Sunday, February 26, 2012

"That" or "Which"

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring.  e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.

"that" effectively makes the right hand clause into an adjective. For example "This is the house that Jack built" -- here "that Jack built" is part of the description of the house.

"which" (or more precisely, ", which", since you need the preceding comma) just adds a descriptive phrase which supplements the sentence. For example "This is Jack's house, which is quite large".

The essential difference is that "This is the house" does not narrow down WHICH house you're referencing, so you add "that Jack built" to make that distinction. On the other hand "This is Jack's house" DOES narrow down which house you're referencing, and so you don't need to narrow it down further, and so you don't need "that".

When proofreading a peer’s article on the solar system, I realized that she, and I, are unsure of the proper use of “that” and “which” in a sentence. Below is [SIC] two examples of the same sentence, one using “that” and the other “which.”
  • “To our knowledge, it is the only body in the solar system which currently sustains life, although several other bodies are under investigation.”
  • “To our knowledge, it is the only body in the solar system that currently sustains life, although several other bodies are under investigation.”
Which is the correct sentence, and what is the general rule of thumb?
Justin, I’ll give you the answer now, rather than making you read to the end of the whole article: the second version of that sentence, using that is correct.

When To Use “That” and When To Use “Which”

Before I come on to the “that”/”which” rule, just a reminder that “who” should always be used when referring to people.
  • The boy who threw the ball.
  • This is the woman who always wears a black shawl.
When referring to objects, though, the rule for using “that” and “which” correctly is simple:
  • THAT should be used to introduce a restrictive clause.
  • WHICH should be used to introduce a non-restrictive or parenthetical clause.
If that leaves you more confused than when you began this article, read on…
A restrictive clause is one which is essential to the meaning of a sentence – if it’s removed, the meaning of the sentence will change. For example:
  • Chairs that don’t have cushions are uncomfortable to sit on.
  • Card games that involve betting money should not be played in school.
  • To our knowledge, it is the only body in the solar system that currently sustains life…
A non-restrictive clause can be left out without changing the meaning of a sentence. Non-restrictive clauses are either in brackets or have a comma before and after them (or only before them if they come at the end of a sentence):
  • Chairs, which are found in many places of work, are often uncomfortable to sit on.
  • I sat on an uncomfortable chair, which was in my office.

Why You Need to Use “That” or “Which” Correctly

Changing that to which or vice versa can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Consider the following examples:
  • My car that is blue goes very fast.
  • My car, which is blue, goes very fast.
The first sentence uses that – suggesting I own more than one car (and even implying my other cars might not be so fast). This is what happens if we leave out the clause and write:
  • My car that is blue goes very fast.
  • My car goes very fast.
The sentence’s meaning has changed: the reader does not know which one of my cars goes very fast.
However, the sentence using which simple informs the reader that my car is blue. We can take the clause out without losing any essential information:
  • My car, which is blue, goes very fast.
  • My car goes very fast.

“That” and “Which” in Common Usage

It is common today for which to be used with both non-restrictive and restrictive clauses, especially in informal contexts:
  • Who ate the cake that I bought this morning?
  • Who ate the cake which I bought this morning?
The clause “that I bought this morning” is essential to the meaning – I’m not asking about a cake which I bought yesterday, or this afternoon. Therefore, the first example using “that” is the correct one, but many people would not consider the second ungrammatical.
It is, however, incorrect even in informal contexts to use that for a non-restrictive or parenthical clause. For example, these sentences would be considered incorrect:
  • This computer, that I have never liked, is very slow.
  • The blue desk, that my father gave me.
An easy way to watch out for these is to look for instances where you have a comma followed by the word that. If I’d know this years ago, it would have saved me a lot of frustration with Microsoft Word!
Even though the usage of which has been relaxed to some extent, it is still better to keep your writing as clear as possible by using which for only non-restrictive clauses, and that for restrictive ones.
So, to return to Justin’s example:
  • “To our knowledge, it is the only body in the solar system which currently sustains life, although several other bodies are under investigation.”
  • “To our knowledge, it is the only body in the solar system that currently sustains life, although several other bodies are under investigation.”
The second sentence, using that is correct, but many people would consider the first sentence permissible too. In a formal context such as a scientific paper, it is better to use that for total clarity.

