Extra Grammar

Will vs Shall

There has been a changing of the guard in recent years. Traditionally, will and shall had very clear roles to play. Shall we would use for first person: ‘I shall go to the pub later’ or ‘we shall go to the pub later’, whereas will we used for the rest: ‘he will go to the pub later’ or ‘they will go to the pub later’. But those are the traditional rules, I only make you aware of them in case you have a student who quotes the rules to you. These days, we use will for nearly everything; it is accepted as common language for both British English and US English by dictionaries. The English language still has a soft spot for shall and it hasn’t been made completely redundant, we still use shall when we make suggestions and offers in the first person. For example:

Shall we go to the pub tonight?

Shall I open the window?

Have vs Have got

Have has many uses, one of the uses is when we talk about owning or possessing something. For example I have a dog or I have a car. When we use have for this reason, we have the added complication of I have got or I’ve got. They both mean exactly the same. For a long time, I’ve got was deemed uglier, less formal and classified as American English. The reality is that, although as teachers we instruct students to use have in formal written English, I’ve got is deemed the more natural for spoken English. It has more rhythm and rolls off the tongue more easily.

Remember that not in all situations are those two structures interchangeable. There is a whole range of contexts where you can use have and not have got. The two structures are not interchangeable when we use have metaphorically, ie when it doesn’t actually mean ‘possess’ or ‘own’. In such situations, only have is the correct structure to use (not have got), eg:

I’m having a shower. (what we’re actually saying is I’m showering and not I own the shower, so in that sentence we cannot swap have with have got and say ‘I’m having got a shower‘). Further examples:

I will have lunch later.

Please can I have a rest?

Relative Clauses

When constructing sentences we need to join 2 sentences together or give more information on a subject. To do this we use relative clauses. For example:

I bought a new house. It is very big.

I bought a new house that is very big.

I am learning English. I love learning English.

I am learning English, which I love.

We have 2 types of relative clauses, defining and non-defining. In theory the 2 clauses have very clear differences:

the defining relative clause is used when the extra information is necessary for the sentence to make sense. For example the man who lives next door is old ( If I don’t mention where the man lives, the listener will not be able to understand who I am speaking about).

The non-defining relative clause is used when we have extra information that we want to give, but it is not necessary to the sentence, the listener would understand without the extra information. For example: the man who lives next door, who came back from holiday last week, is very old. (Here the information about returning from holiday is not necessary for the sentence to make sense.)

non-defining and defining relative clauses – in practice

There are 2 important points to make to students when you are explaining how to use the 2 clauses:

Defining relative clauses

In defining clauses we can use relative pronouns (the technical name for which, who etc.) or we can use that. For example:

Her son who is a mechanic can fix your car

Her son that is a mechanic can fix your car

We also don’t need to use commas in a defining clause. See above.

Non-defining relative clauses

In a non-defining relative clause we must use relative pronouns; we can’t use that. For example

Her son, who lives around the corner, is a mechanic.

Her son, the oldest one, is a mechanic.


Here you will see that the additional information that is not really necessary for the sentence is put inside commas.

Stative vs Active Verbs

Stative vs action verbs

Understanding verbs and how they are used is a really important start to your knowledge as a TEFL teacher. If you were to start to look at verbs at the next level you will see there are 2 different types of verbs: stative and action.

With Action verbs, they describe things we do or things that happen. The most important thing to remember is that action verbs can be used in continuous tenses. For example:

When the weather is nice, I walk to work.

I am walking to work.

I visit my sister on Sundays.

I am visiting my sister tomorrow.

With stative verbs, they describe how things are. They are verbs that we use to explain what we think or our opinion. We use them to describe our senses and our feelings. We also use them to explain something we possess. The main difference is that we cannot use these verbs in continuous sentences it is impossible and just incorrect.

I love my new car, especially the colour.

I am loving my new car, especially the colour. – wrong

The flowers smell lovely.

The flowers are smelling lovely. – wrong

For stative verbs there are 4 main groups:

Verbs that show our thoughts or opinion (not the action of thinking but the result)

  • Believe
  • Know
  • Recognise
  • Understand

Verbs that show our senses:

  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Smell

Verbs that show emotions:

  • Love
  • Hate
  • Like
  • Need
  • Want

Verbs that show possession:

  • Have 
  • Own 
  • Belong 
  • Possess 

Note: There are some slippery verbs that can be stative and action verbs. When this happens it is because they have 2 different meanings. ‘Think’, for example, we can use it to say – I think that you are an idiot! (This means I am giving you my opinion about you and therefore a stative verb). We can also say: I am thinking of Christmas. (Here we use think to mean we are in the process of thinking and therefore it is an action verb.

