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parts_of_speech

Parts of speech

Parts of speech

In order to improve your result in the IELTS test, both for speaking and writing, it is important to be aware of the ‘parts’ of speech that create sentences in English. It is commonly accepted that there are only 9* different parts of speech from which all sentences, phrases or utterances are made.

*Some schools believe that there are only 8 parts of speech, with articles being part of the adjective group.

Parts of speechThe different parts of speech are as follows:

  1. nouns
  2. verbs
  3. adverbs
  4. adjectives
  5. articles
  6. pronouns
  7. prepositions
  8. conjunctions
  9. interjections

Understanding which groups words are in can also help you to break down sentences, making the passive skills (reading and listening) easier.

Below is a table showing the different parts of speech and an example.

Parts of speech

Part of speech Common use Example
Verb to describe an action He sat.
Noun To describe a thing He sat on the chair.
Adverb To describe the verb He slowly sat on the chair.
Adjective To describe the noun He slowly sat on the tall chair.
Pronoun To talk about who He slowly sat on the tall chair.
Preposition To talk about where or when He slowly sat on the tall chair.
Conjunction Used to join ideas He slowly sat on the tall chair but fell off.
Article Used to give more information about the noun He slowly sat on the tall chair but fell off.
Interjection A short exclamation – not a full sentence Ouch! He hit the floor.

Improving your knowledge of English

It is also useful to keep a vocabulary list and group words together that come from the same parts of speech.

For example:

adjectives – e.g. glamorous

You should try to also learn their antonyms and synonyms to build your vocabulary.

e.g. alluring, attractive (synonyms) – dowdy, plain (antonyms)

and think about their comparatives and superlatives e.g. – (adj) more glamorous (comparative) the most glamorous (superlative)

nouns – e.g. accommodation

(check spelling and think about articles etc) – uncountable, no ‘a’ or ‘an’

You should try to also learn their synonyms to build your vocabulary.

e.g. place of residence, dwelling, abode (synonyms)

verbs – e.g. drive

(and their past and participle forms);

drove, driven

prepositions – e.g. on

(with examples of their different uses),

e.g. on the sofa, but in an arm chair.

conjunctions – e.g. moreover

(with examples of use and punctuation)

Smoking is expensive; moreover, it is detrimental to health.

Click here to try the parts of speech exercises.

louis-armstrong1

Level A2 Learning English through music 1

Level A2 Learning English through music 1

Louis Armstrong – Wonderful World

Level A2 Learning English through music 1Learning English through music is not only fun, it is very effective for improving your listening skills.

Play the video below and as you listen to the words (lyrics), complete the gap fill with the words you hear. When you are finished, click ‘Finish quiz’ to check your answers.

I see trees of 1.
Show answergreen ,

Red roses too

I see them bloom for me and 2.
Show answeryou

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of 3. and clouds of white
Show answerblue

The bright blessed day,

The 4. sacred night
Show answerdark

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The 5. of the rainbow
Show answercolours

So pretty in the sky

Are also on the 6. of people going by
Show answerfaces

I see friends 7. hands
Show answershaking

Saying how do you do

They’re really saying ‘I love you’.

I hear 8. crying, I watch them grow
Show answerbabies

They’ll learn much more

Than I’ll ever 9.
Show answerknow

And I think to myself what a wonderful world

10. I think to myself what a wonderful world
Show answerYes

Show All correct answers

Extend your English vocabulary #1

Extend your English vocabulary #1

EYV-fluctuateRegular posts with a new word, the pronuciation and example sentences.

Word: FLUCTUATE

Pronounced: FLUC-tu-ate (click below to listen)

 

Word type: verb (the noun is fluctuation)

Meaning: To rise and fall irregularly

Example: Exchange rates fluctuate every day, with the US dollar sometimes falling.

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inversion

Inversion

Inversion

inversionTo emphasise a particular part of a sentence, or to make your writing more literary (such as in a poem or novel), you can invert the traditional order of a sentence. For example:

Standard order – He didn’t realise he had been tricked until the following day.
Inverted order – Not until the following day did he realise he had been tricked.

