English Corner – ‘Will’ and ‘Going To’

The phrases ‘will’ and ‘going to’ are very commonly used to express oneself in the future tense. It’s important however to know the difference in how they are used and under what circumstances should they be applied.

If you’re making a quick decision about something or someone, you’re going to use ‘will’ instead of the alternative of ‘going to.’ Also if you’re offering to help or assist someone, then you would use ‘will’ as well. When it comes to making a promise or a threat, ‘will’ is what you should be using before the verb. Lastly, ‘will’ is also used when you want to refuse a gesture or a gift from somebody. The five instances of making a quick decision, offering something, making a promise and/or threat, and refusing a gesture or a gift will all use ‘will’ when it comes to the future tense.

Examples:

1.) I will buy you dinner tomorrow night.

2.) He will help you get out of the car.

3.) She will promise us to watch the dog while we go out to brunch.

4.) If they don’t stop marching, we will shut down the bridge to stop them.

5.) They won’t help us if we are not willing to cooperate with them.

When it comes to using ‘going to’, the circumstances of usage are not as frequent when compared to using ‘will’ for the future tense. When ‘going to’ is placed in a sentence, it’s often for discussing a prior plan that you have confirmed with friends, family, or other people in your life and is a definitive plan. When something is likely to happen and the result is inevitable based on the current evidence, you would also use ‘going to’ to describe the outcome. The last instance where you would use ‘going to’ over ‘will’ is when something imminent is about to happen and there’s not much time left until it occurs such as an event.

Examples: 

1.) I’m going out dancing with my best friends tonight at the Salsa club in Havana.

2.) New England is likely going to win this football game. They’re up by 21 points at halftime.

3.) The race is going to start immediately after the gun fires in the air.

The one instance where ‘will’ and ‘going to’ overlap with each other in terms of usage deals with making predictions that are likely to happen in the future. In this regard, both ‘going to’ and ‘will’ are equal and both create the same kind of meaning in the sentence.

Example:

1.) I think it’s going to rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.

2.) I think it will rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.

As you can see in this example above, there is no discernible difference between these two sentences in terms of meaning even though they use ‘going to’ or ‘will’ interchangeably without any issues. If a student of the English language is to master the future tense in grammar, he or she will need to know the differences and similarities between the phrases ‘will’ and ‘going to.’ They can be applied in a number of different ways so it’s important to study the examples above and also think about their reasons for being used in the future tense.

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English Corner – Introduction to Modals

There are many different kinds of modals to study but in this ‘English Corner’ blog post, we’re going to start out with an introduction dealing with the modals of ability. Modals of ability are the most common and the most important to master firstly. Modals are verbs usually and the ones that I am going to be focused on in this article are can, could, be able to, may, might.

Modal verbs act as auxiliary verbs in your average sentence and can express different ideas. These ideas include expressing one’s ability, one’s possibility, and sometimes necessity. Modal verbs often have more than one meaning and can be significant in a variety of ways. A simple form of a verb always follows a modal verb in a regular sentence as well.

Example:

  • Ben can do his homework.

The modal verb ‘can’ is followed by the simple form of the verb ‘to do’ followed by the object part, which refers to his homework.

An Introduction to Modals can be broken down into three separate parts: modals for ability, modals for possibility, and modals for permission. Each type of modals is unique in their own way but they each help to express oneself in some form or another.

For ‘Modals of Ability’, you can express your own ability or that of someone else by using the words ‘can, be able to, could’ in order to highlight your ability to do something.

Present Ability: I can speak three languages.

Negative Form: I cannot read this book.

Past Ability: Jack could play on the swings when he was a child but not anymore.

Negative Past Ability: Jane couldn’t go to the dance last night because she was sick.

In any regular sentence, the verb after the modal ‘can, could, be able to’ is always in the simple form and always follows the auxiliary (modal) verb. It’s important to note that the simple verb after the modal verb never changes either.

