Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Indirect Reported Speech

What is indirect reported speech? My teacher told me that this grammar form is very important in writing, but my friends all ask me if this is necessary to learn.

The answer is yes, it is important.
Unfortunately, it is also a little bit complicated.
But that is what makes it so much fun! (right?)

What are the rules?

Click here for a link to a great explanation and some practice. (You must write your answers on a piece of paper, but then you can check them, as the correct answers are also provided)

There are a few things to remember when using reported speech:

1) Verb forms change. We often call this “backshift.”
  • EXAMPLE: “I have seen that movie,” she said. (quoted speech)
  • She said she HAD SEEN that movie. (indirect reported speech)
  • Click here to see how this works.

2) Pronouns will generally change
  • EXAMPLE: ” I gave you the money,” he said. (quoted)
  • He said HE had given ME the money. (reported)
  • CLICK HERE TO PRACTICE with pronoun changes (*the verbs do not change here)

3) Many time words and expressions will change
  • EXAMPLE: “I will call you next week,” she said. (quoted)
  • She said she would call me THE FOLLOWING WEEK. (reported)

4) Many place references will change
  • EXAMPLE: “She’s driving  here tonight,” me sister told me on the phone. (quoted)
  • She said she was driving THERE tonight. (reported)
  • CLICK HERE TO PRACTICE with pronoun and place changes (*the verbs do not change here)

5) Of course, punctuation changes, too.
  • EXAMPLE: “Have you ever eaten peanut butter?” I asked them.
  • I asked them if they had ever eaten peanut butter. (notice: no quotation marks OR question mark here)

And there are 4 basic ways to form indirect reported speech:

1) For commands, requests and invitations:

2) For general affirmative and negative statements

3) For questions with QUESTION WORDS
4) For YES/NO questions

 Are you ready to practice with all of these types of reported speech?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Parallel Structure

Parallel structure is a challenge for both native and non-native speakers of English.

However, it is very important in high-quality academic writing.

Birds on parallel telephone wires

So, what is parallel structure?

  • Watch this SMRT English video that clearly explains and illustrates how parallel structure works.

  • And here is another explanation from the Purdue Writing Lab: CLICK HERE

  • Finally, here is a printable handout (with pictures to help illustrate the concept!) from chompchomp: CLICK HERE

Parallel structure is CHALLENGING! Everyone could benefit from some extra practice with parallel structure...

Here are some websites to help:
Practice 1 (click "start here"- and turn down the volume if you are in the library!)
Practice 2 (click "start here")
Practice 3 (This one focuses specifically on parallel gerunds- a good exercise to start with)
Practice 4 (This one you can print or do on paper- and check the answers on page 2)
Practice 5 (click "start here")
Practice 6 (20 questions)
Practice 7 (click "start here")

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Conditional Sentences (If clauses)

As an introduction, here are a few sentences that use conditional forms:

  • If we study the rules for conditional sentences, we will be able to use them properly(Future Real Conditional)

  • However, if the rules weren’t so complicated, they would be a lot easier to learn!  (Present Unreal Conditional)


There are  FOUR types of conditional sentences (also called “if clauses”) in English:

1)  Let's looks at this sentence: When I go to school, I bring my backpack.

 This form is called... “Present Real Conditional”   (or “Zero Conditional”)

(*This one is the easiest to use and understand!)

  • Form: If/When… present simple, …..present simple…..
  • Use: something that is always true
  • Example 2: If the weather is nice, she walks to work.
  • (or She walks to work if the weather is nice.)

2)  Here is another kind of sentence: When Jimmy has time, he will help you with your homework.

This sentence means:  Jimmy is really going to help you when he has time later.

This form is called... “Future Real Conditional”  (or “First Conditional”)

  • Form: If/When……present simple,……..will+verb…..  OR If….present simple,…..am/is/are going to + verb…../
  • Use: a real future possibility
  • Example 2:  If I have time tomorrow, I am going to finish my shopping.
  • (or I am going to finish my shopping if I have time tomorrow.)
  • (This means: It is really possible that I will have time tomorrow. If I do have time, my plan is to finish my shopping.)

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

3) Let's look at another form: If I had more money, I would buy a vacation home in Greece.

