Category Archives: Grammar

use_of_articles

More about articles in English

More about articles in English (a, an, the and Ø )

NOTE: This is the second lesson for articles. If you have not completed level A1, we recommend you first look at this lesson (an introduction to articles)

Using articles in English can be very difficult as there are a lot of rules to remember. There are three articles in English ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ and sometimes no article Ø is needed.

1. The indefinite article – A or AN

Examples of use of indefinite articles: Do you have a pen?  I need an umbrella.

2. The definite article – THE

Examples of use of definite articles: The boy lives at home. Here is the book I borrowed.

More about articles in English3. The zero article – this is used when no article is used, often shown as Ø in grammar books

Examples of zero articles: I like (Ø) dogs. (Ø) English exercises can be difficult.

Rules 1 to 4 are in the A1 lesson.

With uncountable nouns, we often use no article (Ø).

Examples:

  • I like wine (not the wine or a wine)
  • I listen to good advice (not the good advice or a good advice)

NOTE: Some nouns can be countable and uncountable.

Example:

  • Sleep is important
  • I am tired. I need a good sleep.

 


 

Articles – rule #6

The is used with superlatives.

Examples:

  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world.
  • Lake Baikal in Russia is the deepest lake in the world.
  • Elephants are the biggest animals in Africa.

 

Articles – rule #7

No article (Ø) is used when talking generally about subjects / topics.

Examples:

  • Rugby is a great game.
  • I don’t like science.

 

Click here to try the ‘More about articles in English’ exercises.

Young woman smoking cigarette

Used to – exercises

Used to – exercises

Before attempting these exercises, we recommend reading the lesson on ‘Used to’ found here.

Practice

Fill the blanks with the correct form.

 

Used to1. I be fitter, now I can’t even run for 10 minutes.

  • am used to
  • used to
  • use to
Show the answer
used to – a habit, routine or fact that was true in the past but not now.

2. Did she work for the same company as you?

  • getting used to
  • used to
  • use to
Show the answer
used to – a habit, routine or fact that was true in the past but not now.

3. Are you the long commute to work yet?

  • getting used to
  • use to
  • get used to
Show the answer
getting used to – become accustomed to something

4. I am not the oldest person at work, but all my workmates are so young these days!

  • used to
  • used to being
  • use to be
Show the answer
used to being – a situation the speaker is not yet accustomed to

5. Did you used to ?

  • smoking
  • smoked
  • smoke
Show the answer
smoke – the infinitive is used after ‘used to’ to talk about past habits or actions.

6. Are you in New Zealand yet?

  • used to live
  • used to living
  • use to live
Show the answer
used to living – a question about whether someone has become accustomed to New Zealand.

7. I am far too with my credit card all the time.

  • used to buying
  • used to buy
  • didn’t use to buy
Show the answer
used to buying – something that the speaker has become (over) accustomed to doing

8. I used TV every evening, but I prefer reading now.

  • to like watching
  • to be watching
  • not watching
Show the answer
to like watching – a habit that the speaker no longer does.

9. My American friend is the time difference between New York and London, so he can’t sleep here properly yet.

  • not used to
  • not use to
  • used to
Show the answer
not used to – something the person is not yet accustomed to.

10. I saw her everyday because she live next door.

  • use to
  • used to
  • didn’t use to
Show the answer
used to – a past fact about the person.

 

Used to

Used to

Used to

There two common meanings of used to

1. Use(d) +infinitive is used to talk about repeated actions/states in the past.

I used to smoke (i.e. I did smoke, now I don’t)

 

2. To be +used to + noun/verb+ing is used instead of ‘accustomed to’

I am used to working night shifts (i.e. I am accustomed to it)

 

Used toUse(d) + infinitive

  • She used to live in England (she lived in England one time but doesn’t anymore)
  • It used to rain a lot more in New Zealand (It doesn’t rain as much anymore)
  • Students didn’t use to be so defiant (one time students were less defiant)

Affirmative

Subject Used Infinitive Other
I/you/he/she/we/they/ used to talk everyday

 

Negative

Subject Didn’t Used Infinitive Other
I/you/he/she/we /they didn’t used to live together

 

Question

Did Subject Used Infinitive Other
Did I/you/he/she/we/they/ use to work at Spark?

 


 

To be + used to + -ing

  • I am used to getting up at 6am now (I am accustomed to it)
  • She is not used to working night shifts (she’s not accustomed to it)
  • Are you used to driving overseas? (are you accustomed to it?)

