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The Verb

Phrase

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The Verb Phrase

Summary
Whilst there is clearly more to grammar than just verbs, coursebook writers and course
designers have tended to focus on the verb system with a certain amount of justification.
Verbs unpack a great deal of information: they tell us about states, events, processes, and
habits; they can tell us very generally when these things occurred, and if they were
completed. They are also marked for person (I go, he goes) and number (I am, we are).
(Thornbury, 1997: 140).

In this section, we will be looking at various aspects of the verb phrase and exploring some
of the difficulties learners experience and the problems encountered with this language area
in the classroom.

We recommend you work through the different subsections separately rather than trying to
cover all the information and tasks in one go.

Objectives
By the end of this section you will:

have a clear idea of what the verb phrase is.

have developed your analysis of different types of verb phrase.

have a good overview of the major categories of the verb phrase.

know where to do further research on the verb phrase.

feel more confident about related terminology.

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Contents

1. Introduction and Overview

2. Time and Tense

2.1. Time

2.2. Tense

3. Aspect and Futurity

3.1. What is Aspect?

3.2. Continuous Aspect

3.3. Perfect Aspect

3.4. Futurity

4. Modal Verbs

4.1. What are Modal Verbs?

4.2. Form of Modal Verbs

4.3. Semi Modal Verbs

4.4. Meaning of Modal Verbs

4.5. Learner Problems

5. Passives

5.1. What is the Passive?

5.2. Meaning and Use of the Passive

5.3. Form of the Passive

5.4. Learner Problems

5.5. Other Passive Constructions

6. Verbs taking the infinitive/ ing form

6.1. Considerations

6.2. What is the infinitive?

6.3. Use of the full infinitive

6.4. What is the ing form?

6.5. Uses of the ing form

6.6. Uses of the bare infinitive

6.7. Learner Problems

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7. Conditionals

7.1. Form of conditionals

7.2. Meaning of conditionals

7.3. Learner problems

8. Reported Speech

8.1. What is Reported Speech?

8.2. Form of reported speech

8.3. Learner Problems

9. Conclusion

10. Terminology Review

Reading

Appendices

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1. Introduction
1.1 What is a Verb Phrase?
There is much more to the study of the verb than might first appear. First of all verbs do not
always appear in language as single words simply separating a subject and an object e.g. She
saw him. They often appear as a cluster of words e.g. Ill have finished it by five oclock.
Secondly, verbs do not only appear as isolated tense forms but the components of verbs
work together to perform a range of functions. They can be used in conjunction with
modals, they can unite to work as conditionals or be used to express fine shades of meaning
and emphasise such things as politeness, formality, probability etc.

Phrases are groupings of words which function like parts of speech. There are 5 types of
phrase in English, one for each of the five main word classes: noun, verb, adjective, adverb
and preposition.

Here is a definition of a verb phrase:

In traditional grammar, the auxiliary and main verbs in a sentence that function
together as in have been studying English in I have been studying English for 10
years.

Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics


(Richards and Schmidt, 2002: 578)

Verb phrases can therefore consist of a main verb and any auxiliary verbs. Some verb
phrases consist of two main verbs which are closely linked so that the first verb needs the
second one to complete its meaning.

Phrase Type Example

a single-word main verb wept

a multiword main verb stood up

has been weeping


one or more auxiliary verbs and a main verb ought to stand up
doesnt drink
want to speak
two main verbs
recommend staying

Adapted from Parrott M. Grammar for English Language Teachers 2000 CUP

Some grammarians use the term verb phrase in a wider sense to include any object that
follows the verb.

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1.2 Review of the Basics


Before continuing, you are strongly advised to do some basic revision of word classes /
phrases and simple sentence structure by working through the tasks in Unit 11 (Word
classes and phrases) and Unit 12 (Sentence Structure: the simple sentence) in About
Language (Thornbury, 1997, CUP). Alternatively, look at Rules, Patterns and Words (Willis,
2003, CUP), Sections 2.1 and 2.2.

Task 1: Reviewing Basic Terminology (3mins)


Match the terminology in the left hand column to the example in the right hand
column.

Example: 1c

Terminology Example

1. auxiliary verb a. Dont worry. Relax!

2. dynamic verb b. It was stolen.

3. state/stative verb c. He is learning French.

4. bare infinitive d. to go, to eat, to take

5. past participle e. He took up fishing last year.

6. present participle f. I am seeing her this evening.

7. intransitive verb g. I know her really well.

8. imperative h. She runs 6 miles every morning.

9. passive i. It was sent two days ago.

10. phrasal verb j. They go there every year.

See Appendix 1

We will continue this section with a task to identify different verb forms. This is similar to
how candidates are required to analyse language in Paper 1 Task 4 of the Delta Module One
exam.

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Task 2: Identifying the Form of Verb Phrases (30mins)

The examples of verb phrases in the table below were taken from a newspaper
article. Look at the verb phrases and identify and comment on the form of each verb
phrase marked in bold. An example has been done for you. You may find it useful to
discuss your answers with a colleague.

Example: (a) had capsized

perfect aspect

past perfect simple

had + past participle

regular verb

main verb ending in e, past participle formed by adding d.

Survivors of a yacht tragedy which killed two British women told yesterday of their
16-hour swim to safety through a shark-infested sea. Their 38ft yacht (a) had
capsized six miles off the Australian coast early on Sunday with a three male crew on
deck. Three women (b) had been sleeping below and became trapped in the cabin.

June Evans, 22, told how she (c) had awoken as the boat overturned and filled with
water. In the darkness, she hit her head on the tiller which (d) enabled her to find
her bearings.

(e) Battling her way out of the cabin she (f) was hauled on to the upturned hull by
the three male crew members. In the darkness, they (g) gave up hope of rescuing
the two other women trapped below.

The boat disintegrated; if there (h) hadnt been bits of debris to keep them afloat
they (i) would have drowned.

Once they /j/ could see the coast-line in the distance, they (k) decided to start
swimming to shore. They eventually arrived on a deserted beach and walked for
four hours to any Army base where they (l) were picked up by a patrol and taken to
hospital, about 30 hours after the sinking.

Mr Benn, 26, originally from Brent, (m) has lived in Australia for six years and (n)
was working as a sailing instructor. He (o) was criticised for taking out such an
inexperienced crew in weather coastguards described as atrocious.

See Appendix 2

See also About Language (Thornbury, 1997, CUP) Section 15 and Rules, Patterns and Words
(Willis, 2003, CUP) Section 5.

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2. Time and Tense


In this section we will explore the relationship between real time and grammatical tense.

2.1. Time

Task 3: Time and Tense (5mins)


Consider the following examples. In each case identify the tense of the verbs in bold
and the time reference.

a) So I leave the bar and the next thing I know...

b) Most days I leave work around 7.

c) I leave for Singapore next week so...

d) If no one remembered your birthday next month, how would you feel?

e) I didnt realise you were pregnant.

See the commentary below

Commentary

Sentences a), b) and c) all use the present simple but have different time references: a)
refers to the past, b) to the present and c) to the future. Similarly sentences d) and e) both
use the past simple but d) refers to the future and e) to the present.

Clearly there is no one-to-one relationship between time and tense and the tense label does
not always reflect its use. This mismatch can cause confusion for learners.

2.2. Tense
How many tenses are there in English? Before you continue reading, pause and see if you
can list them. Then read the two paragraphs below.

For linguists the answer is just two. Strictly speaking tense refers to the way the base verb
form changes in order to place the event in a specific time frame i.e. past, present or future,
so in English the only tenses are present he cooks and past he cooked. This does not mean
we cannot express future time in English, just that the base verb is not inflected to do so, i.e.
there is no future ending. Instead we use auxiliary verbs to show future time e.g. hell cook
or hes going to cook.

However, for teaching purposes a rather looser interpretation of the term is generally used
and a larger number of verb phrase combinations are usually referred to as tenses,
including e.g. past continuous, past perfect etc. If we exclude modals, in this way we can
reach a total of eight tenses, all of which are combinations of the two basic tenses in English
and the perfect and continuous (progressive) aspect.

In the following task we will look at these various verb forms or tenses in more detail.

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Task 4: Overview of Tenses


Task 4a: Identifying Tenses (5mins)
Identify the verb forms in bold in the following sentences. The first one has been
done for you as an example.

1. When I was a child we always went to the beach for the summer.

Answer: Past simple

2. She was watching TV when she heard a loud crash.

3. I play football most Saturdays.

4. Hows it going?

5. He cant possibly play. Hes hurt his leg.

6. Hes been sleeping on a friends sofa for 2 weeks.

7. He wasnt exactly a friend. Id only met him once before.

8. By the time she turned up Id been waiting for 2 hours.

9. Dont worry. Hell get there in the end.

10. Dont ring him now, hell be having dinner.

11. Help! Im going to fall.

12. Ill have finished by nine, and then we can go home.

Task 4b: Uses of Tenses (40mins)


Check your answers to Task 4a below. The sentences above match the tenses listed
above 1 to 12. Then, for each tense compare the meaning / use of the tense in each
pair of sentences. The first one has been done for you as an example.

1. Past simple

a) When I was a child we always went to the beach for the summer.

b) If only I had more time.