This sentence means: I don't have a lot of money now. I'm imagining what I would if I had more money. I would buy a home in Greece. 

This form is called...  "Present/Future Unreal Conditional" (or "Second Conditional") 

  • Form: If….past simple, ….. would+ verb…..
  • Use: an imaginary (hypothetical) present or future situation; possible but unlikely
  • Example 2: If she won the lottery next week, she would buy a bigger house immediately.
  • (or She would buy a bigger house if she won the lottery next week.)
  • (This means: She probably isn’t going to win the lottery next week, but if she does, she will buy a bigger home.

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

4) Here is one more conditional form: If I had brought my own car, I would have driven you home after the party.

This sentence means: I didn't bring my car to the party, and I didn't drive you home. But if I had brought it, I would have given you a ride home.

This form is called...  'Unreal Past Conditional" (or "Third Conditional") 

  • Form: If….had+past participle,….. would+have+past participle…..
  • Use: an imaginary past situation; an impossible situation, because we are talking about the past
  • Example 2: If she hadn’t forgotten her sister’s birthday, they wouldn’t have quarreled.
  • (or They wouldn’t have quarreled if she hadn’t forgotten her sister’s birthday.)
  • (This means: She forgot her sister’s birthday, and they quarreled. But if she hadn’t forgotten it, they would not have quarreled.)

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adjective Clauses, Part 2 (Commas)

We know that an adjective clause is a group of words that begins with a relative pronoun, has its own subject, verb, and idea, and is used to give us more information about a noun in a sentence. (See Adjective Clauses: Part 1 for more information).

Click here for a review of adjective clauses

Let's look at these two examples:

  • People who can’t swim should not jump off the boat. (*notice there are no commas)
  • My Uncle John, who couldn’t swim, did not jump off the boat. (*commas!)

But what about these commas? How do we know when we need them?

Adjective clauses can fall into these two categories:

1. Identifying (*no commas)

  • (These are also sometimes called “ESSENTIAL,” “RESTRICTIVE,” or “DEFINING” adjective clauses)
  • They give us information that IDENTIFIES a noun in the sentence
  • They are NECESSARY to understand who or what we are talking about
  • Will often start with “that” instead of “which”
  • No commas needed
  • EXAMPLE: People who can’t swim should not jump off the boat. (We need the adjective clause to identify which people we are talking about. Who should not jump off the boat?)

2. Non-Identifying (*commas needed)

  • (These are also sometimes called “NON-ESSENTIAL,”  “NON-RESTRICTIVE,” or “NON-DEFINING” adjective clauses)
  • Give us extra information about a noun in the sentence, describes a noun in the sentence
  • BUT they are not necessary to understand who or what we are talking about
  • Cannot start with “that” (“which” is used for objects)
  • Comma before, comma after (to separate it from the main clause)
  • EXAMPLE: My Uncle John, who couldn’t swim, did not jump off the boat. (The adjective clause is helpful and gives us important information, BUT we do not need it to identify my Uncle John.)

  • Here is a little YouTube video of a teacher explaining restrictive and non-restrictive clauses with some good, clear examples. CLICK HERE.

    For practice, try these exercises:

    Practice 1 (an explanation, followed by an exercise. You must decided if each clauses is IDENTIFYING or NON-IDENTIFYING)
    Practice 2 (this must be printed. The first exercise is related to commas- the second is not!)
    Practice 3 (a good one!)


    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Adverb Clauses and Subordinate Conjunctions

    Complex sentences with adverb clauses are formed when we connect two clauses with a subordinate conjunction.

  • The clause that begin with the subordinate conjunction is called an adverb clause.

  • EXAMPLE: Although she loves chocolate, she tried to avoid eating it.
    • Although= subordinate conjunction
    • Although she loves chocolate= adverb clause
    • She tried to avoid eating it= (in case you are curious!) this part of the complex sentence is called an independent clause
    Click here for a list of common subordinate conjunctions

    If you would like some practice with adverb clauses, try these practice activities:

    Gerunds and Infinitives

    What are these things and what do they look like?


    OK, so how do we use them?

    Gerunds and infinitives both have similar functions in a sentence,...
    so how do we know which one to use?
    We need to look at the words that precede them (come before them) to decide if we should use a gerund or an infinitive.

