Posted in English Learning

Question forms

Meaning and Use

In English, there are two basic types of question.

1. Yes/no questions often begin with the verb to be, but can also begin with other auxiliary verbs, such as do. We ask these when we want a yes or no answer.

Dave: Are you hungry?
Mike: Yes, I’m starving. 

Sarah: Did you get here on time?
Emily: No, I missed the bus!

2. Wh-questions start with a question word, such as who, what, where, when, why or how. We ask this type of question when we want different kinds of information. These questions cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Dave: Why are you so hungry?
Mike: I didn’t eat breakfast.

Sarah: When did you get here?
Emily: About half an hour ago.

Form

Yes/no questions that begin with the verb to be are made with to be + subject.

Are you playing football tomorrow?

Was the weather nice yesterday?

If we start with an auxiliary verb, the order is auxiliary + subject + main verb.

Can Jenny speak Chinese?
Did you go to the cinema on Saturday?

Wh-questions can be used to ask about the subject or object of the verb. Compare these questions:

Who loves Lucy?
Who does Lucy love?

For subject questions, the order is question word + verb + object.

Who wants ice cream for dessert?
Who broke the mirror in the dining room?
Who answered the phone?

The object question form is question word + auxiliary + subject + verb.

What did you do at the weekend?
Where does your brother work?
Who will you ask for help?

Take Note

Asking questions with ‘how’

The question word how is usually combined with other words when asking for information, such as size, someone’s age, or the price of something.

How big is your apartment?
How old are your children now?
How much is the black dress in the window?

Spoken English

In formal situations, it is common to respond to a yes/no question by repeating the auxiliary in a complete sentence.

Max: Can you use a computer?
Jill: Yes, I can.

In casual spoken English, we do not need to repeat the auxiliary. Answers do not always contain ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Peter: Do you know the way to the train station?
William: Not really.

Lucy: Shall we order sushi?
Sally: Absolutely!

Practice

rearrange the words to make ‘yes/no’ and wh-questions.

1. anywhere did you weekend interesting last go?

2. grow up did you where?

3. did for your car new much how pay you?

4. into your when you did move new house?

5. listening to what you are?

6. the game basketball who won?

7. I borrow can your phone?

8. you do watch want movie a tonight to?

Answers

1. Did you go anywhere interesting last weekend? 

[The order of yes/no questions is: auxiliary + subject + main verb.]

2. Where did you grow up? 

[The order of object Wh-questions is: question word + auxiliary + subject + verb.]

3. How much did you pay for your new car? 

[The order of object Wh-questions: question word + auxiliary + subject + verb.] 

4. When did you move into your new house? 

[The order of object Wh-questions is: question word + auxiliary + subject + verb.]

5. What are you listening to?  

[The order of object Wh-questions is: question word + auxiliary + subject + verb.]

6. Who won the basketball game?  

[The order of subject Wh-questions is: question word + verb + object.]

7. Can I borrow your phone?  

[The order of yes/no questions is: auxiliary + subject + main verb.]

8. Do you want to watch a movie tonight?  

[The order of yes/no questions is: auxiliary + subject + main verb.]

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Posted in English Learning

The present simple, present continuous and present perfect tenses

Present simple

We use the present simple tense for things that we do regularly and for facts, habits, truths and permanent situations. We often use time expressions like every day, once a week, on Fridays.

I check my email every day. (regular activity)
Yuki works at the bank. (permanent situation)

Form:
For positive sentences, use the same form as the infinitive without ‘to’ for I, you, we and they. For he, she and it, add –s or –es to the infinitive. Make questions and negatives with do / does + the infinitive without ‘to’.

They live in Rome.
Julian starts work at nine o’clock and finishes at five.
I don’t eat meat.
It doesn’t usually snow in October.
Why do you read the news online every day?
Does the supermarket sell stamps?

Present Continuous

We use the present continuous for things that are happening at the time we are speaking, for temporary situations, and for activities that are in progress.

Just a minute. I’m checking my email. (now)
She usually works in London, but she’s working from home this week. (temporary)
I’m studying Economics (activity in progress)

We can also use the present continuous for future arrangements, usually with a time expression.

I’m seeing the doctor on Monday morning.

