Complex sentences 🤔

In English we use simple, compound and complex sentences and in this post I will write about complex sentences.

If you want to take your English to the next level, using complex sentences instead of only simple or compound sentences is an effective way to do this.

So what are complex sentences and how do we form them? They are sentences made up of an independent clause ( this is part of a sentence which can stand alone – a simple sentence ) and a dependent clause ( part of a sentence which cannot stand alone- it needs some more information for it to make sense ).

Let’s look at an example.

I really enjoy my English lessons because my teacher is fabulous.

Which part of this sentence ( or which clause ) can stand by itself and make sense?

Which part of this sentence ( or which clause) cannot stand by itself or needs some extra information for it to make sense ?

➡️ I really enjoy my English lessons- this can also be a simple sentence as it can stand alone and it is complete.

➡️ Because my teacher is fabulous – this is incomplete; it needs some extra information for it to make sense.

Let’s look at another example:

If you are serious about improving your speaking skills, you should speak English every day.

Can you find the independent and dependent clauses ?

➡️ If you are serious about improving your speaking skills is the dependent clause ( you cannot say/write this by itself)

➡️ you should speak English every day is the independent clause because it can stand alone and make sense. It can also be a simple sentence if you start it with a capital letter.

Note : When you start the sentence with a dependent clause, you can add a comma between the clauses like I have just done in this sentence and in the example above.

Note : A dependent clause is made up of a subordinating conjunction plus the clause. Subordinating conjunctions are joining words and using these makes your language complex. This will take your English to the next level which is important not only for everyday use but for the speaking and writing parts of English proficiency tests.

Just remember to use a variety of sentences when speaking or writing . Mix it up a bit and use some simple , compound and complex sentences 😊

English mistakes native speakers make 🤦🏻‍♀️

I always suggest to my students that they hang out with English native speakers as this is a fast way to improve their English. I did the same thing when I lived in Japan and my Japanese improved quickly. However, native speakers make mistakes and these can be learnt by accident. So, I want to write about some typical mistakes English native speakers make so students can avoid using them 😊


See how many mistakes you can find in the email below ⬇️ (there are 9)

Dear Amanda,

Hello, how are you? I am writing to you to ask you for some advise and to say hi to.

I would of written earlier if I had not been so busy, but I am working on Sunday’s now so I am pretty busy. Today is my day off and I am just laying on the couch so it’s a great time to write.

Your a very helpful person, I wanted to ask you about my friends and there business which is doing worse then when we last spoke….

Did you find all the mistakes? 📝

Let’s find out and see what is wrong with these mistakes.

  1. Advise is a verb. The noun is advice and in the sentence, we need a noun because we ask for something ( a noun).
  2. To is a preposition or part of the infinitive form of a verb (to + base verb) but in this context the word should be too which means also.
  3. Would of is not a grammatically correct structure at all as after modal verbs we always use the base verb. We use would + have + present participle to form part of a third conditional structure which is in the sentence.
  4. Sunday’s- we do not use apostrophes with plurals unless we want to show possession so the correct word is Sundays. Please see my blog post Apostrophes to show possession for more information on this.
  5. Laying is a transitive verb (it needs an object after it ) so the correct verb is lying as there is no object in the sentence and lying is an intransitive verb (it doesn’t take a direct object after it).
  6. Your is an adjective showing possession. We use is before nouns but in this sentence we need to use you are or you’re because lovely is an adjective and so we need the be verb which is ” are ” because the subject is “you”.
  7. You’re a very helpful person, I wanted to ask you …..This is a punctuation mistake called a comma splice and you can read more about it in my blog post comma splices .
  8. There shows existence but the possessive adjective their is needed in the sentence to show the business belongs to the friends.
  9. Then shows time or sequence and we need to use than here as the comparative is used.

Number six (your) is my pet hate (something I really don’t like at all ) but unfortunately, I see this a lot 😱

So, if you see any of these mistakes , please don’t use them and you may even want to teach your friends why they are wrong 😉

Phrasal verbs- part two 🥳

In a previous post, I went over some information about phrasal verbs (you can check it out here Phrasal Verbs – friends or foes) , but some questions have come up from some of my students so I came up with the idea of writing another post on phrasal verbs.

First – how many phrasal verbs have you come across in this post so far?

Five ! We use them a lot as native speakers so they are very important for you to learn too!