Past simple

a) Refers to an event in the past which occurred repeatedly.

b) Refers to a hypothetical situation in the present; expresses a wish.

Now complete the rest of the exercise.

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2. Past continuous

a) She was watching TV when she heard a loud crash.

b) I worked there last year when I was living in London.

3. Present simple

a) I play football most Saturdays.

b) A major Picasso exhibition opens next week.

4. Present continuous

a) Hows it going?

b) Im starting a new job next week.

5. Present perfect simple

a) He cant possibly play. Hes hurt his leg.

b) Weve known each other since we were children.

6. Present perfect continuous

a) Hes been sleeping on a friends sofa for 2 weeks.

b) Sorry about the mess. Ive been sorting things out.

7. Past perfect simple

a) He wasnt exactly a friend, Id only met him once before.

b) She told him shed had enough and walked out.

8. Past perfect continuous

a) By the time she turned up Id been waiting for 2 hours.

b) Theyd been living there for 3 years before they did anything about the garden.

9. Will

a) Dont worry. Hell get there in the end.

b) Hell often start something and then abandon it half way through.

10. Future continuous

a) Dont ring him now. Hell be having dinner.

b) Dont come round before eight, Ill be working

11. Going to future

a) Help! Im going to fall.

b) Were going to spend a couple of weeks relaxing in the sun.

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12. Future Perfect

a) Ill have finished by nine, and then we can go home.

b) Ill have been teaching for 20 years by the end of the year.

See Appendix 3

3. Aspect
3.1 What is Aspect?
We shall continue our exploration of the verb phrase by looking at aspect. Here is a
definition:

The aspect of a verb phrase is the way the speakers view of an event is
expressed by the verb phrase, regardless of the time of the event itself. (The time
of the event relates to tense). Aspect is concerned with the internal nature of the
event, i.e. whether it has duration or not, whether it is completed or not,
whether it is repetitive or not.

There are two aspects in English: the continuous (also called progressive) and the
perfect. Both aspects are formed by a combination of auxiliary verbs and
participles.

(Thornbury, 2006: 17)

The continuous aspect is formed with the auxiliary form be and the present participle:

The birth rate in Western Europe is going down.

I was taking the dog for a walk when I saw the fire

The perfect aspect is formed using the auxiliary have and the past participle:

When I arrived hed already left.

Ill have finished by tomorrow and then Ill send it in.

As we can see above, it is the auxiliary verb that is marked for tense (is, was, had).

The two aspects can also be combined. The table below shows all the possible combinations
of tense and aspect (excluding combinations with modals).

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[No Aspect] Perfect Continuous Perfect + Continuous

Present they work they have worked they are working they have been working

Past they worked they had worked they were working they had been working

(Thornbury, 2006: 18)

3.2 Continuous Aspect


The primary meaning of the continuous aspect is to refer to events in progress. Under this
umbrella definition, it can at times refer to actions or situations which are temporary,
incomplete or of limited duration.

Media Box Running Time: 6 mins

Here is a link to a videocast by Scott Thornbury on Aspect, focusing on the Continuous


Aspect.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B00s1zE78tE

Task 5: Continuous Aspect (10mins)

Look at the following examples of the continuous aspect and comment on the way
in which they indicate that the action is in progress. The first one has been done for
you.

Example: The birth rate in Western Europe is going down.

Comment: Here it refers to a changing or developing situation which is in progress


now.

1. My sister is living with us as shes having her house repaired.

2. I was taking the dog for a walk when I saw the fire.

3. In September last year 349 students were taking classes here.

4. Ive been doing all the cleaning and cooking at home for years.

5. Were moving to New Zealand next year.

See Appendix 4

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3.3 Perfect Aspect

Task 6: Perfect Aspect: (5mins)


Task 6a: Look at the following examples of the perfect aspect. What meaning do
they share i.e. what common feature of the perfect aspect can you identify?

1. Ive travelled all over America.

2. When I arrived hed already left.

3. Ill have finished by tomorrow and then Ill send it in.

Task 6b: Combining Aspects


The continuous and perfect aspects can be combined. Look at the following
examples and comment on how the two basic meanings of the aspects combine in
each

1. Shed been working with them for ages before she got promotion.

2. He retires next week? How long will he have been working there?

See Appendix 5

Media Box Running Time: 6 mins

Here Scott Thornbury looks at the perfect aspect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfyZOr4Gg64

Teaching aspect can be challenging. This is partly because some languages do not have these
concepts at all and others have different systems of aspect, and partly also because they
involve abstract concepts, such as relevance (perfect) and temporariness (continuous), that
are difficult to pin down. Rather than attempting to teach rules, it can be more useful to
focus on typical contexts of use e.g. narratives for the continuous and experience for the
perfect. Another effective approach is to highlight collocating time expressions e.g. ever, by
(perfect).

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3.4 Futurity

Task 7 Futurity: (15 mins)


Look at the following statements. Are they true or false?

1. There is a future tense in English.

2. The most common way of expressing futurity is going to.

3. Futurity is expressed in the verb form.

4. The choice of future form is determined by the likelihood of the future situation.

5. The choice of future form is determined by the nearness of the future situation.

Media Box Running Time: 8 mins

When you have considered your answers the above statements, follow this link to Scott
Thornburys talk on futurity to hear his view.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/f-is-for-futurity/

4. Modal Verbs
4.1. What are Modal Verbs?
Modality refers to both the lexical and grammatical ways speakers/writers express their
attitude to what they are saying.

Maybe shell pass. lexical adverb

She might pass. grammatical modal auxiliary verb

Here we will focus exclusively on grammatical ways of expressing modality i.e. through using
modal auxiliary verbs. Modal verbs show the speakers/writers judgement about how likely
or desirable a situation is. We can see above how the modal verb might indicates the
attitude of the speaker/writer towards the event described by another verb pass.

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Task 7: Identifying Modal Verbs (3mins)


Look at the following sentences. In each sentence identify the modal auxiliary verb.

The first one is done as an example for you:

Example:

1. That cant be right.

Answer: can

2. That could be the best solution.

3. Ive got the day off so I may get it done in time.

4. I was thinking, it might have got lost in the post.

5. Itll be a lovely day.

6. What would you do if you had a year off?

7. It should take about 3 days, I reckon.

8. He must be at least 60, dont you think?

9. I shall always be grateful to her.

Now check your answers below.

There are nine core or pure modal auxiliary verbs: can, could, may, might, will, would,
should, must and shall. In other words, they follow the formal requirements for modal verbs.

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4.2. Form of Modal Verbs


Let us now examine what these patterns of form are.

Task 8: The Form of Core Modal Auxiliary Verbs (10mins)


Look at the examples of modal verbs in the previous table and answer the following
questions:

1. Where are modals placed in the verb phrase?

2. What are they followed by?

3. How are negatives of modal verbs formed?

4. How are question forms of modal verbs made?

5. Which of the following forms do modal verbs have:

3rd person s

infinitive form

participles (ing or ed)

See Appendix 6

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4.3. Semi Modal Verbs


In addition to the core modals, there are a number of other verbs which combine with
additional verbs to express modal meaning. They behave in similar ways to core modal verbs
but share some characteristics with lexical verbs and are known as semi modals.
Grammarians do not all agree which verbs qualify as semi-modal but some of the main ones
are need (to), have (got) to and ought to.

Task 9: Semi Modal Verbs (5mins)


Look at the verbs in bold below. For each one, comment on whether it is behaving
grammatically, like a core modal verb, or as a lexical verb. The first one has been
done as an example for you.

Example:

1. You neednt worry.

Answer: Here need behaves like a core modal verb. The negative is formed without
the auxiliary do.

2. I didnt need to show my ticket after all.

3. He has to leave early, Im afraid.

4. We ought to have done it years ago.

See Appendix 7

4.4. Meaning of Modal Verbs


The attitudes expressed by modal auxiliary verbs can be divided into two groups, sometimes
called extrinsic and intrinsic. All modal verbs can express both extrinsic and intrinsic
modality. Extrinsic modality refers to the speakers/writers view of how likely the situation
is and allows us to talk about the external world. On the other hand, intrinsic modality refers
to how necessary or desirable the situation is as viewed by the speaker and how we can act
on the world. Intrinsic modality allows us to express a range of interpersonal meanings e.g.
obligation, volition (willingness) and ability.

She may go has two possible meanings:

She is likely to go. (extrinsic)

She has permission to go. (intrinsic)

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Task 10a: Meanings of Modals (8mins)


Match the following meanings to the examples below.

Note that there is no one-to-one match, modals have more than one meaning and
the meanings can be expressed by a variety of modals. The first one has been done
for you as an example.

Meanings: ability, logical deduction, necessity, obligation, permission, possibility,


prediction, volition

Modal Meaning Example

can logical That cant be right.


deduction
You can borrow the car if you like.

Can you see the mark on the sleeve?

could That could be the best solution.

Could I have a word?

We could just about see it.

may Ive got the day off so I may get it done in


time.

May I come in?

might I was thinking it might have got lost in the


post.

Might I use your phone?

will Itll be a lovely day.

Ill carry that for you.

would What would you do if you had a year off?

Would you lend me your car?

should It should take about three days, I reckon.

She should get her eyes tested.

must He must be at least 60, dont you think?

