Mark's ESL World Jobs  35 Easy Questions


Basic Grammar
Parts of Speech
ESL Grammar Rules
Grammar Tips
35 Easy Questions



Common Rules for Students of ESL 


1)      Pluralize words when you are talking about them in general:

Not: “I like dog,” or “I like a dog.” But:> “I like dogs”

Not: “I like to see movies and read a book.”  But:> “I like to see movies and read books.  You can emphasis a particular type: “I like to read a good book.”

2)      “I like to sing a song” or “I like to read a book” ~ should be corrected to just be “I like to sing,” and “I like to read.” We can assume you sing songs and read books.

3)      Don’t put “was” before another complete verb:

Not: “I was ran yesterday.”  But:> “I ran yesterday.”  Please never say someone “… was died.”  That sounds especially strange. 

4)      Present Participles (verb + -ing) need a “be” verb in front of them.

Not: “I reading a book,” But:> “I’m reading a book.”

5)      Use “too” with positive statements and “neither” with negatives statements:  “I like Kimchi,.” “I do too”; “I don’t like Kimchi,” “Me neither / Neither do I.”

6)      Use “to” with only the basic form of the verb: Not: “I want to running.”  But:> “I want to run,” No –ing.  Exceptions: “I look forward to seeing you.”

7)      Don’t use “to” with past tense verbs, only present tense.

Not: “I like to ran.”  But:> “I like to run.”

8)      Don’t use “a” or “the” before meal names: Not: “I ate a breakfast this morning,” But:> “I ate breakfast this morning.”

9)      Don’t repeat the subject in the form of a pronoun directly after the subject.

Not: “Americans they are very fat.”  But:> “Americans are very fat.”

10)  Don’t use “a,” “an,” or “the” to mean generalizations except in scholarly or very formal situations.

Not “I like to read a book.”  But:> “I like to read books.”

Not “The cat is a beautiful animal.”  But:> “Cats are beautiful animals.”  Scholarly: Used before a singular noun indicating that the noun is generic: The wolf is an endangered species.  A cat is a feline.

11)  Going somewhere specific requires the preposition “to” except for “home.”  Do not use “to” for places using “up” or “down.”  Do not use “to” with non-specific words like “abroad” or “overseas.  Do not use “to” with pronouns.

Not: “I’m going Gwangju.”  But:> “I’m going to Gwangju.”

Not: “I’m going to home.”  But:> “I’m going home.” 

Not: “I’m going to downtown.”  But:> “I’m going downtown.”

Not: “I’m going to there.”  But:> “I’m going there.”

12)  Don’t incorrectly place verbs in the “subject” or “complement” of the sentence.

Not: “I like sing.” But:> “I like to sing.”  Or, “I like singing.”  (Turn the verb into a noun by using “to” in front of it, or by adding “-ing” -- not all verbs can use both methods.)  Note: some verbs can produce a secondary verb (infinitive without “to”), such as help, make, let, and verbs of perception (see below).  >> “My mother made me eat the hamburger,” “I watched him fall.”


(See next page)






Nouns or pronouns including modifying adjectives

Verbs, verb phrases, and phrasal verbs

Objects, indirect objects, predicate adjectives. predicate nominative or object compliment

Use infinitive or gerunds here


Use infinitives or gerunds here.

13)  Don’t leave out the “do” part of “don’t.”  “Not” is not a helping verb. 

Not: “I not have any money.”  But:> “I don’t have any money.”

14)  Put a “determiner” in front of most nouns (a, an, the, my, his, her, some, much, your).

Not: “I like teacher.”  But:> “I like my teacher.”

Not: “My father is truck driver.”  But:> “My father is a truck driver.”

15)  Don’t put “very” before verbs.

Not: “I very like you.”  But:> “I like you very much.”

16)  Don’t use two “determiners”

Not: “I’m having a my birthday party.”  But:> “I’m having my birthday party.”

17)  When making a negative statement begin with a negative word: Not: “Everybody doesn’t want to go.”  But: “Nobody wants to go.”

18)  Don’t use adverbs in place of adjectives.

Not: “He is very kindly.”  But:> “He is very kind.” (Saying, “The kindly old man…” is ok)


Instructions: Choose the correct answer.

Q1 - She played _____.


Q2 - The TV's far too ____.

Either could be used here.

Q3 - She speaks so very ____.


Q4 - She's a ____learner.


Q5 - I know them quite ____.

Either could be used here.

Q6 - Check your work ____.


Q7 - I've been having a lot of headaches ____.


Q8 - He's a ____ actor.



Q9 - He should pass the test _____.


Q10 - He's really lazy and _____ tries.

Either could be used here.

Q11 - The newspapers were very _____ of the scheme.


