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English Grammar

 

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The Progressive Form of the Present

In many situations, you will encounter the progressive form of the present tense. There are three forms of the present in English, the simple, progressive, and emphatic. In previous section, you learned the simple forms of the verbs to be, to go, and to have. Compare the two conjugations of the verb to go:

SIMPLE PRESENT

I go
you go
he, she, it goes
we go
they go

PROGRESSIVE PRESENT

I am going
you are going
he, she, it is going
we are going
they are going

To form the progressive present, use the present tense of the verb to be as an auxiliary and add the ending -ing to the infinitive. Sometimes there will be a slight spelling change:

-->the boy runs
-->the boy is running

-->we bake a cake
-->we are baking a cake

Don't be afraid to use contractions with the progressive present forms. You will hear and use I'm going or they're driving much more often that the non-contracted forms

 

The Present Perfect Tense:

The present perfect, like the other perfect tenses (future and past perfects), conveys the idea that one thing happens before another time or event. In other words, perfect tenses are always used within a context and not in isolation.

To form the present perfect, use a form of have + past participle:

--They've already dried their clothes.
--I've just finished washing my clothes.
--She's borrowed some detergent.

(In the above, the actions all took place before now. The exact time is unimportant.)

 

Past Tense: Simple Past and the Past Participle:
Use the simple past tense when you are talking about something that happened at one particular time in the past (i.e., the event began and ended in the past). Normally, there is a reference to past time (yesterday, last night, etc.):

--I knew your aunt when she was young.
--Yesterday, they bought a car.
--We rented a car last week.
--He saw the U.S. Capitol while he was in Washington.

For many verbs, just add the ending -ed to the verb to make it simple past:
borrow-->borrowed
close-->closed
open-->opened
cash --> cashed.

Here are some rules for making the simple past tense of regular verbs:
1. Verbs ending in -e, add -d (hope --> hoped)
2. Verbs ending in a vowel and a consonant:
A. For one-syllable verbs having a single vowel, double the consonant ending:
stop-->stopped
rob-->robbed
B. For one-syllable verbs having two vowels, just add -ed: rain-->rained
dreamed-->dreamed (also, dreamt)
C. For two-syllable verbs, in which the first syllable is stressed, just add -ed:
listen-->listened
D. For two-syllable verbs, in which the second syllable is stressed, double the consonant ending as you did for 1. above:
prefer-->preferred
control -->controlled
3. Verbs ending in -y. If the -y is preceded by a vowel, keep the -y (enjoyed, prayed); if the -y is preceded by a consonant, change the -y to -i and add -ed:
try-->tried
study-->studied
4. Verbs ending in -ie, add -d:
die-->died
5. Verbs ending in two consonants, just add the ending -ed.
NOTE: For regular verbs the form of the simple past is also the form of the past participle!!

 

SIMPLE PRESENT:

Statement:
--They accept credit cards.
Question:
--Do they accept credit cards?


SIMPLE PAST:
Statement:
--They accepted credit cards last year.
Question:
--Did they accept credit cards last year?
When using did in a question, the main verb will be in the infinitive form, not the simple past tense.
NOTE: For a negative question in the past, use didn't.
--Didn't you get my letter?
--Didn't they come?

Contractions
You will want to learn how to use contractions as soon as possible. Contractions are used constantly in informal English. Examples of contracted subject/verb forms are:
TO BE:
I am-->I'm
he is-->he's
we are-->we're
you are-->you're
they are-->they're
TO HAVE:
I have-->I've
we have-->we've
you have-->you've
they have-->they've
Contractions are frequently used with compound forms of verbs, especially the progressive or continuous form of the present tense (I'm going. / We're leaving.) and the present perfect forms (I've received the letter. / They've already left.)

Asking Questions
In English, you can ask simple yes/no questions by either inverting the subject and verb or by using rising intonation:
--We can change money here.
(simple, declarative statement)
--Can we change money here?
(question with verb first)
--We can change money here?
(question with rising intonation)
NOTE: In the case of the simple present tense, it is necessary to use a form of the verb to do as an auxiliary in making a question:
-->They like this bank.
-->Do they like this bank?
--You have a passport.
-->Do you have a passport?

Information Questions
Many times you will want to ask a question that elicits information, instead of a simple yes/no answer. Information questions will begin with one of the following words:
WHO, WHERE, WHOM, WHAT, WHOSE, WHICH, WHY, HOW, WHEN

Who refers to people. It is used as the subject of the question.
Whom is used as the object of a verb or preposition.
Whose asks questions about possession.
Why is used to ask questions about reason.
When is used to ask questions about time.
Where is used to ask questions about place.
What can be used as the subject or object of a question. It refers to things.
Which is used instead of what when a question concerns choosing from a definite, known quantity or group.
How generally asks about manner. It is often used with much and many.
When a form of to be is the main verb in the simple present and simple past, it precedes the subject:
--Who is that man?
--Where is the airport?
--Where are the checks?
--What time is it?

 

Tag Questions

Tag questions are questions that are added at the end of a sentence.
--Mary is here, isn't she?
--You like beer, don't you?
--They are leaving, aren't they?
--She doesn't drink coffee, does she?
--He has brown hair, doesn't he?
The subject of the tag question should be the same as the subject of the main verb. If the first part of the sentence is in the affirmative, then the tag question will be negative, and vice versa.

 

FIRST PART OF SENTENCE: TAG QUESTION:
affirmative  negative 
negative  affirmative

In American English, a form of do is usually used when have is the main verb: They have change, don't they?

Imperatives (The Command Form)

It is simple to use the imperative or command form in English. When a command is directed at someone else, use the you form of the simple present tense:

--You take the elevator.
-->Take the elevator.

(Simply drop the subject you.)

If the command includes you and others, use the we form:

--We take our luggage.
-->Let's take the luggage.

(Drop the subject we and add let's [let us].)

 

Possessives:
To indicate possession in English, you will use either the preposition of or the -'s form. The latter is used much more frequently in informal English.

--This is the office of the attorney.
-->This is the attorney's office.

--Here is the desk of Mr. Young.
-->Here is Mr. Young's desk.

--I know the family of Mrs. Jones.
-->I know Mrs. Jones's family.

Note the change in word order when the -'s form is used. The owner is listed first, followed by the thing owned.

 

The Causative Verbs Have and Let:

In order to express the notion of having someone else do something for you, use a form of have + the main verb:

--I'm having my mail forwarded.
(Someone else is forwarding it for you.)

--I had my house painted.
(Someone painted it for you.)

NOTE: The -ed form (past participle) is used after have to give a passive meaning.

Let in a causative sense means to permit:

--Please let me help you.
--Don't let them leave!

Do not use an infinitive after let.
Using A Few, Few, A Little, and Little
A few and few are used with plural count nouns:

--a few friends, few ideas, a few things to do, etc.

A little and little are used with noncount nouns:

--little money, a little rain, a little wind, etc.

NOTE: Few and little give a negative idea, conveying the notion that something is largely absent:

--They have very little money.
--We have few options remaining.

NOTE: A few and a little give a positive idea, indicating that something exists or is present:

--I have a little free time today.
--Do you have a few moments?

 

The Causative Verbs Have and Let:

In order to express the notion of having someone else do something for you, use a form of have + the main verb:

--I'm having my mail forwarded.
(Someone else is forwarding it for you.)

--I had my house painted.
(Someone painted it for you.)

NOTE: The -ed form (past participle) is used after have to give a passive meaning.

Let in a causative sense means to permit:

--Please let me help you.
--Don't let them leave!

Do not use an infinitive after let.
Using A Few, Few, A Little, and Little
A few and few are used with plural count nouns:

--a few friends, few ideas, a few things to do, etc.

A little and little are used with noncount nouns:

--little money, a little rain, a little wind, etc.

NOTE: Few and little give a negative idea, conveying the notion that something is largely absent:

--They have very little money.
--We have few options remaining.

NOTE: A few and a little give a positive idea, indicating that something exists or is present:

--I have a little free time today.
--Do you have a few moments?

 

The Causative Verbs Have and Let:

In order to express the notion of having someone else do something for you, use a form of have + the main verb:

--I'm having my mail forwarded.
(Someone else is forwarding it for you.)

--I had my house painted.
(Someone painted it for you.)

NOTE: The -ed form (past participle) is used after have to give a passive meaning.

Let in a causative sense means to permit:

--Please let me help you.
--Don't let them leave!

Do not use an infinitive after let.
Using A Few, Few, A Little, and Little
A few and few are used with plural count nouns:

--a few friends, few ideas, a few things to do, etc.

