Tag Archives: confusing words

few fewer less English determiners

This post looks at the differences between English determiners such as  few, fewer, fewest, little, less, least. It is a common problem for many English language learners and even native speakers can confuse them whilst speaking.

A FEW, FEW, FEWER, FEWEST

= not many

We use FEW and A FEW with countable nouns (nouns we can count, one car, two cars etc)

FEW

Comparative and superlative: few, fewer, fewest

Few has a slightly negative meaning – not many, not as much as we thought or wanted. It is also more formal than ‘not many’

‘The journey didn’t take long today. There were few cars on the road.’

Compare with, ‘There weren’t many cars on the road.’

‘He has few friends. He prefers to be on his own.’

A FEW

= some

‘I am only inviting a few people to my party this year. Last year was crazy.’

‘We saw a few good films at the cinema last month.’

‘I want to have a few days off work next week. I need to visit my mother who is in hospital.’

We can also use ‘a few’ instead of a noun.

‘Would you like some of my chips? I can’t eat all of them.’  ‘Thanks, I’ll have a few.’

FEWER

= not as many

‘Fewer people smoke today than twenty years ago.’

‘Shops are selling fewer newspapers these days because a lot of people read the news online.’

FEWEST

= the smallest number

‘Browntree University has the fewest applicants in the country.’

LITTLE, A LITTLE, LESS, LEAST

= a small amount

Little and a little are used with uncountable nouns, for example: water, information, air, time.

Comparative and superlative: little, less, least

LITTLE

Like ‘few’, little is used in a slightly negative way. There is not enough or not as much as expected.

‘The government said there was little information about the attack.’

A LITTLE

‘Do you fancy a quick coffee?’ ‘I have a little time before my train. Yes, I’d love one, thanks.’

LESS

= not as much

‘Hurry up! We have less time than I thought. We need to be at the station in half an hour.’

‘In many companies, women still earn less than men.’

IMPORTANT: Many native speakers often use less with countable nouns when speaking. E.g. ‘There were less people there today’. However, in formal writing, it is important to try to use the correct form for countable and uncountable nouns.

LEAST

= the lowest amount

‘Lincoln is the least expensive city for university students.’

LESSER

This is not used as a determiner but is used as an adjective.

‘A lesser woman (one who is not as strong or brave) might have stopped by now.’

few fewer less The English Tower

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Comparatives and Superlatives: Learn English Grammar

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Infinitive With To Learn English Grammar

This post looks at using the English infinitive with to. It is used after certain adjectives and verbs.

 

  1. The first to do something.

He was the first to arrive at the party.

  1. The next to do something.

Sam was the next to arrive.

  1. The last to do something.

Tom and Mary were the last to arrive.

 

We can also put a noun before the infinitive if we are talking about sequencing (putting something into numerical order e.g. first, second, third etc)

 

Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.

Will the last person to leave the room, please turn off the lights?

They were the second team to enter the competition.

  1. We use infinitive with to after want and would like.

 

I want to see that new French film that is on at the cinema.

Would you like to come with me?

 

I would like to book a table for four at seven o’clock, please.

 

Jack had to leave work early today because he had a doctor’s appointment.

 

  1. After some question words.

 

I don’t know where to go on holiday this year.

She wanted to know how to get to the station.

When he offered me the job, I didn’t know what to say.

The kids can be so noisy. They never know when to stop.

 

  1. After certain verbs (usually verbs of thinking and feeling. Below is a table of some of the most common verbs).

 

Agree Do you agree to help us?
Arrange I want to arrange a meeting to discuss the new computer system.
Decide I have decided to take the job in New York.
Expect I expected to meet the manager today but he’s ill.
Forget Don’t forget to feed my cat whilst I’m on holiday.
Hope I hope to see you again very soon.
Intend She intends to start her own company.
Learn Peter had always wanted to learn to play the piano.
Like John likes to sing in the shower.
Love We love to go on walking holidays in the mountains.
Manage I managed to finish the work before my boss returned.
Plan We plan to visit my parents at the weekend.
Prefer I prefer to play tennis.
Promise I promise to visit again soon.
Refuse I refuse to listen to your lies.
Remember Could you remember to close the door when you leave?
Tend She tends to talk too much because she’s nervous.
Try Can you try to be more quiet, please. I’m trying to work.

