Advanced Conditional Statements

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Last week, we talked about how to make conditional statements – sentences with “if.” We looked at the two simplest types of conditional statements, zero conditional and first conditional. First, let’s review how to form a conditional statement. There are two parts:

  1. the dependent “if” clause – if + subject + verb, etc.
  2. the independent “then” clause – (then) subject + verb, etc.

You can put the two clauses in either order (dependent + independent OR independent + dependent).

If you give me bad news, I will cry.
I will cry if you give me bad news.

Again, notice these two things:

  1. When the “if” clause is first, you put a comma at the end of it (before the “then” clause). When the independent “then” clause comes first, there is no comma.
  2. I didn’t use the word “then” at all in these sentences. It is optional in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. You can use “then” when you put the independent clause at the end of the sentence (If you give me bad news, then I will cry.), but you cannot use “then” at the beginning of the sentence.

You can review last week’s post to remember how to form zero conditional and first conditional.

Now let’s look at two MORE kinds of conditional statements – second conditional and third conditional.

Second Conditional

We use second conditional for imaginary situations and their probable results. Sometimes we imagine things that are possible, and sometimes we imagine crazy, impossible situations just for fun. The point is that these things are not true now. They are only hypothetical (imaginary).

If + subject + past-tense verb + , + subject + modal verb + base verb.
Subject + modal verb + base verb + if + subject + past-tense verb.

Here are some examples of second conditional statements:

  • If you drank 6 liters of water in one morning, you might die.
  • If I exercised regularly, I could lose weight.
  • Sally would meet more people if she went out more often.

In these sentences, we are imagining a situation. The situation is not real now. You are not drinking 6 liters of water this morning. I don’t exercise regularly. Sally doesn’t go out very often. We are imagining what is possible in a situation that is different from reality.

Imagine these crazy situations. Then finish the sentences with possibilities.

  1. If I had 10 fingers on each hand (20 fingers total), I…
  2. If I lived on Mars, I…
  3. If I were a mermaid/merman (part human, part fish), I…

Do you see anything strange about #3? It is not normal to use “were” with the subjects I, he, she, or it. However, in second conditional, when the verb in the “if” clause is BE, it is always “were,” no matter what the subject is.

Third Conditional

Third conditional is totally unreal because when we use third conditional, we are imagining a different past. We know the true past, but we want to imagine a different one and its probable results. Look at these examples.

  • True past: I didn’t study for the test. I failed the test.
    Imaginary past: If I had studied for the test, then I might not have failed.
  • True past: I went to the beach. I didn’t wear sunscreen. I got burned by the sun.
    Imaginary past: If I had worn sunscreen, I wouldn’t have gotten burned.
  • True past: I ate too much candy. I got sick.
    Imaginary past: If I hadn’t eaten so much candy, I wouldn’t have gotten sick.

In each one, we are imagining a different past. As you can see, we often use third conditional to talk about regrets. Here is how we form third conditional:

If + subject + past perfect verb (had + past participle) + , + subject + modal verb + have + past participle.
Subject + modal verb + have + past participle + if + subject + past perfect verb.

Third Conditional Discussion

Think about a decision that changed your life. Talk with your classmates about how your life would have changed if you had made a different decision. For example, I wanted to move to Europe. I had work opportunities in both Spain and Italy, and I visited both countries to decide where I wanted to live, but I decided to stay in Raleigh. Six months later, I started dating my husband, and a year after that, we were married. If I had moved to Europe, I wouldn’t have married my husband.

Now it’s your turn. Tell your story!

What if…?

When you want to ask a general question with an “if” clause, you can put “What” in front of the “if” clause. We usually ask these kinds of questions with second and third conditional because we are curious about a situation that isn’t real.

  • What if I lived on Mars?
  • What if I had studied for the test?
  • What if I had moved to Europe?

You can tell whether the question is second or third conditional based on the verb. A past-tense verb means it is second conditional. A past perfect verb means it is third conditional. These questions are very general, so you can answer them in many different ways.

  • What if I lived on Mars?
    You would have to wear a space suit every day.
    I would come to visit you.
    You might never see your mom again.
  • What if I had studied for the test?
    You would have passed the test.
    You would have passed the course.
    You might have attended a better university.
    You could have gotten a better job.
    I might never have met you.
  • What if I had moved to Europe?
    I wouldn’t have married my husband.
    We wouldn’t have had our daughter.
    I might have married a European.
    My life would be very different now.

