Basic English - Essential Lessons for Beginning English Learners

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Basic English Grammar

Teacher helping adult student in library
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 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.

Curso Básico de Inglés para Hablantes de Español incluido el seguimiento de pruebas de comprensión - Curso Básico de Inglés

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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.

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In / On / To / At

In

Use 'in' with spaces:

  • in a room / in a building
  • in a garden / in a park

Use 'in' with bodies of water:

  • in the water
  • in the sea
  • in a river

Use 'in' with lines:

  • in a row / in a line
  • in a queue

At

Use 'at' with places:

  • at the bus-stop
  • at the door
  • at the cinema
  • at the end of the street

On

Use 'on' with surfaces:

  • on the ceiling / on the wall / on the floor
  • on the table

Use 'on' with small islands:

  • I stayed on Maui.

Use 'on' with directions:

  • on the left
  • on the right
  • straight on

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.'

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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.
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Uses of '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.
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Past Tense Irregular Verbs

The past form of regular verbs ends in 'ed'. Irregular verbs must be studied individually. Here is a list of past forms of some of the most common irregular verbs.

be - was/were
become - became
begin - began
break - broke
bring - brought
build - built
buy - bought
come - came
cost - cost
cut - cut
do - did
drink - drank
eat - ate
find - found
fly - flew
get - got
give - gave
go - went
have - had
keep - kept
know - knew
leave - left
make - made
meet - met
pay - paid
put - put
read - read
say - said
see - saw
sell - sold
send - sent
speak - spoke
spend - spent
take - took
teach - taught
tell - told
think - thought

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Pronouns

There are four types of pronouns: Subject Pronouns, Object Pronouns, Possessive Pronouns and Demonstrative Pronouns. Here is a list and explanation showing the different types of pronouns:

  • Subject Pronouns - I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they 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 - me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them 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 - mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs 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 - this, that, these, those 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.

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Prepositions of Time - In / At / On

In

Use 'in' months and years and periods of time:

  • in January
  • in 1978
  • in the twenties

Use 'in' a period of time in the future:

  • in a few weeks
  • in a couple of days

At

Use 'at' with precise time:

  • at six o'clock
  • at 10.30
  • at two p.m.

On

Use 'on' with days of the week:

  • on Monday
  • on Fridays

Use 'on' with specific calendar days:

  • on Christmas day
  • on October 22nd

Important Notes

in the morning / afternoon / evening - at night

We say in the morning, afternoon or evening BUT we say 'at night'

Test your understanding with this short quiz.

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Verbs Followed by the Gerund or the Infinitive

Verb + 'ing' OR Verb + 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 + 'ing'

go
enjoy
quit
discuss
mind
can't stand
suggest

Examples:

They go jogging on Saturdays.
I don't mind helping you.
They can't stand driving in traffic jams.

Common Verbs + Infinitive

promise
plan
refuse
want
need
decide
hope

Examples:

I promised to help him.
Alice needs to start that task.
He decided to quit his job.

Test your understanding with this short quiz.

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Present Simple

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. It

You / We / They don't (do not) use a typewriter at work.

Question Form

Wh? + 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.

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Modal Form Basics

Modals are verbs that modify other verbs. The most common modals are:

Can
Should
Must

Note that all subjects take the same form of the modal.

Positive

Subject + Modal + Base Form of Verb + Objects

Examples

He can play the piano.
I must leave soon.

Negative

Subject + Modal + Not + Base Form of Verb + Objects

Examples

They can't visit next week.
You shouldn't go to that film.

Question

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 abilities.

Examples

He can speak Japanese.
Can you play golf?

Asking for Permission with May

'May' is used to ask for permission.

Examples

May I help you?
May I visit you this afternoon?

NOTE: In spoken English, 'Can I ...?' is often used instead of 'May I ...?'

Test your understanding with this short quiz.

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Future Forms - Going to / Will

The future with 'Will' is used in a variety of situations discussing the future. Use the following forms with 'will'. Notice that 'will' or 'won't' is used for ALL subjects.

Positive

Subject + will + base form of verb + object(s)

Negative

Subject + will + not + base form of verb + object(s)

Question

(Question Word) + will + subject + base form of verb?

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.

Used for Predictions

Examples

It will snow tomorrow.
She won't win the game.

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.

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

Subject + to be + going to + base form of verb + object(s)

Negative

Subject + to be + not + going to + base form of verb + object(s)

Question

(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.

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.

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.

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.

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Countries and Languages - Names and Adjectives

This chart shows first the country, then language and, finally the nationality of many major countries from around the world.

