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Your questions and my replies:

Hello Doctor Grammar,

I was assigned by my teacher to complete two essays during the holidays. I have completed one, but I am worried that this essay may be not so good and I wanted to make an improvement on it. This essay is quite long, about 800 words. So could you check and edit my essay before I hand it in to my teacher? If you could, please tell me the mistakes I have made.

Here is my essay:

Write a story ending with "I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek...".

I have never imagined how drugs can be that powerful. So powerful that it can even shatter a person's future whose suppose to be a bright one into pieces. And so it happens in the case of a girl in my school.

Maria was an intelligent girl in my class. She was often noted for being an excellent student in academy as she never failed to get an A in each subject during her lower secondary school. In her PMR exam, she managed to score straight A's in seven subjects. The teachers admire her for she was always helpful and attentive in class. She is the apple of their eye. Her peers could not fathom the secret behind her success.

Everything started to change when she was in Form 4, for the first time in history she got E in Chemistry during her first exam. Then, she was questioned by her teacher why she could fail in a subject this time. She seems to have trouble understanding the subject. No matter how hard she worked, she only managed to get C in Chemistry on her trial SPM. Since then, I saw something different in her. She had changed drastically.

After the weekends, like any other day in school, everyone was listening to the Chemistry lecture when suddenly it dawned on me that Maria was sleeping on her desk. She was sleeping! No, how can this be? She never slept in class before. I could not believe my eyes. It was so obvious to everyone because she sits in the front row. Pn. Sue finally noticed her sleeping and stopped her lecture. Feeling surprised, she woke her up and Pn. Sue was shocked by the look of her face.

"Maria! What happened to your beautiful face?" Pn. Sue asked with a completely terrified face. "Oh... I... I'm fine teacher, I'm just a bit sick." But she could not have look so pale, it was as if an evil spell had been cast on her. Everyday she could merely concentrate in class. Even her once unfaltering urge to ask endless questions, which was what made her stands out among her classmates, and which could even unravel the secrets of the universe, had faded. She became quiet and inattentive in every lesson.

Everyone was very worried about her. Maria was used to be the most precious student in our school but now she was a drug addict. You could tell she was a drug addict already just by looking at her appearance and behavior. Her face was so white, her hair her hands sometimes tremble, and she could not even walk properly. Once she fell down from the stairs and broke her right arm. But luckily she only suffered a slight crack on her arm. As a school prefect, one day when I was on my duty, I trailed behind her to the hidden corner of the school compound. She was breathing in the smell of the drugs when suddenly she sensed my appearance and turned to see me with utterly disgusted face.

Maria knew she could not possibly escape from the situation, so she begged me, "Please Jonathan. Promise me not to say anything. If you do, I will be doomed. Spare me just for once. Please..." As I hear this, I became completely out of words. I reluctantly let her go. Back home, I thought really hard about it that I could not sleep throughout the night.

On the next Monday morning, the whole class was absolutely astonished by the news of Maria. Our class teacher told us about Maria being handcuffed for her involvement in drugs activity after receiving a call from the police during the weekends. When she was buying some drugs from a drug dealer, a group of policemen ambushed and caught them red-handed. After some interrogation between the police and Maria, they managed to obtain her teacher's contact number and called Pn. Sue.

We held a class visit to visit Maria in the hospital where she was receiving treatment. She confessed to us that the reason she started to take drug was she wanted so much to score an A in Chemistry. She explained that the drugs could help enhance her brain performance temporarily and she thought that a few dose was really okay. However, she abused them as she was desperately willing to do anything to achieve an A in Chemistry. Indeed, it was quite silly, but she did it as she failed and failed in every test despite her effort. Soon she found herself increasingly relying on drugs and gradually become addicted to it.

Thank God everything was not too late for Maria. We had been told that Maria would be sent to a rehabilitation centre after her treatment in the hospital. I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek, as she smiled with hope and gratefulness for her friends and teachers who came to give her moral support in hard times.

I'm so glad if you could help. Thank you.

Yap Choon Meng






Hello Choon Meng,

Thank you for your request.

I have edited your essay. Seen below are your original essay and my explanations (the red text in italics below each paragraph):


Write a story ending with "I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek...".

I have never imagined how drugs can be that powerful. So powerful that it can even shatter a person's future whose suppose to be a bright one into pieces. And so it happens in the case of a girl in my school.

Here, we're talking the misuse of drugs. So, it's better to replace drugs with the misuse of drugs. The adjective powerful is acceptable, but destructive is better, since the drugs almost destroyed Maria. In the second sentence, the relative pronoun refers to Maria's future and not Maria. So, which should be used instead of whose.