A little and little are used with noncount nouns:

--little money, a little rain, a little wind, etc.

NOTE: Few and little give a negative idea, conveying the notion that something is largely absent:

--They have very little money.
--We have few options remaining.

NOTE: A few and a little give a positive idea, indicating that something exists or is present:

--I have a little free time today.
--Do you have a few moments?

 

Using Some and Any

In English the words some and any are used before plural nouns: some money, some dollars, any change, etc.

However, it is often possible to leave out the word some in declarative sentences:

--We have (some) checks.

--Mr. Roberts gives them (some) money.

The word any is usually used in questions and negations to replace some:

--Do you have any change?
--Do you have some change?
--They don't have any friends

 

Using Comparisons:
There are two ways to make a comparison in English.

1.) Use more in front of the adjective.
--It's more exciting.
2.) Add -er to end of the adjective.
--A bus is cheaper than a taxi.
To complete a comparison, use than.
--I am older than my wife.

For most one-syllable adjectives, use -er: older, wiser, etc. For most two and three-syllable adjectives, use more: more recent. For two-syllable adjectives ending in -y, use -er. Note that the y is changed to i in words such as busy (busier) and pretty (prettier).
It is sometimes hard to decide whether to use more or -er in a comparison. In fact, there are many common adjectives that use either form (such as able, angry, cruel, friendly, polite, quiet, simple, etc.). Listening and practice with speaking the language will help you more than any number of rules. Finally, note the following irregular forms:
good-->better
little-->less
bad-->worse
far-->farther
Adverbs can also be used in comparisons. More is used with adverbs that end in -ly:
slowly-->more slowly
careful-->more carefully

Use -er with one-syllable adverbs: faster, harder, sooner, closer, etc.
Note these irregular forms:
well-->better
far-->farther
badly-->worse

 

Using Should:
One of the meanings of the modal auxiliary should is advisability:
--You should leave right now.
--They should fill out this form. You can also express the same idea using either ought to or had better:
--You ought to leave right now.
(You had better leave....)
--They ought to fill out this form.
(They had better fill out....)
Should and ought to both mean that something is a good idea. Had better is usually stronger, implying a warning of bad consequences.
The negative of should is shouldn't. Ought to is not usually used in the negative. Often you will hear people pronounce ought to as otta.

 

The Past Form of Should:
To form the past of should simply add have + past participle:
--I missed my plane this morning. I should have left earlier.
--I can't find a hotel room. I should have made a reservation.
The past form of should conveys the notion of a failure or omission. Note that the customary pronunciation of should have is should've or shouda. The negative form is should not have, pronounced in colloquial English as shouldn't've or shouldn't'a.

 

Expectation and Should

In a previous section, you learned how should can be used to express advisability:

--The front desk clerk should give us a discount.
Another way should can be used is in expressions of expectation:
--They have been working hard. They should do well.
(In this example, should means will probably.)

The past form (should have) means that the speaker expected something that did not happen:
--I haven't heard anything from them. They should have called by now.

 

Using Could

Could is used in two ways in English:

1.) Past ability:
--I can speak English now. I couldn't when I was a child.
2.) Polite questions:
--Could I borrow your car?
--Could you speak slower?
--Could we check out later?

Note that could is the simple past form of the verb can. The negative form of it is couldn't (could not).

Expressing Necessity:

Must/Have To/Have Got To
Must and have to both express necessity:
--You must fill out this form.
--You have to pick up Mr. Roberts.
In some situations, must is more urgent or stronger than have to:
--You must be here for your appointment on time. I have a busy schedule today.
--You have to take another course next year.
The expression have got to is similar in meaning to must and have to but is reserved for spoken English:
--I have got to study more. (i.e., I must study more.)

 

Using May and Might

Two other important modal verbs are may and might. The two are used interchangeably in standard American English to express probability or possibility:
--You may be wrong.
--You might be wrong.
--The attorney might be late.
--The attorney may be late.
The past form is expressed as follows:
modal (may/might) + have + past participle
--I may/might have left my glasses in the restaurant.
NOTE: Must can also be used to express probability:
--The plane must be leaving now.

