Grammar bank


1. Word Order

Word order in English plays a central role in the language system. Due to the loss of endings and suffixes in the historical development of English, one can hardly tell whether a word is a noun or verb, or if the noun is the object or the subject.

1.1. Word Order - Parts of speech

For example, any noun can become an adjective just by its position in front of another noun. Such case can even grow in a line where the last one only is the noun. The following structure "gold London event" consists of three nouns: "gold", "London", and "event", however only the last one is recognised by an English speaker as a noun, the first two take roles of adjectives.

1.2. Word Order - Sentence Elements

The proper English word order is: Subject-Verb-Object-Manner-Place-Time

The structure, of course, does not have to include all the elements, it can be e.g. only the subject and verb, or subject-verb-time.

The sentence then looks like this: "Mary kissed her sister happily on her cheek when she came to the door."

If we change the word order in the following sentence "The hunter killed a bear." into "A bear killed the hunter.", our poor hunter will become the bear's dinner. Therefore we have to remember, that first comes THE ACTOR, then THE ACTION and then THE TARGET OF THE ACTION followed by various time and place settings.

This fixed word order changes only at certain special occasions such as forming a question with verbs "to be", "to have", and with modals "must, can, should, may".

2. Nouns

Nouns in English do not distinguish case or gender. As a remnant of once rich inflectional system we have the "-'s" expressing possession. If we say it is "David's car" it means the car belongs to David. We cannot do this with all nouns though, we use it mainly with persons.

2.1. Plural

The category of number works in English and is rather simple, as most nouns form plural by adding -s ending to the word's root, hence we have:

  • "cat - cats"
  • "table - tables"
  • "supervisor - supervisors"
  • "idea - ideas"

Some nouns happen to change the root, but there are only few of them:

  • "leaf - leaves"
  • "knife - knives"

2.2. Countable and uncountable nouns

There is one large group of nouns in English which do not form plural, or if they do, it changes their meaning. We call them uncountable and they are important to know as countability decides at whether to use the indefinite article, or whether to say "much water" or "many apples". Every good dictionary gives the information if the word is countable by saying "c" - "countable", or "u", "uncountable" at every noun listed.

The uncountable nouns count mainly whatever one can find in the fridge, or what flows or has powder-like consistence, what does not occur naturally in pieces. So for example:

  • water
  • flour
  • bread
  • milk
  • butter
  • cheese
  • sand

3. Adjectives

English adjectives do not have any grammar categories such as gender, case or number. We say "one big boy" and "two big girls". Nothing changes in "big".

What we can do with adjectives is forming comparative and superlative.

  1. Original Germanic words, which mainly are one or two-syllable words form comparative by adding "-er" and superlative by adding "-est" to the root of the word. Superlative is always preceded by the definite article. The "-e" ending vanishes. The "-y" ending changes into the "-ie-". One syllable adjectives ending in a consonant (closed syllables) double their last letter to save the sound of the syllable. The following cases show it:
  • cool - cooler - the coolest
  • fast - faster - the fastest
  • nice - nicer - the nicest
  • happy - happier - the happiest
  • lazy - lazier - the laziest
  • fat - fatter - the fattest
  • big - bigger - the biggest
  1. Latin origin nouns, most often three or more syllable words, form comparative and superlative using "more" and "most". This group includes also verbal adjectives ending in "-ed", or "-ing".
  • interesting - more interesting - the most interesting
  • beautiful - more beautiful - the most beautiful
  • tired - more tired - the most tired
  1. Some adjectives are irregular:
  • good - better - the best
  • bad - worse - the worst
  1. And finally there are some which do not form comparative or superlative at all, as their natural meaning does not logically allow that.
  • absolute
  • green
  • optimal

4. Pronouns

4.1. Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are:


  • I
  • you
  • he, she, it


  • we
  • you
  • they

Here we can see, that English does not distinguish between singular and plural of the second person. Also there is no difference in gender in plural. Probably influenced by this, there is nothing like using plural form of second or third person to express more politeness which exists in many other European languages.

4.1.1 >>Some-, any-, no-, every-<<

"Some, any, every" and "no" exist as independent words, but they also are very productive in compounds with other pronouns, especially in connections with "-one, -body, -where, -thing." Their usage has certain rules. These rules apply both when used alone or in the compounds.

SOME- is used in a positive sentence mainly. It can also be used to give a certain limitation to the possible choice, as opposed to "ANY".

  • Somebody wants to see you.
  • I left my glasses somewhere on my table.
  • This is something different.
  • Yes, we have to admit, our club some problems. (meaning: not many problems)

ANY- is used mainly in a negative sentence or a question. Any can also be used in a positive sentence to stress UNLIMITED choice.

  • Do you have any suggestions?
  • Hallo! Is anybody here?
  • There is't any chance to win.
  • Anybody can enter the building, so it is hard to find the person.
  • You can say anything but he will not believe you.

NO- is used for an absolute negation and exclusion

  • >> We have nothing to hide.<<
  • >> Nobody can play after the referee whistles.<<
  • >> We have no idea about the price.<<

EVERY- is used for absolute inclusion

  • Everybody can make a mistake.
  • He is so clever, has been everywhere, and seen everything.
  • We cannot go to work everyday, we need some days off.
  • Every single person has a right to live.

4.2. Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns are different depending on the nature of use.

If they are used with a noun, they use these forms:


  • my (car)
  • your (car)
  • his, her, its (car)


  • our (car)
  • your (car)
  • their (car)

If they are used without a following noun (this car is mine), they use these forms:


  • mine
  • yours
  • his, hers, its


  • ours
  • yours
  • theirs

4.3. Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used in so called "WH-" questions. The "WH" indicates the first two letters of the interrogative pronouns. There are these interrogative pronouns in English:

  • who (about a person)
  • what (about an item)
  • which (about a person or item from a given environment)
  • where (about a place)
  • when (about time)
  • how (about manner)

A sentence in which WHO or WHAT or WHICH is the subject of the verb is formally a positive sentence and therefore no auxiliary is required.

  • He lives here.
  • She lives here.
  • John lives here.
  • WHO lives here?

All these sentences above have a word order of a positive sentence, but "Who lives here?" is a logical question because WHO itself is a question word.


  • Who did you see? ("you" is the subject)
  • Who saw you? ("who" is the subject)

4.4. Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are in a large part identical with interrogative pronouns, only the use differs. While interrogative pronouns introduce a question, the relative pronouns are used to introduce a relative clause. Some languages do not know the instance of relative clause. The relative clause is used to tell us something about a person, animal or item from the main clause. See the example:

  • a regular structure: A green shirt is lying on the bed. I like exactly that green shirt.
  • a relative clause: I like the green shirt which is lying on the bed.

The most often used relative pronouns are who, which and that.

  • who is used only for persons.
  • which is used for things or animals.
  • THAT can be used for persons, animals and for things.

Who, which and that can be omitted when they are the Object of the relative clause.


  • That's the book (which/that) I read last summer.
  • I spoke to a man (who/whom/that) I knew.

Note: The object form "whom" is not used much in modern English.

The interrogative what never functions as a relative pronoun in English. What means "the thing which", "that thing which" or "the things which" etc.

WHOSE is used to replace possessive adjectives.


  • He's a composer whose music is famous everywhere.

When, why and where are only used in certain structures and after certain words:

  • It was a time when our lives were in danger.
  • I know a place where everybody is happy.
  • The reason why they are leaving is unclear.

4.5. Articles

English articles do not distinguish gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) so they are always the same.

The Indefinite Articles are: "A", before a pronounced consonant, for example "a book" and "AN" before a pronounced vowel, for example "an apple" or "an old book". The indefinite article cannot be used in plural and with uncountable nouns, since it also means "one". If necessary the word "some" is used instead.

The Definite Article is "THE". It is also the same for singular and plural.

We use "A" or "AN" the first time you talk about something.


  • I saw a man with a dog.

Use "THE" if you talk about the same thing again.


  • The man was blind but the dog wasn't.

We use "THE" if there is only one example of something.


  • The moon goes round the Earth.
  • The River Thames goes through London.

We use "THE" with superlative adjectives.


  • The River Danube is the longest river in Europe.

We do not use "THE" if you are talking about something in general.


  • Do you like fish?
  • Do they use assistive technology?
  • Trees are green.

Use "THE" if you are talking about a specific case.


  • Do you like the fish in this restaurant?
  • Do they use the assistive technology that we installed?
  • The trees in my garden are beautiful.

5. Prepositions

Every language is different. Some languages even do not have prepositions such as English. However those which do use very often one and the same preposition for a different range of meanings in different connections. There is no exact equivalent to English "to" preposition in any other language and similarly there is no exact equivalent to Hungarian "-ba" suffix in English. Therefore it is very practical to learn prepositions mainly in their native phrases.

5.1. Prepositions of Place

at is a very progressive English preposition which gives place and activity or service at the same time. The most common use of it is with various services or stations and similar. Here follow some useful examples:

  • at the supermarket
  • at the station
  • at the bus stop
  • at the hairdressers
  • at the cinema
  • at school
  • at home
  • at work

in means some location and inside position:

  • in the house
  • in the building
  • in my pocket
  • in the book
  • in Africa

on means "on the surface" or "on the programme" or "on the net", hence we have:

  • on the table
  • on TV
  • on the radio
  • on the Internet

5.2. Prepositions of time

at is used with hours and in special phrases:

  • at 5 p.m.
  • at night
  • at the weekend

on is used with days:

  • on Monday
  • on Jim's birthday
  • on 24th of January

in is used to give the amount of time we have to wait until the action happens

  • I come back in 10 minutes.
  • In one year he will be a famous person.

however in some expressions in means the exact times:

  • in the morning
  • in the evening

6. Verbs

Verbs are words meaning action or state. We can divide English verbs in two basic categories by usage:

  • lexical verbs
  • auxiliary and modal verbs

6.0.1. Lexical verbs

Lexical verbs have full meaning. They express some action, state or change. For example "jump, read, think" or "give".

6.0.2. Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary and/or modal verbs do not really express action or state themselves. Auxiliaries are used as grammatical tools for example they serve to form a question or negative. Auxiliaries are: to be (used in continuous tenses), to have (used in perfect tenses), to do (used in simple tenses). Besides their specific grammatical function, the auxiliary verbs have also their own meanings. Modals are used to modify the necessity or advisability of an action. Modals are must, may, can, shall and their respective forms.

Here are some examples of how auxiliaries and modals are used:

  • Forming negative with BE in past - He wasn't driving too fast!
  • Forming question with HAVE in present perfect. - Have you tried this one?
  • Forming negative with WILL in future. - She will not arrive in time.
  • Forming question with CAN in present - What can we do against it?

6.1. "to be"

The verb "to be" is irregular and has three forms: am, is, are.

We can see that in the conjunction:


  • I am
  • you are
  • he, she, it is


  • we are
  • you are
  • they are


  • My friend is from London.
  • My friends are from London.

The short (or "contracted") forms are: I'm – he's – she's – it's – we're – you're – they're

The contracted form 's can also be used with nouns.


  • My friend's from London.

6.1.1. "Forming questions - >>to be<<"

In a regular positive sentence with "be", subject comes first, "be" comes next. See the following examples:

  • I am from Prague.
  • Your friend is in London.
  • They are Italian.
  • Catherine is English.
  • Peter and his wife and children are happy.

Questions is formed by inversion, verb first, subject next. See the following examples:

  • Are you from Prague?
  • Is your friend from London?
  • Are they Italian?
  • Is Catherine English?
  • Are Peter and his wife and children happy?

6.1.2. Forming negatives - "to be"

Negative is formed by adding "not" after the verb be:

  • I am not at work
  • He is not a teacher.
  • She is not English.
  • It is not my dog.
  • we are not ill.
  • You are not the right person
  • They are not happy.

In common speech,contracted forms are much more frequent:

  • I'm not at work
  • He isn't a teacher.
  • She isn't English.
  • It isn't my dog.
  • we aren't ill.
  • You aren't the right person
  • They aren't happy.

6.1.3. Past tense of "to be"

The past of "to be" is irregular, it has two forms "was" and "were":

We can see that in the conjunction:


  • I was
  • you were
  • he, she, it was


  • we were
  • you were
  • they were


  • My friend was in London yesterday.
  • My friends were in London yesterday.

6.1.4 Phrases >>THERE IS<< and >>THERE ARE<<

THERE IS (singular) and THERE ARE (plural)

There is has the short form there's

There are has no written short form.


  • There's a tree in the garden.
  • There are two trees in the garden.

Note: In a list, the use of singular or plural depends on the first item.


  • There's a book, a pen and a telephone on the table.
  • There are two books, a pen and a telephone on the table.


Singular: there is not or there isn't

Plural: there are not or there aren't


  • There isn't any bread on the table.
  • There aren't any rooms free.

Note: Instead of NOT + ANY you can also use the positive form + NO.


  • There's no bread on the table.
  • There are no rooms free.


Singular: Is there ...?

Plural: Are there ...?


  • Is there any bread on the table?
  • Are there any rooms free?

6.2. Verb >>"have"<<

The verb "have" means to own something. It is often used as an auxiliary word (for example in perfect tenses), and it is very productive in many phrases and specific structures where the meaning of the verb is shifted such as:

  • have a baby
  • have a bath
  • have a shower
  • have fun
  • have a good trip
  • have an accident
  • have a look
  • have a break
  • have breakfast
  • have lunch
  • have dinner
  • have a drink
  • have a cup of tea
  • have a good time

I its primary meaning the verb "have" is used in standard English in two ways. Either in the phrase of "have got" or as a standalone "have". The two forms are grammatically different, however identical in meaning.

6.2.1. >>"Have got"<<

The verb "have" is often used in conjunction with the third form of get which is got.

Verb have got changes form in the third person singular so we have:


  • I have got
  • you have got
  • he, she, it has got


  • we have got
  • you have got
  • they have got "Forming negative - >>have got<<"

Negative is formed by adding "not" after the verb have, and so there is:

  • They have not got any money.
  • He has not got the train ticket.
  • I have not got my homework.

And more frequently contracted, and so:

  • They haven't got any money.
  • He hasn't got the train ticket.
  • I haven't got my homework. "Forming questions - >>have got<<"

In a regular positive sentence with "have got", subject comes first, the verbal phrase "have got" comes next. See the following examples:

  • He has got some money.
  • They have got the train tickets.
  • I have got my homework.

The question is formed by inversion of have and the subject, the phrase "have got" splits, and the subject comes between the two verbs, therefore we have:

  • Has he got some money?
  • Have they got the train tickets?
  • Have you got your homework?

6.2.2. Standalone >>"have"<<

Verb have changes its form in the third person singular, so we have:


  • I have
  • you have
  • he, she, it has


  • we have
  • you have
  • they have

Standalone "have" behaves grammatically identically to any other English full-meaning verb, so, if the sentence is: "They have a dog." then the question is: "Do they have a dog?" and the negative in this case is: "They don't have a dog."

6.2.3. >>"Have something done"<<

The phrase "have something done" stresses the fact that the subject is not the person who does the activity. For example if >> "I have my car repaired,"<< it means, that it is my car, it is broken, and that I call somebody else, for example a service person, who repairs the car.

The phrase always consists of the verb "have", then the object of the activity, and finally the third form of a verb (past participle) expressing the activity. Here follow the examples.

