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Your Questions of the Month

Average: 3.2 (10 votes)

These are the top questions we received from readers of our free newsletter, English in your Inbox , last month.

All questions are answered by Tim, a teacher at  EC Brighton English school.

always not vs. not always

I'm not always tired after work.
I'm always not tired after work.

The meaning of each sentence is different, isn't it? But is the second sentence & the sentences of similar structure correct?
Other examples:
I'm not usually tired after work & I'm usually not tired after work.
I'm not often hungry after work & I'm often not hungry after work.
Best regards, Dmitry

Answer: In the sentences using usually and often, there is no real difference in meaning with regard to where these adverbs of frequency are placed. However, because always is more emphatic, there is a big difference. Always = always, not always = sometimes.
And actually, we would not say 'I'm, always not tired after work.' We are more likely to say, 'I'm never tired after work,' or 'I'm always full of energy/wide-awake/alert after work,'
So, usually and often can go before or after not. Always should go after not.

commas with 'and'

My questions is if it is correct to use a comma before 'and'.
In my native language we do not put a comma before the word 'and' but I have noticed in the English texts I have read that a comma is used sometimes. If it is used, is there any rule?
Angela Bokor, Romania

Answer: In most cases there is no comma after and. However, when listing things that are not single words and which themselves contain the work and, a comma can be inserted after the second to last item, before the and. This makes things a lot more clear than if the comma had been left out.
For example,
Some of the most popular and well-known British shops are Debenhams, Topshop, Marks and Spencer, and British Home Stores.
When inserting an extra clause within a sentence that is correct in its own right, and has a number of clauses, commas can be used. As in the previous sentence!

depends on vs. depends upon

"It depends on you" & "It depends upon you", Can you let me know that where to use either of the sentence correctly at different situations?
With warm regards, Kainath Samuel

Answer: Depends on = most normal, accepted use.
Depends upon = not that common, but still correct. A bit posh! (Trying too hard!)

changing word forms

Please I face some of problems in the grammar English.

1- Transfer of the verb to adj.
2- Transfer of adj to noun .
3- Transfer of noun to Adverb.

And are there the bases for this?
Ragab Omar

 Answer: No simple rules I'm afraid! Many different suffixes for nouns and adjectives. However, many adverbs end in ...ly.
I know this is not very helpful, but there is no simple formula I can offer you, other than when you learn a new word, find out the other word forms and make sure you learn them as a group, along with any appropriate collocations.
For example;
happy- adj
unhappy- neg adj
(un) happiness - noun
(un) happily - adv
Be/feel happy
happy with s/o or sth
happy for s/o ( happy because they are happy)

Could you please explain to us when do you use "First of all", "Firstable", of "At first".
Jonathan Spitaels

first of all vs. at first

Answer: First of all is an expression used at the beginning of an explanation or description of some kind of process.
EG, First of all, boil the kettle. Next, warm the tea pot. Etc...
At first is usually used when describing how things have changed since.
EG, At first, when I arrived in England, I could not get used to the wind and the rain. But I am slowly getting used to it.
Firstable does not exist! It is a rather sweet bastardisation of 'first of all'!!

too vs. also

Could you tell me the difference (in the meaning and in the use) between the words "also" and "too"?
Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer: In many contexts their meaning is quite synonymous; in addition, as well. There is some flexibility as to where they go in a sentence but generally too goes at the end of a sentence/clause, and also goes before the main verb.
EG: 'He also likes reading horror stories.' And 'He likes reading horror stories too.'
Too also has another meaning, used before an adjective or adverb, implying that something is excessive or insufficient; a negative implication.
The classroom was too small for all the students. ( not big enough )
The music was too loud. ( excessively loud )
It is often used in this structure: too + adjective + to + infinitive
Eg; 'The table was too big to fit through the door, '
'She was too poor to afford a new dress.'
'It was too dark to see anything.'

write on vs. write in

what's the rigth sentence? "write in you copybook" or "write on your copybook"?
Emilia, Italy

Answer: It depends on where you want to write!
This is just a matter of prepositions of place. In the book = on the pages of the book; on the book = on the cover of the book.

Tim is an English language teacher at EC Brighton English Language School