Grammar – What do you know?

What do you know already?

It might be helpful for you to get an idea of what you already know (or don’t know!) about grammar, and to understand what you need to start thinking about. This may also be a useful tool for people thinking about applying for a CELTA or other teacher training course, as the tasks are quite similar to those used in many ‘pre-interview’ tasks.

Take the quiz to see what you know. This isn’t meant so much as a test, but more of a way of guiding you to a greater understanding of what you do and don’t know, so you can fill the gaps in your knowledge. Answers are given at the end.

 

1. Look at the sentences below;

a) I’m really enjoying this meal.         

b) I’m meeting him outside the restaurant at 7pm.

What’s the name of the tense in both these sentences?

When do each of the sentences refer to? Past, present or future?

Is the activity in sentence a) finished or ongoing?

 

2. Look at the sentences below.

a) I’ve been to the U.S.A. many times.     

b) I went to the U.S.A. last year.

Are the sentences in the same tense?

Could we say, “I have been to the USA last year”? If not, why not?

 

3. Look at the sentences below.

a) You shouldn’t smoke so much.     

b) You can’t smoke in here.

Grammatically, what are “shouldn’t” and “can’t”?

What is the difference in meaning? 

 

4. Look at the sentences below.

a) If I win this game of cards, I’ll buy you a drink!     

b) If I won the lottery, I’d buy a pub!

What does the contraction I’ll stand for?

What does the contraction I’d stand for?

What is the difference in attitude of the speaker in a) to the speaker in b) ?

 

5. Look at the sentences below.

a) Close the door, it’s cold in here.     

b) Open a window, it’s really hot in here.

What is the grammatical term for the words the and a in the sentences above?

Why is it the door, but a window? What is the difference in meaning?

 

Answers

Additional information about the language points mentioned, can be found in the Grammar Grids section. (coming soon)

1

a) I’m really enjoying this meal.     

b) I’m meeting him outside the restaurant at 7pm.

What is the name of the tense in both these sentences? Present continuous.

When do each of the sentences refer to? Past, present or future? a) refers to right now, b) refers to something planned and arranged for the future.

Is the activity in sentence a) finished or ongoing? Ongoing.

 

2. 

a) I’ve been to the U.S.A many times.     

b) I went to the U.S.A last year.

Are the sentences in the same tense? No. Sentence a) is in the present perfect simple, while sentence b) is an example of the past simple.

Could we say, “I have been to the USA last year”? If not, why not? No, we can’t. In this case the present perfect has been used (have been), and we cannot use this tense to talk about a specific, finished point in time. The past simple (I went), must be used with a finished past time (last year). So we can say “I’ve been to the USA” (at some point in my life, which is an ongoing period of time), or I went to the USA (when thinking of or referring to a particular point in time, where the timeframe is not ongoing but finished).

 

3.

a) You shouldn’t smoke so much.     

b) You can’t smoke in here.

Grammatically, what are “shouldn’t” and “can’t”? Modal auxiliary verbs.

What is the difference in meaning? a) In this sentence shouldn’t is being used to express the function of advice. The speaker thinks not smoking is a good idea for the person they are talking to, but that person can choose to smoke or not smoke. b) Can’t is being used to express the function of prohibition – it is against the rules, you are not allowed to smoke in here.

 

4. 

a) If I win this game of cards, I’ll buy you a drink!     

b) If I won the lottery, I’d buy a pub!

What does the contraction I’ll stand for? I will.

What does the contraction I’d stand for? I would.

What is the difference in attitude of the speaker in a) to the speaker in b) ? In a) the speaker sees winning the game of cards as a realistic possibility and the consequence of buying a drink will follow. In b) the situation in imagined. The speaker sees winning the lottery as unrealistic or impossible. Although the situation is not about the past, grammatically the past simple tense (had), is used to convey this impossibility or the fact that it is not seen as possible.

 

5. 

a) Close the door, it’s cold in here.     

b) Open a window, it’s really hot in here.

What is the grammatical term for the words the and a in the sentences above? The is the definite article. A is the indefinite article.

Why is it the door, but a window? What is the difference in meaning? In sentence a) there is only one door, and we know which particular door is being referred to. In sentence b) there are several windows and no particular one is being referred to. Any of the available windows will do.