You must show valid photographic i.d.

shall I shall always be grateful to her.

Shall I have a go?

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need You neednt worry.

have Youve got to be mad!


(got) to
He has to leave early.

ought We ought to have done it years ago.


to

See Appendix 8

Modals allow us to express a wide variety of functions e.g. asking permission, giving advice,
making offers, making requests. They also play a very important part in the expression of
politeness and formality in English e.g. Might I use your phone? or Would you lend me your
car?

Learner Problems
Learners experience a number of problems when using modal verbs:

deciding when to use them

choosing which ones to use

constructing questions and negative forms

confusion that one modal verb may have several meanings or functions

Task 10b: Identifying Learner Problems (10mins)


Look at the following examples. Comment on the learner problems each reflects.
The first one has been done for you as an example.

1. Learner errors:

a) She cans speak English.

Example: The learner here is over-generalising a rule. Unlike lexical verbs, modal
verbs do not inflect e.g. Here they do not add 3rd person s. This can cause
frustration to learners trying to apply a rule they have learnt.

b) He can to come tomorrow.

c) I dont can understand.

2. Problems of meaning and form:

a) You must leave. vs. You have to leave.

b) Same examples in the past

c) You mustnt leave. vs. You dont have to leave.

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3. Problems with meaning

a) I may go... vs. I might go... vs. I could go...

b) You ought to go... vs. I would go vs. You must go

c) My grandfather would tell us stories at bedtime.

4. Problems with pronunciation

a) You can borrow the car if you like vs. I know I can

b) He must have done it!

See Appendix 9

5. Passive
5.1. What is the Passive?
The verb phrase also indicates voice. This can be either passive or active. Voice gives
information about the roles of different participants in an event e.g. who did the action, the
agent, and who was the recipient. The relationship between the subject and the object of
the verb can be changed without changing the basic meaning of the sentence.

Compare the following:

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

The first sentence is active. Here the subject of the sentence is Alexander Graham Bell and
the object the telephone. The second sentence is passive and here the telephone is the
subject. Yet in both cases the person performing the action (the agent) is the same,
Alexander Graham Bell, and the thing affected by the action (the recipient) is the telephone.

Thus choice of voice, active or passive, is one way of organising the content of clauses. The
active voice is the most common; typically chosen to state something about the agent of an
action, as seen in the first sentence above, and frequently occurs in texts such as narratives.
If a passive voice is chosen, the starting point of the message is the person or thing affected,
in the case of the second sentence, the telephone.

5.2. Meaning and Use of the Passive


Teaching materials often focus on the form of passive constructions and practice activities
tend to involve mechanical exercises transforming active constructions into passive ones.
This can sometimes mean that learners see the passive as some kind of deviant or
alternative version of the active, rather than having its own meaning and use.

The main uses of the passive are as follows:

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The choice between active and passive constructions often depends on what has already
been said or on what the listener already knows. Very generally, we tend to start
sentences with what is already known or given and to place new and thus important
information at the end.

Thus, exploring the above examples further:

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone comes from an autobiographical text on
Bell. He is the topic of the text, the given information and thus the subject of the
sentence. His invention, the telephone, is the new information and comes second. An
active construction allows this to happen.

However, if the topic of the text is about telephones and their history, the telephone is
the given information and thus occupies the subject position. The new information,
the inventor, comes later in the sentence. In order for this to happen we choose a
passive construction: The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

Here is an extract from Scott Thornburys blog where he reflects on just this reason for
the choice of passive rather than active in a text.

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/p-is-for-passive/

Another reason for choosing a passive structure is to avoid having a long complex noun
phrase as the subject of a sentence. We prefer to put longer, heavier phrases at the
end of a sentence.

I was irritated by Max wanting to tell everybody else what to do.

Not: Max wanting to tell everybody else what to do irritated me.

The passive is also used when we want to focus on an action, not who or what did it.

Too many films have been made about the Second World War.

Passives are much more common in writing, especially in scientific, technical and
academic writing where we are most interested in events and processes.

A total of 200 case studies were analysed.

Active forms, however, are more common where the focus is on the people who make
things happen e.g. in creative writing.

5.3. Form of the Passive


The passive is usually formed with the auxiliary be and the past participle of a lexical
verb. It is the auxiliary which is marked for tense.

No crime has been committed.

The auxiliary get is also sometimes used, particularly in more informal contexts and is
more common in spoken than written English. It is only used with dynamic verbs and not
with stative verbs.

The headmaster got stabbed a few weeks ago.

But: The papers are kept in the safe.

Not: The papers get kept in the safe.

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Only transitive verbs, i.e. verbs which take an object, can form a passive structure.
Intransitive verbs have no object and so there is nothing to become the subject of a
passive sentence.

A passive construction may be followed by a by-phrase, identifying the agent.

The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell

However, the agent is only expressed when it is important to say who or what
something is done by. In most passive sentences there is no agent. There are a number
of reasons why such a choice might be made:

a) The agent may not be known.

The town was rebuilt after the war.

b) The agent may not be considered relevant.

Im always being asked for directions.

c) The agent may simply be obvious.

There were 20 people arrested.

d) Reference to the agent may be avoided to deflect criticism, because it may be


embarrassing or inappropriate.

Ive been told shes unreliable.

e) Agentless passives are frequently used in impersonal speaking and writing styles,
such as academic and technical writing, where the focus is on the processes.

Heat was applied until the solution came to the boil.

Task 11: Form and Use of the Passive (15mins)


Look at the following examples of the Passive. Comment on their Form and Use.

The first one has been done for you as an example:

Example:

1. A suspicious vehicle was spotted by a police patrol outside the bank yesterday
evening.

Answer:

Form: Past simple of the auxiliary be + past participle of the lexical verb spot (regular,
t doubled to keep o sound short // +ed) + by + agent (a police patrol).

Use: The passive allows the content of the text to be organised so that the starting point
of the message, and thus the given information, is the suspicious vehicle and the new
and important information is that it was seen, where and when. Here it is important who
saw the car and so the agent is specified.

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2. Shes been a lot more nervous ever since we got burgled.

3. Pollution in cities is also caused by cars. vs. Cars also cause pollution in cities.

4. Im afraid your application has been mislaid.

5. Most people are worried by the thought of what a surgeon is going to do.

6. Debate centres over what should be considered to be the poverty level.

See Appendix 10

5.4. Learner Problems


Learners face a number of difficulties with the passive voice. The key issues can be summed
up as follows:

The form can be very complex e.g. It will have been written by tomorrow.

They confuse the passive with the active continuous forms since both use auxiliary be
e.g. He was questioning by the immigration official instead of He was questioned by the
immigration official.

They confuse the passive with the active perfect forms since both use past participles
e.g. She has put in prison instead of She was/has been put in prison.

They find it difficult to interpret the relationship between the subject and the recipient
of the action and thus confuse who the agent of the action is e.g. He was attacked by 3
women is understood to be that the man attacked the women.

5.5. Other Passive Constructions


Other forms share some characteristics with the passive and are referred to as the
causative or pseudo-passives. They are more common in spoken language rather than
written and use get or have.

1. Were getting the bathroom refitted next month.

2. Ive finally had my computer fixed.

3. Julian had his bike stolen on Friday.

They are similar to the passive in that the grammatical subject is typically the recipient,
rather than the agent, of the action. However, in examples 1 and 2 we can see that the
subject caused the action, typically some sort of service, to be done by someone else. We
also use this construction to talk about experiences where no cause is implied, as in example
3.

Note the form: get or have are marked for tense and the object, bathroom, computer
and bike, comes between get or have and the past participle.

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6. Verbs Taking ing Form or the Infinitive


6.1. Considerations
Students will come across many situations in which they will need to choose between
infinitive or ing forms after certain verbs. The rules we use to help students can be complex
or apparently rather arbitrary, so we need to make sure that we do not overload students
with too many at one time.

One other consideration is that most of the time, if a student chooses the wrong form, it will
not lead to any problems with understanding. However, these types of mistakes are
penalised in examinations so it is important that we help students to aim to be more
accurate in this area.

We will now go on to look at the infinitive and ing form in conjunction with verb forms.

6.2. What is the infinitive?


The infinitive is the simplest form of the verb and looks the same as the present simple form
after I, you, we and they e.g. go, take, eat etc. This is also called the base form, the
bare infinitive or the infinitive without to. The infinitive with to is also called the full
infinitive e.g. to go, to take, to eat etc.

6.3. Uses of the full infinitive


a) We always use the full infinitive after certain verbs e.g. agree, appear, arrange,
attempt, decide, expect, fail, hope, offer, promise, refuse, want, wish.

Subject Verb Infinitive

I wanted to meet him

They hoped to get back early

(Parrott, 2000: 171)

b) We use the full infinitive after verb + object combinations.

Subject Verb Object Infinitive

She asked him to help her

c) We use the full infinitive after certain verbs which can also be followed by an ing form.
In some cases there is no change in meaning e.g. start, begin etc.

He started to run and he started running

However, there is a set of verbs followed by both forms where the meaning changes
depending on the form used e.g. forget, stop. See section 6.5b.

I stopped to talk to my neighbour and I stopped talking to my neighbour

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Before you continue reading, pause and see how many other verbs you can list that work in
this way, either with or without a change in meaning. When you have written your list,
compare with the examples given on the next page.

