Red Big Truck

I know the title reads funny. It just doesn’t sound right. For those whose first language is English, you could instantly ‘correct it to Big Red Truck. Ah, that sounds right.

I know the formula but not the reason.

Let’s get on the same page. We are talking about adjectives – those words that describe something in more detail than a noun by itself.  So in the case of our truck, ‘truck’ is the noun, and we learn more detail with the adjectives Red and Big.

Read the following out loud to hear how it sounds. It should sound long but still OK.

A beautiful, small, antique, round, red, British, glass, toy marble. See, I told you so.

So here is the order formula; opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, purpose, NOUN.

No wonder learning English as a second language is hard to get right, but easier to understand when spoken or written. It is forgiving in some ways.

Here is another example that must be frustrating to folks learning English as their second language.

When we ask how far away a location is, we get different units of measurement depending on the context. I’ll use Edmonton and Calgary as two locations as an example. They are two major cities in Alberta.

How far apart are they?

All of the following would be correct, as confirmed when I asked Siri here are the responses; 320 kilometres, 3 hours and 1 minute by car. I could also add 51 minutes by air or 4 hours by air when travel time to/from airports, check-in etc., total time is 4 hours.

I’ll shortly be taking the train from Toronto to Edmonton, and that is almost 3 days.

So the units of measurement are numerous for such a simple question; kilometres, days, hours and minutes – distance and time in its various formats.  Context is everything. If I asked how far away is Toronto from Edmonton, I am most likely to get the space between the two cities returned to me in a simple in-the-air flight time.

So please give this a bit of a think. Can you identify any other example in our use of the English language that could sound odd to English-as-a-second-language folks? I think it is important to be tolerant, forgiving and helpful to those folks who by force or choice have come to Canadian soil and speak with an accent.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

Photo by leyre del rio on Unsplash

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