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Decoding English Grammar in a Nutshell

IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge Exam Preparation - Learn all grammar you need just in 3 hours.
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Created by Betty Zsoldos
Last updated 2/2016
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Hey Guys,

I know why you are here: you are looking for fast and quality aid that will support you when preparing for an English language exam. Am I right? … Ok, probably I’m wrong a bit, because you need an overall picture of all the English grammar for better communication!

Either is the case, here is something that we developed just for you!

We found that what students need before the exam: a fast and brief revision of the grammars they need to remember and apply at the exam, like IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge, etc.

(It is all the same what exam you are going to take, because the standard and the requirements are absolutely the same at each level of these exams!)

So, we strongly advise you to take this course to refresh your memory about what you have learned in order to maximize your success at the exam!

On the other hand, keep in mind: we are learning grammar not just to succeed to get a paper, but to be excellent at everyday communication. So, you might skip the exam, because you don’t need an official proof that you are great at English, however, you MUST prove it in the real life.

So, that's why we think THIS COURSE IS JUST FOR YOU - in which you will get a step-by-step construction to acquire the grammar knowledge.

In this 3-hour course you will get the summary of 4 of our other courses:

- Decoding English Verb Tenses

- Decoding 3 Great Grammar Pieces (Passive Voice, Conditionals, Causation)

- Decoding 3 More Great Grammars (Reported Speech, Modals, Relative Clause)

- Decoding 33+1 Small Grammar Pieces (everything from Phrasal Verbs to Collocations)

By the end of the course you will have refreshed your memory about all English grammar – just in 3 hours!

You will love that!

I’m excited to meet you there:


Ps: By the way, you need to learn with me! Why? Because English is my second language that I started to learn when I was 25, and then some years later I started to teach. Now I’m highly professional and experienced. I native English will never know, but I know very well, what students are struggling with when learning grammar!

Who is the target audience?
  • This is the course that is excellent for students at intermediate, upper-intermediate and/or early advanced level. However, this course is definitelly not for beginners. Students at late-advanced level might still benefit of this course by having a revision, however, at that level they need additional grammar pieces, too.
  • On the other hand this course is also aimed to help all those who live in an English-speaking country so that they could better understand, and thus, more confidently use English language.
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
What Will I Learn?
have a clear view on what grammar they need to know for a language exam
understand and appropriately apply the grammar rules of English language
take any English Language Exam with a much higher chance of success
have excellent communication in everyday life which is based on strong grammar basis
View Curriculum
  • Students must make sure their level is not too low, in order to understand at least 70j-80 % of the explanation. That's why students are advised to see the content and peep into the free videos.
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 15 Lectures Collapse All 15 Lectures 01:59:44
2 Lectures 05:35


If you have landed here most probably this course is what you really need!


Because I’m sure you are looking for fast and quality solutions when preparing for a language exam, or when wishing to be more familiar with the English grammar.

This course was developed because we found that students also like brief summaries, overall pictures, not just analytic approaches. So, this course is just like paging through a thick grammar book while briefly introducing you to each grammar piece.

In other words, this course is a summary of 4 other courses, namely:

- Decoding English Verb Tenses,

- Decoding 3 Great Grammar Pieces (Passive Voice, Conditionals, Causation)

- Decoding 3 More Great Grammars (Reported Speech, Modals, Relative Clauses)

- Decoding 33+1 Small Grammars (everything from phrasal verbs to conjunctions)

In this course, besides the videos you will find the script, and at the end of each section you can test your knowledge of what you’ve learnt.

Let’s start!

Preview 02:03


My name is Andrew, Betty's ex-student. I know her very well because she was teaching me for years and I owe a lot to her.

Probably you have also met her in her other courses Decoding English Grammar. If you have, it is unnecessary to introduce her and her high-quality work. If not, I strongly advise you to have those courses, too.

So, now let's speak about her:

This is Betty Zsoldos, a Hungarian-born lady who lives in Australia.

Well, don't think that speaking English was always easy for her! When I asked Betty about her learning, she recalled her story:

Till the age of 25 she didn't speak English at all. Then, one day she got into a situation when she said: never again. She met young foreigners, who loved her kids (yes, by the age of 25 she had 4 little kids:-) and she couldn't communicate with these people at all, apart from some body-language! They offered some languages, and she shook her head, and she felt so-so ashamed. So, the next day she rushed to friends to help her to learn some English.

Well, you know, learning another language is not easy. Getting used to another nation's way of thinking might be very strange – at least, it was for her. But she developed fast, and in 3 years she was asked to teach in language school, then soon she became one of the most popular English teachers in her hometown. Then she went to get her Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language for Adults. Plus she has had 22 years of experience in teaching. That's a lot!

