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

10 Easily Confused Sets of Words and Phrases Explained

easily confused words and phrasesA few weeks ago I wrote an article about the differences between the words plain and plane; it’s one of many articles I have on this site exploring confusing, or easily misunderstood, words and phrases. With so much content on this site, I thought it was time I created a quick, simple list of such articles so you can quickly learn the differences. I’ve placed example sentences beneath each heading so you can get an idea of what you’ll learn.  Continue reading

Forming Negative Simple Tenses – Exercises

negative simple tenses exercisesNegative simple tenses are formed using either do, does, did, will or the verb to be and not, followed by the bare infinitive. Below is a group of exercises to test this understanding – using the information provides, form complete negative simple sentences. The answers are given at the bottom. Continue reading

What’s the difference between plain and plane?

difference between plain and planePlain and plane are easily confused in English – they are homophones, so you may write one when meaning the other. They have a number of distinct definitions where their meanings are completely different – but one meaning where their meanings are very similar, referring to flat empty space, where it can be hard to remember which word is correct. Continue reading

Exercise – Forming Simple Tense Questions

simple tense questions exerciseQuestions are formed in the simple tenses by using either do, does, did or will before a bare infinitive, or with the verb to be. The following exercise will help you practice converting simple statements into question form in the past, present and future. Use the example sentences to make questions – while these cover simple tense forms, the sentences are not necessarily easy. And remember, first person questions (I, we) should be converted to the second person (you, they)!

For example:

  • The red bird flew through the trees.
  • Did the red bird fly through the trees?

Continue reading

What does “would that it were” mean?

would that it were meaningThe new Coen Brother’s film Hail, Caesar! was recently advertised with a trailer focused on the strange English expression “Would that it were so simple.” (if you haven’t seen it, check it out here!). This is an interesting construction, generally seen as would that + past tense, which you might otherwise see as “Would that I knew”, “Would that there was another way” or many other possibilities. It is also not always joined with that, for example would he knew the answer, though this is far less common. It is not a strange tense, though, merely an idiomatic use of more archaic language. Continue reading

Why and How English speakers celebrate St Patrick’s Day

how celebrate st patrick's dayOn March 17th, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated internationally across the English speaking world. Originally an Irish feast day, it has spread to major cities across the world as people of all cultures take part in a celebration of all things Irish. Here’s a brief explanation of where St Patrick’s Day comes from and what is done to celebrate it. Continue reading

Exercise: Bare Infinitives in Mixed Tenses

mixed bare infinitives exerciseContinuing from a series of exercises that identify and aid understanding for the bare infinitive in different tenses (see the exercise for bare infinitive in the past for more), here’s a quick exercise spanning both the past and present. The answers are given below. Continue reading

Out now – Word Order in English Sentences 2nd Edition!

word order bookThe updated version of Word Order in English Sentences is now available in eBook and, for the first time, print form. Through extensive editing, and feedback from my readers, this new edition is over twice the size of the original – and looks a lot nicer!

The 1st Edition of the book was a brief introduction to sentence structure that covered the basics of some sentence components. I’ve built on it covering many more of the building blocks of a sentence – making the 2nd edition a more comprehensive guide to understanding how words fit together in English. It remains an introduction, but a much more solid one.

The full contents of the guide now cover:

  • Basic sentence structure (subject-verb-object and beyond)
  • Question forms
  • Negative forms
  • Verb phrases (now including phrasal verbs, transitives and intransitives, and combinations of verbs)
  • Noun phrases (now including compound nouns, noun complements and embedded questions as noun phrases)
  • Adjectives (now including adjectives in unusual positions)
  • Adverbs
  • Prepositions
  • Sentences with multiple clauses (including simple, complex and compound sentences)

The book also includes 16 exercises to test knowledge through re-ordering scrambled sentences. The book will give you a solid basis for understanding how an English sentence fits together, and how one word relates to another – which is the first step towards understanding how sentences can then bend the rules.

Regular readers of this blog may recognise many of the lessons contained in the book – now you can own the material in one easy to use reference guide. The book is available in various electronic forms, including in PDF from the shop here. Meanwhile the print form is designed in a style that matches The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide (so they’ll look good on a shelf together!).

Why we say Bachelors and Masters for degrees

degree names masters bachelorsWhen we refer to the degrees BA or MA in English, we use an at the end – calling them a Bachelors or Masters. This may sound strange as it is one degree, not a plural, so why do we say it? Actually it’s not a plural at all, it is a possessive – and more accurately should be written as Bachelor’s or Master’s. Here’s why:

What Bachelors and Masters mean for degrees

A student can become a Bachelor or Master of Arts or Sciences (a BA, BS, MA or MS – with variations). BA/BS and MA/MS level degrees demonstrate a level of achievement which gives the degree earner a title. Just as a doctorate (PhD) makes the student a Doctor, the BA makes the student a Bachelor of Arts. The MA makes the student a Master of Arts. The degree, therefore, belongs to the Bachelor or Masters – making it, in full form, a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree.

As with many things in English, we take a short cut when we describe degrees. When we say someone has a Bachelors or Masters, we are using a shortened version of the full description, a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree. Essentially, this is what is typically said, but what it really means:

  • I have a Bachelors in History.
  • I have a Bachelor’s degree in History.

Bachelors or Masters on its own does not give you the full noun – it is, rather, a possessive description that should be followed by degree. However, long term use has made it be understood as a noun on its own, so we can say Bachelors and be understood to mean Bachelor’s degree – the first word of a compound noun has come to stand in for the whole compound.

This just leaves one problem – if we are using a shortened form of Bachelor’s degree, the first word on its own, Bachelor’s, should have an apostrophe. Very often, particularly in British English, an apostrophe is not used. Again, this is a result of popular use – grammatically an apostrophe is correct, but it has simply been neglected over long term practical use. So you will find examples of both styles (and, similarly, much as a matter of style, capitalisation – bachelors or Bachelors). You’ll no doubt find arguments insisting you must use an apostrophe – the truth is, people write the degree names in both manners, so it is unfair to say either is incorrect. However, you would be incorrect to say you have a bachelor instead of a bachelors, referring to a degree – as that would refer to the person and not the qualification!