- The road may be blocked due to the procession. (Factual possibility.)
- Any road can be blocked. (Theoretical possibility - It is possible to block any road.)
- There may be a strike next week. (It is possible that there will be a strike next week.)
- Strikes can happen any time. (It is possible for strikes to happen any time.)
- If you drive carelessly, you may have an accident. (Factual possibility)
- Accidents can happen any time. (Theoretical possibility)
When we talk about possibility, could often means the same as may or might.
- You may/might/could be right.
May not and Cannot
May not suggests improbability. Cannot suggests impossibility.
- We may not go camping this summer. (= It is possible that we may not go camping.)
- We cannot go camping this summer. (= It is not possible for us to go camping this summer.)
May is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.
- She may be here soon. (NOT She mays …)
May is followed by an infinitive without to.
- You may be right. (NOT You may to be right.)
- He may come.
Questions and negatives are made without do.
- May I come in, please? (NOT Do I may come …)
- He may not come. (NOT He do not may come.)
May does not have infinitives (to may) or participles (maying, mayed). When necessary, we use other words.
May is used to talk about possibility, and to ask for and give permission.
- It may rain this afternoon.
- May I play carroms, mummy?
- Yes, you may.
May is used to talk about the chances of something happening.
- I think it is going to rain. You may be right.
- There may be a strike next week.
- Where is John? He may be out shopping.
May well is used to suggest a strong possibility.
- I think it is going to rain. You may well be right.
May is not normally used in direct questions about probability.
- Are they likely to help us? (BUT NOT May they help us?)
But note that may is possible in indirect questions about probability.
- May we not be making a big mistake?
May + perfect infinitive
The structure may + perfect Infinitive (have + past participle) can be used to say that it is possible that something happened or was true in the past.
- Alice is very late. She may have missed her train. (= It is possible that she missed her train.)
May + perfect infinitive can also refer to the present or future.
- I will try phoning him, but he may have gone out by now.
May can be used to ask for permission. It is more formal than can and could.
- May I come in?
May is used to give permission; may not is used to refuse permission and to forbid.
- May I come in? Yes, you may.
- May I have a look at your papers? No, I am afraid you may not.
Must not is also used to forbid. It is stronger than may not.
- Students must not use the staff car park.
May and might are not normally used to talk about permission which has already been given or refused, about freedom which people already have, or about rules and laws. Instead, we use can, could or be allowed.
- Can you/Are you allowed to park on both sides of the road here? (More natural than May you allowed …)
- When we were children, we could watch TV whenever we wanted to. (NOT …we might watch TV …)
May in wishes and hopes
May is used in formal expressions of wishes and hopes. May often comes at the beginning of the sentence.
- May God bless you!
- May you both be very happy!
- May the devil take him!
- May you prosper in all that you do!
Could is an auxiliary verb, a modal auxiliary verb. We use could to:
- talk about past possibility or ability
- make requests
Structure of Could
subject + could + main verb
The main verb is always the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to").
| ||subject||auxiliary verb||main verb|
- Could is invariable. There is only one form of could.
- The main verb is always the bare infinitive.
To talk about past ability in general
Could is often used to say that somebody was able to do something in the past.
- My father could walk without help when he was 95.
- She could read when she was 3.
- When we were children, we could watch TV whenever we wanted to.
- In my younger days, I could run four miles at a stretch.
Note that could refers to the past only when the context makes the time clear.
Could not (also couldn't) shows past inability.
- I could not understand a word, but I kept smiling.
- She spoke in such a low voice that most of us could not hear her.
- We found that we couldn't depend on our guide.
Could is used to talk about past ability in general. We do not normally use could to say that somebody managed to do something on one occasion. But with certain verbs like see, hear, taste, feel, smell, understand, remember etc., could can be used for particular occasions as well.
- Suddenly I could hear a loud noise.
- I could smell something burning.
As the past equivalent of can
Could is the past equivalent of can in indirect speech.
- He said, "I can drive."
- He said that he could drive.
- She said, "I can't climb up the hill."
- She said that she could not climb up the hill.
To make polite requests or offers
Could is often used to make a request or offer sound more polite.
- Could I have a glass of water, please?
- Could you help me with these bags?
To express possibility or uncertainty
Could can mean would be able to.
- You could get a better job if you spoke English. (=You would be able to get a better job if you spoke English.)
- You could do it if you tried hard. (=You would be able to do it…)
- If only I had some working capital, I could start a new business. (=…I would be able to start a new business.)
Could have + past participle
The structure could have + past participle can be used to criticize people for not doing things. It can also be used to talk about past events that did not happen.
- I have been waiting since morning - you could have said that you weren't coming.
- Why did you drive so carelessly? You could have killed yourself.
These two varieties of English are very similar that most American and British speakers can understand each other without great difficulty. There are, however, a few differences of grammar, vocabulary and spelling. The following guide is meant to point out the principal differences between American English (AE) and British English (BE).
Differences in Grammar
Use of the Present Perfect
The British use the present perfect to talk about a past action which has an effect on the present moment. In American English both simple past and present perfect are possible in such situations.
I have lost my pen. Can you borrow me yours? (BE)
I lost my pen. OR I have lost my pen. (AE)
He has gone home. (BE)
He went home. OR He has gone home. (AE)
Other differences include the use of already, just and yet. The British use the present perfect with these adverbs of indefinite time. In American English simple past and present perfect are both possible.
He has just gone home. (BE)
He just went home. OR He has just gone home. (AE)
I have already seen this movie. (BE)
I have already seen this movie. OR I already saw this movie. (AE)
She hasn't come yet. (BE)
She hasn't come yet. OR She didn't come yet. (AE)
The British normally use have got to show possession. In American English have (in the structure do you have) and have got are both possible.
Have you got a car? (BE)
Do you have a car? OR Have you got a car? (AE)
Use of the verb Get
In British English the past participle of get is got. In American English the past participle of get is gotten, except when have got means have.
He has got a prize. (BE)
He has gotten a prize. (AE)
I have got two sisters. (BE)
I have got two sisters. (=I have two sisters.)(AE)
In British English it is fairly common to use shall with the first person to talk about the future. Americans rarely use shall.
I shall/will never forget this favour. (BE)
I will never forget this favour. (AE)
In offers the British use shall. Americans use should.
Shall I help you with the homework? (BE)
Should I help you with the homework? (AE)
In British English needn't and don't need to are both possible. Americans normally use don't need to.
You needn't reserve seats. OR You don't need to reserve seats. (BE)
You don't need to reserve seats. (AE)
Use of the Subjunctive
In American English it is particularly common to use subjunctive after words like essential, vital, important, suggest, insist, demand, recommend, ask, advice etc. (Subjunctive is a special kind of present tense which has no -s in the third person singular. It is commonly used in that clauses after words which express the idea that something is important or desirable.) In British English the subjunctive is formal and unusual. British people normally use should + Infinitive or ordinary present and past tenses.
It is essential that every child get an opportunity to learn. (AE)
It is essential that every child gets an opportunity to learn. (BE)
It is important that he be told. (AE)
It is important that he should be told. (BE)
She suggested that I see a doctor. (AE)
She suggested that I should see a doctor. (BE)
She insisted that I go with her. (AE)
She insisted that I should go with her. (BE)
Collective nouns like jury, team, family, government etc., can take both singular and plural verbs in British English. In American English they normally take a singular verb.
The committee meets/meet tomorrow. (BE)
The committee meets tomorrow. (AE)
The team is/are going to lose. (BE)
The team is going to lose. (AE)
Auxiliary verb + do
In British English it is common to use do as a substitute verb after an auxiliary verb. Americans do not normally use do after an auxiliary verb.
May I have a look at your papers? You may (do) (BE)
You may. (AE)
'Have you finished your homework?' 'I have (done).' (BE)
'I have.' (AE)
As if/ like
In American English it is common to use like instead of as if/ as though. This is not correct in British English.
He talks as if he knew everything. (BE)
He talks like/as if he knew everything. (AE)
In American English it is also common to use were instead of was in unreal comparisons.
He talks as if he was rich. (BE)
He talks as if he were rich. (AE)
The indefinite pronoun One
Americans normally use he/she, him/her, his/her to refer back to one. In British English one is used throughout the sentence.
One must love one's country. (BE)
One must love his/her country. (AE)
Mid position adverbs
In American English mid position adverbs are placed before auxiliary verbs and other verbs. In British English they are placed after auxiliary verbs and before other verbs.
He has probably arrived now. (BE)
He probably has arrived now. (AE)
I am seldom late for work. (BE)
I seldom am late for work. (AE)
Can is an auxiliary verb, a modal auxiliary verb. We use can to:
- talk about possibility and ability
- make requests
- ask for or give permission
Structure of Can
subject + can + main verb
The main verb is always the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to").
|subject||auxiliary verb||main verb|| |
- Can is invariable. There is only one form of can.
- The main verb is always the bare infinitive.
Can is used to talk about ability and possibility, to ask for and give permission, and to make requests and offers.
To talk about theoretical possibility
We can use can to talk about ‘theoretical’ possibility – to say that situations and events are possible theoretically.
- Glass can be blown. (It is theoretically possible to blow glass.)
- Wars can break out any time. (It is theoretically possible for wars to break out any time.)
- Smoking can cause cancer.
- Noise can be quite a problem when you are living in a city.
Note that we do not use can to talk about future probability – to say that something will happen in future. We express this idea with may or might.
- It may rain this evening. (NOT It can rain …)
- There may be a strike next week. (NOT There can be a strike …)
- I may get a job soon.
Note that might expresses a less definite possibility than may. Could is also used in the same sense.
- It could rain this evening. (= It might rain this evening.)
To talk about logical possibility
Can is often used in questions and negatives to talk about the logical possibility that something is true.
- There is the doorbell? Who can it be?
With this meaning can is not possible in affirmative clauses. Instead, we use could, may or might.
- Where is John? He could/may/might be in the garden. (NOT He can be in the garden.)
To talk about ability
We can use can to talk about present or general ability – to say that we are capable of doing something.
- I can speak 10 languages.
- She can cook well.
- Can you knit?
- If you are not satisfied with this product, you can send it back.
Note that be able to can often be used with similar meanings.
- He is able to support her. (= He can support her.)
- They were able to catch the thief. (= They could catch the thief.)
Cannot (also can’t) shows inability.
- I can speak French, but I cannot write it.
- Most people cannot read traffic signals.
- I can't drive.
We do not use can to talk about future ability. Instead, we use will be able to or other words.
- Someday scientists will be able to find a cure for cancer. (NOT Someday scientists will can find a cure for cancer.)
To ask for or give permission
Can is sometimes used to ask for and give permission. Some people, however, think that maycan. is more correct than
- Can I use your car, John?
- Can we park over there?
- You can go out and play after you have finished your homework.
- You can park on either side of the road here.
- Can I go to the movies, mom?
Note that we can also use could to ask for permission. It is a more polite form of can .
- Could I speak to Mr. John, please?
- Could I have look at your newspaper?
Cannot is used to refuse permission.
- Can I go to the movies, mom? No, you can’t.
To make requests and offers
Can is used in polite requests and offers of help.
- Can you turn that music down? I am trying to work.
- Can you get me a cup of coffee?
- Can I help you with those bags?
Note that Could is a more polite way of making requests and offers.
- Could you help me with my homework?
- Could you lend me some money?
An auxiliary verb is one which helps other verbs to make tenses, passive forms etc. There are two groups - primary auxiliaries and modal auxiliaries.
The verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, ought, dare and need are usually called modal auxiliaries. They are used with other verbs to express actions, events or situations that exist only as conceptions of the mind - permissions, possibilities, certainty, ability, wishes, obligations etc. They may also express simple futurity.
- I can swim.
- She will come.
- I must go now.
- Should I call them?
- She might come.
Modal auxiliaries have three common characteristics.
1. They are never used alone. A principal verb is either present or implied.
- I can fly an aeroplane.
- He should behave.
- Will you go? Yes, I will (go).
2. Modal auxiliaries have no –s in the third person singular.
- I can swim.
- She can swim. (NOT She cans …)
- I may pass.
- He may pass.
- They may pass.
3. Modal auxiliaries do not have infinitives (to may, to shall etc.) or participles (maying, shalling, shalled etc.). You cannot say to shall, to must or to may.
e.g. She had heard the news before I saw her.
I had finished my work by the time the clock struck twelve.
In the preceding examples, the verbs had heard and had finished are in the Past Perfect tense, and the verbs saw and struck are in the Simple Past. The use of the Past Perfect tense indicates that the actions of hearing the news and finishing the work were already completed by the time the actions expressed by the verbs in the Simple Past took place.
