Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default the most difficult word

    Which English word is most difficult to master? I think "the" could be. Or maybe "but"?

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    17,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    I think it's a toss-up between "the" and "would."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    28,168
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    Sorry.

    Even many native speakers seem not to know when and how to use the word.

  4. #4
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    28,168
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    On a more serious note, I'll add my vote for 'the'.

    It's not just difficult for learners.

    I like to think I am moderately proficient in the language, and know something about its grammar, but in my final teaching year I did a lot of work with (very) advanced learners. Part of our time was spent on correcting manuals and reports they had written and on discussing their translation work.

    Trying to work out whether 'the' could be left out or not - and why - had me nearly tearing my hair out sometimes.

  5. #5
    Osa-Naily is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Arabic
      • Home Country:
      • Algeria
      • Current Location:
      • Australia
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    I think it's a toss-up between "the" and "would.

  6. #6
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    Thank you. I have already accepted the fact that I will never learn how to use "the" properly.

    And "would" isn't an easy one either!

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    28,168
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    Back to your original question BC:
    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Which English word is most difficult to master? I think "the" could be. Or maybe "but"?
    I understand your choice of 'the', but () I am surprised by 'but'. What problems do you have with this word?

  8. #8
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: the most difficult word

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Back to your original question BC:

    I understand your choice of 'the', but () I am surprised by 'but'. What problems do you have with this word?
    It seems to have contradictory meanings.

    When I see

    The food is all but finished.

    I think, "The food is far from being finished. It's everything except finished." But the sentence says, "It's very close to being finished." Webster 1913 says "all but" can mean:

    scarcely,
    not even,
    almost.

    Besides, the word "but" alone has very many meanings. Sentences like:

    There never is a tax law presented but someone will oppose it.
    Ten to one but the police have got them.
    (from but - definition of but by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.)

    aren't very learner-friendly in my opinion.

    The fortunate circumstance is that most of the difficult meanings are rarely used.

    PS: One more example:

    Everybody came but Tom.
    Everybody came but not Tom.

    Negation doesn't change the meaning? Stupid.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 24-Jan-2011 at 00:18.

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 17-Jan-2010, 15:45
  2. [Grammar] it is difficult (for us), we will find it /us difficult
    By uktous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 28-Dec-2009, 23:53
  3. [General] difficult word
    By beelzeebub in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2008, 16:10
  4. Difficult word and sentences?
    By isc28240 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 02-May-2008, 16:44
  5. difficult word
    By esophea in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 24-May-2007, 15:38

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •