Sunday, 11 December 2011

English Grammar Rules - AT - ON - IN - Prepositions of Time


We use AT with specific times (hour / minutes).
  • I get up at 7 o'clock.
  • My English classes starts at 10am.
  • She finishes work at 6.15
  • I left the party at midnight.
Midnight (and midday) is a specific hour which is why we use AT.
12am = midnight --- 12pm = midday / noon


We use ON for specific days and dates.
  • I will return it to you on Wednesday.
  • They got married on Friday the 13th.
  • We get paid on the 20th of every month.
  • I drank too much on New Year's eve.
Remember that for dates, we use ordinal numbers.
E.g. the First of September (not the one of September)


We use IN for specific months, years and seasons.
  • My birthday is in January. (I don't mention the date, just the month)
  • My grandmother was born in 1927.
  • The river near my house is dry in Summer.
The New Zealand National day is in February. (I don't mention the day - only the month)
The New Zealand National day is on February 6th. (I mention the day - the order is not important)


Specific timesI start work at 9 o'clock.
Festivals in generalI'm going to Brazil at Christmas.
NightI find it difficult to sleep at night.
Specific daysI'd like to go to the cinema on Saturday.
Parts of the dayI go to the gym in the morning.
MonthsI normally go on holiday in February.
SeasonsWe can go skiing in winter.
YearsI was born in 1972.
A time periodThe train leaves in 5 minutes.
Remember! We do not use at, on, in or the with the following expressions:
Today, tomorrow, yesterday, this morning, tonight, last, next, every.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

English Grammar Rules - Countable vs. Uncountable Nouns

A) Most nouns have singular and plural forms. They are countable nouns.
e.g. One letter, two letters
  • There is a letter on the table for you. (singular)
  • There are letters on the table for you. (plural)
B) Some nouns only have one form. They are uncountable nouns.
e.g. Money
  • There is no money in my bank account.
  • There is a lot of money in my bank account.
C) Many uncountable nouns refer to substances:
e.g. Chocolate, water, coffee, milk, sugar, salt, cheese, bread, rice, wood, glass, plastic, soap, toothpaste.
  • Do you have any chocolate?
  • The milk is sour - let's make cheese.
  • Rice is only edible when it has been cooked.
D) Many uncountable nouns refer to abstract ideas or emotions.
e.g. love, sadness, happiness, education, knowledge, and grammar.
  • Money can't buy love.
  • We like to experience happiness.
  • This education is priceless.
E) You can use a/an with singular countable nouns.
e.g. an umbrella, a wheel, a mistake.
  • It's raining so I need an umbrella.
  • I made a mistake.
  • This is a job for superman.
F) You can use plural countable nouns alone.
e.g. apples, bees, clouds.
  • There are clouds in the sky today.
  • There are bees making honey.
  • We eat apples for breakfast.
G) You can't use an article with an uncountable noun.
e.g. time, sand, electricity.
  • We need electricity to use our heater.
  • I lost track of time and we stayed up very late.
  • The beaches in Brazil have very nice sand.
H) It is very common in English to use some / any with plural nouns and uncountable nouns (Refer to grammar notes on Some Any for more details).
e.g. They don't listen to any advice.
  • We don't have any toys for the children.
  • There are many lessons in life, this is just one more.
  • It is important to have some knowledge of grammar.
I) There are a range of nouns that are uncountable in English but are countable in other languages.
These include: accommodation, advice, baggage, behaviour, bread, chaos, damage, furniture, information, luck, luggage, news, permission, progress, scenery, traffic, weather and work.
J) For comparison purposes, look at these sentences:
I'm looking for a job.I'm looking for work.
What a beautiful view!What beautiful scenery!
It's a nice day today.It's nice weather today.
We had a lot of bags and suitcases.We had a lot of luggage.
These chairs are mine.This furniture is mine.
It was a good suggestion.It was good advice.

Monday, 5 December 2011

English Grammar Rules - Articles Definite, Indefinite and No Article

The Indefinite Article – A / An

We use A/AN with:
1. Singular nouns and the first time we refer to a person, animal or thing.
  • a child
  • an elephant
  • a television
2. We don't use A/AN with possessive pronouns, demonstratives or cardinal numbers.
  • My shirt is dirty.
  • This car is expensive.
  • One person is in the reception.
3. We use ONE (or more) instead of A/AN when the number is important.
  • There is only one exit from the airport.