Examples:

-Ben can doing his homework. X

-Ben can to do his homework. X

-Ben can did his homework. X

All of these examples listed above give us the understanding we need to see that the simple form of the verb such as ‘to do’ never changes from its’ original intention. ‘Ben can do his homework’ is the only correct answer in this case.

In order to turn the ability modal into a question, it’s also quite easy to do. The form of the sentence should look like ‘modal verb + subject + main verb + object…? For any of the ability modals whether it’s can, could, etc., you can use them in the form of a question.

Examples:

  1. Can she play the flute?
  2. Could you go to the store to pick up some fruit?
  3. Are you able to do your homework tonight?

‘Able to’ is an exception in that as a modal of ability verb, the structure of the question form looks like: ‘to be’ + subject + able to + main verb + object…?’

For Modals of Possibility, it’s important to understand how to express ‘possibility’ in a sentence through showing what’s possible and what’s not possible for someone or something. The modals of possibility include ‘may, might, and could’ now and in the future. All of these three modals have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably regardless of the type of sentence.

Examples:

  • I might be late to the business meeting tomorrow.
  • You may want to re-take the exam next year.
  • You could get into college if you study harder.

Possibility cannot be expressed for the past but only for the present and the future when it comes to grammar.

For ‘Modals of Permission’, you can express ways to ask for or to give permission in a regular sentence. In order to create this modal sentence, we need to use the modals of ‘may, could, and can’, which are also apart of permission and ability modals. Permission modals are very polite and formal so it’s important to know how to write and verbally use them correctly in a sentence.

Examples:

  • May I go to the bathroom please?
  • Could I borrow your lawnmower today?
  • Can he have the last piece of chocolate cake?

For the main verb that comes after the subject and before the modal verb, it’s always going to be in its’ regular, simple form which never changes. When it comes to modals of permission, it’s important to remember that using ‘may’ especially at the beginning of the sentence is the most formal of the three options. Also, if someone were to answer you to grant that permission so you can go to the bathroom or to use your lawnmower, you can answer with:

-Yes, you may or No, you may not.

There’s also the possible positive or negative response to the modal question with ‘Yes, you can’ or ‘No, you can’t.’

While not the most popular grammar topic, there are many kinds of modals and knowing some of them especially those modals concerning permission, ability, and possibility is key to improving your English proficiency. This article is simply an introduction to modals and in the coming weeks and months; I hope to highlight other types of modals that are likely to come up in your grammar studies. “You can do it!”

 

English Corner – Future Perfect Tense

We’re going back to the future for this edition of ‘English Corner.’ The ‘future perfect tense’ is our last main form of the perfect tense. The future form of the perfect tense is the most specific in terms of its’ usage and formation. While not the most important grammar tense to learn, if you want to be able to describe actions in the future that have already been completed, it’s necessary to have a good working knowledge of the ‘future perfect tense’ and to be able to use it proficiently. First, let’s take a look at its’ formation and usage before looking at some examples of the future perfect tense in action.

The future perfect tense is a very specific grammatical tense and is only used in a few situations. The 1st situation in which it is used is to describe how long an action will take until some point and time in the future, regardless if its’ near or far from the present time. The 2nd situation is when it’s used to describe at what time or point will a specific action be finished in the future.

Often times, the future perfect tense is used in conjunction with the present simple tense in order to form a grammatically accurate sentence. It’s important to note that when using the future perfect tense, you should have a good knowledge of how to utilize days, weeks, months, years, and other time-related vocabulary in order to be successful in making these kinds of sentences.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the future perfect tense utilizing the simple present tense + the word ‘for’ to describe the length of time in which a specific action is being taken.

Examples

  • When we finish our group project, it will have taken us three weeks total.
  • At five o’clock, I will have worked in this office for eight hours straight.

A good ‘future perfect’ sentence should include a future indicative word, which deals with a period of time such as ‘by.’ This is imperative because you can then describe an action being done by a certain time in the future but being more specific with using ‘by’ to hold yourself or other subjects to a general deadline whether it’s on an hourly, daily, weekly timetable.