Even if you don’t know the meanings of these phrasal verbs, you might be able to work them out (another phrasal verb) from the context. This is an important skill to learn to improve your reading skills.

See how you go 😊

Match the following phrasal verbs with the meanings below :

go over     come across check out       work out             come up come up with                           
*find something you weren’t looking for         *think of an (idea or suggestion)     
*look at something to see what you think *understand something or resolve it *look at something or examine it  *appear        

Read on to see if you were correct ⬇️

Let’s talk about different types of phrasal verbs :

Intransitive – these phrasal verbs do not have objects.

Some questions have come up. ( appeared)

Transitive these phrasal verbs always have objects.

I went over( examined/looked at) some information about phrasal verbs.

I came up with ( thought of ) the idea of writing another post on phrasal verbs.

These phrasal verbs are inseparable which means the phrasal verbs can’t be separated – we cannot put an object in between parts of the phrasal verbs.

Separable phrasal verbs can be separated- the object can come in the middle of the phrasal verb.

You can check my phrasal verb post out here ( look at my post to see what you think )
* Please note that you do not have to separate the phrasal verb -You can check out my phrasal verb post here.

However, if we use a pronoun instead of a noun as the object , we must separate the phrasal verb -we must put the pronoun in the middle of the phrasal verb:

You can check it out ✅

You can check out it ❌

Even if you don’t know the meanings of these phrasal verbs, you might be able to work them out (understand them) from the context. This is also separable so the object can come in the middle of the phrasal verb or after it (if we use the noun as the object but we must separate the phrasal verb if we use the pronoun)

You might be able to work the meanings out

You might be able to work out the meanings ✅

You might be able to work them out

You might be able to work out them ❌

Check out the phrasal verb quizzes from my blog post Phrasal verbs –friends or foes and try to work out what kind of phrasal verbs they are 😊

Connecting words (of contrast) 🔁

Connecting words are very important so you can make more than just simple sentences in English. This is not only important for improving your spoken English, but it is also important to use these words and use them correctly when writing, especially if you are preparing to take an English test like IELTS or one of the Cambridge tests.

Look at the contrasting words in the sentences below and see how they are used differently.

  1. My teacher told me to do my homework, but I forgot to do it.
  2. I forgot to do my homework although my teacher told me to do it.
  3. I forgot to do my homework despite my teacher telling me to do it.
  4. My teacher told me to do my homework. However, I forgot to do it.

But is a coordinating conjunction. These words come in the middle of the sentence.

 Yet is also a coordinating conjunction so it can also be used but it is more formal than but.

Although is a subordinating conjunction. These words can come in the middle of the sentence or at the beginning of the sentence. Even though is almost the same but it shows more emphasis on the contrast. Though is more informal and used in spoken English often.

Despite is a preposition and nouns or gerunds (verb +ing) always follow prepositions. In spite of is also a preposition and has the same meaning as despite but it is made up of  three words.

However is a transition. These words join ideas and not clauses (parts of sentences). There are a few different ways to use them but the most common way is at the start of a sentence but they must refer to the idea in the sentence before.  Nonetheless, yet and nevertheless are the same.

Let’s practise with the following prompts using the contrast words we have learnt.

I passed the exam. It was quite challenging.

➡️ The exam was quite challenging, yet I passed it.

➡️Even though the exam was quite challenging, I passed it.

➡️In spite of the exam being quite challenging, I passed it.

➡️The exam was was quite challenging. Nevertheless, I passed it.

Now, it is time for you to try!
Practise using the connecting words using the following prompts:

I don’t like learning grammar. Learning grammar will help me to improve my English.

This summary of connecting words is very brief so if you would like more information or you want to check your answers to the last exercise, please got to my contact page and get in touch 😊

Any or no ? Double negatives? 🤷🏻‍♀️

My students often ask me when to use any or no and ask what the problem is with double negatives, so let’s look at some examples and explanations.

Take a look at the following sentences:

These instructions don’t make any sense to me. ✅ ( correct ) NOTE: “Any” is used here as the verb is negative.

These instructions make no sense to me. ✅ (correct ) NOTE: “No” is used here as the verb is positive.

These instructions don’t make no sense to me. ❌ ( incorrect ) NOTE: “No” is used with a negative verb (do not) which means there are two negatives in this sentence.

So, why is the last one incorrect?
I hear my students say sentences like this and maybe in some languages it’s correct , but it isn’t in English.
When we study science or mathematics, we learn that two negatives make a positive or in other words, the two negatives cancel each other out.
Well, think of this when you form sentences in English.

