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

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

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

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!

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

The Christmas Mess – Mixed Tenses Reading Exercise

christmas reading exerciseTo bring in Christmas, I’ve prepared a themed reading exercise of the sort seen in the most horrible exams. The short story below (a harrowing tale of chores and presents) has lots of incomplete sentences. The verbs needed are all in brackets next to the gaps, but the form required is up to you. It is a past tense story, but it has a bit of variety in exactly what structures you will need – so don’t assume that just because it is a child’s tale it’s easy. In particular this will practice use of the past perfect. Can you help Wendy get her presents? The answers (with notes for consideration) are below Continue reading

The Impact of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – in Language and Culture

christmas carol dickens languageIn 1843, Charles Dickens wrote a novella called A Christmas Carol, a story still told today. The story followed a miser (a nasty man who does not want to share his wealth) on Christmas Eve, as he is visited by three spirits that teach him about kindness and caring. Its positive message, of a bad person becoming generous, has had a big impact on Western culture around the Christmas season – including interesting contributions to the English language. Continue reading

Exercising English at Halloween

halloween englishThe English speaking world celebrates Halloween at the end of October, a time when people dress up in costumes and decorate houses with ghosts and ghouls. It is a celebration of the dead, with ancient Celtic and Pagan origins which were adopted by the Christian church. In modern times, though, the religious aspect of Halloween has given way to a more general celebration of horror and monsters, with children trick-or-treating (going around town asking for sweets, in costumes!) and adults partying in fancy dress. It is an interesting time both to observe different cultures and their practices and to experience lots of interesting vocabulary.

Continue reading

Pronouncing -ed endings – exercises

ed endings exerciseFollowing on from the rules and patterns laid out in my previous post about how to pronounce –ed endings in English, here are a few exercises to test understanding of when it is appropriate to add a –t, -d or –id sound (with an extra syllable) to different words ending in –ed. First, a few simple sentences, then a reading practice! Check the answers below. Continue reading