Maria was an intelligent girl in my class. She was often noted for being an excellent student in academy as she never failed to get an A in each subject during her lower secondary school. In her PMR exam, she managed to score straight A's in seven subjects. The teachers admire her for she was always helpful and attentive in class. She is the apple of their eye. Her peers could not fathom the secret behind her success.

Since the word academy is a noun which means 'a school or college for special training', it is not the right word to use here. So, you can replace the sentence with one of the following sentences:

1) She was often noted for her excellent academic performance...

2) She was often noted for her excellent performance academically...

3) She was often noted for doing well academically...

Or any other sentences that are grammatically error free. You need to add days after the phrase lower secondary school, since you're talking about Maria's lower secondary school days. The phrase straight A's means "nothing but A's". Since the PMR examination usually comprises 8 subjects, Maria did not get straight A's if she had 7 A's. Thus, you can replace the sentence with:

1) In her PMR examination, she managed to score straight A's.

2) In her PMR examination, she managed to score 7 A's.

You also need to change admire to admired and is to was, as you are talking about past actions here.


Everything started to change when she was in Form 4, for the first time in history she got E in Chemistry during her first exam. Then, she was questioned by her teacher why she could fail in a subject this time. She seems to have trouble understanding the subject. No matter how hard she worked, she only managed to get C in Chemistry on her trial SPM. Since then, I saw something different in her. She had changed drastically.

Wrong use of preposition - change on to in, to make it in her trial SPM examination. This paragraph is okay. I've made some changes so that the text is more smooth flowing.


After the weekends, like any other day in school, everyone was listening to the Chemistry lecture when suddenly it dawned on me that Maria was sleeping on her desk. She was sleeping! No, how can this be? She never slept in class before. I could not believe my eyes. It was so obvious to everyone because she sits in the front row. Pn. Sue finally noticed her sleeping and stopped her lecture. Feeling surprised, she woke her up and Pn. Sue was shocked by the look of her face.

It should be After a weekend, as you are talking about one particular weekend. It's a good idea to express your thoughts in between speech marks, to make them livelier. When writing essays, it's best not to use short forms or contractions (e.g. isn't, I've, you're, we'll, etc.). It's okay to use them in conversations (e.g. "I'm going to see her tomorrow," said John.) The same goes with abbreviations (e.g. Jan, cm, dept, govt, ans, etc. and so forth - write January, centimetre, government, answer, et cetera instead). So, replace Pn. with Puan. Since Puan Sue was shocked by the look of Maria's face, you should describe her face in more details to satisfy readers' curiosity.


"Maria! What happened to your beautiful face?" Pn. Sue asked with a completely terrified face. "Oh... I... I'm fine teacher, I'm just a bit sick." But she could not have look so pale, it was as if an evil spell had been cast on her. Everyday she could merely concentrate in class. Even her once unfaltering urge to ask endless questions, which was what made her stands out among her classmates, and which could even unravel the secrets of the universe, had faded. She became quiet and inattentive in every lesson.

The verb following the verb made should be in the base form. Thus, stands should be replaced with stand, making it '...which was what made her stand out among her classmates...'

More examples :

1. The soldier's enemies made him kneel down.

2. She said that the injections made her look younger.


Everyone was very worried about her. Maria was used to be the most precious student in our school but now she was a drug addict. You could tell she was a drug addict already just by looking at her appearance and behavior. Her face was so white, her hair her hands sometimes tremble, and she could not even walk properly. Once she fell down from the stairs and broke her right arm. But luckily she only suffered a slight crack on her arm. As a school prefect, one day when I was on my duty, I trailed behind her to the hidden corner of the school compound. She was breathing in the smell of the drugs when suddenly she sensed my appearance and turned to see me with utterly disgusted face.

Again, I've made some changes so that the text is more smooth flowing. Note that in the phrase 'Maria was used to be...', was is not necessary. Also, ...a slight crack on her arm should be replaced with ...a slight crack in a bone. The word trail means 'to follow someone by looking for signs that show you where they have been'. So, it is not suitable to be used here. The verb tail, which means 'to follow someone closely, in order to watch where they go, what they do, etc.' is more appropriate.


Maria knew she could not possibly escape from the situation, so she begged me, "Please Jonathan. Promise me not to say anything. If you do, I will be doomed. Spare me just for once. Please..." As I hear this, I became completely out of words. I reluctantly let her go. Back home, I thought really hard about it that I could not sleep throughout the night.

Note how I divided the above paragraph into three.


