We can help students make connections between two different, seemingly unconnected
language items, and so reinforce both items. This may have a mnemonic effect, since items not normally linked become connected
in the students' minds.
Used to and the present perfect
can be considered opposites in a sense because the present perfect stresses continuity, whereas used to stresses discontinuity. The structures can be represented by symbols as follows:
I’ve always played: → (continuing)
I’ve never played: (no symbol)
I used to play: + - (Positive then negative, an
activity has been discontinued)
I didn’t use to play: - + (Negative then
positive, an activity has started)
ask each other questions: Do you play football/tennis. Can you swim/ speak English?
Parters reply by holding up a piece of paper with appropriate symbols, as shown
below. Side one of the paper has an arrow (representing present perfect for continuity),
side two, a plus and minus sign (representing a change. Note that this can represent either used to or didn’t use to, according to which way up the paper is held.)
2 + -
The questioner has to interpret
the paper, for example:
Do you ever go camping?
(Shows side 2, + -)
Oh, You don’t, but you used to.
S2: (shows side 2 -+)
S1: You do, but you didn’t used to.
S1: Do you play tennis?
S2: (shows arrow)
S1: Oh, you’ve always played
S1: Do you sing?
S2: (No symbol)
S1: You have never sung.
Jobs, comparatives and superlatives.
suffix –er has two roles in English, to make comparatives (faster, older) and to make verbs into people or things that perform a certain function or action, often jobs (manager, runner). We can therefore contrast occupations:
A runner is faster than a planner.
A manager is older than a teenager.
A weightlifter is stronger than a baby sitter.
A farmer is happier than a begger.
A rider is higher than
A footballer runs further than a tennis player.
parallel can be taken a stage further, because the superlative suffix –est, as in longest, fastest, newest, sounds
very similar to -ist, which also denotes
people who have a certain function: typist, dentist, violinist, stylist.
the best biologist, the nicest scientist, the cleverest chemist, the coolest clarinetist,
the greatest geologist, the happiest novelist, the shortest naturalist, the tallest typist.
rhyme and similarity between the forms could act as a mnemonic for both comparative and superlative, and forms which denote specialities/jobs.
In on at and irregular verbs
might be useful to think of these prepositions as three different forms of the
same word. They sound rather like an irregular verb, with three different forms, e.g. go went gone/ in at on. Like irregular verbs they represent different aspects of
related concepts. In the case of verbs, time is different, but for prepositions, the location is different.