Grammar reference and practice

These self-study grammar explanations and exercises are designed to help you become more accurate in your control of English structure.

Do them in any order and check your answers in the KEY.


  • articles (a, the and Ø article)
  • comparisons (comparative & superlative adjectives; comparisons with ‘whereas’ + while’)
  • conditionals (0,1,2,3)
  • countable and uncountable nouns (1)
  • countable and uncountable nouns (2)
  • future (going to / will / present simple / present continuous / ‘ll / future continuous )
  • linking words
  • must & have to
  • nouns in groups
  • passive
  • past continuous and past perfect simple vs continuous
  • past simple and present perfect
  • present perfect simple and present perfect continuous
  • present simple and present continuous
  • quantifiers
  • relative clauses
  • reported statements (1)
  • reported statements (2)
  • reported questions

Grammar reference and practice 1

1. Articles (a/an, the and zero article)

Uses of a/an

1. Before unspecified singular countable nouns:

If you want to go to the States you need a visa. She works for an international organization.

2. Before the names of professions:

John Baker is a lawyer. His wife is an accountant.

3. In expressions of measurement :

The speed limit is 55 miles an hour. She earns 50,000 euros a year.

Uses of the

1. Before a specific noun that we have mentioned before:

I bought a computer and a printer but took the printer back because it didn’t work.

2. When it is clear what particular thing or place we are referring to :

The photocopier isn’t working.
I’ll meet you in the lobby at the hotel.

3. Before adjectives to specify a category of people or things: the unemployed the rich the poor

Our civilisation couldn’t survive without the telephone. 4. Before some institutions:

the World Bank the United Nations the Stock Exchange (but UNESCO, NATO, OPEC …)

5. In superlative expressions
Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

6 When two nouns are joined by ‘of’ the first noun is preceded by ‘the’

Have you read ‘The Idea of Justice’ by Amartya Sen?

Grammar reference and practice 2

Uses of zero article

We do not use a or the:
1. In general statements that involve uncountable nouns:

Ø Time is Ø money.
Ø Unity is Ø strength.
Ø Life, Ø liberty and the pursuit of Ø happiness.

2. Before the names of most countries, cities, roads and people

My boss, Dr. Bird, lives in Station Road, Canterbury and has a holiday home in Scotland.

3. before certain places and means of transport

  • She goes to work by train.
  • He is at work.
  • She’s gone to school.
  • I never go by bus.


Grammar reference and practice 3


1. Fill in the blanks with a, an, the or Ø article

_____ Money makes _____ world go around.

_____ internet access costs about $20 _____ month.

I’ll meet you in _____ reception area.

She goes skiing at least twice _____ year.

You can find all _____ information you need on our web site.

She always wanted to be _____ engineer in _____ multinational corporation.

He’s worked at _____ UNESCO ever since he left his job in _____ journalism.

_____ politics is said to be _____art of _____ possible.

More and more people are visiting _____ China and _____ India.

She thinks that _____ taxation should be used to transfer _____ wealth from _____ rich to _____ poor.

He’s got two cars: _____ Volvo and _____ Porsche but he doesn’t drive _____ Porsche to _____ work; he only uses it on _____ weekends.

Grammar reference and practice 4

1. To make comparisons we add -er to adjectives of one syllable. We form the superlative by adding -est.

I’ve never worked harder in all my life.              Tokyo is Japan’s largest city.

2. The majority of two-syllable adjectives, all longer adjectives, and adverbs ending in -ly use more/less for the comparative and most/least for the superlative

The new design is more attractive than the old one.
Lisbon is less expensive than London.
Please drive more carefully.
I think Venice is the most beautiful city in the world and Pittsburgh is the least.

3. After a comparative adjective or adverb we often use than

Tokyo is bigger than Hong Kong.
New York is more densely populated than Houston. For me Monday is more convenient than Friday.

4. We also use comparative and superlative adjectives in front of a noun

McDonalds has hamburger restaurants in more than 100 countries serving more than 30 million people a day.
Warren Buffet has a personal fortune of more than $8.5 bn. and is one of the richest men in the world.

5. When we want to say that one situation depends on another we can make a ‘parallel comparison’

The bigger an organisation is the more difficult its administration becomes. The more the merrier. (plus on est fou…)

6. It is possible to link comparatives with ‘and’ Prices are getting more and more expensive.

Our team is doing better and better.
7. We use as …as to compare people or things that are similar or identical

They’re just as bad as we are.
We’re doing as well as we did last year.

8. We can use the words « whereas » or « while » to make a contrast
She believes in spending more whereas her husband wants to make economies.

Grammar reference and practice 5


1. Five sports stars are comparing their performances over the last year.

Fill in the gaps with the comparative or superlative form of the adjectives in the box. Which sport is each person talking about?

confident    easy    fast.   fit     good      happy       old      strong     tired      tall

I feel much __________ now than last year. I can now lift 180kg easily.
My game has improved a lot. I’ve done a lot of training so I’m much __________ than before and scoring a lot of goals.
The car is __________ on the circuit. With the changes, everyone is much __________ about the engine and gears and it’s a bit __________ to drive than it was.
Well, I’m a little __________ every year and I get __________ after a race these days. But I feel __________ with every race and if my legs are strong enough I’m sure I can win again.
Oh, my game’s much __________ now. I’ve grown a bit __________ , which helps my serve and I’m winning more often. I still prefer doubles though.

