Why don't all those people moving to this country learn how to speak English? I mean, if they're going to live here, they ought to learn our language, right?
Let's offer them a little English lesson. You be the teacher, and I'll be the student.
"OK, let's begin with something basic," you say to me, "such as how to use the articles a, an and the."
"That's question I have," I say.
"No," you say, "that's a question you have. Use the article a (or an) before a noun whose specific identity is not known. Use the article the before a noun whose identity is known. For example, 'They wanted to buy a house, and they liked the house next to mine."
"That's the good answer," I say.
"No, you mean 'That's a good answer.'"
"But the answer is known to me, so shouldn't I say 'the good answer'?" I ask.
"Well, no. Article usage differs when a modifier comes between the article and the noun, as in 'That's a complex issue.'"
"Ah," I say, "so that was only a first rule."
"No, that was only the first rule."
"Let's go on. Use a (or an) with singular nouns that can be counted, as in 'I can drive a car.' Do not use a (or an) with nouns that cannot be counted, as in 'I like snow.'"
I think about that one for a moment and then say, "Maybe I should go to a college to study English."
"No," you say, "maybe you should 'go to college.' College is an exception."
"Ah, college is an exception. Now I understand. Exception is a count noun so I use an before it. But maybe I should go to university instead."
"Well, no," you say, "maybe you should go 'to a university.' University is not an exception."
"Hmm, college an exception, but university not an exception."
"Well, yes," you say. "Next, let's talk about verbs. In English, we have main verbs and helping verbs, as in 'I am walking,' where walking is the main verb and am is the helping verb."
"Yes, I am knowing that."
"Well, that's another subject."
"You mean another verb."
"Yes. I mean no," you say. "Anyway, certain verbs are followed by a gerund, which is a verbal noun that ends in -ing, as in 'I miss sailing.' Other verbs are followed by an infinitive, which is a verb formed with the word to, as in 'I hope to go next spring.' You need to learn which verbs take gerunds and which take infinitives."
"I love learning these rules!" I say. "Or should I be saying, 'I love to learn these rules'?"
"Well, some verbs such as love and hate may be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive with little or no difference in meaning, as in 'I hate complaining' and 'I hate to complain.'"
"Ah, I'm so glad I stopped to talk with you," I say, "and I'm so glad I stopped talking with you."