Lucy: Uncle Jack, Uncle Jack, it was an incredible ride. You wouldnʼt believe how quiet such a car is. I think pedestrians and bike riders really have to pay more attention to such traffic because you simply canʼt hear those cars very well. But from my side, I really couldnʼt think of any disadvantage of driving such an electric or hybrid car. What about you, have you spent some thought on it?
Jack: Well, Lucy, to be honest, Iʼve made a decision in the meantime. I happened to meet an old friend of mine and told him about our little problem. He recommended to me waiting a little longer with investing so much money into a technology which is still constantly changing. And then he told me about an old Vespa he still had in his garage which we could borrow from him for free as long as you need it. I really thought that this was a brilliant idea, particularly since my own garage is pretty full and storage space is very limited.
Lucy: But Uncle Jack, are you serious about this? Then why did we spend so much time at the car dealerʼs and had Harry explain everything to us in such detail? Is this really your final decision? I canʼt believe it? Come on, letʼs discuss it again. Iʼm sure you donʼt want to be against technical progress, particularly when itʼs about car technology.
Jack: Well Lucy, such a decision also involves a lot of money which Iʼm simply not willing to invest at the moment. Come on, donʼt be disappointed or furious with me now. Letʼs have a look how you like my friendʼs Vespa. Itʼs in my garage already. Isnʼt this a wonderful surprise? Ready to go right away!
Lucy: And what would I tell Harry? Heʼs been so committed and friendly. I actually wanted to go out with him one evening. I think I can forget about that now. How embarrassing!
Jack: I personally canʼt think of anything more romantic than going out with someone and driving a Vespa. Many Hollywood movies used Vespas for this purpose. Think of the movie ‘Roman holidayʼ with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn played a royal princess and met Gregory Peck, a journalist, and they spent wonderful days together in Rome cruising around on a Vespa.
Lucy: Uncle Jack, Iʼm not into such old-fashioned movies about princesses. Iʼd more feel like a fast food delivery girl on such a Vespa, because thatʼs who still drives them in Germany.
Jack: But think of how easy parking is with it and you can get through traffic so quickly. And the sound it makes is like the buzzing of a wasp. This is why itʼs called Vespa. Thatʼs the Italian for wasp. Have you ever been to Italy? That country is full of such great vehicles. Think of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis or Ducatis.
Lucy: Oh yes, and all of these luxury brands are comparable to a Vespa.
Jack: Well, perhaps you have a more German attitude, because the UK is still the second largest global market for Vespas after Italy even though they were launched to the market after the Second World War. 2016 marked its 70th anniversary already. Moreover, youʼre allowed to drive it with a Class 5 driverʼs license with engine sizes under 50 cubic centimetres and the gas mileage is very good, too. One more advantage of this scooter for you ladies is that it isnʼt as bulky and dirty as a conventional motorcycle. It has leg shields and footboards so that you can even ride it in skirts or dresses. Besides the engine is hidden away which keeps you and your clothes clean. The engine is usually rear-mounted either beneath or behind the driver’s seat. It is covered by an engine cowling or simply enclosed within the frame. There are lots of Vespa models nowadays, but starting with this simple one might be a good idea. We could still upgrade it later on when you have become passionate about driving it.
Lucy: What type of engine does this one use?
Jack: Well, scooters have a wide range of engine sizes which are represented by the number of ccʼs. The smaller the engine, the slower the scooter and the better the fuel economy. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. A 55cc engine will go up to 35mph. But there are eleven more models of Vespas at the moment that can go up to 300cc.
Lucy: Is it possible to transport anything on it? Where can I put all the groceries after having been to the supermarket?
Jack: Have a look, there is ample under-seat storage and moreover we can easily fit it with additional storage options. We could add a rear rack and attach a top box. You might even use a so-called curry hook.
Lucy: Whatʼs a curry hook?
Jack: Thatʼs simply a hook to hang a bag between your feet. We call it a curry hook because itʼs very often used for curry take-out on the backstreets of London. But, of course, itʼs also useful after a short stop at the supermarket. So, you can fit the bag of groceries between your feet and a six-pack under your seat if necessary. Be careful, however, not to overload the Vespa in order to avoid multiple trips. You might easily cause an accident in this way or tumble over.
Lucy: Well, for bigger transports we still have your van. At least itʼs a Vespa and not a moped. That would be even worse, with those bicycle-like pedals. Moreover, theyʼre so slow.
Jack: Yes, but the pedals are needed to propel the vehicle to start its helper motor. The reason that theyʼre not so fast is that they only have small engines no bigger than 50cc allowing them to go a maximum speed of 28mph. Therefore, they canʼt be ridden on highways. And the third type are motorcycles. Theyʼre designed for higher speeds and have better acceleration as well as high-speed handling characteristics. Their engines are much larger, 250cc or even more and, of course, their wheels also come in other sizes. But a scooter is much more fuel-efficient, lightweight and easier to handle at low speeds here in the streets of our town. So come on, Lucy, give it a try. I think itʼs a good start for you here in the UK also considering that you have to drive on the left side of the road here.
Lucy: Yeah, itʼs okay, Uncle Jack. It was only sort of a shock after having just had the test drive in such a high-tech car. And whenever I meet Harry again, I can blame it all on you and your sudden passion for Vespas. Moreover, with the money youʼve saved, I could accessorize this Vespa, I assume, to create my own unique scooter. (Chuckles)
Jack: So true, my dear. Glad to hear that. And I think first of all we have to go and get a helmet for you. Then we might also have a look at extra mirrors, a top box or a chrome rear rack. (Chuckles) But first and foremost, we need to arrange insurance before you can take it out on the road. Being caught riding without valid insurance can have serious consequences and in addition to having to pay a fine, the scooter could be confiscated and we could end up with a criminal record.