The structure of the past perfect tense is:
|subject||+||auxiliary verb HAVE||+||main verb|
|conjugated in simple past tense||past participle|
For negative sentences in the past perfect tense, we insert not between the auxiliary verb and main verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past perfect tense:
|subject||auxiliary verb||main verb|
When speaking with the past perfect tense, we often contract the subject and auxiliary verb:
The past perfect tense expresses action in the past before another action in the past. This is the past in the past. For example:
- The train left at 9am. We arrived at 9.15am. When we arrived, the train had left.
|The train had left when we arrived.|
|Train leaves in past at 9am.|
|We arrive in past at 9.15am.|
Look at some more examples:
- I wasn't hungry. I had just eaten.
- They were hungry. They had not eaten for five hours.
- I didn't know who he was. I had never seen him before.
- "Mary wasn't at home when I arrived."
"Really? Where had she gone?"
You can sometimes think of the past perfect tense like the present perfect tense, but instead of the time being now the time is past.
|past perfect tense||present perfect tense|
For example, imagine that you arrive at the station at 9.15am. The stationmaster says to you:
- "You are too late. The train has left."
Later, you tell your friends:
- "We were too late. The train had left."
We often use the past perfect tense in reported speech after verbs like said, told, asked, thought, wondered:
Look at these examples:
- He told us that the train had left.
- I thought I had met her before, but I was wrong.
- He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
- I wondered if I had been there before.
- I asked them why they had not finished.
We use the present perfect when we want to look back from the present to the past.
We can use it to look back on the recent past.
- I've broken my watch so I don't know what time it is.
- They have cancelled the meeting.
- She's taken my copy. I don't have one.
- The sales team has doubled its turnover.
When we look back on the recent past, we often use the words 'just' 'already' or the word 'yet' (in negatives and questions only).
- We've already talked about that.
- She hasn't arrived yet.
- I've just done it.
- They've already met.
- They don't know yet.
- Have you spoken to him yet?
- Have they got back to you yet?
It can also be used to look back on the more distant past.
- We've been to Singapore a lot over the last few years.
- She's done this type of project many times before.
- We've mentioned it to them on several occasions over the last six months.
- They've often talked about it in the past.
When we look back on the more distant past, we often use the words 'ever' (in questions) and 'never'.
- Have you ever been to Argentina?
- Has he ever talked to you about the problem?
- I've never met Jim and Sally.
- We've never considered investing in Mexico.
How do we make the Present Perfect Tense?
The structure of the present perfect tense is:
|subject||+||auxiliary verb||+||main verb|
| || ||have|| ||past participle|
Here are some examples of the present perfect tense:
| ||subject||auxiliary verb|| ||main verb|| |
|?||Have||you|| ||finished?|| |
How do we use the Present Perfect Tense?
This tense is called the present perfect tense. There is always a connection with the past and with the present. There are basically three uses for the present perfect tense:
- continuing situation
1. Present perfect tense for experience
We often use the present perfect tense to talk about experience from the past. We are not interested in when you did something. We only want to know if you did it:
|I have seen ET.|
He has lived in Bangkok.
Have you been there?
We have never eaten caviar.
|The action or state was in the past.||In my head, I have a memory now.|
Connection with present: in my head, now, I have a memory of the event; I know something about the event; I have experience of it.
2. Present perfect tense for change
We also use the present perfect tense to talk about a change or new information:
|I have bought a car.|
|Last week I didn't have a car.||Now I have a car.|
|John has broken his leg.|
|Yesterday John had a good leg.||Now he has a bad leg.|
|Has the price gone up?|
|Was the price $1.50 yesterday?||Is the price $1.70 today?|
|The police have arrested the killer.|
|Yesterday the killer was free.||Now he is in prison.|
Connection with present: the present is the opposite of the past.
3. Present perfect tense for continuing situation
We often use the present perfect tense to talk about a continuing situation. This is a state that started in the past and continues in the present (and will probably continue into the future). This is a state (not an action). We usually use for or since with this structure.
|I have worked here since June.|
He has been ill for 2 days.
How long have you known Tara?
|The situation started in the past.||It continues up to now.||(It will probably continue into the future.)|
Connection with present: the situation continues in the present.
For & Since with Present Perfect Tense
We often use for and since with the present perfect tense.
