Weekly Grammar Question: Changes over time!

If you’re anything like my students studying English in the U.K., at some point in your student life you’ll have been confused by the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect continuous. Well, rest assured, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean they are impossible, check out these examples below of the present perfect and present perfect continuous being used to describe change over time, and then have a look at the meaning / use underneath.   So I moved to South Korea for a year about 6 years ago, leaving all of my friends behind. My closest friend at the time was a guy named Stephen. We’d known each other for years. I’ve drawn a picture of him for you. As you can see, he didn’t really look after himself very well. He was the nicest guy you’d ever meet in your life and was an amazing friend but when it came to being fashionable or doing exercise, he was a disaster. After a year in Korea, I returned home and immediately went over to Stephen’s house to say hi to him and his family. Well, you wouldn’t believe the person who opened the door. I’ve drawn another picture for you to give you an idea of what he looked like. So, as you can imagine, I was extremely impressed. “What has happened to you?!” I said. Obviously, the surprise was clear on my face as he just smiled and said the following:   Well, I met a girl a few months ago and everything has changed for me. I’ve been shaving every morning now and moisturising twice a day so my skin has cleared up. I’ve also been exercising a lot more, I’ve taken up jogging and yoga and I’ve lost quite a lot of weight. I’ve been jogging twice a week … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: When is the future not the future? When it’s the future in the past!

The future in English is a wonderful minefield of oddities and exceptions but one thing that actually makes a little bit of sense but is often avoided by students is the future in the past. The idea here is to discuss the future of a past time. It’s very useful, especially for discussing failed or changed plans. Check out the dialogue below between the two men in the picture, talking about their weekend and then we’ll have a look at the structures in more detail. Click on the links to get the meaning of the more difficult words. Andy: So, how was your weekend? Joe: Well, you’ll never believe what happened to me. We went out on Friday night after work for a few drinks in the local and we were hoping to leave there about 8:00 but as usual we ended up having a few more pints than we’d planned. So we left at about 10:00 and we were going to go to a bar in Soho but on the way this fight broke out next to us on Tottenham Court Road. We weren’t involved but somebody called the police and they were going to arrest us because they thought we’d started it. Well, we explained what had happened and some passersby backed us up so the police let us go but it was quite scary. Andy: Wow! Why didn’t you just turn around and run in the other direction when you saw the fight? Joe: Well we were about to run away but a lady fell over next to us and hit her head on the footpath so we were trying to help her when the police arrived. Andy: Oh OK, well maybe next Friday you should leave at 8:00. I think you’re getting a little bit old for this … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Be/Get used to

So, be/get used to, it’s one of those language points that people have a lot of problems with…but why? Let’s have a look at it in context. Check out this short paragraph about when I first came to London. I’ve lived in London for almost 5 years now and I have to say it’s a lot easier for me than it was when I arrived. When I first arrived there were a lot of differences between London and my city that I just couldn’t get used to. For example, when I first got her, I was standing on the left side of the escalator in the tube stations, which is a big no-no in London. People got really annoyed with me. After a week, of course, I didn’t even think about it anymore and I was used to standing on the right and walking on the left. Soon I even started getting annoyed with other people who stood on the left. That was when I knew that I’d never leave London. I imagine if I went back to Dublin now, I’d find it pretty hard to get used to the slower pace of life. Now, let’s take be/get used to apart and see what it’s made up of. Let’s focus on this sentence first:  “People got annoyed with me“. Let’s break it down. “Annoyed” is an adjective. We know this. “Get” is a verb, in this situation it means that the people are becoming annoyed. Now how about this sentence: “I couldn’t get used to it“. Again, “get” means “become”, so what kind of word is “used” here? Well it’s an Adjective of course. In this situation it means comfortable with,  familiar with or accustomed to. So what about this one?: “I was used to standing on the right”. This time we’re using … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Is the Past Perfect as simple as it seems?