2. Rewrite the sentences using a superlative, as in the example.

I had never been to such a boring concert.

It was the most boring concert I had ever been to.

  • I’d never written such a bad essay.
  • I’d never paid so much for a meal before.
  • I’ve never read such a confusing set of instructions.
  • No country has oil reserves as large as Saudi Arabia.

3. Make parallel comparisons using these prompts.

we leave soon / we arrive early
people wait long / people become impatient I get old / I feel young!
She works hard / the rewards are high

Grammar reference and practice 6


We use ‘if’ to talk about a situation that might possibly happen and to say what its results could be.

1. When we talk about something that is generally true or often happens, we use the present simple or present perfect tense in the main clause and the present simple in the conditional clause

If you press this button you get coffee with sugar. He usually tells his wife if he has a problem.

2. It is also possible to use an imperative or a modal verb in the main clause Give me a ring if anything goes wrong.

He must change his attitude if he wants to make more friends.

3. To talk about something that may happen in the future, we use ‘will’ in the main clause. This is often called the first conditional

  • If you go to Tehran you will need a visa.
  • If I see her today, I’ll give her your love.

4. If …not and unless have a similar meaning. Compare

You cannot dine in the club if you don’t have a membership card. You cannot dine in the club unless you have a membership card.

5. When we talk about something we think is impossible or unlikely to happen we use the past simple or past continuous in the conditional clause and ‘would’ in the main clause. This is often called the second conditional

If I knew the answer I would tell you. If he was coming, he would ring.

6. When we talk about things that did not happen and imagine how things might have been different in the past we use the third conditional

if + past perfect + would / could / might + have + past participle:

If he had had more experience we could have given him the job.

What would you have done if you had been on the management team?

7. ‘Were’ is sometimes used instead of ‘was’ in the conditional clause

If the world were run by philosophers, would it be a better place?

If I were you I’d take proper advice.

Grammar reference and practice 7


1. Match the two halves of these sentences.

  • §  If you send a parcel by Chronopost
  • §  If you use a freephone number
  • §  If a firm does not invest in Research & Development
  • §  If income tax goes down
  • §  If you pay in cash
  • §  If sterling rises in value against other currencies
  • §  If payment has already been made
  1. British exporters find it more difficult to sell abroad.
  2. please disregard this letter.
  3. you don’t have to pay for the call.
  4. consumer spending is given a boost.
  5. it arrives the following morning.
  6. its products rapidly become obsolete.
  7. you get a 10% discount.

2. Rewrite these sentences using a first conditional sentence with if

Send $100 today and receive your free gift by return of mail.

Unless payment is made by the end of the month we will be forced to take legal action.

Damaged items will be exchanged on production of a receipt.

You can learn more about our products by consulting our website

Your audience won’t hear you unless you speak loudly and clearly.

3. Write sentences to say what you would do in these imaginary situations.

work in Beijing / learn Chinese
take a cut in salary / work fewer hours have more time / take up golf
win the national lottery / retire

4. Write a sentence beginning with if for each of the following situations.

I didn’t know the post was vacant so I didn’t apply.
I missed my flight because there was an accident on the motorway.
I wanted to get in touch with you but my mobile phone wasn’t working. He wasn’t insured so he had to pay for his medical expenses himself.

Grammar reference and practice 8

Countable & uncountable nouns (1)

Countable nouns include :
individual things, people and places
a building, a computer, a manager, an office, a ship units of measurement

a metre, a mile, a pound, a kilo, a litre, a gallon Countable nouns :

  • can be used in the plural
  • follow words such as many, these, those, several, few, a few
  • areusedwitha/anUncountable nouns include:
    substances:     gas, gold, plastic, water
    many abstract ideas:   progress, safety, travel, weather verbal nouns engineering, swimming, waiting, training

Uncountable nouns

  • take the singular form of the verb
  • have words like much, a little, little, some before them
  • do not take the when used in a general sense
  • Some of the more common uncountable nouns are :  accommodation    advertising    advice    baggage    cash damage    employment    equipment    furniture   information    legislation     luggage       money      news progress     research    traffic     training   transport  travel     weather.    work

Countable and uncountable are grammatical terms. For example, although it is perfectly possible to count ‘money’ the word is grammatically uncountable. Therefore it is not possible to say *a money or *two monies.

Grammar reference and practice 9


1. Delete the incorrect alternative in the following sentences.

I’ve ordered a / some new software.
I have a / some good news for you.
I need an / some information about visas.
We’ve made a / some progress since we met.
The fire didn’t cause much / many damage.
They say that the / Ø travel broadens the mind.
She never uses public transport / transports.
There was a heavy / some heavy traffic this morning.
We’ve done a little / a few research into the causes of the problem.
I was given another / some more training when I started my present job.page10image34502144 page10image34503872 page10image34502336

2. Complete the dialogues using an appropriate noun in each case.

Was it difficult to find suitable _____ ? No, I found a nice flat near the river.

Have they done any _____ into new uses for radioactive material? Yes, they did some interesting experiments last year.

