English Tips

The English Tip will usually be the tip of the day but there may not be a new tip every single day. The tip generally will discuss and correct a common error that I heard or read the previous day. I am going to save each tip on this page. Please feel free to post any questions on our Let's Have a Conversation page.

“For” is a preposition, and a preposition is followed by an object — a noun or a gerund (a verb + -ing that functions as a noun.) So, we say “Thank you for telling me…” and not “Thank you for tell me.” “Thanks for asking,” not “thanks for ask,” “thank you for showing me…,” not “thank you for show.” In the same way, we say thank you for going to the store and not thank you for go, thank you for cooking such a wonderful dinner and not thank you for cook. Have a great rest of your day!

"Advice" is what we call an "uncountable noun." That means that advice cannot be quantified or counted like trees, eggs, or shirts. We do not speak of "advices." We refer to recommendations concerning future actions as "pieces of advice" or simply as "advice." For example, "Thank you for suggesting that I move to Mexico. That was an excellent piece of advice." OR "Thank you for suggesting that I move to Mexico. That was excellent advice."

How do we use "some," "any," "something," "anything, "someone," and "anyone?" It is common for "some" to be used in the affirmative and sometimes when we ask a question expecting or hoping for a positive response. You've been working for hours. Would you like some lunch? Yes, please, I would love some. "Any" is more commonly used in questions when we expect a negative response or do not care so much what the response is: A restaurant server might ask, "Would you like any coffee?"We also use "any" with "not" in a negative response: Would you like any coffee? No, thank you, I don't want any. Note that some and any can be adjectives that modify a noun, as in "some food," or "any coffee," but can also be pronouns, as in "Yes, please, I'd like some" or "No, thank you, I don't want any." The same rules apply to something, anything, someone, and anyone. "Are you doing anything this afternoon?" "I don't know yet, but I'll find something to do."

Most verbs in English are followed by an object and infinitive. For example, "My boss asked me to go to the bank for him." We don't say "My boss asked that I go to the bank for him." Some verbs, however, like "recommend" and "suggest," are not followed by an object and infinitive. We generally use a gerund (verb+ING) or a clause with that -- that + subject + verb. "Where do you recommend going?" "Where do you recommend that I go?" Or, in spoken English, "Where do you recommend I go?" The same is true of suggest: "Where do you suggest going?" "Where do you suggest that I go?" Or, in spoken English, "Where do you suggest I go?" Many reporting verbs -- verbs that report what was said (but not ask or tell) -- are followed by a "that" clause.

For something to be next to another thing is not the same as for one thing to be by another thing.. NEXT TO is adjacent (al lado de.) BY is near or close to (por or cerca de.) So, if the café is next to the park, it is also by the park. But the café can be by the park without being next to it.

Mr. versus Sir: We use Mr. with a man's last name. I would be "Mr. Luff." In English-speaking countries, no native speaker would address me as "Mr. David." When we use "Mr." without a name, it is not a term of respect, but almost the opposite. Example: "Hey, mister, you can't park your car there! That's my parking space and I pay for it. Who do you think you are?" To respectfully address a man whose name you don't know or don't want to use, we say "sir." Mr. Luff or sir. Having explained that, North Americans are usually not very formal. If I meet someone and say, ¨Hi, my name is David¨and he says, ¨My name is Mr. Jones,¨ then I call him Mr. Jones. If he says, ¨My name is John Jones,¨ then I probably would ask, ¨May I call you John?¨

Prepositions are strange. Prepositions connect words in a sentence, but they don't generally have specific definitions like, for example, sun, rain, milk, or bicycle. For that reason, different languages use prepositions differently. That makes it difficult for intermediate or even advanced learners to use prepositions correctly all the time. Here are a few examples: We work under the supervision of our boss. I am responsible for the decisions that we make. John recommends ideas for improving quality. The only way to learn prepositions is, I'm sorry to say, through memorization.

”'Home' is an adverb? Then am I sitting in a place or an adverb?”

Home is of course a place, but we also use ”home” as an adverb. What difference does it make?

Here's why it matters. If we're talking about home as a place, for example, if someone asks ”Where are you now?” and you are home, you can answer ”I'm home” or with the preposition at: ”I'm at home.”

However, when we talk about traveling from or to home, we do not use a preposition.

I am going home now.

John left home this morning.

The neighbors returned home from vacation.

I am going to home now.

John left from home this morning.

The neighbors returned to home from vacation.

We say:

We do not say: