Tag Archives: Grammar

Here, There, Home and Downtown

There’s a secret I want to tell you: home, downtown, here, and there don’t need prepositions with movement verbs! Easy to remember, right?

I hear this a lot: “When I go to home, I…”  <-incorrect English makes teachers sad

Just remove the “to” and it is right: “When I go home, I…” <- correct English makes teachers happy

Here are some other examples:

  • I came to downtown -> I came downtown.
  • She flew to there. -> She flew there.
  • He rode his bike to here.  -> He rode his bike here.

Now you know. Go home, or take the train downtown, and tell your friends about it!


The Vocabulary of Customer Service

Serve is not the same as service, though they are both regular verbs (serve/served/served, service/serviced/serviced).

Serve is the verb of waiters, clerks, and attendants, and it means “to help a customer.”

  • The attendant served his customers quickly and efficiently.

Service is the verb of technicians, and it means “to repair or maintain a machine.”

  • The mechanic serviced the car before the trip.

If you use the verb “service” in place of “serve,” it is incorrect.

  • The waiter serviced his guests <- never, unless the guests are robots.

Service is a noun relating to the ability of waiters, clerks, and attendants to do their jobs.

  • The service is great here. I never have to ask them to pour more coffee!

Relative Clauses, Relatively Speaking

Relative clauses give us more information about nouns. For example, they might tell us about one in a group, or what kind of noun we are talking about. There are two kinds of relative clause: identifying and non-identifying.

Identifying relative clauses tell us which one we are talking about:

Glen is a piano player who wrote my favourite song. (Other piano players did not write my favourite song, and none of these players are named Glen.)

Do you have a dessert that two people could share? (Some desserts cannot be shared, but I am not interested in these desserts.)

Students who study every day get the highest scores on tests. (To get the highest scores on their tests, students should study every day.)

Non-identifying relative clauses just add extra information about the noun:

Solomon, who plays guitar, works in Victoria.

Many students study at the library, where you have to be quiet.

Non-identifying clauses are more formal, and are usually separated from the main clause by commas. Identifying clauses cannot be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, but non-identifying clauses usually can be removed without changing the meaning.

Almost Perfect

Today’s tip:  “almost” needs to modify a quantity.

  • Almost all students are happy. <- good English
  • Almost students are happy. <-bad English

“Most” modifies a plural or non-count noun

  • Most students are happy. Most cheese is delicious. <- good English
  • Most car is expensive. <- bad English

Confusing Words: Late and Lately

“Late” is not the same as “lately.”

Late is the opposite of early. They are both adjectives, and must modify nouns.

  • “James will be late today. He will arrive after the meeting begins.”

Lately means recently, or close to now. Lately is an adverb.

  • “I’ve taken a lot of classes in English lately.”

Lately can also move around in the sentence, like other adverbs:

  • “Lately, I’ve taken a lot of English classes.”

Collection of Common Errors

Hi everyone,

Here are a few mistakes I heard in class this week.

“I have a doubt” is incorrect. Say “I have a question” instead.

every day – quantifier and noun (repeated action or situation)

  • I go to work every day.

everyday – adjective – “normal, regular, common.”

  • My everyday clothes are quite casual, but I wear formal clothes occasionally.

I got a Bachelor’s degree IN history FROM the University of Victoria WITH honours. I graduated IN 2009.

Lay and Lie: Common Confusion

Lay and lie are both irregular verbs. If you memorize their forms, then you’ll avoid making common errors.

Simple present:

  • The chicken lays eggs.
  • I lie on the sofa.

Simple past:

  • The chicken laid eggs yesterday.
  • I lay on the sofa yesterday.

Present Continuous:

  • The chicken is laying eggs right now.
  • I am lying on the sofa right now.

Present Perfect:

  • The chicken has laid eggs.
  • I have lain on the sofa.

Comma Rule #1

The most important thing to remember about a comma is that it doesn’t connect or join. Instead, use the comma to separate ideas. Some students imagine the sentence in their head, and wherever they pause to breather, they insert a comma into their writing. This is surprisingly easy, and it is correct most of the time!

The most common comma problem, the comma fault, causes run-on sentences. Here’s an example:

  • I like pizza, it is delicious.

Notice that the author is trying to connect two sentences with a comma. This is a comma fault. Most comma faults can be corrected by adding a conjunction:

  • I like pizza, because it is delicious.

They can also usually be corrected by replacing the comma with a period:

  • I like pizza. It is delicious.

Vocab Grab Bag

I heard it through the grapevine. This is an idiom that means ” I learned the information because I was gossiping.”

Coat and Quote are similar, but not the same. “Quote” starts with a /kw/ sound, but “coat” starts with only /k/.

“Software” and “hardware” are noncount. If you want to use count expressions, say “pieces of software,” “apps,” or “programs.” For “hardware,” say “computers,” “devices,” or “tablets/phones/laptops.”