Tag Archives: Grammar

Grammar Grab Bag

Progressive tenses are also called continuous tenses.

“Agree” is a verb, not an adjective. A common mistake is to say: “I am agree with you.” Just say “I agree with you.”

“Should” and “had better” are both modals used to give advice. “Had better” has a stronger meaning. “Must” is stronger than both of them, and is used for regulations, obligations, or requirements.

– James, you should park underground. (mild suggestion)

– James, you had better slow down. The road is very icy and we might have an accident! (strong suggestion)

– James, you must stop at the red light. (strong obligation or requirement)


I don’t know that word…

Recently, I’ve heard several students use “don’t” before “to.” This is never correct, and it is confusing! Let’s start 2016 off right.

  • I don’t to go to school. <- I don’t go to school.
  • I don’t to want pizza. <- I don’t want pizza.

I suspect that this is because of the grammar rules in their first language. Please be careful! Remember the recipe:

subject + do/does + negative + verb in base form + object.

  • I + do + not + eat + pizza.
  • She + does + not + like + opera.

People from Other Countries

I see a lot of students from around the world. They generally are happy to meet each other, learn about their differences and similarities, and work together in class. However, there often seems to be difficulty with the word “foreigner.”

It might look hard to pronounce, but here’s a secret: the ‘g’ makes no sound. Start by saying these sounds together: for in er. You got it!

Many students will say “other country people” instead of “foreigner.” Not only is the grammar incorrect, it is awkward. Remember that “foreigner” is a noun, and that “foreign” is the adjective.

Before: I met many other country people today.
After: I met many foreigners today.

Before: Are there other country people in your grammar class?
After: Are there foreign people in your grammar class?

“Foreigner” and “foreign” can be used in formal or legal situations.

Now that you can talk about them, it is time to go and meet some people who are from other countries. Good luck!

Parallelism – Making Lists Easy To Understand

Parallelism is an aspect of grammar that connects to lists. It means “to group similar parts of speech together.” The easiest way to learn about it is just to see it in real sentences:

Before: I like to eat pizza, watch movies, and dancing.

After: I like to eat pizza, watch movies, and dance. (gerund becomes infinitive)

Before: John should write the report quickly, accurately, and with precision.

After: John should write the report quickly, accurately, and precisely. (adjective becomes adverb)

Before: Alice will research the problem, gather information, and solutions will be evaluated.

After: Alice will research the problem, gather information, and evaluate solutions. (active and passive verb forms made only active)

Before: James played his guitar, was dancing, and had done yoga before we came home.

After: James had done yoga, played his guitar, and danced before we came home.(several verb tenses combined)

The easy rule is this: be consistent with parts of speech in your list. If it is a list of nouns, use only noun forms. If only verbs, use the same tense. Looking for these patterns will help you write and speak more clearly.

In creative writing, you can use the forms of the words and also the sounds or the spelling to create interest and excitement.

Loose Loser Lost

Here are some commonly-misused words. They look quite similar, but they are not the same.

loose – adjective. The opposite of tight. “My pants are loose because I have lost weight.”

lose – verb. You lose something when you no longer know where it is, or when you can’t use a skill any more. “Don’t lose your lottery ticket! You will need it if you win.” OR “If I don’t practice my English, I will lose my skills.”

loser – noun. The person who loses. Note that it is an insult. “James is the winner, and everyone else is a loser.”

loss – noun. The amount of money that you spent in order to gain a lesser amount; the opposite of profit. “We received $100, but we spent $130. Our loss for this deal is $30.”

lost – adjective. Use this to describe something that you lose. “I can’t find my glasses; they are lost.”

Exemplary Examples

Just a couple of common mistakes from my writing course today:

Example is not spelled exemple

Exemplary is not spelled examplary

Research is non-count. If you want a count noun with a similar meaning, try using “studies” or “tests” instead. “I completed research for the scientist.” OR “I completed three studies for the scientist.”

Have something with – I’ll have a burger with fries, please. Not have something to.

A student told me of a quote in Russian that shows a good attitude to failure: “He who doesn’t take risks doesn’t drink champagne.” I know of a quote from sports that means the same thing: “You miss all of the shots you don’t take.”

These and those: “These” talks about things we have already discussed, or the first of two groups. “Those” talks about the second of two groups.  “These are good, but those are bad.”

Another, the other, others, other

Another is an adjective and a singular pronoun. It means “one more.”

I have already finished one ice cream, but I want to keep eating. I would like another ice cream, please.

I don’t have enough cars. I need to buy another.

Other is an adjective. It means “something different.”

I don’t like these songs. I want to sing some other songs.

Others is a plural pronoun. It means “more things.”

I don’t like these songs. I want to sing some others.

The other is a singular pronoun. It means “one out of two things.”

I have two shoes. One is for my left foot. The other is for my right foot.