It is common to invert sentence using negative, ‘restrictive’ words such as those in the list below:

hardly ever Hardly ever had there been such a shortage of water.
never Never had the President had to make such a difficult decision.
little Little did she know time was running out.
scarcely ever Scarcely ever have they had to wait for anything.
only by Only by learning to type will he improve in his job.
under no circumstances Under no circumstances is the prisoner to have visitors.
only in this way Only in this way can we be sure to avoid repeating the problem in the future.
on no account On no account is John to be given any money.
scarcely Scarcely has they left the building when the bomb went off.
not only Not only had he broken the law but he was also unrepentant.
seldom Seldom have I seen such wealth.
nowhere Nowhere else is there such an abundance of natural resources.
not until Not until the following day did he realise he had been tricked.
subjunctive

The subjunctive

The subjunctive

subjunctiveThe subjunctive is a grammar form that has no plural form or past form. It is generally used when something is considered important or desirable. It is part of a highly formal style of English often referred to as ‘The Queen’s English’.

For example:

  • It is essential that every child have educational opportunities.
  • It has been suggested that the company invest in new machinery.
  • The judge recommended that the prisoner stay in prison for at least 10 years.

Note that ‘do’ is not used in the negative form:

  • It is essential that every child not have to pay for educational opportunities.
  • It has been suggested that the company not invest in new machinery until next year.
  • The judge recommended that the prisoner not stay in prison any longer

 

The verb be is slightly different to other verbs in the subjunctive, because there is a different past tense form.

  • It is important that both parties be available to sign the documents
  • I wish it were the weekend!

There are also some fixed phrases that use the subjunctive form:

  • God save the the Queen (not saves)
  • Long live the King! (not lives)
  • God bless us all (not blesses)
  • Be that as it may…
school

Participle clauses

Participle clauses

participle clausesParticiple clauses are used in some tenses, but they also have another use – they can combine information into one sentence.

Participle clauses often express condition, reason, cause, result or time.

For example:

Jim walked past the old school. He got to the shop. > Walking past the old school, Jim got to the shop.

The section in bold is participle clause.

 

There are three types of participle clause:

Present participle Walking past the old school, Jim got to the shop.
Past participle Founded in 1912, the club has a long history.
Perfect participle After they had finished their homework, the boys went out to play.

 

Notes:

1. The participle clause and the main sentence must have either a cause/effect relationship or show a sequential relationship (one thing happened before the other).

Participle clause with a cause/effect relationship: Having studied hard, he passed the exam.

Participle clause with a sequential relationship: Locking the door, John walked to his car.

2. Both the clause and the main sentence normally need to have the same subject

Driving home, Mary thought about what she would cook for dinner (Mary was both driving and thinking about dinner)

 

Ready to test yourself? Take a look at these participle clause exercises!

 

woman in auto repair shop

Causative verbs

Causative verbs

Causative verbsCausative verbs, as the name suggests, are used when we want to talk about somebody causing something to take place but not actually performing the action.

In sentences including causative verbs, the subject does not perform the action.

Compare the causative to active and passive sentences:

Example Meaning Type of sentence
I had my car repaired I asked a mechanic to do the repairs Causative
I repaired my car. I did the repairs. Active
My car was repaired. Someone did the repairs (we don’t know who and the speaker is not saying that they requested the repairs). Passive

 

There are four causative verbs that are commonly used in English sentences.

Causative verbs 1/4 – have

Using the causative verb ‘have’ means that the subject of the sentence gives someone the responsibility to do something. There are two possible structures for the causative verb ‘have’.

Structure 1: Subject + form of have + person + base verb I will have my secretary send you the details.
Structure 2: Subject + form of have + object + past participle verb I had my car repaired

NOTE: sometimes using the causative verb ‘have’ can mean that something is done to the subject. For example:

John had his car stolen.

In this example, John didn’t give someone the responsibility for stealing the car.


Causative verbs 2/4 – make

Using the causative verb ‘make’ means that the subject of the sentence forces someone to do something.

Structure: Subject + make + person + base verb The teacher made us do our homework.

 

 

Causative verbs 3/4 – let

Using the causative verb ‘let’ means that the subject of the sentence allows someone to do something.

