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A brief English language lesson

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Nando
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A non-native English speaker on this site recently said: ... I thank him for the explanation. The english language is strange and fascinating for a non-native speaker, and ... I like people to help us improve our english. Many of us are making an effort to communicate in an alien language, and any help is appreciated.

In light of that, I'll go ahead with what I've wanted to do for a while, but thought too many would take offense. (I was especially encouraged when I found a similar list on the front page of netscape.com.)

Apostrophe for plural
NEVER CONSTRUCT A PLURAL FORM WITH AN APOSTROPHE.
This seems to be a side-effect of the information age where everything is compressed into acronyms and also of the Internet age where everything tends to be lowercase. If you feel the need to use an apostrophe to separate an "s" from the word you want to pluralize, then you probably need to reword your sentence.

For example, "There are too many CCG's on the market," or "The player with the most VP's wins." In these cases, just get rid of the apostrophe! Obviously, it's more difficult to read as "ccgs", and the solution there is to capitalize the acronym. (Acronyms *should* be capitalized, by the way.)

Then for than
WHEN YOU'RE COMPARING, USE THAN.
No: He scored more points in the GDS then me.
Yes: He scored more points in the GDS than I did.

Loose for lose
LOOSE IS THE OPPOSITE OF TIGHT.
LOSE IS THE OPPOSITE OF WIN OR FIND.
No: I always loose at that game.
No: I've always loosed at that game when I've played before.
Yes: I always lose at that game.
Yes: I've always lost at that game when I've played before.

Your for you're
YOUR IS POSSESSIVE.
YOU'RE IS A CONTRACTION OF "YOU ARE".
No: He captured you're flag.
Yes: He captured your flag.
No: Your right about the rule changes.
Yes: You're right about the rule changes.

"Try and" for "try to"
IT'S ALWAYS "TRY TO".
You never try AND do something. You always try TO do something. Using "and" separates the try from the thing being tried and makes them distinct actions. For example, "I'm going to try and reformat my rulebook tomorrow." That sentence says you're going to DO two things; it does not say that you're going to TRY DOING one thing. In the example, the two things are "try" (although we're not told what) and "reformat my rulebook tomorrow."

"...it's at."
WHO NEEDS IT? DITCH THE "AT."
I recently saw a post that said something like "I don't know where it's at at the moment." Ugh. The phrase "where it's at" is an anomaly of modern English because it actually *increases* the word count. It's better to say, "where it is," or instead of "where are you at" say "where are you?"

Modern English speakers are so lazy, they can't help but make contractions even when they're not necessary. (I guess strictly speaking they're never necessary, but whatever.) When the result sounds too awkward to bear, they add an extra and useless "at" to the end.

"where it is" => "where it's" => "where it's at"
"where are you" => "where're you" => "where're you at"

And speaking of "where're", it's supposed to be used when speaking of plural items, but the modern, lazy speaker seems to resist using it. (I have a work mate who is so accustomed to hearing and saying it incorrectly, he claims the 's form actually sounds better. To me, hearing it makes my skin crawl.)

Compare:
"Where is the pawn?" => "Where's the pawn?"
"Where are the pawns?" => "Where're the pawns?"

I suspect that most modern, lazy speakers will say
"Where's the pawns?" or "Where's the cards?" which is incorrect.

Some random items from netscape's list:

#2: It's for its (or heaven forbid, its')
its is possessive: Its effect is permanent.
it's is a contraction: It's (it is) a nice day for some RoboRally.
its' is not a word.

#3: They're for their for there
their is possessive: Their scores average in the 60s.
they're is a contraction: They're (they are) talking about Puerto Rico.
"there" is rarely misused.

#4: i.e. for e.g.
i.e. = "In other words,"
e.g. = "For example,"

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
IT'S ALWAYS "could have" or "would have" (could've or would've).

Epigone
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A brief English language lesson

Heheh.

Nando, I point you to The Language Log, where you a) will find many fascination articles about English and other languages, and b) might give up your silly prescriptivist ideas!

Apostrophes, then/than, loose/lose, your/you're... okay. These are genuine mistakes.

"Try and" vs. "try to"? Sorry, common usage has overtaken you. Check out one of my favorite posts, Speak we proper English?. The end of the post:

Quote:
After all, the grammar I am writing in seems "proper" enough, doesn't it? And yet to the authors of Beowulf, that last sentence would sound like "good" English mangled by a Celt!

EDIT:

Quote:
(I have a work mate who is so accustomed to hearing and saying it incorrectly, he claims the 's form actually sounds better. To me, hearing it makes my skin crawl.)

And that's the key, isn't it... I'd lay good money the 's form will be accepted as standard within the decade, but I think it's not quite accepted yet. "Um" is not grammatical but all we ever rag on is "like".

