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The 223 Rule


English For Israel The 2 2 3 Rule

The 2 2 3 rule is essential when learning English grammar.


All languages speak in three tenses, the past, the present, and the future, but in English there are 24 tenses. 


The most commonly used verbs in the English language are to be, to have, and to do.


For the purposes of explaining the rule of 223 we will use the verb to be. 


  • Present tense: I am ( 2 words )

  • Past tense: I was ( 2 words )

  • Future tense: I will be ( 3 words )


In every language there are three ways to alter the meaning of sentences.


  1. By making the sentence into a question

  2. By making the sentence into a negative, and 

  3. By making the sentence into a negative question.


How to make a Question in English using the Rule of 223


To make a question in English - reverse the first two words. 

Present tense: I am ->  Am I ?

Past tense: I was -> Was I ?

Future tense: I will be -> Will I be ?


How to make a Negative in English using the Rule of 223


To make a negative - add the word NOT after the second word

Present tense: I am -> I am not

Past tense: I was -> I was not

Future tense: I will be -> I will not be


How to make a Negative Question in English using the Rule of 223


To make a negative question - first make a question by reversing the first two words and then add the word not 

Present tense: I am -> Am I not ?

Past tense: I was -> Was I not ?

Future tense: I will be -> Will I not be ?


The rule of 223 applies to all English grammar except when using the simple tense of the verb. 


Now let's look as an example, at the verb to go in the past and the future.


In the simple past tense of the verb to go, we say I went, but we can also say

I did go, I was going, or I could have been going.


The rule of 223 applies when making questions and negative questions.


Did I go ? Was I going ? Could I be going ?

I did not go. I could not be going.

Did I not go ? Could I not be going ?


In the simple future, we say I will go, but we can also say

I will be going, I may go, I could be going.


The rule of 223 applies when making questions and negative questions.


Will I be going ? May I go ? Could I be going ?

I will not be going. I may not be going. I could not be going.

Will I not be going ? May I not be going ? Could I not be going ?


All English grammar tenses all revolve around time.


When using the past simple tense and the future simple tense the implied meaning is that you have finished whatever you are, were, or will be doing.


Using the rule of 223 will help you speak better English, and native English speakers won't see you as a foreigner.

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