Lucy: Oh, we definitely wouldnʼt want that. What types of insurance are there for Vespas in the UK?
Jack: Well, there are basically three different ones and we shouldnʼt simply opt for the cheapest policy but for the one with the most suitable protection. Third party insurance is the cheapest and most basic type of policy and the minimum level you need for a scooter in the UK. It covers you for any damages you cause to a third party including their vehicle and property. It does, however, not cover your own losses, personal injury or damage to your Vespa. In case of an accident, youʼd have to pay for the repairs of your Vespa. Additionally, there is third party fire and theft insurance with the same cover but damage in a fire and theft of the Vespa is also included. Last but not least, the fully comprehensive type is the one which also covers any damages to your Vespa as well as personal injuries. Itʼs the most expensive one, of course. My friend has given me all this information, but letʼs see what my insurance rep will tell me.
Lucy: Okay, you do that and Iʼll go and mentally say good bye to all my high-flying dreams about an electric car.
Jack: Well, who knows. Iʼve heard that Piaggio, the Italian company that produces the Vespa is going eco-friendly by offering a new model, the Vespa Elettrica. It has a 4kW motor, so it can go at the same speeds as a 50cc scooter. Its lithium-ion batteryʼs range is 100 km and it can be recharged in 4 hours either at a charging station or by using a wall socket. Moreover, they have integrated a kinetic recovery system to be able to cover a maximum distance between charges. And like with an electric car, you have zero CO2 emissions. So, try this conventional one and then weʼll see what we can do.
Lucy: Oh, this would be wonderful, Uncle Jack. Latest eco-friendly technology not in a car but in a Vespa for me. Cream of the crop scooter, I would say for saving the environment.
Is grammar necessary?
You might argue that perfect grammar is not necessary. The most important thing is that you get the message across.
But after so many years of globalized trade, there are also human resources managers in companies who say that everybody should have a good level of English by now. Itʼs an important question in job interviews nowadays how good your English is. Some even say they wonʼt hire people who use poor grammar. In their opinion, grammar means credibility, not only on social media on the Internet but also in emails or on company websites, no matter whether youʼre a native speaker of the language or not. People will judge you when you write ‘itʼsʼ instead of ‘itsʼ or confuse ‘there, theyʼre and theirʼ. Every HR manager likes it when applicants say that for them details are important at work and consequently many have them prove it in the way they use English grammar. They think itʼs comparable to fulfilling oneʼs tasks and following rules to achieve the best possible output in a job. Thatʼs a pretty radical point of view, but using correct grammar is definitely more professional, which is an important factor in business life.
English verb tenses
Verb tenses are one thing learners of the English language mostly find very tricky. This is why I will try to explain them to you in the next issues of this online journal. Most tenses in English have a simple form and a progressive or continuous form. Many people tend to mix these up or use them in the wrong way. So, letʼs clarify this!
The Present Simple
Forming the Present Simple: For ʻI/you//we/theyʼ we use the same form as the infinitive (=Grundform) work/ write/ watch
- I work for a big company.
- You always write many emails.
- They watch TV in the evenings.
For ʻhe/she/itʼ an ‘-sʼ must sit, add ‘-sʼ or ‘-esʼ
works/writes/watches (he/she/it – das ‘-sʼ muss mit) ‘-esʼ is added when verbs end in -ch (catches), -sh (washes), -ss (passes) and -x (fixes).
- She works in a supermarket.
- He writes letters every day.
- He never watches TV.
Some verbs are irregular in the third person: do – does, go - goes, have - has.
Negative sentences and questions:
For negative sentences: ʻdo not (donʼt) / does not (doesnʼt) have to be used.
- I donʼt work on Mondays.
- He doesnʼt write many emails.
For questions: ʻdo or do not (donʼt) / does or does not (doesnʼt) have to be used.
- Do / donʼt you work at a bank?
- Does / Doesnʼt he work for a company?
- Why does he never watch TV?
ʻTo beʼ is irregular.
I am (Iʼm) he/she/it is (he/she/itʼs) we/you/they are (we/you/theyʼre)
- Heʼs our new boss.
- You simply form the negative of ʻto beʼ by adding ʻnotʼ and ask a question by putting the form of ʻto beʼ at the beginning of the sentence.
- Iʼm not hungry. Are you hungry?
- They arenʼt from Munich. Where are you from?
Use the Present Simple:
- to talk about general states (Zustände), facts (Tatsachen) and situations.
- He is an excellent technician and works in production.
- I live in Hamburg which lies on the Elbe.
- Are you also a technician? Where do you work?
- I donʼt live in Hamburg.
- to talk about habits (Gewohnheiten) and repeated (wiederholte) actions:
- She always plays tennis on Sundays. She doesnʼt play tennis on Wednesdays.
- I never take the bus. Do you ever go by bus?
- They visit their grandparents every summer. Do you visit your family every week?
- to talk about schedules and timetables (Terminpläne, Fahrpläne)
- The conference starts at 9 am. It doesnʼt start at 8 am.
- When does the bus to the theatre leave?
So much for today. A good way to practise all this is googling English grammar websites on the internet. It doesnʼt matter which ones you use. The rules are always the same. Very often you find the rules there and also exercises where you can fill in verb forms etc. and at the end you are shown the results. Remember: If you donʼt use it, you will lose it. Next time you will learn about the Present Continuous. So, stay tuned!