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    As I mentioned, French is my native language. I do speak fluent English when required. The four English words I have trouble, when writing English are, their, there, to,too. They sound the same when you speak, but when you write, they have different spelling. Also, some years ago, an American corrected my spelling, the word colour. He informed me that the proper spelling of that word, color. Merrian Webster dictionary, states that the spelling both ways is correct. Depending which country you live in.




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  • #2
    There are several words where American English has slightly different spelling to British English. The word "colour" is the correct spelling in Britain, but the US drops the letter 'u'. Other examples include "realise" (British) and "realize" (American); "analyse" and "analyze" - the latter word being the American spelling.

    "Their" and "there" which you mention have the same pronunciation as you say, and so does "they're" - which is an abbreviated form of "they are".

    There are examples also with the Spanish language, where some words are spelt in a certain way in Spain, and are spelt slightly differently in South American countries.

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    • #3
      Hello Kevin,
      Those Americans do spell various things oddly like color instead of the correct British spelling colour or Aluminum instead of the correct British spelling Aluminium.

      As as for those other words you mention, they are pronounced the same and have not just different spellings, they have different meanings as well.

      You asked about homophonesTheir & There (& They’re):
      Their is the possessive pronoun, as in "their car is red" There is used as an adjective, "he is always there for me," a noun, "get away from there," and, chiefly, an adverb, "stop right there". They're is a contraction of "theyare," as in "they're getting married."

      You also asked about To & Too
      To, too and two are homophones that often confuse people. 'To' is used to show motion, eg "I'm going to the shop." 'Too' means 'also' or 'extremely', eg "I would like to come too but I'm too tired." 'Two' means the number 2, eg "Let's buy two apples."

      Try using the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) rather than Webster’s which will show you about American words & pronunciations, the OED will tell you about the British spelling & pronunciationq. The old canard was that Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language. (Possibly originated by George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill or Oscar Wilde).

      A great question, thanks for asking it

      Steve

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      • #4
        English spelling is a mess. This is because English used to be a Germanic language. Before 1066 the English could visit Germany and converse with the natives - old German and old English were more like two dialects of the same language in those days. But then the Norman French came in 1066, and our language acquired a French overlay. You can see this in words like 'spillage' - 'spill' is a Germanic word (from Old English spillan) but the '-age' ending is pure French.

        But we ended up with a spelling system that is somewhat chaotic. How many languages, apart from English, spell homonyms differently? Very few, I expect. 'You', 'yew', 'you' - these form just one example.

        Then along came Samuel Johnson centuries ago and wrote the first English dictionary. He took some existing spellings and mangled them. 'Debt' was spelled 'det' back then. He decided to add a silent 'b' to remind us that the word originally came from the Latin word 'debitus'. Grrr! How to make a bad situation worse.

        Look at the all the ways the sound 'ee' is spelt in English: see, sea. recEIve, beliEve, pEOple, foetus / fetus. And so on.

        English spelling should have been reformed centuries ago. Why should I have to write 'should' when 'shud' wud do? Nobody pronounces the 'L' in 'should' now anyway - not even the Scots! And then there are all those words that end in an 'e' that is not pronounced: are, have, come. 'Hav' and 'cum' would be better.

        Look at the spelling of the words 'bomb', 'comb' and 'tomb'. Logically they should rhyme. They do not. English spelling is a mess!

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        • #5
          English isn’t a mess. You just have to know all of the rules & spellings.

          As as well as German & French it’s also “borrowed” at lot from just about every other language going.

          Steve

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
            English isn’t a mess. You just have to know all of the rules & spellings.
            The trouble is that is has very few rules, and most of those get broken. 'I before E except after C' ? How about 'WEIRD'. Rule broken!

            Look at 'German girl'. Those g's are pronounced differently. It's not 'Gurman gurl' or 'Jurman jurl' but 'Jurman gurl'. And so on. A mess!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by garth View Post
              Look at 'German girl'. Those g's are pronounced differently. It's not 'Gurman gurl' or 'Jurman jurl' but 'Jurman gurl'. And so on. A mess!
              The 'ch' is a classic. It's pronounced as a 'k' (or a hard 'c') as in chemist or school; it's pronounced as 'sh' as in brochure; and it's pronounced as 'ch' as in chair or cherish.

