Adjectives

The Essentials of English Adjectives: 7 Key Adjective Types to Know

“My cat had each of these four adorable kittens.”

If you removed all the adjectives from this sentence, what would you be left with?

“Cat had kittens.”

 

Crazy, isn’t it? We use adjectives all the time, sometimes without even realizing it!

An adjective can add color and life to your sentence, and it can add important information, but that’s not all. Adjectives have many other uses. They can tell you the quantity (how much) and quality (how well) of things, and they can help you compare two things. In other words, adjectives are wonderful, amazing and fantastic!

Adjectives are used much more often than even native speakers think. They are useful tools for speaking English well, so it’s important to learn how to use them correctly.

What Is an Adjective?

Adjectives are words that modify (change) nouns, pronouns and other adjectives. In the sentence “he was fast,” the word “fast” is an adjective that describes the pronoun “he.” Here’s a special sentence that uses all the letters of the English language:

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”

In this sentence, the words “quick,” “brown” and “lazy” are adjectives (and so is the word “the,” but we’ll explain this later!). All these words are describing or somehow modifying a noun.

So, you might already know about adjectives like these, like “quick,” “beautiful” and “ugly,” which are used to describe people, places and things.

But did you know that adjectives have many other uses? Words like “every,” “the” and “my” are also adjectives. When you say “my cat,” the word “my” is modifying the word “cat.” It’s describing that cat as your possession, or something that belongs to you. Likewise for the word “every” in the phrase “every cat.”

As you can see, adjectives have many uses!

The 3 Different Degrees of Adjectives

Imagine changing the temperature on your air conditioner. The air conditioner has different degrees of temperature you can select. Adjectives have different degrees, as well.

The three degrees of an adjective are positive, comparative and superlative. When you use them depends on how many things you’re talking about:

  • A positive adjective is a normal adjective that’s used to describe, not compare. For example: “This is good soup” and “I am funny.”

  • A comparative adjective is an adjective that’s used to compare two things (and is often followed by the word than). For example: “This soup is better than that salad” or “I am funnier than her.”

  • A superlative adjective is an adjective that’s used to compare three or more things, or to state that something is the most. For example: “This is the best soup in the whole world” or “I am the funniest out of all the other bloggers.”

These three degrees only work for descriptive adjectives.

If a descriptive adjective has one or two syllables, you can turn it into its comparative and superlative forms by adding -er and -est. For example, you can say that a song is loud, louder (than another song) or the loudest (out of all the other songs).

Descriptive adjectives with three or more syllables don’t use the -er and -est endings. The word beautiful, for example, can’t be turned into beautifuler or beautifulest—those aren’t words! Instead, you add the words more and the most before it to turn it into a comparative or superlative adjective: Beautiful, more beautiful, the most beautiful.

There are some exceptions to these rules, as with most grammar rules. For example, good only has one syllable, but it turns into better and best. You can find a list of common irregular adjectives here.

Descriptive adjectives are some of the most common, but adjectives have many other uses! Below are the different types of English adjectives you might come across in your English conversations.

 

7 Types of English Adjectives That Every ESL Student Must Know

1. Descriptive

A descriptive adjective is probably what you think of when you hear the word “adjective.” Descriptive adjectives are used to describe nouns and pronouns.

Words like beautiful, silly, tall, annoying, loud and nice are all descriptive adjectives. These adjectives add information and qualities to the words they’re modifying. You can find a list of the 25 most commonly used adjectives at the English Club.

Examples:

“The flowers have a smell” is just stating a fact, and it has no adjectives to describe what the flowers or their smell are like.

“The beautiful flowers have a nice smell” gives us a lot more information, with two descriptive adjectives.

You can say “The cat is hungry,” or “The hungry cat.” In both cases, the word hungry is an adjective describing the cat.

2. Quantitative

Quantitative adjectives describe the quantity of something.

In other words, they answer the question “how much?” or “how many?” Numbers like one and thirty are this type of adjective. So are more general words like many, half and a lot.

Examples:

“How many children do you have?” “I only have one daughter.”

“Do you plan on having more kids?” “Oh yes, I want many children!”

“I can’t believe I ate that whole cake!”

3. Demonstrative

A demonstrative adjective describes “which” noun or pronoun you’re referring to. These adjectives include the words:

  • This — Used to refer to a singular noun close to you.

  • That — Used to refer to a singular noun far from you.

  • These — Used to refer to a plural noun close to you.

  • Those — Used to refer to a plural noun far from you.

 

Demonstrative adjectives always come before the word they’re modifying.

Sometimes, like when you’re responding to a question, you can leave off the noun being described and only use the adjective. For example, if someone asks you how many cakes you want to buy you can respond: “I want to buy two cakes,” or you can just say: “I want to buy two.”

Examples:

“Which bicycle is yours?” “This bicycle is mine, and that one used to be mine until I sold it.”

4. Possessive

Possessive adjectives show possession. They describe to whom a thing belongs. Some of the most common possessive adjectives include:

  • My — Belonging to me

  • His — Belonging to him

  • Her — Belonging to her

  • Their — Belonging to them

  • Your — Belonging to you

  • Our — Belonging to us

All these adjectives, except the word his, can only be used before a noun. You can’t just say “That’s my,” you have to say “That’s my pen.” When you want to leave off the noun or pronoun being modified, use these possessive adjectives instead:

  • Mine

  • His

  • Hers

  • Theirs

  • Yours

  • Ours

For example, even though saying “That’s my” is incorrect, saying “That’s mine” is perfectly fine.

Examples:

“Whose dog is that?” “He’s mine. That’s my dog.”

5. Interrogative

Interrogative adjectives interrogate, meaning that they ask a question. These adjectives are always followed by a noun or a pronoun, and are used to form questions. The interrogative adjectives are:

  • Which — Asks to make a choice between options.

  • What — Asks to make a choice (in general).