 

 

Progressive Forms of May and Might
THE PAST PROGRESSIVE FORMS OF MAY AND MIGHT ARE FORMED BY ADDING HAVE BEEN + THE -ING FORM OF THE MAIN VERB.
--I didn't see them at the hotel. They may have been having dinner.
--The mail didn't arrive on time. The mailman might have been having trouble with his car.
THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE FORMS OF MAY AND MIGHT ARE FORMED BY ADDING BE + THE -ING FORM OF THE MAIN VERB.

--We may be calling you in the morning.
--They might be visiting the U.S. this time next year.
NOTE: When must means necessity, the past form is had to. When it means probability, the past is must have + past participle.

Using Would
The modal auxiliary would is used in three different contexts:

1. EXPRESSING PREFERENCE:
--I would rather visit Los Angeles. (I'd rather... )
(Would rather means prefer.)
2. EXPRESSING REPEATED ACTION IN THE PAST:
--When she was alive, Aunt Stephanie would visit the West Coast.
(Would is used with regularly repeated actions in the past.)
3. POLITE REQUESTS
--I would appreciate hearing from you soon.
(Would is frequently used with polite requests.)

When used to express a repeated action in the past, would often takes the place of used to:
--When they were students, they would go skiing every winter.
ALSO:
--When they were students, they used to go skiing every winter.
However, when used to refers to a situation that existed (but was not necessarily repeated) in the past, would may not serve as a replacement:
--Aunt Stephanie used to live in Chicago.
NOT:
--Aunt Stephanie would live in Chicago.
Would can also be used in conditional sentences:
--If I had more time, I would read the instructions carefully.

Using Gerunds
A gerund is the -ing form of the verb used as a noun. Like nouns, gerunds can be subjects or objects:
SUBJECT GERUND:
--Playing golf is fun.
OBJECT GERUND:
--We're used to having a lot of fun.
In the second example, the gerund having is the object of the preposition to. This pattern is fairly frequent in English.
By is often used with gerunds to describe how something is done:
--By calling the office, you'll be able to know what's going on.
Here are a number of common verbs followed by gerunds:
finish--They finished working at 6 p.m.
stop--I stopped calling you at midnight.
quit--They quit eating for 24 hours.
avoid--You can't avoid answering the question.
keep (on)--They will keep on studying.
enjoy--My neighbor enjoys walking his dog.
appreciate--She would appreciate hearing from you.
mind--Do they mind selling their car?
NOTE: Go is followed by a gerund in certain idiomatic expressions related to sports and physical activities.
--Did they go shopping yesterday?
--They went sailing at the lake.
--We are going skiing this winter in the Rockies

 

Using Whose
Whose is used to show possession. It has the same meaning as other possessive adjectives such as his, hers, its, their, etc.
--There's the man whose house we bought.
--I have a book whose story is fascinating.

Whose modifies people but can also be used with things.
You should learn how to combine short sentences using whose:

--The woman is a talented artist. I saw her paintings.
-- The woman whose paintings I saw is a talented artist.

Using Where
Earlier in this course, you learned how to use where in questions:
--Where are you going?
Where can also be used in a dependent clause:
--I see the house where they live.
In the latter example, where is used to refer to a place, such as a city, state, country, room, etc.
NOTE: In dependent clauses, where can be replaced with in which, which ... in, that ... in, or nothing at all:
--The building where they work is new.
--The building in which they work is new.
--The building, which they work in, is new.
--The building that they work in is new.
--The building they work in is new.

 

Using When
Previously, you learned how to use when in questions:
--When are you leaving?
When can also be used in a dependent clause:
--I forgot the date when you arrived.
In the latter example, when is used to refer to a noun of time (i.e., a day, week, month, etc.)
I n time clauses, it is also possible to use that or which preceded by a preposition:
--I forgot the date that you arrived.
--I forgot the date on which you arrived.
No preposition is needed with that.
Note how two sentences are combined using when:
--I'll always remember the day she was born. She was born then (on that day).
--I'll always remember the day when she was born.

If.... Then Constructions
A frequent pattern in English is the use of constructions with if followed by a clause of result (then, either stated or implied):
--If you take Interstate 85, (then) you'll get there faster.

In this kind of sentence the if clause introduces a hypothetical statement. When the if clause is in the present tense, the result (then) clause is in the future:
--If it becomes (present) any hotter, we'll have to go (future) swimming.
--I'll send (future) you some money, if you need it (present).

