Learn a Language

Learn a Language

learn a language

Irina wants to learn a language. The Grammar focus is on Infinitive Complements and Phrasal Modals.

Irina: “I want to learn German.”
Bev: “I studied German, but I like French better. It has a beautiful sound.”
Irina: “Do you plan to go to Europe?”
Bev: “Yes. With German and French I can travel almost anywhere in Europe.”
Irina: “I want to work in Germany. Maybe Berlin.”
Bev: “That would be exciting! I want to visit Paris.”
Irina: “You could see the Louvre! They have the best art in the world.”
Bev: “What kind of work will you do in Berlin?”
Irina: “I hope to work in a travel office, since I will know English and German. But my German must be up to snuff.”
Bev: “That’s a great idea. Maybe I can do that in Paris!”


Up to snuff means adequate, up to standard. See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Infinitive Complements

“Want” is a verb which often takes an infinitive complement, as in the sentence “I want to work in Germany.” It is easy to see that the complement “to work in Germany” functions as the object of “I want” (subject-verb). A gerund complement with a similar structure might be “I love living in Germany,” where “living in Germany” is the object of “I love” and is distinguished from the first case with a gerund instead of an infinitive.


New Idioms are “Let up on” and “Get into.” The Grammar focus is on Phrasal Modal Verbs.

Alice: “I’m going to start reviewing my German, to get better at it.”
Bonnie: “What for? Do you use it around here?”
Alice: “Of course not, but that’s not the point. Studying a foreign language increases your brain waves, your mental capacity. Your synaptic connections.”
Bonnie: “That’s silly. It’s not like you’ve got Alzheimer’s.”
Alice: “You can have brain rot no matter how old you are. Look at some of these guys in the news.”
Bonnie: “Politicians maybe, but I’m still in school, so I’m not going to worry about it.”
Alice: “It’s a good habit to get into.”
Bonnie: “I don’t doubt it, but I want to get my Ph.D. first before I worry about brain rot.”
Alice: “Learning a new language doesn’t just increase cognitive functions, it can delay the onset of dementia.”
Bonnie: “I’m not your grandmother. I’ll be okay, trust me.”
Alice: “Bilingualism is like a mental workout. You use different parts of your brain and it keeps you smarter and slows aging. It gives you a tremendous boost.”
Bonnie: “Tell me again in forty or fifty years.”
Alice: “I’m telling you now so that you will develop good habits. You need to take care of your mind.”
Bonnie: “All right, all right. But I like French better. Or maybe Italian.”
Alice: “You’ve got to choose. I won’t let up on you until you do.”
Bonnie: “What are you, my mother, now?”


It’s (not) like means to say or utter something. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Worry about means to fret or be anxious about the welfare of someone or something. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Get into is a phrasal verb which means to become involved in, interested in. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Let up on means to become more lenient or less forceful with someone or when doing something. See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Phrasal Modals

Phrasal modals are multiword forms ending in the infinitive marker to: be able to, be going to, be supposed to, be allowed to, etc. Every modal has at least one phrasal modal counterpart. In the examples just listed, here are the modals: “can” (be able to), “will” (be going to), “should” (be supposed to), “may” or “might” (be allowed to).

There are numerous rules along with ordering details and so on for phrasal modals. For example, phrasal modal + modal is not allowed: *”She is able to must drive the car.”

However, modal + phrasal modal is permissible and common: “We should be able to rent a car.”

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