English language trivia

As many readers probably know already, I teach English in Spain. I have not always strictly been an English teacher in my life, however. When I lived in the USA, my homeland, I was a Spanish professor and for many years taught Spanish language and literature and did a lot of boring administrative paperwork in my tiny cupboard-like office, attended a ton of meetings that droned on and on, and decided the fate of many a graduating senior. Although I was primarily a Spanish professor, throughout my career from graduate school to college professor, I taught English classes along with translation courses.

You’d think by now I’d be the ultimate authority about everything related to the English language. You’d think correctly, more than likely. I feel like I am! However, English is ever-changing and tricky because it has so many rules that are broken while at the same time is transformed, daily, by its speakers. Sometimes the rules are broken more often than they’re followed. For the longest time the verb “knit” and the phrasal verb “cast on” have plagued my mind. Do you have to add “-ed” to them to form the simple past and the past participle, or are they strictly irregular and always maintain their base form? Is it right or wrong to say, “Yesterday I knitted something?” If we say, “I casted on a sock last weekend” are we messing it up? Perhaps we can only say, “Today I’ve knit a while” and “I’ve cast on an afghan.” Given that I’ve seen and heard both forms equally as frequently, I just lazily concluded that both ways are acceptable and left it at that. Recently, however, there’s been a bug in my ear.

Notice how the verbs “crochet” and “chain” don’t suffer from this quandary. I crocheted. I chained. You have crocheted. She has chained. Crocheters rejoice!

I finally got off my behind and looked it all up. My knitting friends who blog might be grateful for this post or maybe they have already done the work. Or, perhaps they don’t give a rat’s behind. This is trivia, after all!

The verb “knit” has two simple past and past participle forms, regular and irregular. It’s up to you if you want to use “knit” as a simple past form or “knitted.” Equally, you can use either form as a participle. You can say, “My friend Susie Q. has knitted a beautiful sweater” just as often as you can say, “Grandma knit a huge shawl last year.”

“Cast on” is a little bit more complicated, but still, you can follow the same pattern as for the verb “knit” just as long as you keep it on your blog or in casual conversation. The simple past and past participle forms of “casted” are actually old, but dating back as recently as the 18th century, according to this explanation on Grammarist. However, according to the same publication, editors still prefer the irregular form “cast” for both simple past and past participle. So, if you’re going to submit something you wrote to a publisher, be prepared. However, if you’re writing an article for a newspaper or a popular magazine, you will probably be obliged to add that “-ed” to it, because journalism has embraced the archaic form. In everyday conversation, use what comes natural to you, or use both ways. It doesn’t matter. Adding “-ed” to the verb “cast” seems to be experiencing a Renaissance, so sally forth yea speakers and say it how thou doth please!

Do you feel relieved that you can pretty much do as you please with the verb “knit” and the phrasal verb “cast on?” I do. I was getting worried, mostly because I spend most of my day correcting people’s speech and writing. The job got to me a little.


13 thoughts on “English language trivia

  1. nothingbutknit2 May 8, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    I murder the English language daily. My blog proves it. But I will never say “knitted”. It makes me twinge. I’m neutral on “casted on” but prefer cast on. I have other words in common use that makes my eye twitch: “axe a question” drives me insane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp May 8, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      Thanks for reading this! You’re a brave soul, how boring have I got all in one post, but I’m a language dork. I stopped twinging at language usage at a very young age, maybe age 21 or 22, because I embarked on my career as a language teacher, which mostly involves providing people with the opportunity to practice a language they don’t do well. I hear and read so many mistakes or poor uses of language daily so nothing makes me twinge. If anything, if I hear or see something that doesn’t seem “quite right” to me and I don’t know why, I go off on a reference binge, like this post right here. LOL. Please keep twinging. I miss that. I no longer react like that because it’s one of those things like “I’ve seen it all, not surprised” so I envy your twinge super power!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MrsCraft May 8, 2017 / 10:16 pm

