Free English Lessons

Strange Sentences – Video

Download PDF

In this lesson, you’re going to see nine strange sentences.

We’re sure at least some of these sentences look weird to you. In this video, we’ll analyse each of these sentences, so that you can understand how they work.

Understanding these strange English sentences will improve your understanding of English grammar and sentence structure!

QUIZ: Strange Sentences

Now, test your knowledge of what you learned in the lesson by trying this quiz. You can get help with some questions if you press ‘Hint’. You will get your score at the end, when you can click on ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers.

1. How Many ‘Haves’ Would You Have Had?

Look at our first three sentences:

  • Have you ever had to have a tooth extracted?
  • I would have had to stay longer if I hadn’t had to go to have my car repaired.
  • All the medicine he had had had had little effect.

What connects these three sentences? All three sentences play with different ways to use ‘have’. ‘Have’ can be a main verb which describes a state, like ‘I have a new computer,’ or which describes an action, like ‘I’m having lunch right now.’ ‘Have’ can also be an auxiliary verb, which is used in perfect verb forms. There’s the verb ‘have to’, which you use to talk about obligations and rules.

Finally, there are some fixed phrases with ‘have’, like ‘have something done’, which you use when you pay someone else to do something for you. For example, you could say, ‘I had my hair cut yesterday,’ meaning that you paid someone else to cut your hair. When you use many of these forms of ‘have’ in one sentence, you can get strange results, like:

  • Have you ever had to have a tooth extracted?

Strange Sentences - English Grammar and Sentence Structure - teeth image

Here, you use ‘have’ in three different ways. The first ‘have’ is an auxiliary verb, because the question is present perfect. The second ‘have’ is part of the verb ‘have to’, to talk about an obligation.

Finally, the third ‘have’ is part of the phrase ‘have a tooth extracted’. What does this mean? Do you remember? It means that you’re paying someone else to do something for you. Here, it means that you’re paying a dentist to pull your tooth out; you’re not trying to do it yourself.

So, can you explain the meaning of the full sentence? The question is asking about your past experience, and whether you’ve ever needed to go to the dentist’s to have a tooth pulled out.

Does this make sense now? If not, remember that you can always go back and review parts of the video which are difficult for you. Let’s look at our next sentence:

  • I would have had to stay longer if I hadn’t had to go to have my car repaired.

Can you work out what’s going on here? Here’s a clue: it’s similar to the last sentence you saw, but a little more complicated. The first ‘have’ is an auxiliary. You use ‘have’ after ‘would’ to show that you’re talking about the past. In this case, you’re talking about the imaginary past: something which didn’t really happen. Then, you use ‘have to’ to talk about an obligation. The third ‘have’, after ‘if’, is another auxiliary. Again, you use ‘have’ here to show that you’re talking about the past, in this case the imaginary past. There’s another ‘have to’, again expressing an obligation. The final ‘have’ is part of the phrase ‘have my car repaired’, meaning that you’re paying someone else to repair your car for you.

Now, you should be able to explain the overall meaning of the sentence; can you do it? The sentence means that you needed to take your car to be repaired, but if you hadn’t needed to do this, you would have needed to stay longer at the meeting or event or whatever you’re talking about. What about our last sentence?

  • All the medicine he had had had had little effect.

This one is a little different. Can you see what’s happening here? Two of the ‘hads’ are auxiliary verbs, and two are main verbs. This sentence is talking about some time in the past, and it says that all of the medicine he had taken before that time hadn’t worked. The sentence uses two meanings of ‘have’: ‘have medicine’, meaning to take medicine, and ‘have an effect’, which is a fixed collocation, like ‘have a result’ or ‘have an influence’. This sentence looks very confusing when it’s written down, but in speech it hopefully sounds more logical.

Listen once more: ‘All the medicine he h/ə/d had || h/ə/d had little effect.’ The two auxiliary verbs are pronounced weakly, meaning that the ‘h’ sound either partly or completely disappears, and the vowel sound is reduced to a schwa: /ə/. The main verbs have their full pronunciation, with /h/ and a full vowel sound: /hæd/. Also, this sentence is very grammatically simple; there’s a subject: ‘all the medicine he had had’, a verb, ‘had had’, and a complement: ‘little effect’. You can hear that there’s a short pause between the subject and the verb. This helps to make all of the ‘hads’ clear to your listener.