  • Whose — Asks who something belongs to.

Other question words, like “who” or “how,” aren’t adjectives since they don’t modify nouns. For example, you can say “whose coat is this?” but you can’t say “who coat?”

Which, what and whose are only considered adjectives if they’re immediately followed by a noun. The word which is an adjective in this sentence: “Which color is your favorite?” But not in this one: “Which is your favorite color?”

Examples:

Which song will you play on your wedding day?”

What pet do you want to get?”

Whose child is this?”

 

6. Distributive

Distributive adjectives describe specific members out of a group. These adjectives are used to single out one or more individual items or people. Some of the most common distributive adjectives include:

  • Each — Every single one of a group (used to speak about group members individually).

  • Every — Every single one of a group (used to make generalizations).

  • Either — One between a choice of two.

  • Neither — Not one or the other between a choice of two.

  • Any — One or some things out of any number of choices. This is also used when the choice is irrelevant, like: “it doesn’t matter, I’ll take any of them.”

These adjectives are always followed by the noun or pronoun they’re modifying.

Examples:

Every rose has its thorn.”

“Which of these two songs do you like?” “I don’t like either song.”

7. Articles

There are only three articles in the English language: a, an and the. Articles can be difficult for English learners to use correctly because many languages don’t have them (or don’t use them in the same way).

Although articles are their own part of speech, they’re technically also adjectives! Articles are used to describe which noun you’re referring to. Maybe thinking of them as adjectives will help you learn which one to use:

  • A — A singular, general item.

  • An — A singular, general item. Use this before words that start with a vowel.

  • The — A singular or plural, specific item.

Simply put, when you’re talking about something general, use a and an. When you’re speaking about something specific, use the. “A cat” can be used to refer to any cat in the world. “The cat” is used to refer to the cat that just walked by.

Here’s a quick tip that can sometimes help you decide which article to use: Try using a demonstrative adjective before the noun. If it makes sense, use the word the. If it changes the meaning of what you’re trying to say, use a or an.

For example, if it makes sense to say “I don’t understand this question,” you can also say “I don’t understand the question.” On the other hand, it sounds strange to say “I need this tissue” because you don’t need that specific tissue. You just need “a tissue.”

Examples:

The elephants left huge footprints in the sand.”

An elephant can weigh over 6,000 pounds!”

 

 

Auxiliary Verbs

 

Auxiliary Verbs are the verbs be, do, have, will when they are followed by another verb (the full verb) in order to form a question, a negative sentence, a compound tense or the passive.

The verb “be”

The verb be can be used as an auxiliary and a full verb. As an auxiliary we use this verb for compound tenses and the passive voice. Note that be is an irregular verb:

Simple Present:
I am, he/she/it is, we/you/they are
Simple Past:
I/he/she/it was, we/you/they were
Past Participle:
been

You can tell that in the following sentences be is an auxiliary because it is followed by another verb (the full verb). (For progressive forms use the “-ing” form of the full verb; for passive voice, use the past participle of the full verb.)

Progressive Forms

Present Progressive:
He is playing football.
Past Progressive:
He was playing football.
Present Perfect Progressive:
He has been playing football.
Past Perfect Progressive:
He had been playing football.

Passive

Simple Present/Past:
The house is/was built.
Present/Past Perfect:
The house has/had been built.
Future I:
The house will be built.

“be” as a full verb

The verb be can also be a full verb. In this case, it’s not followed by another verb. If be is used as a full verb, we do not need an auxiliary in negative sentences or questions.

positive sentence:
They are fifteen years old.
negative sentence:
They are not fifteen years old.
question:
Are they fifteen years old?

The verb “have”

The verb have, too, can be used both as an auxiliary and as a full verb. As an auxiliary we use this verb to form compound tenses in active and passive voice. (Use the past participle of the full verb.)

Compound Tenses – Active Voice

Present Perfect Simple:
He has played football.
Past Perfect Simple:
He had played football.
Present Perfect Progressive:
He has been playing football.
Past Perfect Progressive:
He had been playing football.

Compound Tenses – Passive Voice

Present/Past Perfect:
The house has/had been built.

Note that have is an irregular verb, too:

Simple Present:
I/we/you/they have, he/she/it has
Simple Past:
I/he/she/it/we/you/they had
Past Participle:
had

“have” in positive sentences

As a full verb have indicates possession. In British English, however, we usually use have got (have being the auxiliary, got the full verb).

full verb:
I have a car.
auxiliary verb:
I have got a car.

“have” in negative sentences and questions

When we use have as a full verb, we must use the auxiliary do in negative sentences and questions. If we use have got, however, we do not need another auxiliary.

have as a full verb:
I do not have a car.
Do I have a car?
have as an auxiliary verb:
I have not got a car.
Have I got a car?

The verb “will”

The verb will can only be used as an auxiliary. We use it to form the future tenses.

The auxiliary verb “will”

Future I:
He will not play football.
Future II:
He will have played football.

The verb will remains the same for all forms (no “s” for 3rd person singular). The short form for negative sentences is won’t.’

Examples:
I will, he will
I will not = I won’t

The verb “do”

The verb do can be both an auxiliary and a full verb. As an auxiliary we use do in negative sentences and questions for most verbs (except not for be, will, have got and modal verbs) in Simple Present and Simple Past. (Use the infinitive of the full verb.)

The auxiliary “do” in negative sentences

Simple Present:
He does not play football.
Simple Past:
He did not play football.

The auxiliary “do” in questions

Simple Present:
Does he play football?
Simple Past:
Did he play football?

The verb do is irregular:

Simple Present:
I/we/you/they do, he/she/it does
Simple Past:
I/he/she/it/we/you/they did

The full verb “do”

As a full verb we use do in certain expressions. If we want to form negative sentences or questions using do as a full verb, we need another do as an auxiliary.

positive sentence:
She does her homework every day.
negative sentence:
She doesn’t do her homework every day.
question:
Does she do her homework every day?