"Players have the dress washed in the laundry." (= someone will wash the dress for them) "We will have the room redecorated". (= someone comes and will redecorate our room) "We had the text translated professionally before we sent it." (= a translator translated our text before we sent it) "Do you have your garden done or do you do it yourself?" (= do you have a gardener?)

6.3 Modal verbs

The modal verbs (can, could, must, may, might, shall, should, will, would) have only one form.

There are also short forms for "shall" ('ll) "will"('ll) and "would" ('d)


  • I'll go tomorrow.
  • They'll be here later.
  • She'd come if she could.

The negative is formed by adding "not": "can not" is written as one word: cannot

The rest are could not, must not, etc.

Short forms: can't – couldn't – mustn't – mightn't – shan't – shouldn't – won't – wouldn't

In questions, the verb goes before the noun or pronoun.


  • Can you speak English?
  • Will John and his wife and friends come?
  • May I come in?

6.3.1 Verb "can"

Verb "can" is a modal verb and has two meanings. Either it indicates the person has the ability to carry out an action, or it expresses that the person is allowed to do so. These two meanings can only be distinguished by context.

Verb "can" does not change it's form, just as all other modals. Therefore we have:


  • I can
  • you can
  • he, she, it can


  • we can
  • you can
  • they can

The question is formed similarly like in case of the verb "be" by inversion, therefore:

  • Can he swim?
  • Can a child smoke a cigarette?

Negative is formed by adding suffix "-not" to the verb, and so there is:

  • He cannot swim.
  • A child cannot smoke a cigarette.

And more frequently contracted and so:

  • He can't swim.
  • A child can't smoke a cigarette.

6.3.2 Future, Verb >>"will"<<

Verb "will" is a modal verb and originally had the meaning of "want" (e.g."the engine will not start"), however now it expresses future in majority of cases. The verb "will" does not change it's form, just as all other modals. Therefore we have:


  • I will
  • you will
  • he, she, it will


  • we will
  • you will
  • they will

Question is formed similarly like in case of the verb "be" by inversion, therefore:

  • Will he come on time?
  • Will they build a new motorway here?

Negative is formed by adding "not" to the verb, and so there is:

  • He will not come on time, he will come late.
  • They will not build anything here.

And more frequently it is contracted, however in contracted form the root vowel "i" changes into "o", which has historical reasons, therefore we have:

  • He won't come on time, he will come late.
  • They won't build anything here.

6.3.3 >>"Would"<< and the phrase >>"Would like"<<

Would is a subjunctive and past form of "will". Would is used to speak about possibilities, not about reality, for example:

"If I were a prince of Persia, I would live in a great palace."

The phrase "I would like" is a gentle and formal way of saying "I want". It consists of a modal verb "will" in subjunctive "would" and the verb "like" in infinitive. It is frequently used in restaurants to order meal, in shops when asking the shop assistant or any other occasion where a speaker intends to be decent or formal.

Both the verbs do not change in any person, so we have:

  • I would like a cup of tea.
  • He would like a cup of tea.
  • They would like a cup of tea.

6.3.4 >>"Must"and "have to"<<

Must is a modal verb expressing need and obligation. Similarly to can, must also does not change its form in any person:


  • I must
  • you must
  • he, she, it must
  • we must
  • you must
  • they must

The question is simply done by inversion:

  • >> Must we really get up at 5 a.m.?<<

The negative can be a little confusing. Grammatical negative of must is "mustn't" (fully "must not"), however logical negative of must is "needn't" ("need not"). "Must not" is the forbidding negative. "Need not" is a weak, permissive negative. Here is an example:

Son: "Must we really get up at 5, dad?" Father: "No, you needn't, you can stay at home, if you like. But if you want to go with me for a trip, you must. But remember, we must not tell your mum, it is a surprise for her." >>"have to"<<

The verb must does not have any regular past or subjunctive form. Must uses an auxiliary phrase "have to" to form various tenses. So the future is:

  • I will have to go out.
  • You will have to go out.
  • He will have to go out. etc.

while the past is:

  • I had to go out.
  • You had to go out.
  • He had to go out. etc.

and it is also possible to form present perfect:

  • I have had to go out.
  • You have had to go out.
  • He has had to go out. etc.

In present tense, "have to" has a different meaning from "must". Must expresses what the speaker believes in. Have to expresses what the speaker is forced to do against his will. e.g.:

  • I must stop smoking. People who smoke smell terribly and die early.
  • I have to stop smoking. Doctor told me, but I do not want to.

6.3.4 >>"Should"<<

"Should" expresses moral obligation. It is originally a subjunctive form and past of "shall". "Shall" is rarely used in modern everyday English, except of some phrases like: "What shall I do now?"

Similarly to other modals, should also does not change its form in any person:


  • I should
  • you should
  • he, she, it should


  • we should
  • you should
  • they should

The negative is formed by adding not:

  • You should not steal.

which is often contracted into:

  • You shouldn't steal.

Question is formed by inversion:

  • "Should I stay?"
  • "Should we help them?"

6.3.4. >>"May"<<

"May" expresses possibility, or allowance. Example:

  • May I open the window, madam?
  • May I ask you to help me?

It is less often used in its primary sense nowadays, as it is very often and progressively used by English speakers in the adverbial sense of "probably".

