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Average: 2.6 (15 votes)

Every month we ask our newsletter readers to send their English language questions to Tim, a teacher at EC Brighton. Here are this month's questions:

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Star Question

Thanks to Chimeg from Mongolia for the winning question of the month:

I'd like to ask a question. I don't clearly understand what is the different meaning and usage of 'myself' & 'by myself'. For instance: "I clean the kitchen myself" and "I clean the kitchen by myself". Please help me.

They both mean that you had no help cleaning the kitchen.However, the second statement might be said to invite the response, 'Aren't you a clever boy then!'
:) So I did it myself shows that you did what ever it was; no one else did it.
I did it by myself shows that you had no help with it.

All the best,

used to

Why we use the word 'used' to talk about anything or the action doesn't permanent?
Luis Braylle Dacosta

'Used to' shows that a particular thing always happened or was true in the past, especially if it no longer happens or is no longer true.
"He used to live in London." - In the past he lived in London, he does not live there now.
Here is another use for 'used to' with the verb 'be'.
'Be used to sth/sb' means to be familiar with something or someone:
"We're used to tourists here - we get thousands every year."

speak your mind / speak from the heart

I've searched about this idiom, "spoken my heart", but couldn't get a right answer. Hope you could help explaining to me, I'll be thankful.
Haifa, Yemen

You may be mixing a couple of idioms here!
You can 'speak your mind', or 'speak from the heart'.
If you speak your mind, you are saying how you really feel about something; usually about something that you are not happy with, and often in a very direct way which some people may not find easy to accept.
If you speak from the heart, you are saying your true feelings perhaps quite emotionally.
So both expressions mean being honest, but in different ways.

future form

Which of these sentences in the future form is correct?
1. Tomorrow I will be playing football for three hours
2. Tomorrow I'm playing football for three hours
And if they are both correct, can you please explain the difference in meaning?
Alessandra Rolfi, Italy

To be honest, both work.
The second one is often considered more appropriate for this situation as we use the present continuous for arrangements. But, the first one would be more appropriate if we were referring to a specific time tomorrow. EG, I'll be playing football at 3pm tomorrow.

countable nouns

I was doing exercises into oxford practice grammar and there is written "we use some with plural countable nouns" so 'snow' is not countable. Why there is such sentence "we saw some snow on the mountains this morning", then I remembered that I used to say "some water", "some coffee" water coffee are also uncountable. Are they simply exceptions? Please explain me.
Nino Mindiashvili

Some is used with countable AND uncountable nouns.
"I ate some rice for lunch."
"I took some books with me on vacation."

historic vs historical

Please show me the use of 'historic' and 'historical', I can't use them correctly.
Le Pham Hoang Anh, Vietnam

'Historic' and 'historical' are both addjectives - The noun is 'history'.
Historic is used to describe an event that was important in history.
Historical is used to describe something related to the past.
It is, therefore, better to say "The moon landing was a historic event in human history", because Neil Armstrong landing on the moon was an important event.
"There are many historical houses in this neighbourhood" means that the houses are old, but are not necessarily important in history.
"I like reading historical books" means that you like books in which the story occurs in the past.

would vs used to

What's the difference between would and used to if I talk about events that was in the past?
And can I use the negative form with USED TO?
Diana Masterova, Russia

We use both 'Used to' and 'would' to talk about passed actions/states that no longer happen.
'Would' is used for a repeating action. 'Used to' is used for a fixed state and repeating action.
Fixed state: "I used to live in China."
Repeating action: "I used to take piano lessons every Friday."
"I would take piano lessons every Friday."

nevertheless vs nonetheless

I am unable to digest the meaning and difference in use of "nevertheless" and "nonetheless".
Surendra, India

They are both adverbs meaning "in spite of that" or "however". These two words are pretty much interchangeable. No need to worry about a difference.

everybody is/are?

What is correct: "Everybody is" or "Everybody are"?
Geethanjali Unnikrishnan, India

Everybody (and everyone) is singular and should take a singular verb e.g' "Everybody loves subject-verb-agreement." So the right sentence is "Everybody is".

idiom:out of joint

get one's nose out of joint and help me to translate this sentence:
I started getting my nose out of joint about the whole thing.

When you get your nose out of joint you become upset or annoyed by something. In your example sentence, the situation ("the whole thing") is upsetting the speaker.

would + infinitive

Question 1 :- If some person imagining about future. e.g. "If I were a president of U.S", "If I were a bird" then in whole story what tense we suppose to use, may be some of thing are not exist this time but he is expecting to happen it
Deepak, India

From your letter, I would focus on some of the more basic English grammatical structures like the use of the auxiliary 'be' before adjectives, and word order. However, in reply to your query, you should use 'would + infinitive'.
For example:
"If I were President of the United States, I would stop trying to 'democratise' other countries."
"If I were a bird, I would probably be eaten by a cat."
"This is part of the second conditional structure."