Structure: Subject + let + person + base verb The boss let us go home early

 

Causative verbs 4/4 – get

Using the causative verb ‘get’ means that the subject of the sentence persuades or manipulates someone into doing something. NOTE: the structure of this sentence is different in that it requires the word ‘to’

Structure: Subject + get + person + to + base verb He got me to agree with him even though I think he’s wrong!

Click here to try the causative verbs exercises.

idioms

English idioms

English idioms

English idiomsEnglish idioms are used in speech or when writing informally. Many English speakers use idioms – certain phrases or expressions that may be difficult to understand.

English idioms are best used in a more ‘relaxed’ type of speech or communication.

English idioms are expressions that have a meaning of their own, and where understanding all of the individual words doesn’t necessarily mean you will understand an idiom.

For example, the idiom ‘a can of worms’ actually has nothing to do with cans or worms – it means when a decision or action produces considerable subsequent problems, often much more than was expected.

Here are some common English idioms though there are many, many more!

Idioms Description Example
At the drop of a hat Without hesitation, immediately. She would help me at the drop of a hat, she is such a great friend.
Beat around the bush  Avoid the important issue. Please don’t beat around the bush! Just tell me if there is something for me to worry about or not.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush Having something for certain is better than risking it for more as you may lose both. John won $100 dollars at cards last night. They wanted him to gamble again to win more, but he decided that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush so he kept the money.
Blood, sweat and tears A lot of effort and hard work It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears for him to get to the top of the mountain.
Best of both worlds Have all advantages My job is both well paid and flexible – I have the best of both worlds.
Ball park figure A rough estimate; approximation They haven’t calculated precisely, but they suggested a ball park figure of nearly $2 million.
Catch someone red handed To see or catch somebody in the middle of commiting a crime. He was just climbing through the window with the jewellery in his pocket when the police arrived. He was caught red handed!
Catch 22 A frustrating situation – you cannot do the first thing until the second thing is done, but you cannot do the second thing unless the first is done. I can’t get a job without a driving licence, and I can’t afford a driving licence unless I have a job. It’s a Catch 22 situation.
Cut corners Something is not done properly (to save money) If they hadn’t cut corners, the accident wouldn’t have occurred.
Draw the line Deciding when a person or an action has gone too far. I don’t mind you borrowing the car, but I draw the line at you not returning it all weekend.
Devil’s advocate To present a counter argument. It’s good that he plays devil’s advocate – it makes us think about all possibilities.
Elbow grease Hard work or physical effort The best way to clean the floor is hot soapy water and a lot of elbow grease.
Far cry from  Very different from The reality of the situation is a far cry from what they wanted to achieve.
Give the benefit of the doubt Believe what someone says without proof  I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt – it’s better than not trusting anyone.
Get a kick out of (something) To find something funny or entertaining I really get a kick out of playing computer games.
Have a whale of a time To have a lot of fun.  I had a whale of a time at the party on Saturday!
In the heat of the moment Overwhelmed by present circumstances. She didn’t mean it, she said it in the heat of the moment.
Jump on the bandwagon Join a popular trend or activity. Other companies are jumping on the bandwagon as it is proving to be such a popular idea.
Judge a book by its cover To assume something based on appearance. “See that man over there, with the old t-shirt and torn jeans? He’s actually a millionaire!” “Really? Well, I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover!”
Keep (your) eye on the ball  To stay focussed, give something full attention. His boss advised him that he really needed to keep his eye on the ball if he wanted to succeed.
Let off steam Relieve strong / negative feelings without hurting others. I had to let off steam and tell them what I really thought rather than keep it all to myself.The children ran around in the playground and let off some steam after studying hard all morning.
Last straw Final problem in a series of problems This is the last straw! I need to leave and look for a new job, I’ve had enough.
Make up (your) mind To make a decision She still hasn’t decided what dress to wear – I wish she’d make up her mind!
On the ball  Understand a situation well  The new boss is so on the ball – he’s so efficient.
Once in a blue moon Happens very rarely.  You were so lucky to win that. That happens once in a blue moon!
Over the moon To be very excited or happy He had a new car for his birthday and he’s over the moon with it!
Piece of cake Done easily That exam was a piece of cake! I’m sure I’ve done well.
Pass the buck Not taking responsibility; passing the blame to someone else. Nobody admitted it was their fault – they just passed the buck and told me to contact customer service.
See eye to eye Be in agreement with someone  They have never seen eye to eye and are always disagreeing.
Sit on the fence Does not want to choose or make a decision. You really can’t sit on the fence, we need to know what you really think we should do.
To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth Hear something from someone of authority Don’t listen to office gossip, ask the boss and get the information straight from the horse’s mouth!

