For the last couple of weeks one of my Ukrainian friends was staying with me. I love spending long periods of time chatting with non-native speakers of English, because it helps me to notice all kinds of things about my language which would probably never occur to me otherwise.
One of our discussions ended up being centred around ‘go’, and how adding or subtracting a single word to certain collocations could completely change the meaning, at least as far as I could tell without checking it in any reference materials.
Look at the photos below. Imagine you are talking to your friends the day after the photo was taken, telling them about it. Write one sentence that you would use to tell your friends about what you were doing. (There are 9 of them, so it’ll be easier to remember if you write them!) Start each sentence with ‘I went…’
1. You’re one of the girls in the photo.
2. You’re in the audience watching this.
3. You’re one of the people in the club.
4. You’re one of the people in the couple.
5. You’re one of the people on the rink.
6. You’re one of the children.
7. You’re in the audience.
8. You’re one of the people in the picture.
9. You’re in the crowd.
Hopefully you now have a list that looks a bit like this:
- I went to ballet.
- I went to the ballet.
- I went dancing.
- I went to dancing.
- I went ice skating.
- I went to ice skating.
- I went to the ice skating.
- I went to football.
- I went to the football.
I realised a few things when we were having this discussion:
- I don’t think I would use the words ‘classes’ or ‘lessons’ in any of these examples, just the preposition ‘to’.
- One little word, like ‘to’, can completely change the meaning of the sentence. (I knew that already, but hadn’t come across such a clear example outside the realm of articles before.)
- I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a discussion like this with my students.
- I really should do more work with contrastive forms whenever I can.
What sentences did you come up with? What things have you realised about English or your own language recently?