Thursday, December 30, 2010


The structure for + object + to-infinitive (where the object is the noun, pronoun or noun phrase that receives or is affected by the action of the verb) is often used after certain adjectives.

It's important for me to finish this essay on time.
It's essential for him to sign the will in front of a witness.
Image: 'more writing
The same meaning could be conveyed by a that-clause and the subjunctive or the verb should + infinitive, but this is much more formal in style.

It's important that I (should) finish this essay on time.
It is essential that he (should) sign the will in front of a witness.

Notice the use of the subjunctive in the last example: we use sign, not signs, because in the present subjunctive the 3rd person singular does not add an s as in the present indicative. The form of the verb to be in the present subjunctive is be for all the persons:
It's important that he be here on time.

Before the for+object+to-infinitive structure there can be three different kinds of adjectives:
a) Adjectives that express importance: important, essential, vital, necessary, pointless...
It is essential for doctors to check all possible causes of this illness.
b) Adjectives that express frequency: common, normal, unusual, rare...
It is normal for a child to fall asleep when tired.
c) Adjectives that express personal reactions: anxious, eager, delighted... (in this case, sentences don't start with it's)
They'll be delighted for you to stay at their home.
I'm anxious for the summer to come.

The For+object+to-infinitive structure can also be used after certain nouns, for instance, plan, idea, suggestion, and even after a few verbs, such as, arrange, suit and take (time).

I think that's the best plan for us to take.
It took two hours for him to get home instead of the usual ten minutes.

For+object+to-infinitive is also used after too and enough.
This coffee is too hot for me to drink.
This coffee is not cold enough for me to drink.
Image: 'Love Coffee
In the following exercises we are going to transform sentences with the For+object+to-infinitive structure into that-clause sentences and vice versa. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Been or gone?

Compare the following sentences:
He's gone to London
He's been to London
Image: 'London Eye & Big Ben at sunset

Do they mean the same? The answer is no. Sometimes it's confusing for learners of English to use one or the other, especially when you can see both been and gone as the past participle of the verb to go in most manuals.
You use gone when you mean that the person has travelled to a place and not returned yet. But when you mean that the person has travelled to the place and is back, you use been.
The difference is quite clear for Spanish speakers when you translate the above examples:
Ha ido a Londres.
Ha estado en Londres
As the usage of ido and estado is the same as gone and been.
Imagine that you are in Spain and you want to ask a foreign person if he or she has visited the country before, what would you say:
Have you been to Spain before?
Have you gone to Spain before?
Image: 'La Sagrada Familia

The correct answer is the first one, because you are both in the same place.

Notice the use of the preposition to, as to go is a verb of movement and therefore it requires that preposition. But in the case of been, the preposition in can also be used when we want to enphasize the time spent in a place and not the fact of having been in that place. Compare:
My sister has gone to Australia. In fact, she's been in Australia for two weeks already.
My sister has been to Australia. She has just returned.

The following exercises will help you reinforce the difference between gone and been.

Need more exercises? Follow this link

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

The 26th of December is known in Britain as Boxing Day. There are several theories regarding the origin of the name, but it's probably called so because from remote times, servants and other workers used to receive boxes full of food and gifts as a present for the Chistmas period.
Boxing day is also St. Stephen's Day (which is how this festivity is known in Ireland), and legend has it, it was on this day when “Good King Wenceslas” went out to help a poor peasant. You can hear the story of this Bohemian saint, who was not a king but a duke, in this popular Christmas carol.

Today, many employers give their employees a Christmas bonus that can be money, gifts or even a vacation-type incentive. Besides, householders give some money or gifts to the tradesmen that regularly visit the house, such as the milkman or the dustman.
Traditionally, families get together on Boxing Day to watch sports, play board games or even go out for a walk in the countryside if the weather is not too wet. It's also a day devoted to outdoor sports and fox hunting (though it's now forbidden to kill the fox in Scotland, England and Wales, there are some places where this tradition is still alive).
'Vale of Clettwr Hunt'
Image in Flickrcc:
In recent years, people tend to go shopping on this day because it's the opening of the sales period and there are big discounts in clothes, shoes or electrical items, and it's becoming traditional to see big crowds gathering at the entrance of department stores waiting for the doors to open and pushing and fighting to get the best offers.

Don't get too carried away by the sales!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas holiday is drawing near and everywhere there are lights and decorations that cheer the dull winter evenings. Santa Claus movies are back on television and Christmas carols can be heard in supermarkets and malls. There's hardly a festive season that is more widely celebrated all over the world than Christmas.
Cheering up is what we need during exam time and if there is a feelgood Christmas song that can make you dance, that's Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you". Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to pronounce the final -ed in verbs

The final -ed in verbs in the past or past participles has three different pronunciations, depending on the sound that precedes it.
Those verbs ending in /d/ or /t/ need to have another syllable so that people realise that they are in the past.
decide /dɪ'saɪd/ --> decided /dɪ'saɪdɪd/
want /wɔ:nt / --> wanted /wɔ:ntɪd /
In the above examples -ed is pronounced /ɪd/.
In the rest of the verbs, -ed is pronounced either /t/ or /d/, but how do we know which? It depends on the final sound of the verb: if it is voiced (sounds in which the vocal chords vibrate), the suffix is pronounced /d/, because it is a voiced sound as well. If the consonant is unvoiced (no vibration of the vocal chords), it is pronounced /t/, as it is also an unvoiced consonant. As you can see, it is very simple: the suffix takes the sound that is easier to pronounce in each case.
Voiced consonants are: /b, v, ð, d, z, ʒ, dʒ, g/
Unvoiced consonants are: /p, f, θ, t, s, ʃ, tʃ, k/
Put your hand on your throat as you say the consonants above and you will feel the difference.

Try doing this exercise and check how much you have learned.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Basic vocabulary crosswords

Let's do some crosswords to revise basic vocabulary of different semantic fields. Click on the labels under the images to open the crossword page. Once there, click on a number in the grid to see the definitions. If you get stuck, click on "hint" and you will be given a letter.
 Have fun!
Hat tip to El Tinglado. Images in



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The present perfect versus the past simple

It's quite easy to learn the tenses in English, but I think the present perfect tense is the most difficult, at least for Spanish speakers, because it is not always translated by the same tense in that language: it is usally translated by "pretérito perfecto compuesto", but in some cases you must use the present simple, and even a verbal periphrasis. Some examples:

I have never been to a theme park.
Nunca he estado en un parque temático. (pretérito perfecto compuesto)
We have known each other for ages.
Hace mucho tiempo que nos conocemos. (present simple)
They have just met
Se acaban de conocer. (periphrasis)

The present perfect is usually learnt in contrast with the past simple: if we say when something happened, we have to use the past simple, but if we don't give a definite time, we use the present perfect.
I lost my keys last night, but thank God I have found them!
Image by Shutterstock 

The present perfect has a simple form:
Have / has + V-ed (3rd column, if it is an irregular verb)
and a continuous form:
have / has been + V-ing

Today we are going to revise the usage of the present perfect simple versus the past simple. Have a look at this presentation and then do the exercises below.


Finally, there is an excellent exercise in which you will complete the lyrics of the song "What can I do" by The Corrs and then a short text about the group. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This blog is one year old!

It's one year and a couple of weeks since I started writing in this blog, and to celebrate it, what about having a look again at the best cartoons of the week? Most of them have been taken from Time and others from the web So much I hope you have found them funny, witty and thought-provoking.

I would also like to snatch the opportunity to thank my teacher Antonio González García, Onio, for introducing me to the world of blogging and the basics of web 2.0.

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