Understanding Uses of Reflexive Pronouns

My Student Stumper category began on this blog back in 2009, and my first post was about reflexive pronouns. A private student recently asked about the different uses of these pronouns, and I felt it was best to create some practice activities to illustrate the different meanings of these words. If your upper level students…

Teaching Syntax: Helpful or Hellish?

Seeing some students struggle to build clear sentences has made me reflect on what information might help to guide them. I’ve posted videos on types of sentences according to purpose and structure. But understanding the difference between a statement and a question or the difference between a compound and complex sentence doesn’t always eliminate doubts…

5 Common Mistakes with Adjective Clauses

I like to create short grammar reviews for upper level students. As a private instructor, I have the luxury of designing each lesson based on the student’s current needs. For example, we might have covered conditionals a few months ago, but review and reinforcement is necessary from time to time. The same may be true…

Word Order with the Prepositions FOR and TO

Prepositions are a grammar topic that require a degree of focused practice. Exposure to correct structures and acceptable uses is not usually enough for mastery. Recently I helped students understand when and why more than one word order is possible with indirect objects. We discussed phrases like giving someone an explanation and giving an explanation…

4 Ways to Learn from Headlines

A learner asked me about the grammar in news headlines. Indeed, it can be confusing when words are omitted: Prison Escape Fails — Did it already happen? Why is the verb in the present tense? Mayor in Hot Water — Is this happening now? Where’s the verb? Local Team Gets New Coach — Can they write…

Even Though vs. Even If

She’s determined to search every inch of that machine (even if/even though) it’s dangerous. Which words complete the sentence? Both choices work, right? So then what’s the difference? I recently discovered just how tricky it can be to distinguish between even though and even if. I’ve always seen the even though as a way to express…

A Getting-to-Know-You Activity to Practice Gerunds and Infinitives

Mastering combinations with gerunds and infinitives comes with practice. Here’s a straightforward activity for upper level students: gerunds-and-infinitives_handout.  A sorting task quickly moves into a production task that prompts writing and speaking. Students can learn more about one another by sharing their answers. Enjoy! Here are some related activities I shared in years past: Story…

The Whys and Wherefores: Using the Relative Pronouns WHY, WHERE, WHEN

As follow-up to my discussion about wh- clauses looking like relative clauses, I’ve decided to create a handout that targets combinations of head nouns with why, where, and when. If you have upper level students who’d benefit from practice with these relative pronouns, please check out my whys-and-wherefores_handout. After a quick sorting task, students are encouraged to create…

Getting a Firmer Handle on Word Order

In an effort to help an advanced student avoid awkward wording, I’ve been reviewing standard word order in our lessons. Some rules have been easy to state and reinforce, like putting the subject before the verb in statements and embedded questions. Other patterns are easier to recall only in the process of correcting a student’s writing. If…

A Clue as to Why Wh- Clauses Are So Tricky

Here’s the thing. Wh- clauses can be complements in noun phrases, and in this position they can look quite a lot like identifying adjective clauses with the relative pronouns where, when, and why. …Is that too much terminology in one sentence? Did you follow my line of thinking? Well, that’s part of the problem. We…

When Differences in Aspect Aren’t So Simple

It’s usually easy to explain why we need a verb in a certain time frame: We use the past tense for past actions (I studied law) and the present tense for present actions (I study law). A future time frame allows for more choices, but with sufficient practice students pick up on how to use…