Noun clauses

A noun clause is a group of words that serves as a subject or an object of a verb or as an object of a preposition.  It is composed of a marker, a subject, and a verb.


Why she was late was not important.  [noun clause subject]
I don’t believe that we’ve met.  [noun clause object]
People judge others by what they do.  [noun clause object of a preposition]

If a noun clauses comes from a statement, it uses the marker that.


The world is round.  (statement)
They don’t believe that the world is round.  (noun clause object)

NOTE:  You can drop the marker that when the noun clause is an object.
They don’t believe the world is round.  (noun clause object)

NOTE:  You cannot drop that when the noun clause is a subject.
That the world is round is a fact.  (noun clause subject)

More examples:

I knew that she had forgotten your name.   (noun clause object)
He told me that you were going to be late.  (noun clause object)
That his parents are divorced is well known.  (noun clause subject)

If a noun clause comes from an information question, it uses the marker that is the same question word as in the question: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

NOTE:  There is no inversion of the subject and verb.


Who is she?  (information question)

• there is an inversion of the verb (she) and the subject (she))
I don’t know who she is.  (noun clause object)
• there is no inversion. The subject (she) is before the verb (is.))

What did she say?  (information question)
What she said is a lie.  (noun clause subject)

Where do they live?  (information question)
Could you please tell me where they live.  (noun clause object)

When does the game start?  (information question)
They can’t remember when the game starts.  (noun clause object)

Why didn’t he call me?  (information question)
Why he didn’t call me is not important.  (noun clause subject)

How will I know?  (information question)
How I’ll know is by reading the article.  (noun clause subject)

If a noun clause comes from a yes/no question, it uses the marker if.  It can also use the marker whether, but whether is more commonly used with or not.  Sometimes if is also used with or not, but never together.


Do they need any help?  (yes/no question)
I wonder if they need any help.
I wonder if they need any help or not.
I wonder whether they need any help.
I wonder whether or not they need any help.
I wonder whether they need any help or not.

WRONG:  I wonder if or not they need any help.
(or not cannot be used right after if)

Only whether can be used if the noun clause is a subject


Whether we’re having a picnic depends on the weather.
Whether or not we’re having a picnic depends on the weather.
Whether we’re having a picnic or not depends on the weather.

Whether it will rain tomorrow is anybody’s guess.
Whether or not it will rain tomorrow is anybody’s guess.
Whether it will rain tomorrow or not is anybody’s guess.

More examples:

We’re not sure if they will be able to help.
We’re not sure if they will be able to help or not.
We’re not sure whether they will be able to help.
We’re not sure whether or not they will be able to help.
We’re not sure whether they will be able to help or not.

I’d like to know if there is something good on TV tonight.
I’d like to know if there is something good on TV tonight or not.
I’d like to know whether there is something good on TV tonight.
I’d like to know whether or not there is something good on TV tonight.
I’d like to know whether there is something good on TV tonight or not.

To review:

Noun clauses that come from statements use the marker that.

Noun clauses that come from information questions use the markers: who, what, where, when, why and how.

Noun clauses that come from yes/no questions use the markers if and whether (or not).

Study this page and when you think you’re ready, do the following exercise.

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Subject-verb agreement – advanced

This lesson is a continuation of the lesson on subject-verb agreement – basic, where you learned about the basics and some irregular rules.  In this lesson you will learn about other irregularities.

• If there are 2 singular subjects, but they are connected by the words or, nor, neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, then the verb is singular.

Paul or George is to blame for the mess, but not me.
Not fame nor money makes you happy in life.
Neither Christmas nor Easter was celebrated in his family.
Either my sister or my brother has the front door key.
Not only the school but also the library was shut down for the celebration.

If there are 2 plural subjects connected with these same words, then the verb is plural

Dogs or cats make good pets.
Not the students nor the teachers were allowed to see the exam before time.
Neither the plums, nor the pears are ripe yet.
Either the Russians or the Canadians win the championship usually.
Not only the Joneses but also the Mitchells are keeping chickens in their yard.

• If one word is singular and the other is plural connected with these same words, then the noun closest to the verb determines if it’s singular or plural.

The video games or the TV takes up most of his time.
The TV or the video games take up most of his time.

Not the food nor the guests make this a good party.
Not the guests nor the food makes this a good party.

Neither my friends nor my family is going to oppose my decision.
Neither my family nor my friends are going to oppose my decision.

Either your brothers or your sister is going to pay.
Either your sister or your brothers are going to pay.

Not only the teachers but also the principal is coming to the picnic.
Not only the principal but also the teachers are coming to the picnic.

• When a second subject is connected using accompanied by, along with, as well as, besides, in addition to, including, not, or together with, then ignore it.  It is always between commas and does not determine if the verb is singular or plural.

The police chief, accompanied by his staff, holds a press conference every week. (The police chief holds …)
The president, along with the vice president, is speaking at the graduation. (The president is …)
Our family, as well as the other families in the neighborhood, is required to leave the area. (Our family is …)
The door, besides all of the windows, needs to be replaced. (The door needs …)
The books, in addition to the TV show, were written by James Patterson. (The books were …)
The original copy, including all the author’s notes, was sold for half a million dollars. (The original copy was …)
The first choice, not the second or third, was the correct one. (The first choice was …)
The actor, together with her daughters, walks down the red carpet.  (The actor walks …)

• Units of measurement, time, distance and money take a singular verb.

Two cups of sugar was needed for the recipe.
Forty litres of gasoline fills the tank.
Twenty minutes of exercise is all that you need to do every day.
Three hours seems too long to wait in line for tickets.
Fifteen miles was about as much as I could hike in one day.
Ten kilometers to school and back makes for a very long day.
Twenty dollars is too much to pay for a watermelon.
A thousand dollars pays the rent on this apartment.

• Collective nouns take a singular verb.  Collective nouns are groups of lots of things, but the whole unit is singular.  Some examples of collective nouns are: army, class, club, committee, company, crew, crowd, family, government, group, herd, jury, senate, staff, and team.

The class is going on a field trip next week.
The company does business in Asia and Europe.
My wife’s family goes to their cabin every summer.
The group has decided to stay together until the trip is over.
The staff takes a week off at the end of August.

• However, if these collective nouns are followed by a prepositional phrase with a plural noun, the verb is plural.

A crowd of demonstrators have blocked the entrance to City Hall.
A group of people are waiting outside.
A minority of students want summer classes.

• The pronouns, both, few, a few, many, and several take plural verbs.

Both are incorrect.  (both answers)
Few stay more than a couple days.  (few tourists)
A few have decided to go on strike.  (a few workers)
Many return to this lake every year.  (many geese)
Several are dropping the class.  (several students)

• Infinitives (just like gerunds) always take a singular verb.

To sleep before a test is an important thing to do.
To exercise is essential for a healthy life.
To solve this problem is absolutely necessary.

BUT: 2 or more infinitives joined by and take a plural verb.

To rest and to take your medicine are what you need to do now.

• The titles of books, movies, TV shows, etc. take a singular verb even when the title is plural.

Bridge of Spies is a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the latest from J. K. Rawlings.
Cheers was one of the most popular shows of the 1980s.

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Possibility: the modals may, might, could, must be & have to be

There is really no difference between the modals may, might and could when you’re expressing possibility.  In the following examples, you can substitute any of these three modals.  The verb that follows these modals is in the simple form.


They say it may rain tomorrow. (It’s possible that it will rain.)
The jury may decide that he’s innocent.
That may be true, but I don’t think so.  (It’s possible that it is true.)
(Note: may and be are both verbs, but maybe is an adverb and cannot be used in this sentence.)

In the negative, may not means that it’s possible that something is not true.

They may not be in the classroom now.  (It’s possible that they aren’t in the classroom now.)
It may not work, but you can try.  (It’s possible that it won’t work.)
(Note:  The negative of may is never mayn’t.  It is always may not.)


I might be late for the meeting tomorrow.
He might have some extra money he could lend you.
It might snow this Saturday..

In the negative, might not means that it’s possible that something is not true.

He might not know the answer.  (It’s possible that he doesn’t know the answer.)
Her mother said she might not come to the party.  (It’s possible that she won’t come to the party.)
(Note:  In standard English the negative of might is might not, not mightn’t.)


She’s not here yet.  She could be stuck in traffic.
This blog could make you famous.
This could take a while, so come back tomorrow.

In the negative, could not has a different meaning than may not or might not.  It means that it’s impossible that something is true, NOT it’s possible that something isn’t true.

He could not remember her name.  (It was impossible for him to remember her name.)
We couldn’t stay long because we had to study for a test.  (It was impossible for us to stay long.)

Must be and have to be are used for a strong possibility.  They are used when making a strong guess based on evidence.

Must be:

You’ve been driving all night.  You must be tired.  (evidence = you’ve been driving all night.)
He’s not at work this week.  He must be on vacation.  (evidence = he’s not at work.)
She must be in love.  I’ve never seen her so happy.  (evidence = she’s so happy.)

In the negative, must not is used for a negative guess based on evidence.  It can be used with verbs other than be.

I must not be very smart.  I can’t figure out this problem.  (evidence = I can’t figure out this problem.)
I called her, but she didn’t answer.  Her phone must not work.  (evidence = she didn’t answer.)

Have to be:

He has to be crazy to make the same mistake again.
They have to be very thirsty after their long walk in the sun.
I have to be out of my mind to listen to you again.

In the negative, do/does not have to is no longer about a guess based on evidence.  It is about not being necessary.

He doesn’t have to help clean up.  (It’s not necessary for him to help clean up.)
We don’t have to go to school today.  It’s closed.  (It’s not necessary for us to go to school today.)

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Conditionals – advanced

Conditionals – advanced

Now that you’re familiar with Conditionals O, I, and II, let’s look at the more advanced Conditionals.

The past conditional, also known as conditional III or the past unreal:

This conditional is used when someone wishes they had done something earlier to change a result they dont like.  They are often saying that they are sorry that the result is bad.  In this kind of conditional the truth is the opposite of the condition.

The pattern is:  past perfect in the if clause, and would have + past participle in the main clause.

If you had called me last night, I would have come over right away.
(The truth is that you didn’t call me, and that’s why I didn’t come over.)

If Jenny had studied harder for the test, she wouldnt have failed it.
(The truth is that Jenny didn’t study very hard for the test, and that’s why she failed it.)

If Jason had set his alarm, he wouldnt have been late to class.
(The truth is that he didn’t set his alarm, and that’s why he was late to class.)

If they had been on time, they would have heard about the room change.
(The truth is that they were late, so they didn’t hear about the room change.)


To make any of these conditionals negative, put not, or another negative word such as never, hardly, hardly ever, seldom or rarely between the first two verbs.

If he hadn’t been honest, he wouldn’t have told the police anything.
If she had never seen a kangaroo, she would hardly have known what they look like.
If her boyfriend hadnt lived in Vancouver, she would rarely have gone there.


With the word would and had, you can shorten them both to ‘d, and with have, you can shorten it to ve.

If we‘d been on time, we‘d have heard about the room change.
OR:  If we‘d been on time, we would‘ve heard about the room change.

But with the negative not (n’t), don’t shorten had or would:

If we hadn’t been on time, we wouldn’t have heard about the room change.


Remember that in all these examples if the if clause is before the main clause, there’s a comma ( , ) at the end of that clause.  If the if clause is after the main clause, then no comma is used.

I wouldn’t have fallen asleep if the movie had been more interesting.
If I had won the lottery, I would’ve traveled around the world first class .
I would have lived in a better apartment if I had had more money.
If you had called me that night, I would have come over right away.


There are other modal verbs that can be used instead of would, such as could (ability) and might (possibility).

If she had studied harder, she would have passed the test.
If she had studied harder, she could have passed the test.
If she had studied harder, she might have passed the test.


There are other ways to make conditional sentences, but these are more formal and less often used.

In Conditional I if can be replaced by should.  

If you’re in town on the third, you can come to my party.
Should you be in town on the third, you can come to my party.

If it rains, we’ll have to cancel the picnic.
Should it rain, we’ll have to cancel the picnic.

BUT:  If the conditional is negative, do not use should.

If it’s not too expensive, I can come with you.
NOT:  Should it not be too expensive, I can come with you.


In Conditional III if can be dropped, but the verb must be inverted.

If she had been on time, we could have seen the beginning of the movie.
Had she been on time, we could have seen the beginning of the movie.

If I had remembered her birthday, I would have bought her a present.
Had I remembered her birthday, I would have bought her a present.

If he hadn’t been so sick, he might not have stayed in bed all day.
Had he not been so sick, he might not have stayed in bed all day.


There’s one last thing about Conditionals O, I, and II.  You can use unless instead of if, but the sentence must be opposite.

Conditional O examples:
If I don’t get enough sleep, I feel tired the next day.
Unless I get enough sleep, I feel tired the next day.

If he is nice to her, she is nice to him.
Unless he is mean to her, she is nice to him.

Conditional I examples:
If you lend me some money, I can buy an iPhone.
Unless you lend me some money, I can’t buy an iPhone.

If you don’t tell me the truth, I won’t help you.
Unless you tell me the truth, I won’t help you.

Conditional II examples:
I told them that if we all worked together, we could finish by midnight.
I told them that unless we all worked together, we couldn’t finish by midnight.

If I were rich, I would send some money to my parents.
Unless I were poor, I would send some money to my parents.


Here is a review of all 4 conditionals:

General conditional  (Conditional O):

If it rains, I take my umbrella.
Unless it rains, I dont take my umbrella.

Future conditional  (Conditional I):

If it rains tomorrow, Ill take my umbrella.
Should it rain tomorrow, Ill take my umbrella.
Unless it rains tomorrow, I wont take my umbrella.

Present conditional  (Conditional II):

If it rained, I would take my umbrella.
Unless it rained, I wouldnt take my umbrella.

Past conditional  (Conditional III):

If it had rained, I would have taken my umbrella.
Had it rained, I would have taken my umbrella.


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Articles – a, an & the – advanced

Now that you’ve learned the basic use of the articles a, an, and the, you’re ready for a more complete understanding.

Articles are dropped when used with Proper nouns:  (Proper nouns are capitalized names.)

Microsoft has its head office in Redmond, Washington.
George got a managerial job at McDonald’s.

Exception:  If the proper noun has a “dictionary word” as part of the name, put the before the name because the proper noun is used as an adjective.

The Nile River is the longest river in the world.  (Nile is used as an adjective for River.)
The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest.
The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Rocky Mountains separate British Columbia from Alberta.

NOTE:  You can sometimes drop the “dictionary word” if it’s commonly known, but the is still used.

The Nile is the longest river in the world.  (River has been dropped.)
The Rockies separate British Columbia from Alberta.  [Rockies = Rocky Mountains and mountains has been dropped.)
The Pacific is the largest ocean in the world.  (Ocean has been dropped.)

ExceptionsMount, Mountain, Lake, City, Street/Road/Avenue/Boulevard (etc.), State (when last), New, North(ern), South(ern), East(ern), and West(ern) are “dictionary words” but the is not used.

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
Whistler Mountain is a ski resort north of Vancouver.
Lake Louise is a tourist attraction in the Rocky Mountains.
New York City has a population of over 8 million people.
BUT:  The city of Vancouver gets half of its annual rainfall from November to January. (“city” is not part of the name)
The skytrain runs under Cambie Street.
Abbey Road was an album by the Beatles.
She went to school in New York State.  (BUT …in the state of New York.)
New Brunswick has an almost equal number of French and English speakers.
The state capital of North Dakota is Bismarck.
They moved here from Northern Ireland.
South Africa has eleven official languages.

BUT:  When north, east, south and west are used as a general area, the is used.

In the American revolution, the North fought against the South.
Many manufactured products come from the East.
For most of the 20th century, the developed countries were mostly in the West.

The is used when a proper noun is used as an adjective (to describe a noun.)

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 caused fires that lasted for several days
(The earthquake in San Francisco)

The Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed over 17,000 buildings.
(The fire in Chicago)

The New York countryside is full of forests.
(The countryside in New York)

No article is used with general nouns (nouns that refer to all of something):

Gold is an expensive metal.
You should drink water everyday.
Honesty is a good quality to have.

However, if the noun isn’t used in a general way, then the is used.

The gold in this ring is expensive.
You shouldn’t drink the water from the tap.
The honesty of that man is unquestionable.

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Past perfect tense

The past perfect is a verb tense that is learned by students at an advanced level.  It is used for an action that happened before another action in the simple past.  Look at these two examples:

When I got home, my roommate went to bed.
(My roommate went to bed after I got home.)

When I got home, my roommate had gone to bed.
(My roommate went to bed before I got home.)

The past perfect is most often used in a sentence with a verb in the simple past or a time in the past.  The word already is often used to emphasize that the action in the past perfect tense occurred before the action in the simple past tense.

The movie had already started by the time we arrived.
She hadn’t made up her mind until late last night.
Had you read the book before you saw the movie?

Sometimes the past perfect can be the only verb in a sentence, but it refers to an action that is already stated.

“Why was Johnny sad?  Did you punish him for something?”
“Yes, he had drawn pictures all over the wall in the living room.”
(Drawing pictures was before being punished.)

“Why didn’t your son run in the race?”
“He had broken a toe the day before.”
(Breaking a toe was before not running in the race.)

Generally speaking, the past perfect is used less and less in today’s English, especially when it’s already clear which action happened before the other.  This is especially true with the words: before, after and until.  With these 3 words and sometimes with the word when, it’s clear which action happened first.  Therefore, it’s not necessary to use the past perfect, and most English speakers use the simple past.

He had finished all his homework before he went to bed.
He finished all his homework before he went to bed.  (also correct)
(It’s clear that finishing his homework is before going to bed.)

After he had fallen asleep on the sofa, his wife turned off the light.
After he fell asleep on the sofa, his wife turned off the light.  (also correct)
(It’s clear that his falling asleep is before his wife’s getting into bed.)