The Definite Article – The

We use THE with:
1. A singular or plural noun when it is clear/obvious which person or thing we are talking about.
  • There is a lamp in my bedroom. (we mention the lamp for the first time)
  • The lamp is next to the desk.
2. Anything which we identify immediately.
  • We watched the new Brad Pitt movie last night.
3. Musical instruments (the violin, the guitar, the drums, the flute, the piccolo).
  • She plays the piano.
4. Something that is unique or there is only one.
  • the sun
  • the moon
  • the internet.
5. Names of rivers, seas, oceans, mountain ranges and deserts (always in capitals).
  • The Mississippi River
  • The Black Sea
  • The Andes
  • The Sahara Desert
6. Directions (cardinal points).
  • the west
  • the south-east
  • the north-west.

No Article

We use no article with:
1. When we refer to general ideas, plurals or uncountable nouns we do not use THE.
  • Religion is an important issue. (NOT The religion is an important issue)
  • Mexican food is spicy. (NOT The Mexican food is spicy).
2. Names of people, books and plays (unless it is part of the title).
  • I have read Romeo and Juliet.
3. Towns, cities, states and countries.
  • Cape Town
  • Montana
  • Vietnam
(Exceptions – The USA, The UK, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, The Philippines).
4. Lakes, single islands, continents or mountains.
  • Lake Victoria
  • Jamaica
  • Asia
  • Mt Fuji
5. Planets
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
6. Sports or games
  • soccer
  • tennis
  • skiing
  • monopoly
7. Meals
  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner
  • supper

Thursday, 1 December 2011

English Grammar Rules - Comparatives and Superlatives

We use Comparatives and Superlatives to compare two or more nouns.
The formation of the comparative and superlative depends on the number of syllables in the adjective:

One-syllable Adjectives

To form the comparative, we add -er to the end of the adjective.
To form the superlative, we add -est to the end of the adjective.

smallsmallerthe smallest
coldcolderthe coldest
lightlighterthe lightest
shortshorterthe shortest

Remember that comparatives are often followed by than.
  • London is bigger than Santiago.
  • Mike is taller than John but James is the tallest.

Two-syllable Adjectives ending in -Y

To form the comparative, we remove the -y and add -ier to the end of the adjective.
To form the superlative, we remove the -y and add -iest to the end of the adjective.
crazycrazierthe craziest
happyhappierthe happiest
earlyearlierthe earliest

  • It was the happiest day of my life.
  • My joke was funnier than your one.

Adjectives with Two or more Syllables

For Adjectives with 2 syllables (that don't end in -y) and higher (3, 4 syllables etc), we use more for comparatives and the most for superlatives.
handsomemore handsomethe most handsome
nervousmore nervousthe most nervous
enthusiasticmore enthusiasticthe most enthusiastic

  • My girlfriend is more beautiful than yours.
  • Alex is more intelligent than you but I am the most intelligent.

Irregular Forms

goodbetterthe best
badworsethe worst
farfurther / fartherthe furthest / farthest

  • I am a better tennis player than you but Marcelo is the best.
  • Steve is a worse liar than me but Adrian is the worst.

Note: Further / farther, furthest / farthest are all used for distance.
Only Further / furthest are used to mean 'additional' or 'more advanced'.
  • Puerto Montt is further / farther than Valdivia is from here (in Santiago).
  • If you require further information, please contact reception.

Remember that the opposites of 'more' and 'most' are 'less' and 'least', respectively.

English Grammar Rules - Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are used to show possession or ownership of something. While we use them when we refer to people, it is more in the sense of relationship than ownership.
The possessive adjectives in English are as follows:
You (pl)Your
The possessive adjective needs to agree with the possessor and not with the thing that is possessed.
  • My car is very old.
  • Her boyfriend is very friendly.
  • Our dog is black.
  • Their homework is on the table.
Like all adjectives in English, they are always located directly in front of the noun they refer to. (Possessive Adjective + Noun)
We do not include an S to the adjective when the noun is plural like in many other languages.
  • Our cars are expensive. (Correct)
    Ours cars are expensive. (Incorrect)
However, the verb that is used needs to be in agreement with the noun - if the noun is singular then the verb is singular; if the noun is plural then the verb is plural.
  • My pen is black. (Singular)
    My pens are black. (Plural)
  • Our child is intelligent. (Singular)
    Our children are intelligent. (Plural)

Its vs. It's

Be careful not to confuse its and it's.
Its = The possessive adjective for It.
It's = a contraction of it is.