Engels > Grammatica

Can vs. could



:: General ability (present)

I can speak English.


:: Ask for permission (informal)

Can I borrow your pen please?


:: To request something

Can you help me please?


:: Possibility

It can get very cold there at night.


:: Offer to help someone

Can I carry your bags for you?


:: Cannot (can't) = not allowed

You cannot smoke in this room.

You can't go to the party.



:: General ability in the past

I could play the piano when I was younger.


:: Ask for permission (more polite)

Could I use your bathroom please?


:: To request something (more polite)

Could you pass me the salt please?


:: Possibility in the past (coud + have + past participle)

What? You could have broken your leg.


:: Suggestion (when asked what to do)

We could go to the movies if you like.


:: Conditional of can (would be able to)

If we had some oranges I could make you some fresh juice.

Commonly confused adjectives

Countable and uncountable nouns

Countable Uncountable
there are There are four books on the floor. there is There is some water on the floor.
some / any Are there any books on the floor? some / any Is there any water on the floor?
a lot of / lots of / plenty of There are lots of books on the floor. a lot of / lots of / plenty of (positive) There's a lot of water on the floor.
many There are many books on the floor. much (negatives and questions only) Is there much water on the floor?
a few There are a few books on the floor. a little There is a little water on the floor.
fewer There are fewer books on the floor than on the desk. less There is less water on the floor than on the desk.
fewest There are fewest books on the chair. least There is least water on the chair.
a number of There are a number of books on the floor. an amount of There is a large amount of water on the floor.
how many How many books are there on the floor? how much How much water is there on the floor?

Source: Grammar Guide - Grammar Reference & Practice, uitgeverij Pelckmans, pagina 116

Defining relative clauses

Meaning and use

Defining relative clauses give us important information about the person, thing or place that we are talking about. When making a relative clause, we can use the following relative pronouns:

who for people,

that and which for things,

where for places.


The police officer arrested the man who robbed the bank.

► In this example, 'who robbed the bank' tells us which man the police officer arrested. Without this information, we do not know which man was arrested.


David visited the place where we first met.

► Again, 'where we first met' tells us which place David visited.


These are the shoes that I bought in Tokyo.

Summer is the season which I enjoy the most.

► 'That I bought in Tokyo' adds information about the shoes, and 'which I enjoy the most' adds information about the season.



A defining relative clause is made with noun + relative pronoun + rest of clause.



My father is the man who owns this restaurant.

The restaurant where we met closed down last year.



This isn't the sandwich that I ordered.

David didn't recognise the woman who waved at him.



Are you the person who called earlier?

Is this the cafe where you left your handbag?


Using 'whom' instead of 'who'

In formal speech and written English, whom replaces who when the relative pronoun refers to the object of the relative clause.

The person who called me was my father. (who = subject)

The person whom I called was my father. (who = object)


Spoken English

In informal speech, the pronoun that can replace who, which and where.

Jennifer is the woman that I love.

The library is the place that I feel the most relaxed.


If the relative pronoun functions as the object of the relative clause, the relative pronoun can be left out completely.

Kelly is the woman whom I love. = Kelly is the woman I love.

This is the bag that I bought. = This is the bag I bought.


However, if the relative pronoun is the subject of the relative clause, it cannot be left out. Here, who refers to the subject.

He's the man. He found my wallet.

He's the man who found my wallet.

First, firstly or at first?

First and firstly

First can be an adjective or an adverb and refers to the person or thing that comes before all others in order, time, amount, quality or importance:

What’s the name of the first person who walked on the moon? (adjective)

Beth always arrives first at meetings. (adverb)


We often use first, especially in writing, to show the order of the points we want to make. When we are making lists, we can use first or firstly. Firstly is more formal than first:

Dear Mr Yates

First(ly) I would like to thank you for your kind offer of a job …

First(ly) the sodium chloride is dissolved in the water and heated gently. Second(ly) a dye is added to the solution.


At first

At first means ‘at the beginning’ or ‘in the beginning’ and we use it when we make contrasts:

At first when I went to England to study English, I was homesick, but in the end I cried when it was time to leave.

He called for help. No one heard him at first, but eventually two young girls came to help him.