She didn’t go to bed until she had done all her chores.
She didn’t go to bed until she did all her chores.  (also correct)
(It’s clear that doing all her chores is before going to bed.)

He started practicing his guitar as soon as he had gotten home.
He started practicing his guitar as soon as he got home.  (also correct)
(It’s clear that getting home is before practicing his guitar.)

When the children had finished their homework, they put their books away.
When the children finished their homework, they put their books away.
(It’s clear that finishing their homework is before putting their books away.)

BUT when it is not clear which action happened first, you must use the past perfect for the first action.

When the movie finished, everyone had left the theatre.  (Leaving the theatre was before the movie finished.)
When the movie finished, everyone left the theatre.  (Leaving the theatre was after the movie finished.)
(It’s not clear which action happened first, so the past perfect is used in the first example.)

When two actions happen at the same time or almost the same time, use the simple past for both actions.

When I arrived at work, I turned on the lights.  (Arriving at work and turning on the lights is at almost the same time.)
She screamed when she opened her present.  (Screaming and opening her present are at the same time.)

In reported speech when you add the words showing that a speaker said something, those words become the second action, and if the other action is in the simple past, it is changed to the past perfect because it happened before the person reported it.

He said, “I crashed the car into a tree.”
He said that he had crashed the car into a tree.
(Crashing the car is before saying it.)

She told him, “You left the milk out last night.”
She told him that he had left the milk out last night.
(Leaving the milk out is before telling him.)

We asked them, “Did you win the game?”
We asked them if they had won the game.
(Winning the game is before asking them.)

Also in reported speech, if the original verb in quoted speech is in the present perfect, it is changed to the past perfect.

He said, “My brother has been home all week with the flu.”  (quoted speech)
He said that his brother had been home all week with the flu.  (reported speech)

She told me, “I’ve seen that movie four times.”  (quoted speech)
She told me that she had seen that movie four times.  (reported speech)

We asked her, “Have you ever gone abroad?”  (quoted speech)
We asked her if she had ever gone abroad.  (reported speech)

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Object pronouns

Subjects, such as I, the boy, and everyone, come before verbs, but objects come after verbs. There are 2 kinds of objects:

Direct objects answer the question “who” or “what.”

My roommate lost his keys.  My roommate lost what? – his keys.
I know the answer.  I know what? – the answer.
She loves her boyfriend.  She loves who? – her boyfriend.

Indirect objects answer the question “to whom” or “to what” (sometimes “for whom” or “for what”) and are used together with direct objects.

I gave the dog a bone.
I gave a bone to what? – the dog.

He bought a diamond ring for his girlfriend.
He bought a diamond ring for whom? – his girlfriend.

We told the police officer the truth.
We told the truth to whom? – the police officer.

Direct and indirect object pronouns can replace the nouns:

My roommate lost them. (his keys)
I know it. (the answer)
She loves him. (her boyfriend)
I gave it a bone. (the dog)
He introduced her to them. (his girlfriend / his parents)
We told him the truth. (the police officer)

Object pronouns are used after prepositions.

Would you come to the dance with me this Saturday night?
I did all of this for you.
Because of them, I decided to join the team.
This is between you and me, so don’t tell anyone.
She sits across from us in class.

The list of direct and indirect object pronouns is:

Me, you, him, her, it, one, us, them

Note:  It replaces nouns beginning with the, this or that.
One replaces nouns beginning with a.

If you put the indirect object before the direct object, don’t use to (sometimes for.) However, if you put the direct object first, then use to (sometimes for) before the indirect object.

I gave her my phone number.
I gave my phone number to her.
I gave her it.
I gave it to her.

She bought me a T-shirt.
She bought a T-shirt for me.
She bought me one.
She bought one for me.

They told us their reasons.
They told their reasons to us.
They told us them.
They told them to us.

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Demonstratives: this, that, these and those

This, that, these and those are called demonstrative adjectives and also demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstrative adjectives are followed by a noun. This and that are used before singular or uncountable nouns. These and those are used before plural nouns.

This apple tastes great.
This furniture is lovely.
That man is staring at me.
That advice you gave me proved to be good.
These flowers are beautiful.
Those animals are very strong.

Demonstrative pronouns are used alone with no noun. However, the noun is understood by both the speaker and the listener.

This is a wonderful gift.  (This bottle of wine)
I never saw that before.  (that magic trick)
I’ve heard about these.  (these bladeless fans)
I would never eat those.  (those red berries)

Also, those can mean those people.

Those who say it can’t be done are wrong.  (Those people …)
The only true citizens are those who vote in every election.  (… those people…)

Use this or these for things that are close in time or space. Use that or those for things that are far in space or time.

