Simple States or Passive Voice?

simple passive verb formsI recently had a question through this website but the return email didn’t work, so I’ve posted my answer in the hope that the reader sees it! It relates to spotting the difference between the past simple and the passive voice – specifically, how we can use different verb forms to follow the verb to be. Here we go: Continue reading

A new look for ELB Books

Spring has finally arrived in the UK (sort of), and it seems like high-time I had a spring clean for the English Lessons Brighton books and website. As the time’s come for me to edit the final version of my upcoming book, Advanced Writing Skills for Students of English, I’m taking this opportunity to consider the overall design of my books and website. In the next few months I hope to give the site itself a redesign, but in the meantime I’m looking at updating some imagery and greatly improving the branding of my study guides. Here’s the direction I’m going in: Continue reading

How to use hyphens in English

how to use hyphens

A hyphen is this short punctuation mark: . Not to be confused with longer dashes, which have different uses. Hyphens are used in English for two specific purposes – hard hyphens join words together, while soft hyphens divide words. The uses of hyphens can depend on certain styles, but generally they are used in the patterns laid out below. Continue reading

How to start a sentence with “only after / when / if”

only after when ifSentences that start with an “only” adverbial, usually referring a particular time or condition, have a curious structure as they typically require an auxiliary verb and an inversion. These sentences can come in many tenses, and are usually emphatic. Here’s few examples:

  • Only after the sun went down, did the bats come out.
  • Only if you finish your homework can you go to the park.
  • Only when we had eaten the pie did we realise that it was out of date.

So how do we use this structure?

Continue reading

Recognising verb constructions following “to be”

to be verb formsThe verb “to be” can be used in descriptive clauses or as an auxiliary verb to create certain grammatical structures, such as the continuous tenses and the passive voice. This can lead to confusion when a verb or verb form follows the verb “to be” – how do you recognise which structure is being used? Consider this example: “The museum is supposed to be _______ in the morning.” (open) Opening would form the continuous tense, open would be an adjective form, opened would form a passive sentence. Each of these could be arguably correct – so how do we know the difference? Continue reading

Different Genres of Fiction to Read

different genres of fiction listWhen I’m not writing about the English language, I’m busy writing creative fiction (if you’d like to see my books, check here). Reading fiction is a great way to learn English, if you can find an area that engages and entertains you. And it’s possible to find examples of English writing at all levels in different genres. The starting point, though, is to identify the genres available to you, so you can find something that you personally enjoy. I’ve prepared a vocabulary list to help introduce the different genres of fiction, demonstrated below with examples of popular books in the genre. (Personally, I write in dystopian and contemporary fantasy genres – which are sub-genres of sci-fi and fantasy.) Continue reading

Seasons Greetings from ELB – including what’s coming for 2018

Advent is always a fun time here in the UK, and I like to celebrate it in a small way on this website with some Christmas learning. We have a whole culture of books, films and traditions that can make English more fun – some of which I’ve covered here before. With the holiday just around the corner now, I want to take a chance to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas, to let you know what’s planned in 2018 and to share with you, again, some of the learning material that I’ve put up for the season in the past. Continue reading

Why simplicity is important for improved writing skills

keep it simple writingAs I continue work on my upcoming book on writing skills, I’d like to start sharing some of the lessons I’m preparing for the books. The first, and perhaps the most important, is such a general concept it works like an introduction – the idea of keeping writing simple for more effective, accurate English. There is one rule that is taught in almost all settings of writing skills, which can help whatever the purpose for your writing: Keep It Simple. Continue reading

When can we use “not so” instead of “not as” for comparatives

comparatives not as so

A recent question I’ve had is which comparative form is more correct, using so or as: “England is not as hot as France” or “England is not so hot as France”. It’s an interesting point as they are both possible so neither is really more correct – and one of my reference books covers it in one simple point “After not, we can use so … as instead of as … as.” This doesn’t give you much room for discussion! So, do the two forms differ? Continue reading

What’s in the upcoming ELB writing skills book

book guide to writingIf you’re a member of the ELB mailing list you may have seen that I’m working on a new guide to improved writing skills. The idea is to present advanced writing tips for learners of English as a foreign language – a guide based on how the language functions, as opposed to as a creative art (which may have value for native speakers, too!). To introduce the book, I want to share the chapter topics that I currently have planned, and I welcome feedback on any additional topics you’re interested in – or ideas/hopes for how these will be discussed! Continue reading