If you have been listening to our English listening practice podcasts for a while, you will often hear me complain about the illogical rules the English language uses. It is a source of frustration for many new English language learners. And I share that frustration.
Well, today I’m going to turn that view of the English language on its head and take the opposite view. Hopefully, this will show you that just like any other language, English has its straightforward parts and its hard parts to learn.
So how easy to learn is English compared to say European languages? Well, you're going to have to listen to the podcast find that out!
If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.
⭐ Doug Larson, Journalist
Also, just a quick thank you to all those who have reviewed or given us a star rating on your podcast apps. If you like us and like what we do here at Adept English, please take a few seconds to rate us. This will help other listeners find out about us.
Frustration Gender Logical Celebrate Apostrophe Conjugation
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Hi I’m Hilary and welcome to this podcast from Adept English, helping you to learn English and become fluent in the English language.
How about today I do a podcast, which will help you practise your vocabulary for the basics of grammar in English? Often I talk in podcasts about what’s difficult about learning English – and the concept of Rule Six of the Seven Rules of Adept English – the idea of the ‘Helping Hand’ of Adept English and why that’s needed. Well today, instead of talking as we usually do, about ‘what’s difficult to learn in English’, how about we celebrate what’s easy about English instead?
Compared to other European languages, there are some parts of English which are really, really easy to learn. So look out in this podcast for all those words, all that vocabulary about grammar. They’re useful words and they help you with the definitions of key grammar concepts or ‘parts of speech’, we sometimes call them. They will help your English language learning as well as your knowledge of English grammar. Being fluent and being able to speak English is our main aim, but it will help you to understand the grammar that underpins the English language and to be able to talk about that too.
I mentioned the Seven Rules of Adept English there, didn’t I? Well, just a reminder, if you’re a new listener and you haven’t yet done our free course, The Seven Rules of Adept English, you can go to our website at adeptenglish.com and sign up for this free course straight away.
This course gives you the secrets of learning a language so that you become fluent – that’s FLUENT. Really important information then!
Well, in many European languages, words change and mutate, depending upon how they’re being used. So nouns and adjectives and pronouns change according to their position in the sentence, their number and their gender. And today we’re talking about ‘what’s easy about the English language?’ So in English, we don’t really use gender in the same way. So gender, GENDER is whether something is masculine or feminine. So in English, if we’re talking about a man or boy or a male animal, we say ‘he’ – so the masculine form, that’s its ‘gender’. If we’re talking about a woman, a girl or a female animal, it’s ‘she’, the feminine form – and everything else, including all non-living objects are ‘it’, neuter.
So nouns don’t really have a gender in English, other than the gender the thing actually has! The only exception is when people call a ship ‘she’ – and it wouldn’t be wrong even here, to say ‘it’ instead. But in many European languages, nouns, words even for inanimate, that means ‘non-living’ objects have a gender. They’re masculine or feminine and in some languages, they can even have a neuter gender too. So for example, in Italian ‘una finestra’ is a window – and that’s feminine, so is ‘una porta’, a door. But ‘un muro’ a wall – is masculine.
Why is a window or a door feminine, but a wall is masculine? I don’t know. It’s not logical, but you just have to learn them! And in many European languages, adjectives change too depending upon the noun that they’re describing – whether it’s singular or plural, whether it’s masculine or feminine and or as I said for some languages, neuter too. So in French for example, if you’re using adjectives, then you need to know what the gender is of the noun you’re describing – and whether it’s singular or plural. So if your adjective is describing a masculine noun and there are more than one, you must put an ‘s’ at the end of the adjective as well as at the end of the noun.
A photograph of a facade with a door and window. As we as the question, why do some languages use gender for objects?
If it’s feminine noun, you add an ‘e’ at the end of the adjective – and if it’s a feminine noun and more than one, then you must add ‘es’ onto the end of the adjective. This kind of thing really doesn’t happen in English – the adjective just stays the same – much easier! In some European languages, nouns change their ending or their article, that’s the ‘the’ or ‘a’ part of the sentence, depending upon whether they’re the subject of the sentence, the object of the sentence or playing some other role in the sentence. For example in German, ‘Der Mann’ means ‘the man’ if it’s the subject of the sentence, but if you wanted to say ‘I see the man’, it would be ‘Ich sehe den Mann’.
