English Lessons


Three Moods of Grammar

Even grammar can be "moody," but grammatical moods express the attitude of what a person is writing or saying. The three grammatical moods commonly used in English are the indicative, imperative, and subjunctive moods.



The indicative (or realis) mood is used to make a statement of fact:

You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you.

Caption 19, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day - Obama's Speech

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You will learn the true nature of the society we live in.

Caption 41, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four - BBC TV Movie

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The imperative mood is for commands or requests:

Step away from your vehicle and put your hands on your head.

Captions 10-11, Movie Trailers - Men In Black

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All emergency service cars, please come to Vesey and West [Streets]!

Caption 4, World Trade Center - Story on the 2006 film

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The subjunctive mood is used to express a a wish, desire, or something that has not yet happened. 

I'd like to have something interesting to do and I'd like to have nothing to do.

Caption 54, Leonard Nimoy - Talking about Mr. Spock

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I would like to explain how we talk about the time in English.

Caption 3, Lydia explains - the clock

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Further Learning
Read more about grammatical moods and find examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context.

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Active and Passive Voices

In English grammar, the "voice" describes the relationship between the verb and its participants. If the subject of the sentence does the action, the verb is in the active voice. If the subject does not actively participate in the action described and the focus is on the action itself, not the subject, then the verb is in the passive voice.


It is important when you write in English that you distinguish between the active and passive voice. If you want the focus to be on the subject, or actor, use the active voice. If you wish the emphasis to be on the action itself, and not the actor, use the passive voice. 

Here are two examples of the active voice from Yabla English: 

He created the mythology.

Caption 54, New Zealand 100% Pure - 'The Hobbit' cast talks about New Zealand

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Now, we'll have a demonstration from some of your instructors.

Caption 15, Karate Kids, USA The Little Dragons - Part 16

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In the first example, the focus is on the subject "he" having created the mythology. It is usually easy to make a passive voice sentence out of the active by using the verb "to be" and the past participle of the original verb. In this case, we can write it in passive voice thus: 

The mythology was created by him. 

The mythology did not do the creating. The focus here is not the fact that he created it, but the fact that it was created

In the second example, we can render it passive like this: 

Now, there'll be a demonstration for us from some of your instructors. 

"We" are no longer emphasized as the ones who will be the audience of the demonstration, but rather the fact of the demonstration is the most important thing.



Further Learning
Read more about the active voice and the passive voice and find examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context.


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Verb, Noun, or Adjective?

Whenever you see what appears to be a verb in English ending in -ing, you have to be careful as to how you interpret the sentence, as it may wind up that this apparent verb is actually a noun or an adjective! In English, gerunds and present participles are formed by adding -ing to the infinitive form of the verb ("to surf" becomes "surfing"), or for verbs ending in -e, dropping the -e and adding -ing ("to love" becomes "loving"). A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun in sentence. A present participle is a verb that is used to make a verb phrase or an adjective.

Therefore an English verb ending in -ing can either be noun (gerund), an adjective (formed from a present participle), or a verb (a present participle). This all sounds a bit complicated, but if you look at some examples, it's pretty easy to tell the difference!



I've always loved surfing.

Caption 19, Kiteboarding - Rider Profile - Tom Court

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What does he love? He loves surfing. In the above example, the subject of the sentence is "I," and the object of the sentence is "surfing." Since you can make a noun out of "the surfing" as used here, it is a gerund.

We watch a couple of surfing videos.

Caption 26, Kiteboarding - Sam Light Interview

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What kind of videos is he watching? Surfing videos. Here it is clear that "surfing" is an adjective that is modifying the noun "videos."

The four of us have just been surfing different spots.

Caption 10, Naish SUP - Aloha Big Island!

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What have they been doing? They have been surfing. In this last example, by pairing the verbs together, you get "have been surfing." This is the verb "to surf" in its form as present participle verb.



