If you are reading this blog post, it probably means that you already speak English, at least a little bit. Many of you have probably been studying English for a long time, but you still feel like you are not a good English speaker. In this post, and in the “Quick and Easy Fixes” lesson series, I will point out some easy ways that you can sound more like a native speaker, just by using the grammar that you already know…correctly!
Present Simple Tense
Before we start this lesson, I have a challenge for you. I’m going to give you a question, and I want you to use your phone or your computer to record yourself answering the question. Oh, and one more thing, I want you to try and speak for one minute, 60 seconds, about this question. If you can talk longer than that, great! But try to talk for at least 60 seconds. Here’s the question:
Q: What does your brother, sister, mom, dad, husband, or wife, do every day?
Choose one of these people (brother, sister, mom, dad, husband, or wife), and talk about their daily routine. Talk about everything, even if it is boring. What time does he/she wake up? Does he/she eat breakfast? If he/she eats breakfast, what does he/she eat? What does he/she do after eating breakfast? What time does he/she go to work? What does he/she do at work? Try to talk about all of these things and anything else you can think of. Got it? Ok. Go ahead and answer that question, and record your answer, and then, when you are finished, continue reading.
Present simple: Korean vs. English
Before we talk about present simple in English, let’s talk a little bit about present simple in Korean. Korean can be quite a difficult language to learn, but one great thing about it is that the verb does not change based on the personhood (인칭) of the subject (주어). This means that the verb looks the same in all of the following sentences.
Present Simple in Korean
- 내가 은행에서 일한다.
- 네가 은행에서 일한다.
- 우리가 은행에서 일한다.
- 나의 남동생과 여동생이 은행에서 일한다.
- 나의 남동생이 은행에서 일한다.
- 나의 여동생이 은행에서 일한다.
In all of these sentences, the word 일하다 looks the same. However, in English (as you probably already know), this is not the case.
Present Simple in English
- I work at the bank.
- You work at the bank.
- We work at the bank.
- My younger brother and younger sister work at the bank.
- My younger brother works at the bank.
- My younger sisters works at the bank.
So in Korean, the verb does not change based on the personhood (인칭) of the subject (주어), but in English, it does. Specifically, you have to put an ‘s’ on the end of the present tense verb when the subject is a he, she, or it.
Why this is important
“But I already know this,” many of you will say. “I’ve learned it a million times!” And you’re right! Most of you probably have learned it a million times, but do me a favor before we continue. Listen to the recording that you made when you answered the question I asked above, and each time you say a present simple verb, pay special attention to whether or not you put an ‘s’ on the end of the verb. Whether the topic of your answer was your brother, sister, mom, dad, husband, or wife, you should have put an ‘s’ on the end of the verbs. Did you? Here’s an example answer:
My brother wakes up every day at around 6:00 am. He usually eats a small breakfast, and then he goes to the gym. He usually exercises for about an hour, then he takes a shower, and goes to work. He gets to work at about 8:30. First, he usually checks his e-mail, and if there are any important e-mails, he answers those e-mails right away. Then he starts his daily work. He often has a meeting with this boss at around 10:00 am, and then he continues his work. He usually eats lunch at around 11:30. Sometimes he goes home to eat lunch, because he lives very close to his office, but sometimes he has lunch at a restaurant near the office. After he finishes lunch, he starts working again. He usually gets off work at around 6:00, and then he goes home. After he gets home, he sometimes cooks dinner for his wife, and sometimes she cooks dinner for him. After that, they eat dinner together, and sometimes they watch TV, and sometimes they go for a walk. My brother usually goes to bed around 10:00 pm, and his wife usually goes to bed around 11:00.
Did you remember to put an ‘s’ at the end of all of the present simple verbs? If you correctly put an ‘s’ on the verb 100% of the time, congratulations! For most of you, however, you probably forgot the ‘s’ quite a few times, maybe even most of the time!
Most Koreans who learn English find it difficult to remember to put the ‘s’ at the end of verbs when the subject is a he, she, or it. This is because, as we already saw, it is not necessary in Korean. Unfortunately, if you forget to add the ‘s’ in English, it will sound extremely unnatural to any English speakers who are listening, so it is very important to remember.
How to get better
If you are someone who often forgets to put the ‘s’ on the end of present simple verbs, don’t feel bad! This is a difficult thing to remember for many people, and feeling bad is not helpful. In order to fix this mistake, there are two things that you should try to do: 1) notice the mistake, 2) practice doing it correctly. It’s very important to know when you are making a mistake, because if you don’t know, you can’t fix it! So first, try to notice when you forget to put the ‘s’ at the end of present simple verbs. Second, you have to practice. The best way to practice this is to record yourself speaking for a long time (at least one minute) about a topic, then listen to that recording, and if you made a mistake, practice writing that sentence correctly. After doing this a few time, you will improve a lot. Here are some questions that you can practice answering:
- Talk about all the members of your family in detail. Talk about your mom, dad, sister, brother, husband, wife, aunts, uncles, cousins. Where do they live? Where do they work or go to school? What are there hobbies? What do they eat? Give as many details a possible and talk about as many family members as possible.
- Talk about your best friend or friends. What do they look like? What is their personality like? What do they like to do?
- Talk about your favorite celebrity or star. Who are they? What are they famous for? Why do you like them? What do they look like?
When answering these questions it’s important to 1) answer outloud (speak your answer), and 2) speak as long as possible. It’s easy to use the present tense correctly if you only say one or two sentences. It’s more difficult if you speak for a long time. This is also just very good speaking practice in general, and it will help you with your speaking ability overall.
I know this kind of practice is difficult, and sometimes it can be difficult to catch all of your errors, but if you do it a few times a week for a few weeks, I guarantee that you will improve a lot! Keep up the good work, and come back soon for a new lesson!