Other examples include: advise, allow, cause, encourage, expect, forbid, force,
instruct, invite, order, permit, persuade, prefer, recommend, remind, require,
teach, tell, tempt, warn.

How many of these did you think of?

6.4. What are the present participle and gerund?


The present participle and gerund share the same form. This is generally the base form of
the verb +ing e.g. eating, sleeping, walking. In the classroom, so as not to confuse learners,
this form is often called the ing form or verb + -ing. However, for analytical purposes this
lacks precision.

When the -ing form functions within part of a continuous verb phrase e.g. I am reading; I
was reading; I will be reading; I have been reading etc., it is a present participle.

When the -ing form functions as a noun e.g. Reading is important to me; I love reading etc.,
it is a gerund. To determine whether it is a gerund, it is important to consider whether it can
be replaced by a noun and carry similar meaning e.g. This book is important to me; I love
poetry etc.

The -ing form can also have an adjectival function e.g. The book was boring etc.

To summarise:

I like swimming the ing form is a gerund (noun)

I am swimming the ing form is part of a verb phrase (present participle)

6.5. Uses of the gerund


a) We always use the ing form after certain verbs e.g. avoid, bear, be/get used to,
consider, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, imagine, involve, look forward
to, mention, mind, miss, practise, resent, risk, postpone, stand.

Subject Verb ing Form

He enjoys travelling by train

I cant stand being on a crowded tube

b) As mentioned above, there are verbs that can be followed by both full infinitive and ing
forms without a change in meaning but there are other verbs e.g. forget, go on, like,
need, regret, remember, start, stop, try where the meaning changes depending
on the form used. This change in meaning can be radically different or only slight, as can
be seen in the next task.

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Task 12: Comparing Meaning (15mins)


Look at the following pairs of sentences. Comment on the similarities/ differences in
meaning in each of the pairs. Some grammarians say that infinitives look forward and
ing forms look at the present or past (see Section 8, Explaining English Grammar by G.
Yule).

Example:
1a. I forgot to turn off the gas.
1b. Ill never forget eating snails in Paris.

Answer:
1a. There are two actions forget and turn off. In this case, forget happens first.
1b. There are two actions forget and eat. In this case, eat happens first.

2a. I like listening to jazz.


2b. I like to go to the gym twice a week.

3a. I need to buy some milk.


3b. The car needs cleaning.

4a. Do you remember seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert when we were at university?
4b. He always remembers to buy me flowers on my birthday.

5a. They tried to find a cheaper alternative.


5b. I tried drinking less coffee but it made no difference.

6a. She stopped smoking last week.


6b. He stopped to look at the advert in the window.

7a. We regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a refund.
7b. She regretted telling him her secret.

8a. They went on talking late into the night.


8b. After joining the company as a tea boy, he went on to become the CEO.

See Appendix 11

c) We use the -ing form as part of the continuous aspect of a verb (see 3.1 above). Note,
we are not mentioning gerunds because, although the same in form at present
participles, they are classified as nouns.

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6.6. Uses of the bare infinitive

Task 13: Uses of the Bare Infinitive (8mins)


We use the bare infinitive in many situations. Look at the following sentences and put
together a list of when we use it.

Example: Do you think this is a good idea?

Answer: We use the base form in simple present and past questions

1. He didnt see me yesterday.

2. My mother makes me tidy my room every week.

3. My parents didnt let me stay out late at weekends when I was a teenager.

4. I saw Jay-Jay Okocha play his last match for Nigeria.

5. Why not get a boat to one of the islands when youre in Greece?

6. Try and get some sleep. You look tired.

7. Come and see me when youre in town.

8. We mustnt be late for the exam.

See Appendix 12

6.7. Learner Problems


Learners experience a number of problems when trying to use ing/infinitive forms
accurately:

1. deciding which to use

2. L1 interference

3. overusing infinitives

4. avoiding infinitives

5. overusing ing forms

6. using full infinitive instead of bare infinitive

7. spelling issues with ing forms

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Task 14: Identifying Learner Problems (15 mins)


Look at the following examples. Comment on the learner problems each reflects. The
first one has been done for you as an example.

a) They suggested me to visit the British Museum.

Example: The learner is overusing the infinitive. They do not know that suggest is usually
followed by a clause containing an object + verb or ing form e.g. (that) I visit(ed) /
visiting. (an issue of form)

b) I go to International House for to study English.

c) I stopped to go to classes during the World Cup.

d) I am sorry for being late.

e) Cant you make him to listen?

f) We should to save our money.

g) I want that you come with us tonight.

h) Did you see him to leave the party?

i) I am writeing to you with reference to the advertisement

j) I hate forgeting peoples names.

See Appendix 13

For further reading we suggest the following:

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. 2006 Cambridge Grammar of English Cambridge University


Press (sections 213-216)

Leech, G. et al 2001 An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage (pp225-230, 230-235 Longman

Parrott, M. 2000 Grammar for English Language Teachers Cambridge University Press
(section 11)

Swan, M. 2005 Practical English Usage (sections 322-339)Oxford University Press

Thornbury, S. 1997 About Language Cambridge University Press (Task 15)

Yule, G. 2007 Explaining English Grammar Oxford University Press

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7. Conditionals
learners are often taught that there are three kinds of conditional sentenceThis is largely
correct, but does not fully describe the normal patterns of tense in conditional clauses
(Collins COBUILD English Grammar, 1990: 350)

Form of Conditionals
As you can see from the quote above, many grammar books will tell you that there are three
or four types of conditionals. Conditional sentences consist of two clauses: a main clause and
a condition or if clause.

Type Main clause If Clause

Zero Present If + present

Type 1 Future If + present

Type 2 Would + base form If + past simple

Type 3 Would + have + past If + past perfect


participle

The clauses can be in any order but if the if clause comes first, we need to use a comma after
the if clause. We do not need one if the main clause comes first.

However, there are many recognised variations to the types which are examined below.

Zero Conditionals
We can use modal verbs in either or both of the clauses.
If a boss cant manage their staff, they shouldnt be a boss.

Type 1 Conditionals
The future form will can be replaced by:
a modal e.g. might, may, could, must, should, ought to
If youre late, you could call me.
an imperative
If youre late, call me.
other future forms e.g. present continuous, going to
If hes late, hes going to call.

Should can come before the verb in the if clause meaning that the action is less likely to
happen. This is more common in orders, advice and suggestions.
If you should feel unwell, please call me.

Should can replace if in more formal written situations.


Should you have any further questions, I would be happy

Type 2 Conditionals

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The modal would can be replaced by:


could or might, making the consequence seem less likely.
If you had more time, we could/might go.
should after I and we.
If I knew her name, I should tell you.

Were can be used:


as part of the lexical chunk for offering advice. Was is also possible but is
considered less formal.
If I were you, Id
in the if clause in place of the if and inverted with the subject so you comes
before were rather than the other way round.
Were you to discover a cure, it would represent a major breakthrough.
to make the statement seem more polite, tentative or hypothetical. An infinitive has
been used to replace the past tense, in this case to discover has replaced
discovered.
If you discovered a cure, it would represent a major breakthrough.
If you were to discover a cure, it would represent a major breakthrough.

Type 3 Conditionals
The modal would can be replaced by could or might to emphasise that something was a
possibility or to make the outcome seem less definite.
If I had known, I could/might have told him.

We can invert the auxiliary, had, and the subject of the conditional to add emphasis.
Had I known, I would have told him.

We can also mix types 2 and 3 to show:


a past action with a present consequence.
If he hadnt done well at university, he wouldnt be working there now.
a present/ general fact with a past consequence.
If I liked children, I would have had some.

Other Variations
If can be replaced by:
as long as and only if in type 1 only. These add emphasis to the condition.
supposing and can be used in type 1 to make the condition sound less likely.
provided (that), providing, on condition that, unless in all types of conditional,
again to emphasise the condition.

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Task 15: Conditionals (15mins)

Look at the sentences below and match them to the forms in 7.1. above. The first
example has been done for you.

Example: If he comes to stay next week, I ought to tidy up his room.

Answer: Type 1 conditional with a modal in the main clause.

1. If you leave ice cream out in the sun, it melts.

2. If I were you, Id get go to bed early the night before your exam.

3. If the taxi driver hadnt returned her handbag to her so quickly, shed have had to
cancel all her credit cards.

4. Call me if you decide to go out tonight.

5. You shouldnt sunbathe for too long on your first day if you go to the beach.

6. Ill go out for a meal with you as long as you agree to share the cost.

7. If youd bought the tickets sooner, wed have better seats.

8. If they werent so boring, wed have invited them to our party!

9. If I had more time, I could help you with your homework.

10. They wont let you in unless you show your invitation.

11. We may reconsider your planning application were you to incorporate the changes
we suggest.

12. If he should arrive in the next half hour, please send him in to the meeting
immediately.

See Appendix 14

Meaning of Conditionals
Conditional sentences might be defined as discussing factual implications or hypothetical
situations, which we might describe as the conditions, and their consequences. In other
words, in general, what happens in the main clause usually depends on what happens in the
if clause e.g. Ill walk to work if there is a bus strike (walking to work depends on the strike
happening).

