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I admit it – I’m afraid of grammar. It’s big and noisy, and it hardly ever makes sense. But, to play with words properly, I have to learn it. I didn’t say, ‘I had to learn it.’ No, I said, ‘I have to learn it.’

I have to learn it every day. I have to refresh my knowledge every day. And I still have to look things up when I’m working on a project.

Here is an example of English grammar and how it makes absolutely no sense. Remember this?

There is no rhyme or reason to many things. Such as the -ough words:

  • through
  • cough
  • bough
  • enough
  • plough
  • dough
  • tough
  • rough
  • tough

… to name a few. How do you know how each is pronounced? You just have to know. If you’re a native English speaker, you grow up knowing. If English is your second language, oh boy!

Context. The answer would have to be context.

“The man had a bad cough.” We know that’s cough (hack, hack) because he can’t have a bad coo, or cuff, or cow. I suppose you could have a bad cow, but that’s not my area of expertise.

“The woman punched down her bread dough.” The word bread tells us how dough is pronounced.

The man ploughed his fields day and night.” The word fields tells us what plough means, although (There’s another one!) it’s often spelled plow. The British spelling is plough and the American spelling is plow.

It’s not that hard once you grasp the concept of context.

Author: editor

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