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Grammar – clause v. phrase

Many students ask us what the difference is between a clause and a phrase. Good question!

A clause and a phrase are both found WITHIN a sentence.  The difference is in the structure of each one.

clause = a collection of words that has a SUBJECT/PRONOUN actively doing a VERB

    • when I phoned him
    • after he won the election
    • as the cat ate from his bowl

Grammar lesson: into v. in

The prepositions into and in have a big difference in meaning.

into = movement toward the inside of a place or thing.

‘We jumped into the pool for a swim.’

‘Mom drove the car into the garage.’

in = tells us where something is right now.

‘The children are in bed.’

‘The cake is in the refrigerator.’

Vocabulary lesson: grow v. grow up

grow up (v) = slowly change from a child to an adult

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toronto.  CORRECT
I grew in Toronto.  INCORRECT

“Ana is growing up in a rough part of the city. I hope she doesn’t get into trouble when she is older.”

“Children today grow up much faster than when I was young!”

Grammar Lesson: verb + preposition with LISTEN

listen for = try to hear something

“On Corregidor Island, you should listen for the monkeys in the evening.”

“The car mechanic told me to listen for any banging noises in the engine.”

listen to = pay attention to and hear something

“I listen to my iPod on the bus.”

Listen to all the noise next door! How can anyone sleep?!”

Grammar Lesson – modern reported speech

Reported speech is an important grammar point to understand.

The rule is, when reporting or ‘retelling’ a conversation or story, we go back one tense in time.

“I am starting school on Monday”
She said she was starting school on Monday.”

“You father came to see me yesterday.”
He said my father had come to see me yesterday.”

Grammar Lesson: double negatives

A double negative is a sentence that contains two negatives (a ‘not’ or a ‘no’ word).

Never do this!

I never said nothing to Peter about the party.

This should be: I did not say anything to Peter about the party.

My mother didn’t give me no money.

This should be: My mother didn’t give me any money.

Grammar Lesson – so v. neither

We use so when we agree with a POSITIVE statement about something or someone.

A: “I like swimming.”
B: “So do I.” (I like swimming too.)

A: “I’m going to be late tomorrow.”
B: “So will I.” (I will be late too.)

We use neither to agree with a NEGATIVE statement about something or someone.

A: “I don’t understand physics.”
B: “Neither do I.” (It is hard for me as well.)

Grammar Lesson: common v proper nouns

Nouns are people, places, and things.

A noun is either a common noun or a proper noun.

common noun = general concept: office, cake, pencil, man, city, country

proper noun = there is only ONE of it, and it starts with a capital letter: Earth, London, England, Olympics, Mercedes, Hinduism, Channel, Robert, Big Ben


city / London
planet / Earth
religion / Judaism

Grammar Lesson: present continuous v. simple

We use the present continuous to talk about things happening NOW, or that are temporary.

I‘m not working this week.
Sally is cooking dinner right now.
Who are you talking to?

The present simple describes typical, repeated, and/or permanent things. We may include always, usually, often, sometimes, or never in the sentence.

I work in a marketing company.
John speaks Dutch and German.
How often do you play golf?

Grammar Lesson: VERB + -ING

When a verb ends in -ing, it can be either a gerund or a present participle. They have very different jobs!

When we use a VERB + -ING as a gerund, it behaves as a noun. Think of it as an activity.

For example swimming:  swimming includes going to the pool/beach, getting into the water, and actually swimming

Other examples:

  • fishing
  • smoking
  • cooking
  • traveling