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Friday, 27 April 2007

Poetry and Nasty Questions

Dear Ana Paula, and all our other readers,

My goodness, you are in a poetic mood today, aren’t you? Your descriptions of the weather in the afternoon, and the Pinacoteca, were wonderful. I’m particularly impressed that you used the word ‘nuance’. I’ve been teaching English for about ten years, and I can honestly say that until today I had never seen the word ‘nuance’ in any student’s writing. I take my hat off to you!

I’m sorry to say that I’ve never been to South America, but someday I will, and when I’m in São Paolo, I’ll make sure I visit the Pinacoteca. Personally, when I have a free afternoon in the summer and I just want to loaf around, I often go to an area of London called the South Bank. It’s called the South Bank because it’s on the south bank of the river Thames, and it’s the home of some of London’s most important arts venues. I like to browse at the second-hand book stalls, and then to sit at a café beside the river and sip my coffee (I love coffee almost as much as I love books), and then perhaps to go and watch an obscure old movie at the National Film Theatre. In the evening, after the sun goes down, you can stroll beside the river and look at the beautiful lights of central London. Ah, just thinking about it makes me want to go back there… Maybe I’ll go this evening.

However, before I go out and enjoy this beautiful evening, I have to fulfill my promise and ask you some difficult questions. As usual, I read your last blog carefully, looking for grammatical mistakes which I could discuss, and as usual it was quite difficult to find any. However, I did notice these two sentences:

‘The green colour of the grass becomes more vivid when starts to rain.’

‘Sometimes is really good to find yourself alone.’

As you know, sentences in English are made of clauses. Some sentences have only one clause, like this:

‘Alex likes coffee.’

Some sentences have two or more clauses. For example:

‘Alex likes tea, but he prefers coffee.’

A clause is always made of a subject, plus a ‘main verb’, and sometimes some other information. For example, in this sentence:

‘Alex likes coffee.’

The main verb in this sentence is likes, and the subject is Alex (who likes coffee? Alex likes coffee).

Are you with me so far? Good. Now let’s look again at one of the sentences from your last blog:

‘The green colour of the grass becomes more vivid when starts to rain.’

There are two clauses in this sentence. The first clause has a subject (‘the green colour of grass’) and a main verb (‘becomes’), so there’s no problem there. However, the second clause is problematic. There’s a main verb in the second clause (‘starts’) but this verb doesn’t have a subject.

There’s a similar problem in the second sentence:

‘Sometimes is really good to find yourself alone.’

This is a one-clause sentence, but the main verb (‘is’) doesn’t have a subject either.

Can you find a way to fix these sentences, so that the main verbs have subjects? In fact it’s very easy, you simply have to add one extra word to each sentence. To make it even easier, I’ll show you where the missing word should go:

‘The green colour of the grass becomes more vivid when _____ starts to rain.’

‘Sometimes _____ is really good to find yourself alone.’

There, those questions aren’t so nasty, are they?

Good luck!


Long ago, when people in Britain normally wore hats, you could show respect for someone by taking off your hat. Of course, we no longer do this, but we can still say ’I take my hat off to you’ if we want to express respect for someone in a slightly old-fashioned way.

The phrasal verb ‘to loaf around’ means to spend your time being lazy and doing nothing in particular.

Of course, a bank is a big building or institution that deals with money, but it also means the land at the side of a river.

A venue is simply the place where something happens. Art galleries, theatres, and cinemas are example of arts venues, because art exhibitions, plays, and movies happen there.

To browse is to look at things which are for sale, without really wanting to buy anything.

If we describe something as obscure, this means that very few people know about this thing. I generally don’t like big, popular, Hollywood movies, I prefer obscure old movies.

To stroll is to walk in a slow and relaxed way.

Nuance is an excellent word. If you want to know what it means, go and ask Ana Paula – she used it, not me!


You are a man of nuance Alex. It touches me as my man is the same, and Ana Paula is not a chicken!

I think that the answers to your questions are: "Sometimes it's really good to find yourself alone" "The green colour of the grass becomes more vivid when it starts to rain" You're right, this time was easy to find the answers.

You are doing a great job. I learnt a lot from your Blog. Thank you very much.Welcome to China...

I'm afraind that in my answer to the questions, I made the same silly mistake by saying: "You're right, this time was easy to find the answers" instead of "Your're right, this time it was easy to find the answers"

Hi Alex, it’s customary to thank the teacher blogger for his hard work when the month is coming to an end, but I wouldn’t risk to do it in a conventional way. But it means that I have a problem. If you weren’t a man of nuance it would be much easier … So I’m just going to send you a big ‘Thank you’ in Polish: ‘Dzieki Wielkie’ for everything, but mostly for something that is really a rare gift: you make us all laugh!

Oh Alex, It would be generous of you if you could take one picture of this place beside the river Thames for us. A couple of weeks ago I was watching on tv some runners in a competition in London and I saw a big, incredible wheel there. I was guessing how would be the view from there.

Hi..teacher Alex Gooch!!!. I prefer the poetic sentences belonging Ana Paula and you . When I am reading your article , I feel good and imagine all things what you want to tell. I need to write article just like you . Could you tell me how to write in poetic mood . Cheers !!! <<Wisarut>>

I don't want to bore you, that's why my comment will be very short and clear.First of all i would like to say that i am greatly imressed by your blog.And you are doing a very useful job for those who're teaching or simly learning English.It's really very good.Best wishes ... and welcome to Russia :)

Hello everybody! It's the first time that I read this blog but not the last!I think that it's really a good way to learn new vocabulary! Thank you for your job that is well done! I'll follow this blog! See you later or as we say in France:" A la prochaine!"

Dear Alex, just like Ana Paula, I have to say that I envy you very much because you are able to spend a nice calm night at a café by the river Thames and enjoy a nice book whenever you can. I hope I can get that kind of possibility in my life one day. While I can't I can still enjoy the books. But I'm not a very regular reader. I must say I'm a little lazy. Would you recommend something that a beginer like me would enjoy. Thak you for your nice work at the blog. It's always nice to read about your life in England and your explanations on the English language so valuable to us. Bye bye. See you again.

Hello ALex I'm a student. I like to reading your blogs. I am learning lot of from you. It is helpful for me. thanks from Vithusha

Hi Alex! First of all I'd like to say that you are a very good teacher and I like your way of blogging. Then I'd like to ask you something a bit "personal": I'm going to spend the whole month of August in London and I'm looking for a course (better: a busness English course, if possible). I was wondering if your school provides some classes in August... Thanks for any tips. BBC Learning English says: Unfortunately we can't recommend specific courses or schools. You might find this link useful:

its is good thing for the all students after that i think more dictionaries should be open here on this website, now we are getting good knowldge from the learning english. its good thing.

Hi How r u you ar e realy veay much nice. i want to thanks you because i have learned many things from this websides and i want to know your name

hi Allex! i'm a student and i really learnt alot from y so thanks ,how agreat teacher y're!

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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