Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Random stories - Prepositional verbs

Random Stories
Where I will try to illustrate a language point with a story, no doubt with varying degrees of success.
Here's a little story to give you some practice in prepositional verbs, although I'm afraid it's unlikely to win me a contract with Mills and Boon. It is designed as a follow-up to the lesson on prepositional verbs, where it originally appeared. You might want to do the lesson first. You can find it here.

Video mini-lesson - Penguins go fishing

This short video from National Geographic is quite rich in language.

Three-Part Phrasal Verbs - Practice exercises

Three-part phrasal verbs are sometimes known as Type 4 phrasal verbs, or phrasal-prepositional verbs
Grammar notes - they have two particles. The particles can't be separated by the object.
  • We get on with the neighbours like a house on fire.
  • It looks like we've run out of coffee.
  • Do you think they will get away with it?
The first particle is an adverb and always stays with the verb, whereas the second particle is a preposition and cannot be separated from its object. We can however, sometimes separate the two particles with modifiers.
  • I get on really well with my in-laws.
  • I'm not putting up any more with your behaviour.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Video lesson - The Long Johns and the Subprime Crisis

This video lesson will be of particular interest to students of Business and Financial English, or just to anyone who likes good satire
The US subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 was one of the first indicators of the late-2000s financial crisis, characterized by a rise in delinquencies and foreclosures among subprime mortgage borrowers. (Wikipedia)
Subprime mortgages were primarily given to Black people (BrE), Afro-Americans (AmE), many of whom suffered considerably as a consequence. The collapse of very complicated financial instruments based on these loans in part led to the crisis of 2008.
A satirical video featuring the actors John Bird and John Fortune, also known as the Long Johns, is often seen as one of the most accurate analyses as to what went wrong. It is done as an interview with an investment banker (who looks very pleased with himself). It is very funny (in an intelligent way) and if you complete all the exercises before you watch, the dialogue shouldn't be too difficult. You might want to print off the exercises to look at while you watch the video.

Song exercise - Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

This song was written and recorded in 1967 by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, and kicked off his solo career after he left Belfast band Them. The only real reason for making it into an exercise is that I love the song and for its use of present participles.

Random stories - Narrative tenses

Random Stories
Where I will try to illustrate a language point with a story, no doubt with varying degrees of success.

Narrative tenses - a quick reminder

  • Past simple
    • Describes the main events of the story
    • Describes sequences of events
    • It is the 'standard' narrative tense. If in doubt, go for past simple.
  • Past continuous
    • Describes unfinished actions, especially around a certain time
    • Describes longer actions interrupted by shorter ones
    • Is often used for describing background actions
    • Is sometimes used to make the actions in a story seem more immediate, especially with the word now
  • Past perfect
    • Describes actions which took place before the main actions in the story
  • Past perfect continuous
    • Describes longer continuous actions which took place before the main actions in the story
    • Is sometimes used to explain the condition of people or things at the time of the main events in the story.
Now practise them with this little story

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lesson on prepositional verbs

What is a prepositional verb?

Good question! It depends on who you ask, as the definition of prepositional verb seems to be somewhat elastic.
They are sometimes seen as corresponding to one of the four classic categories of phrasal verb, and that is how I'm interpreting them here. But see note below for other theories.
In these examples the underlined particles are prepositions, the rest are adverbs.
  1. Intransitive. get up
  2. Seperable transitive. give up sth or give sth up
  3. Non-separable transitive. Prepositional verbs look for sb / sth
  4. Three part verbs put up with sth
I'm not totally convinced about doing exercises based on only one type of phrasal verb, but then the subject of phrasal verbs is such a huge one, that it's probably as good a way as any of breaking them down into manageable chunks. In any case I have a funny feeling that prepositional verbs are going to be a trending topic (metaphorically), so we might as well get used to them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When is a phrasal verb not a phrasal verb?

When it's a 'prepositional verb', apparently.

Or - how they moved the goalposts when I wasn't looking.

This post started off life as a small peeve in another post, but has now grown into a full-scale rant about how the writers of English course book sometimes like to change the terminology we are all used to. If you landed here expecting to find some exercises on phrasal verbs, or even prepositional verbs, I'm afraid this is not the right place, but you can find a lesson on prepositional verbs with lots of exercises here.
This is probably more addressed to my fellow teachers than students, and it gets a bit detailed in parts. But if you are interested in grammatical niceties or how English is taught, why not stay along for the ride. I've annotated any difficult word or phrases to help you stay aboard. (Probably a mixed metaphor)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tools - Matching Exercise Generator (Dual-purpose)

  1. Printable / saveable matching exercise generator for teachers
  2. Interactive vocabulary tester for students (see below)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Top Ten British Words (according to Merriam-Webster)

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has (AmE) / have (BrE) put together their favourite (BrE) / favorite (AmE) ten British words, and I thought they might be worth a little exercise.
Merriam-Webster are (BrE) / is (AmE) one of the best-known American publishers of dictionaries, and direct heir(s) of Noah Webster, whose An American Dictionary of the English Language was first published in 1828. It was Noah Webster who established the American system of spelling.
I have to admit I didn't realise they were all British. And one of them, chunter, was completely new to me.
Have a look at their definitions here first, then do the exercise. I've also added some of my own (not necessarily British); mouse over the words in blue for their definitions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Participles and participle clauses

  • Participles as adjectives
  • Participle clauses after certain conjunctions and prepositions
  • Participle clauses after object complements with certain verbs
  • Participle clauses after there is, there are
  • Reduced relative clauses
  • Adverbial participle clauses
Tip - this is quite a mammoth lesson, so you might want to do it in stages. (It was certainly a bit of a marathon writing it!)

Is it a preposition? Is it a conjunction? Or is it an adverb?

Exploring grammar - telling the difference between prepositions, conjunctions and adverbs by looking at them in context.
We all know that in, on and from are prepositions.
Most of us know that and, but and because are conjunctions.
And I'm sure you all know that well, carefully and unfortunately are adverbs.
But what about words like after, since and until? Do these exercises to find out.

Is 'it' a preposition?

Quite a lot of people are finding this page by googling, "Is 'it' a preposition?". For them, ' it' is a pronoun, so we won't be dealing with it in this post but you can read all about ' it' here.
Song exercise - Don't you want me - Human League
After the exercises there are some notes on the distinguishing features of prepositions, conjunctions and adverbs. I also take a look at phrasal verbs and their particles.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teacher tools - Basic randomiser

Basic multi-purpose randomising tool

This is a very basic randomiser for teachers wanting to randomise groups of words, phrases or sentences for copying and pasting into a document, with subsequent formatting to make worksheets. It does no formatting itself and is offered on an "as is" basis.

Possible uses

  1. Randomising a group of words, for use in a matching or gapfill exercise for example
  2. Jumbling words within a sentence or group of sentences, for example for word order questions
  3. Jumbling a group of sentences within a paragraph - students order the sentences
  4. Making anagrams or groups of anagrams

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Negative inversion - practice exercises

Here are some exercises on negative inversion, as promised rather a long time ago.
If you need to revise the basic principles, I suggest you look at my post
Making sense of negative inversion. Hopefully!