Further Learning
Write down some of your favorite verbs, add -ing to them, following the rules above, and search Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context as either a gerund, adjective, or present participle verb.


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Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs in English consist of a base verb from which all different tenses can easily be formed. For example, the verb "to learn": present tense: learn; continuous present tense: learning, perfect tense and past tense: learned. As you see, all tenses of the regular verb "to learn" can be formed by adding the endings -ing and -ed.


English irregular verbs, however, have no definite rules, and although some irregular verbs have certain patterns in common, the best way to learn them is by looking at each individual verb. Let's look at the irregular verb "begin" in its simple present tense as an example.


Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Captions 26-27, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day Obama's Speech - Part 2

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As you see, in the simple present tense it remains the same. But in the present continuous tense:


It's beginning to turn into a lovely red color!

Caption 28, Tara's recipes - Chilli Prawns and Golden Couscous

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Just like a regular verb, this irregular verb adds -ing, but with an extra '"n": However, in the past tense:


She got a fright when the clock suddenly began to strike twelve.

Caption 15, Yabla Fairy Tales - Cinderella - Part 2

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The base verb "begin" changes to "began." And as a past participle:


Bottled water sales have begun to drop.

Caption 67, Nature Preservation - The Story of Bottled Water - Part 2

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The base verb "begin" changes to "begun."



Further Learning
Take a look at this list of English irregular verb forms, and search Yabla English for some of your favorite English irregular verbs to see them used in a real-world context.

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The Continuous Tense

The continuous (or progressive) tense comprises two parts: the verb "to be" in the present, past, or future tense, combined with the present participle of the main verb. It is a common verbal form in the English language, actually more common than the simple tense in the spoken language.


Let's find an example on Yabla English of the present continuous tense:


Time is running out.

Caption 29, George Clooney - Video diary from Sudan and Chad

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To form the above present continuous tense, the present tense of the verb "to be" ("is") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to run" (by adding "ing," or in this case "-ning") to the end of the verb. The present continuous tense expresses something that is presently incomplete or unfinished. In the above case, there is still time enough now, but soon there will not be.


And the past continuous tense:


I was laughing so hard.

Caption 42, Jim White - Interview

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To form the above past continuous tense, the past tense of the verb "to be" ("was") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to laugh." The past continuous tense expresses something that is incomplete or unfinished in the past. In the above case, laughing was occurring during a past event.


And lastly, the future continuous tense:


This is where you will be working from.

Caption 14, Business English - Starting on a new job

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To form the above future continuous tense, the future tense of the verb "to be" ("will be") is combined with the present participle of the verb "to work." The future continuous tense expresses something is incomplete or unfinished that will happen in the future. In the above case, work will be performed at some point in the future.



Further Learning
Take a look at this list of basic verb forms, and search Yabla English for some of your favorite English present participle verbs (ending in -ing) and see these tenses used in a real-world context.

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The Simple Tense

The simple tense, in its present, past and future forms, is called "simple" because it consists of just one word, unlike other verb tenses such as present progressive and present perfect. The first-person form of the simple present tense is almost always the same as the dictionary form of the verb.


With the verb "to write," for example, the simple present tense in first person is "I write."


Well, when I write songs...

Caption 27, Bee and Flower - Interview

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In the simple past tense, the basic form "write" changes to "wrote." Some basic verbs just add "-ed" to become past tense, but many are irregular and must be learned.


I wrote this song.

Caption 35, Rise Up And Sing - Recording the song

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The simple future tense consist of adding "will" (or "shall") before the verb:


Tammy will write a song and then record it on her laptop.

Caption 92, Royalchord - Interview

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Further Learning 
Take a look at this list of basic verbs and their irregular simple past tenses, and search Yabla English for some of your favorites to see how they are used in context.

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Attribute Adjectives

An adjective is a "describing word" that describes or modifies a noun. Today we'll take a look at the most basic type of adjective, called an "attribute adjective," which in simple sentences in English usually precedes the noun.



