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CALLE’s mission is to further understanding of English and to assist teachers, curriculum developers, ESL authors, editors, and teacher trainers in understanding the language and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the language learning process.

We welcome your questions on any topic dealing with English, Grammar, Vocabulary, Usage, how to explain things, teacher training, TESOL/TEFL certificate programs, university programs, graduate school, or even how to go about getting that first job.

Please feel free to ask us for information, explanations, or advice.  Just leave a comment on this page and make sure to include your name and email in the form (your email won’t be seen by others) so that we can provide a personal reply or let you know we’ve created a new post in response to your query.  Please provide as much information as possible.

Thanks for checking out CALLE’s Teacher’s Blog!

Drew Ward

Executive Director, CALLE

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44 Comments »

  1. I have problems when changing “modal sentences” to different tenses, actually I do not know how to change one sentence with modal verb through different tenses.
    For example:
    Exercise 9:Rewrite the sentences using modal verbs without changing the meaning:
    1.I am sure she is relaxing in her room.
    2.Perhaps the plane arrived late and that is why they are not here.
    3.I do not believe you failed the exam.
    4.It is possible that Sam does not like classical music.
    5.I am sure John is not forty-five yet.
    6.It is possible that he is living in Paris now.
    7.It is obvious they lied me about their love affair.
    8.It is quite likely that Bill did not win the competition.
    etc.
    I do not know how to rewrite these sentences because I do not have a specified formula to form modal verbs in different tenses. Can you help me?

    Thank you,
    Sincerely yours
    Ivan

    Comment by Ivan | February 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for writing Ivan. This is really not about a formula. The problem here is that the assignment makes no sense.

      What modals are you supposed to be using? Without further instructions there is no way of knowing what the correct answers could possibly be.

      The sentences with sure and possible and likely could be said to be expressing a mood. In these you would read them as two parts the modal phrase and what it is subordinating?:

      I am sure [she is relaxing in her room]. The first part, be+sure is expressing the mood of certainty. The second part in [brackets] is what the subject is certain about.

      Depending on what you want to place in the past or future, you would change that part. So, if you want to express that the subject WAS certain about the attestation then you’d word it as:

      I was sure [she is relaxing in her room]. (but now I’m not sure perhaps)

      I will be sure [she is relaxing in her room]. (once I’ve opened the door to check)

      If you want to place the attestation into the past or future you would change that part:

      I am sure [she will be relaxing in her room] (at a later time – future).

      I am sure [she was relaxing in her room] (maybe because I saw her – past).

      Finally, you could move both parts into different tenses:

      I was sure [she was relaxing in her room] (past and past)
      I was sure [she will be relaxing in her room] (past and future).

      So you see, there are technically nine different possible correct answers for each question using the current set of instructions. Thus, to determine the correct answer, more specific instructions are needed.

      Comment by Drew Ward | February 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yes, you are totally right- I forgot to write the rest of the instructions for this exercise.
    1.She ____ in her room.

    Comment by Ivan | February 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. 2.The plane ___ late, and that’s why they’re not here.
    3.You ___ the exam.
    4.Sam ___ classical music.
    5.John ___ forty-five yet.
    6.He ___ in Paris now.
    7.They ___ to me about their love affair.
    8.Bill ___ the competition.

    This is the rest of the exercise. I forgot to write it, sorry.
    Thanks for your help, anyway.
    Ivan

    Comment by Ivan | February 9, 2010 | Reply

  4. And the modals I can use in these sentences are the following:
    MUST, CANNOT, MIGHT, MAY, COULD, MAY NOT, MIGHT NOT.

    Comment by Ivan | February 9, 2010 | Reply

  5. OK I see what you’re expected to do. This actually has very little to do with tense. The aim of this exercise is to demonstrate that you understand the moods expressed by these modals.

    You’re expected to replace the modal phrase in the first set of examples with a single modal which expresses the same meaning. Consider:

    1. I am sure [she is relaxing in her room].

    ‘She is relaxing in her room’ is what the subject is sure of , so in the second version of (1) you are expected to replace the modal phrase ‘I am sure’ with a modal from the list provided that conveys the same meaning.

    1. She ____ in her room.

    One thing you need to do is recognize which verb from the original subordinate you need for the second version. From the original ‘she is relaxing in her room’ it is known that ‘she’ IS in her room. So the verb you need is be.

