“How many there are” vs “How many are there” in Reported Speech

how many there areI recently had a question by email that raised an interesting point; the writer had written a statement that someone needed to check “how many guards are there” and had told that “how many guards there are” was the correct form. The writer thought both were correct, though. It is true, from a neutral perspective both “how many there are” or “how many are there” are correct, but they have different uses. Here’s why: Continue reading

What are Kelp Forests? – Reading Exercise

kelp forestsBelow is a reading exercise that is both informative and challenging. There are mixed mistakes included in this text; find these mistakes to test your understanding of English (while also learning about kelp!). The text, which gives a brief introduction to kelp forests, contains some advanced vocabulary, so some of the more complicated words (highlighted in the text in bold) are explained below. Continue reading

Spot the Mistakes 2 – A Short History of Piers

history of piers exerciseOne of the things Brighton is most famous for, and a common sight in any great English seaside resort, is piers. Following on from my brief tale of Walking on the Beach, then, the subject of piers is a good topic for our next spot the mistake reading exercise. Again, the passage below contains mistakes that focus on the rules of the English tenses and verb use. These are designed to be tricky! Continue reading

What’s the difference between insure, ensure and assure?

difference between insure, ensure and assureInsure, ensure and assure are easily confused words as they both look and sound similar – and have rather closely connected meanings. They do have distinct differences, however. Consider the following example sentences:

  • We would like to insure our boat for £10,000.
  • I will ensure that the boat is taken care of.
  • I assure you the boat will be taken care of.

So how are these sentences different? Continue reading

Walking on the Beach – Spot the Mistakes 1 (Tenses)

english spot the mistakes beachAn excellent way to test your understanding and boost confidence in learning English is to approach a full text and see if you can spot the mistakes. This is especially challenging if you don’t know where the mistakes are – as to decide if a sentence is incorrect, you need to know what makes a sentence correct! With that in mind, this is the first in a series of reading exercises to practice this skill.

In the following reading exercise, see if you can identify 14 mistakes. The number of mistakes in each paragraph is indicated in brackets. Your only clues is that all the mistakes are something to do with English tenses. The answers are given below. This is a true story about Worthing beach. Continue reading

10 More Inspiring Quotes About the Importance of Learning

education quotesFollowing the excellent response to my collection of inspiring quotes about learning from last month, I’ve collected another round-up of famous quotes on the topic. Read on for another round of encouragement from wise thinkers, past and present! Continue reading

More On Mixed Tenses – A Comparison Exercise

mixed tenses exerciseThe following quiz was originally posted on Goodreads – it’s a quick exercise to test understanding of different tense forms. The questions are based on the 12 basic English tense forms. Complete the following sentences using the appropriate tense form. In the given context, one answer is correct for each question. Continue reading

10 Inspiring Quotes about the Importance of Learning

inspiring learning quotesA lot of wise and inspiring things have been said about the importance of learning. I’ve collected some of the ideas that have most appealed to me recently, which I hope will resonate with you, too. These quotes are a great way to encourage the right thinking about learning, whether it’s learning a language or any other form of education: Continue reading

What English tenses exercises would YOU like to see?

Since I published The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, I have been working on an exercise book to accompany it, 101 English Tenses Exercises. Containing no less than 101 exercises to really drill all the rules of the tenses. I need your help, though – my original idea was to exercise each lesson in the book, following a similar structure. It’s the wrong approach, it’s too complicated and simply not fun!

So, if you have a spare few minutes, I’d like to ask for some feedback. What English grammar exercises would you like to see? What are your favourite types of English exercise? Which do you like least?

On my site, I usually post gap fill exercises – either with individual sentences (e.g. this future tenses exercise) or in the form of a reading text (e.g. The Christmas Mess). These would be the bulk of the exercises in the book. Are there other styles you’d prefer to see?

I’m dividing the exercises into grammar themes (e.g. Past Simple or Past Continuous?) and more general themes for mixed tense exercises, which can build specific vocabulary (for example Christmas vocabulary). What topics would you like to see most?

Please comment below or contact me here if you have any thoughts on my upcoming project. After all, above all else I am trying to write something that is both enjoyable and useful to you!

Negative Simple Questions – A Mixed Tenses Exercise

negative simple questions exerciseFollowing on from the quick exercises for negative simple statements, this exercise will test understanding of negative simple question forms. Negative simple questions are formed by placing do, did or will before the subject and not after the subject, or by forming a negative contraction, don’t, didn’t, won’t before the subject. If we’re asking a question of the person who made the statement, any first person statements should be changed to second person (i.e. I -> you, we -> they). The following exercise has 15 negative statements in mixed tenses that can be converted to negative questions. The answers are given below the exercise. Continue reading