Languages › English as a Second Language Essential Basic English Lessons Share Flipboard Email Print Marc Romanelli / Getty Images Languages Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Grammar Business English Resources for Teachers By Kenneth Beare English as a Second Language (ESL) Expert TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and course developer with over three decades of teaching experience. our editorial process Kenneth Beare Updated July 27, 2019 These basic English lessons provide the most important learning points for beginning level English learners. Use these 25 short lessons to study for tests, review basic English essentials, or check your understanding of the basics. 01 of 25 When to Use Any or Some Some and any are used with both countable and uncountable nouns to ask about, confirm and respond negatively about an indefinite amount. Some and any are used with singular and plural verb forms. Here are some examples followed by the rules: Do you have any salt? There are some chairs in that room. She doesn't have any money. Use "some" in positive sentences. We use some for both countable and uncountable nouns. Example: I have some friends.Use "any" in negative sentences or questions. We use any for both countable and uncountable nouns. Example: Do you have any cheese? - He doesn't have any friends in Chicago.Use "some" in questions when offering or requesting something that is there. Example: Would you like some bread? (offer) - Could I have some water? (request)Use "any" in negative sentences or questions. We use any for both countable and uncountable nouns. Example: Do you have any cheese? - He doesn't have any friends in Chicago.Use "some" words—somebody, someone, somewhere and something—in positive sentences. Example: He lives somewhere near here.Use "any" words—anybody, anyone, anywhere and anything—in negative sentences or questions. Example: Do you know anything about that boy? - She doesn't have anywhere to go. 02 of 25 Using the Basic Prepositions In / On / To / At When and How to Use In Use 'in' with spaces: in a room / in a buildingin a garden / in a park Use 'in' with bodies of water: in the waterin the seain a river Use 'in' with lines: in a row / in a linein a queue When and How to Use At Use 'at' with places: at the bus-stopat the doorat the cinemaat the end of the street When and How to Use On Use 'on' with surfaces: on the ceiling / on the wall / on the flooron the table Use 'on' with small islands: I stayed on Maui. Use 'on' with directions: on the lefton the rightstraight on When and How to Use To Use 'to' with movement from one place to another: I went to school.Did you go to work?Let's go to the shopping mall. DO NOT Use 'to' with 'home.' 03 of 25 Using Definite and Indefinite Articles The / A / An a = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with consonants She has a dog.I work in a factory. an = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with vowels (a,e,i,o,u) Can I have an apple?She is an English teacher. the = definite article (a specific object that both the person speaking and the listener know) The car over there is fast.The teacher is very good, isn't he? The first time you speak of something use "a or an", the next time you repeat that object use "the". I live in a house. The house is quite old and has four bedrooms.I ate in a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was very good. DO NOT use an article with countries, states, counties or provinces, lakes and mountains except when the country is a collection of states such as "The United States". He lives in Washington near Mount Rainier.They live in northern British Columbia. Use an article with bodies of water, oceans and seas. My country borders on the Pacific Ocean. DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about things in general I like Russian tea.She likes reading books. DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about meals, places, and transport He has breakfast at home.I go to university.He comes to work by taxi. 04 of 25 How to Use the Word Like 'Like' can be used as a verb or as a preposition. There are a number of common questions with 'like' that are easy to confuse. What's he like? - 'What … like?' is used to ask about a person's or object's character and is general in nature.What does he like? - This use of the verb 'like' is for general preferences. 