This neighborhood is much cleaner than the one we used to live in.  (This neighborhood is the one we now live in.) (Close in space)
These opportunities don’t come around very often.  (These opportunities are now.) (Close in time)
If I lived in that country, I would learn the language as fast as I could.  (That country is far away from this country.) (Far in space)
Those days we spent at the beach were wonderful.  (Those days are past.) (Far in time)

Use this to introduce people and that to identify people.

Jason, this is June.  June, meet Jason.
That is Paul standing by the window

Use that for things that have just happened or were just mentioned.

That movie was quite good, don’t you think?
I know everyone thinks he’s crazy, but I don’t believe that.

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Conjunctions (or connectors)

Conjunctions are words that are used to connect things.  They are used to connect 2 or more nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs as well as independent clausesadjective clauses,  adverb clauses, noun clauses, prepositional phrases,  infinitive phrases, and gerund phrases.  

The most common conjunctions are andbut, or and so.  We’ll look at these four first.  The more advanced conjunctions are  for, yet and nor, which we’ll look at later.

Let’s start with and, the most common conjunction, to see how it connects things.  Sometimes both can be used with and but only with 2 single words such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

And connects:

2 independent clauses:

She likes living in her own apartment, and she enjoys the freedom.
Note:  There’s a comma between the 2 clauses when there’s a subject (she) after and.
However, if there’s no subject after and, then there’s no comma.
She likes living in her own apartment and enjoys the freedom.

2 or more nouns:

John and his sister both have red hair.
He plays basketball, soccer, hockey and tennis.
(Note:  There’s a comma ( , ) after each noun, but there’s no comma before and.)

2 or more verbs:

She eats and talks at the same time.
All he does is watch TV, play video games and sleep.

2 or more adjectives:

She is both hardworking and creative.
He’s tall, thin and fast.

2 or more adverbs:

She works quickly and efficiently.
He went into battle boldly, swiftly and forcefully.

2 or more adjective clauses:

She is a girl whose parents are rich and whose trust fund is large.
He only buys things that are unique and have value.

adverb clauses:

They brush their teeth after they eat breakfast and before they go to bed.
When I’m lonely and thinking about home, I phone my parents.

2 noun clauses:

What she said and what I heard were two different things.
He planned where they were going and what they would do.

2 or more prepositional phrases:

They’re giving away free samples in the mall and on the street.
He looked under the bed, in the closet and on top of the dresser.

2 infinitive phrases:

To understand the lecture and to take good notes, she had to concentrate.
To stay up all night and study for the test, he had to drink several energy drinks.

2 gerund phrases:

Two of my favorite activities are staying up late and watching old movies.
Playing in all the games and scoring the most points was the highlight of her year.

You can even connect 2 things that aren’t alike:

He did the job discretely and with finesse.
The man was strong and in a bad mood.

But connects things that are opposite or that don’t usually go together.  When the second thing is negative, put but not.

But connects:

2 independent clauses:

I’m going to Chicago, but I don’t know anybody there.
She likes acting but also wants to direct.
(Note:  no comma before but because the subject she has been dropped in the second independent clause.)

2 nouns:

They like the beach but not the water.
She knows a lot about literature but not poetry.

2 verbs:

I swim but don’t dive.
She‘s here but doesn’t want to talk to you.

2 adjectives:

He’s strong but not athletic.
The food was cold but delicious.

2 adverbs:

They did the job quickly but well.
She worked slowly but surely.

2 adjective clauses:

He’s a man who has lots of acquaintances but who has no real friends.
She’s a person whose salary is high but whose work is easy.

2 adverb clauses:

Robert stayed home not because he felt a little sick but because he had a test.
She came down to the kitchen before she brushed her teeth but not before she put on her makeup.

2 noun clauses:

She told him what she had planned but not how she was going to do it.
He told me why he was leaving but not where he was going.

2 prepositional phrases:

We checked in all the classrooms but not in the library.
We work from Monday to Thursday but not on Friday or the weekend.

2 infinitive phrases:

He went outside not to get some fresh air, but to have a cigarette.
I’m studying English not primarily to get into university but to be able to speak to my friends.

gerund phrases:

Going to bed early but not falling asleep has been his problem for years.
We like having parties but not cleaning up afterwards.

2 different things:

I write but not very well.
I swim but only in swimming pools.

Or connects choices or possibilities.  It is often used with either, whether, or if, which are put before the first choice or possibility.

Or connects:

2 independent clauses:

I want ice cream for dessert, or maybe I’ll have some pie.
She is either going to tell the truth, or she’ll continue to lie.

