February 18


Curiosities About the English Language

By Gordon Gaffney

February 18, 2022

Curiosities About the English Language

There are many curiosities about the English language, it can behave very strangely in some circumstances. The most common, the most interesting, and the most frustrating for students is pronunciation.

Unfortunately English does not have accents like many languages including Portuguese, so the only thing you can do to ensure you have the correct pronunciation is to practice and memorise.

I always say that memorising is very bad when you want to learn a language. Instead, if possible, it is better to use a key strategy to understand the grammar point and then to use this key strategy which will get you the correct English in 80-90% of situations. However, sometimes we don’t have a choice and we must memorise.

Curiosities About the English Language

Curiosities About the English Language: pronunciation

Where we have a verb and noun that are the same, in some cases the pronunciation will change. There are subtle pronunciation changes here as the verb is pronounced differently to the noun.

To present, a present, I presented my brother with a present

To produce, produce, The factory produced a lot of produce

To record, a record, The band recorded a great record

One that is a little different:

To dive, a dove, the dove dove down towards the ground

You can also use dived for the past of to dive:

To dive, a dove, the dove dived down towards the ground

Pronunciation - ough

-ough has many different pronunciations, and because this is English all you can do is memorise each one. Here are some examples:


Another strange one is:

Sign, signal

With sign and signal you can see that the syllables are split, you can read more about that here.

Curiosities About the English Language: cudda, wudda, shudda

In general could have is pronounced as cudda.

Would have as wudda and should have as shudda.

There is an expression in English “cudda, wudda, shudda” which is short for “could have, would have, should have”

These structures are used in the third conditional, when we talk about something that didn’t happen in the past and so it is used with regret.

If someone is talking a lot about regrets or that they want or wish that something was different in the past another person might reply “cudda, wudda, shudda”, that is to say that you can’t change the past, “what is done is done” and there is no point in talking about your regrets like that as it won’t change anything now.

Not all native English speakers have perfect grammar. In fact one of the most frustrating ones is the contraction of:

could have, would have, should have

Which as shown is:

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve

Now, say the above contractions a few times. What happens?

When you repeat it, it sounds very like:

Could of, would of, should of

Many, many adult native English speakers when writing online will write this.

Could of, would of, should of

Never do this! It is terrible grammar, there is no logic to it.

I should of said

It drives me crazy, but it is incredibly common among native English speakers.

If you are interested in seeing and hearing these structures in context you can read our article on modal verbs in songs

Curiosities About the English Language: 14 fun facts

And now here are 14 fun curiosities about the English language:

  1. The most commonly used noun in English is time.
  2. The common greeting “long time no see” is not grammatically correct and is thought to originate from native Americans or the Chinese.
  3. Month, orange, silver, and purple do not rhyme with any other word.
  4. 90% of English text consists of just 1000 words.
  5. Most English words come from French or Old English (use this to your advantage!). Students are often surprised by this, there are lots of French words used in everyday English for example en suite, cul de sac, entrepeneur, café, coup (which is short for coup d’etat).
  6. English used to have 29 letters in its alphabet instead of the current 26, you can read and listen to the alphabet pronounced by a genuine Irish person here.
  7. A pangram is a sentence that contains every letter from the alphabet. A very famous English pangram is: “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.”
  8. A palindrome is a word or phrase that’s spelled the same whether you read left-to-right (like normal) or right-to-left. An example word is madam.
  9. English is not the official language of the United States, you can find out why this is by reading our blog post on why English is considered an international language here.
  10. China has more English speakers than the United States.
  11. The word "good-bye" is a contraction of "God be with ye".
  12. New words are being added to English all the time, many of these originate on the internet and then because of this they spread rapidly. You can think of meme, lol, troll, emoji etc. 
  13. The sound ‘ee’ in English has 7 ways of spelling. It is possible to create 1 sentence to show you all of them, notice all the ‘ee’ sounds here: ‘He believed Caesar could see people seizing the seas’.
  14. Over time some words in English have changed their meaning, take a look at ‘awful’ which now means something very bad, it used to mean ‘inspiring wonder’, this is where the common word “awesome” comes from, and was a short version of ‘full of awe’. Awesome is used more in American English.

Another example is ‘nice’ which used to mean ‘silly’.

I hope you enjoyed these curiosities about the English language.

We try to avoid memorising when learning English, instead I use many key strategies in my online video course “Fluency in English”, you can read about the course which is made exclusively for Portuguese speakers.

You are probably making many mistakes because you are directly translating Portuguese structures into English. Over 4 hours of high quality videos, quizzes, and exercises with life time access which will eliminate your errors and take your English to the next level for only €49. You can read more and watch 7 free videos here.

To improve your knowledge, click here to discover the origin of the English language or learn about the influence of the language on the job market.

Did you already know some of these curiosities? Which did you find most interesting? Leave it in the comments!

Gordon Gaffney

About the author

Gordon is The Irish English Teacher, creator of this blog and many products to help all students learning English as a second language, but with a focus on Portuguese speakers.

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