Tag Archives: English grammar

Language Mastery: The Pincer Maneuver

The term “pincer maneuver” is derived from tools that are used to grasp things from two sides. Tweezers and tongs are examples of pincers. The pincer maneuver is a military tactic that involves attacking the enemy from opposite sides. So, what on earth does the Pincer Maneuver have to do with language mastery? Well, I’ll tell you.

Once I have reached an advanced level in a new language, the most challenging part of the language acquisition process still lies ahead: becoming fluent. After achieving fluency, you still have to work to maintain the ability to speak the language. Use it or lose it. One of the most effective techniques I have found for these purposes is what I refer to as the Pincer Maneuver. It simply means practicing with two different books at the same time: one basic, the other advanced.

The Pincer Maneuver approaches the language from two opposite sides: beginner and advanced. Each side complements, supports, and improves the other. Most good language books will have readings, conversations, and grammar explanations. I prefer to work through the readings and conversations without referring to the grammar. After completing both books in this manner, I like to work through the examples in the grammar sections of both books. Occasionally, it helps to read through some of the grammar explanations too.

Start your Pincer Maneuver process with the two best books you can find: basic and advanced. Work through these books in the way I have described above several times. You can use these books as the basis of your language maintenance for the rest of your life. Other books can be added for constantly increasing your vocabulary, but your two “pincer” books will have already provided you with a formidable vocabulary along with most of the grammar you will ever need. Don’t worry. Most real-life conversations do not involve complex vocabulary or complicated sentence structures. Just think of the daily conversations you have in your native language.

You will find that the Pincer Maneuver is not only highly effective, but a heck of a lot of fun. The advanced material will make the basic and intermediate levels seem so simple that they become automatic. That is, you will start to become truly fluent. In addition, the advanced level will become clearer and clearer. Perhaps the most important result of using the Pincer Maneuver is that your confidence in using the language will rise to a level that will have you fearlessly conversing with native speakers.

by John DePonte

The Twelve English Tenses

In order to become a fluent English speaker, it’s a good idea to practice the twelve tenses of English verbs until you can use them automatically. Let’s never forget that the purpose of practice is to make a skill automatic. Now that we remember that, what’s the best way to practice the twelve English tenses?

I like to use signals, or what I call cues to signal what each tense means. For example, for the present tense, I use the cue, “Today” to start my practice sentence: “Today, I walk.” Got it? Good. Let’s go.

1. Present Tense

Today, I walk.

2. Past Tense

Yesterday, I walked.

3. Future Tense

Tomorrow, I will walk.

4. Present Perfect Tense

In my life, I have walked.

5. Past Perfect Tense

Before yesterday, I had walked.

6. Future Perfect Tense

By tomorrow, I will have walked.

7. Present Continuous Tense (Present Progressive Tense)\

Right now, I am walking.

8. Past Continuous Tense

During yesterday’s parade, I was walking.

9. Future Continuous Tense

During tomorrow’s parade, I will be walking.

10. Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Lately, I have been walking.

11. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Until yesterday, I had been walking.

12. Future Perfect Continuous Tense

By next week, I will have been walking.

 by John DePonte