              On a totally unrelated note, looks like my damn router may be on its last legs - I keep losing connection.

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              • #8
                We use the Dutch spelling of 'school'. The scary thing is that in Dutch, the 's' and the 'ch' in 'school' are pronounced separately - and the 'ch' is pronounced as the 'ch' in 'loch' ! Ouch!

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                • Shirley Brahms
                  Shirley Brahms commented
                  Editing a comment
                  You eventually get the hang of it. It's the old story - practise makes perfect.

              • #9
                And to make it so much easier to explain, different countries that use thue Roman alphabet don' t necessarily make the same sound with the letters. In the example given by Garth in the previous post, he uses the letter "j" to 8 the soft "g" in the word "German"... but in many European languages the letter "j" is always sounded like a "y" (as in "yes","yellow", "yodel" and "you") or an "h" (like "half", "hat" and "harry"*)

                but if you're a cockney or a millennial, you might not use the "h" after all. It's all fun and games until someone gets 'urt.

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
                  English isn’t a mess. You just have to know all of the rules & spellings.

                  As as well as German & French it’s also “borrowed” at lot from just about every other language going.

                  Steve
                  People talk about English "borrowing" or sometimes even more pejoratively "stealing" words from French, as if it's English's fault. England was invaded and conquered by Francophones in 1066, and afterwards French words began to appear in English because Anglophone servants were having to interact with their Francophone masters, and vice versa.

                  This is why we have words like "pork" for the meat, and "pig" for the animal. "Pork" is French and "Pig" is English. When the English servants chased it around in the mud outside, it was called a pig. When they served it to their masters inside the castle with a glass of wine, it was called pork. "Pork" (porc) is just the French word for pig.

                  A lot of people talk like English went out and stole other words from other languages when in many cases it's the opposite - they forced them on us!

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                  • #11
                    And then there's the other native languages of the British Isles to deal with. Gaelic, Erse, Manx, Guernesiais, Jèrriais, Cymraig, Kernewek, Doric. And I'm sure I've missed some. Particularly in the Gaelic and Cymraig languages the use of Roman letters and their pronunciations is very different to English.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by garth View Post
                      The trouble is that is has very few rules, and most of those get broken. 'I before E except after C' ? How about 'WEIRD'. Rule broken!
                      Simple, there are more exceptions than rules. But you still have to know them to speak or write English correctly

                      Steve

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                      • #13
                        From when I look at facebook, it seems that many people for whom English IS a first language don't know the difference between their/there or to/too. Or have/of, come to that. Or what an apostrophe is for. Or how to form a simple sentence. Don't get me started.

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                        • #14
                          Originally posted by Nick Dando View Post
                          And then there's the other native languages of the British Isles to deal with. Gaelic, Erse, Manx, Guernesiais, Jèrriais, Cymraig, Kernewek, Doric. And I'm sure I've missed some. Particularly in the Gaelic and Cymraig languages the use of Roman letters and their pronunciations is very different to English.
                          We don't really have to deal with these languages when dealing with English. Very few words from Celtic languages entered English, and most are just place-names.

                          Foreign words enter a language when it has to use them. But since England was (usually) the more powerful nation in the British Isles, it didn't really need to speak to the Welsh or Highland Scots or Manx in their own languages. Whereas with French, it had to, because the Francophones were in charge and they weren't learning English, at least not for the first few centuries. For example, trials in English courts were conducted in French from 1067 - 1362, so English defendants had no idea what was being said.
                          Last edited by Gamelyn; 18 June 2020, 08:18 AM.

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Allen Leighton View Post
                            From when I look at facebook, it seems that many people for whom English IS a first language don't know the difference between their/there or to/too. Or have/of, come to that. Or what an apostrophe is for. Or how to form a simple sentence. Don't get me started.
                            Ah, well that's on Faceache. What can you expect? That's the forum for people who don't have any original ideas or know how to express them

                            As I said earlier you still have to know the rules (& exceptions) to speak or write English correctly.

                            English is a very clever language. It entices other people in with its history but then it takes them down a dark alleyway & mugs them for their best word & expressions

                            Steve

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