Annoying things that make English difficult! Do you agree?

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

English can seem difficult. But with the right system and the right support, you will master it! Regular, online lessons with Lingoda will help you to reach fluency.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! You’ve been learning English for a while now, so I’m sure that at one time or another you’ve thought: English is so annoying!

Probably heaps of times!

Today, let’s get some things off your chest. What annoys you about English? Let’s talk about it.

English is annoying. There are complicated rules, and then there’s no rules, there’s the exception to the rule. Oh yeah and then there’s another exception. Then there’s all the silent letters. And the vowels that just make completely different sounds.

1. There isn’t just one English!

Yes English is important, it’s the language of the internet, of business, it’s spoken around the world but it’s not universal. There isn’t just one type of English, right? There’s American English and British English, Australian English, Irish English, South African, English from New Zealand.

We use different vocabulary and slang expressions and of course, we’ve got different accents. I mean Americans even use different spelling and grammar rules, and some of the differences are small, like little spelling or pronunciation changes.

Some words are completely different like my jumper is called a ‘sweater’ in the US. And some words, well they exist in both types of English but they mean totally different things, like this is a thong in Australia, right? But in the US, and lots of other places, that’s a thong.

Emma: You seen my thong? Can’t find it anywhere.

To learn and understand these differences, you need to speak with actual people, right? I mean it’s fine to use language apps to learn vocabulary but to develop your confidence as an English speaker, and to use those skills in conversation, well, you really need to do that with people, right?

Now if you haven’t checked out Lingoda for online classes yet, you should. I use Lingoda for all of my Spanish classes. I go each day, I follow their neatly planned and structured lessons and I’m getting certificates as I increase my level. But most importantly, I’m meeting with actual people and practising speaking with them. And of course, it’s all online so I can do it from home at a time that suits me.

For English learners like you, there’s native English teachers from the UK and the US, and the class sizes are small, so you’ll spend a lot of time participating in the class and actually speaking with other people. Now look, if you can afford to pay a teacher to teach you every day, that’s great. But for the rest of us, Lingoda has classes that start from just eight euros. So if you want to check them out, the link’s in the description below. And if you use my code at the checkout, you’ll get twenty-five percent off your first purchase.

2. Exceptions

Right so another annoying part about English. There’s lots of great grammar rules, but then, there’s also the exceptions, right?

How many times have you heard an English teacher say: Yep that’s the rule, but there’s a couple of exceptions.

For example, generally the rule for adding -ing to the end of a word that ends in an E, is you drop the E and you add -ing.

  • caring
  • believing

Oh except not canoeing. Or dyeing either.

Alright how about this one?

  • For the recipe, you need to add a cup and a half of milk. And then you need to add two and a half cups of sugar.

Now ask any native English speaker why we don’t say: “two cups and a half” as well.

They’ll say: I don’t know, it just sounds a bit weird. Just don’t say it.

What?! ‘It sounds weird’ isn’t a rule, what are you supposed to do with that?

3. English doesn’t sound like what it looks like

Now it’s annoying that English doesn’t sound like what it looks like.



All of these words have the same letters through the middle of them. So they should at least have the same vowel sound, right? Wrong!

Every one of these words has a different Every one of these words has a different vowel sound in it. And while this is definitely annoying, the English language has a really, really fascinating history with words. All the way through its history. We have words that come from all different origins around the world.

Now English words are derived from Germanic languages: Latin, French, Greek and several other languages and dialects as well. And over time, words were added or they were changed, maybe they were lost and then replaced, but the result is, there’s a lot of weirdly spelt words in English. Like:

  • quiche
  • hiccough
  • draught
  • Wednesday
  • receipt

Some words have silent letters which were once pronounced, but aren’t pronounced anymore. And the pronunciation of some of these words has changed over time. But the spelling rules haven’t, so they don’t really make sense anymore. And other words have been taken from other languages like ‘cappuccino’ from Italian, or ‘champagne’ from French, and the spelling hasn’t changed to reflect the English pronunciation.

In fact, the whole reason why there are two English spelling standards, British English and American English, is because the Americans eventually decided to simplify the spelling of English words to try and make English spelling a little less complicated. So you can thank Noah Webster for that.

Now if spelling and pronunciation weren’t frustrating enough already, then there’s homonyms, a whole class of words which sound the same. Maybe they look the same but actually they’re completely different words. And it’s only the context of the sentence and sometimes the spelling are only the way that you’ll know which word is being used.

Like when I say “too” you don’t know if I’m actually saying to, two or too, right? You have to listen to the context to understand the meaning or see the word written. So English spelling is definitely annoying!

Well we can agree that it helps to keep life interesting. Don’t you think?

4. Prepositions

Prepositions are definitely annoying.

  • I get on my bike.
  • I get into my bed.
  • She’s on the bus.
  • She’s in the car.
  • We hop off the bus.
  • We get out of the car.

English prepositions are really annoying. One preposition could have several different meanings depending on the context. And the rules are not always very clear. And there are a lot of exceptions when it comes to English prepositions. Plus, there’s a really good chance that the preposition rules in English are slightly different from the prepositions that you would use in your own language. So often they don’t just simply translate between languages, right?

5. Phrasal Verbs

Now prepositions also form part of phrasal verbs. And that’s a whole ‘nother annoying issue about English, right?

So you’ve learnt that ‘take’ is a verb that means to grab hold of something or to remove something from a place. You also learned the basic definitions of many prepositions. And as you know, phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb and a preposition, usually. And the meaning of a phrasal verb is different from the meaning of just the verb on its own. So phrasal verbs really have to be memorised because they’re often really hard to guess the meaning of even in context.

  • I’m going to take off now.
  • I need to take in the waist of my pants a few inches.

But you can’t take off the waist of your pants.

  • You can take off your pants.
  • And you can take up the hem of your pants.

But you can’t take up your pants, you have to pull them up, right?

So sometimes a single phrasal verb can have more than one meaning as well which makes them even more annoying.

So let’s just move on for now. If you want to check out my playlist on phrasal verbs, it’s right here. Full of it, go nuts.

I’m exhausted now but there are so many more reasons why English is annoying. Can you think of any yourself?

Formality is not clear in English. We don’t use specific pronouns to show formality. We use certain phrases and grammatical structures to show formality. You’ve got to learn them separately.

Syllable stress is also annoying. The same exact letters can be pronounced in a completely different way like minute and minute. Very, very small.

So at this point you just really want to just like strangle English, right? Or strangle your English teacher!

Okay enough moaning now, we’ve vented, right? We’ve got our frustration off our chests. And it’s phenomenally impressive to think just how much of the English language you’ve already learnt. Yes, there’s always going to be room for improvement but the task is a challenging one and you are making progress.

Now I want to know, what do you love about learning English? I want to hear about that in the comments too, I want to hear how much you love learning English. And if there are any English teachers, I’d love to hear from you as well. Are there some questions that you get from your students which just completely stump you? Or are there topics that you absolutely hate teaching? Because they just don’t really make much sense, and they’re really frustrating for your students. I’m looking forward to reading some of those comments.

So right now I’m going to head over into this lesson here to remind myself how much I love English. Are you coming?

Links mentioned in the video

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