- We use for to talk about a period of time - 5 minutes, 2 weeks, 6 years.
- We use since to talk about a point in past time - 9 o'clock, 1st January, Monday.
|a period of time||a point in past time|
|a long time||I left school|
|ever||the beginning of time|
Here are some examples:
- I have been here for 20 minutes.
- I have been here since 9 o'clock.
- John hasn't called for 6 months.
- John hasn't called since February.
- He has worked in New York for a long time.
- He has worked in New York since he left school.
The passive voice is less usual than the active voice. The active voice is the "normal" voice. But sometimes we need the passive voice. In this lesson we look at how to construct the passive voice, when to use it and how to conjugate it.
Construction of the Passive Voice
The structure of the passive voice is very simple:
subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (past participle)
The main verb is always in its past participle form.
Look at these examples:
|subject||auxiliary verb (to be)||main verb (past participle)|
|100 people||are||employed||by this company.|
Use of the Passive Voice
We use the passive when:
- we want to make the active object more important
- we do not know the active subject
|give importance to active object (President Kennedy)||President Kennedy||was killed||by Lee Harvey Oswald.|
|active subject unknown||My wallet||has been stolen.||?|
Note that we always use by to introduce the passive object (Fish are eaten by cats).
Conjugation for the Passive Voice
We can form the passive in any tense. In fact, conjugation of verbs in the passive tense is rather easy, as the main verb is always in past participle form and the auxiliary verb is always be. To form the required tense, we conjugate the auxiliary verb. So, for example:
- present simple: It is made
- present continuous: It is being made
- present perfect: It has been made
Here are some examples with most of the possible tenses:
|infinitive||to be washed|
|simple||present||It is washed.|
|past||It was washed.|
|future||It will be washed.|
|conditional||It would be washed.|
|continuous||present||It is being washed.|
|past||It was being washed.|
|future||It will be being washed.|
|conditional||It would be being washed.|
|perfect simple||present||It has been washed.|
|past||It had been washed.|
|future||It will have been washed.|
|conditional||It would have been washed.|
|perfect continuous||present||It has been being washed.|
|past||It had been being washed.|
|future||It will have been being washed.|
|conditional||It would have been being washed.|
Countable nouns are easy to recognize. They are things that we can count. For example: "pen". We can count pens. We can have one, two, three or more pens. Here are some more countable nouns:
- dog, cat, animal, man, person
- bottle, box, litre
- coin, note, dollar
- cup, plate, fork
- table, chair, suitcase, bag
Countable nouns can be singular or plural:
- My dog is playing.
- My dogs are hungry.
We can use the indefinite article a/an with countable nouns:
- A dog is an animal.
When a countable noun is singular, we must use a word like a/the/my/this with it:
- I want an orange. (not I want orange.)
- Where is my bottle? (not Where is bottle?)
When a countable noun is plural, we can use it alone:
- I like oranges.
- Bottles can break.
We can use some and any with countable nouns:
- I've got some dollars.
- Have you got any pens?
We can use a few and many with countable nouns:
- I've got a few dollars.
- I haven't got many pens.
Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc that we cannot divide into separate elements. We cannot "count" them. For example, we cannot count "milk". We can count "bottles of milk" or "litres of milk", but we cannot count "milk" itself. Here are some more uncountable nouns:
- music, art, love, happiness
- advice, information, news
- furniture, luggage
- rice, sugar, butter, water
- electricity, gas, power
- money, currency
We usually treat uncountable nouns as singular. We use a singular verb. For example:
- This news is very important.
- Your luggage looks heavy.
We do not usually use the indefinite article a/an with uncountable nouns. We cannot say "an information" or "a music". But we can say a something of:
- a piece of news
- a bottle of water
- a grain of rice
We can use some and any with uncountable nouns:
- I've got some money.
- Have you got any rice?
We can use a little and much with uncountable nouns:
- I've got a little money.
- I haven't got much rice.
The simple definition is: a person, place or thing. Here are some examples:
* person: man, woman, teacher, John, Mary
* place: home, office, town, countryside, America
* thing: table, car, banana, money, music, love, dog, monkey
The problem with this definition is that it does not explain why "love" is a noun but can also be a verb.