    The modal phrase from the first sentence ‘I am sure’ conveys the meaning of certainty. So from the list provided, which modal also can convey certainty?

    of must, cannot, might, may, could, may not, and might not, the only one that can be used to convey certainty is must.

    So, you know you need to use must in your new sentence, AND must always requires its subordinate to be in finite form (that is the raw unconjugated form of the verb, without to — basically exactly as it would look in the dictionary). In this case that subordinate is be. So:

    She must be in her room.

    All you have to do is follow this same process for determining the answer for the other sentences.

    Comment by Drew Ward | February 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. Now I got it.

    Thanks for your help.

    Comment by Ivan | February 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. Can “breakfast” be a verb?

    Can I say:
    I am breakfasting.

    Comment by Ivan | March 8, 2010 | Reply

  8. Hi again Ivan!

    Technically any noun in English can be used as a verb. Granted this doesn’t always work but it is always possible.

    Sometimes there are established verbs with the meaning that using that noun as a verb would have. In these cases you wouldn’t change the noun to a verb.

    Dine is actually the verb form that originally mean ‘have dinner’ but now it applies to all meals.

    Originally there was a phrase ‘break fast’ which was conjugated as two separate words (break and fast) so that:

    I break fast. He breaks fast. Yesterday she broke fast. and We have broken fast together.

    Long ago breakfast lost most of its meaning of ‘breaking the previous night’s fast’ (fast being a period of not eating) and instead became a united single term — the noun breakfast referencing the first meal of the day.

    So yes, now you could use breakfast as a verb, but you’d conjugate it as if it were a single unit:

    I breakfast every morning.
    He breakfasts at seven.
    She breakfasted with friends yesterday.

    By the way, I’ve only heard this from people trying to sound snooty. Most people would just say ‘they had breakfast together’ or ‘eat breakfast’.

    Comment by Drew Ward | March 8, 2010 | Reply

  9. QUESTION 1:
    In Reported Questions do I always have to follow the rule that we use the same word order as in statements?
    I am asking this because sometimes it happens that the sentence with this rule makes no sense to me.

    Example:
    What’s the price of this bike?
    =I asked the saleswoman what was the price of that bike.
    OR
    =I asked the saleswoman what the price of that bike was.

    The word order in first sentence makes much more sense to me than in the other one although my professor says that the second one is correct.

    Example 2:
    Why did not you called me?
    She asked me why had not I called her.
    OR
    She asked me why I had not called her.

    Which one is correct?

    QUESTION 2:
    Verbs followed by an -ing form or infinitive

    Can you check out these two sentences if they were correct?

    1-You don’t have to book accommodation in advance as you will certainly manage to find a local person who will offer TO PUT/PUTTING you up at very reasonable price in their B+B.

    2-If you can’t afford to pay for a luxurious hotel arrange TO STAY/STAYING in one of the many small coastal villages.

    3-They walked there to save money but hadn’t planned TO GET/GETTING lost.

    Which form is correct?

    QUESTION 3:
    I have been trying to work out the meaning of these two words, but I can’t, so can you please explain their meaning?
    RIVERHOOD
    CREW-CUT

    Thank you!

    Comment by Ivan | May 18, 2010 | Reply

  10. Hi Ivan!

    Sorry for the delay in answering this question:

    For your first question about reported speech, the difference is between reporting the idea (called paraphrasing) and reporting the exact phrase (quoting someone). Both examples you’ve given would sound correct in speaking, but require different punctuation in writing. Here is the corrected form below:

    I asked the saleswoman, “What was the price of that bike?”.

    I asked the saleswoman what the price of that bike was.

    *Note that the second one is just as you had written it. In this sentence, the subject is -I-, the verb is -asked-, the indirect object (whom you asked) is -the saleswoman-, and the direct object (what was asked by you) is -what the price of the bike was-. You could also just say that “I (S) asked (V) the saleswoman (IO) the price of the bike (DO).” This type of reported speech is paraphrasing.

