In English there are no rules!

Oh, yes there are!

One of the things we English-speakers begin to notice, whether we’re learning French or German, is that other languages put their words in a different order. This can be very confusing and tricky to grasp at first.

Think of those adjectives in French. Some go before the noun and others go after. How do we know which is which? Well, there’s a rule!

What about those lovely long German sentences? We can cope with the ‘verb second’ thing, but what about ‘T’ime, ‘M’anner, ‘P’lace? Does it really matter what goes where? Well, yes, if you want to speak natural, authentic German, it does!

But in English we can say things in any order we like, can’t we? Can we? Are you sure?

Look at the picture at the top of this post. What do you see? I guarantee that nobody said “a hairy big spider” or “green little men”. Why not? Well, that just wouldn’t sound right, would it? But how do you know? Well, that’s just not how we say it, is it?

Yes, that’s right. But why don’t we say it that way round? It’s because when we learnt to speak, we naturally learnt the rules, even if we weren’t even aware there were any rules. We learnt our own language in context. In a German or French lesson we’re learning a foreign language, also in context. It’s just that occasionally we need to be made aware of the rules. It might just help us learn!

So why do we call them “little green men” and not “green little men”? Simple. We’re following the rule of English adjectival order. Here’s the rule:

  • Number
  • Opinion
  • Size
  • Age
  • Shape
  • Colour
  • Origin
  • Purpose

Imagine having to learn that! But you just learnt it as you went along – in context – from three blind mice onwards! Clever you! Now you can try it out, to make sure it works.

This blog post was inspired by Mark Forsyth aka The Inky Fool. To hear Mark explain the rule himself, you can catch him on a recent episode of ‘The Museum of Curiosity’ on Radio 4 Extra. Mark’s intro begins at about 05:50, but why not enjoy the whole show. It’s brilliant!



English grammar for students of German

Did you know that this is a whole area of learning?

If you’re worried that you don’t understand some of the grammatical terms used in German lessons, or you can’t relate them to your own language, you’re certainly not alone.

Stroodlesoo will do her best to explain the grammatical terms needed to get to grips with the structure of the German language and, wherever possible, we will continue to learn contextual phrases so that we really don’t need to worry too much about all those grammar rules.

So now you can stop worrying if you didn’t learn English grammar at school. Lots of us didn’t!

If (and only IF!) you’d like to explore the subject further, there are some excellent materials available, including this little book, called “Engish Grammar for Students of German”, by Cecile Zorach and Charlotte Melin. ISBN: 0-340-74199-6. It’s widely available to buy online and in book shops. I also have a copy, which students are very welcome to borrow.

English Grammar for Students of German 6th Ed. by Cecile Zorach and Charlotte Melin

Finding language-learning friends

Stroodlesoo students are encouraged to talk in French or German to as many different students as they can during every session they attend in order to practise their own spoken language and train their ears to the accents of other speakers.

Outside the classroom it may not be easy to find other people to speak a foreign language to. So why not make some virtual friends?

There are several websites available to help language learners find someone to email or skype, to help you both improve your fluency.

Why not try PenPalWorld or WorldFriends


New Year, New Language Courses

Happy New Year to all stroodlesoo students.

Courses resume this week.


Update Your French,WEA Newark, Tuesdays 1.30-3pm

Coming soon …

French for Improvers, WEA Lincoln, Thursday evenings from 2 February

For full details please email

Courses resume this week


German for Beginners, SRPA, Mondays 7-9pm

German for Improvers, SRPA, Wednesdays 7-9pm

For full details please email