I can’t count the number of times over the years that students have said something along the lines of: “Teacher teacher, I don’t understand the present and past perfect, it’s too difficult”. Now, the present perfect can be quite tricky to get your head around for a number of reasons. The main one being that there are a variety of different uses and also that while there is a version of the present perfect in many languages, it is slightly different in English, which can be confusing. The Past Perfect, however, is great! It has one use and it doesn’t really change. It’s also not as common as the Present Perfect and isn’t as big a deal. So, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all fine. Check out the examples and explanations below for more info on how we use it.   I didn’t eat a curry for two months. My wife cooked a curry. I came home from work the other day and saw the curry. I ate it very quickly and it was absolutely delicious.  what do you think of this story? Is it interesting or boring? Clearly, it’s ridiculously boring. It’s also incredibly unnatural. When we tell stories, we like to make them more interesting by changing the order of events so that the listener/reader is kept interested. We also think of pieces of information while we are speaking/writing and we add them in as we think of them. These pieces of information often happened before the actions we’ve already talked about. This is when we need the Past Perfect. We use it when we’re telling stories to describe actions or situations that happened before the story or before other actions in the story. Compare the story above with the one below. Which one do you prefer? … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Will + Going to (making predictions)

A few weeks ago we looked at the difference between will and going to for making plans but what about predictions? How can we express our thoughts about what will happen in the future? Are will and going to the same? Are they completely different? Read on to find out.   The Rules: So, the rule is pretty simple: 1) We use will for predictions based on our opinions, without any evidence to back it up. e.g. “I think we will have flying cars by the year 2025”. (In this situation, the speaker is expressing their opinion about the future but they really have no concrete facts to support it)  2) We use going to for predictions backed up by evidence. e.g. “Ooh, look at those dark clouds above, I think it’s going to rain”. (Whereas in this situation, the speaker can see that the clouds above them are quite dark and therefore they think it’s going to rain. The dark clouds are the physical evidence that supports their opinion) 2) We could also use it in the negative. e.g. “Not I don’t think it’s going to rain, those clouds aren’t rain clouds.” The Reality: However, this is English and therefore rules are made to be broken and there are exceptions and oddities throughout our wonderful language, especially when it comes to the future. Take football for example. I’m Irish, our football team is awful, absolutely terrible, shockingly bad, and it has been awful for years and years. Spain, on the other hand, have an excellent football team and have won numerous competitions with some of the best players in the world. So, if Spain and Ireland were playing each other, the logical prediction would be: “Spain is going to win!” We have years of evidence to support out prediction. But what would … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Habits – past, present and annoying!

Habits, we all have them, both good and bad. Present habits are one of the first things you learn to express in English but there’s so much more to it than just the present simple. Take a look at some of the different examples and the explanations below provided us by the great team of teachers at our London 30+ English school. Read on and improve your English. LET’S START WITH THE EASY STUFF. I go to Tesco every day after work. (This is a nice and easy present simple habit. It’s something that happens routinely in the present. Remember that you can also grade the frequency of your habits by using an adverb) I rarely / sometimes / often / usually / always cook dinner at home. (The adverb of frequency comes before the main verb) I am rarely / sometimes / often / usually / always on time. (The adverb of frequency comes after “be” verb)   BUT WHAT ABOUT ANNOYING HABITS? My brother is always borrowing my clothes without asking. (In this situation, I used the present continuous to show that I am annoyed by this present habit. The “always” adds to the annoyance.) AND WHAT ABOUT TEMPORARY HABITS? At the moment, I’m drinking a lot of beer but when I leave England and return to my country, I’ll probably stop. (The present continuous suggests that this habit will not continue forever. It is temporary) BUT HOW DO WE EXPRESS HABITS IN THE PAST? I used to play football when I was younger but I gave up when I left school. (Used to + verb: expresses an action that was a habit in the past but no longer is) I didn’t use to eat vegetables but now I love them. (remember that the negative is spelled slightly … Read more