Stranger Things

Strange can be a strange word. If I asked you to explain it, you’d probably have no problem. It means weird, unusual, not normal. Easy.

Now though, think of words related to strange.

You can probably think of strangely, stranger, and estranged. OK, strangely is the adverb form of strange, but what’s the link with the other two words?

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A Tricky Tourist Trap

Yesterday, I mentioned that I expect other languages to have an increasing influence on English due to the fact that there are more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers. I’ve already noticed this happening a lot with one specific word. Let’s see if you can guess what it is:

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Teacher, can I say…?

This is the beginning of one of the most common questions English teachers get asked. And the answer is usually, Well, it’s technically correct, but we never actually say that in English. Which in turn is usually met by frustrated sighs. For all the language’s flexibility, we often fix on only one of the many possible ways to express an idea. This is often a tremendous source of frustration for learners, especially if they’re feeling pleased about using a certain grammar form, only for their teacher to tell them what they’re saying doesn’t really sound natural.

Often, this stems from direct translation from one’s mother tongue. In French for example, it’s standard to use nouns to refer to feelings. For example: Continue reading