In certain phrases in English, you can use “which” or “that” such as, “Monday is the day that/which I hate the most!” However, sometimes you can only use “which”. For example: “I’m from Moscow, which is the capital of Russia.”
The good news is that you can always use “which”, although most native English speakers prefer to use “that” whenever it’s possible. In this blog, we’re going to examine the grammar rules that govern the use of these annoying little words that cause so much confusion for students.
From First Certificate in English level onwards, you will be expected to be able to understand and use these words correctly and may be graded on your use of them in both the Writing and Use of English papers.
To clarify, we are not talking about the use of “which” as a question word (e.g. Which is bigger; Italy or France?) but as a linking word in subordinate clauses.
Subordinate clauses
A subordinate clause is a clause which functions as part of another clause (e.g. as subject, object or adverbial in the main clause of a sentence). Simplified, a subordinate clause is part of a bigger sentence and exists to define the subject or object, or to provide extra information. Look at the following examples:
  1. Subordinate clause defining subject:
“The city that/which I love the most is Barcelona.”
In this example, the subordinate clause is underlined and it forms part of the subject. You can use “that” or “which” in this sentence. Imagine the sentence without the clause: “The city is Barcelona”. This sentence is grammatically correct but lacks meaning. It is ambiguous. Therefore, the subject of the sentence should be “The city that I love the most…”. In this case, the subject is defined and the sentence has meaning.
  1. Subordinate clause defining object:
“I love languages that/which are easy to learn.”
In this example, the subordinate clause underlined forms part of the object. Without the clause, the sentence is just “I love languages” which isn’t quite what the speaker is trying to say. Again, in this example both “that” and “which” are possible.
  1. Subordinate clause providing extra, non-essential information:
“My car, which is 10 years old, needs to be repaired regularly.”
In this example, the subordinate clause is providing extra information, which is neither defining the subject or the object, nor is the information essential to the meaning of the sentence. Imagine the sentence without the subordinate clause: “My car needs to be repaired regularly.” The meaning of the sentence here is the same. The subject is clearly defined. True, the sentence has a little less information but it doesn’t affect the meaning. In this example, only “which” is possible.
Also, notice the comma separating the subordinate clause from the subject. Although the subordinate clause here relates to the subject, it is not part of it. Therefore we use a comma to show this separation.
These three examples are essentially the three types of subordinate clause. Numbers 1 and 2 are examples of what are known as “defining clauses” while number 3 is an example of a “non-defining clause”.
  1. Remember, clauses that define the subject or the object can be introduced with “which” or “that”. It is useful to know that most native English speakers prefer to use “that” in these cases.
  2. Clauses that simply provide extra information can only be introduced with “which”. It is useful to recognise that such clauses are more common in written English than in spoken English.
  3. When using a non defining relative clause with “which”, you need to use a comma to separate the clause from the subject or object.
N.B. “Which” and “that” are not the only words that introduce subordinate clauses. There are also “who”, “where”, “when”, “whose”. However, “which” and “that” are the most common relative pronouns used to define or give extra information about things, while the others are used for people, places, time and possession respectively.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Like" vs "As"

The Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage states that “probably no single question of usage has created greater controversy in recent years” than the conjunctive use of like.

Like is a preposition. It should be followed by an object to make a prepositional phrase.
As is a conjunction. It should be followed by a clause containing a subject and a verb.

Incorrect: He runs like a deer does.
(Like is followed by a clause.)

Correct: He runs like a deer.
Correct: He runs as a deer does.

Like and as are often confused in English. They can both be used to talk about how things are similar.

Like is followed by a noun or pronoun. For example, "I'm like my sister", or "Like my sister, I have brown eyes."

As is followed by a subject and verb. For example, "She's a good student, as her brother was before her."
However, in spoken English, like is often used instead of as. "She's a good student, like her brother was before her."
As is used with a preposition, such as, "As in the 1960's, the population explosion will cause some problems."
We can use as in certain expressions, such as "as you know", "as you requested", "as we agreed".
We also use as… to give comparisons. For example, "He's as clever as his sister."