Click here to try the English idioms exercises.

Reported speech

Reported speech

Reported speech

reported speech

Reported speech, also called indirect speech, is what happens when we are telling someone about what another person said.

Here is an example of direct and reported speech:

Direct speech: I don’t like this party.
Reported or indirect speech: He said (that) he didn’t like the party.

When changing direct speech into reported speech, there are four points to consider:

Reported speech point #1: changing pronouns

If the speaker uses a pronoun that does not work if reported by you, it needs to be changed. For example:

Direct speech

“I don’t like homework,” he said.

“My mum told me to study,” she said.

Reported or indirect speech

He said (that) he didn’t like homework.

She said (that) her mum told her to study.

Reported speech point #2: changing locations

A change of place between when the conversation was held and when it was reported may mean that the ‘place’ words need changing.

Direct speech > Reported or indirect speech

For example:

“I don’t like it here, he said. – reported from somewhere else – He said (that) he didn’t like it there.

This party is boring,” he said. – reported from somewhere else – He said (that) the party was boring.

“My mum told me to come home,” she said. > She said (that) her mum told her to go home.

“You should spend the weekend here,” he said. > He said (that) I should spend the weekend there.

Reported speech point #3: changing timing

NOTE: imagine that the speech below is being reported one month later than the direct speech.

Direct speech >> Reported or indirect speech

“I met her this morning,” she said. >> She said (that) she met her that morning.

“I can see you now,” the teacher said. >> The teacher said (that) he could see me then.

“I changed jobs a month ago,” John said. >> John said (that) he had changed jobs the month before.

“I’ll see you next week,” the doctor said. >> The doctor said (that) she would see me the following week.

“We’ll tell you tomorrow,” they said. >> They said (that) they would tell me the following / the next day.

Reported speech point #4: changing the tense

Often you will need to change the tense from the direct speech. The table below shows the common changes between tenses.

For more information on the tenses, see the main grammar menu.

Direct speechReported speech

Present simple changes to past simple: “It is lovely!” she said. – She said (that) it was lovely.

Present continuous changes to past continuous: “I am studying,” she said. – She said (that) she was studying.

Present perfect changes to past perfect: “I have finished,” she said.She said (that) she had finished.

Present perfect continuous changes to past perfect continuous: “I’ve been cooking,” she said. – She said (that) she had been cooking.

Past simple changes to the past perfect: “I saw Jim at work,” she said. – She said (that) she had seen Jim at work.

Past perfect doesn’t change: “I had already missed the bus,” she said. – She said (that) she had already missed the bus.

Past perfect continuous doesn’t change: “I had been waiting for 10 minutes,” she said. – She said (that) she had been waiting for 10 minutes.

Will changes to would: “I will see you later,” she said. – She said (that) she would see me later.

Can changes to could: “I can help,” she said. – She said (that) she could play help.

Must changes to had to: “I must go,” she said. – She said (that) she had to go.

Shall changes to should: “What shall we do today?” she said. – She asked what we should do that day.

May changes to might: “I may have a day off today,” she said. – She said (that) she might have a day off that day.

 

Additional notes about reported speech

1. Using ‘that’ in reported speech

When reporting speech, you can add ‘that’ so the sentence. However, if you use common reporting verbs like ‘say’ or ‘think’ it is not essential. For example:

Direct speech: “I will see you later,” she said.

Reported speech: She said she would see me later OR She said that she would see me later.

Note: with some verbs like ‘ reply’ or ‘shout’ you can’t drop the ‘that’.

e.g. She shouted that she would be there in a minute. NOT She shouted she would be there in a minute.

e.g. He replied that he was tired. NOT He replied he was tired.

