Present Simple tense

This is the most used tense in English, but it’s not always present and it’s not always simple! Let’s investigate.

1 Form

S=subject, V=verb

  • a) Positive: S V(s)
  • b) Negative: S do(es) not V
  • c) Yes/No question: Do(es) S V ?
  • d) Wh question: Wh_ do(es) S V ?

‘s’ and ‘es’ are used if the subject is he, she or it.

2 Spelling

The base form of the verb is used, so no problem here, except for the ‘s’ form, which can be made in 3 ways.

  • a) Add ‘s’ to the base verb:

eat-eats, live-lives, play-plays, think-thinks.

Special case: have-has

  • b) Add ‘es’ to verbs ending in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x.

kiss-kisses, wash-washes, catch-catches, fix-fixes.

Special cases: do-does, go-goes.

  • c) Verbs ending in consonant + y, change y to i and add ‘es’.

carry-carries, study-studies, fly-flies.

3. Pronunciation

The ‘s’ form is pronounced in 3 ways:

  • a) /s/ eats, makes, gets
  • b) /z/ plays, sees, goes
  • c) /Iz/ washes, dances, fixes

4 Meaning

There is a long list of situations when present simple is used. Here are the main two, which cover about 90% of situations.

  • a) Long-term situations: situations that are (almost) always true, starting from the past and continuing into the future, for eample: facts, opinions, likes.

eg I like strawberries

Jim works in a bank

  • b) Regular actions: often repeated, for example: habit, routine, custom, lifestyle.

eg She plays tennis

Many people eat with chopsticks.

So you can see the present simple is used for normal situations, even though these things may not be happening in the present.

I am sure she doesn’t play tennis all the time, and I’m very sure that many people don’t eat with chopsticks 24 hours a day. And Jim doesn’t work in a bank at nights and weekends and, although I like like strawberries very much, I am not eating any now. I’m drinking a cup of tea, but this is Present Continuous, which we will look at next……

Unlucky dollar?

Would you feel lucky if someone gave you a US dollar? Although one dollar is only about 120yen it is still better than nothing. You could even buy a pair of glasses from the 100yen shop!

And it looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s not made of paper, it’s made from cotton and linen, with a little silk, so it’s actually material. A special ink is used and then it is starched and pressed, and on the front you can see a picture of the first president, George Washington.

But if you look closely at the back you can find a big relationship with the unlucky number 13. Let’s go through the list.

You can see a pyramid, which has 13 steps.

Above the pyramid is written (in Latin) ‘Annuit Coeptis’, which has 13 letters.

Above the eagle is more Latin, ‘E Pluribus Unum’, which also has 13 letters.

Also above the eagle are 13 stars.

There are 13 bars on the shield below the eagle.

In the eagle’s left claw is an olive branch with 13 leaves.

In the eagle’s right claw are 13 arrows.

In addition the original US flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars.

It seems strange that in the US, where 13 is often considered unlucky, that the famous dollar bill (and the flag!) has so many references to the number 13.

For anyone who finds the dollar bill unlucky there is the one dollar coin, the silver dollar, or the gold dollar. The only problem is that these aren’t easy to find, though you can buy them on the internet for about 4 dollars each!

Hallowe’en

Hallowe’en is a big festival in the United States, but its origin is from the ancient Celtic people of Britain and northern France.

If you are a football supporter you may know that the star Japanese footballer, Shunsuke Nakamura, plays for the champions of Scotland, Celtic.

More than 2,000 years ago the Celtic people celebrated Samhain on October 31st. At that time this was the last day of the year and the Celtic people believed that the spirits of the dead could visit their house on this day. But evil spirits, often appearing as animals (especially cats), could also visit. To frighten the evil spirits people dressed in scary costumes and carried lanterns made from turnips which were painted with scary faces.

Over the centuries the Christian religion spread through Europe and, in the year 835, November 1st was made an important Christian holy day (holiday) to honour all the Christian saints. This day was (and still is) called All Saints Day, or All Hallows (to hallow means to make holy).

On the day before All Hallows people continued to celebrate Samhain, which gradually changed its name to the ‘Evening before Hallows’ to ‘Hallows’ Eve’ to ‘Hallowe’en’.

In the United States the first big Hallowe’en festival was in 1921. The idea of Trick or Treat was started in the US, as did the use of pumpkins for lanterns instead of turnips.

These days Hallowe’en is a fun-day for many people, but there are some who still follow the traditions of Samhain.

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Why a silent k? I don’t _now.

After class today a student politely asked me, “Could you tell me why the k in knife is silent?” I replied, “I don’t know.”

My reply wasn’t good, but it was the truth. There are a few words like this, for example: knee, knot, knock, knickers, knuckle and, of course, know (plus knew and known). So I decided to do some research and find the answer.

It was actually quite easy to find. I googled ‘Why a silent k’, and Google found 26,200,000 sites in 0.15 seconds. The third site had the answer.

