Wednesday, April 22

Lesson 4: About Vocabulary







When English learners study Vocabulary, they just try to memorize the meaning of words. I’ve met a lot of learners who fill their heads with the meanings or translations of words in their native language, but they can't use the words in real life. 

I understand that you need to hurry, there are too many English words you need to learn and you don't have a lot of time.  But the study of Vocabulary is not a race, it's an arm wrestling. You don't need speed, you need power. 


courtesy of free images 


It's not important how many words and dictionary meanings you know. It's not important how fast you can memorize. When you go out in the real world and talk with a native speaker of English, are you sure that you can use all the words you memorized and put them together inside a sentence? 

Naturally, students who only memorize meanings can’t speak well. Because this way is opposite to real learning. This learning technique is not deep. It's only a short-term method with short-term goals. Even if you remember some words, I'm sure that you will forget them soon. But when a good student learns something, they can remember and use it their whole life.    

 Let me give you one simple example: It’s easy to learn the meaning of the word “sick.” Inside your head there is the image of a man or a woman in the hospital or in bed. 

courtesy of free images

Because your goal is only to memorize the meaning of this word, this information is enough for you and you stop learning anything else. As a result, you can hear many students saying bad grammar like “I have a sick.” They use the word as a Noun when, in fact, it's an Adjective.


The correct sentence is: "I am sick." 

Another example is the word “late.” You can imagine this situation: time is very short and someone is running to school, work, or an appointment. That’s all. And then you will make a sentence: “He late.” This is also wrong. You use the word as a Verb but it's also an Adjective.


The correct sentence is: "He is late."

 To tell the truth, when your teacher catches you making a grammar mistake, it’s because he’s thinking about what kind of word you are using. Your teacher can make good sentences like “I’m disappointed” and “They’re interesting” because he knows what type of Vocabulary he is using inside his sentence.

In addition, let me share this little secret with you:  Many words in English that look like Verbs are actually Adjectives! Take a look:

Figure 4: Table of Adjectives     

Did you know that?           

Of course if you know what kind of word you are using, there’s a high chance that you will make a good sentence.

If you look again at Figure No. 3 (the Formulas of the Be” Verb) from the previous lesson...

Figure 3: The Formulas of the "Be" Verb


you can see that an Adjective must always have the “Be” Verb before it. Your teacher and native speakers know this. 

(The only time they don’t follow this rule is when the Adjective is in front of a Noun -- for example, “beautiful girl” and “dangerous situation.” Only in this case. Except for this, the rule is true around 95% of the time.)  

This is why your teacher always makes correct sentences like “He is disappointed” and “They are interesting.” And even if your teacher changes the time of his sentence, he can still make good grammar: “He will be disappointed tomorrow” or “It will be interesting next year.”

Like I said, you need to know what kind of word you are using (ex. Adjective) then follow the right way on how to use the word.

 It's the same with high-level and long expressions. If you want to speak advanced, correct sentences like your teacher -- for example, “There’s nothing to worry about” or “There’s nothing to be nervous about,” you need to learn the different kinds of words. Words such as “interference” or “disintegrate” may sound too hard and complicated, but they still belong to the same basic kinds. "Interference" is a Noun while "disintegrate" is a Verb

Sure, there are too many different and high-level vocabulary and expressions in the whole universe of English, but all of them still belong to the 7 basic word types that you learned in Lesson 3. We may add one or two other types but the 7 are the most basic and common. It may be hard to believe, but it's true. 

 For more tips on how to study Vocabulary, just wait for Lesson 30: How to Keep a Vocabulary Notebook. Now, let's go back to our last topic...



 The Overused “Be” Verb 

Figure 3: The Formulas of the "Be" Verb

The “Be” Verb is also called the Linking Verb because that is its job: it links. 

link = connect

The "Be" Verb connects the Subject and another word that are one and the same. For example, “You are a student” and “She is tall.”
           
                 

But of course not all Nouns and not all Adjectives can be “linked” with the Subject. For example, it's strange if you say:  


He is fish.     – or—   They are money.





Even though we use Nouns and we follow the formula of the Be” Verb, we still need to think about the sense of our sentence. The correct sentences are:


He likes fish. Ok  –and—  They have money. Ok


In sum, if you want to use the Be” Verb you must remember the Formulas of the Be” Verb and check the word after it. 


Figure 3: The Formulas of the "Be" Verb 


Are you using a Noun? An Adjective? If you're using a Verb, is it in V+ing form? If not, then don’t use the Be” Verb.    


Now you start to realize some basic rules in English that are simple but very important. Your teacher and native speakers always remember these rules, so they don’t make very big mistakes like “I upset” and “He is come.”

If you want to use the Be” Verb, the word after it must be one of the 5 kinds only: Noun, Adjective, V+ing, Prepositionor P.P. (only in Passive Voice). If the next word isn’t any of these, then you can not use the Be” Verb and you must find another way – use another kind of Verb

Take a look at our diagram again: 

Figure 5: The Formulas of the "Be" Verb Part 2


Like I said, if the word after the "Be" Verb isn't any of the five words in the diagram, then just don't use the "Be" Verb. Go back to your Subject and use an Action Verb

Why do you use the "Be" Verb too much anyway? You have to change your habit of just following your feeling or "what sounds good." You need to care about a few simple but effective rules on grammar.  


****

Another tip I can give you is about the V+ing Verb. You can also find this rule in Figure No.3. The diagram of the "Be" Verb shows us how to use Adjectives and also the V+ing. In fact, the diagram above teaches us a big part of English. 

Based on the diagram, it’s Ok to use the "Be" Verb only if the word after it is a Verb in V+ing form. Vice versa, we can use the V+ing only if the word before it is the "Be" Verb.

For example, it's very common for students to make these mistakes: 

X I working.           -- and --       X He is stay in Manila.

 Based on the diagram of the "Be" Verb, we know that these sentences are wrong and impossible. We should change them to: 



I am working. Ok           -- and --       He is stay+ing in Manila. Ok

 If you don't want to use the V+ing in your sentence and just a normal Verb, that's good too. Anyway, you don't need to always use the "Be" Verb. It's enough to just use an Action Verb. Take a look:  


work. Ok                    -- and --         He stays in Manila. Ok
          

 ******

Lastly, you can also use the "Be" Verb together with Prepositions and the P.P. (Past Participle).

In the case of Be + Preposition, you can make sentences like: “I am in the office, ”“She is from Seoul” and “The cat is under the table.”

On the other hand, the Be + P.P. can make a different kind of sentence called the Passive (You can learn about this later in Lesson 32: Let’s Go Passive!).

But if you compare it to the other parts of English, the Passive isn't so important for you to learn now. It's used only in special cases and it's Ok if you skip it at first. 

Wow. In just a short time you've learned how to use 3 very important and common parts of the English sentence: 


  1. the Adjective
  2. the V+ing and 
  3. the "Be" Verb


From now on, please try to remember their rules and apply them in your life. Because for native speakers, it’s really strange when they hear a student who speaks in a different way.

Rules are very important in any language. They keep communication normal and effective. So when you learn any one rule, remember it and try to follow it. I don't expect you to do it perfectly right away, but it’s important that you try to practice the rules.     

Keep on learning !



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