Grammar Guru: Referring to general knowledge

How do you refer to general knowledge?

“_____________ flights all over Europe are cancelled because of the volcano.”

  • They say
  • Something tells me
  • One says

Related news:

  • Lufthansa is reportedly going to try to sue the German government for damages.
  • John Cleese is alleged to have spent thousands to get from Oslo to Brussels… by taxi!

Grammar Guru: _______ verbs

Ok, this guy’s knocked out some teeth here:


Danny Granger, American professional basketball player for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, famously knocked out his two front teeth in a victorious game against the Boston Celtics on 1 November 2008. You can say both of these:

  • He knocked out two teeth.
  • He knocked two teeth out.

But you can only say one of these:

  • He knocked out them.
  • He knocked them out.

Compare: “knock out” is a phrasal verb like:
put away (aufräumen), bring up (=mention), try out, give up, call up, rip off (=steal), think over, boss around (herumkomandieren), make up (=invent)
They all use the structure of “knock it out.”
There are lots of lists and exercises here. Try them out!

Contrast regular two part verbs:
fall for, bump into, get over, look at, go up, fall down…
Look at them!

Knock ‘em out

Feed the grammar guru

My favorite quote so far at IATEFL: “Do not teach things that are wrong.” That’s Dave Willis. And as he proves in this talk held before a room full of English teachers, it’s easier said than done. We often enough do teach total malarkey, namely as soon as we teach prescriptive grammar rules that don’t allow for the complexity of the language.

According to Dave Willis (and Peter Bundy), grammar rules don’t really work. The knowledge of the language comes first, the grammar comes second. Grammar consists in knowledge of use, not in knowledge of rules.

So what do teachers need to do? Students are smart. They need to look at the language. They’ll figure it out.

And meanwhile, what does the teacher do? Correct student errors, not so that students will apply the rules correctly, or even get the phrasing right then and there, but to destablize students and remind them that there is a little (just a little) more to be learned.

This is not verbatim, but close:
“Encourage learners to look at language themselves. … Get them to work with text… How many different patterns can you see here? Which verbs operate with which patterns? Can you think of any other verbs which operate with this pattern? All the time, throwing the onus on the learner and making them think things through for themselves … This seems to me to be much more productive … encouraging the learner to actually apply that amazing creative facility that they have to work with language. If you give prescriptive rules, you’re in danger of cutting that off. If you encourage learners to think for themselves, then you are helping them become more positive learners and apply that faculty which is far more sophisticated than anything a teacher could offer them.”

By the way, I do think this is worth a debate! Isn’t all education filled with “white lies” mediating between learners and reality?

Tomorrow’s Grammar Guru quiz will be on a hot issue Dave Willis presented: Phrasal verbs.

Grammar Guru: Oops!

What do you say instead of “oops!” ?

* There appears to have been some sort of mistake.
* There appears to have been made some sort of mistake.
* There appears some sort of mistake has been made.

This is the silliest song Ella and Louis ever sang together, but it’s great singing on a bicycle. Try it!

  • take a spill – dabei hinfallen
  • take a bow – sich verbeugen
  • don’t let it get (to) you – mach dich deshalb nicht verrückt
  • nincompoop – Idiot
  • chops – Kiefer, Mund
  • buxomgroßbusig
  • to dig someone – jemanden mögen
  • truth to tell – um ehrlich zu sein

Oops, my heart went oops,
the moment that we met, my heart went oops,
I never will forget, my heart turned hoops,
the moment that I met you

oops, my feet went oops,
I nearly took a spill, my knees went oops,
they shook a bit until my head went oops,
you mustn’t let it get you

I was going for a very
you’d call it solitary sort of stroll
just a twiddle of my thumb
when I heard a lot of drums begin to pound and roar

and oops, my heart went oops,
it went into a spin of loop-di-loops
you must’ve thought me kin to nincompoops
the silly way I acted

of course you wouldn’t know,
that you were so a-glow, and I was so attracted
but baby take a bow
my heart is going oops right now

[bridge]

pops you are the tops
the moment that my eyes behold your chops
you lift me to the skies my heart flip-flops
you shouldn’t make it make like that

belle, my  buxom belle
I’m still in love with you coz, truth to tell,
you always kind of knew that we would gel
coz jam could never shake like that

I was going for a frantic
but completely unromantic sorta drive
but I knew you wouldn’t quit
when I dug you and you hit me with that old time jive
(sing it Ella)

then oops, my heart went oops
sitting on the stoops, the local droops
they nearly flipped their toops, I mean in groups
the silly way we acted

of course they couldn’t know
that you were so a-glow
and I was so attracted
yes baby take a bow,
my heart is going oops, oops, oops, oops, oops right now
oops, oops then

song of the week :-) englisch lernen mit liedern

Grammar Guru: Stop …!

One of my dear students is having trouble with the difference between stop to do something and stop doing something. I used to use that Talking Heads film title to pound it into people (oh, you pound people too?? Nasty laughs.) But Lady Gaga is more up to date, and her “Telephone” is hot. No, I probably wouldn’t be taking the video to my company courses, just the song. But you do have to know the terrain. Anyway, Pomplamoose have just uploaded their pomplamoosish Grade A cover version.

Stop what you’re doing. Stop to listen to this.

Hello, Hello, baby; you called
I can’t hear a thing
I have got no service in the club you say, say
Wa-wa-what did you say?
Huh? You’re breaking up on me
Sorry, I cannot hear you
I’m kinda busy
K-kinda busy

Just a second, it’s my favorite song they’re gonna play
and I cannot text you with a drink in my hand, eh?
You shoulda made some plans with me; you knew that I was free
And now you won’t stop calling me
I’m kinda busy

Stop callin’, stop callin’, I don’t wanna think anymore!
I left my head and my heart on the dance-floor
Stop callin’, stop callin’, I don’t wanna talk anymore!
I left my head and my heart on the dance-floor

Stop telephonin’ me!
I’m busy!

Can call all you want but there’s no one home
and you’re not gonna reach my telephone!
‘Cause I’m out in the club and I’m sippin’ that bub’
and you’re not gonna reach my telephone!

Boy, the way you blowin’ up my phone won’t make me leave no faster,
put my coat on faster, leave my girls no faster.
I shoulda left my phone at home ’cause this is a disaster!
Callin’ like a collector
Sorry: I cannot answer!

Not that I don’t like you: I’m just at a party
And I am sick and tired of my phone ri-ringing
Sometimes I feel like I live in Grand Central Station
Tonight I’m not takin’ no calls ’cause I’ll be dancin’

We’re sorry; the number you have reached is not in service at this time
Please check the number, or try your call again

PS: Don’t watch Lady Gaga’s video if you’re not into explicit stuff. But I’ve been thinking about it and, yes, it’s pretty interesting and will set off lots of conversation.

song of the week :-) englisch lernen mit liedern