Be careful, in similar sentences that use LIKE and AS, the meanings of each sentence are very different. For example:
  • As your boss, I must warn you to be careful. (I am your boss.)
  • Like your boss, I must warn you to be careful. (I am not your boss, but he/she and I have similar attitudes.)
In English we also use as if to make comparisons. However it has a few distinct characteristics to its use:
1. The verb after AS IF is always in the past subjunctive, no matter what tense the sentence is.
2. If the verb BE directly follows AS IF, we use were for all personal pronouns.
  • He looks as if he knew the answer.
(The verbs LOOKS indicates this sentence is in the present – but the verb after AS IF – knew - is in the past subjuntive).
  • She walks as if she were a supermodel.
(The verb after AS IF – be – has been changed to were and not was).
  • He boarded the airplane as if he were a seasoned traveler.
  • He spends money as if he owned a bank.


She sings ______ an angel. 
I'm much better ______ you can see.
 My sister is not at all ______ me.
 My daughter is just ______ my sister.
 I'm attending the meeting ______ an observer.
I use one of the bedrooms ______ an office. You are very ______ your mother.
 I hope to qualify ______ an engineer.
My friend Rob looks ______ John Travolta.
There is too much traffic in London ______ in New York.
We're late for the train. We'll have to run ______ the wind.
 I'm your friend and, ______ a friend, I advise you to think again.
  ______ your friend, I advise you to get another opinion.
You don't like confrontations, ______ me.
I want to join the air force ______ a pilot. 
We need a strong leader ______ Winston Churchill.    
He has gone to our competitors ______ marketing manager.  
I've appointed Simon Williams ______ the new trustee. 
I've done the work ______ we agreed. 
I was sure, ______ was everybody else, that you would do well in this job.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Restaurants and Food

It was a friend’s birthday last Friday night and we went to a crowded, trendy (de moda) restaurant in my neighborhood of Ruzafa.  We were a group of nine people and we sat at two tables in the restaurant.  The waitress came to our table and asked us if we wanted anything to drink.

"Would you like something to drink?" she asked.
“May I have a glass of wine, please?” I asked politely.

“Would you like a bottle of wine instead?” the waitress asked me.
“That is a great idea.  Instead of ordering only a glass of wine I can order a bottle of wine.” I told her. "Do you have anything bigger than a bottle of wine? Can I order a barrel of wine?"

She asked again if I would like a bottle of wine.

“Yes, would you bring us a bottle of your best wine?” I didn’t really say this, but I have always wanted to say, “Bring a bottle of your best wine!” Some people probably always say “Bring me a bottle of your best wine.” I hate people like that. I think that it would be funny to go to a very expensive restaurant and drink a box of Don Simon cooking wine.

The wine was very good but it wasn’t the best wine the restaurant sells. At least it came in a bottle and not in a box with a plastic cap (tapa). I say that the wine was good but I don’t know very much about wine except that it has alcohol in it which is very important.

I took my napkin and put it on my lap. I had a knife, fork, and spoon in front of me on the table. I had a glass of water and a glass of wine.  The tablecloth was white so I was very careful with my wine. I didn’t want to spill (derramar, verter) any wine on the white tablecloth.

Next the waitress asked if we would like to look at the menu (méñu). She gave everyone at the table a menu.  I wasn’t very hungry. I wanted to try a few small things on the menu, or tapas as they are called in Spain. I think that tapas may be the second greatest contribution to human civilization in the history of our planet. Number one on the list of greatest contributions to human civilization is wine, wine and all other kinds of booze (bebida alcohólica). Without booze we are no better than animals.

I looked at the menu and tried to decide what I should order.  After a few minutes the waitress came back to our table.

 “Are you ready to order?” she asked. My friends ordered their meals. Now it was my turn to order. 

“I would like the Poor Man’s Potatoes (patatas a lo pobre), please,” I said to the young woman. I ordered a couple of other small items1 on the menu.  

The food arrived. My plate of Poor Man’s Potatoes was very small.  It looked like one sliced2 potato. There was a fried egg on top of the sliced potato.  I said to my friends at the table that I thought it was a little ironic that such a small plate of Poor Man’s Potatoes cost 8€. I could make enough Poor Man’s Potatoes at home for 25 people for 8€. I said to my friends that I thought that this small dish of Poor Man’s Potatoes was an insult to the second greatest contribution to human civilization. My friends told me to shut up (callarse) and eat.

I shared the potatoes with my friends. We had some hummus that we ate with slices of bread. We had some fried squid. I love fried food. I could eat an old shoe if you fried it in oil and put salt on it. If I had a restaurant I would put that on the menu: Old Shoe Fried in Oil with Salt 7€. I think that it would be a popular menu item.