Form:
For positive sentences, the form is subject + am/is/are + verb-ing. Make questions and negatives with am/are/is + not + verb-ing.

Can I call you back later? We’re having dinner right now.
He isn’t answering his mobile at the moment.
What are you doing?
Is it raining?

Note: There are some verbs that we don’t usually use in the continuous form. They are often verbs of thinking and feeling, for example: hear, see, smell, hate, know, understand, want, need.

WRONG: Could you explain that again? I’m not understanding.
CORRECT: Could you explain that again? I don’t understand.

Present Perfect

Use the present perfect for:

1) Life experiences in the past. We don’t say when these happened: we are interested in the experience, not the time or date. We often use ever and never.

I’ve seen all Tarantino’s films.
Have you ever eaten sushi? – Yes, I have. / No, I haven’t.

2) Recent past actions that are important now.

Oh no! I’ve left my wallet on the bus.
The president has resigned.

3) Past situations that are still happening now. We often use how long with for (throughout a period of time) and since (from a point in the past until now).

I haven’t seen Jenny this morning. (It is still this morning.)
How long have you known Mitya? – I’ve known him for two years.
Jack’s been in Italy since January.

4) With just, already, yet to talk about recent events in the past. The exact time is not important. Use just and already mainly in positive sentences. Use yet in negatives and questions.

It’s just stopped raining. Let’s go out.
Can you feed the cat? – I’ve already fed her.
We can still watch the film. It hasn’t started yet.
Have you done your English homework yet?

Note: Use the past simple for completed actions in the past.

I saw Jenny yesterday.
Peter moved to Saudi Arabia in 2011.
Natasha didn’t want another piece of cake.
When did you see Alex?

Form:
For positive sentences, the form is subject + have/has + past participle. Make negatives with not and change the word order to make questions.

I’ve finished the report.
Jack’s been in Italy since January.
We’ve just got back from Germany.
I haven’t seen Jenny this morning.
How long has Alex known Mitya?

Posted in English Learning

Irregular Verbs: Why We Need Them

Most of English verbs are irregular. It is impossible to avoid irregular verbs if you speak or write in English. Moreover, such verbs can reveal whether the speaker or writer is a native or not. The correct usage of irregular verbs also shows an educational level of a person. It is common for uneducated people to misuse irregular verbs. If you don’t want to fall into that category and give a bad impression, then you have to study grammar. Luckily for you, there are a lot of helpful grammar related articles that can help you to clarify some questions. However, if you are not a native speaker, the task of learning irregular verbs is more complicated for you. In this post, we will try to make this process as easy as possible for you and find new ways how you can learn irregular verbs.

However, while you are still learning, you cannot be sure that your papers are not full of mistakes. In this case, you can greatly benefit from using our editing services. Only experienced, certified editors and proofreaders work for Royal Editing and they can take care of your writing. All you need to do is upload your paper online and we will get in touch with you right away.

Regular and Irregular Verbs: What Is the Difference

English language has only two types of verbs in this regard — regular and irregular. And before we step into the field of irregular verbs, it would be helpful if we firstly understood the main points of regular verbs.

Regular verbs are called so, because they follow the regular pattern. They adhere to one rule, which states that if you want to form a past form of a verb, you have to add –ed at its end. For example:

Julie smiled to her new friend.

They never closed the door to their house.

On the contrary, irregular verbs are called so, because they don’t follow the established rules. Each of irregular verbs has its own way of forming a Past Simple and Past Participle. For example:

The children ran away to hide from the cold rain.

saw him yesterday on my way to work.

As it was mentioned before, most of verbs in English language are irregular. In fact, even the most often used verbs are irregular, such as to be and to have. There are about 200 of them, and if you count their prefixed forms, the list would count more than 600 irregular verbs. It would be very hard and not really necessary to memorize all of them. You could speak and write perfectly well if you learn just the most commonly used irregular verbs. Nevertheless, if you are curious to see the full list, you can always find it online.