Mixed Conditional

This sounds confusing, but it’s not too bad. In second conditional, we are imagining a different present. In third conditional, we are imagining a different past. In mixed conditional, we are imagining a different past that creates a different present. For example, if I had moved to Europe, my life would be very different now. See? I’m imagining a different past (if I had moved to Europe) and a different present based on it (my life would be very different now).

To form a mixed conditional, we use a third conditional “if” clause (for the past) and a second conditional “then” clause (for the present).

If + subject + past perfect verb (had + past participle) + , + subject + modal verb + base verb.
Subject + modal verb + base verb + if + subject + past perfect verb.

How would things be different NOW:

  • if you had stayed in your country?
  • if Michael Jackson hadn’t died?
  • if the Nazis had won World War 2?
  • if you had never started studying English?
  • if you had grown up with a different religion?

Write one complete sentence to answer each question, and ask your teacher to check it for you.

It’s a Little “Iffy” – How to Make Conditional Statements

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Have you ever heard someone say that something is “iffy”? It means that something is uncertain. We aren’t sure IF it will happen or not. It might happy IF everything goes right. It might not happen IF there is a problem.

  • Can we go to the park tomorrow?
    I don’t know. The weather looks a little iffy. (We don’t know what the weather will be like. It might rain, or it might be sunny. We aren’t sure.)
  • When are you going to move into your new house?
    Hmmmmm…it’s a little iffy. The construction has been slow because of all the snow, so we aren’t sure. They said it would be finished next month, but if this winter continues, it might take longer.

How do we use “if” in English? We use it in several ways, but it always shows a cause and an effect. This week, I will show you two kinds of conditional statements – zero conditional and first conditional. First, however, I will show you how a conditional statement is generally formed. There are two parts:

  1. the dependent “if” clause – if + subject + verb, etc.
  2. the independent “then” clause – (then) subject + verb, etc.

You can put the two clauses in either order (dependent + independent OR independent + dependent).

If you give me bad news, I will cry.
I will cry if you give me bad news.

I want you to notice two things:

  1. When the “if” clause is first, you put a comma at the end of it (before the “then” clause). When the independent “then” clause comes first, there is no comma.
  2. I didn’t use the word “then” at all in these sentences. It is optional in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. You can use “then” when you put the independent clause at the end of the sentence (If you give me bad news, then I will cry.), but you cannot use “then” at the beginning of the sentence.

Now let’s look at two kinds of conditional statements.

Zero Conditional

We use zero conditional for real things that really happen. When we use it, we are talking about general truths – things that are always true. The situations in zero conditional statements are real and possible. The verb in each part of the sentence (independent and dependent clause) is in present tense.

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + present-tense verb.
Subject + present-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Here are some examples of zero conditional statements. Which part is the dependent clause, and which part is the independent clause of each one?

  • If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.
  • If you cut yourself, you bleed.
  • Ice melts if you heat it.

In a zero conditional statement, you can change “if” to “when,” and the meaning does not change.

Finish these zero conditional sentences:

  1. If you are _______________, you eat.
  2. If you are hot, you turn on the _________________.
  3. Your clothes get dirty if you ____________________________________ for a living.

First Conditional

“Messy Toddler” By Larali21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

First conditional is similar to zero conditional, but we use it to talk about a specific, real, possible situation, not a general truth. In zero conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.” I am not talking about a specific person’s hand or water that is in the room. When I use first conditional, I am talking more specifically. In first conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in the water, it will get wet.” I say this kind of thing to my little girl all the time.

  • If you touch the hot stove, it will hurt.
  • If you throw the leaf off the balcony, it will fall down.
  • If you don’t want me to carry you, then you have to walk.
  • If you keep screaming, then we will not go to the park.
  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you will be hungry later.

Notice that the verbs in first conditional are a little different from the verbs in zero conditional. The dependent “if” clause still has a present-tense verb, but the independent “then” clause uses a future verb. This is because you are talking about a real, possible, present cause and a real, possible, future effect. “If you don’t pay your cell phone bill (now), Verizon will cut off your service (in the near future).”

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + future-tense verb.
Subject + future-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Finish these first conditional sentences:

  1. If you don’t exercise, you will ___________________________________.
  2. You will feel better tomorrow if you _____________________________________.
  3. If it is raining this afternoon, ___________________________________.

When you use “will” in first conditional statements, you are speaking with certainty, but if you aren’t sure about the effect (“then” clause), it is possible to change “will” to “might.”

