English generally denotes more than one thing by adding an “s” to the end.  But sometimes “es” or “ies” is used instead. And sometimes “s” is added to the end of the third person pronoun (for example, “he cuts, she jogs, it forces”).  This is a major problem for learners of English. There is so much use of the letter “s” at the end of English words that it is difficult to know which use of this letter is being used, and when to use which form (ie: toward or towards; beside or besides).  The simplified English grammar rule is that “s” should not be used at the end of a word unless the root word itself ends with a “s” sound like “hiss”.

Because it is difficult for many people to remember when to use “s, es, ies, z,” or other irregular plurals, the easiest solution is not make any change in a word because there is more than one.  There are many words that grammar theorists call “uncountable nouns,” in which there is no change from single to plural.  We do not add an “s” to multiples of words like information, wood, water, cheese, sheep, deer, understanding, equipment.  It is very difficult for learners of English to try to understand why different kinds of informations, woods, equipments, etc., is not considered correct speech.  If it is correct to say, “I want to retrieve my suitcases, so I can eat the sardines inside” or ask “Do you want some apples,” why don’t we also say “I want to retrieve my luggages, so I can drink the waters inside” or ask “Do you want some advices?”

These exceptions prompt a thinking person to ask why it is necessary to change plurals in any words.  Furthermore, sometimes an “s” is added, sometimes an “es,” and sometimes the word is changed altogether.  Why is it necessary for clear communication in measurement to say one meter but two meters, one inch but two inches, one foot but two feet?  How can an English learner know when to add an “s,” when to add an “es,” or when to change the word altogether?  To simplify this problem, any number more than one should be denoted by the context (“Do you want one book, two book or three book?,  I have many shirt and pant in my closet.  There are twelve inch in foot, and one hundred centimeter in meter, but only three foot in yard.  Each person has on average four person as grandparent.”).  If this rule makes a number unclear, then for clarification words like “all, many, group, some, few” should be added before or after the noun (ie: “Among Americans, children have the least amount of liberty” should be  “Among all American, child group have the least amount of liberty”).



The possessive form is confusing to English learners because sometimes an apostrophe is used and sometimes it is not, sometimes the apostrophe is before the “s” and other times after the “s,” and “s, es, ies” are inconsistently used.  People get very confused about where to place the apostrophe in words like aviary’s / aviaries’  children’s / childrens’  people’s / peoples’ Many words end in the letter “s” or even “ss,” making possession even more confusing. Do you say “Ms. Ross’ car” or “ “Ms. Ross’s car?”  In addition, simplified grammar does not even need to use  apostrophes in commonly accepted word contractions like “don’t, can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, isn’t,” which should be spelled simply as “dont, kant, wont, shouldnt, isnt” These words are already being written like this, without apostrophe, in text messaging. There is no need for an apostrophe, since these words are recognized as their own meaning. Those grammar purists who insist that use of apostrophe is required in order to defend “correct” English are making an argument based on a notion that languages do not change, which is just not true.

Apostrophes are confusing and unnecessary.  A better way to show possession, in a more simplified way and without having to use an apostrophe, is by using the capitalized letter “Z”  at the end of a word, without an apostrophe.  “This is JeanZ book, and PatZ ruler, that I found at the teacherZ meeting.  Characteristic of many personZ speech is grammar inconsistency.”  In the new spellings to be proposed in the next chapter, only a few nouns end in the letter z, and no common words end in a double z, so it is not confusing to add a second z to these words to show possession.  Similarly, for proper names that end in the letter z an additional capital Z can be added to show possession: “Mr. MarkowitzZ hat” means the hat belonging to Mr. Markowitz.


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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