The other professional part of her is a Master Coach, NLP Master and a trainer. These extras ensure that she really knows a great deal about how learning takes place.

So, trust her, and let her prove that she is the best sherpa, who will make you enjoy this journey!

Preview 03:32
Verb Tenses
3 Lectures 33:01

It is very important to know that when we hear an action expressed through a verb-formation, we place it somewhere in our head, in other words: in our representation system. Where is present, where is past, and where is future in our inner world?

The present is right in front of us. So, when we hear this form: I’m speaking, you are listening, he’s coming home, etc. these pictures appears right in front of our inner eyes.

The past is either behind our back, or on the left.

Future is either on our right, or in front of us, but a bit further than present.

Why is it important for us to know about it?

As you will see, we will see the holistic view of the tenses. In other words: we will put the puzzles together in order to get the whole picture. So, present tense – with its 4 aspects will be right in front of us, past will be on the left, and future on the right.

It will greatly help to understand the links and connections between the tenses and the actions.

Preview 03:43

Well, this is the Timeline….

As we agreed, present is right in front of us, past is on our left, and future is on the right. So, very basically English uses 3 tenses, such as most languages: past, present, future. However, each of these tenses have 4-4 aspects.

First of all, each of the basic tenses have either simple… or continuous versions. To help our visual memory we will place “simple” aspect on the top, and “continuous” on the bottom.

Now, we have 6 boxes for the 3 tenses and their simple and continuous aspects: Present simple, Present cont, Past simple, Past cont. Future Simple, Future cont.

How will we get all the 12 English tenses?

Here comes the “Perfect” aspect! Do you remember when you learnt about Present Perfect? This is a kind of “between” the past and present! We will go into details later about it, but now just remember: it is for example either that started in the past and it is here even now, or it is a period between past and now. So, it gets between the past and present in our timeline…

So, then what about Past Perfect? You know this is something that took place before a past event. So, this is before Past tense.

And then, Future Perfect? If you follow the logic, its place will be obvious: it is between present and future. Anyway, just it is good to know that this is the least frequently used tense, but we will discuss it later.

Excellent! We have got all the 12 tenses now, at least we can see where they are on the timeline and how their boxes are labelled. :-)

Preview 11:24

Now let’s see the forms fitting to the boxes, with the example of the verb: “dance”, and let’s see when we use them:

Present Simple: I dance

- general activity (like routine, habit)

Present Continuous: I’m dancing

- activity now

- activity around now

- fixed activity in the close future

Past Simple: I danced

- general activity in the past (“used to”)

- storytelling

Past Continuous: I was dancing

- activity with time-reference

- interrupted activity (when)

- parallel activity (while)

Future Simple: I will dance

- promise

- prediction

- sudden idea

Future Continuous: I will be dancing

- activity with time-reference

Present Perfect Simple: I have danced

- life-experience

- result

- has just happened activity

Present Perfect Continuous: I have been dancing

- activity from the past until now (since/for)

Past Perfect Simple: I had danced

- past activity that happened before another past activity

Past Perfect Continuous: I had been dancing

- how long the activity was taking place before another past activity (for)

Future Perfect Simple: I will have danced

- activity will end before a future point (by)

Future Perfect Continuous: I will have been dancing

- how long the activity will be going on by a future point

I'll marry you - it's a promise! - USAGE OF THE TENSES

This is a short test to check what you know about the Verb Tenses.

Good luck!

12 questions
Decoding 3 Great Grammar Pieces: Passive Voice, Conditionals, Causative
3 Lectures 24:33

For Passive Voice you need minimum 3 elements in the Active Voice:

Subject + Verb + Object

Somebody cleans the street.

They built that church.

The managers will address this issue.

Looking at the subject you can see that it is typically: Somebody, or They, or someone more concrete, but that is not important.

As for the verbs: I use one-one example from present, past and future, but in the next session you'll see how we form passive structures in different tenses.

To make Passive Structure you start with the Object of the Active Sentence, then you use the right form of “be” and the verb comes in 3 rd form:

Subject (Object of the active sentence) + Be + Verb 3 rd form

The street is cleaned.

The church was built.

This issue will be addressed by the managers.

You can see that the only place where you can express the tense is “be”.


