Category Archives: A word on Grammar

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.

Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.

So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and  say they do, you elicit some examples and  give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.

Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.

This is how I suggest you do this quiz

  1. Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
  2. Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
  3. For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
  4. Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
  5. Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
  6. Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.

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Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

Ready to start the quiz? Here we go! Which of these sentences is correct?

I am interested in participate in a seminar

I am interested in participating in a seminar

Which of these sentences is correct? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises

There are a lot of meals that they are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals that are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals they are easy to cook

Another very frequent mistake. Which is correct?

From my point of view is very difficult to be the boss.

From my point of view, it is very difficult to be the boss.

Let’s try spelling now! Which is correct?

possible

posible

accommodationaccomodation
helpfulhelpfull

Ready for the next grammar mistake? Which is correct?

I don’t mind sharing it with other family

I don’t mind sharing it with another family

Think hard! Which is correct? Choose and then read the grammar and do the exercises

I would like to know how much does it cost

I would like to know how much it costs

Let’s see vocabulary now. Which is correct?

My mother is a great cook

My mother is a great cooker

Concentrate! Which is correct?

I prefer stay in a hotel

I prefer to stay in a hotel

And now, what do you say?

I couldn’t find the information on your website

I couldn’t find the information in your website

Let’s go for spelling again. Which one is correct?

comfortable

confortable

definitelydefinetely

Which is correct?

business

bussines

What’s the plural of “life”

lifes

lives

Let’s focus on articles now. Which is correct?

I strongly believe that the fast food is not healthy

I strongly believe that fast food is not healthy

Which is correct?

The dates of the seminar are not enough clear

The dates of the seminar are not clear enough

What do you say?

I am completely agree wih you

I completely agree with you

Think hard! What do you say?

Fast food is becoming very popular

Fast food it is becoming very popular

What’s the opposite of the adjective “polite”?

Impolite

Unpolite

Which is correct?

Everybody loves you

Everybody love you

What’s the correct spelling?

greatful

grateful

And now?

successful

sucessful

Which is correct?

neccesary

necessary

What do you say? At or in?

They arrived in London yesterday

They arrived at London yesterday

Which is correct in this context? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip

At the end we decided to cancel the trip

Which preposition collocates with “depend”?

It depends on her

It depends from her

It depends of her

What do you say? Choose the correct answer and then read the grammar and do the exercises

The mountains were covered with snow

The mountains were covered by snow

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You might be interested in doing these other quizzes

Teaching I Wish/If Only through Music and Visuals

“Maybe all  one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets”. Arthur Miller.

Hopefully!  I surely have had my fair share of mistakes, and consequently  a few regrets too although to be honest,  I don’t really know if the are of the right kind. There are a couple of things, or maybe more, that I would probably have done differently if given the chance but…. this is  now water over the bridge and it’s no use crying over spilt milk! What about you? Do you have any regrets?

Let’s talk about regrets today.

Aim: to teach students how to express regrets using the structures I wish/if only

Level: B2

Lead in:  Play this 45-second audio clip and ask students to try to identify the next structure you are going to teach them.

1. I WISH (THAT)/IF ONLY+SIMPLE PAST

Introducing: display the picture below and draw students’ attention to the reflection of the man in the mirror. Ask: What does the old man see in the mirror? What is he thinking?

Listen to the students’ suggestions and use each of them to introduce

  • I wish (that)/if only + simple past

I wish/if only I was younger or I wish I was in my twenties.

I wish/if only I was handsome or I wish I was stronger… etc

Explaining the grammar: we use this structure to express a desire for a situation that does not exist right now in the present. A wish is a desire to change a real situation into an unreal one. This unreal situation is expressed in the simple past. In a wish sentence, the simple past does not indicate past time; it only indicates that the situation is unreal.

  • That is optional.

I wish/if only I lived in the countryside, but I don’t. I live in a city.

  • Were is used for both singular and plural subjects in a formal context

I wish/if only he were younger, but he’s not. He is old.

Practising. Guided practice.

1. Pictures.

Students look at the pictures and make a sentence using “wish”. Flip them to see a possible answer.

2. The power of music. A meditation activity.

Ask students to close their eyes. Turn off the lights, close windows and play some soft music to create the right atmosphere and help them relax. Tell them you are going to ask them some questions about themselves. Use a low, slow, soothing voice. They will need to imagine how they would answer the question using the structure I wish/if only + past tense. Read out the questions one by one, take your time and remember to keep your voice slow and calm.

 

  • If there is one thing you could change something in your body, what would it be?
  •  If you could change something about your personality, what would you change?
  • If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
  • If you could change something about you partner, what would it be?
  • If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Practising. Freer practice. 

