Thursday, June 22, 2017

Conditionals Besides “If” and “Unless”

If and unless are common conditional conjunctions employed to express conjecture and uncertainty, but a number of other words and phrases that perform similar functions are discussed in this post.

“Should you” is the future conditional form of “do you,” seen in formally polite requests such as “Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.” It is more flexible than “if you,” which is strictly conditional in the present, in inviting the audience to contact the speaker/writer at any time, not just now.

“Had you” is an example of a subject-auxiliary inversion, employed in statements such as ‘Had you bothered to ask, I would have told you.” The implication of the sentence is that the audience did not do something that, if he or she or they had, would have achieved the stated result.

If (noun/pronoun) were” statements pertain to possible but improbable occurrences or to recommendations, as in “If you were to open your eyes, you would find what you were looking for.” A more formal version of this form is “were (noun/pronoun) to (verb),” as in “Were we to think otherwise.”

Several words or phrases impose conditions or set limits, such as “As long as” (less formal) or “so long as,” (more formal), “only if,” “on condition that,” and “provided” or “providing” (or “provided/providing that”).

The conjunction or is used conditionally to establish an alternative possibility to a condition or state: “Hurry up, or you’ll be late.” Otherwise, as used earlier in this post, is a pronoun; as a conjunctive adverb, it serves the same function as or (but notice the difference in punctuation): “Hurry up; otherwise, you’ll be late.” (Some writing guides accept the punctuation used with or.)

Suppose and supposing apply to what-if situations: “Suppose that I were to say no—what would you do?” “Supposing that I were to say no, what would you do?” Suppose also pertains to proposing an idea, as in “Suppose I pay for dinner, and you buy the movie tickets?”

In “if only,” only appears as an intensifier to express a strong wish for a different condition or state, as in “If only you had told me before.” “If so” and “if not” pertain to opposite potential affirmative and negative conditions or states, respectively, when the condition or state is known: “Do you plan to attend the event? If so, click on yes. If not, click on no.”  

Even is also used as an intensifier with if, but unlike in the case of only, it precedes if; it pertains to extreme or surprising conditions or states, as in “Even if I were to believe you, what would you expect me to do about it?”


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lay or Lie?

Because the meanings and the principal parts of lie and lay are similar, these two verbs are often confused.

Publisher's note: Even newscasters often do not know how to use these correctly! These are people who should understand how to use the language correctly.


The transitive verb lay means to put or place; it takes a direct object.
Tip: To lay is to place. (Listen for the a sound.)
The intransitive verb lie means to rest or recline; it does not take a direct object.
Tip: To lie is to recline. (Listen for the i sound.)
Don't confuse the past and past participle forms of these verbs:
  • lay (present), laid (past), and laid (past participle)
  • lie (present), lay (past), and lain (past participle)


  • "Now lay the back of the shirt flat on the board and iron out any creases in whatever style you see fit."
    (Nick Harper, Man Skills. Michael O'Mara Books, 2006) 
  • "In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upward on the table."
    (H. G. Wells) 
  • "The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep."
    (Woody Allen, Without Feathers, 1980) 
  • "The lion lay down beside them to watch, but he also was so weary with the fight, that he called to the bear and said, 'Lie down near me, I must sleep a little: if anything comes, waken me.' Then the bear lay down beside him."
    (Grimm Brothers, "The Two Brothers") 
  • The pumpkin that I had laid on the porch lay there for a month. 
  • "On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died."
    (Adlai E. Stevenson) 
  • "Field flowers no longer grow amid the crops in England’s fields, but once the backhoes are withdrawn from roadworks, poppies spring from the disturbed ground. The seed they have grown from blew off the fields maybe a generation ago, and has lain in the soil ever since, waiting for someone or something to break the sod."
    (Germaine Greer, "How to Bring a Devastated Forest Back to Life." Smithsonian, May 2014) 


"English department: from a television review, page 18, December 10: 'The victim lays on the ground, sobbing.' That should be 'The victim lies on the ground,' or if the past tense is wanted, 'The victim lay on the ground.'"
(Corrections and Clarifications, The Guardian, December 14, 1999)

Usage Notes

  • "A frustrating pair. Here's the deal. In the present tense, lay is a transitive verb, meaning it takes a direct object: you lay something down. Lie doesn't take a direct object: something just lies there. If you're tired of holding something, you should lay it down; if you're not feeling well, you should lie down. (Of course, I'm excluding lie, 'tell an untruth'--this is just the reclining lie.)