  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you might be hungry later.
  • You might hurt yourself if you jump off the porch.
  • We might go to the park today if the weather is nice.

Classroom Activity

Here is a fun activity to do with your class. You can also play this game with your family and friends.

  1. Give each person two blank cards or small pieces of paper.
  2. On one card, write a dependent “if” clause. On the other card, write an independent “then” clause to go with the dependent clause. When you put the two cards together, you should have a complete sentence that makes sense.
  3. Collect all the cards, mix them up, and place them face down (so you can’t see the words) on the table.
  4. Take turns turning over two cards. If you turn over two cards that go together to make a complete sentence, you can keep them AND take another turn. If you turn over two cards that don’t go together, turn them face down again, and the next person takes a turn.
  5. When all the cards have been matched, see who has collected the most pairs. That person is the winner!

How to use ‘work’ and ‘job’ correctly

Men at Work (photo permission from flickr via codey's453) For educational purposes only.

Men at Work
(photo permission from flickr via codey’s453)
For educational purposes only.

What is the difference between work and job?

The biggest difference is that work is both a verb and a noun, but job is only a noun. But let’s look at both words to see other differences.

Work

When you work, you use effort or energy, usually to achieve a goal, finish a task, or make money.  In one way, it is the opposite of play because work is not usually a lot of fun. However, work and play both require energy. Work is really the opposite of rest because work uses your energy while rest does not. Here are some examples of how we use work as a verb:

  • Lisa works for Wake Tech Community College.
  • Jamal works in a café.
  • Kyle worked in his yard all weekend.
  • Right now, Andrea is working on her university degree. She will graduate next year.

office

By Phil Whitehouse (Flickr: New office) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In these examples, we do not know exactly what the person’s duties, activities, or responsibilities are. Jamal works in a café, but we do not know if he cleans the tables or cooks the food. Lisa works for the community college, but we don’t know if she is a teacher or a secretary or the president. Kyle worked in his yard, but we don’t know if he was mowing the grass or building a dog house. And we can guess that Andrea goes to classes, studies, and does homework, but we cannot be sure.

You can also see in these examples that we use work to talk about things you do to earn money AND things you do when you aren’t paid. If you are using energy, you can probably say that you are working.

People don’t do all the work in the world. I don’t want to use my energy to wash my clothes, so I put them into my washing machine. When we talk about machines, we use work as a verb to mean “function.” If my washing machine is broken, I say, “My washing machine doesn’t work.” If I have a new DVD player, I read the instructions to learn how it works.

Work is also used as a noun in two ways:

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. to talk about the things that you do or make. If you look at a painting, you are seeing the artist’s work (a finished product). If your boss tells you that your work is good, he/she means that you are doing well. When we talk about a finished art product (painting, symphony, sculpture, etc.), we often call it a “work” of art. When we use this meaning of “work,” it is a countable noun. For example:

  • His favorite works include Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet.
  • None of Van Gogh’s works were famous when he was alive.

2. to talk about your place of employment or the activities you do there. For example, we say, “I go to work every morning.” That means you go to the place where you are an employee. If someone asks you, “What do you do for work?” they want to know what you do as an employee.

Job

Job is similar to this last meaning of “work.” It usually means the name for the work that you do to earn money. For example:

  • Jamal has a new job. He is a handyman in a small restaurant.
  • My job is to teach adult students how to speak, read, write, and understand English.
  • Katherine has two jobs. She is trying to earn more money so she can buy a computer for her son.

We can also use “job” to talk about a task. Sometimes, I will say to my husband, “I have a job for you.” I am not going to pay him, but I have a task that I hope he will do.

Say, Tell, Speak, and Talk – What’s the difference?

The verbs  say, tell, speak, and talk can be confusing to English learners. The meanings are similar, but we use them in different ways, so it is important to know how to use them correctly.

Say

He said learning English is fun! (photo by tcarr)

He said learning English is fun! (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

We use the verb “say” with a clause. A clause always includes a subject (a thing or person) and a verb (an action, usually). Sometimes, we use a “that” clause with “say” like this:

She said that she was tired.
He says that he forgot his homework.
I always say that you should wear sunscreen.

In all of these sentences, “that” is correct, but it is optional (you don’t have to use it).

She said she was tired.
He says he forgot his homework.
I always say you should wear sunscreen.

Sometimes we use a quote with “say” like this:

She always says, “Good morning,” to her friends.
He said, “I don’t love you anymore.”
I said, “I’d like a salad, please.”

