Learn English | A new lesson every week
Book your course now

Your Questions: The best of May

Average: 3.6 (10 votes)

Every Month we ask our newsletter readers to send in their questions to Tim, our English teacher in EC Brighton, about the English language. Here are your questions:

 Not getting the newsletter? Sign up for it now!!

May's Star Question!

Thanks to Susanna from Spain for this question:

In the following sentence, 'There is unlikely to be any change in the weather', I don't understand why it is used the word 'there', instead of 'it'.
I think the subject of the sentence is 'to be any change in the weather', so it is not an impersonal sentence.


Ok , we use 'there is/are' when we want to say something exists. In this case we are talking about whether 'any change (in the weather)' exists. We cannot use 'it', as 'it' is 'the weather'. Further examples you might hear are, 'There is unlikely to be much sunshine over southern England this Easter bank-holiday weekend', and 'There is a strong possibility of rain and gale-force winds throughout early June'!! If we use the subject 'it' in this case, it would be something like this, 'It is unlikely to change'. In this particular case, 'it' is not impersonal, it's the weather. However, in many other cases referring to the weather, 'it' is impersonal. E.g. 'It's raining' etc.

All the best,


a cup of coffee

Can we say: "Would you like a coffee?"or only "Would you like a cup of coffee?". If yes, what is their difference?
Karolina Muradyan, Russia

There is no difference between the two. When someone says "Would you like a coffee?", we expect it to be served in a cup and not, for example, in a bucket or an ash-tray!

is / are

Which is correct: The students, as well as their teacher (is, are) in the laboratory?
April Joy F. Ganaganag, Philippines

The subject is plural, so the verb has to be in the plural so it is ARE! Definitley!

wh - questions

Which of the followings can be used ?
- How do you get to school ?
- How do you go to school ?
- How do come to school ?
-Where are you from ?
- Where do you come from ?
Kamal Soliman, Egypt

All of them can be used. The difference between 'go to school' and 'come to school' depends on where the speaker is. If the speaker is at the school , it is 'come'. If not, then it is 'go'

which verbs

I have the following puzzling grammar questions:
- what is the difference between "watch a television and "watch TV"?
-what is the difference between " drive car" and "drive a car"?
- what is the difference between " have a lunch" and " have lunch"?

This is not so much the case of 'what's the difference...' as which is correct?
We 'watch TV', not 'watch a TV'.
We 'drive the/my/ our/your (etc) car', not 'drive car'.
We 'have lunch', not 'have a lunch'.

If I was/were

Question: Why do we have to say "if I were you" instead of "if I was you"?
Ianda Rafaela Alves Jdnyczuk, Brazil

You can use either form, though 'if I were you ...' is considered more correct in this context. Using 'were' in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, both singular and plural voice is common in hypothetical structures. Why? No idea, it just is. :)


What is the different between "toward" and "towards"

They have the same meaning and use. The only difference is that 'toward' is used more in American English while 'towards' is more common in British English.

2 idioms

What do these expressions mean:
1. ran out of words
2. go for the throat
Jenya, Ukraine

1. ran out of words: I couldn't think of anything else to say.
2. go for the throat: to make a determined attempt to deal with something.

modal verbs

Hi there, my bigggest doubt is, as we all know 'may-might', 'will-would', 'can-could'. All these are 'present-past forms' but peolpe use past forms like 'might', 'could' and 'would' even for present tenses like 'I would appreciatiate if', 'could I feel it?' and like 'she might come'. I asked many regarding this ,some of the answers I got is: in spoken lanquage we use like this. Is rules vary from grammatical English to spoken English? I am really confused please answer to my question regardless of whether its worth winnig award or not.

No. There is no difference between spoken and written English with regard to the use of modal verbs. However, they have many and varied uses, to which I’m afraid there is not the time nor the space to go into all of them here. Do not worry about being confused, it is all perfectly natural! A good grammar book aimed at your particular level should help you.
But, from your letter, I think that you should focus far more on the simpler structures, like mastering questions forms, for the time being, and leave the more confusing structures to when you have improved your basis skills!

newspaper English

Suppose the Indian team wins a match today. The headlines of the newspaper for tomorrow will appear as "India wins". Why is it so. Why do we not use "India won"?

The present simple aspect is frequently used in headlines as a way of grabbing the reader’s attention. The next line, in slightly smaller letters may use the present perfect , while the story will probably say it how it is, i.e. use the past forms to say when a particular event took place.
India has won the Test Match in New Delhi
Yesterday, there were celebrations lasting all night long in the whole of India after India won the Test Match...etc

more modals

Which is the difference between:
Can I...?
May I...?
Could I...?
Silvia, Italy

Can I? = direct, and could either be asking for permission to do/get something, OR about the ability to do/get something
Could I? = A more polite version of can I
May I? = A much more polite way to ask for something

a few / a lot

I have learned English Language but later with usage, I found some confusion in regard to using "a few" and "a lot".
When I need to say "a few", is there a way when we sometimes don't put "a" before the "few"?
Also, when can we say "a lot of cows in the farm" and "lots of cows in the farm"?
Shall we use the "a" always with "few/lot" or there are some places where we can drop it?
Thank you in advance for your help.
Tahani Shamma

Ok, first thing's first, there is no difference at all between lots and a lot.
However, there is between (a) little and (a) few.
We use few before countable nouns and little before uncountable nouns. If we say 'there are a few apples in the bowl', it means 'there are some apples in the bowl', but if we say 'there are few apples in the bowl', it means that there aren't many apples.
The same applies to 'little'.
'I have a little money' = I have some money.
'I have little money' = I don't have much money.
Another 'however' is if we put 'only' before a few/a little.
If I say 'I have only a few apples' or 'I have only a little money', it means 'I don't have many apples/much money'.

new words

How do I make myself use new vocabulary? Really it is a big problem to use it in everyday speech because your brains get out only "old words" from your memory.

It is true that it is difficult to remember the vocabulary that we don’t use on a regular basis. And if the only time you use English is, for example, one hour per week in your English lesson, it is even more difficult. So, the best thing I can suggest is that you store the vocabulary down in a note book, with its meaning, other forms and several examples of the way the word is used in sentences, plus of course a translation and perhaps comparable expressions. You should practice and test yourself on a regular basis. You have to take advantage of any opportunity to use new vocabulary, even if it is to create a role-play situation with your fellow English learners. If you read regularly in English, take every opportunity to listen to English, and create the opportunity, real or otherwise, to reproduce what you have been exposed to, you will find that your brain will retain a lot more! Good Luck!!

despite / although

Difference between 'despite' and 'althrough'.
Example: "Despite beeing Italian I can speak English."
"Although I am Italian i speak English."
Is so ok?
Maurizio, Italy

Is OK! ;)
The thing to remember is that both despite (and in spite of) and although ( and even though/ though) do the same job, but in different forms. Despite is always followed by a noun or ...ing, and although is followed by a subject/verb clause.
So your example illustrates this perfectly :)


What's the difference between "practice" and "practise"?
Giusy Novella

In British English, "practice" is the noun and "practise" is the verb. In American English, "practice" is used for both.


"Do you wish you spoke Italian?" and"Do you wish you could fly a plane?"
Which tense must be used for answers of these questtions? Thanks
Hatice Turgut, Turkey

As the question form is 'Do you wish...?' the answer would have to be in the present, using the auxiliary 'do' e.g 'Yes I do/no I don't'.


 Not getting the newsletter? Sign up for it now!!

You can also post your questions and comments on our forum

Tim from EC Brighton