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and Adult English Learners


Frank Gerace

Smashwords Edition
Copyright 2012 by Frank Gerace


"This is a different approach to coaching writing. One feature I particularly

like is that the instruction goes beyond the usual distant professorial tone to a
teacher's personal voice. It provides an immediacy to the learning situation."
George Laudadio, MRE, MBA, ESL Teacher

The clarity, variety, and completeness of this extremely valuable book is the luck
of the man or woman dedicated to success in speaking and writing superior
William Allen, MA, Bilingual Education

Click on the chapter name to go to the chapter in the text
To return here, click on the name in the beginning of each chapter

Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter 2: Parts of Speech
Chapter 3: What is a verb?
Chapter four: Nouns
Chapter five: Pronouns
Chapter six: Adjectives
Chapter seven: Sentences
Chapter eight: Paragraphs
Chapter nine: Capitalization
Chapter ten: Punctuation
Chapter eleven: Style and Usage
Chapter twelve: Vocabulary
Chapter thirteen: Idiomatic Expressions
Chapter fourteen: Spelling
Chapter fifteen: Answers to Exercises
Chapter sixteen: Other Recommendations
{algunos recursos en espaol}

Detailed Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Parts of Speech

Chapter 2: Verbs
Subject and Verb Agreement
Sequence of Tenses
Active and Passive Verbs
Phrasal Verbs
Irregular Verbs

Chapter 3: Nouns
Categories of Nouns
Identifying the Noun
Noun Clauses
The Gerund

Chapter 4: Pronouns
Personal Pronouns
Demonstrative Pronouns
Indefinite Pronouns
Interrogative Pronouns
Possessive Pronouns
Relative Pronouns
Reciprocal Pronouns
Reflexive Pronouns
Chapter 5: Adjectives
Possessive Adjectives
Demonstrative Adjectives
Participial Adjectives

Chapter 6: Sentences and Paragraphs

Subject and Predicate
Sentence Patterns
Sentence Structure
The Simple Sentence
The Compound Sentence
The Complex Sentence
The Compound-Complex Sentence
Groups of words that are not sentences
The Clause
The Phrase
Difference from Sentences
The Fragment
Comma Splices and Fused Sentences
Sentence Connectors

Chapter 7: Capitalization and Punctuation

Chapter 8: Style and Usage
Context Clues
Frequently Used Words
Frequently Misused Words
Voice of America Special English
Idiomatic Expressions
Avoid Monotony: Variety
Avoid Confusion: Parallelism
Chapter 9: Spelling
Language Based Approach
Word Origin and History
Syllable Patterns
Word Parts
Letter Patterns
Common Errors

Chapter 10: The Writing Process

The Jump Into It System
The Letter

Answers to Exercises: last page

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any
means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical including photocopying, recording,
taping, or by any information storage retrieval system without the written
permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in
critical articles or reviews.

Frank Gerace, Ph.D.

Copyright 2012 Frank Gerace
All rights reserved.

I dedicate this book to all my teachers who instilled in me a love of language. I
also owe a lot to my students who with their questions and desire to learn have
pushed me to be clearer and clearer in my explanations. Juan Tapia who drilled
me in Quechua helped me to feel a language without needing to know the
grammar. Fidencio Hernando, taught me that when you have something to say,
you have to just sit down and write it. That was the origin of my first Book
Comunicacin Horizontal: Ascenso de Masas y Movilizacin Social.

I also dedicate it to my grandchildren. I hope they treasure the legacy of learning

that I leave them. Finally, I thank my loving wife, Miriam, for her support and
patience as this book came together.


I acknowledge the use of many resources gathered over the years in

mimeographed copies. I have tried to put my own stamp of all these varied
treasure gathered while I was a trainer in the New York City Department of
Chapter One: Introduction
You want to be able to write English. This is great! If you want it, you will get it.
The fact that you are reading this book means that you are committed to learning
to write English.

However, there are two things you have to overcome:

first, your possible weakness in English,

second, your not knowing how to get started on a writing assignment.

Everybody, not only new speakers of English, has trouble starting to write. We
will try to help you with this, in almost the same way that we would do it with
native English speakers.

FIRST: Before presenting a method to help you start writing, we will help you with
tips about grammar and usage that you need as a new speaker and writer of
English. We will present help for the absolute beginner and for the more or less
advanced reader.

You can pick and choose what is of most use to you. Although we think that a
review of the materials we have put together will help everyone, if only as a
review for those of you who feel pretty confident in your English.

I know people who learned English as adults and speak it very well but who will
not write anything in English. They are afraid of their grammar, usage, and
spelling. Even people who are almost perfect in the language will make mistakes;
therefore it is foolish to lose the benefits of writing because of an exaggerated

Two examples: My son, Fernando, whose first language is Spanish but whose
English is perfect, still confuses the use of the English word in. In Spanish there is
one word en that is translated either as in or on according to the context.
Fernando sometimes says things like we went to the country last week on Johns
car. This is one small error that does not keep him from writing the professional
reports that he has to do in his work.

I am another example: My first language is English but having lived and taught for
many years in Latin America, I did not hesitate to write a book* that was rather
successful. I speak and write Spanish well and I am sure that most of the book
was written well. However, I also am sure that there were some errors of
grammar and usage in my work. Nevertheless, I had something to say and was
not afraid to write in a language that was not my mother tongue. *Escucha y
Habla Ingls: available on Amazon.com, or directly at

Surely you have heard of Joseph Conrad, who holds an important place in English
literature and who is on the reading list of English speaking students all over the
world. Did you know that his name at birth was Jzef Teodor Konrad
Korzeniowski? His first language was Polish but he wrote his masterpieces in
English, a language he learned as an adult. Who says you can

This book is aimed at and dedicated to those people who have learned English as
a second language. It is for those persons who have never written in English and
who wish to gain the confidence to start. It is also intended for those others who
already write a little and who want to improve their writing and bring it to a higher

You will gain confidence by learning some essential elements of grammar, style,
spelling, and method. This will not be a grammar book, or a style manual, or a list
of misspelled words, or a collection of tips and tricks about how-to-write. It will try
to cover the essential parts of writing in a simple uncomplicated way, and will
offer exercises for you to put the learning in practice, with the answers to the
exercises in the back of the book. You also will find some ideas on how to get
started on writing what you have to write
Here are the main parts of the book:

some important points of Grammar

some tips on Usage and Style
an important approach to Spelling
and a look at a possible Method to be able to start a
writing project.

Grammar is the way a language works. It is NOT a set of rules about how to speak
a language. It is the way we speak our language. A native speaker of English
doesnt have to learn rules. He or she just grows up speaking English.

On the other hand, it is useful for the adults who learn a new language to think of
the rules of the new language. This will help them to make connections and see
relations in order to practice and learn the way the new language works. It also is
important e to learn the rules while one is learning the language to avoid
learning the wrong way to express certain ideas.

Furthermore, the better one speaks and writes, the easier is their life. Sometimes
native speakers confuse fluency in their language with intelligence and think that
new learners are less intelligent. Of course, this is foolish but it happens. Dont
give them reason to underestimate your value.

Learning grammar to speak and write correctly is an indication of clear thinking as

well as a help to clear and organized thinking.

So you will review a little grammar in this book for these two basic reasons:

for you to make a better impression on the people you with whom you interact,
and also to help you present your ideas in a clear well organized way.

I wont write a list of the grammar points that we will treat in this book so as not to
I wont write a list of the grammar points that we will treat in this book so as not to
frighten you at the beginning. Just be sure that they will be the very important
basic rules that will help you to write clearly and easily.

There are certain expressions that are used in English which are not logical in your
language. You have to break the habit of just using the structure and style of your
own language and make sure you follow English usage. For example, in many
languages to say how old you are, you use the word to have. Some people
continue saying my son has twenty years instead of using the proper English
usage, My son is twenty years old.

Everyone complains about English spelling, orthography as you may call it in
your language. Most people say that English spelling is crazy. But that is not
completely true. Sure, it is not completely regular like Spanish or German but
there are large areas of regularity in English spelling. You just have to find out
what they are and simplify your job of learning to write English.

It is hard to write. People even have difficulty writing in their own language. Many
writers talk about the terror of the blank page, that is, the difficulty of getting
started. We will give you a method, a series of steps to follow that will help you
get over the first writing blocks. Together with your new skills and confidence in
grammar, style, and spelling, you will be able to get into the writing projects that
you have both at work and in your personal life

From this point on, we will go into more detail on these sections, Grammar, Style,
Spelling, and Method. Lets start with Grammar which scares most people.