EDIT the second: Just to be sure I'm not pulling things out of my ... magical making-up-grammar hat, I looked up what others have to say about "try and". Most say something like "avoid in formal writing". But you should really read this one.

EDIT the final: Not that I have any problems informing people about correct grammar... there are many usages which are strictly incorrect. But there are also many usages which are perfectly fine that fall under attack for no apparent reason, like "let's don't".

zaiga
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Re: A brief English language lesson

Nando wrote:

#4: i.e. for e.g.
i.e. = "In other words,"
e.g. = "For example,"

Good one. I didn't know.

Quote:

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
IT'S ALWAYS "could have" or "would have" (could've or would've).

I think that non-English speakers don't make this mistake this very often. Whenever I see it, it are often American teenagers using "of" instead of "have". I wouldn't be suprised if in a few decaded time "should of" and "could of" will be "common usage".

Nando
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Re: A brief English language lesson

zaiga wrote:
I think that non-English speakers don't make this mistake...
I think most of these mistakes are common to "speak-and-spell"ers who tend to NOT be English-As-A-Second-Language folks because most people learn second languages by writing first and then speaking -- backwards for native speakers.

I think a lot of errors are caused by assuming someone else is correct when they aren't.

Yogurt
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A brief English language lesson

Epigone wrote:
your silly prescriptivist ideas!

Ha, and then you agree with every idea but "try and." That's just one prescriptivist idea, bub. :)

Nando, I adore you, and you can rest assured that loose-for-lose and your-for-you're will never enter the vernacular, because I will travel back in time to prevent any such thing from happening.

Now if I can only figure out how to stop misused quotation marks without letting Japan win World War II...

doho123
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A brief English language lesson

Okay, this came up the other day.

When things get wet with "water," they become "watery." Which is pretty standard, such as "oily" or "sandy".

By why do you transpose the letters when "fire" becomes "fiery"?

phpbbadmin
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A brief English language lesson

Also a lot of errors are simply from laziness and/or typing from a stream of consciousness. When thinking, your brain can not distinguish between you're and your, simply because they are equivalent when read inside your head, if that makes any sense. I find that with a quick preview before posting I'm usually able to catch most errors.

-Darke

Nando
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A brief English language lesson

doho123 wrote:
By why do you transpose the letters when "fire" becomes "fiery"?

Personally, I'd never say/write fiery. I'd say "on fire" or "like fire." To me, something can't be "fiery". It's either on fire or like fire.

If something either has the consistency of oil or has oil on it, it's oily.
If something has the consistency of water, it's watery.
If something has water on it, it's wet.
If something has sand on it, it's sandy.
If something has fire on it, it's "on fire."

I suppose you might want to say something like, "it gave off a fiery, red glow," but I wouldn't. ;) I'd probably say, "it glowed red like fire" or "the orb was a ball of fire in his hand."

Maybe it's just me. Actually, I'm virtually certain it's just me.

sedjtroll
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Re: A brief English language lesson

zaiga wrote:
Quote:

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
IT'S ALWAYS "could have" or "would have" (could've or would've).

I think that non-English speakers don't make this mistake this very often. Whenever I see it, it are often...

it is often ;)

Quote:
American teenagers using "of" instead of "have". I wouldn't be suprised if in a few decaded time "should of" and "could of" will be "common usage".

Sadly, you're probably right. I think it's a little unfortunate that we as a people prefer to allow rules to relax so that we're nt breaking them, rather than to actually follow he rules in the first place. Why do we even have rules if that's the case?

Somehow this reminds me of the whole 'revealing hidden information' arguement :)

Epigone
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A brief English language lesson

yogurt wrote:
Epigone wrote:
your silly prescriptivist ideas!

Ha, and then you agree with every idea but "try and." That's just one prescriptivist idea, bub. :)
Well, if you insist...
Apostrophes can be used to make lowercase letters plural. And numbers. And dereferenced words, like "His like's grate on my nerves."

"...it's at." is no problem at all. Is 'at' extra? Is it useless? Okay, but who cares? The English language is full of "useless" words.

"i.e. for e.g." is a substitution that I hate but have to admit is very common. Is it dialectal or a mistake? I'd have to research it.

"could of, would of for could have, would have" are fine too. I agree with zaiga; these will probably be common usage soon enough.

Every idea I mentioned (from his post) I agreed with except "try and", you're right. :) But now it's 5 vs. 5.

The idea of the "modern, lazy speaker" (where that is in contrast to the "standard, not modern speaker who is obviously not lazy because he is not modern") is just a perceptual issue.

