Grammar

Connaissez-vous les ‘quantificateurs’ en anglais?

Skill: Vocabulary Theme: Quantifiers
Level: Pre-intermediate – Upper Intermediate (B1-B2)

Ou peut être vous demandez-vous qu’est-ce que c’est qu’un ‘quantificateur’ en français? Ce n’est pas un gros mot, c’est le terme qui désigne la famille de mots qui servent à exprimer la quantité.

Même si vous avez un bon niveau d’anglais, vous avez peut être quelques difficultés pour vous repérer entre any, none, each,  few, both, either et d’autres quantificateurs qui sont facilement confondus.

Voici une petite exercise de traduction qui vous aidera à trouver les bons équivalents.  Dans l’encadré ci-dessus vous trouvez une liste assez complète des quantificateurs en anglais.  Choisir le bon quantificateur pour traduire les phrases suivantes en anglais.  Le lien pour les réponses se trouve en bas de page.

Exemples:

Je n’ai pas d’argent.

I have no money. I haven’t got any money.

Est-ce qu’il a des amis ? Il n’en a aucun.

Has he got any friends? He has none. / He hasn’t got any.

Il n’y a presque plus de pain.

There’s hardly any bread left. There’s hardly any more bread left.

Maintenant, à vous:

  1. Chaque étudiant a une carte de bibliothèque.
  2. Ses deux parents sont avocats.
  3. L’un ou l’autre de ces pulls t’irait bien.
  4. Aucun des deux livres n’est intéressant.
  5. Aucun des trois livres n’est intéressant.
  6. J’ai peu de temps pour terminer mon rapport.
  7. Je peux te prêter un peu d’argent.
  8. Donne-moi quelques minutes, veux-tu ?
  9. J’ai du travail à faire.
  10. Avez-vous du lait ? Non, je n’en ai pas.
  11. Je ne mange pas beaucoup de viande.
  12. J’ai beaucoup de travail à terminer.
  13. J’ai toute l’information.
  14. Toute la ville a été détruite.
  15. Toutes les maisons du village ont été détruites.

Voici les réponses

Astuce

Il existe en anglais des groupes de quantificateurs, chacun ayant la même signification, dont l’utilisation change selon s’il s’agit d’une affirmation, une question ou une négation.  Exemples:

a lot of / much (indénombrable), many (dénombrable)

Do you have much work to finish?

Yes, I have a lot.

No, I don’t have much.

both / neither / either

Are either of his parents lawyers?

Yes, both of his parents are lawyers.

No, neither of his parents are lawyers.

some / any*

Do you have any money?

Yes, I have some.

No, I don’t have any.

*Il faut quand même nuancer cette « règle » concernant some et any.  C’est un bon principe, mais quand il s’agit d’une question, les anglophones utilisent l’un ou l’autre selon qu’ils anticipent une réponse négative ou positive:

Do you have some money?

(Je sais que tu ne sors jamais sans ta porte-feuille…)

Do you have any money?

(Moi je suis fauché et je sais que toi c’est probablement pas mieux…)

Avez-vous une question concernant les quantificateurs?  N’hésitez pas à la poser dans les commentaires ci-dessous.

Making comparisons

How well can you make comparisons in English. Can you remember the forms that we use?

Skill: Grammar Theme: Making comparisons
Level: Pre-intermediate/Intermediate (A2-B1)

In the slide presentation below you will find a number of contexts where you can practise making comparisons.
But first, a quick review:

To make the comparative or superlative of: you:
one-syllable adjectives ending in e add -r, -st
other one-syllable adjectives add -er, -est
two-syllable adjectives ending in -y change the y to i and add -er, -est
other two-syllable adjectives put more, most in front
longer adjectives put more, most in front

Choose a few examples from the slide presentation, and write as many comparisons as you can.  You can use some of the additional language on the third slide to help you.  Example:

Being an employee is generally more stable than being self-employed, but it is also more restrictive. Whereas social charges are lower when you’re self-employed, retirement benefits are not as high.  Self-employed people have a more flexible schedule, while employees work more predictable hours.  The percentage of employees in France is much higher than the percentage of self-employed people.  That may be because it is easier to be an employee.

Now it’s your turn.  What comparisons can you make?

Choose one of the contexts in the slide presentation and write a paragraph in the comments field below using the language of comparison.

Situations adapted from Business Result DVD Edition: Pre-Intermediate: Student’s Book with DVD-ROM and Interactive or Online Workbook

Les temps présents: lequel choisir?

Le français a un seul temps présent. L’anglais en a trois. La conjugaison est plus simple qu’en français, mais parfois on hésite devant le choix de temps.

Skill: Grammar   Theme: Present tenses
Level: Elementary (A1-A2)

L’astuce

En règle générale, quand je parle d’une routine, ou d’une activité régulière, ou quelque chose qui est toujours vrai, j’utilise le présent simple.

Quand je parle d’une activité en cours au moment où je parle, j’utilise le présent continu.

(Le troisième temps présent, le présent parfait fera l’objet d’un article à lui tout seul.  Ce temps n’est pas employé pour les deux cas de figure cités ci-dessus.)

Contexte 1: ma routine journalière ou hébdomadaire

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8:00AM Start work
10:00AM Check E-mails
12:00PM Lunch with Carol
2:00PM Department meeting
4:00PM Post Office

Quand je parle de mes activités régulières, j’utilise le présent simple:

Every Monday I start work at 8 o’clock.

I often check my E-mails at 10 o’clock.

On Wednesdays I meet Carol for lunch.

We have our department meeting at 2 o’clock on Thursdays.

I usually go to the Post Office at 4 o’clock.

La conjugaison du présent simple n’est pas compliquée, mais il ne faut pas oublier que pour les verbes réguliers, la forme de la troisième personne change (he/she/it) : He starts work, She checks her E-mail, He meets Carol etc.

Des expressions de temps qui s’emploient souvent avec le présent simple:

every day, on Tuesdays, in July, usually, often, sometimes, never, regularly…

Pratique

Utiliser ce formulaire pour prendre des notes sur vos activités journalières et hébdomadaires.  Ecrire une phrase pour chaque activité en utilisant le présent simple.

Contexte 2: mes projets actuels

Quand je parle de ce que je fais en ce moment, j’utilise le présent continu.

Le présent continu se construit avec un auxiliaire (une forme du verbe BE) + le verbe suivi de -ing.

I am writing an article.

You are interrupting me.

She is meeting her accountant.

We are renovating our office.

They are discussing a new product.

Des expressions de temps qui s’emploient souvent avec le présent continu:

at the moment, this month, today, currently, right now…

Pratique

Quels sont vos projets actuels?  Qu’est-ce que vous faites au travail qui n’est pas habituel?  Ecrire 5 phrases en utilisant le présent continu.

Faute typique: on n’utilise jamais le présent simple pour parler d’une activité qui est en cours au moment où on parle.  Par exemple, At the moment I *write am writing a proposal.  

Ces deux temps présents sont utilisés également pour parler du futurCette utilisation fera l’objet d’un autre article.

Photo Credit: candrews cc

How to get to grips with the verb « get »

swiss-knifeI seem to have had a lot of questions lately about the very versatile verb get.  It is one of the 100 commonest words in the English language, and one of the top 20 verbs.  It has very diverse meanings, and is used in a variety of ways.  Specialists will say that it is not usually good form to use get in writing, but it’s so useful that it is difficult to avoid.

Here is a summary of the main ways we use get.

1. Get + noun/pronoun

When get is followed by a noun or pronoun, it usually means something like receive, fetch, obtain, or catch…

I got a postcard from Darren yesterday.

Did you get some flour when you went to the supermarket?

Wrap up warmly so you don’t get a cold.

2. Get + adjective

When get is followed by an adjective, it usually means become…

I can’t climb those stairs so quickly these days – I must be getting old.

Turn that radiator on so you can get warm .

3. Get + preposition

When get is followed by a preposition, usually some kind of change or movement is implied…

What time do you usually get up in the morning?

Why don’t you get out of the house and get some fresh air?

4. Get + past participle

A. Get is often used for expressions where other European languages use reflexive verbs.  We use this to talk about something we do to ourselves:

get dressed
get lost
get engaged
get married
get divorced
get confused

B. Get can also replace be in passive structures such as…

The thief got caught when he used a stolen credit card (= was caught).

I got invited to Terry’s wedding (= was invited).

C. When there is an object before the past participle it can mean to finish doing something…

It has been so humid lately that it takes days to get the washing dried.

Get your room tidied and we’ll go to the park.

D. We can use the same structure (get + object + past participle) to talk about arranging for something to be done by somebody else.

I must get my hair cut – it’s looking terrible.

Peter has gone to the garage to ask about getting the car fixed.

5. Other uses:

get + -ing usually has the meaning to start doing something:

You should get going otherwise you’ll miss your train. ( = you should leave now)

get + to + infinitive often has the meaning to persuade:

I can’t get my husband to agree on the colour of the carpet.

This little list doesn’t cover every use of get, but it’s enough to get you started.  If you get stuck you could always get yourself a dictionary.  Don’t get frustrated if you find it difficult to understand all the uses of get.  It gets easier as you get used to the language.  So, why don’t you get on with it?

Grammarman Comic – activities for young learners

grammarman

I just came across Grammarman, the world’s first and only grammar superhero.

Grammarman is the invention of « creative guy », Brian Boyd, an English teacher in Thailand. What started out as a conversation between teachers wondering how to stop students reading mangas in class became the brilliant idea of Grammarman, a superhero defending « Verbo City » from the enemies of grammar, with help from sidekicks Alpha-bot and Syntax. Boyd’s comic strips are now published in newspapers and magazines in Malaysia, Argentina, Thailand and China.

grammarman-2How to use Grammarman

As a learner: click on the « Free Stuff » link for a number of self-study activities designed for young learners (mostly for lower levels).

As a teacher: I’m always hunting for ideas to meaningfully use a spare ten minutes at the end of a class. Each of the comic strips contain built-in error correction exercises – great for reinforcement.

Grammarman Comic.

Quantifiers: few or little?

In the last post on quantifiers we learnt about words we use to talk about a large quantity of something: much, many and a lot/lots of and talked about the difference between them.

Words we use to talk about small quantities include few and a few, little and a little.  There are also expressions like barely any, hardly any and less common, scarcely any.

Look at the following sentences and see if you can tell the difference between few and little:

Few teachers enjoy marking their students’ work.
There are only a few apples left on the tree.

I have little patience with politicians.
Why don’t you take a little sugar with your tea?

Did you notice that we use few with plural nouns, and we use little with singular uncountable nouns?

Now what about the difference between few/little and a few/a little?  Look at the following sentences and try to notice the rule:

The average parent has little control over how much television their children watch.
Few doctors visit patients in their homes these days.

Could you you put a little oil in the car before you leave?
John has said a few times that he would like to change jobs.

Few and little usually have a negative meaning.  They suggest ‘not as much/many as one would like’ or ‘ not as much/many as expected’.

A few and a little have a more positive meaning.    The meaning is similar to ‘some’, and gives the idea of ‘better than nothing’, ‘just enough’, ‘more than expected’ or ‘enough to be noticed’.

In informal style it is more common to use not many or not much instead of few or little.  Using the same examples as above:

The average parent doesn’t have much control…
Not many doctors will visit you in your home…

A related word is fewer, which we often confuse with less.  The meaning is the same but they are used differently.  See the following sentences:

There are fewer men than women working in our company.
I have less time than I used to to read novels.

Did you get it?  Fewer is used before plural words, and less before uncountable words.

For more details I recommend the following resources:

English has no future

future… « tense », that is.

Twice this week I have heard the comment from an English learner: « I find the future tense in English so complicated! »  As usual a look of bewilderment follows when I explain that there is no future tense in English.

What?  But we talk about the future all the time – how is that possible if there is no tense for it?  Well, we get around it by using one of several standard ways of speaking about future events, each one with its own particular meaning.

1. WILLDo you think John will visit us this summer?

2.  GOING TOI’m going to resign from my job.

3. PRESENT CONTINUOUSManchester United are playing at Wembley tonight.

4. SIMPLE PRESENTMy flight leaves at 7.00 tonight.

With so much variety, which one should I choose?  If you remember these simple principles, you will choose the right one most of the time.

For predicting – talking about what I think will happen in the future, without any reference to the present, we use will or going to, but not the present continuous.  I can say:

I think the price of fuel will fall / is going to fall next year,

but I can’t say *I think the price of fuel is falling next year.

When we talk about future plans – things that have already been decided, we use going to or present continuous, but not ‘will’.  I can say:

Where are Steve and Barbara going to spend / spending their holidays?

But I can’t say *Where will Steve and Barbara spend their holidays?

When we talk about a future action at the moment when we decide to do it, we use will.  I can say

It’s getting late.  I think we‘ll go home,

but I can’t say *It’s getting late.  I think I’m going / going to go home.

When we have present evidence that something is going to happen (that is, we can see it coming) we use going to:

Slow down! We‘re going to hit that car!

