Why English Is So Hard
It is fun to compile some of the idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies of the English language. Most are found around the internet, so I claim no originality. Some are sentences with homonyms, one is a list of homophones, and others are simply fun!
Do you have any to add? Comment below!
Hamburger has no ham.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
There is no pine or even apple in pineapple.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present to his girlfriend.
I take it you already know
of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
on hiccough, thorough, slough and through.
Vegetables are the main food of vegetarians, but do humanitarians eat something else?
A bandage is wound around a wound.
The door was too close to the table to close.
Taught is the past tense of teach; however, the past tense of preach is preached and not praught.
You decided to desert my dessert in the desert.
I did not object to the object which he showed me.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail around the mast.
The farm was cultivated to produce produce.
The dump was so full that the workers had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture shown at the store.
He could lead if he could get the lead out.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
The dog I had had had quite a few health difficulties before I took it to the vet. [Yes, this is grammatically correct!]
The insurance was invalid for the invalid in his hospital bed.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
Upon seeing the tear in her painting, she shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
The English words see and look mean the same thing, but oversee and overlook have different meanings.
Take a look at the different ways of emphasizing the sentence below:
– I sent him a letter – a plain statement.
– I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter, someone else didn’t send it (or “you didn’t send it, I did”).
– I sent him a letter – this could imply “I sent him a letter, but I’m not sure he received it.”
– I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter – you didn’t send it to someone else (perhaps even “you weren’t meant to read it”).
– I sent him a letter – you sent him a letter, not anything else.
“Inert” means (among other things) lacking any chemical reactions. However, there is no word “ert” to indicate the opposite.
“Inhibit” means to prevent or discourage from doing something. There is no word “hibit.”
If something is “inverted,” it’s upside down. However, if something is rightside up, it’s not called “verted.”
I suspect you have met a number of disgruntled people, but you’ve never met someone who could be called “gruntled.”
Awkward people can be described as “ungainly” or “inept,” but you’ve never heard someone described as “gainly” or “ept.”
Lead means to go in front of, or it’s a heavy metal used in car batteries.
Wind is a gust of air, or it’s what you do to an old clock.
Bass is the deep sound from your stereo or is a type of fish.
Sow is what farmers do with seeds in the spring, or it’s the mother of piglets.
Wound is an injury, but wound is what a clock is after you wind it.
A dove is a bird related to a pigeon, but dove is what you did at the pool last summer.
Close is what you are when you’re nearby, but close is what you do to the freezer door to keep the ice cream from melting.
A minute is 60 seconds, but something minute is very tiny.
A record is a vinyl disk containing your parent’s music, but record is what you do to your favorite TV show so you can watch it later.
Tear means to rip up, but a tear is what falls from your eye when you’re sad.
There are problems with plurality:
Usually, you add an “s” or perhaps and “es” to the end of the word to make it plural. For example, finger/fingers. With some words you replace the last letter (y) with an “ies” as in baby/babies.
Then we fall down the black hole of inconsistency. The plural of “child” is “children,” rather than “childs.” Next are the delightful words tooth/teeth, foot/feet, person/people, mouse/mice (but not house/hice), knife/knives, wife/wives, and goose/geese. See the poster below for more fun.
Pronounce and spell the following:
Change the second vowel to turn “woman” to “women,” but for some reason you pronounce the “o” differently.
And last is this fun poster found all over the internet:
Such fun!!! Thanks for sharing with us “wordsmiths”!
My husband and I just had a conversation about this on Wednesday. One aspect we discussed was when to use affect and effect. I don’t know how anyone learns the English language because it’s so difficult!
Every wordsmith with a spouse is now jealous of your relationship with your husband. It is not often that strange grammar usage is part of a normal married couple’s conversation!
Love it. Thank you.
I found your website recently, this is a fun post! Thanks for sharing. I agree with Deena, affect and effect are my least favorite words, and I will do anything to avoid using them.
