Today we’re going to look at some strange English sentences that are actually grammatically correct. You might also like Can I Improve My English Online? 7 Websites You Will Love.
Take a look at these three weird English sentences:
- “Put a bigger space between ‘giraffe’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘avocado’!”
- “Peter, where Paul had had ‘had,’ had had ‘had had’; ‘had had’ had pleased the professor more.”
- “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
They can’t be proper English sentences, surely?
Today I want to show you how these strange sentences work.
After you’ve read this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how English works.
You’ll be able to understand some complex grammatical structures, and you’ll have some new, exciting advanced vocabulary.
But most importantly, you’ll be able to impress people at parties.
1. Put a bigger space between ‘giraffe’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘avocado’!
OK. Let’s look at a different example first.
Here’s a nice cone:
Pretty, isn’t it?
And here’s a cube. I’ll just put that next to the cone.
OK. Now here’s a spider. He’s decided to sit here:
Terrifying isn’t it?
But where is it?
Right! The spider is between the cone and the cube.
Now let’s say I don’t want the spider near my lovely cone and my lovely cube. So I’m going to build two little walls to stop the spider.
So where do I want them?
Here, and here:
Now, where are the walls?
Right! They’re between the cone and the spider and the spider and the cube.
By the way, I know what you’re going to say: Spiders can climb walls; walls won’t help.
You’re right – but these are special spider-proof walls. Trust me on that one.
OK, let’s forget about cones and cubes and spider-proof walls.
Let’s imagine I’m opening a pub. I’m going to call it “The Giraffe and Avocado.”
Everyone knows the most important part of a pub is the pub sign.
So I’m watching the painter paint the sign. And I’m watching carefully because he’s gotta get it right!
But he’s a little quick and he paints the words too close together.
So I ask him to do it again with more space between the words:
“Can you leave a bigger space between ‘giraffe’ and ‘and’ and ‘and’ and ‘avocado’?”
It’s basically the same sentence as the spider and walls sentence:
Phew! We got there – but it was worth it!
2. Peter, where Paul had had ‘had,’ had had ‘had had’; ‘had had’ had pleased the professor more.
OK. This one is going to need some real explaining.
But after that, you’re seriously going to be able to impress your friends.
What’s more, you’re going to pick up some advanced grammar.
And a little past perfect practice on the way.
So let’s start with that.
Here are Seda and Masha:
Today, they’re taking a test – the Clark and Miller quiz on British English signs, to be precise.
Then they come to this question:
Seda isn’t sure of the answer and clicks on “both of the above.”
Masha also isn’t sure of the answer and clicks on “either of the above.”
So we can say, “Seda clicked on ‘both of the above,’ and Masha clicked on ‘either of the above’ for the same question.”
Seda and Masha were at the same place in the test – but they both chose different answers.
They both looked at the same situation and made a different decision.
When we have a situation like this — comparing two different decisions for the same thing — we can use this formula:
So for Seda and Masha, that means you can say:
OK – there we are.
So what about Peter and Paul?
OK – so Peter and Paul are also doing a test.
This time the test looks something like this:
In this test, Peter wrote “had had,” and Paul wrote “had.”
Yesterday evening, Peter and Paul’s teacher was looking at their test answers.
He wanted to know what answers Peter had had, and what answers Paul had had. So he checked them.
(See where I’m going with this?)
For the question about the hostel and the dinner, he saw that Peter had had “had had,” and that Paul had had “had.”
He also saw that Peter was right, so he was more pleased with Peter’s answer.
So let’s use Seda and Masha’s structure:
Wahey! We got there!
3. Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
OK. The first step here is to separate these buffalos.
In this sentence, some of the buffalos are nouns, some are places and some are verbs.
Let’s look at each type of buffalo.
The noun “buffalo” is an animal. It’s sort of a weird cow. It lives in America:
By the way – the plural of “buffalo” is “buffalo.” This is important, and you’ll see why later.
There’s also a city in the States called “Buffalo.” I’m guessing it was named after the animal.
Finally, we have a verb, “buffalo.”
It means to intimidate or to make someone feel uneasy.
OK. But how do we get eight of these into one sentence without anything else?
OK. Let’s say we have a group of buffalo (the animal).
Where are they from? From the city of Buffalo, of course!
So we can call these guys Buffalo buffalo:
Look at them! These Buffalo buffalo are tough, hard guys. They’re into motorcycles and talking about football and stuff like that.
But Buffalo’s a big town, and there’s another group of buffalo in Buffalo.
This group of Buffalo buffalo are less assertive, more shy and prefer Radiohead and Harry Potter books.
So what happens when these different Buffalo buffalo meet each other?
The first group of Buffalo buffalo start intimidating, or buffaloing, the second group of Buffalo buffalo.
This happens all the time, so we can say:
“Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
Confused? Don’t worry – here’s another example:
Let’s look at snakes from Kansas who kiss other snakes from Kansas.
Same thing with the buffalo:
Still with me?
OK – so that’s five buffalo. What about the other three?
To see this clearly, let’s turn to our snake example.
Here’s are some sentences that should make sense to you if we build them up one by one.
Let’s look at it as a conversation:
So this basically means that the first group of snakes from Kansas kiss the second group of snakes from Kansas, and that second group also kiss other snakes (from Kansas).
And also, we don’t need to use “that.”
that Kansas snakes kiss kiss Kansas snakes.”
Now, let’s leave Kansas and its loving snakes and go back to Buffalo with its scary buffalo.
The same logic applies.
Just imagine that the first group of buffalo from Buffalo start buffaloing the second group. Then the second group start buffaloing a third group of buffalo (also from Buffalo).
That’s when Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Before I finish, I’d like to ask you a question.
Do you have funny sentences like this in your first language?
I remember when I was learning Turkish, I discovered a lot of them.
My favourite is this one: “Bu mum umum mum mu?” (It means “Is this candle a public candle?”)
I’d love to hear sentences like this in other languages.
Tell me about them in the comments!
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