Quick- Reference Grammar Guide





Simple Present Tense


  • Used to talk about permanent situations or about things that happen regularly, repeatedly or all the time.
  • Used to talk about completed actions and events that happen as we speak or write.


            Examples:      Rain falls in April.

                            I eat breakfast at 8am every morning.

                            Firstly, I take notes and then I read through them like                             this; lastly, I practice the structures like so.


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Present Progressive


  • Used to talk about temporary actions and situations that are going on

    earound now:f before, during and after the moment of speaking.

  • Used to talk about the future
  • Used to talk about developing and changing situations even if they are long-lasting.
  • Can refer to repeated actions if happening around the time of speaking.


           Examples:       Why are you acting like this?

                            I'm reading the newspaper.

                            If hefs eating his breakfast then he doesn't like to be                             disturbed.



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Simple Present Perfect


  • To say that a finished action or event is connected with the present in some way.
  • Give news of recent events
  • Use it for past events when we are thinking of a period of time continuing up until the present.


           Examples:        I have finished my lessons.

                            My friend has gone overseas.

                            It has given me an insight into a different world.


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Present Perfect Progressive


  • Used to talk about situations which started in the past and are still going on.
  • Has an eup to nowf emphasis.


           Examples:        I have been writing a book.

                            It has been cold since December.


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Simple Past Tense


  • Used to talk about many kinds of past events: short, quickly finished actions and happenings, longer situations, and repeated events.


           Examples:       I ate my breakfast.

                            I stayed there all summer.

                            Every summer I went to the beach.


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Simple Past Perfect


  • Means eearlier pastf or 'completed in the past'.
  • We go back when we are already talking about the past tense. This is to make it clear that something had already happened at the time we are talking about.


           Examples:       I realized that we had met before.

                            I had learnt of his promotion before I left work for the



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Past Continuous/ Progressive


  • Used to say that something was in progress (going on) around a particular past time.
  • Used for temporary actions and situations.


           Examples:        I was swimming at 11 o'clock yesterday.

                            They were dancing until the early hours of the morning.


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Modal Auxiliary Verbs


  • Modal verbs convey either: degrees of certainty or obligation, or freedom to act.
  • Used before the infinitives of other verbs without the etof. I.e. eto meetf becomes emeetf when used with a Modal Auxiliary Verb. Exceptions are marked with a *.
  • Modal verbs have no esf in the third person.
  • Modal verbs DO NOT have infinitives or participles and do not normally have past forms.
  • Modal verbs include: can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, ought*.
  • Need*, dare* and the expression 'had better' can sometimes be used like modal auxiliary verbs.


           Examples:        I can meet you there this evening.

                            I might be late.

                            I will be alone.

                            You should wait for me.

                            I need to* eat before I leave.

                            I ought to* let them know.


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Tag Questions/ Question Tags


  • A short question added to the end of a sentence inviting the listener to confirm or add their own opinion about the statement made.
  • Commonly used in colloquial speech, although sometimes used in written forms as well.
  • Used after affirmative and negative sentences, but not after questions.
  • The eTagf is made up of an auxiliary verb and a pronoun.  The auxiliary verb, (negative, or affirmative if the principal verb is negative,) is based on the verb in the proceeding sentence, and the pronoun is dependent on the subject. 


           Examples:        It is very warm today, isnft it?

                            It isnft very warm today, is it?

                            Sara gave us beautiful gifts, didnft she?

                            We canft keep the cat, can we?


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This, That, These, Those


  • They are demonstratives.  They show where an object or person is in relation to the speaker.
  • When used as pronouns without nouns, they normally refer to only things. However, the demonstratives can be used as pronouns when we are identifying people.
  • This/these is used to talk about people and things close to the speaker both physically or psychologically.
  • That/those is used to talk about people and things which are more distant from the speaker or not present both physically or psychologically.


           Examples:        This is a red pen. 

                            Can you pass me that green pen? 

                            These chocolate cookies taste great!

                            Are those the new chairs?


In these examples the red pen and the chocolate cookies are physically close to the speaker while the green pen and the new chairs are physically farther away from the speaker.


                            This was a very nice party. (psychologically near)

                            That is not my problem.  (psychologically distant)


                            Ifll never forget this.