As we said in the introduction, grammar is important. But it is a tricky idea.
Sometimes it makes the difference between being understood or not, and
sometimes the rules are very flexible. The choices are many. It would be
impossible for this book to touch all the grammar points that might come your
way. I have chosen to stress the ones that I have found to be the ones that give
the most problems to people learning English. I have selected the points that I
emphasize in my teaching of new speakers and writers of English in a New York
City Community College.

I hope that the points that are contained in this book will help you write better
English. It is not enough to have a big vocabulary. You have to know how to put
the words together to communicate what you want to get over to your readers.

You have to learn how to use the words:

that describe what people do

that name something
that take the place of the things you name
describe the things you are writing about
in the right way to make up a good sentence
make it clear who or what is doing something
that clarify the timing of the events you write about.
The following sections in this Grammar section will cover these points:

Parts of Speech
Adjectives and other Modifiers

Chapter 2: Parts of Speech
You are interested in writing English so you have to know how the English
language works. To know how a machine works you have to know how the parts
of the machine work. You have to know the functions of the parts. It is the same
with language. You have to know the job that every word fulfills in a sentence.
The functions of the words in English are called the Parts of Speech.

When we talk or write, we communicate information. We talk or write about

something or someone; we describe a thing or a person and what that person
does and how he or she does it. Communicating all this is what the "parts of
speech" do. They make it possible for us to get our thoughts in order, and for our
reader or listener to follow our thought.

The Parts of Speech help us put the words we use in different boxes so we can
take them out according to how we need to use them.

Let's see ... For example, there are words that

name something for example: flower, horse, beauty, citizenship, stone.

These are nouns.
Other words indicate an action such as: hit, talk, think. These are verbs.
Others say something about other words.
These are adjectives red, large, blue,
and adverbs fast, happily, early, never.

Do not be scared! This is not a grammar book but a guide to learn to identify and
avoid common pitfalls encountered by someone studying English.

You have to be able to identify the Verb, Noun, Adjective, and Adverb to help
your reading comprehension which is necessary for you to write well.
The following are the most important Parts of Speech that we will emphasize in
this book.

VERB: A word denoting action, occurrence, or existence.

Examples: ran, jump, shout, sweat, thinks, feels, sleeps, eat, laugh, are, is, was,

The mayor met with the Police Commissioner on Monday. The girl seems nice.
The word is probably a verb if:
You can use will, shall, can, could, may, might, must, should, or would in front of
the word.
Examples: will come, could go, would miss

NOUN: A word that names a person, place, thing, idea, animal, quality, or action.
Nouns function as subjects and objects of the sentence.

Examples: child, John, New York, books, pizza, love, pony, generosity,
Oscar, my brother, is a professional soccer player.
The word is probably a noun if:
You can make it plural or singular (one apple, two apples)
You can make it possessive (book, book's pages; girl, girls' dresses)
You can make it follow a phrase such as: to the, with the, from the.
You can place the word a, an, or the in front of it.

ADJECTIVE: A word that tells us more about (modifies, qualifies or describes)

nouns and pronouns. Usually, adjectives appear immediately before the words
they modify.
Examples: tall girl, talented lawyer, young fisherman, blue ball
The small child asked for the ripe peach.
The word is probably an adjective if:
You can add er or est to the word (happy--happier--happiest)
You can use more or most in front of it (beautiful--more beautiful--most
You can use the words very or quite in front of it (she wore a very bright, daring

ADVERB: A word often (but not always) ending in ly that modifies verbs,
adjectives and other adverbs. An "ly" ending changes an adjective to an adverb.

Examples: spoke quickly, ran hastily, worked frantically

Kelly happily agreed to serve on my committee.
The children sing enthusiastically.

However, many adverbs do not end in "ly." But, they are still adverbs if they
identify when, where, how, how far, how much, etc.

Examples: hang low, stand straight, added wrong, study hard

Kelly never loses her temper. My brother runs fast.
Adverbs also modify (give more information about) other adverbs.

Example: The child is very smart. (The adverb very modifies the adjective smart)
The word is probably an adverb if:
There is an ly suffix (happily)
The word or phrase can be moved to another place in the sentence and still
make sense

Examples: He usually goes to school. -or-

Usually, he goes to school. -or-He goes to school usually.
ARTICLE: Normally, I do not spend much time on the article. However, since
many of our readers may be speakers of Slavic languages, I will give a little
information about the article which is difficult for them.

Articles help us identify nouns. Only nouns can follow the words a (or an) and the.
An article can go right before the noun: a lemon, an apple, or it may be separated
by other words: the very best apple pie.

We use a or an when the noun is not specified, that is, it is not clear exactly
who or what is referred to.
Examples: A redhead is usually an interesting person. This sentence refers to any
redhead, not to Conan OBrien or any specific redheaded person we might know.

I bought a watermelon. I just bought one that was for sale, no special one.

We use the with specific nouns, that is, nouns that the reader is familiar with. A
noun is specific when:

It has been mentioned before. The watermelon that John told me was a good
The redhead on the bus in my cousin.

It is identified by a word or phrase in the sentence.

The roof of our house leaks. The reader knows it is the roof of our house.

It is clear from the context that something specific is being referred to.
In Brown University, the school spirit is outstanding.

The thing referred to is very well known or unique.

I would like to go to the moon.
The noun follows a superlative (best, biggest, sweetest) adjective
He is the best student in his class.

PREPOSITION: These are little words used to start a phrase. (Their name tells us
their job: Their place in the sentence (position) comes before (pre) a group of
words, the phrase. You can vary your writing by using the different propositions
correctly. Here are a few examples. Time: while, after, before, during; Place: in,
on, under, on top of, over; Logic, reason, or manner: according to, despite.


The work that a word does in a sentence determines what part of speech it is in
that sentence. The same word may be used as several different parts of speech.
Notice how the underlined words in the following sentences are used as different
parts of speech.

He has a fast car. (adjective)
He drives fast. (adverb)
Muslims fast during Ramadan and Christians fast during Lent. (verb)
The extreme fast weakened the religious person. (noun)
My daughter and her friends study law. (verb)
He has a soft armchair in his study. (noun)
The scientists presented their study. (noun)
We do our best work in the study hall. (adjective)

Thats it for the parts of speech!

There are other parts of speech but they do not interest us at the moment. In fact,
for the first phase of perfecting your English, you can concentrate your efforts on
the nouns and verbs.

Why do I start with the parts of speech? I always stress them in my classes with
adult immigrants who are learning English.

Why? I stress the parts of speech because they help you understand the structure
of the English sentence. When you write you will have to know how to get your
ideas across. To get your ideas across you have to use the words correctly.

Parts of Speech Exercises

The first exercise is very simple and has the purpose of getting you to find the
answers in the back of the book. You will have to go there for the answers to the
many exercises in this book.

POS Exercise 1:
Decide which part of speech is described in the following

1. modifies a noun
2. modifies an adverb
3. expresses an action
4. names a person, place, or thing
5. modifies a verb


Identify the part of speech of the underlined word in each
sentence. In making your decision, ask yourself what
work the word does in the sentence.

1. We took an express train.

2. A train whistle sounded in the distance.
3. I will train your dog.
4. Cross the street on a green light.
5. Turn right at the next cross street.
6. She was wearing a gold cross.
7. The boss will fire me.
8. The fire department is always ready.
9. We saw a large fire in the distance.
10. He has a bald head.
11. Who is head usher?
12. She will head the freshman class.
13. He can field a ball faster than any other player.
14. The new athletic field is ready for use.
15. A field mouse scampered by.
16. Everyone left the building in a hurry.
17. I sat on the left side of the room.
18. In politics he agrees with the Left.
19. At the corner he turned left.
20. He drew a picture of the sea.
21. Can you picture me as an acrobat?
22. Our picture window is cracked.

Go to Parts of Speech Answers

POS Exercise 3.
Write complete sentences for the following
1. play as a verb
2. play as a noun
3. scratch as a verb
4. scratch as a noun
5. light as a noun
6. light as an adjective
7. light as a verb
8. bus as a noun
9. bus as an adjective
10. Sunday as an adjective
11. Sunday as a noun
14. pepper as a verb
13. pepper as an adjective
14. pepper as a noun
15. silver as a noun
16. silver as an adjective
17. silver as a verb

Go to Parts of Speech Answers

POS Exercise 4.
Fill in the missing words with a word that is the appropriate part of speech.
Compare your answers with those of someone else. Many answers are possible.