And sometimes we use a phrase like one of these:

  • a word – Clark said a bad word.
  • a phrase – Mr. Brashov says a phrase in Romanian.
  • a name – When your order is ready, they will say your name.
  • a sentence – The teacher said a long sentence. I only understood half of it.

If you want to show the other person in the conversation, you can use “to” + someone.

She always says, “Good morning,” to her friends.
She said
to me that she was tired.
I said
to the waitress, “I’d like a salad, please.”

Tell

She tells her friend a funny story. (photo by tcarr)

She tells her friend a funny story. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

After “tell,” we usually use a noun (a person or a thing). This noun is either:

  • the person who is listening – He told me to clean my room.
  • a phrase like story or joke – I told a story about my father.

We use “tell” when someone gives an order to someone else. When we report an order, we use “tell + person + to + verb.”

He told me to clean my room.
I always tell people to wear sunscreen.

She tells him to call her.

It is possible to use “tell” with a “that” clause (like with “say”), but you must include the listener.

She told me she was tired.
He tells me that he forgot his homework.
I always tell you that you should wear sunscreen.

Speak and Talk

“Speak” and “talk” have similar meanings. Both mean that the person is using his/her voice or that two or more people are having a conversation. Look at these pairs of sentences. You can see that “speak” and “talk” are both correct, and the meaning is the same.

I spoke to her about the homework.
I talked to her about the homework.

Who were you talking to about the movie?
Who were you speaking to about the movie?

However, there are three differences between “speak” and “talk.”

The students speak English in class. (photo by tcarr)

The students speak English in class. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

1. We use “speak” when we want to say that someone has the ability to use a language.

She speaks English.
He speaks three languages.

2. “Speak” is often used for one-way communication (for example, when one person is giving a speech to a group of people).

The manager spoke to the employees about the new work schedule.

3. “Speak” is a little more formal than “talk.” We use “speak” for polite requests. People usually use “speak” when they ask for someone on the phone.

May I speak to the owner of this store?
Hello? May I speak with Jason, please?

She talks to her classmate.

An ESL student talks to her classmate. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

“Talk” is used more with conversational meanings and informal situations.

She talks to her mother every day.
They talked to their teacher about the test.

Your Turn

If you would like to do some practice exercises with these verbs, click on the links below!

http://usefulenglish.ru/vocabulary/synonyms-exercise-one

http://www.tolearnenglish.com/exercises/exercise-english-2/exercise-english-36455.php

This, That, These, and Those

This week, we are going to learn about 4 words:

  1. this
  2. that
  3. these
  4. those

We will begin with an easy lesson, and then we will continue to some more difficult lessons. You can choose your lessons.

Lesson for Levels 1-3

Look at the chart, and read the explanations for each word.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

THIS – Use for 1 thing close to you.
**Example** I am touching a book, or I can touch it because it is near me. It is only one book. I say, “This book is good.”

THAT – Use for 1 thing far away.
**Example** A book is far away. I cannot touch the book because it is far from me. I point with my finger and say, “That book is good.”

THESE – Use for 2+ things close to you.
**Example** I am touching 4 books, or I can touch them because they are near me. There are many books. I say, “These books are good.”

THOSE – Use for 2+ things far away.
**Example** Four books are on the book shelf. I am not near the book shelf. I cannot touch the books because they are far from me. I say, “Those books are good.”

Your Turn

Write a short sentence with each noun. If the noun is singular (near), add “this.” If the noun is singular (far), add “that.” If the noun is plural (near), add “these.” If the noun is plural (far), add “those.”

Example 1: table (near) – This table is tall.
Example 2: tables (far) – Those tables are old.

  1. cup (near)
  2. dog (far)
  3. sofa (near)
  4. babies (near)
  5. buildings (far)
  6. jacket (far)
  7. toys (far)
  8. bags (near)
  9. shirt (near)
  10. pants (far)

Lessons for Levels 3-6

First, make sure you understand the easy lesson. Now I will add some more information.

Lesson #1
Some things are near or far in space. For example, I can touch something because it is close to me, or I cannot touch something because it is far away.

Things can also be near or far in time. For example, I am listening to music. The music is playing now. “Now” is close to me in time, so I can say, “this music” or “this song.” When the song is finished, I will probably say, “that song” because it is not so close to me in time now. Here are some more examples:

  • I am watching a movie with my friend now. I say, “This movie is exciting!”
  • I watched a movie with my friend yesterday. We are talking about the movie now. I say, “That movie was exciting!”
  • I am at a party. I say, “This party is fun!”
  • I am planning to go to a party on Saturday. I say, “That party will be fun!”

