Journal Time! How to Master Intermediate English Grammar with Just Your Journal
Having trouble with intermediate English grammar?
Do you ever sit in English class and feel completely lost when the teacher talks about grammar?
That is how I felt when I was learning Spanish.
Every time the teacher would introduce a new Spanish grammar rule, it felt like my brain could not take in the information. No matter how many times I asked for better explanations or did practice exercises, I just was not able to understand.
At first, I was disappointed in myself because I was one of the few students in the class who had a hard time learning intermediate grammar.
Then I decided to learn grammar a new way—at home, with just a journal and couple of grammar websites.
For me, writing in a journal was a great way to understand grammar. It let me learn at my own speed. And it let me actually practice using the grammar rules instead of just memorizing them.
If you are struggling to understand intermediate English grammar, you can do the same thing.
All you need is a journal, some helpful English grammar websites and 30 minutes a day to practice. Once you start practicing, you can even work without the websites and just use your journal. This is perfect for practicing English anytime, anywhere.
What Do Intermediate English Students Need to Know?
Intermediate English is when you get to really start learning how to express yourself and hold conversations with native English speakers.
After you have finished your intermediate English course, you should be able to talk and write about a number of things, including:
- Your feelings and opinions.
- Past events and experiences.
- Future plans and aspirations.
- Day-to-day activities at work, school and in the home.
And in order speak and write about these subjects, you need to have a good understanding of English verb tenses. That’s when FluentU comes in handy.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
When hearing native English speakers use their language, like in the authentic English videos on FluentU, you will notice that there are a lot of different tenses. However, it can be hard to understand them if you have not practiced them yourself.
Let’s look at some ways that you can do that by keeping a journal.
How to Master Intermediate English Grammar with Just a Journal
Grammar Used for Talking About General Information
Here, we are going to look at the type of grammar used to talk about general information.
The common verb tense here is present simple, which, despite its name, is not always used to describe present actions.
To practice giving general information, you can do the following activities.
1. Write about your daily routine
One of the easiest ways to practice English grammar is to write about your daily routine.
For this exercise, think about things you do throughout the week and write them down using present simple verbs.
Don’t just write the action that you do. Come up with a full sentence instead, like these:
- I wake up at 6:30 every morning.
- I go to English class every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 in the afternoon.
Also, try to practice using adverbs of frequency by making sentences with words like always, usually, often, sometimes, hardly ever and never.
- I never go to English class on Mondays.
- I usually go to the library after school.
If you need a quick review of some common vocabulary words used when talking about daily routine, take a look at this exercise by the British Council.
2. Write a list of rules and consequences
Throughout our lives, we have to follow rules.
Whether we are in the classroom or out in the world, where rules are called laws, we are told things that we can and cannot do.
When we break those rules, things happen as a result. This is called consequences, and in English, we use the zero conditional to talk about consequences.
To learn more about zero conditional and how to use it, watch this short video clip.
Think about some rules that you have to follow in your day-to-day life and make a list of them, like this:
- No talking in class.
- No smoking inside.
Now, think about consequences that happen when you break these rules and write them in a sentence using the zero conditional, like this:
- If you talk in class, the teacher will become angry.
- If you smoke inside, you will get a fine.
Grammar for Talking About the Present
Along with present simple, there are other types of present verb tenses that we use when talking about the present.
Here are two activities to help you with practicing two present tenses: the present continuous and the present perfect continuous.
3. Write about things happening right now
When we talk about things that are happening right now, we usually use the present continuous tense.
If your goal is to sound like a native English speaker, you have to master this verb tense. One way that you can do this is by writing sentences of things that you see happening in the moment. Just take a look around and come up with sentences using present continuous, like:
- A bird is flying past my window.
- My mom is talking on the phone in the next room.
If you need a quick refresher on how to use the present simple tense, make sure to check out this page.
4. Write about your activities throughout the week
What are some hobbies, activities or projects that you have been working on this week?
Not one-time actions, but things that you have been doing for hours or even days. Like studying English or reading a book.
In English, we tend to use the present perfect continuous for actions that we started in the past but are still doing in the present.
If you are unfamiliar with the present perfect continuous tense, read this article and work through some of the activities by clicking the link at the bottom.
Here are some examples:
- I have been reading “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” this week.
- I’ve been studying English since 2016.
In both of those sentences, I started the activity in the past, but I am still doing the activity today.
You can practice using this verb tense by writing some of your ongoing activities that you have been doing for some time in sentences using the present perfect continuous.
Grammar for Talking About the Past
As a beginner, you probably learned how to talk about the past by using the past simple tense. But today we are going to look at two other verb tenses to help you talk about the past: the past perfect tense and the present perfect tense.
And despite the confusing name, the present perfect is not really used as a present tense verb.
5. Describe your day in detail
Think about various actions that you have completed throughout the day. For this exercise, you will need to include two or more actions, and you should use the past perfect tense for the action that happened first.
- When I got to class, I saw that I had left my English book in the library.
- My family had started eating by the time I got home.
The past perfect tense is really great for storytelling because it lets you know which action happened first in a story. For this reason, you might want to write a story in your journal about your day, like this:
Today was a good day. When I went to the library, I saw that my friends had saved me a seat. They had been waiting for me for about 15 minutes and were excited to practice English with me. After we had studied for an hour, we all went to class and took an English exam. I think I did well.
If you would like to learn more about the past perfect tense, click here for a quick review.
6. Write about important past experiences
For this exercise, you will want to use the present perfect tense to talk about the past.
Unlike past simple, the present perfect tense does not say when the action happened—this is because the action is more important than the time or date.
Think about some events in your life that stand out to you and write about them using the present perfect tense, like this:
- I’ve seen all of the Batman movies. I really liked them.
- I’ve received an A+ on all of my English exams.
The thing that makes the present perfect different from the past simple tense is that the action that happened in the past is still important to you now or is still affecting you now.
Grammar for Talking About the Future
Finally, there are a couple of different ways to talk about the future aside from the future simple tense (will + verb). Let’s look at two ways to do this by using present continuous and be + going to + verb.
7. Come up with a schedule
Did you know that we often present continuous to talk about things that are happening in the near future?
This is especially true when we talk about schedules. While you can use the future tense to tell someone your plans, “I’m going to go the dentist after work” sounds much more natural than “I will go to the dentist after work.”
Practice this by writing out your schedule for the week using the present continuous. Here are some examples to help you get started:
- Monday: I’m meeting Sam and Jenny for lunch.
- Tuesday: I’m watching a soccer match with Tom.
8. Plan a vacation
Along with using future simple, we can also talk about the future by using be + going to + verb. This type of future verb tense is commonly used when people make future plans and predictions, which is why writing about vacation plans is a great way to get comfortable using the grammar.
And as an added bonus, the tense is really easy to use. Just look at these sample sentences:
- I am going to go to the store after work.
- Jason is going to visit his grandparents in England.
Think about a vacation that you really want to go on. Write about it in your journal by using be + going to + verb to talk about your future plans and predictions. If you are able to, try writing about it in story form like this:
Next summer, I am going to go to Peru with my family. It’s the first time I’ll visit South America and it is going to be fun. I don’t know what we are going to do while we’re there, but I do know that we are going to visit Machu Picchu.
Getting Comfortable with Intermediate English Grammar
As you can see, there are a number of different ways to talk about in the past, present and future in English.
While it may seem overwhelming at first to learn so many different verb tenses, the more you practice writing in your journal, the better you will become at this intermediate English grammar.
With a little bit of journaling every day, you are going to be speaking English like a native in no time!