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How to Teach English 5 page

Some collective nouns are formed by making adjectives behave like nouns and in this case they are always plural, e.g. ‘The poor live in terrible conditions’, ‘The vertically challenged sometimes feel discriminated against’.

Whether a noun is countable, uncountable, plural or collective affects the construction of the sentences it occurs in. Uncountable nouns are used with singular verbs, and words like much’.

Countable nouns, on the other hand, are used with singular or plural verbs and with words like ‘many’.

Compound nouns: we are used to nouns being one word. But English also has many compound nouns, constructed from more than one word, e.g. ‘walking stick, cherry tree, town hall, boyfriend’.

Not all compound words are nouns, however. We can also have compound adjectives, for example (‘fair-skinned, neat-looking’).

Noun phrases: some quite long phrases can have the same function in sentences as a single noun. Such phrases, which have a noun at their heart are called noun phrases, e.g. ‘the man with the hat’, ‘the tall grinning acrobat’, ‘the girls I met last night’. In each of these cases the phrase can be the subject or object of a sentence, e.g. ‘ The man with the hat ordered a large whisky’, ‘The children photographed the tall grinning acrobat\ ‘I’m going to ring up the girls 1 met last nighi.

Verb types
There are three important types of verb to be aware of: auxiliary verbs, main verbs and. phrasal verbs.

Auxiliary verbs: these are ‘be’, ‘do’ and ‘have’ and the modal auxiliary verbs ‘shall’, ‘should’, ‘will’, ‘would’, ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘must’ or ‘ought’. They are used with main verbs (see below) in affirmative sentences, negative sentences and question formation.


We are staying at our friend's house. We have only just arrived.

We don't expect to stay for long.

We can't afford to pay for a hotel. We ought to find a place of our own. Could we move to another town?

Did you live in Glamorgan once?

We hadn't thought of moving.

Note that we often use contractions with auxiliaries, e.g. ‘dont’ instead of ‘do not’, ‘weie’ instead of‘we are’.

Main verbs: these carry the main meaning.


He arrived at six o'clock.

He said that he had just seen a ghost.

We didn't believe him. He is always telling stories.

He shouted at us because we were laughing at him. Someone poured him a drink. He felt better after that.

Phrasal verbs: these are formed by adding an adverb or a preposition (or an adverb and a preposition) to a verb to create new meanings, e.g. ‘set out’ (‘We set out the following day’ or ‘He set out his agenda for the meeting’), which has a completely different meaning from ‘set’ (e.g. ‘set an exam’, ‘set the table’) or ‘put up with’ (‘I’m not going to put up with this any more’), which has a completely different meaning from ‘put’ (e.g. ‘He put her photographs with the letters’).

These new two- or three-word verbs are single units of meaning. For example, ‘set out’ could mean leave on a journey or explain, ‘put up with’ means tolerate, or stand.

Phrasal verbs confuse students of English because not only do many other languages not have this kind of meaning unit, but also it is difficult to work out when you are dealing with a single unit of meaning (e.g. ‘She looked up the word in her dictionary’) and when you are simply dealing with a verb and a following preposition (e.g. ‘She looked up at him’.) In the second example, the meaning of‘look’ has not been changed by ‘up’; in the first it has.


She ran over a dog.

I'll just look over the plans before we start.

Can we put off the wedding till after the funeral?

I take after my father - all his good qualities, that is! You won't get away with treating her like that.

We describe the form of verbs in the following ways.

Verb forms
Present: ‘Your brother is upstairs’, ‘I love it here’, ‘What’s happening?’, ‘I’m not missing that plane’.

Past: ‘Eleanor said goodnight’, ‘She cried’, ‘Her parents were packing their suitcases’.

Simple: this is the base form of a verb (e.g. ‘walk’, ‘do’, ‘run’) which can be inflected to agree with the subject (‘He walks’, ‘She does’, ‘It runs’) or to indicate time and tense (‘They walked’, ‘She did’, ‘He ran as fast as possible’).

