Are we clear?

Welcome back, ETC Bloggers. Before we go any further I’d like to congratulate Tilly (Matilda Dick) one of ETCs super teachers, on her marriage last Wednesday to Marcin. They’re now Mr. and Mrs. Kopecki! I went to the reception and had a real blast! People said that Tilly’s dad and me could pass for twins! (I don’t think I’m that handsome, personally but…hey!).

Anyway, last week we spoke about the clear ‘l’ and the dark ‘l’: the clear ‘l’ in words like ‘like’, ‘love’ and ‘little’, and the dark ‘l’ in words like ‘hill’, ‘full’ and ‘call’. In some words, like ‘pillow’, ‘solution’ and ‘follow’, you can find both. Now, if you don’t know about the existence of dark ‘l’, because you haven’t studied at ETC, and try to pronounce it as clear ‘l’ then it’s going to sound a little strange. Go on, try it!

Here’s your homework for this week; try saying the following words with a clear ‘l’. ‘fill’, ‘dull’, ‘cool’, ‘deal’, ‘pole’ and ‘Paul’. You might end up with people thinking you’ve said: filler; duller; cooler; dealer; polar, Paula. Obviously if there’s no breakdown in communication there’s no problem, after all, there are British ‘native speakers’ from particular parts of the country who kind of pronounce the dark ‘l’ as other sounds. For example, I’ve heard Chelsea, sound like Che/wʊ/sea, and the bill pronounced the /bɪwʊ/ or /bɪjʊ/. All fascinating stuff, eh? To finish with Tilly again, she’s the proud owner of both a dark and a clear ‘l’ /ʌntɪwneˈswiːˈ/. Bye for now.


The Dark ‘l’

Welcome back to the ETC blog. Recently, we’ve been considering will,‘ll and shall. Today I want to consider the pronunciation of the ‘ll form and in particular the pronunciation of the letter ‘l’.

To begin with, here’s a task: say the word ‘live’ and feel the position of your tongue before you pronounce the letter ‘l’. It should be at the top of your mouth, behind your top teeth and flick down when you pronounce the ‘l’. /lə/

Now say the word ‘hill’. Feel the position of your tongue when you pronounce this ‘l’. It should start at the bottom of your mouth and finish at the top. /əl/ Cool eh? So, now say this sentence: “I live on a hill.” By saying this, you can feel both these ‘l’s in action. Now say: “I’ll live on a hill.,” notice the subtle difference.

The name of the first use, when the ‘l’ is at the front of a word, starts at the top and finishes at the bottom, is the clear ‘l’. The name of the second use, where the tongue starts at the bottom and finishes at the top, is the dark ‘l’.

Next week we’ll look at what can happen if we use one when you should use the other.

I do, I will.

Welcome back, ETC bog-readers. I have been to two weddings in the last three months and in August celebrated my own wedding anniversary. There is a lot of promising going on at weddings and I thought I’d contrast the vows for linguistic reasons today.

The current Anglican wedding ceremony, goes like this. Minister says to the bridegroom:

N, will you take N to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all

others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”

The bridegroom then answers: “I will.”

The Minister then repeats the question to the bride, who also replies: “I will”

The Minister then asks the congregation: “Will you, the families and friends of N and N, support and uphold them in their marriage now and in the years to come?” The congregation respond: “We will.”


Here is a Civil Wedding Service from the Humanist Society of Scotland;

Do you promise to love N unconditionally and do everything you can to support him?

I do

Do you promise to be there for him in good times and in bad?

I do

And lastly do you promise to always make sure you make time for each other and have fun?

I do

N, I promise that I will always be here for you, to support and love you. I promise to work with you to create a home full of love and happiness. I promise to always have fun with you and our family, and to go on lots of adventures together.

I know this is not something you’re likely to see in an English language teaching book, but I hope you find these example of ‘will’, ‘shall’ and ‘do’, as linguistically interesting as I do.

“I will.” makes it personal, a promise, a vow, subjective.  “I do.” makes it a state, more ‘objective. After all, ‘do’ is ‘verb’, used to describe ‘states’; whereas ‘will’ and ‘shall’ are modals, ‘personal’, in this case, promises made at the point ‘now’. ETC teachers love language and if you stay with the blog, I promise to have fun and go on lots of linguistic adventures together! Really, I do…I will…I shall…we will…we shall… J

Next week, I intend to look a bit more closely at pronunciation once more.

God Willing!

