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“The Language Service Institute that Cares”

(Regarding common misunderstandings Thai people have about English)

by Acharn James Parmelee


Lessons on this page are for English students of Basic through Intermediate levels (Thai standard), though everyone can learn a lot! For help, or discussion, on any English language matter that puzzles you or others, just e-mail and tell us about it! We will then respond to your e-mail just as soon as possible! To review all the lessons to date, visit the Index of Free English Lessons.



1. "It" can refer to a person, indirectly! In English, "it" must never, of course, be used to refer to a person directly. You must not say, for example:

"Our maid is not working today. It has a broken heart."

But you can use "it" to identify who someone is. Suppose, for example, a husband and wife are both in the kitchen of their home when the doorbell rings. The husband goes and answers the door, and after a while returns to the kitchen.

The wife then asks, "Who was it?", and the husband says,
"It was George, our neighbor. He asked to borrow my saw."

2. "They" and "them", "their" and "theirs" are not only used to refer to people. They also are the only words that can be used to refer to things or animals, as in these examples:

"I study these lessons every week.
They are quite useful and their tips sometimes surprise me."

"Both of these dogs belong to Sally. They eat a lot of bones, but they are not
allowed to bother the bowl I set down for the cats. That's theirs!"

3. "He/him/his" and "she/her/hers" are normally used by English native speakers to refer to some animal instead of "It"! It is not wrong to use "it", of course, especially if you are discussing an animal you haven't seen, or don't know much information about. For example,

John tells Sue: "I found a snake in my garden this morning!"
Sue exclaims: "Yech! Did you kill it?"

But if you know the sex of an animal, you should use the correct personal pronoun:

"Wilbur is my favorite goldfish. He's four years old."
(" Wilbur" is a man's name.)

And if you meet the animal, it's friendly to guess the sex of it, as in this example:

Sue: "This is my mom's pet rabbit."
John: "She's beautiful!"
Sue: "It's a male rabbit, actually.
He's the father of over 200 babies sold to pet shops."

(Note that "It" as used here does refer to the animal rabbit, because John has guessed its sex incorrectly. But John hasn't lost any face in doing so, and he was able to find out the animal's sex without asking! )

4. "Never" means "not at all" or "not at any time". It does not mean "never before until now (or then)". For example, when Bill says,

"I never go fishing",

this means that these days (for some reason) he does not go fishing at all, or at any time. The truth is, however, that when he was a young man he used to go fishing almost every day! (This writer can tell you that, because he knows Bill very well!) If you want, really, to show "never before until now/ then", you must use the PERFECT TENSE ! It's the only way -- as in:

"I have never seen snow."
You also could say: "I have NOT seen snow",

but NEVER makes the meaning stronger by adding "at all" or "at any time" to the word NOT.

5. In the same way, "ever" does not mean "before"; it means "at some time" or "sometimes" or "always", depending on how you use it. In the following question, for example,

"Have you ever water-skied?":

It is the present perfect verbs have + water-skied that, together, mean "before"! You could ask,

"Have you water-skied?",

and give exactly the same meaning. But ever makes the meaning stronger (and clearer, because in this sentence it means "at some time")!

6. "Interested" and "interesting". Teachers always smile when a student learning English as a foreign language says,

"I am very interesting."
(especially if he or she is boring !)

This is because an adjective ending in "ing" (or, in other words, a verb + ing, or a present participle) refers to WHAT THE SPEAKER IS TALKING ABOUT AND HOW HE FEELS ABOUT IT, not (usually) himself; and an adjective ending in "ed" (or, in other words, a verb-3, or past participle) REFERS TO HIMSELF. Therefore, we say:

"I am very excited," (the speaker referring to himself or herself), or
"This game is boring."
(referring to what he is talking about, which is the "game", and how he feels about it.)


1. "V" does not have the sound of vor vaen ("w"); it has the sound of "F " -- but when you say it, Don't let any air come out of your mouth! To practice, hold a sheet of paper loosely in front of your mouth and say,

" wife".

This blows the paper back! Now, hold up the paper again and say,

(being careful not to let any air out when you pronounce "v").

This time you did not blow the paper back, and you pronounced "v " correctly! Be careful in pronouncing other words spelled with a "V".

Do not say: wee-dee-oh.
Say: VIH-dee-oh.

"Video" is an English word, after all !

2. The "hard G" sound as in "go". This "G" is not the same sound as kor kai (chicken)! This is because kor kai also makes the sound of kh (kor khwai, buffalo) as in kite, after the "hard G" sound has been made.

The result is, when you pronounce "dog",
you say, "dawk" (as in flower)!

This is wrong.

Take out the kor khwai sound at the end
and say, "dog"
(ending the sound deep in your throat).

3. The "soft G or J" sound as in "George" or "joy". In English, this letter never takes the sound of "Y"!

In pronouncing Germany, Gillette or hygiene:

Always say: JUHR -muh-nee.
Do not say: yuhr-muh-nee.

Say: jih-LEHT, not yee-leht.
Say: HAI-jeen, not hai-yeen.

Of course, when you're speaking Thai you will pronounce these words the Thai way! But when you are speaking English, you must pronounce them the English way. If you don't, you won't understand an English native speaker when he pronounces these words, and he may very well not understand you, when you pronounce them in the Thai way to him!

If so,

There are 10 questions. You can print out this lesson and write your answers in pen, or simply write your answers on a sheet of paper. When you are through, click on the "ANSWER" box below to see the correct answers.

SCORING: If you get 7-10 right answers:
You're a bird: beautiful, smart and free!

If you get 5-6 right answers:
You are a buffalo: a little slow, but able to work hard anyway!

If you get fewer than 5 right answers: You are a(n) . . .
Never mind. You just need to study the lesson again!
Insert the correct word.

1. I don't like these pencils! ___________ tips break off too easily.

2. My dog Lisa likes to sleep on my bed when I'm out. _________ hair rubs off onto the sheets and pillow cases, and everywhere else!

3. Somchai's little boy cries all the time. ________ never gets any sleep!

4. _______'s not Malee who's saying those bad things about you. ______'s your wife Suporn!

5. If one of your friends tells you, "Montana never obeys her mother. She's very spoiled!" -- Does this mean that Montana has never obeyed her mother in the past? ________

6. Read these sentences: "Donna's beautiful. I ever saw her on the beach in Pattaya." Is "ever" used correctly? _______. (If you don't think so, see if you can explain why.)

7. Would you respect your English teacher a lot if, after a long day of work, he said, "Wow! I'm tiring!"? __________. (If not, ask yourself why.)

8. Should you say wai-oh-leen or vai-oh-LIHN? _________________.

9. Is one kind of bird called a HAWK, or a HOG? A ____________.

10. Lek wears blue jeans. Should she call them "YEENS" or "JEENS "? ______________.


To see any of our previous English lessons, visit the Index of Free English Lessons page!




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