All posts by Ferdy Antonius

Reading : Main idea

What is the main idea?

The main idea of a paragraph is the point of the passage, minus all the details. It’s the big picture – the Solar System vs. the planets. The football game vs. the fans, cheerleaders, quarterback, and uniforms. The Oscars vs. actors, the red carpet, designer gowns, and films.

How to Find the Main Idea

Summarize the Passage


you’ve read the passage, summarize it in one sentence that includes the gist of ever idea from the paragraph. A good way to do this is to pretend you have just ten words to tell someone what the passage was about. You’d have to think broadly, so you could included every detail in just a short statement.

Look for Repetition of Ideas

If you read through a paragraph and you have no idea how to summarize it because there is so much information, start looking for repeated words, phrases, ideas or similar ideas. Read this example paragraph:

A new hearing device uses a magnet to hold the detachable sound-processing portion in place. Like other aids, it converts sound into vibrations. But it is unique in that it can transmit the vibrations directly to the magnet and then to the inner ear. This produces a clearer sound. The new device will not help all hearing-impaired people – only those with a hearing loss caused by infection or some other problem in the middle ear. It will probably help no more than 20 percent of all people with hearing problems. Those people who have persistent ear infections, however, should find relief and restored hearing with the new device.

What idea does this paragraph consistently repeat? A new hearing device. What’s the point about this idea? A new hearing device is now available for some hearing-impaired people. And there is the main idea.

Avoiding Main Idea Mistakes

Now, choosing a main idea from a set of answer choices is different than composing a main idea on your own. The writers get tricky and will give you distractor questions that sound a lot like the real answer! So be sure to avoid making these 3 common mistakes when you’re selecting a main idea on a multiple-choice test.

How to Find a Stated Main Idea

How to Find an Implied Main Idea


Finding the main idea can be challenging, but if you use the tools above and practice, you’ll be well on your way to the score you want on the verbal or reading sections of those standardized tests.

Reading comprehension : Reference questions

TOEFL Reading Question Type – Reference

Reference questions ask about the meanings of pronouns and demonstratives such as they, it, he, she, which, who, that, and this.  The goal of these questions is simple: you need to decide what the pronoun or phrase refers to. You probably already do this automatically when you read; if you don’t, then you probably have trouble understanding the reading passages. Reference questions are one of relatively few question types that very basically test a skill that is necessary to read well.

It’s much easier to show what reference questions are like than it is to explain them, so let’s go ahead and look at an example:

Although people commonly associate the word clone with modern scientific advancements, its usage in botany (the study of plants) is far removed from those developments; a clone is, in the world of plants, a completely natural thing, even a common one. Generally speaking, a clone is an individual which is genetically identical to its progenitor, the parent from which the clone was produced. In this type of procreation, only one progenitor is necessary. There are, of course, relatively few animals which reproduce in this way. While certain types of fish, reptiles, and insects (among others) do reproduce asexually, most creatures from the animal kingdom are born from two parent individuals with two discrete sets of genes. In comparison, plants frequently reproduce asexually, creating genetically identical offspring, or clones. The term for this type of procreation is vegetative reproduction, which includes a number of different processes by which various plants multiply.

The phrase “this type of procreation” refers to

(A) becoming genetically identical
(B) reproduction by cloning
(C) birth to a pair of parents
(D) producing individual sets of genes

The answer to a reference question is almost always going to be stated before the pronoun in question is used (there are exceptions, but this is a good general rule). But don’t simply look in the previous sentence; it’s possible that the reference is even earlier than that (two or three sentences before the pronoun) or in the same sentence, sometimes appearing after the pronoun in question.

In this case, we know that “this type of procreation” actually refers to “vegetative reproduction” by the sentence it’s in. But notice that “vegetative reproduction” isn’t in the answer choices. Still, it helps to know that “procreation” is a type of reproduction, meaning a way to create more plants. From that information, we can cross off A and D, which don’t describe types of reproduction. Then, if we read the sentence before the one containing “this type of procreation,” we see that at that point in the paragraph, the author is describing plants that reproduce and create clones. That matches (B) nicely.



