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Sentence Structure

The articles in this category are all about Sentences.

They are look at how sentences are made, the grammar of sentences, the building blocks of sentences and then what you can do with sentences and how to teach them in your TEFL class.

Look down even further and there are sub-categories on active & passive voice, reported speech and making questions.

Active Voice in English Grammar

When the subject performs the action described by the verbs we talk about sentences in the Active Voice.

By voice grammarians mean a grammatical category that shows whether the subject of a sentence is an actor or a recipient. In the active voice the subject is an actor. If the subject of a sentence is the recipient of the action described by the verb then we talk…

Adverb Position in English Grammar

Generally speaking – and there are exceptions – adverbs‏‎ can come in 1 of 3 positions in a sentence‏‎:

1) At the beginning:
Hurriedly I got dressed.
Never go there again!
Always look on the bright side of life.
2) Between the subject and the verb:
I hurriedly got dressed.
They never visit us.
We usually eat dinner very late.
3) At the very end.
I got dressed hurriedly…

Adverbial Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

An adverbial clause is a subordinate clause‏‎ that act as the adverb in a sentence. It normally answers the questions: how, when, where, how much. We can join two clauses using a simple conjunction. She heard the door open while she was watching television. The second clause can be turned into an adverbial clause by using the present participle. She heard the door open while watching television. We can use…

Apostrophes in English

The Apostrophe is a diacritic mark in punctuation‏‎.

It is used in 2 different ways in English‏‎:

to show possessive nouns
to show omitted letters

Generally we add an apostrophe s to the end of a noun to make it possessive:
the girl’s bike
Maggie’s farm
If there is a plural noun‎ which ends in an -s, then we add the…

Brackets and Parentheses

Brackets and Parentheses are punctuation marks in English which everyone knows, but many people get wrong. Even native speakers.

But before getting on to how to use them, we’ll begin by explaining exactly what the difference between them are.
Types of Bracket
There are 2 types of brackets common in English.

First come Brackets which are straight which is why they’re sometimes called Square Brackets…

Capital Letters in English

In English‏‎ every sentence starts with a Capital Letter (or Uppercase) and usually ends with a period or full stop.

For example these are all wrong:
* the film has finished.
* where is she?
* in 1492 Columbus sailed off into the sunset.
* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows it is ungrammatical or wrong in some way

These should all begin…

Causative Form‏‎ in English Grammar

The causative form is a special form of passive voice‏‎ we use when we speak about a professional service which someone does for us. He’s having a tooth repaired. She is having her nails painted. As you can see, it’s used to talk about someone doing something for us, usually a professional or technical job which we can’t do ourselves. I am having cable installed. He’s having his tonsils removed…

Cleft Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

A Cleft Sentence (cleft, past participle of cleave = split) is a sentence that has been split into two clauses – a main clause and a subordinate clause – in order to emphasize one part of it. This part is often referred to as the “focus”. It is her kindness that I will remember. – focus on “her kindness” The reason why I’ve come is to discuss my future with…

Colons in English Punctuation

A Colon is a punctuation mark in English. It consists of two round dots, one above the other (although occasionally these are small squares). The colon immediately follows the word before and there is a space between the colon and what follows. Note that the colon is a very different punctuation mark to the semicolon‏‎ and although they have similar names (because they look similar), they are not really related…

Commas in English Punctuation

Commas are used as part of the punctuation‏‎ system of English. This article describes how and when we use them. Talking generally we use commas in two main ways. First, to separate lists of words or similar items in a sentence‏: He was a big, bad, bald, belligerent, dog. Second, to separate clauses‏‎ in a sentence; it’s used to show a slight pause and, if you like, to give time…

Complements in English Grammar

In grammar‏‎ a complement – not to be confused with a compliment! – is a way to provide more information about the subject or the object of a sentence‏‎.
He is gorgeous!
Did you like the present she gave you?
A complement completes an idea, whether this is expressed with a phrase‎, a clause or a word.