Let’s look at a few examples:

He did not abide by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation.

In the first clause in this sentence there are the words not ( the not makes the verb negative ) and none which are both negative markers.

He did not mention nothing to me about the meeting.
In this sentence, the two negative markers are not and nothing.

So, because the two negative markers cancel each other out, how do we fix these sentences? Let’s take a look.

He did not abide by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation.

➡️ He did not abide by any of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation ( we use “any” because the verb is negative ) or ➡️ He abided by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation. (we use “none” because the verb is positive)

He did not mention nothing to me about the meeting.

➡️ He did not mention anything to me about the meeting (we use “anything” because the verb is negative) or ➡️ He mentioned nothing to me about the meeting. (we use “nothing” because the verb is positive)

So, next time you want to make a negative sentence in English, think about whether the verb is negative and then you can use ‘ any, anything, anyone etc.’ or if the verb is positive, you can use ‘ no, nothing, nobody etc. ‘

Please remember to be careful not to use double negatives. 😉

Apostrophes to show possession 🤔

This is something I am asked about by native English speakers so I know it’s a tricky topic for many people😓

Have a look at the following sentences:

The student’s teacher is from Australia.

The students’ teacher is from Australia.

Are both of these sentences correct ? Do they have the same meaning ?

They are both correct but they do not have the same meaning.

The student’s is referring to one student and the students’ is referring to more than one student.

The rules for the apostrophe when we want to show possession are :

For singular nouns, we place the apostrophe between the noun and the s.

For plural nouns – that is plural nouns made by adding an s to them, we place the apostrophe after the s.

Note – if the noun changes its form to become plural ( irregular plural nouns), we place the apostrophe after the noun and before the s. Look at the example below.

The children’s teacher is from Australia.

Have a look at the following sentences:

Amanda’s painting is exquisite.

Louis’ report was outstanding.

Amanda is a proper noun and the same rule applies for singular nouns as stated above.

Louis is a proper noun but it ends in s so we put the apostrophe after the s

Note Louis’s report is correct as well.

Let’s practise 🖊
The textbooks which belong to the pupils ➡️ the pupils’ textbooks

The iPad which belongs to the pupil ➡️ the pupil’s iPad

The classroom which belongs to the women ➡️the women’s classroom

The bag which belongs to Gabrielle ➡️ Gabrielle’s bag

The notebook which belongs to Carlos ➡️ Carlos’ notebook

You can contact me by going to the contact page of my website or connect with me on social media if you have further questions 😊

Collocations 🥳

Collocations are a must to learn! They are a natural part of the English language and very important to know so you can speak and write correctly and also so you can sound natural in English. They are often tested in English language proficiency exams like TOEIC and the Cambridge tests.

Collocations are just words which are used together or sets of words. They can be adjectives + prepositions , verbs + prepositions , nouns + nouns, verbs + nouns, adverbs and adjectives etc.

Here are some examples of collocations:

I am terrified of snakes 🐍 but fond of cats 🐈

I will do my homework because my teacher is under the impression that I am a good student 😊

Let’s try some typical questions found in English tests which focus on collocations:

Australia is known 1) ________ its stunning beaches and diverse landscapes. 2)_______ general , tourists enjoy their stay in this beautiful country. If you are 3) ________ a holiday destination, you won’t be disappointed. Pay a 4) ________to this amazing country soon!

  1. A) as B) by C) for D) with
  2. A) On B) To C) Of D) In
  3. A) seeking B) searching C) looking D) hoping
  4. A) travel B) holiday C) visit D) vacation

Collocations are an important part of the English language so next time you are learning new vocabulary, think about learning words as collocations or in “chunks”.

You can get my contact information from the contact page of this website or connect with me on social media for the answers and explanations to this mini quiz 😀

Comma splices 📝

Comma splices -what are they ? They sound like a good thing (the name reminds me of a delicious ice-cream🍦I loved as a kid) but they aren’t .They are punctuation mistakes often made by English native speakers and non native speakers alike. Yes, native speakers make this mistake too!

Let’s have a look at an example of one :

I love studying English, my teacher is amazing.

You may think this sentence looks correct and you have probably seen similar sentences. However, this is a comma splice and if you want to write correctly (you may have an IELTS or Cambridge exam coming up) , then please make sure you avoid this mistake.