 

Affirmative

Subject To be Used to Noun/-ing Other
I am used to living abroad
You/We/They are used to living abroad
He/She is used to living abroad

 

Negative

Subject To be Used to Noun/-ing Other
I am not used to the teacher yet
You/We/They are not used to the teacher yet
He/She is not used to the teacher yet

 

Question

To be Used to Noun/-ing Other
Am I/Are you/Are we/Is he/Are they used to working with children?

 

Pronunciation

The pronunciation of ‘used to’ above is the same for both meanings, and is pronounced as yoost to or /juːstə/

Ready to try the practice exercises? Click here to take the ‘Used to’ test.

test

Test your English level

Test your English level

 

This 60-question quiz will tell you your current level of English, running from Beginner (A1) to Advanced (C2). Before you start the quiz, please read these notes:

1. If you do not know the answer, don’t guess – this will not give you an accurate level.

test your english level

2. When you have finished the quiz, every question will have show links to learning resources about that specific question. Follow these links to improve your score!

3. The quiz increases in difficulty from the beginning to the end.

4. Click the ‘Finish quiz’ button at the end of the quiz to submit your answers and see the results of our ‘Test your English level’ quiz.

 

Test your level of English

too and enough

Too and Enough

Too and Enough

Too and enough are used to talk about the quantity or size of something.

too and enoughLook at the sentences below. What is the difference in meaning?

  • The dress is big enough.
  • The dress is not big enough.
  • The dress is too big.

 

Meaning of too and enough

We use ‘enough’ to show that size or quantity of something is suitable for the purpose.

  • The dress is big enough (the dress is the correct size to fit the person).

We use ‘not….. enough’ to show that quantity or size of something is not sufficient.

  • The dress is not big enough (the dress needs to be bigger to fit the person).

We use ‘too’ to show that there is a problem with the quantity or size of something.

  • The dress is too big (in this example, the dress needs to be smaller to fit the person).

 

 

Rules for using too and enough with adjectives

In our example sentences, we have used ‘too’ and ‘enough’ with the adjective big. Did you notice that we change the place of these words in the sentence?

  • Enough – ‘enough’ goes after the adjective – big enough
  • Not….. enough – ‘not’ goes before the adjective, ‘enough’ goes after the adjective – not big enough
  • Too – ‘too’ goes before the adjective – too big

 

Rules for using too and enough with nouns

 

Enough – ‘enough’ goes before countable and uncountable nouns.

  • There is enough food for the people at the party.
  • There are enough sandwiches for the people at the party.

Not….. enough – ‘not enough’ goes before countable and uncountable nouns.

  • There is not enough food for the people at the party.
  • There aren’t enough sandwiches for the people at the party.

Too much / too little – ‘too much / too little’ goes before uncountable nouns.

  • There is too much food for the people at the party.
  • There is too little food for the people at the party.

Too many / too few – ‘too many’ goes before countable nouns.

  • There are too many sandwiches for the people at the party.
  • There are too few sandwiches for the people at the party.

 

 

 

Rules for using too and enough with adverbs

Enough – ‘enough’ goes after the adverb.

  • My teacher speaks slowly enough for me to understand him.

Not….. enough – ‘not’ goes before the verb and adverb, ‘enough’ goes after the adverb.

  • My teacher doesn’t speak slowly enough for me to understand him.

Too – goes before the adverb.

  • My teacher speaks too quickly for me to understand him.

Rules for using too and enough with verbs

Enough – ‘enough’ goes after the verb.

  • I have studied enough today. Let’s go and watch a movie at the cinema!

Not….. enough – ‘not’ goes before the verb, ‘enough’ goes after the verb.

  • I haven’t studied enough today. I’m sorry I can’t go to the cinema.

Too much – goes after the verb.

  • I have studied too much today. I really need a break. Let’s go and watch a movie at the cinema!

Note: We don’t commonly use ‘too little’ with verbs, though it is possible.

Now practice!

Read the sentences below. Are too and enough used correctly?

1. He drives too fast! I’m worried he’ll have an accident one day.

Show answerThis is correct.

2. There are not enough milk. Could you get some when you go to the shops please?

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “There is not enough milk.”

3. Our house is big enough for our family, so we’re going to sell it and look for one with more space.

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “Our house isn’t big enough for our family”

4. I’ve too much eaten!

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “I’ve eaten too much.”

5. I don’t have enough time to finish my assignment! I’m getting really worried now.

Show answerThis is correct.

6. I think there are too much children in my son’s class at school.

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “I think there are too many children in my son’s class at school.”

