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  1. #1

    [feeling] Annoying English?!

    My crazy two cents again... (I may offend some people unknowingly...)

    Whenever I say such ridiculous things, a lot of people will point the finger at me.

    So be prepared! 8)


    Q: What is the use of English? What are the uses of rules/usage in English?
    A: Once in a while, I ask this question to people all over the world. Most of them says:
    - to communicate, to facilitate communication.
    - it is used to avoid confusion.
    - Rules/Usage (I simply say "rules" afterward) are necessary because if different people use English(Eng) differently, it can be a trouble! No one will understand what you are talking about.
    - Without rule, you will feel difficult to learn English. So rule make you easier to use English
    - Rule is a useful guide to tell how people use English in the best way

    It is just one side of the coin. People seem to forget another side.

    English is at the same time to trouble and burden people. Its rules are not only to eliminate confusion but to raise confusion. On one hand, rules make you easier to handle the language tool (English). On another hand, they make you harder to handle the language tool (English).

    English is somewhat playing tricks on us!

    Be excel at rules/usage does not mean you really make use of the language tool (English) wisely to achieve the purpose of communication.

    - Please eliminate redundant/burdensome/useless English rules
    Top 4 outrageous rules
    - singular noun; singular verb, vice versa
    - Irregular plurals (noun)
    - Irregular tense form (verb)
    - Make-it-Complex comparatives (adj)
    [extra!] - unreasonable classification of (un)count noun (noun)

    I am going to explain how they are annoying (especially to learners, but not limited to learners only. Native speakers suffer too!)


  2. #2
    - singular noun; singular verb, vice versa

    Don't think it is as easy as you can imagine like the following
    One person is...
    Two persons are...
    I am…
    You are…

    Try the following. Fill in the blanks (how "be" is changed for the following?):
    Either of 2 people __
    Either you or I __
    Either I or you __

    Neither of the children __
    Neither parent or children __
    Neither parents or child __
    Neither parents or children __

    Every person __
    Every person and association __
    A series of three bombs __

    A team __
    Teams __

    More than 1 cat __
    More than 2 cats __
    Less than 1 cat __
    Less than 2 cats __

    Many people __
    Many a person __

    It is just the tip of the iceberg. There are much more difficult situations arising from the rule.
    Think twice, what we can get from knowing the "so-called" correct answer.
     First you wrote a sentence grammatically correct and no more. You cannot gain anything from communicating better since you get a grammatically correct answer. Whether you fill the right/wrong answer, people will have no difficulty in understanding you (except they feel the sentence is strange).
     Second you will get acknowledged that you are an English elite.
     Third you may get a good job because you "use English correctly".

    How native speakers are confused at it
    It is not true that only learners confuse at it, but also native speakers.
    Eg: Neither of the children __

    The answer from different people:
    One English net-teacher in UsingEnglish forum ( ) -- "are" because children means 2 persons
    My native English friend in the UK -- If it is writing, the correct answer is "is". Neither is singular! If it is conversation, "are" is ok.

    Authoritative source:
    1 Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995)
    "are" is used in one similar example
    2 Collins Cobuild English Usage (1992)
    We should use "is". However people sometimes use plural verb "are"
    3 The American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996)
    "is" is used in one similar example "Neither of the twins is"
    4 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000)
    Quoted: "The traditional rule also holds that neither is grammatically singular: …However, it is often used with a plural verb, especially when followed by of and a plural…"

  3. #3
    - Irregular plurals (noun); Irregular tense form (verb)
    "Regular-ise them, please!" It is my wish when I was in my school time.

    I will simply call "irregular noun of plural form" "irregular noun", vice versa
    I will simply call "irregular verb of different tense form" "irregular verb", vice versa

    I see no points why "regular nouns/verbs" cannot be right. The birth of them gives severe burdens on learners. The only ways learners can do is to remember it by rote:
    Irregular nouns:
    -o irregulars
    - heroes, echoes, potatoes, tomatoes
    But: commandos, kilos, solos, photos
    Good news (either adding -es or -s is acceptable):
    - buffalo(e)s, volcano(e)s, mosquito(e)s

    -f, -fe irregulars
    - calf, calves
    - knife, knives
    - turf, turves
    But: proofs, dwarfs, hoofs/hooves, scarfs/scarves

    unchanged irregulars (plural = singular)
    - barracks*
    - headquarters*
    - series
    - sheep
    - aircraft
    * Usage note (from Oxford Advanced Learner's English-Chinese Dictionary 4th Edition) says:
    "barracks/headquarters" – [plural nouns with a singular or plural verb]. These have a plural form but may agree with either singular or plural verb.
    In conclusion:
    - a barracks/headquarters is…
    - barracks/headquarters is/are…

    Other English irregulars
    - ox, oxen
    - tooth, teeth
    - louse, lice
    - goose, geese
    - penny, pence
    - person, persons/people [NB: people, peoples]

    foreign irregulars
    - aquarium, aquaria
    - nucleus, nuclei
    - radius, radii
    - cactus, cacti
    - larva, larvae
    - formula, formulae
    - hypothesis, hypotheses
    - appendix, appendices
    - matrix, matrices
    - phenomenon, phenomena

    If all irregulars are regular-ise (Now we add -s for every and each plural noun!), life will be much easier.