So what exactly are comma splices and how can we avoid them?

They are two independent clauses (parts of sentences which can stand alone) joined together by a comma.

I love studying English, my teacher is amazing ⬅️ Clause, clause = comma splice

So, how do we fix comma splices?


➡️ Make two simple sentences .

I love studying English . My teacher is amazing.

➡️ Join the clauses with a conjunction.

I love studying English because my teacher is amazing.

➡️
Use a semi colon to join the clauses.

I love studying English; my teacher is amazing.

So, next time you are checking your essay or any piece of writing for mistakes (which I hope everyone does), remember to check if you have written any comma splices and fix them using the tips above 😊

Phrasal verbs- friends or foes ?

First of all, what are they? They are verbs with a preposition and / or an adverb added to them which changes the meaning of the original verb when it is by itself. While many students feel they are a bit difficult to learn, English native speakers use them most of the time, so they are important to learn if you want to bring your English to another level.

We use them in everyday speech so the more phrasal verbs you know, the more English you will understand and the more you will sound natural if you use them. Phrasal verbs don’t only make you sound more like a native English speaker, but they are also tested in official English tests like TOEIC and the Cambridge tests.

Let’s try a few!

Which answer is correct?

He ____________ tennis when he was 8 years old.

  1. took out
  2. took in
  3. took for
  4. took up

It took her a long time to ____________ her flu but she is feeling fine now.

  1.  get off
  2. get over
  3. get on with
  4. get out

Replace the words in italics with the phrasal verbs in the box:

  1. Because of the weather, we have decided to cancel the picnic at the beach.
  2. Our neighbours think they are superior to people who don’t have European cars.
  3. I can’t tolerate his noisy music every night anymore!
  4. Can we postpone our soccer practice until tomorrow as it looks like it might rain?
*look down on * call off   *put up with *put off

You can go to the contact page of my website or connect with me on social media to get the answers and explanations to these questions😀

Is grammar really important to learn?

This is a question that has been debated by linguists over many years. When it comes to learning a second language, is it necessary to learn grammar?

When we learn our mother tongue, did our parents sit us down as toddlers and teach us the grammar rules of our language? Of course not. So the question is, can we learn a second language like we learnt our own language without having to learn grammar?

If people are immersed in (totally surrounded by) the language they want to learn, especially (but not limited to) being at a younger age, then picking up the language without any formal learning is possible and quite common.

This is, however, not how many of us learn a second language. Sure, if we go to the country of the language we wish to learn, we will hopefully acquire a lot of the language naturally (vocabulary, idioms, slang and so on), but when it comes to putting the language together to make coherent sentences, grammar is important to know. Making grammatical mistakes when we speak or write is a natural part of learning a language and this is fine but to improve our production skills (writing and speaking), learning grammar is essential.  Grammar is the building blocks of any language and necessary for us to convey what we want to say properly.

Also if you are interested in taking English Language proficiency tests where there are grammar parts to the test, learning grammar is essential for passing these tests with a high score.

For example, let’s try a typical question from part VI of the TOEIC test.

The new software _________ by many companies since 2015.

  1. is used
  2. have been used
  3. has used
  4. has been used

The correct answer is……

4. has been used. Why ?

There are different grammatical concepts to think about here:

  • Subject verb agreement– software is uncountable and therefore a singular verb must be used.
  • Tenses – we must use the perfect tense as we have used the time marker “since” plus a specific time.
  • Passive voice versus active voice– we must use passive voice here as the verb “use”is transitive so it must have a direct object following it but there is no direct object after the verb in the example so the verb must be in the passive voice.

A native English speaker would automatically choose the correct answer because it sounds correct but if English is not your first language, it is often hard to tell if something sounds correct or not and so you should know your grammar !

Grammar is necessary and it can also be fun to learn so please remember this when you are learning grammar next time in class 😀

Let’s practice some grammar! Are you ready?

Choose the correct answer:

I have been learning English _____________.

  1. since two months
  2. during two months
  3. two months ago
  4. for two months

My teacher does not _________us use our phones in class.

  1. allow
  2. permit
  3. let
  4. get

Find the mistakes :

  1. On the weekend, I will go bushwalking because I like to be in the nature.
  2. I have met a lot of people when I was in class.
  3. I like my class because everyone are friendly.

You can get my contact information from the contact page of this website or connect with me on social media for the answers and explanations to these mini quizzes 😀