Lesson #2
When we introduce people in English, we usually say “this” or “these.” We do not usually say “he,” “she,” or “they.” I know it’s strange because we usually use “he,” “she,” or “they” for people, but in the case of introductions, we use “this” or “these.” For example:

  • These are my parents, Don and Sheila Mosby.
  • This is my friend Kyle.
  • This is Ashley.
  • These are my sisters, Michelle, Angela, Shelley, Kathryn, Rebecca, Denise, and Lisa.

Lesson for Levels 5+

This is an advanced grammar lesson. First, make sure you understand the easier lessons. Now I will give you some more information.

Lesson #1
This, that, these, and those are called “demonstratives” in English because they demonstrate (show) which thing/things we are talking about. We can use these words as adjectives or pronouns.

  • When a demonstrative is an adjective, it has a noun after it. – this book, these people, those rooms, that song
  • When a demonstrative is a pronoun, it includes the noun, so it does not have a noun after it. – That is my coffee. This is your shirt. These are our plates. Those were my friends. – You don’t have to say, “This shirt is your shirt.” It is only necessary to say “shirt” one time.

Maybe you noticed that we use demonstrative pronouns when we introduce people.
– This is my friend Kyle.

You can also use a demonstrative adjective in an introduction if you add a noun.
– This man is my friend Kyle.

In general, Americans speak very efficiently. We say things as clearly as we can with short sentences and words. If your sentence is clear with a demonstrative pronoun, it is not necessary to use a noun with a demonstrative.

Lesson #2
When you use a demonstrative adjective, you never need these words:

  • a/an
  • the
  • my/your/his/her/our/their/its

Your Turn

You can practice using “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” on this website. Click an exercise to take a quiz. Have fun! I hope THIS lesson helps you!

Other, Another, and Others

Many students are confused by these words:

  • other
  • another
  • others
  • the other
  • the others

Do you know the difference? I will try to explain them simply. All of these words show that something is different or separate from something else.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Other

“Other” is an adjective. Adjectives describe nouns. We use “other” before plural and non-count nouns.

  • other people
  • other countries
  • other rice

I will put these phrases into sentences. You will see that I am separating things in each sentence.

  • Some people love cats, but other people love dogs. – I am separating people based on the animals that they love.
  • There are 3 students in my class from China, but there are 15 students from other countries. – I am separating countries and people who are from different countries.
  • If you don’t like this kind of rice, I have other rice that I can cook. – Maybe I have brown rice, basmati rice, and wild rice. I am separating different kinds of rice.

Another

“Another” is also an adjective. We use it before singular nouns. It means “one more” or “one different.”

  • another cookie
  • another person
  • another country

Now, I will put these phrases into sentences. You can see that I am talking about one more or one different thing/person.

  • I ate 4 cookies, but I want another cookie. – I want one additional cookie.
  • There are 10 people in this room, and another person is arriving now. – One more person is arriving. Soon we will have 11 people in the room.
  • I’m from France, but my friend is from another country. – My friend is from a different country, not my country.

Others

This word is a little more difficult. “Others” is a pronoun. Pronouns – like “he,” “she,” and “it” – take the place of nouns. We can use pronouns very simply:

  • Jim is tall. He is tall.

Or we can use them in the place of very long, complicated nouns:

  • The students who have been playing soccer all day look tired. They look tired.

We use “others” in the place of “other + a plural noun.”

  • Some people love cats, but others love dogs. – In this sentence, “others” means “other people.”

We can only use “others” when the noun is very clear. We usually use it because we don’t want to repeat the noun. When we use “others,” we are speaking generally. We are not talking about a specific group.

Another (as a pronoun)

It is also possible to use “another” as a pronoun. Again, we use it when the noun is clear (because we already used it), and we don’t want to use it again. It still means “one more thing” or “one different thing.”

  • I ate 4 cookies, but I want another. – I don’t want to repeat “cookie,” and it is clear that we are talking about cookies, so I don’t need to repeat it.
  • There are 10 people in this room, and another is arriving now. – It is clear that I am talking about people, so I don’t need to say “person.” You can understand that I mean “another person.”

The other

In general, we use “the” when:

  1. we are talking about something specific
    AND
  2. both the speaker and the listener understand which specific thing we are talking about.

We can use “the other” with any kind of noun (singular, plural, or non-count).