When the complement refers to the subject of a sentence we talk about…

Conditional Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

A conditional usually consists of 2 clauses known as the main clause and the conditional clause.

The conditional clause usually begins with words like if or unless:
{conditional clause}, + {main clause}
if you leave me now, + you will take away the biggest part of me
If my heart had windows, + you’d see a heart full of love just for you.
Alternatively the two clauses can be…

Conditional Mood‏‎ in English Grammar

The Conditional Mood is the form of the verb used in conditional sentences to refer to a hypothetical situation or an uncertain event that is dependent on another set of circumstances.

In other words, the conditional mood talks about something which might happen if something else does!

When we talk about a conditional situation, we must be able to tell the difference between what is real…

Conditionals‏‎ in English Grammar

A Conditional is a kind of sentence‏‎ which uses a word such as if. It talks about situations which are not real and imagines what might happen.

There are 3 main types of conditional sentences each used in a slightly different situation.
First Conditional
We use the First Conditional to talk about possible situations in the future. These could easily happen and most likely will.

Connectors‏‎ in English Grammar

Sentence Connectors are words used to link sentences together. There are several types of connectors. Each one of them is used to express a different relationship between ideas, like: Addition I was in a hurry and I forgot to take my umbrella. John is our chauffeur, additionally he works as gardener. We walked for miles also looking for a pub! Opposition or Contrast I love her but I can’t stand…

Dashes or Hyphens

Although they look similar, dashes and hyphens are used very differently. In traditional typography, a hyphen is half the length of a dash although in handwriting and often on computer keyboards they are the same size. Hyphens are used in two ways: to split a word or to join words. When they are used there’s no space between them and the word or word part. Dashes are used to emphasize a…

Declarative Sentences‏‎ in English

Declarative Sentences are sentences which convey information; in other words, they make a statement. They do not ask a question or give a command. Declarative sentences are perhaps the most common forms of sentences. Other forms are interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences. My name is Bond. You are standing on my foot. She has green eyes. Form {Subject} + {Predicate} I + went to bed. They + ate ice cream. Image…

Direct & Indirect Objects in English Grammar

Sometimes we can have a sentence‏‎ with 2 objects‏‎. We call these the direct objects and indirect objects.

In sentences with 2 objects, the subject gives the direct object to the indirect object:
{subject} + {verb} + {indirect object} + {direct object}
I + bought + my sister + a present.
The man in the hat + took + the mechanic + the broken car.
We can…

Direct & Indirect Questions in English

We can ask a direct question: What time is it? Or, if we want to be more formal or polite, we can ask an indirect question: Do you know what time it is? We make an indirect question by using a phrase and then a statement. Note that even though this is a question, we do not invert the subject and verb or use an auxiliary verb: {indirect phrase} +…

Direct Speech‏‎ in English

Saying or repeating exactly what someone has said is called Direct Speech (which is sometimes also called Quoted Speech). What a person says appears within quotation marks and is exactly what that person says: “Live long and prosper,” said Spock. In this example above, we are repeating exactly the words which Spock said earlier. You can contrast this with Indirect Speech‏‎ which is reporting what the person said at a later…

Do I Need To Know Grammar to teach English?

This question is often asked by new or potential TEFL teachers, especially since many schools in the UK and USA‏‎ do not teach grammar‏‎ as a matter of course and many high school graduates will not know a verb‏‎ from a noun.
Can you describe language?

It’s an important question. Grammar describes how a language works and, since you are teaching that language, you should be able…

Ellipsis‏‎ in English Punctuation

Ellipsis (plural ellipses) is a punctuation‏‎ mark or series of marks that usually show something is missing. For example, ellipsis: indicates an intentional omission of a word or words in a text at the end of a sentence, it indicates a trailing off into silence or an unfinished thought can also refer to a pause in speech or a missing sound The missing words or thoughts need to be supplied…


Emoticons are a modern form of English punctuation.

Essentially they are a pictorial representation of a human face which are used to give nuance to a text.

