Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Would vs Used to

1). Used to can refer to repeated actions and events in the past, in the same way as would.


Sometimes he used to bring me little presents without saying why.

Sometimes he would bring me little presents without saying why.

2). Only used to, not would can refer to past states.


I used to have an old Rolls-Royce. (NOT - I would have an old Rolls-Royce.)

3). We use used to, not would, to talk about regular and important habitual behaviour.


I used to smoke. (NOT- I would smoke.)

Would - Uses

Would is a modal auxiliary verb.
Would is used as a softer less definite form of will, in some cases as past of will.

1). In indirect speech, would is used after past reporting verbs where will was used in direct speech.


Tomorrow will be fine - DIRECT
The forcast said the next day would be fine - INDIRECT

2). Future in past tense - Would is used to express the idea of "future in the past" - to talk about a past action which had not yet happened at the time we are talking about.


In Berlin, he first met the woman he would one day marry.
There was a chance that my letter would arrive in time.

3). Would is used in polite requests and offers as a softer form of will.


Would you open the window, please?
If you would come this way.....

4). Would can refer to past willingness of a general kind, but not to willingness to do something on a particular past occassion.


She would hoover, dust and iron, but she didn't like doing windows.
She agreed to come and see me . (NOT - She would come and see me)

But would not can be used to refer to a refusal on a particular past occassion.


I asked her very politely, but she wouldn't tell me.

5). Conditional auxiliary: I would....if - Would is often used as an auxiliary with verbs that refer to unnreal or uncertain situations - for example in sentences with if.


I would tell you if I knew.
It would have been nice if he'd thanked you.

6). Typical behaviour - Would is used as the past of will to talk about typical behaviour in the past.


When she was old, she would sit in the corner talking to herself for hours.

Sentences with stressed would can be used to criticise people's behaviour.


He was a nice boy, but he would talk about himself all the time.

Stressed would can also be used to criticise a single past action - the meaning is ' that's typical of you '


You would tell Sania about the party - I didn't want to invite her.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ago vs Since

Ago vs. Since

Both words speak of the past, and they are often used interchangeably.

Ago - from the present to the past. It is used after the word or phrase it modifies, especially with the simple past tense, not with the perfect tense.

e.g - It happened a few minutes ago.

Since - from the past to the present. It is used with the present or past perfect tense.

e.g - I haven't eaten since breakfast.

Compare to vs Compare with

Compare to vs. Compare with

Compare to - is used to liken two things or to put them in the same category. You should use "compare to" when you intend to simply assert that two things are alike.Use "compared to" to illustrate that two things are similar

e.g -

1). The economy can be compared to a stallion charging at the gate.
2). I compare getting comments from students in class to pulling teeth.
3). She compared her work for women's rights to Susan B. Anthony's campaign for women's suffrage.

Compare with - is used to place two things side by side for the purpose of examining their similarities or differences. Use "compared with" to illustrate the differences a comparison draws

e.g -

1). The American economy can be compared with the European economy to note how military history impacts future economics.
2). It would be interesting to compare Purdue with Ohio State.
3). Ann has a 3.5 GPA, compared with Jim's 2.9.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Agreement of Verb with Collective Nouns

In my post on Subject Verb Agreement I had already mentioned this rule. On request from many students, I am explaining this particular concept in detail.

A collective noun is a noun that represents a group or a collection of objects usually considered as a unit. Words like crowd, troop, herd, people, flock, and jury are collective nouns.

A collective noun that is singular in meaning requires a singular verb. A collective noun that is plural in meaning requires a plural verb.

If the collective noun in a particular sentence represents the individuals acting as a unit, the noun is singular. If the sentence indicates clearly that the individuals are acting seperately, the noun is plural.

e.g -

1). The committee is opposed to the plan. (acting as a unit)
2). The board of directors is in session. (as a unit)
3). The jury returned its verdict. (as a unit)
4). The jury have returned to their homes. (as individuals)
5). The family have given their contributions. (as individuals)

In most cases where the individuals composing a group are acting seperately, it is better to use such expressions as the members of the jury, the members of the family, etc. These expressions sound better and clearly indicate that the individuals are acting seperately.

1). The members of the jury have returned to their homes.
2). The members of the band wore their uniforms.
3). The people in the audience waved their hands.