This is an important point, especially for your listening: ‘have’ as an auxiliary verb needs to be reduced and pronounced weakly in most cases, while ‘have’ in main verbs keeps its full pronunciation. And if you’re thinking, ‘pronounced weakly’? What is he talking about? Learn about weak forms. Oxford Online English has a lesson here to help you with weak forms in English.

OK, let’s move on and look at our next group of sentences.

2. Problematic Prepositions

Let’s read the sentences together:

  • The party was almost over at around ten thirty.
  • The cat jumped out from behind the sofa.
  • She gets in in the morning.

Before we look at these, we want to ask you a question. What do prepositions do? Prepositions can do many things. They can be used to express time, like: ‘It starts at eight o’clock.’ They can be used to express where something is; for example: ‘It’s in the cupboard, on the bottom shelf.’ They can express motion, as in: ‘She walked towards the lake.’ Prepositions can be used in combination with nouns, verbs, or adjectives; they can also be used in phrasal verbs, like ‘get up’.

Finally, prepositions can also function as adjectives in some cases. For example, the preposition ‘over’ can be used to mean ‘finished’. Like you saw with the different meanings of ‘have’, when you combine all of these different ways to use prepositions in one sentence, you can get some strange-looking results.

Let’s look at our first sentence:

  • The party was almost over at around ten thirty.

Strange Sentences - English Grammar and Sentence Structure - party image

This sentence seems to contain three prepositions all together. What are they all doing? The first, ‘over’, technically isn’t a preposition; it’s an adjective which describes the noun ‘party’, and it means ‘finished’. Then, you have two prepositions describing when the party finished: ‘at around ten thirty’. The second sentence is similar. The word ‘out’ is technically an adverb; it adds information to the verb ‘jumped’; then, you have two prepositions in a row.

Let’s look:

  • The cat jumped out from behind the sofa.

Can you explain what the prepositions are doing here? ‘Out’—which is an adverb—goes with the verb ‘jump’. The cat jumped out, meaning that the cat wasn’t visible before it jumped. Then, the two prepositions describe the movement and position of the cat. They tell you where the cat was before it jumped out: it was behind the sofa. Overall, the sentence means that the cat was hidden behind the sofa, and then it jumped out and you saw it.

Finally, let’s look at our last sentence, which is possibly the most confusing!

  • She gets in in the morning.

Can you see what’s happening here? Although it looks strange to have the word ‘in’ twice in a row, it’s both logical and quite common in English. Like the other sentences in this section, one of the ‘ins’ isn’t actually a preposition. The first ‘in’ is an adverb, and it’s part of the phrasal verb ‘get in’, meaning to arrive. Then, the second ‘in’ is a preposition of time: it tells you when she arrives. So, the meaning of this sentence is: ‘she arrives in the morning.’

There’s something which connects all of the sentences you’ve seen. These sentences can be confusing because the same word in English can do many different jobs. For example, ‘have’ can be a main verb or an auxiliary verb. ‘In’ can be an adverb or a preposition. If you understand parts of speech and how these sentences are constructed, you’ll see that all of these sentences follow the rules, even if they look weird!

Next, let’s look at our last group of sentences.

3. Who’s Their They’re There?

Let’s read the sentences together:

  • That said, that article that I read argues that that interpretation is incorrect.
  • If it’s like that, then that’s it.
  • There are their bags, over there.

Again, these sentences are confusing because the same word, like ‘that’ or ‘there’, can do more than one job. Also, in one sentence, you have to deal with homophones—words which have the same pronunciation, but a different meaning.