On the next Monday morning, the whole class was absolutely astonished by the news of Maria. Our class teacher told us about Maria being handcuffed for her involvement in drugs activity after receiving a call from the police during the weekends. When she was buying some drugs from a drug dealer, a group of policemen ambushed and caught them red-handed. After some interrogation between the police and Maria, they managed to obtain her teacher's contact number and called Pn. Sue.

It's better to divide the second sentence into 2 as it is too long. It's also advisable to replace the word handcuffed with apprehended or arrested as it is clearer. Note how the word interrogation is used in a sentence. You can say After a few hours under interrogation... or After the police had interrogated Maria for a few hours...


We held a class visit to visit Maria in the hospital where she was receiving treatment. She confessed to us that the reason she started to take drug was she wanted so much to score an A in Chemistry. She explained that the drugs could help enhance her brain performance temporarily and she thought that a few dose was really okay. However, she abused them as she was desperately willing to do anything to achieve an A in Chemistry. Indeed, it was quite silly, but she did it as she failed and failed in every test despite her effort. Soon she found herself increasingly relying on drugs and gradually become addicted to it.

Note how I rewrite the paragraph to make it more smooth flowing and error free. It's better to replace We held a class visit to visit Maria in the hospital with Our class visited Maria in hospital, in order to avoid the repetition of the word visit. Here, the word explained is more appropriate than confessed. You can say Maria confessed that she was misusing drugs, since confess means 'to admit that you have done something wrong or illegal'. Note that I replaced a few dose was with a few doses were and become with became.


Thank God everything was not too late for Maria. We had been told that Maria would be sent to a rehabilitation centre after her treatment in the hospital. I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek, as she smiled with hope and gratefulness for her friends and teachers who came to give her moral support in hard times.

In the last paragraph, you did not mention the where and when the incidents took place. So, I added something which is relevant.


This is the edited version of your essay:

Write a story ending with "I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek...".

I have never imagined how the misuse of drugs can be that destructive. So destructive that it can even shatter a person's future, which is supposed to be a bright one, into pieces. And it happens to a girl in my school.

Maria was an intelligent girl in my class. She was often noted for her excellent academic performance as she never failed to get an A in each subject during her lower secondary school days. In her PMR examination, she managed to score straight A's. The teachers admired her for she was always helpful and attentive in class. She was the apple of their eye. Her peers could not fathom the secret behind her success.

Everything started to change when she was in Form 4. For the first time in her academic history, she got an E in Chemistry during her first semester examination. Then, she was questioned by her teacher the reason for not doing well in the subject. She replied by saying that she seemed to have trouble understanding the subject. No matter how hard she worked, she only managed to get a C in Chemistry in her trial SPM examination. Since then, I noticed that she had changed drastically.

After a weekend, like any other day in school, we were listening attentively to the Chemistry teacher when suddenly, it dawned on me that Maria was sleeping on her desk.

"Maria was sleeping?" I thought to myself in disbelief. "No! How can this be? She has never slept in class before."

I could not believe my eyes. It was so obvious to everyone because she sat in the front row. Puan Sue finally noticed what she was doing. Feeling surprised, she stopped her teaching and woke her up. When she had woken up, Puan Sue was shocked by the look of her face, which appeared as pale as death. She had dark circles under her eyes and seemed to be extremely exhausted and feeble.

"Maria! What happened to your beautiful face?" Puan Sue asked with a completely terrified face.

"Oh... I... I'm fine, teacher. I'm just a bit sick," Maria replied in a weak voice.

But she could not have looked so pale. It was as if an evil spell had been cast on her. Every day, she could barely concentrate in class. Even her once unfaltering urge to ask endless questions, which was what made her stand out among her classmates, and which could even unravel the secrets of the universe, had faded. She became quiet and inattentive in every lesson.

Everyone was very worried about her. Maria, who used to be the most precious student in our school, had become a drug addict. It was obvious just by looking at her appearance and behaviour. Her face was so white, her hands sometimes trembled and she could not even walk properly. Once she fell down from the stairs and broke her right arm. Luckily, she only suffered a slight crack in a bone. As a school prefect, one day when I was on my duty, I tailed her to a hidden corner of the school compound. She was sniffing glue when suddenly, she sensed my presence and turned around to look at me with a disgusted face.

Maria was angry because I caught her red-handed misusing drug. As she could see no way out of the situation, she begged me not to report her.

"Please... Jonathan. Promise me not to say anything. If you do, I'll be doomed. Spare me just for once. Please..."

