Tag Archives: errors

The Sore Thumb: A Subject-Verb Agreement Quiz

Yes, I am doing this. I am publishing this post. And I am publishing this post even when I am well aware that it is going to stir up controversy.

How does she dare, I can almost hear you say, create a quiz about subject-verb agreement when she is not even a native speaker?

I might regret it, but the truth is that I sort of needed to clarify in my mind one of the most obscure points of grammar in the English language- namely that of subject-verb agreement-,  because contrary to what one might think a singular subject in English does not always demand a singular verb, and what looks like a plural subject might not be so and take a singular verb instead. To top it all, when there is disagreement among grammarians, both singular and plural forms can be used.

To create this quiz, I have done a lot of research on the Internet and read what some noted grammarians have to say about this issue and  I have found that they don’t always agree. For this reason, I have tried to avoid the most controversial subject-verb agreement issues.

Hope you find it useful!


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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

Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom

Here’s my latest contribution to the British Council magazine Voices: “Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom. The article encourages students to correct their own writing and it contains  6 error-correction activities which are a lot of fun.Who said learning English was boring?

You might also be interested in reading  Nine ways to revise English vocabulary using slips of paper” published in December where I suggest  nine activities for revising English vocabulary using simple slips of paper.

Thanks for reading!

The Spelling Challenge: are you up to it?

Is it definetely or definitely? Which is correct, possession or possesion?

Most students struggle with English spelling and no wonder, English spelling is difficult. Plain and simple. The best advice I can probably give you to improve your spelling is to read a lot and then if you keep misspelling a word, you might want to write it down  several times ( I’m sorry! I know it sounds like a very traditional thing to do, but it works and this is what is really important, isn’t it?). Doing spelling quizzes can also help, and it’s certainly more fun than writing the tricky word several times.

So, are you up to a little challenge? Then, try these three quizzes based on students’ common spelling mistakes found in Intermediate, Advanced and Proficiency exams. I have created them with the aim of helping my students get rid of these common spelling mistakes and I hope they are helpful to anybody visiting the blog!


This is how I suggest you work with the quizzes:

  • Start with the intermediate quiz even though you are an advanced or proficiency student. Life is full of surprises and it doesn’t hurt to double-check tricky words.
  • Once you have finished the quiz, try to remember which words were tested and write them down on a piece of paper. You don’t only need to be able to recognize them but to remember its correct spelling.
  • Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.

Good luck!

Easy? Good! Let’s take a more difficult quiz now!

Piece of cake? Well done! Let’s try now the most difficult one!

I’d like to finish this post with an excellent piece of advice from Thomas Jefferson.

“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.”

(Thomas Jefferson, American president  1800-1809, in a letter to his daughter Martha)

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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.


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!)

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