Category Archives: English

English agreement

In English, our way to agree with someone is very confusing.

If you’re asked a negative question such as “Don’t you like it?” and you say “No”, this most probably means you don’t like “it”. But because of how inherently confusing this structure is, we often go on to clarify our answer: instead of saying “No”, we often say “No, I don’t” just to make super sure the person understands which way we lean. If we were asked “Don’t you like it?” and we said “Yes”, that would most likely mean we did like whatever “it” is (but of course, to clarify, we’d probably instead say “Yes, I do”).

Most Asian languages are the complete opposite of this. In Korean, Japanese, and other Asian and even non-Asian languages, saying “Yes” means you agree with the sentiment of whatever was said, regardless of whether it was positively or negatively worded. If the person didn’t like “it”, then in response to “Don’t you like it?”, they would simply say “Yes.” The asker asked if she didn’t like it, and that’s what the answerer agrees with.

Let’s do one more example to make the difference even clearer. If I say “No class today?”, and there was no class, an English speaker’s response would probably be “No”, as in “No, there is no class today.” However, a non-English speaker would most likely respond to the question “No class today?” with “Yes.” In response to “No class today?”, saying “No” would mean “No, there actually is class today.”

Another point: when asking for confirmation, we take the negative tense of whatever our verb was. Let me show a few examples:
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Common foreign words and their pronunciations

Learning similar languages can be quizzical for a number of reasons. Here’s a quick glimpse into some incredibly common words in English, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch. Notice how the Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch ones are pronounced:

English

Norwegian

Swedish

Dutch

yes ja (“ya”) ja (“ya”) ja (“ya”)
no nei (“nye”) nej (“nay”) nee (“nay”)
I jeg (“yiy”) jag (“ya”) ik
me meg (“my”) mig (“may”) me (“muh”)
me (stressed) meg (“my”) mig (“may”) mij (“may”, “my”)
you (nominative) du du je (“yuh”)
you (nominative, stressed) du du jij (“yay”, “yiy”)
you (objective) deg (“dye”) dig (“day”) je (“yuh”)
you (objective, stressed) deg (“dye”) dig (“day”) jou (“yow”)
it den, det (“deh”) den, det (“deh”) het

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Germanic mutual intelligibility

I’ve written about how learning one language can help you learn another. Let me show you some examples of what I mean:

English

Norwegian

Swedish

Dutch

also også också ook
always alltid alltid altijd
expensive, dear dyrt dyrt duur
(to) have (å) ha (att) ha hebben
(to) hear (å) høre (att) höra horen
must måste moeten
north nord norr noord
tonight i kveld ikväll vanavond
(to) want, (to) will (å) ville (att) vilja willen
welcome back velkommen tilbake välkommen tillbaka welkom terug
with med med met

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Most confusing words in the English language

English is a crazy language full of exceptions and confusing words. In this article I’ll try to clear up some of the most common misconceptions in the language that I’ve seen. This page will be updated as I think of more confusing words to add.

This vs. That

farther vs. further

“Farther” implies distance while “further” implies time. As you can imagine, these two are often interchangeable even though they don’t have the same meaning.
e.g. “He’s studied longer than me, but I know more than him, so he’s further along, but I am farther along.”

it’s vs. its

See “you’re vs. your”.

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