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Answers to 5 quick English grammar questions

Students learning English grammar often have lots of questions!

Here are five of them – with answers and explanations.

1. Should I say ‘if you have any question’ or ‘if you have any questions’?”

“If you have any questions” is correct, because the word “question” is a countable noun.

When a noun is countable, we always use the plural form after “some” and “any”:

  • I bought some flowers.
  • We don’t have any questions.

We only use the singular form after “some” and “any” when a noun is uncountable:

  • I bought some sugar.
  • We don’t have any advice.

2. “What’s the difference between have been + -ING and have been + past participle?”

Have been + ING form is the present perfect continuous.

It means an action that has started in the past and continues until the present.

  • I’ve been cleaning the house for the past hour.
    (I started cleaning 1 hour ago, and I’m still cleaning now)

Have been + past participle is the present perfect passive.

It means something was done to the subject of the sentence sometime in the past.

  • These machines have been cleaned.
    (The sentence doesn’t say who cleaned them, just that they have been cleaned already)

3. “When should I use few vs. a few ?”

A few usually has a positive connotation, and few usually has a negative connotation.

Let’s say I’m moving to a new city, and I say “I have a few friends there.” – that’s a good thing; I know some people so I will have a good time in the new city.

Now let’s say my son is not very popular in school. I would say, “He has few friends.” – that’s a bad thing; he has only 2-3 friends, and it would be better for him to have more friends.

4. “What’s the difference between I’ve got and I’ve gotten ?”

I’ve got = I have; I possess

  • I’ve got a dog.
  • I’ve got a car.

I’ve got to = I must; I need to
(often pronounced as “I’ve gotta”)

  • I’ve got to leave now.
  • I’ve got to pay rent on the 1st of the month.

I’ve gotten = I have obtained/received
I’ve gotten = I have become

  • I’ve gotten a dog.
    (I didn’t have one before, but recently I adopted or bought a dog)
  • I’ve gotten a good grade on the test.
    (I received a good grade on the test)
  • I’ve gotten divorced.
    (I have become divorced)
  • I’ve gotten better at English.
    (I have become better at English)

5. “Do neither & none use singular or plural verbs?”

Neither is used for two things.

  • Neither of my parents is retired.

None is used for three or more things.

  • None of the kids in the class failed the test.

About singular or plural, this depends.

Technically, after neither, we should always use the singular, as in the example above (Neither of my parents is retired / Neither my mom nor my dad is retired.)

However, some people do use the plural: Neither of my parents are retired; Neither of the athletes were injured.

After none, use the plural if the object is countable:

  • None of the facts are correct.

Use the singular if the object is uncountable:

  • None of the information is correct.

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