holiday and holidays

We use the singular holiday tor a short period of, say, one or two days. We’ve got a holiday next Tuesday. We get five days’ Christmas holiday this year. We often use holidays for the ‘big holiday’ of the year. Where are you going for your summer holiday(s)? We always use the singular in the…

it: preparatory subject

When the subject of a sentence is an infinitive or a clause, this does not usually come at the beginning. We prefer to start the sentence with the ‘preparatory subject’ it. It’s nice to be with you. {To be with you is nice is possible, but unusual.) It s probable that we’ll be a little…

Common adjectives: people

In this unit, * * = normal, * * * * = stronger Saying positive (+)/good things about people Nice is the most common word used for people who we like / who are good. Mary’s very nice. Richard’s a nice man. If we want to make nice stronger, we can use wonderful, nice (**)->…

-ing form (‘gerund’)

Gerund or participle Words like smoking, walking are verbs. But we can also use them as adjectives or nouns. Compare: You ‘re smoking too much these days, (part of a verb) There was a smoking cigarette end in the ashtray, (adjective) Smoking is bad for you. (noun: subject of sentence) When -ing forms are used…

Study a Course IN English – NOT an English Course

“Everything is practice.” – Pele The English language is something you live and breathe. It is not an academic thing you talk about in a closed classroom. Also, the fastest way to reach a goal is to go straight to the goal. Don’t mess around. Go straight there. What I mean is this. You want to be…

English Writing – Improvement Tricks and Tips

As I said earlier, a language has four components – Reading, listening, speaking and writing. Each of these components is complementary to each other. Once you know how to listen, read and speak English, it is time to finish the process by writing properly.Writing is probably the easiest to do; however one can make mistakes…

Everyday problems

At home: The TV isn’t working. Can you repair it? The washing machine is broken. We need to mend it. The plants are dying. Did you forget to water them? The room is untidy. We must tidy it. I’ve lost my keys. Will you help me look for them? ‘ • – You’ve cut your…

begin and start

There is not usually any difference between begin and start. I started/began teaching when I was twenty-four. If John doesn’t come soon, let’s start/begin without him. We prefer start when we talk about an activity that happens regularly, with ‘stops and starts’. It’s starting to rain. What time do you start teaching tomorrow morning? We…

At school and university

Subjects: Useful things: Useful verbs: A maths teacher teaches maths. Her students study maths. After school, students do homework. At primary school, children learn to read and write. A university teacher gives a lecture on chemistry and the students take notes. Students can do an (English) course in many colleges and schools. At the end…

Pollution and the Environment

Important definitions: People are more worried about the environment (= the air, water, and land around us) as a result of the harmful (= dangerous/damaging) effects of human activity. Some of these activities cause pollution (= dirty air, land and water) and some are destroying the environment (= damaging it so badly that soon parts…

The Power of Flashcards, Done the Right Way

“We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.”– Adam GopnikFlash cards are a fun and powerful tool for learning words quickly. Just make sure you use them the correct way. We already know this means always speaking the word in a full sentence, not just alone. Also, use flashcards on the 100…

punctuation: comma

Some ways of using commas: We use commas (,) to separate things in a series or list. We do not use them between the last two words or expressions (except when these are long). I went to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. You had a holiday at Christmas, at New Year and at Easter….

about to

[ be + about + to-infinitive ] If you are about to do something, you are going to do it very soon. Don’t go out now – we’re about to have supper. I was about to go to bed when the telephone rang.

articles: the

The means something like ‘you know which one I mean’. It is used with uncountable, singular and plural nouns. the water (uncountable) the table (singular countable) the stars (plural countable) We use the: a. to talk about people and things that we have already mentioned. She’s got two children: a girl and a boy. The…

either… or…

We use either … or .. . to talk about a choice between two possibilities (and sometimes more than two). You can either have tea or coffee. I don’t speak either French or German. You can either come with me now or walk home. Either you leave this house or I’ll call the police. If…

smell

There are three ways to use smell. As a ‘copula verb’ , to say what sort of smell something has. Progressive tenses are not used. [subject + smell + adjective] That smells funny. What’s in it?(NOT -That is smelling Those roses smell beautiful. (NOT . . [subject + smell of + noun] The railway carriage…

