Sunday, November 16, 2014

Modal past

There are three main ways of talking about the past using modals or their equivalents:
  • Past modals - mainly would and could
  • The use of other, similar verbs
  • Modal perfect - must have, can't have etc
Brush up your knowledge of modal past by doing a few exercises.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Verb patterns - quick quizzes

When one verb follows another they can follow one of several patterns, for example:
  • verb + to-infinitive
  • verb + -ing form (gerund)
  • verb + to--infinitive / -ing form
  • verb + object + (to-) infinitive
  • verb + object + -ing form
  • verb + that clause
There are unfortunately no hard and fast rules as to what pattern to use, although a to-infinitive often looks forward and/or involves an action - He decided to do it (he decided, then he did it), while an -ing form often looks back or is more about reactions, thought processes or emotions - She enjoys kite surfing (she enjoys the experience).
There's a link at the top of this page to a reference page with lists of verbs and their possible patterns, but the only real way to learn these patterns is through practice and exposure: ideally, 'afford to do' and 'admit doing', etc, should come as automatically to learners as 'sing, sang, sung'.
The exercises in this post (especially the first one), will hopefully help you practise these patterns, so that they become automatic. There are also a couple of quizzes to practise using dependent prepositions after verbs.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Inversion with so, such and as - exercises

Here are a couple of exercises on inversion with so, such and as, and a rather nerdy discussion of inversion after than. You can find out much more about inversion, and about why we use inversion and fronting, at a rather longer post I wrote recently (link below).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Teacher tools - Word shapes

Note - This is a bit of an experiment and is currently in testing mode
The program turns words into shapes, depending on the look of the letters. I'd seen this idea on a couple of websites offering stuff for kids, and I thought it might be fun to work something out.
You can choose between:
  • Word shape only (could be used with separate picture or definition cards)
  • Anagrams inline with word shapes
  • Words shown randomised in a box above word shapes
  • Pictures randomised in a box above word shapes
  • Word shapes with definitions
  • Pictures + anagrams + word shapes
  • Pictures inline with word shapes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fronting exercises (with a bit of subject-verb inversion)

These ten exercises are intended to give students some pretty intensive practice in fronting. They cover the more common forms of fronting, and include basic instructions on how it is done. For more detail on how they are formed and why we use fronting you could have a look at my post on 'Exploring Inversion and fronting' (link at the bottom).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Random thoughts on assist in or assist with?

A questioner at the language forum 'Pain in the English' asked, which is correct?
  • Assists attorney in drafting documentation.
  • Assists attorney with drafting documentation.
The few people that commented seemed to agree that the first was correct, and there was one suggestion that 'assist in' is followed by a verb, whereas 'assist with' is followed by a noun.
Both in and with are prepositions, so the only verb form that can follow either of them is a gerund, which is in fact a verbal noun, and there doesn't seem to be any grammatical reason that I can think of why a gerund can't follow 'assist with', nor any reason why a standard noun can't follow 'assist in'. But perhaps there's an idiomatic one.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Exploring inversion and fronting


This involves reversing the position of the subject and an auxiliary, or sometimes the subject and the whole verb. You'll be familiar with the idea from question forms and question tags, where we swap or switch (exchange) the subject and auxiliary (including modals), or the verb be. You'll also know such inverted expressions as 'so do I' and 'neither do I'.
You probably also know a bit about inversion with negative and limiting adverbials, and that we can sometimes invert conditionals.


This means putting a word or expression which normally comes later to the front of the sentence, before the subject. This could be, for example, an adverbial or adjectival expression, a noun phrase or clause, or even a verb.

The purpose of this post

This post is not intended to be an introduction to inversion and fronting, but rather an exploration of all the different patterns of inversion and fronting I can find, with lots of (I hope natural-sounding) examples. If you are specifically looking for information about negative inversion or inverting conditionals, or about question tags and short answers, you might be better looking at one of my other posts, linked to at the bottom of this post.

Looking for exercises?

As this post is already rather long I'm not including any exercises here, but will link instead to other posts with exercises, as and when I've written them. You can find links at the end of this post to exercises on negative inversion, inversion in conditionals, inversion in tag questions and short answers, and fronting (including some subject-verb inversion)