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ESL Article: Characteristics of English

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Your learning efforts will be more effective if you have an overview of the language you are working with. That's why we have put together a number of features characterizing the English language. In some aspects we compare English against German to better illustrate -- you might want to compare these features with your mother tongue:

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  • English is a very compact language. The average English word for example is shorter than its German equivalent. That's because English verbs, nouns and adjectives don't have endings. But don't forget the Present Tense that has the letter "s" for the third person as in "he speaks". Also, there are many more English words containing only 3 or 4 letters than in the German language for example.

  • In English there is no "Du" or "Sie" form -- an idiomatic pitfall that causes non-Germans as much trouble as the appropriate use of the formal "Sie" and the chummy "Du" when addressing people.

  • There is almost no declension and no conjugation in the English language which makes it much easier for someone who is learning the language to form simple sentences that are grammatically correct.

  • There are 19 German equivalents to the possessive adjective "your".

  • There is only one definite article in the English language whereas in German there are three.

  • Most words in English have several meanings. This can be an advantage for learners as you can convey different meanings using the same word in a different context. On the other hand this might cause confusion especially for beginners.

  • In English all nouns are spelled with small letters. Exceptions are:

    • proper names
    • the days of the week
    • the personal pronoun "I"
    • the names of the months
    • titles, positions and greetings such as Mr, Mrs, Dr, Director of Marketing, CEO, etc.

  • The English language contains a lot of homophones. These are words that have the same pronunciation but are spelled differently. Of course they have different meanings.

    Examples: meet/meat/, by/buy/bye, son/sun, waste/waist, through/threw, write/right, our/hour, then/than, here/hear...

    You probably have made your own observations about the English language. Please feel free to contact us if you feel that something is missing here. Thanks.

    If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
    please post them on this English Grammar Forum.


    Next:ESL Article: Watching my son learn to speak





  • English Grammar through Stories (PDF)
    English Grammar through Stories could be your saviour — it shows you a completely new way of learning. Forget about old-fashioned text books with difficult explanations and boring sample sentences. You can improve your grammar very fast if you know how. The answer is a few clicks away: Read these unique short stories by Alan Townend and absorb the patterns of English grammar automatically. You can only learn if you enjoy what you are doing. You will love the funny characters in English Grammar through Stories because they show the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. On top of all that, each story concentrates on one particular grammar item so all you have to do is read the book and have fun. You will be amazed at how easily you can improve your grammar.

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