2. Reporting questions in reported speech

When reporting a yes / no question (where the answer can be yes or no), the reported speech changes to use the word ‘if’ or ‘whether’. For example:

Direct speech: “Do you like coffee?” she said.

Reported speech: She asked me if I liked coffee. OR She asked me whether I liked coffee.

3. Different reporting verbs used in reported speech

‘Said’ is only one of the many reporting verbs.

To expand your vocabulary and make what you are saying more interesting, it is important to learn more reporting verbs. Here are some of the most common reporting verbs:

  • said
  • told
  • asked
  • accused
  • admitted
  • advised
  • explained
  • thought
  • implied
  • invited
  • offered
  • ordered
  • promised
  • replied
  • suggested
  • denied
  • alleged
  • agreed
  • apologised
  • begged
  • boasted
  • complained

Click here to try the reported speech exercises.

gerund

Gerunds and infinitives

Gerunds and infinitives

gerunds and infinitivesGerunds and infinitives and when to use each form can be confusing.

When there are two main verbs in a sentence, the second verb must be either a gerund (+ing) or an infinitive form of the verb. There are some rules to help you decide when to use gerunds and infinitives.

Gerunds and infinitives rule #1: Use the gerund as the subject

If a sentence uses a verb as the subject of a sentence, it is most common to use a gerund.

For example:

Swimming is good for your health. (not To swim is good for your health.)

Learning is important. (not To learn is important.)

Gerunds and infinitives rule #2: Decided by the main verb

If a sentence uses a verb as the object of a sentence, the decision of whether to use a gerund of an infinitive is made by the main verb in the sentence..

For example:

The thief admitted stealing the money. (the main verb ADMIT is followed by a gerund)

He can’t afford to buy a new car. (the main verb AFFORD is followed by the infinitive).

Unfortunately, there are no reliable rules for deciding whether a main verb should be followed by gerunds and infinitives. It is simply something that needs to be learned. You can use the table below to help.

Gerunds and infinitives rule #3: Either can be used as the object and have the same meaning

Sometimes the object of a sentence can be either a gerund or an infinitive with no difference in the meaning (see the table below for a more complete list of these words)

For example:

It started raining OR It started to rain

I began playing the guitar last year OR I began to play the guitar last year

Gerunds and infinitives rule #4: Either can be used as the object but they have a different meaning

Sometimes using gerunds and infinitives as the object of a sentence can make a difference to the meaning.

For example, look at the use of gerunds and infinitives below, we have these two possible meanings:

Gerund Stop reading that magazine and get back to work! This means that you should not read
Infinitive Stop to read the instructions before you break it! This means you should start reading

Gerunds and infinitives rule #5: use the gerund after prepositions

If there is a preposition after the main verb, then you always use a preposition.

For example:

I’m tired of waiting for you every day!

Many people surf the internet without having a website of their own.

Gerunds and infinitives – general rules

Look at the table below to learn more about general rules when using gerunds and infinitives.


Verbs followed by gerund Verbs followed by infinitive Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive with no real difference Verbs that can be followed by either gerund or infinitive but with a significant difference
acknowledge
admit
adore
anticipate
appreciate
avoid
celebrate
confess
contemplate
delay
deny
describe
detest
discuss
dislike
dread
endure
enjoy
fancy
finish
imagine
involve
keep
justify
mention
mind
miss
omit
postpone
practise
quit
recall
recommend
regret
report
resent
resume
risk
suggest
tolerate
understand
afford
agree
appear
arrange
ask
attempt
care
choose
claim
come
consent
dare
decide
demand
deserve
determine
elect
endeavour
expect
fail
get
guarantee
help
hesitate
hope
hurry
incline
intend
learn
long
manage
mean
need
offer
plan
prepare
pretend
promise
refuse
resolve
say
seem
tend
threaten
want
wish
begin
continue
hate
like
love
prefer
start
forget
remember
stop
regret

NOTE: The table above is not a complete list (a complete list would be pages and pages long!)

Click here to try the gerunds and infinitives exercises.