It was a __________ (Adjective) day in June and Peter decided to __________

(Verb). When he got to the __________ (Noun), he sat down and took out his
__________ (Noun). He certainly hadn't planned to __________ (Verb), but was
_________ (Adjective) to be able to do it. While he was __________ (Verb ending
in ing), the hours went by __________ (Adverb) and before he knew it, He had to
__________.(Verb). He ________ (Verb) his things and began to walk home.
Unfortunately, it began to __________ (Verb concerning the weather) (Adverb)
so he decided to __________.(Verb)for a (Noun). While he was _________ (Verb
in the -ing form), he noticed that he had forgotten to __________ (Verb) his
(Noun). He __________ (Adverb of frequency) forgot such things!

Go to Parts of Speech Answers


Chapter 3: What is a verb?

You will see much of the following material in other parts of this book because the
verb is central to all our communication in English. You cant write a sentence
without a verb. To make sense your verbs must agree with the subject. For
example: you cant write, Richard are a nice guy. You also have to know the
tense or time of the verb. You cant write, Richard will go to the store
yesterday. So lets bring together the main points about verbs in one place even
if some of this is healthy repetition.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs.

To remember the word transitive we can learn that the word part trans, which
To remember the word transitive we can learn that the word part trans, which
comes from the Latin, means across, or from one place or condition to another, as
in the words transportation, translation, etc. Therefore, the word, transitive, tells
us that the verb moves the action of the verb to the object of the verb. The
intransitive verb goes nowhere. The verb acts alone with no object. See the
examples below.

We use many intransitive verbs such as grow in the sentence, The plant grew.
There is no object in this sentence. Verbs can be both transitive and intransitive
because I can also say,

I grow tomatoes. In this case the verb grow is transitive and takes the object

When my daughter Laura was three years old, she had a problem with a phrasal
verb. Her first language is Spanish and she was just learning English. She was
sitting quietly playing by tossing a little ball in the air and catching it. Someone
asked her, What are you doing, Laura? She answered, Im throwing up. We
still tell this story in our family because it makes us think of the little girl who now
is a grown woman.

The humor in the story is in her mistake with the phrasal verb to throw up. In her
beginning use of English, Laura didnt know that to express that she was throwing
a ball in the air it is necessary to use the phrasal verb in a transitive way. She had
to say, Im throwing the ball up in the air. Of course, she didnt know the
grammar involved. But when she said, Im throwing up without an object, that
is, intransitively, she was saying, I am vomiting which was not what she wanted
to say.

Another humorous example will help you remember the difference between
transitive and intransitive verbs.

One person says, Do you smoke after having sex? The friend answered, I
One person says, Do you smoke after having sex? The friend answered, I
never noticed.

This joke has its humor in the confusion of transitive and intransitive verbs,
although no one thinks of something so boring when they tell jokes. The person
who asked the question used the verb as transitive, like smoking cigarettes. The
friend answered thinking of an intransitive use of the word, to give off smoke
from a fire

Principal Parts of the Verb

Verbs are usually listed in dictionaries with their principal parts. The first of the
principal parts of the verb is the infinitive (a form of the verb - to make, to talk,
etc. - that does not indicate number or time. It is infinite meaning it can take
many forms according to its use in the sentence.)The first part of speech is the
infinitive without the word to. The second part is the simple past, and the third
part is the past participle. If you know these parts of the verb you can build all of
the forms of the verb. They are necessary because not all verbs are regular (see
the section on irregular verbs at the end of this section on the verb).

Here are some examples.

ring, rang, rung
walk, walked, walked
say, said, said,
do, did, done
go, went gone
look, looked, looked

If you know the principal parts of the verb you can build all the forms of the verb
correctly, that is, you can conjugate them. This is a grammatical word you will see
in other books: conjugation. It means how the different forms of a verb go
together when writing about things: either at the time of writing, in the past, or in
the future. These different forms are those used by the person: who is talking (the
first person), the person or person spoken to (the second person), and the person
or persons spoken about (the third person).

Although it is very important to learn how to conjugate a verb, we wont stress it.
You can easily memorize the conjugation for all tenses, but the more difficult part
of verb usage is knowing which form to use when you write.

In addition to conjugation, it is more important for you to know the form and
function of the verb. Here's an overview of these two elements which will help
you in your writing:

Here are the five ways of using the English verb that you need to learn for every
verb tense. In our examples, we show only three tenses for each of the five ways.
If you know the three basic tenses, you will also be able to build the perfect

Of course you dont have to worry about remembering the names of each usage.
What is important is that you think about each way to use the word in your
writing. Notice the uses of the auxiliary words do and did in negative
statements and in questions

1. Affirmative Usage
Present: She plays ball.
Past: She played ball.
Future: She will play ball.

2. Negative Usage
Present: She does not play ball.
Past: She did not play ball
Future: She will not play ball.
3. Yes/No Questions
Present: Does she play ball?
Past: Did she play ball?
Future: Will she play ball?

4. Short Answers to the Yes/No questions

Yes, she plays ball. or- Yes, she does.
No, she didn't.
Yes, she will

5. WH- Questions (using the words, where, why, and when)

Present: Where does she play ball?
Present: Why does she play ball?
Present: When does she play ball?

Past: Where did she play ball?

Past: Why did she play ball?
Past: When did she play ball?

Future: Where will she play ball?

Future: Why will she play ball?
Future: When will she play ball?

The Persons of the Verb
Of course, in addition to the five forms, you should learn the persons of the verb
based on the subject pronouns ( I, you, he/she/it, they, and we. The persons of
the verb are: the person who is talking (the first person), the person or person
spoken to (the second person), and the person or persons spoken about (the third
person). Here's an example of the verb "play" conjugated in the Present
Progressive Tense.

Singular or Plural
First Person: I am playing in the street. We are playing in the street.
Second Person: You are playing in the street. You are playing in the street.
Third Person: He/She/It is playing in the street. They are playing in the street.

Positive and Negative Statements and Questions

Positive Questions: If you only and always write your sentences in the way they
are formed in your own language, you will often have errors in your writing. For
example in English, we write Mary bakes a cake, but we usually dont ask the
question in the form of Mary bakes a cake?

The question needs the auxiliary word do to form the question, Does Mary
bake a cake?. And we ask in the past tense, Did Mary bake a cake?.

You usually dont ask the question in the past tense, Mary baked a cake? Another
common error you must avoid is the following: You dont say, Did Mary baked the
cake? You dont have to put the verb in the past. The word did is the past form
of the word do and it is enough to signal that you are talking about the past.

Negative Statements: Your language may incline you to write, Mary no bake a
cake. But you cant write this in English. You have to write Mary does not bake a
cake. or Mary doesnt bake a cake. In the past tense you have to write, Mary
did not (didnt) bake a cake. You cannot write, Mary no baked a cake.

Negative Questions: Some learners ask, Mary no baked a cake? when they
should write, Didnt Mary bake a cake?. In the present tense, you usually have
to write, Doesnt Mary bake a cake?. You cannot always write, Mary bakes a

When, why, where questions.

In the present:
Where does Mary bake a cake?
When does Mary bake a cake?
Why does Mary bake a cake?
Where does Mary bake a cake?

In the past:

Where did Mary bake a cake?

When did Mary bake a cake?
Why did Mary bake a cake?
Where did Mary bake a cake?

Subject Verb Agreement
This feature of English is much easier than it is in other languages. A person
learning Spanish or Russian or German or just about any other language has to
learn to change the form of the verb according the person of the verb. That
means that the verb changes (is pronounced and spelled differently) according to
whether the writer describes:

what he or she is doing (first person),

what the person that is being spoken to is doing (second person),
or whether the actions of some other person are being described (third person).

Lets take a closer look at this. The idea of subject verb agreement is easy. The
subject and verb must agree in number. This means that both must be singular
(one person or thing), or both must be plural (more than one person or thing).

This is usually not a problem in English but problems for you can occur in the third
person singular of the present tense. We have to add an s or es at the end of
the verb when the subject or the being (animal or thing) that is performing the
action is a noun or pronoun: he, she, it. If you leave off the letter s (he talk
funny) you will be talking or writing incorrectly, in a dialect that uneducated
people use.

Notice the difference between singular and plural forms in the following examples:
At the same time you will look at the corresponding pronoun in parentheses for
each use of the verb

The child talks. (He or she talks.)
The man works. (He works.)
The children talk. (They talk.)
The men work. (They work.)
The following table will help you review the persons of the verb

First Person: The person who is the subject of the sentence, I eat fish.
Second Person: The person spoken to by the subject of the sentence, You (one
person) eat fish.
Third Person:

The person or thing spoken about by the subject of the sentences, He eats fish.
She eats fish. The cat eats fish.

