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Your Questions: The best of June

Average: 3.3 (20 votes)

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


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June's Star Question - Thanks to Thao from Vietnam:

I want to ask you about how to use 'person' and 'people'. What is right, 'persons' or 'people'? For example, "There are many persons in this room", or, "There are many people in this room".



People is correct, use only this for the plural of person.
There are occasions when 'persons' is permissible, but only when wanting to refer to a plural of specifically implied individuals. It is somewhat idiomatic/colloquial.

All the best,







Can we say: "transports" (with the meaning of 'forms of transport')?
Can we ask: " Which transport did you 'use'?" or is it incorrect to use this verb in this situation?
Fatima Nave

'Transport' is uncountable, and so the best structure would be 'forms of transport'. Use is a perfectly acceptable verb in this situation.


Is it "Dear..." the best way to start a formal letter?And is it "best regards" the best way to end it? Thank you very much!
April Joy F. Ganaganag, Philippines

It all depends on who you are writing to (or to whom you are writing), but generally speaking 'Dear...' is the correct form to start a letter, and 'Best regards' is a perfectly acceptable way of ending it.
Traditionally, if you start a letter with 'Dear Sir', you end it with 'Yours faithfully', and if you start with 'Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms XXX', you end with 'Yours sincerely'.

auxiliary verbs

I would like to know whether past tense forms of the verb 'to have' require an auxiliary when used in 'yes-no' questions or in negativee statements. For Example:

Had you a good job?
No, I hadn't.

Did you have a good job?
No, I didn't.

Are the two forms correct?
Hocene, Algeria

Used in this context, that is, as a verb of possession, 'have' is like any other non-auxiliary verb and needs to be used with 'do'. Therefore 'Did you have a good job?' 'No, I didn't.' is correct.


If the shop (or any other institution) resumes working you can see a table hanging on the door saying 'Open' or 'We are open'. Tell me please if 'open' is a Partiple 2. Why then it not 'opened' but 'open'?

What do you mean by participle 2? It is neither a past nor present participle adjective. 'Open' is simply an adjective meaning the opposite of 'closed'.


'Appointment fixed up on tomorrow', or 'appointment fixed by tomorrow', which one is correct?
Sagar Kadam

Hmm, neither really. It depends what you want to say. I must say that you have not explained what you want to say, nor given me any context with which to help you.
Try again! Perhaps you want to say that 'you have arranged (or fixed) an appointment for tomorrow'?

which / what

Please tell me which sentence is correct:
"What author is credited with the publishing of the first mystery story?"
"Which author is credited with the publishing of the first mystery story?"

In this case, because we are implying that there is a choice of authors, 'which' is correct.


My question is about "possessive 's":
Can this structure be used for a whole phrase? For example, "The girl next door's dog". In that case, is it better to use 'of', "the dog of the girl next door" or possessive 's?
Jacques, France

It can, and is, used exactly like that, with the 's at the end of the phrase, somewhat like defining relative clause. Though how officially 'correct' it is I don't know, it is acceptable at least in common usage.


There is no rule about word-building. So I want to know the difference between the preffixes - 'un' - and - 'in'? When and which must we write? I think it will be interesting for all.
Siplivaya Marina

Do you? It's not very exciting! LOL The prefixes un- and in- mean the same thing, they make the adjectives which follow negative or the antonymous. But as you already know that there are few, if any rules so you just have to learn those which begin with un- and those which begin with in-.

allow for / allow of

Which prepositions can be used after the verb "allow"?
Is it possible to say "allow of" and "allow for"? Specifically when do you use "allow for"?

You can allow someone to do something, and in this case you are following allow with the 'to infinitive'. You can also say, 'to allow for something'.
e.g. 'We have to allow for bad weather (or make allowances for) when planning a summer garden party.' Allow for + noun/ing 'Allow for' in this case means take into consideration.

past tense

My question is reffering to the correct use of simple past and present perfect.
"When was the last time..." is a frequently asked question. It is related to an exact time, so I would use the simple past form of the verb:
"When was the last time you saw a doctor?"
Yesterday I received a newsletter from photo.net containing this question:
"When's the last time you've looked backwards in time to see your progress as a creative individual?"
It is written by a native English.
I notice the present perfect form of the verb "to look", describing an action happened at an unspecified time before now. Is it correct?
Dana-Maria Onica, Romania

I'm afraid the sentence you refer to is in rather poor English. It should have been, 'When was the last time you looked backwards in time...etc' as it is referring to specific point in the past; inappropriate use of the present perfect. The clue here being last time. Not only that but using 'when's' is poor, it means 'when is'; 'when' was cannot be abbreviated.

passive tense

"He has scored the goal cleverly"
When I want to convert this sentence into passive; where will I put "been" ?
Radwa Alhadry

So you want me just to give you the answer? You could have tried at least! "The goal has been scored cleverly ( by...)".

hire vs employ

Employ vs hire...where's the difference?
Daniel Martinez Galarza, Spain

'What's' the difference? :) Hiring generally indicates a more temporary idea than employing, perhaps utilizing a short-term contract. Hire is also a synonym of rent.

wish you (could)...

"Do you wish you spoke Italian?" and "Do you wish you could speak Italian?"
Which tense must be used for answers of the these questions?
Hatice Turgut, Turkey

Both of these forms are possible, but there is a slight difference in meaning. 'I wish I could speak Italian' refers to my 'lack of ability', whereas 'I wish I spoke Italian' simply refers to my desire to speak the language. But the difference is so slight in this particular example, that both would have the same effect on the listener.


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Tim from EC Brighton

Link: Your Questions: The Best of May