'Like' as a verb is generally followed by the 'ing' form of the verb (I like playing tennis).What does she look like? - 'Like' is used as a preposition to express physical appearance. In this case, 'like' can also mean 'similar to' if you are making a comparison to other people.What would you like to drink? - Another common use of 'like' is in 'would like' to express wishes. Note that 'would like' is followed by the infinite form of the verb NOT the '-ing' form. 05 of 25 How to Use the Present Simple Tense Use the present simple to talk about activities or routines which take place on a regular basis. Positive Sentences: Subject + present conjugation of verb + objects I / You drive to work every day.She / He / It drives to work every day.You / We / They drive to work every day. Negative Sentences: Subject + do not + base form of verb + objects I / You don't (do not) use a computer every day.She / He / It doesn't ( does not) use a computer at work. You / We / They don't (do not) use a typewriter at work. Question Form: Wh question words + do + subject + base form of verb When do I / you arrive at work?What does he / she / it use at work?Where do we / you / they keep the paper? Teachers can find tips on how to teach present simple which includes lesson plans and activities. 06 of 25 Forming the Past Tense of Irregular Verbs The past form of regular verbs ends in 'ed'. Irregular verbs must be studied and learned individually. Here is a list of past forms of some of the most common irregular verbs. be - was/werebecome - becamebegin - beganbreak - brokebring - broughtbuild - builtbuy - boughtcome - camecost - costcut - cutdo - diddrink - drankeat - atefind - foundfly - flewget - gotgive - gavego - wenthave - hadkeep - keptknow - knewleave - leftmake - mademeet - metpay - paidput - putread - readsay - saidsee - sawsell - soldsend - sentspeak - spokespend - spenttake - tookteach - taughttell - toldthink - thought 07 of 25 Understanding the Four Types of Pronouns There are four types of pronouns: Subject Pronouns, Object Pronouns, Possessive Pronouns, and Demonstrative Pronouns. Here are explanations and examples of each. Subject Pronouns Function as the subject of a sentence: I live in New York.Do you like playing tennis?He doesn't want to come this evening.She works in London.It won't be easy.We are studying pronouns at the moment.You went to Paris last year, didn't you?They bought a new car last month. Object Pronouns Serve as the object of a verb. Give me the book.He told you to come tonight.She asked him to help.They visited her when they came to New York.She bought it at the store.He picked us up at the airport.The teacher asked you to finish your homework.I invited them to a party. Possessive Pronouns Show that something belongs to someone. That house is mine. This is yours.I'm sorry, that's his.Those books are hers.Those students are ours.Look over there, those seats are yours.Theirs will be green. Demonstrative Pronouns Refer to things. 'this' and 'these' refer to something that is near. 'that' and 'those' refer to things that are farther away. This is my house.That is our car over there.These are my colleagues in this room.Those are beautiful flowers in the next field. Possessive adjectives - my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their Are often confused with possessive pronouns. The possessive adjective modifies the noun following it in order to show possession. I'll get my books.Is that your car over there?That is his teacher, Mr. Jones.I want to go to her store.Its color is red.Can we bring our children?You are welcome to invite your husbands. 08 of 25 Using the Basic Prepositions of Time - In / At / On When and How to Use In for Time Use 'in' months and years and periods of time: in Januaryin 1978in the twenties Use 'in' a period of time in the future: in a few weeksin a couple of days When and How to Use At for Time Use 'at' with precise time: at six o'clockat 10.30at two p.m. When and How to Use On for Time Use 'on' with days of the week: on Mondayon Fridays Use 'on' with specific calendar days: on Christmas dayon October 22nd Important Notes We say in the morning, afternoon or evening BUT we say 'at night'.Test your understanding with this short quiz. 09 of 25 Verbs Followed by the Gerund or the Infinitive When two verbs are used together, the second verb is often in the gerund form (-ing) or the infinitive. There are no specific rules concerning which verbs take which form. Like irregular verbs, you will need to learn which form a verb takes. Common Verbs That Take the Gerund 'ing' Form goenjoyquitdiscussmindcan't standsuggest Examples: They go jogging on Saturdays.I don't mind helping you.They can't stand driving in traffic jams. Common Verbs That Use the Infinitive Form promiseplanrefusewantneeddecidehope Examples: I promised to help him.Alice needs to start that task.He decided to quit his job. 10 of 25 Verbs That Modify Other Verbs: The Basics of the Modal Form Modals are verbs that modify other verbs. The most common modals are: CanShouldMust Note that all subjects take the same form of the modal. Positive Formed by combining Subject + Modal + Base Form of Verb + Objects Examples: He can play the piano.I must leave soon. Negative Formed by