    It’s interesting when you probe further into these things. I’m currently working with y6 children, preparing them for their SATs and the spelling, punctuation and grammar curriculum is jam packed! Their SPAG test is tomorrow, I do hope they remember all of these conventions. Cast is a funny one, I like to think of other contexts it is used in to help me, e.g. the magician cast a spell. The -ed would sound wrong there, you’ve got me pondering now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp May 8, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      It’s a quandary, because in a newspaper the editorial staff might correct it to be “The magician casted a spell” even though it sounds weird in everyday speech.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MrsCraft May 8, 2017 / 10:24 pm

        That would make me really grumpy! I’m such a control freak, I wouldn’t want that associated with my name if I were a ‘proper’ writer and had my work edited. I’d just have to work for myself!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tonymarkp May 8, 2017 / 10:31 pm

        That is something you get used to. If you’d like me to bore you more, I actually used to publish things as part of my academic profession. You can live with editorial corrections, mostly because if you write things to be published you get to this point where you’ll just accept the changes to get it done and forgotten!


      • MrsCraft May 8, 2017 / 10:33 pm

        There is that I guess, I don’t think I need to worry about being published! I wrote an article for our village magazine about the allotment (I know, hitting the big time!) and it looked really odd edited and didn’t feel like mine any more. I was kind of sad about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tonymarkp May 8, 2017 / 10:38 pm

        I have felt that, too. Publishing is a horrid affair. The house style dominates your writing. I hope, if you enjoy writing, that you don’t let that experience get you down. Keep on writing if you like it. The more you do it, the better chances you have of finding editors and publishers that make you feel better. As a writing teacher, I always try to instill in my students a bit of rebelliousness, a sort of concept of their own voice in their writing, to help them understand their own concept of their writing as important in the face of the horrid EDITOR.


    • tonymarkp May 8, 2017 / 10:23 pm

      Also, thanks for reading this. I hope you didn’t suffer much!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tami May 9, 2017 / 12:48 am

    Very interesting post. I take advantage of the relaxed nature of modern written English. I don’t mind seeing grammar or sentence structure issues. I am quite guilty of my sentences running on and on and on. One thing that does bug me though is misspellings, and using the wrong word. Especially in posts that are promoting goods for sale on etsy shops. I will overlook an occasional misspelling but find it very sad to see multiple typos. I am fanatical about proofreading my posts and comments. I will likely read this comment at least three times before hitting the post comment button. Then I will read it again once the screen refreshes. I’m even worse with my posts! Oh, and now I’m going to be even more aggressive in my spelling quality control since I know you’re an expert. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp May 9, 2017 / 5:42 am

      Thanks for reading this. I always tell my students that every mistake they make can always be turned into a learning experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bybyq May 9, 2017 / 7:45 am

    I love this post so much because I do love languages. Language has taken me this far from home too, but the other way around — instead of teaching language, I studied it for my degree. I am no longer a student, though, but I still find language fascinating to study and analyse. So, thank you very much for this wonderful post, I do enjoy it a lot.

    Unfortunately, English is, not my native language, so sometimes I found some words awkward to use in a sentence — “cast” is one good example. My spell checker doesn’t believe in “casted”, and “broadcasted”, but I thought it should be correct. Most of the time, when things like these happened in the past, I just avoided using the word, and used thesaurus to find an equally effective word to replace it.

    When writing about knitting, though, it is impossible to avoid it completely. Casting on is one very basic knitting technique and is the first ever thing to do as one’s starting a project. So, after I started my blog, and talked a lot about knitting, I pushed this boundary and decided not to just avoid using a word just because it can be slightly confusing. Maybe I haven’t finished learning after all…

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp May 9, 2017 / 7:52 am

      We never stop learning! Thank you for reading this. Learning is a lifelong endeavour. Fear of making mistakes is often the emotion that keeps us from really getting the practice we need to improve at writing and speaking any language, whether native or not native. Good for you for continuing to practice, discover, and learn!

      Liked by 1 person

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