 

  1. After adjectives

 

I’m pleased to meet you.

She was sad to see him go.

They were excited to be in the Olympic team.

I would love to eat some chocolate but I’m on a diet at the moment.

 

  1. Verb + object + to infinitive

 

I need you to look after the kids while I go the doctor.

We took my parents to see the new Star Wars film.

He wants you to help him paint the kitchen.

Traditionally, grammar experts said you must not split the infinitive. This means to put a word between ‘to’ and the ‘verb’ as in Star Trek’s famous line, ‘To boldly go..’  Strict rules say it should read ‘To go boldly..’  Although, in everyday English, speakers often split the infinitive. It might be a good idea to avoid doing this in formal writing, however.

Further reading:

The Gerund: Learn English Grammar

It and there Learn English Grammar

 

http://speakspeak.com/english-grammar-exercises/intermediate/verb-object-to-infinitive

 

 

React reply respond and return

React, reply, respond and return.

 

This post looks at four words that often confuse learners; react, reply, respond and return. They can be confusing because some of them can be used interchangeably although they have their own separate meaning and are not quite synonyms.

 

React

  1. To say something, do something or feel something because of something someone has said or done

Our manager didn’t react when we all said we were unhappy with his management style.

She reacted with a smile.

 

  1. To become ill because you had eaten something bad or done something to your body in some way.

I think that fish we had for dinner has reacted with me. I feel really sick.

My skin reacts badly to make-up.

 

3. In science, a substance reacts with another substance.

The hydrogen reacted with the oxygen to form water.

 

Reply

To answer.

Have you replied to the manager’s email?

I knocked on the door but there was no reply.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied.

 

The noun form of reply is ‘a reply’.

Have you had any replies?

 

Respond

  1. To say or do something as an answer or reaction to something that someone has done or said.

The police responded to the call within ten minutes.

I tried calling your mobile five times today but you didn’t respond. Are you ignoring me?

The school asked parents to help with Sports’ Day. Unfortunately, only a few parents responded.

He responded very badly to the news.

Her manager would not respond when she asked him for extra holiday.

 

  1. To improve after medical treatment.

We were really worried about her at first, but she is starting to respond to treatment. She should be much better in a few days.

 

The noun form of respond is a response.

I have left five messages on your phone today but I haven’t had a single response. Are you ignoring me?

We called the police and their response was very quick. They arrived within ten minutes.

When she asked her manager for extra holiday, he would not give her a response.

We asked for help building a new children’s playground and we got a huge response. We had over one hundred and fifty replies from parents.

 

Return

  1. Go back.

They like to return to the same hotel every year.

I need to return to the office because I left my purse on my desk. I’ll need it to pay for the tickets.

He returned home after midnight.

 

  1. Send or give something back.

Library books must be returned within three weeks.

My neighbour still hasn’t returned my DVD’s. He borrowed them six months ago!

 

  1. React to something someone does or says by doing the same thing.

Good morning, could I speak to Phil please. It’s Sarah, from the sales department, returning his call.

He called her name and smiled at her. She looked up and, pleased to see him, she returned his smile.

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Adjectives ending in ed and ing

Adjectives ending in ed and ing

This post looks at adjectives ending in  ed or ing.  For example, look at the following sentences.  Can you see the difference between the two sentences?  They both contain an adjective from the verb ‘confuse’ but the endings are different.

 

English learners are often confused by adjectives. 

English learners often think that adjectives are confusing. 

 

Confused and confusing are both adjectives.  However, they are used in different situations.  This post explains when to use ‘ed’ and when to use ‘ing’.

For example:

I was bored.  The film was really boring.

Below is a list of some of the most common adjectives that can take either the ‘ed’ or ‘ing’ form.

