Should “no” be followed by a singular or a plural noun?

no with singular or plural nounsNo is used to describe nouns, meaning zero – no cheese, no fun, no noise, no clowns, etc. Withuncountable nouns, zero is always followed by a plural – zero people, zero degrees, etc. However, no is more flexible than zero. Normally, it is followed by a plural noun – but sometimes it is followed by a singular noun. Continue reading

Friday Vocabulary Lessons on Twitter

twitter vocabulary lessonsBored of filling the English Lessons Brighton Twitter page with links to ELB articles (a huge variety of content as there is here), I have decided to start a series of scheduled Twitter lessons, to make things more interesting. The first of these that I am introducing is a series of Vocabulary Boosts – short vocabulary building lessons once a week. On a Friday, to be precise. Each week I will choose a topic and give a list of 10 (hopefully!) original items of vocabulary relating to it. Each new word will have a brief description and an example sentence, of varying difficulty. So if you’re not already following my English Lessons account on Twitter and want to expand your vocab, please do so here! Continue reading

How to use the past perfect continuous

past perfect continuous usesThe past perfect continuous can seem quite complicated to form, with had + been + present participle. However, the nice thing about the past perfect continuous is that the words used in the form never change (like the bare infinitive). This is because all three words used to create the past perfect continuous are participles – two past participles (had and been) and the present participle (for example walking). These participles always use the same form, whatever the subject. Now that we know that, how do you use it? Continue reading

The names of all the letters in the English alphabet

names of letters of english alphabetWhen you need to spell a word out loud, there is a recognised vocabulary for naming the individual letters of the English alphabet. The names of these letters mostly correspond to the sound of the letter itself (usually in a single long vowel form, or with a consonant followed by a long vowel), with some exceptions. It is very rare that you will have to write these names, so the spellings of the letters’ names themselves may not be especially important to learn – what is important is how they are pronounced. Continue reading

Defining and non-defining relative clauses and “that”

non-defining relative clauses that

Relative clauses add extra information to a sentence by defining a noun. They are usually divided into two types –defining relative clauses and non-defining relative clauses.

A relative clause is one that adds information to a sentence, in relation to a noun. For example, in the sentence “I will buy the car that costs the least.” Relative clauses can be connected to sentences by relative pronouns, who, which, that, whom and whose. There are a variety of grammar rules to tell you which relative pronoun to use for a relative clause, but in popular English, it has become possible to use that for a large number of relative clauses. However, there are still times when you cannotuse that. Continue reading

Simple, compound and complex sentences

simple compound and complex sentencesSimple sentences are formed in English containing an independent clause that forms a grammatically complete action, event or idea. A simple sentence should have a complete noun and verb relationship with any necessary additional information. To make writing more interesting, and lively, English speakers do not onlyuse simple sentences, however. Simple sentences on their own can seem immature, or develop a stop-start rhythm.

We also have combinations of clauses, which can form compound or complex sentences – for longer sentences with more than one verb. These can be used to add variety, and flow, to writing. They can also express more complicated, and connected, ideas.  It is important to develop an understanding for these different types of sentence structure, to write in a more complex, varied, and natural manner. Continue reading

How and when to use the “Not only…but also” construction

not only but alsoThe construction “not only … but also …” is used to emphasise something that has more than one quality, or has done more than activity, where the final quality is especially surprising or noteworthy. It can be used to list adjective qualities, nouns or verbs, to show complimentary qualities, quantities or actions, events and states:

  • He is not only kind, but also generous.
  • The circus was comprised of not only magicians and clowns, but also many dangerous animals.
  • The band not only played instruments, but also danced.

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What is a bare infinitive?

bare infinitive

As part of the introduction to the grammar guide The English Tenses, I explain important words that are required to understand English grammar – including participles and infinitives. The following is a full explanation of what we mean when we say the bare infinitive, and how you can commonly recognise and use it.

To understand what the infinitive form of a verb is, it is important to understand its root. The noun infinity, and the adjective infinite mean something that is never ending. The infinitive is also something that never ends, it always keeps its form. It is a verb form, preceded by the word to, which never changes, regardless of how it is used in a sentence.

  •       to read – I like to read. / He did not want to read.
  •       to buy – I am trying to buy a book. / She had been hoping to buy it too.
  •       to walk – We ought to walk in the hills.

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What’s the difference between “if” and “in case”

difference if in caseIt is important not to confuse “if” and “in case”. They can be used in similar sentences, but they have different meanings. Consider the following examples:

  • I will take a coat if it rains.
  • I will take a coat in case it rains.

Here, “if” is used to present a conditional situation (dependent it raining), while “in case” is a precaution (done to prepare for the rain). Continue reading

The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide

english tenses grammar guideThe English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide is a reference book that fully explains the different aspects of the English tenses, and their everyday uses. The book takes a flexible approach to English grammar – first explaining the rules of form and the standard uses for the tenses, then exploring how native English speakers commonly use each tense, and comparing uses across different tenses. It is designed to help English learners, teachers and speakers alike, to better understand the structure of our language, and its adapted uses. It can be used as an aide alongside core texts, as a reference or a standalone self-study guide. Continue reading