As well as there being rules about the form of the types, it is possible to generalize about
their meaning too.

Type 0 Conditionals

These are expressed in general time and can be used to describe universal truths, scientific
facts, habits and routine occurrences dependent on a condition being fulfilled. The
consequence is seen as the inevitable result of the fulfillment of the condition.

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Type 1 Conditionals

These are used to describe likely or possible specific present/future conditions and their
consequences.

Type 2 Conditionals

These are used to describe unlikely, impossible or hypothetical specific present/future


conditions and their consequences.

Type 3 Conditionals

These are used to speculate about past events and how what did or did not happen
influences other things in the past. As we have seen, it is possible to combine elements from
different types to form what are broadly called mixed conditionals e.g. type 2 with type 3
to describe a present/ general fact with a past consequence or type 3 with type 2 to describe
a past action with a present consequence.

Variations

Some authors, George Yule in Explaining English Grammar (Chapter 5) and Scott Thornbury
in About Language (Section 21), believe it is more productive to view conditionals in terms
of whether they refer to real or unreal situations rather than divide them into prescriptive
types based on generalizations of form and meaning. The terms real and unreal relate to
whether a situation is viewed as possible/likely or impossible/hypothetical. Having these
rigid types is criticized as being limiting as although they cover many high frequency
conditional patterns there are many conditional structures which do not fall neatly into
these categories in terms of meaning or form.

Consider the following example:


If it was sunny, Id go to the beach.

Ostensibly the form of this conditional suggests it is type 2 but the form may not always
reflect the actual meaning. If a little more context is added to the sentence, we can see that
we are actually referring to a habitual real past situation and the inevitable consequence. In
a sense it is like past type 0 conditional.
As a boy, I holidayed at my Great Aunts on the coast and if it was sunny, Id go to
the beach and swim.

Would here has a meaning similar to used to but is perhaps used more for reminiscence.

Similarly, in the following conditional we can see that the rules relating to the meaning of a
type 3 conditional do not apply to this example as it is expressing a hypothetical past
situation and its hypothetical future consequence, rather than a past one.
If she hadnt died, she would have been 65 this October.

The form of some conditionals is such that they cannot be neatly matched with a type and
yet the meaning is perfectly accessible.
If you liked Argo, youll love Argo II.

In the example above, a film reviewer is talking about a film and how the sequel is even
better, in effect, a real past situation is linked with a real future consequence. In terms of
form, it looks like mix of a type 2 and type 1 but clearly the if clause is not referring to a
present/future hypothetical situation.

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Finally, many rules of form which are often engrained in learners are sometimes not entirely
true. Usually, will is not used in the condition clause of type 1 conditionals but there are a
number of specific situations where it is possible.

If youll wait here, Ill fetch the manager. (politeness)


If you will keep coming home late, of course youll be tired. (irritation)
If youll work hard, Ill help you. (willingness and used in a negotiation)
If you think itll help, Ill speak to her. (result in the if clause)

Conditional Functions

We also use conditional sentences for a number of other functions.

Task 16: Conditionals and Functions (8mins)


Look at the functions listed and match each to one of the four conditional types. Then
give an example sentence for each.

Example: Warning

Answer: Type 1. Youll fail the exam if you dont study for it.

1. Giving advice

2. Describing scientific processes

3. Negotiating

4. Making excuses

5. Threatening

See Appendix 15

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Learner Problems

Learners experience a number of problems when trying to use conditional forms accurately.
Before you read on, list the problems your students have had with this language area. Do
not forget to think about problems of meaning, form and pronunciation. When you have
written your list, look at the ideas below.

Possible answers may include:

Meaning

a) Students can be confused by the use of a past tense to refer to the present or future e.g.
If I was feeling better, Id

b) Students may find it confusing that both types 1 and 2 can refer to the future e.g. If I win
the lottery, and If I won the lottery,. The difference in meaning is not about time but
about the speakers view of how possible this event is.

c) Due to L1 interference, lower level learners sometimes do not understand the difference
in meaning between if and when.

Form

a) Students may think that sentences that start with were as in Were we richer, wed are
questions.

b) Students often put will in the if clause because this feels more logical if they are talking
about the future. As we saw above, this is possible in certain specific situations.

c) Students may put would in the if clause. This may come from L1 interference e.g.
German.

d) Because the form of type 3 is so complicated, learners often try to avoid using it and
state what they are trying to say in an easier way e.g. You were driving too fast so you
crashed instead of If you hadnt been driving so fast, you wouldnt have crashed.

e) Learners sometimes forget that unless means if not and so add in another negative
when it is not necessary e.g. Ill pay for you unless you dont have enough money.

Pronunciation

a) Because native speakers tend to swallow if and the auxiliaries, it may be hard for a
learner to hear these parts of the structures. They may not therefore realise that they
have heard a conditional sentence. Or they may omit them when they are speaking
themselves.

b) Click on the link for another mistake which native speakers makeor is it?

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/c-is-for-conditional-the-third/

For further reading we suggest the following:

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. 2006 Cambridge Grammar of English Cambridge University


Press (sections 448-459)

Leech, G. et al 2001 An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage (pp97, 206-209) Longman

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Parrott, M. 2000 Grammar for English Language Teachers Cambridge University Press
(section 18)

Swan, M. & Walter, C. 1997 How English Works Oxford University Press

Thornbury, S. 1997 About Language Cambridge University Press (Task 21)

Yule, G. 2007 Explaining English Grammar Oxford University Press

8. Reported Speech
What is reported speech?
Direct speech is what people actually say e.g. Im tired. Reported speech (also called indirect
speech) is how we report this, making changes to the words that the speaker originally used,
e.g. She said (that) she was tired. (Parrott, M. Grammar for English Language Teachers.
p218).

When we teach reported speech, we often simply ask students to convert direct speech into
reported speech following the rules of form in 8.2. below. Parrott makes the interesting
point that in fact, we do not generally use reported speech to report exactly what someone
said. If we want to do that, we tend to use direct speech e.g. She said, The film is rubbish.
Dont go and see it.

Direct speech is used:

when we want to make something feel more dramatic

when we want to create a sense of urgency

when we want to convey the speakers actual words because they are important e.g.
strange or funny

For these reasons, we often find direct speech in newspaper reports, fiction and oral
narratives.

Reported speech is used when we are more interested in the message or information
conveyed than in the words themselves. For this reason, reported speech can act as a kind of
prcis of the message and so often contains fewer words than the original.

Reported speech can report statements, imperatives, requests and questions.

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Form of Reported Speech

Task 17: Quick Revision (5mins)


Look at the statements below and decide if they are true or false. Then read section 8.2
below to check your answers. NB: This is the type of activity you could do with your
learners either as the first stage in a test-teach-test lesson or at the end of a lesson to
check how much they have learnt.

1. We always use an indirect object (me, them, him, her, us) with say.

2. We always use an indirect object with tell.

3. We dont have to use that after say and tell in reported speech.

4. Pronouns and possessive adjectives (my, his, her etc.) usually change in reported
speech.

5. We use auxiliaries do, did, does in reported questions.

6. We always use an object (me, her, us, them etc.) with ask.

7. We can use if/ whether with a question word in reported questions.

8. The changes in verb forms are the same for reported questions, imperatives,
requests and statements.

(adapted from Redston, C. & Cunningham, G. face2face Intermediate students book pp84, 86, 87)

Statements

The most common verbs we use for reporting statements are say, never followed by an
indirect object, and tell, followed by an indirect object, i.e. She said me she was tired vs.
She told to me she was tired.

These verbs are followed by a clause with an optional that at the beginning She said (that)
she was tired.

Other statement verbs include:

add, answer, explain, reply, mention. These are non-attitude verbs

accuse, allege, beg, blame, claim, complain, confirm, demand, deny,


insinuate, insist, recommend, suggest, threaten, warn. These how some form of
judgement or attitude to the speakers words.

For more information about the form of these verbs, see Parrott, M. Grammar for English
Language Teachers p219-220.

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Questions

The most common verbs we use for reporting questions are ask and want to know. These
are followed by a clause introduced by if/ whether for yes/no answers or a question
word (when, how, why, what time, who, where etc.) for longer answers. You never
use if/whether and a question word. After ask, the object is optional e.g. He asked (us)
what time it started. Whereas there is never an object after want to know.

Unlike in direct questions, the subject and verb are not inverted in clause following the
question word. She asked when would we be there. We never use auxiliaries do, did,
does in reported questions. She asked him what did he do.

Remember also that we do not use a question mark at the end of a reported question.

When we teach reported speech, both for questions and statements, we usually give
learners the following rules about backshifting i.e. moving the tense of the verb in direct
speech one tense back in reported speech.

Task 18: Converting Direct Speech into Reported Speech (10mins)

Look at the table below and fill in the gaps. The first example has been done for you.

Rule Direct speech Reported speech

Present simple to I dont like chocolate cake. She said she didnt like
past simple chocolate cake

Shes leaving on Friday.

What time did you get up?

I wasnt sleeping very well.

Hes never been to South America.

Theyve been travelling for


months.

Whos going to pick us up?

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Well see you later.

We may go on holiday together.

I can speak 5 languages.

What shall we bring for the


picnic?

You must be there on time.

