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Joined: August 12, 2010
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Five eggs is too many

July 1, 2013

Recent Comments*+never+boils%3Aeng_us_2012%2Cwatched+*+never+boils%3Aeng_gb_2012&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t2%3B%2Cwatched%20*%20never%20boils%3Aeng_us_2012%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bwatched%20pot%20never%20boils%3Aeng_us_2012%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bwatched%20kettle%20never%20boils%3Aeng_us_2012%3B%2Cc0%3B.t2%3B%2Cwatched%20*%20never%20boils%3Aeng_gb_2012%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bwatched%20pot%20never%20boils%3Aeng_gb_2012%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bwatched%20kettle%20never%20boils%3Aeng_gb_2012%3B%2Cc0

@HS Soldier Field, Chicago, IL Sat, Nov 1, 2014 03:00 PM .... just wait, no need for gridiron.

jayles July 3, 2014, 10:50pm

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I have often wondered whether and what to teach non-native speakers in terms of proverbs. Always seems to me that one needs to understand them, but not to use them.
There's a nice one in Hungarian - "My snowboots are full of it" = I've had enough - which is the only one I use regularly, but not really necessary at all.

jayles July 3, 2014, 7:53pm

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Salve Brus!

The key question here is under which key circumstances are we to admit new lexical items into mainstream English. De facto, English has always been changing, and nolens volens we must face this key reality. The status quo is no different from what has gone before.

Of course the fourth estate is at the slicing edge of change: written by key professionals who seek punchy new phrases and short headlines. "Key" as an adjective is shorter than the alternatives.

Semper rectum est quod vox populi dicit.

(rectum means correct not "rectum")

jayles the unwitting June 3, 2014, 8:15pm

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Dear Jasper

If you use "thou" and "thee", please note the correct endings for common verbs:*&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t2%3B%2Cthou%20*%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bthou%20hast%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20art%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20shalt%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20wilt%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20not%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20canst%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20didst%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20dost%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20mayest%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthou%20be%3B%2Cc0

jayles the unwit June 3, 2014, 7:47pm

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If one is talking about teaching a foreign language at school, the first question is what is achievable with a largish group in a few hours per week. Some countries also use English as a medium of instruction: this happens both at various 'international' schools and kindergartens, some mainstream schools, and at some universities eg Holland, Saudi Arabia.
The same is true of teaching grammar at school: one can hardly discuss it without setting out aims, goals, outcomes, and looking at the cohorts of students and their needs in this area.

jayles the unwit June 2, 2014, 3:36pm

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Shot myself in the foot there: "she had been having affairs for quite some time" is really hard to translate; to me using past perfect continuous here suggests the affairs are mostly sequential not concurrent, a tricky concept to put across. Sometimes translating makes one more aware of one's own idioms.

jayles the unwit June 1, 2014, 11:34pm

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I don't recall ever being taught English grammar as such, apart from when to put in an apostrophe before or after an 's', which really is just spelling. Tenses we were never taught.

All my grammar came from learning Latin, French and German (and Russian) at secondary school. When one has to render something like "she had been having affairs for quite some time, before her husband found out" into, well, any of the above tongues, one quickly learns how quirky English is.
I might add, as obiter dictum, that once one realizes that pre- or post-positions in other languages usually 'take' an oblique case (anything but the nominative/vocative) then it seems pretty clear that "between you and I" is ungrammatical. (And that 'me' in "give me some chips" is dative, not accusative).

Of course the case system endings in English are vestigal, but that is no good reason to be ignorant thereof.

No, I am not suggesting that schoolchildren should be forced to learn Latin; but one foreign language well-taught and well-learned is a gateway to a different culture and understanding and perhaps tolerance. Perhaps Arabic would be a good choice for children in England today.

In ESOL the proliferation of English tenses and modals, and their muddled uses present a significant hurdle at the intermediate stage. Curiously, in my experience, for most ESOL learners it is hard to master the usage of tenses and modal in class or from books. Those who have ample opportunities to pick it up the usage in everyday life often outperform mere book-learners. I guess that applies to native speakers too.