For example, I could write:
See you on Thursday.
In itself, this seems fairly innocuous. However, if next Thursday we plan to attend the leaving party of an old friend I might add a “sad” face thus:
See you…

English Grammar‏‎

Grammar is the way in which words come together to form sentences‏‎ (or utterances‏‎ in spoken language).

It is difficult to define this word accurately because people use it in different ways. Some definitions include:

the branch of linguistics‏‎ which deals with syntax‏‎ and morphology‏‎ and sometimes semantics
the study of parts of speech‏‎, their inflection‏‎ and relations in a sentence

Perhaps though…

Exclamation Marks!

An Exclamation Mark or ! is a punctuation‏‎ symbol used at the end of a sentence‏‎ to denote strong feeling: surprise, anger, exuberance: I love you! Get out! I won! It is sometimes known as a bang, a screamer, a shriek, a slammer, a startler, or a pling. Some theories suggest the exclamation mark is a stylized form of the Latin word, io meaning joy. In Medieval times writers…

First Conditional or Second Conditional‏‎

When using conditionals‏‎, it is sometimes difficult to know when to use the First Conditional and when to use the Second Conditional‏‎.

This article looks at how to choose between the two types, and which is best to use.
First or Second?
Generally speaking, if you want to talk about something which is likely to happen, use the First Conditional; if the idea is unlikely (but still…

Grammar Nazi

A Grammar Nazi is a pedantic soul who takes pleasure in finding grammatical errors and pointing them out to people. Whether asked or not. Collectively they can be known as the Grammar Police. Grammar Nazis will know it is spelled grammar and not grammer. They will know the difference between they’re vs their vs there and they will certainly know how to use apostrophe‏‎s correctly. Cultural Note Considering the atrocities…


In a general sense, a grammarian is a linguist‏‎. One who studies language, in other words.

However often grammarian is used in a slightly more restricted sense for a person who writes grammar‎ books and looks only at the way language is put together.

In the past, grammarians would merely document the way language worked as they perceived it. This gave grammar books a very idiosyncratic or subjective…

Grammatical Case in English

Grammatical Case is used to talk about how nouns and, especially, pronouns‏‎ change their form when they have a different role in a sentence‏‎. For example, look at these: John loves Leslie.Leslie loves John. The subject of the first sentence is John. The object of the second sentence is the same person, John. The name is exactly the same and does not change whether it’s a subject or object. On…

Grammatical Number in English

Grammatical Number is the term used to describe whether something is singular (just one) or plural (more than one). In English this applies to nouns, verbs and determiners and depending on the number the form of these may change. Nouns The usual way to change a noun from singular to plural is by adding -s or -es. One chair. Two hundred chairs.One box. Fifteen boxes. For a full look at…

Grammatical Person‏‎ in English

In grammar person is used to show the relationship between the speaker and the listener or the writer and the reader. For example, if I talk about myself I use the pronoun I but if someone talks to me, they use the pronoun you. So depending on the person doing the talking and who they are talking about, pronouns and verb forms can change. Persons can also affect nouns and possessive…

He Said She Said Circle – tefl activity

He Said She Said Circle is a simple activity for students to practice their reported speech‏‎ (also known as indirect speech).

Ideally you should run this activity after a lesson where students have been working on reported speech. If not, you should quickly run over the rules and principles of turning direct speech into indirect speech.

The nice thing about this activity is that it takes no preparation time…

Independent Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

An Independent Clause looks just like a short sentence and follows the usual English pattern for sentences: The door opened. We won! I love cats. But… while a sentence stands on its own, an independent clause sits inside another sentence. For example, those sentences above become independent clauses when we join them to other clauses: The door opened and Mike walked in carrying a chicken! I’m happy because we won!…

Indirect/Reported Speech in English Grammar

We use Indirect Speech (sometimes called Reported Speech) to repeat and report what someone has said earlier. This is in comparison with Direct Speech‏‎ which is what the person actually says.
“Live long and prosper,” said Spock.
This is direct speech; these are the actual words spoken. Contrast this with indirect speech which is reporting what the person said at a later date:
Spock said we should live long…

Introducing Possession in English Grammar

There are several ways to show ownership or possession in English grammar.