First Person: The persons who are the subject of the sentence, We eat fish.
Second Person: The persons spoken to by the subject of the sentence, You
(several persons) eat fish
Third Person: The persons or things spoken about by the subject of the sentence,
They eat fish.

You can see that the only change in the verb in English is in the third person
singular of the verb. See what it is? The verb ends with the letter s, he eats. All
the other forms of the verb are the same, the simple verb with no special ending.
I eat, you eat, we eat, they eat, all are the same word eat with no changes like in
other languages.

It is easy enough to write this correctly in simple sentences like those of the table.
It gets a little more difficult when the sentences are more complicated. In these
cases, many writers make mistakes with the agreement between the subject and
the verb.
Notice the difference between the ways that English forms the words in the third
person singular and plural of the verb by looking at the following examples:

In the Singular of a positive statement: The little boy runs. (He runs.)
In the Plural of a positive statement: The little boys run. (They run.)
In the Singular of a negative statement: John doesn't speak Spanish. (He does not
In the Plural of a negative statement: The little boys dont run. (They do not run.)
In the Singular of a positive question: Does the dog swim? (It does swim.)
In the Plural of a positive question: Do the dogs swim? (They do swim.)
In the Singular of a negative question: Doesnt the girl sing? (She does not sing.)
In the Plural of a negative question: Dont the girls sing? (They do not sing.)

Doesn't is a contraction (shortened form) of does not and should be used only with
a singular subject. Don't is a contraction of do not and should be used only with a
plural subject

In order to make your subject and verb agree in your writing, you need to know
what is the subject of your sentence. (You will find more in: Subject and
Predicate.) Here are some helpful hints that will help you to figure out where your
subject is and where it is not.

Most of the time the verb will agree with the first noun to the left of the verb:

The mother decides what to cook for supper.

Subject: mother, Verb: decides

The red leaves were beautiful.

Subject: leaves, Verb: were
The committee members will vote on the resolution
Subject: members, Verb: will vote

The father picks the color of the car.

Subject: father; Verb: picks

The senators were satisfied with the legal arguments.

Subject: senators; Verb: were

NOTE: Sometimes, a sentence has the subject after the verb instead of before it.
You will find this in poetry more than in everyday writing. Dont write like this until
you are very expert!

Too fast go by the days of our life..

Subject: days, Verb: go by

Subjects joined by and are plural.

The runner and the trainer were professionals.
Subject: the runner and the trainer Verb: were

However, there are a few cases in which learners of English have trouble writing
the correct subject verb agreement.

When indefinite pronouns are the subject. Words like someone, somebody, each,
either one, neither, none, everyone, or anyone, something, anything, nothing are
the subject. These words are singular even if sometimes they are referring to
more than one person. Look at these examples.

Anyone who wants to pursue higher education has to pass entrance exams.
Subject: anyone, Verbs: wants, has
Everyone on the committee is welcome to express his/her ideas.
Subject: everyone, Verb: is
Each of these designs is possible to produce.
Everybody likes Mrs. Smith.
Everyone in the group is able to speak.
If anyone doesn't like it, they can tell the judge.

When two or more singular nouns or or pronouns are connected by or or

nor, use a singular verb.

The pencil or the pen is in the drawer.

The whale or the dolphin is a mammal.

However, if a singular subject and a plural subject are joined by or or nor,

the verb agrees with the closer subject.

Either the runners or the trainer is at fault.

Subjects: runners, trainer, Verb: is
Either the trainer or the runners are at fault.
Subjects: trainer, runners, Verb: are
Neither the cat nor the dogs eat packaged food.

So dont forget! When you write sentences like the above, remember that
agreement depends on the placement of the subject.

When a collective noun is use

Collective nouns, such as: group, team, committee, class, and family, are words
that stand for more than one person but that are considered singular and take a
singular verb,
The team wins when it plays.
The board of directors decides what the rules are.
The family is very happy.
My family has never been rich.

When other words describing the subject separate the subject and the verb.

If you write any other words between the subject and verb you will have to decide
what is the subject to know if you should use a singular or a plural form of the

The members of the cabinet, together with the president, are very concerned.
Subject: the members; Verb: are. Dont be fooled by the singular word president!

Spinach, like all other vegetables is good to eat.

Subject: spinach: Verb: is. Dont be fooled by the plural word vegetables!

Sometimes a phrase or a clause beginning with prepositions (words like with, in

after, over, under etc.) or with relative pronouns (like who, whom, which, what)
comes between the subject and the verb. Look at the following sentences:

After prepositions:

The cars in the garage is old.

Sounds bad doesnt it? Why? The subject and the verb don't agree. What's the
problem? Garage (a singular noun) is right in front of is (a singular verb). But the
word garage is not the subject. What is the subject? Cars! More than one? Yes. So
the subject is plural and the verb should be plural. The sentence should be: The
cars in the garage are old. You have to realize that you are saying The cars are
old. The fact that they are in the garage doesnt change the fact that you are
writing that the cars (the subject) are old.

One of the chairs was broken.

Subject: one; Verb: was. Dont be fooled by the plural word chairs!

The woman with all the children cooks very well.

Subject: woman; Verb: cooks. Dont be fooled by the plural word children!

After relative pronouns: Do the same analysis on the following sentences that
you did on the cars in the garage of the previous sentence. Does it sound right?
What is the subject? Is it one person or thing or more than one.

When you know which words are the subject and the verb, you will know if you
should write the verb in the singular or in the plural. Look at the following
sentences with relative pronouns.

The actress whom you saw with the other stars comes from California.
Subject: the actress; Verb: comes. Dont be fooled by the plural word stars!

My brothers, who are the smartest of all my family, speak Spanish.

Subject: my brothers; Verb: speak. Dont be fooled by the singular word family!

But remember that the relative pronouns (who, whom, which, and that) are either
singular or plural, depending on the words they refer to. They agree in number
with their antecedent.
The sales manager is a good researcher who spends a great amount of time
surfing the Web for information.
Subject: the sales manager, Verbs: is, spends
Sales managers are good researchers who spend a great amount of time surfing
the Web for information.
Subject: sales managers, Verbs: are, spend

Remember this to write correctly. When you review your writing, look at the word
just before the verb. That usually is the subject. Decide if it is singular or plural and
make the verb agree with it

In all these cases, once you learn how to find the problem, it will be easy to think
of the correct way to express yourself when you check your writing.

Adapted from: The Write Place 1997, 1998, 1999 The Write Place;
Revised and then redesigned for the Web by Maggie Escalas URL:

Subject Verb Agreement Exercises

1. Either the physicians in this hospital or the chief

administrator (is, are) going to have to make a decision.
2.(Is, Are) my boss or my sisters in the union going to win
this grievance?
3.Some of the votes (seem, seems) to have been
4.The tornadoes that tear through this county every
spring (are, is) more than just a nuisance.
5.Everyone selected to serve on this jury (have, has) to
be willing to give up a lot of time.
6.Kara Wolters, together with her teammates, (presents,
present) a formidable opponent on the basketball court.
7.He seems to forget that there (are, is) things to be done
before he can graduate.
8.There (have, has) to be some people left in that town
after yesterday's flood.
9.Some of the grain (appear, appears) to be
10.Three-quarters of the students (is, are ) against the
tuition hike.
11.A high percentage of the population (is, are) voting for
the new school.
12.A high percentage of the people (was, were) voting
for the new school.

Go to Subject Verb Agreement Answers


Sequence of Tenses
All languages have a way of keeping the meaning of a statement clear. If we are
talking about something that someone told us yesterday, we can make it clear
whether he told us about something that had already happened, or if he reported
what happened to him at the time of his report, or if he told us what he expected
to happen the next day. This is the sequence of tenses: the following of one
statement to another, the making sense of the expressions of time in the
sentences. From now one when we say tense, we mean the time (in the present,
past, or future) expressed in the verb.

English has only two tenses which are shown by changes in the verb alone, the
present tense (as in "he sings" or he walks) and the past tense (as in "he sang"
or he walked). Other English language tenses are marked by other words called
"auxiliaries", or helping words.

If you understand the six basic tenses you will be able to re-create much of the
reality of time in your writing. The six are:

Simple Present: They walk

Present Perfect: They have walked
Simple Past: They walked
Past Perfect: They had walked
Future: They will walk
Future Perfect: They will have walked

The tense of a verb in subordinate clauses changes in accordance with the tense
of the verb in the main clause.

In clearer language this means: The tense of a verb in all parts of the sentence
have to change according to the tense of the verb in the most important part of
the sentence. The word "subordinate" means something is of a lower order or
category. Therefore, a subordinate clause is not the most important or main part
of the sentence. It is subordinate or dependent because it is of a lower order than
the main clause and it depends on it to make sense. Remember the word
"subordinate" while reading what follows.