2 nouns:

His friend is either a teacher or a social worker.  I forget.
Roses or carnations would be an appropriate gift.

2 verbs:

Whether she passes or fails is her choice.
I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being serious.

2 adjectives:

She can’t decide whether she’s angry or amused.
They’re either stupid or naive.

2 adverbs:

He picked the numbers skillfully or, as my brother says, luckily.
She writes beautifully or terribly, depending on how she feels.

2 adjective clauses:

That’s the city either where he was born or where he went to school.  I forget.
That’s the sort of news that either makes you very hopeful or that makes you sad.

2 adverb clauses:

I lost my wallet either when I was in his office or when I was in the cab coming home.
He got the job either because he was the best qualified or because he was related to the boss.

noun clauses:

What he said or what he meant to say is that he’s sorry.
Where she lives or who she sees is none of your business.

prepositional phrases:

I left the keys either on the mantle or on the hall table.
We can drive on the road or off the road in this truck.

infinitive phrases:

Did you take this job to get rich or to help other people?
To be patient or to be proactive is the choice you now have.

2 gerund phrases:

Their options were doing nothing or trying to solve the problem.
Going out for dinner or making dinner at home are our choices.

different things:

She is lying either for a good reason or because she’s afraid.
He doesn’t read for the information or to be entertained.

So connects a reason and a result. 

So only connects:

independent clauses:

The weather report is for rain, so we’ll have to cancel the picnic.
Everyone arrived before 8:00, so the meeting started on time.

(The first clause is the reason and the second clause is the result.  You can also join these clauses with because.)

We’ll have to cancel the picnic because the weather report is for rain.
The meeting started on time because everyone arrived before 8:00.

Here is an exercise for these 4 conjunctions:

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Now, let’s look at the last 3 conjunctions:  for, yet and nor.  They are more advanced connectors and not as often used as the first 4.

For connects results and reasons.  It is used just like ‘because’, but it always has a comma before it.  It is always used in the middle of the sentence, not at the beginning.

For only connects:

2 independent clauses:

I stayed away, for I was told that I wasn’t welcome.
He brought her flowers, for it was their anniversary that day.
[The first clause is the result; the second clause is the reason.]

You can also say:

He brought her flowers because it was their anniversary that day.
Because it was their anniversary that day, he brought her flowers.

BUT never start a sentence with for.

Yet connects things that are opposite or that don’t usually go together.  It is used just like ‘but‘, and can connect many things.  Just like but, yet is sometimes used with not (yet not, yet he didn’t…)  However, don’t confuse yet not with not yet, which means not at this time but later

Yet connects:

2 independent clauses:

We’ve been working all morningyet we’re no closer to being done. 
She comes to class everyday yet doesn’t do well on the tests.
[Note:  no comma before yet because the subject she has been dropped in the second independent clause.]

2 verbs:

He studies yet continues to get poor marks.
They went to bed, yet they didn’t fall asleep for yours.

2 adjectives:

We’re tired yet anxious to finish this project.
The sofa was modern yet comfortable.


He works quickly yet carefully.
They seem excited yet afraid to get started.

2 adjective clauses:

It’s the kind of present that looks expensive yet that doesn’t cost too much.
That’s the city where I lived, yet not where I went to school.

adverb clauses:

He kissed her when he got home yet not when she left in the morning.
He could watch TV after he came home yet not until he had finished his homework.

2 noun clauses:

What she said yet not what she meant was the topic of conversation.
He could eat what he wanted yet not when he wanted to.

2 prepositional phrases:

There was fire damage on the ceiling yet not on the walls.
He put the date on the calendar yet not in his smart phone where he usually puts such things.

2 infinitive phrases:

To work all day yet to accomplish very little was frustrating.
They were allowed to speak to him yet not to look directly at him.

2 gerund phrases

Studying for hours yet not passing the mid-term made him frustrated.
She prefers going to bed late yet getting up early the next day.

2 different things:

He likes drinking his coffee black yet with plenty of sugar.
She was in a good mood yet not ready to listen to him.

Nor connects things that are negative.  It is often used with neither.  With two independent clauses nor requires the following verb to be inverted, just like a question.  Also, nor is not followed by other negative words like not or never.  With single words, nouns, verbs, etc., nor must be used with neither, which goes before the first of the two things connected.

Nor connects:

2 independent clauses:

I don’t like spaghetti, nor do I like lasagna.
[I don’t like spaghetti, and I don’t like lasagna.]
Note: do I like is the inverted and positive form of I (don’t) like.