Was any _____ done to the car?
Yes, the front headlight was smashed.

What was the _____ like?
Ordinary, but we did have a great farewell party in the best restaurant in town.

Grammar reference and practice 10

Countable & uncountable nouns (2)

1. Many nouns have both countable (C) and uncountable (U) uses. For example:

There was a time when all our products were made in the UK. (C)    We have very little time left. (U)

The director has put up a notice on the bulletin board. (C)     He’s been given notice of dismissal. (U)

The court awarded $1 million in damages. (C)
The insurance company estimated the damage at £850 000. (U)

He gave a talk at the annual conference. (C)
Be careful of what you say; talk is cheap round here. (U)

2. Some uncountable nouns (travel ; work) have a countable equivalent which is a completely different word (trip/journey; job/task; advice/suggestion)

Business travel is a big industry. (U)
I’m going on a business trip to Beijing. (C)
The journey from Paris to Geneva took 5 hours. (C)

I’ve got a lot of work to do. (U)
Each section head is responsible for a particular job / task. (C)

She gave me some good advice. (U)
One suggestion she made was excellent. (C)

3. There are nouns which only occur in the plural. For example

Look through the binoculars.
We’ve opened new premises in Rio. Could you pass me the scissors?
I need a new pair of trousers.
Don’t leave valuables in your car.

4. We can refer to parts of a mass by using a suitable singular expression in front of the noun

a piece of advice, a piece of equipment, a sheet of paper, a spell of bad weather, a round of talks

Grammar reference and practice 11


1. Decide what is wrong in the following sentences. Make the necessary corrections.

I’d like a chicken to start with please, and a bottle of wine.
I’d like to propose toast to the health of our President.
She’s slim, quite tall, attractive and has black hairs.
She’s received a notice to quit the firm by the end of the month.

We’ve put an advertising in the national press.

I need a scissor to cut out the article.
A paper is made from a wood.
Did you have a good travel to Tokyo?
A light travels at 186,000 miles a second.
The equipment is made of an iron and a reinforced glass.

3. Use these expressions appropriately in the following sentences.

The solution to the problem came to him in a _____ .

He made a passionate speech and got a huge _____ .

He bought a _____ for his wife from the duty-free.

He surprised everybody by coming to work wearing a _____ .

The price of _____ is now about $100.

Please don’t disturb me under any circumstances. I’ve got a _____ to get through.

I had a _____ at the airport — they gave me an earlier flight and an upgrade to a first-class cabin.

Grammar reference and practice 12


1. To make a prediction about the future we can use either ‘will’ or ‘going to’

I’m sure you will / are going to enjoy your visit.

To talk about present intentions for the future we use ‘going to’ rather than ‘will’

She is going to retire in two years’ time.

2. When making a promise or an offer we use ‘will’, often contracted to ‘ll when the decision has just been made

I’ll get the information to you by tomorrow. I’ll give you a lift to the airport if you like.

3. To talk about plans or future arrangements we use either the present continuous or the future continuous

I’m meeting Mr. Wong next week.
During your internship you’ll be learning about negotiation strategies.

4. For a future event based on an official calendar or schedule we use the present simple. The event is unlikely to change between now and then

The train leaves from Waterloo at 10.59.

5. For events that will be completed before a time in the future we use the future perfect simple

By the time she arrives we will have finished.

If the event is still in progress we use the continuous form

This time next year I’ll be lying on the beach in Malibu.

6. If a condition has to be met before something can happen, we use the present perfect to refer to the future event

We won’t start until everyone has arrived.
I’ll e-mail you when I’ve made all the arrangements.

7. In time clauses we use the present simple to refer to the future. It is incorrect to use ‘will’ in a time clause

Please get in touch when you know her answer. We won’t start until everyone arrives.
Switch off the computer before you leave.

As soon as I get home I’ll pour myself a beer.

Grammar reference and practice 13


1. Decide which of these sentences are grammatically correct.

1. The conference will be held in Istanbul.

2. The conference is holding in Istanbul.

3. I’m going to give you a lift if you like.

4. I’ll give you a lift if you like.

5. The agreement will have expired by o the end of the month.

6. The agreement will have been expiring o by the end of the month.

7. Market analysts think that the price o of gold is going to keep on rising.

8. Market analysts think that the price o of gold will keep on rising.

9. She says she’s not going to apply o for the vacancy.

10. She says she doesn’t apply o for the vacancy.

11. I’ll phone you as soon as I will know o the price.

12. I’ll phone you as soon as I am going to know the date.

13. I’m not going to make any decision  until I will have everyone’s opinion.

14. I’m not going to make any decision until I have everyone’s opinion.

15. Throughout the course you’ll be improving your communication skills.

16. Throughout the course you’ll have improved your communication skills.

2. Make predictions using either the future continuous or the future perfect.

In a few years’ time many more employees (work) from home.
Over the next ten years voice telephony over the Internet (increase) rapidly.
By 2030 most European textile firms (go bankrupt).
By 2040 paper money (disappear).
By 2050 75% of the world’s population (use) Chinese as a second language.
By the end of the 21st century small, family aircraft (replace) privately-owned cars.

Grammar reference and practice 14

Linking words

To help people to understand a written or spoken message clearly we use linking words to connect one idea to another. These words and phrases are like signposts making it easier for the reader or listener to understand. Linking words have several functions:

1. Ordering and sequencing

first (of all)
finally / in the end / lastly

at the same time  then  simultaneously  next  meanwhile  subsequently  in the meantime  afterwards

First they did our market research, then looked for an agent. Next they ran a promotional campaign but in the meantime found out their competitors had got there beforehand and subsequently decided to concentrate on another region.

2. Making a contrast

although  conversely  nevertheless  alternatively  even so  on the other hand  by contrast  however

The government may try to increase the rate of income tax. Alternatively, it could put up VAT.

Although some people condemn prostitution it is nevertheless a fact of life.

Last year our team did really. However, a number of players are injured and our performances may not so good next year.

3. Indicating cause and effect

as a result  consequently


so  therefore

The machine was damaged and, as a result, the work couldn’t be done.

There was a lot of fog at the airport so the plane couldn’t take off.

4. Indicating a change in topic

anyhow  by the way  anyway  incidentally

Oh, by the way, have you heard that Derek has decided to get married?

Anyway, as I was saying earlier, having good contacts is the key to success.

5. Correcting a statement that is the opposite of what people would expect actually in fact as a matter of fact
Actually, I do know why he changed his mind.

‘Did you have a good time in Corsica?’
‘As a matter of fact we didn’t go. There was a ferry strike and the port was blockaded.’



Grammar reference and practice 15


1. Choose the best alternative in each case to complete the sentences.

_____ we’ve been doing well we must remain vigilant.

(a) in the meantime (b) although (c) however

Some people say they want a good job — _____ they’re not prepared to work hard to get it.

(a) consequently (b) then (c) on the other hand

The river burst its banks. _____ , many houses had to be evacuated.

(a) As a result (b) Earlier (c) By the way

We thought were only going to stay in the area for a year but _____ we ended up staying for ten years.

(a) conversely (b) as a result (c) actually

2. Complete the following section from a report using these words

at the same time first of all so in conclusion secondly

There are many reasons for the decline. _____, the quality of management has been uninspired. _____, output has not kept up with demand. Failure to identify suitable markets has, _____, meant that demand has peaked _____ saturation point will be reached very quickly. _____, unless there are radical changes, future prospects are not encouraging.

3. Complete the following memo using these words

however  alternatively  as a result although  nevertheless  therefore  by the way  on the contrary

_____ we have agreed in principle to reduce staffing levels, there is _____ a problem in my own section.

Mrs. Baxter, who works in reception during the morning, is also in charge of reprography. _____, there are times when senior staff members are having to make their own photocopies which means they are wasting valuable time doing routine tasks.

I _____suggest we take on a part-time receptionist. _____ we could take up Bill’s suggestion and ask Mrs. Davies, who is shortly to return from maternity leave, to work in reception during the morning. _____ this would not, in my opinion, be a satisfactory solution. __________ , it would create a certain amount of disruption elsewhere.

I look forward to receiving your ideas on this matter.
P.S _____, I won’t be in my office tomorrow so could you leave your reply on my desk?

Grammar reference and practice 16

Must & have to

1. ‘Must’ is used to make deductions about the present and ‘must have’ for past circumstances.

It must be difficult to have 5 children, a husband and a top job in the City. In 1998, Bill Clinton must have been a very worried man.

If you infer that something is absurd or untrue, you use ‘cannot’ Sell my BMW for 3,000 euros! You can’t be serious!

He can’t have been at that meeting — he was 2,000 miles away.
2. We use ‘must’, ‘has/have to’ and ‘must not’ to indicate what is compulsory in the

present and future

A judge often has to take tough decisions.
The longer people have to wait the more impatient they become. In order to make its products known a firm must advertise.

3. We prefer to use ‘must’ when we impose the obligation on ourselves. We prefer ‘have to’ when the obligation is imposed by other people or external circumstances

I must remember to send an e-mail to Janice, I keep forgetting.
We have to wear a badge at work, it’s a rule.
She enjoys going to conferences unless she has to make a speech.

4. If you do ‘not have to’ do something, there is no obligation — you can do it if you want to

I can work from home so I don’t have to go into the office very often.
Do not confuse ‘not have to’ with ‘must not’. We use ‘must not’ to say that

something is forbidden or unacceptable

Passengers must not smoke during take-off.

5. If something was necessary or obligatory in the past we use ‘had to’

When we lived in Tokyo we had to learn some Japanese.

6. If we want to say that an action is obligatory in the future we use ‘will have to’

She will have to get a better qualification if she wants to have a good job..

The absence of obligation is expressed by ‘will not / won’t have to’

With this miracle diet you won’t have to worry about getting fat. Practice

Grammar reference and practice 17


1. Complete the following travel information using ‘must’, ‘must not’ and ‘do not have to’.

Passports and visas

All travellers _____ hold a valid passport and, for certain destinations, you _____ have a full 10 year passport and not simply a 1 year
visitor’s passport. For many countries you _____ also apply for a visa.

Health regulations

For certain countries you _____ be vaccinated against cholera and yellow fever and other tropical diseases.