Students in pairs  talk about their anwers to the questions above. Let them choose the ones they want to talk about as some answers could be a bit personal.

2.  I WISH (THAT)/IF ONLY+ WOULD

Introducing: display the picture below and ask students to describe what they see.

Now, ask students to provide a sentence with “wish” about the picture. At this stage, students will probably suggest “She wishes he didn’t see so much TV”.

Draw students’ attention to the girl’s mood and offer this alternative sentence

She wishes/if only he wouldn’t watch so much football

Explaining grammar: the structure wish+ (that)/if only +would is used to talk about what other people do that annoys or irritates us and that we wish was different.

Practising. Guided practice.

Play the video and ask students to make sentences based on the pictures using I wish+would.

Practising. Freer Practice.

Students in pairs answer these questions:

  • What annoys you about living where you live now?
  • What annoys you most about living at home with your family?
  • What annoying habits does your best friend have?
  • What is the most annoying thing about your partner?
  • Is there anything about your teacher that annoys you? 🙂

3.  I WISH/IF ONLY + (THAT) + PAST PERFECT

Introducing. Display the picture below and ask: do you think he has any regrets?

Elicit: He wishes he hadn’t drunk so much or he wishes he hadn’t danced so much

                                                      Photo by JeanJulien

Explaining the grammar: 

We use ‘wish’ + past perfect to talk about regrets from the past. These are things that have already happened but we wish they had happened in a different way.

Practising. Guided Practice.

Introduce the activity by asking students to think back to the time when they were teenagers. Ask them if they have any regrets.

For example: I wish I hadn’t given up my studies.

Tell students they are going to watch a video of a song Mistakes of my Youth  by the American rock band Eels. In this video, the singer thinks back on his childhood and all the things he did wrong. Ask them to watch the video and write down as many I wish/if only + past perfect sentences they can think of based on the video.

Freer practice.

What are your regrets when you think back on your life? Make a list of three regrets and tell the story to your partner.

Grammar pdf

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Writing a dialogue. Working in pairs, the students should write a conversation among two friends who are complaining about their boyfriends/girlfriends or bosses. Tell them to use as many I wish/if only sentences as possible. Ask students to act it out.
  • Writing about being the opposite gender.  Ask students to write a compositions about how their lives would be different if they were the opposite sex. Ask  them to use I wish/ if only sentences
  • Discussion about cultural customs. Lead a class discussion about what customs in their country wish were different.

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A Word on Grammar: Infinitives or -ing Forms as Subjects of a Sentence?

Is it…

  • To learn English is important?   or
  • Learning English is important?

A long time ago, having an infinitive as subject of a sentence was just normal. So you could easily say:

  • To learn English is important  or To eat healthy food is good for you

However, in modern English having an infinitive as subject of a sentence is very unusual, especially in an informal style. Instead, we use:

  1. “it” as the subject and put the infinitive  clause later.
  • It is important to learn English
  • It is good for you to eat healthy food

2. -ing structure

  • Learning  is important
  • Eating healthy food is good for you

Hope you have found this post useful!!

Source: Practical English Usage  by Michael Swan

A Word on Grammar: The Tricky “Want”

In case you haven’t figured it out by now , I am  kind of a  very-much-into-games teacher, but this doesn’t mean  that everything in my classes  is fun. I would be lying to you. I wouldn’t  dare say a large part, but  a significant part of my classes, is dedicated to teaching “boring” stuff, which might be dull, but necessary; and I think my students would agree here.

One of these boring, yet interesting, parts of the lesson today will be dedicated to fixing mistakes from their written assignments.

One of the most common mistakes students make and that can be easily fixed is with the verb “want”.

The verb “want” is probably one of the first verbs we learn in English and  the simple structure  “I want to go” or “she wants to buy” poses no problem. But as become more fluent in the language ,we risk trying more complex sentences and this is where “want” becomes tricky.

THE TRICKY “WANT”

Read the sentence below  and decide whether it’s right or wrong.

Do you want that I give you a lift home?

If you think it’s wrong, then you’re right 🙂 and you might want to stop reading this post now. Hey! I wouldn’t blame you!  But, if you  can’t see why the sentence above is incorrect, then dear reader, this post is right for you and here’s the explanation

  • “want” is not followed by a “that clause”. Instead we use an object+ infinitive structure. So,

  • Look at how we introduce the subject after the verb ” to want”:

  • Some other common verbs that can be followed by object+infinitve are: advise, allow, ask, encourage, forbid, intend, invite, need, persuade, recommend, teach,  warn, tell, cause…etc.
  • “Want” can also mean ” need” in informal English. We can say that a thing “wants” (meaning “needs”) something, in particular with reference to actions.In this case, “want” is followed by an -ing form.

