What is language use?

Under language use we cover topics that are not related to tenses or parts of speech.  Here we go over different parts of the English language used by English speakers every day.

For example, different modals can change the meaning of a sentence.  How to use quantifiers with different nouns.  Asking different types of questions.  There are all kinds of interesting and fun parts of the English language.

 Language Use Examples

  • Modals:  We should learn English.  We can learn English with Basic ESL.
  • QuantifiersA little grammar is good.  A few good examples are great.
  • Indefinite wordsEveryone can learn English.  There is something for everyone at basicesl.com.
  • Tag/Negative questionsShouldn’t we learn English?  We should learn English, shouldn’t we?
  • Word substitution: There are many languages.  English is my favorite one.
  • ConditionalsIf we use a Basic ESL workbook, we will learn English.

Why do we use modal verbs?

Modal verbs are also known as helping verbs.  A modal verb helps us express ideas like possibility, advice, ability and necessity.  Using modal verbs with the main verb changes the meaning of a sentence.


  1. I play the violin.
  2. John speaks English.
  3. You cook dinner for your family.

Statement with modal

  1. I must play the violin after school. (necessity)
  2. John can speak English well. (ability)
  3. You should cook pasta tonight.  (advice)


can, could, may, might, must, should, will, and would

Modal verbs are used with the infinitive (base form) of the main verb to modify its meaning.  The placement of modal verbs depends on the type of sentence or tense.

  • Statement:  subject + modal + base verb
  • Negative Statement:  subject + modal + not + base form
  • Question: modal + subject + base verb
  • can:  You can learn English today.  (ability)
  • could:  You could learn English with a workbook. (possibility)
  • mayMay I please have a workbook? (permission)
  • might:  You might download the vocabulary exercises.  (possibility)
  • must:  You must watch the English videos. (necessity)
  • should: You should get all three Basic ESL workbooks. (advice)
  • will: You will learn some English vocabulary and grammar. (certainty)
  • wouldWould you please help your friend with their English? (request)

Why do we use quantifiers?

Quantifiers are used when we do not know the exact amount or quantity of a noun.  Sometimes the amount or quantity is unknown or not important.

Exact Amount or Quantity

  1. Oprah has a billion dollars.
  2. I gave the horse 3 apples.
  3. Do we have one more chair for Sarah?
  4. Dan drinks 4 liters of water a day.


  1. Oprah has a lot of money.
  2. I gave the horse a few apples.
  3. Do we have enough chairs for everyone?
  4. Dan drinks plenty of water.


All, Any, Each, Enough, Every, Few/A Few, Little/A Little, Lots Of/A Lot of, Many, More, Much, No, Plenty, Several, Some


Some quantifiers are only used with count or non-count nouns.

 Why do we use indefinite words?

Indefinite words do not refer to a specific person, place or thing.  There are many indefinite words we can use when we don’t know the specific person, place or thing.  For example, the words everybody, nobody, somebody and anybody do not refer to specific people.  We can use those words to refer to non-specific people.


  1. All of the fans cheered.
  2. None of the guests sat down.
  3. Did your sister tell Amanda or Jane?
  4. Does Rudy know where the remote is?


everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody


  1. Everybody cheered.
  2. Nobody sat down.
  3. Did your sister tell somebody?
  4. Does anybody know where the remote is?

Indefinite words are often used as pronouns.  They can be the subject or object of a sentence.

Why do we use tag questions or negative questions?

 It is common for native English speakers use tag questions or negative questions.  Sometimes a tag or negative question can be confusing.  When asking a regular question, we usually don’t have an idea of the answer.  When asking a negative or tag question, we think we might already know the answer.

  • Question:  Did you take Charlie’s keys?
  • Negative QuestionDidn’t you take Charlies keys?
  • Tag Question:  You took Charlie’s keys, didn’t you?
  • Negative Tag Question:  You didn’t take Charlie’s keys, did you?
  • I don’t know who took Charlie’s keys.  Did you take Charlie’s keys?
  • I think you took Charlie’s keys.  Didn’t you take  Charlie’s keys?
  • I don’t know if I can go through the back door.  Can I go through the back door?
  • I think I can go through the back door.  I can go through the back door, can’t I?
  • I don’t know if I can go through the back door.  Can I go through the back door?
  • I don’t believe the Lakers will lose tonight.  The Lakers won’t lose tonight, will they?

The answer to a tag question or negative question can be either a yes, or no answer.


  • Didn’t you get the message?


  • Yes, I did get the message.
  • No, I didn’t get the message.


  • I should get a new diamond necklace, shouldn’t I?


  • Yes, you should.
  • No, you shouldn’t.

Basic ESL Workbooks

Workbook 1
Lessons 1-15 Buy
Workbook 2
Lessons 16-30 Buy
Workbook 3
Lessons 31-45 Buy