  • It may rain today, so I better take my umbrella with me.

(= The rain will probably come....)

The conjugation of the verb may is:


  • I may
  • you may
  • he, she, it may


  • we may
  • you may
  • they may

Original past tense and conditional form of may is might, which is today used almost as a synonym for may, expressing a little lesser probability than may. Therefore our example sentence can also be:

  • It might rain today, so I better take my umbrella with me.

(= There is some chance that rain will come....)

6.3.5. Modal verbs and past

Modal verbs have interesting development in English, some of them are already in the past form, meaning present, such as must or should. Therefore we have other means to express past.

In most cases modal verbs form past using alternative verbal phrases:

can,could - be allowed to, be able to

  • I wasn't allowed to leave the police station.
  • I wasn't able to run faster than him.
  • Were you able to see the first minutes of the match?

may, might - be allowed to

  • Guests to the exhibition were not allowed to touch the ancient paintings.
  • Were you allowed to go closer to the president?

must - have to

  • We had to wait until the anti-drug tests were done.
  • This didn't have to be such a long time.
  • Did you have to say that to the referee?

should - be supposed to

  • Were we supposed to help them?
  • She wasn't supposed to do anything else but wait.

There is also a possibility to use a form of present perfect form which means that we are sorry about something, sorry that something didn't happen or didn't go well. The structure is modal+have+presentperfectform.

  • She could have told you about his anticipations. (= It is a pitty she didn't tell you.)
  • We may have tried another way. (= I am sorry that we didn't try it)
  • This must have been terrible pain. ( = I am sorry that you have suffered so much.)
  • I should have warned you before. (= I was a fool, that I didn't warn you.)

6.4. Auxiliary >>"do"<<

The verb "do" has generally a meaning similar to "make or carry out". However it is very active in English as an auxiliary verb. That means a verb which helps you create questions and negatives.


  • positive: I often visit exhibitions.
  • question: Do you often visit exhibitions?
  • negative: He does not visit exhibitions at all.


  • positive: I visited one last week.
  • question: Did you visit your grandmother in the hospital?
  • negative: He did not visit her there.

There are frequent contractions such as:

  • I do not like that, mum. - I don't like that, mum.
  • We did not know that before. - We didn't know that before.

6.4.1 Questions with >>"do"<<

Most English full-meaning verbs form questions using the verb do. The most remarkable fact is, that this helps keep the English sentence structure untouched. The structure of a regular positive sentence is kept:

  • David and Natalie - watch - TV - at home?

only the verb DO precedes the whole structure so there is:

  • Do - David and Natalie - watch - TV - at home?

If the questions is a WH-question, the structure does not change, only the WH- element again precedes the whole structure and we have:

  • Why - do -David and Natalie - watch - TV - at home?

Notable fact is that verb DO bears all the grammatical marks (past tense suffix -ed, third form singular of present -s and so on.)while the full-meaning verb stays in its bare infinitive form. See the following examples:

  • He lik*es* jazz.
  • Do*es* he like jazz?
  • She work*ed* in the factory.
  • D*id* she work in the factory?

6.4.2. Forming negative with >>"do"<<

Most English full-meaning verbs form negative using the verb do. The verb do and a negative particle not are added before the full-meaning verb. Here are several examples.

  • I like jazz.
  • I do not like jazz.

and in common speech frequently contracted:

  • I don't like jazz.

and again, the verb do bears all grammatical marks, while the full-meaning verb (in our case like) stays in the bare infinitive form.

  • David like*s* classical music.
  • David do*es* not like classical music.

and in common speech frequently contracted:

  • David does*n't* like classical music.

6.4.3. >>To make<< and >>"to do"<<

Besides its important grammatical meaning, do is also a full meaning verb in the sense of "to carry out", very close to the meaning of "to make". The following account can give us some help in distinguish between the two.

In general, TO MAKE means to create something, and TO DO means to perform an action, but sometimes you just need to learn the expression. Here are a few common examples:


  • make a phone call
  • make an appointment
  • make arrangements
  • make a photocopy
  • make a cup of tea or coffee
  • make a change
  • make a mistake
  • make a noise
  • make a promise
  • make a plan
  • make money


  • do a job
  • do the washing
  • do the washing up
  • do the dishes
  • do the shopping
  • do a favour
  • do an exercise
  • do the housework
  • do a course
  • do a lot of sport
  • do justice

6.5. Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are expressions consisting usually of a verb and a preposition. Such a phrase, besides its original, literal meaning, has a derived secondary meaning, often very different. Here are some examples.

  • look out (= be careful)
  • speak up (= to speak more loudly)
  • give up (= to surrender)
  • go on (= continue)

very often there are more secondary meanings:

  • make up (= put your make up on your face, = start being friends again, = create some idea in your mind)

many dictionaries list a lot of phrasal verbs and, unfortunately, there is no other way but learn them.

6.6. Imperative

It is easy to give orders or instructions in English, because there is only one form of addressing people – YOU. It doesn't matter whether you are speaking to one person or more than one person. It doesn't matter whether you are talking to a young person, an old person, a friend or a person you don't know. For the affirmative imperative, simply use the infinitive (without "to").


  • Sit down.
  • Come here.
  • Listen everybody.
  • Tell me your name.
  • Open the window.
  • Help me!

If you want to be more polite, you can say "please", or use a different construction like "Will you sit, please?" or "Could you open the window, please?" or "Would you mind sitting down, please?" For the negative imperative, simply use DON'T before the infinitive (without "to").


  • Don't sit down.
  • Don't open the window.
  • Don't do that.
  • Don't worry!

6.7. Tenses

English has a large number of tenses, different scholars vary in structuring them and in giving the exact number, but we can say that English has morphologically speaking present and past tense, each of them having simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous forms. English has also means for expressing future, basic future is using verb will, which similarly to the present and past tenses can also have its simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous forms.

6.7.1. Present simple

This is the most common tense we use to express:

  • the thing is generally true: Sun rises in the East.
  • the action that repeats frequently: I usually leave home at 8.

Present simple has only one ending, that is the -s ending for the 3rd person singular, i.e. he, she, it. In all other forms, the basic form is used, so we have:


  • I drive
  • you drive
  • he, she, it drives


  • we drive
  • you drive
  • they drive

6.7.2. Present continuous

Present continuous is used to :

  1. express the action is happening at that time
  2. express the action is one time
  3. stress the action's intensity
  4. talk about future


  1. I am just driving, can you call me later?
  2. Normally he works at this time of the day, but today he is seeing the doctor.
  3. I am working like a mule and I am making real big money!
  4. I am travelling to Egypt next month.

It is formed by auxiliary be and adding the -ing to the end of a verb. The -e endings vanish, closed syllables double their last consonant to protect the sound of the syllable (see the pronunciation rules):

Examples of verb changes:

-e endings:

  • drive - driving
  • leave - leaving
  • give - giving


  • stop - stopping
  • sit - sitting


  • He is driving at the moment, he can't speak.

Contracted forms occur very frequently:

  • He's driving at the moment, he can't speak.
  • I'm working like a mule, and I'm making big money. Present continuous expressing future

When used for future, it means a planned action, very similar in meaning to the phrase "to be going to".

  • What time are you leaving tomorrow morning?
  • I am traveling to London next Friday.

(= What time do you plan to leave? I plan to travel to London next Friday.)

6.7.3 Present perfect

Present perfect is often used to open a topic or conversation. It also expresses personal concern or emotions, and it very frequently used to speak about our experience and experiences. It can refer both to the past and to the present.

  1. Have you heard the famous singer ...
  2. What have you done!
  3. He's been to Egypt. (so he knows, he has the experience)

It regularly co-occurs with the following adverbs: "ever, never, recently, since, for, two times, yet."

It is formed by:

  • verb "have" and the "-ed" suffix at the end of the regular verb: He has opened the door!
  • verb "have" and the third form of the irregular verb: He has gone.

6.7.4. Present perfect continuous

Present perfect continuous expresses activity, that

  • has effect on present
  • has just ended

but as opposed to present perfect simple, we stress the duration, the time it took, and intensity, or personal emotional involvement. The tense is formed by auxiliary "have been" and "-ing" form of a full meaning verb.

  • What have you been doing? Your dress is so dirty!
  • We've been playing basketball since half past two.

6.7.5. Past simple

Past simple refers to the past and is often used for telling a story or giving a sequence of events. It is often used to talk about details such as when, where, what time and who did something. It almost always needs a time setting either contextual or explicit.


  1. He came to the room, opened a window, switched off the light and waited.
  2. What did you do last night?
  3. I visited him at work.

Typical time (and place) settings to go with past tense are: ago, at ten, last night, late that afternoon, before two a clock, when he came to the room, (when she was) in the hospital, etc...

Past simple is formed by an "-ed" suffix added to the end of the regular verb.


visit - visited

or by the change in the root of the irregular verb:

  • sit - sat

There are no personal endings, so the form is identical for all numbers and persons. Irregular verbs

Here follows an account of several most basic and frequently used irregular verbs. The first collumn shows the verb in basic form, the second collumn is the past tense, and the third collumn shows the past participle which is the form we use in perfect tenses.

  • present - past - past participle
  • be - was/were - been
  • break - broke - broken
  • come - came - come
  • drive - drove - driven
  • eat - ate - eaten
  • fall - fell - fallen
  • feel - felt - felt
  • get - got - got
  • have - had - had
  • hear - heard - heard
  • hit - hit - hit
  • hurt - hurt - hurt
  • keep - kept - kept
  • know - knew - known
  • leave - left - left
  • make - made - made
  • meet - met - met
  • pay - paid - paid
  • put - put - put
  • read - read - read
  • run - ran - run
  • ride - rode - ridden
  • say - said - said
  • sell - sold - sold
  • see - saw - seen
  • sit - sat - sat
  • speak - spoke - spoken
  • tell - told - told
  • think - thought - thought
  • understand - understood - understood
  • write - wrote - written
  • wear - wore - worn

6.7.6. Past continuous

Past continuous is used to express that an activity was going on for some time. It consists of the verb "be" in the form of "was,were" and the "-ing" form of a full meaning verb.

  • I was listening to the radio when someone knocked on my door.

(= radio was on for some time, and a sudden knock on the door came)

  • While she was running, she was listening to the mp3 player.