Although you _____ take out extra cover you may want to think about insuring yourself against unexpected medical expenses or loss of baggage and personal possessions.

Flight departures

Passengers _____ check in an hour before departure. Remember that on board you are allowed to take one piece of hand luggage but it _____ measure more than 55 x 40 x 20 cm.


Please check which goods are dutiable before you pass through customs. You _____ attempt to enter firearms, drugs or narcotics.

2. Delete the inappropriate alternative in the following sentences.

It’s my wife’s birthday! I really must / have to remember to get her a present.

All visitors must / have to report to the reception area and obtain a badge.

Unfortunately he must / has to wear a hearing aid — he’s a bit deaf in one ear.

You must / have to visit us again, it’s been a real pleasure. page20image34436032 page20image34438336 page20image34437952 page20image34436800

Grammar reference and practice 18

Nouns in groups apostrophe s (‘s)

We use ‘s to express a relationship between a person or animal and another person, animal or thing

Peter’s friends      his wife’s job     the dog’s basket

‘s can be used to show that something belongs to or is associated with a group of people, a place or an organisation

the miner’s strike     Singapore’s success.     the bank’s clients.   the government’s decision

New York’s Fifth Avenue.      the Institute’s opening times

‘s is used with nouns referring to the duration of an event or a specific time

a week’s holiday      yesterday’s newspaper.    at a moment’s notice      a day’s work

‘s is added to a noun that specifies a part of an object or a quality it has

the computer’s memory the car’s design

Compound nouns

These are commonly formed by placing two or three nouns together. The first noun classifies the second

a car park.    a bank account.    an air traffic controller.    a credit card.   a parking meter   a sales training seminar

When compound nouns are used in expressions of measurement with a numeral, the first noun is singular

a fifty-dollar bill     a five-day course      a four-lane motorway

Grammar reference and practice 19


We tend to combine two nouns with of when referring to more abstract concepts

the history of Ancient Egypt.               the meaning of life

With words that indicate a part of something we use this of structure

the end of the day.      the top of the page       the front of the building.      the moment of truth

We also prefer the of structure with words that refer to units or a certain quantity of something.

an article of clothing       a round of golf       an ounce of gold      a bunch of grapes
a flash of lightening.       


Grammar reference and practice 20


1. Only one of the following (a), (b), or (c) is an acceptable noun combination. Choose the correct one.

(a) a waste of time (b) a time’s waste (c) a time waste

(a) a network of telephone (b) a telephone’s network (c) a telephone network

(a) a bonus scheme (b) a scheme of bonus (c) a scheme’s bonus

(a) the book of Peter Mayle (b) Peter Mayle ‘s book (c) the Peter Mayle ‘s book

(a) the bottom of the garden (b) the garden bottom (c) the garden’s bottom

(a) a fleamarket (b) a flea’s market (c) a market of fleas

2. Put the three words into the right order so as to make acceptable noun phrases

agency hire car

trade world organisation

project generation power

eye account witness

control procedure quality

opportunity investment overseas

analysis questionnaire needs

travel form business insurance

Grammar reference and practice 21

The passive

1. We often choose a passive construction when we are not interested in who performs an action or it is not necessary to know

The wheel was invented thousands of years ago.         A new road is being built around the town.

2. If we want to mention the person who performs the action we can use a phrase beginning with ‘by’

‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ was written by Hemingway.

In this sentence the focus of attention is on the book;

if we were more interested in the writer we would choose an active construction

Henmingway wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.

3. The passive is very often used when we describe a process or a procedure because we are less concerned with who has done something than in what is done.

Applicants are short-listed and interviewed. The best candidate is then offered the job.

Wine is produced in the Loire Valley.

4. Changes of state and completed actions are described using the present perfect passive :

She has been promoted to the post of Minister of Defence.

The department has been reorganized.

The meeting has been cancelled.

5. When writing in a formal style (e.g. reports / minutes) we often choose an impersonal style by using the passive and beginning sentences with ‘It’.

It was felt that some changes had to be made.
It was decided that the design would be changed.

6. Passive structures beginning with someone’s name or a personal pronoun are followed by an object and infinitive

I was asked to send you a copy of the programme. He has been told not to come back.
Mrs. Fry will be asked to be present.

Grammar reference and practice 22


1. Match the sentence halves appropriately.

1. A detailed conference programme
2. Please make sure that your portable telephone 3. All applications
4. Please wait, your transaction
5. As requested, the sum of $19,500
6. It has to be admitted that

a. structural unemployment cannot easily be solved.

b. has been transferred to your savings account.

c. will be sent to you on receipt of your fee.

d. is switched off in this restaurant.

e. should be returned by 31st March. f. is being processed.

2. Change the verbs in brackets into an appropriate active or passive form.

David Lee (recognize) world-wide as a leading scholar in the field of archaeology. Since 2015, he (involve) in several important excavations. Mr. Lee (develop) invaluable expertise in dating ancient pottery fragments. One of his latest articles « The hidden secret : Bhutan’s cultural treasures » (publish) in last month’s issue of Digging the Past.

3. The following sentences are stages in the production and sale of a new model of car. Put them into the most logical order.