Upon hearing her words, I was speechless. I let her go reluctantly. Back home, I thought so hard about it that I could not sleep throughout the night.

On the next Monday morning, the whole class was absolutely astonished by Maria's news. Our class teacher told us that the police called her during the weekend. They informed her that Maria had been apprehended for her involvement in a drug activity. When she was buying some drugs from a drug dealer, a posse of policemen appeared following a tip-off and caught them red-handed. After the police had interrogated Maria for several hours, they managed to obtain Puan Sue's contact number from her.

Maria was sent to hospital for treatment. While our class was paying her a visit in hospital, she apologised to us for letting us down. She also explained to us the reason why she became a drug addict. She wanted so much to score an A in Chemistry and struggled hard but to no avail. Then she started turning to drugs for a solution, since they could help enhance her brain performance temporarily. She thought that a few doses were really okay. However, despite the use of the drugs, she failed and failed in every test. In desperation, she increased the doses and soon, she found herself increasingly relying on them. Gradually, she became addicted to them.

Thank God everything was not too late for Maria. After she had received her treatment in hospital, she was sent to a rehabilitation centre. Our class and a few of our teachers visited her at the centre. She told us that she was progressing well and thanked us for our moral support during the hard times. We were happy for her. When we were about to leave, I noticed a single drop of tear flowing down her cheek, as she smiled with hope and bid us farewell.


Overall, your story line is not bad but you do have quite a lot of rooms for improvement. For example, sometimes you tend to use the wrong words. One of the criteria for getting high marks in the Continuous Writing Section of the SPM examination is Wide vocabulary, used expressively/precisely. So, if you use the wrong words, marks will undoubtedly be deducted. You can overcome this problem by making good use of the dictionary. If you are unsure whether a word can be used in a certain situation, look it up in a dictionary. You can also widen your vocabulary through the Increase your vocabulary section of this website.

The inconsistency of tenses is also one of your problems. For past actions, only the past tense is used, unless in special circumstances as described here on this page. Also, you have to be clear about where and when certain incidents take place, especially when it is important for readers to know. One good example is the last paragraph of your essay.

It is important to note that reading helps greatly if you wish to possess essay-writing skills. So, try to read more model essays and practice writing them.

I would like to commend you on your willingness to learn from your mistakes. Students with enthusiasm like yours have potential for improvement.

Keep it up!


Dr Grammar






Hi Dr Grammar,

I have some questions:

What is the difference between 'could' and 'would', and when to use them? Is it before past tense or present tense?

Libra Nytestar






Hi Libra Nytestar,

Thanks for your questions. The use of could was explained earlier and I'll repeat it here:

The modal verb could is used:


(1) as the past tense of 'can'.

Examples:

I could answer all the questions in the test this morning.

Sam could not open the door yesterday because he lost his key.

I could not drive well two years ago.


(2) to say that something is possible or might happen.

Examples:

It could be months before he returns home.

You pen could have been stolen by someone.

Don't worry - your daughter could have just missed the bus.


(3) to make a request politely.

Examples:

Could you feed our dogs while we are on holiday in Japan?

Could I borrow your bicycle?

Could Lisa come along with us to the library?


(4) to make a suggestion.

Examples:

You could go for a medical check-up to ease your mind.

Max's not home but you could always try his mobile phone number.

Couldn't you wake up earlier to avoid going to school late?


(5) to show annoyance because somebody did not do what you expected.

Examples:

You could have told me that you were not going to make it.

They could at least apologise to me.

You could have called me and informed me about the postponement.



The modal verb would is used:


(1) as the past tense of 'will' to say what someone has said or thought.

Examples:

Veronica said she would fetch us at the airport at 11 am.

He thought it would be a good idea to drop by and visit you on our way to town.

They told us that they would not join our outing.


(2) to talk about the possible result of an event that you imagine or want to happen.

Examples:

If were older, I would join you in the expedition to Africa.

Henry would be a fool to miss the opportunity.

She would be delighted if you went to her birthday party.

I think Samantha would look smashing in the purple dress.


(3) to make a request politely.

Examples:

Would you mind emptying the dustbin?

Would you queue up to buy the tickets, please?

Would someone please call for an ambulance?


(4) to make an offer to somebody or to extend an invitation politely.

Examples:

Would you like a drink?

Would you like to sample this cake?

Would you go to the cinema with me this weekend?


(5) to give or ask for advice.

Examples:

I would not drink and drive if I were you.

What would you do if you had only a week to live?

What would you have done, if you were in my shoes?


(6) to say what you like, dislike, love, etc.

Examples:

Yes, I'd ( = I would ) love a cup of tea, please.