Where They Come From and Why We Need Them

A lot of language learners ask, why do we need all these irregular verbs? They only make things more complicated so why English cannot change their grammar and make all verbs regular? It is a good question, but unfortunately there cannot be a perfect clear answer to it. Langue is a complex unity that exists and evolves together with a society, and the attempts to manage it artificially almost never succeed. Some elements of grammar and words come and go, and it is connected to the way people use them. However, things cannot disappear from a language, because some grammarians decided so. There will always be opposing points of view. The same way it happened with irregular verbs in English.

Practically all English irregular verbs come from Old English or derive from strong Germanic words. Other foreign words that joined English in later times follow the standard –ed pattern. Naturally, there were discussions among linguists about reforming this part of grammar and getting rid of irregular verbs. However, the opponents of this idea claim that irregular verbs are a historical heritage of English language and it would be a crime to remove those words out of usage. Any language is not only a mean of communication, but it is also a cultural domain of the nation, which shows where the culture came from and how it evolved.

Therefore, irregular verbs have no particular functional purpose. They are just a part of the language, and all the learner can do is to respect the fact and try to learn them.

Conjugation

When you begin learning irregular verbs, you will hear a lot about conjugation. So let’s at first understand what conjugation is, so the word would not leave you confused. Conjugation is the process of creating changed forms of verbs. Conjugation varies depending on gender, number, tense, mood and other grammar aspects. However, the conjugation we discuss today is strictly limited to the tense of the verbs.

The Commonly Misused Irregular Verbs

The format of this post doesn’t allow us to present all most commonly used irregular verbs. Nevertheless, we will mention the most important ones that you will definitely need in every piece of writing, be it a letter, essay or research paper. Coincidentally, these verbs are also being very often misused. So let’s revise them and try to memorize.

How to Learn Irregular Verbs

The question that troubles minds of most of the English learners is ‘how to learn irregular verbs?’ The most likely your teachers tell you that you just have to memorize them. It is true, that there is no special pattern or rule that you could learn in order to know how to conjugate each verb. And ultimately, memorization is the only choice you have got. However, there are different ways you can do it. Let’s look at the most effective ones:

  • Reading. As the saying goes, reading is the best type of learning. When you read English books, articles or blog posts about grammar, you inevitably stumble upon irregular verbs. It is one of the best ways to learn, because you the words are used in context, and this is how our mind remembers things;
  • Writing. If you use irregular verbs in your writing, it engages your memory in the most active way. It will guarantee that the words learned this way, will stay with you forever. All you need to do is to take an irregular verb and to create a sentence using this verb in context;
  • Flashcards. This is the method for very busy people. You can buy ready flashcards in the bookstore or download the printable set online. However, it would be better if you created them yourself, because it will be additional learning for you. You will need a stack of small square papers. On one side you write an infinitive form of the verb, and on the other side — Past Simple and Past Participle. Carry the cards with you when you go to college or work, you could revise them when you are in the public transport or waiting in line at the supermarket.

Posted in English Learning

Creative Ideas for Teaching Children Nouns and Proper Nouns

Nouns are used to designate people, places, things, objects, and concepts. They are, quite simply, the building blocks of our language. Children are sometimes confused as to how nouns are used, and if they’re very young, they may use nouns as substitutes for complete sentences. They may, for example, say simply “juice” when they mean “I want some juice,” or “bed” when they mean “I’m tired, and I’d like to go to bed now.”

So, how do you teach your child about nouns in a way that’s fun and will give them an edge over their peers? You can use online noun worksheets from various sites, but we also encourage you to work one-on-one with your kids. The best way to do it is by making learning about nouns a game. Kids love to play, and they especially love to play with their parents. Noun worksheets are a great way to facilitate learning, and you can try these great activities as well.

The 20-Second List

Make a 4-column chart. The headings should be Person, Place, Thing and Idea. Give your child 20 seconds per column, to fill it with as many correct nouns they can come up with. Make sure you have a stopwatch so you can count off the seconds correctly, or use a timer on your computer. When they finish one column, shout “Go!” to move them to the next. Expect mistakes early on, but when they fill all columns with four or more correct nouns, offer a reward – maybe a sticker, or 10 minutes worth of video game time. Keep upping the ante, and increase the rewards accordingly.

News You Can Use

Cut out pictures from newspapers or magazines. Ask your child to identify the nouns in the pictures. For example, “This is a firefighter rescuing a cat from a pole.” They’ll not only learn about nouns, they’ll develop an interest in what’s going on in the world around them.