However in Britain today there are many non-native speakers at primary and secondary schools and maybe "English" classes need to be geared for their particular needs.
I have had to teach remedial English classes here for immigrant children who passed out of their final year at secondary school, but who still lack the basics of English structures. The issue here is that ESOL classes at secondary school are sometimes obliged to follow the mainstream curriculum leaving little time for ESOL itself. The other issue is that there is no placement according to English level, just by age, which leads to classes of very mixed ability and level, and outcomes.
I could go on.

jayles the unwit June 1, 2014, 8:28pm

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@WW how odd! I had never thought about this before. Looks like it is about 50/50 in books:

jayles the unwit May 30, 2014, 1:42pm

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The US version "met with" clearly suggests a meeting.
The Brit version is not so clear; it could have been a chance encounter:
"Hey there Harold!"
"Ike! Fancy meeting you here".

jayles the unwit May 30, 2014, 12:21am

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And "under four eyes" crops up on google books, sometimes without explanation:
"this time Ngabehi Secadirana himself, disguised as a servant came under the cloak of darkness to the resident to tell him under four eyes what monstrous plot..."
One must wonder if this is just an example of poor translation though.
But it certainly avoids all the messy grammar issues.

jayles the unwit May 27, 2014, 8:32pm

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On google books "between you and I" does crop up but much less frequently than "between you and me" For instance:
"Morality is a direct encounter between You and I."

As an aside the phrase "between you and me" meaning "in confidence" is rendered as "between four eyes" (Négy szem közt) in Hungarian, and "unter vier Augen" in German.

jayles the unwit May 27, 2014, 8:14pm

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@WW The marking schema for IELTS writing band 8 (page 23)

"The majority of sentences are error-free" (using a plural verb)

Right now I cannot think of a context where I would regard "The majority of sentences is error-free" as normal, or standard.

However "a majority of students is ,," does crop up although seemingly rare in books.
When it comes to talking about votes/voting, majority is often used with a singular verb.

jayles the unwit May 26, 2014, 2:57pm

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@WW Thanks.
I stumbled on a slip-up re "a number of" - the verb here refers to "increase" not number:
"There has been an increase in the number of incidents recently."

Unfortunately this type of sentence is very necessary to fulfil Task A (the graph description) in IELTS. It is also best to avoid "a lot of" which sounds rather informal, and substitute phrases like "a great deal of" or "a large number of", or much/many.

Incidentally there seems to be a rule of thumb for "number of":
"a number of * " takes a plural verb
"the number of * " takes a singular verb.

A careful look on ngrams seems to support this. (as do your examples in previous post)

jayles the unwit May 26, 2014, 2:16pm

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"it is I who", and "it was I who", seem commoner in books than the "me" versions:

jayles the unwit May 26, 2014, 12:15am

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Perhaps it would be more helpful to focus on real life examples. The following come from published books:
"It is I, Sea Gull;": Valentina Tereshkova, First Woman in ...
It is I who have chosen you: an autobiography
it is I who am responsible for my character.
In fact the phrase "it is I who..." or "it is I that.." is by far the commonest way "it is I" is used. Or even:
(Josephine Klein - 2003 )
It is I whom you delight in ... It is I whom you serve; it is I whom you long for, whom you desire; it is I whom you mean; it is I who am all. Twelfth Revelation,

"it is I." appears in "Life is Tough, But God is Faithful: How to See God's Love ..."

All That We See and Do - Page 117: It is I, Nordia. It is I. It is OK. I am that powerful. I'll show My might...

And lastly:

Clearly an amazing example of how to teach modern English idiom.

jayles the unwit May 25, 2014, 9:50pm

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jayles the unwilling May 25, 2014, 7:40pm

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jayles the unwilling May 25, 2014, 7:40pm

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The following illustrate deviant behavior of Brits

jayles the unwilling May 25, 2014, 7:39pm

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@WW me too. I was wondering whether it might be a good idea to explore the usage of "quasi-determiners" (like 'the bulk of', "a great number of", and so on) and maybe come up with a list which are most commonly used with the plural verb even in US English, unless this is already covered in Hewins or somewhere I have missed. For instance:
"The overwhelming majority of students in my class falls asleep within ten minutes".
"The couple on the backseat was kissing". (see ngram below)
"The pair of doves was cooing." (50/50)
"Four pairs of trousers were found in her shopping bag.".
"The pair was inseperable." (not found on ngrams)
I do realise that one could apply the "notiional" agreement concept here; just looking for a shortlist which almost always use plural verb

jayles the unwilling May 25, 2014, 7:31pm

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