Archive for the ‘Grammar bank’ Category

Reported Speech

Reported Speech (also referred to as ‘indirect speech’) refers to a sentence reporting what someone has said. It is almost always used in spoken English.

As a rule when you report something someone has said you go back a tense: (the tense on the left changes to the tense on the right). This is because when we use reported speech, we are usually talking about a time in the past (because obviously the person who spoke originally spoke in the past). The basic rules for backshift when transforming direct speech into reported speech are:

Direct speech Indirect speech
Present simple
She said, “It’s cold.”
Past simple
She said it was cold.
Present continuous
She said, “I’m teaching English online.”
Past continuous
She said she was teaching English online.
Present perfect simple
She said, “I’ve been on the web since 1999.”
Past perfect simple
She said she had been on the web since 1999.
Present perfect continuous
She said, “I’ve been teaching English for seven years.”
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching English for seven years.
Past simple
She said, “I taught online yesterday.”
Past perfect
She said she had taught online the day before.
Past continuous
She said, “I was teaching earlier.”
Past perfect continuous
She said she had been teaching earlier.
Past perfect
She said, “The lesson had already started when he arrived.”
Past perfect
NO CHANGE – She said the lesson had already started when he arrived.
Past perfect continuous
She said, “I’d already been teaching for five minutes.”
Past perfect continuous
NO CHANGE – She said she’d already been teaching for five minutes.

Exceptions –> In up-to-date reporting and when reporting a universal truth or law of nature, the verb tenses can either change or remain the same. For example: He said Paris is/was the capital of France.

Modal verb forms also change:

Direct speech Indirect speech
She said, “I’ll teach English online tomorrow.”
She said she would teach English online tomorrow.
She said, “I can teach English online.”
She said she could teach English online.
She said, “I must have a computer to teach English online.”
had to
She said she had to have a computer to teach English online.
She said, “What shall we learn today?”
She asked what we should learn that day.
She said, “May I open a new browser?”
She asked if she might open a new browser.

Note! – There is no change to could, would, should, might and ought to.

Time change

If the reported sentence contains an expression of time, you must change it to fit in with the time of reporting.

For example we need to change words like here and yesterday if they have different meanings at the time and place of reporting.

Today + 24 hours – Indirect speech
“Today’s lesson is on presentations.” She said the lesson of the day before was on presentations.
Expressions of time if reported on a different day
this (evening) that (evening)
today that day…
these (days) those (days)
now then
(a week) ago (a week) before
last weekend the weekend before last / the previous weekend
here there
next (week) the following (week)
tomorrow the next/following day

In addition, if you report something that someone said in a different place to where you heard it you must change the place (here) to the place (there). For example:

At work At home
“How long have you worked here?” She asked me how long I’d worked there.

Pronoun change

In reported speech, the pronoun often changes to match the subject of the sentence. For example:

Me You
I teach English online.” She said she teaches English online.

There are special reported sentences one needs to be careful with:


Reporting questions are usually introduced by ask, inquire, wonder, want to know, etc. When reporting questions, it is especially important to pay attention to sentence order. When reporting yes/ no questions connect the reported question using ‘if’. When reporting questions using question words (why, where, when, etc.) use the question word.

For example:

  • She asked, “Do you want to come with me?” BECOMES She asked me if I wanted to come with her.
  • Dave asked, “Where did you go last weekend?” BECOMES Dave asked me where I had gone the previous weekend.

Commands, requests, suggestions

To report commands, instructions, requests or suggestions, we use an appropriate introductory verb – ask, order, beg, suggest, tell, etc – and the to-infinitive, -ing form or that-clause depending on the verb. Check this list of reporting verbs if in doubt.

For example:

  • “Stop the car!”the policeman said to him BECOMES The policeman ordered him to stop the car.
  • “How about going to the cinema?”, I said to them BECOMES I suggested going to the cinema.

Did you say you need any further practice? Find it at ESL tests

Following the unit, I’d like you to practise your reported speech by quoting some of our politicians. Check this web to see some of their most memorable quotes. John F. Kennedy, for example, said:

When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

You can keep looking for more just by typing the name of other politicians. There is even a section for our crisis time. Enjoy!


Like vs As

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Have you ever experienced any  difficulties in distinguishing  like /as when writing a composition? Our colleague Encarni has prepared a wonderful tutorial for you all to understand it once and for all. Thank you Encarni for such a thorough work.

Take this test on As vs Like to check you understood it all.

Future Time in the Verbs

April 16, 2010 2 comments

Have a look at this tutorial about the different future expressions and try and complete these exercises. Thank you Encarni for sharing this great work. (key)

English Articles: A / An / The

April 13, 2010 1 comment

English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the indefinite article.

For example, if I say, “Let’s read the book,” I mean a specific book. If I say, “Let’s read a book,” I mean any book rather than a specific book.

Let’s look at each kind of article a little more closely.

Indefinite Articles: a and an

“A” and “an” signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to any member of a group. For example:

  • “My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas.” This refers to any dog. We don’t know which dog because we haven’t found the dog yet.

Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are used to indicate membership in a group:

  • I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group known as teachers.)
  • Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the people known as Irish.)
  • Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member of the group of people known as Buddhists.)

Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins the next word. So…

  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
  • an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan
  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user; a university

Count and Uncount Nouns

The can be used with uncount nouns, or the article can be omitted entirely.

  • “I love to sail over the water” (some specific body of water) or “I love to sail over water” (any water).

A/an can be used only with count nouns.

  • “I need a bottle of water.”

Definite Article: the

The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. For example:

“The dog that bit me ran away.” Here, we’re talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.

It is also used before superlatives He is the fastest man ever, with national groups  The English love tea, with inventions and species of animal, e.g. the computer, the polar bear, when there is only one of something, e.g. the Moon.

Geographical use of the

There are some specific rules for using the with geographical nouns.

Do not use the before:

  • names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico, Bolivia; however, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States
  • names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba, Miami
  • names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
  • names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
  • names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
  • names of continents (Asia, Europe)
  • names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands

Do use the before:

  • names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
  • points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
  • geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
  • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula

Omission of Articles

Some common types of nouns that don’t take an article are:

  • Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian
  • Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
  • Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science

Check your articles by completing these tests:


A, an or the

Definite Article or Zero Article- Geography

Countable and Uncountable Practice

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Dependent Prepositions

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

In the English language, there are many verbs, nouns and adjectives which are followed by specific prepositions.  The prepositions are called dependent because their choice depends on the particular word and its meaning.

Despite the know-it-all linguists who say that all languages are equally difficult or easy to learn, it’s clear that some languages are harder to learn than others, at least, some bits of them. One of the maddening things about English is prepositions – in most cases, foreigners never completely get the knack of them and continue to have problems with them.

Find attached a file with them all.

Now, it’s time to practise it, print this exercise and try to complete it, if in doubt, check the key.

Take these online quizzes to have further practice on:

Prepositions after adjectives

Prepositions after Nouns

Prepositions with Verbs

Prepositions Mixed Types

Modal Verbs

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Modal verbs are special verbs which behave very differently from normal verbs. Here are some important differences:

1. Modal verbs do not take “-s” in the third person. Examples:

  • He can speak Chinese.
  • She should be here by 9:00.

2. You use “not” to make modal verbs negative, even in Simple Present and Simple Past. Examples:

  • He should not be late.
  • They might not come to the party.

3. Many modal verbs cannot be used in the past or the future tenses without changing form. Examples:

  • He will can go with us. Not Correct. He will be able to go with us. Correct
  • She musted study very hard. Not Correct. She had to study very hard.

4. All modal verbs except ought to and used to are used with the bare infinitive without to. Examples

  • must finish my homework.
  • I ought to finish my homework.

Common Modal Verbs

Ought to

For the purposes of this tutorial, we have included some expressions which are not modal verbs including had better, have to, and have got to and some others. These expressions are closely related to modals in meaning and are often interchanged with them.

The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners of English. This happens for many reasons, including both grammar and meaning. In this post, we’ll take a look at the different modal verbs and their usage. Have a look at this interesting and detailed tutorial.

Now, you can have some practice on them at

That’s all folks!!!     Let’s use them, shall we?