She doesn’t waste her money, nor does she waste her time.
[She doesn’t waste money, and she doesn’t waste time.]
Note: does she waste is the inverted and positive form of she (doesn’t) wait.

2 nouns:

Neither John nor his brother knew about the wedding.
He chose neither the Toyota nor the Nissan.

2 verbs:

She neither smokes nor drinks alcohol.
We neither need nor want your assistance.


They’re neither rich nor poor.
I’m neither angry nor disappointed that you dropped out of school.

2  adverbs:

He fixed the sink neither quickly nor correctly.
She studied neither hard nor long for the final exam.

Note:  2 adjective clauses cannot be connected with nor.

adverb clauses:

She doesn’t hug him when he leaves nor when he gets home.
He doesn’t brush his teeth after he eats nor before he goes to bed.

noun clauses:

He wouldn’t tell us what she said nor where she went.
She didn’t know where she was nor what time it was.

prepositional phrases:

His backpack wasn’t by the front door nor on the front porch.
She didn’t play sports in the fall nor in the winter.

2 infinitive phrases:

We didn’t want to get you too excited nor to frighten you.
Management didn’t want a gym for their own use nor for the use of the staff.

gerund phrases

She doesn’t like writing letters nor sending emails.
Neither apologizing to her nor sending her flowers had any effect.

2 different things:

She wouldn’t tell me her phone number nor where she lived.
His essay was neither well written nor in the correct format.

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot


Necessity or obligation: the modals must, have to, have got to, had better, and the verb need

To express necessity (something must be done) or obligation (someone must do something), you can use must, have to, have got to, need, or had better.  Let’s look at these one at a time.

Must is a modal and is always followed by a verb in the simple form.  The simple form is the infinitive without the ‘to’, for example: be, do, go, have.

I must remember to pick up my aunt at the airport this Friday.
Must you always chew with your mouth open?

In the negative mustn’t (must not) and must never mean it is important that you don’t do it.  It’s against the law, against the rules or against what you think is right.

You mustn’t park your car here.
You must never lie to your mother.

Have to is another modal, and it is used the same way as must.  There is no difference in meaning.  Like must, have to is followed by a verb in the simple form.

Everyone has to be here on time tomorrow morning.
Everyone must be here on time tomorrow morning.

We have to set up the room for a meeting.
We must set up the room for a meeting.

However don’t have to does not mean the same thing as must notDon’t have to means that it is allowed but not necessary.  There is no rule against it.

You have a car, so you don’t have to take the bus anymore.
[You can take the bus if you want to, but it’s not necessary.]
[You cannot say: ‘You have a car, so you mustn’t take the bus anymore’ because it’s still allowed, and you can take the bus if you want to.]

You mustn’t forget to renew your driver’s license.
[It is necessary that you don’t forget.]
[It makes no sense to say:  You don’t have to forget to renew your driver’s license. because you have no choice.  You must remember.]

NOTE:  English speakers also use can’t the same as mustn’t.

She can’t talk to me like that.  It’s disrespectful.
I’m sorry.  You can’t skateboard in this park.  It’s against the law.

Another difference between must and have to is that must is never used in the past.  You must only use had to.

The whole family had to go to the hospital after the accident.
She had to speak to him before he left the city.

The last difference between must and have to is that must can never be used with another modal, but have to can.

We may have to leave early today.
She will have to call me as soon as she arrives.
I would have to ask her where she was last night.

Have got to is just another way to say have to.  It is mostly used in it’s contracted form ‘ve got to or ‘s got to.  It is always followed by a verb in the simple form.

Ive got to tell you that’s the best meal I’ve had in a long time.
She’s got to start spending more time on her studies.
We’ve got to get up really early tomorrow morning.

Have got to is only used in the present or future but never in the past.  In the past use had to only.

I’ve got to go now.
I’ve got to go there tomorrow.
I had to go there last weekend.

Need is another verb you can use for necessity.  It can be used in different tenses but is always followed by the infinitive.

If I need to contact you, what’s your number?
I needed to make her understand.
She has needed to visit her parents every year since they got married..

Had better is a little stronger than the others because it implies that something bad will happen if the person does not do it.  It is only used in the present or future and is followed by a verb in the simple form.  Sometimes the bad result is stated after or, but it’s often dropped because it’s not necessary to say.

He’d better remember to buy her something nice for her birthday, or she’ll never speak to him again.
She had better be on time for her interview, or there’s no way she’ll get the job.
You’d better wash your hands after touching that fish.  [or you’ll get food poisoning.]
It’s after midnight.  We’d better turn down the music.  [or someone may call the police.]

Study this page again, and when you’re ready, do the following exercise.

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot