Some Thoughts About Writing


Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”


Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”

Strunk and White

Compare the Past Continuous with the Simple Past


             Past Continuous                                                       Simple Past

The children were playing all morning.

We were not working because it was too hot.

She was listening to music.

Last night from 7:00 to 8:00, we were chatting.

He was studying all week.

He was gardening while I was washing the car. (parallel)

She was coming home when it started to rain.

It was raining hard when the lightning struck.

They were preferring he leave. (stative verb)

Tobias was disliking college. (stative verb)

Verbs of Perception (see, feel, hear, taste,smell)

When I saw her, she was talking to Claudia.

(momentary action)

The children played. (a complete action)

We did not work because it was too hot.

She listened to music, ate, and came here.. (sequence)

We chatted last night. (a complete action)

He studied all week. (emphasis on completion)

He washed the car, and we went to the store. (sequence)

It rained hard, and we had lightning during the storm.

They preferred that he leave. (a mental state)

Tobias disliked college. (a mental state)


Verbs of Perception (see, feel, hear, taste, smell)

I saw her talk to Claudia.

(perhaps the speaker witnessed the entire conversation, perhaps not)

Exercise: Intermediate Level One ; Use Adverbs


Insert the highlighted word into the sentence.  More than one answer may be possible.

1. Never      My friend will go to Japan again.


2. Often      She checks Facebook while working.


3. Soon      Although I want to see London, I will go to Paris.


4. Sometimes      The baby cries so much that its mother wants to cry too.


5. Later      She will depart by underground. (Underground is British English for subway.)


6. Until      I will not see you tomorrow. (until is a preposition)


7. Unfortunately       I missed my plane yesterday.


8.  Downstairs       Our luggage is by the table.


9.  Never                 Have I seen such a poor TV program.


10.  Perfectly          He answered the question.


11.  Absolutely          The crowd was big, and the noise horrible.


12.  Enough           These gloves you gave me are not big.


Simple Past and Simple Present Perfect Compared


Simple Past and Simple Present Perfect Compared


Simple Past

Simple Present Perfect

The action is in the past.

The action relates to the present.

Action is Finished

The weather was bad yesterday in Berlin.

I lived in Spain a long time ago. (now not)

I ate the pizza. (it is gone, the action is over)

She arrived at noon.

He went to Big-C last week.

Starbucks opened one week ago.

He worked in Laos for years.

I was in Udon Thani yesterday. (not now)

It was cold today. (the daytime is over)

Action Still Goes on Now

The bad weather has changed her mood.

I have lived in Spain for three years.

My baby sister has eaten all the cake!

She has just arrived.

He has gone to Big-C. (He has not come back)

Starbucks has been open for a week.

He has worked in Laos since 1999.

I have been in Udon Thani for two days.

It has been cold today. (the daytime is not over)

Action at a Specific Past Time or Finished Time

I lived in Thailand for a while in 1998.

I saw him last week on Friday at 9 p.m.

It was warm this morning. (now afternoon or evening)

He called me yesterday.

We saw him yesterday at noon.

We departed Chiang Mai on May 6.

She wrote me yesterday at 7:25 a.m.

She cuddled her dog when she came home.

I swam in that pool last Monday.

He left at 9:00 last night.

It was in 2010 that I last swam. (specific time)

Action at an Unspecific or Unfinished Time

I have not been to Thailand this year.

I have seen him this week.

It has been warm this morning. (morning is not over)

He has not called me recently.

We have not seen him yet. (negative with yet)

We have already departed.

She has not written me today.

She has not yet cuddled her dog today.

I have not yet swum in the Atlantic this summer.

He has been gone for two hours. (passive)

It has been years since I swam.

Emphasize Action / Completion / Finality

We won!

He went to Japan.

She wept.

The child did not cry.

I lost my key.

His car was wrecked. (passive)

The boat sank.

He left.

Did the football game begin?

Emphasize the Result is Important Now

Once again, we have won!

He has gone to Japan to stay.

She has wept since her puppy passed away.

The child has not cried today.

I have lost my key, so now I can’t drive my car.

His car has just been wrecked. (passive)

The boat has sunk with ten people aboard.

He has just left. (action a short time ago)

Has the football game begun already?

Emphasize Action at a Specific Time

I went to Japan last May.

I ate Isaan food for breakfast.

I flew to Malaysia last Friday.

I ate Thai food with my friends yesterday.

I saw them once.*

Did you call her yesterday?

I was in Africa on Mother’s Day last year.

He was gone when I got home. (passive)

She went to the dentist two days ago. (one completed action)

Did you ever visit our old campus? (refers to a finished period of time)

Life Experience/ How many times?

I have been to Japan.

Have you ever eaten Isaan food?

Have you ever been to Malaysia?

How many times have you eaten Korean food?

How many times have you seen them?

How many times have you called her today?

I have never been to Africa.

Up to now, he has never left Thailand.