Whether you consider yourself more of a visual visionary or prefer to provide your stakeholders with infographics about your business, a chart or graph is a quick way to see financials such as revenues and expenses at a glance. With Microsoft Excel, you can produce a single chart from two sets of financial data – incoming and outgoing – which can help with next year’s budgeting or seeing where you need to rev up your team. Simply populate Excel’s grid with your custom data and the software will automatically create a graph with the information.

Step 1Launch Microsoft Excel. Click into the first cell in column B, cell B1. Type “Revenue” or your preferred column header such as “Income” or “Payments.”

Step 2Press the “Tab” key to move over one cell into C1. Type “Expenses” for your column header or your preferred text such as “Costs.”

Step 3Click into cell A2. Type the reference for the first cost and expense, such as “January,” to create a revenue and expenses chart that tracks these two things monthly. You can also use employees’ or work groups names such as “Marketing,” “Sales” and “Accounting.”

Step 4Press the “Enter” key to drop one cell into cell A3. Type the next reference point, such as “February.”

Step 5Press “Enter” and fill in the cells in column A until you have all the data points you want to track.

Step 6Click into cell B2, the first cell under the first column header “Revenue.” Type the revenue for that data point, such as January’s income in the monthly example.

Step 7Press the “Tab” key to move into cell B3 under “Expenses.” Type the expenses for that data point, such as January’s costs for the business.

Step 8Complete the grid by entering all of the information in the cells.

Step 9Highlight all of the cells you just typed, including the column and row headers.

Step 10Click the “Insert” tab and review the Charts section of the ribbon. Click one of the chart types, such as “Column,” which is helpful when you want to show two data points at the same time – revenues and expenses.

Step 11Choose a sub-chart type, such as 3-D Column or Cylinder and Excel inserts the chart, taken from your data, into the Excel spreadsheet.


eaching English can be a fickle business at times and sometimes the teacher may feel like more an entertainer than anything else. Whatever it takes to get one’s students learning, however, can only be a good thing and there is a huge range of different games and activities that can be used.

A lot of the time people who teach business English will have core text books that they need to stick to, but the learning process can be made a little bit easier by adding in a few extra activities. It will keep the students’ attention focused and as well as this, it will also allow them to relax. Whether it be a warmer, something to fill the gap or a relaxing activity at the end, here is a list of activities that most Business English students will enjoy.

Try These 15 Great Business English Activities That Your Students Will Love

  1. 1

    Hang Man

    Everybody loves to play games in class. Many of us will remember times during school when the teacher would play a games on the board in order to keep the class interested. It seemed a lot more fun than doing normal work, and with adults this is no different. Hangman involves the students having to guess a particular word. You think of a word, and draw a line of blank boxes on the board which indicate how many letters the word has. Students then ask for clues to the word, and then add letters. For every letter they get wrong, a body part is drawn. Once the picture is complete, the man is “hanged” so to speak and they lose. If they win, however, the entire word will be spelled out on the board. Undoubtedly this is a great way of practicing English and getting the class involved.

  2. 2

    Chinese Whispers

    Another way to get the students’ minds going is a game of Chinese Whispers. A lot of people might think of it as a childish game, but it is important to remember that even adults need to unwind sometimes. Come up with a specific phrase, give it to one student, and then they have to whisper it to their partner and it is passed along like this. It will definitely be interesting to examine the end result compared to the beginning.

  3. 3

    Job Skills Interview

    For those who are interested in reviewing their own skills, setting up a mock interview is a great way of helping the students to become more confident. Get them to come up with their own questions for the candidate, and then let them find a partner with which to practice. This will build up their own confidence and allow them to get better with conversational skills.

  4. 4

    Telephone Role Play

    This is a fairly simple one which everyone will love. Get the class to divide into pairs and write up a small conversational piece. When practicing this role play, the students need to sit back to back in order to simulate talking on the phone. This will get to speak a lot more, since they have only their voice to rely on.