The way we use mainly depends on whether the owner is animate (i.e. a person or an animal) or a thing. But as always, there are exceptions to this general rule.
Animate Owners
To show possession we can add an apostrophe -s (sometimes called a Saxon genitive) to the owner.
This is Amelia. Amelia owns…

Inversion‏‎ in English Grammar

In English Grammar‏‎ we talk about inversion when we change the normal order of the elements in a sentence. In most cases this means swapping the position of the subject and verb of the sentence. For example, this is a common sentence structure in English which follows the pattern: {subject} + {verb} + {…} Peter is French. You are happy. But if we turn it into a question, we invert…

Lexical Chunks

A Lexical Chunk is a unit of language which is made up of two or more words.

Here are a few examples of lexical chunks:
Good morning.
Nice to see you!
What’s the time?
Other lexical chunks can include phrasal verbs‏‎, idioms, collocation‏‎s and so on.

Lexical chunks are the common coinage of English. They’re the bread and butter, the everyday and the mundane. They’re the…

Object Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

In general when we look at an English sentence to see who is doing what to whom (grammatically speaking), we can say that the subject does something to the object:
{subject} + does something to + {object}
Jesse Owens + won + 4 gold medals.
I + believe + your sister.
The objects in these two examples above are two noun phrases‏‎: 4 gold medals and your sister…

Object Complement‏‎s in English Grammar

A typical English statement has this form: {subject} + {verb} + {object} Churchill + enjoyed + breakfast. We + considered + his answer. The object comes last. If we add a word or phrase to the object to add some more information or describe it further, then this is known as an Object Complement. Churchill enjoyed breakfast + in bed. We considered his answer + ridiculous. Mostly object complements are…

Objects in English Grammar

In an English sentence usually the subject of a sentence‏‎ does something to an object. The object is the thing or person which is affected by the subject and the verb‏‎.
Patricia ate the cake.
The subject of this sentence is Patricia. She is the ‘star actor’. The verb is ate and this tells us what she does. The object of the sentence is the cake and this is…

Oxford Comma‏‎s in English Punctuation

The Oxford Comma (sometimes known as the Serial Comma or the Harvard Comma) causes a lot of debate and controversy in grammatical circles. On the one hand is British English where a list of items in a sentence are separated by commas unless there is a coordinating conjunction (usually and or but) following. For example: John, Henry, Tom, Dick and Harry all came to the party. In this case we have…

Paragraphs in English Writing

A paragraph is a collection of one or more sentences‏‎. It is used to group ideas in a piece of writing or text. A paragraph, then, is part of the structure of a text: 1 or more words > 1 or more sentences > 1 or more paragraphs = text There’s no standard definition for what makes a paragraph, but people generally accept a paragraph to be one or more…

Passive Two Objects‏‎ in English Grammar

The most common sentence‏‎ structure in English‏‎ is SVO‏‎ or {subject} + {verb} + {object} Lucy + baked + a cake. As you can see, it has just one object. However, sometimes a sentence will have two objects which are known as the direct object and the indirect object: {subject} + {verb} + {indirect object} + {direct object} Lucy + gave + Gran + the cake. Or alternatively: {subject} + {verb} +…

Passive Verbs‏‎ in English

To make a verb passive, we use the verb be conjugated in the same tense used in the active voice‏‎ and change the main verb into the past participle. These are the main patterns used: Simple Tenses {be} + {Past Participle} active Eric kisses Amanda. passive Amanda is kissed by Eric. active Eric kissed Amanda. passive Amanda was kissed by Eric. Continuous Tenses‏‎ {be} + {being} + {past participle} active…

Period / Full Stop

A Period (AmE) or Full Stop (BrE) is a punctuation‏‎ mark placed at the end of a sentence‏‎. The symbol itself comes from Aristophanes of Byzantium who invented the system of punctuation where the height of placement of a dot on the line determined its meaning. A dot at the top indicated the end of a thought; a dot in the middle indicated the end of part of a complete…

