Nov 9, 2009

WORD OF THE WEEK: Can You Conjugate?

Summary: How do you conjugate words? What does the word conjugation even mean? Read on to learn these answers and more ...

Conjugation (CON - joo - GAY - shun) - (n.) verb inflection; the schematic arrangement of the inflectional forms of a verb; a set or class of verbs that have the same inflectional form.

Got it? No?? Well, allow me to explain:

Each verb (for instance, the word go) can be conjugated, or changed in form, to fit a special set of criteria that matches the sentence in which the word is being used. "I go to the store on Tuesdays." That criteria pertains not just to the sentence's tense—or when the verb's action took place (in the present equals "present tense," while in the past means the "past tense")—but also who or what is taking the action. A simple, 2-letter word like go is actually pretty complex for someone who's just learning the rules of English. There's: "I go," "you go," "we go," "they go," plus "I went yesterday" (and so forth)—however, "he goes" and "she goes" and even "I am going tomorrow" or "I have gone many times." And if you think this is confusing, try it in Latin!

This entire set of rules, complicated as they may be, are the rules of conjugation. (You may have noticed last week that I conjugated our Word of the Week, antithesis, into antithetical in Friday's post. If you did, you get a gold star for paying attention!)

By the way, there's a secondary definition of the word conjugation that is related to the word conjugal. If you can figure out the connection, you get a bonus star. (No dirty talk, please.)

Today's miniature English lesson was brought to you by the letter C and the number 4. Happy 40th birthday, Sesame Street! Thanks for helping to encourage my love of language and learning at such an early age—and for continuing to teach the kids we all know and love today.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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