I've decided to ask a question about using The Gerund and I'll hope you help me.
As far as I understand the Gerund can be used in a different ways: subject, object, attribute and so on.
Owing to the variety of prepositions which may precede the Gerund in the function of an adverbial modifier, a gerund may have different meanings. Is it correct to use an adverbial modifier of purpose which is introduced by the preposition for?
For example, I took her to the station for questioning. Or the best way is to refuse of using Gerund here, because it seems to me that ''I took her to the station for questioning'' sounds incorrectly.
Alexander Avdeyev, Russia

Wow sounds as though you've swallowed a 'How to Learn English Using the Most Complicated Language Possible' book!
But, I took her to the station for questioning is perfectly correct. Though not all gerunds are preceded by prepositions, all prepositions are followed by either gerunds or nouns.
I wouldn't call the gerund in this case an adverbial modifier ( not even sure what one is!! LOL), as very few people would know what your talking about. Let's keep language a bit more egalitarian shall we!


Could you explain the meaning of "schwa"? And why you call it 'schwa" ?
Jacques, France

It's the upside down 'e' you see in pronunciation charts, the general weak English vowel sound , as in the vowel you hear in 'the', and the first and third 'a' in 'banana'. I have no idea why it's called that. I do rather think it's a somewhat glamorous term for such a pedestrian sound!

I vs me

Here's my very burning question and I hope you could find the answer:
What is the grammar rule for using the objective pronoun "me" instead of the subjective pronoun "I" in the sentence: "It is me." Thanks very much.
Farag Attia

'I' is the subject pronoun, 'me' is the object pronoun.

what's the difference?

I.What is the difference between these sentences:

1. A lot of people afraid to go out at night.
2. I am always afraid of bitten.

II. What is the difference between these sentences:

1. I am intersted in doing something.
2. I was intersted to hear that Tom has got a new house.

III. What is the difference between these sentences:

1. I am sorry to bother you, but I need to talk to you.
2. I am sorry for shouting at you yesterday.

IV. What does - have something done - mean?
For instance: George had his nose broken in a flight.
Esmira Safarova, Azerbaijan

Right, the first pair of sentences are just wrong! Where is the verb 'be' before the adjectives?
The second pair work, but check the spelling of interested.
The third pair is OK.
Many adjectives and verbs have more than one possiblility when it comes to structures that follow them.
Afraid of + noun/...ing, afraid to + infinitve.
Interested in + noun/...ing. It is not common to use interested + to infinitve, though with "to hear that/ to see that/ to find out that" it works.
Sorry for + noun/ ...ing for things in the past you regret. Sorry + to infinitive for things you are just about to do.

"Have something done" is a passive structure we use when others do some thing for us; when they provide a service we cannot do ourselves. In some cases, like the example you have given, this is a service which he clearly did not require!
The structure is "have + object + past participle".
Eg, "I had my hair cut yesterday."
"When are you going to have your flat redecorated?"
"We should have our teeth checked at least once every three months."

phrasal verbs

I would like to know how I can identify the phrasal verbs into the sentence. What are the common words that identify this verbs?
Narda Delgado, Colombia

What is love? Why is God? LOL
What is commonly known as a phrasal verb is best described as the use of a verb and particle ( preposition/adverb), the combination of which appears to have little logical or literal meaning. Get it?
At the risk of stating the obvious, I would familiarise myself with a few of them before trying to spot them in a text. You would not go train spotting without knowing what a train was, would you? :)

keep (on)

In the context I have seen the following sentences:
1."..., but Cliff and his friend kept on working."
2. "..., they kept repeating their experiments."
3. "...They kept trying to live on their seventeen-thousand-dollar salaries."
Will the meaning of the sentence be changed, if we don't use preposition "on" in the first sentence?
Can We use preposition "on" in the last two sentences?
Akmaral Tazhigarina, Kazakhstan

What the preposition 'on' does is emphasize the 'continuation' aspect of keep.
So, to 'keep' doing something means to continue doing it.
To 'keep on' doing something means to continue doing it, with added emphasis.

phrase, clause, sentence

Would you mind to tell me what is the difference between phrases, clauses and sentences please? I tend to confuse their meaning.
Genevieve, Madagascar

A sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. There will at least one subject and verb, possibly one or more objects and perhaps more than one clause, maybe several clauses.
A clause is part of a sentence, which may be separated from the other clauses by commas, or by link words.
A phrase is simply an expression, or words used togther.