I would like to have a word with you.

I would rather do the project on my own.


(7) to talk about things that happened often in the past.

Examples:

When my neighbour and I went to the same school, we would go to school and come back together.

During his last few years, he would sit silent for hours.

He would always be ready to help me whenever I needed it.


It is important to note that the base form of a verb should be used after would and could.

Examples:

I hope that my explanation helps.


Dr Grammar







Hi Dr Grammar,

I would like to ask you some questions:

1. Should we use 'besides that' or 'beside that' ?

2. If a text or essay is in the past tense, under what conditions must the present tense be used? (For example, we can use the present tense when writing dialogues.)

Herman Lim






Hi Herman Lim,

Thank you for your questions.

1. Since 'beside' is a preposition to show position, the correct phrase should be besides that.

2. Apart from dialogues, we use the simple present tense when we talk about facts and universal truths.

Examples:

(A) During the last weekend, my family and I visited Kuala Lumpur. As the federal capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is also the largest and most populous city in the country. It covers an area of 243 square kilometers. We went there by car and the journey took about 2 hours. After reaching the city, we checked in a hotel...

(B) Last night when I looked up the sky, I saw the moon. It was a full moon. I understood that it revolves round the earth but wondered why the same side always faces the earth...

I hope that you find my explanations clear.


Dr Grammar







Dear Dr Grammar,

Fill in the blanks with correct collective noun:

We saw __________ of tigers in Africa.

Shruti






Dear Shruti,

The right collective nouns for tigers are 'ambush', 'streak' and 'hide'.

an ambush of tigers

an streak of tigers

an hide of tigers


I hope that helps.


Dr Grammar







Dear Dr Grammar,

Please give me the complete lists of collective nouns for people, animals and things.

Thanks.

Jacky Chan






Dear Jacky Chan,

Thank you for your request.

The lists of collective nouns for people, animals and things are available on this page. The list for animals has just been updated. Though not 100 percent complete, you can find those that are most commonly used.

I hope that you find them useful. If you have queries about the right collective nouns for people, animals and things that are not listed on the page, you are welcome to ask again.


Dr Grammar







Dear Dr Grammar,

I was or I were?

Darcy






Dear Darcy,

Thank you for your question.

We use I was and I were in different circumstances.

In normal circumstances, we use I was as 'was' is the past tense of the verb / auxiliary verb 'am'.

Examples:

I was home yesterday morning.

I was shopping when I met Julie last week.

I was late for the meeting because I was stuck in a traffic jam for quite some time.


We usually use I were after the phrase 'I wish' or in wishful sentences, where 'were' is used as a subjunctive.

Examples:

I wish I were more powerful.

I wish I were a little taller.

I wish I were a doctor.

I were is also commonly used after the conjunction 'if' or in conditional clauses to show that things are unlikely to happen.

Examples:

If I were a millionaire, I would donate to charities and travel round the world.

If I were more intelligent, I would be the top student in my class.

If I were older, I would get myself a driving licence.


I hope this helps.


Dr Grammar






Hi Dr Grammar,

Thank you for answering my questions a few days ago. I would like to ask you some more questions here:

I wonder what the difference is between:

1) to play and to playing

2) to be and to being

3) welcome and welcomed

I hope you can solve my problem soon, thank you.

Jia Sin






Hi Jia Sin,

Thank you for your questions.

1) to play and to playing

to play - the infinitive marker to is often used before the base form of a verb to show purpose or intention. Here, the purpose is 'play'.

Examples:

I like to play basketball.

The children love to play in the playground.

Do you want to play a game?

Since it is raining, Steven and his sister have to play inside today.

He is going to play me a tune on his harmonica.

to playing - the infinitive marker to is not normally used before a present participle (words ending in '-ing', such as 'playing' in this case). However, there is an exceptional case to show that a person is thinking with pleasure about something that is going to happen.

Examples:

I am looking forward to playing chess with you.

Henry and Benny are looking forward to playing pirates in the drama.

Rebecca is looking forward to playing the new piece to us on stage.

Examples of other present participle commonly used before the infinitive marker 'to' in a sentence:

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

John is looking forward to working with Patrick.

I am looking forward to receiving a favourable reply from you.


2) to be and to being

- the explanation is similar to to play and to playing. Here are some examples of how they are used in sentences:

Britney wants to be a nurse when she grows up.

It's my honour to be here tonight.

Let's hurry - I don't want to be late.

There is a lot of work to be done.

Am I going to be successful?

Jane is looking forward to being your special guest on your show.

Duncan is looking forward to being part of our team.