combining Subject + Modal + Not + Base Form of Verb + Objects Examples: They can't visit next week.You shouldn't go to that film. Question Formed by combining Modal + Subject + Base Form of Verb + Objects Examples: Can you help me?What should I do? Giving Advice with Should 'Should' is used when asking for or giving advice. It is also used when asking for suggestions. Examples: I think you should see a doctor.What type of job should I get? Expressing Ability with Can 'Can' is used to speak about abilities. Examples: He can speak Japanese.Can you play golf? Asking for Permission with May 'May' is used formally and politely to ask for permission. Can is often used in spoken English, however. Examples: May I help you?May I visit you this afternoon? 11 of 25 Forming the Future Tense With Going to and Will In English, the future can be expressed with either the word 'will' or the phrase 'going to'. Here are examples of how and when to use each of these future forms. The Future Tense With Will Use the following forms with 'will'. Notice that 'will' or 'won't' is used for ALL subjects. Positive: Formed by combining Subject + will + base form of verb + object(s)Negative: Formed by combining Subject + will + not + base form of verb + object(s)Question: Formed by combining (Question Word) + will + subject + base form of verb. Will Is Used for Spontaneous Decisions Spontaneous decisions are decisions made AT the moment of speaking. Examples: Jack's hungry. I'll make her a sandwich.That's difficult! I'll help you with the problem. Will Is Used for Predictions Examples: It will snow tomorrow.She won't win the game. Will Is Used for Scheduled Public Events Examples: The concert will begin at 8 o'clock.When will the train leave?The class won't start next week. Will Is Used for Promises Examples: Will you marry me?I'll help you with your homework after class. Future with 'Going to' The future with 'going to' is used to speak about future intentions or plans made before the present moment. Use the following forms with 'going to'. Positive: Formed by combining Subject + to be + going to + base form of verb + object(s)Negative: Formed by combining Subject + to be + not + going to + base form of verb + object(s)Question: Formed by combining (Question Word) + to be + subject + going to + base form of verb Examples: We are going to study French next semester.Where are you going to stay in France?She isn't going to take a vacation this year. Going to Is Used for Planned Decisions Planned decisions are decisions made BEFORE the moment of speaking. Examples: I'm going to study Languages at university next year.We're going to stay at the Hilton in New York next week. Going to Is Used for Predicting an Action That You See is About to Happen Examples: Watch out! You're going to hit that car!Look at those clouds. It's going to rain. Going to Is Used for Future Intentions Examples: I'm going to be a policeman when I grow up.Katherine is going to study English when she goes to University. 12 of 25 Countries and Languages - Names and Adjectives This list shows first the country, then language and, finally the nationality of many major countries from around the world. One-Syllable Country Names France, French, FrenchGreece, Greek, Greek Nationality Ends in '-Ish' Britain, English, BritishDenmark, Danish, DanishFinland, Finnish, FinnishPoland, Polish, PolishSpain, Spanish, SpanishSweden, Swedish, SwedishTurkey, Turkish, Turkish Nationality Ends in '-An' Germany, German, GermanMexico, Spanish, MexicanThe United States, English, American Nationality Ends in '-Ian' or '-Ean' Australia, English, AustralianBrazil, Portuguese, BrazilianEgypt, Arabic, EgyptianItaly, Italian, ItalianHungary, Hungarian, HungarianKorea, Korean, KoreanRussia, Russian, Russian Nationality Ends in 'Ese' China, Chinese, ChineseJapan, Japanese, JapanesePortugal, Portuguese, Portuguese 13 of 25 Countable and Uncountable Expressions with Nouns Uncountable Use the singular form of the verb with uncountable nouns. Use both 'some' and any' with uncountable nouns when speaking about specific objects. Examples Do you have any butter?There is some juice in the bottle. If you are speaking in general, do not use a modifier. Examples Do you drink Coca-Cola?He doesn't eat meat. Countable Use the plural form of the verb with countable nouns. Use both 'some' and 'any' with countable nouns when speaking about specific objects. Examples There are some magazines on the table.Has he got any friends? If you are speaking in general, use the plural form of the noun. Examples They love books by Hemingway.She doesn't eat apples. Expressions for Use with Countable and Uncountable Nouns Use the following expressions with uncountable nouns. mostmuch, lots of, a lot ofsomea little, little Examples There is lots of interest in the project.She's got some money left in the bank.There's little time to finish. Use the following expressions with countable nouns. many, lots of, a lot ofseveralsomenot many, only a few, few Examples There are a lot of pictures on the wall.We have several friends in Chicago.She bought some envelopes this afternoon.There are only a few people in the restaurant. 