Source: dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/

In - on - at

Irregular plurals of English nouns

Regular plural nouns: add -S

wall  ► walls

ski    ► skis

cat   ► cats


Nouns ending in -ch, -sh, -x, -s sounds: add -ES

switch    ► switches

brush     ► brushes

box         ► boxes

address ► addresses


Exception: when -CH is pronounced like K

stomach ► stomachs


Nouns ending in -y: end with -IES

baby ► babies

army ► armies

puppy ► puppies


Nouns ending in -F sound: change to -VES

knife ► knives

wife  ► wives

half  ► halves

self  ► selves

wolf ► wolves

leaf ► leaves


There are some exceptions:

chef ► chefs

roof ► roofs


Nouns ending in -O: -S or -ES

Always -ES

potato     ► potatoes

tomato   ► tomatoes

hero        ► heroes

torpedo ► torpedoes

echo       ► echoes


Always -S

stereo ► stereos

memo ► memos

solo     ► solos

zoo      ► zoos

studio ► studios


Some can be both!

ghetto     ► ghettos / ghettoes

mango    ► mangos / mangoes

motto     ► mottos / mottoes

tornado ► tornados / tornadoes

tuxedo   ► tuxedos / tuxedoes

volcano ► volcanos / volcanoes


Nouns that look plural, but take a singular verb

news                  | The news was so depressing.

gymnastics     | Gymnastics is great for getting in shape.

economics       | Economics is quite difficult.

mathematics | Mathematics is easy this semester.


Nouns that look singular, but take a plural verb

pants     | These pants are too small.

scissors | Where are the scissors?

glasses  | When I last saw your glasses, they were on the table.


VERY irregular nouns

man           ► men

woman     ► women

child          ► children

person     ► people

tooth        ► teeth

foot           ► feet

vertebra  ► vertebrae

mouse     ► mice

goose      ► geese


Nouns that do no change

one sheep     ► two sheep

one deer       ► two deer

one fish         ► two fish

one series    ► two series

one species ► two species


Latin / Greek words: -US → -I

alumnus / alumna ► alumni

cactus                       ► cacti

fungus                      ► fungi

nucleus                    ► nuclei

stimulus                  ► stimuli


Latin / Greek words: -IS → -ES

analysis       ► analyses

crisis            ► crises

diagnosis    ► diagnoses

hypothesis ► hypotheses

oasis            ► oases


Latin / Greek words: -UM / -ON → -A

bacterium         ► bacteria

criterion            ► criteria

curriculum       ► curricula

datum               ► data

millennium      ► millennia

phenomenon ► phenomena

Participial phrases

Rarely does a person perform one action at a time. At this exact moment, you may be sitting at your computer, reading information, tapping your foot, and twirling your hair.


Let's dramatise it as thus:

Mindlessly twirling her hair, Elvira sat at her computer, reading her teacher's assignment, tapping her foot nervously.


This sentence contains three participial phrases, now highlighted in a different colour:

Mindlessly twirling her hair, Elvira sat at her computer, reading her teacher's assignment, tapping her foot nervously.


Participial phrases allow a writer to present multiple actions occurring at the same time. Sentences with participial phrases carry more energy because there is more action.


This is dull:

The pirate captain walked across the deck. He sensed mutiny. He yelled orders at his crew. He glared at those not standing at attention.


This carries more energy and excitement:

Sensing mutiny, the pirate captain walked across the deck, yelling orders at his crew, glaring at those not standing at attention.


Writing participial phrases


Participial phrases begin with a verb ending in -ing or -ed. Verbs ending in -ing are present tense; verbs ending in -ed are past tense.


To write a participial phrase, you must first have a sentence with a main verb:

Jimmy set at the table.


Now ask yourself, what else is Jimmy doing at that moment? (Perhaps chewing, eating, staring, ...) Make a selection, then finish out the thought.


For example:

Jimmy sat at the table, chewing his food slowly.

Jimmy sat at the table, staring out the window.

Eating his ham and cheese sandwich, Jimmy sat at the table.


You can add as many participial phrases as desired. They can be placed at the beginning of the sentence, at the end of the sentence, or between the subject and verb:


Jimmy sat at the table, chewing his food slowly.

Jimmy, chewing his food slowly, sat at the table.

Chewing his food slowly, Jimmy sat at the table.


However, be careful about placement. It should be clear which person or thing in the sentence the participial phrase is giving more information about. It is clear in the above example that Jimmy is chewing the food, but consider the next example:


Jimmy, chewing a carrot, watched the rabbit.

Jimmy watched the rabbit chewing a carrot.

Chewing a carrot, Jimmy watched the rabbit.


Note that, depending on placement, it would seem that either Jimmy or the rabbit is chewing the carrot.

Participial phrases | Exercise
Participial phrases - exercise.docx
Microsoft Word document 14.9 KB
Participial phrases | Key
Participial phrases - sample combination
Microsoft Word document 14.2 KB

Passive voice (instructievideo)


 as aangezien, daar, omdat As you weren't there, I left a message.
because omdat I said nothing, because I was sad.
for want We listened carefully, for he brought news of the accident.
since aangezien, omdat She left her husband, since he was cruel to her.
because of wegens, vanwege She left her husband because of his cruelty.
(al)though hoewel, ofschoon We lost the game, (al)though we tried our best.
all the same toch, niettemin It was raining; we went out all the same.
besides behalve Besides you, no one writes me.
but maar Tom went to the party, but his sister didn't.
by contrast daarentegen Their old car had been small and slow, by contrast their new one was big and fast.
despite / in spite of ondanks

Despite what the others say, I think he's a nice boy.