For older kids, you can ask them to write their own story about the picture, again underlining the nouns. Online worksheets also offer similar activities.

Guess the Game

Kids love games and sports. So for this game, you have them pick a game or a sport that they like. Then they write out a list of nouns that have something to do with the game or sport. For instance, for Monopoly, they might choose “hotel,” “house,” “money” or “bank.” For hockey, they could choose “stick,” “puck,” “player,” referee,” and so on. To switch it up, you might write the nouns the child has chosen on cards, and then ask him or her to identify the game or sport that the noun relates to.

Travel With Nouns

This is a variation on a very old party game. You can start by saying, “I am going in a trip, and in my suitcase I have packed an automobile.” You can bet your child will get a giggle out of that. Now, his or her job is to come up with a noun that begins with the letter “B”. Keep going back and forth.

You can also play “sentence games” when you’re out for a walk with your child. Ask him to identify the nouns in sentences like “There’s a boy on a bike.” You can also work on proper nouns by playing this game – “Look, there’s Ryan on his bike.”

Online Noun Games

There are also tons of games that you can play online that will help your child to learn about nouns.

Posted in English Learning

Verbs Pave the Way for Language Development

It’s really exciting when children begin talking. If you have your own child or have had the opportunity to watch a young child develop, you may have noticed that a child’s first words are usually the names of people or things (nouns), such as MamaDadaballcar, or bear. But by the age of two, young children should also be saying verbs. Verbs are words for actions like gocomewasheat, or words for states like wantlikelovesee.

Why Are Verbs Important?

A recent study showed that 2-year-old children who use more verbs have more advanced grammatical skills six months later.

Verbs are very important for language development because they allow children to start building early sentences. Every sentence needs a verb. And the choice of verb determines many of the grammatical forms in a sentence. In fact, a recent study showed that 2-year-old children who use more verbs have more advanced grammatical skills six months later.

When Should Children Start Using Verbs?

There is a lot of variability when it comes to how many verbs children use when they are toddlers. But children should say at least a few verbs by 24 months. Many children can say at least 40 verbs by 24 months. A child with only three or four verbs at 24 months would be at the low end of the average range. This would not be cause for concern as long as the child continues to learn several new verbs every month for the next six months.

But children with no verbs at 24 months who don’t start to speed up in the rate at which they learn new verbs between 24 and 30 months may be at risk for problems with language development. These children will not be able to produce short sentences yet, as they can’t build sentences without verbs. If they have any other risk factors for a long-term language difficulty, it may be wise to seek advice from a speech language pathologist who can determine whether they need help building their vocabulary. See our article “How to Tell if Your Child is a Late Talker – And What to Do about It” for more information and a list of risk factors.

Posted in English Learning

How to help learners of English understand prepositions

Prepositions and their importance in English

Prepositions are tricky little beasts. The relative shortness of the words (most are six letters or under) and their often misplaced role in the overall scheme of things (why should prepositions be less important than nouns, adjectives or verbs?) mean that we should treat them carefully and perhaps give them more time in the classroom than is usually the case.

What exactly are prepositions and how are they used in English?

In a list of English prepositions you will find very common words such as ‘in’, ‘up’, ‘behind’, ‘from’, and ‘with’. Prepositions hold a privileged position as parts of speech in that they are a ‘closed class’. In other words, they are a select group of words that don’t accept new members to their club. This is in contrast to nouns, adjectives and verbs, which welcome new additions to their respective groups all the time.

While prepositions are limited in number, they are important because they act as vital markers to the structure of a sentence; they mark special relationships between persons, objects, and locations. For this reason, we should think carefully about how we incorporate the teaching and learning of prepositions into our classes.

What problems can prepositions cause for learners of English and their teachers?

It’s very difficult to use prepositions correctly in English and they present a number of problems for both teachers and learners.

First, most prepositions, especially the common ones, have several different functions. The preposition ‘at’, for example, has as many as 18 different functions, depending on which dictionary you consult. As vocabulary items in their own right, prepositions can therefore present a major challenge and it’s not unusual for learners of English to ask teachers to explain what a word such as ‘at’ means.