Epigone
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Re: A brief English language lesson

sedjtroll wrote:
Sadly, you're probably right. I think it's a little unfortunate that we as a people prefer to allow rules to relax so that we're nt breaking them, rather than to actually follow he rules in the first place. Why do we even have rules if that's the case?

Yep. We don't have rules, and it's better that way. Language is not the product of a set of axioms humans wrote down somewhere. The most rigorous it could realistically be (right now, maybe this will change in the future) is the product of a set of axioms approximately derived from whatever language was before (aka now).

Nando
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A brief English language lesson

Epigone wrote:
Apostrophes can be used to make lowercase letters plural. And numbers. And dereferenced words, like "His like's grate on my nerves."

Dude! Stop encouraging people! Don't look, people! None of this is true! :P

"There are two lowercase As in the word 'bazaar'."
"There are three sixes in the number of the beast."
"The number 6 appears three times in the number of the beast."
"His saying 'like' all the time grates on my nerves."
"His preferences grate on my nerves." (I can't tell which you meant.)

You don't need to use apostrophes for pluralizing! It's a false doctrine, I tell you!

Epigone
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A brief English language lesson

If you had used 2 uppercase a's, I could use something like this sentence without stretching so far. I definitely agree that using 2's like I did up there is informal, and your two's use is formally correct. Similarly if you had used two two's I wouldn't need this third sentence. :(

seo
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Re: A brief English language lesson

Nando wrote:
A non-native English speaker on this site recently said:

Thanks! :-)

On the topic of i.e. and e.g., I just want to add some information: i.e. stands for id est (latin for which means), and e.g. stands for exempli gratia (latin for for example).

Johan
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A brief English language lesson

Hi

I have just one reply to this:

Eftersom ni inte har behagat lära er det språk som jag talar/skriver, så får ni hålla till godo med den halvdanna variant av engelska som jag kan.

// Johan

seo
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A brief English language lesson

I can't say either that I agree or disagree with you, Johan. All I can say is that I don't understand a word. ;-)

OrlandoPat
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There are guides for those who are interested...

I agree completely with Nando. Epigone, there are rules to the English language - lots and lots of them. Many refer to The Elements of Style as a good guide. If you don't like that, or feel that it is too traditional, check out the AP Style Guide. Those are the rules you'll have to follow if you ever want to write for a newspaper (or a great number of magazines).

As for how well accepted these "prescriptivist" ideas are, I can only say you'll never find "His like's grate on my nerves" or "where is he at" published by either of my companies. I can't speak for others, of course, though Steve Jackson makes his views pretty clear as well.

For those who really want to play, check out a book called "Eats, Chutes, and Leaves". It's a lot of fun.

sedjtroll
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A brief English language lesson

Nando wrote:
"There are two lowercase As in the word 'bazaar'."

Well, three... but who's counting?

FastLearner
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A brief English language lesson

Psuedo-mnemonics I figured out when I was about 12 and use for i.e. and e.g. (these are sounds in my head so the printed versions lack something):

i.e. = In Ether words ("ether" rhymes with "weather" here, not the word "ether")

e.g. = EGzample

Johan
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A brief English language lesson

seo wrote:
I can't say either that I agree or disagree with you, Johan. All I can say is that I don't understand a word. ;-)

I worte:
Since you have neglected the possibility to learn the language that I speak/read, you have to keep up with my half decent version of English.

Since you have now have a thread that handle the language writing problems, I hope that you keep this discussion within this thread and don’t spread it to other.

// Johan

seo
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A brief English language lesson

Johan wrote:
I worte:
Since you have neglected the possibility to learn the language that I speak/read, you have to keep up with my half decent version of English.

Since you have now have a tread language writing problems, I hope that you keep this discussion within this tread and don’t spread it to other.

// Johan
I hope it doesn't; I'm partially responsible for this thread existence (it was my comment that triggered it). So far I think all the native speakers have been more than respectfull and tolerant with our less-than-perfect English, and I'm sure this will continue. They know we're making an extra effort to comunicate, and I don't feel the comments on proper English usage were ever intended to be anything other than helpful. Actually, many of the comments in this thread apply as much or even more to native speakers than to us. I know most people here in Uruguay is (or is it are?) unable to write properly in Spanish, and the same can be said about native English speakers and English, and probably to Swedes with Swedish.

But proper writing is important to game designers (rulebooks, proposals for publishers, websites, etc.) and most non-native English speakers will probably need good English writing skills to reach a wider audience. It might not be fair, but it's just how the world is.

Saludos,

Seo

zaiga
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Re: A brief English language lesson

sedjtroll wrote:
...Somehow this reminds me of the whole 'revealing hidden information' arguement :)

Argument...

:P

Scurra
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

Hey, a language pedantry thread started and I missed it...

OrlandoPat wrote:
For those who really want to play, check out a book called "Eats, Chutes, and Leaves". It's a lot of fun.
Did they change the title somewhere along the line? "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is the version I have :-)*

One of the problems with the English language is that there are some rules but not as many as people sometimes think. Equally, common usage has indeed changed a number of these rules over time, but not as many as people sometimes think - it's not that easy to change a whole language, especially one spoken globally. (Although I do concede that it is American English rather than British English that is the more widely spoken.)

So we can trade examples back and forth until we are bored silly. Things like "could of/would of" are generally not worth worrying about - those sort of common errors have been around for years and there is no sign of the language changing yet.

--
David

p.s. Johan, I got as far as working out that your message said something about "not reading/writing? my language" and "my English" but I admit that my grasp of your language is limited to not much more than the Swedish Chef ;-)

*If you don't know the origin, it's the punchline to a joke that only works when written down. A Panda walks into a bar, carrying a book, some bamboo and a gun. The bartender asks what is going on. The Panda puts the book on the table and points at a passage, then eats the bamboo, fires the gun and walks out. The bartender looks at the passage, which reads: "The Panda. Eats, shoots and leaves."

seo
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

Scurra wrote:
it is American English rather than British English that is the more widely spoken

You mean American UnitedStatian, or American Canadian? Actually, now that I think of it, I speak a perfect American English. Uruguay is as much America as the central strip of North America (aka USA) is. So from now on I'll claim that all my spelin an gramtikal errors are not such, but a local varyayshion, and fully entitled to be universally known as American English. ;-)

Seo

doho123
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A brief English language lesson

How does L33T speak fall in to this?

http://www.personal.psu.edu/zev100/IM.pdf

Even though I can't find the correct article now, there's been an upswing of sutdents writing "proper" English assignment papers in school using instant messaging speak.

OrlandoPat
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Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Yeah, I was having some fun with that. The joke doesn't work unless you spell "shoots" properly.

Here's the joke from the book:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

Anyone inspired to write an obscure game about misplaced punctuation? It would probably do great in the educational market.

phpbbadmin
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

seo wrote:
Scurra wrote:
it is American English rather than British English that is the more widely spoken

You mean American UnitedStatian, or American Canadian? Actually, now that I think of it, I speak a perfect American English. Uruguay is as much America as the central strip of North America (aka USA) is. So from now on I'll claim that all my spelin an gramtikal errors are not such, but a local varyayshion, and fully entitled to be universally known as American English. ;-)

Seo

Yeah that's one of the things that bugs me about the U.S. and its use of the word American. Hello? There are more than one country in the continents of america, of which there are two. People from the US egotistically assume that the term Americans refers to people from the USA. Kind of like saying all Europeans are from France.

-Darke

zaiga
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

Darkehorse wrote:
Yeah that's one of the things that bugs me about the U.S. and its use of the word American. Hello? There are more than one country in the continents of america, of which there are two. People from the US egotistically assume that the term Americans refers to people from the USA. Kind of like saying all Europeans are from France.

It's not just people from the USA that say "America" when they mean the USA, Europeans do that as well. America = USA, and when referring to the continents it's "North America", "Middle America" and "South America".

Epigone
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A brief English language lesson

doho123 wrote:
Even though I can't find the correct article now, there's been an upswing of sutdents writing "proper" English assignment papers in school using instant messaging speak.

I was once violently (okay, not really) against SMS, but this post made me much more accepting. Now I'm just thoroughly irritated by it. No more violence!

Nando
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

Darkehorse wrote:
People from the US egotistically assume that the term Americans refers to people from the USA.

Most republics (and a lot of dictatorships that aren't fooling anyone) have a bunch of gobbledygook in their names and The United States of America is no exception. After extensive research (read: I thoroughly searched the empty database that is my mind), I think no other nation has America in its name and so America becomes the most distinguishing word in the name of our republic. Because of natural laziness, I think most people are happy to shorten the name to simply America. I suspect we've been known as "Americans" longer than we've been self-loathing imperialists who jump at any opportunity to admit how vile we are. I certainly am not egotistical about its use. It's just always been like that. So I think egotistical is probably an inaccurate word here. I think it's more likely that ignorance sustains a shorthand born of simple expedience.

I think this just illustrates the kinds of double meaning and confusion that can happen when you cut corners in your writing and speaking. I'm just as guilty as anyone, but I try not to rest on the argument that "nobody cares."

seo
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Re: There are guides for those who are interested...

Darkehorse wrote:
There are more than one country in the continents of america, of which there are two.

I asume two means either one (from Alaska to the South of Argentina) or three (North, Central & South). Or should we start another thread on geography? ;-P

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