I can’t say *Slow down! We will hit / we’re hitting that car.

When we talk about future events that are already on a programme, such as a timetable, we can use simple present:

What time does the next train leave for Wellington?

This little summary doesn’t say everything there is to say about the future, as there are some other forms that we can also use:

5. WILL BE + INGFred will be having dinner with us tomorrow.

6. TO BE TOThe President is to visit Florida later this month.

7. WILL HAVE + past participle (future perfect)The workmen will have replaced all the windows by next Tuesday.

These three will be the subject of another post.
Practice Makes Perfect: English Verbs
Idiomatic English: A Workbook for Mastering Verb Phrases
English Phrasal Verbs in Use: Advanced

Quantifiers: much, many or a lot of?

calculator2Here’s a quick grammar tip that may help improve your English today.

A quantifier is a word that talks about the number, quantity or amount of something.  Examples of English quantifiers include words like each, both, either, neither, few, some, any, much, many, a lot of etc.

The last three, much, many, a lot of/lots of cause some problems.  Sometimes I hear sentences like the following:

How much money have you got?  It’s okay, I’ve got *much.

Did you have any trouble with customs?  Rather *much.

There isn’t much food left is there?  There’s *much bread and soup.

He’s got a lot of friends, but he doesn’t know *lots of girls.

We’ve played a lot of matches this season, but we haven’t won *lots.

None of the above sentences are correct.  As a general rule we use LOTS/A LOT OF in affirmative phrases, and MUCH (for uncountable nouns like « money ») and MANY (for countable nouns like « girls ») in negative phrases and questions.

Can you correct the above sentences?

In formal writing the rules are a little bit different.  We don’t like using LOTS OF in formal writing.  A LOT OF is possible, but we prefer to use expressions like the following:

Mr Lucas has spent a great deal of time in the Far East.

The auditors have found a large number of mistakes in the accounts.

In very formal style, you will find phrases that look like mistakes when you take into account the rules about much/many above:

Much research has been carried out in order to establish the causes of cancer.  In the opinion of many scientists…

In formal style it is quite acceptable to use much/many in affirmative phrases, not only in negatives and questions.

For more information on quantifiers see the next post on few and little.

For more details I recommend the following resources:

Golden rules for English articles

Should I use the, a/an or no article? How can I know for sure? Are there any rules? It’s so complicated!

If you find it difficult to use the three English articles, you are not alone. It is one of the most difficult areas of English grammar. I have two pieces of good news for you if you are a learner having difficulty with English articles.

1. When you make mistakes it’s not usually serious. Most native speakers are used to « international English » and can usually understand what you mean.

2. If you can remember 3 simple rules, you will avoid the mistakes that are the most common and the most obvious. Here they are:

  • Don’t use singular countable nouns without articles.

Have you seen the car key? I don’t know; there is a car key on the table. Is it yours? (not *Have you seen car key? etc.)

  • Don’t use the with plural and uncountable nouns to talk about things in general.

Politics is boring. (not *The politics is boring)
Apples are good for your health (not *The apples … )

  • Use a/an to say what people’s professions or jobs are.

Peter was a salesman, but he is now training to become an architect. (not *Peter was salesman etc.)

Just remembering these three rules will fix most of your article errors.  Do you have questions about using articles? Ask your question in a comment.

photo credit: mikecogh cc

Can you ask questions correctly?

« English grammar is easy!  »  « The reason English is a world language is that it is so easy to learn. »

I have often heard comments like these, and there’s probably some truth in it.  Perhaps it seems easy because there are so few verb forms, nouns don’t change except for making them plural, but perhaps the simplicity of elementary English grammar causes other problems.  It seems simple, so learners who want to go on to more exciting language fail to lay good foundations.

This is especially true in the area of forming questions.

Out of these questions, only one is correct.  Do you know which one?  Can you correct the others?

1. Did you went climbing last weekend?

2. Do you can tell me the time?

3. What does ‘periphrastic’ mean?

4. Is coming your mother tomorrow?

5. How much the room costs?

6. Like you Mozart?

7. You have received my letter?

These are all mistakes that I hear learners make often, even advanced students.  Did you get the correct question?  It was number 3.  All the others contain mistakes.

There are only four basic rules for forming questions in English.  If you can remember to use them, you will avoid the most common mistakes and speak English like a pro!  Download a free cheat sheet here:

 Question forms basic rules

photo credit: Marco Bellucci cc