  1. a  the production tools and assembly lines are set up by the Process Engineering department
  2. b  a prototype is built and tested for performance
  3. c  the new model is distributed to dealers and sold to the public
  4. d  the new model is built in selected factories
  5. e  each model is inspected by quality control personnel
  6. f  the new model is developed by the Design & Product Planning department
  7. g  the target market is predicted and defined by the Market Research department
  8. h  the new model is launched to the press at official presentations

Grammar reference and practice 23

Past continuous and past perfect simple vs continuous

The past continuous

1. We use the past continuous to say that something was in progress at and around a particular time in the past

He was working on the essay all night.
I was trying to get in touch with you all day yesterday.

2. It can also be used for repeated actions:

We got rid of the photocopier because it was always breaking down.

3. The past continuous and past simple are often used together in a sentence ; the past continuous describes a longer event which was interrupted by another

I was just leaving the building when he arrived.
My car broke down while I was driving from Milan to Rome.

4. We sometimes use the past continuous to make a polite request: I was wondering if you could give me a lift back to the station.

5. We use was going to to refer to events planned in the past, but which did not take place

I was going to phone her yesterday but I didn’t find time.

The past perfect

1. We use the past perfect to talk about an event that happened before a particular time in the past

Before I joined the Institute I had had seven other jobs. By 2019 we had sold over 2 million copies.

2. The past perfect can be used with ‘I wish’, ‘If only’ and ‘I’d rather’ to talk about events that did not happen

I wish she had told me about it earlier.
I’d rather she had asked me before taking my car.

3. If we want to emphasise the recent nature and/or duration of continuous activity that took place in an earlier past we use the progressive form

They had been testing the drug for years before it finally appeared on the market.

I was tired because I’d been waiting in the airport for hours.


1. Complete the passage using either the past simple, past continuous, past perfect simple or continuous . Sometimes more than one answer is possible.

On Febuary 26 1995 the world (wake up) to the news that Britain’s oldest bank, Barings, (collapse) because of the actions of just one man – a trader called Nick Leeson.

Leeson (start) working at Barings’ Singapore office in 1992, when he (be) 25 years old. Using the bank’s money, he (buy) and (sell) special kinds of shares on the Singapore Monetary Exchange. This can be a risky business, but Barings (think) it (know) what it (do).

Leeson quickly (become) the star of the Singapore office and its profits from trading (be) substantial. But in fact, he (hide) even greater losses in a secret account.

The truth was that Nick Leeson (not behave) like an ordinary trader. He (consider) the financial markets as a gambling casino and, just like a losing gambler, he (believe) that he would win in the end. So towards the end of 1994 he (decide) to solve his problems by making a very big gamble.

He (think) that the Tokyo stock market would remain stable for the next few months. He (know) that he could make a good profit by selling a special kind of option contract but, unfortunately for him, Japan (enter) a very unstable period.

On 17 January 1995 a huge earthquake (hit) the industrial city of Kobe. In response, the Tokyo stock market (plunge). Leeson’s gamble (go) badly wrong and by February 23, he (lose) more than £300 million and the game was over. The following day he and his wife (fly) to Malaysia for a holiday.

Grammar reference and practice 24

Past simple & present perfect

Past simple

1. The past simple is used to talk about completed actions in the past

Did you check the figures?
Yes, and I sent them back to the purchasing department.

2. The past simple is often used with expressions which refer to a definite moment or period in the past

He became a priest 20 years ago.
The railways expanded during the nineteenth century. I met her yesterday.
Inflation went up in 2012 by 3%.
We discussed it at last week’s meeting.

The above examples are all ungrammatical with the verb in the present perfect

*He has become a priest 20 years ago. *I have met her yesterday.

*We have discussed it at last week’s meeting.

3. We use the past simple after ‘I wish’ and ‘If only’

I wish I had more time.
If only I knew how to get rich quickly.

Present perfect

1. The present perfect connects both past and present time

Have you ever visited Thailand?
I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal.
Have you decided what to do yet? She’s had the same job for three years.

2. We use the present perfect to say that a finished action in an unspecified past is relevant now

Our telephone number has changed. We’ve redesigned our fashion collection. We have updated our website. 

3. We use the present perfect to talk about recent events

Here is the news for Monday, 26 July. The prime minister has announced an increase in the tax on cigarettes. And we have just learnt that there has been an earthquake in Japan.

4. We often use the present perfect to say how long a present situation has existed

We’ve known each other for twenty years. He’s had the same job since 2010.
He’s always been a good father to his children.


Grammar reference and practice 25


1. Match the sentence halves appropriately

  1. National firms are finding it easier to export because
  2. The workforce is smaller and more flexible because
  3. Sales are now improving because
  4. Ford wanted to expand into Eastern Europe so
  5. The economy is badly in need of investment capital so
  • the government has applied to the World Bank for a loan.
  • we have started an aggressive advertising campaign.
  • the Finance Minister has devalued the currency.
  • it has opened an assembly plant in Belarus.
  • they have made many employees redundant.

2. Complete the following dialogues, using the past simple or the present perfect.

(You/ever/be) to Cannes?
Yes, I have. I (go) for the film festival last year.
Where (you/stay)?
We (book) a room at the Carlton hotel. It (be) fabulous.