                 ♥ Those windows need cleaning (= needs to be cleaned)

                 ♥ This floor needs sweeping (= needs to be swept)

You can also say :

                ♥ Those windows need to be cleaned

               ♥  This floor needs to be swept

Test your knowledge with this translation exercise (sentences in Spanish, sorry!)

Conjunto de Fichas creado con GoConqr por cristina.cabal

A word on Grammar: Because and Because Of

Do you know the difference between these two structures? Do you know how to use them?

  • Because is a conjunction. It is followed by Subject+Verb

I didn’t go out because it was raining

  • Because of  is a two-word preposition. It is used before a noun or a pronoun

I didn’t go out because of the rain

(due to is similar to because of)

Test your knowledge now with this interactive quiz.

If the quiz is unavailable , click here

Music can also help you a lot with your English. Here’s this beautiful song by Kelly Clarkson. Enjoy it and listen very attentively to the chorus. You’ll hear our targeted grammar point.

A Fun Writing Activity to Practise Giving Advice . Students in the limelight

Raise your hand if you have never had a problem!  Nobody??? Good! That’s what I thought! Now, raise your hand if you have never asked for advice!! I see !! OK ! Maybe some of you don’t like to ask for advice!!

Ok folks !!! What’s clear is that we all have problems and and when we have them, we most usually turn to friends or family asking for advice; it remains to be seen whether we follow the advice but even if we  end up feeling that the advice  given hasn’t helped much, I’m sure, at least, you would  feel grateful  just because someone you trust has been willing to take the time to listen to you.

In this post, I want to share with you an activity to practise giving advice, which has worked really well with my students (see photo below)

LEVEL: B1

AIM: to give written advice using

♥I think / I don’t think you should…

♥ If I were you , I would…  

MATERIALS: A clean sheet of paper and a pen or you can download the template here.

STEPS

1. Introduce / revise the two structures above, used to give advice. Share with your students a problem and ask them to offer you advice using the two structures above. Choose the funniest or most sensible advice as the best offered.

2.  Give students a copy of I NEED SOME ADVICE or display the template so that they can copy the information on a clean sheet of paper.

2. Students write their name  and their problem in the space provided and leave it on their table, face up.

3. Introduce the idea of Agony Aunts ( see definiton here) and tell students they are going to act as agony aunts to solve some problems.

4. Students stand up and they go around the class reading their classmates’ problems and writing their piece of advice in the space provided, together with their name inside the brackets. The same advice cannot be repeated. Allow 10 minutes for this step

 5.  Students sit down at their desks, read the advice offered for their problems and decide on the best. Problem and advice will be read aloud. The students who has offered the best advice gets one point. See who gets more points and name him the new Agony Aunt.

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A Word on Grammar: Between versus Among

I sometimes wonder if I get a little too excited about the things I teach. Perphaps , I should  tamp down my enthusiasm when I tell my students that so and so is veeerry eeeeasy! I wonder if they are beginning  to doubt my sincerity but the truth is that English grammar is very easy to teach/grasp, especially when  compared to the Spanish one.

Albert Einstein once  said : “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Anyway, what I really wanted to ask you is : “Do you really know the difference between Among and Between?”

I bet you’ve been taught, as I was, that the difference between Among and Between is that Between is used when we are talking about two items and Among when we are talking about more than two. Hey , listen , don’t panic,  most of the time it works…. but unfortunately not always . The definition is good enough to explain some sentences but  then … how do you explain that this sentence below is also  grammatically correct?

My house is between the forest, the school and the lake

The thing is that between is normally  used when we are talking about two people or two things but it can also be used to refer to three  or more clearly separate people or things.

Among is used when talking about people or things in a group, a crowd or a mass of people which we don’t see separately, ie, we don’t have a definite number in mind though clearly more than two

My house is among mountains

Let’s compare these two sentences. Imagine you are going to a party and you cannot decide what to wear.

1.I am trying to decide between the blue shirt, the white  shirt  or the green shirt

2. I am trying to decide among my shirts

In sentence number 1 I am choosing between a specific number of items

In sentence number 2 I am choosing between an indefinite  number of items

Two more examples might help:

There is a lot of disagreement between Germany, Spain and Finland (three specific countries)

There is a lot of disagreement among some  European countries (you don’t name them specifically)

Hope it helps!

A word on Grammar:Prepositions after superlatives

After superlatives, we normally use two prepositions of and in

♥ we use in with a singular word referring to a place or group

I am the happiest woman in the world

Mary is the fastest player in the team

♥we use of before plurals, before time periods such as year/month

She’s the fastest tennis player of them all

Saturday is the best day of the week

Test your knowledge

 

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