  • the other cookie
  • the other people
  • the other furniture

Now, I will put these phrases into sentences for you.

  • I ate the other cookie. – In this situation, there was one more cookie. I know that there was only one cookie because “cookie” is a singular noun. The speaker and the listener both understand which cookie we are talking about because we were sitting together. We both saw the plate with one remaining cookie.
  • These people arrived 5 minutes ago, but I don’t know when the other people arrived. – In this situation, there are two groups of people. One group of people arrived 5 minutes ago. The second group of people arrived at some other time. We are talking about a specific group of people, not all people in general.
  • We will take some of our furniture with us when we move, but we will sell the other furniture. – We have a lot of furniture. We want to keep some of it, but we want to sell some more. In my mind, I have separated my furniture into two specific groups. The first group will move with me. The second group will be sold.

It is also possible to use “the other” as a pronoun (not include the noun when it is clear which noun we are talking about). However, we can only use is as a pronoun for singular nouns. Here are some examples:

  • You ate one cookie, and I ate the other. – There were two cookies. You had one, and I had one. I don’t need to repeat “cookie” because it is clear.
  • That student is from France, and the other is from South Korea. – There are two students. One student is from France, and one student is from South Korea. I don’t need to repeat “student.”
  • You clean this bathroom, and I will clean the other. – We have two bathrooms, and we will each clean one. I don’t need to repeat “bathroom.”

You can also write all of these sentences with “the other one.”

  • You ate one cookie, and I ate the other one.
  • That student is from France, and the other one is from South Korea.
  • You clean this bathroom, and I will clean the other one.

The others

Finally, we have “the others.” You can probably guess the meaning. We use “the others” as a pronoun to talk about a specific group.

  • These people arrived 5 minutes ago, but I don’t know when the others arrived. – In this situation, there are two groups of people. One group arrived 5 minutes ago. The other people arrived at a different time. It is clear that I am talking about people in this sentence, so I don’t need to repeat the word “people.” However, I must use “the others” (plural) because “people” is plural.

Your Turn

Now, it’s time to practice! Click here to take a quiz. Ask your teacher if you have questions about the answers.

Prepositions of Time

Used with permission from Toni Verdú Carbó via a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Prepositions are difficult. Many students have problems with prepositions. Here are some rules for using prepositions of time.

Preposition Use Examples
in with months a in April; in December
a year in 1785; in 2011
seasons in winter; in the fall of 1972
the morning, the afternoon, the evening in the morning; in the afternoon; in the evening
a length of time into the future in an hour (= 1 hour in the future from now); in two weeks (= 2 weeks in the future from now)
at night, midnight, dawn at night; at dawn; at midnight
a specific time of day at 6 o’clock; at 8:30
a time of year near a holiday at Christmas; at Easter
time phrases that show a specific time or moment at the same time; at the moment
on days of the week on Monday; on Saturday
dates on the 13th of November; on November 13
holidays and special days on Halloween; on the Fourth of July; on my birthday
a part of the day when the date is given on the morning of September the 11th*
for a length or duration of time for three weeks; for an hour
since from a time in the past until now since 2005; since this morning; since I woke up yesterday
from … to
from… till/until
beginning and end times from Monday to Wednesday
from Monday till Wednesday
from Monday until Wednesday
during in the middle of something continuing during the week; during class

Practice

Now you can practice using these prepositions. Work alone or with your classmates to complete the sentences. More than one answer may be possible. Ask your teacher to check your answers.

  1. They are getting married __________ Sunday __________ 3 o’clock.
  2. __________ midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a dog barking.
  3. The party will be __________ Sunday __________ 4:00 __________ the afternoon.
  4. Spring begins __________ March 21, and summer begins __________ June 21.
  5. The last time I saw Pedro was __________ the summer of 2006.
  6. The festival took place __________ August.
  7. They came to this country __________ August 5, 2008.
  8. They came to this country __________ 2008.
  9. The ESL classes went  __________ May __________ August.
  10. He has not felt well __________ a long time, ever __________ his crash.
  11. They never go out __________ night __________ the week.
  12. We’ll be ready to leave __________ an hour.
  13. I will see you ___________ the afternoon.
  14. __________ the storm, all the lights were out __________ several hours.
  15. He has been away from home __________ January 12.
  16. The temperature is below zero. __________ a few hours, the pond should be frozen over.
  17. He had been away from home __________ two weeks.
  18. She will be here __________ a few hours.
  19. Hannah’s party is __________ the Saturday before her birthday.
  20. I’m sorry that my phone rang __________ class.

