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Why English is such a Weird and Complex Language to Learn

English may be one of the most difficult languages to learn.  This is partly—maybe even largely—because of all its subtle grammar rules. Native English speakers, of course, are not even aware of all the strange—and sometimes downright silly—characteristics of the English language.  When you study English through the Institut Linguistique classes, then, you will quite likely encounter quite a few of these.

With that in mind, then, here are three English grammar rules (that you may not have even realized was, in fact, a grammar rule):

COMPOUND POSSESSION

Compound possession refers to a phrase which contains more than one entity which shares subjective ownership (as opposed to a respective ownership) of some object.  An example of respective ownership would be:

  • Mack’s and Mabel’s trucks are white.

On the other hand, subjective ownership (and thus, compound possession) would be:

  • Mack and Mabel’s trucks are white

In the first example we see that each person owns at least one white truck a piece. In the second example, however, we see that Mack and Mabel, together, in several white trucks.

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT

A proper, effective sentence is one in which the noun and verb tenses (the subject and the predicate) agree.  Essentially, to make sure that your subject and verbs agree, you have to understand when to use the appropriate conjugations of your verb. For example:

  • Mack sings about heartbreak

and

  • Mack and Mable sing about happiness

Like all rules, there are exceptions but with this rule, in particular, the use of specific conjunctions can change the value of each verb, which also depends on which of the subjects is closest to the verb, literally. For example:

  • Either Mack or Mabel will play the piano.
  • Neither Mabel nor Mack will be here today.
  • The singers are ready but the band is not.
  • The band is ready but the singers are not.

ADJECTIVE ORDER

Did you know that there is a proper order for adjectives when more than one proceeds a noun?  In English, the proper adjective order is as follows:

  • opinion
  • size
  • age
  • shape
  • color
  • origin
  • material
  • purpose

Try to switch the adjectives around in the following sentence to see how this rule works:

            “She saw the prettiest, big, black, young, rotund, Danish, puppy yesterday.”

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