shows the starting point of the action in the past, so the verb must be
a past simple. It is a very easy mistake to make to assume that all the
verbs in a sentence with since are present perfect forms.
e.g. He has
been working as a waiter since he
last year and in/over the last year
year is clearly a period in the past so we use a past simple. And careful,
Spanish speakers, never the last year in this context.
e.g. Last year I
spent a month travelling around the USA
the last year indicates an action which started in the past but the period
of time includes the present:
e.g. More progress
has been made over the last year that was made
over the previous five years.
stative and active verbs
/ meet : typical mistakes for Spanish speakers because both verbs have
the same meaning conocer.
I’ve known her
for over a year now. I first
her last August.
I’ve been ill for two weeks. I
became ill when I came back from holiday.
I’ve known about the mistake for a while. I
discovered it while going through the accounts.
until, once, by the time, after, before, as soon as and when
Some of these
expressions are used to emphasize that one action took place before the
other and that's exactly when the past perfect tense is used. For example:
My boss didn’t
allow me to go home until I’d finished what I
Once I’d prepared my speech, I had a break.
By the time the fire brigade arrived, the house had burnt
to the ground.
But in other
cases, this emphasis is not necessary:
Before he read the
had taken took a
As soon as she
had heard the news she burst
had been was waiting
for me when I arrived at the hotel.
Past continuous, past simple and used to
speakers, the past continuous is sometimes a source of mistakes because
in some context it is equivalent to the Spanish 'imperfecto', which is
identified with the English form 'past simple'.
e.g. When she was
leaving home, she heard someone call her name.
Cuando salía de casa, oyó que alguien la llamaba)
this idea of 'past continuous' equivalent to 'imperfecto' can lead to
When he was in the
was smoking used to
In this context
the past continuous is impossible because the action does not indicate
duration or progression of the action. In this case, the verb form indicates
an action that took place regularly during a period of time and which
probably is no longer true.
RARELY USED IN THE CONTINUOUS
EXISTING OR BEING
consist of, exist
to,have, include, lack, own, possess
FEELING OR WANTING
desire, despise, detest,dislike,envy,hate, like, love, need, prefer, trust,
THINKING AND BELIEVING
doubt, expect, feel(=think) forget, imagine, intend, know, realise, recogninse,
remember, see (=understand)
depend, deserve, fit, matter, measure, mean, mind, weigh
It is possible
to use many of the verbs above in the continuous, but the verb has a different
meaning or expresses a temporary action:
is a very obedient child, isn't he?
John is being very obedient at the moment.(= is behaving
very rich. They have three homes and a yacht.
I'm having really a good time. (=am experiencing)
think that the world's problems are getting worse.
I'm thinking of taking up yoga. My life is too stressful.
sign means 'slow down'
You're always meaning to call us, but
you never do (=are intending)
appears the government is not going to reform the legislation.
The Three Tenors are appearing at the Lyceum.(=are performing)
do not usually use the continuous form with verbs which describe a sense
or a form of perception, e.g. hear, notice, see, smell, taste.
With verbs which describe a sense, we usually use the simple form of can
/ could when we deliberately use the sense, i.e. the use is involuntary:
I can taste
cream in this.
I'm tasting the cream.
(The cream might be off; intentional action)
mistake in these contruction is interpreting that as we are talking about
a future time we necessarily have to use will in both clauses
of the sentence:
e.g. If you
go to the party tonight, you'll see Mark's new girlfriend.
You'll do well in the exam as long as you
won't don't do anything
It's a mistake
that is also present in time clauses, maybe influenced by French language:
arrive, I'll give you a call.
is used in sentences which mean X will happen if it is not stopped by
Y. It cannot be used to mean X will be the result of Y not happening.
e.g. We'll go for
a picnic tomorrow, unless it rains.
Ill be quite relieved
unless she comes if she doesn't come.
present / future
would work worded harder you would be top of the class.
If she hadn't been so rude to him, he wouldn't have punished her.
would have had taken more interest in the course, I had would
have done better in the exams.
Past: They wish they had had the chance to go abroad
last year (= but they didn't)
Present: I wish I
would be were in a different
class. (= but I'm not)
I wish I
would could speak French. (= but I can't)
Irritating habit: I wish he
won't wouldn't interrupt
me when I'm talking to someone. (=but he does it regularly)
We use hope to say that we would like something to happen, although we
don't know whether it will or not. When we want a situation to be different
from what it already is, we use wish.
I hope he marries her.
I hope we don't have a history test tomorrow.
expression It's time... can be used with the infinitive or the
time to go.
time for you to go
the infinitive, we assumed that the speaker is included in the action.
If the speaker wants to specify who 'has to go' we can introduce a kind
of 'subject' of the infinitive with the preposition for.