We are looking forward to being there again.

Lionel and Valerie are looking forward to being role models to their fellow students.

We are looking forward to being of service to you.


3) welcome and welcomed

- the word welcome can be used as a verb, adjective or noun.

Examples of how welcome is used in a sentence as a verb:

The students will be at the school gate to welcome the minister when he arrives.

It is our pleasure to welcome you to our home.

They welcomed us warmly.

The Vacation Hotel welcomes its guests in their own languages.

My penfriend and his family welcomed me with open arms.

Examples of how welcome is used in a sentence as an adjective (note that it is usually used before the verbs 'am', 'is', 'are', 'was' and 'were'):

Any suggestions and comments are welcome.

Children are always welcome at the theme park.

Your uncle is welcome to stay in our house as long as he likes.

"Thank you for your assistance." "You're welcome."

They had a feeling that they weren't welcome at the conference.

Jeremy says that I am welcome to visit him anytime I want.

Examples of how welcome is used in a sentence as a noun:

Joe's parents gave me a smile of welcome when I visited Joe.

We thanked them for their warm welcome.

The man who saved the child's life received a hero's welcome when he visited the child and her family.

Guests can be assured of a friendly welcome at our all resorts.

Amy's classmates gave her a warm welcome when she returned to school after recovering from a long illness.


The word welcomed is used as the past tense of welcome.

Examples:

I welcomed the guests at the party last evening.

The new students to the university were warmly welcomed by the Warden.

Harry stood at the door and welcomed the visitors by greeting them and shaking hands with them.

The mayor welcomed the guests at the airport last week.

They welcomed us with open arms when we arrived at the club.


I hope that my explanation helps. Don't forget to spread the word about english312.com so that more people could benefit from this website, thank you.



Dr Grammar






Hello Dr Grammar,

I'm glad to visit this site. I have found that English312 is great and helpful to me. Thus, I have a question to ask, that is, when to use 'have been' and 'had been'? Another question is, when to use 'I have had to'?

Hope to see your reply soon, thank you.

Jia Sin






Hello Jia Sin,

I'm glad to know that you find english312.com a great and helpful site.

Here are the answers to your questions:

Have been / has been is combined with a present participle (words ending with an '-ing', such as 'playing', 'reading', 'watching', 'cooking', etc.) to form the present perfect continuous tense.

have been / has been + present participle = present perfect continuous tense

e.g.

have been playing

have been reading

has been watching

has been cooking


The present perfect continuous tense is used to show that an action that started in the past is still going on now, at this very moment. The prepositions 'for' and 'since' are often used with the tense.

Examples:

They have been playing chess for two hours.

Joanne and Frederick have been reading in the library since 10 o'clock this morning.

Henry has been watching TV for half an hour.

My mother has been cooking in the kitchen since 5 pm.


Click here for more information on the present perfect continuous tense.


Had been is combined with a present participle to form the past perfect continuous tense.

had been + present participle = past perfect continuous tense

e.g.

had been waiting

had been chatting

had been discussing

had been studying


We use the past perfect continuous tense to show that an action started in the past and continued up until another time in the past. The action usually stopped when something else happened.

Examples:

Anne had been waiting for you for a long time when you showed up.

They had been chatting for about an hour when the clock chimed.

We had been discussing the issue for twenty minutes when we had a blackout.

Adam had been studying in the university for two years when the war broke out.


You can click here for more information on the past perfect continuous tense.


Would have had to is used in a conditional clause in the past perfect tense (click here for the explanation for the past perfect tense) to show past events that might have happened but are impossible now.

Examples:

If you had contracted the disease, you would have had to see a doctor.

If John's car had broken down, he would have had to call a mechanic.

If the accused had pleaded guilty, he would have had to go to jail.

If Rebecca had lost the key, she would have had to call a locksmith.


I hope that my explanation answers your questions. You're welcome to ask again if you have anymore queries.


Dr Grammar






Hello Dr Grammar,

What is the difference between 'did not' and 'do not'? Can you explain how to use didn't and don't?

Thank you.

BMA






Hello BMA,

Thank you for your questions.

Do is a plural auxiliary verb (singular: does) used with not before a full verb to form negative sentences.

do + not + verb = negative sentence

e.g. do not wash, do not read, do not run, etc.

Examples:

They do not go to church on weekdays.

John and Mary do not play basketball.

We do not like beef.

My grandparents do not watch English films.

My aunts do not go shopping every day.


