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Inside The Language

Inside The Language

Date: Sep 26 2011

Topic: Conversational English

Author: englishteacher24/7


Inside the Language – Lesson No. 1

Learning English can be challenging and the beginning is to learn the basic Parts of Speech which will provide the rules of the language. In many countries, English is the native language and others it’s taught in junior and high school.

This structured study is necessary and the teachers are limited by time and the vastness of the language. My area of teaching English is to focus on the area that is not taught or is only taught by way of mentioning it. The side of English that is not taught is as large or larger than the structured parts of English.

This side of English is an area that doesn’t have any rules and many times cannot be understood by using logic. This is what I call “Inside the Language” which I will attempt to reveal to you in a brief lesson.

The areas I’m speaking of are comprised of the following:

1. Figures of speech- Using words in a distinctive manner to guide or mis-guide the listener. The titles below can all be placed under this name.

2. Puns- A word or phrase that has a double-meaning and used to allude the listener. William Shakespeare was known to use puns in his plays.

3. A play on words- Using puns to express a thought that has a double meaning.

4. Phrases and Idioms- Using a phrase to express a thought. Examples: A pretty penny (something was expensive), a drop in the bucket (a small contribution to the amount that is required.)

“An idiom is a phrase where the words together has a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words.” (UsingEnglish.com)

5. Homophones (homonyms)- Words that are spelled differently but have the same pronunciation sound. Example: Night /knight, bear /bare, hear/here

6. Personification- A figure of speech in which an inanimate object is used having human qualities. Example: “The ocean screamed in it’s fury!”

In this example, oceans don’t have a voice to scream, but the word “screamed” is used as if it were a human. In other words, the waves of the ocean produced a loud sound.

7. Euphemisms- Substituting an offensive or less desirable word for a non-offensive more desirable word. Example: Instead of saying a person died, you could say they passed away or a pre-owned car instead of a used car.

On this side of learning English, you will have to:

1.  Expose yourself to reading informal English materials.

2.  If possible speak to native speakers.

3.  Write down expressions you hear and make it your goal to learn the meaning.

Step-by-step you will increase your knowledge and you’ll see your improvement over time.

Lesson No. 2 will be: Determining the mood of the speaker


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United States

WobblyJoe, I appreciate your excellent contribution on the subject of commas. You are correct in that there isn’t a quick black and white rule, however, it does fall into the category of “Irregular Plural Nouns” with a twist.

Granted, it’s not an easy question, but I find it beneficial to stretch our minds in learning.

I’ll offer my comments on this topic, but I hope someone will attempt to answer it.

08:30 PM Jul 12 2018 |



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11:49 PM Jul 10 2018 |



United States

People who are learning English rarely understand how important comma’s are in written communications.

When you are talking, comma’s are just pauses in your speech, but when you are writing they can change your meanings entirely. 

Comma’s are worth learning about if you intend to read or write correct English. 

All students are hereby encouraged to study comma useage because most students do not and comma’s are so important to meaning in formal written communications.

Offering a hint on paper… Mr. Alston really is asking for an insight. A big insight. The answer isn’t an easy rule, it’s a big insight.  

09:16 AM Jul 10 2018 |


United States

The question from the lesson on “The Importance of a Comma” is still unanswered. The question is from this statement:  ”When you go to school, you may need pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, and a dictionary.”

Question: Why isn’t paper” plural the same as pencil(s), pen(s) and notebook(s)?

The answer to this question is meaningful because it will give you insight into an aspect of English.

I invite you to try to answer this question. Use the internet to find the answer on the subject of “Irregular Plural Nouns.”

01:33 PM Jul 08 2018 |


United States

Topic: “The Importance of a Comma” :

Commas are among various punctuation marks used in written English to communicate how a sentence is constructed and how it should be read. The various punctuation marks are:

Periods, question marks, exclamation marks, semi-colons, colons, apostrophe marks, quotation marks, hyphen marks, brackets, slash marks, and of course, commas. In certain sentences, the comma is the most important because it can change the meaning of a sentence.

What is a comma and how is it used? I’m glad you asked.

The comma is a punctuation mark (,) inserted after a word when (necessary.)

How a comma is used:

Grammatically, knowing all the times when to properly use a comma can become somewhat difficult; therefore, I will limit my answer to a few of the more important times to use a comma.

1. Use a comma before any of these words: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

Example: ”Today is cloudyand it might rain.”

Note: Do not use a comma when using the word “and” to join two subjects. 

