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Tag Archive | learn english

6 incredibly useful spelling rules from childhood

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In English, there are words that sound the same but are spelled differently (such as “their,” “they’re,” and “there”); words with letters that have nothing to do with how the word is pronounced (“brought,” “although”); words that contain silent letters (“gnat,” “pneumonia”); and words that simply don’t follow any spelling rules.

Let’s revisit those spelling rules we learned long ago and the words that break those rules.

1. “I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh”

Words that break this rule:

  • ancient
  • species
  • science
  • sufficient
  • society
  • either
  • foreign
  • leisure
  • protein

2. “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?” (Meaning when there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent.)

Words that break this rule:

  • said
  • through
  • leather
  • early
  • piece
  • build
  • guide
  • shoes
  • does
  • guest
  • break

3. Final silent E makes the vowel say its name (such as “rat,” “rate,” “hid,” “hide”)

Words that break this rule:

  • have
  • done
  • lose
  • where

4. Plural nouns—add an “s” or an “es”

Words that break this rule:

  • goose/geese
  • man/men
  • mouse/mice
  • tooth/teeth
  • alumnus/alumni
  • series
  • deer
  • sheep
  • species

5. If a word ends with an “ick” sound, spell it “ick” if it has one syllable (“trick”) and “ic” if it has two or more syllables (“sarcastic”)

Words that break this rule:

  • candlestick
  • seasick
  • nitpick

6. “A” versus “an”—if the first letter is a vowel use “an”; if the first letter is a consonant, use “a.”

Words that break this rule:

  • an honest
  • an honorable
  • a unicorn
  • a united front
  • a urologist
  • a onetime

Readers, any other rule-breaking words to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.

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Why is Y Sometimes a Vowel?

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Written by Arika Okrent

A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.

  • You might have learned it as a chant, a song, or a simple declaration, but this is how you learned the vowels of English.
  • You may have wondered, why is Y so unsure of itself?
  • Can’t we just decide what it is?
  • Why is Y a “sometimes” vowel?

Because writing is not the same thing as speech. While we casually refer to letters, which are written symbols, as vowels or consonants, the concepts of vowel and consonant properly belong to the domain of speech. In general terms, a consonant is a speech sound formed by some kind of constriction or impeding of air flow through the vocal tract, and a vowel lets the air flow freely through. The letter Y can stand for either of these types of sounds.

In “yes,” Y is representing a consonant, and in “gym” it is representing a vowel.

In fact, due to the imperfect match between writing and speech, there are other “sometimes” vowels:

  • W is a consonant in “we” and part of a diphthong vowel in “now.
  • H is a consonant in “hat” but what is it in “ah“? It’s part of the representation of a different vowel sound; compare it with “a.” If we look hard enough, we can even find examples of “sometimes” consonants.
  • What sound does the O represent in “one“?
  • What sound does the U represent in “united“? They are consonant+vowel combinations ‘wuh’ and ‘yu.’

A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y is not a bad rule of thumb.

Most of the time a spoken vowel will be represented by one of those written forms. And Y swings between vowel and consonant more than other swing letters. But it’s worth remembering that letters are not speech sounds. They are lines on a page, pixels on a screen that nudge us, quite imperfectly, toward the sounds of the things we say.

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The 20 Strangest Sentences In The English Language

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1. I never said she stole my money.

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This fun sentence takes on seven different meanings depending on which word is emphasized:
[I] never said she stole my money. – Someone else said it.
I [never] said she stole my money. – I didn’t say it.
I never [said] she stole my money. – I only implied it.
I never said [she] stole my money. – I said someone did, not necessarily her.
I never said she [stole] my money. – I considered it borrowed.
I never said she stole [my] money. – Only that she stole money— not necessarily my own.
I never said she stole my [money]. – She stole something of mine, not my money.
While this trick works for plenty of other sentences as well, this one’s short and easy to understand.

Read More…

What’s the Difference Between In- and Un-?

