OH S—! Oasis and the 3rd Person SINGular

He speak well but there’s often just one or two missing letters that make all the difference; he know the rule but he don’t apply it!

OH S—!

I was jogging along yesterday morning, and Gas Panic! by Oasis came on via my iPod’s shuffle. Listening to the lyrics, I started musing about the following lesson content, as the 3rd person singular S has been an inconsistent guest in my students’ sentences thus far in Rome.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, ceci c’est a regular pain in the arse, and here is my humble offering to draw students’ attention to ‘correct grammar’, while also tickling the belly of ‘real world use’, which shouldn’t be looked down upon, no matter what the grammar textbook might shout (“Blasphemy! Heresy! Sacrilege!”):

1) Pre-teach what you need to from the song lyrics below (I’ll leave that up to you!)

2) Ask the students a gist question e.g. Does the song sound positive or negative? Play it for the first time and take feedback:

3) Give out the handout below (only p.1 – answers on p.2!)

Gas Panic! – Oasis

Ask students to fill in the gaps in the lyrics. Pair check, whole group feedback.


Try eliciting the following information from students:

Q: What do you notice about these 3rd person singulars?

A: Some are grammatically correct, some aren’t.

Q: Which lyrics would you change in the interest of grammatical correctness? 

A: My family doesn’t seem so familiar…He doesn’t have a name.

Q: Why aren’t they all correct? These are native speakers after all (meow)!

A: Song lyrics are often flexible with grammar in order to fit in rhythm and optimal syllable numbers – this is particularly true with the negative form (don’t/doesn’t). There are thousands of other examples…(go look, or get your students to!)

In conclusion, there’s a correct way to do the 3rd person singular, and this is very important for formal, academic and exam purposes, and particularly in the positive (‘he speaks’, ‘he knows’ in the first paragraph). Frankly, committing errors in the positive make you look like a lemon (Exhibit A). Exhibit B:

Face or faces

Nevertheless, especially regarding don’t vs. doesn’t, students live in the real world, not the grammar book Wonderland, so our teaching should at the very least acknowledge that other realities exist. Grammarians would disagree, but real world grammar don’t really care!

Suggested reading: The Ideas of English Grammar by Robert Buckmaster: my main takeaways here; available on Amazon here


2 thoughts on “OH S—! Oasis and the 3rd Person SINGular

  1. Hi James,
    Good to see you acknowledging both the real world and grammarians here. Have you heard about the ‘Order of Acquisition’ or ‘Natural Order’ hypothesis? I believe that it says third person -s is one of the final things to be acquired by both native and non-native speakers of English. Here’s a short summary about it in case you or your readers have never heard of it: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/natural-order
    This is a very in-depth research paper about how L1 influences natural order which I have only skimmed, but which you may find interested: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition/article/l1-influence-on-the-acquisition-order-of-english-grammatical-morphemes/3263C3E82ECA4A7EB19D8F50E45FA1C3/core-reader
    Enjoy 🙂


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