Category Archives: Grammar for IELTS

Stative and dynamic verbs

Stative and dynamic verbs

Verbs can be divided into two types: stative and dynamic verbs.

Stative verbs are also known as state verbs and dynamic verbs are also know as action verbs.

Do you know the difference between stative and dynamic verbs?

Do you know about an important grammar rule that applies to stative and dynamic verbs?

Read the information below and see if your ideas are correct!


stative_and_dynamic_verbsDifferences between stative and dynamic verbs

  • Dynamic verbs describe actions.

For example: to run, to work, to sleep, to eat etc.

  • Stative verbs describe things that are not actions.

For example: stative verbs describe feelings, emotions, senses, thoughts, opinions etc. They often refer to things you cannot actually see people doing.

Examples of stative verbs

Thoughts and opinions:

to agree; to know; to realise; to suppose; to understand; to believe; to remember; to think

Feelings and emotions:

to like; to love; to hate; to dislike; to envy; to mind; to want; to need; to desire;

Senses:

to taste; to smell; to hear; to see

States:

to seem; to belong; to own

Even when we are talking about temporary situations happening now, we generally do not use stative verbs in the continuous form.

For example:
This meat tastes delicious!  Correct
NOT
This meat is tasting delicious!  Incorrect

 

Verbs that can be used as stative and dynamic verbs

It is important to note that some verbs can act as both stative and dynamic verbs, depending on their use.

Remember that if you use a stative verb in continuous form, the meaning of what you say will be different!

Here are some examples:

  • This bread tastes good

In this sentence, ‘taste’ is used as a stative verb (opinion of the food / the sense of taste).

  • The chef is tasting the dinner

In this sentence, ‘taste’ is used as a dynamic verb; it is describing the action of the chef checking the quality of the food.

  • I see John! Look there he is!

In this sentence, ‘see’ is used as a stative verb (the sense of sight).

  • I am seeing Sue tomorrow.

In this sentence, ‘see’ is used as an active verb (speaker is using present continuous for a future plan).

IELTS grammar: conditional sentences

IELTS grammar: conditional sentences

IELTS grammar: conditional sentencesThis section of our website focuses on essential grammar for IELTS, with tips, hints and exercises that you can use both in the writing and the speaking test.

Conditional sentences are ‘if’ sentences. There are five types of conditional sentences:

  • zero conditional sentences
  • first conditional sentences
  • second conditional sentences
  • third conditional sentences
  • mixed conditional sentences

*Mixed conditionals are created from two different conditional forms.

Look at the table that follows for examples of each of the different types of conditional sentences.

The zero conditional If you heat ice, it melts.
The first conditional If I learn better English, I will get a better job.
The second conditional If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house.
The third conditional If I had studied harder, I would have passed my exam.
Mixed conditionals If I hadn’t broken my leg, I would be skiing right now.

The zero conditional

Structure 1 If + present simple + comma (,) + present simple
Example If you heat ice, it melts.
Structure 2 Present simple + if + present simple
Example Ice melts if you heat it.
Use We use the zero conditional to talk about rules, laws or truths. Using the example above, we know that if you heat ice, it melts; it is a fact that if the first part happens, then the second action will also happen.

The first conditional

Structure 1 If + present simple + comma (,) + will + base verb
Example If I learn better English, I will get a better job.
Structure 2 Will + base verb + if + present simple
Example I will get a better job if I learn better English.
Use We use the first conditional to talk about results that are likely; if the first part happens, then the second action will probably / be likely to also happen.

The second conditional

Structure 1 If + past simple + comma (,) + would + base verb
Example If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house in the country.
Structure 2 Would + base verb + if + past simple
Example I would buy a big house in the country if I won the lottery.
Use We use the second conditional to talk about a situation that is either not likely or even impossible; the speaker believes that they probably won’t win the lottery.

The third conditional

Structure 1 If + past perfect + comma (,) + would have + past participle
Example If I had studied harder, I would have passed my exam.
Structure 2 Would have + past participle + if + past perfect
Example I would have passed my exam if I had studied harder.
Use We use the third conditional to talk unreal situations, often involving regret. The third conditional talks about a situation that did not happen, but what the result would have been if it had.

Mixed conditionals

Mixed conditional sentences talk about unreal situations, they can talk about the past, present or future. Study the table below to learn how mixed conditional sentences can be put together.

NB: There are many different forms of mixed conditional.

Type 1 If I hadn’t broken my leg,
I would be skiing right now.
Past condition Present result

Type 2 If John hadn’t forgotten to buy tickets,
I would be going to the concert tomorrow night.
Past condition Future result

Type 3 If I could use a computer,
I would have got that job yesterday.
Present condition Past result

Type 4 If you could speak better English, you would be going on the business trip to London next week.
Present condition Future result

Click here to try the conditional sentences exercises.

Previous comments:

So and such (for emphasis)

So and such

so_and_such‘So’ and ‘such’ are often used incorrectly in English.

Both so and such are used to ‘give emphasis’ – this means to show that something is ‘extreme’ or ‘more than’. For example –

The concert was so good! It was such a good concert!

In both cases, it wasn’t simply a ‘good’ concert, it was more than that.

So and such rule #1:

The main difference between so and such is that you do not use a noun after ‘so’.

  • The concert was so good! Correct This is correct

It was so a good concert Incorrect You cannot say this

 

So and such rule #2:

After such, you need a noun.

  • It was such a good concert Correct This is correct

It was such good Incorrect You cannot say this

So and such rule # 3:

The two rules for so and such above can be combined with ‘that’ to talk about the results of something.

FACT = The concert was so loud. RESULT = our ears hurt.

  • The concert was so loud that our ears hurt.  Correct This is correct

The concert was such loud that our ears hurt.  Incorrect You cannot say this

  • It was such a loud concert that our ears hurt.  Correct This is correct

So and such rule #4:

So can also be followed by an adverb. NOTE: This is used to make a short comment or exclamation about something.

  • He eats so quickly!  Correct  This is correct

He eats such quickly!  Incorrect  You cannot say this

  • She sings so beautifully!  Correct  This is correct

She sings such beautifully!  Incorrect  You cannot say this

  • He speaks so eloquently.  Correct  This is correct

He speaks such eloquently.  Incorrect  You cannot say this

Direct and indirect questions

Direct and indirect questions

direct-and-indirect-questionsWhen asking for information in English you can use direct and indirect questions. There are differences in sentence structure and levels of politeness and formality.

In English, a basic question can be formed using either an auxiliary verb or a question word.

For example:

Does he like swimming? (Auxiliary verb)

Where is the library? (Question word)

These are both examples of direct questions.

However, in English there are situations where it can be considered impolite to ask a direct question so we might ask an indirect question.

Whether we use direct and indirect questions depends on the situation, who we are talking to and what we are talking about. We tend to use direct questions with people we know well, in more informal situations and / or when the topic is not ‘sensitive’. Indirect questions are often used when talking to someone we don’t know well, in formal / professional situations, and / or where the topic might be ‘sensitive’.

Indirect questions are a little more formal and polite. We use them when talking to a person we don’t know very well, or in professional situations – See more at: http://www.espressoenglish.net/direct-and-indirect-questions-in-english/#sthash.umRljxmT.dpuf

Compare the following direct and indirect questions:

When can we discuss this problem? – Direct question which in some cases is not very polite; e.g. when asking your boss to discuss a payment problem.

Would it be possible to discuss this problem soon? – Indirect question which is considered more polite; e.g. a politer way of stating that there is a problem you want to talk about.

Here are some ways of asking indirect questions. NOTE: some indirect questions are technically not questions at all – they are simply a way to encourage a response from the person we are talking too.

