My thanks to Tom Makholski for imput in some of these.

1 - have to / must / should etc.

2 - say / tell / give + word order

3 - ought / shall

4 - move / remove

5 - too / either

6 - can / to be able

7 - Replying to yes/no questions


MINI LESSON 1 Must / have to

>Now I have another common question. How to translate >Russian "dolzhen".

>What is the difference between:

>to be to do - this seems the most soft

>should do -

>must do - the most hard

>Is this the correct rule or not?

Not exactly. In modern English 'I am to do sth.' would have very limited use. It would imply that you had an official demand to do sth, or maybe to receive sth. 'I am to get a refund'.

The one we would use most in the first category is to have to do sth.

I should do sth. means that the requirement is there and you know it but you might not do it. It implies a degree of probable non-compliance.

I must [no infinitive] implies the same as 'have to' except that there is more of an idea of personal input. 'Have to' implies simply a necessity, perhaps more of 'надо' than 'должен'. It can simply be more that it's a perceived necessity and that I feel a personal need to emphasise it.


I have to buy some bread [We need it].

I should go and buy some bread. [As above but it's raining, I don't want to get wet and we can toast the stale bread.]

I have to fetch the children. [They'll be waiting.]

I must fetch the children [as above + 'I nearly forgot yesterday' or 'I've been here too long and I know I'll miss them if I don't go now' and so on.

I must remember his birthday. [My conscience says so]



MINI LESSON 2 [say and tell]

Remember my note about say and tell? Well, to carry on the theme:

to say sth. (words)

to tell a story (direct object only).

or tell a story to s.o.(story =direct obj. and to s.o. = indirect obj).

To tell s.o. sth. (information i.e. that he came etc.) In this last case no direct object, only indirect (s.o.)


Now this causes us to open another can of worms. English lost most of its cases long ago. However there are still traces of some. The sentences with indirect objects mostly concern the dative. Using 'to give' for my example, look at the following.

He gave me the book.

He gave the book to me.

He gave the book to John.

He gave John the book.

As you can see, when the indirect object comes in front of the direct object, there is no 'to', but when it comes at the end there is a 'to'.

These are all equally possible but there is a basic stylistic rule of thumb. If either the dir.obj. or the indirect obj. is a subordinate clause that is the one that goes to the end.


He gave me a very beautiful book that he bought in London.

He gave the German book he bought in London to his sister, who is studying German.

If both are complicated, the direct obj comes first.

NB It is essential that a subordinate clause describing a noun follows directly after that noun. Sometimes in Russian you have a bit of choice about word order since the case or gender often shows what goes with what.

This is not true of English as it is much less inflected.


MINI LESSON 3 [shall / will / ought to]

Could you give some clear examples for "ought to" and "shall".

You will go to school

You shall go to school are totally interchangeable.

No, although I think most English people would be hard put to to explain and some might use them interchangeably. Regional dialects vary about the use of will and shall. But in RP [received pronunciation i.e. standard English] there is a subtle difference.

For simply stating the future the verb 'to be' goes thus:

I shall, you will, he/she will, we shall, you will, they will.

All of these if used the other way constitute a threat or a promise.

I shall be there = routine statement of fact.

I will be there = the same except that it is usually in answer to doubt expressed by the other person.

You will go to that school = statement about future when perhaps the family are going to move and a parent is showing the child his / her future school.

You shall go to that school = exasperated parent has had enough of the child demanding to go to a different one. Or, rather less likely, it is a private school and the child wants to go there but thinks Dad can't afford it and Dad is assuring her that he will get the money somehow.

He will be 8 tomorrow = statement of fact.

He shall have a bike for his birthday [even if I have to get a bank loan to pay for it].

As you can see, using the alternative form from my future conjugation above can imply a hell of a lot more than what is said. As to whether it is a threat or a promise; if the context doesn't tell the hearer, the tone of voice etc will.

Which is right? - You are going to go to school or You will go to school ....? Are they the same?

Yes, more or less. The second could be a prediction, not 100% certain, whereas the first implies an arranged future. If the second example is said very firmly it means, 'Don't argue. I insist that you must go to school'.


MINI LESSON 4 [move / remove]

When I started learn English I always used the word "remove", but practically always I was corrected to use "move".


Move sth. = put it in a different place.

remove sth. = take it away

Remove is seldom used for simply moving sth. from one place to another without the idea of 'away'. It used to be used in posh English for moving house [lorries for this purpose still carry the word REMOVALS, but nowadays we say 'I'm moving'.

Another example could be:

I "removed" the text (words) from the letter by deleting it (them). I picked up the letter from my desk and "moved" it to the table or I "moved" the last sentence to the beginning of the paragraph.

I use move when an item can still be seen or is still available after the action takes place - you pick up the item and then put it back down in another place.

I use remove in cases where the item is just taken away - you just pick it up and don't give it back. For example, you can move the garbage can [waste paper basket in GB] from one side of your desk to the other side of your desk and you can remove the rubbish from the bin by dumping it outside




Mini lesson 5 [too / either.


