Bird of prey and other “noun of noun” constructions

bird of prey noun phrasesSubjects 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

What’s the correct date format for business letters?

correct date format business lettersIn 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

2 Examples of Troublesome Dictionary Definitions

troublesome dictionary definitionsThe 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

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

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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.

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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

More On Mixed Tenses – A Comparison Exercise

mixed tenses exerciseThe following quiz was originally posted on Goodreads – it’s a quick exercise to test understanding of different tense forms. The questions are based on the 12 basic English tense forms. Complete the following sentences using the appropriate tense form. In the given context, one answer is correct for each question. Continue reading

What English tenses exercises would YOU like to see?

Since I published The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, I have been working on an exercise book to accompany it, 101 English Tenses Exercises. Containing no less than 101 exercises to really drill all the rules of the tenses. I need your help, though – my original idea was to exercise each lesson in the book, following a similar structure. It’s the wrong approach, it’s too complicated and simply not fun!

So, if you have a spare few minutes, I’d like to ask for some feedback. What English grammar exercises would you like to see? What are your favourite types of English exercise? Which do you like least?

On my site, I usually post gap fill exercises – either with individual sentences (e.g. this future tenses exercise) or in the form of a reading text (e.g. The Christmas Mess). These would be the bulk of the exercises in the book. Are there other styles you’d prefer to see?

I’m dividing the exercises into grammar themes (e.g. Past Simple or Past Continuous?) and more general themes for mixed tense exercises, which can build specific vocabulary (for example Christmas vocabulary). What topics would you like to see most?

Please comment below or contact me here if you have any thoughts on my upcoming project. After all, above all else I am trying to write something that is both enjoyable and useful to you!

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