Q12 - He's ____ill.



Q13 - I don't ____ agree with you.


Q14 - I was _____ shocked.


Q15 - It was a ____ mess.


Q16 - They messed things up ____.


Q17 - It was a ____ day for us all.





19)  Use “going to,” not “will” for planned future events.

Not: “I will go to Seoul tomorrow.” But:> “I’m going to go to Seoul tomorrow.”

20)  Use “would” when talking about future imaginary things.

Not: “I like to have a big house in the country.”  But:>  “I would like to have a big house in the country.”

21)  Use “have to” not “should” for things that are mandatory. “Should” means: it’s just a good idea, but you don’t have to do it.

Not: “I should pick up my mother at the airport.”  But:>  “I have to pick up my mother at the airport.”  Don’t say “must;” “must” is stronger than “have to” and is used in “emphatic” (forceful) statements or by people in authority.

22)  Don’t say “wide” when you mean big.  Say “big” when you mean big and “wide” when you mean wide; i.e., “The board is 10 feet long and 8 inches wide.”

23)  “I envy you” ~ is not natural English.  Say “I’m so jealous” or “That really makes me jealous,” “That makes me so jealous.”

24)  Don’t say “until” when you mean “by” ~ “By” means no later than.  “Until” means a continuous action that happens up to a specific time, but not after:  “I’ll finish studying by 9:00.”  “I’ll study until 9:00.”


Instructions: “By” and “until” are two words that are often confused by learners. Students should take the following test:

Q1 - I'll keep phoning ____ you pay me.


Q2 - It's open from 7am ____ 5pm.


Q3 - It must be finished ____ Friday afternoon.


Q4 - She'll be staying at the hotel ____ Friday.


Q5 - She'll be here at five, ___ which time you mustn't leave the room.


Q6 - I'll be ready ____ the time you get here.


Q7 - I'll stay here ____ five o'clock.


Q8 - She'll be here at five, ___ which time I expect you to have finished the work



Q9 - I'll have it ready ____ four o'clock at the latest.

Either could be used here.

Q10 - ____ the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be getting up.


Q11 - We’d better wait ____ Tony's here.


Q12 - She had promised to be back ____ five o'clock.


Q13 - The application must be in ____ the 1st.


Q14 - Don't move ____ I tell you.


Q15 - Once he starts a decorating job he won't stop ____ it's finished.





25)  Using “until” to mean having done something to the present ~ It is common for ESL students to say things such as: “I’ve studied music until now.”  When one understands “until” to mean to do something for a period of time and then stop, the sentence does not convey the desired meaning.  It implies that the person is no longer studying music.  Saying “up to [till] now” is better, but most native speakers would rephrase the entire statement and say “I’ve been studying music for X years,” or “I’ve been studying since I was X years old.” 

26)  Try not to always use “so” to replace “very,” “a lot,” or “really.”  Instead of saying “The Wonder Girls are so popular,” try saying “The Wonder Girls are really popular.” “So” has a conjunctive feeling and tends to imply more information is coming, thus can give many sentences a feeling of not being finished.  Using “a lot” is very common: “I like it a lot”; however “a lot” is not considered to be a real word by grammarians and is not usually found in dictionaries. 

27)  Use the proper preposition ~ Preposition usage can be confusing; you must study them


Take this preposition quiz (answers are on the next page)



 You can sit  the table. Dinner is ready.


 What's wrong  John today? He looks so sad.


 I got married  her last year.


 What do you usually do  the weekends?


 Today is the 15th  January.


 This birthday present is  your sister.


 There are many stories  vampires.


 There are four  us in the family.


 She goes  the movies every Saturday.


 My parents are  vacation in Europe.


 I rode  the car / taxi / van.


 I rode  the bus / plane / train / motorcycle.


 Let's have a look  your collection of coins.


 It sometimes snows  November.


 I often go visit our grandma  the evening.


 My birthday is  June.


 My birthday is  June 21st.


 I went to school  Harvard university.


 Please put this  the corner.


 I am  my last year of college.



(Answers to preposition quiz: at, with, to, on, of, for or from, about, of, to, on, in, on, at, in, in, in, on, at, in, in.)


28)  Don’t say “the next day” when you meant “tomorrow.”

Not: “I’ll see you the next day.”  But;> “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

29)  Multiple singular nouns following a “be” verb don’t make it plural.  It remains singular:

Not: “There are my brother and sister.”  But;> “There is my brother and sister.”

30)  Not all compound subjects form a plural verb.  We would not say “Here are my passport and registration card,” but instead would say “Here is my passport and registration card.”  We would not say “There are my pencil and paper,” but instead would say “There is my pencil and paper.”  We would not say “Thunder and lightening were frightening to me,” but instead would say “Thunder and lightening was frightening to me.”  Such compound subjects are so closely related in the context spoken of that they become “conjoined” into a single idea or subject.

