CULTURE & ARTS
07/02/2018 05:04 pm ET

35 Confusing Things About The English Language

Non-native English speakers share what stumps them ... and makes them laugh.
Many aspects of the English language are confusing or harder to master for non-native speakers. 
Elkhamlichi Jaouad / EyeEm via Getty Images
Many aspects of the English language are confusing or harder to master for non-native speakers. 

Learning another language is no easy feat. You can memorize all the rules and still find yourself messing something up.

The English language is no exception. With roots in many other world languages, English includes a number of spelling, grammar and pronunciation rules that seem to contradict one another ― in addition to the many norms and standards that often stump ESL learners.

We asked HuffPost Facebook followers who are not native English speakers to share what aspects of the English language they find confusing or ridiculous. Some native English speakers also jumped in to share their observations as well. While many apply to other languages, others are unique to English.  

1. “My mom and I used to always laugh so hard when we heard people say ‘I feel like toast’ or ‘I feel like fish’ instead of ‘I feel like having [fish or toast].’ It must be so strange to feel like you’re a pice of toast!” ―Karleen Haché

2. “Sean Bean does not rhyme.” ―Costanza Baldi

3. “The lunacy behind blaming yourself for an injury or illness! ‘I broke my arm in the car accident’ vs. ‘my arm got broken in a car accident’ so much blame on a person for illness and injury. So strange.” ―Caitie Lou Pfeifer

4. “Idioms are one of my favorite things. I remember learning ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ at uni, and the whole class cracked up. Mind you, in French we say ‘It’s raining ropes.’” ―Catherine MacAdam

5. “When a question is asked in the negative ― for example, ‘Are you sure you don’t want any cake?’ Should I say ‘yes’ as in I’m sure or ‘no’ as in I don’t want any cake?” ―Steph Aay 

6. “That darn ‘i before e, except after c’ lie.” ―Anamary Marquez-Grossman

7. “Different pronunciations for ‘table’ and ‘comfortable.’” ―Ángeles Gelesmora

8. “Telling the time! Let’s just say it’s 12:30 p.m.. British people would say, ‘half twelve.’ In my native Estonian, it’s ‘half one.’” ―Mari Eesmaa

9. “‘A,’ ‘an’ and ‘the’ do not exist in Russian. So even though I have now spent 15 years living in English-speaking countries I still get it wrong sometimes.” ―Svetlana Sargant

10. “As a dance teacher I kept telling my students to move their ‘feets’ with the ‘s’ at the end. It’s confusing why some plural don’t need the ‘s’ like fish or feet.” ―Krisztina Hera

11. “All the different pronunciations for the same vowel combination.” ―Alina Brito Lee

12. ″‘Cough’ and ‘though’ don’t rhyme, but ‘sue’ and ‘through’ do.” ―Anamary Marquez-Grossman

13. “I always wondered why you have to pronounce ‘tough’ and ‘dough’ absolutely different when there is only one letter different.” ―Manuela Friedl

14. ″‘Tough,’ ‘through,’ ‘thorough,’ ‘thought,’ ‘though,’ ‘trough’ ... need I explain? ―Myriam Tagej

15. “When you say ‘uncle,’ it is not clear if you are talking about the brother of your mom or the brother of your dad, or the husband of your aunt. Same goes for ‘aunt.’ In my maternal language we have different adjectives for all those family members.” ―Tutku Rüya Özmen

16. “That you don’t have any pronoun that is gender neutral. In the Scandinavian languages we can use ‘hen’ which is a combination of ‘hun’ (‘her’) and ‘han’ (‘he’).” ―Marie Ø. Nielsen

17. “My husband always says we have 75 words that all mean the same thing, but depending what you want to say, it can sound rude even though you are technically correct.” ―Becky Garcia

18. “Just explain how the words ‘read’ and ‘red’ sound alike.” ―Anamary Marquez-Grossman

19. “We have silent letters, like in ‘plumber.’ Wtf is that about?!” ―Maria Harvey

20. “‘In’ and ‘on’ is super hard for my Latino students. In the bus is same as on the bus, but on the car isn’t in the car.” ―Amanda Abair

21. “I find really confusing that there is difference between saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I am in love with you.’ In my country it has the same meaning when being in romantic relationship.” ―Mia Žureková

22. “The fact that one word can have different meanings, or it can be a noun or a verb.” ―Angela Ortiz Guerrero

23. “As someone who natively speaks English and has interacted with foreigners for the better part of this year, some of the things I say ... took some explaining. On an airplane once I said ‘No, it’s OK’ and the stewardess was very confused because I said ‘no’ and ‘OK’ in the same sentence.” ―Emily Wascura

24. “Two words I’m thinking about: ‘Worcester’ and ‘paradigm’ ... wister and paradime.” ―Lucy La Hurreau

25. ″‘Daughter’ and ‘laughter.’” ―Fiona Jayne MacMillan

26. ″‘Good’ and ‘food.’” ―Mindy Wallace

27. “The way the Brits pronounce Warwick, Leicester and some other cities.” ―Ana-Raluca Cătinean

28. “My Irish stepfather used to say ‘draw the blinds’ for shutting the curtains.” ―Jay Flamey Iones

29. “The way you have to order adjectives was the hardest for me to learn when I was a kid: opinion-size-shape-color-origin-material-purpose noun.” ―Estefania Cortez Macias 

30. “The fact that ‘love’ is the only word to use for the different kinds of love! Like in Spanish, there is a word for the love of a close family member, a lover, a different word for a friend, or for loving a type of food or thing! A different word for different types of love.” ―Alex MorGa

31. “The same letter or combination can be pronounced in different ways (‘cat,’ ‘cake,’ ‘car’...) Makes it awfully confusing in the beginning.” ―Elina Singh

32. “Two words for movement ― ‘come’ and ‘go’ ― could be just one word.” ―Kristina Smirnoff

33. “I’m always afraid to mess up with phrases that involve common words like ‘make out,’ ‘blow out,’ ‘pull out,’ etc.” ―Ana Ibarra

34. “Syntax. The words have to be in the same order. There’s not much wiggle room. So then, how do you know which part of the sentence is the most important one?” ―Elina Singh

35. “The difference between ‘th-’ vs. ‘d’ and ‘b’ vs. ‘v’ sounds. As a Spanish speaker, I don’t have those different sounds.” ― Estefania Cortez Macias

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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