(You/ever/make) a presentation in English?
Yes, I have. I (have to) make one last month in fact. What (you/talk) about?
I (present) our sales performance for the current year.

Grammar reference and practice 26

Present perfect simple and present perfect continuous

1. Sometimes it is possible to use either the simple or continuous form with little or no change of meaning

London has stood on the banks of the Thames for hundreds of years.
London has been standing on the banks of the Thames for hundreds of years.

She’s lived in Madrid since 2016.
She’s been living in Madrid since 2016.

2. At other times the use of the simple implies that an action is complete and the progressive suggests that it is incomplete. For example

(i) We’ve dealt with your complaint.
(ii) We’ve been dealing with your complaint.

In (i) the implication is that there is nothing more to say or do. In (ii) there is a suggestion that the matter is still being looked into.


(a) He’s painted his kitchen ceiling. (it is finished)
(b) He’s been painting his kitchen ceiling. (it may be finished, but there is an implication that he hasn’t finished it yet)

(a) She’s learnt how to use the new machine. (and can use it now)
(b) She’s been learning English for 10 years. (this process is never complete!)

3. We use the continuous form to emphasize the duration of an event
So, ladies and gentlemen, what I have been describing is a crisis in our industry.

4. We often use the continuous form to talk about the reasons for someone’s present appearance

‘You look tired.’ ‘Yes, I’ve been running around all day’.
5. The present perfect continuous cannot be used with verbs describing states

or beliefs e.g. believe, contain, know, realise, remember, understand, seem etc.

I’ve known Mr. Schmidt for years. (NOT * I’ve been knowing)

6. The continuous form is not used with ‘yet’, ‘still’ and ‘already’ Has he left yet? (NOT *Has he been leaving yet)

He’s already gone home. (NOT *He’s already been going home.)page31image34383616 page31image34389760

Grammar reference and practice 27


1. Complete the following letter appropriately.

Dear Sirs,

We are writing to inform you of some of the changes that (take place) in the organisation of our firm.

Please note that we (move) to new premises in Paris and our address is now

18 rue Saint Dominique Paris 75350 Cedex 07

However, our telephone and fax numbers (not change) and we (add) a new line dedicated to after-sales service. This number is 01 44 77 11 99.

Monsieur Cuisinier is no longer sales manager for the Paris region and (move) to our office in Brussels. We (appoint) Mme. Douat as our new regional manager and she will be contacting you shortly.

I am enclosing a copy of our present catalogue; you will notice that, as a result of the sharp rise in the dollar, the products we distribute for American firms, (increase) in price. However, these will be readjusted accordingly if and when the dollar falls.

We look forward to doing further business with you.

2. Match the sentence halves appropriately.

  1. They’re still not fluent even though
  2. They’ve been losing a lot of money
  3. They’ve been selling up-market leather goods
  4. They’ve been trying to get in touch
  5. They’ve been talking about a joint venture
  • to Harrods for over 25 years.
  • but haven’t agreed on the terms and conditions.
  • because of the strike in the production department.
  • they’ve been learning German for several years.
  • while you’ve been away.page32image34499456

3. Complete the following mail using either the present perfect simple or continuous.

Dear Leslie,

Sorry I (not be) in touch sooner, I (mean) to send you this fax for some time but I (be) very busy since my arrrival in Kowloon.

To cut a long story short, I (try) to negotiate a deal with a local manufacturer of cigarette lighters. We (reach) an agreement on 10,000 items at 12 cents each. They (guarantee) to have the order ready for May 26.

I (do) a lot of travelling over the last ten days but we still (not sign) the most important contract. But I (made) an appointment to see Peter Wu tomorrow and hope to finalise everything then.

See you soon, Samir

Grammar reference and practice 28

Present simple and present continuous

Uses of the present simple

1. to talk about routines

Mr. Cheung phones home to China every day.

2. to describe permanent situations and facts

Unilever makes a wide variety of household products. Too much criticism discourages students.

3. with verbs of perception, possession, emotion and belief

The coffee tastes good.
The firm belongs to the Nestlé group. She detests inefficiency.
I believe in God.

Other verbs in this category include:

appear, cost, doubt, involve, know, own, possess prefer, recognise, regret, remember, seem, sound, understand, want, wish

Uses of the present continuous

1. to talk about an event at the moment of speaking

I’m afraid Mrs. Bell can’t speak to you at the moment. She’s talking to someone on the other line.

2. to describe current situations and on-going projects I’m dealing with your enquiry now.

We’re working on a new procedure. 3. to describe temporary situations

He’s staying at the Hyatt Regency hotel until the end of next week. My car is being repaired this week.

4. to refer to changing, developing situations Many of the world’s languages are dying.
5. to talk about repeated actions
His son is taking driving lessons.