Phrases‏‎ in English Grammar

A Phrase is a group of two or more words‏‎ which work grammatically the same as a single word. As such a phrase can function as a verb‎, a noun, an adverb‏‎, a preposition or an adjective‏‎. For example these are all phrases: the old man standing on the beach was laughing The important thing to notice is that there is never a subject in a phrase alongside a verb…

Possessive Adjectives‏‎ in English Grammar

We use possessive adjectives with nouns to show possession‏‎ or ownership. Like most adjectives‏‎ they come before the noun which they describe:
{possessive adjective} + {noun}
your + car
his + mother
its + food
There are seven possessive adjectives in English:

my (something belongs to me – I own it)
your (something belongs to you (singular) – you own it)
his (something belongs to him…

Possessive Apostrophes‏‎

Possessive Apostrophes are added to the end of a noun to show possession‏‎. This car belongs to John. It is John’s car. That dog belongs to that girl. It is that girl’s dog. Note, a Possessive Apostrophe is sometimes known as a Saxon Genitive. Plural Nouns If there is a plural noun‏‎ which ends in an -s, then we add just an apostrophe after it (no extra -s). In this…

Possessive Pronouns‏‎ in English Grammar

Possessive pronouns are pronouns used to show ownership. They tell us who owns what when we don’t want to or don’t need to repeat the name of what is owned.
As with all pronouns, possessive pronouns replace a noun (the word pronoun comes from Latin and means in place of a noun). In fact, pronouns are used to avoid repetition.
Is this Sheila’s bag? No, it’s mine.
The possessive pronoun mine…

Predicates in English Grammar

Most sentences‏‎ have a subject; the Predicate is the rest of the sentence which tells us about that subject.

In these examples, the subject of the sentence is Plato and the predicate is highlighted bold.
Plato thought.
Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher.
Plato is the name of my dog.
As you can see, predicates can be a single word‏‎ or a phrase‏‎. In most cases the predicate follows…

Punctuating Direct Speech‏‎

This article gives the rules and conventions when it comes to Punctuating Direct Speech, that is the words actually spoken by someone, i.e. direct speech‏‎. Inverted Commas Inverted Commas or Quotation Marks are used to enclose whatever someone says. Note that other punctuation comes inside these marks. “Where are you going?” “Wow!” “It’s very cold outside.” New Paragraphs Every time a speaker changes, begin a new paragraph. “Where are you…

Punctuation‏‎ in English

Punctuation is the use of different marks to show how a sentence‏‎ is constructed and should be read and understood. It is, if you like, the written equivalent of pauses and emphasis.

In English the following punctuation marks are used:

brackets or parentheses
dashes or hyphens
exclamation mark
inverted commas or quotation…

Question Marks in English Punctuation

A Question Mark or ? is a punctuation‏‎ mark used at the end of a sentence‏‎ to show that it is a question. It is, if you like, the written equivalent of a rising intonation‏‎ which, in most languages, shows we are asking for information of someone. When do we use Question Marks? We use the question mark to ask for information: Where are you from? What time is it?…

Question Tags in English Grammar

Question tags are used at the end of sentences when we want to check something, when we want someone to do something or when we want to show surprise. They are separated from the main question by a comma:
You’re English, aren’t you?
You’ve got five minutes to spare, haven’t you?
You’re not going to leave, are you?

Form & Construction
Making a question tag is fairly…

Questions‏‎ in English Grammar

Questions are used to get information we do not already have. There are a number of different ways of forming questions in English depending on the kind of information we want. Questions are basically the other side of the coin to statements‏‎ in that statements give us something and questions ask us for something. The Basics Questions begin with a capital letter‏‎ and end with a question mark. Two common…

Quotation Marks / Inverted Commas

Quotation Marks or Inverted Commas (known more informally as Speech Marks) are used in writing to show what someone actually says. They separate actual speech from comment, in other words. John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” As MItch Hedberg said, “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to…

