please, thanks, like, hate

please & thanks

as you may already have noticed, english is a comparatively informal language. its spoken and written forms are very similar and there is no high-formality, honorific version of speaking like many other languages have. this is partly because english began as a common language, spoken only by those in the lower classes of society with little need for the rhetoric and structure of formal french, german, chinese or sanskrit. it also comes from the fact that it’s a relatively new language, born after most of the extremely formal times had already passed, well into the second millennium of the common era. it’s also changed dramatically over time, especially in the last century, to remove the few formalities that remained from its past.

as a result, english is often seen as impolite and rude and english-speakers say things directly that in other languages are vague or hidden in polite expressions. what that means as an english learner is that learning the polite words in english is very simple and they are, for most language-learners, unexpectedly rare.

there are really only two polite words in english – and these didn’t even become common until a few hundred years ago. please accompanies a request and thanks demonstrates gratitude.

like in most western languages, “please” comes from the same root as “pleasure”, meaning enjoyment – if you want something, you ask for it because it will bring you pleasure. “thanks” or “thank-you”, its more formal version, though rarely used now by anyone but children, comes from “think” – if someone does something nice for you, you will think of them positively.

please can be used in many places in a sentence. it often comes before or after a command to imply there is choice. to make a request more polite, it can function like an adverb.

please go to bed.
come with me, please.
will you please remember that next time?

while these are grammatically-different, the meaning is the same. “go to bed” and “come with me” are more gentle but remain commands. “remember that next time” is also a command, not a question. it is made a question by the polite words added to the sentence but the understanding is that there is no choice, only a direct instruction.

thanks is either added to the end of a sentence or, more commonly, used on its own after someone has done something for you. you can add a description of what they have done but that’s usually assumed. thank-you, the more formal version, is usually used by children when talking to adults, especially teachers or the elderly, but rarely by adult english-speakers.

like, want, have, get

two of the most common words in english are like and hate. while the opposite of like is actually dislike, this word has become uncommon and sounds old-fashioned. english-speakers are known to express more extreme opinions than speakers of most other languages. as a result, positives are rarely opposed by neutral words, only strong negatives. english-speakers rarely express neutral opinions so these two words are very useful. this is particularly important because english-language culture is one where people frequently (and often without being asked) share their opinions and speak of them in extreme terms. often like is replaced by love, a stronger version for the same reason.

beyond liking and hating, it is also important to know how to express desire for things and talk about whether you have them or not.

english uses the word “have” for ownership rather than “own” in most situations. “get” is used only for when something is acquired, not continuing to actually having it.

to practice, you can use any nouns you like but we will use animals because everyone has an opinion on which animals they like and it works well for classroom settings. it will also give an opportunity to learn common english names for animals and practice saying them. we will work with a short list here but the vocabulary list has a much larger collection of animal names.

ant, bird, cat, chicken, cow, dog, elephant, fish, fox, horse, kangaroo, lion, monkey, penguin, pig, rabbit, sheep, spider, tiger, whale, wolf

when talking about general likes and hates, nouns are usually talked about in their plural forms. some of these are particularly unusual for animals. this same list when made plural may be surprising.

ants, birds, cats, chickens, cows, dogs, elephants, fish, foxes, horses, kangaroos, lions, monkeys, penguins, pigs, rabbits, sheep, spiders, tigers, whales, wolves

less-common animals sometimes have much more unexpected plural forms. it is common, like for “fish” and “sheep”, for animals to use the same word for singular and plural.

do you like dogs?
yes. i love dogs! do you have any?
no. but i have two cats and a horse.
i like cats but i hate mice. you?
i like don’t hate mice but i hate rats.

what is your favorite animal?
i love kangaroos but my favorite is lions. what about you?
my favorite is elephants but i like monkeys, too. what animals do you hate?
i hate cows and ants. you?
i hate ants, too, but spiders more!

do you like rabbits?
yes, i have three. you?
yes but i have a cat.
will you get a rabbit, too?
no, that’s too many animals. do you want more?
yes. i want a dog.
i have a dog, too.

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