Three Confusing Grammar Rules in the English Language

Every language has its own set of idiosyncrasies: rules or trends that seem very commonplace to the native speaker but could easily confuse someone who is new to the tongue.  If it is your first Robotel language, it might surprise you to learn that English is one those languages that can be extremely confusing to new speakers thanks to those idiosyncrasies.  Combined with all of the dialects and slangs, English really can be one of the hardest languages to learn and implement as a second language.

COMPOUND POSSESSION

And one of the reasons English can be so difficult to learn has to do with the application of compound possession in speech patterns.  Compound possession is the term used to describe the subjective relationship between multiple entities (more than one noun) and an object. Here is an example:’

  • Fred’s and Ed’s houses are red
  • Fred and Ed’s house are red

In the first example, Fred and Ed each have a house and each of these houses are red. This is an example of “respective” possession.  The second sentence, though, is an example of “subjective” compound possession, in which Fred and Ed together have multiple red houses.

But, of course, this is English we are talking about, so there will always nuanced differences.

ALTERNATIVE SUBJECT and PREDICATE AGREEMENT

In any language you will always have a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb) that forms a sentence. How you construct this, though, can change.  In English, the typical rule is that the predicate follows the subject; also the verb conjugation must agree with the noun.

For example:

  • Fred and Ed buy a house
  • Fred buys a house

The verb “buy” changes the predicate depending on the type or amount of nouns in the subject.

ADJECTIVE ORDER

One of the most subtle traits of English grammar is the adjective order.  Every single person who speaks English obeys this rule, even if they can’t remember ever learning about it.  Basically, adjectives must fall into a sentence in a specific order: you may not use every category of adjective, but whatever adjectives you use, they must be in this order:

  • Opinion
  • Size
  • Age
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Origin
  • Material
  • Purpose

Thus, a sentence reading “Use the red, 1900’s, brick, round, pizza, best oven” would not make any sense.  Try rearranging the adjectives in the order listed and see if that makes more sense.

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