When we write a rule in a past tense narrative, should it still be in the present simple tense? This was an excellent question raised by a reader, from a fairly unexpected source – this Christmas reading exercise. It contains the phrase “everyone knew how magical Santa was”. The issue is that saying “was” in the past tense suggests Santa is either no longer magical (or perhaps has died?!). So, how can past simple still be correct here? Like much in English, it depends on our context. Continue reading
I’ve been asked about the tense of “keep writing” – and how it relates to the rules and patterns we use for the present continuous form of “to be writing”. Many verbs can be followed by other verbs in an –ing form, such as “keep doing”, “enjoy doing”, “avoid doing” – but they are not the same as the continuous tense “to be doing”, and are actually used in the present simple tense. A verb like “keep” may be particularly confusing, as it suggests a continuing action. So why is “keep doing” not the same as the present continuous? Continue reading
A recent question I’ve been asked is whether or not the following sentence is correct, as it sounded strange to the learner: “With the restaurant having closed, there was nowhere to eat.” What do you think? Better as “As the restaurant had closed…” or “With the restaurant closed…”? Perhaps – but the sentence is actually possible – it’s just difficult to explain how it is used. Continue reading
I have had a few requests recently to provide more examples of sentences as they are used across all the English tenses. This is useful to show how and why we might use the different tenses to describe the same situation. One example was given in my timeline (I go school…) and you can go into detail about why we use the different tenses in my book – but for here, let’s just look at 4 different sentences across all 12 aspects of English. Continue reading
Whether applying for schools or jobs or simply asking for information, at some point everyone communicating in English must write cover letters. There are templates you can use to get started, as long as you make them personal, but the basic principles for effective cover letters are worth knowing. I have prepared some common tips below, with a consideration for foreign learners. I will be expanding on some of these tips later, including examples and more detailed breakdowns of general business writing principles. Continue reading
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Please take my quick survey by clicking HERE – it’s just 9 short questions, all you need is a few minutes for a few clicks. All the results are anonymous, and will greatly help me improve the content I offer. If you have any thoughts that aren’t covered by the survey, do get in touch by contacting me directly or leaving a comment below.
If you follow my writing you may be aware that as well as educational material I also write adult fiction, in the contemporary fantasy and dystopian genres (more broadly, science-fiction fantasy!). I have just launched a new author website I would like to share – please visit it at phil-williams.co.uk. The website shows the different fiction projects I am working on, and has its own dedicated mailing list – sign up for a free copy of A Most Apocalyptic Christmas, my madcap dystopian adventure. Subscribers will also be the first to hear of (and receive) the next two novellas I am writing. Continue reading
Subjects formed with multiple nouns connected by of can mean consisting of, or taken from, for example ‘piece of cake’, but can also mean belonging to, or with the purpose of, such as ‘father of the bride’. ‘Bird of prey’ can be confusing, though, because it seems to have the opposite meaning – bird of prey may sound like it belongs to prey, but actually it is a predator. So how do these different examples work? Continue reading
In my article on the different formats for dates in UK and US English, there are plenty of rules and variations – some covered very briefly. Across business letters and other correspondence you may find uses that you do not recognise (or did not notice) in that list. For example if someone uses November 22nd, 2016 – a less common form. The question is what is the correct form to use in writing? Continue reading
The rules given in reference books, and indeed dictionaries, can sometimes be rather misleading, or represent incomplete ideas. As I teach (and study!) advanced language use, I often have to question reference guides, and have recently encountered two examples of this. To show how the dictionary does not always tell the whole truth, here are some additional considerations for this/next and the not only…but also rule. Continue reading