Example: ”Jack and Jill went up a hill.” (Jack/Jill are the subjects; no comma.)

2. Use a comma between two separate thoughts in a sentence.

Example: ”When I went for a walk, I saw a deer.

3. Use commas to separate items in a series.

Example: When you go to school, you may need pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, and a dictionary.

4. Use a comma when the first word of a sentence is an introductory adverb.

An adverb is a part of speech that describes or modifies a verb. A verb describes action and an adverb describes what kind of action and oftentimes will end in “ly.”

Examples of a verb: Run, walk, speak.

Examples of an adverb modifying a verb:

“She speedily runs,” or “He walks quickly,” or “The instructor speaks clearly.”

You use a comma after any adverb that is the first word in a sentence.

Example: ”Speedily, she runs.” “Quickly, he walks.” “Clearly, the instructor speaks.”

5. Use a comma when the first word of the sentence is “yes” or “no” in a direct response to a question. This type of comma is called, “Vocative Comma.”

Example: “No, Mr. Smith is here.”

Let’s analyze this sentence and focus on the comma after the first word, “no.”

Because there is a comma after “No,” the “No” is a response to something previous. The remainder of the sentence (Mr. Smith is here) means that Mr. Smith is in attendance at that specific location. This is a compound sentence (2 sentences in 1.)

Now let’s look at the same sentence without the comma.

Example: “No Mr. Smith is here.” This sentence means that Mr. Smith is not here. 

This sentence is communicating one continuous thought and is not a compound sentence. As you can see, it is the opposite of the first sentence with the comma after “No.”

I want you to see the fact that using or not using a comma in certain sentences can totally change the meaning of a sentence in written English. In spoken English, there would be a slight pause where a comma would be used.

6. Use a comma to separate the weekday, date, and year, but not when month and year are used together.

Example: Monday, January 1, 2018 or January 2018 (no comma.)

7. Use a comma to separate a question from a statement.


“You can do it, can’t you?”

“It is right, isn’t it?

“I made the appointment for 2:00pm, is that a good time for you?


These 7 uses of the comma represent some common uses, and are not exhaustive. Remember that in English grammar there are also exceptions to the rules; therefore, realize that grammar rules are not always in concrete.

In example #3 it reads: ”When you go to school, you may need pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, and a dictionary.”

Question: Why isn’t “paper” plural?

Well, that’s it for now; please feel free to ask any questions on anything in the lesson.

For those of you who have been waiting for this lesson, please pardon my delay, and I thank you for your patience.

11:54 PM Jun 18 2018 |


United States

Rosenrot, thanks for your feedback. Commas are very important and can totally change the meaning in certain sentences. I hope to have this important lesson posted soon.

11:38 PM May 26 2018 |




I always think little of commas, for that I haven’t learnt its importance. Hope your next lesson will throw light on my unknown.

03:05 AM May 22 2018 |


United States

Hello Everyone, I want to inform you that my next lesson will be on “The Importance of a Comma” which can make a vast difference in the meaning of a sentence. I’ll post it when it’s ready. Please stay tuned.

03:32 PM May 20 2018 |


United States

Thanks, WobblyJoe for your splendid additional explanation and examples of the meaning of Double-talk. It’s beneficial for the learners of English to hear explanations from another native speaker. Your contribution is appreciated!

11:48 PM May 12 2018 |



United States

oh, and…“You have to do what you have to do”  is correct and proper English.

“You gotta do what you gotta do” is incorrect English, but VERY common.

They mean the same things.

10:08 AM May 09 2018 |



United States

Double talk is hard, but it’s the language of politicians and corporations.

Some of my favorites…

From a company: “Chrysler announced the implementation of an alternative career enhancement program for 5,000 workers”- (they were fired)

From a state government: “Staff members do not have chauffeurs, they have aides who drive” – (that is a chauffeur)

From an individual, in this case Spiro T Agnew, vice-President of the USA who was forced to resign during a bribery scandal: “I admit that I did receive payments during the year 1967, which were not expended for political purposes and that contracts were awarded in 1967 and other years to those who made such payments and that I was aware of such payments…I stress, however, that no contracts were awarded to contractors who were not competent to perform the work, and in many instances contracts were awarded without payment of money by the contractor.”

(In plain English- “sure I took bribes, but not all the time and only from qualified people.”)

Good luck everyone, this subject is hard for everyone because the speakers are intending to speak on two levels. 

As Mr. Alston has noted, double talk can either send a message “between the lines” or it can be many words that say nothing in order to avoid a question directly. 