The house is built. (Present Simple)

The house was built. (Past Simple)

The house will be built. (Future Simple)

The house has been built (Present Perfect Simple)

The house had been built (Past Perfect Simple)

The house will have been built (Future Perfect Simple)

However, English also use “be being” forms in Passive:

The house is being built. (Present Continuous)

The house was being built. (Past Continuous)

The house will be being built. (Future Continuous)

The house has been being built. (Present Perfect Continuous)

The house had been being built. (Past Perfect Continuous)

The house will have been being built. (Future Perfect Continuous)

I was kidnapped - PASSIVE VOICE

Whenever we use “if” we want to express one of these cases:

- general truth

- future opportunity

- unreal, imaginary present

- unreal, imaginary past

Consequently, there are 4 conditionals:

0. If I’m hungry, I cook something quick. (general truth)

1. If you come, we will go to the zoo. (future opportunity)

2. If he cared he would be here now. (unreal, imaginary present)

3. If I had accepted that job I would have got well-paid. (unreal, imaginary past)

Here is the formula to memorise:

0. If - , - . (nothing special here)

1. If - , will … (will can never come after if, just in the second part of the sentence!)

2. If verb 2nd form , would…. (note that this is not past tense, but the 2nd form of the verb, which is also used for past!)

3. If had verb 3rd from, would have verb 3rd form

I wouldn't have married him if I had known it. - CONDITIONALS

Causation is used to express that you asked someone to do a job for you – either because he is an expert, or you cannot do that, or for any other reason.

Very basically you must know that there are two forms of causative:

1. You don’t name the person who does the job.

E.g.: I had my room painted.

I’ll get my tap fixed.

My dad has his car serviced once a year.

The formula:

have/get + something + verb 3rd form

2. You tell who does the job.


I made my husband paint the room.

I’ll make the plumber fix the tap.

My dad makes the mechanics service his car once a year.

The formula:

make + someone + verb + something

It makes me mad! - CAUSATION

This quiz test your knowledge that you have learned in this section.

12 questions
Decoding 3 More Great Grammars: Reported Speech, Modals, Relative Clauses
3 Lectures 26:16

Basically you must understand the differences between these two sentences:

1. Joe says “I’m so unhappy.”

2. Joe says he is so unhappy.

Let’s see it in past tense:

1. Joe said “I’m so unhappy.”

2. Joe said he was so unhappy.

In the 2nd sentences you can find reported speech (where you drop the quotation marks). Typically there is no problem using it in present tense, however, when it is used in the past, there is a problem with “time-shift”. What does it mean?

If the main verb is in past tense, you cannot use present tense any more. E.g. He said he was unhappy. When was he unhappy? At the time of his statement! When was it? When he said it, in the past! So, it is logical, isn’t it?

“Time-shift” also means that you must use different tenses or different modals.


1. He said: “I will go to the Bahamas.”

2. He said he would go to the Bahamas. (Note that “will” goes to “would” in reported speech.)

1. She told me “I loved him when I was a teenager.”

2. She told me she had loved him when she was/had been a teenager. (simple past goes to past perfect)

1. I answered: “I cannot wait any longer.”

2. I answered I couldn’t wait any longer. (“can” goes to “could”, may goes to “might”...)

As for the questions you must use what you have learnt about time-shift, plus you must take care of using straight word-order instead of a question word-order.


Not: She asked how old am I. But:

She asked how old I was.

Not: I wanted to know where did he learn maths. But:

I wanted to know where he had learnt maths.

Not: We wondered if she will come home. But:

We wondered if she would come home.

You said you loved me - REPORTED SPEECH & QUESTION

Modal verbs, auxiliaries, helping verbs – which terminology do you know? Well, they are not absolutely the same linguistically, however, from our point of view they are.

Let’s see now the modals and their functions:

Can: 1. ability 2. opportunity

Could: 1. past ability 2. opportunity (can+would)

Would: 1. hypothesis (2nd, 3rd conditionals)

Must: 1. obligation 2. certainty

Have to: 1. obligation

Should: 1. advice

Will: 1. Sudden idea, 2. Prediction, 3. Promise

May: 1. Slight possibility 2. Polite question with “May I …?”

Might: 1. Slight possibility

Shall: 1. Future tense question just with I/we: “Shall I … / Shall we …?”

You must learn and consciously use the modals verbs according to their functions! In present tense typically students can use it more-or-less well, however, their past tense causes a lot of headache and mistakes!

Past Tense of Modals:

Can (just the “ability” function!) – could

Must (just the “obligation” function!) - had to

Will (just in reported speech) – would

May (just in reported speech) – might

To be absolutely perfect you must group the rest by their functions:

Certainty and possibility:

- Must/may/might + have + 3rd form – in positive sentences:

E.g.: She must/may/might have passed her exam.