Now you have seen the if (present tense), then (future tense) pattern. Here are two other sequences:
-- If (past tense), then (conditional tense)
-- If (past perfect), then (past conditional)
--If I had (past) more time, I would read (conditional) this book.
--They would have won (past conditional) the race, if they had run (past perfect) faster.

NOTE: When you use the verb to be after if, were not was is the preferred form:
--If he were younger, he would ski every day.

 

Exclamations!
Most exclamations in English are preceded by what or how:

--What terrible weather!
--How awful!

What is used much more frequently than how in everyday language.

Exclamations can be as brief as one or two words (What a mess!) or as long as a sentence:

--What a way to end my vacation!

NOTE: Don't forget that what and how are most frequently used in questions:

--What did you say?
--How much does it cost?


Using Conjunctions
Here are some conjunctions that are frequently used in subordinate clauses:

TIME CAUSE & EFFECT
after because
before since
when now that
while as
as as/so long as
since inasmuch as
until so (that)
as soon as in order that
once  
as/so long as  
OPPOSITION CONDITION
even though if
although unless
though only if
whereas whether or not
while even if
  providing (that)
  provided (that)
  incase (that)
  in the event (that)

When a conjunction is used with a subordinate clause, the construction is called an adverbial clause.
Here are some adverbial clauses that relate to time:
--After we leave the bank, we'll spend the money.
--When they arrived, they sat down to dinner.
--We haven't seen her since she left.
And here are clauses that show cause and effect relationships:
--Since you didn't call, I made other plans.
--He went to bed, because he was tired.
Another way to show a cause and effect relationship is to use such... that and so... that:
--It was such a nice evening that they stayed up too late.
--The lemonade was so cold that she couldn't drink it.

 

The Passive Voice
In other sections, you have seen verbs used in the active voice. The passive voice is sometimes used in English as well. With the active voice, the agent or subject comes before the verb. With the passive, the subject (either stated or implied) follows the verb and is usually preceded with the word by:
ACTIVE:
--The doctor wrote a prescription.
PASSIVE:
--The prescription was written by the doctor.
NOTE: In the passive, the object of the active verb becomes the subject.
To make the passive, use the appropriate form of the verb to be + past participle. Only transitive verbs are used in the passive:
ACTIVE: Fred helps Jane.
PASSIVE: Jane is helped by Fred.
ACTIVE: He is helping her.
PASSIVE: She is being helped by him.
ACTIVE: He has helped her.
PASSIVE: She has been helped by him.
ACTIVE: He helped her.
PASSIVE: She was helped by him.
ACTIVE: He was helping her.
PASSIVE: She was being helped by him.
ACTIVE: He had helped her.
PASSIVE: She had been helped by him.
ACTIVE: He will help her.
PASSIVE: She will be helped by him.
ACTIVE: He is going to help her.
PASSIVE: She is going to be helped by him.
Usually the by phrase is omitted in a passive sentence. The passive is used mainly when it is not known or not important to know who was responsible for the action:
--The house was built in 1960.
(The by phrase is left out because it is understood that builders built the house).

Direct and Indirect Speech
In newspapers, magazines, and books, you will often see quoted or direct speech:
--They said, "We have no record of this transaction."
--He stated, "I don't know what happened."

In spoken English, reported or indirect speech will be used instead:
--They said that they had no record of this transaction.
--He stated that he didn't know what happened.

In reported or indirect speech, no quotation marks are used and the subject of the main clause and the dependent clause are the same.

Here are some rules for tense usage in indirect speech:
1. If the main verb of the sentence is in the past (said, reported, stated, etc.), the verb in the dependent clause will also be in the past.
2. Here is a chart indicating typical transformations:

QUOTED IN-->REPORTED IN
simple present-->simple past
present progressive-->perfect progressive
present perfect-->past perfect
simple past-->past perfect
future-->conditional
EXAMPLES:
--I said, "She reads the pap
^-^-^-^-^-^er everyday."
-->I said she read the paper everyday.
--I said, "She is reading the paper everyday."
-->I said she was reading the paper....
--I said, "She has read the paper everyday."
-->I said she had read the paper....
--I said, "She read the paper everyday."
-->I said she had read the paper....
--I said, "She will read the paper everyday."
-->I said she would read the paper....
In reported speech, an imperative will change to an infinitive. Furthermore, say will be replaced by a form of tell:
--He said, "Show me your passport."
-->He told me to show my passport.


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