quarta-feira, 30 de maio de 2012

The third conditional

The third conditional: if ... had done x
With the third conditional, Elena, we are often talking about something that might have happened, but didn't. As your example illustrates, when we are discussing such past situations we normally use past perfect in the if-clause, followed by would have + past participlein the main clause. Compare the following:
I didn't pass the exam. But if I had passed it, I would have registered for the civil engineering course at Nottingham Trent University.
We didn't manage to get there by nightfall. But if we had (managed to get there), we would have slept in a comfortable bed and not on the ground.
Note that we use the third conditional in this way when we are expressing regret about something. To emphasise how much we regret something, we can use if only as an alternative to if:
I just didn't realize he was ill. If only I had realized (that), I would have got him to a doctor much earlier.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

Now, Elena, as well as talking about things that didn't happen, we also use the third conditional to talk about things that did happen but that might not have happened. In other words, we use it to both to describe past action and to regret past inaction. If we are referring to things that did happen, we need a not in the if-clause of the following conditional sentence. Compare the following:
I received some really excellent training for this job. Had I not been trained in this way, I wouldn't have survived in the job for very long.
When my car broke down, I had to run very fast all the way to the station. If I hadn't run so fast, I would surely have missed the train.
The third conditional: if …had(n't) been -ing
Note that although we normally use the past perfect simple in the if-clause, we sometimes use the past perfect progressive if the action described continues over a period of time:
You were driving so fast. If you hadn't been driving so fast, the accident would never have happened.
It's lucky you're so attentive to what's going on around you. If you hadn't been looking out of the window at that moment, you wouldn't have witnessed the crime.
would've / might've
Note that if we want to introduce the idea of possibility into our assertion in the main clause, might've done can be used as an alternative to would've done:
It's fortunate that you spend so much time looking out of your front room window. If you hadn't been looking out the window just then, you might not have seen the crime being committed.
It's a pity you weren't wearing your glasses. If you had been wearing them, you might've noticed that it was a bull, not a cow, that was charging towards us.
would've / could've
Similarly, if we want to talk about abilities / possibilities rather thancertainties, we can use could've done instead of would've done in the main clause. Compare the way ability / possibility contrasts with certainty in these examples:
I am an adopted and unhappy child. I often think that If my real mother had kept me, I could've danced in the street to earn money for us both.
My dancing feet would have softened the hearts of the passers-by and they would've thrown money into the hat in front of us.

terça-feira, 29 de maio de 2012

Noun-verb agreement

  Here are two example sentences: The Government is going to cut back on public spending. They have decided this is necessary in the current economic climate. My question is, could I have said: The Government are... and It has decided...?

We can use singular or plural verbs with many collective nouns, Pamela, and government is one of these. Singular and plural forms are often mixed as are the pronouns that refer back to the nouns in the previous sentence. So, all four of your options are correct.
family / team / committee / firm
Collective nouns refer to groups of people usually. Our choice of singular or plural verb form often depends on whether we are thinking of the group as an impersonal unit (in which case we use thesingular verb - and relative pronoun which) or as a collection of individuals (in which case we use the plural verb form - and relative pronoun who). Compare the following:
My family, who have lived on this island all their lives, are determined to remain here.
The team who are playing this weekend includes neither of the new signings. The team which lies third from the bottom of the league will also be relegated this year.
The human resources committee is going to meet on Thursday. They will endorse all promotions from grade C to grade B for the coming year.
My firm, which was established in 1932, has been manufacturing motor mowers since the 1950s. They look after me very well and have an excellent pension scheme.
the UN / New Labour / the BBC
Corporate bodies like those above also fall into the above category:
The UN says it has no plans to move a further detachment of troops to the war-torn area. But in effect they are in disagreement on this issue.
New Labour is holding its annual conference in Brighton this week. They plan to discuss international issues as well as local concerns.
The BBC has appointed Mark Damazer as its controller of Radio 4. Many staff were surprised by the appointment.
people / police / cattle
These collective nouns always take a plural verb. There is no singular form of these nouns:
People who have invested all their savings in shares are sure to lose out.
Police in this area are currently investigating 74 allegations of date rape.
All the cattle were moved to the fields lower down the valley as winter approached.
the rich / the poor / the homeless
Note that when adjectives are used as collective nouns they always accompanied by a plural verb form:
The rich tend to reside in the outer suburbs whilst the poor are confined to the inner city areas in this country.
The homeless are well looked after at Christmas in Britain when they are offered shelter, food and hot showers.
a / each / every / this / that team
Note that when collective nouns are used with singular determiners, such as those above, singular verbs and pronouns are the norm:
That team is capable of winning all the major trophies this year.
A team of inspectors from Scotland Yard is visiting the island this week.
Every family that receives income support will be means-tested.
A government which fails to honour its promises should not be re-elected.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