She has gone the dentist many times. (repeated action)

Have you ever visited our campus? (the campus can still be visited)

*Here the word once means at a time in the past. It does not mean one time.

These words and phrases are often used with the present perfect: since, for, already, just, so far, so, ever, never, up to now, until now, lately, for a long time, till now, recently. But be careful because words such as since can have several meanings. For example, the word since can have the meaning of because, and this sense of since does not indicate the present perfect.

Unfinished time (today, this week, this month, this year) often takes the present perfect and is negative. It is also sometimes seen with the future and past. For example, we can refer to a specific time within a longer unfinished time period:

I have not slept well this week. (refers to the entire period of this week)

Business has been good at my company this year. (refers to the entire period of this year)

I watched a funny movie this week. (simple past; refers to a short period within this week)

I took a vacation this year. (simple past; refers to a short period within this year)

I will take a vacation this year. (simple future; refers to a short period within this year)

Exercise: Fill in the Blanks: Present Perfect or Simple Past?

As we have learned, the simple past usually indicates that an action is finished. The simple present perfect often indicates that an action is related to the present.

Suphansa _______________1 (to graduate) from Khon Kaen University in 2001. Then she _________________2 (to work) for an IT services company in Bangkok from 2001 to 2009. In 2009 she _______________3 (to start) to learn English in her free time. Although she has only been able to study in the evenings and on the weekends, she ____________4 already ________5 (to learn) to write well and speak clearly.

After working in Bangkok, she __________________6 (to accept) a new job in Phitsanulok in 2009. She ________________7 (to live) in Phitsanulok since then. Living in downtown Phitsanulok is very enjoyable for her. She ___________8 (to buy) a house two years ago. She _______________9 (to reside) in that house, at 120/36 Ratchatan Street, since she and her mother ________________10 (to purchase) it. For a long time, she _____________________11 (to impress) her new boss with her dedication to the company and her foreign language skills. In fact, he ___________12 just _________________13 (to promote) her.

Review Exercise: Intermediate Level 2 ; Use the Simple Present

Use the Simple Present

Read the examples and fill in the blanks with a correct verb in the simple present tense.

1. Facts

The earth revolves around the sun.

My hometown is about 100 kilometers from Whitby.

That small town ________________ one airport.

2. Habits or routines

I usually wake up at 6:00.

He does his homework every night.

They ___________________ to the temple every Saturday.

3. Things which are more or less lasting

She lives in Oman.

I like to read books about Japan.

My brother __________________ for Toshiba. He is a software engineer.

4. Definite Plans and Fixed Schedules

The airplane departs at 9:15 in the morning every day.

The meeting starts at 11:00 tomorrow.

The new semester ________________ on 25 August.

5. With stative verbs (recall that stative verbs rarely use a continuous tense)

Dinner smells wonderful. Dinner is smelling wonderful.

She looks glamorous. She is looking glamorous.

I am hungry.

Dinner ____________________ delicious, and I am so hungry.

6. Talk about the future using words such as after, when, before, as soon as, until

I am going to visit my mum after I clean my house.     (mum = mom; mum is British English)

The boss will call you as soon as he returns.

When the VIP __________________ to the hotel please call me.

7. Events in movies, books, plays, etc.

King Lear’s youngest daughter loves him.

David Copperfield marries Dora Spenlow.

Dorothy and Toto __________________ to Oz and see the Wizard.

8. Zero Conditional If or When + Simple Present, Simple Present)

(doubtless result; always true; always the same)

If you don’t sleep, you feel tired.

If I swim, my ears hurt.

When it rains hard, my roof leaks.

If you _______________ water to 100 degrees, it __________________.

9. First Conditional (If + Simple Present, Will* + Infinitive)

(real possibility; intended or promised action)

If Lisa is at home tomorrow, I will call her.

I will call Lisa, if she is at home tomorrow.

If he asks me, I will buy some food.

If it snows a lot tonight, what will you do?

If my sister ______ to dinner tomorrow, we can ask about her trip to Japan.

Dr. Grunfeld, if the power goes off during the meeting, shall we cancel it?

*Can, shall, or may sometimes take the place of will. Shall is only used with I or we, and it can sound old-fashioned. But shall can also add politeness in a proper situation.

10. Give directions

Go straight, turn right, and stop when you see the big orange sign.

To get to Makro just ______ through the first traffic light and __________ left.

Stative Verbs


The following verbs have at least one meaning which does not take the present continuous (or any other continuous tense): agree, expect, believe, seem, appear (in the meaning of seem), prefer. These are called stative verbs because they are a state rather than an action. There are many stative verbs. We will treat them in more detail later.


A. He is seeming to be angry. He seems to be angry.

B. She is appearing to be angry. She appears to be angry.

C. I am believing him. I believe him.

D. I am seeing you. I can see you. I see you.

E. She is hearing you. She can hear you. She hears you.

Fill in the blank with an appropriate verb.

