English can also be made much easier to learn by simply changing all words to the most common form used for that kind of word. For example, to make an opposite meaning, English usually adds the two letters “un” to the beginning of a word, as in “true / untrue,  friendly / unfriendly, desirable / undesirable, comfortable / uncomfortable, educated / uneducated, intelligent / unintelligent.”  That is a very efficient means of communicating opposites, and if all English words followed that pattern it would be extremely easy. But in current English usage some words denote opposites by adding the prefix “im” or “in.” Why is an unequal status called inequality?  Why is the opposite of “proper” spelled as “improper,” or the opposite of “consistent” spelled as “inconsistent”? There are many “unconsistencies” in English!

It is ridiculously difficult for English learners to figure out when to use “un,” “im,” or “in.”  This grammar problem is easily solved by changing all “in” and “im” opposite words so that all opposites are denoted by the standard “un” prefix.  Thus, new words to use include: “unconsistent, unconvenient, unaccurate, uncomplete, uncorrect, uneffective, unmature, unmoral, unpartial, unpatient, unperfect, unpermanent, unpenetrable, unpolite, unpossible, unpersonal.”

All kinds of prefixes and suffixes should be spelled consistently so that learners of English do not have to waste time trying to remember which way to spell a prefix or suffix of similar words.




When noting time, English usage usually uses “at” to precede the stated time, as with “at nine o’clock, at 11:45a.m. at night”  but the inconsistent word “in” is used for “in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, in January, in 2008, in a couple of weeks, in a few days,” and still another word “on” is used for days: “on Monday, on Wednesdays, on June 27th.” To be consistent, all references to time should be said with “at” or the universally recognized symbol @ that is used for email. So we should say “the lights turn on @ night and turn off @ morning, beginning @7:30p.m., but only @ Monday to Friday.”

Likewise, “at” is used with spaces (at work, at home, at the bus stop, at the theater, at the crosswalk)  but “in” or “on” are sometimes used (in the garden, in a river, on an island, on the table, on the ceiling, on the floor, on the sidewalk, on the left side).  Again, to be consistent, “at” should be used for all locations of time and space, unless a very specific meaning is meant by “in” (inside or in the middle), “on” (on top of), “beside”(next to) or “under” (underneath). Correct use should be “I will stand @ the sidewalk as I wait @ the bus stop. While I stay @ the island, I jog @ morning. The children sit in the car, but the keys sit on the roof.  I did leave the book on the table. It is @ the left side.”

Conventional grammar uses “to” to denote movement from one place to another, as in “I went to school, she went to the office, and he went to the shopping mall.”  But an exception is to delete “to” when saying “I went home.”  These inconsistencies and exceptions are confusing to learners of English, so it is better to use “at” for all cases: “I want to go @ school, after that I will go @ work @ my office, and then I will go @ the shopping mall. At the evening I will go @ home.”

There is no logical reason why “at” cannot be used consistently for all time and space references, and it will only take some time for older speakers of English to get used to these changes.  Again, the savings for future generations will outweigh the minor inconvenience for people who have been taught the old inefficient grammar forms.




Another difficulty for people learning English is trying to tell whether to use “some” or “any.” In general, “some” is used. But for negative sentences or questions, “any” is sometimes used, as in “I have some friends in Chicago, but I do not have any friends in Seattle. Do you have any water? Could I have some water?  Do you know anything about her? She doesn’t have anywhere to live now.” Because trying to understand when to use “some” or “any” is so difficult for learners of English, it is best to follow the general suggestion to make the dominant word apply to all cases. Accordingly, the word “any” should be deleted, and “some” used in all cases. The above sentences should read: “I have some friends in Chicago, but I do not have some friends in Seattle. Do you have some water? Could I have some water?  Do you know something about her? She doesn’t have somewhere to live now.” Though this substitution makes for a slightly awkward feeling or slight change of meaning for native speakers, it will make the learning of English much less difficult for non-native speakers.



To note comparisons, English has very efficient words “more” or “less” as comparative and “most” or “least” as superlative. For example, “Beijing is more expensive than Bangkok, but Stockholm is most expensive. Beijing is less expensive than Stockholm, but Bangkok is least expensive.” But, as in many areas of grammar, there are inconsistent exceptions to these forms. English grammar recognizes additional comparative and superlative forms that use “er” or “ier”  and “est” or “iest” as in “She is hot now, but she is hotter when she goes into the kitchen, and she is hottest when she goes outside into the sun.”  But if the word ends in “y” then it is changed to “i” as in: “He is happy now, but he is happier when he is listening to music, and he is happiest when he is dancing.” But some words change entirely, such as “good, better, best” and “bad, worse, worst.” In addition, the word “the” is sometimes placed before the superlative form.

All these rules and exceptions are confusing, and easily mistaken for another kind of word ending.  Except for one and two syllable words, present English grammar does not use these additions. To simplify the language, these “er, ier, est, iest” endings should be discontinued for all words, so that “more” or “less” and “most” or  “least” are used consistently.  Correct use should be:

She is hot now, but she is more hot in the kitchen, and most hot when she goes into the sun.”  “He is happy now, but less happy when worrying about finances, and least happy when contemplating death.” “We feel good, but we feel more good when we are singing, and most good when meditating.”  “They are never very kind, but they are even less kind when harassing others, and least kind when engaging in violence.”  Consistency is the goal, making English more easy to learn. It will be the most good language for world communication if these changes are made and most bad if not made.


About englisheasylearning

Walter L. Williams, Ph.D., has taught at UCLA and as Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. He taught English Language in Thailand and also as Fulbright Professor at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia. He has published eleven books, including JAVANESE LIVES: WOMEN AND MEN IN MODERN INDONESIAN SOCIETY (Rutgers University Press).
This entry was posted in Why English is Difficult to Learn, and what to do about it and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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