something good will turn up soon.

We all get these frustrations from time to time  - exam results we weren’t anticipating, or perhaps something even more serious, a broken relationship, or a lost job.

 

Maybe you're new to computers. Maybe you're new to using an Instant Message program. Maybe you're wondering what your children are saying online, but it's all written in some weird looking code!

 

A correspondent of mine recently had this to say: I'm appalled at the increasing use of less when fewer would be more appropriate. I was taught that if you could count them (people at a meeting) you used "fewer"; if you couldn't count it (sugar) you used "less."

It seems that the trend is to use less for everything. ... I can't wrap myself around using "less" when "fewer" seems so right to me. She asked me to comment.

The traditional rule is indeed to use "fewer" with things that can be counted.

 

There are some words which even native English speakers can find confusing and on occasion get muddled. They may have very similar spellings or pronunciation or perhaps have very similar meanings. 

Stationary and Stationery . The first refers to remaining still and the second to paper goods for writing.

Personnel and Personal. The first is often called Human Resources these days and refers to the staff and those who deal with them – those who engage and fire staff, those who deal with difficulties and arrange holiday rotas etc. The second is to do with what belongs to an individual; his personal affairs.

Nought and Naught. These both mean nothing, but the first refers specifically to the figure zero.

Then there are singulars and plurals. Do you know the plural of the words on the next page?