NB would, could, might, should and ought to do not shift tenses.

See Appendix 16

Other changes

We usually change the following expressions of time and place in reported speech:

Direct Reported Direct Reported


Here there now then
this that today that day
these those yesterday the day before
come go tomorrow the following / next
day
bring take this week
that week
next month
the following month

We also usually change pronouns and possessive adjectives:

Direct Reported Direct Reported

I he or she me him or her

we they my his or her

Reporting requests and imperatives:


When we report a request, we use asked + object + (not) + full infinitive.
Please dont kick your football against my fence He asked them not to kick their football
etc.

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When we report an imperative, we use told + object + (not) + full infinitive.


Be quiet! He told them to be quiet.

Learner Problems
Learners experience a number of problems when trying to use reported speech accurately.
Look at the problems below. How many of these have you seen in your experience?

Meaning

a) Learners may not understand which time is being referred to: e.g. She said she was
hungry. Is the hunger before the time of speaking or at the same time?

b) Learners may not understand who is being referred to: e.g. Nicky said I was very clever.
Is Nicky talking about herself?

Form

a) Since it is not always necessary to backshift, learners may be unclear about when they
must do this and when they dont have to.

b) Students find it hard to think of the time marker and pronoun changes in real time when
speaking.

c) It can be confusing for students that the word order of reported questions is the same as
statements. They often try to make reported questions look like questions e.g. He asked
who was she.

d) Students often try to put in an indirect object with say, add, answer, explain, reply
and mention e.g. She explained me she was very busy. They also often use to +
pronoun with tell e.g. He told to me that London was very crowded.

e) There are so many different possible structures after reporting verbs that it is hard for
students to remember which ones to use. Some of these verbs can take several different
forms e.g. He suggested (that) I go; He suggested going; He suggested (that) I went but
not He suggested to go, which may be the form in the learners L1.

f) It is possible to say whether or not but not if or not e.g. She asked whether or not we
were going to the meeting vs. She asked if or not we were going to the meeting.

g) Students sometimes have problems with the spelling of whether.

For further reading we suggest the following:

Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. 2006 Cambridge Grammar of English Cambridge University


Press (sections 488-502)

Leech, G. et al 2001 An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage (pp 220-226) Longman

Parrott, M. 2000 Grammar for English Language Teachers Cambridge University Press
(section 17)

Swan, M. 2005 Practical English Usage (3rd edition) (sections 533-538) Oxford University
Press

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Thornbury, S. 1997 About Language Cambridge University Press (pp 62, 124, 189, 190,
206)

9. Conclusion
In this section we have given an introduction to the verb phrase in general. We have also
looked at the meaning, form, rules and learner problems connected to more specific
language areas covered by the verb phrase: tense, time and aspect, modal verbs, passives,
ing/infinitive forms, reported speech and conditionals.

A knowledge of these areas will help you to deal more confidently with verb issues you and
your learners may encounter in the classroom.

Although we have given an overview of many verb forms in this section, we recommend that
you use the reading list below to help you research them in more depth on your own. Do not
forget to look at other areas too e.g. phrasal verbs/multiword verbs.

It would also be a good idea to collect practical ideas by consciously noticing how these
areas are dealt with in a variety of course books with different approaches.

Take the opportunity whenever you can to refresh your memory on the different ways verb
phrases can be made and how they are used. Simply practise looking at any piece of
authentic material and analysing the verb phrases in it. Make yourself comment on their
use and form to give yourself a focus.

Media Box Running Time: 1h 6mins

Optional Viewing: Seven Ways of Looking at Grammar. A thought-provoking lecture by


Scott Thornbury given at the New School New York.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp8QSGcS0QI

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10. Terminology Review

Task 19: Terms and Definitions (5mins)


The definitions below all refer to concepts from this section.

For 1 4, supply the term being defined. There is an example provided.

Example: If + present simple, present simple. Often used to describe scientific facts.

Answer: Zero conditional

1. This term refers to a range of meanings to do with how necessary or desirable


the speaker/writer views the situation.

2. When we put something on the end of the root of the verb e.g. third person s
or ed ending in past simple.

3. The actual use of a verb in context e.g. asking for permission or apologising.

4. A grammatical term used for the imperative, infinitive and subjunctive forms of
the verb.

For 5 8, provide a definition and example for the terms given. There is an example
provided.

Example: Verb phrase

Answer: A verb phrase can consist of a single main verb e.g. slept, a multi word verb
e.g. put up with, auxiliary verbs + a main verb e.g. might be waiting, two main verbs
e.g. like dancing, negatives e.g. dont waste or a verb plus the object that follows it
e.g. make a mistake.

5. Aspect

6. Tense

7. Complement

8. Semi Modal verb

See Appendix 17

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Reading:
If you would like to explore this area further:

Suggested Reading
Carter, R. and McCarthy, M. 2006 Cambridge Grammar of English Cambridge University
Press

Leech, G. et al 2001 An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage Longman

Parrott, M. 2000 Grammar for Language Teachers Cambridge University Press

Swan, M. 2005 Practical English Usage (3rd edition) Oxford University Press

Thornbury, S. 1997 About Language Cambridge University Press

Additional Reading
Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. 1988 A Communicative Grammar of English Longman (pp 74-75)

Lewis, M. 1986 The English Verb LTP (pp61-74)

Murphy, R. 1985 English Grammar in Use Cambridge University Press

Sinclair, J. 1990 Collins Cobuild - English Grammar Collins Cobuild

Swan, M. & Walter, C. 1997 How English Works Oxford University Press

Richards, J. C., & Schmidt, R. 2002 Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied
Linguistics Longman

Thornbury, S. 2006 An A-Z of ELT Macmillan

Willis, D. 2003 Rules, Patterns and Words Cambridge University Press

Yule, G. 2007 Explaining English Grammar Oxford University Press

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Appendices
Appendix 1: Reviewing Basic Terminology
1c 2h 3g 4d 5i 6f 7j 8a 9b 10e

If you feel the need for further reminding of basic terminology see Chapter 8 of Grammar
for English Language Teachers (Parrott, 2000).

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Appendix 2: Identifying Examples of Verb Phrases


b) had been sleeping: the past perfect continuous with elements of both the perfect and
continuous aspects. Formed with auxiliaries had (past of have) +been (past participle
of be) with the present participle of the main / lexical verb. Present participle formed
using base form +ing. Sleep is an intransitive verb (no object).

c) had awoken: past perfect simple formed with auxiliary had (past form of have) + past
participle of main / lexical verb. In this case, irregular verb awake, past participle
formed by adding n to past form awoke. Intransitive verb (no object).

d) enabled her to find: two main verbs. The first one is in the past simple, formed by
adding d. Enable + object is followed by the full infinitive of the second lexical verb
find.

e) Battling: present participle formed by base form of verb battle, final e omitted and
+ing. Head of a participle clause.

f) was hauled: past simple passive formed by past of auxiliary be + past participle of
regular main / lexical verb haul. Past participle formed by base form + ed.

g) gave up: past simple of irregular multiword / phrasal verb (give up) followed by object
(transitive). Separable verb.

h) hadnt been: past perfect simple of be (here as a main verb, not an auxiliary). Negative
form, formed by auxiliary had (past of have) + not (contracted) + past participle of
irregular verb be. Here it forms part of subordinate clause of third conditional, see (i)
below.

i) would have drowned. Main clause of third conditional, would (modal auxiliary) +
perfect infinitive (have + past participle). In this case past participle is of a regular verb
drown + ed.

j) could see: modal auxiliary could, in this instance past form of can + bare infinitive of
main verb see, also known as base form. A verb of perception, so could is possible
here for a specific event in the past. With other verbs, was able to would be necessary.

k) decided to start swimming: past tense of regular verb decide followed by full infinitive
to start. Start is followed by the ing form of swim (swimming) with doubling of final
consonant on this one syllable CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) ending verb. Note the
way two of the verbs are followed by other verbs: decide takes a verb with the full
infinitive, to start, and start takes a verb with the ing form, swimming.

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l) were picked uptaken to: examples of the passive, formed by auxiliary verb be in past
tense, plural (ellipted in second example) + past participle of regular verb pick and
irregular verb take.

m) has lived: present perfect with for expressing duration of time. Formed by auxiliary
verb have in present tense, third person singular + past participle of regular verb live.

n) was working: past continuous, formed by auxiliary verb be in past tense, in this case,
third person singular, + -ing form (present participle) of regular verb work.

o) was criticised for taking out: past passive as above (l) followed by preposition for + -ing
form (irregular phrasal verb take out in ing form with final e omitted). Take out is
transitive and separable but not separated in this case.

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Appendix 3: Uses of the Tenses


Whilst the uses of each verb form below are by no means exhaustive, they will give you an
idea of the range that exists.

1. Past simple

a) Refers to an event in the past which occurred repeatedly

b) Refers to a hypothetical situation in the present; expresses a wish

2. Past continuous

a) Refers to a longer background action, which was interrupted by a shorter action, the
main event in the past simple. This use is typical in narratives where it provides the
background to events that form the story itself.

b) Refers to a temporary situation in the past.

3. Present simple

a) Refers to an action that occurs repeatedly in the present; a habit.

b) Refers to a future event which has been scheduled already.

