Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns represent specific people or things.

They need to agree in:

  • number
  • person
  • gender

Use the following table to help you out:

Subject Pronouns

1st Person Singular male/female I
2nd Person Singular male/female you
3rd Person Singular male he
female she
neuter it
1st Person Plural male/female we
2nd Person Plural male/female you
3rd Person Plural male/female/neuter they

I go to the store,

You go to the store.

He goes to the store.

We go to the store.

They go they store.

Word Order in English

Word order is very important in English sentences. In fact the word order can directly impact the meaning of the sentence. Let’s look at some examples. There is a big difference between The dog bites the boy and the boy bites the dog. In English we can determine the meaning of the sentence by the word order. Another way to say this is we can determine the meaning by the sentence structure.

One basic structure is Subject – Verb – Direct Object.

Example: I kick the ball. In this example I is the subject, kick is the verb and the ball is the object.

A slightly more advanced version is Subject -Verb- Indirect Object – Direct Object.

I will kick Mary the ball.  In this example I is the subject, kick is the verb and the ball is the direct object and Mary is the indirect object.

Another example:

Subject – Verb – Adjective – Noun

I like the red car. In this example I is the subject, like is the verb, car is the object and red is an adjective.

 

Adjectives

Adjectives are a very important part of language. If you’re in a lower level, I’m know that you have learned a few English adjectives already. If you’re in a higher level or have been in the US for a few years, you probably know many adjectives.

Adjectives describe things. They tell a little more. For now, let us think about adjectives that come before nouns (like house, car). As you learn more English, you will learn more about adjectives.

For example:  I have a old house. He has an new car.

Old is an adjective describing the house and new describes the car.

In English, we say, “a big, blue ball” not “a blue, big, ball”. Do you know why? It’s because there is a special order we use, when we want to say more than one adjective. The table shows the order we use and some examples. The general order is opinion, size, age, shape, color, material, origin, purpose. Do you see why we say “big, blue” and not “blue, big“? …big comes before blue in the table.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
opinion size age shape color material origin purpose
pretty big young round blue cotton Spanish bowling
ugly small old square yellow plastic English serving

Here are three examples:

  1. A pretty, young, Greek girl was singing at the church.
  2. The big, green, bird flew into the yard.
  3. This is a small, purple, plastic cup.

 

Still More Verb Tenses

Remember we have seventeen (17) verb tenses in English. This week we are looking at the next group called the future tense.

Tense Sample sentences When do I use it? Level
Future Simple Affirmative: He will speak.
Negative:  He will not speak.
Question: Will he speak?
  • When the action is in the future that cannot be changed
  • A spontaneous decision
Beginner
Future Simple(going to) Affirmative: He is going to speak.
Negative:  He is not going to speak.
Question: Is he going to speak?
  • If a decision is made for the future
Beginner
Future I Progressive Affirmative: He will be speaking.
Negative:  He will not be speaking.
Question: Will he be speaking?
  • An action that is going on at a certain time in the future
  • An action that is sure to happen in the near future
Intermediate
Future II Simple Affirmative: He will have spoken.
Negative:  He will not have spoken
Question: Will he have spoken?
  • An action that will be finished at a certain time in the future
Advanced
Future II Progressive Affirmative: He will have been speaking.
Negative:  He will not have been speaking.
Question: Will he have been speaking?
  • An action taking place before a certain time in the future
  • In order to put emphasis on the course of an action
Advanced

 

More Verb Tenses

Remember we have seventeen (17) verb tenses in English. This week we are looking at the next group called the perfect tense.

Why is it called perfect? The name comes from a Latin verb  which means ‘to finish.’ In English, the perfect tenses are connected to the idea that the end of the event is most important.

 

Tense Samples When do I use it? Level
Present Perfect Simple Affirmative: He has walked.
Negative: He has not walked.
Question: Has he walked?
  • When you need to put emphasis on the result
  • If the action is still going on
  • If the action stopped recently
  • If the finished action that has an influence on the present
Intermediate
Present Perfect Progressive Affirmative: He has been walking.
Negative: He has not been walking.
Question: Has he been walking
  • When you need to put emphasis on the course or duration (not the result)
  • If the action recently stopped or is still going on
  • If the finished action has influenced the present
Intermediate
Past Perfect Simple Affirmative: He had walked.
Negative: He had not walked.
Question: Had he walked?
  • When action taking place occurs before a certain time in the past
  • When you need to put emphasis only on the fact of the action (not the duration)
Advanced
Past Perfect Progressive A: He had been walking.
N: He had not been walking.
Q: Had he been walking?
  • When the action taking place occurs  before a certain time in the past
  • When you need to put emphasis on the duration or course of an action
Advance

Verb Tenses in English

Did you know there are seventeen (17) verb tenses in English?  Don’t panic! You don’t need all of the tenses to speak English. If you keep studying, you will eventually learn all of the verb tenses. This week we will look at the first four tenses and how they are used. Next week we will look at the perfect verb tenses.