Continuous: continuous verbs (also called ‘progressive’) are formed by adding ‘-ing’ to the base form and using it with the verb ‘to be,’ e.g. ‘She is writing a letter’, ‘She was looking out of the window’.

Present and past verb forms can be described as present simple, for example, ox present continuous, past simple or past continuous. We can summarise these particular verb forms in the following table.

  simple continuous
present Mr D'Arcy is in the hall. 1 love it here. What's happening? I'm not listening.
past She said goodbye. She cried. She bought a new phone. He was waiting at the gate. They were listening to the radio.


Form and meaning: it is tempting to think that when a verb form is called the present continuous or the. present simple, for example, it must always refer to the present. Much of the time this is the case, of course, e.g. ‘Look over there! He’s sitting in the driver’s seat’ or ‘Gillian has breakfast at seven o’clock every morning’, but the verb forms can also have many other uses. In the question, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’, the present continuous refers to the future. In storytelling, we often use the present simple to talk about the past, especially to give a sense of drama and immediacy, e.g. ‘Last Friday, right? I arrive at the house and knock on the door ...’.

What we are saying is that there is no one-to-one correspondence between form and meaning (as we shall see in more detail on page 46). Despite their names, the verb forms mentioned here can be used to talk about different times and different kinds of event or state.

Perfect verbs: perfect verbs a*re those made with ‘have/had’ + the past participle or ‘have/had been’ + the ‘-ing’ form of the verb, e.g. ‘I have lived here for six years’, ‘They had just arrived’, ‘He’s been jogging’, ‘He hadn’t been listening’.

People have struggled for years to explain the meanings of the present perfect tense. It has been variously described as suggesting the idea of an

action started in the past but continuing up until the present, the idea of an action started in the past which has present relevance, or the idea of an action on a continuum which has not yet finished. Thus, we can say Tve been to Santiago’ and, although we are talking about an event in the past, we don’t use the past simple (see above) perhaps because we wish to stress the present relevance of having been to Santiago or because it occurred on the unfinished continuum of ‘my life’.

Apart from present perfect verb forms with ‘have’, e.g. ‘She’s studied Portuguese’, we can also havz past perfect verb forms with ‘had’, e.g. ‘He had been asleep’, ‘They had been laughing all the way home’. In this case, the verb describes an action before the past and continuing up until that point in the past - or at least having a kind of‘past relevance’.

As with past verb forms, there are both simple and continuous perfect verb forms as the following table shows.

  simple continuous
present perfect I have read Othello. They haven't arrived yet. I've been reading Othello. They haven't been travelling for long.
past perfect He had studied English as a child. She hadn't talked to him before. She'd been living in Argentina for years. They hadn't been talking for more than a minute when ... .


Participles: there are two participles in English: present, e.g. ‘taking’, ‘talking’, ‘happening’, ‘going’, and past, e.g. ‘taken’, ‘talked’, ‘happened’, ‘gone’.

Regular and irregular verbs: we can talk about verbs as regular or irregular. Regular verbs take the ‘-ed’ ending in the past, e.g. ‘talked’, ‘happened’, ‘laughed’. Irregular verbs have different past tense forms, e.g. ‘ran’, ‘went’, ‘bought’, ‘saw’ etc.

Active and passive: another distinction to be made about verbs is that between active and passive. Active sentences have a subject (S), a verb (V) and an object (O), e.g.

A scene of utter chaos confronted her.


If we flip things around, however, starting with the object (and in effect making it the subject) we get a passive sentence, e.g.

She was confronted by a scene of utter chaos.

Passives are formed by the auxiliary + past participle of the verb in question. The past participles in the following chart are in italics.

tenses examples
present simple continuous It's made in Taiwan. They're being processed right now.
past simple continuous He was met by the President. The plan was being discussed.
present perfect past perfect She's been photographed many times. They had been seen in the area.
future with 'will' You'll be taken to the airport by taxi.
future perfect The job will have been completed by then.
'going to' They're going to be offered a new holiday.


