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Grammar and sentence structure

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Part 1: Grammar

a) When I arrived at the cinema, the film had started. (intermediate)


We use the past perfect to talk about the relationship between events in the past. The past perfect indicates that an incident happened further back in the history than another game.
In this grammar and sentence structure ‘the film had started’ means that this action happened before the other actors ‘I arrived at the cinema.’

Concept Questions:

Are we talking about the past? (Yes)
How many actions are there in the past? (Two)
Did both activities happen at the same time? (No)
Did one response happen before the other? (Yes)
Which action occurred first? ( The film started)
Was I there when the movie started? (No)

Teaching contexts: e.g., A story about a girl going to the party late and missing many events that happened before her arrival.


The film had started
Subject + had + past participle of the verb
Had is an auxiliary verb
Contraction is ( ‘d)


/ wen ˈaɪəˈraɪvdətðə ˈsɪnəməðə fɪlm həd ˈstɑːtɪd /
The weak form of had/həd/ is used.

Anticipated problems and solutions

  1. Problem: Students may confuse the past perfect with the present perfect tense.
    Solution: Draw a timeline displaying both tenses and ask CCQs to compare them.
  2. Problem: Students may perceive the past perfect as a difficult one and avoid using the auxiliary ‘had’ and say: ‘When I arrived at the cinema the film started.’
    Solution: Use timeline as a clarification to show the difference between the past perfect and the simple past tense. Create more teaching contexts so that they can practice it more.
  3. Problem: Students may think that the past perfect is used for ‘the distant past’ while the simple past is used for ‘the recent past.’
    Solution: Use CCQs and refer to the other example sentences from the text or context used to show that past perfect refers to the action that happened earlier among two activities.
  4. Problem: Students may emphasize the ‘had.’
    Solution: Mark the weak form and stress on the board. Model and drill.

    e.g., The film had started

b) I should have studied harder. (upper intermediate)


In this grammar and sentence structure ‘ ‘should have studied’ means that I didn’t study hard enough in the past and I regret it now.
Concept Questions:
Do I refer back to past time? (Yes)
Did I study hard enough? (No)
Am I criticising myself? (Yes)
Am I upset because I did not study harder? (Yes)
Do I regret now? (Yes)

Teaching Contexts: e.g., Past Criticism: Now you are left alone since you have been very selfish to everyone around you.


Subject + modal verb (should) + have (auxiliary verb)+ past participle


I should have studied.
Should /ʃʊd/: It has one syllable.
Have /həv/ : It has one syllable.
Should’ve / ’ʃʊdəv/ : Contracted form. The stress is on the first syllable.
Studied /ˈstʌd.ıd/ : There are two syllables, and the stress is on the first syllable.
Sentence stress is placed on ‘should,’ and ‘studied.’ ‘Have’ is unstressed.

Anticipated problems and solutions

  1. Problem: Students may think that the action was done as the sentence is affirmative.
    Solution: Use CCQs and provide students with a list of scenarios that people regret not doing.
  2. Problem: Students might tend to use the bare infinitive form of the verb instead of using past participle.
    Solution: Write example sentences on the board with should and infinitive forms, cross out infinitive and write past participle form instead.
  3. Problem: Students may pronounce silent ‘l’ it should.
    Solution: Write ‘should’ on the board. Cover ‘l’ then model and drill.

Part 2: Vocabulary

a) I went to our local library yesterday vs. I went to our local bookshop yesterday. (elementary)


Library: a room or building that contains a collection of books and other written material that you can read or borrow
Bookshop: a shop that sells books

Concept Questions:

Library: Can I keep the books? (Yes)
Do I have to return the books? (Yes)
Do I have to pay for the books? (No)
Can I read the books there? (Yes)
Bookshop: Can I keep the books? (Yes)
Do I have to return the books? (No)
Do I have to pay for the books? (Yes)

Teaching contexts: e.g., Comparing two students: One of them has money in his/her pocket and leads to a bookshop while the other one has no money and goes to a library.


library : noun [ C ] , libraries (plural)
bookshop: noun [ C ], bookshops


library /ˈlaɪbrəri/
bookshop: ​ /ˈbʊkʃɒp/

Anticipated problems and solutions

  1. Problem: Students may confuse the meaning of a library with the bookshop.
    Solution: Show their pictures. Create more teaching contexts and elicit answers by CCQs
  2. Problem: Students may mispronounce library as /lıbrarı/ or /lıbrærı/
    Solution: Model and drill it.

b) He gave up smoking. (pre-intermediate)


Give up (sth): to stop the habit. If you give up a pattern such as smoking or give up something unhealthy such as alcohol, you end up doing it or having it:
Concept Questions:
Did he smoke in the past? (Yes)
Did he stop smoking? (Yes)
Does he burn now? (No)

Teaching contexts: e.g., A conversation between two old people who are talking about the lousy past habits that they gave up.


Subject + Verb + Particle + object
To give up sth: Phrasal verb (Verb + Preposition)
The gerund must be used when a verb comes after the preposition ‘up.’


Gave up /geivΛp/
The stress falls on the proposition ‘up.’

Anticipated Problems and solutions

  1. Problem: Students might tend not to use gerund form after the phrasal verb.
    Solution: Elicit and write the form on the board. Provide more examples based on students’ prior knowledge. (e.g., I am interested in playing the guitar. / I am good at cooking.)
  2. Problem: Students may place the stress on the verb gave instead of the preposition up
    Solution: Drill the sentence through the back-chaining. Start with the last word smoking and add up, gave and he.

(intransitive) To admit defeat, capitulate
OK, I give up, you win.

To stop trying to do something. They gave up without a fight. She doesn’t give up easily. I give up—tell me the answer.


  • Scrivener, J. (2010)Teaching English Grammar: Macmillan Publishers Limited
    Aitken R. (1992) Teaching Tenses: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd
  • Workman G. (2005) Concept Questions and Time Lines: Chadburn Publishing
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