31)  The plural of person is usually “people.”  Only use “persons” when you are emphasizing each person of the group. Ex. “The persons responsible for committing the crime will be apprehended.”

32)  “In these days” ~ Should be just “These day,” “Now-a-days,” or “recently.”

33)  “Almost” means “nearly” and must be followed by a quantity, most commonly “all.”  Don’t say, “Almost my friends like fashionable clothes”; say “Almost all my friends like fashionable clothes.”  Using specific numbers like “Almost 90 people came to the party,” is grammatical, but could sound a little strange depending in context (If the person is certain the amount was not over 90 people, then he would probable the know the exact number and just say the exact number.)  If one is estimating, one would say “About 90 people came … .”  Saying “Nearly [or almost] “half” would probably be acceptable in most situations.   Note: Only use “Almost all …,” with positive statement.  For negative statements say “Almost nobody or no one … .”

34)  “Most of” refers to a subset of a group.  Don’t say “Most of Koreans like dogs,” say “Most Koreans like dogs.” (leave out the “of”)  “Most of ..” is used to limit the group: “However, most of the Koreans I know prefer cats.”

35)  later ~ We don’t say “See you two weeks later” or “Come back two weeks later.”  You should say “See you in two weeks” or “…two weeks from now…” “Come back in two weeks.”  “Later” is a comparative adjective and requires the comparing of two time periods:  “Mary came five minutes later than Joan.”  The expression “I’ll see you later” is alright.  Also do not say “Come back in two weeks later.”  Saying “after” is not usually used with a time period in second person (referring to the person being spoken to), but could probably sound acceptable as long as the word after comes before the time phrase, not after.  Not: “Came two days after,” but instead say “Come back after two days.”

36)  Don’t put “the” in front of city names.  Just say “I’m going to Gwangju,” not “I’m going to the Kwangju.”

37)  Everyone, everybody ~ Any word or phrase with “every” is always singular: “Everyone likes good food.”

38)  “fun” vs. “funny” ~ Something is fun if it’s enjoyable in a happy exciting way.  Something is “funny” if it makes us laugh.  The amusement park ride was fun, not funny.  The man was funny (he made us laugh).

39)  “bored” vs. “boring” ~ A person gets bored from watching or doing something that’s boring.  We don’t say “I’m boring,” we say “I’m bored.”

40)  “said like that” ~ We don’t say “He said like that.”  We just say “He said that”. – no “like.

41)  Don’t use “more” with comparative adjectives.

Not: I like it more better than that one.  But:> I like it better than that one.

42)  “recommend” ~ Don’t say “I recommend to you …” We recommend information, so the word recommend is followed by “that”: “I recommend that you lose weight.”  However “that” is understood even when not said, so it is considered optional: “I recommend you lose weight.”

43)  play vs. go ~ We “play” most sports that are games, but just do others. We play tennis, basketball, soccer, badminton, pool, etc.  We don’t play swimming, running, skiing, or skating.  With golf, we use both terms, “I’m going to play golf,” or “Let’s go golfing.”  Exception: We don’t play bowling; we just go bowling (though it’s clearly a game).

44)  noon and midnight ~ Noon is PM, midnight is AM.

45)  diligent ~ This word is very rarely used.  Try saying, “He is hard working,” or “He works hard.”

46)  red color ~ When speaking of a color, don’t use the word “color”; just say the name of the color: “The car is red,” not “The car is red color.”

47)  “drunk” vs. “drunken” ~ Native speakers never use the word “drunken”: “I’m drunk,” “We got drunk,”  “The drunk man …”   Always use “drunk.”

48)  clever ~ Don’t say “clever” when you mean “smart.”  These words are not the same.  “Clever” means thinking in an original way, having a good idea, or thinking in an imaginative way.  If a person is intelligent then just say “smart.”  If he did something original that the average person would not have thought of, then say “clever.”

49)  “I need to lose my weight.” “My weight” is all of your weight.  Just say; “I need to lose weight / some weight.”

50)  “… before” “I saw him five years before.” Say: “I saw him five years ago.”

51)  “Close from here” This should be “Close to here” compare: “…far from here.”  Also, don’t use “to” with the word “near.”  Say “It’s near the post office,” not “It’s near to the post office.”

52)  A, an, or one, is singular.  Never say “an hours,” “one hours,” “one years,etc. 

53)  Saying “It’s good for your health” is not as natural as saying “It’s healthy.”

54)  “Eat medicine” ~ We take medicine or vitamins; we don’t eat them.