Sentences without the auxiliary “do”

In the following cases, the auxiliary do is not used in negative sentences/questions:

the full verb is “be”

Example:
I am not angry. / Are you okay?

the sentence already contains another auxiliary (e.g. have, be, will)

Example:
They are not sleeping. / Have you heard that?

the sentence contains a modal verb (can, may, must, need, ought to, shall, should)

Example:
We need not wait. / Can you repeat that, please?

the question asks for the subject of the sentence

Example:
Who sings that song?

 

Conditional sentences, if-clauses type I, II, III

Conditional sentences

Conditional sentences are sometimes confusing for learners of English as a second language.

Watch out:

  1. Which type of conditional sentences is it?

  2. Where is the if-clause (e.g. at the beginning or at the end of the conditional sentence)?

There are three types of conditional sentences.

type

condition

I

condition possible to fulfill

II

condition in theory possible to fulfill

III

condition not possible to fulfill (too late)

1. Form

type

if-clause

main clause

I

Simple Present

will-future or (Modal + infinitive)

II

Simple Past

would + infinitive *

III

Past Perfect

would + have + past participle *

2. Examples (if-clause at the beginning)

type

if clause

main clause

I

If I study,

I will pass the exam.

II

If I studied,

I would pass the exam.

III

If I had studied,

I would have passed the exam.

3. Examples (if-clause at the end)

type

main clause

if-clause

I

I will pass the exam

if I study.

II

I would pass the exam

if I studied.

III

I would have passed the exam

if I had studied.

4. Examples (affirmative and negative sentences)

type

Examples

long forms

short/contracted forms

I

+

If I study, I will pass the exam.

If I study, I’ll pass the exam.

If I study, I will not fail the exam.
If I do not study, I will fail the exam.

If I study, I won’t fail the exam.
If I don’t study, I’ll fail the exam.

II

+

If I studied, I would pass the exam.

If I studied, I’d pass the exam.

If I studied, I would not fail the exam.
If I did not study, I would fail the exam.

If I studied, I wouldn’t fail the exam.
If I didn’t study, I’d fail the exam.

III

+

If I had studied, I would have passed the exam.

If I’d studied, I’d have passed the exam.

If I had studied, I would not have failed the exam.
If I had not studied, I would have failed the exam.

If I’d studied, I wouldn’t have failed the exam.
If I hadn’t studied, I’d have failed the exam.

* We can substitute could or might for would (should, may or must are sometimes possible, too).

  • I would pass the exam.

  • I could pass the exam.

  • I might pass the exam.

  • I may pass the exam.

  • I should pass the exam.

  • I must pass the exam.

English Tenses – Graphic Comparison

Problems with the English tenses? Have a look at the time line, it might help you understand when to use which tense. As there is a similarity between past, present and future tenses, there are just a few rules to keep in mind.

If you know how to use the present progressive correctly to express present actions, you will as well be able to use the past progressive correctly to express past actions.

First Conditional

Form

In a Type 1 conditional sentence, the tense in the ‘if’ clause is the simple present, and the tense in the main clause is the simple future.

If clause (condition)

Main clause (result)

If + simple present

simple future

If this thing happens

that thing will happen.

As in all conditional sentences, the order of the clauses is not fixed. You may have to rearrange the pronouns and adjust punctuation when you change the order of the clauses, but the meaning is identical.

Examples
  • If it rains, you will get wet.

  • You will get wet if it rains.

  • If Sally is late again I will be mad.

  • I will be mad if Sally is late again.

  • If you don’t hurry, you will miss the bus.

  • You will miss the bus if you don’t hurry.

Function

The type 1 conditional refers to a possible condition and its probable result. These sentences are based on facts, and they are used to make statements about the real world, and about particular situations. We often use such sentences to give warnings. In type 1 conditional sentences, the time is the present or future and the situation is real.

Examples
  • If I have time, I’ll finish that letter.

  • What will you do if you miss the plane?

  • Nobody will notice if you make a mistake.

  • If you drop that glass, it will break.

  • If you don’t drop the gun, I’ll shoot!

  • If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police.

In type 1 conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of the future tense to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

Examples
  • If you drop that glass, it might break.

  • I may finish that letter if I have time.

  • If he calls you, you should go.

  • If you buy my school supplies for me, I will be able to go to the park.

 

Future Progressive (Future Continuous)

 

Future I progressive puts emphasis on the course of an action taking place in the future.

Form

  • A: He will be talking.

  • N: He will not be talking.

  • Q: Will he be talking?

Use

  • action that is going on at a certain time in the future

  • action that is sure to happen in the near future

Signal Words

  • in one year, next week, tomorrow

 

Future Perfect Progressive (Future Perfect Continuous)

 

Future perfect progressive puts emphasis on the course / duration of an action taking place before a certain time in the future. It can also be used to express an assumption regarding a future action.

Future perfect progressive is not used very often as it can usually be replaced by future perfect.

Form

  • A: He will have been talking.

  • N: He will not have been talking.

  • Q: Will he have been talking?

Use

  • action taking place before a certain time in the future

  • puts emphasis on the course of an action

Signal Words

  • for …, the last couple of hours, all day long

 

Future Perfect

Future II Simple expresses an action that will be finished at a certain time in the future.

Form

  • A: He will have talked.

  • N: He will not have talked.

  • Q: Will he have talked?

Use

  • action that will be finished at a certain time in the future

Signal Words

  • by Monday, in a week

Future I Simple going to

 

Going to future expresses a conclusion regarding the immediate future or an action in the near future that has already been planned or prepared.

Form of going to Future

positive

negative

question

I

I am going to speak.

I am not going to speak.

Am I going to speak?

you / we / they

You are going to speak.

You are not going to speak.

Are you going to speak?

he / she / it

He is going to speak.

He is not going to speak.

Is he going to speak?

Use of going to Future

  • an action in the near future that has already been planned or prepared

example: I am going to study harder next year.

  • a conclusion regarding the immediate future

example: The sky is absolutely dark. It is going to rain.

Signal Words

  • in one year, next week, tomorrow

Future I Simple will

Will future expresses a spontaneous decision, an assumption with regard to the future or an action in the future that cannot be influenced.

Form of will Future

positive

negative

question

no differences

I will speak.

I will not speak.

Will I speak?

Use of will Future

  • a spontaneous decision

example: Wait, I will help you.

  • an opinion, hope, uncertainty or assumption regarding the future

example: He will probably come back tomorrow.

  • a promise

example: I will not watch TV tonight.

  • an action in the future that cannot be influenced

example: It will rain tomorrow.

  • conditional clauses type I

example: If I arrive late, I will call you.

Signal Words

  • in a year, next …, tomorrow

  • Phrases: I think, probably, perhaps

 

 

Infinitive and Gerund

There are certain words in English that are usually followed by an infinitive or gerund. If you are not sure whether to use the infinitive or gerund, check out our lists or look the words up in a dictionary.

Infinitive

Use

Certain words are followed by an infinite verb with or without ‘to’.

Use and Word Lists

Example

as the subject of a clause

To know you is to love you.

after certain expressions (without ‘to’)

Why not go to the cinema?

after certain verbs (without ‘to’)

I can swim.

after certain verbs (with ‘to’)

He wants to swim.

after certain verbs with interrogatives (infinitive constructions)

They don’t know how to swim.

after certain verbs with objects (without ‘to’)

He made her swim.

after certain verbs with objects (with ‘to’)

They wanted him to swim.

after certain adjectives and their comparisons

It’s easier to swim downstream.

after nouns deriving from the verbs mentioned above

We made a promise to swim. (derived from the verb ‘to promise’)

Gerund

Form

ing form of the verb

Exceptions in Spelling

See → Present Progressive – Exceptions

Use

Certain words are followed by an Ing-Form.

Use and Word Lists

Example

as the subject of a clause

Cycling is good for your health.

after certain adjectives

He’s afraid of going by plane.

after certain prepositions

Before going to bed he turned off the lights.

after certain verbs

I enjoy cooking.

after certain verbs with prepositions

I am looking forward to seeing you again.

after certain nouns

We had problems finding our way back home.

Words followed either by Infinitive or Ing-Form

Use and Word Lists

Example

same meaning

I started to read. / I started reading.

same meaning but different use

She forbids us to talk. / She forbids talking.

different meaning

He stopped to smoke. / He stopped smoking.

infinitive or present participle

I saw him go up the stairs. / I saw him going up the stairs.

 

Modal Verbs and their substitutes

 

Modal verbs are for example may, can, must, should, need. They express an ability, permission, wish etc. to do something. (I may, can, must swim.) Many modal verbs cannot be used in all of the English tenses. That’s why we need to know the substitutes to these modal verbs.

Modal Verb

Substitute

Example

must

to have to

I must swim. = I have to swim.

must not

not to be allowed to

I must not swim. = I am not allowed to swim.

can

to be able to

I can swim. = I am able to swim.

may

to be allowed to

I may swim. = I am allowed to swim.

need

to have to

I need to swim. = I have to swim.

need not

not to have to

I need not swim. = I don’t have to swim.

shall / should/ ought to

to be supposed to / to be expected to / to be to

I shall / should / ought to swim. = I am supposed to swim. / I am expected to swim. / I am to swim.

Modal auxiliary verbs are used to moderate the main verb, that is to enhance or restrict the verb to a certain context.

The most common modal auxiliaries in English are:

can

may

might

must

could

should

will

would

Notice the usage of modals in the following sentences:

I pay my taxes.

General declaration of fact. Paying taxes is something I normally do.

I can pay my taxes.

Expresses ability. I have the means (funds) to pay.

I might pay my taxes.

Expresses possibility, but not certainty. Maybe I will pay; maybe I won’t.

I will pay my taxes.

Expresses future intent. I resolve to do it at some later time.

I should pay my taxes

Expresses mild obligation. It is required, and I expect to comply.

I could pay my taxes.

Expresses possibility. If I have nothing else to do with the money, I might pay taxes.

I would pay my taxes.

(In this case), expresses reservation. If I had the money (but I don’t). . .

I must pay my taxes

Expresses strong obligation. I am required and have to comply.

Modals are followed by only the base form of the verb and are not used alone unless there is a clear connection to a main verb.

He must to finish his homework.

WRONG

He must finish his homework.

RIGHT

Jack could heard the bell.

WRONG

Jack could hear the bell.

RIGHT

Penny will going to the movie.

WRONG

Penny will go to the movie.

RIGHT

There are many ways to make requests in English. The most common involves using the imperative and modals. See the examples below:

Using the Imperative


The imperative is the simple form of the verb. The
subject of an imperative sentence is understood as “you” although it is usually not spoken.

Open the door.

 (You) open the door.

Will you help me?

Yes, I will (help you).

Pick up your toys.

(You) pick up your toys.

Please help me.

(You) please help me.

The imperative is often used by persons of authority when speaking to subordinates, e.g. parent to child.

Using Modals

To show respect and politeness, most people use modal expressions when making requests. For example:

Will you…?

Will you open the door for me?

Would you…?

Would you open the door for me?

Would you please…?

Would you please open the door (for me)?

Could you (please)…?

Could you (please)…? Could you (please) open the door?

Could you possibly…?

Could you possibly open the door?

Would you kindly…?

Would you kindly open the door?

Would you mind (Ving )…?

Would you mind opening the door?

Would you be so kind as to…?

Would you be so kind as to open the door?

Common Problems with Modals

1. Using “to” unnecessarily:

Incorrect

Correct

They going to meet us at the theater.

They are going to meet us at the theater.

He should to eat his dinner.

He should eat his dinner.

I had better to go now.

I had better go now.

You must not to use that pencil.

You must not use that pencil.

2. Using anything but the base form after a modal:

Incorrect

Correct

John could heard the bell.

 John could hear the bell.

Penny will going to the movie.

Penny will go to the movie.

3. Using double modals:

Incorrect

Correct

You should ought to speak English.

You ought to speak English. / should speak

She might can help me.

She might be able to help me.

4. Omitting “be” in certain modal expressions:

Incorrect

Correct

They going to meet us at the theater.

They are going to meet us at the theater.

Jack supposed to take his medicine.

Jack is supposed to take his medicine

5. Using wrong word order in questions:

Incorrect

Correct

How I can help you?

How can I help you?

Where I should go for the meeting?

Where should I go for the meeting?

 

 

Nouns – Articles, Plural and Possessive Case

Important things to keep in mind when using nouns are which article to use and how to form the plural and how to form the possessive case.

Article

Definite article – the

example: the house

Indefinite  article a / an

a – if the first letter of the following word is pronounced like a consonant

example: a car, a university

an – if the first letter of the following word is pronounced like a vowel

example: an apple, an hour

Plural

general rule: singular form + s

example: a car – two cars

after s, ch, x, z the plural is formed by adding es

example: a box – two boxes

y after a consonant is changed to ie before the plural s

example: a city – two cities

But: y after a vowel is not changed

example: a boy – two boys

After o the plural is usually formed by adding es (this is not the case, however, with words used for electric gadgets and music: radio, video, disco)

example: a tomato – two tomatoes

from Chrisa Mark– https://www.liveworksheets.com/nm1356520ar

 

Possessive Case of Nouns

adding ‘s

of phrase

usually used for people

usually used for things

Ronny’s brother

the name of the school

If there is a relation to people when using the possessive case with unanimated things, often the s is added instead of using an of phrase.

example: Germany’s economy or the ecomony of Germany

When using the possessive case with a time, s is added.

example: a three weeks’ holiday

Participles

There are three kinds of participles in English: present participle, past participle and perfect participle. You probably know the first two from certain tenses and adjective forms. Apart from that, participles are also used to shorten sentences.

Present Participle

The present participle is the ing-form. You surely know this form:

  • from progressive / continuous tenses (e. g. Present Progressive) – I am speaking.

  • as an adjective form – The film is interesting.

  • as a gerund – He is afraid of flying.

Not the exceptions in spelling when adding ‘ing’:

Exception

Example

final e dropped (but: ee is not changed)

come – coming (but: agree – agreeing)

final consonant after short, stressed vowel is doubled

sit – sitting

final consonant l after vowel is always doubled (in British English)

travel – travelling

final ie becomes y

lie – lying

The present participle can be used to describe the following verbs:

come, go, sit

Example: The girl sat crying on the sofa.

The present participle can also be used after verbs of the senses if we do not want to emphasise that the action was completed. (see Infinitive or Ing-Form)

feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch

Example: Did you see him dancing?

Furthermore, the present participle can be used to shorten or combine active clauses that have the same subject.

Example: She left the house and whistled. – She left the house whistling.

Past Participle

The past participle is the participle that you find in the third column of lists with irregular verbs. You surely know this form:

  • from perfect tenses (z. B. Present Perfect Simple) – I have spoken.

  • from passive voice – The letter was written.

  • as an adjective form – I was bored to death.

For irregular participle forms see third column of irregular verbs. Regular verbs form the past participle by adding ed, however, note the following exceptions in spelling:

Exceptions when adding ed

Example

after a final e, only add d

love – loved

final consonant after a short, stressed vowel
or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled

admit – admitted
travel – travelled

final y after a consonant becomes i

hurry – hurried

The past participle can also be used to shorten or combine passive clauses that have the same subject.

Example: The boy was given an apple. He stopped crying. – Given an apple, the boy stopped crying.

Perfect Participle

The perfect participle can be used to shorten or combine clauses that have the same subject if …

  • … one action (the one where the perfect participle is used) is completed before the next action starts.

Example: She bought a bike and cycled home. – Having bought a bike, she cycled home.

  • … one action has been going on for a period of time when another action starts.

Example: He had been living there for such a long time that he didn’t want to move to another town. – Having lived there for such a long time, he didn’t want to move to another town.

The perfect participle can be used for active and passive voice.

  • active voice: having + past participle (Having cooked, he set the table.)

  • passive voice: having been + past participle (Having been cooked, the food looked delicious.)

Use of Participle Clauses

If a clause is shortened using a participle construction, the clause is called participle clause.

Example: Watching TV, she forgot everything around her.

In English, participle clauses are mainly used in writing in order to put a lot of information into one sentence.

When shortening or combining clauses with a participle construction, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Both clauses should have the same subject.

  • The less important part becomes the participle clause. Important information should always be in the main clause.

  • Make sure, you use the correct participle form (see above).

  • The conjunctions as, because, since and relative pronouns who, which are left out.

  • The conjunctions before, when are used in the participle clause.

  • The conjunctions after, while can be used or left out.

Participle Clauses with different Subjects

Sometimes participle clauses can be used even if the clauses to be combined do not have the same subject. This is the case for example if the main clause contains one of the following verbs + object:

feel, find, hear, listen to, notice, see, smell, watch

Example: I heard him playing the guitar.

Here, the participle clause must directly follow the object it is relating to. (Note: Some of the verbs mentioned here can also be used with the infinitive. For further information see Infinitive or Ing-Form)

A participle construction is also possible, if both subjects are mentioned (often the word ‘with’ is put before the subject in the participle clause). This is very formal, however, and not often used.

Example: Mrs Jones went to New York. Mr Smith took up her position.
(With) Mrs Jones going to New York, Mr Smith took up her position.

Incorrect Participle Clauses

Apart from the exceptions mentioned above, participle clause and main clause should have the same subject. Otherwise the sentences might sound rather strange.

Example: I was driving on the motorway, when the baby started to cry.
→ Falscher Partizipialsatz: Driving on the motorway, the baby started to cry.

In this example you get the feeling that the baby has driven the car. So these participle clauses are considered wrong in standard English. In colloquial English, these ‘incorrect participle clauses’ are usually okay, and you can even find an example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Now, Hamlet, hear. ’Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me.

As the text goes, it is said that Hamlet’s father was bitten by a snake. Strictly speaking, however, the snake was asleep when it bit Hamlet’s father.

 

Passive Voice

Use of Passive

Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.

Example: My bike was stolen.

In the example above, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen. I do not know, however, who did it.

Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows:

Example: A mistake was made.

In this case, I focus on the fact that a mistake was made, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You have made a mistake.).

Form of Passive

Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle (3rd column of irregular verbs)

Example: A letter was written.

When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

  • the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence

  • the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)

  • the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)

Examples of Passive

Tense

Subject

Verb

Object

Simple Present

Active:

Rita

writes

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

is written

by Rita.

Simple Past

Active:

Rita

wrote

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

was written

by Rita.

Present Perfect

Active:

Rita

has written

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

has been written

by Rita.

Future I

Active:

Rita

will write

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

will be written

by Rita.

Hilfsverben

Active:

Rita

can write

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

can be written

by Rita.

Examples of Passive

Tense

Subject

Verb

Object

Present Progressive

Active:

Rita

is writing

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

is being written

by Rita.

Past Progressive

Active:

Rita

was writing

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

was being written

by Rita.

Past Perfect

Active:

Rita

had written

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

had been written

by Rita.

Future II

Active:

Rita

will have written

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

will have been written

by Rita.

Conditional I

Active:

Rita

would write

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

would be written

by Rita.

Conditional II

Active:

Rita

would have written

a letter.

Passive:

A letter

would have been written

by Rita.

Passive Sentences with Two Objects

Rewriting an active sentence with two objects in passive voice means that one of the two objects becomes the subject, the other one remains an object. Which object to transform into a subject depends on what you want to put the focus on.

Subject

Verb

Object 1

Object 2

Active:

Rita

wrote

a letter

to me.

Passive:

A letter

was written

to me

by Rita.

Passive:

I

was written

a letter

by Rita.

.

As you can see in the examples, adding by Rita does not sound very elegant. That’s why it is usually dropped.

Personal and Impersonal Passive

Personal Passive simply means that the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence. So every verb that needs an object (transitive verb) can form a personal passive.

Example: They build houses. – Houses are built.

Verbs without an object (intransitive verb) normally cannot form a personal passive sentence (as there is no object that can become the subject of the passive sentence). If you want to use an intransitive verb in passive voice, you need an impersonal construction – therefore this passive is called Impersonal Passive.

Example: he says – it is said

Impersonal Passive is not as common in English as in some other languages (e.g. German, Latin). In English, Impersonal Passive is only possible with verbs of perception (e. g. say, think, know).

Example: They say that women live longer than men. – It is said that women live longer than men.

Although Impersonal Passive is possible here, Personal Passive is more common.

Example: They say that women live longer than men. – Women are said to live longer than men.

The subject of the subordinate clause (women) goes to the beginning of the sentence; the verb of perception is put into passive voice. The rest of the sentence is added using an infinitive construction with ‘to’ (certain auxiliary verbs and that are dropped).

Sometimes the term Personal Passive is used in English lessons if the indirect object of an active sentence is to become the subject of the passive sentence.

 

Past Progressive (Past Continuous)

 

 

The past progressive puts emphasis on the course of an action in the past.

Form

Positive

Negative

Question

I / he / she / it

I was speaking.

I was not speaking.

Was I speaking?

you / we / they

You were speaking.

You were not speaking.

Were you speaking?

Exceptions in Spelling

Exceptions in spelling when adding ing

Example

final e is dropped (but: ee is not changed)

come – coming
(but: agree – agreeing)

after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

sit – sitting

l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled (in British English)

travel – travelling

final ie becomes y

lie – lying

Use of Past Progressive

  • puts emphasis on the course of an action in the past

Example: He was playing football.

  • two actions happening at the same time (in the past)

Example: While she was preparing dinner, he was washing the dishes.

  • action going on at a certain time in the past

Example: When I was having breakfast, the phone suddenly rang.

Signal Words of Past Progressive

  • while, as long as

 

Past Perfect Progressive (Past Perfect Continuous)

 

The past perfect progressive puts emphasis on the course or duration of an action taking place before a certain time in the past.

Form

  • A: He had been talking.

  • N: He had not been talking.

  • Q: Had he been talking?

Use

  • action taking place before a certain time in the past

  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple

  • puts emphasis on the course or duration of an action

signal words

  • for, since, the whole day, all day

 

Past Perfect Simple

The past perfect simple expresses an action taking place before a certain time in the past.

Form of Past Perfect Simple

Positive

Negative

Question

no differences

I had spoken.

I had not spoken.

Had I spoken?

For irregular verbs, use the past participle form (see list of irregular verbs, 3rd column). For regular verbs, just add ed.

Exceptions in Spelling when Adding ed

Exceptions in Spelling when Adding ed

Example

after final e, only add d

love – loved

final consonant after a short, stressed vowel
or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled

admit – admitted
travel – travelled

final y after a consonant becomes i

hurry – hurried

Use of Past Perfect

  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
    (putting emphasis only on the fact, not the duration)

Example: Before I came here, I had spoken to Jack.

Example: If I had seen him, I would have talked to him.

Signal Words

  • already, just, never, not yet, once, until that day (with reference to the past, not the present)

  • If-Satz Typ III (If I had talked, …)

 

Simple Past (Past Simple)

The simple past expresses an action in the past taking place once, never, several times. It can also be used for actions taking place one after another or in the middle of another action.

Form of Simple Past

Positive

Negative

Question

no differences

I spoke.

I did not speak.

Did I speak?

For irregular verbs, use the past form (see list of irregular verbs, 2nd column). For regular verbs, just add “ed”.

Exceptions in Spelling when Adding ‘ed’

Exceptions in spelling when adding ed

Example

after a final e only add d

love – loved

final consonant after a short, stressed vowel
or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled

admit – admitted
travel – travelled

final y after a consonant becomes i

hurry – hurried

Use of Simple Past

  • action in the past taking place once, never or several times

Example: He visited his parents every weekend.

  • actions in the past taking place one after the other

Example: He came in, took off his coat and sat down.

  • action in the past taking place in the middle of another action

Example: When I was having breakfast, the phone suddenly rang.

  • if sentences type II (If I talked, …)

Example: If I had a lot of money, I would share it with you.

Signal Words of Simple Past

  • yesterday, 2 minutes ago, in 1990, the other day, last Friday

  • If-Satz Typ II (If I talked, …)

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are mainly used in spoken English and informal texts. (The more formal a conversation or text, the less phrasal verbs are found.)

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb plus a particle (preposition, adverb). The particle can change the meaning of the verb completely, e.g.:

  • look up – consult a reference book (look a word up in a dictionary)

  • look for – seek (look for her ring)

  • look forward – anticipate with pleasure (look forward to meeting someone)

There are no rules that might explain how phrasal verbs are formed correctly – all you can do is look them up in a good dictionary and study their meanings. In our lists, you will find some frequently used phrasal verbs and their meanings.

Frequently Used Phrasal Verbs with:

Position of the Particle

The particle is placed either after the verb or after the object.

Example:
Write down the word. / Write the word down.

If the object is a pronoun, however, the particle has to be placed after the pronoun (object).

Example:
Write it down.

Prepositions

Prepositions are short words (on, in, to) that usually stand in front of nouns (sometimes also in front of gerund verbs).

Even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult, as a 1:1 translation is usually not possible. One preposition in your native language might have several translations depending on the situation.

There are hardly any rules as to when to use which preposition. The only way to learn prepositions is looking them up in a dictionary, reading a lot in English (literature) and learning useful phrases off by heart (study tips).

The following table contains rules for some of the most frequently used prepositions in English:

Prepositions – Time

English

Usage

Example

  • on

  • days of the week

  • on Monday

  • in

  • months / seasons

  • time of day

  • year

  • after a certain period of time (when?)

  • in August / in winter

  • in the morning

  • in 2006

  • in an hour

  • at

  • for night

  • for weekend

  • a certain point of time (when?)

  • at night

  • at the weekend

  • at half past nine

  • since

  • from a certain point of time (past till now)

  • since 1980

  • for

  • over a certain period of time (past till now)

  • for 2 years

  • ago

  • a certain time in the past

  • 2 years ago

  • before

  • earlier than a certain point of time

  • before 2004

  • to

  • telling the time

  • ten to six (5:50)

  • past

  • telling the time

  • ten past six (6:10)

  • to / till / until

  • marking the beginning and end of a period of time

  • from Monday to/till Friday

  • till / until

  • in the sense of how long something is going to last

  • He is on holiday until Friday.

  • by

  • in the sense of at the latest

  • up to a certain time

  • I will be back by 6 o’clock.

  • By 11 o’clock, I had read five pages.

Prepositions – Place (Position and Direction)

English

Usage

Example

  • in

  • room, building, street, town, country

  • book, paper etc.

  • car, taxi

  • picture, world

  • in the kitchen, in London

  • in the book

  • in the car, in a taxi

  • in the picture, in the world

  • at

  • meaning next to, by an object

  • for table

  • for events

  • place where you are to do something typical (watch a film, study, work)

  • at the door, at the station

  • at the table

  • at a concert, at the party

  • at the cinema, at school, at work

  • on

  • attached

  • for a place with a river

  • being on a surface

  • for a certain side (left, right)

  • for a floor in a house

  • for public transport

  • for television, radio

  • the picture on the wall

  • London lies on the Thames.

  • on the table

  • on the left

  • on the first floor

  • on the bus, on a plane

  • on TV, on the radio

  • by, next to, beside

  • left or right of somebody or something

  • Jane is standing by / next to / beside the car.

  • under

  • on the ground, lower than (or covered by) something else

  • the bag is under the table

  • below

  • lower than something else but above ground

  • the fish are below the surface

  • over

  • covered by something else

  • meaning more than

  • getting to the other side (also across)

  • overcoming an obstacle

  • put a jacket over your shirt

  • over 16 years of age

  • walk over the bridge

  • climb over the wall

  • above

  • higher than something else, but not directly over it

  • a path above the lake

  • across

  • getting to the other side (also over)

  • getting to the other side

  • walk across the bridge

  • swim across the lake

  • through

  • something with limits on top, bottom and the sides

  • drive through the tunnel

  • to

  • movement to person or building

  • movement to a place or country

  • for bed

  • go to the cinema

  • go to London / Ireland

  • go to bed

  • into

  • enter a room / a building

  • go into the kitchen / the house

  • towards

  • movement in the direction of something (but not directly to it)

  • go 5 steps towards the house

  • onto

  • movement to the top of something

  • jump onto the table

  • from

  • in the sense of where from

  • a flower from the garden

Other important Prepositions

English

Usage

Example

  • from

  • who gave it

  • a present from Jane

  • of

  • who/what does it belong to

  • what does it show

  • a page of the book

  • the picture of a palace

  • by

  • who made it

  • a book by Mark Twain

  • on

  • walking or riding on horseback

  • entering a public transport vehicle

  • on foot, on horseback

  • get on the bus

  • in

  • entering a car  / Taxi

  • get in the car

  • off

  • leaving a public transport vehicle

  • get off the train

  • out of

  • leaving a car  / Taxi

  • get out of the taxi

  • by

  • rise or fall of something

  • travelling (other than walking or horseriding)

  • prices have risen by 10 percent

  • by car, by bus

  • at

  • for age

  • she learned Russian at 45

  • about

  • for topics, meaning what about

  • we were talking about you

 

Present Progressive

The present progressive is used for actions going on in the moment of speaking and for actions taking place only for a short period of time. It is also used to express development and actions that are arranged for the near future.

Present progressive is also known as present continuous.

Present Progressive – Form

Use a form of to be and the infinite verb plus -ing.

Use:

  • am with the personal pronoun I

  • is with the personal pronouns he, she or it (or the singular form of nouns)

  • are with the personal pronouns you, we, they (or the plural form of nouns)

affirmative

negative

question

I

I am playing.

I am not playing.

Am I playing?

he, she, it

He is playing.

He is not playing.

Is he playing?

you, we, they

You are playing.

You are not playing.

Are you playing?

Tips on how to form negative sentences and questions

In negative sentences, we put not between the form of be and the verb.

In questions, we simply swop the places of subject and the form of be.

 

Present Perfect Progressive

Present Perfect Continuous

The present perfect progressive expresses an action that recently stopped or is still going on. It puts emphasis on the duration or course of the action.

Form of Present Perfect Progressive

Positive

Negative

Question

I / you / we / they

I have been speaking.

I have not been speaking.

Have I been speaking?

he / she / it

He has been speaking.

He has not been speaking.

Has he been speaking?

Exceptions in Spelling

Exceptions in spelling when adding ing

Example

final e is dropped
(but: ee is not changed)

come – coming
(but: agree – agreeing)

after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

sit – sitting

l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled (in British English)

travel – travelling

final ie becomes y

lie – lying

Use of Present Perfect Progressive

  • puts emphasis on the duration or course of an action (not the result)

Example: She has been writing for two hours.

  • action that recently stopped or is still going on

Example: I have been living here since 2001.

  • finished action that influenced the present

Example: I have been working all afternoon.

Signal Words of Present Perfect Progressive

  • all day, for 4 years, since 1993, how long?, the whole week

Present Perfect Simple

The present perfect simple expresses an action that is still going on or that stopped recently, but has an influence on the present. It puts emphasis on the result.

Form of Present Perfect

Positive

Negative

Question

I / you / we / they

I have spoken.

I have not spoken.

Have I spoken?

he / she / it

He has spoken.

He has not spoken.

Has he spoken?

For irregular verbs, use the participle form (see list of irregular verbs, 3rd column). For regular verbs, just add “ed”.

Exceptions in Spelling when Adding ‘ed’

Exceptions in spelling when adding ed

Example

after a final e only add d

love – loved

final consonant after a short, stressed vowel
or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled

admit – admitted
travel – travelled

final y after a consonant becomes i

hurry – hurried

Use of Present Perfect

  • puts emphasis on the result

Example: She has written five letters.

  • action that is still going on

Example: School has not started yet.

  • action that stopped recently

Example: She has cooked dinner.

  • finished action that has an influence on the present

Example: I have lost my key.

  • action that has taken place once, never or several times before the moment of speaking

Example: I have never been to Australia.

Signal Words of Present Perfect

  • already, ever, just, never, not yet, so far, till now, up to now

 

 

Simple present tense

SIMPLE PRESENT

Simple present, third person singular

Note: he, she, it: in the third person singular the verb always ends in -s:
he wants, she needs, he gives, she thinks.
Negative and question forms use DOES (=the third person of the auxiliary ‘DO’) + the infinitive of the verb.
He wants. Does he want? He does not want.
Verbs ending in -y : the third person changes the -y to -ies:
fly => flies, cry => cries

Exception: if there is a vowel before the -y:
play => plays, pray => prays
Add -es to verbs ending in:-ss, -x, -sh, -ch:
he passes, she catches, he fixes, it pushes

tense

Affirmative/Negative/Question

Use

Signal Words

Simple Present

A: He speaks.
N: He does not speak.
Q: Does he speak?

  • action in the present taking place regularly, never or several times

  • facts

  • actions taking place one after another

  • action set by a timetable or schedule

always, every …, never, normally, often, seldom, sometimes, usually
if sentences type I (If I talk, …)

Examples

1. Third person singular with s or -es

He goes to school every morning. She understands English.It mixes the sand and the water. He tries very hard. She enjoys playing the piano.

2. Simple present, form

I think

Do I think ?

I do not think.

You think

Do you think?

You don’t think.

he, she, it thinks

Does he, she, it think?

He, she, it doesn’t think.

we think

Do we think?

We don’t think.

you think

Do you think?

You don’t think.

The simple present is used:

to express habits, general truths, repeated actions or unchanging situations, emotions and wishes:
I smoke (habit); I work in London (unchanging situation); London is a large city (general truth)
to give instructions or directions:
You walk for two hundred metres, then you turn left.
to express fixed arrangements, present or future:
Your exam starts at 09.00
to express future time, after some conjunctions: after, when, before, as soon as, until:
He’ll give it to you when you come next Saturday.

BE CAREFUL! The simple present is not used to express actions happening now. See Present Continuous.

Examples

For habits
He drinks tea at breakfast.
She only eats fish.
They watch television regularly.
For repeated actions or events

We catch the bus every morning.
It rains every afternoon in the hot season.
They drive to Monaco every summer.
For general truths
Water freezes at zero degrees.
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Her mother is Peruvian.
For instructions or directions
Open the packet and pour the contents into hot water.
You take the No.6 bus to Watney and then the No.10 to Bedford.
For fixed arrangements
His mother arrives tomorrow.
Our holiday starts on the 26th March
With future constructions
She’ll see you before she leaves.
We’ll give it to her when she arrives.