Every language probably has it’s own word for double talk, because I suspect every government on earth speaks that language sometimes.  

09:08 AM May 09 2018 |


United States

Hi Amira, thanks for explaining your answer; also, it gives me an opportunity to explain the question. Take the question “You have to do what you have to do” at face value and not necessarily that someone is speaking it to another although in reality that would be the case. I hope this doesn’t confuse anyone.

In regards to the meaning of “Double-talk” it is simply someone saying a lot of words that doesn’t amount to anything meaningful. It’s called “Double-talk” because it is speaking an answer that isn’t a direct answer to the question.

I hope this helps.

12:31 AM May 09 2018 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hello, Mr. Alston,

In an attempt to explain my previous answer, I thought the speaker wanted to mislead the asking person by saying they have to do what they have to do which implied that the speaker doesn’t actually know what is it that they have to do, that’s why I guessed it would be an example of a double-talk. 

Thank you for your generosity Mr. Alston.

01:36 PM May 07 2018 |


United States

Double-talk Explanation:

Double-talk is using many words to hide the truth or mislead to cause confusion of the message. You can read examples in the original topic lesson dated May 2, 2018.

Is the following sentence, “double-talk?” Answer yes or no. If no, please explain your answer.

“You have to do what you have to do!”


The sentence above is not an example of “Double-talk” even though the main thought is repeated twice. The reasons that it is not Double -talk is as follows:

1. It is not a paraphrase in the negative of the message.

2. It is communicating two of the same thoughts to two separate matters separated by the word “what.”

It could be said another way, “You have to do what is necessary to that which is necessary.”

Finally, a very informal way of saying it would be: “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

I hope this lesson will help to identify “Double-talk.”

Thanks for your answer.

12:07 PM May 07 2018 |


United States

Hello Amira and welcome. You are absolutely correct and it’s a good example of using the statement “You have to do what you have to do;” however, revisit the definition of “Double-talk” and let us know what you think. I plan to answer a little later this weekend.

10:56 AM May 05 2018 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hi again Mr. Alston,

As far as I get it, I think this sentence “You have to do what you have to do” is a double-talk. And I think it can be an answer to a question like “What do you think I have to do about it?

04:02 PM May 02 2018 |


United States

Topic: Double-talk (Double-speak)

Everything that is spoken should not be taken at face value. There are many ways to camouflage the truth through creative ways of selecting certain words, phrases, and tone of voice. Tactics such as embedding messages “between the lines” “dog-whistling” or various code words can mislead the unknowing but is perfectly clear to those who can receive the message.

“Double-talk” is from the word “Double” which means “twice” and “talk” which means “speak”. Therefore, the word “Double-talk” means to speak twice (or more) about something. It is a method of speaking many words that are unclear and does not answer the question or misleads the listener from the truth. For example:

1. What time is it?

Answer: It’s the same time it was yesterday but I think it may be a little later than that, I’m not sure, but it could be.

2. A voter asked a political candidate, “What will you do about raising the salaries of school teachers if you’re elected?”

Answer: We’re very proud of the dedication of our school teachers and they are some very fine people. I’m a firm believer in recognizing their talents and how they spend their personal time to help struggling students. Without a doubt their students will excel in their careers because of the splendid examples of their teachers.

3. The company is restructuring and as a result will become more efficient, fiscally responsible, and more conducive to being a good corporate citizen.

Answer: Many employees will be laid off (fired).

You can see from the examples that the questions were not answered but many words were spoken or the truth was hidden in a multitude of words.


Is the following sentence, “double-talk?” Answer yes or no. If no, please explain your answer.

“You have to do what you have to do!”

09:22 AM May 02 2018 |


United States

The “Formal English versus Informal English” lesson has been posted.

10:52 PM Nov 27 2017 |


United States

Amira, you’re welcome. The strategy you used for learning formal and informal English has been right on point. In addition, your participation on Englishbaby also adds to your knowledge and experience in English. Carry on!

01:02 AM Nov 21 2017 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hello Mr. Alston,

I used to believe formal and informal English are developed separately. And had quite a quarrel how to develop each alone.

After I had left school, my focus turned to be entirely on learning and using the informal language, so it’s my formal side of language that needs to be worked on more often for further career prospects, of course along with my informal Enlgish.

One way of working on formal English is to keep up with news websites like BBC and CNN in addtion to reading academic books of course.

Thank you so much Mr. Alston for your caring and generosity in receiving and answering our questions :)

04:17 AM Nov 20 2017 |

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