Tense Sample Sentences When do I use it? Level
Simple Present Affirmative: He walks.
Negative: He does not speak.
Question: Does he speak?
  • The action is n the present taking place once, never or several times.
  • Actions that are taking place one after another.
  • When we are talking about actions set by a schedule.
Beginner
Present Progressive Affirmative: He is walking.
Negative: He is not walking.
Question: Is he walking?
  • The action is taking place now.
  • The action is taking place only for a limited period of time.
Beginner
Simple Past Affirmative: He walked.
Negative: He did not walk.
Question: Did he walk?
  • The action takes place in the past once, never or several times
  • The actions take place one after another
  • The action taking place in the middle of another action
Beginner
Past Progressive Affirmative: He was walking.
Negative: He was not walking.
Question: Was he walking?
  • The action was going on at a certain time in the past
  • The actions taking place at the same time
  • The action took place in the past and was interrupted by another action
In

 

If I were a rich man …

In English conditional tenses are used for speculation. We can speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, and what we wish would happen. In English, most sentences using the conditional contain the word if.  The unreal past is when we use a past tense but we are not talking about something that really happened.

A type 2 conditional is used to refer to a time that is at any point in time, and a situation that is unreal or unlikely. These sentences are hypothetical. The type 2 conditional is used to refer to a hypothetical condition and its probable result. In type 2 conditional sentences, the if clause uses the simple past, and the main clause uses the present conditional.

Example:  If I were a rich man, I would have a big house.

Visit this site for practice with the conditional tense.

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!

Five MORE Things to Check in Your Writing

By Petar Milošević (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we talked about five things to check in your writing, and I hope that was helpful for you. This week, I want to give you five more things to check. If you can correct all of these things, your writing will improve greatly!

  1. Are all of the verbs in the correct form for their subjects?
  2. Are all the words spelled correctly?
  3. Do you have adjectives and nouns in the correct order?
  4. Have you corrected all run-on sentences?
  5. Have you corrected all sentence fragments?

Let’s look at each one to learn more.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Sometimes, teachers talk about subjects and verbs “agreeing.” This means that the verb is in the correct form for the subject. Look at these two sentences:

  • He was born in Guatemala.
  • They was born in Guatemala.

In the first sentence, the subject (he) and the verb (was) agree because “was” is the correct past-tense form of the verb “to be” for the subject. In the second sentence, the subject and verb do not agree. “Was” is the wrong form of the verb for the subject “they.” The sentence should say, “They were born in Guatemala.”

It is especially important to check for subject-verb agreement with these verbs:

  • be (present and past)
  • all present simple verbs (-s or no -s at the end of the verb)

Spelling

Check the dictionary to make sure you have spelled all the words correctly in your writing, and be careful about homophones. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation, but their meanings and spellings are different. In this video, you can see many examples of homophones. It is important to know about them because you might spell a word correctly, but it’s not the word you need.

Adjective-Noun Order

In English, we have two ways to put nouns and adjectives in order.

  1. We put the adjective(s) before the noun. – “She has long, red hair.” Long and red are adjectives.
  2. We put the adjectives after a verb like “be” or “seem.” – “Her hair is long and red.”

To learn more about adjectives and adjective order, check out this post.

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence is a sentence that is too long. The grammar is not correct, and it should be two or more separate sentences. Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting he wanted to talk about the new park, it was a very boring meeting.

Here are some ways to correct this run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting because he wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting. He wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting, and he wanted to talk about the new park, so it was a very boring meeting.

There are more possible ways to correct the sentence, but you can see that you need to add periods or connecting words to make the grammar correct.

Sentence Fragments

Imagine that your teacher walks into class and says, “Because I don’t want to.” Do you know what she is talking about? What if your friend calls you and says, “While I was on vacation.” What does he mean? These are sentence fragments. A fragment is a piece of something. It is not a whole/complete thing. We use sentence fragments often in conversation because we are responding to a question.

  • Why don’t you eat dinner?
    Because I don’t want to.
  • When did you get your hair cut?
    While I was on vacation.

In a conversation, the meaning is clear, but in writing, these fragments are not complete sentences, and we cannot write them like they are. We must connect them to the rest of the sentence to make a whole sentence. Look at this:

  • I think that chocolate is delicious. Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

You understand the meaning, of course, but there is a problem here. “Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods” is not a complete sentence, so we cannot write it as a sentence. We MUST connect it to the first part to make one complete sentence.

  • I think that chocolate is delicious because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

When you check your writing, imagine that each sentence is alone. Imagine that there are no sentences before or after, and see if the meaning is clear. If one sentence doesn’t make sense without the sentence before or after it, you might have a sentence fragment.

Your Turn

A few weeks ago, I told you how to write a good paragraph in English. At the end of that post, I gave you 5 prompts to practice writing paragraphs. Choose one of those prompts, write a paragraph, and then check your writing. Use these tips as well as the tips from last week. Then, ask your teacher to check your writing. How did you do? Was your writing improved?