Previous Next

I went to Paris to take a 4-week intensive TEFL course, not without hubris. Of course I could get a certification to teach English as a second language. I know what a gerund is. Misplaced modifiers make me giggle. The English language is one thing — the only thing — I am good at (though I was just about to end that sentence with a preposition). Teaching English would be cake, a Madagascar vanilla bean cake with bourbon glaze, metaphors and hyperboles and polysendetons.

Um, no.

It is nerve-wracking to watch a group of adult language learners look at you like you have the power to get them that job promotion or bilingual savvy, when all you do is ask them to repeat “soccer” after you, or mime stabbing the air with an imaginary knife to elicit the word “anger.” It’s even more nerve-wracking to teach a set of rules you don’t really know yourself. What is the difference between “may” and “might”? I may improvise and figure it out, stammering my thought process in front of the class, or I might die of embarrassment. I may be exaggerating.

Native English speakers know the rules taught in an ESL class by instinct, making the terminology even more difficult to process. (Seriously, have you ever heard of a lexical verb?) So here are 4 rules / guidelines that are pretty useless to know if you already speak good English.

1. Adjective order

When you use more than one adjective in a sentence, they need to follow the order of this acronym: OSACOMP. It sounds like a computer algorithm, and feels just as frustrating. You can’t just say, “I bought a new, beautiful, leather, big black work bag.” The Opinion needs to come first. Then Size, followed by Age, Color, and Origin. Finally, Material and Purpose. So, “I bought a beautiful, big, new, black leather work bag.” Because that makes all the difference.

There were only two other people in my class, and they both seemed to find OSACOMP equally useless. Cassie was an outdoorsy, almost pathologically optimistic post-grad from Los Angeles, and Liza was an American expat who had recently finished nine years in the military. Cassie flinched every time Liza or I said “fuck,” which happened often. Liza’s arms were covered in tattoos of penguins on a cerulean background, but there was also a black rhino and land buffalo in that tattoo ocean. “Endangered animals,” she said, as I thought about how it sort of looked like a children’s duvet cover. Our annoyance with adjectival order was the only thing we all had in common.

Though we didn’t realize it then, OSACOMP does make sense. It’s the reason we say “big, red house” instead of “red, big house.” When adjectives are out of this order, it just sounds wrong, but foreign language learners don’t know that. Despite this, Cassie, Liza, and I continued to grumble that it was pointless. We felt cheated, like our native language was keeping secrets from us.

2. The phonemic script

It looks like this. Each symbol corresponds to a sound you’d make when speaking English. They are those weird symbols that show up next to each word in the dictionary. The “j” sound looks like / ʤ / and the “y” sound looks like / j /. And that’s not even half as misleading as English spelling.

For example, did you know that “ghoti” is an alternate spelling of the word “fish”? Gh = the “f” sound in “enough.” “O” = the “i” sound in “women.” “Ti” = the “sh” sound in “fiction.” A man named Alexander Ellis calculated 81,997,920 potential ways to spell the word “scissors,” including schiesourrhce. He later admitted to exaggerating, but still, spelling can be confusing, and the phonemic script helps students learn how to pronounce words without being tripped up by their spellings. “Fish” and “ghoti” and every other possible spelling will all look like / f ɪ ʃ / in phonemic symbols.

To practice, our trainer gave us each two identical sheets of paper with the phonemic script and told us to cut up the letters from one of the papers and use the other as a reference. We were to use the cut-up symbols as flash cards for tomorrow’s class. I didn’t think to bring a pair of schiesourrhce to Paris, so I shredded each letter by hand. Cassie did have a pair of scissors, but she cut up the phonemic script from both sheets of paper — a flurry of ʧ’s and ʤ’s and æ’s and ɜ:’s and θ’s. My flash cards looked like Corn Flakes. While most other 22-year-olds in Paris were having the time of their lives on Rue de la Roquette, Cassie and I were curled over our desks past 3am cutting up an oral alphabet. Wrong.

3. Transitive and intransitive verbs / direct and indirect objects

You probably learned these in 7th grade, but since you gain nothing by pointing them out in sentences (“Hey man, can I intransitively crash on your indirect sofa?”), they lie in the recesses of your memory, not resentful that you’ve forgotten them.

