What will you be doing this time next week? – the future in English part 2

by Kate Woodford
What_will_you_be_doing_this_time_next_week
Last week we looked at the most basic tenses and structures that are used for talking about the future. This week, we’re considering some more future tenses and structures and thinking about exactly how they are used.

Let’s start with the present simple. Like the present continuous, this tense can be used for talking about future events that are planned, or ‘in the diary’:

We leave for France next Tuesday.

Term starts next week.

Her plane gets in at three in the morning.

Notice that two of the above examples relate to events that are not only planned, but planned by someone else, as part of an official diary or timetable. This is a typical use of the present simple for future events.

We should mention another important use of the present tense for relating the future, and one that students sometimes get wrong. A present tense – often the present simple – is used for talking about future events in phrases that contain words relating to time, such as when, after and until. Continue reading “What will you be doing this time next week? – the future in English part 2”

What are you doing tonight? – the future in English

by Kate Woodford
What_are_you_doing_tonight

The future in English is complicated. The problem is that there are so many different ways of talking about it, and the differences between those various ways are sometimes quite slight. This week and next, we’re looking at the range of tenses and structures that we use to talk about the period of time that is to come.

We’ll start with a really useful tense – the present continuous (be + v-ing), (Notice, by the way, that we’re not starting with ‘will’ – more of that later…):

We are having dinner with friends tonight.

I’m seeing the dentist tomorrow.

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m starting my course next month.

We use this tense for talking about the planned future – things that we have already arranged to do. We use it both in statements and questions, and we use it a lot. It may be useful to think of the present continuous as the ‘diary’ tense – the tense that you use to talk about meetings, appointments, etc.  that need arranging – the sort of future events that you might write in your diary. Continue reading “What are you doing tonight? – the future in English”

Less or fewer?

by Liz Walter
less_or_fewer
Should you say ‘less apples’ or fewer apples’? This is an issue which seems to cause as many problems for people who have English as their first language as it does for learners.

This is probably because most learners will be aware of the difference between countable nouns (such as apple, dog, and child) and uncountable or mass nouns (such as rice, milk, and time), and this is useful for understanding the basic rule:

… use less for things you can’t count (uncountable/mass nouns):

I use less sugar than the recipe recommends.

            Modern cars use less fuel.

… use fewer for things you can count (countable nouns).

Fewer people use libraries nowadays.

            This process leads to fewer errors.

Most first language speakers simply don’t think of nouns in that way. The result is that many of them don’t know that there’s any difference between ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. Others know, but don’t really care. However, there is a third group that does know, does care, and gets very angry indeed when they are used incorrectly. Continue reading “Less or fewer?”

I’m afraid I disagree with you.

by Kate Woodford
disagree
Last week we looked at the ‘softeners’ (polite words and phrases) that people use to make requests sound nicer. This week we’re taking a look at the sort of phrases that people use when they are disagreeing with people and they don’t want to sound rude or express opinions that sound too strong.

The statement, ‘I disagree with you.’ sounds very strong in English and people often choose not to use it. However, if people do want to express strong disagreement and they use this phrase, they often ‘soften’ it slightly by first apologising: Continue reading “I’m afraid I disagree with you.”

Would you mind reading this, please?

bowlerhatby Kate Woodford
It’s often said that native English speakers use a lot of ‘softeners’ in their language –  those words and phrases which make us sound nicer and more polite, (even if they have very little actual meaning). This week we’re taking a look at softeners and the sort of situations in which we often use them.

An obvious place to start is requesting – asking politely for things or for help. (It’s obviously a good idea to sound polite and pleasant if you want something from someone!) There are several ways to make it clear to someone that you are requesting something and not demanding it. Could I take this chair, please? sounds just a little bit nicer than Can I take this chair, please? The meaning is the same in both sentences, but with ‘could’ the speaker sounds a little less sure of the answer and this makes the request sound more polite. If you add the word ‘possibly’ to this phrase, you sound even more polite: Continue reading “Would you mind reading this, please?”

Present perfect or past simple?

present_perfectby Kate Woodford
Present perfect or past simple?

This is a tricky area of the English language for low-level learners, so let’s look again at the rules.

When we start studying English, we learn that to talk about an action that started and finished in the past, we use the past simple tense, (for regular verbs, the base verb + -ed):

 

I finished the course a month ago.

cooked dinner.

We saw Jamie yesterday.

Notice that we naturally use time expressions with the past simple – yesterday, a month ago, 2005, etc. Remember that when we use one of these words or phrases, we do not use the present perfect tense:

I’ve been to the USA in 2008.

I went to the USA in 2008. Continue reading “Present perfect or past simple?”

The Top 5 Ungrammatical Song Lyrics

by Kate Woodford and Dom Glennon
rock_warning
Are you annoyed by song lyrics that do not obey the rules of grammar? Do you correct them as you sing along? To mark the inclusion of English Grammar Today on Cambridge Dictionaries Online, we thought we’d count down some of the worst offences against the rules of grammar committed by songwriters, either deliberately, or without knowing.

5. The standard non-standard

Rock’n’roll has always been drawn to the rebellious side of life, so it’s little surprise that a large number of songs feature non-standard or slang grammar in their lyrics: double negatives such as ‘We Don’t Need No Education’ (‘Another Brick In The Wall’ by Pink Floyd) and ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ (‘Satisfaction‘ by The Rolling Stones). Some musicians go even further, adding in the equally non-standard ‘ain’t’, as in ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers, and ‘You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog’ (‘Hound Dog‘ by Elvis Presley).

Perhaps the best example of deliberate breaking of the rules is in Louis Jordan’s ‘Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, guaranteed to send your Word grammar-checker haywire. The non-standard seems almost standard in rock music. Continue reading “The Top 5 Ungrammatical Song Lyrics”