Talk with your classmates about these sentences. How does the meaning change with a different preposition?

  1. I will see you in the afternoon.
    I will see you before the afternoon.
  2. They came to this country before 2008.
    They came to this country after 2008.
    They came to this country in 2008.
  3. We have ESL classes from January to March.
    We have ESL classes in January and March.
  4. She will be here for a few hours.
    She will be here in a few hours.

Clothes for All Levels

This week, we will look at clothes. We will learn the names of clothes. Study the vocabulary for your level:

  • Easy – Level 1 and Level 2
  • Medium – Level 3 and Level 4
  • Difficult – Level 5 and Level 6

If you have questions about the words, you can ask your teacher.

Photo #1

Dress

photo used with permission from Amaris Photography – http://amarisphoto.com/

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress is blue.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are red.
– She is wearing a blue dress. She is wearing red shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress and red, high-heeled shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress with cap-sleeves. She’s also wearing red heels with t-straps.

Photo #2

Vicky's Dress

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • pantyhose
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress has flowers on it.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are black.
– She is wearing pantyhose. The pantyhose are black.
– The woman is wearing black shoes, black pantyhose, and a dress with flowers on it.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, flowered dress, black pantyhose, and black dress shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black, flowered dress, black hose, and pointy-toed, black dress shoes.

Photo #3

Lane's Summer Clothes

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a tank top (or sleeveless shirt)
  • shorts

Easy – The woman is wearing a tank top. The tank top is blue.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are blue.
– She is wearing a blue tank top and blue shorts.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top and long, dark blue shorts.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top with embroidery at the neckline and long, dark blue, denim shorts with cuffs.

Photo #4

Beth's Coat

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a coat
  • a scarf

Easy – The woman is wearing a coat. The coat is black.
– She is wearing a scarf. The scarf is purple.
– She is wearing a black coat and a purple scarf.

Medium – This woman is wearing a hip-length, black coat and a large, purple scarf.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a hip-length, hooded pea coat and a large, purple scarf with tassels.

Photo #5

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a t-shirt
  • sunglasses
  • earrings

Easy – The woman is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is pink.
– She is wearing sunglasses. The sunglasses are dark.
– She is wearing earrings. The earrings are silver.
– She is wearing a pink t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver earrings.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings. The t-shirt is nice and would be appropriate for work in many places.

Photo #6

By Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (P120612PS-0463 (direct link)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • Barack Obama
  • a shirt
  • a tie
  • a jacket

Easy – Barack Obama is wearing a shirt. The shirt is white.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is dark blue.
– He is wearing a tie. The tie is royal blue.
– President Obama is wearing a white shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie.

Medium – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie with white spots.

Difficult – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down, collared shirt, a royal blue tie with white spots, a dark blue suit jacket with an American flag pin on the lapel, and a watch.

Photo #7

By May Lee [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • a man
  • a t-shirt
  • a jacket
  • jeans
  • boots

Easy – The man is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is gray.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is gray.
– He is wearing jeans. The jeans are blue.
– He is wearing boots. The boots are brown.
– This man is wearing a gray t-shirt, a gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown boots.

Medium – This man is wearing a gray graphic t-shirt, a dark gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Difficult – This man is wearing a gray t-shirt with a skull design, a gray denim jacket, cuffed blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Photo #8

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a jacket
  • shorts
  • socks
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a jacket. The jacket is black.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are pink.
– She is wearing socks. The socks are tall.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are for running.
– This woman is wearing a black jacket, pink shorts, tall socks, and running shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, tall, striped socks, and purple running shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, striped knee-socks, and purple running shoes. The dog is wearing a collar with a leash.

Your Turn

What are you wearing? Describe your outfit (clothes that you are wearing together). Describe the outfits of your classmates.

House Vocabulary and Problems (Part 2)

For ESL Levels 4-6

This week, we continue learning about problems in the house. We will talk about solutions to the problems and study some related grammar. We will start with the problems from Part 1 and give advice.

Asking for and Giving Advice

When you have a problem, you can ask your friends for advice or suggestions. There are many ways to ask for advice.

  • What should I do?
  • What would you do if you were in my situation?
  • What would you do if you were me?
  • I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?
  • What do you suggest?

There are also many ways to give advice.