Did is the past tense of do (and also does). Similarly, it is also used with not before a full verb to form negative sentences. Note that the full verb used is always in the base form (e.g. sit, draw, sweep, drive, run, etc.)

did + not + base for of a verb = negative sentence in the past tense

e.g. did not come, did not see, did not take, etc.

Examples:

I did not visit my uncle last week.

Sam and Valerie did not finish their homework yesterday.

They did not go to Singapore.

Marie did not pay the bills this morning.

The student did not buy the book.


Don't is the contraction of do not and didn't is the contraction of did not.

don't - do not

didn't - did not

They are mainly used informally, which is suitable for normal conversation and writing to friends.

Examples:

I don't swim well.

Helen and her sister don't speak French.

They don't know the way to my house.

The ladies don't like gardening.

Cows don't eat meat.

My aunt didn't bake any cakes last month.

You didn't try hard enough.

Michael didn't pass the driving test.

We didn't hear any strange noise last night.

My mother didn't weed the garden last evening.


Don't and didn't are also used to make question tags, which are short questions added to the end of statements. Negative tags are added to the end of positive statements while positive tags are added to the end of negative statements.

Examples:

Your uncles speak Japanese well, don't they?

They don't go to school by bus, do they?

Samantha and Valerie live nearby, don't they?

Cheetahs don't roar, do they?

The postmen deliver letters every day, don't they?

You don't drink tea, do you?

He forgot to bring a dictionary, didn't he?

Julie didn't miss the train, did she?

They danced well last night, didn't they?

The principal didn't give a speech last week, did he?

You replied his email, didn't you?

Your neighbour didn't go fishing this morning, did he?


I hope that you understand my explanation. You're welcome to ask again if you have any more questions.


Dr Grammar






Dear Dr Grammar,

I have a question: how to use the words 'can' and 'could'?

Thank you.

AHTO879






Hi AHTO879,

Thanks for your question.

The modal verb 'can' means 'be able to' or 'to know how to do something'.

Examples:

I can drive well.

Ducks can swim.

Veronica can speak German fluently.


It is also used to ask for permission to do something or to ask someone to give you something.

Examples:

Can I read your magazine?

Can I use your phone?

Can I have a glass of water, please?


The modal verb 'could' is used:

(1) as the past tense of 'can'.

Examples:

I could answer all the questions in the test this morning.

Sam could not open the door yesterday because he lost his key.

I could not drive well two years ago.


(2) to say that something is possible or might happen.

Examples:

It could be months before he returns home.

You pen could have been stolen by someone.

Don't worry - your daughter could have just missed the bus.


(3) to make a request politely.

Examples:

Could you feed our dogs while we are on holiday in Japan?

Could I borrow your bicycle?

Could Lisa come along with us to the library?


(4) to make a suggestion.

Examples:

You could go for a medical check-up to ease your mind.

Max's not home but you could always try his mobile phone number.

Couldn't you wake up earlier to avoid going to school late?


(5) to show annoyance because somebody did not do what you expected.

Examples:

You could have told me that you were not going to make it.

They could at least apologise to me.

You could have called me and informed me about the postponement.


I hope that helps. Do ask again if you have any more doubts.


Dr Grammar






Hello Sir,

I need to know how to use the word 'omnipotent' in a sentence.

Can I use it in essays? is it suitable?

Thank you :)

Justin






Hello Justin,

Thank you for your questions.

The adjective 'omnipotent' carries 2 meanings:


(1) (of a deity) having unlimited power and therefore able to do anything.

Examples:

According to Mr Brown, he and his family worship an omnipotent God.

Why doesn't the omnipotent God stop sufferings, wars and diseases?

In the legend, there is an omnipotent character.

God is described as omnipotent and merciful.

Do you believe that the earth and all its living creatures are created by an omnipotent creator?


(2) having great power and influence.

Examples:

The king of that country is an omnipotent sovereign.

Such important decisions can only made by the omnipotent central committee.

In the past, the global economy was controlled by that wealthy and omnipotent nation.

The omnipotent tycoon owns a large amount of property.

The omnipotent managing director of that company has decided to proceed with his decision to buy the shopping arcade.


Yes, you can use the word 'omnipotent' in essays, as long as it carries one of the meanings stated above.

I hope that my explanation helps to answer your questions. Just feel free to ask again if you have any more queries.


Dr Grammar






Dear Dr Grammar,

I have a problem using the phrase 'first things first'.

Is it true that it can only be used in the first paragraph of an article or something like that?

Thank you.

Timothy






Hi Timothy,

Thank you for your question.

The phrase 'first things first' means 'the more important things should be done or dealt with first'.

Examples:

(1)First things first - let's finish our homework before we go shopping.