Passive constructions are often used when we don’t know or want to say who did something (e.g. ‘Its been destroyed’, ‘It was decided that you should leave’) or when we want to give a different emphasis to the subject and object of an action.

Verb complementation: this describes what words and kinds of words we can use after particular verbs. As we saw with modal auxiliaries, some verbs are followed by infinitives (‘I can swim, ‘He should go)> some are followed by ‘to’ + infinitive (‘I like to swim\ ‘He tried to save her’), some are followed by participles (‘I don’t enjoy running), and some by ‘that’ + a new clause. There are many other complementation patterns too. Some verbs can be followed by more than one grammatical pattern.


I like to watch TV /1 like watching TV.

I must go. (not I must to ge.)

I explained the problem to him. (not I oxplaified J=Hm the problem.)

She protected me from the dragon, (not she protected me to tho dragon.) She suggested that I trained as a teacher, (not she suggested mo to train os o toachor.)

Types of pronoun: there are three basic types of pronoun: personalpronouns, reflexive (personal) pronouns and relative pronouns.

Personal pronouns: personal pronouns are ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘we’ and ‘they’

- and ‘it’ which isn’t really personal at all! Not only do they have these subject realisations, however, but they can be object pronouns (‘I saw him), reflexive pronouns (‘I cut myself ), and possessive pronouns (‘Give it to me. It’s mineV). We can summarise personal pronouns in the following chart.

subject object reflexives possessives
me myself mine
you you yourself yours
he him himself his
she her herself hers
it it itself its
we us ourselves ours
you you yourselves yours
they them themselves theirs


Relative pronouns: the pronouns ‘who’, whose’, ‘where’, ‘which’ and ‘that’ are used to join clauses/ideas. If we have the following two ideas (1) ‘I saw a girl’, (2) ‘she was wearing a beautiful blue dress’, we can stick them together with a relative pronoun, e.g. ‘I saw a girl who was wearing a beautiful blue dress’. We call ‘who was wearing a beautiful blue dress’ a relative clause.


The man who walked into my office was tall and blond.

She gave me a pen that I still use.

That's the school where I taught my first class.

That's the woman whose courage saved her child.

The saxophone is the instrument which makes the nicest sound.

Adjectives can be used before and after nouns. They can have many forms.

Comparative and superlative: adjectives can be made comparative (‘good —» better’, ‘nice —> nicer’, ‘young —» younger’) and superlative (‘best’, ‘nicest’, ‘youngest’). They fall into a number of categories: one-syllable adjectives generally add ‘-er’ or ‘-est’ to become comparative and superlative; some adjectives are irregular, like ‘good’, ‘bad’ etc.; adjectives which end in vowel + consonant double the final consonant, like ‘big —» bigger’, ‘thin —» thinner’ etc.; and adjectives that end in ‘y’ usually change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ like ‘silly —» sillier’, ‘friendly —> friendlier’.

Longer adjectives - three or more syllables - stay the same and are prefaced by ‘more’ or ‘most’. The same is true of some two-syllable adjectives (‘more careful’, ‘most pleasant’) while others like clever’ can be both ‘cleverer’ and ‘more clever’ in modern English usage.

adjective comparative superlative
good big nice young silly clever interesting better bigger nicer younger sillier cleverer/more clever more interesting best biggest nicest youngest silliest cleverest/most clever more interesting


Adjective order: When we use a string of adjectives, there is a generally accepted order.

size —> colour —> origin —> material —>purpose snoun e.g. the small purple German silk evening gown

the large ( ) ( ) wooden ( ) crate

Adjective and preposition: many adjectives are followed by specific prepositions, e.g. ‘interested in, ‘keen on, ‘happy about’ etc.

Adjectives as nouns: we can use some adjectives as if they were nouns, e.g. ‘the blind’, ‘the poor’ etc.

