What are your most common problems with English?

I posted on my blog about trying to prepare lessons to help people with their English problems.

Here is what I said. Let me know here on this forum.

Are you an English learner? Would the following idea be of interest?

You tell me the words and phrases in English that give you trouble.

I will make two lessons per week that use some of these words and phrases, one easy and one more difficult.

Each lesson will have both an MP3 file, and the text, for you to download.

Each lesson will appear in the LingQ library.

Let me know what you think.

I think that it will be useful for us (English learners). For example, how understand: right up (A half-bottle of the house red coming right up). or “they have always had an active life”. Why “have” and “had”? thank you Steve.

…in having shown that what they called the…

the sentence or sentences,like above, including this kind of usage of have is my issue.

whole of the passage;

Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically in Wilson’s war
were the progressive intellectuals, a circle that took great pride, as you can
see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they
called the “more intelligent members of society” (themselves) were able to
drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting

my only problem is in having shown… it is not clear to me… what does it mean? maybe you may write an explanation or a topic for this…

Well, as I said in Steve’s blog, mastering the most common phrasal verbs it’s hard for me.
So maybe it could be a good idea to do some lessons about it. Anyway, it’s up to Steve.

Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically in Wilson’s war
were the progressive intellectuals, a circle that took great pride, as you can
see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they
called the “more intelligent members of society” (themselves) were able to
drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting

Goodness, what a sentence! I wouldn’t worry too much about that Furkan. It’s generally considered bad practice in English to write overly long, clunky sounding sentences like that. It could really do with another full stop in it.

this passage is from a book written by Noam Chomsky. The sentence is clear… i guess, no need another full stop. my problem is “in having shown”. what can we write instead of in having shown or explaining the clear meaning of it might be satisfying.

I will include some of these thanks. Meanwhile


A half-bottle of the house red coming right up. In restaurants we sometimes order 37.5 cl “half-bottles” of wine. The house red is the red wine recommended by the “house” or restaurant, usually lower cost. Coming right up = will be brought to you or I will bring it to you.

“they have always had an active life”

They have an active life now. (present)
They have had an active life for the last three years, since the moved here, always (past)


they take pride in showing that present

They took pride in having shown that past

for phrasal verbs

Save them and tag them. Soon you will be able to export lists, so that if you save lists of phrasal verbs you will be to exchange them. They should integrate into your databases.

In any case save them, and you can then search for all the phrasal verbs by the verb, get, or put, or whatever

Your Idea is fine Steve, and certainly helpful for English learners.
My trouble by speaking is concentrating on the language and engaging in the conversation at the same time.
It seems to be another problem.

Ks - They have always had an active life. This is the ‘present perfect’ tense. Steve is right - it is a form of “past tense”. In this sentence it it indicating that their busy life started in the past and has continued until the present. As you are probably aware the "present perfect’ tense is made up of HAVE + the past participle of the verb. Hope you don’t mind me adding my thoughts…:slight_smile:

In order to find out what most beginners need it may be worth to analyze questions which are collected in ‘Ask Your Tutor’ forum. I think they’re now a good material for statistics and conclusions.

Here are some of my problems:

  • usage of articles (a, an, the, no article);
  • can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would - which verb and verb form to use and in what situation?
  • if, whether, when, then and change of verb tense after ‘if’ (‘if I will…’ or ‘if I would…’?);
  • usage of idioms, colloquial phrases and correct understanding which phrases are really idioms and colloquial phrases, which are of literary style, what I can and what I would not be allowed to use when I speak with a friend, a man on the street, with a bank teller, with my boss, when writing a friendly letter, an official document, etc.
  • correct usage of perfect tenses of verbs;
  • correct usage of phrasal verbs and prepositions;
  • interrogative words and conjunctions: who or whom? which or what? where or when?
  • when I need to add ‘-ever’ to a word? Where or wherever? What or whatever? Which or whichever?
  • some tips on punctuation.

When I read and listen, I already understand these words (words from my questions, I mean) and word forms nearly well, but I can’t use them automatically, frequently and fast. I need more examples, I think. Perhaps, I need more examples concentrated in one lesson. And perhaps they should be examples in context represented by 2-3 sentences, a description of a situation. One ‘bare’ sentence, which is taken out of any circumstances and associated useful information, is not enough. It is very pleasant and helpful for learner when their teacher moves in circles around difficult words and phrases, demonstrating different ‘sides’ of them, not only the general meaning (which, however, must be understood absolutely clearly), but also some nuances, some idioms which stand far enough from the general meaning.

In beginner-level lessons I find one or two examples of ‘would’ and the rest is Present Simple and Past Simple. In intermediate-level or more difficult lessons there are more examples of structures mentioned above, but there are also a lot of new words in them. Therefore, I need much more repetition and dictionary work, and such lessons become boring before I get all the benefit of them. I’d love a lesson dedicated to ‘would’. Let it be 10 minutes or even more, or even a lesson set, it will be very useful anyway. When, in what circumstances does ‘would’ mean ‘usually’? In which case it means ‘under certain conditions’? I would be very thankful to developers of such a lesson. I’ve written ‘would’ here, I wrote it before, but I still have some doubt that I can use it correctly.

Of course I see that some problems similar to mine are already covered in LingQ content library, but I probably haven’t find these lessons yet.

having shown… This problem is called Perfect Gerund and is present in any grammar book. Why don’t you folks take a grammar book themselves? Why do you need Steve as a middle-man? Or you really hope that Steve will tell you some secrets of grammar?

Steve, have you changed your mind and now you want to teach grammar?

I’m a native English speaker and I must admit I didn’t understand “A half-bottle of the house red coming right up” when I first read it. It sounded like a bad computer translation. So don’t feel bad if you didn’t understand it either.

having shown…

thank you Steve for your explanation. now the passage is completely clear for me;)


I do not find it useful to know that this is called the Perfect Gerund. It is sufficient to help the learner understand the meaning in the context. I would even recommend that the learner save “having shown” or even “having” in LingQ.

re the half-bottle of the house red.

I had not noticed that the question from KS was about “right up”…“coming right up” means “coming right away.”


You are right and that is why we prefer questions with the surrounding context.

Dimitriy DA

Thanks for the list. I will do some lessons on these including “would”.

that is what i think Steve, because i do not know most of the grammar titles in english, even in my ow language… my english learning trip was and is (has been) away from grammer books or grammar explanations… grammar is necessary for me only getting the basic knowladge of a language i learn…(that is why i had opened a topic about grammar recently) And as far as i am concerned, giving explanations with sentences in a dialog and in short-stories or just even sample sentences have more and more impact to comprehend the subjects that i study than only giving grammar explanations… which is why most of us are here…

thank you for response and explanation!!!

From time to time I have the problems with the text (English) translation. I know translation of each word but I do not understand sense of the sentence. Somebody has similar problems?