Blog Category: English Usage

Make or Do a Presentation?

I was asked this question the other day by a learner of English; quite simply, do we MAKE or DO a presentation? If you go online there are different stories, but as usual I went along to Google n-grams and checked out what they had to say. It's interesting. Prior to...

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Accent, Dialect & Language in English

What is the difference between Accent, Dialect and Language? This article looks at the differences between the three terms. People often confuse them and there is a certain degree of overlap (even linguists don't always agree on what the difference is between them)...

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Principle vs Principal

At the ----- School of English, we believe in the principals of accuracy, hard work and having fun. I came across this snippet the other day whilst looking at a school website and it frightened me. If they can't spell properly, how can they believe in the idea of...

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Who or Which or That?

People often confuse Who or Which or That and when they start to talk about when to use them, grammarians and supposedly learned people often talk rubbish. Take these sentences for example: The guy who stole your wallet was an actor. The guy that stole your wallet was...

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On Foot vs By Foot

Oh language! Do we want to go down the route of there being no rules, just a few nebulous suggestions which change over time? Are we like the freethinking parents at sports day who declare that every child wins because they are all special? Or are we on the side of...

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Bad Reporting of the Day: All Commas will Die!

A professor of comparative English at Columbia university said that commas should be abolished. He said we should get rid of them and no one would care. He says we should kill them. Destroy them. Take each one and murder it in cold blood. And the reaction? Pages of...

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Grammer

Please... whatever else you do... spell GRAMMAR with an A at the end and not an E. GRAMM A R - yes GRAMM E R - no According to Google, a search for 'grammer' brings up over 4 million hits. However, things seem to be getting better. Looking at Google n-grams we can see...

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Used + Infinitive

The phrase used + infinitive is often confusing for learners of English. This article explains what it is and how we use it. Here are typical uses of the phrase: I used to live in Toronto. I have an idea he used to go out with Nicole Kidman. You can see that the...

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Data Is or Data Are?

The Wall Street Journal published a blog post in which it decided to class data as a singular noun‏‎ which, according to the rules of subject-verb agreement‏‎ goes with a singular verb‏‎, much like information. For the WSJ this is good English: the data is collected...

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Fillers

In linguistics‏‎, a filler is a sound or word in speaking‏‎ used by someone to show that they haven't finished speaking yet but are either forming their thoughts into speech or mentally searching for the right word‏. Common fillers in English are: um - /um/ er - /ə/...

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Salutations & Valedictions

A salutation is a greeting used in a letter or other text (email, SMS, etc). Salutations can be formal or informal. The most common form of salutation in a letter is Dear followed by the recipient's given name or titles‏‎. For each style of salutation there is an...

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Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars

Grammar‏‎ books can generally be divided into two different types: Descriptive or Prescriptive. This article looks at the difference between them. Very simply, a descriptive grammar looks at what people actually say in real life and then lays out a series of...

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Who vs Whom in English Grammar

Who vs Whom often comes up and sometimes causes confusion. This article explains the difference between these two. Who and whom are both pronouns‏‎ and while they mean the same thing (a person or group of people) they are grammatically different. Subjects vs Objects...

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Units of Measurement in English

Units of Measurement are used to talk about quantity. Common units include: length: meter, mile, kilometer... weight: pound, stone, kilogram... liquid: liter, gallon... Singular & Plural Units of measurement usually have a singular and plural form: I've lived here...

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Since… Ago…

Since and Ago are often confused and used wrongly by learners of English in the TEFL class. But there are some simple rules which show how they should be used. Since The usage is quite simple: since is followed by a specific time. since + specific time I've been...

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Should Of

The following are errors in English: * I should of known better. * They could of beaten us. * He must of left by now. * an asterisk in front of a sentence denotes an ungrammatical sentence. In good, grammatical English we say instead: I should have known better. They...

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Among vs Amongst‏‎

There is no difference in meaning between among and amongst - these two words can be used interchangeably. However, amongst is less common in everyday use than among and is considered slightly more educated. In spoken American English‏‎ among tends to be used almost...

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Non Sequiturs in English

Non Sequitur is a Latin phrase we use in English which means it does not follow. It is mainly used to describe a statement which has nothing to do with what was said before. For example, this is logical and sensible. Socrates was a man. All men are mortal. Therefore...

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Your vs You’re

Confusing Your and You're is one of the classic grammar mistakes in English and even native speakers will make this error. This article explains the difference between them and when to use each one so you don't get tagged by the pedants of grammar out there!...

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Animals‏‎ in English Grammar

This article looks at how we talk about Animals in English grammar‏‎. The main issue for learners of English are personal pronouns‏‎ and animals. Do we talk about an animal as he, she or it? Personal Pronouns To begin with, when talking about animals we generally use...

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Split Infinitives in English Grammar

Split Infinitives are a construction in English‏‎ when the infinitive of a verb‏‎ is cut in half by another word. For example: Infinitive: to see Split Infinitive: to barely see The infinitive is most often split by an adverb‏‎ or adverbial phrase‏‎. I attempted to...

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Till vs Until vs ‘Til

Till and Until are synonyms‏‎. They are both prepositions of time‏‎ and refer to a period of time leading up to a specific time. I worked for the bank from 1989 until 1994. We were happily married till I discovered she was having an affair. In both these examples we...

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Country‏ vs Countries vs Countryside

This is the vocabulary which often causes problems with learners: words which look pretty much the same and which most logical people would regard as closely related, but then when you look into it a little more, they're all over the place! Let's start with Country...

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Got vs Gotten‏‎ in English

Got and Gotten are often considered to be synonyms in British English & American English‏‎. However, this is not so and there are a number of differences between their usage. In British English the past participle of the verb‏‎, to get, is got. I have got 3...

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Titles in English

When we address people, we use certain conventions of style called Titles. These come before a person's name when we are talking about them (or to them). They are usually used in formal situations or when we are being polite. General Titles These are general titles...

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They’re vs Their vs There‏‎

These three are often confused by learners of English: they're their there These words are homophones‏‎ (that is, they sound the same) but with very different meanings. This article looks at the differences between these three and then how to teach them to your class....

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Fewer vs Less‏‎

The debate about using fewer or less when referring to quantity still rages. It is related to the concept of descriptive vs prescriptive grammars. In terms of historical origin, less has been used continuously in English for hundreds of years to refer to comparative...

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Slang in TEFL

Slang is the use of informal words‏‎ and expressions to describe something or someone. Slang is vocabulary‏‎ that is meant to be interpreted quickly but not necessarily literally. Slang changes fast; here are examples of current 2015 slang which, could well be out of...

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Varieties of English‏‎

Varieties of English are the different kinds of English used around the world. Often these are geographically based. The varieties are more or less similar and while most English speakers can understand each other, there are occasional problems. The four people in the...

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