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An Introduction to Verb Tenses

Today we are going to give you a basic overview of the verb tense system in English. Verb tenses tell us how an action relates to the flow of time. There are three main verb tenses in English: present, past and future. The present, past and future tenses are divided into four aspects: the simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive. There are 12 major verb tenses that English learners should know. English has only two ways of forming a tense from the verb alone: the past and the present. For example, we drove and we drive. To form other verb tenses, you have to add a form of have, be or will in front of the verb. These are called helping, or auxiliary verbs.

  


The Perfect Progressive Tenses

This is the last in our four-part series on verb tenses. Make sure you see our episodes on progressive and perfect tenses before trying to learn the perfect progressive tenses. For English learners, the perfect progressive tenses can be scary. But they are more straightforward than you might think. When you talk about grammar, perfect means complete, and progressive means unfinished. Perfect progressive sentences focus on the completion of an action that is, was or will be in progress.

  


Improve Your Writing with Contrast and Concession

We call these ideas contrast or concession. Some of these adverbs are but, although, however and despite. These words will help you communicate more complex ideas. They will improve the flow and clarity of your writing. Contrast versus concession Let us begin by understanding the differences between contrast and concession. Here are two examples: I used to live in Malaysia, but now I live in Thailand. Even though I live in Malaysia, I work in Thailand.

  


Using the Right Article

What word appears most often in English? It's "the," also known as the definite article. Its partner, the indefinite article "a", is also among the top 10 most frequent words in English. According to Professor Elka Todeva of the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, "a" and "the" are also some of the most difficult words for learners to figure out how to use without some assistance. "A," "an" and "the" are called articles. Why are these small words so hard to learn? More than 200 languages do not have articles. Other languages have articles but use them differently than English does. As a result, figuring out the logic of English articles can be challenging. Professor Todeva says English article usage falls into certain patterns. A basic understanding of common patterns can make learning articles easier.

  


Using the Passive Voice

This Everyday Grammar is all about the passive voice. The passive is a verb form in which the subject receives the action of the verb. For example, "I was born on a Saturday." Most sentences in English follow the subject-verb-object pattern known as the active voice. For example, "I love you." In this example the subject is "I," the verb is "love" and the object is "you." The subject performs the action of the verb. But sometimes the subject is acted upon, or receives the action of the verb. This is called the passive voice. Imagine that someone stole your wallet, but you do not know who did it. You could say, "My wallet was stolen." In this passive sentence, "my wallet" is the subject, "was stolen" is the verb. There is no direct object -- the wallet did not steal itself. The speaker does not know who stole the wallet.

  


Commonly Confused Words: Part One

Ashley: Before we get started today, Adam, I wanted to ask you about your weekend at home! Adam: It was great, thanks! But the drive was a little tiring. Chicago is a lot further away than I thought. Ashley: Sorry, you mean...Chicago is a lot farther away than you thought. Adam: Yes, that is what I said. Ashley: No, you said further. In American English, further is usually used for non-physical or figurative distances. Farther is the correct word when talking about actual physical distance - or distance that you can measure.

  


Commonly Confused Words: Part Two

This week, we continue explaining commonly confused words in the English language. Ashley: That reminds meAdam, do you still have my grammar book that I let you borrow last week? Adam: No, I lied the book down on your desk yesterday. Ashley: You mean, you laid the book on my desk yesterday. Adam: Lie, lay, laid, liedwhats the difference?

  


Commonly Confused Words Part 3: Homophones

Homophones are two or more words that sound alike, but have different meanings or spellings. It is easy to understand the difference between some homophones. For example, English learners usually understand the difference between the word ate -- the past tense of eat -- and eight -- the number. But other homophones are difficult, even for native English speakers. Bear and Bare One set of commonly confused homophones are the words bear and bare. Lets start with bear [b-e-a-r.] Of course, as a noun, a bear is a large, heavy animal with thick hair and sharp claws.

  


Demonstrating How to Use Demonstratives

Have you ever wondered about the differences between the words this, that, these and those? These words are called demonstratives. Demonstratives tell who or what you are talking about. They are often a source of confusion for English learners, because other languages use demonstratives in different ways than English does. Demonstratives can act as pronouns or as determiners. A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun or noun phrase.

  


Modals for Asking Permission

This week we will give you some tips on how to use modals to make requests and give permission. Some common modals for expressing permission are may, can and could. But these modals have multiple meanings that can be confusing for English learners. Can and May Children in American schools learn to use the modal may when asking for permission. A student might ask the teacher, "May I be excused?" before leaving the room. When students asked, "Can I leave the room?" their teachers often made a joke, "You can, but you may not."

  


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