It's quite a big video!

Caption 32, Adele - The Making of 'Chasing Pavements'

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In the sentence above, the adjective "big" describes the noun "video." If you have more than one adjective, however, it is important to understand they must be put into a particular order: an adjective describing size is mentioned first, then shape or quality, followed by age, color, origin, and, lastly, material. For example:


And mix it well into this beautiful red tomato onion paste.

Caption 34, Tara's recipes - Chilli Prawns and Golden Couscous

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In the sentence above, the adjective order is: beautiful (quality), red (color), and tomato onion (materials). The last two are actually nouns that are acting as adjectives. You can see how the order is important, because to say, "And mix it well with this tomato beautiful onion red paste" doesn't make sense!


A noun can be used as an adjective too, as in "a stone house", which describes "a house made of stone."  But an adjective can become a noun too:


The ever widening gap between the rich and the poor is despicable.

Caption 6, Occupy DC - Barry Knight

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The adjectives "rich" and "poor" become nouns when the article "the" precedes them.



Further Learning 
Take a look at this list of the most commonly used 500 adjectives in the English language and pick a few out that you are less familiar with, then learn how they are used in context on Yabla.

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English Action Verbs

English verbs that describe an action, rather than an occurrence or a state of being, are the most common kind of verbs. Unlike the other kinds of verbs, they have the common feature of always ending in the letter "s" in the present tense third person singular form:


He takes a step back.

Caption 5, David Gallo - Underwater astonishments

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He eats the fruit.

Caption 17, Genesis Inc. - Talkalope

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He (subject) takes (action verb) a step (object).
He (subject) eats (action verb) the fruit (object).


There are three forms of sentences where an action verb may be found: an affirmative sentence (as with the examples above); a negative sentence; and an interrogative sentence, or question.

To change the above affirmative sentences to negative sentences, add the verb "to do" and "not," the declarative form of "no."

He does not take a step.
He does not eat the fruit.

To change the affirmative form to the interrogatory form (or question), add the verb "to do" at the beginning of the sentence with a question mark at the end:

Does he take a step?
Does he eat the fruit?

So to reiterate:

Affirmative: He takes a step.
Negative: He does not take a step.
Interrogatory: Does he take a step?

Affirmative: He eats the fruit.
Negative: He does not eat the fruit.
Interrogatory: Does he eat the fruit?



Further Learning 
Browse some videos at Yabla English and find some other examples of affirmative sentences with action verbs. Practice turning them into negative sentences with "to do" and "not", and changing them into interrogative sentences with "to do" and a question mark.

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The English Verb "to be"

The verb "to be" is, in its infinitive form, part of one of the most famous lines in world literature:

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

—from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Most verbs describe action, but "to be" describes a state of being: how or what you are or how somebody is. The present tense conjugation of "to be" is: I am; he, she, or it is; you are; they are; and we are.

"To be" can describe your name and your profession:


My name is Jack Thomas. I am a finance student here.

Caption 1, An American - in London

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It can describe how you are feeling:


I've never been to New York before, and I am so excited to go!

Caption 16, English with Lauren - Emotions

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If the sentence is a negation, the word "not" appears after the verb:


I am not a lawyer.

Caption 15, English - common phrases

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In the first person singular, "I am" is often contracted to "I'm"; "he is," "she is," or "it is" to "he's," "she's," or "it's"; "you are" to "you're"; "they are" to "they're" and "we are" to "we're":


Today we're at the top of the Empire State Building.

Caption 3, English for Beginners - Letters and Numbers

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See how we're part of the global economy?

Caption 13, Dissolve inc. - Generic Brand Video

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Further Learning 
Browse some videos at Yabla English and find some other examples of the verb "to be" used in context in real conversations.

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English Grammar: Pronouns

A personal pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun representing people, animals or objects.


