Grammar Highlights

Grammar Highlights - Things that are good to know.

English grammar can be a tricky thing sometimes. Some of our rules simply don't make sense to ESL students. Also, there are a great many rules for using grammar, I always say "grammar rules are meant to be broken." Some English grammar rules are not as set in "stone" as you may think.

For that very reason, I decided to start this grammar highlights page. If you ever have a question about something, feel free to write me an email - using the subject line "An ESL question." That will help me notice it sooner because I get lots of emails every day.

I hope this page is helpful!

The proper use of "A" and "An"

I have often heard these two very small words used incorrectly. Even worse, I have even seen them used wrong in print - in major publications mind you, not simply blogs and things. The proper usage of "A" and "An" depends on the sound of certain words.

"A" precedes (comes before) words that begin with consonant sounds. Consonants are all the letters that are not vowels.

A car, a bus, a school trip.

"An" precedes (comes before) words beginning with the vowel sounds A, E, I, and O. and sometimes A

The letters "U" and "H" have special cases:

Letter "U" - If the word sounds like "you," then choose "A."

If the word sounds like "uh," then choose "An."

Letter "H" - If the word starts a hard sound as in "horse," choose "A."

If the word starts with a silent letter "h", as in "herb," choose "An."

An anteater, an airplane, an antelope (a = vowel sound)  an egg, an earring, an example (e = vowel sound)

A building (b = consonant sound)  a bicycle, a balloon, a ball

a UFO, a uniform, a yo-yo (U sounds like "you")

an unidentified flying object (u sounds like "uh")

a helmet, a hand, a heart (hard h)

an hour, an honor (silent h)

Remember, the usage of "A" and "An" focuses on the SOUND of the word that comes after A or AN.

This is important because English has many words with “silentletters (letters that are written but not spoken) at the beginning.

That's it! Now you know how to use "A" and "An" correctly. Remember, it's all about the sounds of words, not the words themselves.


Using "If" and "When."

In German, the same word is often used for both, but in English, there is a difference, sometimes a very big difference. For example:

"When" - The airplane pilot says "When the plane lands, I wish you a wonderful day." Everyone smiles.

"If" - The airplane pilot says "If the plane lands, I wish you a wonderful day." Everyone is terrified. 😅


Each and Every

"Each" is used when talking about an individual object or person.

Each shoe that he was wearing had a hole at the bottom.

He only had two bottles of shampoo and each one was empty.

We barely know each other.

Correct: Paul, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly, wash each hand twice.

Incorrect: Paul, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly, wash every hand twice.

"Every" is used when talking about a group as individual members.

She was following his every word.

The group had people from almost every country.

Ever since he fell down the stairs he takes his time.

Correct: Don't you ever come back again!

Incorrect: Don't you each come back again!

They are also, in many cases, interchangeable.

Every student gets to go home early.

Each student gets to go home early.

I have only covered the basics here.

There are, of course, more wonderful grammar rules about using „each“ and „every.“