  5. 5

    Call My Bluff

    This is a very popular game which students will also enjoy. Divide the class into two groups or more, depending on big it is. Give each group a specific word, and also give them the correct meaning of it. The groups then attempt to fool one another by having a list of meanings for that one word, only one of which is true.

  6. 6

    Twenty Questions

    This can be quite a humorous game to play and definitely will get a few laughs from everyone. Have somebody sit in front of the board, and write the name of a famous person above their heads. They then have to ask the class questions about the person until they find out who it is.

  7. 7

    Write a Story

    This activity can be used for either the improvement of conversational skills or writing skills. It follows the same idea of the “story stick” whereby a student comes up with the first sentence of the story, and the second comes up with the next, and so on. This can turn into a very entertaining piece and can do wonders in helping the students to get better.

  8. 8

    Simon Says

    This game can be used to test a wide range of vocabulary knowledge, from parts of the body to objects which are in the room. Students have to listen to what the teacher says, and go over and touch that particular object when the teacher says, “Simon says… Go to the chair.” This is generally played with lower levels.

  9. 9

    Simulation Games

    Quite similar to a role play. This difference is, the students set up their own scenario and have to act it out in front of the class. This means they have no set lines they have to adhere to, and therefore anything goes as long as they are speaking English.

  10. 10


    Often this particular activity can be used as a warm up for the start of a new class. Compose a list of questions, such as “Who has a dog?” and other trivial pieces of information. Distribute them to students, and then get the students to go about filling in the answers from others. This will definitely help them to improve their conversational skills and get to know others in the class.

  11. 11

    Sentence Building

    Use this activity to test out your students’ own knowledge by getting them to build sentences themselves on the board. A noun phrase generally works at the start, by simply adding, “The old woman.” Get the students to add adjectives, prepositions and other sentence parts to form something that is clear and makes sense.

  12. 12

    Draw the Word

    This is a particularly interesting exercises whereby one can test the abilities of their students. Get one of them to come up to the front of the class and give the rest of the class a word to describe. They cannot say the actual word, they must allow the person to draw it. Therefore, it must be a concrete noun of some kind, usually a complicated one which can be described in detail. This can be quite a lot of fun and everyone can participate.

  13. 13

    Pick Out Words

    This one is a little more complicated. When reading a text, jot down certain words on the board and have the students try and think of new words. Even if they don’t come up with much, it is a great way of teaching new vocabulary.

  14. 14

    Youtube Activity

    When studying a particular topic, Youtube clips or a video of some kind can be a great way to let the student practice their listening skills. Choose a video relevant to the topic at hand (such as a newscast) and play it. Afterwards, ask questions about it orally.

  15. 15

    Class Survey

    When studying marketing, this could be a great way of helping students break the ice in their first classes. Get them to survey each other on a wide range of topics, as it will get them talking in English and using it proactively.

There are many, many more ways through which one can get students to practice their English skills.

Of course, these are not the only activities and it is often a good idea to take a look up on various Business English websites to find more ideas. Tailoring various games to suit business English is pretty easy, and it is undoubtedly a great way to boost the students’ confidence whilst helping them have fun at the same time.

Business terms (vocab)

Business Term Glossary

To start and run a business, you often need to understand business terms that may not be well defined in a standard dictionary. Our glossary of business terms provides definitions for common terminology and acronyms in business plans, accounting, finance, and other aspects of small business.

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z












Lists of vocabulary, useful phrases and terms used in all areas of business,
guidelines for letter-writing and presentations, plus exercises, idioms and word games


>>>More Business English resources

3 clauses : differences

Review: Noun, Adjective, and Adverb Clauses

See if you can determine the function of the hilighted dependent clause in each of the following passages. Remember that a noun clause answers questions like “who(m)?” or “what?”; an adjective clause answers questions like “which (one)?”; and an adverb clause answers questions like “when?”, “where?”, “why?”, “with what goal/result?”, and “under what conditions?”.