The first person singular pronoun "I" usually refers to yourself (or the speaker). In the plural form it is "we."


I really am passionate about this.

Caption 24, Business English - The job interview

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Well, we are very excited to have you with us!

Caption 16, Business English - Starting on a new job

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The second person pronoun "you" can be singular or plural and usually refers to the person or persons you are addressing.


What will you have for lunch?

Caption 23, Caralie and Annie - Get to know each other

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The third person pronoun refers to someone other than the person you are speaking to, and is "he" (male) or "she" (female) or "it" (object) in singular, "they" in plural:


She is elegant and we wish her luck this weekend.

Caption 32, Taylor Swift Prom Party

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They thought it was a hoax.

Caption 7, Soccer World Cup - Australia

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Further Learning
Read the personal pronoun article in English and in your native language to help you understand the basics. Write a simple sentence in your native language for each of the personal pronouns, then translate them to English. Search for some personal pronouns on Yabla English and see some different examples of how they are used in context.

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Countable and Mass Nouns

A countable noun is a common noun that has singular and plural forms and can be modified by a number.

The opposite of a common noun is called a mass noun, which does not have different singular and plural forms, nor can it be modified by a number.

As a general rule, words referring to objects and people are countable nouns, and words referring to liquids (water, juice), powders (sugar, sand), and substances (metal, wood) are mass nouns.


When you travel you have two suitcases. Suitcases are the same as luggage, but you cannot say "two luggages" as luggage is a mass noun. When you travel you have luggage, or two pieces of luggage. Mass nouns use measure words like pieces of to make plurals.

You want to build a bookshelf so you buy eight boards made of wood. "Wood" is a mass noun, so it is incorrect to say you have "eight woods," but you can say you have eight pieces of wood.

Here is a list of some more mass nouns: advice, air, art, blood, butter, data, deodorant, equipment, evidence, food, furniture, garbage, graffiti, grass, homework, housework, information, knowledge, mathematics, meat, milk, money, music, notation, paper, pollution, progress, sand, soap, software, sugar, traffic, transportation, travel, trash, water

There are some words that are both countable nouns and mass nouns. You leave some papers on the desk, by which you mean you leave some specific documents. If you leave some paper on the desk, you mean you left a package of paper or just some paper in a general sense.

Further Learning
Search for some mass nouns on Yabla English and see how they are used in context.


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English Nouns: Singular and Plural

A noun is a word for a person, place, or thing that can be the subject of a verb. One of the first things you learn in a new language are nouns. Different languages have different ways to make a singular noun plural.


In English, the most common way to make a noun plural is to add the letter s:
pen: pens
spoon: spoons
table: tables
letter: letters
window: windows

Nouns ending in tch, s (or ss), or x are often made plural with the letters es:
tax: taxes
match: matches
bus: buses
business: businesses

Some nouns ending in f replace the f with v, ending in ves:
shelf: shelves
knife: knives
self: selves
thief: thieves

Some nouns have irregular plurals:
man: men
woman: women
child: children
foot: feet
ox: oxen

Some nouns ending in y drop the y and are made plural with ies:
university: universities
baby: babies
But if the y has another vowel before it, then usually the plural is made by adding s:
boy: boys
monkey: monkeys

Nouns ending in o are irregular. Some end with s, some with es, and some work with both:
hero: heros or heroes
volcano: volcanos or volcanoes

Some nouns have the same singular and plural forms, and most of these are animals: moose, deer, fish, swine

Further Learning
This example from Yabla English has 5 different plural nouns, including two that are irregular:


We have brought a set of consulting tools that include analyses, evaluation criteria, business processes and governance recommendations.

Captions 9-11, Planview and Kalypso - Partner to Drive Innovation

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Try to correctly change the four nouns to their singular form and check your work to see if you converted the two irregular nouns correctly.

For even more plurals, watch the Yabla English video "English with Lauren and Matt: Parts of the human body."


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