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Saturday, Dec. 22, 2001


Finally, English made simple!

It would be nice if learning a foreign language were as simple as learning to drive. We ought to be able to buy a language manual, study the rules, practice a few weeks, and pass a test. But learning a foreign language, especially English, is far more complicated. Therefore, I propose we simplify the language.

I'll share with you an excerpt from my unpublished book, "Learning to English: a manual." Since most students are tired of studying grammar rules, I'll introduce the section of the book called "Definitions of Commonly Misunderstood Grammatical Terms."

First, let's look at words grammarians have misunderstood as being related to English sentence structure.

Dependent clauses: Santa's kids.

Relative clauses: Santa's in-laws.

Independent clauses: people who make a living acting like Santa.

Phonological: logical uses of the telephone.

Syntax: a tax on your sins.

Quantifiers: many fires.

Direct object: a baseball bat. Example: "In self-defense, I fended off the cobra with a baseball bat."

Indirect object: fingernails. "In self-defense, I fended off the cobra with my nails."

Next, let's look at the true meaning of various types of words related to grammar.

Helping verbs: verbs such as "donate," "contribute" and "cure."

Adverb: a second verb added for emphasis, Ex.: "No eating or snacking in the library."

Adverbial: tending to add more verbs. Ex.: "No eating, snacking, nibbling, chewing, chomping, or scarfing down food in the library."

Preverbal adverbs of frequency: frequent pondering, before you speak, on which verbs to add.

Intransitive verbs: verbs related to being in transit, such as "I ran for the shinkansen" or "I boarded the bus."

Operative verbs: verbs that indicate surgery, such as "herniated" or "grafted."

Phrasal verb: a verb acting like a phrase, such as "Go!"

Noun phrase: a noun acting like a phrase, such as "Thief!"

Collective nouns: words such as "stamps," "coins" and "Beanie Babies."

Possessives: words such as "devil" and "poltergeist."

Reflexives: words such as "wince" and "funny bone."

Articles: words found in the newspaper.

Copula: any word that suggests copulation, such as "X-rated," "censored" or "adults only."

Gerunds: words borrowed from German.

Infinitives: words such as "etc." or "ad nausea."

Complements: words that occur together naturally, such as "food and drink."

Prepositions: words that suggest you are preparing for a job, such as "apprentice" or "trainee."

Conjunctions: phrases that suggest sneaking through junctions. Ex.: "to run a red light."

Dangling modifier: words that suggest someone hasn't made up his mind yet, such as "indecisive" or "fickle."

Silent "e": a shy "e" found at the end of words such as "demure."

Conditional: words that refer to your physical condition such as "sick" or "tired."

Object: any word that objects such as "Nonsense!" or "Bullocks!"

English tenses are far simpler than one would imagine:

Present tense: someone who is nervous about giving gifts.

Past tense: someone who used to be nervous but is now comfortable giving gifts.

Future tense: someone who has given so many gifts that they are nervous about giving more gifts.

Present progressive: the tendency to give more gifts the longer one is in Japan.

I hope you find this helpful in your studies. Together, let's easy English!

Contact Amy at amychavez@excite.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com

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