Examples

  • By the time I’m 30 years old, I will have completed my Masters’ degree.
  • By next Tuesday, Your boss will have needed you to finish your environmental report for the office.

In addition, it should also be pointed out that the future perfect tense is formed with a combination of the simple future tense with verbs like ‘to be’. In the future perfect tense, ‘to be’ becomes ‘will be’ combined along with the past participle in the regular form (verb + -ed) to go after the verb being used to complete the sentence.

Here are some other examples when the future perfect tense is being used in the positive form:

Examples

  • Jane will have cooked dinner by 7 PM tonight.
  • We will have left the stadium before the lightning storm comes.
  • By Christmas time, parents will have bought presents for their children.

If you would like to shorten the word ‘will’ and combine it with the subject phrase, you can do so quite easily. All you have to do is change ‘will’ to ‘ll’ and put the subject word (I, we) together with ‘ll and then make the future perfect sentence as you normally would.

Examples

  • I’ll have studied the English grammar tenses for many months before taking the TOEFL exam.
  • They’ll have left China by the time you arrive in Japan.

In order to make the future perfect tense ‘negative’ in its formation, you simply need to put the word ‘not’ in between the future indicative word of ‘will’ and the verb ‘to have’, and then the past participle would follow afterwards towards the end of the sentence. You can also make the negative form of the future perfect tense contracted by combining ‘will’ and ‘not’ together to form ‘won’t.’ It’s all a matter of preference but if you’re choosing to use this grammatical tense in formal settings, you should err on the side of caution and use ‘will not’ instead of ‘won’t.’

Examples

  • I will not have surprised her at the birthday party because she already knew about it ahead of time.
  • She won’t have helped me out with my paper because she’s been busy doing other things.
  • It will not have stopped snowing by the time I leave my meeting at 9 PM.

When you have to put the future perfect tense into the question form, you simply need to place the word ‘will’ before the subject word especially if you’re focusing on simple yes or no questions. English learners should not hesitate to use the future perfect tense with ‘Wh-‘ based questions because that is acceptable in its’ formation and usage as well.

Examples (Yes or No – Questions)

  • Will I have improved my test scores by next semester?
  • Will it have snowed in New Hampshire by December?
  • Will you have told the truth to the Grand Jury for the next trial?

Examples (Wh – Questions)

  • Why will he have got married to Luisa before this Fall?
  • When will she have been in Colombia for two months?
  • How will you have met your girlfriend by tonight?

During those times when we think about ourselves, other people and the actions that we take in the future, we need to be able to understand, use, and master the future perfect tense. While these actions may be completed, we need to have some insight into what circumstances did these actions occur especially when it comes to time and place. To project ourselves into the future, we need the future perfect tense to make that happen.

The future perfect tense can make us reflect upon an action or an event that will be completed sometime into the future and beyond the present, but it’s not certain as to when that will happen. Using time expressions are a necessity with the future perfect tense, so make sure that you practice a lot so you can be able to merge these two grammatical concepts together to form functional and unique sentences.

English Corner – Simple Future Tense

In the past couple of editions of the ‘English Corner’, we’ve gone from the past to the present in terms of understanding and using the grammar structures that encompass these lengths of time. Now, we’re going to take our knowledge of English grammar into the future by going over and analyzing the ‘Simple Future’ tense. If you have a good basis of understanding when it comes to the past tense and the present tense, you should have no trouble with the future tense, especially the ‘simple’ version of the tense to start out with.

In order to master the simple future tense, we need to use the word ‘will’ and implement that word into the correct order of the sentence. This is why the simple future tense is sometimes known as the ‘will tense’ instead due to the importance of this particular word. In order to create the correct form of the simple future tense, we need to get the structure down without any problems.

