Tips for learning English

Practise or practice?

What is the correct spelling: practise or practice?

It depends on which version of English you’re using: in British English usage, the noun is practice and the verb is practise. In American English usage, both the noun and the verb are spelled (or spelt, in British English) as practice.

Sample sentences:

  • Your coach phoned to say there will be a team practice in the gym tomorrow after school.
  • He practised his presentation for hours to get it perfect.
  • This book has some practice tests for your exam.

An expression with practice: practise what you preach – it means to do the things that you advise others to do.

medical practiceWhen used in connection with lawyers and doctors, practice also means the work that they do and the place where they work. Sample sentence:

Joe has a very successful legal practice in New York.

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    British or English?

    the United Kingdom

    the United Kingdom

    What is the difference between England and Britain (or Great Britain)? Three countries make up Great Britain: England, Scotland and Wales. So England is part of Great Britain, and a Scotsman (a person of Scottish origin) is British, too. A person born in Wales is Welsh, and they are British, too. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, or “the UK”. So the UK is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the last of which is not part of Great Britain. The formal name of the country is the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, but in everyday speech Britain is often used to mean the UK, though, as you have seen, this is not perfectly correct. The word “great” was added to “Britain” several hundred years ago, in the Middle Ages, when the English kings had lands in what is now France, and a certain part of it was called Britanny. To avoid confusion, they added the word “great” to the name of the land which was larger.

    The map is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_Kingdom_labelled_map7.png

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    They’re, their or there?

    These three words are often used incorrectly too, just like it’s and its, even by native speakers. Again, it’s not very difficult to remember which is correct when.

    They’re is the short form of they are:

    My parents have gone on holiday and they’re in France today.
    When students like a teacher, they’re more likely to do well in the subject he or she teaches.

    Their is a possessive word, just like its or my:

    My children always leave their toys all over the place.
    The dogs ran towards their master.

    There is an adverb of place; it means in that place. Think of it as an answer to the question “where?”. Here are some sample sentences:

    We didn’t want to go there, but we had to.
    Why did you put my book there?

    Here’s a sentence with all three words; note how they’re (!) used:

    They’re there, and all their friends are with them.

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    It’s or its?

    These two words are very often confused. A typical mistake is when somebody uses “its” instead of “it’s”, although the opposite often happens, too. Actually, it’s not very difficult to remember which is correct in a given situation: (more…)

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