First we will look at a few simple rules that will help you in your writing. Later we
will look at other more complex situations. The basic rules are as follows:

If the verb in the principal clause is in the present or the future tense, the verb in
the subordinate clause may be in any tense, depending upon the sense to be
expressed. Look at the following cases.

If the main verb is in the present tense, he is speaking to me now and:

He says that his brother is sick.

He is informing me NOW that his brother is sick NOW

He says that his brother was sick

He is informing me NOW that his brother WAS sick yesterday

He says that his brother will be sick.

He is informing me NOW that his brother WILL BE sick tomorrow

If the main verb is in the future tense, I predict that:

He will say that his brother is sick.

He WILL inform me that his brother is sick AT THE TIME HE TALKS TO ME.
He will say that his brother was sick.
He WILL inform me that his brother WAS sick yesterday
He will say that his brother will be sick.
He WILL inform me that his brother WILL BE sick tomorrow


If the tense in the principal clause is in the past tense, the tense in the subordinate
clause has to be in the past tense. Many learners do not realize that the words
would and could are the past tense of the verbs will and could.
He said that he would come. It is wrong to say, He said that he will come.
I knew that he could not pass. It is wrong to say, I knew that he cannot pass

There are, nevertheless, a few exceptions to this rule.

1. A past tense in the main clause may be followed by a present tense in the
subordinate clause when the subordinate clause expresses some truth that is not
limited to the time of the statement in the past.

Galileo proved that the earth moves round the sun.

My mother told us that honesty is the best policy.
The professor told me that the Hindus burn their dead.

2. A subordinate clause expressing place, reason or comparison may be in any

tense, according to the sense to be expressed.

He didn't get the job because his English isn't good.

A fishing village once existed where now you can see the city of Mumbai.
She once was a little girl in rags but soon will be the new Prime Minister of

3. If the subordinate clause is an adjective clause (a group of words that says

something about a person or thing), it may be in any tense according to the sense
of the sentence.

Yesterday I met a man who sells balloons.

Meaning: Selling balloons is his occupation.

Yesterday I met a man who was selling balloons.

Meaning: When I met him yesterday, he was in the process of selling balloons.

Yesterday I met a man who sold me a balloon.

Meaning: I bought a balloon from him yesterday
Yesterday I met a man who will sell balloons to the supermarket.
Meaning: He has a plan for the future to sell to the supermarket.


This is an easy rule, but is important for English learners to learn. If it is not
followed, the speaking or writing will be noticed as an error that only foreigners

If the principal clause is in the future tense, we do NOT use future tense in
subordinating clauses beginning with the words such as when, until, before, after

I will call you when dinner is ready. (NOT I will call you when dinner will be ready.)
I shall wait until you return. (NOT I shall wait until you will return.)


Problems in sequencing tenses usually occur with the perfect tenses, all of which
are formed by adding an auxiliary or auxiliaries to the past participle, the third
principal part of the verb.

These tenses are common not only in English but also in many European
languages, such as French, Spanish, German, Russian etc.
ring, rang, rung
walk, walked, walked
say, said, said,
do, did, done
go,. went gone
look, looked, looked

Present Perfect

The present perfect tense consists of a past participle (the third principal part) with
a form of the auxiliary verb "to have"" It describes an action which began in the
past but which continues into the present or whose effect still continues.

Luann taught for ten years. (simple past no auxiliary verb))

This implies or gives us the idea that she no longer teaches
Luann has taught for ten years. (present perfect uses the present of the auxiliary
This implies or gives us the idea that she is still teaching.)

The implication in the first sentence is that Luann has retired; in the second we
infer that she is still teaching.

Past Perfect

The past perfect tense (using the past of the auxiliary verb to have) designates
action in the past just as the simple past does, but the action of the past perfect is
an action completed in the past before another action.

Peter bought cars and sold them. (simple past)

This tells us that both the buying and the selling were in the past.

Peter sold cars that he had painted. (past perfect)

This clarifies that the cars were painted before they were sold

Ray washed the car when Mary came. (simple past)

This implies or gives us the idea that Ray didn't wash the car until Mary arrived and
then he washed the car
Ray had washed the car when Mary came. (past perfect)
This implies or gives us the idea that he had already finished washing the car by
the time she arrived.

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense designates action that is expected to be completed at

some set time in the future.

Friday I will finish my cooking for the party. (simple future

This simply states that I will finish on Friday.

By Friday noon, I will have finished cooking for the party. (future perfect)
This implies or gives us the idea that I will finish cooking for the party by Friday.

Review the Perfect Tenses

Judy saved thirty dollars. (past). This is the simple past. The perfect tenses are:
Judy will save thirty dollars. (future)
Judy has saved thirty dollars. (present perfect)
Judy had saved thirty dollars by the end of last month. before she left home.
(past perfect)
Judy will have saved thirty dollars by the end of this month. (future perfect)


Conditional ("if") sentences normally have two parts.

One part shows a result and the other shows a condition on which the result
depends. The condition is normally preceded by the word "if".

For example: If he eats, he'll get stronger.

the result is: he'll get stronger and the condition (introduced by if) is: he eats.

For example: He got angry if he didn't get what he wanted,

the result is: he got angry and the condition (introduced by if) is he didn't get what
he wanted.

There are two main types of conditional sentences: real and unreal. The unreal
conditional sentence is sometimes called a "condition contrary to fact" sentence.

Real conditional sentences refer to situations that are either true or possible. They
may be real conditions in the present or in the past, as in the sentences of above:
"If he eats" is in the present. "If he didn't get what he wanted" is in the past. In
the next section you will see how a new writer of English makes a mistake with a
simple real condition.

Unreal conditionals refer to situations that are untrue, impossible or very

improbable; for this reason conditional sentences of this type are often described
as being "contrary to fact".

We've already looked at real conditional sentences. Now let's take a look at the

There are different types of unreal conditional sentences according to the time
that they refer to. However, despite the time of the verb in the condition, the
situations that they show are unreal, hypothetical, and contrary to fact.

The first type of unreal conditional is used for the present and future time. In these
The first type of unreal conditional is used for the present and future time. In these
sentences the condition can be followed by the result, or the result can come first
followed by the condition.

NOTE: In these sentences the condition is shown by the verb in the past tense,
although the condition takes place in the present. The result usually has a form of
the word "would" in a short form such as Id for I would, hed for he would
etc. Look at the example sentences until you see this clearly!

Also notice that when the if clause goes first, it is followed by a comma. When
the result clause goes first, there is no comma before the condition.


If I were a diplomat, I'd travel around the world.

I'd travel around the world if I were a diplomat.

(I'm not a diplomat, so I don't travel around the world.)

If she were here today, she'd help you. (This a short form of saying she would
help you.)

She'd help you if she were here today.

(She isn't here today, so she can't help you.)

If the horse were smaller, I'd buy it.

I'd buy it if the horse were smaller.

(The horse is big, so I won't buy it.)

If I had a passport, I'd travel around the world.

I'd travel around the world if I had a passport.

(I don't have a passport, so I don't travel around the world.)
If you asked him, he'd help you.
He'd help you if you asked him.

(You haven't asked him, so he can't help you.)

If some governments protected human rights, their citizens would be happy.

Citizens would be happy if their governments protected human rights.

(Some governments don't protect human rights, so their citizens are not happy.)

NOTICE: As mentioned in the previous note, in the sentences of above there is a

difference in tense and time. The verb of the condition is in the past tense,
although the situation is in present or future time). This difference in tense and
time signals that the situation is unreal, hypothetical, and contrary to fact.


1. In casual conversation and very informal writing, the word "was" is often used
instead of were. it is more proper to say If I were a rich man using the word
were. However, it is not a very serious error to say If I was a rich man.

2. In unreal conditionals, the words "could" and "might" can also express the
possibility or probability of the result.
If I were a diplomat, I could travel around the world.
Meaning: I would be able to travel around the world.

I might travel around the world if I were a diplomat.

I might travel around the world if I were a diplomat.
Meaning, I possibly would travel around the world.

More similar examples:

If he were here today, he could help you.
He might help you if he were here today.
If the horse were smaller, I could buy it.
I might buy it if the horse were smaller.

3. If would shows willingness, (wanting to do something) it may appear in both

the condition and the result:

If she would study, she would get good grades.

(She isn't willing to study, so she probably won't get good grades.)

If Shlomo would eat chicken, he might lose weight.

(He isn't willing to eat chicken, so he won't lose weight.

4. Would cannot be used in the condition if it doesn't refer to willingness:

If I would be young, I would have more energy.

