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Hi guys, and welcome back to the English Harmony video blog.
Obviously, I’m Robby, your English fluency mentor, and in this video let’s talk about over-analyzing things when you are trying to speak or write in English.
It happens an awful lot and it’s actually one of the main reasons why foreign English speakers fail to obtain fluency in writing and most predominantly in speech because they’re constantly trying to choose one of the available options. Let me describe the whole situation so that it’s clear to you what I’m exactly talking about.
Recently, I published an article and you may want to check it out here, and it’s called “1,000,000 English grammar questions answered by Robby”. Obviously there’s not a million of them there but it’s just that I’m going to be adding on more questions onto that article as time goes by so I can’t put a definite figure on it, whether it’s 23 or 28 or whatever.
I just stuck in the figure “1,000,000” to make it more appealing for anyone who might visit my blog and read that article, right. In this article, I’m answering my blog visitors grammar related questions. It’s not really consistent with my English Harmony philosophy which is actually all against grammar analysis, basically do away with anything grammar related and just focus on your speech. By learning specific word groups alone, you’re going to get the grammar right in the end!
Anyway, here’s the question which illustrates what I’m going to be talking about today:
I have a question that’s been bothering me ever since I’ve been preparing to write an essay. What’s the difference between “if I did something” and “if I do something”? This makes me confused and I don’t know how to choose between these two when writing an essay!
Obviously I responded to that question – I answered it on that article but this actually illustrates a major issue among non-native English speakers trying to figure out which one of the two to choose.
Don’t Try to Choose From One of the Two (or more) Options as You Speak!
Obviously, if you’re in the middle of a conversation, this analysis just stops you dead in your tracks.
You just freeze.
You don’t know what to say because you mind is constantly working in overdrive trying to choose one of the available options. Well, the obvious answer is just go with one of them!
Don’t think too much.
If you make a mistake, that’s fine but at least you’re going to say something, right, and saying something is almost always better than saying nothing!
After that, you can analyze what you say. You can check whether what you said is right or wrong and then learn from your mistakes. We are all capable of self-correction. You may want to read this article which is all about self-correction and it’s something that a lot of foreign English speakers are struggling with.
You guys think, “If my English is not perfect, how can I correct myself?”
Believe me, you can, anyone can as long as you put some effort into the process. You can and that’s what I’ve been doing for years up until recently. Well, I do it in this day and age but to a lesser degree because I’ve achieved…
I don’t want to sound like bragging about it but I’ve achieved quite a high level of fluency and there’s not that many mistakes in my speech even though I never aim for perfection. It’s just that after all these years of constant practicing, my fluency has reached a level of… well, I was going to say perfection but let’s not use this word.
I can speak fluently enough, right. That’s enough for me, but I’m notorious for straying off the subject…
What was the initial thing I was going to talk about? I was saying that you are stopped dead in your tracks, say something, self-correction, and all that, right.
So, speaking of this particular question:
Which One to Use – “If I Did Something” or “If I Do Something”?
This particular example is all about conditional sentences. There are three types of conditional sentences as far as I’m aware but I’m not such a grammar geek as I used to be because I’m not focusing on grammar at all.
It’s just that while responding to these questions, I had to look into certain aspects of grammar, refresh them in my mind and basically conditional sentence type one is present tense followed by simple future; “If I do this now, I will…” right, and then conditional sentence type two, “If I did it now, I would…” and then it’s all about the probability.
Whenever the probability is higher, you have to stick with closer to the conditional sentence type one, so basically if the action in question is highly probable, you have to use conditional sentence type one.
If it’s very unlikely to happen because it happened in the past and you can’t change the past, there’s the conditional sentence type three which is past, perfect, right, “If I had done it, I would have…”
The real question, the million dollar question is:
“How do you go about assessing whether the particular action you’re going to describe, whether it’s highly probable, less probable or very improbable?”
If You Try to Analyze All That While Speaking – You’re Going to Go Mad!
At that particular moment in time when you have to speak with that person, if you start analyzing all these things, you’re just going to go mad. You’re not going to be able to say anything and all these available options, right, conditional sentence type one, type two, type three, there’s a big risk that they would kind of mix together.
You would start saying, “If I did” and then you would end it with, “I would have” and all these grammar constructs, right.
Stop confusing yourself!
Whatever you think at that particular moment in time is right, just say it, even if it’s conditional sentence type three and you say it instead of one, it’s not going to be a major mistake.
Yes, sometimes it might sound a bit awkward to say, if you’re at a party say, and you tell your friend, “Listen, if we go home now, we’d make it back for the TV show on time” and then if you say, “If we’d left now, we would have made it back home for the TV show”, right.
It wouldn’t be right because that would kind of imply that the event has already happened, that you missed the opportunity to be back home on time and all that, but even if you said it, it’s no big deal. You’d still be understood.
Yes, probably conditional sentence type three and one, if you mix the two, it does sound awkward but conditional sentence type one and two, they’re used interchangeably in conversational English all the time, right, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Be Daring And Improvise!
So basically, whichever you prefer, you can just say it. “If we leave now, we’ll make it home on time”, or “If we left now, we would…” and the shortened form is obviously we’d: “We’d make it home on time”. Whichever you choose is fine, and over the years as you practice, and keep talking and writing, whichever activity you’re getting yourself involved in most of the time, obviously I suggest always, that’s what I reiterate in my blog like a broken record; spoken English is the way forward.
Your writing will come along somehow by itself but you have to focus on your spoken English, right.
Basically, over the years, you will develop the innate feeling. “Innate” means something that’s deep inside, something that you’re born with, right, so obviously in this case, the usage of the word “innate” wouldn’t be right because you are not born with that feeling for correct English but you develop it, whatever.
Let’s not analyze usages of certain words. I just said it – “innate feeling” – because that word popped into my mind. You have to do the same thing. Don’t analyze too much, just say it! Whether it’s super correct or not so right, people will more often than not just ignore those tiny little mistakes, right.
Basically, over time, you’re going to develop a gut feeling which means your guts are going to tell you which is right, which is wrong but up until then, just say something.
Don’t analyze too much!
Don’t compare two things because if you are faced with the option between one or the other, there’s friction in your mind, you can’t choose and then as you have to speak, your mind just draws a blank and you can’t say anything, so just go with something, right.
Remember – Self-correction Works!
Go with something and then correct yourself and then learn the proper way of saying it by way of repetition, memorization, self-practice and all that. I’ve been going on about it for years, my friends, and I hope that you can take this piece of advice on board, my friends, so basically do not analyze grammar constructs too much.
Don’t compare the two from the available two options, just go with one of them and see what happens. Improvise, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be afraid of being alive because that’s what life is all about. You try something new, you say something new, you do something new, and then see what happens. If it’s a mistake, you’ll learn from it. If it’s not a mistake – perfect!
Okay, my friends, I have to run. Well, obviously I’m not running anywhere, I’m just staying here. I have to chat with one of my Fluency Star customers.
Tonight, I have two chats scheduled and for those unaware, Fluency Star is my fluency coaching project whereby I’m taking students on board. We’re having loads of chat sessions over Skype and those students English obviously is going to improve beyond recognition, my friends, in a couple of months’ time, and the next round when I’m going to take new customers on board is February, if I’m not mistaken, right.
You may want to check out this website – FluencyStar.com and see what it’s all about!
Okay, my friends, thanks for watching this video and talk to you soon again! Bye, bye!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!