- Can’t/couldn’t + have + 3rd form – in negative sentences:

E.g. He can’t/couldn’t have answered the phone as he doesn’t speak English.

- Can/Could + have + 3rd form – in questions:

E.g. Who could have broken the window?


Would/could + have + 3rd form (3rd conditional)

E.g. I would/could have done better at the exam if I had prepared for it.


Should + have + 3rd form

E.g. I shouldn’t have driven feeling sick.

Who could have done such a brutal act? - MODALS

Using Relative Clauses raises a lot of questions. Now we will focus on just that one that is most often asked:

“what” or “that” (or “which”, or nothing)


Would you fix … what / that … you damaged?

The rule is that:

… what … = … object + that/which/- …

So, the above sentence is correct:

1. Would you fix WHAT you damaged?

2. Would you fix THE DAMAGE THAT/WHICH/- you caused?

When it is “that” you can use also “which” or you can leave it out!

Some more examples:

Can you give me back what you borrowed? / Can you give me back the money that you borrowed?

I can't see what you point at. / I can't see the issue that you point at.

She was surprised at what I told. / She was surprised at the story that I told.

Please, not that in the above examples, that = which, so, instead of “that” you can also you “which”, and you can also leave these pronouns out.

- Would you fix the damage which/- you caused?

- Can you give me back the money which/- you borrowed?

- I can't see the issue which/- you point at.

- She was surprised at the story which/- I told.

Of course, speaking about a person, we use: “who”

He is a man who is so well-off.

Give me back what you borrowed! - RELATIVE CLAUSES

This test checks how much you know about Reported Speech and Question, Modals, and Relative Clauses.

12 questions
Decoding 33 Small Grammars
3 Lectures 25:42
1-11 Small Grammars

12-22 Small Grammars

23-33 Small Grammars

In this quiz you can test your knowledge about "small grammar pieces".

Good luck!.

12 questions
My Last Words and Your Next Steps
1 Lecture 04:37

Thank you very much for this journey! I have really enjoyed it and I hope you also have.

If you are still with me, it means you are really committed and engaged. These qualities will lead you to great success!

I want to emphasise that this course is just a brief revision of what you need to know for the exam. Please if you need to know more about any of these grammars I’m more than happy to give you coupons, just drop me an email.

The courses are:

- Decoding English Verb Tenses,

- Decoding 3 Great Grammar Pieces (Passive Voice, Conditionals, Causation)

- Decoding 3 More Great Grammars (Reported Speech, Modals, Relative Clauses)

- Decoding 33 Small Grammars

Now, your turn comes: Practise!

I often experience that students love to get new information, they love to have “ahha” moments when they recognise something new, or when “penny drops”. However, real learning takes place if it is engages not just the cognitive part of the brain but when we “stretch”, when we make certain effort to put the theory into practice.

While you do it, enjoy it, love it! Your mind is much more open when you are interested, curious, joyful and playful.

You should also know that I run skype-lessons, too. If you are interested, find me:

And as I've told you, the other side of me is a Master Coach and NLP Master. I feel very honoured if I can accompany a person to help them climb their personal Himalayas. I'm going to run online courses on these subjects and also do coaching sessions. If you need me you can find me on the same address:

I would love to get any feedback from you, and please, rate the course. Also keep in mind, that I will answer all your questions that you post.

Thank you very much for all your attention, all your focus, all your wish for development!

Good luck if you take an exam.


My Last Words & Your Next Steps
About the Instructor
4.6 Average rating
42 Reviews
247 Students
5 Courses
English Teacher: Cambridge Diploma + 22 years teaching

I am known as Betty Zsoldos, officially: Erzsebet Zsoldos; a Hungarian-born woman living in Australia.

I am an English teacher with a Cambridge Diploma in teaching English for Adults as a Second Language, plus I have 22 years of experience in teaching! I have had very different kind of learners from people with special needs to managing directors.

The other professional side of me is a Master Coach, a trainer, and an NLP Master. I also hold a diploma in educational psychology. These extras allow me to know a great deal about meta-learning, e.g. how our memory works, how real learning takes place, and how to help different types of learners to build quickly new neurological pathways to promote and fix learning.

My little secret is that: at the age of 25 I didn't know even one word of English: I started from zero, I had to learn even: "yes" and "no". I felt awkward and clumsy while learning; yet, I developed fast and in 3 years I was asked to teach in language schools. Soon I was the most popular English teacher in my hometown.

Why? Just because I understood all the difficulties grown-up learners were going through...

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