Grammar FAQs

frequently asked questions about grammar

Welcome to our support page Grammar Frequently Asked Questions!

Here you can find quick answers to the most frequently asked questions about grammar. For more details, check the Grammar Explanations page.

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Most frequent questions and answers about grammar

A passive voice sentence must have one form of verb be (be, is/are/am, was/were. been, being) and the past participle of the main verb. It starts with the person or thing that is affected by the verb.

Eg. The pizza was eaten by the boy.

The form of be is determined by the verb tense of the original (active) sentence.

Active and Passive Voice

(1) A maid cleans their house weekly. ⇒ Their house is cleaned weekly by a maid. (present simple)

(2) The doctor is checking the blood test results.⇒ The blood test results are being checked by the doctor. (present continuous)

(3) The employees organized a farewell party for their manager.⇒ A farewell party was organized by the employees for their manager. (past simple)

(4) He will change the light bulb in the morning.⇒ The light bulb will be changed in the morning. (modal)

Active and Passive Voice

You can use passive voice instead of active voice in the following cases:

when you don’t know the real subject (doer of the action);

when you don’t want to mention the doer of the action for one reason or another;

when you want to focus on the action and the one affected by the action rather than the subject;

and when you describe how something is made or done (process description).

Active and Passive Voice

Reported speech (or indirect speech) gives the exact meaning of what someone said without using the exact words. No inverted commas are used with reported speech. Verb tenses change.


Direct speech:

“I didn’t have time to study for the exam.”

Reported speech:

He told me that he hadn’t had time to study for the exam.

Reported Speech

Yes. If speech is reported sometime after it was said, simple present becomes simple past, simple past becomes past perfect, present continuous becomes past continuous, present perfect becomes past perfect, etc.

Reported Speech

Imperatives (commands, requests, suggestions) are reported using a to-infinitive verb after the introductory verb.

  • Open the door.”She asked me to open the door.

There are different introductory verbs that can be used to report imperative sentences.

Reported Speech

Use if or whether and change the word order:


helping verb subject


subject helping verb or main verb

  • “Is the food delicious?” She asked me if the food was delicious.
  • “Does your daughter usually help you?”He asked me if my daughter usually helped me.

Reported Speech

Use the wh-word and change the word order


helping verb  subject


subject helping verb or main verb.

  • “What is your name?”  ⇒ She asked me what my name is.
  • “Where did they live?”She wanted to know where they lived.

Reported Speech

Count nouns are those nouns that can be counted (one/a book, two books, etc.) They can be singular and plural. We can use the definite and indefinite articles with them.

Examples: dog, egg, lesson, mobile, tree

Count nouns are those nouns that cannot be counted. They have only one form and are used with singular verbs and pronouns. They are not used with a and an.

Examples: advice, diabetes, furniture, oil, rain

Count and Noncount Nouns

Zero conditional (or if clause type 0) has the following structure:

If + subject + present simple, subject + present simple

It expresses conditions of habitual activities, scientific facts and general truths in the present and future.


  • If we heat water, it boils.
  • If you don’t water plants, they die.
  • If I run out of money, I borrow from my elder brother.

If Clauses

It means that the form of the verb in a sentence has to match the subject. This matching, or agreement, is related to number (singular or plural) and person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).

  • The movie starts at 10 pm. (singular subject and singular verb)
  • Movies at this cinema usually start at 11 pm. (plural subject and plural verb)

Check the rules here.

Subject pronouns function as subjects of sentences. Typically, they come at the beginning of the sentence.

They are:

I: first person singular

We: first person plural

You: second person singular and plural

He, She, It: third person singular

They: third person plural

  • I am excited about the upcoming event!
  • She prefers to do things on her own.
  • They would like to offer you a free stay at their hotel.

Object pronouns function as objects of verbs or prepositions.

They are:

me: first person singular

us: first person plural

you: second person singular and plural

him, her, it: third person singular

Them: third person plural

  • The landlord told me that the apartment is going to be renewed.
  • Let’s talk to him about the new plan.
  • The children always help us with the house chores.


There + be: is an “expletive” structure. It does not have a meaning on its own

It introduces the idea that something is in a particular place. The form of the sentence is:

There + be (is, are, was, were, has/have/had been) + subject + place.

  • There is a good talk show on TV right now.
  • There are two people waiting for you in the hall.
  • There has been a lot of noise in the street.

Their: a possessive adjective (like my, our, your, his, her, its) that comes before nouns to show the ownership of  something to a group of people or things

  • This is their house. (= The house belongs to them.)
  • Their company is a successful one. (= the company that belongs to them)
  • Have you been to their restaurant(= the restaurant that belongs to them)

They’re: a short form of They are

  • They’re our dear friends. (They are)
  • They’re preparing for the party at the moment. (They are)
  • Did you know that they’re not coming tomorrow? (they are)

Its (without apostrophe): a possessive adjective (like my, our, your, their, his, her) that comes before nouns to show the ownership of  something 

  • The cat moved its tail. (= the tail belongs to the cat)
  • I bought this house because I liked its design. (= the design of the house)
  • Each software has its hiccups. (= hiccups caused by the software)

It’s (with apostrophe): a short form of it is or it has

It is: when followed by a noun, adjective, or verb-ing 

  • It’s my book. (followed by a noun)
  • It’s hot here. (followed by an adjective)
  • It’s going to be hot tomorrow. (followed by verb-ing)

It has: when followed by a past participle verb (verb 3)

  • It’s been a long time since I last saw them. (= It has been …)

Than is used in comparison.

It connects the two people or things compared with comparative adjective.

  • Tom is taller than Tim.
  • Reading a story is more interesting than watching a movie.