In Old English the k was not silent. So the word ‘knife’ was pronounced in full. But this was a little difficult to pronounce. I guess that humans are always finding easier ways to do things, and sometime during the 16th and 17th centuries the difficult k was dropped.

The only mystery is why it remains in the spelling. Maybe it was in so many books that no-one felt like changing the spelling. And if the spelling of ‘know’ was changed to ‘now’ it would probably be a little confusing.

Some people believe that in Scotland the k is not completely silent and that they can hear a small sound before the n.

So the answer is that the k used to be pronounced, but it was a little too difficult so the k sound was dropped but the letter k wasn’t. Know I now!

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Pizza isn’t very delicious

pizza.jpeg

Pizza is tasty. Pizza is very tasty. Pizza is delicious. But pizza isn’t very delicious.

The problem is that the adverb ‘very’ and the adjective ‘delicious’ are not used together.

‘Very’ can be used in front of most adjectives, for example: ‘very hungry’, ‘very cold’, and ‘very nice’, and it is used to show a strong feeling. So ‘very tasty pizza’ is a very nice phrase.

However ‘very’ is not used before all adjectives. Some adjectives, for example ‘tasty’, are known as basic adjectives, and they have a strong adjective as a partner, for example ‘delicious’.

Please look at a short list:

basic adjective – strong adjective

tasty – delicious

tired – exhausted

cold – freezing

nice – wonderful

interesting – fascinating

scared – terrified

hungry – starving

‘Very’ can be used with a basic adjective but it is not used with a strong adjective. So ‘very cold’ is OK, but ‘very freezing’ is not OK. And ‘very tasty’ is OK, but ‘very delicious’ is not.

What can we do? The answer is simple: use ‘absolutely’.

The adverb ‘absolutely’ is used with strong adjectives so ‘absolutely delicious’ is what you can say. But, be careful, ‘absolutely’ is used mainly with strong adjectives, so don’t say ‘absolutely tasty’.

If this is very confusing don’t worry because there is an even more useful adverb: ‘really’. This can be used with both basic and strong adjectives, yippee! So ‘really tasty’ and ‘really delicious’ are both OK.

You may think that ‘really’ is not so easy to pronounce, but all you do is touch the top of your mouth with your tongue when you say ‘l’.

So pizza isn’t very delicious, it’s really delicious, especially with ham and pineapple!

What makes sport so good?

Why does sport cause so much emotion? Why does sport make us so happy, so sad, so excited and so angry?

My favourite sports are cricket and football. I used to play them both, but now I can only watch. I enjoy watching most sports. I even watched veteran table-tennis last week-end (see: Isn’t life wonderful, October 15th).

I’m not a big baseball fan, but since I’ve been in Japan I’ve always followed Yakult Swallows. Their strange coach was Mr Nomura and their energetic, young catcher was Atsuya Furuta. Yakult won the Japan Series four times and it was very exciting.

I once saw them play, against Yokohama Bay Stars at Kusanagi. Sasaki was the starting pitcher for the Bay Stars. Later he played for the Seattle Mariners with Ichiro. His nickname in Seattle was ‘Daimajin’ and he was a very successful closing pitcher, with many saves.

However when I saw him he wasn’t good. Yakult won 13-2 and Ikeyama, O’Malley and Furuta hit home-runs. I waved my turquoise umbrella with the other Yakult fans.

But my favourite baseball team is the Detroit Tigers. I even have a cap which I bought in Detroit. The Tigers are now in the World Series, and they lost the first game today. Please support them with me!

Last night was the start of the Japan Series between Chunichi Dragons and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Neither is ‘my’ team, and baseball isn’t ‘my’ sport, but I watched the game with interest.

At the top of the 9th inning my phone rang, but I didn’t answer it. I wanted to see the end of the game. What makes sport so good?

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What a wonderful world

Today a good friend gave me a CD by the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong. The final track, which was recorded in the 1960s, is ‘What a wonderful world’, and here are a few lines from this song:

I see trees of green, red roses too,

I see them bloom for me and you,

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see friends shaking hands saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying, “I love you.”

Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Bless you!

Why do many Western people say these words after someone has sneezed? As with many things the origin is so old that it is unclear, though most people agree that it means something like, ‘May God bless you‘, so it must be concerned with something very important.

Some people think that a sneeze causes the soul to be blown out of the body. The words ‘Bless you’ are used to stop Satan (the devil) from stealing the soul, before it can return to the body.

Other people believe the sneeze blows the devil from the body, and ‘Bless you’ prevents the devil from returning to the body.

It was also thought that the heart stops beating for a few moments when someone sneezes (don’t worry, it doesn’t), so the words ‘Bless you’ can help the person return to life.

But the reason most people believe is related to a disease known as the ‘Black Death‘ which killed thousands, perhaps millions, of people in Europe around the 17th century. If someone caught this disease then he would start sneezing. So a sneeze was a sign that this person would soon die, and the words ‘Bless you’ were said as only God could now help this person.