(two simultaneous activities going on for some time)

6.7.7. Past perfect

Past perfect tense is used to stress which activity in the past had preceded another activity in the past. The tense is formed by the auxiliary "had" and a -edthird form of full-meaning verb.

  • He looked at the open door, which he had locked before he had left.

(= 1. he locked the door, 2. he left the house, 3. someone else opened the door 4. he looked at it)

The tense is very frequently used in reported speech to express past.

6.7.8. Past perfect continuous

Past perfect tense is used to stress which INTENSIVE or LONG TAKING activity in the past had preceded another activity in the past. The tense is formed using had been and the -ing form of a full-meaning verb.

  • He was looking at the door, which he had been trying to open for almost two hours without a success.

6.7.9. Future with "will"

Future with will is used to express:

  • ad-hoc reaction (When? On Friday? OK, so I will change my schedule.)
  • a promise (I will give you the money back after the weekend.)
  • a forecast (He will never make a good sportsman!)

6.7.10. Future with >>"to be going to"<<

Future with to be going to is used to express:

  • a planned action (We are going to take part at the World championship this year.)
  • a very probable near future (He is riding 50m ahead of the peloton. He is going to win this race.)

The question is made using the verb be by inversion:

  • Are they going to take part at the World Championship?
  • Is he going to win the race?

The negative is formed using the verb be and not:

  • We are not going to take part at the World championship this year.
  • He isn't going to win this race.

Note: In common English speech, present continuous is very often used instead of to be going to regarding the planned action.

  • We are going to Egypt in November.

6.8. Question tags - short answers

In English it is very common, that we do not answer the question only with plain Yes or No. We also add the verb used in the question, and the subject. For example, the positive response here:

  • Do you like tennis?
  • Yes, I do!

If the response is negative, we often use a shortened form.:

  • Do you like driving?
  • No, I don't

It is not only the verb "DO". In the answer we always use the verb by which the question starts.

  • ARE you prepared for the match?
  • Yes, we ARE.
  • No, we AREN'T.
  • WILL you arrive late?
  • Yes, I WILL.
  • No, I WON'T.
  • CAN you guess what chance we have?
  • Yes, I CAN.
  • No, I CAN'T

6.9. IF clauses

There are certain structures in English that allow us to use IF only with certain patterns. We have three basic patterns,

  • 1st conditional - real condition in future
  • 2nd conditional - unreal condition in present
  • 3rd conditional - unreal condition in past

6.9.1 First conditional

A real condition in future. We use the construction when we want to speculate about future. The verb after IF is in present tense, but it expresses future.

  • If I study at Oxford, I will have a great chance to find a job.
  • If it rains, the track will be wet.

6.9.2 Second conditional

An unreal condition in present. We use the construction if we want to speak about what would happen if the current reality was different. The verb after IF is in past tense, but it expresses present.

  • If I were you, I would start exercising now.
  • If they gave me the chance, I could show them.

6.9.3 Third conditional

An unreal condition in past. We use the construction if we want to speak about something that had already happened, and we make a theory saying if someone had not made a mistake, what could have happened differently. The verb after IF must be in past perfect.

  • If they had secured the entry, the fans would not have broken inside.

And since the structure is very long, we can shorten it by inversion:

  • Had they secured the entry, the fans would not have broken inside.

6.10. Direct and reported speech

6.10.1 Direct speech

Direct Speech is the exact words that somebody used when they were speaking. In direct speech we use quotation marks (“ ”).


  • Jack said “I'm English”.

6.10.2 Reported speech

Reported or indirect speech is used when we report somebody's words. In this case quotation marks are not used. It is always correct to use the conjunction THAT after the verb "say", "tell", etc., but if the sentence is not long and complicated it can be omitted.


  • Jack said (that) he was English.

Note: After the verb "tell" you must use an indirect object. If you want to use an indirect object after "say" you must use "to".


  • Jack said (that) he was English.
  • Jack said to me (that) he was English.
  • Jack told me (that) he was English.

The word order in Reported Speech remains the same as in direct speech, but it is often necessary to change the verb form and verb tense, pronouns, possessives, and time expressions in.


  • Direct: Jack said: “I'm going to Italy with my boss next week.”
  • Indirect: Jack said (that) he was going to Italy with his boss the following week.
  • Direct: Mary said to me: “I saw your sister yesterday.”
  • Indirect: Mary told me (that) she had seen my sister the day before.

If Reported Speech is used to report a direct question, the result is a statement, not a question, so interrogative word order and the auxiliaries DO, DOES, DID are not used. If the direct question does not begin with a question word like WHO, WHERE, WHAT, WHEN etc., the indirect or reported question begins with IF or WHETHER.


  • Direct: They asked me: “What's your name?”
  • Indirect: They asked me what my name was.
  • Direct: She said: “Do you understand?”
  • Indirect: She asked me if (whether) I understood.
  • Direct: “Where do you want to go?” he asked.
  • Indirect: He asked me where I wanted to go.

6.11. Passive

Passive voice is used mainly in official texts, announcements, or whenever the agent is unimportant.

  1. Smoking will be prohibited at the bus stops.
  2. Passengers are requested to avoid use of drugs on board.
  3. Packet of unknown origin was found in the park last night.

We form passive by:

  1. verb "be" and the -ed suffix added to the root of regular verbs: These sheets are printed by the D-14xl machine.
  2. verb "be" and the third form of the irregular verbs: Many cars are made in East Asia.

6.12. Infinitive

Infinitive of every English verb is its basic form with a to particle.

  • to be
  • to invest

Many verbs require an infinitive form to follow, such as:

  • I am here to help you.
  • He has decided to go.

Infinitive without "to" particle is used after modal verbs and a few more verbs.

  • help - Can you help me move the flag to the corner?
  • make (in the sense of forcing someone do something) - The coach made his boys believe they can win.
  • let - Let him test the new track.

Infinitive is often used instead a whole sentence to explain the reason or effect.

  • We opened the door to see the new visitor
  • She came to ask us for an advice.
  • Everybody plays to win, not to lose.

6.13. Gerund

Gerund is an "-ing" form of a verb with a meaning of a noun.

  • Seeing is believing.
  • Understanding how to hit the ball is essential.

6.13.1 >>Like, start, go<<

There are verbal phrases in English which require a gerund form to follow, such as:

  • I like driving fast.
  • He started training our club last year.
  • They hate playing tennis on grass.

They are mainly verbs of like/dislike, verb go, and verbs of change of status (stop/start/continue)

6.14. Participle

Participle is an "-ing" form of a verb with a meaning of an adjective.

  • Playing professionals recommend these cleats.
  • The turning wheel is a symbol.

6.14.1 Participle clauses

Participle clauses are similar to relative clauses, they compress two sentences into one condensed sentence.


  • The man is standing over there. It's my friend.
  • The man standing over there is my friend.

7. Conjunctions

Conjunctions are expressions that link words or sentences together and give the relation some sense. The meaning of the link can be for example additive, adversative, causative, effective or other. In regular speech conjunctions are necessary for expressing the relation between the sentences a speaker says. Following examples show that:

Linking words:

  • I like ice-hockey AND canoeing. (ADDITION)
  • We can EITHER win OR lose. (EXCLUSION)
  • She is rather big and heavy BUT she is definitely not slow. (ADVERSATIVE relation)

Linking sentences:

  • We went out EVEN THOUGH the weather was terrible. (the condition does not stop the activity)
  • They underestimated the other players AND SO they lost the game (the loss is the effect of underestimation)
  • I really appreciate your offer, HOWEVER I have reasons to refuse it. (the value offered is not enough to break the obstacle)

8. Numbers, Dates and Time

8.1. Numbers

… etc
100one hundredone hundredth
101one hundred and oneone hundred and first
… etc
1000one thousandone thousandth
1001one thousand and oneone thousand and first
… etc
1237one thousand two hundred and thirty-sevenone thousand two hundred and thirty-seventh
… etc
1000000one millionone millionth


  • one hundred, one thousand, one million can also be expressed as a hundred, a thousand, a million.
  • hundred, thousand and million are invariable, for example "two hundred euros", "three thousand cars", "six million inhabitants". They only take the plural "s" when used as nouns; for example "hundreds of people", "thousands of cars", "millions of euros".
  • ZERO can also be expressed as NOUGHT. For example: 0.05 can be pronounced "zero point zero five" or "nought point nought five".
  • in telephone numbers each digit is pronounced separately and the letter O is often used instead of ZERO: for example 349609 is three four nine six oh nine.
  • in football results NIL is used for ZERO, for example 4-0 is four nil.
  • in tennis LOVE is used instead of ZERO: 6-0 is "six love".

8.2. Ordinal numerals and dates

ORDINAL numerals are shown in the table of the 8.1 article. Ordinals are often written in the form of number and a brief: first – 1st, second – 2nd, third – 3rd, and all others with "th", for example:

  • fifteenth – 15th, ninety-sixth – 96th.

ORDINAL numerals are also used for fractions other than "half" and "quarter", for example "two thirds", "three fifths", and for dates, for example 1st January – "the first of January" or January 1st – "January the first".

Dates up to the year 2000, years are pronounced as two separate numbers, for example:

  • 1492 – fourteen ninety two
  • 1941 – nineteen forty-one.
  • 1600, 1700 etc. are pronounced as sixteen hundred, nineteen hundred etc.,

but for 2000 we say "two thousand" and for 2001, 2002 etc we say "two thousand and one, two thousand and two" etc.

8.3. Time and hours

In the English-speaking world most people do not use the 24-hour clock, and prefer to use a.m. and p.m. You can tell the time in either "digital" or "traditional" fashion:

4 a.m.It's four a.m.It's four o'clock.
4.05It's four oh five.It's five past four.
5.10It's five ten.It's ten past five.
6.15It's six fifteen.It's quarter past six.
7.20It's seven twenty.It's twenty past seven.
8.25It's eight twenty-five.It's twenty-five past eight.
9.30It's nine thirty.It's half past nine.
10.35It's ten thirty-five.It's twenty-five to eleven.
11.40It's eleven forty.It's twenty to twelve.
12.45It's twelve forty-five.It's quarter to one.
13.50It's one fifty p.m.It's ten to two.
14.55It's two fifty-five p.m.It's five to three.
15.00It's three p.m.It's three o'clock.
Version 2.0 (2011-12-07 01:23 CET)