Welcome back to the ETC blog after a super-sunny weekend on the South Coast. Last week we were considering ‘will, shall and ‘ll’ and what leads people to choose one over another. What led me to consider this was the general misapprehension that ‘will’ is the future tense in English, a theory often promoted in British schools. I think I’ve possibly even heard Stephen Fry refer to it as ‘the future tense’ in one of his TV programmes. (I’m probably wrong!) Then again, it’s only a name and the Great Stevie’s not an English language teacher at ETC Bournemouth.

In his book ‘Punished By Rewards’,1993, Alfie Kohn states: “There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is so deeply rooted that it feels like plain common sense. At the point when objections are not answered anymore because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control: We do not have the idea, it has us.”

Whoa! Heavy stuff eh, and surely this has more serious implications that just ‘little ole will.’ Well, yes you’re right. ‘Will’, ‘Shall’ are ‘ll is always based at the point ‘now’ so can be used to express how you’re feeling about something whether before or after ‘now’. Take this example: “Oh that son of mine! He will always drop me in it!” and “She left here at 1pm and the journey takes two hours. Now it’s nearly six o’clock so she’ll be there by now.” See what I mean?  In an earlier blog I spoke about the ‘fate’ factor and how my grandmother would always follow any future reference with ‘God Willing’.

Bye for now, have a nice week. I’ll speak again next week! (God Willing!)

Personal interpretations.

‘Will’ is a modal auxiliary, and so too, possibly, is ‘ll.(Blogs 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10, November 2017). To save you from having to look, I’m going to re-print here what I printed in Blog 8, November 13th, 2017. It’s the quote from the late, great Michael Lewis, who says: “Modals exist in their own right at the point ‘now’ and allow the speaker make a personal interpretation of the events as they see them at the point ‘now’, whether they’re commenting on things that happen after the point ‘now’ or happened before the point ‘now’. (I realise I’m using the phrase ‘the point now’ a lot here! Sorry, I like it!).

It can/can’t/could/couldn’t/should/shouldn’t/will/won’t/would/wouldn’t/shall/shan’t/may/may not/might/mightn’t/must/mustn’t be true! These are all possible and are only ‘true’ in the subjective opinion of the speaker, who is making a prediction based on how they see the situation at the point ‘now’. (There I go again!)

As I said last week, soon, we’ll (expressing hope, or warning!) be entering ‘pantomime season’, which brings me back to last week’s use of will or shall. It perhaps depends on your ‘class’ of fairy! Which modal the Fairy-Godmother chooses is entirely up to her/him and what (s)he thinks will/shall make her sound more believable to Cinderella! If you were Cinderella, which word would make you feel the most confident that this winged figure waving her/his wand would deliver, will or shall? Maybe you’ve never thought about that before! More next week. J


Good morning and welcome to September. There’s certainly a chill in the air today! Ha, I hear you say, last week he used ‘will’ when he signed off and he was talking about the future. Well, kind of…but  not exactly, I used ‘ll and, like other people in the business, consider the possibility of ’ll being a separate auxiliary, after all, once it is pronounced ‘will’, it can change the meaning. In this case I was, like, making a kind of ‘promise’ at the point now, (then) and implying that I’d just had the idea at the time of writing the blog (then). Only ‘implying’ by the way.

However, anything could happen (could have happened) between then (now) and next week, (this week) hence the use of the modal ‘ll’. If I’d wanted you to think it was an ‘absolute promise’, (if such a thing exists and it probably doesn’t because no one knows the future), I would have used ‘will’ to show I was emphasising it, like: “I ‘will’ take a look at this in more detail”, but his may/might/could/ seem to some as a little bit like ‘tempting fate’. Fascinating, isn’t it. (See question tags, Blogs 55,56,57).

Now, as panto’ season approaches again, look out for:  “you ‘will’ go to the ball Cinderella”. Of course, in an upmarket panto (is there such a thing?) the Fairy Godmother may say: “you ‘shall’ go to the ball, Cinderella!” But’s that’s something for next week.

I’m back!

Well, here I am, back from holiday, all refreshed and ready for action. Hope you enjoyed yesterday’s bank holiday and missed me as much as I missed you! A couple of weeks ago I mused on Douglas Adams and his use of the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional. I hope you enjoyed it!

Even further back, in Blog number 4, October 16th 1997, I wrote “it would be so much easier, and yet so much more boring, if we did have a future ‘tense’ and it was ‘will’. As you remember, English doesn’t have a future ‘tense’, and it isn’t ‘will’. Unfortunately, all my kids were told, at some time in their secondary education experience, that ‘will’ was the future tense in English. (So it must be true, ha!) We’ve already shown why it isn’t the case, (Blogs 3, 4, 5, October 2017), but while schools in England keep teaching their own children that it is, what can we do?

Next week we’ll take another look at this in more detail (for anyone who has recently joined us)!