By Harriet Anderson and Jacqueline Schaalje
I must warn you. There is nothing new in this article. Nothing that we haven’t talked about before at English with a Smile. Also there will be nothing to laugh in here. I am going to take a brief look at three difficult grammar issues that I don’t want you to make mistakes with anymore.
First is the word order in the English language.
- Word Order
The English language considers word order more important than many other languages. The basic word order pattern for English is:
SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT(S) – PLACE – TIME
Example sentence: Mary will be home at five.
Mary = the subject
Will be = the verbs
Object = there is no object here
Home = place
At five = time
Here is another sentence with all the five parts:
Javier listens to music on the bus every morning.
Javier = the subject
Listens = verb
To music = object
On the bus = place
Every morning = time
English sentences do not have to have all five parts; English sentences often have a SUBJECT, VERB and OBJECT. However, they most often occur in this order. Word order is also important in shorter sentences.
But, there’s something that makes word order far more tricky than you might realize.
For example: Change ‘Mary will be home at five’ into ‘Will Mary be home at five?’
When you put “will” first, you’re making a question.
So in questions, the first verb comes before the subject.
This is the only change in word order you can make in English. Any other changes are bad. You cannot, let’s say, change between the time (“at five”) and the object/place (“home”). This sentence does not make sense: ‘Mary will be at five home.’ An English speaker will not understand this sentence.
The English verb system is actually simple to learn. Some of my students can learn all the tenses in five lessons. However when they speak they still make mistakes. When you speak you should practise the tenses in your head all the time. Before you say a verb, think about its tense. After a while this becomes automatic.
Here are a few examples of things that you may find tricky:
Present tense refers to actions that are repeated, habitual (= like a habit) or always true.
Examples: ‘I get coffee every day at 8 a.m.’
‘We go skiing every winter.’
Present-progressive tense expresses actions that are taking place in the present (continuous actions).
Example: ‘I’m reading a celebrity biography.’
‘We’re preparing to take an exam.’
Future tense refers to actions that have not yet happened or do not exist yet. It uses the expression ‘going to,’ as in:
‘I’m going to the park on Sunday.’
‘He’s going to deliver a speech.’
Note: Many English verbs are reduced to slang in everyday speech. Some common examples include: gonna (going to), wanna (want to).
Two-word verbs are verbs expressed in phrases that consist of a preposition or adverb and a verb.
Examples: get over (to recover), get up (to rise from a reclining/sitting position), pick up.
Note: Some two-word verbs are separated by different parts of a sentence, however others cannot be separated by any part of a sentence. Try to listen to native speakers or when you read try to notice where you put the prepositions of these verbs.
The English language uses DO in several distinct ways:
As a verb: He did the cooking.
As a way to emphasize actions: I did take out the trash.
As a verb placed in front of a subject to form a question: “Do they want more tea?”
As a verb placed in front of “not” to create a negative statement: She doesn’t know if the schedule is accurate.
As a substitute for another verb or verb phrase to avoid repetition: “They didn’t finish their food, but I did.”
You may find the verb DO in these different forms: do, does, done, didn’t (did not).
Now do the Quiz.
Click here to do this quiz online. (This is an easy quiz.)
Choose the right answer.
1 Which is the right word order?
a Travis flunked at university his exam yesterday.
b Travis flunked his exam at university yesterday.
c Travis flunked at university yesterday his exam.
2 Which is the right word order?
a The woman was looking for a new dress in the sale in January.
b The woman was in the sale looking for a new dress in January.
c The woman was looking in January for a new dress in the sale.
3 Which is the right word order?
a Don’t you love hot chocolate to drink when it’s cold?
b Don’t you love to drink hot chocolate when it’s cold?
c Don’t you love to drink when it’s cold hot chocolate?
4 Which is the right word order?
a Do you ride your bike in the park on Saturdays?
b Do your bike you ride in the park on Saturdays?
c Do you ride in the park your bike on Saturdays?
5 Choose the right verb. Can you help me, please? I ____________ (look) for a black dress in size M.
a Am looking
c Going to look
6 Choose the right verb. Grandma _____________ (love) to bake apple muffins for us.
b Is going to love
c Is loving
7 Choose the right verb. He ____________ (kick) the ball in tomorrow’s game.
a Is kicking
c Is going to kick
8 Choose the right form of DO. “Did you take out the rubbish this morning?” “Yes, I ________.”
9 Choose the right form of DO. “You didn’t take my laptop to work, did you?” “No, I ________.”
10 Choose the right form of DO. I tried very hard to make it work, and I ________ (succeed).