A piece of advice to the learners of English Language

You can learn the language at any age provided you have a passion or desire for it. Unlike literature, functional aspects of English have greater practical utility in our day-to-day communication, either verbal, written or through devices. Though there is no shortcut for language study, there is a specific sequence to be followed in accordance with the step-by-step appropriacy of dealing with the subject which I have christened as SVK – ABC approach where A stands for the items to be considered first in the order of our study and B represents the next items or topics to be considered and C denotes the last items to be considered. This pattern follows the grammar book written by me entitled SVK English Grammar and Usage and hence called SVK – ABC approach!

Here A stands for the most important aspects which include:

  1. Tenses – Active and passive voice and their sub-divisions.
  2. Conditional clauses using the word ‘if’.
  3. Modal verbs and their application
  4. Other useful structures.

These are the essentials which should be given primacy in the language study.

The second letter B comes next in importance which includes:

  • Building of vocabulary
  • Idiomatic expressions

The topics included in the item B are supportive to the essentials mentioned in the item A.

The third item is C which includes Phonetics and proverbs. They are ornamental in nature, but useful and important to a serious learner. If you are able to pronounce your words clearly with good diction and clarity, it will attract an international acceptance. if you know some proverbs, you can express a huge mountain of ideas in a few words which will reduce the time required to the minimum to explain an idea and the hearer will have the satisfaction of having understood the whole idea in a clear way. More importantly, that will add to the beauty of your language. Thus the item C covers the beautification aspects of the language study.

A – Tenses, conditional clauses, modal verbs and other structures
B – Vocabulary and idiomatic expressions
C – Phonetics and proverbs

If you follow this approach of study, you will be able to cover all important areas of the functional aspects of English in a highly systematic and holistic way.

Best of Luck!
Sunny Varkey K

(1) Although/Though, (2) Despite/In spite of, (3) Even if/Even though

The following expressions mean ‘ in spite of something ‘.  They are subordinating conjunctions. Certain relevant points which need to be noted are given below:

(i)  The clause which they introduce is a subordinate clause, which needs a main clause to make it complete.(ii) ‘Though’ is more common than  ‘ Although ‘ in general and particularly in spoken English.(iii)  ‘ Despite ‘ is a little formal  compared to  ‘In spite of ‘.(iv) When  ‘though / although ‘comes before the main clause, a comma is usually put at the end of the clause.  When the main clause comes first, we don’t use a comma.

Example :

(1) Although / though

  • Even though he worked hard, he could not get a first class.( here subordinate clause comes first and hence the separation by a comma.)
  • He could not get a first class even though he worked hard.( here the main clause comes first and hence no separation by a comma)
  • Although he was weak, he attended the function.
  • He couldn’t secure a job although he had all the necessary qualifications.
  • Though he tried his level best, he could not pass the exam.
  • Though they are very poor, they are always neatly dressed.


(2) Despite/ In spite of

  • Despite the fact that she was sick, she went to work.
  • She went to work in spite of the fact that she was sick.
  • We went out in spite of the rain.
  • He didn’t agree with me despite the proof shown to him.

(3) Even if/ Even though ( These structures show a stronger degree of ‘Though/ Although’)

  • I will get you all the books you need even if you don’t give me the cost.
  • Even though he can’t drive, he has bought a car.
  • He will not stop fighting with his neighbours even if nobody supports him.


It is (was) + adjective + of somebody + to do something :

This construction is mainly used to show higher intensity in one’s expression, both good and bad. The important point to be noted here is that we use adjective (Not noun) after ‘ It is/  It was ‘ etc


  • It was foolish of you to accept the proposal . (Not foolishness of you)
  • It was very cruel of them to have the dog locked in the cage for days without food and water.( Not cruelty of them)
  • Its highly considerate of you to accommodate us.( Not consideration of you)
  • It is very kind of you to lend me fifty thousand rupees.
  • It was bad of him to behave like that.
  • It is intelligent of you to answer this question.
  • It is very kind of you to do the kitchen chores for the old lady.