One syllable

France
French
French

Greece
Greek
Greek

ends in '-ish'

Britain
English
British

Denmark
Danish
Danish

Finland
Finnish
Finnish

Poland
Polish
Polish

Spain
Spanish
Spanish

Sweden
Swedish
Swedish

Turkey
Turkish
Turkish

ends in '-an'

Germany
German
German

Mexico
Spanish
Mexican

The United States
English
American

ends in '-ian' or '-ean'

Australia
English
Australian

Brazil
Portuguese
Brazilian

Egypt
Arabic
Egyptian

Italy
Italian
Italian

Hungary
Hungarian
Hungarian

Korea
Korean
Korean

Russia
Russian
Russian

ends in '-ese'

China
Chinese
Chinese

Japan
Japanese
Japanese

Portugal
Portuguese
Portuguese

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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.

most
much, lots of, a lot of
some
a 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 of
several
some
not 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.

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Count and Non-Count Nouns - Understanding Nouns

What are 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 Uncountable Nouns?

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.

accommodation
advice
baggage
bread
equipment
furniture
garbage
information
knowledge
luggage
money
news
pasta
progress
research
travel
work

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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 a chart showing how to construct the comparative form in English. Notice in the example sentences that we 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

Example Sentences

Yesterday was hotter than today.
This book is cheaper than that book.

Two Syllable Adjectives Ending in '-y'

Example: happy - happier / funny - funnier

Example Sentences

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

Example Sentences

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 - adjective
  • better - comparative

Example Sentences

This book is better than that one.
I am better at tennis than my sister.

bad

  • bad - adjective
  • worse - comparative

Example Sentences

His French is worse than mine.
His singing is worse than Tom's.

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Superlative Forms - Understanding the English Superlative Form

Here is a chart showing 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

Example Sentences

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

Example Sentences:

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

Example Sentences

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 - adjective
  • the best - superlative

Example Sentences

Peter is the best golf player in the school.
This is the best school in the city.

bad

  • bad - adjective
  • the worst - superlative

Example Sentences

Jane is the worst student in the class.
This is the worst day of my life.

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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.

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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):

always
usually
often
sometimes
occasionally
seldom
rarely
never

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.

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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.

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Adverb or Adjective - Which should I use?

Adjectives Modify Nouns

  • Adjectives are placed directly before a noun:

    Examples:

    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:

    Examples:

    Jack is happy.

    Peter was very tired.

    Mary'll be excited when you tell her.

Adverbs

Adverbs Modify Verbs, Adjectives and Other Adverbs

  • Adverbs are easily recognized because they end in '-ly' (with a few exceptions!):

    Examples:

    Adjective - careful / Adverb - carefully

    Adjective - quick / Adverb - quickly

  • Adverbs are often used at the end of a sentence to modify the verb:

    Examples:

    Jack drove carelessly.

    Tom played the match intelligently.

    Jason talks about his classes constantly.

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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.

Examples

Have you seen Mary yet?
They've already had dinner.
She's just been to the dentist's.

The present perfect is also used to express something which has happened up to the present moment of time.

Examples

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)

Examples

Peter's lived here since 1987.
We've been very busy today.

Negative Form

Subject + have + not + past participle + object(s)

Examples

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?

Examples

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.

Examples

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'

Use 'for' to indicate a duration or period of time.

Examples

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.

Examples

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.

Examples

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.

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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 - visited
enjoy - enjoyed

Irregular verbs have various forms and each verb needs to be learned.

see - saw
think - thought

The past simple is used to express a finished past action which occurs at a specific moment in the past.

Examples

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.

last
ago
in ... (plus a year or month)
yesterday
when ... (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

Examples

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)

Examples

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)?

Examples

Where did you study French?
When did you arrive last week?

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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

Examples

He is watching TV.
They're playing tennis at the moment.

Negative Form

Subject + are not + verb + ing + objects

Examples

She isn't studying at the moment.
We aren't working now.

Question Form

Wh? + do + subject + verb + ing + objects ?

Examples

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.

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Present Simple vs. Present Continuous

Present Simple

Use the present simple to talk about activities or routines which take place on a regular basis.

Examples

I often go jogging on Saturdays.
He usually has coffee for breakfast.

Present Continuous

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.

Examples

We're working on the Smith account this month.
She's watching TV at the moment.

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs are verbs which express a state. Action verbs are verbs which express something a person does.

Examples

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:

believe
understand
think (opinion)
want
hope
smell
taste
feel
sound
look
seem
appear

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Past Simple or 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.

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Beare, Kenneth. "Basic English - Essential Lessons for Beginning English Learners." ThoughtCo, Mar. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/basic-english-essentials-4122690. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, March 20). Basic English - Essential Lessons for Beginning English Learners. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-english-essentials-4122690 Beare, Kenneth. "Basic English - Essential Lessons for Beginning English Learners." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-english-essentials-4122690 (accessed November 21, 2017).