In spite of all his efforts, he failed.

even so toch, desondanks

The book has many flaws. Even so, it's still rather useful.

even though hoewel, ook al

He was happy, even though he didn't have any money.

however, ... echter

Women don't mind losing a game. Men, however, seem to mind quite a lot.

in contrast to in tegenstelling tot

In contrast to their system, ours seems quite modern.

instead in plaats (daarvan)

It will take days by car, so let's fly instead.

nevertheless niettemin, toch

There was no news; nevertheless he went on hoping.

nonetheless niettemin, toch

It's expensive, but we should buy it nonetheless.

on the contrary integendeel, juist niet, helemaal niet

It doesn't look ugly to me; on the contrary, I think it's beautiful.

on the other hand aan de andere kant

We have three arguments in favour of your proposal; on the other hand, there are disadvantages as well.

rather than liever dan, eerder dan

Rather than to lie to his wife, he told her everything.

still, ... niettemin, toch

He treated me badly; still, I love him dearly.

whereas terwijl

He earns a lot, whereas his wife's income is rather poor.

yet niettemin, toch

She was given a lot of money and yet she refused to do it.

in order to om te He said that in order to make her angry.
so that zodat The meadow should be fenced, so that the sheep don't get out.
to om te This is too good to be true.
if (only) als (... maar), indien Next year he will go to Harvard, if (only) he graduates this year.
provided, providing mits, op voorwaarde dat I will agree to go, provided/providing my expenses are paid.
unless tenzij You'll fail in French unless you work harder.
after nadat After the train left, we went home.
as terwijl, toen I watched her as she combed her hair.
before voordat He knocked loudly before entering the bedroom.
meanwhile ondertussen I went to college. Meanwhile, my best friend got a well-paid job.
once zodra, toen eenmaal Once the sun had set, the temperature dropped.
since sinds, vanaf, sindsdien He left home in 1985 and has not been heard of since.
until, till totdat Please, wait until I call you.
while terwijl He fell asleep while studying his grammar book.
after all tenslotte, per slot van rekening After all, what does it matter?
all in all tenslotte, alles wel beschouwd All in all, the concert was a great success.
altogether alles inbegrepen, alles wel beschouwd The weather was bad and the food dreadful. Altogether the holiday was a disaster.
as a result door, als gevolg van As a result of his drinking habit, he crashed his car.
as a consequence daardoor, met als gevolg I was unemployed last year, as a consequence I did not have a lot of money to spend.
consequently daarom, met als resultaat My car broke down and consequently I was far too late.
for this reason om deze reden, hierdoor He finally acquired a company car; for this reason he sold his old one.
hence vandaar, daarom I fell off my bike yesterday, hence the bruises.
so dus, daarom The manager was ill, so I went to his place.
so that zodat The door of the pub was open, so that people could see what was happening inside.
therefore daarom She felt sick; therefore we stayed at home.
thus zo(doende) He's the eldest son and thus their heir to the throne.
  op deze / die manier Just calculate the area of the circle thus formed.
and en I walked away and then I realised what had just happened.
besides behalve, naast There will be five of us coming to dinner, besides Peter.
even zelfs Everybody enjoyed the party, even Charlie!
furthermore bovendien I don't like him; furthermore, he smells.
in addition bovendien In addition to being lazy, he's quite rude as well!
moreover bovendien They knew the painting was a forgery. Moreover, they knew who had painted it.
what is more bovendien He's dirty and what's more, he stinks!
as well as even als, en ook He likes cooking as well as dancing.
for example bijvoorbeeld Sometimes people can do weird things, for example when they don't feel well.
for instance bijvoorbeeld Several of his friends came; Mike for instance.
likewise ook, op dezelfde manier The food was excellent, likewise the wine.
similarly ook, op dezelfde manier John doesn't do anything. Similarly, his brother refuses to help.

Stative verbs

















Whom is not a subject.


Whom can be the direct object of a verb.

Whom did the waiter serve first?

The waiter served whom first?


Whom is also used in a relative clause that describes a noun that is an object.

The company hired the musician whom I recommended.


Whom can serve as the object of a preposition.

With whom does Amanda plan to go to the dance?

The man from whom Mike received the letter works at the supermarket.


In casual speech and writing, people usually use who even when whom is technically correct. If you are still a little confused, try the substitution trick to determine whether to use who or whom. Mentally answer whom questions with the pronouns “him” or “her.”

To whom does this pen belong?

The pen belongs to him.

This response makes sense, so whom is correct.


Whom is coming to the party on Saturday?

Her is coming.

This reply does not sound right. You should replace whom with who.