4. Present continuous

a) Refers to a current temporary situation, in progress now.

b) Refers to a future even that has already been decided / arranged.

5. Present perfect simple

a) Refers to a finished action, which affects the present, it has some importance now.

b) Refers to a situation which started in the past and continues up to the present.

6. Present perfect continuous

a) Refers to a present temporary action starting in the past and continuing in the period
up to now; it focuses on its duration so far (2 weeks) and it therefore collocates with
expressions of time.

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b) Refers to a recent activity which took place over a period of time and has probably
recently stopped. The activity may be constant or repeated.

7. Past perfect simple

a) Here they are already talking in the past and it is used to go back to an earlier past time.
It focuses on the fact that something took place and finished before something else in
the past.

b) Here it is used in reported speech. It refers to something already completed when the
conversation took place.

8. Past perfect continuous

a) Used for a longer action, wait, that continued up to the past moment referred to, her
arrival, and stopped then.

b) Here the action, live there, continues beyond the specified past point of time, when
they worked on the garden.

9. Will

a) Refers to a future prediction.

b) Refers to repeated and habitual behaviour in the present. There is no future meaning
here. It is usually used in a disapproving way. If will is stressed it becomes more critical
e.g. He will often start something...

10. Future continuous

a) Refers to a prediction about the present based on knowledge of someones habits and
routines or plans. Will can also be used in a similar way e.g. when the phone rings,
Thatll be John.

b) Refers to a future action which will be in progress at a particular moment in the future.

11. Going to future

a) Refers to an event we can see now and are certain will happen, a prediction based on
present evidence.

b) Refers to a planned future event. It is often used interchangeably with the present
continuous for future. However, in the case of Were spending a couple of weeks
relaxing in the sun, it is not clear without more context whether the present or future is
being referred to.

12. Future Perfect

a) Shows an action will be completed by a certain time, nine oclock, in the future. Here
things are viewed from a particular point in the future as already having taken place or
as having been completed. It often collocates with by or before.

b) Here, in the continuous form, things are being viewed again from a certain point in the
future, the end of the year. The focus is on how long they have been happening and it
often collocates with for + period.

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Appendix 4: Continuous Aspect

1. In progress now, here a temporary situation in the present. Contrast with present
simple, My sister lives with us, which refers to a more permanent situation.

2. Refers to a longer background action, taking the dog for a walk, which was already in
progress in the past when a shorter event of seeing the fire, in the past simple,
happened. Contrast with the past simple, I took the dog for a walk when..., which gives
the impression the owner took the dog for a walk after they saw the fire, perhaps as a
result. It reverses the actual order of events and their relationship.

3. Refers to a situation in progress at a specified time in the past, September.

4. An action in progress in the past and up to now. Here it does not appear to be
temporary.

5. This refers to present arrangement for a future event. This is the most difficult to fit
under the umbrella meaning of in progress. It is perhaps best viewed as an event which
had in a sense been on going since the decision was made and we thus view it as being
in progress.

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Appendix 5: Perfect Aspect


Task 6a: In the perfect aspect the event or state is viewed as occurring in a period of time up
to and related to a point of time, this varies with the different forms:

i.e. present perfect the present moment

past perfect a past point of time

future perfect a future point of time

It is often referred to as being retrospective i.e. looking back from that point of time. For this
reason it is often useful to show learners the meaning using diagrams e.g. time lines as in
this way the relationship between events can be clarified visually.

1. Here the point of time is the present i.e. the moment of talking. It therefore means that
some time in the period from now back to the past I lived in Italy. The time itself is
indefinite.

2. Here the point of time is in the past and is defined by the context in this case my arrival.
In this way his leaving is placed in a period of time before this. Contrast this with past
simple, When I arrived he left, which implies both actions happened at the same time,
possibly his departure caused by my arrival.

3. Here again the point of time is determined by the context, tomorrow, this time in the
future. The work will be completed in the period preceding this point. Again, we are
looking back from a specified point (here the future).

In Task 6b both aspects combine their primary meanings i.e. an event in progress and an
event viewed retrospectively:

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1. For the perfect aspect, the point in time is her promotion and had been is situated in the
period before and leading up to her promotion. The continuous aspect indicates the
action was in progress, working.

2. For the perfect aspect, the point in time is the future, next week, and will have been is
situated in the period before and leading up to next week. The continuous aspect
indicates an action in progress, working.

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Appendix 6: The Form of Core Modal Verbs


1. Modals are always placed first in the verb phrase.

e.g. That could be...

2. They are followed by a verb in the base form i.e. without to. The verb may be a lexical
verb e.g. It should take...or an auxiliary verb (be, do, have) e.g. It might have got lost...or
the substitute verb do e.g. He must do (know the answer) but it cannot be another
modal verb.

3. Negatives of modal verbs are formed by adding not / (n)t after the modal verb. Do is
not used.

e.g. That cant be right

4. Questions are formed by inverting the subject and modal verb. Do is not used.

e.g. What would you do..?.

5. None of these forms. Modal verbs have only one form and do not inflect for person or
number e.g. She must be... or They must be...

They do not have infinitive forms, either with or without to.

e.g. We cannot say, Id like to can speak Japanese but have to say, Id like to be able to
speak Japanese.

They also lack participle forms e.g musted or musting.

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Appendix 7: Semi-modal Verbs


2. Here need behaves like a lexical verb: it has a past negative form using the auxiliary do
in the past and is followed by to plus the infinitive.

Need can therefore be considered to be both a semi modal (as in the task example) and
a lexical verb (as above).

3. Have to always behaves grammatically as a lexical verb, inflecting in the 3rd person
singular and followed by to. It can also occur with other modals .e.g. She might have to
leave early, whereas two modals cannot co-occur. However, it expresses a modal
meaning, obligation, and is therefore considered a semi-modal.

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4. Here ought to behaves like a core modal verb in that it has no past form and expresses
a modal meaning describing an ideal/desired state but it behaves like a lexical verb in
that it is followed by to plus infinitive and in this case the perfect infinitive.

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Appendix 8: Meanings of Modals

Modal Meaning Example

Can logical deduction That cant be right.

permission You can borrow the car if you like.

ability Can you see the mark on the sleeve?

Could possibility That could be the best solution.

permission Could I have a word?

ability We could just about see it.

May possibility Ive got the day off so I may get it done in time.

permission May I come in?

Might possibility I was thinking, it might have got lost in the post.

permission Might I use your phone?

Will prediction Itll be a lovely day.

volition Ill carry that for you.

Would prediction What would you do if you had a year off?

volition Would you lend me your car?

Should possibility It should take about 3 days, I reckon.

obligation She should get her eyes tested.

Must logical deduction He must be at least 60, dont you think?

obligation You must show valid photographic i.d.

Shall prediction I shall always be grateful to her.

volition Shall I have a go?

need (to) necessity You neednt worry.

have (got) to logical deduction Youve got to be mad!

obligation He has to leave early.

ought to obligation We ought to have done it years ago.

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Appendix 9: Identifying Learner Problems


1.

Example

a) The learner here is over-generalising a rule. Unlike lexical verbs, modal verbs do not
inflect e.g. here they do not add 3rd person s. This can cause frustration to learners
trying to apply a rule they have learnt

b) Here again the learner is over-generalising a rule. Modal verbs are followed by the bare
infinitive, compared with lexical verbs which are followed by to + infinitive e.g. He
wants to come tomorrow.

c) The learner is again applying a rule that does not work for modal verbs, where the
negative is not formed using the auxiliary do, but with the modal itself + not e.g. I
cant understand.

2.

a) These have very similar meaning. Course materials often teach that have to is used for
external obligation e.g. imposed by official bodies, other authorities and must is used
for internal obligation. However, must is also used by official bodies and other
authorities when they are speaking directly to those they wish to follow or obey their
rules. The following was taken from the terms and conditions of a train ticket:

This ticket must be given up for inspection on demand.

Have to is not used here as this is would make the above more like an objective
statement of fact rather than the authorities speaking to those they want to follow their
rules. As already mentioned, must is also used for internal obligation i.e. imposed by
the speaker or writer.

I must visit my Grandma this weekend.

Whilst this may be a useful rule of thumb for learners, in practice many people do not
make this distinction, some reserving must largely for logical deduction e.g. He must be
at least 60, dont you think?

b) Both become You had to leave. Must here has no past form, so any distinction made in
meaning in the present can no longer hold in the past.

c) In the negative forms the two have completely different meanings. Mustnt expresses
an obligation not to do it. Dont have to expresses an absence of obligation, indicating
it is up to you.

3.

a) All of these express (future) possibility. Some people use them interchangeably and if
they want to express different degrees of probability they might adjust the intonation
when they speak. Other people do distinguish between them but may not conform as to
which ones they choose to express greater or lesser likelihood.

b) Whilst all three have the function of giving advice, You ought to go and I would go are
less direct and so more polite than You must go. Learners clearly need to be aware of
these differences.

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c) This is a non-modal use of would. It refers to a past habit and is often used in
narratives.

4.

a) Like many modals, can has both weak (unstressed) and strong (stressed) forms in
pronunciation. Thus the weak form as in You can borrow the car if you like is pronounced
/kn/ and the strong form as in I know I can is pronounced /kn/. The weak form can
lead to perception problems for learners, who may miss it.

b) Here must is pronounced in its strong form and have is weak, /mstv/. Again this can
lead to perception problems for learners.

