Grammar Lesson: Third Conditional

If you hadn’t come to San Francisco, where would you have studied? If you hadn’t done your homework, what would your teacher have said to you? If you had passed that exam, what would you have done to celebrate? We use the thrid conditional to reconstruct imaginery situations in the past. For example, ‘what would have happened, if the Titantic hadn’t sunk?’ Well, firstly, the great ship would have sailed on strong and continued to it’s final destinantion. We might then ask ourselves, ‘what would have happened, if the Titantic had made it to New York?’. It is very possible, that those looking to find a whole new life in the USA, would have fulfilled their dreams. As we can see from the examples above, we are using the third conditional to picture a different past. Moreover, the language we use is hypothetical or ‘imaginery’. We construct the third conditional through two main components: 1) ‘If’ clause 2) ‘Would Have’ clause The ‘If’ clause may be formulated as: ‘If’ + Past Perfect If I hadn’t become an English teacher… The ‘Would Have’ clause may be formulated as: ‘Would Have’ + Past Participle … I would have been an art historian Luckily for us, both the ‘If’ and the ‘Would Have’ clause can be used before or after one another. Compare the following: If I hadn’t moved to Argentina, I wouldn’t have learned Spanish I wouldn’t have learned Spanish, if I hadn’t moved to Argentina Finally, as we saw at the start of this lesson, when forming a question in the thrid conditional, we must insert a question word before the ‘Would Have’ clause. This can take the form of what, how, where etc. How would you have managed, if he hadn’t given you such great advice? If she had lent … Read more

The things we did as children: What did you ‘used to do’?

Whether it was the things we did as children, the subjects we studied at school or even just a short-lived hobby, we continue to find ourselves talking about the things we ‘used to do’. When using English, we apply ‘used to’ when talking about events in the past which we no longer continue to do in the present. A helpful way of learning ‘used to’, is to consider it as a ‘fixed expression’ and not a tense. A basic formula for constructing this language is listed below: Subject + ‘used to’ + Infinitive + Object He used to play tennis Now let’s consider the following examples. 1) I used to play soccer when I was in high school 2) I used to take the bus to work but now I prefer to cycle Sentence 1) shows us that we can use ‘used to’ before a reference of time (when I was in high school). This is a good example of language which describes the past. We know that at this moment in time that the speaker is no longer in school, which suggests he ‘gave up’ playing soccer after leaving or graduating. A similar example might be, ‘She used to smoke when she was a teenager’. In this sentence, the past auxiliary in was a teenager tells us the woman could be in her early 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s! Sentence 2) proivdes us with information about a worker who used to take the bus. Following the object in this example, we see a linking word, ‘but’, which emphasizes the second part of the sentence. Other linking words might include those such as ‘however’ or ‘although’. Notice that in this second sentence, the main verb ‘prefer’ is used in the present tense. This indicates that at this moment in time, … Read more

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Out’

eat out: to go out for dinner They must be pretty wealthy. They’re always eating out at high-end restaurants. empty out: to remove everything from a single place or location Could you please empty out the trash. Our kitchen is starting to smell! walk out: to leave after disagreement or as a result of discontent Having argued with the waitress for nearly an hour, we picked up our belongings and walked out. sort out: to organize or re-arrange I’d love to play tennis but unfortunately, I have a ton of paperwork to sort out. even out: to make ‘level’ David Beckham hit an amazing free kick to even out the score line. kick out: to force someone to leave After months of disobedience and misbehavior, Joshua was kicked out of Harvard. stand out: to be noticed or recognized from afar Anna’s Halloween costume looks ridiculous. She stands out by a country mile. sell out: to sell everything ‘in-stock’ I do apologize Madame, we’re currently sold out of this particular item.

‘Pardon the Interruption’: Past Continuous

The Past Continuous has a variety of uses in English. It’s main purpose, is to describe an action in the past that continued to progress over a period of time. FORM We form the Past Continuous by taking the past form of the auxiliary ‘to be’ and adding -ing to the end of a main verb. Subject + AUX. V. ‘to be’ (past) + Main V. + -ing + Object Daniel was playing billiards INTERRUPTION Often, the Past Continuous is interrupted by another event in the past, which presents itself in the form of the Past Simple. For example, in the sentence above, we can interrupt Daniel’s game of billiards via a telephone, including more details about this specific time in the past. Daniel was playing billiards when his cell phone rang. By interrupting his game of billiards, Daniel’s cell phone becomes more emphatic than the initial action “playing billiards”. Therefore, the Past Continuous is best used to provide information about what was happening before something more important intervened. STORYTELLING Similar to example above, the Past Continuous can be used to ‘set the scene’ of a story. When we open a book for the first time, the text makes use of the Past Continuous to establish a ‘setting’. This ‘setting’ provides the reader with more knowledge about the ‘world of a text’. Such a beautiful Sunday morning. The birds were singing, the sun was shining and the flowers were beginning to blossom. Children were playing in the park, while their mothers were chatting away and smiling brightly. The example above demonstrates how the Past Continuous may be used to set up a positive scene within a story. However, as a past tense, it is just as capable of emphasizing something chaotic. What a stressful morning! The dog was barking, the … Read more

Difficult Tenses: ‘Past’ Meets ‘Present’

PAST SIMPLE VS PRESENT PERFECT Distinguishing between the Past Simple and Present Perfect can be quite challenging. Below is a brief introduction and comparison between each form. Lets take a look at the following sentences: 1. Lawrence broke his arm in 2002. 2. Unfortunately, Lawrence has broken his arm and will not be in school tomorrow. In the examples above, both 1. and 2. present us with a reference of time: ‘2002’ and ‘tomorrow’. Additionally, both of these sentences are describing an event which started in the past: the breaking of Lawrence’s arm. 1. uses the Past Simple, while 2. makes use of the Present Perfect. So, what’s the difference? The key to distinguishing between these forms is ‘recency’. ‘Recency’ (adj.- ‘recent’) can be defined as ‘a time occurring immediately before the present’. The first questions we must ask ourselves are as follows: ‘Which sentence is most ‘recent’ and ‘why’? Looking at the above, we know that 2. is the more recent sentence. The time reference ‘tomorrow’ is much closer to the present than ‘2002’. For this reason, the sentence takes the Present Perfect. Yes, the event happened in the past, however, it’s effect is still present and affects Lawrence not only today, but tomorrow as well. It will most probably affect Lawrence way into the future and we are unsure of precisely ‘when’ he will make a full recovery. The fact that he ‘will not be in school tomorrow’ also tells us that we are moving from an action in the past to this very moment in time. So, ‘tomorrow’ has more relevance to the present than ‘2002’, as mentioned in 1.. Thinking about ‘recency’, we now have a better understanding about when to use the Past Simple. ‘2002’ is a more definitive, complete time reference than ‘tomorrow’. ‘2002’ … Read more