 

VERB                          ‘ed’ adjective           ‘ing’ adjective

 

aggravate                            aggravated                         aggravating

alarm                                   alarmed                               alarming

amaze                                  amazed                                amazing

amuse                                  amused                               amusing

annoy                                  annoyed                             annoying

astonish                            astonished                        astonishing

bore                                     bored                                    boring

challenge                         challenged                          challenging

confuse                             confused                             confusing

convince                          convinced                           convincing

depress                            depressed                           depressing

disappoint                     disappointed                   disappointing

disgust                             disgusted                           disgusting

embarrass                     embarrassed                   embarrassing

encourage                     encouraged                      encouraging

excite                                excited                                exciting

exhaust                         exhausted                           exhausting

frighten                        frightened                          frightening

frustrate                       frustrated                          frustrating

interest                         interested                          interesting

please                             pleased                               pleasing

relax                                relaxed                               relaxing

satisfy                             satisfied                            satisfying

shock                              shocked                            shocking

terrify                             terrified                           terrifying

tire                                    tired                                   tiring

worry                               worried                           worrying

 

Adjective + ‘ed’

These describe how a person feels.

He often felt tired and depressed so he made an appointment to see the doctor.

The little boy was terrified of clowns.

I am disappointed that you can’t come to the wedding because  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever! I felt totally relaxed all week. 

I’m so frustrated with my boss. 

 

Adjective + ‘ing’

These describe the thing or person that makes you feel the emotion. 

 

He told his doctor that his work was really tiring and depressing.

The little boy thinks clowns are terrifying.

You can’t come to the wedding?  That is so disappointing .  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever!  It was so relaxing.

My boss is so frustrating.

adjectives ending in ed and ing

 

The difference between MAKE and DO: Learn English Grammar

Make or do?

Make and do can be a problem for many students because there are not specific rules that helps us decide which to use in every situtation.  Most of the time we have to just learn when to use make and when to use do.  However, there are some rules that might help you learn some of the expressions… Test yourself at the end with our Quick Quiz on make/do.

Make and do: MAKE

1: Used to describe something that we can create or produce

The table is made of wood.

The toys were made in China.

Wine is made from grapes.

He wants a wedding ring made of platinum not gold.

 

2: Used to describe food/drinks

Make breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, tea, coffee, a cake, a sandwich, a salad, a roast dinner etc.

I don’t feel like making dinner tonight.  Shall we eat out?

I’m going to make a cup of tea. Would you like one?

I don’t normally make breakfast for the family now.  The kids are old enough to make their own.

I’ve bought some rum. I thought we could make some cocktails for the party.

Continue reading The difference between MAKE and DO: Learn English Grammar

Prepositions of time, in, at, on: Learn English Grammar

Prepositions of time

 

This post looks at the prepositions of time,  in, on and at with dates and times.  There is a quick quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

Prepositions of time: IN

Used for non-specific times, for example: years, months

In the morning

In the afternoon

In the evening

In winter/spring/summer/autumn

In five minutes

In a few minutes/days/weeks/months/years

In three weeks

In ten months

In 1996

In the future

In one hundred years’ time

In the moment (this describes someone who lives for the present and does not think about the future.  Therefore it is important not confuse with ‘at the moment’ = right now) Continue reading Prepositions of time, in, at, on: Learn English Grammar

Comparatives and Superlatives: Learn English Grammar

Comparatives and Superlatives

In this blog post we look at how to use comparatives and superlatives to describe things and people.

Look at the following sentences:

Comparatives:

Who do you think is funnier? Pete or Sally?

I found the first book much more interesting than the second.

John is friendly but I think Jane is friendlier.

Houses in London are more expensive than anywhere else in the UK.

Superlatives:

 Julie is the oldest student in her class.

We think he is the funniest comedian we have ever seen.

Who made the most delicious cake?

Houses in London are the most expensive in the UK.

Continue reading Comparatives and Superlatives: Learn English Grammar

FOR, SINCE, AGO: Learn English Grammar

For, since, ago

For, since, ago can be confusing for many learners of English. This article looks at when we use them.

We use since to talk about a time in the past when we started doing something or something started happening.

We use the present perfect or present perfect continuous to show something that started in the past but is still happening or important to the present.

Since + a point of time in the past

I have been living in England since 2008.

I have lived in this house since May.

Continue reading FOR, SINCE, AGO: Learn English Grammar