(2)First things first - greet the customers before taking their orders.

(3)We have a lot of household chores to do, but, first things first, let's have something to eat!

(4)You need to get your priorities right - first things first.

(5)I suggest you complete your tertiary education before your start working - first things first.

As you can see from the examples, it does not necessarily have to be used at the beginning of a sentence or in the first paragraph of an article only. It can be used wherever suitable, as long as it is appropriate and grammatically error free.

I believe you have confused it with the phrase 'first of all', which means 'before doing anything else'. It is often used at the beginning when you explain the procedure to do something or a set of instructions.

Examples:

(1)First of all, get ready all the ingredients.

(2)First of all, wash the vegetables.

(3)First of all, read the instruction manual before using the software.

(4)First of all, unfix the screws.

I hope that my explanation clears your doubts. Don't hesitate to ask again if you have any other questions.



Dr Grammar






Dear Dr Grammar,

How do I use "is filled" or "is fulled"?

Thank you.

Elaine_Ling






Dear Elaine_Ling,

Thank you for your question.

The phrase 'is filled' is often used with the preposition 'with', making it 'is filled with'.

(1) The phrase 'is filled with' means 'something is full of something'.

Examples:

The bottle is filled with water.

This bucket is filled with ice.

That box is filled with books.

My room is filled with smoke.

These suitcases are filled with clothes.

When Linda heard the bad news, her eyes were filled with tears.


(2) The phrase 'is filled with' is also used to show that somebody has a strong feeling or emotion.

Examples:

Rebecca is filled with admiration for her uncle's accomplishments.

Suddenly, John's face is filled with fear.

When Mariah heard about her daughter's excellent examination results, she was filled with happiness.

Our faces were filled with anger when we learnt about the brutal murder.


(3) Since 'full' is an adjective, it does not have a past tense. Thus, the phrase 'is fulled' does not exist in the English language. We use 'is full of' instead and its meaning is similar to 'is filled with'.

Examples:

My cup is full of coffee.

The refrigerator is full of food and drinks.

Those shelves are full of magazines.

Fanny is full of joy to be reunited with her long-lost brother.

His essay is full of grammatical errors.

Harry is full of praise for the scientist's achievements.


I hope that my explanation answers your question. You're welcome to ask again if you have any other questions.



Dr Grammar






Dear Dr Grammar,

How do I use 'in time' and 'on time'?

Thank you for helping me.

May





Hi May,

Thank you for your question.

When we are in time to do something, it means that we are not late and we have enough time to do something.

Examples:

Will we be in time for the 4.20 p.m. flight?

Luckily, the ambulance arrived just in time to save the accident victim's life.

I'm sure that I'll be able to complete the project in time.


When something happens on time, it means that something happens punctually, or at the arranged time.

Examples:

The train arrived right on time.

The ship left the harbor on time.


When we do something on time, we do something according to schedule and we are not late.

Examples:

John always hands in his coursework on time.

As we arrived at the theatre on time, we did not miss the beginning of the movie.

I hope that my explanation helps.


Dr Grammar






Hi im joan bernas from philippines. Ive been searching a site for english lesson. I find your site so great. I really hope to become fluent in english. I hope you could help me. I want to create an article but im afraid to post it because i dont want to be creticized. so i am looking forward something you can contribute on me aside from you english lesson.




Hi Joan,

Thanks so much for your compliments. I'm glad that you like our website. I'm also glad to know that you're learning Engllish and hope to be fluent in the language.

Of course, I'm more than willing to help you. In your email, you mentioned that you wish to create an article. You don't have to worry about the criticism, because I can help you. If you want me to, I can edit your article and make it more presentable first before you post it.

Remember, english312.com is specially meant for English learners like you. Therefore, do not hesitate to let me know, if you encounter any problems in the process of learning the language.

Happy learning!

Dr Grammar






Hello Dr Grammar;

I just wanted to ask about the word " peanut " is it countable or uncouontable & if it is ; Then why 'peanut butter " is called so ?

Thanks

Heba Sadek




Hello Heba Sadek,

The word 'peanut' means 'a nut that grows underground in a thin shell'. So, it is a countable noun.

In the phrase 'peanut butter', the word 'peanut' is not used as a noun. Rather, it is used as an adjective, since it describes the butter. 'Butter' is an uncountable noun.

In other words, in the phrase 'peanut butter', 'peanut' is used as an adjective while 'butter' is used as an uncountable noun.

'Peanut butter' is so called because it is a soft butter-like food which is made from crushed peanuts.

I hope that helps.


Dr Grammar