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Golden Grammar rules
1. Don’t use an with own.
Sue needs her own room. (NOT Sue needs an own room.)
I’d like a phone line of my own. (NOT … an own phone line.)
2. Use or rather to correct yourself.
She’s German – or rather, Austrian. (NOT She’s German – or better, Austrian.)
I’ll see you on Friday – or rather, Saturday.
3. Use the simple present – play(s), rain(s) etc – to talk about habits and repeated a*ctions.
I play tennis every Saturday. (NOT I am playing tennis every Saturday.)
It usually rains a lot in November.
4. Use will …, not the present, for offers and promises.
I’ll cook you supper this evening. (NOT I cook you supper this evening.)
I promise I’ll phone you tomorrow. (NOT I promise I phone you tomorrow.)
5. Don’t drop prepositions with passive verbs.
I don’t like to be shouted at. (NOT I don’t like to be shouted.)
This needs to be thought about some more. (NOT This needs to be thought some more.)
6. Don’t use a present tense after It’s time.
It’s time you went home. (NOT It’s time you go home.)
It’s time we invited Bill and Sonia. (NOT It’s time we invite Bill and Sonia.)
7. Use was/were born to give dates of birth.
I was born in 1975. (NOT I am born in 1975.)
Shakespeare was born in 1564.
8. Police is a plural noun.
The police are looking for him. (NOT The police is looking for him.)
I called the police, but they were too busy to come.
9. Dont use the to talk about things in general.
Books are expensive. (NOT The books are expensive.)
I love music. (NOT I love the music.)
10. Use had better, not have better.
I think you’d better see the doctor. (NOT I think you have better see the doctor.)
We’d better ask John to help us.
11. Use the present progressive - am playing, is raining etc - to talk about things that are continuing at the time of speaking.
I’m playing very badly today. (NOT I play very badly today.)
Look! Its raining! (NOT Look! It rains!)
12. Use for with a period of time. Use since with the beginning of the period.
for the last two hours = since 9 oclock
for three days = since Monday
for five years = since I left school
I’ve been learning English for five years. (NOT I’ve been learning English since three years.)
We’ve been waiting for ages, since eight o’clock.
13. Dont separate the verb from the object.
She speaks English very well . (NOT She speaks very well English.)
Andy likes skiing very much. (NOT Andy likes very much skiing.)
14. Dont use the present perfect - have/has seen, have/has gone etc - with words that name a finished time.
I saw him yesterday. (NOT I have seen him yesterday.)
They went to Greece last summer. (NOT They have gone … last summer.)
15. English (the language) normally has no article.
You speak very good English. (NOT You speak a very good English.)
16. After look forward to, we use -ing, not an infinitive.
I look forward to seeing you. (NOT I look forward to see you.)
We’re looking forward to going on holiday. (NOT … to go on holiday.)
17. Information is an uncountable noun.
Can you give me some information? (NOT Can you give me an information?)
I got a lot of information from the Internet. (NOT I got a lot of informations from the Internet.)
18. Use -ing forms after prepositions.
I drove there without stopping. (NOT I drove there without to stop.)
Wash your hands before eating. (NOT Wash your hands before to eat.)
19. Use this, not that, for things that are close.
Come here and look at this paper. (NOT Come here and look at that paper.)
How long have you been in this country? (NOT How long have you been in that country?)
20. Use a plural noun after one and a half.
We waited one and a half hours. (NOT We waited one and a half hour.)
A mile is about one and a half kilometres. (NOT A mile is about one and a half kilometre.)
21. Use the present perfect, not the present, to say how long things have been going on.
Ive been waiting since 10 oclock. (NOT Im waiting since 10 oclock.)
Weve lived here for nine years. (NOT We live here for nine years.).
22. The majority is normally plural.
Some people are interested, but the majority dont care. (NOT ... but the majority doesnt care.)
The majority of these people are very poor. (NOT The majority of these people is very poor.)
23. Use too much/many before (adjective +) noun; use too before an adjective with no noun.
Theres too much noise.
I bought too much red paint.
Those shoes are too expensive. (NOT Those shoes are too much expensive.)
24. Use that, not what, after all.
Ive told you all that I know. (NOT Ive told you all what I know.)
He gave her all that he had.
25. Dont say according to me to give your opinion.
I think its a good film. (NOT According to me, its a good film.)
In my opinion, youre making a serious mistake. (NOT According to me, youre making a serious mistake.)
26. Dont ask about possibilities with May you ...? etc.
Do you think youll go camping this summer? (NOT May you go camping this summer?)
Is Joan likely to be here tomorrow? (NOT May Joan be here tomorrow?)
or more details, see Practical English Usage 3rd Edition page 339.
27. Use who, not which, for people in relative structures.
The woman who lives upstairs is from Thailand. (NOT The woman which lives upstairs is from Thailand.)