    Irregular verbs:
    unchanged irregulars
    hit, hit, hit
    put, put, put
    read, read, read

    PS: It is a really bad idea. The unchanged irregulars just add more ambiguity.
    "I hit the ball."
    Is "hit" in present or past tense?

    other irregulars
    creep, crept, crept
    drive, drove driven

    3 Big Spoilers:
    1 lie(=fib), lying, lied, lied
    2 lie(= put a body flat), lying, lay, laid
    3 lay, laying, laid, laid

    deal, dealt, dealt
    mean, meant, meant
    seek, sought, sought

    How native speakers are confused at it
    Take "seek" as an example, my English native friend in the UK said it (I use "it" to mean he/she) was sometimes confused at uncommon irregulars (eg seek). It said "seek" starts to regular-ise here (ie it is ok to use "seeked" instead of "sought").

    I asked if my friend wished to regular-ise all verbs. It didn't know. However it probably wanted to keep all common irregular verbs unchanged (because my friend used to it!), but to get rid of all uncommon irregulars.

    I would say different words to different targets:
    - to learners: regular-ise all please! Use regulars. No irregulars!!!!!
    - to native speakers: regular-ise all but still keep the common irregulars. We can use either "forgot" or "forgetted", but it is highly recommended if they can use "forgetted" as usually as possible.

    I am sometimes thinking whether English is bullying people all over the world!

  4. #4
    Make-it-Complex comparatives
    There're 2 kinds of comparatives:
    1 "-er, -est" comparatives
    2 "more, most" comparatives

    I read the annual report (I forgot exactly where and in which paragraph) from the exam authority relating to the performance of students in an English public exam. It is written something like the following:

    It is disappointing that (Hong Kong) students who have learnt English for 11 years [Editor: from primary 1 to secondary 5] still made such a mistake in the exam - "more easy" [Editor: it should be "easier"]. "More easy" does not make any sense…

    I sometimes ask myself, "Is it really non-sense if I use 'more easy'?".
    Read the following passage to see if you will understand the passage with great difficulty:

    I meeted a friend called John. He is a 5-years-old boy which live in Kowloon Tong. He is more smart than me. I usually ask him for help when I have any difficulty. He is willing to offer help. He love babys a lot…

    Exceptionally unnatural and full of rubbish!
    The person who wrote this paragraph should have been shot to death.


  5. #5
    Complex rules with tons of exceptions don't help, but simple rules do!

    If rules become much simpler, a lot of questions in English forum will vanish. Much much much more spare efforts can be spent on more meaningful things (eg helping people who are suffering)

    Finally, I would like to list some counter-arguments:
    - respect the culture
    - if different people follows different rules (as you say), confusion will be made.
    - people will not be able to read past articles if changes is made.
    - it will be difficult for people to get used to the new system
    - it makes English unnatural
    - English is English. No one person can change it manually.

  6. #6


    unreasonable classification of count/uncount noun
    When I was in primary school, my teacher first told me how to classify nouns as count or uncount. My teacher explained to me some of the strange cases.
    Eg: bread (uncount noun)
    It is because bread has a lot of different sizes, say, a slice, a loaf, a lumb; so it is countable.

    As I grow up, this kind of explanation cannot hold water anymore.
    The only reason I can explain to you about this phenomenon is "English says it is!"

    Now uncount and count noun is abbreviated to un; cn

    Weird examples and why
    Why mail is (un)? Letter and parcel are (cn).
    Reason: "English says it is! Just follow, man!"

    Why when mail simply means letter, it is (un); when mail means letter/parcel etc. delivered/collected at one specific time/period, we are able to count the mail (cn) suddenly?
    Reason: "English Power! Please remember it by rote!"

    Both "suggestion (cn)" and "advice (un)" refers to the same kind of things. Why this can make such a difference of (c/u)?
    Reason: "See! The magic play by English!"

    The following are countable in other languages, why not for English:
    - furniture, equipment, money, baggage, luggage, rubbish, trash, homework, machinery, traffic, information, news
    Reason: "Because it is English, English, English…"

    How can you understand the system of u/cn? It is only u/c

    So I do not feel proud of it when I know I have to say "There is a piece of luggage!", but others don't.
    Yes, English is that capricious. I am never proud that I get used to writing and speaking that capriciously.

    However, on the other side of the coin, I am quite happy to get used to it because I can teach people how to cope with this capriciousness. What's more importantly, I can earn a good job (with higher salaries).

    It is what the complexity is worth - a good job.
    If English becomes too easy, "high English proficiency" will no longer be a benefit during a company interview.

    • Join Date: Jun 2004
    • Posts: 1,369
    Welcome to the Real World!
    Languages are not designed in a lab. There is no evil manager asking his team to make it more complex so that the Global Services department can make more cash with consulting. Languages are a living being, that undergo the same natural selection process as the other species. You can lament about the lack of efficiency of our senses, compared to felines, birds of prey etc, but don't worry -- if it becomes critical, we'll naturally improve in these areas. No need for mad scientists to tamper with DNA to create improved races


  7. #8
    My two cents anyway.

    Language is naturally created by humans.
    But it would be very great if a group (maybe government) can modify it.

    People usually blame students nowadays have poor language proficiency. But I think if the difficulty can be lowered a lot, this problem can vanish.

    You know, there are high demand for people with good language. Government spends tons of money to deal with that. What a waste of money which should have used in more vital areas.

    Yes, "bypassing natural selection process" and modifying any language systematically" is too novel that it becomes ridiculous.

    No one has done this before, so it must be unreasonable and impossible.

    Like a dream~!

    • Join Date: Jun 2004
    • Posts: 1,369
    Natural selection process is not reliable and efficient enough.
    This is highly debatable. This process is extremely flexible and adaptive. We might still be worms living in mud if it didn't exist.


  8. #10
    Will you like to make changes on your mother language(s) (or any other languages you are learning)?

    Or let things go as normal?

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