First Conditional

Today I have some exercises on the First Conditional. I hope you enjoy them.

I have just been watching a television documentary about a comedy group called Monty Python. They were very popular when I was a student but that was 45 years ago. Now they are putting on some shows in London, even though they are all over 70. I cannot believe it will be very good but the general public clearly does – all the shows were sold out in a matter of hours.

In a few days we will know if this was a good idea or not. I suspect not.

Zero Conditional

Hello again.

Today’s exercise is about the Zero Conditional. You can find it by clicking on this link

In my last newsletter, I told you about my friend who had the bad fall. Since then, she has been confined to bed as the scan showed that she has broken a bone in her back. My friend is one of those people who is always moving around and she has found the whole process very frustrating.

I got some comments about a verb I used, “strim”. I assumed that this word had come into British English from American English but I was wrong. In fact not all British dictionaries have this verb form, although they all have the noun form “strimmer”. This word is a contraction of two words, “string” and “trimmer”, and refers to a machine which cuts long grass and weeds by spinning a string very quickly.

The Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries do not cover the verb form but other dictionaries do. You can see some clear examples here

Off now to visit my poor friend.

prepositions plus -ing

Hello again.

This weeks’s exercise is about prepositions that are followed by the -ing form. You can find the exercises here

I have told you before about my friends who have the big house and the intelligent dog. I have another story about them but this time it is quite amazing.

My friends live in a house on the side of a mountain. Below the house is a small stream but it is difficult to get to the stream because the slope is so steep. When they strim the grass on this slope, they have to be attached to a rope.

The husband was away in England for a few days and the wife was staying by herself. One night she woke up at about three o’clock in the morning and found that she was lying down by the stream. She tried to get up but couldn’t as she was very sore everywhere. The dog was beside her, licking her and encouraging her to move. All she could do was to crawl very slowly back up the slope.

What seems to have happened is that she walked in her sleep, went outside and fell down the slope. She is lucky to still be alive. She has a very sore back but is otherwise OK.

If she had broken her leg, she might have lain there for several days, until her husband came home. She was very lucky.

Pearson BROWN

PS Instead of lain, I could have written laid.

More multi-word verbs

Hello again.

I have some exercises for you today on multi-word verbs.

I have been away for a few days on the island of Mallorca. It is only a short flight from where I live, about 45 minutes, but it is a completely different world. The island has long been a popular destination for English tourists and it is almost like being in a sunny version of England. Quite a contrast from the French mountain village where I live.

I am in fact moving from my village soon but only to a similar one on the opposite side of the valley. I am buying a house there, though the whole process is proving long and exasperating.

Pearson BROWN

New lesson on Gerunds

Hello again.

I have a new exercise for you about that complicated subject of infinitives, gerunds etc.

I have a happy ending for my story about my not seeing my daughter in Barcelona. She is coming again next week. Fingers crossed.

On the first of May it is Mayday. My other daughter and granddaughters will be out selling bunches of mayflowers in Lyon. They go into the local woods to pick the flowers and then sell them for two euros. The mayflower is also called the lily of the valley.

You might know that the term mayday is also used as an international signal of distress.But why? It has nothing to do with English at all. In French, “m’aidez” means “help me” and that is pronounced “mayday”.

Hope you have a nice week.

Pearson BROWN

Another listening activity

I have a new listening activity for you. It is number 6 on this page

I heard last week that my younger daughter was coming to Barcelona with her work. As some of you may know, she is cabin crew working for an airline in Dubai. So I booked a room in the same hotel she was due to stay in and set off early on Sunday morning to go and see her. This involved driving for two hours over the border into Spain. Then I took the fast train from Figueras to Barcelona. This train is based upon the French TGV and hurtles through the Spanish countryside at 240 kms/hour. That is 150 miles an hour. After fifty minutes, I got to Barcelona and took the metro to the hotel. All went really well. It took about 5 hours door-to-door.

But when I got to the hotel, my daughter wasn’t there. She had been transferred to a flight to London. I was very sad. I haven’t seen her since October. Still I had an excellent meal of tapas and paella, which cheered me up.

Pearson BROWN

More on Sentence Structure

Hello again.

I have a new exercise for you on Sentence Structure. It is number 10 on this page

I got a lot of reaction to my story about the intelligent dog. Thank you, everybody.

Here is a true story about birds sent in by one subscriber from England.

My daughter is a writer. She lives at street level, in a basement, from which she can see the feet of passers by. One day she was sitting at her desk, writing about the travails of teenage romance – Lola and Mathieu alone in a boat on a choppy sea – when she heard a ghastly shrieking sound coming from outside her window. She wanted a cigarette break anyway, so ventured out and up to the pavement outside, to try and find out what was happening.

Immediately the screeching redoubled in volume and an enormous bird, beak outstretched, swooped past her, almost touching her face. At the same moment she noticed by the railings two tiny bundles of fluff: a pair of nestlings, fallen from one of the high trees that border the road, and beyond them, under the nearest parked car, the staring eyes of our local moggy, luminous with intent.

It is an old wives’ tale to think that you should not touch a baby bird in case the scent of your hand frightens its parents away. Actually the best thing to do with a fledgling, that is a baby bird well covered in feathers, is to put it in a place of safety where its parents can continue to feed it. Its cries will alert its parents to where it’s been hidden. But where on a London pavement, in the heart of cat territory, could she conceal a couple of flightless baby birds?

To guard against the cat my daughter stayed near, smoking her cigarette. But the frantic mother started to dive bomb her, so that in the end my daughter was forced to fetch an umbrella to open above her head to protect her eyes…

Finally, seeing there was no way to help the birds, apart from shoo away the cat, my daughter returned to her desk. An hour later the mother bird, too, gave up and flew away. At that point what else was there for my daughter to do but find a big cardboard box and bring the two birds in?

Frantic searching on the internet for information on bird nutrition, lead to calls to a dog owning neighbour and that night two hungry birds had their first taste of best dog biscuits, soaked in warm water, kindly donated by Alfie, the German Shepherd dog, and his helpful owner.

The birds did surprisingly well on this diet until thy found they preferred scraps from chicken carcasses, donated by the local butcher. A very large cage was successfully bought at auction from ebay – auction tip: don’t let anyone know you are there, put your offer in right at the last moment- and cage and contents were installed by my daughter in her absent brother’s bedroom. By day the birds were allowed to fly around the room, with us mopping up the inevitable little white blobs, and at night they were caught and put to bed, a blanket over the cage signalling time for sleep.

I don’t know how it’s done in the wild, but in the bedroom the birds were given flying lessons and encouraged to “Just try and get as far as the bed”. Mostly they plopped down onto the floor, or fell behind a cushion, but eventually they were airborne for longer than a second and indeed became almost impossible to catch each night!

Finally when my son and his girlfriend returned from holiday, in the interests of their love life, it was time for the birds to vacate the bedroom. For a while all four, humans and birds, managed to share the one small basement room but eventually the RSPCA agreed to take the birds to a wild life sanctuary, from where, some months later, they were repatriated into the wild.

Birds of the Corvus family, like these two jays, are highly intelligent and can live for up to fifteen years in captivity, as compared to an average two or three years in the wild. But our two birds would perch on the top of their cage, staring out of the window. We wanted them, for however short a time, to fly free.
Lovely story.

Until the next time.

Pearson BROWN

help for students of English