    1. Some people buy expensive cars simply because they can.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. Many people hope that Canada can resolve its economic problems.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. The bankers need to know what they should do.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. Which one is the person who stole your car?
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. Wherever there is a large American city, there will be poverty.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. The books which the professor assigned were very expensive.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. Canada might give up its marketing boards if the European Community gives up its grain subsidies.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. That is the place where Wolfe’s and Montcalm’s armies fought.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

    1. Unless the crown can make a better case, the accused murderer will not be convicted.
      1. noun clause
      2. adjective clause
      3. adverb clause

  1. It is important to ask whether the wedding is formal or semi-formal.
    1. noun clause
    2. adjective clause
    3. adverb clause

multiple clause-principles (more discussions)

The Grammar Rules for Clauses in English

1. A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a predicate but cannot always be considered as a full grammatical sentence. Clauses can be either independent clauses (also called main clauses) or dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses).

2. An independent clause (or main clause) contains both a subject and predicate, can stand alone as a sentence (a simple sentence), or be a part of a multi-clause sentence. Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) are used to connect elements of equal weight such as two independent clauses, using a comma before the conjunction.
We visited Paris last September.
[independent clause functioning as a full sentence]

We visited Paris in September, and then we visited Berlin in October.
[two independent clauses connected by the coordinating conjunction and preceded with a comma]

3. A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) contains both a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a sentence. It must always be a part of a sentence, on which it depends for meaning. Reading a dependent clause on its own leaves the reader wondering where the rest of the information is. The following sections describe the different kinds of dependent clauses.

4. An adverb clause or adverbial clause (also called a subordinate clause) is a type of dependent clause which starts with a subordinating conjunction (e.g. because, although, when, if, until, as if etc.). It indicates a dependent relationship with information elsewhere in the independent clause that it modifies. Similarly to adverbs, adverb clauses usually answer questions such as: Why? How? When? Under what circumstances? When the adverb clause is written before the independent clause, separate the two with a comma.

In the following example pairs, see how the same information is given using a word, phrase or a clause.
We ate dinner at the hotel bistro.
[the adverbial phrase modifies the verb ate; it answers the question where?]

We ate dinner where all the locals usually go to.
[The adverb clause modifies the verb ate; it answers the question where?]

We wanted to go to the Louvre early.
[The adverb modifies the verb phrase wanted to go; it explains when?]

We wanted to go to the Louvre as early as we could.
[The adverb clause modifies the verb phrase wanted to go; it explains when?]

We visited Paris last September due to a business meeting.
[The adverbial phrase explains why?]

We visited Paris last September because we wanted to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum.
[The adverb clause modifies the entire independent clause; it explains why?]

5. An adjective clause (also called a relative clause), just like an adjective, modifies the noun or pronoun preceding it (also called the antecedent). It starts with a relative pronoun (e.g. who, which, that, where, when, whose, whom, whoever etc.) which is also the subject of the clause.

In the following example pairs ,see how the same information is given using a word, phrase or a clause.
This is a great museum.
[the adjective amazing modifies the noun museum]

This is a museum that we visited last year.
[The adjective clause modifies the noun museum; that is a relative pronoun referring to the antecedent museum]

In Paris, we met good friends.
[the adjective good modifies the noun friends]

In Paris, we met friends whom we haven’t seen for years.
[the adjective clause modifies the noun friends; whom is a relative pronoun referring to the antecedent friends]

6. Use who, whom, whoever and whomever when the adjective clause refers to a person or an animal with a name. Use which or that when the adjective clause refers to a non-person (thing) or an animal that is not a pet.
The French lady who was our tour guide turned out to be a distant relative of ours.
[the French lady is a person; who is used]

Our hotel, which was built in 1830, had an excellent bistro.
[our hotel is a thing; which is used]

7. When an adjective clause is non-restrictive (gives an extra piece of information not essential to the overall meaning of the sentence), separate it with commas from the rest of the sentence. Do not use that with non-restrictive adjective clauses.
The hotel that was built in 1830 has an excellent bistro
[The adjective clause is restrictive; only the hotel built in 1830 has an excellent bistro. The adjective clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence]
The hotel , which was built in 1830, had an excellent bistro.
[The adjective clause is non-restrictive; there may be more hotels with excellent bistros. The adjective clause merely adds extra information]

8. A noun clause functions as a noun, meaning that it can be a subject, object or complement in a sentence. It starts with the same words that begin adjective clauses: that, who, which, when, where, whether, why, how.
The Louvre museum was amazing!
[The Louvre museum = noun phrase as subject of sentence]

What we saw at the Louvre Museum was amazing.
[What we saw at the Louvre Museum = noun clause as subject of sentence]

We loved what we saw at the Louvre museum.
[what we saw at the Louvre museum = noun clause as object of the verb like]

The best thing we liked was what we saw at the Louvre museum.
[what we saw at the Louvre museum = noun phrase as complement of the verb was]

9. Do not confuse between adjective and noun clauses, as they begin with the same words. A word starting an adjective clause has an antecedent to which it refers, whereas a word starting a noun clause does not.
Our French friends know that we saw the new exhibition at the Louvre.
[that we saw the new exhibition at the Louvre = noun clause as object of the verb know]

The new exhibition that we saw at the Louvre was amazing.
[that we saw at the Louvre = adjective clause referring to the antecedent exhibition]

10. An elliptical clause may seem incorrect as it may be missing essential sentence elements, but it is actually accepted grammatically. As these clauses must appear together with complete clauses which contain the missing words, repetition is avoided by leaving the same words (or relative pronoun) out in the elliptical clause. This conciseness actually adds to the flow of the text and promotes writing that is more elegant.

In the following examples, the omitted words are given in parenthesis.
The Louvre museum was one of the sites (that) we did not want to miss.
[The relative pronoun that is omitted from the adjective clause]

After (we visited) the Louvre, we went out to dinner at a French bistro.
[subject and verb omitted from adverb clause]

The French make better croissants than the American (make or do).
[second half of comparison omitted]

Toefl-grammar review

TestMagic TOEFL Sentences

These sentences will help you remember grammar rules. Try it!

Each of the following sentences is written to isolate a certain grammar point. In his years of teaching, Erin has noticed that each of these grammar points causes problems for both TOEFL test-takers and learners of English as another language. Erin has written some easy-to-remember sentences that will help you remember the grammar rules that are keeping your TOEFL grammar scores low.

Quiz: See how you do!

Choose the best answer for each of the following questions. There is only one correct answer choice for each. You will need to write down your answers for this quiz; it is NOT a computer test.

Have fun!

1. ______ not very healthy.

A Eaten cookies is

B Eating cookies are

C Eating cookies which are

D Eating cookies is

2. Your job is ______ your TOEFL score.

A working hard and raising

B which works hard and raising

C worked hard and raised

D to work hard and raise

3. The population of the US is ______.

A greater than Canada

B more than the population Canada

C greater than that of Canada

D greater than Canada’s one

4. You make ______.

A me happily

B me happy

C happy me

D me to happy

5. Mother Theresa dedicated ______ the poor.

A her life and helped

B her life to helping

C her help and life

D to help

6. The guy ______ my brother.

A you saw was

B that saw

C who saw

D that saw you

7. You are the first person ______ I am funny.

A to tell me

B telling me that

C who telling me

D that tells me to be

8. ______ pretty funny.

A You said

B You said that

C What you said was

D The thing

9. ______ a new student.

A The room came

B The room came into

C Into the room came

D Came into the room

10. Robin Hood stole from ______ poor.

A rich and gave

B the rich and gave to the

C the rich and giving

D rich and the

Subjunctive (theory)

The Subjunctive

Verbs used with the Subjunctive  
The verb ‘be’  
Adjectives used with the Subjunctive  
Nouns used with the Subjunctive  
Less Formal Usage  
Fixed Expressions using the Subjunctive  


The subjunctive is a special kind of present tense, using an infinitive that has no –s in the third person singular.  It is often used when talking about something that somebody must do.