As always in the English language, we are going to want to start our sentence even in the simple future tense with the ‘subject’ at the beginning whether it is ‘I, You, They, We, He / She, It, etc. After the subject comes the auxiliary verb first which in this case you are going to put the future indicator ‘will’ right after the subject. Once you have the subject and the auxiliary verb set up, you can then put the main verb after that to fill out the third part of the sentence. Lastly, you’re going to finish the sentence with the action taking place and the object that is being referred to. Overall, the structure of a ‘simple future’ tense sentence should be ‘subject + auxiliary verb + main verb + action (object).

Here are a few examples to consider:

  • I will go to the store today.
  • He will do his homework before tomorrow.
  • We will attend the theater musical later tonight.
  • They will finish the job as necessary.
  • She will study mathematics for her test tomorrow.

Sometimes, you’re going to want to make the simple future tense from its’ usual, positive form into the negative form which isn’t that much different except for one important difference. In order to make this grammar tense negative, you’re going to want to put the word ‘not’ between the auxiliary verb, which is the word ‘will’ and the main verb, which could be any number of verbs to express what you would like to be doing in the future.

If you want to go ahead and put the simple future tense into the question form, you’re going to want to exchange the usual placement of the subject for the auxiliary verb and switch them around with each other. In order to get a better understanding of the negative and question forms of the simple future tense, let us take a look at some examples that I have listed below:

Negative

  • I will not go to the store tomorrow.
  • He will not beg to keep his job.
  • You will not get a promotion unfortunately.

Questions

  • Will you do your homework please?
  • Will she go out with you to the dance this weekend?
  • Will we win the match if we practice hard today?

Another thing to be aware of when it comes to the simple future tense is that you don’t need to use ‘will’ in the auxiliary verb part of the sentence all of the time. To express the future, you can exchange ‘will’ for ‘shall’ in order to get your point across.

Examples

  • I shall not waver from this decision that I must make tomorrow.
  • I shall work my hardest to ace this job interview on Wednesday.

Beyond just writing correctly in the simple future tense, when it comes to the spoken form, you can be much more informal with your choice of words. If you’re speaking to someone about the future, you’re going to want to contract both the subject and the auxiliary verb. You should push them together to become one word with the help of a well-placed apostrophe. You don’t have to speak or write in the contracted form but you can do so if you’re being informal and don’t feel the need to sound everything out for the other person or for the audience.

Examples

I will –> I’ll

I’ll be sure to call you back after I’m done cooking.

You’ll need more time to study tonight since your exam is tomorrow.

In addition to contracting the positive form, you can also contract the negative form of ‘will’ with a slight difference in its’ wording. Instead of ‘will’ being contracted into ‘I’ll’, it becomes something else entirely.

Examples

I will –> I won’t

We won’t stop the strike until our demands are met.

They won’t stop playing their awful music in the house next door.

Now that we have the structure of the simple present tense down to a science, let’s focus on the ways in which we can use this grammar form to the best of our ability.

More often than not, the main reason we choose to use the simple future tense is because we have no plans or obligations ahead of us so we can choose to do things spontaneously instead without putting much thought into it. Sometimes, as human beings, we do things without much planning so using ‘will’ in a sentence to express a spontaneous action is quite useful. The decision that you make or the action that you take can occur right away or within a short notice.

Examples

  • I’ll bring you a drink.
  • We will go see the new Star Wars movie tonight.
  • They will leave after dessert is served.

It should be kept in mind that there are a few known exceptions where ‘will’ is actually the main verb in a sentence and the auxiliary verb is another word that can take its’ place to express a future action to take place. The primary example of this exception is the word ‘think’, which can exchange places with ‘will’ to become the auxiliary verb and to express what the subject may do in the future with regards to their plans or obligations.

Examples

  • I think I’ll buy a bike later today.
  • We think they’ll do the right thing and return the money.
  • She doesn’t think that you are guilty.

Another main use of the simple future tense is to try and predict the future. While these predictions aren’t foolproof and could end up being wrong, we try to be as certain as possible before using ‘will’ in a sentence to prove its’ inevitability. As human beings, we are prone to make mistakes but we try to predict the future as if it is set in stone.

