Auxiliary Verbs – An Insight.

In English we have three auxiliary verbs:

« Do », « Be » and « Have ».

But why? And what do they mean?

In grammar we often talk about « tenses » to talk about time. In fact, a tense is a little more complicated than that, and that’s when the auxiliaries become important.

A grammatical tense is a combination of time and « aspect ». Aspect is the « status » of an action (verb). The auxiliary verbs tell us the status of an action (verb) at a particular point in time.


« Do » is used with the « Simple » aspect. That is to say the most basic or general information about an action.

« Be » is used for the « Continuous » aspect. That is to say that an action is incomplete at a specific point in time.

« Have » is used for the « Perfect » aspect. That is to say an action is complete at a specific point in time. It also indicates the action had a connection to something earlier.


#1. « I (do)* build boats ».
This is the simple aspect and tells us a generality. In fact, we don’t know if I did yesterday or will tomorrow, technically speaking.

#2. « I am building a boat ».
This is the continuous aspect and tells us that the boat is not finished, but is expected to be finished at some point soon.

#3. « I have built a boat ».
This is the perfect aspect and tells us that work was started earlier and completed; the boat’s construction is completed.

There’s a wonderful simplicity to grammatical aspect, until we arrive at the fourth: the « Perfect Continuous ».

Ok, we seem to have a paradox. An incomplete/complete action. Also, we don’t have a fourth auxiliary verb to deal with this. So what on Earth do we do?

In fact, the perfect continuous describes a « partially complete action » and so we use a combination of « have » and « be » to make « have been ».

#4. « I have been building a boat ».
This tells us that work has started on the boat and progress has been made, but the boat is still not finished.


The key insight here is that English only has these four ways of describing the status of an action at a particular moment in time.

In combination with the three times, past, present and future, we can create all tenses possible in English. The status is just moved to one of the three time periods.

* (We omit « do » in positive direct statements, we only use it to insist).

English Sky

I found a fun fact today about the English word “sky” (French: ciel).


It comes from the Old Norse word “sky” which means “cloud” (French: nuage) which explains a lot about the British climate!


The modern Norwegian word for “cloud” is “sky”, and the word for “sky” in Norwegian is “himmel”.


The etymological history of the word begins in English in about 1200AD when it meant “in the region of the clouds “and changing to mean “high region of the air” by about 1300AD at which time it was synonymous with “heaven”.


Jamie, formateur d’anglais au centre de l’Académie des Langues de Caen, 26 rue d’Authie, vous propose les chaussettes de l’archi-duchesse

A tongue-twister is a sentence or phrase which is intended to be difficult to say.

Here’s an example:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

And another:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

He would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood

As a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Some tongue-twisters are intended to be repeated. Try saying the examples below 5 times quickly.

An example:

She sells seashells by the seashore.


And another:

Red lorry, yellow lorry.


And another (be careful not to say a naughty word with this one!):

Susie works in a shoeshine shop. Where she shines she sits, and where she sits she shines.


Good luck!

I Got Challenged

I recently got a challenge whereby I got the question whether it was possible that the verb « get » could be the only verb ever necessary as an action verb; so I got the rules of the challenge: 


                The rules:

                Action verbs allowable: Get (and conjugations)

                Auxiliary verbs allowable: Be, Can, Do, Have, May, Must, Should (and conjugations)


I immediately got the impression that this was impossible. English must be more complicated than that! Then I got the idea that nothing is impossible and just got on with it.


English got the verb « get » from Old Norse which itself was got from Germanic origins. The logic of Latin languages is that precise verbs for every action are important, whereas the Anglo-Saxon logic (Germanic) is sometimes different; not the verb but the change is important.


The concept:

                Any word(s) after « get » is a change of position or state from the contrary.

                e.g.        A change of position:

                                to get on                              A change from « off » to « on ».

                                                                « I got on my bicycle ».

                                A change of state:

                                to get sick                           A change from « well » (not ill) to « sick ».

                                                                « He got sick ».


Jamie in France – A History with only « Get »


I got the idea to get a new life in France in 2012. My job in England had got boring and I had never really got around to getting an understanding of how people in other countries got by. So, I got an atlas and got a good look at Europe. I got the feeling that France was a good idea as I could get back to England if things got difficult; I could get on the ferry or Eurostar very easily. I got my train ticket and got prepared. I got a new backpack and some new clothes. A little later, I got quite anxious, even scared; Have I got myself into a silly situation?! Of course not.

I got here in February 2013. I got a little sick on the ferry, but after I got to land I was fine. I got a small apartment in Caen and got the newspaper to get information to get a job. I didn’t get any jobs initially. I got rejection letter after rejection letter, but it didn’t get me down. Eventually, I got an introduction to my current boss who got me a job! Fantastic! Life really got better!

So, 2018. I get the impression that the job of a teacher is the best in the world. I get the opportunity every day to get together with lovely people who get involved in my classes. It never gets boring for me.



So, we can get by with « get ». It’s not beautiful and it gets complicated, but « get » is a wonderful verb due to its flexibility.


Sometimes, it’s not which precise action that is important, it is the result of that action, or, what we « get ».

Valentine’s Blind Test!                                                                                                                  

In honour of our « Valentine’s Blind Test » (15th February, 18h00) the subject of my blog is:




The Rolling Stones

This group got their name from a well-known English proverb « A rolling stone gathers no moss ». A rolling stone (rouleau de jardin) was an ancient piece of gardening equipment used to flatten ground and, as it was always moving, moss (la mousse) was unable to grow on it. It is used figuratively to describe someone who is always moving and therefore avoids any responsibilities.

