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11.7 Final -s: Fun with Grammar

A Kinder, Gentler English

One of the reasons that speakers and writers of English have trouble with final -s is that added -s means plural on a noun and singular on a verb. This is annoying. A reasonable language shouldn't use the same mark for apparently opposite purposes, especially a mark that makes us hiss so much. We could improve the system.

Noun quantities

Languages use different tricks to distinguish between singular and plural nouns: some add a letter or syllable at the beginning or end of plural nouns; others use a variety of markers to show whether the quantity is one, a few, or many; and others don't bother to change nouns at all, assuming that the context of the sentence will explain the quantity.

For a Kinder, Gentler English (KGE), we'll accept the first method (one syllable at the end of a word) because we're used to marking plural nouns. To avoid the -s that makes for so much hissing, we'll add the kinder syllable -wug to a noun to indicate a quantity of more than one.


Your son got a new baseball card in his gum package.
Your son got some new baseball cardwug in his gum package.

Verb agreement

Many languages use different verb endings to agree with different subjects. A verb after I will have one ending, after you the verb will have another, after we a third, and so forth. English used to be like that, and in old books you might have seen sentences such as: "Thou livest in the forest where, alas, the wolf liveth on thy hens." Then English dropped most of its verb endings, holding on only to an ending for verbs in the present tense after singular third person subjects (singular subjects other than I or thou). However, in the process, that ending (seen in the word eateth, above) switched from the traditional comfortable -th to our current annoying -s.

For this game, we'll restore the gentler -th (or -eth) form for that verb ending.


You climb that old tree in the park.
Those kids climb that old tree in the park.
The poison ivy climbeth that old tree in the

Translation Guide
  Everyday English KGE
plural nouns add -s or -es add -wug
present tense verbs with 3rd person singular add -s or -es add -th or -eth

The game

  1. Form two teams, A and B. Each team reads the appropriate passage below and writes five exam questions on the topic covered in the passage. Read the passage aloud within the group to get used to the sound of KGE. The questions must be written in KGE (spend no more than 7 minutes on this phase).

  2. The teams then exchange written questions and score each other: 1 point for each correctly used wug or th in the questions. The team with the highest score wins the first turn at giving oral answers.

  3. Both teams scan the other group's passage to find answers to the questions on that passage. Then they take turns giving oral answers to the questions in spoken KGE, scoring one point for each correctly used wug or th in the oral answers.

Passages in Kinder, Gentler English (KGE)

  1. The four moving spacewug in the human heart are known as chamberwug. Each chamber contracteth as part of a regular cycle that pumpeth the blood through the body. Blood entereth the two upper chamberwug from the veinwug, and then electrical impulsewug send a signal that causeth the muscle to contract. This pusheth the blood into the two larger chamberwug below. From there, the next contractionwug propel the blood into arterywug which branch out into all portionwug of the body. The sequence of wavewug createth a rhythm that a person feeleth as a pulse by gently touching the veinwug that run along the inside of the wrist. The pulse rate doth not remain constant at all timewug--it riseth and falleth with different kindwug of activity. But it usually rangeth between 50 and 100 beatwug per minute.

  2. The Caribbean Sea getteth its name from the Caribwug, the inhabitantwug who lived on some of the islandwug where Columbus landed 500 yearwug ago. The sea stretcheth west from the Atlantic and linketh the coastwug of North, Central, and South America. The islandwug of the Caribbean Sea curl the other way, from Venezuela east and north to Cuba, so that on a map each island emergeth like a jewel in a large necklace. Governmentwug have come and gone in conflictwug over these jewelwug, and much of the history of the New World springeth from these sparkling waterwug. The fishing industry of the Atlantic oweth much to this source, as well, and what the weather doth for thousandwug of milewug dependeth on the Caribbean Sea, which giveth birth to the Gulf Stream. This great ocean current warmeth a path up the North American coast and across the icy Atlantic to the British Islewug.

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