Let’s start with a question: what does ‘that’ mean? How many ways can you think of to use ‘that’? First, ‘that’ can be used as a determiner, like ‘this’ or ‘these’. You can use ‘that’ to point to one thing which is distant from you. You can use ‘that’ as a conjunction, for example: ‘She told me that I had a nice voice.’ ‘That’ can be a relative pronoun, similar to ‘who’ or ‘which’. Finally, ‘that’ is used in many fixed phrases, like ‘that’s it’, which means that something is finished.

With this information, can you understand what’s happening in our sentences? If not, don’t worry; we’ll look together! Look at the first sentence:

  • That said, that article that I read argues that that interpretation is incorrect.

First, you have ‘that said’, which is a linking phrase. ‘That said’ introduces a contrasting idea. It’s similar to words like ‘however’, although it’s more colloquial. The second ‘that’ goes with the word ‘article’. It means that you referred to this article before. The third ‘that’ is a relative pronoun. It has the same meaning as ‘which’, and you could also use ‘which’ in this sentence without changing the meaning. Then, the fourth ‘that’ is a conjunction which goes with the verb ‘argue’. It’s not necessary; you could leave it out of the sentence and it would still be correct. Finally, the fifth ‘that’ specifies the word ‘interpretation’.

Like ‘that article’, this means that you’ve mentioned this before, and now you’re referring back to it. For this sentence, pronunciation is also very important if you’re reading it aloud. ‘That’ used as a relative pronoun or a conjunction is often pronounced weakly: /ðət/. When you use ‘that’ as a determiner, or in phrases like ‘that said’, it has its full pronunciation: /ðæt/. Listen and try to hear the difference: ‘/ðæt/ said, /ðæt/ article /ðət/ I read argues /ðət/ /ðæt/ interpretation is incorrect.’ Using the weak and strong pronunciations correctly helps your listener to understand the grammatical structure of the sentence.

What about our second sentence? Let’s read it together:

  • If it’s like that, then that’s it.

This sentence is hard to understand not only because of the different uses of ‘that’, but because it has no context. First, let’s try to understand the end of the sentence: ‘that’s it’. Have you seen this phrase before? Do you know what it means? ‘That’s it’ means something is finished. For example, imagine you’re ordering some food in a café. You order some sandwiches, some muffins, some coffee, and so on. The server asks you, “Would you like anything else?” You answer, “No thanks; that’s it,” meaning that you’ve finished your order. The first ‘that’ in this sentence refers to something which has been mentioned before, but without context there’s no way to know what it means.

Let’s try to give the sentence some context. Imagine you have a car, and your car breaks down. You have to take it to the garage to have it repaired. They call you and tell you that the car needs a new engine, and that the new engine will cost more than the car is worth. What would you do in this situation? Would you pay for the new engine? Probably not. You might say, “If it’s like that, then that’s it,” meaning that if the situation is like this, then your car is junk, and there’s no point trying to repair it.

So, this sentence is probably quite pessimistic. It’s the kind of thing you might say to admit defeat. You’re saying, ‘If that’s the way things are, then there’s no point trying any more.’

What about our last sentence? This one is slightly different:

  • There are their bags, over there.

Image of bags

There are two points to think about here. First, ‘there’ has more than one meaning. ‘There’ can be used to say that something exists, as in, ‘There’s a snake in the toilet!’ ‘There’ can also refer to a place which is distant from you. Secondly, words can have the same pronunciation but different spellings and different meanings, like ‘there’ T-H-E-R-E and ‘their’ T-H-E-I-R. In this sentence, the first ‘there’ is used to say that something exists. The second ‘there’ is used to refer to a place. ‘Over there’ means a place which you can see, but which is not close to you. ‘Their bags’ explains who the bags belong to. So, this sentence could be an answer to the question, ‘Where are their bags?’ They’ve lost their bags, and someone wants to know where they are. You see them somewhere, so you answer, ‘There are their bags,’ and then you point to the bags as you say, ‘over there.’

What about you? Can you think of any examples of weird sentences which you find really confusing? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for watching!

We Offer Video Licensing and Production

Use our videos in your own materials or corporate training

Videos edited to your specifications

Scripts written to reflect your training needs

Bulk pricing available


More English Lessons

English Grammar Lessons

Send this to a friend