Adverbs and adverbial phrases can be of time (‘early’, ‘late’, ‘yesterday morning’), manner (‘He played welt, ‘She ran quickly, ‘He spoke fiercely) and place (‘They work upstairs, ‘I live in Cambridge’, ‘You’ll burn in hell for this’).

Adverb position: adverbs usually appear at the end of sentences, but they can sometimes be used at the beginning or in the middle.

Most adverbs of frequency (‘always’, ‘usually’, ‘often’, ‘sometimes’ etc.) can usually go at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence, e.g. ‘Sometimes he rings me up in the morning’, ‘He sometimes rings me up in the morning’, ‘He rings me up in the morning sometimes. But this often depends on the particular adverb being used (for example ‘never’ can only occur in the middle position).

Adverbs cannot usually come between a verb and its object. We say ‘I usually have sandwiches for lunch’ but not ‘I havo -mually sandwiches for

Modifying adverbs: adverbs can modify adjectives, e.g. ‘a wonderfully physical performance’, ‘an unusually large cucumber’, ‘a really fascinating film’ etc.

Position of prepositions: prepositions (‘at’, ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘for’, of’, ‘with’ etc.) usually come before a noun but can also come at the end of a clause with
certain structures. For example, we can say ‘The books on the shelf’ or ‘It’s not something I’m very interested in.

Particular prepositions: many words and expressions can only be followed by particular prepositions, e.g. ‘anxious about’, ‘dream about/of’, ‘good at’, ‘kind to’ etc.

Prepositions and adverbs: some words can be both prepositions and also adverbs (often called adverbial particles). In the sentence ‘She climbed down the ladder’, ‘down’ is a preposition because it has an object (‘the ladder’). In ‘She sat down’, it is an adverb because it does not have an object.

Determiners: articles (‘the’, ‘a’, ‘an’) belong to a class of words called determiners. Other examples of determiners are ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’,’ those’, ‘some’, ‘all of’. Determiners usually come before a noun or at the beginning of a noun phrase, e.g. ‘an apple’, ‘the red bus’, ‘some of my best friends’, ‘a Spanish teacher I know’.

Definite article: we use the definite article (‘the’) when we think that the reader or listener knows which particular thing or person we are talking about or when there can only be one, e.g. ‘the Pope’ (we know which one because there is only one), ‘the book I read’ (= we both know which one I’m talking about), ‘the oldest man in the world’ (because there can only be one ‘oldest’ man) etc.

We do not use the definite article when we are talking about people and things in general using plural or uncountable nouns, e.g. ‘Teachers should establish a good rapport with their students’, ‘Life’s a beach’ (a Californian saying), ‘People who live in glass houses should buy curtains’ etc.

However, just to confuse things, we do sometimes make general statements with the definite article and a singular noun, e.g. ‘The great white shark is a dangerous creature in the wrong situation’ (see also the indefinite article below).

Indefinite article: the indefinite article (‘a/an’) is used to refer to a particular person or thing when the listener/reader doesn’t know which one is being described, e.g. ‘A man was reading the paper’, ‘I saw a plane take off’, ‘I’m going to buy a new computer’.

As with the definite article (see above), we can also use ‘a/an’ to refer to a member of a group - in order to refer to the whole group, e.g. lA man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’, ‘A good nurse will always spend time with his patients’ etc.

Conjunctions and conditionals
Conjunctions: these join two clauses, e.g. ‘Nicky said goodnight and walked out of the house with a heavy heart’, ‘She was going to be away for a fortnight so she took a large suitcase’, ‘I can sing but I can’t play the guitar’, ‘I’m a teacher because I like working with people’ etc.

We only use one conjunction for two clauses. We say ‘Although it was

early he jumped out of bed’, not Although it wag early but he jumped out of bed’.

