Several years ago I spent some time in Italy and when I got back to North America I was hit with a bad case of reverse culture shock. North American streets were too wide, too clean and too new. The food was too much and too fast. And the language was too quick and colloquial. After hearing a lot of English spoken as a second language, I realized that it’s a damn good thing I was born with English because there’s no way I could ever learn its nuances second hand. And honestly, I applaud anybody who can, because they’re tons smarter than I’ll ever be.
Check it out:
In English, we “take” things. I think it comes from our marauding imperious past.
We “take” a bus.
We “take” a taxi.
And we “take” the train.
Of course, we give them back when we’re done with them, but there are other things we “take” and just devour, like:
We “take” a look.
We “take” a vacation.
We “take” a nap.
However, we can’t simply “take” everything in life because (thank God) a lot of stuff we just “get” like some kind of all-inclusive gift package.
We “get” an education.
We “get” a job.
We “get” married.
But when we “get” married we don’t automatically “get” children. They’re not a gift. We “have” children. It’s as if they were some pre-ordained possession, like:
or “having” an attitude,
or “having” dinner.
Unfortunately, once again though, we can’t just “have” everything. Sometimes, we must become active participants and “make” it first. For example, unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you need to “make” dinner before you can “have” dinner. It’s a curious thought, but we “make” all kinds of things.
We “make” mistakes (by screwing up.)
We “make” progress (by not screwing up.)
We “make” money (although, strictly speaking, that’s illegal: we should “earn” it — like trust or good credit.)
And we also “make” love.
Although this is actually changing and most people don’t “make” love anymore, they just “have” sex and if that doesn’t say a bunch about contemporary society’s willingness to active participate in romance, I don’t know what does.
And now that you’re hopelessly confused, there’s the other side of the coin. Not only do we “take,” “get,” “have” and “make,” we can also “lose” things.
We “lose” our keys.
We “lose” our patience.
We “lose” our tempers.
These are all things we can find again if we try hard enough. However, there are other things that we can never get back. Sometimes, when we “lose” our temper, we “get” into an argument, and if we “lose” that — well — it’s gone forever. Kinda like “losing” your virginity — which, as we all know, can only happen if we “make” love, “have” sex or get “wasted at a sophomore kegger” — a phrase that’s impossible to translate into any other language — although most people understand the reference.
So to all those people who endured my terrible Spantalian (Spanish/Italian) and spoke to me in my language because I couldn’t really speak to them in theirs: I’m still in awe at your linguistic skill because — take it from a native speaker — the intricacies of English must be a bitch to learn.
2 thoughts on “Learning English — Good Luck!”
Great explanation of typical English verbs.
In the Netherlands we confuse foreigners with the verbs ‘hebben’ and ‘zijn’. Either you posses something or you are something.
For example: You are my friend because I have been reading such a long time your blog.
Which is in contrary with my definition …
Brilliant as always.