55)  I’m a good cooker, should be “I’m a good cook

56)  We don’t say “I got married with her.”  We say “I got married to her.”

57)  “Food” is not usually countable.  Don’t say “I liked all the foods.” Say “I liked all the food.”

58)  Distinguish between eating and drinking.  We drink liquids, we don’t eat liquids.

59)  Until now means something continued up to now, but then changed.  You shouldn’t say “I’ve studied math until now” because that sounds like you no longer study math.  Saying “Up to [till] now,” sounds better, but most native speakers would rephrase the entire sentence and say something like “I’ve studied math for X years” or “I’ve studied math since ______.”

60)  Respectively ~ This word is used to clarify the relationships of two sets of things.  For instance, “The glass, plate, and fork cost two-dollars, four-dollars and one-dollar respectively,” (the two sets of items are listed in the same respective order).  This is confusing to many ESL students, which can be seen in the following quote taken from a book published by Korean Herald: “Three of them crashed in the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon respectively.”  “Respectively” in the foregoing sentence makes no sense because there is no one-to-one correspondence between planes and buildings.    

61)  Especially I ~ Adverbs of focus should be placed in directly in front of the main verb of the sentence or the exact word they modify.  We do not say, “Especially I like chocolate ice-cream.”  Instead say: “I especially like chocolate ice-cream.”


Konglish Problems

62)  black eyes ~ Nobody has “black eyes.”  Say “My eyes are brown (or dark-brown).

63)  oil ~ This is often used to mean gasoline in Korea.  Motor oil goes directly in the engine.  Gasoline or “gas” is what we put into our fuel tanks.

64)  Are you ok? ~ Don’t say this when you mean “Is that alright with you?” Say: “Is that ok?”  “Are you ok?” means: Are you hurt?, or Have you been injured

65)  department ~ This is Konglish for department store.  When talking to a native speaker of English, you must include the word “store.”

66)  night ~ This is Konglish for nightclub.  You should say “nightclub.”

67)  cup ~ This is Konglish for glass (A cup has a handle or is made of paper or plastic): “A glass of Coke.”

68)  toast ~ This is Konglish for a toasted sandwich.  You should just say “sandwich” and “please toast the bread.”

69)  hip ~ This is Konglish for “butt.”  We have two hips – where the bones are.

70)  toilet ~ bathroom – restroom (Say “restroom” for public buildings and “bathroom” for homes.) Saying “toilet” sounds a little impolite

71)  handle ~ This is Konglish for steering wheel.

72)  cunning ~ Should be “cheating.” Cunning means a planned, skillful, and subtle, deceptiveness: “The bank robbers were cunning.”

73)  dessert ~ is not coffee, cider, tea, or cola.  It’s only: ice cream, cake, pie, banana splits, or something else that is sweet and something you eat after having dinner.

74)  car number ~ Konglish for License plate number.

75)  jelly ~ Konglish for Jell-o.  Jelly is made from fruit juice and is what we spread on bread or toast.  Jam is similar, but is made from boiled fruit and has pieces of the actually fruit in it.  The dessert is called by its brand name: Jell-o, not jelly.

76)  hand phone ~ Not a bad name actually, but Americans say cell phone or mobile phone.

77)  hobby ~ A hobby is NOT just anything you do in your spare time.  “hob·by1 n. pl. hob·bies An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.”  So, it is something that is pursued and is somewhat like an occupation.  It’s not going to movies, listening to music, watching TV, or reading books.  Hobbies are things that are pro-active, not passive.  Hobbies involve work!  Things like collecting stamps or coins, making models, doing ceramics, wood working, and photography are hobbies.  Playing a musical instrument or involvement in sports are usually not considered true hobbies, but rather are skills.

78)  “I have a promise / plan .” ~ This is Konglish for “I have an appointment” (usually for a doctor or dentist, etc.), “I have something to do,” or “I already have plans.” “Do you have any plans?”

79)  sign pen ~ Konglish for marker

80)  having an “event.” ~ This is Konglish for having a “special” or having a “sale.”

81)  sharp ~ is Konglish for “mechanical pencil.”

82)  back-mirror ~ Konglish for “rear-view-mirror.”

83)  potatoes (at fast food restaurants) ~ Potatoes that are cut and deep fried are called “French fries” or just “fries,” not potatoes: “I would like a cheese burger and fries, please.”

84)  coating ~ Koreans say “coating” for lamination.  The word “coating” would be used for liquids that dry and cover or protect; solids bonded together are laminated

85)  hot dog ~ In Korea the hotdogs that come on a stick are called “hotdogs,” but western people call them “corndogs” because they are covered with corn batter.  A hot dog refers to a hot dog (the meat) in a hot dog bun to westerners.