Tag Archives: prepositions

Common Errors: Pay vs Pay For and Other Common Expressions

Oh my! We are enjoying the last week of summer and I don’t want to think about what’s ahead of us. I quite like autumn provided it doesn’t rain a lot, but I absolutely hate winter. Light for me is essential and where I live, surrounded by beautiful misty green mountains, we don’t get to see much light in winter. That’s the downside.
Anyway, I got the idea for this post just before my brain exploded after endless hours of correcting errors from essays.

Have a look at these two sentences. Take your time.
Which is correct? The first? The second? Or maybe both?
1. I paid the tickets with my credit card
2. I paid for the tickets with my credit card

At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a little quiz to test your knowledge, but now here’s the explanation:

The verb “to pay” can be both transitive and intransitive.


  1. You” pay FOR something” when saying exactly what you’ll receive in return for the money/payment. Therefore, sentence 2 above is correct. (I paid the tickets with my credit card) 
  • I paid for the tickets with my credit card
  • My son pays for his internet connection with his pocket money.
  • How much would you pay for that jacket?


  1. You “pay something” when you don’t mention what is being purchased.
  • I paid 50€ to get a good seat
  • Everybody in Spain must pay taxes
  • I need to work if I want to pay the bills/the rent
  1. You “pay someone”.
  • I paid him 50€
  • He has always paid his employees
  • Can you pay the plumber for fixing the tap?

And now that we are on the subject 🙂  perhaps  you’re williing to go the extra mile and learn a few expressions with this common verb. Here we go. Just 6.

  • To pay in advance= to pay for something before it is received or delivered

                              I paid in advance for the first night in the hotel

  • To pay an arm and a leg/ to pay through the nose for something = you pay too much

                           Most Americans pay an arm and a leg to provide their families with a health plan

  • To pay the price= to suffer the consequences for doing something or risking something

                           Those who did not get off early paid the price and couldn’t get there on time

  • To pay as you go = to pay costs as they occur; to pay for goods as they are bought (rather than charging them)

                                  Get a pay as you go mobile

  • To pay (someone) peanuts= to pay someone the absolute minumum amount necessary.

                         Talking about money, we hear that in sweatshops workers are paid peanuts.

  • To pay attention to (someone/something)= to give attention to someone/something              As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
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And here’s the quiz, as promised.

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

Because and because of 

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.

Did you Know…… Near?

Look at these two sentences. Are both sentences correct?

  • I live near the school
  • I live near to the school

The answer is yes.

Near can be used as a preposition .When near is a prepostion , near to is less common but also possible .

  • Go and sit nearer (to) the fire
  • We came near (to) being killed.

Source : Practical English Usage (Michael Swan/Oxford) and Oxford Dictionaries

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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!

Word of the day: Dream Of/About, Get Married/Marry

Although my favourite expression in class is ” It is very easy”, there’s no point in denying English prepositions are hard to learn, if you can ever say you learn them. I don’t know about other languages but Spanish students seem to consistently make mistakes when using prepositions after these two verbs. Let’s study them:



  •  marry somebody (no preposition required)

Please, marry me !! he said

I married a person I am still in love with

  • be/get married to somebody. (not with)

She used to be married to my brother

I got married to my childhood sweetheart


  • dream about sth /sb when you are sleeping

Last night I dreamt about the exam

  • dream of  you are awake, you think about something pleasant you would like to happen .

I have always dreamt of visiting Japan

She had this romantic dream of changing the world

Hope it helps!! 🙂

 A little quiz , perhaps?
She dreamed ___becoming a chef.


I dreamt ___ you last night.


I married__ Alex because I love him.


I got married __ Peter in Asturias (Spain)


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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


Word of the Day: By Phone or On The Phone

Two things I need to say:

1. I am not a native speaker. Well, I know anyone reading this blog has already guessed that.

2. Sometimes I feel like a broken record posting on quick Word(s) of the Day but hey, guys, are you sure they aren’t helpful?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes and because English is not my first language I tend to neglect the use of some expressions and then, naturally and as a result of never using them, I often can’t say whether they are right or wrong. If you are a student…… relax! ;), nobody is asking you to know everything, in fact, I ‘ve always detested know-all students. They give me the creeps!But, if like me, you are a teacher, then you are supposed to know every single thing  about the English language. Unfortunately, this is not my case 🙁

So, can you say  which of these is expressions is correct?

