Something to look forward to: three-word phrasal verbs

by Liz Walter​
lookingforward
Most phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and a single particle, but a few have two particles. This blog looks at some of the most common ones.

You probably already know the one in the title: look forward to. One important thing to remember is that if you use another verb after it, it must be in the –ing form:

I’m really looking forward to seeing you. (= I’m pleased and excited because I am going to see you)

Here are some more common three-word phrasal verbs which are well worth learning: Continue reading “Something to look forward to: three-word phrasal verbs”

Countability – grammar codes

by Dom Glennon​​

cn_bubbles_all2_play

Advices and informations

Have you ever noticed strange codes in square brackets on entries in Cambridge Dictionaries Online and wondered what they mean? These are grammar codes, giving you a brief summary of how that word behaves grammatically. More information can be obtained by hovering your cursor over the code, and there’s a full page of them here, but we thought we’d look at some in more detail.
Continue reading “Countability – grammar codes”

Come on – you can do it! Phrasal verbs with ‘come’.

by Liz Walter​
comeon
As part of an occasional series on the tricky subject of phrasal verbs, this blog looks at ones formed with the verb ‘come’.

If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you already know come from, as it is one of the first things you learn in class:

I come from Scotland/Spain.

You probably also know how to invite someone to enter your home, using come in:

How lovely to see you! Please come in! Continue reading “Come on – you can do it! Phrasal verbs with ‘come’.”

An introduction to phrasal verbs

by Liz Walter
phrasal_verbs
All students of English need to learn phrasal verbs! A phrasal verb is a verb and a particle (e.g. up, off, over) used together. Phrasal verbs may seem difficult, but you probably know some already:

I wake up at 7 o’clock.

He puts on his coat.

Sit down, please.

 

It is often impossible to guess the meaning of a phrasal verb from the meaning of the verb. For example, if you give up smoking, you stop smoking, and if you carry on doing something, you continue to do it. You have to learn the meaning of these phrasal verbs in just the same way as you do with a single verb. Continue reading “An introduction to phrasal verbs”

You must read this! (‘Have to’ or ‘must’?)

by Kate Woodford
youmust
In these blogs we make a point of looking at areas that often cause difficulties for learners of English. This week we are considering how we talk about obligation – the fact that we must do something, either because of a rule or some other need. We will start with the differences between ‘have to/need to’ and ‘must’, and when we use one and not the other.

Have to/Need to

The first thing to say is that if we want to talk about something that it is necessary to do, ‘have to’ and ‘need to’, (followed by the infinitive of the main verb), generally sound correct and natural:

You have to/need to be there for eight o’clock.

I have to/need to get some money out.

You have to/need to get a form from the office. Continue reading “You must read this! (‘Have to’ or ‘must’?)”

Reported speech – how to say what someone told you

by Liz Walter
reportedspeech
We often need to tell people what someone else has said to us:

He said he wanted to come with us.

She told me she hadn’t seen the document.

This is what the textbooks call ‘reported speech‘, because you are reporting what has been said to you.

To use reported speech correctly, you have to be careful about what tense you use. The basic rule is that you look at the tense the speaker used, then you go back one tense to report it.

So, for instance, if someone says something in the present tense, you report it in the past tense: Continue reading “Reported speech – how to say what someone told you”

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?”

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?”