    "Not too bad: if this were the whole deal, there'd be nothing to worry about. But it gets messier, because the past tense of lay is laid, and the past tense of lie is, well, lay."
    (Jack Lynch, "Lay versus Lie," The English Language: A User's Guide. Focus Publishing, 2008) 
  • "There have been some difficulties with grammar since I last wrote. Lay is a transitive verb (I lay down a case of claret every month; she laid the table), lie an intransitive one (he lies over there; she lay in bed until noon). Do not confuse them."
    (Simon Heffer, "Style Notes 28: February 12, 2010." The Daily Telegraph
  • A 19th-Century Language Lesson
    "I will here give you a specimen of the errors which are sometimes committed by those who do not understand Grammar. This last-mentioned Verb, to lie, becomes, in the past time, lay. Thus: 'Dick lies on a bed now, but some time ago, he lay on the floor.' This Verb is often confounded with the Verb to lay, which is an active Verb, and which becomes, in its past time, laid. Thus: 'I lay my hat on the table today, but, yesterday, I laid it on the shelf.'"
    (William Cobbett, A Grammar of the English Language in a Series of Letters, 1818) 
  • A Lost Cause?
    "If the grammarians and the schoolmasters and the schoolmarms and the usage writers have succeeded in largely establishing the transitive-intransitive distinction between lay and lie in standard discursive prose, they have not done so well in speech. . . .

    "Notwithstanding the belief of some that social judgments can be solidly based on language use, the lay-lie shibboleth may be changing its status. For instance, several commentators, such as Evans 1957, Follett 1966, and Flesch 1983, are perfectly willing to give the distinction up; Bolinger 1980 thinks it is already a lost cause not worth defending; Coperud 1970, 1980 judges the consensus of his experts to be that at least some uses of lay for lie are verging on the standard. Flesch even goes so far as to recommend using lay for lie if it comes naturally to you.

    "If lay 'lie' is on the rise socially, however, it is likely to be a slow rise, as indignant letters to the editor attest. Bolinger observes sensibly that if you have invested some effort in learning the distinction, you will not want to admit that you have wasted your time. And by far the largest part of our printed evidence follows the schoolbook rules. On the other hand, evidence also shows no retreat of intransitive lay in oral use. So what should you do? The best advice seems to be Bolinger's.

    "Many people use lay for lie, but certain others will judge you uncultured if you do. Decide for yourself what is best for you."
    (Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Merriam-Webster, 2002)

Idiom Alerts

  • Lay It on the Line
    The idiom lay it on the line means to say something directly and honestly.
    "Sam Rayburn, the longtime Democratic speaker of the House, later said of Marshall's congressional testimony, ''He laid it on the line. He would tell the truth even if it hurt his cause.'"
    (Nicolaus Mills, Winning the Peace. Wiley, 2008) 
  • Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
    The expression let sleeping dogs lie means to discourage someone from talking about a problem that others have apparently forgotten.
    "The police have asked us no further questions and the unfortunate gossip in the town has subsided. We begin to think that it may be better to let sleeping dogs lie.”
    (Leo Bruce [Rupert Croft-Cooke], Such Is Death, 1963) 

The Lighter Side of Lay and Lie

"Lie and lay offer slips to the pen
That have bothered most excellent men:
You can say that you lay
In bed—yesterday;
If you do it today, you're a hen!"
(Christopher Morley, "The Unforgivable Syntax," 1919)


(a) The dog sleeps on the couch, and the cats always _____ curled up under the table.

(b) Don't shout when you _____ your cards down.

(c) Linda _____ down for a nap after yoga last night.