7. My boss doesn’t give instructions enough clearly. I often don’t understand what I am supposed to do.

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “My boss doesn’t give instructions clearly enough.”

8. In my opinion, too little people donate money to charity.

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “In my opinion, too few people donate money to charity.”
adverbs-of-frequency

Adverbs of frequency exercises

Adverbs of frequency exercises

Have you read the information page on adverbs of frequency? Click here to read it before you try the adverbs of frequency exercises.

Remember to register to get email updates.

 

Are the sentences below correct?

Adverbs of frequency exercises1. John often walks to work. He only drives if it’s really bad weather.

Show the answer
This is correct

 

2. They rarely cook at home – they both love spending time in the kitchen.

Show the answer
This is not correct – the adverb should show that they cook a lot – often, always, generally.

 

3. The post office always is busy at lunchtime.

Show the answer
This is not correct  – the adverb should be after the ‘to be’ verb.

 

4. I am never late for work – I’m a perfect employee!

Show the answer
This is correct

 

5. Occasionally she takes her work home with her.

Show the answer
This is correct

 

6. Very rarely he pays for dinner when we go out together – he’s very mean!

Show the answer
This is not correct. Certain adverbs shouldn’t be used to start a sentence.

 

7. He could usually make new friends very quickly.

Show the answer
This is correct

 

8. He never can come back here – he’s been permanently banned!

Show the answer
This is not correct. The adverb of frequency needs to be between the auxiliary verb ‘can’ and the main verb ‘come’ – He can never come back…

 

9. I seldom don’t go out late on a weeknight.

Show the answer
This is not correct. Seldom cannot be used in a negative sentence.

 

10. I study once a day English lessons online.

Show the answer
This is not correct. Definite adverbs of frequency are not used in the middle of a sentence, only at the beginning or end – I study English lessons online once a day. / Once a day, I study English lessons online.
adverbs-of-frequency

Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens. They often talk about routines, so are very often used with the present simple. There are two types of adverbs of frequency – those that talk about an indefinite time and those that talk about a definite time. Here are some simple examples of indefinite adverbs of frequency:

  • Adverbs of frequencyalways
  • never
  • sometimes
  • often
  • occasionally

Use this table to help you choose suitable adverbs to describe how often you are thinking of (NOTE: the percentages in this table are approximate to illustrate the level of each adverb).

100% of the time Always
Less than 100% but more than 50% of the time Often, usually, frequently, generally
Around 50% of the time Sometimes
Less than 50% but more than 10% of the time Occasionally, seldom
Less than 10% but more than 0% of the time Hardly ever, rarely
0% of the time Never

 

Definite adverbs of frequency

The examples above are called indefinite adverbs of frequency – they talk about a percentage of frequency. There are also definite adverbs of frequency that talk about specific amounts of time. Here are some examples:

  • hourly, daily, weekly
  • once, twice, three times
  • every minute, once an hour, a few times a year
  • monthly, quarterly, annually

The position of adverbs of frequency

The position of the adverb depends on other words in the sentence.

Position 1: After the ‘be’ verb (subject + TO BE + adverb)

  • John is always late.
  • Teachers are occasionally wrong.

Position 2: Before the main verb is there is no  ‘be’ verb (subjectadverb + main verb)

  • John always drives to work.
  • Teachers occasionally give students too much homework.

Position 3:  With an auxiliary verb (have, will, must etc), the adverb is put between the auxiliary and the main verb. (subjectauxiliary + adverb + main verb)

  • John might never work again – he won the lottery!
  • Teachers can sometimes give students too much homework.

Other rules for using adverbs of frequency

Rule 1: Some adverbs can be used at the beginning or end of a sentence. Adverbs used in this position are: occasionally, sometimes, usually, normally, often

  • Sometimes John is late.  / John is late sometimes.
  • Normally he gets to work by car. / He gets to work by car normally.

Rule 2: However, other adverbs are NOT used to begin a sentence. Adverbs NOT used in this position are: always, rarely, seldom, hardly ever, never.

  • Hardly ever John is late.
  • Always he walks to work.

Rule 3: Some adverbs that are about very low frequency are not used in negative sentences. These adverbs are rarely, seldom or never.

  • He seldom visits his friends.
  • He doesn’t seldom visit his friends.

Rule 4: Definite adverbs of frequency do not go in the middle of a sentence – only the beginning or the end. When the adverb of frequency is at the beginning of sentence, it is often followed by a comma.

