Using Verbs

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and expresses actions, events, or states of being.

In each of the following sentences, the verb or compound verb appears highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb “bites” describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.

Here the compound verb “will plant” describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.

In this sentence, the verb “was” (the simple past tense of “is”) identifies a particular person and the verb “remembered” describes a mental action.

Written by Heather MacFadyen



How To Use DVDs to Improve Your English

By Kenneth Beare,

Watching DVDs provides a unique opportunity for English learners to improve comprehension and vocabulary skills. Most DVDs provide original English language sound tracks, as well as sound tracks in different foreign languages. Most of these DVDs also provide English subtitles. However, just watching a film or sitcom in English or with subtitles doesn’t take full advantage of the learning opportunity. Here is advice on how to use DVDs to improve you or your students’ English comprehension and vocabulary.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1 – 2 hours per each 30 minutes episode, more for films – 30 minute session max

Here’s How:

1. Get your learning tools out! Pen or pencil, paper and a dictionary should be close by when you begin.

2. Choose a scene. The first scene is always a good place to start. However, any scene will do. Most importantly don’t feel that you have to watch everything. If you want to watch an entire film, great. However, take it one scene at a time.

3. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles. Try to write down any words or phrases you understand.

4. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles a second time. Write down a short description of what happens in the scene.

5. Watch the scene in your mother tongue. Check your understanding of the scene with the notes you have taken.

6. Watch the scene in English with no subtitles a third time. If possible, take note of phrases or words you don’t understand.

7. Watch the scene in English WITH English subtitles. Make sure to watch the scene all the way through without using the pause button on your DVD remote. Add words or phrases to your list.

8. Watch the scene in English with English subtitles and pause the scene to add vocabulary to your list.

9. Now that you have watched the scene six times (five times in English), try to define the words and phrases on your own by thinking about the context.

10. Use your dictionary to look up definitions of words or phrases you still don’t understand. Over time, you will be surprised at how many words or phrases you understand through context and without the help of your dictionary. Please believe me, it’s true!


1. Change your thinking about watching films. Don’t try to watch an entire episode or film. Start thinking in terms of watching individual scenes. Repeat watching of individual scenes will help you focus on new vocabulary and gain a deeper understanding of what is said.

2. Each week, work in many short sessions rather than one long session. Four twenty-minute sessions per week focusing on one scene each time will quickly improve your English comprehension. Long sessions (2 hours or more) will kill your enthusiasm. Short and often is the key to comprehension success.

3. Ask others for patience or leave. You don’t want your little brother or sister bothering you during the film. They will want to hear it in their first language and to watch the entire show. Make it clear that you are watching the DVD in order to improve your English.

4. Rule number 1: Don’t worry if you don’t understand much (or anything). Be patient, following this advice you will begin understanding much more – if you keep doing these sessions often!

What You Need:

* DVD of a film or TV show that is originally in English

* Pen or Pencil

* Notebook

* Patience with yourself!

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Omission of Subject

Omission of the subject is a very common and understandable mistake that speakers of Spanish make when studying English. Just keep in mind that, unlike Spanish, a subject is always necessary in English. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Students often write (or say):“Is important to talk to the teacher.” whereas they should write: It is important to talk to the teacher. The word it may not refer to anything in particular, but it is absolutely necessary to make this sentence grammatically correct.

The Parts of the Sentence

The parts of the sentence are a set of terms for describing how people construct sentences from smaller pieces. There is not a direct correspondence between the parts of the sentence and the parts of speech — the subject of a sentence, for example, could be a noun, a pronoun, or even an entire phrase or clause. Like the parts of speech, however, the parts of the sentence form part of the basic vocabulary of grammar, and it is important that you take some time to learn and understand them.

Subject and Predicate

Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. In the following sentences, the predicate is enclosed in braces ({}), while the subject is highlighted.

Judy {runs}.
Judy and her dog {run on the beach every morning}.

To determine the subject of a sentence, first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing “who?” or “what?” before it — the answer is the subject.

The audience littered the theatre floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn.

The verb in the above sentence is “littered.” Who or what littered? The audience did. “The audience” is the subject of the sentence. The predicate (which always includes the verb) goes on to relate something about the subject: what about the audience? It “littered the theatre floor with torn wrappings and spilled popcorn.”

Unusual Sentences

Imperative sentences (sentences that give a command or an order) differ from conventional sentences in that their subject, which is always “you,” is understood rather than expressed.

Stand on your head. (“You” is understood before “stand.”)

Be careful with sentences that begin with “there” plus a form of the verb “to be.” In such sentences, “there” is not the subject; it merely signals that the true subject will soon follow.

There were three stray kittens cowering under our porch steps this morning.

If you ask who? or what? before the verb (“were cowering”), the answer is “three stray kittens,” the correct subject.

Simple Subject and Simple Predicate

Every subject is built around one noun or pronoun (or more) that, when stripped of all the words that modify it, is known as the simple subject. Consider the following example:

A piece of pepperoni pizza would satisfy his hunger.

The subject is built around the noun “piece,” with the other words of the subject — “a” and “of pepperoni pizza” — modifying the noun. “Piece” is the simple subject.

Likewise, a predicate has at its centre a simple predicate, which is always the verb or verbs that link up with the subject. In the example we just considered, the simple predicate is “would satisfy” — in other words, the verb of the sentence.

A sentence may have a compound subject — a simple subject consisting of more than one noun or pronoun — as in these examples:

Team pennants, rock posters and family photographs covered the boy’s bedroom walls.
Her uncle and she walked slowly through the Inuit art gallery and admired the powerful sculptures exhibited there.

The second sentence above features a compound predicate, a predicate that includes more than one verb pertaining to the same subject (in this case, “walked” and “admired”).



What is the word in bold print?

The old house on the hill gave Leonora chills and conjured up images of ghosts and monsters and other unknown beings.

  1. Simple Subject
  2. Verb
  3. Direct Object
  4. Indirect Object
  5. Subject Complement

There were no credits after the movie.

  1. Simple Subject
  2. Verb
  3. Direct Object
  4. Indirect Object
  5. Subject Complement


Here is a challenging grammar matching exercise. The answers are included below so don’t look if you want to test your knowledge. If you are struggling and need some guidance, have a peek and maybe you can learn something new.



Match the sentence halves to make correct sentences. Once you have matched-up the sentences find the correct grammar form and match it to the sentence.

Sentence Beginnings

Andy would have enjoyed coming
He’s always getting
How about going to
I might be able to
I wish she had
If he were in charge
Peter will have
She’ll be late
She can’t have flown to New York because
That house is being
They’re going to study
They were discussing the new account
We’ll be giving the
We usually sleep
We would have brunch on Sundays

Sentence Endings

when he burst into the meeting to tell them the news.
unless she hurries up!
the concert next week?
she telephoned me from her home in Austin.
presentation this time tomorrow.
into trouble at school.
in on Sundays.
if he had been invited.
he would fire a few people.
finished the report by next Friday.
decided to stay longer.
computer sciences at university.
built by Anderson Inc.
attend the conference next week.
after going to church.



Grammar Reasons

First or real Conditional
Future continuous
Future intention
Future perfect
Future possibility
Interrupted past action
Passive voice in the continuous
Past habitual action
Past modal verb of probability
Past unreal conditional
Past wish
Present habitual annoying problem
Second or unreal conditional


Grammar Review Answers

Here are the answers to the Match Up! grammar review quiz:

Andy would have enjoyed coming if he had been invited. – Past unreal conditional

He’s always getting into trouble at school. – Present habitual annoying problem

How about going to the concert next week? – Suggestion

I might be able to attend the conference next week. – Future possibility

I wish she had decided to stay longer. – Present wish about a past action

If he were in charge he would fire a few people. – Second or unreal conditional

Peter will have finished the report by next Friday. – Future perfect

She’ll be late unless she hurries up! – First or real Conditional

She can’t have flown to New York because she telephoned me from her home in Austin.

Past modal verb of probability

That house is being built by Anderson Inc. – Passive voice in the continuous

They’re going to study computer sciences at university. – Future intention

They were discussing the new account when he burst into the meeting to tell them the news. – Interrupted past action

We’ll be giving the presentation this time tomorrow. – Future continuous

We usually sleep in on Sundays. – Routine

We would have brunch on Sundays after going to church. – Past habitual action


**Grammar Forms and Verbs Next Week!!!

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