Second, there is no logical way of deciding which preposition goes with a particular noun, verb or adjective. Consider these examples: the reason for, arrive at, angry with somebody, on a train. In many instances, the correct preposition cannot be guessed, so the expression must be learned as a whole. The problem is compounded when a particular vocabulary item – again it’s those commonly used ones that are often guilty – flirts with many different prepositions, making teaching and learning a longer process than we may initially account for. Consider the adjective ‘available’. As a teacher, which of the following would you prioritise?

  • Tickets are available from the box office.
  • Not enough data is available to scientists.
  • No figures are available for the number of goods sold.
  • There are plenty of jobs available in the area.

All of these sentences are correct, yet in each case the adjective goes with a different preposition. We need to consider how we would deal with phrases such as ‘the reason for’ and the best way to teach words such as ‘available’, that go with multiple prepositions.

Finally, learners’ native language can ‘get in the way’ of the learning process and interfere with correct English usage. This is perhaps never more true than in the form of prepositional errors. For example, some expressions in English do not use a preposition but the same expression in another language does, and vice versa. In my teaching context, where the majority of learners are native Turkish speakers, I constantly hear sentences like ‘he married with her’, ‘I hate from that’ and ‘I accessed to the internet.’ Another problem I regularly encounter among Turkish learners relates to the multiplicity of uses of particular prepositions. Turkish has one preposition serving the same purpose as ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘at’ in English, making it difficult for my learners to distinguish between their various uses.

A few tips for learning and teaching prepositions of place and movement

Go with the tried and trusted basics

Following the pattern that most course books take, i.e., dealing with prepositions in manageable chunks, is not a bad way to go. Teaching prepositions of time, place and movement, for instance, at different times, will enable learners to build up their knowledge of prepositions slowly and steadily. Doing so will be much more effective than, say, trying to teach every use of ‘in’ at the same time.

The game Simon Says is great for reviewing prepositions of place and movement with young learners, as you can give directions for students to move around, such as ‘Simon Says stand on your chair’ or ‘Simon Says get under your desk.’ Learners respond well to the movement and start using the prepositions naturally.

With adult learners, a competitive timed review game can work really well. Start by dividing the class into teams, say a sentence and then have them take turns drawing it on the board. If you say ‘the dog is behind the chair’, the learners have to draw a corresponding image, which can be graded according to speed or accuracy, depending on which is more enjoyable for the class.

Posted in English Learning

Why Pronouns Are Important

Pronouns are essential in the way we communicate with one another. The importance of pronoun communication, however, is crucial. We use pronouns as a way to identify or refer to someone so next time before making an assumption about someone’s pronouns, just ask!

What is a pronoun? 

A word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., Iyou ) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., sheitthis ).

What are Gender Neutral/Gender Inclusive Pronouns?

Gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns are unspecific to one gender. Using gender neutral pronouns does not label or associate the person being discussed with a specific gender. This is especially important for people who don’t identify with their assigned gender at birth. Physical sex does not determine gender. In other words, genitals do not equal gender. Rather than assume someone’s pronouns based on their perceived gender or appearance, it’s crucial to ask what their pronouns are. 


Pronouns are essential in the way we communicate with one another. The importance of pronoun communication, however, is crucial. We use pronouns as a way to identify or refer to someone so next time before making an assumption about someone’s pronouns, just ask!

What is a pronoun? 

A word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., Iyou ) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., sheitthis ).

What are Gender Neutral/Gender Inclusive Pronouns?

Gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns are unspecific to one gender. Using gender neutral pronouns does not label or associate the person being discussed with a specific gender. This is especially important for people who don’t identify with their assigned gender at birth. Physical sex does not determine gender. In other words, genitals do not equal gender. Rather than assume someone’s pronouns based on their perceived gender or appearance, it’s crucial to ask what their pronouns are. 

How do you ask?
  • “What pronouns do you use?”
  • “What pronouns would you like for me to use?”

It can take time to get someone’s pronouns right. Try your best. Apologizeif you do make a mistake and correct it. Don’t make it awkward. Remember that respecting someone means also respecting their pronouns.

How do you share?
  • “I’m Sally, and my pronouns are ze and hir.”
  • “My pronoun is co.” 
  • “I don’t use pronouns.”