“Nikkitha, can you give me an example of a direct object?” asked our trainer.

“I…err…killed…someone.”

It was obvious I’d stayed up watching Pretty Little Liars instead of doing the required reading. In any case, “someone” is the direct object because the action is being done directly to it, and when you have a direct object, you have a transitive verb (“killed”). When a preposition precedes an object, it’s an indirect object. For example, “He slept on the sofa.” Since the action isn’t being done to the sofa, it’s an intransitive verb.

It seems simple enough, but when applied to complex sentences, they make you question your sanity. Liza struggled with the concept, and every time she’d get a question wrong, she would spew her customary, “Ah, for fuck’s sake!” She never said the word “yes” as much as she said “oh yeah” or some variation of “duh.” (Once, when I asked if she wanted to get fondue, she matter-of-factly replied, “Did the bear shit in the woods?”)

Our trainer continued explaining transitive verbs. “So, what did he do to the sofa?”

We all burst into raucous laughter, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was dirty. Maybe we’d been in class for seven hours when we would have rather spent our day drinking kir royales by the Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe in a weird, Breakfast Club-y way, we were all suddenly the kind of good friends who laughed about nothing in particular.

4. Why we order “the” lobster but “a” cappuccino

We order “the” lobster because we are clearly referring to the lobster on the menu, not “a” lobster somewhere out there in the world. When we order a cappuccino, we’re referring to the specific cappuccino on the menu (assuming there’s only one kind), yet we still say “a” cappuccino instead of “the.” Why?

In all honesty, I don’t know. If there’s one thing I learned in my TEFL class, more than phonemic symbols or present perfect continuous tense, it’s that it is okay to admit you don’t know. I thought I knew Cassie and Liza just from noticing how they were different from me. Ego drove my initial apathy toward these unfamiliar rules, and my completely inaccurate judgments of two people who are far shrewder than their big smile or penguin tattoos indicate.

I won’t leave you hanging on the cappuccino question like that, though. Here’s a theory: Unlike lobster dishes, cappuccinos are on most menus, so we’re not asking for some kind of specific house cappuccino. In fact, most people would get upset if they wanted their regular (or “a” wet or “a” dry) cappuccino and found it had angostura bitters in it. It’s like how you’d go to a diner and get “an order of eggs, over easy,” as that’s clearly not a unique dish. This theory of mine has no official backing, but I’ll roll with it.

ESL Teaching

 

About The Author

Nikkitha Bakshani

Nikkitha is a freelance writer/editor based in New York City. She graduated from Skidmore College in 2012 and is a student at MatadorU. She is a regular contributor to Design42Day magazine, and in her free time, is a playwright and essayist. When she travels, she writes about it, and even when she doesn’t, she writes about it on her blog.

  • Kathy Amen

    You learn something every day. As a fairly arrogant English major, I’m chagrined that I had never heard of OSACOMP. It will definitely come in handy if I’m needing to explain this wonderful but ridiculous language to someone someday!

  • Kathy Amen

    You learn something every day. As a fairly arrogant English major, I’m chagrined that I had never heard of OSACOMP. It will definitely come in handy if I’m needing to explain this wonderful but ridiculous language to someone someday!

    • Damien Lavizzo

      It’s weird – if you admit you’re arrogant, that makes you slightly self-deprecating which is not truly arrogant. But you’re being self deprecating by admitting that you’re arrogant…which makes you arrogant. I’m not sure if this is a trick of the language or our own psyche…

  • Hugo McGlinchey

    I explain to students that we say “a” cappuccino/coke/beer and so on because we are lazy and drop the use of the container word between i.e. “cup of”, “bottle of” or “can of”.

  • Hugo McGlinchey

    I explain to students that we say “a” cappuccino/coke/beer and so on because we are lazy and drop the use of the container word between i.e. “cup of”, “bottle of” or “can of”.

    • Erick Caron

      After 11 and a half years I still feel like I’m teaching “a” every day. I think that’s why most expats feel that time flies here.

    • David Berg

      “a” beer? I usually go for “a couple” of them.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

    • Craig Cross

      Cappuccino implies its own size and vessel – one standard coffee cup. Anything else requires the purchaser to specify the size, e.g. half or large, take away or have here. If the seller does some weird bullshit like puts it in a glass, then they need to tell the customer, cos a true coffee snob wouldn’t put up with that crap.

  • Hugo McGlinchey

    I explain to students that we say “a” cappuccino/coke/beer and so on because we are lazy and drop the use of the container word between i.e. “cup of”, “bottle of” or “can of”.

  • Carlo Alcos

    The most entertaining piece of English education I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

  • Dee Wood

    Loved the article! That is about the size of the English language! It is difficult at best not just for foreigners but for the educated native speakers as well. I taught Human Comm. at a local college for 20 years and most of the students had problems writing the English language. Some of the other professors, in other departments , also had trouble with the language. One can’t know enough!

  • Conrad Zagory

    Thanks to articles such as this, I am now better able to speak a well English.

  • Chris Perrin

    Your specificity argument makes sense. I was thinking about it and I’d say “the xxx” whenever I have a menu in hand and I am pointing to a specific dish whereas I’d use “a xxx” whenever I’m ordering off a large/distant menu. Good call.

    • Andy Hausback

      I feel like #4 is reaching.

    • Chris Perrin

      I think she’s right about the specificity, but perhaps slightly askew with the details. Normally when you order lobster, you are holding a menu pointing at a specific meal. With “a”, you don’t have a personalized menu you are specifically holding so you use the more generic term.

    • Dominic Russell

      I think the specificity argument is relevant, but possibly in reverse. How often would the lobster be served on its own? In contrast, ‘a cappuccino’ describes the entire menu item. “The lobster” can not be a definite article in the context of restaurant menus (for example there may be more than one lobster dish available) and the sentence “I’ll have the lobster” seems truncated.

    • Dominic Russell

      I think the specificity argument is relevant, but possibly in reverse. How often would the lobster be served on its own? In contrast, ‘a cappuccino’ describes the entire menu item. “The lobster” can not be a definite article in the context of restaurant menus (for example there may be more than one lobster dish available) and the sentence “I’ll have the lobster” seems truncated.

  • Rogers George

    Loved the article. Gotta memorize that acronym. That was new to me, and I like it. I also work with a lot of furriners (as a tech writer) so it’ll help me when they ask questions. I gotta disagree with the indirect object item, though. The preposition makes an adverbial phrase. You need a direct object to have an indirect object. So “him” is an IO here: “I gave him a hammer.” Hammer being the DO, of course. (If you could put in a “to” but don’t, it’s an indirect object.) harrumpf. Okay, now O,S,A,C,O,M…

    • Ann Swanson

      I would have grouped “big” with “black leather work bag”: “a beautiful , new, big black leather work bag”. Wrong?

  • Ronda Mohler Bowman

    This was fun, and I had never heard quite that detailed a system for adjectives, but the definition of indirect object is wrong. In the example above, ‘sofa’ is actually the object *of the preposition.* An indirect object is when a word has an understood but unstated ‘to’ or ‘for.’ For example, in the sentence “I gave her the keys,” keys is the direct object (the thing being given,) while the word *her* is the indirect object because the keys were given TO her. Another example is the word ‘him’ in “I got him a gift.”

    • Nikkitha Bakshani

      Ah, the plot thickens! Thanks for your insight – I’m constantly astounded by how fascinating these rules are.

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

    • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

      So much more challenging then you might think..to teach English!

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

  • Cathy Nielsen-Kolding

    The, A and An are Articles (a part of speech). You use THE when you know, or have already been introduced to the object..but, use A or An, when it is introduced to you for the first time. Also, when you use A, it goes with a singular noun, and AN with a noun that begins with a vowel (meaning..any vowel.) lol. We can easily speak this language, but it is sometimes confusing breaking it down and teaching it as a second, or new language!

  • Enginer Somer

    Last year I finished a intensive English course and sometimes the teacher asked me to explain to the class some grammars, OMG I always got kinda freaked. The other day I went to greet my last teacher and kidding I told her ¨I came to enroll again¨ then she told me ¨no, come to help me teaching¨ I just gave a look into the classroom saying ¨no no is ok, thanks¨.

