Past Time

Past Time

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When we talk about an event/s or situation/s that took place in the past there are different verb forms or tenses that we can use.

The past simple

We use the past simple when we are talking about an event that happened at one particular point/time in the past:
We woke up early because of our flight.
The train left at midnight.
The past simple is also used to talk about something that continued for some time in the past:
We lived in the countryside for the first ten years of my life.
I worked hard through the summer.
When we talk about something that happened several times in the past we use the past simple.
When we were in Rome most evenings we went out for dinner at a different restaurant.
Last summer I went for a swim every morning.
But we can also use ‘used to’.
Last summer I used to go for a swim every morning.
Or would
Last summer I would go for a swim every morning.

However would is not used with stative verbs.
As a child I was very shy. As a child I used to be very shy. NOT As a child I would be very shy.

Past continuous

We use the past continuous when we are talking about something which happened before and after a given time in the past.
It was almost eleven o’clock. Peter was watching the news on TV.
I stopped watching the game when we were losing 4-0.
We use the past continuous when we are talking about something happening before or after another action in the past.
He broke his leg while he was skiing in France.
She met John while they were both jogging in the park.

A past action from the past

When we look back from the past to a point in time earlier (before) in the past we use the past perfect.
When I finally got to my car I realise that I had left the keys in my office.
I had been in Paris for three weeks when I met Sarah.

The past and present

When we are talking about effects in the present of something that happened in the past we use the present perfect.
I can’t call Peter. I’ve forgotten my phone at home.
Peter has found a new job. He works as a chef in a classy restaurant.
When we are talking about something that started in the past and still goes on we use the present perfect.
I’ve lived here all my life.
I’ve been working at the airport for five years now.

Would as the past of will

When we talk about a point closer to the present from a point later in the past we use would/was (were) going to/the past continuous.
We thought we would go to Thailand the next year.
Peter was going to follow us in his car.
We were going to set off for the lake the next morning.
It was June. Peter was preparing for the start of the summer season.
Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school
Now choose the correct form for the following:
  • 1. The lights went out when I _ on the final draft of my thesis.
    was working
    worked
    had worked
  • 2. After I _ a really good meal I went for a walk.
    had had
    have had
    had
  • 3. He _ his bike and walked into the shop.
    parked
     had parked
    was parking
  • 4. He _ without saying goodbye.
    was leaving
    left
    had left
  • 5. When Sarah walked in I _ TV.
    had been watching
    was watching
  • 6. I remember standing in front of the coliseum and thinking that it was the most amazing thing I _ in my life.
    had ever seen
    have seen
     saw
  • 7. They _ here for a week now.
    were
    have been
    are

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Present Time

Present Time

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When we talk about the present the different tenses we use are determined by the situation we are expressing.

The present simple

We use the present simple to talk about something that is regular and is happening in the present:
I come home from work at around six.
I often meet my friend during our lunch break.
The present simple is also used to talk about something happening continually in the present:
They live on the other side of town.
He works for the national airline.
We use the present simple to talk about things which are generally true:
It is hot in summer in the Mediterranean.
It’s a two hour flight from Paris to London.

The present continuous

We use the present continuous to show that something in the present is temporary:
We are living in a rented flat right now.
I usually go to the library to study but it is being refurbished at the moment.
We use the present continuous for something happening regularly in the present before and after a given time:
I’m usually travelling to work at seven o’clock.
On Saturday mornings I’m always reading the paper at my favourite café.
We use the present continuous for something happening before and after the moment of speaking:
Don’t make a sound. The children are sleeping.
I’m not paying attention to the TV. I’m listening to my iPod.

Modal verbs

We use modal verbs to talk about the present when we are not sure of something:
I don’t know where Sarah is. She might be out shopping.
Who’s ringing you at this time of the night? I don’t know. It could be the police.
When we talk about the present the different tenses we use are determined by the situation we are expressing.

The present simple

We use the present simple to talk about something that is regular and is happening in the present:
I often meet my friend during our lunch break.
The present simple is also used to talk about something happening continually in the present:
They live on the other side of town.
He works for the national airline.
We use the present simple to talk about things which are generally true:
It is hot in summer in the Mediterranean.
It’s a two hour flight from Paris to London.

The present continuous

We use the present continuous to show that something in the present is temporary:
We are living in a rented flat right now.
I usually go to the library to study but it is being refurbished at the moment.
We use the present continuous for something happening regularly in the present before and after a given time:
I’m usually travelling to work at seven o’clock.
On Saturday mornings I’m always reading the paper at my favourite café.
We use the present continuous for something happening before and after the moment of speaking:
Don’t make a sound. The children are sleeping.
I’m not paying attention to the TV. I’m listening to my iPod.

Modal verbs

We use modal verbs to talk about the present when we are not sure of something:
I don’t know where Sarah is. She might be out shopping.
Who’s ringing you at this time of the night? I don’t know. It could be the police.
Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school
Choose the correct form for the following:
  • 1. I _ at my brother’s flat until I find a place of my own.
    am staying
    stay
  • 2. Sarah _ with her parents. She says she has no intention of moving out.
    is living
    lives
  • 3. What time _ the house?
    do you usually leave
    are you usually leaving
  • 4. I _ ready for work at around half past six.
    usually get
    am usually getting
  • 5. They _ right next door to us.
    live
    are living
  • 6. Whenever we meet David he _ his newspaper.
    is always reading
    always reads
  • 7. I _ abroad because of work.
    often travel
    am often travelling
  • 8. I am usually at work on Saturdays but today I _ from home.
    am working
    work

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Future Time

Future Time

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There are several ways of looking at the future with English. Here is an overview of the different tenses we use depending on the situation we are talking about.
When we know about the future we normally use the present tense:
We use the present simple for something scheduled or an arranged meeting and for an event that has a fixed time:
The film starts at nine fifteen.
We have a holiday next week.
It’s Sarah’s birthday tomorrow.
We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements:
I’m playing squash with John tomorrow.
My sister is coming to visit us from London next week.
We’re celebrating my dad’s seventieth on Saturday.
We use will to talk about the future:
When we make predictions:
It will be hot in September.
I think Peter will do well in his exam.
I’m sure you will have a great time in Rio.
When we mean ‘want’ or ‘be willing to’:
I hope you will come to my party.
Sarah said she will help us.
When we talk about offers and promises:
I’ll see you tomorrow.
He said he’ll send us an e-mail.
We use ‘be going to’:
When we talk about plans and intentions:
I’m going to cycle to work today.
They’re going to restructure the company.
When we see that something is likely:
You are not going to feel very well tomorrow after all these beers.
Be careful! That chair looks like it’s going to break.
There are certain verbs that we can use to talk about the future like plan, want, hope, expect, intend, need etc. together with would like.
I’d like to go to university in America.
We plan to spend Christmas with the family.
John wants to move to another flat.
We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous to add emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions.
They’ll be coming to see us next week.
I will be cycling to work from now on.
They’ll be arriving at around eleven o’clock.
Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school
Now choose the best form to express the following:
  • 1. Our flight _ at eight o’clock.
    leaves
    is going to leave
    will leave
  • 2. I _ Sarah this afternoon. We need to discuss our plans for the summer.
    will meet
    am meeting
    meet
  • 3. Everyone you invited _ to the dinner.
    comes
    is coming
    will come
  • 4. The film _ at nine, so I’ll pick you up at half eight.
    is going to start
    starts
    is starting
  • 5. It looks like the presentation _ any moment.
    is going to start
    starts
    will start
  • 6. We _ the final at my place tonight. Do you want to come?
    are watching
    will watch
    watch
  • 7. John has got a promotion so he _ in London.
    lives
    will live
    is going to live
  • 8. I am fed up of the cold here. I_ in a warmer place.
    am going to live.
    will live
    would like to live

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Using Articles

Summary:
This handout discusses the differences between indefinite articles (a/an) and definite articles (the).
Contributors:Paul Lynch, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2011-03-03 10:04:28
What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.
English has two articles: the and a/anThe is used to refer to specific or particular nouns;a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article anda/an the indefinite article.
the = definite article
a/an = indefinite article
For example, if I say, “Let’s read the book,” I mean a specific book. If I say, “Let’s read abook,” I mean any book rather than a specific book.
Here’s another way to explain it: The is used to refer to a specific or particular member of a group. For example, “I just saw the most popular movie of the year.” There are many movies, but only one particular movie is the most popular. Therefore, we use the.
“A/an” is used to refer to a non-specific or non-particular member of the group. For example, “I would like to go see a movie.” Here, we’re not talking about a specific movie. We’re talking about any movie. There are many movies, and I want to see any movie. I don’t have a specific one in mind.
Let’s look at each kind of article a little more closely.

Indefinite Articles: a and an

“A” and “an” signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to any member of a group. For example:
  • “My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas.” This refers to any dog. We don’t know which dog because we haven’t found the dog yet.
  • “Somebody call a policeman!” This refers to any policeman. We don’t need a specific policeman; we need any policeman who is available.
  • “When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!” Here, we’re talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an elephant. There are probably several elephants at the zoo, but there’s only one we’re talking about here.

Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins the next word. So…

  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
  • an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; anorphan
  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like ‘yoo-zer,’ i.e. begins with a consonant ‘y’ sound, so ‘a’ is used); a universitya unicycle
  • an + nouns starting with silent “h”: an hour
  • a + nouns starting with a pronounced “h”: a horse
      • In some cases where “h” is pronounced, such as “historical,” you can use an. However, a is more commonly used and preferred.
        A historical event is worth recording.
    Remember that these rules also apply when you use acronyms:
    Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) handles first-year writing at the University. Therefore, an ICaP memo generally discusses issues concerning English 106 instructors.
    Another case where this rule applies is when acronyms start with consonant letters but have vowel sounds:
    An MSDS (material safety data sheet) was used to record the data. An SPCC plan (Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan) will help us prepare for the worst.
    If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends on the initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article:
    • a broken egg
    • an unusual problem
    • a European country (sounds like ‘yer-o-pi-an,’ i.e. begins with consonant ‘y’ sound)
    Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are used to indicate membership in a group:
    • I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group known as teachers.)
    • Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the people known as Irish.)
    • Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member of the group of people known as Buddhists.)

    Definite Article: the

    The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. For example:
    The dog that bit me ran away.” Here, we’re talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.
    “I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat!” Here, we’re talking about a particularpoliceman. Even if we don’t know the policeman’s name, it’s still a particular policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.
    “I saw the elephant at the zoo.” Here, we’re talking about a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant at the zoo.

    Count and Noncount Nouns

    The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article can be omitted entirely.
    • “I love to sail over the water” (some specific body of water) or “I love to sail over water” (any water).
    • “He spilled the milk all over the floor” (some specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or “He spilled milk all over the floor” (any milk).
    “A/an” can be used only with count nouns.
    • “I need a bottle of water.”
    • “I need a new glass of milk.”
    Most of the time, you can’t say, “She wants a water,” unless you’re implying, say, a bottle of water.

    Geographical use of the

    There are some specific rules for using the with geographical nouns.
    Do not use the before:
    • names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico, Bolivia; however, the Netherlands,the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States
    • names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba, Miami
    • names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
    • names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
    • names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains likethe Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
    • names of continents (Asia, Europe)
    • names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like theAleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
    Do use the before:
    • names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
    • points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
    • geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
    • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest,the Iberian Peninsula

    Omission of Articles

    Some common types of nouns that don’t take an article are:
    • Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian (unless you are referring to the population of the nation: “The Spanish are known for their warm hospitality.”)
    • Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
    • Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science

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    IELTS test in Vietnam – August 2013 (Academic Module)

    IELTS test in Vietnam – August 2013 (Academic Module)

    An IELTS test taker from Vietnam (thanks, P!) shared the following topics and questions he remembered after a recent exam:
    Listening testIELTS test in Vietnam
    Section 1. A man wanted to join a race and was having a conversation with a representative who works there.
    Section 2. A radio advertisement about a healthcare centre.
    Section 3. A student was asking for advice on his presentation.
    Section 4. About an architectural aspect of school buildings all over the world.
    Reading test
    Passage 1. About an eco-tourism resort in Australia.
    Passage 2. About technology being used in shops and malls to help the owners know more about customer’s ideas, profiles and other patterns.

    Passage 3. About online training and companies using computers to train their employees. The passage was about advantages and disadvantages of this new way of training.
    Writing test
    Writing task 1 (a report)
    We were given two line graphs showing the number of train passengers on a particular route and the percentage of trains arriving on time, along with the target they had between 2000-2009.
    Writing task 2 (an essay)
    Restoration of old buildings in major cities involves enormous government expenditure. Some say this money should be used to build new housing and roads instead. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
    Speaking test
    Interview
    – What is your full name?
    – Can I see your ID?
    – Where are you from?
    – Do you work or study?
    – Tell me about holidays and festivals in your country.
    Cue Card
    Talk about a party that you would like to give to your family and friends.
    Discussion
    – What festivals are there in your country?
    – How do people celebrate them?

    Related posts:

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    3. IELTS Speaking test in Vietnam – March 2013 An IELTS test taker K shared the questions from a…
    4. IELTS test in Kuwait – March 2013 (Academic Module) An IELTS test taker B from Kuwait (thank you!) shared…
    5. IELTS test in Uzbekistan and Oman – April 2013 (Academic Module) IELTS test takers from Uzbekistan and Oman (thanks D and…

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    IELTS test in Australia – August 2013 (General…

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