Conditional sentences: these are formed when the conjunction ‘if’ is used to preface a condition, e.g. ‘If it rains (condition), you’ll get wet (result)’. In this case, it is quite likely that it will rain, and therefore the result is possible. However, if we change the sentence to ‘If it rained, you would get wet’ we are suggesting that the chance of it raining is unlikely - in other words, we are talking hypothetically - and this is signalled by the use of would’ rather than will’. A further change of verb tense/form (using the past perfect) will produce an impossible condition, e.g. * If it had rained, you would have got wet’. But it didn’t so you were spared!

These three conditional forms are often called first, second and third conditionals. It is useful to understand whether they are real (= possible/ likely) or hypothetical (= unlikely/impossible) and whether they refer to the present, future or past. The following table gives some examples of this.

  real hypothetical
talking about the present If you pay by cash, you get a discount. If 1 had a dog, I'd take it for walks.
talking about the future If you work hard, you'll pass the exam. If 1 won the lottery, I'd travel around the world. If 1 were you, I'd get a new jacket.
talking about the past If it was very warm, we ate outside. If I'd known about the rail strike, 1 would have come by car.


However, it is important to realise that there are many conditional clauses which fall outside these basic patterns by using a variety of different tenses and verb types, e.g. ‘If you finish before time, hand your papers in and go’, ‘If I’d been informed about this, I could solve the problem’ - and, in American English, ‘If I would have met her earlier, I would have married her’, though this use of‘would’ in both clauses (instead of only in the result clause) is considered unacceptable by many speakers of British English.

Forms and meanings
One form, many meanings: on page 40 we saw how the present continuous can refer to both the present (‘I’m not listening’) and the future (‘I’m seeing him tomorrow’). It can be used to refer to a temporary uncompleted event (‘They are enjoying the weather’) or to a series of completed events (‘He’s always putting his foot in it’). What is happening is that the same basic form (the present continuous) is being used to express a number of different concepts of time and duration.

Individual words can mean more than one thing too, for example, ‘book’
(= something to read, to reserve, a list of bets etc), ‘beat’ (= to win, to hit, to mix (an egg), the pulse’ (of music/a heart)) and can’ (= ability, permission, probability - and a container made of aluminium). Notice that, in these examples, not only can the same form have many meanings, but it can also be different parts of speech.

With so many available meanings for words and grammatical forms, it is the context the word occurs in which determines which of these meanings is being referred to. If we say ‘I beat him because I ran faster than he did’, ‘beat’ is likely to mean win rather than physically assault or mix (though there is always the possibility of ambiguity, of course). Likewise, the present continuous changes its meaning with different time adverbials. The sentence ‘I’m talking to the president’ changes dramatically if we use these different expressions: ‘at this very minute’ or ‘tomorrow at noon’.

One meaning, many forms: one form can have many meanings, therefore, but it is also true that a meaning or concept can be expressed in many different ways. Consider, for example, the concept of‘the future’. We have already seen the present continuous used for this, but we can also use different forms to express the same basic concept.


I'll see you tomorrow.

I'm going to win the race - with luck.

I can get to you by tomorrow evening.

The president arrives at her home on Saturday.

However, it is worth pointing out that each different form has a slightly different meaning - even if they are all ‘future’ sentences.

The same is true of word meaning. Even where words appear to have the same meaning - to be synonyms, in other words - they are usually distinct from each other. For example, we can describe an intelligent person with a number of different words: ‘intelligent’, ‘bright’, ‘brainy’, ‘clever’, ‘smart’ etc. But each of these words has a different connotation. ‘Brainy’ is an informal word and might well have a negative connotation when used by a schoolchild about her colleague. ‘Bright’ carries the connotation of lively, young. ‘Smart’ is commonly used in American English and has a slightly tricky connotation. ‘Clever’ is often used in phrases with negative connotations, e.g. ‘too clever by half’, ‘He may be clever but he’s not going to get away with it’.

What is clear is that students and teachers need to be aware of the fact that form does not equal meaning and vice-versa. Even where two different forms appear to have the same meaning, you will usually find a difference in those meanings somewhere.