Grammar reference and practice 29


1. Make sentences about these organisations.

Marks & Spencer    Yamaha    Miele.   Club Med     Harrods.    Seat

sells      manufactures

  1. almost anything
  2. motor cars
  3. washing machines
  4. motorbikes and musical instruments
  5. holidays
  6. clothing

2. Put the verbs into the present simple or the present continuous.

We (launch) a new product for the Chinese market.
Good management (involve) both technical competence and people skills.
The new model (cost) $50,000.
We (regret) to inform you that your services are no longer required.
She (work) in a travel agency to get some practical experience
Philips (manufacture) a wide range of consumer goods.
He (own) a 49% stake in the business.
They (perfect) a revolutionary type of water-driven car.
A WiFi laptop (enable) you to surf anywhere around the house.
Sorry, I’ll be late for the meeting — I (sit) in a traffic jam on the ring road.
I’m sorry about the noise. They (put in) a new central heating system.
The agency (try) to create a logo that (look) attractive.
We (organise) a market survey to find out what potential customers (require).
I (not understand) your comment. It (depend) on what you (mean) by ‘effective’.

Grammar reference and practice 30


When we want to talk about a number or amount of something we use quantifiers such as

both    each     few    a few.  little    a little    many   much

The choice of quantifier often depends on the kind of noun that follows it.

1. ‘Both’ and ‘each’ are used in front of plural noun groups.

Both (of the) documents have to be sent in triplicate. (NOT *the both documents)

Note that ‘each (of)’ is followed by a singular verb form. Each document has to be signed.

Each of the documents has to be signed.

2. ‘Few’ means ‘not many’; it is used before countable nouns and has a

negative meaning

If there are few opportunities for promotion young high-flyers will look for another job.
Few people like to be kept waiting.

3. ‘a few’ means ‘some / a small number of’. It is used before countable nouns We’ll all be driving electric cars in a few years’ time.

It’s difficult at first but you’ll settle down after a few weeks.

4. ‘little’ means ‘not much’ and is used with uncountable nouns. It is often preceded by ‘very’ and has a negative meaning

There is little time left for discussion so we need to make a decision right away.

There’s very little space in my bed-sit.

5. ‘a little’ means ‘a small amount’ and is also used with uncountable nouns.

I need a little more time to think about your idea.            I like to mix work with a little pleasure.

6. It can also mean ‘to some extent’ when used with an adjective The film was OK but a little disappointing.

7. We use ‘much’ with uncountable nouns and singular noun groups. ‘Many’ is is used with plural nouns

How much money have you got?
Much of his day is spent listening to CDs.

How many people live in your house?
They have lived in many different countries.

Both of them are called Goertz and they both look very much alike.

Each of them has long hair. Physically, there’s very little to distinguish them so not many people can tell the difference between Allison and Adrienne. Maybe Allison’s face is a little longer.


Grammar reference and practice 31


1. Read these sentences. Put a tick (√) next to the ones that are right and correct those that are wrong.

Are there any seats left on the next flight to London? Yes, but only a few.

We’ve made a few progress but not many.

Each of the forms have a different reference number.

There are two fools in any market; one asks too little, one asks too many.

Little expatriates want to live overseas for more than a few years.

The both candidates were excellent.

Research scientists spend too much time on administration and routine meetings.

How many times will it take you to finish?

There’s very few data available about human rights violations in Myanmar.

Much of the money given in aid goes to the army.

2. Complete the memo appropriately using few, a few, little and a little.

3rd quarter results

Sales were _____ disappointing as very _____ stores are willing to stock and promote our goods. Their profit margin is low and there is consequently _____ incentive for them to display our products. However, sales have picked up _____ in the last two months or so.

_____ customers (only 12%) feel that the design is attractive and sales have suffered as a consequence. However, artwork for a new design has been commissioned and _____ samples will be available for store buyers to look at.

However, we usually get _____ or no feedback from them and I’m beginning to get _____ worried about the situation in general.

Grammar reference and practice 32

Relative clauses

1. We use a relative clause beginning with ‘who’ or ‘that’ to identify a person or people

Mary Smith was the person who / that took the phone call. The consultants who / that advised us were proved wrong.

2. A relative clause beginning with ‘that’ or ‘which’ identifies a thing or things He’s got a private yacht that / which he uses to entertain his friends.

The equipment that / which we bought was expensive.

3. If ‘who’, ‘which’ or ‘that’ is followed by a noun or pronoun + verb we can leave it out

The goods Mr. Spencer ordered have been delivered.

He’s the man I met in St. Petersburg.

4. We use ‘whose’ to indicate possession or a relationship. It can be used to refer to people or things

He’s the man whose wife has just left him.
In 2013 Michelin, whose tyre sales totalled $13.1bn, regained its position of market leader.

5. ‘Where’ is used to refer to places

The village where we stayed was very pleasant.

If there is a preposition at the end of the clause, ‘where’ is omitted

The village we stayed in was very pleasant. (NOT *The village where we stayed in ..)

This can also be reformulated as
The village in which we stayed was very pleasant.

6. Relative clauses identify or define the previous noun or just add extra information

The firm that I work for has a good staff restaurant. (This identifies a particular firm)
The American firm MCI, which is the second largest US telecoms operator, has formed an alliance with British Telecom.

Mr. Wells, who is responsible for Public Relations, refused to speak to the press. (the relative clause is extra information and could be left out).

7. We can use ‘which’ to refer back to the whole of a previous clause and to make a comment about it. ‘That’ and ‘what’ are not possible.

Grammar reference and practice 33

He came to work wearing shorts, which surprised all his colleagues.
She has a good job and 5 boys and girls, which shows that a woman can combine having children and a successful career.