Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Does Brexit Mean for the English Language?

Last Thursday, the United Kingdom headed to the polls to decide whether or not the country wanted to remain part of the European Union. In the end, in a very close referendum, 51.9% of voters were in favour of leaving the EU.

There are plenty of ramifications for the UK, politically, economically, etc. However, one thing that is concerning to us at The Lingua File is the fact that English may take a dramatic step down on a political scale. Of course, English is an official language in Ireland, so it will retain its official status within the EU. However, the population of Ireland is around 4.5 million, while the UK is home to around 65 million people. There's no way that this giant loss of native speakers is not going to affect EU policy.

The EU is going to make an example of the UK when negotiations formally begin, since few member states want to make leaving the EU look favourable, for fear of losing more members. In that event, English as an official language will seem fairly insignificant.

I can't imagine that English will be affected on a global scale. The language is the lingua franca in many countries around the world, but within the institutions of the EU, it will lose a huge amount of clout when the UK leaves.

Regardless of what the EU chooses to do about the working languages within the union, the language situation within the UK is worrying. The EU has heavily promoted language learning within the UK, and with the country moving away from Europe politically, it certainly makes me concerned for the already worrying state of language learning within the country. If just over half of the British population has decided they're better off without Europe, they may also think they're better off without their languages.

Is Brexit good or bad for language learning within the UK? Has it changed the English language's status within Europe? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Go, Play, or Do: Verbs for Hobbies, Sports, and Activities in the English Language

In English, there are three verbs that we love to use when we talk about our hobbies. These verbs are to go, to play, and to do. How we use these verbs is very simple, and today we're going to tell you what you need to know in order to use them correctly.


The verb "go" is arguably the simplest of our three verbs to use. If you have an activity that ends in -ing, you should use go. For example, fishing, swimming, hiking.

Don't forget to conjugate go when you use it. For example:

On Saturdays, I go fishing.
Yesterday, I went swimming.
Have you ever gone hiking?

However, as always in English, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Boxing (as a combat sport), takes the verb do, which we'll see soon.


Most competitive team sports, especially those with a goal, net, basket, or a system for scoring points, use the verb to play. This also includes games and video games.

Here are a few examples: football, basketball, hockey, video games.

Let's look at some examples:

John likes to play football.
We played video games all weekend.
Do you play hockey?

You can "do" this crossword but you can't "play" it.

We use the verb to do with activities like martial arts, combat sports, exercises, and puzzles. Examples include karate, push-ups, crosswords.

Here you can see the verb to do being used:

She's done karate since she was 6.
Did you do last week's crossword?
I did a lot of push-ups yesterday.

And that's it! That's how we use some of the English language's most important verbs when we talk about hobbies, sports, and activities.

Monday, June 20, 2016

She Said, He Said: Reported Speech in the English Language

In the English language, when you want to tell someone something that you've heard, especially a quotation, you might need to use reported speech. It's used when someone tells you something, and then you need to tell a third person what the other person said earlier.

This is fairly simple in English, as long as you know your tenses. For example, if John says "I like pizza" to me, I say "John told me (that) he liked pizza". When I tell another person about my conversation with John, I change the tense.

In the example, John used the present simple tense. Let's look at that first.

Present Simple - Past Simple

If somebody says something in the present simple, I report it in the past simple. John says "I like pizza". Therefore, John said (that) he liked pizza. The pronoun has to be changed because I am talking about John, so the I has to change to he in reported speech.

Present Continuous - Past Continuous

If somebody says something using the present continuous tense, you can report it in the past continuous.

For example:

John: "I am eating a pizza"

John said (that) he was eating a pizza"

Will/Won't - Would/Wouldn't

When somebody uses the modal will/won't, you should report it using would/wouldn't.

For example:

John: "I will eat a pizza."

John said (that) he would eat a pizza.

Can/Can't - Could/Couldn't

When John uses can/can't, I report his speech using could/couldn't.

For example:

John: "I can order pizza."

John said (that) he could order pizza.

These aren't all the tenses we use in English, but they are some of the most common ones. We hope this has been helpful!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Euro 2016 and the Embarrassing Etymology of "Hooligan"

One of my favourite things in life is football, and a large portion of my time revolves around the sport. Obviously, language is also one of my favourite things. I am fond of the way language evolves and adapts, and how people and languages interact, which can result in languages borrowing words from one another.

We've done plenty of posts in the past looking at loanwords making their way into the English vernacular, but today I'd like to look at one word that has made its way into a number of other languages thanks to the deplorable behaviour of football fans. I'm of course referring to the word "hooligan".

The term is currently used in English to refer to someone who commits violent acts such as vandalism and assault, particularly as part of a group of sports fans and, above all (at least in the UK), football fans.

There are several competing ideas as to the etymology of this word. One idea is that it was the name of a fictional family in a song in the late 19th century. The name caught on, and just as the surname "Einstein" has become synonymous with intelligence, "Hooligan" became synonymous with causing trouble.

There is also the idea that it came from a gang in London known as the Hooligans (also O'Hooligans), who committed a murder in 1894. When the story was published in a newspaper, it became the first written record of the word, which later appeared in stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells.

Though from a later date, there is also the idea that an Irish bouncer and thief by the name of Patrick Hoolihan or Hooligan may have led to the term's popularity.

Whatever the origins of the word, it has since become synonymous with sports. The wave of hooliganism that spread throughout England in the 1970s and 1980s popularised the term in other languages as well, especially following the Heysel Stadium Disaster where 39 people were killed. Following the tragedy, English clubs were banned (originally indefinitely) from European competitions.

I've seen the term as a loanword in various other languages around Europe. Over the weekend, the covers of a number of French newspapers were using the term to describe the deplorable behaviour of some of the English fans in Marseille for Euro 2016 this week.

While I don't like hearing the word used in a foreign language, especially in reference to English fans, it saddens me to think that the shocking actions of certain people, who have more interest in fighting than football, are perpetuating the use of the word across Europe.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rules and Advice: Using "Must" and "Should" in the English Language

When using the English language, there are two important words you can use to either suggest something or say something is obligatory.

When you would like to make a suggestion (or give advice), you can use the word should, and its negative form shouldn't.

When you want to express that something is obligatory, imperative, or a rule, you can use the word must, and its negative form mustn't. Today we're going to look at how to form sentences using these words.

Should & Shouldn't

You can use "should" in the affirmative like this:

Subject + should + infinitive (without "to")

For example: "You should study before an exam."

In this case, the speaker is saying that they think it is a good idea to study before an exam.

You can also use it in the negative like this:

Even though it is really delicious...
Subject + shouldn't + infinitive (without "to")

For example: "You shouldn't eat lots of chocolate every day."

In this example, the speaker thinks that eating lots of chocolate every day is a bad idea. Don't eat lots of chocolate!

Must & Mustn't

Must and mustn't are used similarly to should and shouldn't, but are much stronger. Sentences are formed in exactly the same way.

Subject + must + infinitive (without "to")

For example: "You must have a driving licence to drive a car."

In this example, it is obligatory to have a driving licence.

The negative works in the same way:

Subject + mustn't + infinitive (without "to")

For example: "You mustn't drink and drive".

It is illegal to drink and drive. Therefore this is something you cannot do.


Both must and should form questions in the same way, too.

Must/Should + subject + infinitive (without "to")

If you are asking for advice, for example: "Should I go to the party?"

Or if you are asking about a rule or something obligatory: "Must I do my homework?"

And that's it! We hope our advice will help you when you need to give advice or orders in the English language!