After we finished eating the waitress took away all of the plates, knives, forks, spoons, and empty glasses on the table. She tried to take away my wine glass because it was almost empty.  I told her that getting between me and my unfinished glass of wine is more dangerous than being between a mother bear and her cubs (cachorros). She didn’t think that my joke was very funny.  Then she asked us if we wanted dessert.

“Is wine dessert?” I asked. The waitress told me that wine wasn't dessert.

"What do you have for dessert?" we asked.
"We have chocolate cake and apple pie," she replied. We ordered one of each to share.
"The check, please," I said.
She brought the check. We paid the bill and left.  
1  Item ['aɪtəm] nombre
1   artículo, pieza
2   (para definir incontables) item of clothing, prenda de vestir
     item of furniture, mueble
     news item, noticia
3   (en el orden del día) punto, asunto

2  slice 1 /slaɪs/ sustantivo
  1. countable (piece — of bread) rebanada f;
    (— of cake) trozo m, pedazo m;
    (— of cheese) rebanada f;
    (— of lemon, cucumber) rodaja f;
    (— of meat) tajada f;
    (— of ham) loncha f, lonja f, feta f (RPl);
    (— of melon) raja f
  2. To cut into slices

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some and Any

 (I agree with this):

 Used to show an indefinite quantity (the exact number is not important) and in affirmative statements.

I have some books.
She wants some apples. 

(I don't agree with this):

   Used in questions, but only when you think the answer will be 'Yes'.

Do you have some paper?
(I hope the answer will be 'Yes')
Would you like some french fries? ( I expect the answer will be 'Yes')

 ( I agree with this rule): 

 Used in negative statements. 

I don't have any money.
There aren't any taxis near here.

I don't agree with this "rule" at all. It makes no sense to my ears:

 Used in questions, especially when we expect the answer will be 'No'.
Do you have any paper?
(I expect the answer will probably be 'No')
Is there any time to go to the doctor's?
( I think there probably isn't time).

1. Fred is very busy : he doesn't have time.
2. Let's listen to music and watch the stars in the sky!
3. We need butter and bread for dinner.
4. I have very old books! do you want to see them?
5. Rachel meets friends at the weekend.
6. Do you have orange juice ? I don't see it in the fridge.
7. No, I don't ! But I have grapefruit if you want !
8. Do you want ? ...Oh yes please.
9. Silly boys! They went to town without money ! 

  • anyone
  • anywhere
  • anything
  • any
  • someone
  • somewhere
  • something
  • some

  • 1) I'm not hungry. I don’t want to eat.Correct!
  • 2) If has a question please ask me tomorrow. Correct!
  • 3) Yesterday we bought flowers for our teacher.Correct!
  • 4) Does fun ever happen in Cape Town?Correct!
  • 5) I heard a knock, is at the door.Correct!
  • 6) We didn’t go this holiday, we just stayed at home.Correct!
  • 7) You must be thirsty! Would you like water?Correct!
  • 8) What do you want to do tonight? We can do , I don’t mind. Correct!
  • 9) Why do you look so sad? Did bad happen?Correct!
  • 10) They’ve recently discovered ancient human bones in Southern Africa.

  • We will have ___ news soon.

  • Would you like ___ breakfast?

  • There is not ___ rain in summer.

  • Can I have ___ coffee?

  • I think I will have ___ toast.

  • Do you have ___ pets?

  • She had ___ good ideas.

  • He does not have ___ patience.

    Here is one discussion of the use of "any" ans "some":
    On an English test my son wrote, " Do you have some books?". It was marked wrong. The answer was "Do you have any books?" Both sentences sound natural. Are there no instances when the first sentence can be used?

    The answer to this question shouldn't be as difficult as it seems to be. It seems that some is used in so-called assertive sentences, as in "He has some books," and we are more apt to find any in so-called non-assertive sentences (questions and negations), as in "He didn't have any books" or "Do you have any books?" However, if the speaker or writer of a question has a strong reason to believe that the answer to a question will be yes, he can ask for such a simple confirmation using some instead of any. This is especially true when we make an offer of something (with good reason to think that the answer will be yes, I'll have some of that): "Would you like some pancakes this morning?" In short, although the word any is far more apt to appear in that sentence, I certainly would not say your son's sentence is incorrect. For instance, what if I pick up a friend's suitcase, and it seems to be very heavy. I might well ask, "Do you have some books [in there]?"