Polite Requests

Polite Requests  :  For making polite requests, we use WILL, CAN and MAY.  You can make them still more polite by using past tense forms of them.(i.e Would, Could, and Might).


  • May I ask you a question?
  • Might I ask you a question?( more polite)
  • Can you lend me your umbrella?
  • Could you lend me your umbrella, please? (more polite)
  • Can you do me a favour?
  • Could you do me a favour?( more polite)
  • Will you post this letter , please?
  • Would you post this letter, please?(more polite)

Polite statements :

  • I have a doubt about the question.  I should like to have more clarifications.
  • I was told you have bought a new car.  I would like to see your new car. When can I come?
  • Is the manager available now?  My brother would like to see him for a few minutes.

Simple Future Tense

Simple future Tense : This is used to indicate an action that is still to take place.  ‘ Shall ‘  is used in the first person and ‘ Will ‘ with the second and third persons.

Structure :  Subject + Shall/ Will + Verb ( root form)

  • We shall see you again next Sunday.
  • I shall be 46 years of age next year.
  • I shall see him tomorrow.
  • She will not go to school tommow.
  • Rahul and Raichal will go to Dubai next week.
  • You will be alright within a couple of weeks.
  • Jose, ” Murali is in hospital “
  • Rahul, ” Oh really? I didn’t know.  I will go and visit him.

Note :  However in modern English the difference between ‘ I shall ‘ and  ‘I will ‘ is gradually disappearing and mostly these two expressions are reduced to  ‘I ‘ll ‘ (short form of ‘ I will ‘) and it has become most acceptable in written English as well as spoken English.


  • We ‘ll see you again next Sunday.
  • I ‘ll be 46 years of age next year.
  • I ‘ll see him tomorrow.

Provided Or Providing = On condition that

Provided  Or Providing =  On condition that


  • You can borrow my pen provided you return it tomorrow.
  • I will go to meet the customer provided my expenses are paid by the bank.
  • Provided (that) he studies hard, he’ll pass his exams.
  • Provided (that) there is demand from the customers, we will happily introduce the new product.
  • I will go there to meet him providing my expenses are paid by you.
  • Providing (that) the minister comes in time, we’ll submit a memorandum
  • Providing (that) the members are willing , we will arrange a pleasure trip to Veegaland.
  • Provided (that) there are surplus funds with us, we can think of additional facilities for the trainees.
  • Provided (that) the bus leaves on time, we should reach the station in time.
  • She’s welcome to come with us provided (that) she behaves herself.

Note:  In modern English the use of ‘ that ‘ after provided/providing is often omitted.

It is said that…………He is said to

It is said that……….He is said to.

  • It is said that he is a good man. (OR) He is said to be a good man.
  • It is said that Taj Mahal is more than 400 years old. (OR) Taj Mahal is said to be more than 400 years old.
  • It is expected that the strike will be settled soon.(OR)  The strike is expected to be settled soon.

You can use these structures with a number of other verbs as:

Understood, known, believed, alleged, reported, thought, expected, considered, observed etc.

  • He is understood to have submitted the resignation letter.
  • It is alleged that he committed the crime.
  • Dr.Jo Joseph is known to be the best Cardiologist.
  • Two people are reported to have been injured in the accident.
  • Ginger juice is considered to be the best medicine for stomach ache.
  • It is believed that the summer wind from north brings in diseases.



Wonder :

Wonder about something = feel curiosity, ask oneself etc


  • I wonder why he came all the way from Mumbai for such a small function.
  • I wonder why the Mayor came late.  Usually he is very punctual and keeps up timeliness.
  • He was wondering how to get the tickets for the magic show.
  • She was wondering what made me so angry about her plan.
  • I was wondering about how he could be saved from the risk.

You can introduce a Request or Enquiry by saying ‘ I wonder if / I wonder whether ‘  when you are very polite.


  • I wonder if you would mind closing the window.
  • I wonder whether you would care to join us.
  • I wonder whether you could lend me your umbrella.


Such………that .  It is a correlative conjunction.  It is used to give reason for a particular result.  It can be used to combine two sentences.

Examples :

  • It was a very hot afternoon.  We stopped playing.
  • It was such a hot afternoon that we stopped playing. (combined)
  • The boy asked a very foolish question.  Everyone laughed at him.
  • The boy asked such a foolish question that everyone laughed at him. (combined)
  • It was a very interesting story.  I read it in one sitting.
  • It was a such an interesting story that I read it in one sitting.( combined)
  • V.R.Dilipkumar is a great musician.  He went all the way to London to take part in the music festival.
  • V.R.Dilipkumar is such a great musician that he went all the way to London to take part in the music festival.(combined)
  • He is a very poor boy.  He cannot afford college education.
  • He is such a poor boy that he cannot afford college education.(combined)
  • A car is a costly thing for him.  He cannot afford to buy a car with his meagre savings.
  • A car is such a costly thing for him that he cannot afford to buy one with his meagre savings.(combined)

Past Perfect Tense.

Past Perfect Tense :  This tense is used to denote an action completed in the past before a certain point of time in the past.  Past perfect tense has two past actions ( sometimes one may be hidden or implied) of which one is more remote when viewed from the present time and this particular ‘ more remote action’  is explained by past perfect tense.) To put in other words, here there are two past actions of which one happened earlier than the other.  The action which happened earlier is used in the past perfect tense and the other in the simple past tense.


  • She had finished her homework before her teacher arrived.(i.e  here there are two actions (1) finishing of homework (2) arrival of the teacher. Finishing of homework happened earlier than the arrival of teacher.  Therefore the  earlier action (finishing of homework) is explained in the Past perfect.
  • He had offered all-out support for my venture before anybody else.( i.e his support came earlier than others’ support)
  • When we arrived for the function Mukesh wasn’t there.  He had gone home.( i.e Mukesh”s going home happened earlier than our arrival , so that is explained in the Past Perefct)
  • Tom had just got home when his wife phoned him.  He had been in Kochi.(Note the two actions,(1) Tom’s getting home (2) wife’s phoning. Of the two actions , the action marked No.1 took place before the No 2 action. Viewing from the present, action No.1 is more remote than the No 2 action. Therefore action No.1 is explained in the Past Perfect.

How long…….different usages.

(1)  How long have you(been………?)

  • How long have they been married?( we do not say, ” How long are they married? “)
  • They have been married for 25 years.( we do not say, ” They are married for……)
  • He has been in hospital since Saturday.( We do not say, ” He is in hospital……..)
  • I have been learning English for a long time. ( we do not say, ” I am learning …….)
  • I like your house.  How long have you been staying here?
  • I have been staying here for the last 10 years.
  • How long have you known him?
  • I have known him since we were at school.
  • I haven’t seen him since Wednesday.
  • The boy has been missing since last Friday.
  • How long have they been studying in this school?
  • They have been studying in this school since 2001.

Note :  Some verbs ( for example, know/like/believe etc) are not normally used in the continuous.  And after ‘ How long ….’ either present perfect tense OR present perfect continuous tense is used as the case may be.  But present tense OR present continuous tense should not be used after ” How long”.  However in Spoken English some relaxation( regarding the rules) can be made if the situation warrants.

(2) How long is it since…………….? (Note : in this particular usage , the part of the sentence that comes after the word ‘ Since ‘ should be in the simple past.)

  • How long is it since you last saw him? ( i.e when did you last see him?)
  • I saw him last in 1999.
  • How long is it since he died? ( when did he die?)
  • It’s ten years since he died.
  • It’s two years since I last saw him.( i.e I haven’t seen him for two years)
  • It’s ages since we went to the cinema.( i.e we haven’t been to the cinema for ages)