She’s talking to me by phone or she’s talking to me on the phone?

If you should ask me, the one I ‘ve always used  is on the phone but the fact that I never use the expression by phone doesn’t mean it is wrong. On the contrary, it is just perfect! So, both, are ok .

Can I just add that  “over the phone ” is also correct? Some examples for you to read:

  • Today she’s talking to me by phone from the middle of Sudan
  • Last night we were able to talk by phone with my Australian relatives
  • You can discuss your complaint in person or by phone
  • Is he talking on the phone just now?
  • Doctors should not  prescribe medicine over the phone

Word of the Day: to Be Good at Something/ Doing something

Have you ever asked yourself what you are good at?

If you are a bit like me, as old as I am I cannot say with certainty what I am good at, though I’ve always believed it is hardly a matter for me to decide. I’ve always believed it is up to the rest of the world to determine if someone is good at something so I can only, with some level of uncertainty, claim that I am good at making Spanish omelettes; and…. I can only say that because I once won a Spanish omelette contest where I beat all the restaurants of my village… they even gave a trophy which I proudly display on the shelf of my kitchen secretly wishing my guests would notice :)…. and that’s all about everything I am good at !

On the other hand, I can certainly enumerate a number of things I am really really bad at -the list is long but I promise I won’t get carried away- like ironing fitted sheets, cooking meals I don’t like (I never taste them so they are either very salty, insipid or burnt and given that I don’t eat any meat you can only begin to imagine, dealing with figures, texting, walking in heels, finding my keys, folding clothes neatly, remembering dates (that can be a problem , trust me!) remembering wedding dresses ( my mother always wants to know) and of course, makes and models of cars -but listen, don’t get me wrong here, I don’t necessarily think being bad at these things is really a bad thing or makes me a bad person.On the contrary, I am quite nice! And as Marilyn Monroe once said :I ‘m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.

One last thing I need to confess is that I am very bad at drawing and it is a pity because if when you are a teacher this is an ability that comes in very handy especially to illustrate something but I’ve given up trying to draw things on the board. My students don’t understand my art. A five-year-old child can  certainly draw  a house better than me but what some people are bad at, some others are good  at; don’t they say there must be a bit of everything in the Lord’s vineyard? Chema Pérez Fernández, one of my students, is certainly good at drawing and he has kindly drawn one of the role plays we performed in class. I really appreciate his contribution the blog .

A Word on Grammar: Think Of,About, On or In?

If you must ask, yes, it’s still raining in Asturias; raining and freezing cold but…I have to say that this is unusual weather for this time of the year. So, if you are considering holidaying in this part of the world, don’t cross it off just yet; the weather must definitely improve this week ( it can’t get any worse).

The idea for this post came while dozing off on the sofa watching the new (probably not so new now for some of you) James Bong film SkyFall. I suddenly came wide awake when , in the film, M’s computer is hacked and a THINK ON YOUR SINS is displayed on her computer. This single preposition got me thinking … how, in the name of God, are my students supposed to learn English prepositions? Thus, I decided to write this post, about the tricky English prepositions.

Think Of/ About. Most of the times you can use both when talking about people. So: I’m thinking of you and I am thinking about you mean pretty much the same.


-Think about. You use think about with the meaning “consider”:

I need to think about this problem

Think of. You use think of   with two meanings

  1. when you are “asking somebody’s opinion”.

What do you think of my sister’s boyfriend?

2. Or with the meaning “to imagine”

It is hot! I am thinking of lying on the beach eating a big ice-cream.

I also very often use the expression Come to think of it…


On the other hand, both Think On and Think In are less used.

♥Think On is a bit archaic and it is much close to the meaning of think about 

Think on your sins

Think in is very easy to differentiate as it is only used with the verb to speak

Do you think in Spanish when you speak in English?

I hope it is helpful! Now if you want to relax after this boring explanation, enjoy the soundtrack of this film, performed by the great Adele.

Word of the Day: On the Internet

I know, I know! You don’t have to tell me! Internet is not a difficult word to learn. Why should I, then, dedicate a post to the word Internet?   Come to think of it  this  post might be only meaningful to Spanish students as they are the ones who make the most mistakes when using this word in context. Why? For these two reasons.

♥ We don’t use the article “the

♥We have a problem with the prepositions in and on and we tend to use almost invariably in.

By the way, did you know that the word Internet is feminine in Spanish?