How to Destroy Your Fear of Speaking English

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Stephens English students can often be held back by a fear of speaking, especially to native speakers. Don’t worry if this is you, it’s quite common and there are many ways to get past it. Firstly, the entire system in this book is designed exactly…

prepositional verbs and phrasal verbs

Many English verbs have two parts: a ‘base’ verb like bring, come, sit, break and another small word like in, down, up. Couid you bring in the coffee? Come in and sit down. He broke up a piece of bread and threw the bits to the birds. The second part of the verb is sometimes…

On the Beach and in the Country

Places to stay: When people go on holiday they stay in various places (= a number of different places): some go to hotels; others rent an apartment (a ‘holiday’ flat) or villa (= a house by the sea or in the countryside; often in the Mediterranean / southern Europe); some prefer sleeping in a tent…

spelling: hyphens

A hyphen is the short line (-) that we put between two words in an expression like book-shop or ex-husband. The rules about hyphens are complicated and not very clear. If you are not sure, look in the dictionary, or write an expression as two separate words. Note: a. We usually put a hyphen in…

prepositions after particular words and expressions

(This is a list of expressions which often cause problems. For the use of of with determiners, ) ability at (NOT in) She shows great ability at mathematics. afraid of (not -by-) Are you afraid of spiders? agree with a person I entirely agree with you. agree about a subject of discussion We agree about…

dare

Dare is used in two ways: a. as an ordinary verb, followed by the infinitive with to. He dares to say what he thinks. She didn’t dare to tell him. b. as a modal auxiliary verb In modern English, we usually use dare as an ordinary verb. It is most common in negative sentences. She…

Do did done

Do as auxiliary What are you doing? Do as a general verb What do you do to relax? I listen to music. Don’t do that, Tommy. What are the people in the picture doing? They’re dancing. What do you do? What do you do? (= What is your job?) I’m a student, or I’m a…

irregular verbs

This is a list of common irregular verbs. You may like to learn them by heart. Infinitive Simple past Past participle arise arose arisen awake awoke awoken be was, were been beat beat beaten become became become begin began begun bend bent bent bite bit bitten bleed bled bled blow blew blown break broke broken…

able / capable

The difference between these words is extremely small – but usually we use able to describe current things someone can do, and capable to talk about someone’s future potential. It is not a strict rule, just a general tendency. She’s able to play a song perfectly after hearing it only once. (she can currently do…

long and for a long time

Long is most common in questions and negative sentences, and after too and so. How long did you wait? I didn’t play for long. The concert was too long. In affirmative sentences, we usually use a long time. I waited (for) a long time (I waited long is possible, but not usual.) It takes a…

reported speech: pronouns; ‘here and now’ words; tenses

BILL (on Saturday evening):! don’t like this party. I want to go home. PETER (on Sunday morning): Bill said he didn’t like the party, and he wanted to go home. Pronouns In reported speech, we use the same pronouns to talk about people that we use in other structures. Bill said he didn’t like the…

should: If I were you

We often give advice by saying if I were you . . . – If I were you, I should get that car serviced. – I shouldn’t worry if I were you.   Sometimes we leave out if I were you. – I should get that car serviced. – I shouldn’t worry.

broad and wide

Wide is used for the physical distance from one side of something to the other. We live in a very wide street. The car’s too wide for the garage. Broad is mostly used in abstract expressions. Some examples: broad agreement ( = agreement on most points) broad-minded ( = tolerant) broad daylight ( = full,…

The media

Radio and TV programmes The news is on TV at 6 o’clock every night. (= important things that happen) [not The news -ate on TV] Do you watch soaps / soap operas? Home and Away is my favourite. (Soap operas are stories about people’s lives. They are often on TV every day.) I like nature…