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English Matters

Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Ansuya, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    ShardaSuresh, I'm glad you enjoyed the poem.

    Sundarusha, good to see you here! I hope you enjoyed your holidays, and don't worry about not having participated in this thread due to your break - that would make me feel too much like your teacher waiting for you to do your homework! Above all, I want people to read this thread to have a bit of fun - if you learn something along the way, it's a bonus.

    Chitra, your words of appreciation and support do mean a lot to me, so thank you for the feedback. Like I've said before, I don't want this to turn into a purely intellectual exercise - if it's too dry and stuffy, and "above people's heads", then I'm not doing the right thing! If you have any tips to make things more readable and accessible, I'm all ears.

    Ansuya
     
  2. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Srama

    This post will address your queries about apostrophes and plurals when it comes to words ending in -y and -s. I hope I have understood your question properly - if not, you've still given me good material to work with here, and I hope you'll clarify if I've left something out that you still needed explaining.

    Although you have said you understand the examples you've given of "university's" and "universities", and wanted clarity on "Seuss'", I'll explain a bit about each of them for the benefit of everyone.

    When nouns end in -y, they usually have plural forms that end in -ies. Examples are

    university - universities
    party - parties
    company - companies
    butterfly - butterflies
    army - armies
    beauty - beauties

    Be careful though, because if a noun ends in -y but the -y comes after a vowel (vowels are the letters a, e, i, o, and u), then you simply add an "s" to form a plural. Examples are:

    monkey - monkeys
    chimney - chimneys
    valley - valleys
    turkey - turkeys

    EXCEPTION: although the plural form for "money" should be "moneys" according to this rule, "monies" is the more widely used form. Don't ask me why!

    Apostrophes are used to signal ownership. So, we add an apostrophe to "university", followed by an "s", to signal that something belongs to the university. Here is an example:

    The university's football team went to Florida this year.

    If we are talking about things that belong to many universities, we would use the apostrophe like this:

    Three Iowa universities' football teams went to Florida this year.

    I think the difficulty you describe comes in when you have to form a plural of a word that already ends in "s", or signal possession when a word ends in "s". So, here are the explanations that should hopefully clear this up (as opposed to making it more murky, which I hope I am not doing!).

    Nouns ending in "s" take an -es at the end to form a plural. This is easy enough, as in the example, gas - gases or class - classes.

    But how do we signify possession when a noun ends in a "s"? Do we add an apostrophe and an "s", or is the apostrophe enough? Here's our example:

    The gas's stench made me nauseous. (singular gas - add apostrophe followed by "s")

    The gases' stench made me nauseous (plural gases - add an apostrophe)

    Both words sound the same (gas's and gases'), so just by sound alone, we wouldn't be able to make out the difference, unless we saw it written down. Here are more examples:

    I am pleased with my form class's performance in the exams. (singular)

    Not all of the classes' results were good. (plural)

    I like Dr Seuss's books. (singular)

    Mr Jones's cat keeps digging up my flowerbeds.

    However, we are told that pronunciation should guide us when we are deciding whether to include an "s" after an apostrophe. In the common expression "Achilles' heel", we never see an "s" after the apostrophe because it would make the pronunciation quite clumsy. Another common example is Jesus' and Jesus's, both of which are acceptable.

    So, as long as the pronunciation isn't awkward, stick to the rule about adding an apostrophe and an "s". Otherwise, drop the last "s".

    I want to repeat that I am prepared to answer any question, so please send in your queries. Please do not feel that what you are asking may be too simple - not all of the discussions we have need be at the level of the one above.

    Ansuya
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
    1 person likes this.
  3. Srama

    Srama IL Hall of Fame

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    Ansuya,

    I haven't had a chance to go through anything for 4-5days now, but I'll read leisurly pretty soon - every one at home and me have been down with something or the other. I just wanted to share this before I forget. My son while trying to spell "England" wanted to know why it is not spelled "Ingland" because that is how words like going, coming etc.....end. H ow do I explain English to a 6 year old other than - "English is that way, accept it".
     
  4. sundarusha

    sundarusha Gold IL'ite

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    Hi Ansuya

    I want to share some unusual facts and rules of English language. I hope it has not been posted already.

    1.If the abbreviation ends with the same letter as the complete word itself, then dot (.) is not placed. For eg. we write Dr instead of Dr. for Doctor and Prof. for Professor and not prof
    But people unknowingly write Dr. for Doctor.

