September 13, 2010

Grammar is a punk.  Dead serious.  Do not go gentle into that good night.

You may think you did well in Ms. Milligan’s seventh grade literature class.  She was short and pleasant, you remember.  She taught you your tenses, too: past, present, and future.  It didn’t really matter though.  You had the gist.

This is one of the benefits of growing up speaking English.  You do not have to make sense of it logistically.

We started learning the nuances of our fine language a week ago today.  News to me was that there’s like 80 tenses.  And they are all weird.   The other day, someone hit me with the past perfect continuous, which uses the past simple tense of ‘to have,’ the past participle of ‘to be,’ and the present participle of the main verb.  I had been eating a dinosaur, for example.

There are adjectives that act like nouns and adverbs that can act as pretty much anything. And ‘the’ is not just an article, it’s also an adjective.

You may one day be held at gunpoint by a grammarphile.  He’ll give you a chance to live, but only if you put the words below in correct order:

blue shoes huge running beautiful cold new

But you’re a non-native speaker and thus cannot rely on intuition!  There’s always this excerpt from wikipedia under adjective order:

“In many languages, attributive adjectives usually occur in a specific order. Generally, the adjective order in English is

  1. article or pronouns used as adjectives
  2. quality
  3. size
  4. age
  5. shape
  6. color
  7. proper adjective (often nationality or other place of origin)
  8. purpose or qualifier”

English-language learners have to internalize this.

To quote Roy Orbison, ‘Mercy…’



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