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using stories to explain grammar

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Grammar so often seems irrational and difficult to explain, so why not make a story out of individual grammar points to help students remember. Here are some examples...

 

The origin of  irregular adverbs.

This story ‘explains’ why the adverbs fast, hard, well are irregular.

 

A long time ago, there was a bad boy called Lee.

He was slow and lazy and bad.

‘You work very slow, Lee’ said his mother. ‘You’ll never be any good’.

‘You work very lazy, Lee’.

‘You work very bad, Lee’.

 

The words ‘slow, Lee’ became ‘slowly’.

The words ‘lazy, Lee’ became ‘lazily’.

The words ‘bad, Lee’ became ‘badly’.

 

But Lee’s work was never hard, or fast or good. So, to remind us of what a bad worker he was, to this day we never add ‘Lee’ (or ‘ly’) to these words to make the adverb form!

 

The origin of modal verbs

A simple play on words could help students to remember how modal verbs are different from other verbs.

 

A long time ago it was difficult to be a verb, you had to fill in lots of forms before you could be accepted. A group of words wanted to be verbs, they were: can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will, and would.

 

They filled in all the forms at the verb office, one for past tense, one for future and one for present, one for infinitive and one for gerund. When they went back the next week to inquire about their application, they were told there was a problem.

 

‘There’s been a muddle*, all the forms have been lost. Sorry, I’m afraid you cannot be verbs’ said the chief verb-maker.

 

The words were very unhappy, but at last one form for each verb was found. So it was decided that because they only had one form each they could be not full verbs, but a kind of assistant verb that could be used with other verbs.

 

Because of this muddle, they were known as ‘muddle verbs’, pronounced ‘modal verbs’ today, with only one form.

 

*muddle=confusion

 

Will and Al

Another play on words can help students remember the differences between will and the contracted form ‘ll in speech.

 

There were two princes, William and Albert, called Will and Al for short. Will was older and more formal. He became king. He was very strict, and said, ‘I will be obeyed. I will make a new law. Everyone will pay more taxes.’ Then he died, and his younger brother Al came to the throne. He said, ‘I’ll (pronounced Al) be  a good king. I’ll make fair laws. I’ll help the poor’. He was popular and friendly, and was known as good king Al.

 

Moral: I’ll (often pronounced Al) sounds less threatening and strict, and more natural than I will.