Quick Check on English Grammar

Even though we are always encouraged to speak English and learn from our mistakes, I always bear in mind what my English teacher in Junior High told me. Know your grammar before you speak and/or write.


English grammar being very different from Bahasa Indonesia’s (BI ~ red) needs constant checking when in use. For me personally it aims not to avoid embarrassment, but to make me a better English learner and speaker/writer. These are some useful guidelines for checking the grammar correctness and consistency based on my experience:



  1. Memorize the pronouns and their respective to be


The Pronouns:

Singular: I, he, she, it, you

Plural: We, you, they


To be (or adalah in BI):

Present V1: am, is, are

Past V2: was, were

Perfect V3: been



  1. Memorize the verbs, both regulars and irregulars


Regular verbs use –t or -ed ending for V2 and V3 forms.

e.g. V1: to burn               or           to reject

V2: burnt                               rejected

V3: burnt                               rejected


Irregular verbs need to be memorized because they strictly have no rules for changing.

e.g. V1: swim

V2: swam

V3: swum


Note: V1 is To-Infinitive, V2 is Past Simple and V3 is Past Participle (a.k.a. Perfect)



  1. The Three-Hands of Tenses: Past, Present, Future

In each tense there are 4 conditions: simple, continuous, perfect, and mixtures of 2 conditions.

Bear in mind that what happens in the past/present/future, stays in the past/present/future.


So if you are going to talk about something in past, use every past-related tense.

e.g. I was running around the block when a police car suddenly stopped me. The police officer told me that a strange man had been following me for about 1 mile. He asked whether that man had tried to approach me in any way.


Past simple: stopped/told/asked

Past continuous: was running

Past perfect: had tried

Past perfect continuous: had been following



  1. When to use To-Infinitive (V1)


1) As a second verb.

e.g. I go to work.


2) Following modal verbs:





need to/needed to

had better


e.g. The US embassy said that I must acquire a recommendation letter from my employer before they could issue a work visa. The letter should have been submitted next week at the latest, and it had better state how long I was needed to work abroad. The process could take longer time if I missed other important documents. They also would not guarantee that my work visa would finish on time.



  1. How to build Passive Sentences


The first verb in a passive sentence is in the intended grammar (past/present/future), while the following verb(s) in passive is (are) in the form of:

to + be + V3.

e.g. The clothes have to be separated before to be put in the washing machine.


If we are still thinking in BI language frame, it’s easy to translate every word beginning with di- with verb in passive form.

e.g. in BI: Fuchs didirikan pada tahun 1918.

in English: Fuchs was founded in 1918.


When to use passive sentences?


  1. When writing a procedure/report/memoir/notes/minutes of meeting. Using passive creates a distance between the writer and the writing itself, so that the writing becomes impersonal.

e.g. The products were placed in the conveyor and tested for any electrical failure.


  1. When we’re not interested in knowing who performs the action.

e.g. Leonardo DiCaprio was awarded Oscar in 2015. (It doesn’t matter who gave the award to Leo)



  1. Common confusions


  1. It’sworth it, notworthed.

e.g. The graduate degree is worth every minute and penny I spent in the university(the underlined part can be replaced by it).


  1. Nouns and their similarly written verbs

e.g. 1. advice (noun) and advise (verb)

  1. effect(noun) and affect (verb)
  2. loss(noun) and lose (verb)


I hope this short article will help!



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