Learn It

Would you please tell me the different usage of the terms:teachertrainerinstructorlecturerprofessor? Thank you in advance.
Roger Woodham replies:

Teacher is the general term for someone whose job it is to teach:
I'd like to go into teaching and get a job as a teacher in an inner city primary or secondary school.
Teaching assistants can only ever support the classroom teacher; they can never replace him.

We sometimes use the word tutor instead of teacher to describe somebody who gives personal or private lessons:
My son wasn't making much progress in school, so I hired a maths tutor to give him private lessons after school.
If you are enrolled as a student in a British university, you will have apersonal tutor who provides you with close support throughout your studies and with whom you will have tutorials to discuss aspects of the subject being studied:
There are just six students in my tutorial group and we had a very interesting tutorial on global warming and climate change last week. On all quality distance learning schemes, face-to-face support from trained tutors is essential.

lecturer is someone who gives a lecture or formal presentation, particularly at a college or university
Dr Gradgrind is our lecturer on the Victorian novel and the course will be taught through a series of lectures and seminars.

Note that a seminar at a college or university is a class for a small group of students to discuss the subject with the lecturer.

In the UK, professor is a university teacher of the highest rank in a subject area:
Professor Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, is one of the most formidable intellects ever to theorise on the origins of the universe.

The first step in an academic carrier is usually lecturer, then senior lecturer, then reader, then eventually perhaps professor.
Note that in the US, a professor is a full-time teacher at university. A teacher at secondary school or high school or junior college is never a professor.

In British English, an instructor teaches you on how to learn or improve in a particular skill or sport:
If you want to learn how to drive, you will need a driving instructor.
If you want to learn how to fly, you will require a flying instructor.
If you intend to ski this winter on the higher slopes, you'll need a ski instructor.

In the US, an instructor is a university teacher below the rank of assistant professor.

coach is someone who trains individual sports players or a team. The examples below are taken from tennis and football:
Tim Henman, Britain's No 1, has a new coach, Paul Anacone, who worked with Pete Sampras for six years.
Paul Bracewell, national coach with the England youth teams for the past two years, has resigned.

trainer can be someone who trains people for a particular job or profession or who trains someone in certain varieties of sport.
In-service teacher trainers are in very great demand here as there is no pre-service training for teachers.
If you can get Kevin as your personal fitness trainer, you'll work on a wide range of strategies and techniques.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

segunda-feira, 28 de maio de 2012

As, while, when, as long as...

How can I correctly use the following conjunctions concerning time expressions: as, as long as and while? Also, would you be kind enough to give me some examples of use of these two expressions: as a basis for and on the basis of?

as or while
We can use as or while to talk about two longer actions that are in progress at the same time:
  • There was a lot to do. While I cleaned the car, my wife was preparing lunch.
  • She then did the ironing after lunch as I cleared away the dishes.
As a general rule, we tend to use while here rather than asbecause as has many different meanings and uses. It could be confusing if as meaning while could be mistaken for as meaningbecause:
  • As I was doing my homework, my mum prepared my supper. (As = because)
  • As I was doing my homework, my mum prepared my supper. (As = while)
as or when
We use as or when to talk about two short events that happen at the same moment. As and when are often used with just in this context. We cannot use while here:
  • The telephone rang just when / just as I was about to leave. I decided not to answer it.
However, if we want to say that when one thing changes another changes at the same time, when one is the consequence of the other, we tend to use as:
  • As the day wore on, it became hotter and hotter.
  • As you get older, it becomes more and more difficult to make friends.
while or when
In more formal speech and writing, it is possible to leave outsubject + be with when and while when main and subordinate clauses refer to the same subject. We cannot use as in this way:
  • When making cranberry jam, remember to use as much sugar as fruit.
  • When you are making cranberry jam, be sure to use as much sugar as fruit.
  • While in France, he grew particularly fond of all varieties of cheese.
  • While he was in France, he grew particularly fond of all types of cheese.
as long as: expressing time
The as ... as construction is used when we are making comparisons and comparing ideas of similar magnitude or duration
  • There was extra time, so the football match lasted as long as the concert.
  • He worked for as long as he wanted to on the project.
    "Take as long as you like," they said. "There's no hurry!"

  • As long as I live, I shall smoke no more cigarettes.
as long as: expressing condition
Note that as long as is also used in conditional sentences as an alternative to provided, meaning if and only ifSo long as is also possible in this context:
  • I don't mind. You can leave early, as long as you finish the work.
  • I don't mind. You can go home early, so long as you finish the work.
  • I don't mind. You can leave after lunch, provided you finish all the work.
on a ... basis
The noun basis suggests a particular method or system for organising or doing something. We have the expressions on a/an hourly/daily/monthly/annual/temporary/permanent basis:
  • These toilets are checked for cleanliness on an hourly basis
  • She thought she would have the job on a permanent basis, but it turned out to be temporary.
  • This place is known as 'the windy city' and typhoons are expected on a regular basis.
on the basis of / as a basis for
Here we have two further expressions with basis with a slightly different meaning. Used with the preposition on, method or system is suggested. Used with the preposition as, ideas, facts or actions from which something can develop is suggested:
  • The contract was awarded on the basis of cost more than anything else.
  • These preliminary talks will be very useful as a basis for further negotiations.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/

domingo, 27 de maio de 2012

Declining invitations

Declining invitations
I'd like to but...I'm meeting a friend
I'd love to but...I'm really busy this weekend
Ah, no.. sorry...I've got to meet a friend

Other expressions 
Maybe another time?

Maybe next time?

I really appreciate the invitation (or 'invite')

I can't make it

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

Asking permission

In this post, we look at language you can use when asking for permission to do something. 

Language for asking permission
Question head subjectverb phrase with base infinitive

borrow your pen?
use your phone charger?
take the day off tomorrow?
ask you something?
have one of your sandwiches?

Language for asking permission 2
Question head subjectverb phrase with present simple
Would it be OK if
Would it be alright if

borrow/s your pen?
use/s your phone charger?
take/s the day off tomorrow?
ask/s you to help me?
have/has one of your sandwiches?

Language for asking permission 3
Question head subjectverb phrase with past subjunctive
Would it be OK if
Would it be alright if

borrowed your pen?
used your phone charger?
took the day off tomorrow?
asked you to help me?
had one of your sandwiches?

A word about politeness
When asking for permission to do something we usually use the word 'please' to make the request sound more polite. It's not grammatically necessary to use 'please' but you may sound rude if you don't use it. 'Please' can be put in different places in the sentence; at the start, end or before the verb:

Please can I borrow your pen?
Can I please borrow your pen?
Can I borrow your pen, please?

A more important way of showing politeness is the tone of voice and intonation. Even if you use the word 'please' you can sound rude if your pronunciation is not correct.

Generally the longer an expression is the more formal and polite it sounds. However remember that pronunciation is always very important in a spoken request for permission.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

sábado, 26 de maio de 2012

Polite invitations

Yesterday we found out how to make informal invitations. This week, we look at slightly more polite invitations. For example, how would you ask a friend to your house for a dinner party?

Checking someone is not busy
Are you free on Friday?

Are you busy on Friday?

What are you doing on Friday?

Would you like...?
Would you like...a chocolate bar?
...to come to my house for dinner?

I wondered / was wondering
I wondered...if you'd like to come to my house for dinner
I was wondering

Other expressions
I would very much like it if you could come along

Shall I bring a bottle?

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

sexta-feira, 25 de maio de 2012

Informal invitations

What's the best way to ask somebody if they'd like to do something with you? In this programme, we look at how to make informal invitations, and in particular, how to ask someone if they'd like to have a drink with you. We also hear some different ways to accept invitations.