(high) time you went
we use the past tense we introduce an idea of unreality. With the adjective
high we don't use the infinity: It's high time to leave we left.
rather can be followed by two structures: infinitive (without to) and
I'd rather go now
I'd rather you went
examples, if we use the infinitive, there's only one person involved in
the action. If we state our preference about somebody else's action, we
must use the past tense and the full sentence. It's again a use of past
tenses for an action in the present or the future time. If we want to
express our preference about an action in the past with this construction,
we use the perfect infirnitive without to: I'd rather have studied law.
prefer can be followed by infinitive (I'd prefer to go now) or a
full sentence in the past with the verbs in the past tenses. The peculiarity
of this contruction is the appearance of the pronoun it:
I'd prefer it
if you went now.
the sentence is a second conditional construction. That's why we need
the pronoun IT, because if we didn't introduce it we would have
a transtive verb without an object, which is a grammar mistake in English.
general rule for word order in English (subject – verb – object)
can be broken by placing certain adverbial words or phrases, at the beginning
of the sentence: this is done to produce a more dramatic effect, particularly
in story- telling, stating strong opinions and the giving of rules.
the following examples:
|The result was
never in doubt.
time was the result in doubt
|I have never heard
such a terrible lecture.
have I heard such a terrible lecture.
see such large forests anywhere else.
else is it possible to see such large forests.
realise the extent of the damage until he saw it in daylight.
he saw the damage in daylight did he realise how bad it was.
|I can only relax
after I have had a drink.
after I have had a drink can I relax.
|I was not only
tired, I was also hungry.
||Not only was I
tired, (but) I was also hungry.
| Almost as soon
as I got into the house, the telephone rang.
had I got into the house than the telephone rang.
| The sun rose
and almost immediately it began to rain.
had the sun risen when/before it began to rain.
|A public figure
had seldom been more completely humiliated.
has a public figure been more completely humiliated.
realised that she had heard every word.
||Little did he
realise that she had heard every word.
|It was such a
heavy vase that he dropped it.
was the weight of the vase that he dropped it.
|He spoke so quickly
that nobody could understand.
did he speak that nobody could understand.
|He must no leave
the country on any account.
account must he leave the country.
go back to university under any circumstances.
no circumstances would I go back to university.
|The club will
only admit men under exceptional circumstances.
under exceptional circumstances will the club admit men.
|There has not
been an invention which so radically affected society since the printing
the printing press as there been an invention which so radically affected
When the active form would involve the use of an indefinite or
vague pronoun or noun as a subject, we generally prefer to use the passive
(the agent with “by” is nor expressed)
They had to demolish
The building had to be demolished
2. The passive
provides a means of avoiding an awkward change of subject in the middle
of the sentence.
The PM arrived back
in London last night, and reporters immediately besieged him ? The PM
arrived back in London last night, and was immediately besieged by reporters.
3. When we
wish to make a statement sound impersonal.
The new working
methods we have introduced will result in higher earnings for all workers
? The new workings methods that have been introduced will result in
higher earnings for all workers.
with two objects, one direct and one indirect.
The crowd gave the
king a great reception
A great reception was given to the king by the crowd.
The king was given a great reception by the crowd.
2. Have something
my flat painted = Someone is painting my flat for me.
3. Need doing
Your hair needs
cutting = Your hair needs to be cut.
+ verb (say, think, feel, expect, etc) + noun clause object
They say that he
knows some very influential people.
It is said that he knows some very influential people.
He is said to know some very influential people.
There is one point
to note here: the form of the passive infinitive depends on whether
or not the time reference of the verb in the noun clause is the same
as that of the verb in the introductory (main) clause. If the time reference
is the same, we use the “present” infinitive.
It is said that
he knows some very influential people = He is said to know some …
It was said that he knew some very influential people ? He was said
to know some…
If the verb in the
noun clause has a time reference anterior to that of the verb in the
main clause, use the “perfect” infinitive.
It is thought
that he acted very foolishly ? He is thought to have acted…
It was thought that he acted very foolishly ? He was thought to have
MODAL VERBS: Meanings and examples
Can You can smoke in here.
Could Could I use your phone?
Be allowed / permitted to I was allowed to cross the frontier
because I had a visa.
Can you speak Portuguese?
Could I couldn´t see because of the fog.
Be able to I was able to see him through the window.
You must get up earlier in the morning.
Have to Men have to do the military service.
Need / Need to Do I need to get permission?
Should (advice) You should prepare your trip to Africa
Ought to (advice) You ought to inform the police.
Had better (advice) You’d better leave now if
you want to catch the train.
You mustn´t break the law.
No Obligation / No Necessity
Don´t / Didn’t have to I don´t have
to make a speech.
Don´t / Didn’t need to He doesn´t
need to get a visa.
Needn´t You needn´t eat everything.
The system can be frustrating.
May It may take a year to get the results.
Could You could be very successful.
Might She might be very lucky.
He won a lot of money in the pools last year so he must be rich.
Can´t You can´t be hungry. You´ve
just had dinner!
Prediction / Certainty
He’s been found guilty of murder. He’ll be in prison for
a long time.
Willingness / Refusal
The doctor will act as witness to your signature. She doesn’t
mind doing that sort of thing.I won’t lower the price. And that’s
Willingness / Refusal
Dad would always help us with out maths homework. (habit)
The shop assistant wouldn’t change this jumper for me, even though
I hadn’t worn it.
Can / Could
Could you hold on a minute?
Will Will you give a call when you get to the hotel?
Would Would you book a hotel for me?
Sit down. I’ll wash up this evening.
Shall Shall I get you a coffee?
Would Would you like some more wine?
I’ll write you back as soon as I get your letter, I promise.
can take either the gerund or the infinitive with a change in the meaning.
These verbs take a gerund
when they refer to an action which occurred beforehand.
Do you remember
seeing this man before?
I’ll never forget arriving in Venice by ship the first time.
They take an infinitive
when they refer to an action which comes afterwards.
put out all the lights before you leave.
I’m afraid you forgot to sign the cheque.
These verbs take the
gerund when they refer to the past or unlikely future:
Do you regret
not having gone to university?
I’m dreading going to the dentist’s.
addition, dread takes the infinitive “to think” and regret
the infinitive “to say”, “to tell” and “to
I dread to think
what might have happened if you’d tried to drive the car.
I regret to tell you that your application has not been successful.
Like, love, hate and prefer
These verbs may take
either a gerund or an infinitive when they mean “to enjoy”
or “take pleasure in”. (Negative sentences, however, usually
takes a gerund):
I simply love getting
like cooking all that much.
like to have a look round?
When they mean “want”
or “wish”, they take the infinitive.
I don’t like
to bother you when you’re busy, but…
He likes to
arrive in plenty of time for his appointments.
is used in a comparison, the gerund is always used.
Do you prefer typing
your letters to writing them by hand?
Try ringing the
doorbell. Someone may be in.
( When this verb takes
the gerund, the meaning is “experiment”. You’ll have
no difficulty in ringing the bell but the action may or may not be successful
in enabling you to enter)
Try to climb in
through the window.
( When the infinitive is used, the meaning is “attempt”. You
may or may not be successful in climbing thought the window)
With the infinitive,
the verb means “intend”
He means to
get at the truth, however long it takes.
With the gerund, the
verb means “involve”
Are you sure
the job won’t mean moving to another area?
Need and want
With the gerund, these
verbs mean “be in need of”
The hedge needs
piano wants tuning.
With the infinitive,
need means “have a need” while want can mean “should
/ ought to” (informally) or “wish”.
to borrow a substantial sum of money to repair the roof.
You want to ask John. He’s the financial expert.
Do you want to discuss the matter?
With a gerund, this
verb means “continue an action”.
They went on
talking about the contract all the evening.
an infinitive, the verb means “introduce a new action”.
the arrangements for our accommodation, he went on to give us some useful
tips for living abroad.
With a gerund the verb
If you would
stop crying for a moment, I might find out what’s wrong.
With an infinitive,
it means to interrupt one action in order to perform another.
He stopped to
look at the map and then walked on.
are sentences introduced by it is / it was or by a clause beginning
with what. This constructions are used to add emphasis to one
part of the sentence.
CLEFT SENTENCES: “It is / was…”
e.g. Sue borrowed
my bike last night.
It was Sue who
borrowed my bike
It was last night that Sue borrowed my bike.(*)
It was my bike that Sue borrowed.
(*) Notice that we
use that and not where or when.
Sentences with because
are also possible
e.g. I left because
I felt ill
It was because I felt ill that I left.
Modal auxiliaries are
e.g. You can’t
have read the same book
It can’t have been the same book that you read.
These are common with
verbs such as need, want, like, hate.
e.g. I hate rainy
weather - What I hate most is rainy weather.
You need a holiday - What you need is a holiday.
It is also possible
to emphasize events, using auxiliary do / did.
e.g. Peter left
the widows unlocked. - What Peter did was (to) leave the windows unlocked.
e.g. They are destroying the environment - What they are doing is destroying
the environment.(* )
We use an –ing clause (destroying) in the second part of the sentence
because the verb in the wh- clause is in the continuous form (What they
beginning with all
They emphasise the
idea of “the only thing”.
e.g. I only need
another £ 15
All I need is another £ 15