  • Twice a year, they go on holiday.
  • They go on holiday twice a year.
  • They twice a year go on holiday.

 

Ready to take the practice exercises? Take a look here

 

talk

Speak or talk

Speak or talk

Speak and talk are ‘say’ words. However, there are some differences in when and how we use speak or talk.

Read the tips below about when to use speak or talk then try the practice exercises.

 

speak or talkSpeak or Talk Tip 1: ‘speak’ (not talk) is used on the telephone

  • Who’s speaking please? I’ll put you through to Mr Jones now.
  • Who’s talking please? I’ll put you through to Mr Jones now.

 

Speak or Talk Tip 2: ‘speak’ (not talk) is used in relation to languages

  • I speak English, French and Italian.
  • I talk English, French and Italian.

 

Speak or Talk Tip 3: ‘speak’ is more formal than ‘talk’

Can you see the difference between these two sentences?

  • My teacher wants to speak to me after class.
  • Can I talk to you when you’re free?

 

We often use ‘speak’ when:

  • the situation is a formal situation;
  • we don’t know the person we are talking to very well; and / or
  • the subject to be spoken about is serious / formal.

 

We often use ‘talk’ when:

  • we are talking to someone we know quite well, or
  • we may not know the person all that well but the subject we want to talk about is not serious / formal.

 

Speak or Talk Tip 4: ‘speak’ is used in relation to one person (the speaker), ‘talk’ is used to in relation to more than one person (a conversation)

Can you see the difference between these two sentences?

  • The boss will be speaking later about the proposed changes to company policy.
  • In today’s meeting, the team will be talking about new ideas for next year.

 

Speak or Talk Tip 5: The noun form of the verb ‘talk’ is ‘talk’, the noun form of the verb ‘speak’ changes to ‘speech’

  • He will be making a speech  after dinner.
  • She is giving a talk this afternoon.

Note: a ‘speech’ is more formal than a ‘talk’.

Also note the differences: ‘make’ a speech / ‘give’ a talk.

 

Speak or Talk Tip 6: ‘speak’ and ‘talk’ prepositions

The sentences we have used as examples so far all use the preposition ‘to’: talk to (someone), speak to (someone).

To make the sentence more formal / polite, we can use the preposition ‘with’.

  • “I must speak with you about your performance at work as soon as you are available.”

We also use the preposition ‘about‘ to talk about the subject of the conversation / speech / talk.

  • He will be making a speech about climate change at the conference.
  • She is giving a talk about healthy eating this afternoon.
  • Can I talk to you about our holiday plans?
  • I must speak to you about your progress with that report.

Now practice!

Read the sentences below. Are they correct? Should we use speak or talk?

1. (on the telephone) “Hello, I’d like to make an appointment for a haircut please.” “Sure, who’s talking please?”.

Show answerThis is incorrect. It should be: “Sure, who’s speaking please?”

2. He speaks Japanese fluently as he lived there for 10 years.

Show answerThis is correct.

3. ‘Hi, how are things? Are you free now? I want to speak with you about our plans for Saturday night.

Show answerThis is not correct. This is an informal situation involving people who know each other. It is better to say: I want to talk to you about our plans for Saturday night.

4. ‘Hello, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. If you have some time I’d like to speak with you about a business proposal.

Show answerThis is correct.

5. It is a tradition for the groom, the bride’s father and the best man to give a speech at the wedding reception.

Show answerThis is incorrect. We should say ‘make a speech’ not ‘give a speech’.

6. We can speak about what food we need for the party later on.

Show answerThis is incorrect. The situation is informal involving a conversation. It is better to say: “We can talk about what food we need for the party later on.”

7. We have both lived in Australia, so we were talking to our experiences there.

Show answerThis is not the correct preposition. It should be: We have both lived in Australia, so we were talking about our experiences there.
say-and-tell

Say or tell

Say or tell

Say and tell are similar in that they both mean to talk or give information to someone verbally. However, there are differences in sentence construction and exact meaning.

Can you see the difference between these two sentences?

  • John told me you were sick last week.
  • John said you were sick last me.

Fill in the gaps below with either ‘tell’ or ‘say’ to show the first rule:

You ________ someone something but you _________ something to someone.

Show answersYou TELL someone something but you SAY something to someone.

Say or tellHere some more examples:

Jane said she liked my new shirt > Jane told me that she liked my new shirt

His boss said David had to stay late > His boss told David that he had to stay late

She said she loved me! > She told me that she loved me!