    The first example you’ve given though is called direct reported speech. The sentence works much the same way as with paraphrasing except that the direct object (what is asked/said) is a quotation. Here is your example again: I (subject) asked (verb) the saleswoman (indirect object — whom you asked), “What was the price of the bike?” (direct object — what you asked). The primary difference between the two types of reported speech is that with this version the quotation acts as a single independent unit. Everything within the quotes is independent of the rest of the sentence and keeps its original word order and grammar. In other words, it’s written exactly as it was said originally.

    In fact, it’s probably more likely in this case that you didn’t ask the original question in the past tense because you wanted to know what the price IS (when you asked), not what it WAS (previous to when you asked). Thus, the most ideal form for that statement is something like: I asked the saleswoman, “What is the price of the bike?” (note that you need a comma immediately before the beginning of the quote).

    So now, with that information you tell me what the correct forms for the second example are and why.

    —————————————

    Question 2: the answers are ‘to put’, ‘…hotel, arrange to stay…’, and either ‘…hadn’t planned to get lost’ or ‘…hadn’t planned on getting lost.’ (in the second one you can only use getting with the preposition on because “getting lost” is an activity and acts as the direct object of the verb ‘planned’. See if you can figure out why those answers are the correct ones.

    —————————–
    Question 3: I am not sure what a riverhood is as I’ve never heard that phrase. However “crew cut” is a fashion style that can refer to a haircut as here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crewcut

    Or to a type of clothing. Crew Cut socks are a type of sock that come about halfway up the shins to the calf muscles. They are longer than ankle socks but shorter than soccer (football) or cricket socks.

    Comment by Drew Ward | June 9, 2010 | Reply

  11. Hello I am student and I have a homework to do a intonantion analyse on the following 2 sentences :
    Harriet : I`m not having a holiday this summer, David.
    David: Why on earth not ?

    can someone help me please

    Comment by Georgi | June 15, 2010 | Reply

  12. Hi Georgi,

    There is really no clear analysis that can be done on either of those sentences as they are really open to interpretation by the person reading them (as they are typed).

    Try registering with english-test.net and asking your question on the forum. This will give you the opinion of several teachers and other students. You’ll likely find that different people interpret the sentences differently, but seeing those differences should help.

    –drew

    Comment by Drew Ward | June 15, 2010 | Reply

  13. Have you ever heard about the idiom:”The queen is drunk”, meaning, the situation is completely out of control, things that never happen are happening now, sth like that?

    A man from Australia told me about it, but never later did I hear or read it!

    Greetigs from Mostar, Bosnia/Herzegowina

    Robert

    Comment by Robert | June 28, 2010 | Reply

  14. Hello,

    Is an online TESOL/TEFL certificate acceptable for English teaching or do you need to attend on-campus? I currently teach at an elementary school in South Korea. My degree is in business and so I want to add teaching qualifications. I do not have the time to go and study for it full-time. Will it be recognised anywhere else in the world if I studied it online?

    Thanks.

    Comment by Roberta | September 9, 2010 | Reply

  15. Hello. I teach seventh and eighth grade English. I was asked yesterday if it is acceptable to say this,”Cannot you go to the store for me?” instead of “Can’t you go to the store for me?”

    It sounds grammatically awkward, but I’m not sure if it’s grammatically incorrect????
    Thank you!

    Comment by Chantel | September 22, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Chantel,

      No you can’t say ‘cannot you’.

      The reason is that English has a very strict word order in most cases. In fact, there are only four primary word orders (actually 4 in the active voice and 4 in the passive voice). They are:

      Positive Statement (Subject V1 V2 Object)
      Positive Question (V1 Subject V2 Object)
      Negative Statement (Subject NOT V1 V2 Object)
      Negative Question (V1 NOT Subject V2 Object).

      *Note that this is shorthand and that V2 represents the content verb (the idea verb like eat or drink or, in your example, go). V1 represents the left-most auxiliary (like do or have or shall and in your example, can). There can be as many auxiliaries as you can fit (I’ve seen up to 10 or so in a single sentence).

      The important thing to remember is the position of the subject and that first auxiliary. It’s always the first auxiliary that carries agreement in English.

      With contractions, we sort of sidestep this format by combining the negative marker NOT with the auxiliary. Cannot is not actually a contraction, but rather just a form that has become tradition. But it’s still two separate ideas, can, and not. So when you don’t use can’t, you have to treat can and not as if they were separate and move them into the proper word order.

