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

Exercises to test the uses of “even”

even exercisesThe following exercises will test your use of ‘even’ in sentences. First, this will practice your use of word order – remember that even is used as an adverb, so it follows adverb word order rules. Usually, it comes before the word that it is changing, so try to place it next to the word that seems unexpected or surprising (or requires a particular emphasis) in a sentence.

The second exercise practises the differences between even, even if, even though, even when and even so – these usually cannot be used in exactly the same way, so check their specific uses in the article about uses of even! Continue reading

How to use the word “even”

how to use even“Even” is an interesting word. It can be used for a variety of specific meanings that may be hard to generalise, and can raise particular confusion when it comes to its place in a sentence. It can add emphasis to examples (“I don’t like ducks – not even small ones.”) or verbs (“I didn’t even know the man!”). It can show unavoidable results (“Even when we tried our hardest, we failed.”). It can even show contrasts (“I like them, even though I hate their dog.”). So, how can you use it in sentences? Continue reading

Pictures worth a thousand words – textbook illustration examples

present tenseIn place of a lesson, today, I have some exciting new images for my upcoming grammar guide, The English Tenses. I enlisted the help of a local artist to produce these, following suggestions from a number of beta readers – and I am sure you will agree these pictures will add a lot of character and energy to the book.

The artist, Bob Wright (whose website is currently unavailable, but can be reached here), has studied existing English learning materials to produce work that is at the same time very effective and professional, but also uniquely stylised. These are line-work previews, with colour to be added soon. Note: as these are still works in progress, and will be part of the final commercial release of the textbook, these images are watermarked. Continue reading

How to write formal sentences using the passive voice

formal sentences passive voiceFormal, or polite, sentences often use the passive voice because it sounds more impersonal and neutral. Active sentences, on the other hand, can seem personal, or direct, which can sound too casual or too aggressive. Consider the following active sentences, and how they might be interpreted:

  • You must do something to change this. (Personal threat)
  • We will mark the exams this weekend. (Personal action)

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May Day – traditions and celebrations in England

may day traditionsMay Day is the festival of the Spring, popular across the Northern Hemisphere as a time for various traditions. It is celebrated on the 1st of May, and in many countries coincides with International Workers’ Day. In the UK, the focus is on Spring fertility, with dances and traditions celebrating the changing weather. Like many British celebrations, these traditions have pagan origins, combined with Celtic traditions. Continue reading