Teaching English abroad does not require you to be an expert or to have a degree in English. Most of what you learn about the more complex aspects of the language will be learnt on the job and will probably not be passed on to your students until you teach the higher ability levels. Anyone who is serious however, should take some time to get to know the basics beforehand. Our grammar guide is by no means the most detailed or comprehensive but it does give you an easy to understand overview of the important aspects of English grammar and will hopefully give you some basic knowledge to build upon.


Tense Looks like Example When we use it
Present Simple Verb in simplest form with I, they, we, you i.e. I see, they look. Verb ends in s or es if he, she or a name i.e. He seems, Jack watches. I live in… 

He goes…

We have…

They don’t…

Long-term or permanent actions, habits or facts.
Present Continuous Present verb ‘to be’ (am/is/are) + ing verb (gerund) I am watching… 

He/she is finding…

They are not showing…

We are looking…

Are you listening…?

Talking about activities happening as you are speaking
Present Perfect Have or haven’t/has or hasn’t + past participle verb I have done… 

She’s found…

They have seen…

Have you watched…?

We haven’t finished…

Something started in the past but has finished or come to an end by now
Present Perfect Continuous Has or hasn’t/have haven’t + been + ing I have been doing my homework for 2 hours. 

She has been driving to work since she was 18.

When talking about an activity that began in the past but is still happening in the present.
Past Simple Simple form of the past verb. Regular verbs end with d or ed i.e. watched, played, lived and looked. Irregular don’t follow this pattern. The verb stays the same despite the subject of the sentence. 




I went 

You looked

She found

He watched

They lived

We saw

Did you see…?

Talking about something that started in the past but has finished.
Past Continuous Was or wasn’t/were or weren’t + ing I saw him when I was walking to the park. 

You were talking about your time in America.

He was practicing with his guitar when we arrived.


This tense refers to a past activity with a timeframe or an activity which began before the action expressed.
Past Perfect Had or hadn’t + ed or past participle 



I had arrived at the station before the train left. 

When I got home Frank had cooked a meal.

He said they had known each other for 5 years beforehand.

Past perfect is used to talk about an action that happened in the past before another action in the past.
Past Perfect Continuous Had or hadn’t + been + ing He was tired. He had been training hard. 

Rachel hadn’t been feeling well for a long time.

This tense refers to an action which started a longer time before another action in the past than past perfect.
Future Tenses Am/Is/Are + going to + verb 

Subject + will

Must + go

Should + go

Could + go

Would + go

Can + go

May + go

Might + go

We are going to watch a movie. 

I will do my homework tonight.

She must go and find her ring.

He should go to Spain for his holiday.


All of these forms are used, in different ways, to talk about something happening in the future.



Abbreviations and acronyms: words made from the first letter of words from a phrase or longer name. These appear in capitals such as OPEC, UK, EU, HIV or NATO.

Adjectives: words which describe a noun. The man is big (man=noun/big=adjective). This meal is delicious (meal=noun/delicious=adjective). She’s beautiful. I am happy today.

Adverb: words which describe a verb. He ran quickly. My mother drives slowly. I searched frantically.

Auxiliary verbs: these are verbs which are used in various tenses, within sentences to ‘help’ other verbs. Some examples are ‘to be’, can, have, do, could, will.

Comparatives: the form which is used to compare two subjects. This appears either as …er than or more … (bigger than/ more beautiful).

Conjunctives: words which join sentence parts, phrases or words together. Examples are but, either, neither, or, and.

Countable and uncountable nouns: countable is referring to nouns which can be simply quantified and therefore the plural appears as s or es (apples, bananas, dogs, bottles, and computers). Uncountable nouns do not follow this pattern. These include water, money, milk, bread, wood.

Ellipsis: is the three dots used in a sentence to show that there is an extra but not shown component to complete it or to create a natural pause in the paragraph (That was a long time ago…).

Gerund: means the usage of a verb (with its ing ending) to make a noun. For example, “Playing football is fun.”

Imperative sentences: are phrase which directly tell someone to follow a command or instruction. An example is “Go away!”.

Infinitive: refers to the simplest form of a verb which is usually ‘to…’.

Interrogative pronouns: are pronoun words which are used to ask questions; what, who, which, whom, whose.

Noun: a word which is used to name or signify something such as a person, object, place, idea etc.

Passive and active voice: an ‘active’ sentence is one which talks about the subject doing something, for example ‘the man cleaned his car’. ‘Passive’ means a sentence in which the subject is having something happen to them, ‘the game was won by the home team’.

Plural: refers to the form of a noun which represents more than one: books, shoes, clothes.

Possessive pronoun: words which show ownership; my/mine, your/yours, his, her/hers, their/theirs.

Pronoun: acts as a replacement for a noun in giving the sentence a subject. I/you/he/she/they/we are the most common examples.

Proper nouns: are the capitalised names of nouns. With nouns this is the name of a person, place or thing.

Singular: as opposed to plural, this one of a noun.

Syllable: one part of a word which can be pronounced in one impulse of the voice.

Subject: the subject of a sentence is the person/place/thing etc that the sentence is about.

Subjunctive mood: refers to sentences which state something that is counterfactual, desired or doubtful. For example, ‘If you were an animal you’d be a lion’ or ‘I wish I was rich’.

Superlatives: are used to compare three or more subjects and states which one characterises a adverb/adjective to the greatest degree. This takes the form of …est or most…  (biggest/ most powerful).

Verbs: are words which specify an action. Play, see, find, watch, write, run etc.

Verb ‘to be’:  this is an irregular verb with many different forms and uses. It is conjugated as follows:

  • Infinitive: to be
  • Present: am, is, are
  • Past: was, were
  • Present Participle: being
  • Past Participle: been
  • Present Subjunctive: be
  • Past Subjunctive: were
  • Imperative: be