Category Archives: A word on Grammar

Both, None, Either and Neither

You know how it is. Once I start surfing the net I need to remind myself that I need to get some sleep. So, just last night I was about to call it a night when blog hopping, I “bumped into” this new tool which, though still in their beta version, has a lot of potential. Slidebean is a cloud-based platform that lets you create presentations for free, you only need to register and explore a bit.

EDITED* Slidebean is no longer free. The presentation is now displayed with

And as I was preparing a lesson for the Intermediate level about Conjunctions I decided to give it a go and  I don’t regret it. I think it has created a beautiful presentation out of a boring point of grammar. What do you think?


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A Word on Grammar: While and Whereas

I can see why these two words might create confusion in my students, as they are very similar in meaning. I hope that the problem will be solved with this brief explanation.

♥ it is used to introduce a longer background action or situation, which is/was going on when something else happens/happened.
While they were playing cards, someone broke into their house

♥ OR to indicate that two longer actions or situations go/went on at the same time.
Joe cooked while I watched TV

This use of “while” should not be a problem for students as it is relatively easy to understand.


While can also be used to introduce a balancing contrasting point, and with this meaning, it is very similar to Whereas because both are used to balance two facts or ideas that contrast, but do not contradict each other. Both whereas and while are conjunctions and their meaning is very similar to “on the other handthough on the other hand is not a conjunction.

I like spending my holidays in the mountains, while/whereas my wife prefers the seaside.

They can also be placed before the first of the contrasting points

While/whereas some languages have 30 or more different sounds, others have five or six.
Some languages have five or six different sounds, whereas/while others have 30 or more.

NOTE: when while is used with this meaning, a comma is necessary.

While is used to express at the same time
While/whereas are used to express  contrasting ideas. In that case, while must be preceded by a comma.

Source: Practical English Usage  by Michael Swan . Ed Oxford

A word on Grammar : Position of Adverbs in the Sentence and Confusing Adverbs and Adverbial Expressions

Exams are right around the corner and it is time to get down to some serious study and also time to pull your socks up. I don’t want any of you failing !

Learning the position of Adverbs in the sentence is one of the  areas of grammar where the students’ instinct as to what sounds right or wrong will probably be more useful than studying  the rules.

There are lots of adverbs that end in -ly; a useful tip  would be to, when in doubt, put adverbs not ending in -ly  ( even, just…etc) in mid -position  that is, before the main verb.

Watch this presentation to help you remember the position of adverbs in the sentence but be ready to rely on your instinct whenever you are not sure.

and now that we are on the subject, let’s have a look at some confusing adverbs and adverbial expressions. There is a post published some time ago, dealing specifically with the confusing expressions at the end and in the end . Click here to read it and do some exercises!!

Now, click on the image to see the pdf below

Learning the Alphabet

Sometimes I can write three posts in a row; I feel everything I want to convey flows naturally and… some other times I’m at a loss for words. I know what I want to say but I don’t seem to find the right words. I write and cross off, write and cross off and the whole process is repeated all over again until I find myself wondering what the point of writing a lengthy introduction is when I can never be sure if there is anybody out there reading it. And then, this week three teachers from different parts of the world kindly wrote a line to let me know they are on the other side, and paying attention. Thank you, you cannot begin to imagine how motivating your words have been.

Learning the Alphabet is fun but even in Advanced Levels vowels still pose a problem, especially for Spanish students – our “i” /i/ is the English “e”, the English “i” is pronounced /ai/ and our “a” is pronounced /ei/. The letters “g” and “j” are also difficult and students find it difficult to hear the difference between “b” and “v”. That’s why it is important to dedicate some meaningful time to learning something so useful in everyday’s life.

These are the two activities I’m going to use this year to teach/revise the alphabet.

♥The first one is a video. I have found that adults still enjoy- or shall I dare say more than enjoy- clips aimed at little children. If you are an adult, watch the following clip to revise the alphabet and tell me what you think. You might need to remind students of a traditional nursery rhyme that goes like this

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,

before playing the video.

♥The second activity is nothing to write home about. It is the world famous Hangman, but this year, played in groups and instead of displaying words, I’m going to try a short sentence:

Divide the class into two teams. You’ll need a red pen for Group A and a black pen for Group B ( or any different colour 😉 ). On the board write the gaps for two different words of any length ( or a short sentence). Group A and B take it in turns to choose one letter of the alphabet. If the letter is correct, fill in the gap (in red if it’s A’s turn and in black if it is B’s). If the letter is not contained in the selected words, start drawing portions of the hangman (remember red or black). The game continues until all the letters have been guessed or all the parts of the hangman are drawn. If groups manage to guess the words, count the number of red or black letters to announce who the winner is.

You might also want to have a look at what I did to teach the alphabet three years ago. Click here

A word on Grammar: have and have got

Now , this is one of the most common mistakes in English. I have heard lots of students saying: I haven’t a dog, which I’m afraid is wrong. If you want to say that you have or don’t have something you can say “I haven’t got a dog” or” I don’t have a dog” and if the sentence is positive you should say “I have got a dog” or “I have a dog“. Same if you want to ask, both” Do you have a dog?” and “Have you got a dog?”are correct.

While it is true that there is a BBC radio show called “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” the truth is that native speakers also make mistakes and this is only correct as long as it is considered an idiomatic expression.

While both forms are used to express possession ( I have/have got a car), relationships (I have/have got a brother), illnesses (I have/have got a headache), and characteristics (I have/have got long fair hair), there are some things to take into consideration when using them

♥The form “have got” is more British English and “Have” is more American

♥ The interrogative and negative forms for “I Have got two sisters” are “Have you got..?” and “I haven’t got…”

♥The interrogative and negative forms for “I have three sisters” are ” Do you have three sisters ” and ” I don’t have three sisters”

♥ The past of “have got” is “had” and the future is “will have”: “I have got a dog now but three years ago I had a cat and next year I’ll have a parrot”.

♥”Have ” is never contracted in the positive, while “have got” can be contracted.  I have a dog … I’ve got a dog

♥ Got-forms of “have” are not used in short answers or tags. “Have you got a dog? No, I haven’t/ You’ve got a brother, haven’t you?.

♥When we are talking about repeated states, got- forms are less often used. Compare
I have got a headache/ I sometimes have a headache

♥If “have ” expresses an action, then we need to use the form “have”:

I have a shower or I have dinner

♥We can use have (got) +infinitive to talk about obligation or certainty. The meaning is similar to Must
Sorry, I can’t leave. I’ve got to finish writing this essay first.
I don’t believe you. You’ve got to be kidding

Exercises here,and here