Woodchuck Tongue Twister Explained

Updated on December 18, 2017
Kayla Sulpizio profile image

Kayla enjoys the English language and helping others improve in it. She likes to proofread others' work and give advice whenever she can.

The English Language

The English language is considered to be one of the most complex languages to learn.

  • Its rules and grammar change depending on the context within the sentence.
  • English is compiled of several different languages and grammar rules, most of which come from Latin, Greek, and German roots.

English can easily take years to learn. New material is always being discovered by native English speakers, making the language even more daunting for non-English speakers.

Even though this is a rather difficult language to comprehend, there are many people who have mastered most of it. Those who have spoken English for years may want a little challenge every now and then. Tongue twisters are a great way to add a fun “twist” to a challenge.

Tongue Twisters

A tongue twister is a phrase of multiple words that sound very similar to each other. Most of the words:

  • Start with the same letter.
  • Have the same number of syllables.
  • Rhyme.

This makes saying tongue twisters a very difficult process for our brains. So many rhyming words in the same area can trick the brain into seeing and making false claims. It’s the brain’s instinct to slow down so it can comprehend what it’s seeing. A tongue twister, however, requires a person to say the phrase as fast as possible without any mistakes. This makes the brain work harder, resulting in more audible errors. The mistakes people make while saying tongue twisters can be hilarious to family and friends, making it one the best challenges to do with others.

Some tongue twisters are harder than others. The hardest ones include homographs and homophones.

  • Homographs are words that have the same spelling, but can sound the same or different. For example, a homograph would be, “tear:” a rip or cut in an object, and “tear: a water droplet produced from crying.
  • Homophones are words that sound the same with different spellings. A homophone example would be, “there:” a relative location of where something is located, “their:” a possessive word that shows who owns an object, and, “they’re:” a conjunction that connects the words “they” and “are.”

These words alone make the English language a lot harder than many other languages. Adding these into a tongue twister produces plenty of audible mistakes.

Woodchuck Explanation

One of the most popular tongue twisters is, “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Say that five times fast! This is one of the many thousands of twisters that people say all over the country. The one that seems to baffle people the most is the woodchuck tongue twister.

  • “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

It seems daunting at first, but it’s relatively easy to read. It’s a lot harder to understand when someone is speaking it. I’ll break it up section by section.

  1. The term, “how much,” shows that the whole phrase is asking a question. This information will make it easier to understand.
  2. We can identify that the subject of the sentence is, “woodchuck,” and the verb is displaying that the woodchuck is chucking wood.

There are two types of the same word:

  • Wood; meaning an actual tangible good.
  • Would; meaning, “I will,” or, “I should have.”

Let’s underline the first portion of the phrase and put it all together.

  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The phrase underlined displays a simple question within the phrase. It is asking, how much wood would a woodchuck toss or throw? The second chuck is acting as a verb. In a more complex way of explaining this, the underlined portion is saying:

  • If there was a woodchuck present near some wood, how much of that pile of wood would he consider chucking at that exact moment?

Now let’s underline the second portion of the sentence.

  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

This underlined section is showing the, “if,” portion of the phrase. Yet again, the second chuck is representing a verb. This verb is showing the action of throwing or tossing an object. In this case, the object he is chucking is wood. The whole portion means:

  • If it was possible for a woodchuck to be able to chuck wood.

Sounds confusing, but if you really focus on the context, it will make sense.

Commas also help complex sentences make sense. Let’s add some commas to this tongue twister.

  • How much wood, would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The commas help break the sentence up piece by piece.

  • “How much wood;” this statement is self-explanatory. It’s asking part of a question.
  • “Would a woodchuck chuck;” this is also part of the previous question. It states, would a woodchuck carry out the action of chucking some wood?
  • If a woodchuck could chuck wood;” this is saying that if a woodchuck was able to chuck wood, would it?

With all that being said, the final result reads:

  • If a woodchuck had the ability to chuck wood, would it? And how much wood would it actually chuck?

Closing Thought

I know this was quite a confusing article, but I hope I helped someone who was confused about tongue twisters or the English language.

© 2017 Kayla Sulpizio


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