Another (more complicated) way of recognizing a noun is by its:
1. Noun Ending
There are certain word endings that show that a word is a noun, for example:
* -ity > nationality
* -ment > appointment
* -ness > happiness
* -ation > relation
* -hood > childhood
But this is not true for the word endings of all nouns. For example, the noun "spoonful" ends in -ful, but the adjective "careful" also ends in -ful.
2. Position in Sentence
We can often recognise a noun by its position in the sentence.
Nouns often come after a determiner (a determiner is a word like a, an, the, this, my, such):
* a relief
* an afternoon
* the doctor
* this word
* my house
* such stupidity
Nouns often come after one or more adjectives:
* a great relief
* a peaceful afternoon
* the tall, Indian doctor
* this difficult word
* my brown and white house
* such crass stupidity
3. Function in a Sentence
Nouns have certain functions (jobs) in a sentence, for example:
* subject of verb: Doctors work hard.
* object of verb: He likes coffee.
* subject and object of verb: Teachers teach students.
But the subject or object of a sentence is not always a noun. It could be a pronoun or a phrase. In the sentence "My doctor works hard", the noun is "doctor" but the subject is "My doctor".
Prepositional verbs are a group of multi-word verbs made from a verb plus another word or words. Many people refer to all multi-word verbs as phrasal verbs. On these pages we make a distinction between three types of multi-word verbs: prepositional verbs, phrasal verbs and phrasal-prepositional verbs. On this page we look at prepositional verbs.
Prepositional verbs are made of:
verb + preposition
Because a preposition always has an object, all prepositional verbs have direct objects. Here are some examples of prepositional verbs:
|believe in||have faith in the existence of||I believe in||God.|
|look after||take care of||He is looking after||the dog.|
|talk about||discuss||Did you talk about||me?|
|wait for||await||John is waiting for||Mary.|
Prepositional verbs cannot be separated. That means that we cannot put the direct object between the two parts. For example, we must say "look after the baby". We cannot say "look the baby after":
|prepositional verbs are inseparable||Who is looking after the baby?||This is possible.|
|Who is looking the baby after?||This is not possible.|
Phrasal verbs are a group of multi-word verbs made from a verb plus another word or words. Many people refer to all multi-word verbs as phrasal verbs. On these pages we make a distinction between three types of multi-word verbs: prepositional verbs, phrasal verbs and phrasal-prepositional verbs. On this page we look at phrasal verbs proper.
Phrasal verbs are made of:
verb + adverb
Phrasal verbs can be:
- intransitive (no direct object)
- transitive (direct object)
Here are some examples of phrasal verbs:
| ||direct object|
|intransitive phrasal verbs||get up||rise from bed||I don't like to get up.|| |
|break down||cease to function||He was late because his car broke down.|| |
|transitive phrasal verbs||put off||postpone||We will have to put off||the meeting.|
|turn down||refuse||They turned down||my offer.|
Separable Phrasal Verbs
When phrasal verbs are transitive (that is, they have a direct object), we can usually separate the two parts. For example, "turn down" is a separable phrasal verb. We can say: "turn downturn my offer down". Look at this table: my offer" or "
|transitive phrasal verbs are|
|They||turned|| ||down||my offer.|
|They||turned||my offer||down.|| |
However, if the direct object is a pronoun, we have no choice. We must separate the phrasal verb and insert the pronoun between the two parts. Look at this example with the separable phrasal verb "switch on":
|direct object pronouns must go between the two parts of transitive phrasal verbs||John||switched||on||the radio.||These are all possible.|
|John||switched||on||it.||This is not possible.|
- to project ourselves into the future and see something happening: This time next week I will be sun-bathing in Bali.
- to refer to actions/events that will happen in the normal course of events: I'll be seeing Jim at the conference next week.
- in the interrogative form, especially with 'you', to distinguish between a simple request for information and an invitation: Will you be coming to the party tonight? (= request for information) Will you come to the party? (= invitation)
- to predict or guess about someone's actions or feelings, now or in the future: You'll be feeling tired after that long walk, I expect.
a. events in progress in the future:
When you are in Australia will you be staying with friends?
This time next week you will be working in your new job.
At four thirty on Tuesday afternoon I will be signing the contract.
b. events/actions in normal course of events:
I'll be going into town this afternoon, is there anything you want from the shops?
Will you be using the car tomorrow? - No, you can take it.
I'll be seeing Jane this evening - I'll give her the message.
c. asking for information:
Will you be bringing your friend to the pub tonight?
