English grammar explained using clear and simple explanations.

Could and to be able to

We use could to talk about general abilty in the past and we use to be able to or managed to to talk about a specific situation in the past. Examples So we say I could run fast when I was a child. because it is a general fact, but we say I was able to run five miles without stopping last night. or I managed to run five miles without stopping. because we are […]

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Inversions in conditionals

In certain conditional sentences we can omit “if” and invert the subject and auxiliary verb as if it were a question auxiliary + subject + verb It is a more formal form but the meaning is exactly the same. Normal form Inversion If he should call, let me know. Should he call, let me know. If he were to ask for […]

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The Mixed Conditionals

The most common mixed conditional is a mix of the 3rd conditional in the if clause and the 2nd conditional in the main clause. We use this conditional to talk about a hypothetical situation in the past (3rd conditional) with the results now (2nd conditional): If I had studied harder, I would have a better job now. If I hadn’t gone out last night I wouldn’t be tired […]

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The Third Conditional

We use the third conditional to talk about a situation in the past which would have happened if something else had happened. It is the past conditional. If I had studied harder for my exam, I would have passed. If I hadn’t passed my driving test they wouldn’t have given me the job. Look at the construction: If subject had past participle subject […]

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The Second Conditional

We use the second conditional to talk about an imaginary situation in the present. Maybe in the future it will become reality but now it is a dream. If I had a million dollars, I would buy a ranch. If I played tennis, I would be fitter. Look at the construction: If subject past simple subject would base form of verb If I ate a lot of chips I would […]

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The First Conditional

We use the First Conditional to talk about something which will happen in the future if something else happens. It is the Future Conditional. If it’s sunny tomorrow, I’ll go to the beach. If I sleep too long, I won’t arrive on time. Look at the construction: If subject present simple subject will base form of verb If I study hard I will […]

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The Zero Conditional

We use the Zero Conditional to talk about something which happens in general. If, or when, something happens something else always happens. It can be used to talk about routines and facts. If I can’t sleep, I read my book. If you heat water, it becomes steam. Look at the construction: If subject present simple subject present simple If I have a headache I take an […]

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Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

The Tower of London is older than the Empire State Building.

There are 3 rules regarding the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives: 1. For short adjectives (adjectives with 1 syllable) we add -er in the comparative form and -est in the superlative form: Short adjective Comparative Superlative small tall cheap long smaller than taller than cheaper than longer than the smallest the tallest the cheapest the longest Examples: Comparatives France is smaller than Argentina. Cheese is cheaper than caviar. The Tower of London is older than the […]

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The Causative

Look at these sentences: I have my car repaired once a year. They have their house decorated every three years. When somebody does something for us we use the causative. Look at the construction: Present simple Positive  Subject to have something past participle  I have my hair cut every 2 months. Negative  Subject to have something past participle  I don’t have my hair cut every […]

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Permission – Can, Could, May

Can I go to the party?

When we ask for permission to do something we use can, could, may. May is the most formal. Examples Can I go to the party? Could I ask a question? May I sit here?   If we want to be more polite we can use the following construction: Do you mind if I base form of verb Do you mind if I open the window? Do […]

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