                            Thatfs great.


In these examples this and that are acting as pronouns without nouns and refer to things, not people.


                            Who is that?

                            This is Tom.


In these examples this and that refer to people, not things.


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Basic Prepositions


In/At/To/On/Under/By/Onto/Into, etc.


Prepositions of Place


           Examples:        The vase is on the table.

                            The show is at the theatre. 

                            The milk is in the refrigerator.

                            The cat is under the bed.

                            He walked into the tunnel.

                            The dog jumped onto the roof.


Prepositions of Time


           Examples:        The show starts at 3pm.

                            I'll be there by 7pm.

                            I'll see you in 5 minutes.

                            Letfs meet on April 24th.


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Countable/ Uncountable Nouns


Countable nouns:

  • Names of separate objects, people, ideas etc. which can be counted


           Examples:        a dog; 2 dogs

                            a tree; 12 trees

                            a fact; 3 facts


Uncountable nouns:

  • Names of materials, liquids, abstract qualities, collections etc, which cannot be counted using 1, 2, 3, etc.


           Examples:        weather     





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  • Much is used with uncountable or singular nouns.
  • Many is used with countable or plural nouns.
  • Much/Many + noun
  • Much/Many of + determiner + noun
  • Much/Many can be used without a noun.
  • Used mostly in questions and negative clauses.


           Examples:        There was not much sun.

                            How many people were there?

                            There are many books in the library.

                            He didn't have much to say.

                            There isnft much juice left.

                            How much? (about a price)

                            I donft know much about science.


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There is/ There are


  • Used as an introductory subject in sentences to say that something exists, or does not exist, somewhere (the real subject comes after the verb).
  • gThere ish is used for singular subjects
  • gThere areh is used for plural subjects.


           Examples:        There are many boats on the Thames.

                            There is a river in the town.


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Always, Often, Sometimes, Never,  

  • Always is used to mean eat all timesf.
  • Often is used to mean efrequentlyf, eon different occasionsf, or emany timesf.
  • Sometimes is used to mean 'on some occasions', 'more than once' (past, present or future), or enow and thenf.
  • Never is used to mean 'not ever', enot at allf, eon no occasionf, or eat no timef.  It is usually followed by the present perfect/ past simple or imperative form of the verb.


           Examples:        I always go to school on Mondays.  (Every Monday)

                            I often go to the park after school.  (4 days a week)

                            I sometimes go shopping.  (once a month)

                            I never eat meat.  (not ever)


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Possessive Adjectives


My, Your, His, Her, Its, Our, Their

  • Used at the beginning of noun phrases. They are not adjectives although they are sometimes referred to as 'possessive adjectives'.


           Examples:        My bag is in your car.

                            Their house is in the countryside.

                            It was my understanding that you would be there.

                            Do you know his phone number?

                            -eWhich is your car?f

                            -eItfs the red one.f


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Personal Pronouns


I, Me, You, He, Him, She, Her, It, We, Us, They, Them

  • Used when it is not necessary to use or repeat more exact noun phrases.
  • They and Them are used to refer to things as well as people.
  • One is also used as a personal pronoun.  Use it to talk about people while being gender neutral. 
  • Who is an interrogative personal pronoun.


           Examples:        -eDo you have Tomfs bike?f

                            -eNo, I already gave it to him.f


                                  -eDid Tom and Mary get the bike from Fred and Sara?f

                            -eThey took it from them.f


                                  One does what one is told to do.


                            Who left before 6 o'clock yesterday?


                            -eDid you bring the pens?f

                            -eNo, I didnft bring them.f


* Be careful not to overuse personal pronouns.  The pronoun MUST have a clear antecedent.  


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Telling Time


  • The expression eofclockf is only used on the hour.  It is NEVER used with the designators AM and PM.


           Examples:        It's 3 ofclock. (3:00)

                            Itfs 12 ofclock. (12:00)

                            Itfs 3 ofclock PM


  • e:01f, e:09f, etc are pronounced eo- onef, and eo- nine,f respectively. 
  • e:46f, e:23f, etc are pronounced with their usual number-words:  forty-six,

     and twenty-three, respectively.


      Examples:        Itfs two fifty-three. (2:53)

                        Itfs twelve twenty-nine. (12:29)

                        Itfs nine o-nine. (9:09)


  • The AM and PM designators may be used after the time is spoken, but are not necessary if it is obvious which time is being referred to.


      Examples:        Itfs two fifty-three PM. (2:53 PM)

                        Please meet me at nine AM. (9:00 AM)


  • Instead of the designators AM and PM, ein the morningf, ein the afternoonf, and ein the eveningf may be used.


      Examples:        The meeting is at nine fifty-three in the morning.

                        (9:53 AM)

                        I will arrive at three in the afternoon. (3:00 PM)

                        Dinner is at six in the evening. (6:00 PM)


  • 12:00 AM and 12:00 PM are referred to as midnight and noon respectively.  Midday can also be used to refer to 12:00 PM


      Examples:        Itfs almost midnight.  (12:00AM)

                             Letfs meet at noon. (12:00PM)


  • The times e:15f, e:30f, and e:45f are designated using the terms quarter past, half past, and quarter to respectively.  * Remember that a quarter to an hour refers to the e:45f of the previous hour.


      Examples:        Itfs (a) quarter past three.  (3:15)

                        Itfs half past two. (2:30)  

                             Letfs meet at (a) quarter to five. (4:45)


  • British people use minutes past/to for times between the 5 min division.  Past is often dropped from half past in informal speech.


           Examples:        Itfs 3 minutes past four.  (4:03)

                            It's 2 minutes to twelve.  (11:58)

                            It's half five now. (5:30)


  • Americans often use after instead of past.  Of and etil can be used instead of to.  When the approaching hour is obvious, it can be dropped from the expression.


           Examples:        It's ten past six. (6:10)

                            Itfs ten after six. (6:10)

                            Itfs a quarter of twelve. (11:45)

                            Itfs a quarter to twelve. (11:45)

                            Itfs a quarter etil twelve. (11:45)

-         Is it 12:00 yet?

-         Itfs a quarter etil. (11:45)


  • 24-hour clock is used mainly in timetables, programs and official announcements.
  • In ordinary speech, people usually use the 12-hour clock.


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Definite/ Indefinite Articles


  • A/an is called the eindefinite articlef- i.e. not known to either listener/speaker.
  • The is called the edefinite articlef- i.e. known to both listener/speaker.


           Examples:        There was a car parked over there. (a random car)

                            Where was the car parked? (a specific, known car)

                            I went to an art exhibition today. (general art exhibition)

                            I went to the art exhibition today. (known art exhibition)

                            Did you see a doctor about your cold?  (any doctor)

                            I went to see the doctor this morning. (specific doctor)


  • Some/Any are often used as the plural of a/an.
  • They refer to an indefinite quantity or number.


           Some - is used in affirmative clauses.

                   - refers to an indefinite quantity or number.

                   - is used for positive replies.

                   - is used in eiff clauses.


     Any    - is used in questions and negatives.

                   - is used in affirmative clauses after never/ hardly/ without/                        little.

                  - is used in eiff clauses.


           Examples:        There are some apples in the bowl.

                            Are there any oranges in the kitchen?

                            There are never any matches left.

                            They left without any bags.

                                  Some people think so.

                            If I had some I would give them to you.

                            If I knew any of them I would introduce you.


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Comparatives and Superlatives


  • Comparatives are used to compare one person, thing, action, event or group with another person thing etc.
  • Superlatives are used to compare somebody/something with the whole group that he/she/it belongs to.


           Examples:        Tom's taller than his two brothers.  (comparative)

                            Tom's the tallest of the 3 boys.  (superlative)

                            Your accent is better than mine.  (comparative)

                            Your accent is the best in the whole class.  (superlative)

                            You were luckier than they were.  (comparative)

                            You were the luckiest of the lot. (superlative)


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The above is courtesy of Michael Swan: "Practical English Usage"(1995)


See also: http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar

for comprehensive grammar point explanations



Some things to remember when teaching grammar:


-Teach it as efficiently as you can- grammar is only part of a teacherfs activities and classroom time is limited.


-Make sure the activity that you propose to teach is appropriate.


-No group of learners is the same: they will all have different needs, interests, level and goals as well as beliefs, attitudes and values.


Above tips- courtesy of Scott Thornbury: eHow to Teach Grammarf


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