My favorite homophones are “peek” / “peak” / and “pique.” I was watching a movie once while running on the treadmill and had subtitles turned on. The movie had all three words in it, and each one was misspelled in the subtitles! By the time I saw the third mistake, I had to stop the treadmill because I was laughing so hard. I decided the person who wrote the subtitles had a great sense of humor and did it on purpose.
English is a mess 🙂 . . yet, I love it for the mess that it is!! You covered most of my favorites, but to those I would add this:
Why aren’t the counting numbers that precede fourth, fifth and sixth pronounced onth, twoth and threeth instead of first, second and third?
Someone just reminded me of another that I have seen lately. Could of or should of, when it should be should’ve or could’ve
A great question. I never thought of that one before.
When my husband turned 51, a little girl made him a card saying “Happy 51th Birthday.” I thought it was cute. We teased her about having a lisp.
Amen! ROTFLOL Glad it’s my first language. LOL Thanks for the laugh, Steve. I’ll have to share it with my group forum.
Loved the lists of inconsistencies in our language. And now we know why people say English is such a hard language to learn.
Steve, this is hilarious. May I use that poem at the bottom for the humor section of my newsletter? If I can, would you send me an attachment to download and upload as a picture? I love your Fun Fridays.
Here is one of the many places on the internet where that poster is found:
Ive taught ESL for your years in both America and overseas. Another confusing one is this:
WHY do we park on DRIVEWAYS and drive on PARKWAYS??
CUTE: my Italian dance instructor just yesterday said that in the mornings he likes his Early Grey Tea. Hehe.
Hehe! This is the “funnest” humour that my husband and I joke about. As you can see I also like inventing new words ?. As an ESL instructor for many years I had lots of chuckles. Once I was teaching a group of students in Taiwan about hair colours and someone asked me, “If people with red hair are called redheads, why can’t we be called blackheads?” I couldn’t help but have a good laugh before attempting to explain the reason!
And then there are “flammable” and “inflammable.” One would think they’re opposites, but they’re synonyms. “Nonflammable” and “inflammable” are the antonyms for each other, but only “nonflammable'” is an antonym for “flammable.”
This is hilarious, and it also blows my mind. How incredible it is that such illogical things can make sense. ?
Sow – both produce, but they don’t both produce produce.
Close-You may be close to the refrigerator when you close the freezer door but the ice cream container is left in very close quarters once inside. You would also be using words that all have the same Middle English origin if you chose to write about this incident, “the Case of the Claustrophobic Ice Cream”.
And if you quickly keep a record of all the records your parents own plus all of the internet shows you record, it could be done in record time.
It is amazing so many languages have influenced American English; it makes us a true melting pot. Wouldn’t trade one of the weird words, even if capital and capitol drive me nuts and believe and receive cause pause.
Hamburger-originated from a German town of Hamburg
Did Earl of Sandwhich, who didn’t want to interrupt his sport to go sup, take his sandwhiches to the Pacific where he named the Sandwhich Islands? This was the only place sandwhich made sense.
Rough was passed over and rough and tough pair with ruff and tuff
Would wood fit into this category as well?
Ungainly-gainly, yes Gothic British Lit.
Inept – no ept , rather, adept=thoroughly proficient : expert (Miriam Webster)
Aren’t humanitarians vegetarians? That solves the problem.
Sidetrack: I recently recognized that the prosecutor on the Perry Mason Show is named Hamilton Burger.
Then a good lesson for me: I do not now look at an invalid as an invalid (un-valued) person.
Perhaps it’s my love of all things linguistics but I can’t help it.
The quandary of your query rests in the Latin dictionary. I’ll step away now…..
Fun and confusion reigns in English. I’m saving this to show my ESL student–not to discourage her but to help her see how far she has come and that she is succeeding despite the difficulties! It’s really not her!!
English is not a hard language when compared with French or many other language. I am a Chinese and I understand there is only ONE form in each verb while there are three forms for English. But I have to say that there are more than ten in French and French has future tense too.