Relative Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

A Relative Clause (or Adjectival Clause as it’s sometimes known) gives information about a noun and at the same time, works like an adjective. Take a look a this sentence: For the party we bought several bottles of very cheap spirits. The noun spirits has been modified by an adjective. Alternatively, we could use a complete clause: For the party we bought several bottles of spirits which were very cheap…

Reporting Verbs in English Grammar

When we repeat what someone has said before, we usually use say or tell: Jeff said he was never going to eat meat again after that meal! Susan told us the most amusing story about the pigeons in her garden. And with direct speech we almost always use say: “No,” said Jeff, “I can’t face another hamburger.” “In the end my clothes were all ruined,” said Susan. So say and…

Second Conditional‏‎s in English Grammar

Very simply put, the Second Conditional is used to talk about possible, but unlikely, situations and wondering what would happen.

The little girl in the picture might think…
If I had a bike, I would go out and play with my friends.
But she doesn’t have a bike so she can’t right now.

And the little girl’s mother might think…
If Daniel Craig came and knocked…

Semicolons in English Punctuation

A semicolon sits half way between a period/full stop and a comma. It has little or nothing to do with a colon, however.

It is used instead of a period/full stop when we want to avoid too strong a break between phrases and instead of a comma when we need a stronger break.
Breaking Up Lists
If you have a list of items, normally they are separated…

Sentence Completion – sentence activity

Sentence Completion is a TEFL activity which can be used to practice different forms of sentences‏‎. It works well with different verb forms‏‎, conditionals‏‎ and so on.
Write out a series of sentences which are examples of the kind of sentence/verb structure you want to practice, and put them onto flashcards‏‎ (so you can use them later with other classes).

For example these are for…

Sentences‏‎ in English Grammar

A sentence is a group of words‏‎ beginning with a capital letter‏‎ and ending with a full stop/period, exclamation mark or question mark.

It is the written equivalent of an utterance‎.
My name is Conan.
We won!
Is July going to be hot here?

Sentence Types
There are a number of different sentence types in English‏‎ and we use them for different purposes.
To give information…

Short Answers in English

Look at these simple questions:
Can you handle the truth?
Are you busy?
To answer them your students will often give just a Short Answer:

Are you rich?
No, I’m not!
Does he smoke?
Yes, he does.
Who killed the king?
He did.

Short Answers & TEFL
Sometimes your students will give a simple yes or no answer to questions like these.This is not wrong but can sound…

SOV‏‎ in English Sentence Structure

SOV stands for:
{subject} + {object} + {verb}
* I + dinner + made.
* We + car + buy.
* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows it’s ungrammatical

In this sentence structure the subject comes first, the object second, and the verb third. English is not an SOV language but rather an SVO language.

SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather…

Statements in English Grammar

A statement is a simple sentence‎ which tells us some information (as oppose to asking a question, for example). It is a record of a situation or state, in other words.

The most basic statement is made up of a subject (what the sentence is about) and a predicate (what the subject does or is). This predicate can be as simple as a verb‏‎:
{subject} + {predicate}
{subject} +…

Subject Questions‏‎ in English Grammar

Here’s a simple statement: Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper in 1903. It follows the usual pattern of English statements of SVO‏‎: subject + verb + object Mary Anderson + invented + the windshield wiper. Often we ask questions‏‎ about the object of the statement. In this case we’d ask: Q: What did Mary Anderson invent?A: The windshield wiper. Q: When did Mary Anderson invent the windshield wiper?A: In 1903…

Subject-Verb Agreement‏‎ in English Grammar

Subject-Verb Agreement means that a singular subject takes a singular verb‏‎ and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

For example:
My brother is in town.
My brothers are in town.
In the first example the subject is singular: my brother. This makes the verb singular: is.

In the second example the subject is plural: my brothers. This makes the verb plural: are.
The first step is to identify…

Subjects in English Grammar

Look at these sentences‏‎:
James Bond drives an Aston Martin.
Bond is chasing the killer!
007 kissed the beautiful Russian agent.
In each one the subject has been highlighted. The subject is the main theme of the sentence; it is what the sentence is all about. It is, if you like, the star actor of the sentence.

