Grammar articles

How to tell if a word is countable or uncountable

How to tell if a word is countable or uncountable

This is one of my students. And he has a typical grammar problem: “Help – I don’t know if this word is countable or uncountable!” Actually, it’s not just one of my students – most of my students get confused over countable and uncountable nouns when they first meet them. Recognising if a word is countable or uncountable can be tricky. Here are two tips I usually give my stu... »

“Shout at” and “shout to”: prepositions can change meaning

“Shout at” and “shout to”: prepositions can change meaning

Let’s look at how using a different preposition changes the meaning of some verbs. Our example is the verb shout. Definition of shout Shout means ‘raise your voice – usually as much as possible’. There’s one meaning, but we have two main reasons for shouting: to make ourselves heard to show strong emotion. Unfortunately, with shout in English it’s not always clear wha... »

Spend time/money on

Spend time/money on

We use the preposition on when we talk about spending time or money. We say spend money on something and spend time on something. In the US, it is common to replace on with for: spend money for something. Spend on: examples Notice how on is followed by a noun in each example: Political parties spend millions on their campaigns. The school spent its annual budget on computers and technology. My dau... »

Hanged vs. hung – not the same!

Hanged vs. hung – not the same!

The verb hang can be a bit tricky to use correctly. What we need to remember is that hang actually has two meanings. And the problem is that each meaning has its own past tense form. Hanging a picture Let’s begin with the meaning of hang which has hung as its past simple and past participle forms: hang, hung, hung. The meaning of this form is “to fasten or fix something at the top, lea... »

“In time”, “on time”: difference

“In time”, “on time”: difference

On time We use on time to say that something happened ‘exactly at the planned time’. We use it when speaking about timetables and arrangements. On time suggests that something or someone is neither late nor early. I want to start the meeting on time so please don’t be late. The films at this cinema never start on time – they always start late because of all the advertisemen... »

Using “it” with phrasal verbs

Many verbs are made up of two parts: a verb and an adverb. These verbs are called phrasal verbs. Examples of phrasal verbs include throw away, put in, give up and wake up. One tricky thing when using phrasal verbs is knowing where to put the object of the verb. Do we put it directly after the verb? Should it go after the verb and the adverb? To show you what I mean, let’s use the verb plug i... »

Prepositions with make: “made of”, “made from”

Prepositions with make: “made of”, “made from”

Is made To talk about types of material or to say what something consists of, we often use is made, which is the passive form of make. There are a few different prepositions commonly used after is made, each expressing something slightly different. First, let’s look at the difference between of and from, i.e. is made of versus is made from. Made of We use made of to speak about material: Lego is m... »

“Can I” or “May I”? Which should we use?

When we ask for, give, and refuse permission, the words we most often use are can and can’t: Can I speak to Dave Williams, please? You can help yourselves to tea and coffee. I’m sorry, you can’t smoke here. You’ve probably also heard may used in requests and when giving/refusing permission: May I take a message? Passengers may not leave the airport while waiting for a connecting flight... »

Apostrophe s = is or has infographic

It’s = “it is” or “it has”: how to tell the difference

The short form of it is is it’s. But it’s can also mean it has. Likewise, he’s can mean either he is or he has. The problem is this: How do we know whether the writer means it is or it has, or he is or he has? The trick is to look at what follows the ’s: When followed by an adjective or adverb ’s = is. adjectives = tall, young, hungry adverbs = here, there, etc. She’s tired today. (she’s = s... »

Better and better, more and more: repeating comparative adjectives to show change

Let’s take a look at the way English repeats comparative adjectives to describe a continuous change. Change can happen to different degrees: just once, moderately – The temperature fell yesterday. dramatically – Sales of iPhones rocketed last year. a lot / a little – My English improved quite a lot during the course. In the three examples above we have used verbs (fell, roc... »

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