English: The Wild and Crazy Bird
After 25 years of teaching, I still love my job. My clients reveal the strange irregularities of English grammar which keep it fascinating. This week, my Iranian engineer wrote a question using the verb to be. We all know that the verb to be conjugates as follows: I am, you are, he is, we are , you are, and they are, for it is an amalgamation from two verbs in Old English. My student wrote “Why I not am getting a promotion.” According to our rules, the affirmative is as follows: I am getting a promotion, you are…etc. With the use of the question word why, however, the verb inexplicably changes to the second person- you are, you aren’t. The question would be, “Why aren’t I getting a promotion?” or more traditionally , “Why am I not getting a promotion?” I then asked him to repeat the phrase “Why am I not” as fast as he could. Most likely, this is a phonetic shift because the word aren’t is easier to pronounce than the phrase am I not. Having such a wide variety of international clients from all ages and walks of life enables me to continually revisit my native language and enjoy its quirks.