(d) "So great was the noise during the day that I used to _____ awake at night listening to the silence." (Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington. Houghton Mifflin, 1988)

(e) "Rosie scratched about, turned over a sack, and revealed a stone jar of cider. . . . Huge and squat, the jar _____ on the grass like an unexploded bomb."
(Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie, 1959)
Answers to Practice Exercises: Lay and Lie
(a) The dog sleeps on the couch, and the cats always lie curled up under the table.

(b) Don't shout when you lay your cards down.

(c) Linda lay down for a nap after yoga last night.

(d) "So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence."
(Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington. Houghton Mifflin, 1988)

(e) "Rosie scratched about, turned over a sack, and revealed a stone jar of cider.
. . . Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb."
(Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie, 1959)


Is there a difference between TESOL and TEFL designations?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a British designation so is well known in Europe and in schools elsewhere that either follow the British curriculum or are known to teach British English.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is popular in North, Central and South America and in schools that teach American English.

Many schools have no long as you have one of these designation. We teach it as the same course and offer it with either designation. Which one you choose might be determined by where you would prefer to teach.

Sunbridge Institute of English

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Practice in Turning Adjectives Into Adverbs

Practice in Turning Adjectives Into Adverbs
A Sentence Completion Exercise

Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. The adverb softly, for instance, comes from the adjective soft. (Note, however, that not all adverbs end in -ly. Very, quite, always, almost, and often are some of the common adverbs that are not formed from adjectives.)


In each set below, complete the second sentence with the adverbial form of the italicized adjective in the first sentence. 

Here's an example:
Gus is usually a careful driver. He always drives carefully when children are in the car.
When you're done, compare your answers with those below.
  1. We live on a quiet suburban street. Even the dogs bark _____.
  2. This is a dangerous road. We're driving _____ close to the shoulder.
  3. My friend Alice is a polite young woman. She asked _____ if she could borrow my boyfriend.
  4. The clown made a deep impression on my daughter. His sad smile touched her _____.
  5. I apologize for my foolish behavior. Yesterday I acted _____ in class.
  6. Ferdinand's apology sounded sincere. He said he was _____ sorry for driving over your motorcycle with his tractor.
  7. I ordered a manual transmission. Are the windows operated _____?
  8. Shyla made a generous contribution to the Salvation Army. She gives _____ every year.
  9. This morning Gus had an accidental encounter with an ice cream van. He _____ backed his pick-up truck into the van.
  10. Marvin is a graceful infielder. He moves _____.
  1. This is an easy assignment. I expect to pass _____.
  2. Merdine is a brave woman. She _____ challenged the principal and the school board.
  3. There was a rapid change in the weather. The temperature dropped _____.
  4. I'm troubled by my brother's strange behavior. Yesterday I heard him talking _____ to our cat.
  5. My father is a cautious man. When everyone else is upset, he speaks softly and acts _____.

Answers to the exercise 

  1. We live on a quiet suburban street. Even the dogs bark quietly.
  2. This is a dangerous road. We're driving dangerously close to the shoulder.
  3. My friend Alice is a polite young woman. She asked politely if she could borrow my boyfriend.
  4. The clown made a deep impression on my daughter. His sad smile touched her deeply.
  5. I apologize for my foolish behavior. Yesterday I acted foolishly in class.
  6. Ferdinand's apology sounded sincere. He said he was sincerely sorry for driving over your motorcycle with his tractor.
  7. I ordered a manual transmission. Are the windows operated manually?
  8. Shyla made a generous contribution to the Salvation Army. She gives generously every year.
  9. This morning Gus had an accidental encounter with an ice cream van. He accidentally backed his pick-up truck into the van.
  10. Marvin is a graceful infielder. He moves gracefully when making a double play.
  11. This is an easy assignment. I expect to pass easily.
  12. Merdine is a brave woman. She bravely challenged the principal and the school board.
  13. There was a rapid change in the weather. The temperature dropped rapidly.
  14. I'm troubled by my brother's strange behavior. Yesterday I heard him talking strangely to our cat.
  15. My father is a cautious man. When everyone else is upset, he speaks softly and acts cautiously.

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