Nowadays it seems that ‘Bless you’ or ‘God bless’ is a standard response to someone who sneezes, just good manners. Staying silent after someone has loudly sneezed seems impolite and unfriendly.

But there is one final point: if your friend suffers from hay-fever you don’t need to say ‘Bless you’ after every sneeze. In this case I am sure your friend would be quite happy if you simply continued with your conversation.

Isn’t life wonderful, part 2

On Saturday afternoon I went for a picnic with my family. We decided to find somewhere by the Abe River. So we went to the cricket ground.

The cricket ground is right next to the river, very near to Kano Bridge. It is really a city park, but some members of the Shizuoka Kytes Cricket Club cut the grass every week and keep the ground in fantastic condition. It’s very hard work but well worth it, as the grass looks like a beautiful green carpet.

The local residents are very happy to have such a pleasant place nearby, and they often fill the grass-cutter with gasoline as a sign of their thanks.

We had our picnic in the warm autumn sunshine on the green grass, with a great view of the mountains. Isn’t life wonderful.

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Youth cricket demonstration at the ground

Isn’t life wonderful

On Saturday morning I had to meet someone at the Osada Sports Centre in Shizuoka City. As I took off my shoes I could hear the sound of bats hitting balls and balls hitting tables. I was sure someone was playing ping pong. I was right, it was table-tennis day.

In the main hall, which is usually for basketball and badminton, and sometimes even tennis or football, were 17 table-tennis tables. And there were four people playing mixed doubles on each table, with lots of people waiting to play. There must have been about 100 players in total.

And they were good. They were very good. I’ve played table-tennis and I’m a pretty tricky player who can play a lot of shots with spin and speed. But these players were a different class. This was the first time I have seen really good players in real life. I suddenly realized that I play ping pong, but these people play table-tennis.

It was good to watch, and gradually I started looking at some of the players. I thought they were all young players, like Ai Fukuhara, but some of them were a little older than I had thought. It was nice to watch the younger players and the older ones playing together. But then I looked more closely and I saw that all the players were quite old, in fact I am sure that they were all older than me! Some of them were probably in their 70s. And they were good.

Every player could beat me easily. It was great to see these elderly people with such reflexes and skill. Isn’t life wonderful.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

This is the longest word you will see in this blog. It means fear of Friday 13th, which is today.

In the Western world Friday 13th is associated with bad luck. How many times can we get this day in one year? There is no real routine, but it can occur once, twice or sometimes three times a year. The next one is in April.

Why is Friday 13th considered an unlucky day? Nobody really knows, but it seems that it is the combination of the unlucky number 13, with the bad day, Friday, which equals the mega-unlucky day of Friday 13th.

There is no doubt that 13 is considered by many people to be unlucky, for example:

Many buildings have no 13th floor.

Many cities have no 13th Street nor 13th Avenue.

Many airports have no Gate 13.

Many hospitals and hotels have no Room 13.

Many people will leave a party or a meal with 13 guests.

And there are many more examples, plus of course Apollo 13!

So why is 13 so unlucky?

The most popular view is that there were 13 guests at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, before he died, as shown in a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Added to this is the view that 12 is a ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ number. There are 12 months in the year, 12 signs of the Zodiac, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 tribes of Israel, and many more, which suggests that 13 is an imperfect (and evil?) number.

And what about Friday?

Christian belief is that Jesus Christ died on a Friday, and it is also thought that Eve gave Adam an apple on a Friday.

So, 13 and Friday make a strong combination. On Friday October 13th 1307, exactly 699 years ago King Philip of France arrested, tortured and killed thousands of Knights Templar, who were a very powerful group that protected Christians (though there are many stories of their corruption), and who are included in the recent book, ‘The da Vinci Code’.

There is also the fact that every month that includes Friday 13th starts with Sunday 1st which, according to Christians, is God’s day of rest, but why this is a sign of bad luck I don’t know.

One other fact: research in the UK shows that on Friday 13th there is less traffic on the streets (lots of people stay indoors), but there are more traffic accidents than normal. Is this because of bad luck, or because people get more nervous and panicky?

To be honest I’m not at all superstitious about Friday 13th, but I’m glad that my children weren’t born on this day.

Funny story: English homework

One of my friends is an English teacher at a university, and this is what happened.

My friend teaches a basic level English class. One day he was collecting homework. The students had to write a short report about a foreign country.

One girl’s report was about France and it was absolutely perfect. It was beautifully written and there were no grammar or spelling mistakes. My friend was amazed because this particular student rarely spoke in class and was always looking bored. So he decided to ask the student some straight questions:

“Have you ever been to France?” “No”

“Have you studied French?” “No”

“Did you copy this report?” “No”

“Is this all your own English?” “Yes”

“Why is your report in French?” (silent shock!)