1. I _________________ (to expect) her to call me around 9:00 tonight.

2. She _______________ (to seem) to be friendly.

3. He _______________ (to believe) that you are right.

4. Ellen ______________ (to appear) to be ill today.*

5. I ________________ (to agree) with you completely.

* The words sick and ill have similar meanings, but they differ in usage. Sick usually refers to short-term health issues such as a cold or the flu. Ill usually refers to long-term conditions or health itself.

She has had ill health for years.

She has had sick health for years.

The Captain has been mentally ill since he came back from the war.

The Captain has been mentally sick since he came back from the war.

Collective Nouns and Singular/Plural

Collective Nouns

Some words seem as if they are plural, but they are treated as if they are singular. In American English we generally think of the following words as singular:

family   team   class   navy   army   school   university   Poland  Malaysia

The university teaches many subjects. (The university is singular.)

Isaan is a name for northeast Thailand. (singular)

My team is winning. (singular)

In American English we treat collective nouns as if they are singular. But if individuals or things in the group are identified separately, then we add a plural word and a plural verb form. Take notice of the two examples below.

  1. Her family is big. 2. My class is big.

The people in her family are all nice. The students in my class are all Thai.

But some collective nouns can be thought of as singular when considered as a whole or plural when we think of each person or item separately.

Singular Plural
All of this data is correct.

The staff is new.

The committee has ten members.

The data have errors.

The staff are sitting over there.

The committee are talking to one another.

Some animals have a special word to designate a group.


A pride of lions. –  A herd of cattle.

A school of sharks. –  A colony of bats.

An adjective of quality (elderly, rich, young, etc.) can represent a group of people, but such a group is considered plural. A pronoun such as many can also represent a group of people.

The poor suffer greatly in South Africa. The old are treated well in Switzerland.

Many suffered in the hot weather.

2-7// Questions About the Singular and Plural

Answer the questions. You can give one-word answers.

  1. I like your house.

How many houses does the speaker like? ___________________

  1. A child is crying.

How many children are crying? ______________________

  1. An apple is on the desk.

How many apples are on the desk? ____________________

  1. Both mice are under the refrigerator.

How many mice are under the refrigerator? _____________

  1. A mouse is under the table.

How many mice are under the table? __________________

2-8// People: Singular and Plural

Singular means one. Plural means more than one. Read the words below and fill in the blanks.

One Two +

baby babies

1. She has three _________________. (baby)

singer singers

student students

2. Many ______________ study English. (student)

mouse mice

book books 3. There are no __________ on the table. (book)

monk monks (we often use the plural with a negative or unknown amount)

teacher teachers

4. Both _______________ are British. (teacher)

child children

person people*

5. How many ______________ are here? (person)

woman women

man men

6. A ______________ is here to see you. (man)

mother-in-law mothers-in-law

Sergeant Major Sergeants Major

spy spies

employee employees

runner-up runners-up

* It is possible to say persons as the plural of person. Persons is very formal. It is sometimes used on signs.

Please read the examples below. These sentences refer to people in the singular.

He is from Thailand.

The child is playing.

A woman is here to see you.

The singer is from Chiang Mai.

Now read through these sentences. They refer to people in the plural.

They are from Thailand.

The children are playing.

The women are here to see you.

The singers are from Chiang Mai.

If people are joined by the word and in the subject of a sentence, then the subject is considered plural.

The teacher and the student are in the office. (The teacher is in the office.)

Mr. and Mrs.Somchai are going to Bangkok. (He is going to Bangkok.)

Refer to things in general using the plural.

I like movies.

I enjoy singing pop songs with my friends.

He likes to read short stories.

Refer to part of a group by using of the.

One of the students is from France. One of students is from France.

Some of the teachers are Russian. Some of teachers are Russian.

Four of the men are French. Four of men are French.

A group of people can be designated by words such as young, elderly, and homeless. These words do not take an -s. They are already plural.

The homeless in America get free food.

The young should study hard in school.

A tsunami has struck Hawaii. The injured are asking for help.

Arisa likes to help the elderly. Arisa likes to help the elderlies.

Periods of time are singular.

Three years is a long time.

Ten minutes is not a long time to wait at my dentist’s office.

A negative or unknown quantity usually takes the plural.

No hotels in this area have a French restaurant.

Have you seen any good movies this month?

Exercise: How Much or How Many?

What’s for Breakfast?

Paul: Mom, what’s for breakfast?

Mom: What would you like?

Paul: I’d like some toast/ toasts, two eggs, and bacon.

Mom: How much/How many bacon would you like?

Paul: I’d like three pieces, please.

Mom: How many/How much pieces of toast would you like?

Paul: Two, please.

Mom: Would you like some black tea?

Paul: Yes, please.

Mom: How much/How many sugar would you like in your tea?

Paul: Just a little, please. One teaspoon is enough.