Dow English

Take an interest in the future. You will spend the rest of your life there.

Gender Pronouns

There are no gender distinctions in Chinese. The pronouns he, she, and it all share the same sound.

In English there is a gender distinction. The gender of the pronoun depends on what the pronoun refers to.

Ex.: My mother ate her meal. She liked it. The meal was given to her. The meal was  hers.  ["Mother" is a female, so the pronouns are the feminine "her, she, hers."]

       My father ate his meal. He liked it.  The meal was given to him. ["Father" is a male, so the pronouns are the masculine "his, he, him."]

       The dog ate its meal. It liked it. [When you don't know if the noun is male or female, use its, it.]

Articles: the, a, an

There are no articles in Chinese.

Articles, the, a, an, are used all the time in English.

Here is a great website that clearly explains this grammar rule.


Plurality (more than one) is rarely expressed in Chinese. As a result, the "s" at the end of a noun that indicates plurality is often dropped by Chinese students.

[example of the dropping of an "s"-- I've seen many film.

corrected: I've seen many films.]

Whenever you are speaking or writing about more than one, you typically add an "s."

Some exceptions:

  • If the word ends in: sh, ch, ss, x, and zz, you make the word plural by adding "es."   bushes, churches, kisses, axes, frizzes.
  • If the word ends in "f" (wolf, shelf), to make it plural you change the "f" to "ves."

wolves, shelves.

  • Some words are the same whether they are plural or singular: sheep, deer

Countable/Uncountable Nouns

This is a hard concept for many Chinese students.
The rule is if you can count it (even if the number is very large and it wouldn't necessarily make sense to count it, you need to use an article (the, a, an [note: "an" is used in front of nouns or adjectives that begin with a vowel: a, e, i, o, u.])
Ex.: Joe returned the tests to the students.  NOT: Joe returned tests to students.


Coordinating conjunctions can join together words, phrases and independent clauses.

Coordinating conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Ex.: (words) I like milk and cookies.

(phrases) The ducks on the lake or the men on the beach are visible every day.

(independent clauses) The woman called for a taxi, but she decided to walk to work before it arrived.

When independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, a comma goes just after the word before the conjunction.

Subordinating conjunctions join dependent clauses to independent clauses.

A subordinate conjunction performs two functions within a sentence.

First, it illustrates the importance of the independent clause.

Second, it provides a transition between two ideas in the same sentence. The transition always indicates a place, time, or cause and effect relationship. For example: We looked in the metal canister where Ginger often hides her candy. [We looked in the metal canister=independent clause; where Ginger often hides her candy=dependent clause. where=subordinating conjunction

There are a lot of subordinating conjunctions. Here are some:

after      although     as     as soon as     because     before     by the time     even if

even though     every time     if     in case     in the event that     just in case     now that

once     only if     since     since     the first time     though     unless     until     when     whenever     whereas     whether or not     while     while

If the subordinate clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, place a comma after it.

If the subordinate clause follows the independent clause, do not put a comma after the independent clause.

Ex.: As Sherri blew out the candles atop her birthday cake, she caught her hair on fire.

Sara begins to sneeze whenever she opens the window to get a breath of fresh air.

When the doorbell rang, my dog Skeeter barked loudly.

Correlative conjunctions come in pairs, and you have to use both of them in different places in a sentence to make them work. They get their name from the fact that they work together (co-) and relate one sentence element to another.

Correlative conjunctions include pairs like:






not only/but also


I want either the cheesecake or the frozen hot chocolate.

I’ll have both the cheesecake and the frozen hot chocolate.

I didn’t know whether you’d want the cheesecake or the frozen hot chocolate, so I got you both.

Oh, you want neither the cheesecake nor the frozen hot chocolate? No problem.

I’ll eat them both - not only the cheesecake but also the frozen hot chocolate.

I see you’re in the mood not for dessert but appetizers. I’ll help you with those too.

Here are some more pairs of correlative conjunctions:

as/as - Bowling isn’t as fun as skeet shooting.

such/that - Such was the nature of their relationship that they never would have made it even if they’d wanted to.

scarcely(hardly)/when - I had scarcely(hardly) walked in the door when I got the call and had to run right back out again.

as many/as - There are as many curtains as there are windows.

no sooner/than - I’d no sooner lie to you than strangle a puppy.

rather/than - She’d rather play the drums than sing.


A sentence is a subject (the person, place, or thing) and a verb (the action or state of being of the subject) that make a complete thought.

"Jiaqi ran." is a sentence because there is a subject: Jiaqi, and an action that the subject is doing: ran, and, even though this is a very short sentence, it is a complete thought. 

However, while the following: "After Jiaqi ran" has a subject: Jiaqi, and an action the subject is doing: ran, it is not a complete thought. After Jiaqi ran what happened? ["After Jiaqi ran, she was tired." now is a sentence with a complete thought.]

Subjects and verbs must agree in terms of being both singular or both plural.

A singular subject must have a singular verb. 

A plural subject must have a plural verb.

As noted before, to make a noun plural, you will usually (but not always) add an "s." However, to make a verb plural, you do NOT add an "s." SINGULAR verbs have the added "s." This rule only applies to actions that are happening in present tense, that is, right at the moment they occur.

My mother runs to the corner.

The boys run to the corner.

My mother AND father (two people) run to the store.

Past tense verbs usually take the same form whether singular or plural.

My mother ran to the corner.

The boys ran to the corner.

My mother had run to the corner every day until she broke her leg.

The boys had run to the corner every day until it got cold.

Future tense verbs also usually take the same form whether singular or plural.

My mother will run to the corner tomorrow.

The boys will run to the corner tomorrow.

Would v. Will

Many people confuse would with will.
Both express something that happens in the future.

Will indicates a future definite.
I will eat dinner tonight.

Will indicates a cause and effect that isn't changeable.
I will be late if the traffic doesn't go faster.

Will is used for quick decisions, promises, offers, and likely predictions.
I think I will wash the dog now.
I will go to the movies with you tonight.
You will earn bonus points.
If it rains, you will get wet.

Would indicates a future possibility based on a condition that is not a certainty. It is dependent on an "imaginary" factor.
If I had known about the party earlier, I would have gone.
If I knew where he lived, I would visit him.

Would is used in a request.
Would you like to go to the movies tonight?

Should v Could v Would

Use should/shouldn't for advice
If you keep having headaches, you should go to the doctor.
You shouldn't put your feet on your desk in school.


An idiom is a phrase that has a particular meaning for a particular culture. For instance, here are some Chinese idioms you may recognize:

脚踏实地            莫名其妙

九牛一毛           一无所有 

Since idioms of one culture are unfamiliar to people of another culture, Chinese students often have a difficult time understanding the meaning behind an idiom.

Here are some American idioms:

hit the sack (go to sleep, go to bed)

twist someone's arm (convince someone)

stab someone in the back (betray someone)

face the music (deal with an unpleasant reality)

rings a bell (sounds familiar)

Here is a good link for some more English idioms.

Prepositional word pairs

There are many prepositions. They include: to, of, for, around, in. Here is a link to more. 

In English, certain words are always paired with certain prepositions. You would never say, "I was blamed of being late." You would say, "I was BLAMED FOR being late."

Here is a list of 40 idiomatic phrases with the correct prepositions. 


able to

abide by

agreed to

apologized for

applied to

approve of

argued with

arrived at

believe in

blamed for

both... and (it would be wrong to say I like both chicken, "also" fish.)

capable of

care about

charge of

compared to

complain about

comply with

conscious of

consists of

depend on

differ from

discriminate against

either.... or (it would be wrong to say I like either chicken "nor" fish.)

equivalent to

escape from

excuse for

hide from

hope for

identical to

method of

neither.... nor (it would be wrong to say "I like neither chicken or fish.")

not only... but also (it would be wrong to say "I like not only chicken, and also fish.")

object to

opposed to

preoccupied with

prohibited from

protect from

recover from

relevant to

succeed in