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Blog : grammar

Five Frequent Mistakes

Five Frequent Mistakes

O.K. O.K, I know you aren’t all grammar lovers and for one reason or another we have been taught to loathe grammar but I am going to try to make this fun because, as you know, I effing love GRAMMAR!

There a dozens of common mistakes that even native English speakers make and while I am not exactly a grammar Nazi, I do cringe when I hear them. So, let’s get down to business.

Let the count down begin!

5. Insure, ensure or assure?

Let’s make this short and simple. Insure is about the Benjamins. What I mean is, it has to do with money. Dolla dolla bill ya’ll. You insure your car, your house or your life so that, in the case you crash, get robbed or die, someone gets cash retribution.

Ensure is all about guarantee – notice that guarantEE has two ‘E’s. That is how you remember the difference. So if you want to ensure a good grade on the TOEFL, you should study. A lot!

Finally, assure is when you take away doubt. So, picture this: you are super nervous about the exam. You come to me and say, «Teacher, I am panicking! I am so nervous about the test!» and what do I do? I speak inspiring and uplifting words to assure you that you will do marvelously!

4. Affect vs Effect

This one happens often, and I must confess, I always double check my writing to make sure I have used the correct form but the easiest way to remember is:

Effect is a noun. So something or someone had an effect on you.

Her speech had a huge effect on me. 

Affect is a verb. We use it when we are talking about the act of changing.

Staying up all night is really affecting my health. 

So the effects of staying up late are affecting my health.

Get it? Got it? Good!

3. Lose vs Loose

Lose is a verb. It is the oppose of win.

I never lose my temper. (Remember, lose is an irregular verb!)

Loose is an adjective that means the opposite of tight.

If you are trying to lose weight, you should wear loose clothing to help your circulation. 

2. Then vs Than

O.K. kids, this is happening all too often!

Then is in reference to time.  

Let’s eat then we can go for a walk.

Than is used for comparisons.

Her house is bigger than mine. 

1. Lay vs Lie

This one is so frequently committed that even native English speakers and rock gods like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan can’t seem to remember the difference.

Lay is always used with an object. That means you have to lay SOMETHING down.

Everyone on lay your guns on the ground! 

Lie is the an action that you do all on your own. For example, I lie down every day after work. 

But chaos begins when you have to use the past tense and past participle.

Do you have your thinking caps on?

So the past tense of lie is lay and the past participle is lain.

Wait, WHAT?! Yep, that’s right.

I lie down every day after work but yesterday I lay down at work, I have never lain down at work before.

The past tense and the present perfect tense of lay is laid.

The dog always lays his bone on the doorstep but today he laid it on the couch. He has never laid it on the couch before. 

This last one takes time to remember, but I can assure you that the effects of practicing will pay off!

Prepositions are for Preppies

Prepositions are for Preppies

Well, call me a preppy then because I love grammar and prepositions are one of the key elements to dominating the English language.

Let’s start by defining this small yet fundamental part of the language.

  1. The prepositions job is to connect things and is always followed by a noun or a word that is posing as a noun, (like a gerund or infinitive) You can think of this as the word that links the verb to the noun.
  2. We usually use them to describe time, place or movement. But these are easy. Your teachers have been drilling your on these since you were 5! If you need to review the prepositions of time and place, this is a pretty good chart.
  3. The most difficult part about learning the prepositions is when they are attached to verbs or adjectives, forming collocations. This is not to be confused with phrasal verbs which are also formed by verbs and prepositions that, when put together, change the meaning of the verb entirely. For example, I could say, «Everybody get down!» I am using that verb/preposition combination in a very literal way. I want everyone to literally get down on the floor. But I say, «I say Sarah a the club last night. She was getting down!» What I mean to say is, she was dancing like no one was watching.
  4. Prepositions are not the most important part of the sentence and it is because of this that they are hard to hear.

This week we worked on several of the most commonly used prepositional collocations (with both verbs and adjectives) but you will find a more complete verb list here.

So how can we learn and remember these darned things? I would recommend learning the verb with the preposition, as if it were part of the same word.

For example don’t just learn the verb depend because depend is always followed by on.

ie: You can really depend on Frank. If he says he will be there at 10, he will be there at 9:55. 