In English‏‎ sentences it normally comes first with the rest of…

Subordinate Clauses‏‎ in English Grammar

A Subordinate Clause (aka Dependent Clause) is a clause that doesn’t make sense fully on its own and always needs an independent clause‏‎ to express a complete thought and make a complete sentence‏‎. These, for example, are subordinate clauses: * whenever I see her * rather than take the bus * even though she is very rich * an asterisk at the beginning denotes and ungrammatical sentence or sequence Standing…

SVO‏‎ – Subject Verb Object

Sentences English important words is order of in the. or better: The order of words in English sentences is important. We need to get word order right in English. The arrangement makes all the difference. Get it wrong and it just ends up a mess which no one understands. But other languages are more flexible and you can find sentences with all the verbs piled up at the end (German…

Syntax in English

Simply put, Syntax is the collection of rules which go together to form sentences and phrases in a language.

For example, the rules of syntax say that an English sentence can be formed thus:
{subject} + {verb} + {object}
Michael + rowed + the boat
The rules of syntax say this is not permissible, however:
{subject} + {object} + {verb}
* Michael + the boat + rowed…

Tag Mix‏‎

Tag Mix is a straightforward way to practice question tags with your class. It is all about having students identify the two parts of the sentence (the statement and the tag) and then mixing and matching them. As an activity it works best with intermediate and above students; the level can go up as you can make it more inventive for more advanced students. Preparation Quite simply collect a…

Teaching Grammar

The subject of Teaching Grammar is often discussed and there are many different views and approaches. New teachers often feel that to properly teach a language they must teach grammar.

However this is not the case.
In the past it was thought that students must be given explicit grammatical rules. Students were taught about subjects and objects‏‎, parts of speech‏‎ and so on and then expected to…

The Passive Voice in English Grammar

English sentence‏‎s are mostly built using a simple pattern known as SVO‏‎ which stands for Subject + Verb‏ + Object‏‎:‎
{subject} + {verb} + {object}
Madeleine + broke + the wine glass.
The most important information in a sentence‏‎ usually comes at the beginning and in the examples above we’re interested in who broke the wine glass. This sentence is in the active voice‏‎.

However, sometimes we…

Third Conditionals in English Grammar

The past is past and (sometimes unfortunately) it cannot be changed. All we can do is imagine how it might be different now if things had gone differently.

To do this, to describe unreal situations in the past, we use the Third Conditional.
If I had known the party was for your birthday, I would have got you a present.
But nobody told me this was a…

Typographical Conventions

This page describes the typographical conventions we use in the Grammar Guide and generally on the ICAL TEFL site. Examples Examples are shown thus: This is a grammar example. Following common convention, ungrammatical sentences are marked with an asterisk: * This is grammatical not. Note that In some grammars‏‎ (although not ours) you can also see this shown as strikethrough: This is grammatical not. In cases where there is doubt…

Utterances in English

An Utterance is the spoken equivalent to a sentence‏‎.

As a sentence is bounded by a capital letter‎ and a period or full stop (or other punctuation‏‎) so an utterance is often (though not always) bounded by silence or a breath or pause.

Having said this, there is no precise definition of utterance that linguists use.

Written sentences tend to be well formed in terms…

Verb Voice in English Grammar

Verbs‏‎ have a property known as Voice which allows you to show the relationship between the verb and the subject and object‏‎ in the sentence‏‎. If a verb is in the Active Voice then it shows the subject performing an action: the subject does something If, however, a verb is in the Passive Voice then it is the other way around and the subject receives the action: something happens to…

What is a Clause?

We all know what a sentence is. But it’s useful to break a sentence down and talk about Clauses as well when you’re teaching English.

These are, essentially, the building blocks of sentences and each sentence contains one or more clauses.
a sentence = one or more clauses
Think of them like a pontoon bridge. One piece can span a narrow river but that same piece can…