An exasperated teacher tells a habitually late student ‘You’d better get here on time next class!’ She is making a recommendation, something which is between advice and an order.

  Language functions
There are other ways in which the teacher can make recommendations, too.


I suggest you get here on time next class.

I'd get here on time next class if I was/were you.

I strongly recommend that you get here on time next class.

I think it would be a really good idea if you got here on time next class.

As we can see, the function of making a recommendation can be realised in a number of different ways (much in the same way that we can express the future in a number of separate grammatical realisations).

A language function is a purpose you wish to achieve when you say or write something. By performing’ the function you are performing an act of communication. If you say ‘I invite you’ you are performing the function of inviting, if you say ‘I apologise’, you are performing the function of apologising. Of course, you could also say ‘D’you want to come to the cinema?’ to invite someone or ‘Sorry’ to apologise.

As with our example suggestions above, there are, of course, many different ways/forms of inviting, apologising, agreeing, giving advice, asking for information etc.

If our students want to express themselves in speaking or writing, they need to know how to perform these functions - in other words how to use grammar and vocabulary to express certain meanings/purposes.

Words together: collocation
Before leaving the subject of meaning, we will look at a particular feature of vocabulary use which language speakers need to know about, whether consciously or subconsciously.

‘How was your lesson?’ a teacher asks a colleague. ‘A complete disaster!’ he replies. ‘Complete’ is a word which quite often co-occurs (collocates) with the word ‘disaster’. He could also have said ‘total disaster’ and, perhaps, ‘utter disaster’. However, he would not say ‘full disaster’ or ‘whole disaster’ even though his meaning would be clear.

What we find is that some words live happily together and other words don’t. There are collocations which work and collocations which don’t. We talk about ‘common/good sense’, but not ‘bad sense’, ‘making the bed’ but not ‘making the housework’ (in the last, we use ‘doing the housework’), we can say ‘harmful/damaging effects’, but not ‘bad effects’ etc.

A typical piece of informal spoken English looks something like this.

a: Hi.

b: Hi.

a: Come in.

b: Thanks.

a: Cup of coffee?

b: Great.

a: Come on through.

b: Cold!

a: Yes, cold. Really cold. I nearly froze out there earlier this

morning. Here's your coffee. b: Thanks. That's better. How've you spent your day?

a: Reading a magazine.

b: Anything interesting?

Characteristics of speech: we immediately notice some characteristics of spoken English in this extract. Firstly, people speak in incomplete sentences, e.g. ‘Cold’ instead of ‘Its cold’, ‘Cup of coffee?’ instead of ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’, ‘Anything interesting?’ instead of ‘Was there anything interesting in it?’. Secondly, speakers repeat what each

other says (and themselves), e.g. ‘Cold!’ ‘Yes, cold, really cold.’ Speakers

also tend to use contractions (‘here’s’, ‘that’s’, ‘how’ve’) whereas in writing we usually use the full form of the auxiliary verbs (‘here is’, ‘that is’, ‘how have’).

Recent research has also shown that different words are used differently in speech and writing. ‘However’ is more common in writing than speaking, for example, but ‘started’ is much more common than ‘began’ in speaking. People use ‘go’ to mean ‘said’ (‘She goes how you feeling and I go not so bad ...’) in speech but almost never in writing.

Paralinguistic features: there are many non-linguistic ways in which speech can be affected. Speakers can change the tone of their voices and the emphasis they give. They can speak faster or slower, louder or softer. And if they are involved in face-to-face communication they can use their expressions and body language too.

Writing devices: writing has its own set of tricks:

- dashes

! exclamations marks new paragraphs , commas

CAPITAL letters etc.

All of these can be used to create rhythm and effect. But whereas in speech the participants can clarify what they are saying as they go along depending on who they are talking to, in writing it’s much more important to get it absolutely right. Writing tends to be more precise and uses special devices to keep it going - as we shall see in Chapter 8.

Date: 2015-02-16; view: 633

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