  • I think you should…
  • If I were in your situation, I would…
  • If I were you, I would…
  • If it were me, I would…
  • I suggest that you…
  • Maybe you could…
  • Could you…?
  • You might need/want to…

Let’s look at some conversations about problems in the house. In these conversations, person A has a problem. He is asking person B for advice. Practice these conversations with a classmate.

plunger

plunger
photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Conversation 1
A: My toilet is stopped up. What should I do?
B: I think you should use a plunger.
A: What’s a plunger?
B: It’s a thing that helps to unclog a drain.
A: Thanks!

Conversation 2
A: Help! My toilet is overflowing! I don’t know what to do!
B: You should turn off the water first. Then I suggest that you put some towels on the floor. After that, maybe you could use a plunger to unstop the toilet.
A: Thanks!

Conversation 3
A: The sink in my bathroom is leaking. There is water under the sink. What should I do?
B: If I were you, I would call a plumber.
A: What’s a plumber?
B: A plumber is a person who works on pipes and things that use water.
A: Thanks!

shower head

shower head
photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Conversation 4
A: My shower is dripping. What do you suggest?
B: I suggest that you get a new shower head.
A: What’s a shower head?
B: It’s the part where the water comes out.
A: Where can I buy a new one?
B: You can buy one at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
A: How can I change it?
B: You should Google DIY shower head replacement.
A: What is DIY?
B: It means “do it yourself.”
A: Thanks!

Conversation 5
A: The floor in my living room is uneven. What do you suggest?
B: You might want to call a handyman.
A: What’s a handyman?
B: A handyman is a person who can fix a lot of things around the house.
A: Thanks!

WD-40

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Conversation 6
A: My front door is squeaking. It’s driving me crazy. What should I do?
B: If it were me, I would get some WD-40 for the hinges.
A: What’s WD-40?
B: It is a product that makes door hinges move more smoothly. You can also use it to clean the walls when your kid draws on them with crayons.
A: Really?
B: Yes!
A: Thanks!

Conversation 7
A: My apartment has cockroaches! What should I do?
B: Gross! You should call an exterminator.
A: What’s an exterminator.
B: It’s a person who kills pests, like insects or small animals in your house.
A: Like ants, roaches, mice, or rats?
B: Exactly.
A: Thanks!

Grammar Tips

I want to show you two things from these conversations.

  1. After should, could, would, might, and can, we use a base verb. We do NOT use “to + verb.”
    – should use
    – should turn off
    – could use
    – would call
    – can buy
    – should Google – We use “Google” as a verb. It means to use Google to search the internet.
    – might want
    – would get
    – should call
  2. The people in the conversations explained a lot of vocabulary with phrases to describe someone or something. These are called adjective clauses.
    – a thing that helps to unclog a drain
    – a person who works on pipes and things that use water
    – a person who can fix a lot of things around the house
    – a product that makes door hinges move more smoothly
    – a person who kills pests, like insects or small animals in your house

How to Make an Adjective Clause

If adjective clauses are new for you, you might want to ask your teacher for more instruction and practice. Here is the basic idea.

You have two sentences about one person or thing.

A handyman is a person. He can fix a lot of things around the house.

You want to put them together into one sentence. Follow these steps:
– Step 1: Remove the period in the middle.
A handyman is a person He can fix a lot of things around the house.;
– Step 2: Change “He” to “who.”
A handyman is a person who can fix a lot of things around the house.

Now let’s look at an example with a thing, not a person.

WD-40 is a product. It makes door hinges move more smoothly.

Remove the period in the middle, and change “It” to “that.”

WD-40 is a product that makes door hinges move more smoothly.

For more information online, check out this site. If you want to learn and practice in class, talk to your teacher!

Your Turn

Practice the conversations again, but change the phrases you use to ask for and give advice. Then write your own conversations and practice them. Think of other problems in the house. Write a conversation between two people. One person asks for advice, and the other person makes a suggestion. Try to use an adjective clause to explain a word in the conversation.

A: I have a problem in my house. _____________________________________
B: I think you should…
A: What’s _____________?
B: It’s a person/thing who/that…
A: Thanks!

Summer Homework!

The blogs are going on vacation for the summer, so I’m here today with your summer homework. Click on the blue links to learn and practice until we return with new lessons in the fall!

Confusing Word Choices

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In these blogs, we teach you the differences between two (or more) confusing words or phrases. Click each one to learn more.

Speaking/Pronunciation

In these posts, we teach you how to pronounce or say something.

Grammar

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions I hear from students.

Practical English

These articles will help you with the English you need every day.