Esl learners sometimes get frustrated because no rule of English grammar or vocabulary is straightforward: there are always exceptions. Many people make common mistakes in every aspect of English.
As an English learner, you will need to learn grammar rules and spelling rules as well as remembering exceptions.
Today, we will explore the top ten rule exceptions of the English language.
Grammar Rules: Adding Auxiliary Verbs
Generally, the present tense is used to talk about events that happen regularly:
I practise English writing every day.
A common mistake Esol teachers hear is: “I eat lunch now.” Correctly said, that sentence is: “I am eating lunch now.”
Using present tense instead of present progressive is one of the hardest lessons of language learning.
Fortunately, The Oxford English dictionary offers an excellent resource to help students of English master verb tenses.
The exception to this rule serves to add emphasis to your statement by adding an auxiliary, or helping verb:
I do practise English writing every day!
Adding do gives strength to the assertion that you are, in fact, a diligent student and you won't let anyone tell you any different.
You'll note that the sentence containing the helping verb ends with an exclamation point, further demonstrating your fervent desire to learn English.
A mistake that learners of English frequently make is adding the auxiliary to the conjugated form of the main verb:
'She does practices English every day' is incorrect.
Correctly written or said: She does practice English every day. There is no -s on practice.
Another Verb Tense Exception
Simple present tense is used to talk about habits or general truths:
- She is a girl.
- You want to improve your English.
- They learn new words every day.
- Esol teachers work hard.
The exception to this rule is when talking about future events that have been scheduled:
- Esl classes start fall semester.
- We have spelling and grammar quizzes next Thursday.
- Non native speakers sit for Ielts every October.
In each of these examples, the verb is in present tense but the action will happen in the future.
Basic Grammar Rule Exceptions in Spelling
There are more rules for spelling and speaking than general grammar rules. Here we will discuss three of the major ones.
I before E except after C / Or when sounded as A / As in 'neighbor' or 'weigh'
is a mnemonic – a poem designed to help you remember this primary spelling rule.
For words such as believe, achieve and piece, and a-sounding words like: freight and weight, that rule holds true.
Height, neither, weird, foreign and efficient are all examples of words that do not follow the famous rule.
Another spelling rule that involves vowel order and phonics is E,I,Y makes C sound like S.
Cell, certain; circle, citrus; cynical and cyberworld all are spoken with the S sound.
Conversely, vowels A, O, and U give C a K sound:
Car, can; cold, course; cunning, cues are examples of such words.
The same vowel rules apply to G with E,I and Y, but there are exceptions:
Girl, get, go – and all of its forms; gift, geese, gears, and geyser are all words that give G a G sound instead of J.
“In Shakespeare’s day you could get by with a little variation in spelling...” - Allan Metcalf
Doubling Final Consonants
People learning English as a second language are tortured by words ending with a consonant.
Should the consonant be doubled or should one simply add the suffix?
The final consonant is doubled ONLY when both of these conditions apply:
a. a single vowel precedes the consonant – stop, admit, benefit
b. the word's last syllable is accented, or it is a one-syllable word.
Benefited is commonly misspelled (benefitted). Although this word meets one of the criteria for consonant doubling, when speaking this word, the first syllable is stressed.
Admit is a two-syllable word with the stress on the final syllable; therefore consonant doubling is called for, making it admitted.
The Silent E
In English, the E at the end of most words is generally not spoken. It serves to define the sound of the syllable before it.
VCV – vowel-consonant-vowel combination makes for a short sound in words such as made, done, and date, in which the final e is silent.
Except in words borrowed from other languages, such as French.
Consider the words: fiance, risque, macrame, and recipe.
In their original language, all of these words would have an accent on the last letter, making the last consonant-vowel pair a spoken syllable.
English does not use any markings on their vowels, as other languages do, so we borrow the phonetic sound without changing the spelling.
Wouldn't risquay and macramay be easier to read?
As a final note on this topic: resume.
The document you present to recruiting managers is called a resume (pronounced: resumay). To continue doing something after a short break is to resume (rezoom).
The first word comes directly from the French language, meaning 'to summarize'. The second follows its Latin roots, meaning to take back.
Punctuation Rule Exceptions
Some languages do not use punctuation at all but, in this language, these marks are critical to understanding even basic English.
To improve your general English speaking skills, learn to speak punctuation.
Imagine the dismay of the celebrity who had given an introspective interview, only to find that the journalist had captioned the article:
“... finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog”
Most likely, the writer meant that the person in question finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.
Have you noticed the comma after 'family' in the above sentence?
When writing a list of items, separating them by a comma is essential. The last comma, separating the final two listed items is called an Oxford comma.
There are few punctuation rule exceptions in the English language, but the issue of the Oxford comma is currently in the headlines; the foundation of a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
A Period (or other punctuation mark) Finishes the Sentence, Except...
Take a look at the bulleted list below.
If you are making a list in that manner, it is not necessary to put a period at the end of every statement, even if you have composed complete sentences.
Interim: How to Learn English Effectively
You are learning English as a second language. Your goal is most likely fluency, if not mastery of the language.
To achieve your aims, you should:
- Strive for reading comprehension
- Develop your writing skills
- Cultivate a sizable vocabulary
- Exercise your spoken English at every possible opportunity
- Challenge your listening skills
Should you aspire to a brilliant academic career, you might seek out courses in English for academic purposes.
If you are hoping to use English in a more formal setting, you may want to acquire a business English vocabulary.
The British Council addresses many of your English learning needs, from basic English lessons to business English courses.
Additionally, you can take English classes at your local library or community center.
Many universities offer people learning English as a foreign language a choice of curricula to choose from. Is there such a campus close to you?
If not, you could try your hand at online English learning.
The Internet abounds with ESOL courses; quite a few of them for free.
English is the most prevalent language taught online. - duolingo
With your computer, tablet or smartphone, you can learn everything from basic words and phrases to why nouns sometimes act as adjectives.
It is now time for the final grammar rule exception on our list.
Exceptions Involving Articles
The most common article, the, is used to indicate something specific or unique:
The moon bathes the earth in light.
Because earth and moon are unique, using the to designate them is correct.
The article a is reserved for more general references: a cat, a door, an envelope.
However, there are sentences in which unique objects must be expressed with the more general article a.
Our Earth would not be the same without a moon.
Similarly, the is generally always used before superlatives:
She had the most interesting dress on – meaning: the dress is both interesting and unique.
You might have heard a native speaker of English say: She had on a most interesting dress, with spoken stress on most.
This suggests to the listener that the dress must surely have been stunning.
In Cambridge English, it could mean the contrary: the dress was appalling!
To gain proficiency in proper article usage as well as sharpening your English skills, try learning measure words of objects.
If only studying English in general were as concise as this list of grammar rule exceptions!