To Do or Not To Do: A Hard Nut to Crack for Indians

Hello dear friends,  I am here with a very interesting and the topic that is very close to the Indian English speaking people. Though many of us oppose English and time and again show our resentment to this Global Language, one thing that we must accept is that we can’t do without this language.

Having said this, I come to a very crucial point that most of the Indian English speakers and students mostly confront at school level. And that is, the use of auxiliaries of ‘to do’. I have seen in all my career there are so many people, even I have seen some highly posted people like mangers, principals, executives using wrong English, because of their ignorance of these auxiliaries or helping verbs.

What I have noticed is, Indian people face problems in English at all those places where we do not have any arrangement or any rule as English has. The rules which do not at all exist in Hindi but have acquired prominent place in English grammar are most awkward for Indian masses.

For example, in Hindi language whenever we change any sentence into negative, we do not need any helping verb as we do in case of English. While changing simple present and simple past tenses into negative, as we all know that we need Auxiliary of to do, that is it do, does or did. As this system does not exist in Hindi, we people, who have grown up from our childhood using ‘no, not’ in the sentence without any hesitation or without any extra effort or without having to add anything, find ourselves at difficulty and hesitate while speaking or writing the language fluently.

One more obstacle that we people feel is that of making the sentence interrogative. When it comes to Hindi, most of the people in India speak Hindi, changing any assertive sentence into interrogative doesn’t need rearrangement of the sentence. Whereas, in English we have to change the places of subject and operator (If operator is present) we call this process in grammar as ‘subject operator inversion.’ If the auxiliary, that is operator is not available in the sentence, we have to use an appropriate auxiliary of ‘to do’ to make the sentence interrogative. Whereas, when it comes to Hindi, We just have to add ‘kya’ either before or after the sentence. That’s it! Simple!  When we are born and brought up with the simple use of language like this, then rearranging the sentence and using a separate helping verb to make it negative and interrogative is very difficult to learn when we grow up.

But, what your argument may be, the  ‘rule is a rule!’ And being foreign learners we have to learn these rules with will or without it. And that is where most of the time, I’ve seen, students mostly falter.  It takes great efforts to teach students these rules. And making them perfect in them is the next level. And, what we expect, a student should become automatic in the use of these helping verbs.

The following are some of the sentences that I would like to quote to help you to get into what I mean to say and a peep into auxiliaries of ‘to do’.

How do we change the sentence into negative when helping verb is present. Here are two examples:

  1.  You can remember your choice.

Negative: You cannot remember your choice.

  1.  I am waiting for you.

Negative:  I am not waiting for you.

Similarly, when it comes to making the sentence interrogative in the presence of auxiliaries, the task becomes quite easy.

Read the following examples.

  1. You can remember your choice

Interrogative:  Can you remember your choice?

  1. I am waiting for you.

Interrogative: Am I waiting for you?

These sentences look very simple but, the fact remains that such verbal acrobats are not needed in Hindi at all.

The task becomes increasingly challenging for Hindi speakers when the sentence is written in simple present or simple past tense.  As you all know that these two are the only tenses where there is no auxiliary. ‘Not’ is such a shy child that doesn’t go in the sentence without any company. Helping verbs are made to give company to ‘not’ but their  absence not only affects the entry of ‘not’ in the sentence but also confuses the Hindi speaking orator.  Use of auxiliary of ‘to do’ is a big challenge, particularly when it is in present tense due to the unwanted presence of ‘does’.

Check the following examples.

  1.  I know the answer

Negative: I don’t know the answer.

  1.  The doctor comes at 8 o’clock.

Negative: The doctor doesn’t come at 8 o’clock.

The choice of ‘do and does’ aggravates the confusion. It is a fact that someone who is already shy ine using additional auxiliary of ‘to do’ is again burdened with the selection of one of the two auxiliaries  ‘do’ and ‘does’. It’s really challenging task.  Teaching this to Hindi speaking people is a bigger challenge for teachers who themselves are ill at ease with these rules.  When it comes to simple past tense the things are a bit easier as we have only one auxiliary of  ‘to do’ that is ‘did’ with all type of subjects. But that is not the end of our miseries, as using the basic form of the verb after ‘to do’ is even a bigger challenge. This is so even for those who speak English regularly and again that lands in  dilemma.  The question comes, was it really needed to make the rules so difficult?

Check the following sentences:

  1.  He left me in the market

He did not leave me in the market.

  1.  He drove very carefully.

He did not drive very carefully.

What I want is, is there any Indian solution to to this problem? If no, let’s put on thinking cap on and try to find out any simpler Indian version of this. If there is American English, why not Indian English grammar that is in agreement with the popular rules that are followed in our country? What do you say?

Mahesh Mali