Examples

  • It will snow heavily tomorrow.
  • He said the Yankees will win the World Series this season.
  • We will be victorious in the spelling bee next week.

Lastly, without changing the structure of the simple future tense, you can add the verb ‘to be’ after the important auxiliary verb ‘will’ to create some additional sentences with the same grammatical form. It is not necessary to use ‘be’ in a sentence with ‘will’ but it can help you to create additional examples such as the ones below.

Examples

  • I will be waiting for you outside the doctor’s office when you finish.
  • Will we be meeting at the ice skating rink at 8 PM?
  • They won’t be able to come tonight to dinner, should we reschedule?

Oftentimes, you can use ‘going to’, the present progressive (continuous) tense to express what plans or actions you have for the future. However, for now and for the next edition of ‘English Corner’, we are going to continue to focus on how to use ‘will’ to express the future including its’ continuous form, which we will review next month. Until then, keep studying your English and please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

English Corner – Simple Past Tense

For this edition of ‘English Corner’, we’re going into the past to figure out and understand the ‘Simple Past Tense.’ In order to successfully master the English language, you need to be able to use the simple past tense correctly. Whether it’s talking about what you did yesterday or last week or even five years ago, the structure and formation of the simple past tense should not be overlooked. As we discussed previously with the simple present tense and the present progressive tense, having a good grasp of these basic grammar forms will help you to get better in English really quickly.

In this blog post, I’ll go over when and how we should use the simple past tense and you will be able to see a few examples of how to put this grammar tense into action. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them for me below the article, as I am happy to help anyone out who needs additional assistance with the simple past tense. After going through this grammar tense for this post, be on the lookout for the next edition of ‘English Corner’ when we go over the past progressive tense.

If you have heard about the ‘preterite tense’ but don’t know about the ‘simple past tense’, then you can be at ease knowing that they are one in the same. While there are different forms of the past tense, the ‘simple past tense’ has become the most commonly used form and is quite easy to master if you are able to understand and apply the structures and the different ways you can use the grammar tense in a sentence.

When it comes to creating the simple past tense, the structure is quite simple. There are three types of sentences that you can form with the simple past tense: positive, negative, and questions. For positive sentences, you’ll put the ‘subject’ first and then add the ‘main verb’, which will be in the simple past tense. For negative sentences, you put the subject first and then an auxiliary verb with the verb ‘to do’, put into the past tense, which becomes ‘did’ followed by the word ‘not’ afterwards to indicate the negation in the sentence. The last part of the ‘negative’ sentence with simple past is the ‘main verb’ so the structure should be ‘subject’ + ‘auxiliary verb and ‘not’ + ‘main verb’ to complete the sentence fully. The question form of the ‘simple past tense’ is very similar to the negative form but there’s one exception that makes them different from each other.

The ‘auxiliary verb’ comes first before the ‘subject’ and then after the subject comes the ‘main verb’ and the ‘object’, which completes the sentence’s overall purpose. Positive sentences for the simple past tense do not have any auxiliary verbs as the negative and question sentences do reply upon. The verb ‘to do’ is the most important one when it comes to forming the simple past sentence regardless if its’ a positive, negative, or question form of the grammar tense. Lastly, the negative sentences you create must have the ‘not’ word after the auxiliary verb and before the main verb in order for it to make grammatical sense.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

I did go to the mall last weekend. (to go)

         I did play with my friends at the park yesterday. (to play)

Negative Sentences:

I did not think you were polite at the lecture on Monday. (to think)

I did not believe you when you said the stock market crashed. (to believe)

Question Sentences:

Did you do your homework last night? (to do)

Did you tell her you were late for class? (to tell)

When it comes to the verb ‘to be’, there is a different structure for the simple past tense that the average ESL student should be made aware of. In order to put ‘to be’ in the past tense form, it’s either going to become ‘was’ or ‘were’ depending upon what subject is being used at the beginning of the sentence. For the positive form of the was/were usage of ‘to be’ in the past tense, you start with I/He/She/It (subjects) and then the verb, which in this case for singular subjects would be was, followed by the object of the sentence.