    Some verbs are followed by a gerund:

    And some verbs are followed by an infinitive:

    And Some verbs can be followed by both.

    Some of these verbs, such as LIKE, START, LOVE, HATE, DISLIKE, cause no change in meaning when followed by a gerund or infinitive.
    For example: I like to swim AND I like swimming mean the same thing.

    But be careful! Sometimes there is a significant change in meaning!

    In addition, many expressions ending with prepositions are followed by gerunds:

    Many adjectives are followed by infinitives

    The infinitive can also be used to express PURPOSE (why we do something

    For more practice with gerunds and infinitives, visit the following links:

    Practice 1 (Scroll to the bottom of the page for 4 practice exercises and a test)
    Practice 2 (click here for THIRTY different practice exercises!)

    Have fun practicing gerunds and infinitives!



    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    Present Perfect Continuous

    Have you been wondering about the Present Perfect Continuous? Well, here are some things you should know:

    It looks like this: HAVE/HAS + BEEN + PAST PARTICIPLE

    Now, click here: Andrea's Present Perfect Continuous Google Doc

    (This page compares it in form to the present perfect, looks at contractions, negative forms, and questions)

    While Present Perfect Continuous is used much less than the present perfect (see earlier blog post for all you need to know about that one!), it is still a good tense to be familiar with. It IS something we do need to use in certain situations.

    Compare these sentences:

    • She studied English for 10 years.
    • I have studied English for ten years.
    • I have been studying together for three hours.

    Then, consider this:

    • Which actions are complete/finished?
    • Which sentences talk about big/long life events?
    • Which sentences talk about actions that started in the past and are still happening?
    • Which action is shorter (in duration) than the others?

    Now, compare these sentences:

    • She worked in a bank when she was in college.
    • She has worked in a medical office.
    • She has been working in Denmark a lot recently, and speaks Danish now.

    And consider this:

    • In which sentences do we know WHEN the event happened?
    • Which are events that happened ONCE in the past, but we don’t know when?
    • Which event happened repeatedly and continued happening until the present (or very recently?)
    • Which past action had an effect on the present?

    Now you are curious, right?? Good

    Now click here: Rules for Present Perfect Continuous

    (Here you will find out the answers to these questions– and learn some clear rules for using the present perfect continuous!)

    For some basic practice with form, try these:


    Now, for practice comparing it to the present perfect and the past simple try these great exercises:


    I hope you have enjoyed this. I have been having a lot of fun compiling this blog for you!

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    Passive Voice Basics

    What is the passive voice?


    There are two "voices" in English: ACTIVE and PASSIVE. 

    When we study verb forms (present simple, past simple, etc.), we first learn the active voice.


    For example:

    I wrote the letter.= (past simple, active voice)
    but we can also say: The letter was written. (this is PASSIVE VOICE, past simple)
    She is studying the contract. (present continuous, active voice)
    or we can say... The contract is being studied. (= PASSIVE VOICE, present continuous)

    Although the passive voice is used much less frequently than the active voice in both speaking in writing, it is still important to understand the rules of use and form.

    Click here for a basic introduction to ACTIVE and PASSIVE voice.

    When do we need to use the passive voice?

    Here is a simple explanation of how to use it
    Click here for another explanation, with a few practice activities
    VIDEO: Or click here for a video explanation on YouTube

    Are you interested in learning LOTS more about passive voice?

    Click here to view the Purdue Owl (but only click if you are ready for a large amount of information!)

    What does the passive voice look like?

    **The bad news: each of the 16 verb forms you’ve already studied (present simple, past simple, present perfect, etc. etc.), has a passive voice “cousin” that works the same way…but looks completely different.**

    Click here to view a chart I created of some of the more common VERB TENSES

    Do you want to practice?

    PRACTICE 1: Identifying active of passive voice
    PRACTICE 2: Changing active to passive voice
    PRACTICE 3: More practice changing active to passive voice
    PRACTICE 4: 14 great practice exercises
    PRACTICE 5: Choose the correct passive verb form
    PRACTICE 6: 20 more practice exercises

    This blog post has been written by Andrea. I hope it helps!

    (that's present perfect, passive voice!)

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

    Quoted Speech/ Direct Reported Speech

    Every day, people say important, interesting, funny, or annoying things.  And we often decide to write about these things! When we do this, we need to remember a few necessary rules for punctuation and placement. 

    Let’s take a look at this famous little quote by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci: 

    Learning never exhausts the mind.

    To write this as quoted speech, we can do it in three simple ways:

    1) Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Leaning never exhausts the mind.” (Notice the comma, quotation marks, and capital L)

    2) “Learning never exhausts the mind,” said Leonardo Da Vinci. (Notice the comma, quotation marks, and lower-case s)

    3) “Leaning never exhausts the mind,” Leonardo Da Vinci said. (We just changed the “said”)

    Which choice is best? All are equally correct. It is your job to pick the one that sounds best when used in your paragraph or essay!

    NOTE: A writer may also choose to put the tag in the middle of a single quoted sentence. When we do this, the break would occur between clauses OR between the subject and the verb. Note the differences in punctuation and capitalization:

    “Leaning," Leonardo Da Vinci said,  "never exhausts the mind.” (Notice the commas, quotation marks, and lower case n in never.)

    What happens when we want to write down more than one sentence in our quote?

    Here is a nice one by Abigail Adams: '=

    Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence

    To write this as quoted speech, we have FOUR choices:

    1) Abigail Adams said, “Leaning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence.” (tag line first, then the two sentences all quotes together.)

    2)  “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence,” said Abigail Adams. (the tag line at the end.)

    3)  ”Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence,” Abigail Adams said. (Similar to #2, but we moved the “said.”)

    4)  (My favorite) “Learning is not attained by chance,” said Abigail Adams.  “It must be sought for with ardor and diligence.” (tag line in the middle! note the placement of the comma, quotation marks, period, lower-case “s” and capital “I.”)

    Again, all are equally correct. You will choose the one that sounds best in your writing.

    Here is one by Henry Ford that is THREE sentences:

    Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

    What are are choices here?

    1) Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

    2) “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young,” Henry Ford said.

    3)  ”Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young,” said Henry Ford.

    4)  ”Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty,” said Henry Ford. ”Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

    5) “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” said Henry Ford. "The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

    What about for quoted questions?

    (*I’ve changed these a little to make them work better here!)

    In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliette, Juliette asked this (kind of!):

    Where are you, Romeo?

    1) Juliette asked, “Where are you, Romeo?” (ASKED not SAID)

    2) “Where are you, Romeo?” asked Juliette. (NO COMMA! Question mark+quotation mark+ lower-case “a”)

    3) “Where are you, Romeo?” Juliette asked. (same as #2- but we moved the “asked”)

    What happens when we have a regular statement AND a question in our quote?

    Here is one by Albert Einstein (*I changed this one a little, too.)

    There is a question that sometimes drives me hazy. Am I, or are the others crazy?

    1) Albert Einstein said, “There is a question that sometimes drives me hazy. Am I, or are the others crazy?” (“said” before the statement)

    2) (My favorite) “There is a question that sometimes drives me hazy,” said Albert Einstein. ”Am I, or are the others crazy?” (“said” after the statement)

    3) ”There is a question that sometimes drives me hazy. Am I, or are the others crazy?” asked Albert Einstein. (“asked” after the question)

    Click here to watch a YouTube video lesson bout quoted speech.

    Below is a printable exercises for quoted speech practice:

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    Subject-Verb Agreement

    What does "subject verb agreement" mean?

    It means: don't forget about the third person singular and just about everyone makes mistakes with this in writing.

    There are a few things to remember that will help you to avoid (or fix) mistakes...

    The verb “to be” has a few different forms to remember:

  • I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, they are
  • I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, they were

  • Therefore, we will say…
    •  John and his family were at the park.
    • Everybody is happy at the party.
    In addition, in the present simple form, we have to remember that little “S” when our subject is he, she, or it.

    That's easy, right?
    • I write, you write, but she WRITES
    • We go, they go, but he GOES

    • But what about subjects like EVERBODY (works), the INFORMATION (tells) or POLICE (work)? (that's kind of difficult to remember!)
    • ...or when we have an adjective clause such as the teacher who works in the city”? (confusing!)
    • ...or when our subject is a whole phrase with multiple nouns? The group of women often plays soccer together. (oh no!)

