How do you answer a negative question? (Grammatically speaking)

how to answer a negative questionWith negative questions that require a yes or no, there can sometimes be confusion in the correct way to answer. Grammatically, you may assume that a negative question answered in the affirmative should be a negative statement (i.e. “Doesn’t it look good?” – “Yes it doesn’
t.”). A friend of mine teaching in Vietnam was told that this was given as a rule by one of her fellow teachers, as taught in a reference book. Theoretically this may make sense, but in practice this is NOT how negative questions work. In fact, the answer to a negative question will often be very similar to the answer to a positive question. Here’s why: Continue reading

What’s the difference between complex and complicated?

difference complex complicatedI received a series of questions from a reader with no return email. So if you’re reading this, Carl, I’ll answer your questions in the blog. Starting with this – what is the difference between complex and complicated? A plan, for example, can be both complex and complicated. There is a simple answer and a complicated (or complex!) answer. So let’s start with the simple: complex involves many parts/components, while complicated refers to the level difficulty. What does this mean in practice? Continue reading

Moby Dick Advanced Reading and Prepositions Exercise

moby dick prepositions Below are the (slightly edited) opening paragraphs of the epic, classic novel Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. Published in 1851, this story is studied in schools as one of the Great American Novels, and its opening line, “Call me Ishmael” is one of the most famous in English literature. As a classic, it uses advanced and sometimes archaic language, making it good practice for formal (and difficult!) prose. To give you an extra challenge, this passage has missing prepositions, and it’s up to you to complete the text. Blank spaces show where there should be prepositions, the answers are given below. Continue reading

Learn more and pay less with this 2 book bundle:

2 book discountThe English Tense Practical Grammar Guide and Word Order in English Sentences are now available in a 2 book PDF bundle with a 15% discount.

These books are full of information, covering everything you need to know about the basics of English verb use and sentence structure. Combined, they give you a solid understanding of the essential building blocks of English, from the functions and positioning of the different word types through to describing time and sequences. Both books take you from the basics through to advanced ideas necessary for fluent English. With a 15% discount, their combined price is only £9.29 – cheaper than you would pay for a single English textbook.

Take note that all the prices in the shop are due to increase in the New Year – this is the lowest price you will be able to get both of these excellent books for, for a limited time only.

Get the book bundle here now!

This deal is available exclusively through the ELB shop – it is for 2 books in PDF form.

Halloween Vocabulary Exercise

halloween vocabulary exerciseIt’s that fun time of year where the English speaking world prepares for Halloween – with scary stories, films and costumes. Which means it’s also the time of year to practice our Halloween vocabulary – words which cover a range of frightening topics, emotions and mythical creatures! Build your vocab with my nasty nouns and abysmal adjectives, then see if you can complete the exercise below.

Mixed Halloween Vocabulary Exercise

Match the following descriptions with the words below.

  1. Something that is not from this world.
  2. The practice of magic or sorcery.
  3. An ugly, giant creature.
  4. A very old person who wants to suck your blood.
  5. Dead people who refuse to stay dead.
  6. A box to bury dead bodies in.
  7. Illumination from the moon.
  8. A characterisation of Death.
  9. A carved pumpkin that we put a candle in.
  10. The worst kind of dream.
  11. The remains of a person without flesh or muscles.
  12. A home where you find ghosts (or worse!).
  13. A magical person with wings.
  14. An enchantment, poems or other words that create magic.
  15. A person who changes into a wolf.
  • a. fairy
  • b. witchcraft
  • c. werewolf
  • d. moonlight
  • e. spell
  • f. zombies
  • g. haunted house
  • h. skeleton
  • i. coffin
  • j. jack’o’lantern
  • k. the grim reaper
  • l. nightmare
  • m. ogre
  • n. supernatural
  • o. vampire

Answers to the Exercise

  1. n – supernatural
  2. b – witchcraft
  3. m – ogre
  4. o – vampire
  5. f – zombies
  6. i – coffin
  7. d – moonlight
  8. k – the grim reaper
  9. j – jack’o’lantern
  10. l – nightmare
  11. h – skeleton
  12. g – haunted house
  13. a – fairy
  14. e – spell
  15. c – werewolf

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

how many there areI recently had an email from a reader writing for his fantasy story website that raised an interesting point; the writer had a statement saying someone needed to check “how many guards are there” and was told that “how many guards there are” was the correct form. The writer thought both were correct, so asked what the difference was. It is true, from a neutral perspective both “how many there are” or “how many are there” can be 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