So, here is a little example:

I always dream about traveling, never dream with, and I am always famous for my cooking and never famous about. When I loose something I always search for it and when I can’t find it I worry about where it might be. I am always addicted to and and never addicted by and if you ask me what I am afraid of I will say snakes. In fact, I am terrified of them, though I am quite fond of animals in general. I am fairly accustomed to living abroad, never accustomed with, and even though I don’t always agree with some of the cultural habits, I would never argue with anyone. Arguing about ideas is useless. Because when you argue, you do not listen to the other person.

If you would like to see more collocations in context, you can click here to read this month’s short story.


Infinitive Theory

Infinitive Theory

Infinitive Structure is NOT difficult. Unfortunately some people explain it in a way that makes it confusing and so, at some point in your learning you decided «I hate infinitive».

Well, if this is your case, you are in for a treat today!

Let’s start from the beginning.

How would you translate this word: BAILAR

I am sure you said, «dance».

But that is incorrect. The correct translation is TO DANCE because it is not conjugated. There is no subject. No one doing the action. It is not dance! (¡bailá!)

Now, we know that all sentences need three things to be complete: A subject, an action and a noun.

I (subject) like (verb) music. (noun)

But what happens if you want to describe and activity that you like?

I (subject) like (verb) to run. (infinitive verb acting as a noun, an activity)

Let’s take it to the next step

I (subject) like (verb) pizza. (noun)

I (subject) like (verb) to eat. (infinitive verb acting as a noun, an activity) pizza.

If you say, I like run, a very common mistake, it would be similar to saying «Me gusta ¡corré!»

So when we use verbs of emotion, love, like, need, want, hope, etc and we follow that verb by another verb, that verb doesn’t act as an action, because the action is the feeling you have about the activity. The second verb is acting as a noun and for that to happen, IT MUST APPEAR WITH ‘TO’.

Pretty – A short story using Comparatives and Superlatives

Pretty – A short story using Comparatives and Superlatives

“Mommy, am I pretty?”

In a world where things were more and more aesthetic, Sofia had grown concerned about her looks. She didn’t need to be the prettiest girl at school, nor did she aspire to be prettier than anyone else, she simply hoped to be as pretty as the rest of her friends.  

Claudia sighed. She imagined this day would come sooner or later, though she had hoped for later. It killed her to hear self doubt enveloping the voice of her 8 year old daughter. She wanted to take her into her arms and assure her she was beautiful, but that would simply add wood to the fire. Little boys and girls were placing more and more value on their physical appearance these days and compliments like, “you are beautiful,” only reinforced the absurd concept that physical beauty was a virtue.

Fighting the urge Claudia said, “Do you remember that time we went on vacation to the south, and camped for the entire month?”

“Of course I do mom,” Sofia replied.

“It was pretty amazing wasn’t it?”

“Yep, more amazing than any other vacation.”

“And do you remember the night when we laid on our backs and watched the stars shoot across the sky?”

“How could I forget. I wished on every single one!”

“That was pretty incredible wasn’t it?” Claudia continued.

“It was one of the most incredible nights of my life so far,” Sofia responded.

“And do you remember when that terribly ugly dog decided to adopt us for the month and everyone said he was horrible, but you thought he was the most beautiful dog you had ever seen?”

“Billy was not ugly mom!” Sofia exclaimed.

Well, all of those pretty amazing and pretty incredible things you experienced, all of those beautiful moments you continue to experience, can only be appreciated because you encompass beauty. Not the kind of beauty that can be found in the shape of your eyes or the color of your hair, but true beauty, the kind you wear on the inside. We are mere projections of what is inside of us. Like mirrors, we simply perceive in others what we carry inside. And you, my sweet girl, are filled up to the brim with beauty, which is why you see the beauty in all things. Even that ugly dog you named Billy.

Sofia looked as though she was about to cry.

Claudia held her breath. She hoped she had been clear, hoped she had sent the right message.
With tears in her eyes Sofia looked up at her mom and said, “so that means you are filled up with beauty too mommy.”

Written by Stephanie Cariker

Director at English in Rosario