  • Enginer Somer

    Last year I finished a intensive English course and sometimes the teacher asked me to explain to the class some grammars, OMG I always got kinda freaked. The other day I went to greet my last teacher and kidding I told her ¨I came to enroll again¨ then she told me ¨no, come to help me teaching¨ I just gave a look into the classroom saying ¨no no is ok, thanks¨.

  • Abel Molina

    Yeah, I think for pretty much all languages, native speakers have much less explicit awareness of the rules. Also, computer algorithms can be very fun to play with, hundreds of thousands of people do that (at http://www.spoj.com, e.g.)

  • Abel Molina

    Yeah, I think for pretty much all languages, native speakers have much less explicit awareness of the rules. Also, computer algorithms can be very fun to play with, hundreds of thousands of people do that (at http://www.spoj.com, e.g.)

  • Samra Jones Bufkins

    This is a terrific article, brought to my attention by one of my journalism students. I had never heard of OSACOMP, but it’s an awesome tool I’ll use because I have the occasional foreign-born student in my classes. I had never heard of transitive and intransitive verbs until I was doing a total immersion Spanish course in Mexico, which is proof that learning a foreign language will help us learn English better.

    • Anne Harding

      This article has helped me see that I never want to teach an English as a Second Language course.

    • Carolyn Criswell Fouse

      I love articles like this. I assume you have “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” – a very good read with tons of laughs. Meanwhile, I am for the return of required Latin!

    • Carolyn Criswell Fouse

      I love articles like this. I assume you have “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” – a very good read with tons of laughs. Meanwhile, I am for the return of required Latin!

  • Anonymous

    A thought about the articles: we order “the” lobster, (definite article) because we are referring to a specific item on the menu (understood from prior context, i.e. the menu). We order “a” cappuccino because as someone has pointed out below, it’s an indefinite article (which are things that can be counted, or placed into a quantity). Nice article!

  • Sejo Ostaugu

    Well, I don´t care, really, about it, or I really don´t care about it, but the thing about “the lobster and the capuccino” is a very common situation; We ask for a beer but usually not for a wine or the wine. I order wine, I order a red wine, I order the red wine… as you can see, each one is possible. Although, as a non-native english speaker I can´t think about so many rules when I speak, I just do it ;) sorry about mistakes ;).

  • Sejo Ostaugu

    Well, I don´t care, really, about it, or I really don´t care about it, but the thing about “the lobster and the capuccino” is a very common situation; We ask for a beer but usually not for a wine or the wine. I order wine, I order a red wine, I order the red wine… as you can see, each one is possible. Although, as a non-native english speaker I can´t think about so many rules when I speak, I just do it ;) sorry about mistakes ;).

  • Sejo Ostaugu

    Well, I don´t care, really, about it, or I really don´t care about it, but the thing about “the lobster and the capuccino” is a very common situation; We ask for a beer but usually not for a wine or the wine. I order wine, I order a red wine, I order the red wine… as you can see, each one is possible. Although, as a non-native english speaker I can´t think about so many rules when I speak, I just do it ;) sorry about mistakes ;).

  • Sejo Ostaugu

    Well, I don´t care, really, about it, or I really don´t care about it, but the thing about “the lobster and the capuccino” is a very common situation; We ask for a beer but usually not for a wine or the wine. I order wine, I order a red wine, I order the red wine… as you can see, each one is possible. Although, as a non-native english speaker I can´t think about so many rules when I speak, I just do it ;) sorry about mistakes ;).

  • Steph Gerard

    Yes, I do know transitive and intransitive, may and might, can and may, lie and lay, fish and ghoti. Some of us were paying attention in grade school. Here’s a distorted use of a transitive verb: She grieved her husband’s death. You cannot grieve directly an object; you grieve for or about or over something. Same with impact: you cannot impact something (unless you’re operating a pile driver and impacting dirt, or you have an impacted tooth). Otherwise, impact is a noun.

  • Steph Gerard

    Yes, I do know transitive and intransitive, may and might, can and may, lie and lay, fish and ghoti. Some of us were paying attention in grade school. Here’s a distorted use of a transitive verb: She grieved her husband’s death. You cannot grieve directly an object; you grieve for or about or over something. Same with impact: you cannot impact something (unless you’re operating a pile driver and impacting dirt, or you have an impacted tooth). Otherwise, impact is a noun.

  • Steph Gerard

    Yes, I do know transitive and intransitive, may and might, can and may, lie and lay, fish and ghoti. Some of us were paying attention in grade school. Here’s a distorted use of a transitive verb: She grieved her husband’s death. You cannot grieve directly an object; you grieve for or about or over something. Same with impact: you cannot impact something (unless you’re operating a pile driver and impacting dirt, or you have an impacted tooth). Otherwise, impact is a noun.

  • Ed Horch

    Articles a re a complete mess. For example, if I’m traveling from Parsippany, NJ to Newark, I’ll take “280″. However, if I’m traveling from San Francisco to San Jose, I’ll take “the 280″. In either place, saying the opposite sounds weird.

    • Peg Anderson Swearingen

      That is how they figured out the villain in a book I just read. He called a reporter to give a false tip and said “the 35w” instead of “35w”. Nobody says it that way around here.

    • Laura La Gassa

      If you say “the 280″ near San Francisco, people assume you’re from Southern California where they put “the” in front of the freeway names. I have the “the” habit because I lived with a SoCalian when I first moved out here.

    • MaryLynn Alder Hodshire

      In Chicago we either say the express or toll way number (e.g. I-88 or 290) without “the” or “the Kennedy, the Eisenhower, the Bishop Ford, etc. if it is a named super highway. Then again, if it is a surface street, it is refered to simply by its name – Roosevelt Road, Ogden Avenue, etc. – no “the”. No idea why……. But, you can always tell a persone is a stranger if they refer to it differently.

  • Ed Horch

    Articles a re a complete mess. For example, if I’m traveling from Parsippany, NJ to Newark, I’ll take “280″. However, if I’m traveling from San Francisco to San Jose, I’ll take “the 280″. In either place, saying the opposite sounds weird.

  • King Rhoton

    I believe we usually say “big, red house” instead of “red, big house” because we’re seldom talking about a red jail….

    • Louise Shippey

      depends on context ALWAYS. despcriptive, not prescriptive….so you’re right. it depends on what we’re talking about

    • Louise Shippey

      depends on context ALWAYS. despcriptive, not prescriptive….so you’re right. it depends on what we’re talking about

  • King Rhoton

    I believe we usually say “big, red house” instead of “red, big house” because we’re seldom talking about a red jail….

  • Anonymous

    last tuesday I got a brand new Maserati since getting a cheque for $7061 this last four weeks and-also, ten k last month. this is certainly the easiest job Ive ever done. I began this seven months/ago and immediately started earning more than $74 per-hour. I use this website, FAB33.COM.

  • Anonymous

    last tuesday I got a brand new Maserati since getting a cheque for $7061 this last four weeks and-also, ten k last month. this is certainly the easiest job Ive ever done. I began this seven months/ago and immediately started earning more than $74 per-hour. I use this website, FAB33.COM.

  • Tere Estudillo

    I’m an English as a FOreign Language teacher but I’m not a native speaker, I started learning English when I was 5 years old and sometimes things just sound wrong and I cannot remember the rules..helpful! I will tag my native speakers friends who are teachers!

  • Tere Estudillo

    I’m an English as a FOreign Language teacher but I’m not a native speaker, I started learning English when I was 5 years old and sometimes things just sound wrong and I cannot remember the rules..helpful! I will tag my native speakers friends who are teachers!

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

    • John D. Mercer

      Comes from Latin, which, as in Spanish, and many other Roma

    • John D. Mercer

      Romance languages, doesn’t allow for such foolishness. haha

    • Mark M Webster

      Don’t you mean “with which to end a sentence”? ;-P

    • Tom Brophy

      wrt ending a sentence with preposition, I believe it was Winston Churchill who remarked that “This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put” :-)

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Laoi An Cú

    You realize there is no reason we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s a made-up rule that, according to one linguist I’ve talked to, comes from a playwright who wanted to discredit Shakespear. I don’t know if that’s true, but a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with.

  • Leandro Pereira

    in my language (portuguese) adjectives may have an order too, but I don’t know. OSACOMP may apply too. The rule is different, the subject comes first, then the adjectives “house red” or “house big”. If the adjective comes first, like ‘red house’, it works too, but you are maybe trying do to poetry. If you would like to say red and big, seems that the most common comes first – maybe the one that can make another substantif. Like “house big” can become a “mansion”, you should say “house big red”. Nice post.

    • Louise Shippey

      depends on context ALWAYS. despcriptive, not prescriptive….so you’re right. it depends on what we’re talking about

  • Juliana Escribano

    Hi! :) I usually tell my students to memorize “OSATS.COM”, as if it were a website –> Opinion, Size, Age, Temperature, Shape, Color, Origin, Material. And now there is Purpose, too! Thanks! Loved the new input, although it kinda ruined my fake website, haha! ;)

  • Juliana Escribano

    Hi! :) I usually tell my students to memorize “OSATS.COM”, as if it were a website –> Opinion, Size, Age, Temperature, Shape, Color, Origin, Material. And now there is Purpose, too! Thanks! Loved the new input, although it kinda ruined my fake website, haha! ;)

  • Carissa Peck

    I constantly tell my students when to use the is much harder than anyone has every told them. Anyone that says it is easy is lying to them or ignorant.

  • Live English Program

    That shows that being a native speaker, or an arrogant major as someone here said, does not mean to be an English expert. Sometimes it takes more passion and constant work/research than degrees and certifications to master something.

    A birth certificate or university degrees are not enough to show the intricacies of the language. A foreigner with passion for the language he/she is learning can more easily understand and explain its subtleties than a native speaker can do. How come? Because of the way and the reasons why he/she has learned that.

    A foreigner’s and a native speaker’s purpose to learning English differ completely. And the teaching is done differently, as well. Foreign ESL teachers who learned well the language (and constantly do their ‘homework’) can be far more precise and accurate in their explanations than native speakers, because the latter takes the language for granted. The foreigner doesn’t, and learns it more deeply. Because the foreigner who loves English and want to excel on it compares, analyses, asks questions and seeks answers. The native speaker does not usually seek answers because he/she grew up with the language and has no questions. His language view is more limited that the foreigner’s.

    Is this deep learning and understanding of the language useful in day to day life? No, it’s not – NOT for a native speaker! But it’s very useful for ESL learners, thus it’s very useful for those who call themselves an ESL teacher, or aspire to be one of great quality.

  • Live English Program

    That shows that being a native speaker, or an arrogant major as someone here said, does not mean to be an English expert. Sometimes it takes more passion and constant work/research than degrees and certifications to master something.

    A birth certificate or university degrees are not enough to show the intricacies of the language. A foreigner with passion for the language he/she is learning can more easily understand and explain its subtleties than a native speaker can do. How come? Because of the way and the reasons why he/she has learned that.

    A foreigner’s and a native speaker’s purpose to learning English differ completely. And the teaching is done differently, as well. Foreign ESL teachers who learned well the language (and constantly do their ‘homework’) can be far more precise and accurate in their explanations than native speakers, because the latter takes the language for granted. The foreigner doesn’t, and learns it more deeply. Because the foreigner who loves English and want to excel on it compares, analyses, asks questions and seeks answers. The native speaker does not usually seek answers because he/she grew up with the language and has no questions. His language view is more limited that the foreigner’s.

    Is this deep learning and understanding of the language useful in day to day life? No, it’s not – NOT for a native speaker! But it’s very useful for ESL learners, thus it’s very useful for those who call themselves an ESL teacher, or aspire to be one of great quality.

  • http://www.seriouslyspain.com/ Seriously Spain

    Wow, I’m a writer and I just have to say this article was beautifully written. Made me laugh and made me think. You have a very nice way of writing. Write more :)

Take a deep breath and accept this is how things work here.
Thinking about funding your travels by teaching English in Asia? Here's what you need to...
Starting from scratch with few or no contacts can be daunting, but it is definitely...
A variety of options for EFL teachers, with pros and cons for each.
You didn’t earn this privilege; you simply hit the linguistic lottery.
The following 10 places are among the best in the world for finding work, making a...
How can I ever learn another language when I can barely master my own?
He spoke loud and clear, “Whitney is the fattest person in our class.”
How teaching English language courses in the U.S. broadens cultural perspective, changes...