    2. Most of you probably know that the following sentence contains all the alphabets of the English language.

    "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

    3. Relationship before a name is written in capital letter and if afterwards then with small letter. For eg. " He is Uncle Sam" and "He is Sam, my uncle."
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Srama, no worries. I hope you all feel better soon. As for the matter of why words aren't spelled logically in English: if you feel your son is old enough to understand this explanation, you can tell him that since English is a language that evolved from other, older languages, many of our spelling forms derive from sounds and spellings that are actually not a part of English anymore.

    So, I've looked online and find that the name "England" is derived from the word "Angles", which was the name of a Germanic tribe that once lived in the area we know now as England. This is how we get our root for words like "Anglo" (as in Anglo-Indian) and "Anglia", which is the Latin name for England.

    The suffix -ing is derived from Old English and therefore, although it is a similar sound, has an entirely different root. This accounts for the different spellings for the same sound.

    You'll have to decide how to simplify this enough for him to understand, and of course, he doesn't need to know all the details! But it is good that he is already thinking critically and logically about language use, instead of just accepting everything he is told :)

    I enjoyed that - thanks to your son for bringing it up!

    Ansuya
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  6. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Sundarusha

    Thanks so much for your three neat, useful, and easy to understand facts about English usage. I enjoyed reading them very much, and no, we haven't discussed any of them already.

    As interested as I am in English usage, I only discovered the first rule you mentioned a few years ago. So, this is EXACTLY the kind of little guideline that may not be common knowledge, but once we become aware of it, it is so useful in helping us wield the language more effectively.

    Another sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet is

    Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

    These sentences are called pangrams.

    I really do appreciate your contribution, as I'm sure other readers of this thread will too.

    Ansuya
     
  7. indian.sanju

    indian.sanju Guest

    Hi Anasuya,

    I enjoyed by reading your poem of grammer.

    I have a question. i.e, which one of the following is correct usage?

    I didn't understand.
    or
    I haven't understood.

    I always gets confused with this. Please clarify the above.

    Thanks
    Sanju
     
  8. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Hello, Sanju

    I'm very happy to see your question, and it's a great one - it is always confusing when trying to figure out TENSES in English. Your question deals with WHEN an action was performed, and we refer to this as tense structure.

    In order to make better sense of the examples you have given, I will remove the apostrophe in "didn't" and "haven't" to write all words out in full. So:

    I did not understand

    I have not understood

    Both are correct usage, but you would use them for different purposes. Like I have said, it all depends on when an action was performed. The first sentence

    I did not understand

    is what we call the SIMPLE PAST TENSE. The name really doesn't matter so much as what we use this tense for, which is to describe a completed action that occurred at some SPECIFIED point in the past. Since your sentence has a negative (did not), the action is one of "not understanding". So, at some particular time in the past, you did not understand something.

    The second sentence

    I have not understood

    is what we call the PRESENT PERFECT TENSE. This tense is used to describe something that occurred at an UNSPECIFIED time in the past.

    The SIMPLE PAST TENSE can be used with specific time references like "yesterday", "last year", etc.

    The PRESENT PERFECT TENSE cannot; it can only be used with unspecified time references like "never", "always", "so far", etc.

    Here are examples to illustrate:

    SIMPLE PAST:
    1. I did not understand a single word my teacher said yesterday.
    2. I did not see that movie last week.


    PRESENT PERFECT:
    1. I have not understood a single word spoken by my teacher.
    2. I have not seen that movie yet.

    Using "didn't" and "haven't" instead of "did not" and "have not" is acceptable too - I just expanded the contracted forms to make the explanation a little simpler.

    I hope this clears things up for you - if not, let me know and I'll try again!

    Thanks for the question :)
    Ansuya
     
  9. KalyaniBhaskar

    KalyaniBhaskar Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Anasuya,

    Quite an informative thread has been started by you.
    I enjoyed reading the poem on English grammar.

    I also saw the other posts and the issues rised therein.

    I remember what my English teacher told us during one of his lectures. The mother tongue of a person influences the accent of his English.
    This is true when I listen to people talking English in our own country. I think India is a good example.

    There is a lot of difference between how an English speaks English and an American speaks English. There are differences in writing spellings too.
    Even in MS Word, we need to chose the style of English to check spellings.

    Somehow, I am inclined to learn more about British style of English. May be for the fact that the language has its roots there.
    But I am not against American usage.

    Kalyani
     
  10. indian.sanju

    indian.sanju Guest

    Hi Anasuya,

    Thanks for clarifying my question. Its clear now. You explanation is superb. I will keep post my questions.

    Thank You so much.

    Thanks
    Sanju
     

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