Return to text.

Appendix 10: Form and Use of the Passive


2. Form: Past simple of auxiliary get + past participle of the lexical verb burgle (regular
verb + d). Agentless passive.

Use: Auxiliary get is more common in informal and spoken language such as here. The
passive allows the focus to be placed on the action, the burglary, rather than who did it.
The agent is unknown or not relevant here.

3. Form: 3rd person present simple of auxiliary be (irregular verb) + adverb also + past
participle of lexical verb cause (regular verb + d) + by + agent (cars).

Use: In the active sentence the text is about cars in general, cars are the given
information, and this sentence discusses one of the disadvantages of cars. In the passive
sentence the stating point is pollution, this is the topic of the text and the given
information. The new information explains that cars are one if its causes. The agent is
specified as it is an important part of the message. The different structures allow
different organisation of content and thus different focus for the same basic meaning.

4. Form: Present perfect simple of auxiliary be + past participle of lexical verb mislay
(irregular verb). Agentless passive.

Use: Here the passive allows the speaker to avoid specifying who is to blame for
mislaying the application and thus avoids embarrassment. The focus has been shifted to
the result of the action rather than who did it.

5. Form: 3rd person plural of auxiliary verb be + past participle of lexical verb worry
(regular verb the y changes to i + ed) + by + agent (the thought of what a surgeon is
going to do)

Use: Here the passive allows the long, complex noun phrase to be placed at the end of
the sentence, the position for new information and a preferred position in English,
making the information easier to process.

6. Form: modal auxiliary should + auxiliary be in base form + past participle of the lexical
verb consider (regular verb + ed). Agentless passive.

Use: Agentless passive here is typical of academic writing. It allows the focus to be on
the process and not the individuals involved. Consider is frequently found in the
passive in impersonal writing such as here.

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Return to text.

Appendix 11: Comparing Meanings of ing vs. Infinitive Forms


2.
a I like listening to jazz: this is something I really enjoy and is a general statement about
something I may do often.
b I like to go to the gym twice a week: this is something I do a little out of duty to make
myself feel good or something I think is a good idea, but maybe I dont really enjoy it. It
is also something I do occasionally. (This is more common in American English).

3.
a I need to buy some milk: need expresses the fact that something is necessary. There is
a sense of there being a need now which will be addressed by buying some milk in the
future.
b The car needs cleaning: With this form need still refers to something that is necessary
but it has more of a passive meaning, that is, the car needs to be cleaned. This form is
commonly used with objects, animals or babies.

4.
a Do you remember seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert when we were at university?
There are two actions, remember and see. See happens first.
b He always remembers to buy me flowers on my birthday. There are two actions:
remember and buy. Remember happens first.

5.

a. They tried to find a cheaper alternative: there was an attempt to find a cheaper
alternative but it was difficult and, probably, ultimately unsuccessful. The action of
finding was difficult.

b. I tried drinking less coffee but it made no difference: in this case, the action of drinking
is not difficult but this person is doing it to see the result. It may done as an experiment.

6.
a She stopped smoking last week: one action which is now finished (smoking).
b He stopped to look at the advert in the window: There are two actions. He stopped
doing one thing, probably walking, in order to do something else, in this case look at the
advert.

7.
a We regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a refund: This is a formal
apology, I am sorry that I will have to tell you that In a sense, the regret happens
before the informing.
b She regretted telling him her secret: There are two actions, regret and tell. Tell
happened first and she is sorry she did this.

8.
a They went on talking late into the night: to continue an action that was started earlier.

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b After joining the company as a tea boy, he went on to become the CEO: after one
action, something else happened.

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Appendix 12: Uses of the Bare Infinitive


We use the bare infinitive:

1. In simple present and past negatives.

2. After the verb make.

3. After the verb let.

4. With verbs of perception e.g. see, feel, hear, notice, sense. Compare this with the
ing form, I saw him cross the road (you saw the whole action) vs. I saw him crossing the
road (you did not see the start/end of this action)

5. With why to question someones intention or suggestion and why not to make a
suggestion.

6. After try and.

7. After come and and go and.

8. After modal verbs. (see section 4)

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Appendix 13: Learner problems with infinitive and Ing Forms


b I go to International House for to study English: L1 interference. In the learners L1, when
talking about purpose, they probably use for plus full infinitive e.g. French, Spanish. An
issue of form.

c I stopped to go to classes during the World Cup: the learner may not be sure which form
to use after the verb stop or they may not know there is a difference in meaning
between stop to go and stop going. An issue of form and meaning.

d I am sorry for being late: overuse of ing form. The learner may not know that it is much
more common to say Im sorry Im late. An issue of appropriacy.

e Cant you make him to listen? The learner may not know that they should use the bare
infinitive after make, and let. This may be as a result of L1 interference again. An issue
of form.

f We should to save our money: overusing infinitive. The learner may not know they
should follow modals e.g. can, could, will, should etc. with bare infinitives. Again
possibly L1 interference. An issue of form.

g I want that you come with us tonight: avoiding use of infinitive in an object + infinitive
combination. Again L1 influence e.g. Italian. An issue of form.

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h Did you see him to leave the party? Overusing infinitive. This could be because the
learner does not know verbs of perception are only followed by bare infinitive or ing
form. An issue of form.

i I am writeing to you with reference to the advertisement: spelling issue. The learner
may not realise that if a verb has a final e, it is often dropped when making the ing
form. Other examples include take, write, have, argue, make etc (see Michael Swan
Practical English Usage section 570 for spelling rules connected to this).

j I hate forgeting peoples names: again a spelling issue. The learner may not know when
they need to double the final consonant of certain verbs. (see Michael Swan Practical
English Usage section 568 for spelling rules connected to this).

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Appendix 14: Conditionals


1. Zero conditional

2. Part of a lexical chunk If I were you

3. Type 3 conditional

4. Type 1 with an imperative

5. Zero conditional with a modal (shouldnt)

6. Type 1 with as long as instead of if

7. Mixed conditional - past action with a present consequence

8. Mixed conditional - general fact with past consequence

9. Type 2 with modal (could) instead of would

10. Type 1 with unless

11. Type 2 with were + infinitive instead of the past tense in the if clause

12. Type 1 with should before the verb in the if clause.

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Appendix 15: Conditionals and functions

1. Type 2: If I were you I wouldnt buy such an expensive car.


Type 1: If you take a deep breath, youll feel less nervous.

2. Zero: If you heat cobalt chloride, it turns blue.

3. Type 1: If you clean the kitchen, Ill do the bathroom.

4. Type 3: If the train hadnt been late, Id have arrived on time.

5. Type 1: Im going to tell your parents if you come into my garden one more time.

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Return to text.

Appendix 16: Converting direct speech into reported speech

Rule Direct speech Reported speech

Present simple to past I dont like chocolate cake. She said she didnt like
simple chocolate cake

Present continuous to Shes leaving on Friday. She said she was leaving on
past continuous Friday.

Past simple to past What time did you get up? He asked what time she had
perfect got up.

Past continuous to past I wasnt sleeping very well. She said she had not been
perfect continuous sleeping very well.

Present perfect to past Hes never been to South America. They said hed never been to
perfect South America.

Present perfect Theyve been travelling for months. He said theyd been
continuous to past travelling for several months.
perfect continuous

Going to to was/ were Whos going to pick us up? She asked who was going to
going to pick them up.

Will to would Well see you later. They said theyd see you/ us
later.

May to might We may go on holiday together. They said they might go on


holiday together.

Can to could I can speak 5 languages. She said she could speak 5
languages.

Shall to should What shall we bring for the picnic? He asked what they should
bring to the picnic.

Must to had to You must be there on time. He said we had to be there


on time.

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Appendix 17: Terminology Review


1. Intrinsic modality

2. Inflection

3. Function

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4. Mood

5. Aspect describes the way we view an action or state in terms of the passing of time.
There are two aspects in English: continuous and perfect.

6. Tense refers to the way the base verb form changes in order to place the event in a
specific time frame i.e. past, present or future so in English, strictly speaking, the only
tenses are present he cooks and past he cooked. However, for teaching purposes a
rather looser interpretation of the term is generally used and a larger number of verb
phrase combinations are usually referred to as tenses, including e.g. past continuous,
past perfect. If we exclude modals, in this way we can reach a total of eight tenses, all of
which are combinations of the two basic tenses in English and the perfect and
continuous aspect.

7. A complement normally follows a verb phrase, often the verb to be, seem or appear,
and can be an adjective e.g. Im happy, a noun phrase e.g. That was a lovely meal, a
pronoun e.g. Is this yours? or a number e.g. Shell be 50 next month. It can also follow
the object of the sentence e.g. Walking makes me hungry.

8. In addition to the core modals, there are a number of other verbs which combine with
other verbs to express modal meaning. They behave in similar ways to core modal verbs
but share some characteristics with lexical verbs and are known as semi-modals.
Grammarians do not all agree which verbs qualify as semi-modal but some of the main
ones are need (to), have (got) to and ought to.

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Unit 3 Section 1 55 Copyright The Distance Delta