Thursday, July 10, 2014

Triumph of the Will (Excerpt from GRAMMAR SLAMMER)

GRAMMAR SLAMMER is on sale right now as a Kindle Countdown deal; it'll be $2.99 for the next 36 hours or so, then it goes back up to $3.99. You missed your chance to get it for 99 cents and $1.99. So sorry, suckas! Be more attentive next time. Get it HERE on

Here's a free excerpt as a consolation prize.

While the easiest form to make, WILL is surprisingly vague and slippery in the ways it is actually used. It can be used for predictions based on ideas:

You’ll never find true happiness, you loser.

It can be used for promises:

Your honor, I swear, I won’t call her anymore.

It can be used for new ideas and intentions:

Hey, that guy is talking to my woman! I’ll kick his fucking ass!

Now it’s quite likely you’ll tackle these one at a time, in class, but I’m going to tell you how to present them all and contrast them.


Dorky Student: But teacher, what about WILL? It’s the easiest way to make the future tense in English!

You: Sure, the easiest to MAKE, but not the easiest to USE.

I’ll call you tomorrow, baby.
I WILL find him, and I WILL kill him.
I won’t ever drink again!

You: Now look at these two examples. Are these plans?

Students: Uhhhh … no?

You: What are they?

Students: Bullshit lies?

You: They are PROMISES. Statements of intention, in any event.

(You might need the old translation gambit here for the word / idea of promises.)

He’ll make a good husband one of these days – he’s rich.
You’ll never catch me, coppers!
We’ll all have nanobots in our blood in the future.

 You: Now, what about these? Promises?

Students: Uhhhh … nah.

You: Plans?

Students: Not plans, I would say.

Dorky Student: But they’re definitely planning to put nanobots in our blood! It’s a definite arrangement!

You: Shut your hole. No, those are PREDICTIONS.

Dorky Student: Okay. So, promises, and predictions. Can’t those be like plans, too?

You: See, that’s the insidious nature of the future tense. It doesn’t exist yet, so how can we talk about it just one way? It’s all just about our IDEAS about the future, right?

Students: Oh, man, that’s pretty deep. What does insidious mean?

You: Look it up on your phones. But that’s not all. Check this out:


Hmm, somebody’s at the door. I’ll answer it.

You: Is this a prediction or a promise?

Students: Err … neither? Not really.

You: Let’s say it’s a NEW IDEA. Sometimes we use WILL for new ideas. Often with “I think.” Like “I think I’ll end class early today, I’ve got a headache.”

Students: Great idea!

You: Ha, gotcha. Just kidding. Now let’s look at future tense QUESTIONS!

Are you going to open the window?
Will you open the window?

You: Okay, so what’s the difference between these two questions?
Students: Well, going to is about general plans ... will is about promises and new ideas … so ... the first question is about plans, and the second question is about your … promises?

You: It was beautiful watching you try to climb that hill, and painful watching you fail. No, it’s like this: “Will you open the window?” is a REQUEST. I’m asking you to open the window in that case. It’s a polite way to say “Open the window, please.”

Students: Like WOULD YOU?

You: Yeah. “WOULD YOU open the window?” is a slightly more polite way to say “WILL YOU open the window?”

Students: Why that more polite?

You: To that question, I can confidently answer: JUST BECAUSE.

Dorky Student: So questions with WILL are always REQUESTS, eh?

You: (smiling) Did you really think it would be so easy? No. Here are some questions we can make with WILL:

When will you finish school?
Will you ever get married?

You: What about these questions?

Students: Questions about PREDICTIONS, teacher.

You: Yeah. And they’ll sound better if we use “do you think”

When do you think you will finish school?
Do you think you will ever get married?

Students: (Panicked) Teacher, how are we supposed to know whether we want to ask somebody about their predictions or plans?

You: One word: CONTEXT. You will simply know. Open your heart and let English into it.

Students: So we ALWAYS use WILL for PREDICTIONS, eh?

You: Ah …

Students: (unhappy moan of pain)

You: We can use GOING TO if it’s a prediction based on something we see, or hear, or feel.

I drank too much. I ________ vomit.

You: Should we use WILL or GOING TO here?

Students: Well, that’s something we feel. So, GOING TO.

He’s an English teacher. Don’t lend him money, he _______ pay you back.

You: What should be here, WON’T or ISN’T GOING TO?

Students: (staring blankly)

You: Well, both are possible. Probably though, WILL because it’s just my idea about him, because English teachers are usually unreliable fuckwits.


Have some students make some promises with:
I will never … in class / at home /my wife or husband / while I’m driving

Make some requests of students with “Will you” or have them do that in pairs:
You: Tongchai, will you open the window please? Thanks. Hot Chick, will you stand up and walk across the room please? Ohhhhh yeah … that’s it … slowly …

Ask questions with “Do you think you will ever …” regarding the future.
You: Do you think you’ll ever be rich / have two houses / meet the President / visit Tibet (etc.)?

Do you think people (in general) will live on Mars in the future? Find a cure for cancer or AIDS or airborne hemorrhagic gonorrhea? Learn to live in peace and harmony?

(You can teach them the answers: I think so / I think not / I hope so / I hope not.)

And here's a nice easy simpy country ballad to help the students use WILL correctly --note that the uploader has corrected their confused use of "you're" vs. "your" in the lyrics. Progress! 

* * *

Oh, in addition, my COMPLETE COLLECTED COMICS book will be free from July 11 - 15:

Get it HERE as an ebook on Amazon, 
Or spend $20 HERE for the paperback coffee table edition on Amazon. 

And for all of you out there jonesing for the new memoir: it is coming. Just finishing up the first draft. I think it should definitely be published by the end of August at the latest. 


brian said...

That's what I did in my practicum (minus the open, though enjoyable mocking of students).

Anonymous said...

I was late, but still:

This title is not available for customers from your location in:
Middle East(change region)

The author is in the region, and shortly changing region. Are we in the region for changing region?

englishteacherx said...

If you can't get a copy through Amazon drop me an email at englishteacherx(at)yahoo(dot)com and I'll get you one. That one is not avaialable on Smashwords yet.