    Yes… that’s where the problems occur.  But confusion here is normal.

    For more information on subject-verb agreement, check out this list of rules and reminders:

    Rules of subject-verb agreement
    (Please Note: there are three quizzes at the bottom of the above-linked page, but Quiz #1 may not be working)

    And here are some good internet practice activities from some great internet sites: 

    Practice 1 (For this one, you'll need to write your answers on a piece of paper)
    Practice 2
    Practice 3
    Practice 4

    These are also good exercises, but you will have to print them first… (Good to bring to a tutor or use to study with classmates!)

    Worksheet 1
    Worksheet 2
    Worksheet 3

    And, if you want to try some challenging exercises, these are also great!

    Practice 7
    Practice 8
    Practice 9
    Practice 10
    Practice 11
     Practice 12
     Practice 13
     Practice 14

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Present Simple and Present Continuous

    Those are easy, right?

    Although these are often the first verb forms we learn when we begin to study English, they do present a few challenges, and students of all levels make mistakes with these.

    What do you remember about the present simple?

    Click below for a clear list of rules and other information:

    What about the present continuous? (*This is also called the "present progressive")

    Click below for a clear list of rules and other information:

    Here is a movie that explains both:

    Don't forget about the "non-continuous" verbs! Those are important too!
    (*These are also called "non-action verbs" or "stative verbs")

    Click below to view a list of these verbs.

    There are also some challenging verbs that can be "normal" as well as non-continuous, depending on the situation...

    Look a the examples on the bottom half of these pages for more information about these....

    Now, for some practice with present simple and present continuous...

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

    Articles, Part 1 (A and AN: The Indefinite Articles)

    A, An, and The:

    Little words that we use everywhere...

    But they are quite complex to figure out!

    Many languages don’t have them, which makes them especially challenging for learners.

    And many other languages do have articles, but they don’t follow the same rules.

    And, on top of all that, articles are hard to “pick up” in spoken English because they are often pronounced weakly and hard to hear.

    First- these are two terms that you should know:

    1) A and AN are called “indefinite articles” in grammar books
    2) THE is called a “definite article” in grammar books

    *This post will focus on A and AN, the indefinite articles*

    What is the difference between A and An?

    • A is used before a consonant sound (a hamburger, a dog, a successful student, a very good apple)
    • AN is used before a vowel sound (an egg, an unusual book, an awful headache)

    * BUT... be careful of words that start with H or U! Remember...

    • A hotel, A hamburger, a happy child (we hear the H sound, so we use “A”) BUT
    • AN hour, AN hourly wage (the H is silent, so we use “AN”)
    • AN umbrella, AN unusual man, AN unhappy person (the U makes a short, vowel sound, so we use AN) BUT
    • A university, A useful computer program, A united group (the U makes a long sound…and we hear more of a Y sound at the beginning, so we use A)

    To practice with A and AN, try these exercises:



    Friday, February 7, 2014

    Present Perfect

    The present perfect is NOT perfect. It can be difficult and complicated, but is a VERY important verb form in both spoken and written English.

    Grammar books (and teachers) often disagree on how to best teach this form; however, I think the best way to learn it is to study these three rules and gets LOTS of practice

    Click here to view my RULES document with examples and explanations

    And now, to get some basic practice with FORM for the present perfect, try these web sites:

    Practice 1
    Practice 2
    Practice 3
    Practice 4

    Now, you can try these web sites to practice with the present perfect and past simple together (these are a bit harder but great practice!)

    These first few exercises are fairly easy, but a great place to start for review:
    Practice 5
    Practice 6
    Practice 7
    These exercises are a bit more challenging!
    Practice 8
    Practice 9
    Practice 10
    Practice 11
    Practice 12
    Practice 13
    Practice 14
    Practice 15

    Do you like music? Have you heard any songs lately that use the present perfect? We use it a lot!  Here are links to a few that I like:

    Rod Stewart: Have I Told You Lately? (live)
    Click here to view the lyrics to this song.

    Rod Stewart (again!): Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
    Click here to view the lyrics.

    U2: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. (Live in Italy!) (Oh, I like this one a lot!)
    Click here to view the lyrics.