How a little French knife can help your grammar…

I know what you’re thinking. “She’s got a story here, hasn’t she?”  Yes. Yes I do…

When learning another language I find that students often get confused (and frustrated) by the ‘running order’ of words when forming their own sentences –  with describing words (adjectives) coming after rather than before the ‘thing’ (a noun). It’s “a green apple” but “una manzana verde“, for example. There seems to be a lot of rules to learn.  But many of us do not even give a second thought to our own native English and how many rules that has – especially around syntax (or “the order of words in a sentence”).

The Spanish CoachFor example did you know that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:  opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose-Noun.  Don’t believe me? For example you can have a “lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife”, but if you mess with the order of any one of those adjectives the whole sentence suddenly sounds strange.  It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that rule, quite naturally, but almost none of us could write it out!

My point is that, at some point, you learned that rule and it now feels quite natural and almost instinctive to you (and you could immediately tell if someone put the adjectives in the wrong order). We will all have gotten it wrong, repeatedly, while we were learning to speak – we just don’t remember. The same will be true of learning a new language. The natural flow will come with practice…. and we know that practice makes perfect!!



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