Across vs Over vs Through

ACROSS and OVER are both prepositions and adverbs. They are in most cases interchangeable.

Look at these sentences:

They had to go across the river to get to their house.

We walked over the bridge in the misty morning.

However, when the meaning is ‘from side to side’, ACROSS is preferred:

I ran across the street.

Juliana folded her arms across her chest.

When moving from one side to another in a surrounding environment, across is replaced by THROUGH:

I made my way through the bushes.

The Red Riding Hood went through the woods to get to her grandma’s house.

Don’t use THROUGH when talking about periods of time. In these cases, OVER is preferred.

I haven’t seen Tom much over the last three years.

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The Oxford Comma: yes or no?

The ‘Oxford comma’ or the ‘serial comma’ is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ or ’or’ in a list:
They have a dog, a cat, and a hamster.
 
Do you have this shirt in black, white, or grey colour?
The reason it is called the Oxford comma is because it was primarily used at the Oxford University Press.
There are lots of arguments about the topic. Some linguists think the Oxford comma is unnecessary, while some believe that it provides clarity and helps avoid misunderstandings.
For example: I love my family, Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder.
Without the Oxford comma at the end of the list it seems that Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder are your parents.
I love my family, Angelina Jolie, and Winona Ryder.
It is now clear what you meant.
I love Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder and my family.
This one is clear as well, even without the Oxford comma.
As it is not obligatory, you probably wonder whether to use the Oxford comma in your writing, or not?
Whatever you decide, try to be consistent in it.
Happy writing!

-ED and -ING Forms of Adjectives

We sometimes use verbs ending in –ed and –ing as adjectives:

I like painted furniture.

Do you like smoked meat?

The police are looking for a missing person.

Some people say Leonardo da Vinci invented first flying machine.

Many –ed and –ing adjectives describe feelings, but we use them in different ways. We use:

  • -ed adjectives to describe how we feel:

I’m confused.

The students are interested.

  • -ing adjectives to describe the thing that causes our feelings:

The rules are confusing.

It’s an interesting lesson.

We often use –ing adjectives to ask about or give an opinion about something:

Do you think horror films are frightening? (= or they frighten you?)

My cousin is really boring. (= He makes me feel bored)

We don’t use –ing adjectives to talk about how we feel;

Tell me more about the course.  I am very interested.

When and how to use HAVE/HAS BEEN

 

We normally use HAVE/HAS BEEN in the Present Perfect Continuous Tense. HAS BEEN is used if the subject is third person singular (he/she/it) and HAVE BEEN is used for all other persons (I/you/we/they).

The Present Perfect Continuous refers to an action that started in the past and is still continuing in the present.

Examples:

Maria has been studying for her exam since 8 o’clock. (and she still is)

We have been running for an hour. (and we still are)

How long have you been living in Chester?

HAVE/HAS BEEN is also used as a form of “to be” in Present Perfect Simple / Continuous passive constructions.

Examples:

They have been robbed.

She has been named after her grandma.

The toys have been being tidied up by the children all morning.

Tips to help you master a formal language

When learning English, it is very important to work out when and how to use formal  language.

Informal language is usually in a casual context. Informal language may use abbreviations, contractions, emojis, and slang. We use it in our everyday communication with friends and family.

However, formal language is used mostly in writing and in speeches or presentations. We use it in serious situations that include people we do not know well, when applying for a job, writing emails at work,  writing essays for school, etc…

Here are some tips to help you master a formal language:

  1. If you want to make your speech or writing more formal, the first thing to do is to replace contractions with non-contracted versions of the words. Instead of “isn’t,” “she’s,” or  “couldn’t,” say/write “is not”, “she is” or “could not”.

Informal: She couldn’t possibly attend the meeting.

Formal: She could not possibly attend the meeting.

2. Avoid abbreviated versions of words such as TV, phone, photo, etc. Rather go for television, telephone, and photograph instead.

3. Formal language will not use slang terms and colloquialisms.

Don’t say: The chick grabbed her coat and rushed out of the room.

Say: The woman/lady fetched her coat and hurriedly left the room.

4. Avoid phrasal verbs in your academic writing. Although their usage is quite common in normal conversations and it makes your speech sound more natural, formal context is not an adequate place for them. So, instead of a multi-word phrasal verb, use a one-word verb.

Don’t say: The scientists found out a solution to environmental pollution.

Say: The scientists discovered a solution to environmental pollution.

5. Avoid first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘We’. Try and replace them with “One,” “the reader,” “the viewers, ”.

Don’t say: We can see the actor is confused.

Say: The viewers can see the actor is confused.

Remember that the tone of a formal context is more serious, while the tone of an informal context is more personal and spontaneous.

 

Adverbs of Time

LATER

Adverbs of time later is usually placed at the end or beginning of a sentence.

I will call you later.

Later, we went to the zoo.

It can also be placed after the main verb and usually has a function of comparative.

Our mail arrived later than usual.

YET

YET is primarily used in negative and interrogative sentences. It is normally placed at the end of a sentence.

I haven’t had my breakfast yet.

Daren hasn’t gone to the dentist’s yet.

Have you finished your homework yet?

Have they decided about the wedding date yet?

YET can also be used in positive sentences to talk about a future possibility.

We might yet be able make a deal with them.

Things could yet improve in the company.

STILL

The adverb STILL is used to describe something that is happening continuously.

Tom is still thinking about moving to Corsica.

They are still not sure whether to continue with the project.

It can also be used with the modal verbs may, might, can, and could to describe something that was a possibility in the past, and which could possibly happen in the future.

We can still catch the 5.15 train.

I could still make it up to you.

FOR & SINCE

We use FOR & SINCE when we talk about how long something happens.

We use FOR  with a time phrase that specifies a length of time.

I have been waiting for two hours.

Lorna has been studying English for five years.

We have lived here for 20 years.

We use SINCE with a specific point in time.

I haven’t eaten anything since 8 o’clock.

Bill has put on weight since he started working in that bakery.

They have been married since 2012.