For sentences with subject plurals like We/They/You, you are going to change ‘to be’ from was to were to reflect the change followed by the action / object again. For the negative form, you’re just going to add ‘not’ between the main verb and the object at the end of the sentence. ‘Was or were’ are going to be placed at the beginning of a question sentence followed by the subject and the actions that are involved in the sentence.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

He was here yesterday evening at the dinner table. (to be)

         You were in Istanbul last weekend for a friend’s birthday. (to be)

Negative Sentences:

I was not at the park last night because I had work to do. (to be)

They were not at the party because they were not invited. (to be)

Question Sentences:

Was she nice to her date last Thursday night? (to be)

Were you happy with how you did on the Spanish exam? (to be)

Compared to the verb ‘to do’ in the simple past tense, ‘to be’ has no auxiliary verbs at all even for the question and negative forms of the verb tense. However, it is the same in that ‘not’ always comes after the main verb for a negative sentence. The subject also becomes the past tense form of the verb ‘to be’ while the main verb moves to the middle of the sentence and is actually the subject words such as he / she / they, etc.

If you simply would like to use the past simple tense with most of the verbs you’ll be using in your sentences, you will add the letter ‘d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order for it to make sense grammatically. There are a couple of examples we should take a look at it when it comes to forming the simple past tense of the verb with ‘d’ or ‘ed.’

Examples

  1. After school, he walked home in the rain.
  2. He danced really well with his date at the senior prom.
  3. She planned to go to Europe this summer but she couldn’t save up enough money.
  4. Because his mother was sick, he baked a chocolate cake.
  5. We went to the movies after we ate at a Mexican restaurant.

It’s important to note that there may be some irregular verbs that are formed differently when it comes to the simple past tense. For example, ‘go’ in the simple present tense will become ‘went’ when it comes to being grammatically correct in the simple past tense. Another verb like ‘eat’ will become ‘ate’ and ‘drink’ will also change slightly to become ‘drank.’ While most of the verbs only need a ‘d’ or an ‘ed’ to be properly simple past, there are a few irregular verbs that should be memorized for the fact that they are exceptions to the rule when it comes to going from present to past in terms of how the word is written and pronounced.

Now that we know how to use the structure of the simple past tense, you’ll also want to be aware of what kinds of uses do we have for this particular grammar tense. The main purpose of the simple past tense is to talk about the past meaning that we want to shed light about a thing, an action, or a situation that happened in the past. These events can be as recent in the past as in they happened last night or they can be events that occurred long ago such as discussing a sports championship that happened over a decade ago.

Examples

  1. I played my violin last night for my parents and brother. (short time ago)
  2. I had a great time living in Istanbul, Turkey back in 2015. (long time ago)

When we use the simple past tense, you cannot refer to events or actions that are happening currently in the present or are slated to happen anytime in the future. The simple past tense only focuses on those events and actions that were completed sometime in the past. It simply doesn’t matter if the event was finished ten years ago or ten seconds ago. The fact is that it’s still in the past and the sentence structure should reflect the grammatical tense that fits the place and time.

Lastly, it should be noted that the books you’ve read or the movies you seen who occur in the past are mainly going to use the simple past tense. The present perfect and simple present tense may be used in stories or movies as well but you’re going to want to pay attention and listen to the sentences with the simple past tense because they are going to be the most common.

If you want to practice your simple past tense after reading this article, I recommend listening to songs, reading books, watching movies that take place in the past. Besides speaking or writing about the past, participating in the active listening and / or reading about events or moments in the past will help to take your English language skills to the next level. I hope you enjoyed this ‘English Corner’ post and please leave a comment if you have any questions, queries, or comments.