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English has two different prefixes that make a word into its opposite.

OK, yes, there are more than two (dis-, a-, anti-, de-, etc.), but in- and un- are the most common.

They bring the sense of “not” to an adjective, and they cause trouble because it is often not clear which one should be used for a particular word. Many pairs of in-/un- words are interchangeable.

For example:

“inalienable” and “unalienable” are both correct and mean the same thing (even the drafters of the Declaration of Independence went back and forth on that one), as do “inadvisable” and “unadvisable.”

Still, the two prefixes are not equivalent.

As a pretty flimsy general rule,

UN – goes with Germanic roots and

IN – goes with Latin roots,

as seen in these pairs: unfriendly, inamicable; unteachable; ineducable; unbelievable, incredible. Still, just because a word has a Latin root doesn’t mean it can’t go with un-: see unproductive, unfortunate, unreliable, undesirable, unconscious…and so on.

Un– is also usually found with adjectives formed from participles ending in -ed or -ing: undomesticated, undeveloped, undisciplined, unconcerning, uncomprehending.

On the other hand, if a word has a Germanic root, it pretty much does mean it can’t go with in-. If you do find such a word, it is probably an example of a completely different prefix in-, meaning in or towards (incoming, infield, indwell).

In- is much more restricted than un-.

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Un– is freely productive; it can apply to new words (“this haircut is brand new and unselfied!”), while

inremains frozen in the existing vocabulary, a Latin dinosaur bone.

Un– can even apply to words that already take in-, though when it does it often creates a different, less specific meaning.

For example:

while the word “indigestible” can be traced back to the meaning “not able to be digested” it carries extra layers of connotation –food that offends the senses or makes you feel bad, information that is too confusing to process– that “undigestible” doesn’t have. “Undigestible” is more straightforwardly “not able to be digested.”A poorly prepared lasagna is indigestible, but a rock is undigestible. Its meaning is composed of its two parts, while the meaning of “indigestible” comes from its long history of use.

But the search for these kinds of meaning difference can quickly turn messy and confusing. Once you start thinking about this too much, in- and un- words start to switch back and forth in your mind like

a duck/rabbit optical illusion.

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Shades of difference in meaning emerge only to dissolve under closer scrutiny.

Inaccessible, unaccessible?

Inconsolable, unconsolable?

Indescribable, undescribable?

Surely they mean different things. No, maybe not. Many of these kinds of pairs have been switching back and forth for centuries. (At the current time, the in- forms of these particular words are considered more acceptable.) Some of them have gotten stuck on one setting or the other, and some will continue to be indecisive, or, if you will, undecided.

 

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8 Ways to Say Congratulations!


Congratulations!

congratulationsJoyful times go hand in hand with congratulations. When addressing graduates, newlyweds, or anyone with good news, a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order. Congratulants, people who congratulate, have been using this pluralized expression, which stems from the Latin gratus meaning “pleasing,” since the 17th century. The singular noun meaning “the act of congratulating” has been around since the late 16th century.


Felicitations!

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Idiom: Red Queen’s race

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” [1]

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Caroll

A Red Queen’s race is any conflict situation where any absolute advances are equal on all sides such that the relative advantages stay constant despite significant changes from the initial state.

In other words … Much Ado/efforts and pains About Nothing; all for naught.

Learn more @ http://rationalwiki.org

Stopping now,

 

‘Yours faithfully’ vs ‘Yours sincerely’

When do you write ‘Yours faithfully’ and when ‘Yours sincerely’ in a business letter?

When the recipient’s name is unknown to you:
* Dear Sir … Yours faithfully
* Dear Sir or Madam … Yours faithfully
When you know the recipient’s name:
* Dear Mrs Hanson … Yours sincerely
* Dear Miss/Ms Hanson … Yours sincerely
When addressing a good friend or colleague:
* Dear Jack … Best wishes/Best regards
Addressing whole departments:
* Dear Sirs … Yours faithfull
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