14 of 25 Countable and Non-Countable Nouns Countable nouns are individual objects, people, places, etc. which can be counted. books, Italians, pictures, stations, men, etc. A countable noun can be both singular - a friend, a house, etc.—or plural—a few apples, lots of trees, etc. Use the singular form of the verb with a singular countable noun: There is a book on the table.That student is excellent! Use the plural form of the verb with a countable noun in the plural: There are some students in the classroom.Those houses are very big, aren't they? What are Non-countable Nouns? Non-countable (or uncountable) nouns are materials, concepts, information, etc. which are not individual objects and can not be counted. information, water, understanding, wood, cheese, etc. Uncountable nouns are always singular. Use the singular form of the verb with uncountable nouns: There is some water in that pitcher.That is the equipment we use for the project. Adjectives with Countable and Uncountable Nouns Use a/an with countable nouns preceded by an adjective(s): Tom is a very intelligent young man.I have a beautiful grey cat. Do not use a/an with uncountable nouns preceded by an adjective(s): That is very useful information.There is some cold beer in the fridge. Some uncountable nouns in English are countable in other languages. This can be confusing! Here is a list of some of the most common, easy to confuse uncountable nouns in English. accommodationadvicebaggagebreadequipmentfurnituregarbageinformationknowledgeluggagemoneynewspastaprogressresearchtravelwork 15 of 25 Comparative Forms in English We use the comparative and superlative form to compare and contrast different objects in English. Use the comparative form to show the difference between two objects. Example: New York is more exciting than Seattle. Use the superlative form when speaking about three or more objects to show which object is 'the most' of something. Example: New York is the most exciting city in the USA. Here is how to construct the comparative form in English. Notice in the example sentences that you use 'than' to compare the two objects: One-Syllable Adjectives add '-er' to end of the adjective (Note: double the final consonant if preceded by a vowel) remove the 'y' from the adjective and add 'ier' Example: cheap - cheaper / hot - hotter / high - higher Yesterday was hotter than today.This book is cheaper than that book. Two-Syllable Adjectives Ending in '-y' Example: happy - happier / funny - funnier I am happier than you.That joke was funnier than his joke. Adjectives With Two, Three, or More Syllables place 'more' before the adjective Example: interesting - more interesting / difficult - more difficult London is more expensive than Madrid.This test is more difficult than the last test. Important Exceptions There are some important exceptions to these rules. Here are two of the most important exceptions: Good good - adjectivebetter - comparative Example: This book is better than that one.I am better at tennis than my sister. Bad bad - adjectiveworse - comparative Example: His French is worse than mine.His singing is worse than Tom's. 16 of 25 Superlative Forms - Understanding the English Superlative Form Here is how to construct the superlative form in English. One-Syllable Adjectives Place 'the' before the adjective and add '-est' to end of the adjective (Note: double the final consonant if preceded by a vowel). Example: cheap - the cheapest / hot - the hottest / high - the highest Today is the hottest day of the summer.This book is the cheapest I can find. Two, Three or More Syllable Adjectives Place 'the most' before the adjective. Example: interesting - the most interesting/difficult - the most difficult London is the most expensive city in England.That is the most beautiful painting here. Two-Syllable Adjectives Ending in '-y' Place 'the' before the adjective and remove the 'y' from the adjective and add 'iest'. Example: happy - the happiest / funny - the funniest New York is the noisiest city in the USA.He is the most important person I know. Important Exceptions There are some important exceptions to these rules. Here are two of the most important exceptions: Good good - adjectivethe best - superlative Example: Peter is the best golf player in the school.This is the best school in the city. Bad bad - adjectivethe worst - superlative Example: Jane is the worst student in the class.This is the worst day of my life. 17 of 25 Time Expressions and Tenses