Direct question Indirect question
How old are you? Would you mind telling me how old you are?
Where’s the bank? Could you tell me where the bank is?
Why are they late? I wonder why they are late?
What time is it? Do you have any idea what time it is?
Help me! Is there any chance you could help me?
Who’s that? Do you happen to know who that is?

 

Grammar differences in direct and indirect questions

There are three important grammatical changes between direct and indirect sentences.

1. When we start using an indirect question form (such as those on the right hand side of the table above), the word order is the same as a positive statement, not a question.

Direct question Indirect question
What is his name? Do you know what his name is?NOT Do you know what is his name?
What are you doing? Can you tell me what you are doing?NOT Can you tell me what are you doing?

2. If the direct question uses the auxiliary verb ‘do’ (i.e. does, did, do), it is left out of the indirect question.

Direct question Indirect question
Where does she live? Do you know where she lives?NOT Do you know where she does live?
Who did she work for? Can you tell me who she worked for?NOT Can you tell me who she did work for?

3. If the direct question can be answered with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, the indirect question needs ‘if’ or ‘whether’.

Direct question Indirect question
Is she coming back soon? Do you know if she is coming back soon?
Have you seen this man before? Can you tell me whether you have seen this man before?

Past perfect simple and continuous

Past perfect simple and continuous

past_perfect_simple_and_continuousPast perfect simple and continuous are used to talk about an ‘earlier’ past when you are also talking about another (more recent) past situation.

In general terms, while both past perfect simple and continuous actions are finished, past perfect simple emphasises the ‘completion’ of the action and past perfect continuous emphasises the ‘length’ of that completed action.

Term The past perfect simple
Example When I arrived at the office, my boss had already gone home.
Form had + [3rd form]
Uses 1. To talk about an action that happened at some point before another action in the past.

 


Example:

I saw John at the conference yesterday. It was not the first time – I had met him before.

2007: First time you met John
Yesterday: You saw John again
NOW: You are talking about the two times in the past when you met John.

 


Term The past perfect continuous
Example It was clear she had been crying when I saw her.
Form had + been + [1st form] + ing
Uses 1. To talk about a longer action that continued up until (or finished shortly before) another action in the past.

Example:

He had been driving for 6 hours without a break before he crashed the car.

4pm to 10pm: He was driving and didn’t take a break
10.01 pm: He crashed the car
NOW: You are talking about a longer action in the past (6 hours of driving without a break) that happened before another past action (the car crash).

 

Past perfect simple and continuous differences

Past perfect simple Past perfect continuous
To emphasise longer lasting or permanent situations.
The castle had stood for 500 years before the storm destroyed it. (though continuous could be used here without any real difference in meaning)
To talk about more temporary past actions before another past event.His legs were tired because he had been standing for hours. (though continuous could be used here without any real difference in meaning)
To emphasise the completion of an action before another action in the past. He had studied the chapter his teacher told him to, so he decided to take a break. (indicates the chapter was finished)
To emphasise the duration of the action before another action in the past. He had been studying the chapter all day, so decided to take a break. (indicates he stopped studying because he had studied for a long time that day – doesn’t confirm that he finished the chapter, we jusy know that he finished the action of studying)
Remember that some verbs are not used in the continuous form! e.g. stative verbs such as:
  • he had believed NOT he had been believing
  • it had tasted NOT it had been tasting
  • she had belonged NOT she had been belonging…. etc

Click here to try the past perfect simple and continuous exercises.

Countable and uncountable nouns – more rules

Countable and uncountable nouns – more rules

countable_uncountable_nouns2Sometimes nouns can act as both countable and uncountable nouns (often with a slight difference in meaning). This can make learning the rules even more complicated!

For example, coffee is generally used as an uncountable noun. However, it is acceptable to say “I’d like two coffees please” because in this case the speaker is thinking about 2 cups of coffee.

This rule also applies when thinking of other uncountable liquids and the container they might come in.

For example: “Do you want a (bottle of / glass of) beer? Beer is uncountable, but the speaker is thinking about the bottle / glass it comes in.

The table below shows usage of the same words as countable and uncountable nouns – note the different forms of the same word.

Countable – There is a hair in my soup! (one countable strand of hair)

Uncountable – He doesn’t have much hair. (usually uncountable – all the hair on a person’s head)

……

Countable – Do you often read a paper? (the speak means a newspaper – newspapers are countable)

Uncountable – Do you have some paper I can use? (paper is uncountable, BUT pieces / sheets of paper are countable)

……

Countable – Did you leave a light on? (a light in the building that the person is talking about)

Uncountable – He couldn’t sleep because of the light coming through the curtains. (the speaker means ‘sunlight’ – uncountable noun)

……

Countable – On the farm they have a few chickens. (the birds – they are countable)

Uncountable – I love chicken – it’s my favourite meat! (the meat – uncountable. The same applies to lambs (animals) lamb (the meat) / ducks (the birds) duck (the meat) etc.

……

Countable – They had a terrible time last week! (the speaker is talking about one specific situation in the past)

Uncountable – Do you have time to help me? (‘time’ in general – uncountable noun)

Make uncountable nouns countable

Make uncountable nouns countable

make _uncountable_nouns_countableNouns can be split into two different groups – countable and uncountable. (see Countable and uncountable nouns for more information)

Countable nouns, as the name suggests, can be counted. For example, you can have 1 pen or 2 pens, a car or some or a lot of cars.

However, uncountable nouns cannot be counted. For example, you cannot have 2 advices or some ora lot of advices.

However, there are two ways to make an uncountable noun countable.

How to make an uncountable noun countable method 1

Add a countable ‘container’ for the uncountable noun.

For example, milk is uncountable but bottles of milk can be counted. You can say a bottle of milk, 2 bottles of milk etc.

How to make an uncountable noun countable method 2

Use a countable form of the word.

For example, work is uncountable, but job is countable.

The table below shows more examples of how to make uncountable nouns countable.

Uncountable Countable
Advice A piece of advice – pieces of advice
Luggage A suitcase, a bag or a piece of luggage – suitcases, bags or pieces of luggage
money a note, a coin – notes, coins
cake a slice of cake, a piece of cake – slices or pieces of cake
furniture a table, a chair, a piece of furniture – tables, chairs, pieces of furniture
bread a slice of bread, a loaf of bread, a piece of bread – slices, loaves, pieces of bread
knowledge a fact – facts
travel a journey, a trip – journeys, trips
toothpaste a tube of toothpaste – tubes of toothpaste
wine a bottle of wine, a glass of wine – bottles of or glasses of wine
butter a pat of butter – pats of butter
cheese a slice of cheese, a chunk of cheese, a piece of cheese – slices, chunks or pieces of cheese
sugar a sugarcube, a spoonful of sugar, a bowl of sugar – sugarcubes, spoonfuls of sugar, bowls of sugar
Petrol (gas) a litre of petrol – litres of petrol.
Salt a pinch of salt – pinches of salt
soap a bar of soap – bars of soap
hair a strand of hair – strands of hair
glass a sheet of glass, a pane of glass – sheets or panes of glass

Have you tried the countable and uncountable nouns exercises?

Prepositions of time 2

Prepositions of time 2

prepositions-of-timePrepositions of time (and all types of prepositions) can be one of the hardest parts of English to use correctly because the rules are often quite difficult, and like most rules for a language, there are lots of exceptions.

In lesson 1 we looked at the prepositions of time ‘in’, ‘on’ ‘at’.

(click here for lesson 1)

In this lesson we will look at the prepositions of time ‘within’ and ‘before’.

Prepositions of time – within

WITHIN: We try to answer all emails within 24 hours.

‘Within’ is commonly used to express that something will be done inside or not later than the period of time stated.

Note: time given must be an amount of time, NOT a specific time in the future.

For example:

We try to answer all emails within 24 hours.Incorrect

We try to answer all emails within the following day. Incorrect

 

Other uses could be: within the next few minutes, within the next week, within the next six months, within this financial year etc.

Prepositions of time – before

BEFORE: The repairs will be completed before Friday.

Before is also used to express that something will be done inside or not later than the time stated.

Note: the time given must be a specific future time. For example:

The repairs will be completed before Friday.Incorrect

We try to answer all emails before 24 hours. Incorrect

Other uses could be: before 1pm, before next week, before July, before the start of the next financial year etc.

Click here to try the prepositions of time exercises.

 

 

 

Prepositions of place 2

Prepositions of place 2

prepositions_of_place_2Prepositions of place (and all prepositions) can be one of the hardest parts of English to use correctly because the rules are often quite difficult, and like most rules for a language, there are lots of exceptions.

In lesson 1 we looked at the prepositions of place ‘at’, ‘in’ and ‘on’. In this lesson we will look at the prepositions of place ‘against’, ‘alongside’, ‘beside’, ‘by’ and ‘towards’.

(click here for lesson 1)

Prepositions of place examples of use

AGAINST: having contact with something, touching.

  • ‘He put the bike against the wall.’
  • The dog leaned against its owner.’

ALONGSIDE: in parallel, like train tracks

  • ‘The horses worked alongside each other to pull the cart.’
  • It is a beautiful drive as the road runs alongside the coast.

BESIDE: at the side of, not necessarily touching.

  • ‘He put the book beside his bed.’
  • She sat beside an elderly man on the train.’

BY: in the area of

  • ‘I live by some shops and a library.’
  • If you go that way, you will drive by a park.’

TOWARDS: getting closer, aiming at each other

  • ‘The cars drove towards each other and only turned away at the last minute.’
  • He waved as he walked towards me.’

Click here to try the prepositions of place exercises.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

Transitive and intransitive verbs

transitive_and_intransitive_verbsTransitive and intransitive verbs have different rules when you use them to make sentences. Read the two sentences that follow. They contain examples of transitive and intransitive verbs.

Do you know which sentence contains a transitive verb and which one contains an intransitive verb?

Examples of transitive and intransitive verbs in sentences.

1. The boss surprised his workteam.

2. The boss smiled.

Answers to the examples of transitive and intransitive verbs in sentences.

1. is a transitive verb. 2. is an intransitive verb.

Can you see the important difference in sentence structure when using transitive and intransitive verbs? Think about the sentence structure NOT the meaning……

Read the rest of this post to learn about the differences.

Transitive verbs

A transitive verb needs a direct object to make a complete sentence.

Nouns or pronouns can act as direct objects.

For example:

She likes. Incorrect

She likes ice creamCorrect

I have invited. Incorrect

I have invited himCorrect

The verb ‘like‘ needs a direct object – in these examples ‘ice cream‘ (noun) and ‘him‘ (pronoun) to make sense and to form a complete sentence.

The direct object of an transitive verb is something that ‘receives the action’ of that verb.

Intransitive verbs

An intransitive verb does not take a direct object. For example:

He arrived. Correct

You can add more information to the sentence above.

For example: ‘He arrived half an hour late‘.

‘half an hour late‘ is NOT the direct object of ‘arrived‘ though. It is a noun phrase that acts as an adverb. It doesn’t ‘receive the action’, it adds extra information by describing when the man arrived.

More information about transitive and intransitive verbs

Some verbs can act as both transitive and intransitive verbs.

For example:

The All Blacks wonCorrect (this sentence is grammatically complete)

The All Blacks won the Rugby World CupCorrect (the Rugby World Cup is the object of the verb ‘won’)

Some transitive verbs can be followed by two objects (one direct and one indirect object).

For example:

Sam bought Jane some chocolates.

Send me the report when you’ve finished it.