I insist (that) your friend leave this house at once.   

The subjunctive is a formal construction.  It is more commonly used in American English than in British English, and more often in the written form than in the spoken form.  It was used much more frequently in old English, but many of these forms have now disappeared in modern English.



It is often used with a that-clause, especially in American English, to formally express the idea that something is important or essential. 

I demand that he leave at once.


Verbs used with the Subjunctive

Other verbs that are commonly used with the subjunctive are: advise, ask, beg, decide, decree, desire, dictate, insist, intend, move, order, petition, propose, recommend, request, require, resolve, suggest, urge, and vote.

Tom suggested that his friends stay over for the night.

            Sam proposed that Tom telephone his accountant.

            She recommended that he go and see a doctor.

         The manager requested that everyone put their requests in writing.

         He insisted that she stay until the end of the week.

         The Queen commands that he attend the ceremony.

         He urged that a business manager be hired to help things run more smoothly.

         I simply requested, politely, that she refrain from smoking in my house.

         Sam recommended that you join the committee.

         The professor asked that Tim submit his research paper before the end of the week.


The verb ‘be’

‘Be’ has special subjunctive forms: I be, you be, she be, they be, etc.

It is vital that you be truthful about what happened.

            He suggested that she be more vocal in the next meeting.

         She urged that the matter be resolved in a family court.

         Hadrian decreed that a new temple be built in the honour of Jupiter.


Adjectives used with the Subjunctive

Some adjectives can be followed by a subjunctive verb, like anxious, determined, eager.

He was determined that they not separate.

         The political campaign is eager that their candidate step out of the shadows.

            I am anxious that he discuss this with me soon.

Certain adjectives can also be used with the subjunctive and `It`, like advisable, critical, desirable, essential, fitting, imperative, important, necessary, vital.

It is imperative that you get home before dark.

            It is important that everyone follow the rules.

            It is necessary that everyone be calm in times of danger.

            It is essential that you arrive before 5pm.

         It is critical that the prime minister address those sensitive issues.

         It was vital that everything be done on time.

         It is crucial that we make it successful.


Nouns used with the Subjunctive

There are also nouns that can be followed by a subjunctive verb, like advice, condition, demand, directive, intention, order, proposal, recommendation, request, suggestion, wish.

My advice is that the company invest in new equipment.

            She is free to leave, on condition that she commit no further offence.

         His deep wish is that his daughter go to university.


Less Formal Usage

There are several alternatives to the very formal standard subjunctive:


  • ·        Should 

This construction is more common than the subjunctive in British English: 

Tom suggested that his friends should stay overnight.

            She recommended that he should go and see his doctor.


·        The Indicative

This construction is also used sometimes in British English, but is rare in American English: 

She has demanded that the machinery undergoes vigorous tests to ensure high quality.

It is imperative that more decisions are made by the shareholders.


  • ·        For + Infinitive

It is essential for everyone to be informed of the new regulations.


  • ·        No Tense Change

In colloquial English, it is possible to not make a tense change:

She demanded that he left.

            She felt that it was necessary that she wrote a thank you letter to them.


Fixed Expressions using the Subjunctive

…, as it were (in a way, so to speak)
Be that is it may… (Whether that is true or not…)
Come what may… (Whatever happens…)
Far be it from me to disagree/criticise (To appear less hostile when disagreeing)
God bless you.  
God save the Queen!  
Heaven help us! (An exclamation of despair)
Heaven forbid! (An exclamation that you hope something won’t happen)
If need be… (If it is necessary)
Long live the bride and groom!  
…, so be it.   (We can’t do anything to change it)
Perish the thought! (A suggestion or possibility is unpleasant or ridiculous)
Suffice it to say… (It is obvious/I will give a short explanation)


In hypothetical sentences, were is usually used instead of was:

If I were you, I’d learn how to drive.

                        I wish it were Friday.

It is important to note that was can also be used (although still considered incorrect by some grammarians), and is, in fact, more common in informal English.

Sometimes I wish I was/were taller.