Simple informal invitations
Do you fancy...a pint?
Are you up for...a chocolate bar?
Do you feel like...a night in?

Informal invitations with gerunds
Do you fancy...going to a museum with me?
Are you up for...having a party?
Do you feel like...leaving work early?

Ways to accept informal invitations
I'd love one / I'd love to
That'd be fun
That sounds lovely
OK, cool

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

quinta-feira, 24 de maio de 2012

Borrowing something

How to borrow 

From time to time we all need to borrow things. They could be small things or large things. We might want to borrow them for a short time a long time but we just need something we don’t have. When you borrow something it’s something that someone else has and you do plan to return it to him or her.

To borrow & to lend
These verbs are closely connected and are sometimes confused. In simple terms to borrow is to take and to lend is to give. The person who wants something, borrows and the person who gives something, lends.

If you are taking:
  • You borrow something from someone.
  • Someone lends something to you.
  • Someone lends you something.
If you are giving:
  • You lend something to someone
  • You lend someone something
  • Someone borrows something from you
Using 'to borrow'
The subject of the sentence is the person who wants something. In these examples the subject is 'I'.

Can I borrow your pen please?
Could I borrow some money please?
Can I borrow your bike?

Using 'to lend'
You can also use the verb 'to lend' to ask for something. In this case the subject of the sentence is the person who has something. In these examples the subject is 'you'.

Could you lend me your pen please?
Could you lend me some money, please?
Could you lend me your bike?
Other information
When asking to borrow something you can also give some information as to why you want to borrow something and / or how long you want to borrow it for.

Could I borrow your pen for a momentI need to sign this contract.
Can I borrow your ruler for a second. Can I borrow £10 until tomorrowI've left my purse at home. Could you lend me your bike tools over the weekend. I've got to fix a puncture.
To get something back to someone
A useful phrasal verb to use for saying when you will return something you want to borrow is to get something back (to someone).

to get + it / them + 
back (to you) + (the approximate time you will return what you have borrowed)
Can I borrow your shopping bags? I'll get them back to you this evening. 
Can you lend me some money? I'll get it back to you tomorrow.

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

quarta-feira, 23 de maio de 2012

How to ask for the time

We're all, it seems, obsessed by time. It’s part of our everyday lives. If we know the time it can stop us from being late and missing important moments. 

We can check the time on watches, clocks and even our phones. But what if you don’t have any of these? What if, for example, you are at a bus stop and you need to know what time it is now? How should you ask a complete stranger? Find out how to do it.

Vocabulary connected with time
To be on time:
to arrive at the correct time and not be late 


The trains here are never on time. They're always late.
We're leaving at 10.00 sharp. So be sure you're on time. 

To be in time (for something):
to arrive early enough (for something)

I don't use an alarm clock but I always wake up in time for the 7 o'clock news on the radio.
Sorry, I won't be home in time for dinner, I have to work late at the office.

To kill time
to do something to make time appear to pass more quickly

The film doesn't start for another 2 hours, so we'll have to kill time for a bit.
On my way back from Australia I had a lot of time to kill at Singapore Airport - the shopping was great!

in (next to) no timevery soon, very quickly

Example:On my bike I can get to the Sports Centre in next to no time. It takes longer by car because of the traffic.
Asking for the time
 What time is it? 
Excuse me,
have you got the time
do you have the time 

Other vocabulary


I first met Pete at school. We've been mates ever since then.
On Friday nights I usually go out to a club with a few mates. 

informal way to address a stranger

Excuse me mate, have you got the time?
Excuse me mate, have you got a light?

From: BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/

terça-feira, 22 de maio de 2012

The sounds of English

Learning the sounds
These are the symbols for the sounds of English. Clicking on a symbol will take you to another page where you can watch a video about that particular sound.

The sounds are organised into the following different groups:
Short vowels
Long vowels
Diphthongs (double vowel sounds)
Voiceless consonants
Voiced consonants
Other consonants

Download this chart (144 K)

To listen to the sounds of English you can also try our audio chart. The chart will open in a pop-up window.

Listen to the sounds of English

Please note:
To watch the videos in the page you will need the free Flash Player software for your computer. You can get Flash here.*

*The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Pronunciation tips from bbclearningenglish.com