Will Jim be coming with us?
d. predicting or guessing:
You'll be feeling thirsty after working in the sun.
He'll be coming to the meeting, I expect.
You'll be missing the sunshine now you're back in England.
How do we make the Future Continuous Tense?
The structure of the future continuous tense is:
auxiliary verb WILL
auxiliary verb BE
| || |
| || |
| || |
base + ing
For negative sentences in the future continuous tense, we insert not between will and be. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and will. Look at these example sentences with the future continuous tense:
| || |
on a beach tomorrow.
dinner at home.
When we use the future continuous tense in speaking, we often contract the subject and will:
For spoken negative sentences in the future continuous tense, we contract with won't, like this:
|I will not||I won't|
|you will not||you won't|
|he will not|
she will not
it will not
|we will not||we won't|
|they will not||they won't|
How do we use the Future Continuous Tense?
The future continuous tense expresses action at a particular moment in the future. The action will start before that moment but it will not have finished at that moment. For example, tomorrow I will start work at 2pm and stop work at 6pm:
|At 4pm tomorrow, I will be working.|
|At 4pm, I will be in the middle of working.|
When we use the future continuous tense, our listener usually knows or understands what time we are talking about. Look at these examples:
- I will be playing tennis at 10am tomorrow.
- They won't be watching TV at 9pm tonight.
- What will you be doing at 10pm tonight?
- What will you be doing when I arrive?
- She will not be sleeping when you telephone her.
- We 'll be having dinner when the film starts.
- Take your umbrella. It will be raining when you return.
It is used:
- often, to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. "The sun was shining and the birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other animals were relaxing in the shade of the trees, but the elephant moved very quickly. She was looking for her baby, and she didn't notice the hunter who was watching her through his binoculars. When the shot rang out, she was running towards the river..."
- to describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action: "I was having a beautiful dream when the alarm clock rang."
- to express a change of mind: e.g. "I was going to spend the day at the beach but I've decided to go on an excursion instead."
- with 'wonder', to make a very polite request: e.g. "I was wondering if you could baby-sit for me tonight."
- They were waiting for the bus when the accident happened.
- Caroline was skiing when she broke her leg.
- When we arrived he was having a bath.
- When the fire started I was watching television.
How do we make the Past Continuous Tense?
The structure of the past continuous tense is:
|subject||+||auxiliary verb BE||+||main verb|
|conjugated in simple past tense||present participle|
|base + ing|
For negative sentences in the past continuous tense, we insert not between the auxiliary verb and main verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past continuous tense:
|subject||auxiliary verb||main verb|
|-||He, she, it||was||not||helping||Mary.|
How do we use the Past Continuous Tense?
The past continuous tense expresses action at a particular moment in the past. The action started before that moment but has not finished at that moment.
For example, yesterday I watched a film on TV. The film started at 7pm and finished at 9pm.
|At 8pm yesterday, I was watching TV.|
|At 8pm, I was in the middle of watching TV.|
When we use the past continuous tense, our listener usually knows or understands what time we are talking about. Look at these examples:
- I was working at 10pm last night.
- They were not playing football at 9am this morning.
- What were you doing at 10pm last night?
- What were you doing when he arrived?
- She was cooking when I telephoned her.
- We were having dinner when it started to rain.
- Ram went home early because it was snowing.
Past Continuous Tense + Simple Past Tense
We often use the past continuous tense with the simple past tense. We use the past continuous tense to express a long action. And we use the simple past tense to express a short action that happens in the middle of the long action. We can join the two ideas with when or while.
In the following example, we have two actions:
- long action (watching TV), expressed with past continuous tense
- short action (telephoned), expressed with simple past tense
We can join these two actions with when:
- I was watching TV when you telephoned.
(Notice that "when you telephoned" is also a way of defining the time [8pm].)
- when + short action (simple past tense)
- while + long action (past continuous tense)
There are four basic combinations:
|I was walking past the car||when||it exploded.|
|When||the car exploded||I was walking past it.|
|The car exploded||while||I was walking past it.|
|While||I was walking past the car||it exploded.|
Notice that the long action and short action are relative.
- "Watching TV" took a few hours. "Telephoned" took a few seconds.
- "Walking past the car" took a few seconds. "Exploded" took a few milliseconds.