Then is an adverb that has different meanings.

       Meaning 1: “next” or “the next step”

  • She got ready, then she called a taxi.

       Meaning 2: “in that case”

  • If you like this ice-cream, then I’ll bring you some more.

       Meaning 3: “at that time”

  • I wanted to see you last night. What were you doing then?

Both of them are used to indicate time.

Since is used with point of time in the past.

It is used with time expressions that refers to a past time like: 6 o’clock, Saturday, January, 2000, I was young, …

  • He has worked for this company since 2015.

For is used for a period of time (duration) in the present, past or future.

It is used with time expressions like: 2 hours, 3 days, 3 months, years, ages, a long time, …

  • He has worked for this company for 6 years. (He still works for the company.)
  • She lived in this house for 5 years. (She no more lives in this house.)
  • We will stay with you for 2 weeks. (future)

Both will and be going to are used to express simple future.

Will is used to talk about unplanned actions – actions that we decide to do at the time of speaking. 

  • The box looks heavy. I‘ll help you to carry it.

We also use will to talk about promises, hopes, threats, warnings, etc.

  • will bring you a sandwich from the canteen. 

Be going to is used to talk about planned events in the near future.

  • They are going to move to another city next month.

Both will and be going to can be used to talk about predictions, but be going to is more used when the prediction is based on knowledge or evidence.

  • think it will snow in the evening.
  • The sky is cloudy. It‘s going to rain soon.

All four words are demonstratives. They are used to point to people, things or places.

Near + Singular: This

Near + Plural: These

  • Here you are!. You may use this pen.
  • I like these doughnuts.

Distant + Singular: That

Distant + Plural: Those

  • Can you see that car over there? It’s mine.
  • What are those men doing in the street at this time?

Whose (without apostrophe): can be 

  1. a relative pronoun to introduce a relative clause of possession 
  • I met the lady whose daughter won the first prize in the reading competition.

      2. a question word to ask about possession

  • Whose glasses are these?

Who’s (with apostrophe): short form of Who is or Who has

  • Who’s your teacher? (= Who is)
  • Who’s talking? (= Who is)
  • Who’s written this memo?  (= Who has)

Both who and whom are relative pronouns used to refer to people (not things).

Who can be used for both subjects and objects. 

Whom can be used for objects only.

  • The architect who designed my house is my closest friend. (subject of the relative clause, so we cannot use whom here)
  • Is this the doctor who (or whom) we visited yesterday. (object of visited)
  • This is the author who (or whom) I told you about. (object of the preposition about)

Note: We cannot use who immediately after a preposition. 

  • This is the footballer about whom I told you. (NOT about who)

We use like to express similarity;

1. with nouns, pronouns, and ing forms

  • He acts like a hero. (He is not a hero.)

2. with verbs of senses: feel, look, smell, taste

  • It looks like a duck. (It’s not a duck.)

We use as to say what someone or something really is.

  • He works as a project manager. (He is a project manager.)

Which introduces a non-defining, or nonrestrictive, clause. In other words, the clause can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Non-defining, or nonrestrictive, clauses provide additional information about the nouns they introduce.

  • The copying machine, which we use to copy confidential documents, is in the principal’s office.

Using which in this sentence implies that we have only one copying machine. The which clause only adds information about it.

It is enclosed between two commas, and it can be left out without changing the meaning.

We cannot use that in non-defining clauses.

That introduces defining, or restrictive, clauses that limit the nouns they refer to.

Restrictive, or defining clauses, are important to specify the noun, so deleting them will change the meaning of the sentence. 

  • The copying machine that we use to copy confidential documents is in the principal’s office.

This sentence means that we have more than one copying machine, but the one in the principal’s office is the one we use to copy confidential documents.

No commas are used to enclose defining clauses.

Which can be used instead of that in restrictive clauses.


⇒⇒ When commas are necessary: use which only.

⇒⇒ When commas are unnecessary: use that or which.

Too and very are adverbs that come before adverbs and adjectives.

Too means “more than enough.” It usually implies a negative result.

Very emphasizes the adjective/adverb; it makes the adjective/adverb stronger.

  • This tea is too sweet for me. (I can’t drink it because it has more sugar than I can take.)
  • This tea is very sweet. (It emphasize the adjective “sweet.”)
  • He works too hard. (He works much harder than is necessary.)
  • He works very hard. (It emphasize the adverb “hard.”)

Do not use too to emphasize adjectives/adverbs.

  • This cake is very delicious. (NOT too delicious)
  • She sings very beautifully. (NOT very beautifully)

With some verbs such as like, dislike, doubt and hope, we use very much (NOT too much) to emphasize the verb.

  • I like ice-cream very much. (NOT too much)

Note: The expression “too good to be true” means that it is so good or impressive that it is difficult to believe.

Both when and if are used to express condition.

But the meaning is a little different.

We use when to show that we are certain that something will happen.

  • We will serve the food when you arrive. (We know that they will arrive; maybe they are on their way.)

We use if when we are not certain that something will happen.

  • I will cook more food if more people decide to come. (I am not sure if more people will decide to come.)

If Clauses

Both of them modify noncount nouns.

Little means “almost none.”

I had little coffee in the pantry, so I couldn’t make a cup for my friend.

A little means “some, not much.”

There was a little sugar in the pantry, but it was enough to make a small cake for my daughter.

Count and Noncount Nouns

Both of them modify count nouns.

Few” means “almost none.”

Few people showed up, so the lecture was cancelled. (almost nobody attended)

A few” means “some but not many.”

A few people attended the lecture; the discussion was fruitful. (some people attended, but not many)

Count and Noncount Nouns