>Please clarify finally if I understood correctly:

>"too" is to use in positive context and "either" in negative or interrogative context.

Right except that the choice for interrogative would also depend on whether it was affirmative or negative.


I'm going away.

Is he going too?

We are not studying anything.

Isn't he studying anything either?




Here is my promised lesson on to be able to + can.


CAN + TO BE ABLE - To be able is the infinitive.

present tense:

I can / can't

you can / can't

he can / can't etc.

*Sometimes if the success is due to particular effort or cleverness there could be an alternative. See past tense 3 below.



I will be able to / won't be able to

you will be able to etc.


Past: here comes the tricky bit. It depends what you mean.

The negative is the simplest.

I couldn't [could not]

you couldn't etc.



1. the commonest form is nothing at all. If s.o. did sth. and there was no particular problem. All that is needed is the verb that says what he / she did.

2. If s.o. wanted to do sth. but thought it would not be possible BECAUSE OF CIRCUMSTANCES, and then these changed and so it was possible, we say, 'So I was able to do it.'

3. As above but, rather than circumstances changing, one's own efforts made it possible. Then we say, 'I managed to do it.'

For some strange reason this never seems to be explained in grammar books, or at least not in those that I have seen.

It is a very common mistake amongst most foreign students to assume that, since could not is the past of can't, could must be the past of can. This is a natural mistake.




1. ---------


I wanted to go to France but I didn't have enough money. Then my father gave me the money so I was able to go.

Usually they had to store some of the hay in a haystack because the old barn was too small. Then last year they erected a big new barn and they were able to get all the hay inside.

They couldn't lift the fallen tree because it was too heavy. So the farmer fetched his tractor and with that help he was able to move it quite easily.


I found that subject really difficult, but after struggling with it for hours I managed to write quite a reasonable essay.

The farmer put a really strong fence round the chickens to keep the goat away from the hen food. But goats are very clever and very greedy so she always managed to get in.

Last year one of the ducks managed to persuade another duck to lay eggs in her nest, so she had too many.

I try not to let my ducks sit on eggs outside their house but some of them always manage to find a secret place.



 The area where many foreigners have trouble in English replies is usually with yes and no because in most languages on the whole yes means you agree and no means you don't.

In English there is no problem with replies to a direct unbiased question:

Do you like coffee? --- Yes / no.

The problem arises when either the question is one expecting a particular answer, or the responder is responding to a statement; it works as follows:


1.You will stay for a coffee, won't you? [Q expecting the answer yes]

Yes = I agree and will stay.

No, I can't [or some such polite explanation] = No, I won't or can't stay.


2.You're not moving till next year, are you? [Q expecting the answer no]

Yes we are. We've sold the house and we're moving in July.

No = I agree that we are not moving.


3. It's getting late. You won't be able to catch a bus.

Yes, I will. There is a late bus at midnight from the station.*

No, that's true. Can I you give me a lift.


4. [An extra complication with the verb to mind = not to be happy about sth. / to object]

Do you mind if I leave you at the bus stop?

Not at all. You go home. I'll be fine.

Well, yes, actually I do mind. When you take a girl out, it is generally considered polite to escort her home.**


** Both of these usually have some added words as a short 'Yes' indicating that I do object is rather unfriendly if given with no explanation. 'Yes, I do' is seldom used except either jokingly or as a put down [as in my example; the girl really means the young man to feel a bit shamed by his suggestion.


* This is the main way that confusion arises. The rule is that to agree with a negative you say, 'No'.


I used to run an International centre where most of those who stayed were from foreign countries, some where English was the second language and others for whom it was a foreign language. Sometimes the latter could be from my school, in which case i was responsible for their English. Others might be going to a different language school.

Sometimes I would be getting the dinner and laying the table etc. and I would pass a couple of people speaking English [usually one learner and one from the Commonwealth] and it would be immediately apparent that the conversation had come off the rails. B was trying to agree with A who thought that B was disagreeing.


A: Exeter isn't nearly as big as your city.

B: Yes.

A: No, it isn't.

B: Yes.

I would say as I went past, 'If you agree with a negative you say, 'No'.

If B: was one of my students he would remember that I had explained this, and he would say, 'Sorry, I mean, no it isn't'. If he wasn't, he would look nonplussed and usually so would the other one, because ESL people usually have learned the language directly as native speakers do and therefore have not had to consider the anomalies in the language.


The extra little complication to saying 'no' to agree with a negative is that you say 'yes' to disagree with a negative. It seems that instinctively we realise that this could be confusing because we usually extend it beyond the yes to make it clearer. Using the above situation:

A: Exeter isn't nearly as big as your city.

B: Yes, it is. [indication that he does not agree that his city is bigger.]


I haven't made it worse, have I?






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English corrected for Russian speakers. Learn by vicarious experience.