In the English language, rules are valid for around 90 per cent of the time. This is the most important rule! The remaining ten per cent is full of exceptions in spelling, pronunciation and other areas and it is important to know these exceptions to the rules.
It can certainly be frustrating for learners of English to decipher irregularities, so, let’s look at just a few of the most important grammar exceptions:
Do and Does
Here, we are looking at the present simple tense. This tense is used to describe habitual actions, preferences and opinions and facts and truths:
John walks to work every day. He prefers walking to taking the bus. Walking is good for the health.
The present simple can also be constructed as positive, negative or interrogative:
John goes to the office every day. He doesn’t like his job very much. Does he want a new job?
However, would the following sentence “John does want a new job” sound correct? If you think not, then you are partly right. In certain cases you can indeed use both the auxiliary verb (do, does) and the principal verb (want) together in order to form a positive sentence. This exception is allowed in order to add extra emphasis. For example:
John really wants a new job.
You can also say “John does want a new job” in certain situations, usually when we are contradicting someone:
I don’t think John wants a new job. He never goes to interviews.
That’s not true. John does want a new job. He just lacks confidence.
Let’s look at some other simple present tense exceptions:
Simple present used as a future tense
Now, to confuse things further, the simple present can also be used to describe future events that express beginnings and endings, departures and arrivals:
When does the train for Cairo arrive?
It arrives at 6 tomorrow morning.
The simple present can also be used to write time lines or biographical outlines, even when the events have taken place in the past:
1965 – John Smith is born in London, England
1970 – John begins school at St Mary’s School in Clapham, London
1981 – John leaves school and trains to be an electrician
1995 – John starts his own electrical engineering company
These can cause a great deal of confusion. Many time words are adverbs that describe frequency – sometimes, never, rarely, frequently, normally, usually, often, regularly etc. and are generally placed before the main verb. However, they can also be placed at the beginning or end of a sentence. Let’s take a look:
John usually walks to work every day.
Usually John walks to work every day.
John walks to work every day usually.
Generally, placing the adverb before the main verb is the best construction (as in the first example), but many native English speakers use all forms.
These are just a few of the exceptions contained in English grammar. As you know, there are many more and these will be discussed in future articles.
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