This quote appears to originate from Publilius Syrus (85-43BC) a Syrian slave who managed to become free due to his ability to present and produce beautiful proverbs, even winning a prize from Caesar.


Queen – We are the Champions

Champion comes from the Latin “campus” meaning “field”; a flat, level ground. Historically, the best soldiers, or the ones who stood out from the rest, were known as “campiones”.


Marvin Gaye – I Heard it Through the Grapevine

To hear something “through the grapevine” means to hear something by word-of-mouth. This originates from the American Civil war when communication of news through unofficial channels was referred to as the “grapevine telegraph”. It seems much information was shared by Confederate soldiers after drinking wine and also by black slaves who worked picking grapes from vines.


Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

“To bite the dust” means to die, quit or fail. Its origin is from The Iliad, describing the death of Hector. « …πολέες δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ αὐτὸν ἑταῖροι//πρηνέες ἐν κονίῃσιν ὀδὰξ λαζοίατο γαῖαν »


See you on the 15th!

Entente Cordiale

« Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose »


I was thinking recently about how different the French and English languages were, yet also that they were so similar.

So I did some investigation and got some pretty interesting results!


“Ch” becomes “C”   /k/

chat = cat

chapeau = cap


The circumflex (^)

Whenever we see a circumflex it indicates an “S”.

So “hôpital” becomes “hospital” and “pâte” becomes “paste/pasta”.


“U” turns into an “L”

This is a bit more complicated; when a “U” is preceded by a vowel it becomes “L”.

peau = peal

veau = veal


This interplay between U and L can be seen in the French words “beau” ♂ and “belle” ♀.


So if we use all of the above techniques we can see that “château” = “castle”.



“E” = “S”

This is a weird one, but it works.

êcole = school

étoile = star

écureuil = squirrel

étudiant = student


“G” becomes “W”

guerre = war

garde-robe = wardrobe


“-IT” or “-IRE” becomes “-CT”

fait = fact

conduire = conduct

parfait = perfect


As interesting as these connections are they’re not really that useful but they do remind us how intertwined* English and French are.


Until next time…



*to intertwine = entrelacer

The Power of Three: Rhetorical English

“3, That’s the Magic Number, Yes it is”

  • “The Magic Number”, De La Soul (1990)


“Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”

  • The three virtues of HumataHukhta and Huvarshta



The power of the number three is intriguing, mystifying and enchanting. Why is it that this number seems to be so powerful? Is it because we are the third planet from the sun? Why are the Olympic Games’ medals awarded to first, second and third places? Why do we eat a three-course meal? It is weird. Don’t you think?

The number “3” represents something very important and powerful in English; particularly in publicity and advertising. Consider the slogans;

“Coke Is It!” – Coca-Cola

“I’m lovin’ it!” – McDonalds

“Just Do It!” – Nike

Even in another language it can be effective:

“Vorsprung durch Technik” – Audi

Pythagoras thought that three was the noblest of numbers as it is “the only number to equal the sum of all the terms below it, and the only number whose sum with those below equals the product of them and itself.”

Personally, I like to think that the idea of three is a manifestation of the idea that at a basic level “3” describes a position between two extremes. For example, Goldilocks had porridge “too hot”, “too cold” and “just right”.

Whatever the reason for this may be, it is unarguably an effective technique. So if you want to make a point more strongly, effectively or powerfully, use the rule of three.


That’s all folks.

Do-Be-Do-Be-Do, Where Are You?

Today’s post concerns a quite basic but fundamental point when using the present simple tense.


Questions about Descriptions and Actions.


When we ask questions about descriptions we use the verb “be”, perhaps with an adjective.

For example:

Are you French?”

Or perhaps with an adjective phrase:

Are you from a big family?”

The correct response is to respond with the same auxiliary verb. So, we have the options:

“Yes, I am”.

“No, I’m not”.


When we talk about actions we use the verb “do” with another verb for a specific action.

For example:

Do you like chocolate?”

Here we have two verbs, an auxiliary (do) and an action (like).

The correct response here is exactly the same form using the auxiliary verb. So we have the options:

“Yes, I do”.

“No, I don’t”.



The same principle and structure that we use with “do” can be applied to all other auxiliary verbs (excluding “be”).

So when we talk about ability or possibility we use “can”. For example:

Can you play piano?”                                    “Yes, I can”.                        “No, I can’t”.

Or when we talk about future or intention we use “will”. For example:

Will you come to my class?”                     “Yes, I will”.                       “No, I won’t”.

And so on…


All the above can be prefixed with a question-word like « why », « how » or « when » to ask an information question as the structure is the same.

So we can make:

« Why are you French? »

« How do you play piano? »

« When will you come to my class? »




I apologise for this post being a little bit grammatical but I suppose that’s my job.

I look forward to seeing you all soon!





An Average Blog Post.

Hello again,

In English « average » translates directly to the French « moyenne » meaning the result of the addition of two or more amounts and dividing by the number of amounts.

Simply, it’s the middle of a certain set of quantities. In English we use the terms « mean », « median » and « mode » to describe different types of « middle » and all of these words begin with the letter « M »!

So, why « average »?

Once upon a time in France, trading boats were not always owned by an individual, rather they were owned by an association. On their voyages they would suffer damage and would require repairs when they returned. The word to describe the damage was « avarie » and it was expected that all parties involved would pay an equal share of the cost. Essentially adding the total and dividing the cost equally. The « average » was the amount each owner had to pay.


Until next time.


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