Bits and Bobs for Beginners

This , that, these, those

You have to get into the process of breaking down even the smallest things, they may seem obvious to you, but to your students they are going to need explaining.

This vs that.

When we have one object that is near to us we use – this

When we have one object that is far or further from us we use – that

These vs those

When we have more than one object that is near to us we use – these

When we have more than one object that is far or further from us we use – those

The best way to teach them is to teach them together as contrasting opposites. Start with this and that: you demonstrate this by holding up one object in your hand (for example a marker or a pen) and say this pen is blue. You place a different coloured pen at the other end of the classroom, or some distance from you, then you point to the pen that is further away and you say that pen is green. You then go around the room and get the students to practise this and that.

You do exactly the same for these and those. First, you have to explain the aspect of more than one or plural by showing several blue pens and say – these blue pens. Then, you can point to several green pens that have been placed further away and show – those green pens.

There is vs there are

We use there is to describe one object being at a location. For example: There is 1 pen on the table. When we have more than 1 object at a location we use there are. For example: there are 4 pens on the table.

Some vs any

In English we have 2 options.  If we want we can be specific in the amount we are talking about or we can be general in the amount. Other times sometimes it is important to explain if there is or there isn’t and other times we want to talk about how much there is.

When we are talking in general terms we use some and any. Students generally pick up an understanding of what we mean by general rather than specific, but you will have to explain when we use some and when we use any.

At the first time of teaching:

We use any in questions and negative sentences. For example:

Do you have any apples?

No, I don’t have any apples.

We use some in positive sentences:

Yes, I have some apples.

Note: At the beginning we introduce the rule as black and white. When our students have a firm grasp of English, probably pre-intermediate level and above, we introduce the exceptions to the rule. In this case we can use some when we offer somebody something and we want them to accept or wish to be polite. We can also use ‘some’ when we expect the answer to be yes. For example:

Do you want some wine?

Can I have some more bread?

More Grammar

Causative verbs

In English, we have the structures : to have something done and to make someone do something.

Have = the subject wants something done for him

Make = the subject requires / demands somebody to do something


I had my hair cut. She made him do his homework.

I will have my car washed. She will make him wish he hadn’t said that.

I have my windows cleaned every month. She makes him clean the car every week.

I am having my car fixed. She has made him clean his shoes for years.

These are tricky for students because they learn have and make in their literal senses, and when they are first introduced to these structures, it just doesn’t make sense to them. You will have to explain it to them.


Causative have sentences have 2 constructions:

  1. Subject + have + person + bare infinitive

I had Susie put the kettle on.

  1. Subject + have + Object + verb 3

I had my hair cut.

Make has 1 construction, similar to have

Subject + make + person + bare infinitive

She made him do his homework.

Although have and make are by far the most common, we have other causative verbs which you need to be aware of so you can explain them to your students. The basic ones are:

He got his car washed – get

He helped him wash his car – help

He let him wash his car – let

So the above explains the basics to causative verbs. Be prepared that there are more and, at some point, you may have to learn them. For now make sure you have the basic ones clear in your head. They are not difficult for you because you know how to use the structure, but they can be difficult for your students to use correctly because they require a different structure to normal sentences. There is no real logic, no rule to explain with reasoning; the students just have to learn them. For that reason they are often difficult for your students to produce when speaking, they are more likely to try and find other ways to express the same meaning.

Extra Grammar

The Possessive case

As the title suggests when you want to explain in a sentence who possesses / owns / belongs to something, then we use what is called a possessive case. We use the possessive case when we talk about something connected to people or animals, but not something connected to a thing.

The structure for the possessive case is very simple. When we want to say the dog that belongs to the man, we simply say: the man’s dog. We show the possessive with ‘s. We do this for most nouns (people or animal related). Here is the breakdown:

Singular nouns

The dog’s leg is hurt (the dog’s leg = the leg belonging to the dog)

The man’s dog is brown (the man’s dog = the dog belonging to the man)

Plural nouns (regular) – because they naturally end in s we only need to add ‘ . For Example:

The neighbours’ dog is brown. (= the dog belonging to the neighbours)

Her brothers’ wives are both older than her. (= the wives of her brothers)

Plural nouns ( irregular) –

The children’s trousers are dirty. (= trousers belonging to these children)

The men’s car has broken down. (= the car belonging to these men)

Note: with people names we can use either ‘s or ‘. Traditionally it should be just ‘, but these days both are considered correct.

James’ hair has turned green.

James’s hair has turned green.

Objects or things

When we are not talking about a person or animal, but rather a thing, we don’t use the possessive s but rather of the. For example:

The leg of the table – not the table’s leg

The heart of the city – not the city’s heart

At the end of the day – not the day’s end