Time expressions are used to indicate the time at/during which an action took place. Common time expressions include: Present forms: everyday, on Fridays, at the moment, now, as well as adverbs of frequency such as always, usually, sometimes (for present habits and routines). Days of the weeks followed by 's' such as Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. Examples He sometimes finishes work early.Marjorie is listening to the radio at the moment.Peter goes jogging on Saturdays. Past forms: when I was ..., last week, day, year, etc., yesterday, ago (two weeks ago, three years ago, four months ago, etc.) Examples He visited his friends last week.I didn't see you two days ago.Jane flew to Boston yesterday. Future forms: next week, year, etc., tomorrow, by (the end of the week, Thursday, next year, etc.) in X time (in two weeks time, in four months time, etc.) Examples I'm going to attend a conference next week.It won't snow tomorrow.They're going to visit New York in two weeks. Perfect forms: since, yet, already, just, for Examples Michael has worked here since 1998.Have you finished reading the paper yet?He's just gone to the bank. 18 of 25 Adverbs of Frequency - Rules for Use Use adverbs of frequency to say how often you do something. Adverbs of frequency are often used with the present simple because they indicate repeated or routine activities. For example, They often go out for dinner. Adverbs of frequency include (form most often to least often): alwaysusuallyoftensometimesoccasionallyseldomrarelynever If the sentence has one verb (e.g. no auxiliary verb) put the adverb in the middle of the sentence after the subject and before the verb. Examples Tom usually goes to work by car.Janet never flies. She always goes by bus. Adverbs of frequency come after the verb 'be': Examples I am never late for work.Peter is often at school. If the sentence has more than one verb (e.g. auxiliary verb), put the adverb of frequency before the main verb. Examples I can never remember anything!They have often visited Rome. When using adverbs of frequency in the question or negative form, put the adverb of frequency before the main verb. Examples She doesn't often visit Europe.Do you usually get up early? Test your understanding with this short quiz. 19 of 25 Imperative Form Use the imperative form when giving instructions or orders. The imperative is also very common in written instructions. Be careful when you use the imperative, as it is often considered impolite in English. If someone asks you for instructions, use the imperative. If, on the other hand, you would like to request that someone do something use a polite question form. There is only one imperative form for both 'you' singular and plural. Examples: Hurry up!Take the first left, go straight on and the supermarket is on the left. Positive: Base Form of Verb + Objects Turn the music down, please.Insert coins into the slot. Negative: Do + Not + Base Form of Verb + Objects Do not smoke in this building.Don't rush, I'm not in a hurry. 20 of 25 Using Adverbs and Adjectives Correctly Adjectives modify nouns and are placed directly before them. Tom is an excellent singer.I bought a comfortable chair.She's thinking about buying a new house. Adjectives are also used in simple sentences with the verb 'to be'. In this case, the adjective describes the subject of the sentence: Jack is happy.Peter was very tired.Mary'll be excited when you tell her. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They are easily recognized because they end in '-ly' (with a few exceptions!): Adjective - careful / Adverb - carefullyAdjective - quick / Adverb - quickly Adverbs are often used at the end of a sentence to describe (modify) the verb: Jack drove carelessly.Tom played the match intelligently.Jason talks about his classes constantly. 21 of 25 Present Perfect Tense The present perfect is used to say what has happened recently and has an effect on the present moment. We often use 'just', 'yet' and 'already' to express the relationship to the present moment. Have you seen Mary yet?They've already had dinner.She's just been to the dentist. The present perfect is also used to express something which has happened up to the present moment of time. Have you worked here for a long time?Peter's lived here since 1987.She hasn't had much fun this week. Positive Form Subject + have + past participle + object(s) Peter's lived here since 1987.We've been very busy today. Negative Form Subject + have + not + past participle + object(s) I haven't been to class very often this month.She hasn't had much fun this week. Question Form (Wh?) + have + subject + past participle? Have you worked here for a long time?Where have you been? Present Perfect for Unspecified Past When speaking about an experience that has happened at an unspecified point in time before the present moment, use the present perfect. I've been to New York three times.They've lived in many places.She's studied in London. NOTE: In this use of the present perfect, we are talking about things that have happened up to the present moment. Whenever you speak about something that has happened up to now without giving a precise point in time, use the present perfect. Use of 'For', 'Since' and 'How long' Always use the present perfect with for, since, and how long. 