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an example of parallel structure

College Prep Writing

Tomorrow's English

The English you speak today will not be the same tomorrow. Tomorrow's English will have new words and new ways to say things. There may be new verbs from nouns or adjectives, and there will be new technical and scientific words. Advertisers will make up new words, and new slang expressions will take over old ones. Even the spelling of familiar words will change.


There is nothing anyone can do to stop language changes in spoken English, and the speed and frequency with which the changes happen make some people uncomfortable.


Writing is different. It takes some time before changes in spoken English are accepted in written English, and sometimes they are never accepted.


The resistance to change in writing is even stronger than the opposition to change in spoken language. People are concerned that when their written language changes, they may lose some of their culture or heritage. With changes to a written language, important books might become unreadable by the average person, and soon only specially trained people will be able to read writing that is important to tradition, including religious books and laws.


Easier English

Of course, written language does slowly change in spite of resistance to it. Language change is not necessarily bad, either. In fact, language change has probably made English easier to learn. In Old English (from the 600s to around 1100AD), many verbs had complicated forms. For example, the base form of help was helpan. There were singular and past tense forms, healp and hulpon, and the past participle was holpen. You don't have to remember those strange-looking Old English forms today. The old irregular helpan has become the regular verb help, and you only need -ed to make the past tense and past participle, helped. The verb write is still irregular, but it is simpler today. In Old English the forms were writan (base), wrat (singular past), writon (plural past), and writen (past participle). You know the forms of this verb as write, wrote, and written.


Today most verbs add -ed to form the past tense and the past participle, and new verbs are regular too, like download or log on. This certainly makes learning English easier for people who are studying it as a foreign language.


A more recent change in English is the disappearance of the -ed suffix of some adjectives. For example, skimmed milk has become skim milk. The same has happened to iced cream, popped corn, and roasted beef. Today ice cream, popcorn, and roast beef are the popular forms. The -ed has not dropped off all adjectives, however. Many tea manufacturers advertise iced tea, but ice tea is beginning to appear on market shelves.


Third Person Singular -s Suffix

Perhaps some day the -s suffix on third person singular verbs will disappear. People will say "He study English" instead of "He studies English." This has already happened in some dialects of spoken English. Teachers insist that we use the third person singular -s suffix; however, the meaning of a verb does not change if we drop the suffix. We do not apply the third-person singular -s to modals like can, will, and should, and some people question why the suffix has to be added to main verbs. In written English, we still need to use the -s with third-person singular verbs, but some day this may change.


That day is not here yet. Your grandchildren or great-grandchildren may not have to add the -s suffix to third person singular verbs in writing, but for now we have to continue to add that suffix when we use formal written English.