If he would have enough time, he would help you.

REVIEW: An important place of the perfect tenses is in these conditional

sentences that talk about possibilities and conditions. They are very important
and have to be perfectly expressed in your writing. These expressions are formed
with all the perfect tenses: the present perfect, the past perfect, and the future

An example which uses the present perfect.

If I have not made any mistakes, I will win the competition.
The condition is not making mistakes. The result will be winning the competition.

In sentences expressing condition and result, the past perfect tense is often used
in the part that states the condition. This part can come first in a sentence before
the result, or the result can come before the condition.

An example which uses the past perfect.

I think George would have been elected if he had talked to the Press.
The condition was talking to the Press. The result was being elected.

Note: Sometimes the word if is omitted in the condition and the noun or pronoun
follows the verb.
I think George would have been elected had he talked to the Press.
The condition was talking to the Press. The result was being elected.

An example which uses the future perfect.

If I am lucky I will have finished the job by December.
The condition is being lucky. The result is finishing the job.
Notice that the writer is thinking of December, and states that the ongoing job will
be finished by December

Sequence of Tenses Exercise

In the space of each sentence, use the correct tense of the verb in parentheses
1. (to make) I like him because his manners
______ me feel respected.
2. (to find) She promised to help him if he
__________ the answer himself.
3. (to break) Zoraida insisted that
Maira________the dishes.
4. (to try) Pierre saw that Marie __________
to hold back her tears.
5. (to cry) He knew that she __________ as
her eyes were red.
6. (to go) I asked her if she __________
there with him, but she said no.
7. (to attack) Alfonsina said that the robber
__________ her when she was opening the
door to her apartment.
8. (to live) Yu Jiang wanted to see her but I
didn't know if she __________ in town.
9. (to return) Juan told me that he would visit
them when he __________ from Chile.
10. (to revolve) My younger daughter
learned in class yesterday that the Earth
__________ around the Sun.
11. (to be) They sold the car because it
______ old.
12. (to know) If I _______, I would not have
done it.
13. (to be) I asked him what his name
14. (to go) He told the police that he _______
before the fire started.
15. (to give) Nina has a cow that ______
enormous quantities of milk.
16. (to be) He tells me that I ______ wrong.
17. (to be) I heard that there ______ a
disturbance in town last night.
18. (to make) I like him because his manners
______ me feel respected.
19. (to be) Could you doubt that there
______ a God ?
20. (to know) He said that they __________
each other for many years.
21. (to need) They will sell the house because
it ______ a new furnace.
22. (to be) He told them that they ______
23. (to eat) He __before the bell rang.
24. A school is a place where learning ______
25. (to give) Nina has a cow that ______
enormous quantities of milk.
26. (to be) If I ______ you I wouldnt go.
27. (to be) I heard that there ______ a
disturbance in town last night.
28. (to visit) Peter knew that Joan
__________ Paris before, so he asked her to
recommend a good hotel.
29. (can) We must approach as many
customers as we ______.
30. (to rain) The detective knew that it
________ before the car arrived.

Go to Answers Sequence of Tenses


Active or Passive Voice Verbs

The voice of a verb indicates whether the subject is performing the action or
whether someone or something else is doing the action to the subject.

ACTIVE VOICE: Lightning struck the barn.

(The subject - lightning - is acting.)

PASSIVE VOICE: The barn was struck by lightning.

(The subject - barn receives the action.}

The passive form always consists of some form of the verb "to be" plus the past
participle. Notice, too, that the sentence becomes longer when you use the
passive voice.

TIP: You should write with the active voice most of the time. The active voice
produces a more direct and shorter, less awkward sentence. Too much passive
voice within a paragraph may cause a weak, vague style.

When you write, try not to use a lot of verbs in the passive voice. You can find
sentences in the passive voice by finding some form of the verb to be. The verb
"to be" disguises and tags onto other verbs and makes your writing impersonal.

Nevertheless, the passive voice is not always wrong. Sometimes the passive
voice is more convenient and just as effective as the active voice. The following
sentences with verbs in the passive voice are entirely acceptable.
America was visited by Columbus in 1492.
We were drenched by the rain and frozen by the Icy wind.
Carl has been barred from interscholastic activities.
Miss Green, who is well liked by the students, has been invited to act as

The passive voice is useful in the following situations:

to express action in which it is desirable not to disclose the actor.

Example: A mistake has been made in issuing the order

to express action when you wish to emphasize the subject.

Example: I was met by the President of the United States.
(This is something that doesn't happen every day.)

to express an action in which the actor or subject is unknown

Example: The farmers fields had been sprayed with insecticide.

You should only use transitive verbs for the passive voice. Only verbs that take a
direct object can have a passive form. Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the
passive voice.

The crime was seemed murder. The word seem is intransitive. It cannot take the
word murder as an object.

If a hurricane hits the shore, damage will be happened by the wind. The word
happen is intransitive. It does not take an object so it cannot happen damage.
Exercise Active and Passive Voice

In the following sentences, decide if the active or passive

voice is more appropriate. Change or leave alone
according to your decision.

1.The car was hit by a rock.

2.The water table was raised several feet by the recent
3.These contracts must be approved by the supervisor.
4.Space requirements will be submitted by the agency
very soon.
5.Our problems are known by everyone..
6.Your letter has been received.
7.Your recommendations will be received by our technical

Go to Answers Active Passive Voices

Phrasal Verbs
What are phrasal verbs? A phrasal verb is a verb followed by another word,
therefore they make a phrase and are called phrasal verbs. This way of writing
creates a meaning different from the original verb.

We already mentioned the problem that my little daughter, Laura, had with a
phrasal verb when She said, Im throwing up. To say that she was throwing a
ball in the air. Her mistake was with the phrasal verb to throw up

The following are a FEW examples of the many phrasal verbs in English. They are
very common and as you learn them, you will speak and write in a more natural

I ran into Mary in church last night. The phrasal verb "run into" does not have the
meaning of the word "run" but rather means "meet".

The airplane took off. The intransitive phrasal verb "take off" does not have the
meaning of the word "take" but rather means "leave the ground, become

The man took off his hat. The transitive phrasal verb "take off" does not have the
meaning of the word "take" but rather means "remove, strip, doff".

You can see that some phrasal verbs do not take an object. They are intransitive.
An intransitive verb cannot be followed by an object.

A Few More Examples:

Peter suddenly showed up. "show up" means "arrive or appear" and does not
take an object.
But sometimes, as in the case of the verb grow in the section on transitive
verbs, the same phrasal verb can be transitive with another meaning. Now look at
the transitive use of the phrasal verb show up.

A transitive verb can be followed by an object.

John showed Frank up in the competition.
In this case "to show up" means to better, "to expose", "to make a fool of".

Separable transitive phrasal verbs: Some transitive phrasal verbs can be

separated. The object is placed between the verb and the preposition.

John showed Frank up in the competition.

Did you notice how the two parts of the phrasal verb show up can be used in
different parts of the sentence? This is a very idiomatic ability that you will learn
little by little, not by studying examples such as these in print, but rather by
listening and repeating.

Some transitive phrasal verbs are inseparable. The object is always placed after
the preposition.

I ran into an old friend yesterday.
It cannot be: I ran an old friend into yesterday.
They are looking into the problem.
It cannot be: They are looking the problem into.

Some transitive phrasal verbs can take an object in both places.

He looked the number up in the directory.
Sam looked up the number in the directory.
John showed Fernando up in the 50 yard dash.
Mahmoud showed up Xiang in the 440 yard race.

WARNING! Although many phrasal verbs can take an object in both places, If the
object is a pronoun, you must put the object between the verb and the

He showed her up in the debate.
It cannot be: He showed up her in the debate.
I looked it up in the phone book
It cannot be: I looked up it in the phone book.


Irregular Verbs

The irregular verbs of English are not so irregular

Many people who learn English are troubled by the presence of the irregular
Many people who learn English are troubled by the presence of the irregular
verbs. Nevertheless, they are not the most difficult part of the language. As you
progress in the language, your trials and near misses will help you communicate
with your English speaking companions. Little by little, even if you make errors
with these verbs, as you hear the irregular verbs you will begin to feel their logic
and begin to use them correctly.

Its the same in your language. We can understand the foreigner who uses a verb
form wrong; we can understand the child who speaks baby-talk. In both cases,
communication takes place even where there are errors in usage. The same will
happen with you as you grow in English.

Sure, there are irregular verbs in English, but even if you dont believe it, there are
some groups of verbs that are almost regular.

You may have noticed that the irregularity almost always shows up in the past
form of the verb. Knowing this can help you with other verbs that do not have
much in common and do not form any sub-class. At least you will be alert to
possible changes in the past form of the verbs.

