Entries Tagged as 'Grammar'

Monday Morning Quarterback – Repost

This was the original post from Feb. 1, 2009:

The expression Monday Morning Quarterback describes a person who says that they would have done something differently and better than what someone else did.  The term originates from Sunday being the day when most football games are played, and people talking the next day about how they would have done better plays, made better calls, etc., than the actual quarterback.

Although the term originated in football, it isn’t exclusively used when referring to it.  You may e a Monday Morning Quarterback when referring to how a colleague’s presentation should have been given (“I would have used a blue background on the PowerPoint”), or what a friend should have done at the party last weekend (“I would have asked for her number”).

Tomorrow when you are talking to your colleagues about tonight’s Super Bowl, please note the grammar pattern typically used by Monday Morning Quarterbacks:

modal auxiliary (should or would work best) + have  + past participle of the action you would have done better.

The Present Perfect Tense and Having Experience

When you use the perfect perfect tense, one of the meanings implied is that you have experience.

Example:  I have driven a stick shift. 

In this sentence, you imply that in all your driving experience, you can include driving a stick shift.

Keep this in mind when if you say, “I have had experience driving a stick shift.”  If you’re interviewing for a job where the experience required includes driving a stick shift, such as a valet, using the present perfect with the word “experience” is fine.

In other contexts, however, you can just use the present perfect.

Less and Fewer – Quantity Activity

Another activity is available from the AllEnglish collection for you to use in practice or in your classrooms.

Less or Fewer

Here’s a hint:  less is used with non-count nouns; fewer is used with count nouns.  They both mean a lower quantity.

This is free to use.  Just remember to credit AllEnglish as the reference.

Prepositions in the Christmas Tradition

Prepositions and phrases to use this season:


  • What are you doing during the holidays?
  • You can shop during our holiday store hours.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing everyone during our visit.
  • Don’t talk on your cell phone during Christmas dinner.


  • on Christmas Eve
  • on Christmas day
  • on New Year’s Eve
  • on New Year’s day
  • The name on this box is yours.


  • I’ll be at home on Christmas Eve.
  • You can reach me at my parents’ house.
  • The stores are more crowded at Christmas time


  • What are you giving your sister for Christmas.
  • I’m baking these cookies for Christmas.
  • What are you doing for the holidays?


  • You should wait until Christmas morning to open your presents.
  • I can’t wait until our guests arrive.


  • You will find presents under the tree.
  • If you stand under the mistletoe, someone might kiss you.

Parallelism in Writing

Understanding and identifying parallelism is common in grammar reviews as well as on standardized tests.

Parallelism can be achieved by making sure there is balance on both sides of a conjunction (and, but, yet, & so).  Conjunctions are typically found between independent clauses and in lists.

First, find the conjunction.  Then look for balance.  You can tell if something is not balanced if the parts of speech are different or if there is a modifier on one side and not the other.  If you see an imbalance, correct it.

For example:

My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and ordering subs. 
Pizza and spaghetti are nouns.  Ordering subs?  That is an action.

Fix the imbalance:  My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and subs. 


Forming the Past Simple – a quick reminder

When you form the past simple, typically you add an -ed to regular verbs.  However, it might be worth it to spend time reviewing irregular verbs because many common verbs are irregular (eat, sleep, drink, be, see, hear, etc.).

When you use the auxiliary to form the negative in the past, or to ask a question in the past, use “do” in the past:  did.  With the auxiliary (did) in a question or negative, go back to the base form of the main verb.  Because you’re using “do” in the past, you don’t need the main verb in the past.

Here are some examples:

  • incorrect:  didn’t found (did + find in the past)
  • correct: didn’t find
  • incorrect:  didn’t called (did + call in the past)
  • correct:  didn’t call

The Passive Voice: 2 things to remember

Two things to remember when using the passive voice are:

  1. The subject in the passive voice doesn’t perform the action in the verb.
  2. The passive voice is not a verb tense.  The past tense is a verb tense, but the passive voice can be written in any verb tense.  I see students confused by the difference between passive voice and the past tense all the time.  They are not the same thing.  Remember that.

Using Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronouns in English are:

  • myself
  • yourself
  • himself
  • herself
  • itself
  • ourselves
  • yourselves
  • themselves

The very basic rule to follow when deciding to use a reflexive pronoun is this:

If the subject and the object are the same, use a reflexive pronoun.

Look at this example:

Bill tried to call me.  His phone rang.  He realized that he called himself.

  • Bill = he = subject
  • Bill = himself = object

Certain phrases in other languages use reflexive pronouns where English does not.  This may cause some confusion if you are translating directly, so having some knowledge of what those phrases are in your language will help when you are studying English.

Plurals – The Good, The Bad, and the Puzzling

You might have noticed that I’ve been writing a series on Puzzling Plurals.  Here are links to all of those posts in one convenient place for you, organized by topic:


Pesky Apostrophes: Irregular Plural Nouns

Irregular plural nouns break the rules when it comes to using apostrophes.

For regular plural nouns, the apostrophe goes after the -s.  An example would be:

I don’t like that dining room set because the chairs’ legs are iron.

But irregular plurals will rarely have an -s to indicate more than one, such as in the word people, children, men, and women.  In this case, since there is no –s on the word, add the apostrophe as you would on a singular verb, but keep in mind that they are still plural.

The People’s Court (the court belongs to all the people)

The Children’s Room (the room belongs to more than one child)

The Men’s Section (the section has clothes for men)

The Women’s Department (the department has items for women)

Sometimes you will see Ladies’ Department.  That is correct, too.  The word lady is not irregular.