Grammar - Pre-Intermediate




Prepositions

Prepositions are very difficult for learners of English. Often, learners try to translate from their language, but this is not possible. You need to learn and remember which prepositions are used in different situations.

Perhaps in your language, you say "in" Monday. In English, we say "on Monday". Here are some other common time prepositions:

Examples:

They got married in 1988.
They would like to go to Paris in the summer.
I can't sleep at night. It's too hot.
I will see you in three hours. Bye!

He worked as a pilot for fourteen years.

Other very important prepositions are prepositions of place - to describe where something is. Sometimes the differences in these prepositions are very small. Think of the difference between these sentences:

He put the box near the table.
He put the box next to the table.
He put the box in front of the table.
He put the box on the table.
He put the box under the table.
He put the box in the table. (Is this one possible? In the desk, perhaps....)

The other important thing when learning prepositions is to learn which ones go with new verbs when you learn them. For example, let's take the verb "to rise" (to go up). Do prices "rise in 10%", "rise at 10%", "rise by 10%" or "rise on 10%"? As you learn each new verb, ask your teacher "which preposition is this used with?" The answer? We say, for example, "prices have risen by 10%". Here are some other verb+preposition examples:

That cat belongs to me.
We asked for some water.
What are you thinking about, John?
I'm very worried about Teresa. It's so late!

You also need to learn adjectives in the same way:

That car is identical to that one, isn't it?
Are you really afraid of the dark?
My parents were very impressed by my exam results.

Sharon is angry with Clara for telling everyone her secret.

And finally, even many nouns also come with prepositions.

What is the alternative to this plan?
Police said there is no connection between the two cases.
This medicine can have a negative effect on you.
Do you have a strong opinion about this, Carol?

Articles

In English, there is the definite article "the" and the indefinite articles "a" and "an".

The difference between "a" and "an" is simple. We put "an" in front of words with vowels.

Examples:

He lives in an old house.
She always wears an orange hat.

Careful - we use "an" also in front of words that begin with a silent "h" such as an hour and in front of abbreviations that start with a vowel sound such as an M.P. (which starts with an /em/ sound).

We use "a" in front of words that are spelt with a vowel but start with a consonant sound. This is seen often with words that are spelt with a "u" but begin with a "y" sound such as a university or a united family.

How to use articles.

We use the indefinite article when we talk about something for the first time.

I walked down Smith Street where I saw a man repairing a bicycle.

We use the definite article when we talk about something on further occasions - not for the first time.

The man was old and the bicycle was in terrible condition.

We use no article when we are talking about things in general and not one specific example.

Cows eat grass and produce milk.
Love is the best!
Teachers are not paid enough money.

Compare these pairs of sentences:

Children in America must go to school until they are 16.
but
The children are playing in the garden, Howard.

Shops stay open late in Britain on Thursday evenings.
but
The shops in this street are all so expensive.

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Other rules of article use.

We don't use articles with the time, days of the week or months of the year.

He comes to this house in August.
At six o'clock, we have to leave.
On Monday, I start my new job.

We don't use articles for names of streets, languages, meals, airports, mountains, stations, cities and countries.

London is the capital of England.
Grand Station can be found in Walter Street.
Christchurch Airport is near Mount Wilson.
French is spoken in Luxembourg.
Breakfast is at eight and lunch at one in the afternoon.

We use the definite article for names of rivers, seas, hotels and newspapers.

The Thames is England's most famous river.
We stayed at The Morrison when we visited Chicago.
The Pacific Ocean is bigger than the Mediterranean Sea.
The Straits Times is Singapore's English language newspaper.

We use the indefinite article for names of jobs.

My father is an engineer.
I want to be a doctor.

We use the indefinite article in certain expressions.

She smokes ten cigarettes a day.
I have a lot of friends in this school.
I just want a little milk, thank you.

We use the definite article in superlative sentences.

Mexico City is the biggest city in the world.

Important! In many languages, the article is used before plural nouns even when talking about things in general. This is not true in English.

Example:

I like potatoes and tomatoes.
NOT I like the potatoes and the tomatoes.


Past Continuous Structure

The past continuous is easy to form. We use the past of the verb "to be" plus the verb in the ____ing form.

For example:

He was swimming in the river.
They were dancing when the police arrived.

Here is the verb write conjugated in the past continuous.

Past Continuous
Positive Negative Question
I was writing
You were writing
He was writing
She was writing
It was writing
We were writing
You were writing
They were writing
I wasn't writing
You weren't writing
He wasn't writing
She wasn't writing
It wasn't writing
We weren't writing
You weren't writing
They weren't writing
Was I writing?
Were you writing?
Was he writing?
Was she writing?
Was it writing?
Were we writing?
Were you writing?
Were they writing?

Note the spelling changes under the present continuous section.

Past Continuous Use

The past continuous has two main uses:

To describe an event that was happening in the past at the time of another event. Often the first event interrupts the second event. In this situation, the event that started first is in the past continuous and the second event is in the past simple:

I was watching TV when the telephone rang.
He left university while he was finishing his final year.

We can also use the past continuous to give the background to a story. The events of this story are in the past simple.

He walked out of the bank with the gun. Police were standing surrounding the bank. A large crowd were watching events from the "Police" barricades. A helicopter was flying overhead. He raised his gun to fire at the police and..and..he woke up. It was 7am and time for work.

If there are two events that happen simultaneously, they can either be in the past continuous or simple.

Mary was cutting the onions while I was cooking the beef.
Mary cut the onions while I cooked the beef.




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