    My personal feelings are that OF COURSE you can ask someone, "Do you have some money?" It would be absurdly pedantic and petty to say this is incorrect. It is such an incredibly minor point of "grammar"as to not really matter much to anyone but ridiculous grammar Nazis who are more interested in being right than they are with human communication. I tend to side with communication.

Friday, February 10, 2012

To Be Used To / To Get Used to

Usamos 'used to' para algo que pasaba en el pasado pero ya no.

  • Ben used to travel a lot in his job but now, since his promotion, he doesn't.
  • I used to drive to work but now I take the bus.
  • I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day but I stopped two years ago.

También para algo que era verdad pero ya no.

  • There used to be a cinema in the town but now there isn't.
  • She used to have really long hair but she's had it all cut off.
  • I didn't use to like him but now I do.

Usamos 'to be used to doing' para decir acostumbrarse, algo normal.

  • I'm used to living on my own. I've done it for quite a long time.
  • Hans has lived in England for over a year so he is used to driving on the left now.
  • They've always lived in hot countries so they aren't used to the cold weather here.


(accustomed) (pred) to be ~ TO sth/-ING - estar acostumbrado a algo/+ inf ;

I'm not used to this heat/getting up early - no estoy acostumbrado a tanto calor/a madrugar;
to get used TO sth/-ING acostumbrarse a algo/+ inf ;
I got used to him - me acostumbré a él;
I got used to the idea - me hice a la idea

to (+ INF): there used to be a shop next door - antes había una tienda al lado;
things aren't what they used to be (set phrase)-  las cosas ya no son lo que eran;
I used to work in that shop (antes)-  trabajaba en esa tienda;
Do you play chess? — I used to - ¿juegas al ajedrez? — antes solía jugar or ya no;

To be used to - estar acostumbrado a

·  We were used to the sunny weather of the coast.
Estábamos acostumbrados al clima soleado de la costa.
·  Joan is used to dealing with children.
Joan está acostumbrada a tratar con niños.
·  Mr. Jones wasn't used to all that luxury.
El señor Jones no estaba acostumbrado a todo ese lujo.
·  They must be used to their noisy neighbours.
Deben de estar acostumbrados a sus vecinos ruidosos.
·  I am not used to travelling by plane.
No estoy acostumbrado a viajar en avión.

To get used to - acostumbrarse a (si sigue verbo, es un gerundio)
·  People get used to new technologies.
La gente se acostumbra a las nuevas tecnologías.
·  Paul never got used to living in the country.
Paul nunca se acostumbró a vivir en el campo.
·  I was getting used to working with Michael.
Me estaba acostumbrando a trabajar con Michael.
·  We had got used to having you around.
Nos habíamos acostumbrado a tenerte por aquí.
·  I will never get used to getting up early.
Nunca me voy a acostumbrar a levantarme temprano.

Curso de ingles gratis

Tuesday, May 9

El uso de 'be used to' y 'get used to' en inglés

Cuando se usa be used to en inglés significa estar acostumbrado hacer algo.

Se forma: el verbo to be + used to + verbo con ing (el gerundio)


I am used to getting up early. Estoy acostumbrado a levantarme temprano.

He is used to working on Saturdays.
El esta acostumbrado a trabajar los sabados

We are used to travelling by bus. Nosotros estamos acostumbrado a viajar en autobus.

Cuando se usa get used to en inglés significa acostumbrarse a hacer algo.

Se forma: el sujeto + el verbo to be + get used to + el verbo con ing (el gerundio)


I am getting used to working in an office.
Me estoy acostumbrando a trabajar en una oficina.

She is getting used to living in a city. Ella se esta acostumbrando a vivir en una ciudad.

They are getting used to studying everyday. Ellos se estan acostumbrando a estudiar todos los dias.

Tips (consejos)

Recuerde be used to y get used to usan el gerundio (el verbo + ing) y refirieren al presente mientras used to usa el infinitivo y refiere al pasado. Para mas información sobre used to haga click aqui


I used to work in an office - solia trabajar en una oficina.

I am used to working in an office. Estoy acostumbrado a trabajar en una oficina.

Tambien se puede usar get used to + ing con otros tiempos en inglés.


I will have to get used to getting up early. Tendré que acostumbrame a levantarme temprano.

I had to get used to getting up early. Tuve que acostumbrame a levantarme temprano.

I got used to getting up early. Me acostumbré a levantarme temprano.