I dont like people who shout all the time. (NOT I dont like people which shout all the time.)
28. Use for, not during, to say `how long.
We waited for six hours. (NOT We waited during six hours.)
He was ill for three weeks. (NOT He was ill during three weeks.)
29. Use to ..., not for ..., to say why you do something.
I came here to study English. (NOT I came here for study English.)
She telephoned me to explain the problem. (NOT She telephoned me for explain the problem.)
30. Use reflexives (myself etc) when the object is the same as the subject.
I looked at myself in the mirror. (NOT I looked at me in the mirror.)
Why are you talking to yourself? (NOT Why are you talking to you?)
31. Use a present tense to talk about the future after when, until, as soon as, after, before etc.
I’ll phone you when I arrive. (NOT I’ll phone you when I will arrive.)
Let’s wait until it gets dark. (NOT Let’s wait until it will get dark.)
We’ll start as soon as Mary arrives. (NOT We’ll start as soon as Mary will arrive.)
32. Before most abstract nouns, we use great, not big.
I have great respect for her ideas. (NOT I have big respect for her ideas.)
We had great difficulty in understanding him. (NOT We had big difficulty in understanding him.)
33. Don’t use the with a superlative when you are not comparing one person or thing with another.
She’s the nicest of the three teachers.
She’s nicest when she’s working with small children.
This is the best wine I’ve got.
This wine is best when it’s three or four years old.
34. Put enough after, not before, adjectives.
This soup isn’t hot enough. (NOT This soup isn’t enough hot.)
She’s old enough to walk to school by herself.
35. Don’t use a structure with that … after want or would like.
My parents want me to go to university. (NOT My parents want that I go to university.)
I’d like everybody to leave. (NOT I’d like that everybody leaves.)
36. After link verbs like be, seem, feel, look, smell, sound, taste, we use adjectives, not adverbs.
I feel happy today. (NOT I feel happily today.)
This soup tastes strange. (NOT This soup tastes strangely.)
37. Use than after comparatives.
My mother is three years older than my father. (NOT My mother is three years older that/as my father.)
Petrol is more expensive than diesel.
38. In questions, put the subject immediately after the auxiliary verb.
Where are the President and his family staying? (NOT Where are staying the President and his family?)
Have all the guests arrived? (NOT Have arrived all the guests?)
39. Used to has no present.
I play tennis at weekends. (NOT I use to play tennis at weekends.)
Where do you usually have lunch? (NOT Where do you use to have lunch?)
40. Use through, not along, for periods of time.
All through the centuries, there have been wars. (NOT All along the centuries, there have been wars.)
41. Use can’t, not mustn’t, to say that something is logically impossible.
It can’t be the postman at the door. It’s only 7 o’clock. (NOT It mustn’t be the postman at the door. It’s only 7 o’clock.)
If A is bigger than B, and B is bigger than C, then C can’t be bigger than A. (NOT … then C mustn’t be bigger than A.)
42. Use the present perfect with This is the first time … etc.
This is the first time I’ve been here. (NOT This is the first time I’m here.)
This is the fifth cup of coffee I’ve drunk today. (NOT This is the fifth cup of coffee I drink today.)
43. Use be, not have, to give people’s ages.
My sister is 15 (years old). (NOT My sister has 15 years.)
44. Use between, not among, to talk about position in relation to several clearly separate people or things.
Switzerland is between France, Austria, Germany and Italy. (NOT Switzerland is among France, Austria, Germany and Italy.)
The bottle rolled between the wheels of the car.
45. We don’t normally use the before abbreviations that are pronounced like words (‘acronyms’).
My cousin works for NATO. (NOT My cousin works for the NATO.)
The money was given by UNESCO. (NOT … by the UNESCO.)
46. Everybody is a singular word.
Everybody was late. (NOT Everybody were late.)
Is everybody ready? (NOT Are everybody ready?)
47. Use any, not some, in negative sentences.
She hasn’t got any money. (NOT She hasn’t got some money.)
I didn’t see anybody. (NOT I didn’t see somebody.)
48. Use interested for feelings; use interesting for the things that interest people. The same goes for bored/boring, excited/exciting etc.
I’m interested in history. (NOT I’m interesting in history.)
History is interesting.
I’m bored in the maths lessons. (NOT I’m boring in the maths lessons.)
I think maths is boring.
49. Use by, not until/till, to mean ‘not later than’.
Can you mend this by Tuesday? (NOT Can you mend this until Tuesday?)
I’ll finish the book by tonight. (NOT I’ll finish the book till tonight.)
50. Use like, not as, to give examples.
I prefer warm countries, like Spain. (NOT I prefer warm countries, as Spain.)
I eat a lot of meat, like beef or lamb.