      This is also why do is necessary in questions and negatives but not in positives…

      Comment by Drew Ward | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  16. I was very awkward with a colleague of mine regarding tag questions. i have a rather stupefying question if the statement and the form of tag question is correct or not. please help me out. The statement goes as follows :
    ” It’s bleeding, it is, is it? ”

    As yt comes to my knowledge, usually a positive statement requires a negative tag and vice-versa, but in some cases the rules are different. This is singularly the most confusing form of tag questions as i have found no support on this particular rule.

    help needed asap…

    Comment by Ashok khanal | November 28, 2010 | Reply

  17. Could I get hold of your papers: Voice in English: Semantic Implications of the Passive-Active Paradigm; and Word Order & Syntactic Hierarchy in English? Can’t seem to find them online. I would be grateful if I could get it at my email at suryadarma at gmail.com? Much thank.

    Comment by Surya Darma | January 1, 2011 | Reply

  18. could i get your other 2 papers on syntax and voice, both 2007, sent to my email? 🙂 with best wishes
    surya

    Comment by surya | January 3, 2011 | Reply

  19. specifically these papers:

    Voice in English: Semantic Implications of the Passive-Active Paradigm (2007),

    Word Order & Syntactic Hierarchy in English (2007)

    Comment by surya | January 3, 2011 | Reply

  20. What are 3 “sounds” heard in languages other than English, and what are those languages?

    Comment by Jules Bantar | February 19, 2011 | Reply

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  31. This may have already been asked, but do you have your TAMPA series of articles in pdf format. It’s very informative and understandable for persons not trained in liniguistics, and I’d love to get a copy (even at a cost). Thanks!

    Comment by JEL | October 18, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi JEL,

      I don’t have them in pdf, but I am in the process of an overall revision that is putting them into wiki markup (the format Wikipedia uses). This new version will include the ability to print things out as pdf.

      Comment by Drew Ward | October 18, 2012 | Reply

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  33. hi there
    i’d like to know where you consider that in this sentence the verb attempt is punctual or durative, as i’d like to assess whether the present perfect is denoting a finished action or whether they are still attempting… (i think here it is punctual, but i just wanted to make sure):

    “A number of studies have attempted to distinguish the phenomenology of depression in major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.”

    Comment by fay lee | December 22, 2012 | Reply

    • my question was wrong in the first place, sorry …what defines the idea of the action being in the past and being seen as a completed action rather than something that is ongoing is the fact that the verb is dynamic (it does not matter if it is punctual or durative action). so yes, the attempt stays in the past, its a finished action. i apologise for asking the wrong question. thanks

      Comment by fay lee | December 22, 2012 | Reply

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  35. Please answer,
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    I am studying for English Phonology exam.There are some question on the book that I do not understand. I did read the book many times,I am still lack of English Phonological knowledge. I will post more questions tonight. I hope there could be some kind teachers who would help me and then reply.

    1.Words beginning with s+stops are so odd from the sonority pint of view [s is more sonorous than the stop] that is best to regard the /s/ as forming a separate ____________________syllable.

    2.Words like Sahara/-ɑːrə/ , harem/-ɑːrə/ show that what we called the ____________________(banning Broadening before an onset-R) is no longer valid in today’s English.

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    Comment by fardin | December 31, 2013 | Reply

  36. Hi, could you give me the source that Sparta and Troy spoke the same language?? Tx, Jim

    Comment by Jim | September 29, 2014 | Reply

  37. Hi There! Thank you so much for sharing your work, it has been a real pleasure to read! On a related note, I was hoping you could help me with something else. I’m a grad student of English Composition and Rhetoric, and I’m looking for some information of French phonetics. I literally have no idea where to start since my usual search methods (understandably) haven’t turned up much. I would be eternally grateful if you could recommend a source, writer, name of a researcher, or anything else that would point me in the right direction. Again, thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    Comment by Abyssinian Maid | October 18, 2014 | Reply

  38. Hi there, 2nd year General Linguistics student here. Could you possibly explain phonological processes? I have a big test coming up and they are nasty little critters. Please and thank you x

    Comment by Paige | May 20, 2016 | Reply

  39. Or if you could recommend something along those lines, that would be a huge help x

    Comment by Paige | May 20, 2016 | Reply

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