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May, Might, Must - Modals of Certainty

Modal verbs (called modals for short) are auxiliary verbs that express a speakers attitude and the strength of that attitude. There are about 17 modals in English. They have multiple meanings and sometimes overlap in ways that are confusing to English learners. Today we will look at how we use these modals to express how certain, or sure, you are of something.

  


Relative Pronouns

A relative pronoun relates to the noun it is describing. Relative pronouns introduce a relative clause. Think of relative clauses as long adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Lets start with an example sentence: The woman who called me yesterday was my mother. In this sentence who is the relative pronoun, and who called me yesterday is the relative clause. The clause is describing the noun woman. In general, the relative pronouns who, that, and which do one of two things:

  


Could Have, Would Have, and Should Have

Today we will take a look at the modal verbs could have, would have and should have. These past tense modals are useful for expressing your present feelings about a past decision (or other action). Could have, would have, and should have are sometimes called modals of lost opportunities. They work like a grammatical time machine. The simple past just tells what happened. Past modals tell what could have, would have, and should have happened. To form these past modals, use could, would, or should followed by have, followed by a past participle verb. Use have for all pronouns; never use has or had to form a past modal. Here are some examples:

  


Tag Questions

Have you ever been in a conversation and wanted to check your understanding? That is the time to use a tag question in English. A tag question is a short question added to a statement. The tag includes a pronoun and its matching form of the verb be, or auxiliary verb. If the tag question is negative, we shorten the phrase, or use a contraction with the auxiliary verb. Here's an example: I was visiting a friend and saw a photo on the wall. I said, Thats a picture of your grandson, isnt it?

  


Studying Sentence Patterns to Improve Your Writing: Part One

Many English learners have spent a lot of time studying the parts of speech: adjectives, nouns and verbs, for example. But sometimes studying the English sentence from a larger perspective is useful. One way to get a bigger view of English is to study common sentence patterns. The English language has many patterns. In the book Rhetorical Grammar, author Martha Kolln describes seven common sentence patterns. In other writings, she says that 95% of sentences in English fit into basic patterns.

  


Which Pronoun is Correct: I or Me

Recently, at an IRL party that is, a party that takes place in real life, as opposed to where I generally live, which is on the Internet a guest asked a friend and I how we met. The sentence includes a common error I have been seeing and hearing more and more often lately. The error is using the subject pronoun I when the object pronoun me should be used. Even President Obama can be heard using I for the object of a sentence. At his first press conference, on November 7, 2008, he spoke about being invited to tour the White House. Well, President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to -- to meet with him and First Lady Laura Bush.

  


Common Sentence Patterns: Part 4

English has many patterns. Learning and mastering these patterns can help you improve your writing and speaking skills. They can also help you do better on your next grammar test! Today, we explore a common verb pattern: the transitive verb pattern. This pattern is common in writing, speaking, and even on language tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. To get you started thinking about transitive verbs, consider this stanza from "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note," by the famous author Amiri Baraka.

  


Common Sentence Patterns: Part 3

English has many patterns. Basic grammatical patterns can explain the structure of around 95% of sentences in English, says Martha Kolln, a grammar expert. Learning and mastering these patterns can help you improve your writing and speaking skills. We have discussed three common patterns in previous Everyday Grammar stories. Today we will explore another common pattern: the intransitive verb pattern.

  


Studying Sentence Patterns to Improve Your Writing: Part 2

n a previous Everyday Grammar story, we discussed two common sentence patterns using the word be. This week, we are going to give you more information about another common pattern in English: the linking verb pattern. To get you started with linking verb patterns, consider this passage from a story called The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald

  


Studying Sentence Patterns to Improve Your Writing: Part One

Many English learners have spent a lot of time studying the parts of speech: adjectives, nouns and verbs, for example. But sometimes studying the English sentence from a larger perspective is useful. One way to get a bigger view of English is to study common sentence patterns. The English language has many patterns. In the book Rhetorical Grammar, author Martha Kolln describes seven common sentence patterns. In other writings, she says that 95% of sentences in English fit into basic patterns.

  


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