Lost in Translation

Or, Cross-cultural communication. What the English say vs. what foreigners hear.

The concept of saying the opposite of what you mean may seem both confusing and unnecessary to many people.

I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect You are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided

All Twelve English Verb Tenses

Here is an overview of all 12 English verb tenses, their forms, and how to use them.

Present Simple ~Verb Form Present Simple ~Verb Use
Present Progressive ~Verb Form Present Progressive ~Verb Use
Present Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Present Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use
Past Simple ~Verb Form Past Simple ~Verb Use
Past Progressive ~Verb Form Past Progressive ~Verb Use
Past Perfect ~Verb Form Past Perfect ~Verb Use
Past Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Past Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use
Future Simple ~Verb Form Future Simple ~Verb Use
Future Progressive ~Verb Form Future Progressive ~Verb Use
Future Perfect~Verb Form Future Perfect ~Verb Use
Future Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Future Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use


Future Simple – Verb Meaning and Use

This post will show you how to use the Future Simple. To see how to form the Future Simple, click here.

We use Be Going To and the Present Continuous to talk about a planned event or future intention. A future time expression is usually stated or implied with the Present Continuous in order to avoid confusion.

Future with Be Going To

  • I am going to study hard tonight for the test.
  • He’s going to do the dishes after dinner.
  • Why isn’t she going to work next week?

Future with Present Continuous

  • I am studying hard tonight for the test.
  • He’s doing the dishes after dinner.
  • Why isn’t she working next week?

. Be Going To and the Present Continuous are usually similar, but not exactly the same. With Be Going To the speaker may not have an exact plan. With the Present Continuous, the plan is often more definite. Future with Be Going To

  • I’m going to leave my job (someday). I’m so unhappy
  • He’s going to buy a new car but he doesn’t know what kind yet.

Future with Present Continuous

  • I’m leaving my job (next week). I have been so unhappy here.
  • He’s buying a new car tomorrow! He has already chosen it.

. We use Be Going To for predictions, especially when there is evidence that something is just about to happen. Do not use the Present Continuous for predictions. Future predictions with Be Going To

  • Be careful! That glass is going to fall!!
  • That glass is falling. (incorrect)
  • It’s cloudy. It’s going to rain tonight.
  • It is raining tonight (incorrect)
  • They’re going to win the game tonight. They are the better team.
  • They are winning tonight (incorrect)

. Future with Will We use Will or Be Going To to make predictions or expectations. You can also use probably and other adverbs with Will and Be Going To to express certainty or uncertainty. Future with will

  • Electric cars will become popular in the next ten years.
  • Electric cars are going to become popular in the next ten years.
  • They will probably win the championship.
  • They are probably going to win the championship.
  • It will warm up
  • It’s going to warm up

With predictions, the meanings of Will and Be Going To are not exactly the same. Use Be Going To when you are more certain that an event will happen because there is evidence. Do not use Will in this situation. In this situation, Will needs a requirement to be met first.

  • She’s going to have a baby. (She is pregnant)
  • She will have a baby (If she gets married. She is not pregnant now).
  • They are going to win (They are the best team)
  • They will win tonight (if they can keep the ball).

. In statements with I, the first person, Will and Be Going To have different meanings. Will is often used to express a quick decision made at the time of speaking. Be Going To, however, shows that you have thought about something in advance. Do not use Be Going To for quick decisions. Will for quick decisions

  • A: “Does anyone want to help me?” B: “I will help. What can I do?”
  • A: “There’s someone at the door.” B: “I will answer
  • A: “What would you like to eat today?” B: “I’ll have the soup and salad.”

Be Going To for advanced plans

  • A: “What are your plans for the weekend?” B: “I’m going to help my sister move tomorrow.”
  • A: “Do we have any alcohol for the party?” B: “Not yet. I’m going to pick it up

. In statements with I, Will is often used to express a promise. Will for promises

  • I will do my homework.
  • I won’t tell anyone!
  • I will be on time.
  • I won’t quit school.

. We use the Present Simple for future events, mostly schedules, which are out of our control. Future with Present Simple

  • The plane leaves at 9:15 tomorrow.
  • School starts at 8am and finishes at 3pm.
  • The stores open at 9am everyday.
  • He arrives on the 4 o’clock bus next Saturday.
  • What time does the movie begin?

Past Progressive – Verb Meaning and Use

Past Cont GraphicThis post will show you how to use the Past Progressive (also called the Past Continuous). To see how to form the Past Progressive, click here.

We use the Past Progressive to talk about activities that were in progress (happening) at a specific time in the past. This may be an exact moment in the past or a longer period of time.

  • It wasn’t raining at lunch time, it was snowing.
  • You were acting weird last night.
  • I was studying in Brasilia in 2010.


The Past Progressive expresses an ongoing past activity that may or may not be completed.

  • At 7:00 Rodrigo was making dinner in the kitchen. (He was in the middle of making dinner and we don’t know if he finished.)
  • The children were building a snowman while it was snowing. (They were in the middle of building a snowman and we don’t know if they finished.)


Simultaneous Events

Sentences with two past time clauses describe the order in which two past events happened. When the verbs in both the time clause and the main clause are in the Past Progressive, the events were simultaneous (happening at the same time).

  • When you were studying, I was working.
  • They were playing hockey while we were shopping.


Interrupted Events

When one verb is in the Past Simple and the other in the Past Progressive, it shows that one event interrupted the other. The event in the Past Progressive started first and was interrupted by the Past Simple event. When or while begins the time clause, which uses the Past Progressive.

  • While we were eating dinner, the phone rang.
  • She ran into Adam when she was walking to school.


Background Information

The Past Progressive often appears at the beginning of a narrative to describe background activities. It can express several background activities happening at the same time as the main event. The main even is in the Past Simple.

  • It was raining hard outside and my roommate was taking a shower. At exactly 7:10, there was a huge clap of thunder. I jumped up as the house shook violently.
  • When we arrived at the stadium, the home team was winning,  all the fans were cheering, and my heart was racing with excitement.




Past Progressive – Verb Form

This post will show you how to form the Past Progressive (also called the Past Continuous). To see how to use the Past Progressive, click here.

Affirmative Statements

Subject Was/Were Base Verb + ing
I was working that night.
You were living in Sao Paulo
He/She/It was watching TV.
We were walking to the store.
They/You (plural) were playing tenis.


Negative Statements

Subject Was/Were + Not (wasn’t/weren’t) Base Verb = ing
I wasn’t eating dinner.
You weren’t waiting for us.
She/He/It wasn’t driving very fast.
We weren’t thinking about the consequences.
They/You (plural) weren’t sleeping at 8:00 am.


Yes/No Questions

Was/Were Subject Base Verb + ing
Were you living in Sidney?
Was he cooking dinner?
Were they writing their essay?


Short Answers

Yes Subject Was No Subject Was/were + Not (wasn’t/weren’t)
Yes, I was. No, I wasn’t.
Yes, he was. No, he wasn’t.
Yes, they were. No, they weren’t.


Information Questions

Wh- Word Was/Were Subject Base Verb + ing
Who were you talking to?
What was she watching?
When was he working there?
Where was it snowing?
How were they saving money?
Why were they changing jobs?
Who (subject) was leaving?
What (subject) was happening?