So the ‘der Mann’ becomes ‘den Mann’ because it’s the object of the sentence. In Greek, the nouns themselves alter their endings, depending upon whether they’re singular or plural and which part of the sentence they’re in. Where nouns and adjectives change their form, that’s called ‘a declension’ or we would say they ‘decline’. So English nouns and adjectives hardly decline at all – most just stay the same. An exception might be something like ‘child’ and ‘children’ – but those words are quite rare in English.
As I’ve told you previously, my first degree was in Latin, LATIN. And Latin is an ancient and dead language, but the basis of many European languages. And the benefit in learning it, is in that you really have to understand grammar to understand Latin. And the challenge of the Latin language is that the word forms change all the time. But Latin is entirely consistent, so learning Latin is like learning a ‘discipline’ – it’s very logical. In my experience, many people who study Latin go on to be computer programmers, as I was for a time – there’s a link there, they’re similar activities. But Latin is seen as difficult because the nouns and adjectives all decline – they all change. As an example, just the word ‘this’ THIS in Latin – as in ‘this boy’ or ‘this book’.
The word for ‘this’ in Latin ‘hic haec hoc’ – and it has no fewer than 36 forms, which you just have to learn. At the end of this podcast, I’ll say them for you for a bit of fun. You might know them if you learned Latin but they do sound ridiculous and when I was at school, the only way of learning these things, was by reciting them in class, saying them over and over again, rather like you do with times tables – one two is two, two twos are four, three twos are six etc.
Anyone who’s learned Latin will know ‘Amo Amas Amat, Amamus, Amatis, Amant’. So Latin words take quite a lot of learning because of their changes in form. And that’s part of the challenge, that discipline. But actually, we manage perfectly well in English, with our unchanging words. So a simple, four letter word ‘this’, THIS which doesn’t change at all – is perfectly adequate! So take a moment to be happy that you just have to learn ‘this’ – one word, in English!
In English, usually the only thing that happens to nouns, their only ‘declension’ if you like, is that they get an S on the end for the plural and an apostrophe ‘S for possession – so if you say ‘the man’s dog’, meaning the dog which belongs to the man – it’s apostrophe S. And adjectives don’t change at all – they just remain the same, whatever they are describing – ‘the large shoe, the large shoes, the large man, the large women, the large feet’.
It doesn’t really matter, it stays the same, LARGE. ‘The’ and ‘a’ don’t change either – they’re always the same – the only variation is that you have to say ‘an’, AN when the noun begins with a vowel. So an apple, an orange and a banana.
And when verbs forms change, we call that ‘to conjugate’ or a ‘conjugation’. So in many European languages, you have to put lots of effort into learning the verbs and the patterns and the endings for the verbs. French, German, Italian, Spanish – if you’re learning these languages, you spend a long time on verbs, and on the irregular verbs.
Of course, English verbs are challenging in that there are quite a lot of tenses and there’s complexity in how you use them. And we have irregular ones of course, which you have to learn. But the actual verb conjugation is so easy – for the present tense, you just have to remember to put an S on the end for the ‘he, she or it’ forms – like ‘I eat, but he eats, I dance, but she dances’.
The perfect tense in English – I placed, you placed, he/she/it placed, we placed, they placed. Once you’ve arrived at the word ‘placed’, PLACED, there’s not a lot of conjugation going there, is there?! Whereas in French – ‘Ooh, does the verb take avoir, or être? Is the participle regular?’ In French – J’ai mis, tu as mis, il a mis, elle a mis, nous avons mis, vous avez mis, ils ont mis, elles ont mis. Much more complicated!
So there are challenges in learning English grammar, and in learning English overall – it’s not the easiest language. But let’s take a moment today just to enjoy the fact that some bits of English grammar are what we might call ‘easy peasy’. You don’t have to worry about them. And if you listen on, after the end of this podcast, I’ll give you the ridiculousness of the Latin language in the form of ‘hic haec hoc’ – the word ‘this’.
If you’ve done Latin yourself, you might know it – so please join in with me! I’ve also included in the transcript, the word for ‘this’ in German - ‘diese’, so that you can see that declension and word mutation - happens in modern languages too. Hopefully this podcast has given you some vocabulary for the basics of grammar in English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.