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)


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…


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…


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 avoid errors with adverbs #1

targetWhat do the following sentences have in common?

*She speaks very well English.
*I go often to the theatre
*We’re tomorrow leaving for Belgium
*I think we should go early to bed.

Each of the sentences contains an adverb. An adverb is a word that usually answers questions like ‘how?’, ‘when?’, ‘where?’ or ‘why?’.

In each of the sentences above, although the sentences are quite understandable, the word order is incorrect.  The position of adverbs can be quite a confusing area of English grammar, for a variety of reasons.  Many English teachers are influenced by a false idea about adverbs that they probably learnt at school, namely that adverbs are ‘words that modify verbs’. This is only a small part of what the versatile adverb can do. It can also modify adjectives, numbers, clauses, whole sentences and other adverbs. The only thing that an adverb can’t modify, in fact, is a noun. This makes the adverb a kind of ‘catch-all’ category of words that don’t fit in any other category.

Another false idea that you might have learnt: ‘adverbs are words that end in -ly’. It is true that many adverbs do end in -ly, but friendly, lovely, lonely, likely, ugly, deadly, cowardly and silly are all adjectives, and cannot be used as adverbs.

There are also some adjectives in -ly that can be used as adverbs, such as daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, early. For example:

I have to wake up early to catch the early train.

The other confusing thing is that there are three possible positions for an adverb in a sentence:

1. initial position – before subject and verb (Frankly, I think she’s lying.)
2. mid position – between subject and verb (John definitely saw a lion behind that tree.)
3. end position – after subject and verb (As a child I used to be punished daily)

Some kinds of adverbs can only go in one position:

I have to say Fortunately Peter sold his house before the prices went down. It would be unusual to say *Peter fortunately sold… and impossible to say *Peter sold fortunately…

Other kinds of adverbs can go in two of the positions:

Yesterday we took the children to the zoo and We took the children to the zoo yesterday are both possible, but not *We yesterday took…

And still other adverbs can go in all three positions:

Occasionally we go to the cinema, We occasionally go… and We go occasionally are all possible.

Another thing to realise is that sometimes errors of adverb position are serious enough to cause misunderstanding:

Naturally, she gave birth and She gave birth naturally do not mean the same thing.

But in other situations errors are not serious, just a bit odd.

The problem with lumping all of these very diverse words into one category is that it can make learning the rules about how to use them seem complicated. This post is the first in a series where we will look at some of the different kinds of adverbs and how they behave.

Did you manage to correct the problems in the sentences at the beginning of the post?

She speaks English very well.

I often go to the theatre.

We’re leaving for Belgium tomorrow.

I think we should go to bed early.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin 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?

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