'For' is used to indicate a duration or period of time. He has lived here for seven years.We have been here for six weeks.Shirley has played tennis for a long time. Use 'Since' to Indicate a Specific Point in Time. I've worked here since 2004.She's gone to dancing lessons since April.They've been unhappy since they left college. Use 'How long' in the question form to ask about duration. How long have you played the piano?How long has he worked here?How long has she been with you? Practice present perfect with these worksheets. 22 of 25 Past Simple Tense Use the past simple to talk about activities or routines which take place at a specified time in the past. Notice that all subjects take the same conjugation of the verb. Regular verbs end in '-ed'. visit - visitedenjoy - enjoyed Irregular verbs have various forms and each verb needs to be learned. see - sawthink - thought The past simple is used to express a finished past action which occurs at a specific moment in the past. She visited Iran last month.They didn't go to Tom's party last weekend.Where did you go on vacation last summer? The following time signifiers often indicate a specific point in time and indicate that the past tense should be used. lastagoin ... (plus a year or month)yesterdaywhen ... (plus a phrase) Examples They had lunch at home last week.He left the company many years ago.Susan bought a new car in May.He telephoned his friend in Rome yesterday.I played golf when I was a teenager. Positive Form Subject + past form of verb + object(s) + time They flew to Chicago last month.Peter completed his course three weeks ago. Negative Form Subject + did + not + base form of verb + object(s) + (time) They didn't expect to see you at Christmas.She didn't understand the question. Question Form (Wh?) + did + subject + base form of verb + (object(s))+ (time)? Where did you study French?When did you arrive last week? 23 of 25 Present Continuous Tense Use the present continuous to speak about what is happening at the present moment in time. Positive Form Subject + to be + verb + ing + objects He is watching TV.They're playing tennis at the moment. Negative Form Subject + are not + verb + ing + objects She isn't studying at the moment.We aren't working now. Question Form Wh? + do + subject + verb + ing + objects ? What are you doing?Are you cooking dinner now? NOTE: We use time expressions like 'at the moment, currently, this week - month' with this form of the present continuous. 24 of 25 Present Simple vs. Present Continuous Use the present simple to talk about activities or routines which take place on a regular basis. often go jogging on Saturdays.He usually has coffee for breakfast. Use the present continuous to speak about what is happening at the present moment in time, around the present moment, or for a future scheduled event. We're working on the Smith account this month.She's watching TV at the moment. Stative verbs are verbs which express a state. Action verbs are verbs which express something a person does. I hope to see you soon. (stative verb)He is cooking dinner at the moment. (action verb) Stative verbs cannot be used in the continuous forms. Here is a list of common stative verbs: believeunderstandthink (opinion)wanthopesmelltastefeelsoundlookseemappear 25 of 25 When to Use the Past Simple and the Present Perfect Sometimes the past simple and the present perfect are confused. It is important to remember that the past simple is used to express a finished past action which occurs at a specific moment in the past. The present perfect is used to express something that happened at an unspecified moment in the past. For example, if I visited Paris in 2004, I could express this in two ways: Past Simple I visited Paris in 2004.I went to Paris a few years ago. Note that the moment in time is specific - in 2004, a few years ago. Present Perfect I've been to Paris.I've visited Paris. In this case, the moment of my visit is not specific. I am speaking about an experience that I have had in my life up to this moment in time. This is the key to understanding the difference between the past simple and the present perfect. The past simple expresses something which happened at a specific time in the past. The present perfect expresses something that I have experienced in my life without giving the exact time.