How English words are formed & Why English is difficult to learn

Posted: 2013 年 11 月 21 日 in Vocabulary
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This post originated from a speech handout by Prof. Lin Hsiu-chun (a.k.a. Spring) of NKNU, who lectured about teaching of writing in vocational high schools at TCHCVS in November, 2013. The speech was not only informative but also inspiring. Focusing on vocabulary as well as pronunciation, the excerpt below is fundamental to English learning and interesting enough for students to have some fun. Personally, Ben was privileged to be one of her students in college years. Thanks to her training, I enjoy my teaching career very much and treasure bittersweet memories of writing apology letters during my salad days.

Do you know how English words are formed?

  1. Adding affixes: electrocardiograph, pandemonium, chocoholic, netaholic, vitaholic (The longer the word, the easier it is.)

  2. Compounding:  baby-sitter, cupcake, hand-me-down, hand-me-up

  3. Blending: motel, medicare, modicon, smog, brunch, ginormous

  4. Clipping: bike, dorm, lab, vet, gym, exam, ad, deli, limo, photo, auto, bus, flu, fridge

  5. Coining: dink, ROM, CAI, radar, UFO, ASAP, BTW, TGIF

  6. Eponym: sandwich, masochist, sadist, boycott, china, laconic

  7. Onomatopoeia: buzz, rattle, splash, sizzle, tinkle

Reasons why English is difficult to learn

  1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

  2. The farm was used to produce produce.

  3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

  4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

  5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

  6. The soldier decided to desert the dessert in the desert.

  7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

  8. A bass was pointed on the head of the bass drum.

  9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

  10. I did not object to the object.

  11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

  12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

  13. They were too close to the door to close it.

  14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

  15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

  16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

  17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

  18. After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

  19. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

  20. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

  21. Archery requires a bow and an arrow. A boat has a bow.

  22. Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

I take it you already know


Others may stumble, but not you


Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,

To learn of less familiar traps.


Beware of HEARD, a dreadful word,

That looks like BEARD and sounds like BIRD

And DEAD—it’s said like BED, not BEAD.

For goodness’ sake, don’t call it DEED!


Watch out for MEAT and GREAT and THREAT.

They rhyme with SUITE and STRAIGHT and DEBT.


A MOTH is not a MOTH in MOTHER,


And HERE is not a match for THERE,

Nor DEAR and FEAR for PEAR and BEAR.


And then there’s DOSE and ROSE and LOSE.

Just look them up—and GOOSE and CHOOSE,

And CORK and WORK and CARD and WARD,

And DO and GO, then THWART and CART.


Come, come, I’ve made a start.

A dreadful language? Man alive,

I’d mastered it when I was five!

  1. […] How English words are formed & Why English is difficult to learn […]


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