There is an almost-rule that may help you. The past for, which you can see in
the list of many irregular verbs probably will have some sound of the spoken
vowel sound /o/, sometimes, although not always, represented by the letter o.

This regularity in the middle of the irregularity comes from the origins of the
English language and is very common. This will help you when you come across a
verb that you think is irregular (that is, it does not form its past by adding the
letters d or ed like in regular verbs.) Some examples of these verbs are: break
, speak ; sell, win, write, teach, bring, fight, among many others, which you can
see in the list below.

Remember that listening and speaking will help your spelling and writing.
Following is an exercise of listening and pronunciation of a few verbs that have
some variant of the sound of o in their past form. If you dont know how to
pronounce these, words ask a friend, or listen to them on
http://www.dictionary.com or any other speaking dictionary.

Also notice that in English the pronunciation of the spoken vowel in one word is
often different for the same combination of letters in another word. Notice that
the letters "ea" in the words break and speak do not represent the same sound.
Similarly the "o" in won does not have the same sound as the "o" in broke, spoke,
sold, wrote.

break, broke, broken

speak, spoke, spoken
write, wrote, written
ride, rode, ridden
freeze, froze, frozen
break, broke, broken
wear, wore, worn
tear, tore, torn
sell, sold, sold
win, won, won

The e,a,u verbs: There is another class of verbs, called the "e,a,u" verbs
because their principal parts (infinitive, past tense, and past participle) have these
letters. The following are a few of them: begin, began, begun - swim, swam
swum - sing, sang, sung - ring, rang, rung.

Have a native speaker say these words and listen to their pronunciation. Then
repeat after listening.

begin, began, begun

swim, swam swum
sing, sang, sung
ring, rang, rung
The ght verbs: There is another group of verbs that can have any vowel sound
in the infinitive of the verb but end in the letters ght in the past form. Some
these verbs are bring, brought, brought - think, thought, thought - buy, bought,
bought - catch, caught, caught - teach, taught, taught - fight, fought, fought. Look
at the following:

bring, brought, brought

think, thought, thought
buy, bought, bought
teach, taught, taught
catch, caught, caught
fight, fought, fought

Instead of complaining about these barbaric English verbs which end in ght,
just look at them, listen to them, and get used to pronouncing them. Once you
have an idea of this class in your head, they will be almost regular verbs for you
in your writing.

A big help for you will be to learn the IPA, The International Phonetic Alphabet.
You can see and hear the sample words, and learn the IPA symbols at:
http://www.InglesParaLatinos.com/IPA.htm . This site is in Spanish but it still can
be useful for speakers of other languages because there are links to recordings of
the sample words.

The w verbs: Another class of common verbs has the sound of the letter w in
the past.
blow, blew, blown
throw, threw, thrown
know, knew, known
grow, grew, grown
draw, drew, drawn
fly, flew, flown

Knowing these cases does not remove all the difficulties, but prepares you to
remember these verbs when you find them. It gives you patterns to remember.
Irregular verbs are the most common in any language. If you learn these groups
of verbs, you will advance greatly in your proficiency in English.

This book concentrates on writing but surely you are also interested in speaking
better. We insist that the best way to learn to pronounce these words (unless you
have a native speaker with you twenty four hours a day) is to learn the IPA, the
International Phonetic Alphabet. If you know the IPA (which is not very difficult to
learn) you will learn the pronunciation of new words every time you look them up
the dictionary (make sure your dictionary uses the IPA). Of course, you should not
use a dictionary with your language but rather a dictionary all in English. We
recommend the Collins Co-Build Student's Dictionary for the person who learns

You will notice that there are very similar sounds in English that most learners
mispronounce. Knowing the different symbols (and there are very few to learn,
you will be convinced that the vowel of the word "sheep" is not the same as
"ship", but surely you and your friends uttered the two words in the same way.
Its the same with the initial consonants of the words "share" and "chair", and the
words sheep, cheap, ship, and chip..

Here is a list of the four principal parts of the most common verbs in English. Try to
detect the regularities and you will have a head start in learning other similar
verbs. The infinitive, the simple past, the past participle, and the present
progressive form is given for each verb.

to answer, answered, answered, answering,

to ask, asked, asked, asking,
to be, was/were, been, being,
to behave, behaved, behaved, behaving,
to believe, believed, believed, believing,
to become, became, become, becoming,
to begin, began, begun, beginning,
to bite, bit, bitten, biting,
to bless, blessed, blessed, blessing,
to blow, blew, blown, blowing,
to break, broke, broken, breaking,
to bring, brought, brought, bringing,
to build, built, built, building,
to buy, bought, bought, buying,
to catch, caught, caught, catching,
to can, could, be, able, to being, able, to
to come, came, come, coming,
to choose, chose, chosen, choosing,
to cover, cover, covered, covering,
to decide, decided, decided, deciding,
to defeat, defeated, defeated, defeating,
to do, did, done, doing,
to dream, dreamt, dreamt, dreaming,
to drink, drank, drunk, drinking,
to drive, drove, driven, driving,
to drop, dropped, dropped, dropping,
to eat, ate, eaten, eating,
to fall, fell, fallen, falling,
to fear, feared, feared, fearing,
to feel, fell, fell, feeling,
to find, found, found, finding,
to fight, fought, fought, fighting,
to fly, flew, flown, flying,
to forget, forgot, forgotten, forgetting,
to forgive, forgave, forgiven, forgiving,
to freeze, froze, frozen, freezing,
to get, got, got/gotten, getting,
to give, gave, given, giving,
to go, went, gone, going,
to guard, guarded, guarded, guarding,
to happen, happened, happened,
to hate, hated, hated, hating,
to have, had, had, having,
to hear, heard, heard, hearing,
to hold, held, held, holding,
to help, helped, helped, helping,
to hit, hit, hit, hitting,
to hope, hoped, hoped, hoping,
to hurt, hurt, hurt, hurting,
to keep, kept, kept, keeping,
to know, knew, known, knowing,
to lack, lack, lack, lacking,
to leave, left, left, leaving,
to let, let, let, letting,
to lie, lay, lain, lying,
to like, liked, liked, liking,
to live, lived, lived, living,
to lose, lost, lost, losing,
to love, loved, loved, loving,
to mean, meant, meant, meaning,
to make, made, made, making,
to meet, met, met, meeting,
to mistake, mistook, mistaken, mistaking,
to mind, mistake, minded, minded, minding,
to move, moved, moved, moving,
to need, needed, needed, needing,
to pay, paid, paid, paying,
to perform, performed, performed,
to please, pleased, pleased, pleasing,
to pour, poured, poured, pouring,
to praise, praised, praised, praising,
to pray, prayed, prayed, praying,
to provide, provided, provided, providing,
to put, put, put, putting,
to read, read, read, reading,
to refuse, refused, refused, refusing,
to remember, remembered, remembered,
to say, said, said, saying,
to see, saw, seen, seeing,
to sell, sold, sold, selling,
to send, sent, sent, sending,
to sing, sang, sung, singing,
to sit, sat, sat, sitting,
to sleep, slept, slept, sleeping,
to spend, spent, spent, spending,
to start, started, started, starting,
to stay, stayed, stayed, staying,
to stand, stood, stood, standing,
to see, saw, seen, seeing,
to seem, seemed, seemed, seeming,
to set, set, set, setting,
to sit, sat, sat, sitting,
to speak, spoke, spoken, speaking,
to spend, spent, spent, spending,
to suffer, suffered, suffered, suffering,
to talk, talked, talked, talking,
to take, took, taken, taking,
to teach, taught, taught, teaching,
to tell, told, told, telling,
to think, thought, thought, thinking,
to throw, threw, thrown, throwing,
to tread, trod, trodden, treading,
to try, tried, tried, trying,
to understand, understood, understood,
to use, used, used, using,
to wait, waited, waited, waiting,
to walk, walked, walked, walking,
to want, wanted, wanted, wanting,
to watch, watched, watched, watching,
to wear, wore, worn, wearing,
to win, won, won, winning,
to wish, wished, wished, wishing,
to worry, worried, worried, worrying,
to work, worked, worked, working,
to write, wrote, written, writing,

Dont try to learn this whole list. That is not the way to learn a language. This list is
for reference. You will remember these words better if you use them a few times.
The best way to learn them to use them in writing is by learning the irregularities
as you come across them.

Chapter 4: What is a noun?

A noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea. Whatever exists, we

assume can be named, and that name is a noun.
names for people: soldier, Peter, cousin, Frenchman
names for animals: rat, zebra, lion, aardvark
names for places: house, London, factory, shelter
names for objects: table, frame, printer, chisel
names for substances: lead, nitrogen, water, ice
names for qualities: kindness, beauty, bravery, wealth, faith
names for actions: rowing, cooking, barking, reading, listening
names for measures: month, inch, day, pound, ounce

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or thing (Carlos, Queen Elizabeth,
Europe, Midwest, Malaysia, , the Green Party, Communism, God, English,
Buddhism) and is almost always capitalized. A proper noun used as an addressed
person's name is called a Noun of Address. Juan, Peter, Svetlana, are Nouns of

Common nouns name everything else, things that usually are not capitalized.
Categories of Nouns

Nouns can be classified as:

count nouns, which name anything that can be counted (four books, two birds, a
few dishes, a dozen eggs).
non-count nouns, which name something that can't be counted (water, air,
energy, blood)
collective nouns, which can take a singular form but are composed of more than
one individual person or items (jury, team, class, committee, herd).
abstract nouns, the kind of word that you cant touch, such as warmth, justice,
grief, and peace.

We should note that some words can be either a count noun or a non-count noun
depending on how they're being used in a sentence:


Love conquers all.. (non-count).

He had many loves. (countable)
Experience (non-count) is the best teacher.
Youth is full of many exciting experiences. (countable).

Whether these words are count or non-count will determine whether they can be
used with articles and determiners or not. You cannot write "He got into the
troubles" but you could write about "The troubles of a parent". Speakers of Slavic
languages must work extra hard on this point.

Abstract nouns, such as goodness, beauty, democracy, are difficult for non-native
writers because they can appear with determiners or without: "Peace is our goal."
"The election battles disrupted the peace in the country." Speakers of Romance
languages must avoid using the determiner (the article the) with these words.
We say: Life is good and Nature is harsh. NOT The Life is good. or The Nature is

Almost all nouns change form when they become plural, usually with the simple
addition of the letter s or the letters es. Unfortunately, it's not always that
easy. A few nouns have irregular plurals. There are no rules for these plurals. You
just have to learn them. mouse and mice; ox and oxen, goose and geese, knife
and knives, etc.

Identifying the Noun

How can we know if a word is a noun. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck,
it probably is a duck. If a word looks like a noun, and behaves like a noun, it
probably is a noun.

There are two kinds of tests:

what a word looks like (the endings it takes)
and how a word behaves in a sentence.

What does the word look like?

Does the word contain a noun-making word part? These are endings that change
verbs and adjectives into nouns.
organization, kingdom, weirdness, statehood, government, realism, realtor,
liberty, pianist

Can the word take a plural-making ending?

pencils, boxes

Can the word take an indication of possession?

today's, boys

What does the word act like?

What does the word act like?
The word can directly follow the words a, an or the in a sentence:
the state, an apple, a crate

The word can be called good or bad. That is it can go in a sentence like: The
_____is good.
The word "State" for example, can have a plural (states), become a possessive
(state's rights), follow an article (a state, the state), and fit in the slot: (the state is

Noun Clauses and Noun Phrases used as subjects of the sentence.

A group of several related words (clauses and phrases) can act as a noun within a
sentence. A Noun Clause contains a subject and a verb. A Noun Phrase is a group
of related words with no verb.

Examples of Noun Clause as subject of the sentence:

That he was intelligent made everyone respect him.
Whoever wins the race gets the prize.
These noun clauses are subjects of the verbs made (sent.1) and gets (sent.2).

Examples of Noun Clause as object of the sentence:

He contributes what he does best.
Nobody doubts that she is guilty.
These noun clauses are objects of the verbs contributes (sent.1) and doubts
Examples of Noun Phrase as subject of the sentence:
His plea for help motivated great pity among the witnesses.
Fishing for porgies is his favorite sport.
These noun phrases are subjects of the verbs motivated (sent.1) and is (sent.2).

Example of Noun Phrase as object of the sentence:

Many fishermen request off-season subsidies.
You can have anything on the table.
These noun phrases are objects of the verbs request (sent.1) and have (sent.2).

There also are combinations of words that are not phrases but really are just one
noun. father in law, court martial, commander in chief, etc.


The Gerund:
Not another technical Word!

There are some cases that you have to learn, cases in which the infinitive in your
There are some cases that you have to learn, cases in which the infinitive in your
language is not translated by the English infinitive, but rather by the gerund,
another form of the verb that ends in the letters ing. Many learners never learn
this form of the verb and express themselves poorly when they use the infinitive
where it should not be used.

We dont say: "I enjoy to do it". It is an error if we say: "Many immigrants miss to
talk Spanish".

You should say: I enjoy doing it. and Many immigrants miss speaking Spanish.

This is called the gerund form of the verb but dont worry about this grammatical
name! What matters is that you know how to express yourself correctly in English.
There is even a joke among language teachers that reads, "When do you need to
know what a gerund is? Answer: "Only when a teacher asks for the definition in a

Use the form of the verb with "ing" in the following cases:

1. after certain words and phrases that begin a sentence. For example, after the
verbs that indicate the beginning or end of an activity: Before leaving After
2. when the gerund acts like a noun. For example, swimming is very healthy. The
result of swimming is a healthful body. In these cases the word swimming acts
like a noun because it names an activity.

You will understand the second case much better if you remember the next idea.
Swimming translates the idea of the name of the sport. The correct word is
swimming when you want to write about the sport in which people practice the
action of the backstroke or the free style.

When you think about what you do, or the action of swimming, should use the
infinitive I like to swim. The father taught his son to swim,
See the difference between I like swimming and I like to swim?

Look at the following table and practice the (ing) words.

Question Answer
Do I have to eat now?....Yes, you have to eat now
Do you like to speak English? ....Yes, I like to speak English
Does he practice jogging? ....No, he doesn't practice jogging.
Why doesn't he practice jogging?
Doesn't he like to jog? ....He doesn't like to jog.
Is it hard for you to understand English? ....Yes, it is hard for me to understand
Talking on the phone is very hard for me.
Do you like fishing? ....Yes, I like to fish.

Some verbs can be followed by a gerund but not by an infinitive. The following are
a few examples:

admit, apologize for, appreciate, approve of, avoid, be used to, believe in, deny,,
discuss, dislike, enjoy, feel like, finish, insist on, look forward to, postpone,
practice, suspect of, talk about, thank for, think about.

For example, we can say, He dislikes smoking. But we cant say He dislikes to
smoke. We can say, I feel like singing. But we cant say, I feel like to sing. Check
out the rest of the verbs on this list yourself. Get used to hearing the correct form.

The following verbs are followed by an infinitive but not by a gerund.

agree, arrange, claim, decide, have, manage, plan, refuse, wait.
We can say, The men want to eat. We cant say, The men want eating.

Here are a few more examples of the use of the infinitive and the gerund.

The driver avoided hitting the pedestrian.

The politician considered running for president.
I deny saying that.
I enjoy eating ice cream.
The judge postponed delivering his opinion.
Why do you resist listening to advice?
You have to stop doing that.
OK, I agree to go.
She decided not to go.
He forgot to do his homework.
I hope to do that someday.
The child learned to talk.
We need to eat.
The train waited to go.

Gerund Exercise

Correct the use of the gerund and the infinitive if you find an error. Some
sentences are OK

1.He must avoid to walk until his leg is healed.

2.He decided calling a cab.
3.The instructor apologized for giving a lot of homework.
4.He claimed to have found the treasure.
5.He finished to eat.
6.After to eat, we went for a walk.
7.I practice to play the guitar.
8.He thought about going to the movie.
9.Joe hates eating in restaurants..
10.Mary hates to eat in restaurants.

Go to Gerund Answers


Chapter 5: What is a pronoun?

There are many different kinds of pronouns. Pronouns are usually short words
that replace nouns.

The word pronoun (pro-noun) is made up of two parts, pro and noun. The part of
The word pronoun (pro-noun) is made up of two parts, pro and noun. The part of
the word pro helps us understand that a pronoun stands for a noun, just as a
pro-labor politician stands for labor. The fancy grammatical way to say this is that
the pronoun refers to its antecedent.

First, lets learn the word antecedent. An antecedent is the word which the
pronoun represents or refers to.

For example,

John, who lives on Main Street, plays the piano.

In this example John is the antecedent of the
pronoun who.

Holding her dog, Maria ran up the stairs. She

went straight to the counter and bought a bone.
She" is a pronoun. In this example, it replaces
(stands in for) the noun "Maria" which is the
antecedent in the previous sentence. The
antecedent is not the dog, or the pronoun
would be it. Besides the dog couldnt buy a

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