 

Tip 1: Using ‘that’ with told

When using told, you do not have to say ‘that’. For example, both of these are correct:

Jane told me that she liked my new shirt > Jane told me she liked my new shirt

His boss told David that he had to stay late > His boss told David he had to stay late

She told me that she loved me! > She told me she loved me!

 

Tip 2: Direct and reported speech

When you are using reported speech, you can use say and tell.

For example:

He said he would be late home. CORRECT

He told me he would be late home. CORRECT

However, when you are using direct speech, tell is used only when giving a command or instruction.

‘Take seat over there’ he told me.  CORRECT

‘Take a seat over there’ he said. CORRECT

‘It’s good to see you’ he told me. INCORRECT

‘It’s good to see you’ he said. CORRECT

 

Tip 3: When the person being spoken to is not mentioned.

He said he needed another few days to finish the job. CORRECT

He told that he needed another few days to finish the job. INCORRECT

He told Bob that he needed another few days to finish the job. (We know the person being spoken to is Bob) CORRECT

 

Now practice!

Are the following sentences correct?

1. He told me I had to work on Saturday.

Show answerThis is correct.

2. Dave told that he would be here soon.

Show answerThis is not correct. It should be ‘Dave said that he would be here soon.’ or ‘Dave told me that he would be here soon.’

3. ‘I think you should leave’ he told.

Show answerThis is not correct. This should be ‘said’.

4. ‘I’ll miss you’ his girlfriend said.

Show answerThis is correct.

5. Tell him to come in if he has time.

Show answerThis is correct.

6. Tell him to come in if he has time.

Show answerThis is correct.

7. She told to me to stay after class.

Show answerThis is not correct. After tell you don’t use ‘to’.
your-youre

Your and you’re

Your and you’re

Your and you'reThis is one of the most common errors you will see on the internet, even when written by native English speakers. To begin, test yourself by deciding whether these sentences are correct or incorrect.

1. You’re looking very well – have you been on holiday? This is correct | This is not correct
Show answerThis is correct. See below for the explanation.

2. This is you’re final warning! This is correct | This is not correct
Show answerThis is not correct. See below for the explanation.

3. Your friend telephoned this morning. This is correct | This is not correct
Show answerThis is correct. See below for the explanation.

4. Your our teacher for the day, aren’t you? This is correct | This is not correct
Show answerThis is not correct. See below for the explanation.

 

Step 1: The first step towards using you’re and your correctly is to understand the difference between them.

You’re – this is a contraction of two words – you are (a subject and a verb)

Your – this is a possessive pronoun, showing belonging or ownership.

 

Step 2: The easiest way to check the correct form is to expand the contraction you’re into you are. Take a look at the sentences below.

1. You’re looking very well – have you been on holiday? > You are looking very well – have you been on holiday?

2. This is you’re final warning!  > This is you are final warning

 

Step 3: For your with meaning of possession or ownership, you should be able to replace Your with My and the sentence would still be correct.

For example:

3. Your friend telephoned this morning. > My friend telephoned this morning.

4. Your our teacher for the day, aren’t you?  > My our teacher for the day, aren’t you?

 

Now test yourself!

1. If you’re often tired, you should go to bed earlier.

Show answerThis is correct. Without the contraction, the sentence reads If you are tired

 

2. I think your smile is beautiful!

Show answerThis is correct. Changing your to my, this reads  I think my smile is beautiful.

 

3. I think your beautiful!

Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, this reads  I think my beautiful. It should say ‘I think you are beautiful, so should be you’re

 

4. Our staff are available to answer your questions.

Show answerThis is correct. Changing your to my, this reads Our staff are available to answer my questions.

 

5. Your a lot like your brother in appearance, although you have very different personalities.

Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, this reads My a lot like your brother in appearance…

 

6. I don’t think you’re being very kind.

Show answerThis is correct. Without the contraction, the sentence reads I don’t think you are being very kind.

 

7. Your going to have to leave soon, so you should get your coat on.

Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, the sentence would read My going to have to leave soon, so you should get my coat on. The second your is correct, but the first one should be you’re.

 

8.  I have to say that you’re a terrible driver! Look at all the damage on your car!

Show answerThis is correct, as you can see by using the two techniques mentioned above. I have to say that you are a terrible driver! Look at all the damage on my car!

 

And to finish, here are some useful tips…

– If the word that follows is an article (a, an, the), then it should be you’re. Compare: You’re the best! Your the best!

– If the word that follows is an adjective (a describing word). then it should GENERALLY be you’re. Compare: You’re beautiful! Your beautiful.