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Hobbies and Studies 


Hobbies and Studies
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In a recent report, we asked readers and listeners from around the world to write us about their hobbies and studies.

In this week’s Everyday Grammar, we will share part of a message from Evgeny in Ukraine. Evgeny wrote about his school and his favorite hobby: chess. You will learn about how Americans describe schools and grades, and how to talk about when you began your hobbies.

Evgeny’s message

Here is part of Evgeny’s message:

“My name is Evgeny … I am studying in the 11th grade of the comprehensive school "Pearl". I am a chess player. I have been playing this wonderful game since 9. I have won many city and region tournaments and also took part in a lot of national championships....”

Let’s start with the sentence about Evgeny’s studies:

“I am studying in the 11th grade of the comprehensive school ‘Pearl’”.

We suggest removing the present progressive verb “studying.”

In general, Americans identify grade level in school with only the verb BE. We also use the preposition “at” instead of “of” when identifying a school.

So, you might hear an American student say, “I am in the fourth grade at Park Hill” or “I am in the 10th grade at Western High School.”

Evgeny’s sentence could be changed to something like this:

“I am in the 11th grade at Pearl, a comprehensive school.”

This form of the sentence might be a littler clearer to a speaker of American English:

“I am in the 11th grade.”

The reason we made this point about American English is because Evgeny used the term “comprehensive school,” a kind of school that is generally not familiar to Americans.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a comprehensive school is a British term for “a school for children of all different levels of ability who are over the age of 11.”

Evgeny’s hobby: chess

Now let’s explore how Evgeny describes his hobby.

“I am a chess player. I have been playing this wonderful game since 9. I have won many city and region tournaments and also took part in a lot of national championships...”

Evgeny did a great job of ordering his statements. He started with the most general information and then gave more details in the following sentences.

We recommend adding a little more information to the second sentence, “I have been playing this wonderful game since 9.”

In general, we use numbers alone to describe times of the day, as in “I woke up at five” or “I’ve been here since eight.”

We generally add the past tense of the verb BE to describe an age.

So, Evgeny’s sentence could be updated to something like this:

“I have been playing this wonderful game since I was 9 years old.”

Or:

“I have been playing this wonderful game since I was 9.”

Evgeny described his success in chess:

“I have won many city and region tournaments and also took part in a lot of national championships.”

We suggest using the term “local” instead of “city” and replacing “region” with “regional.” We also propose replacing the phrasal verb “took part” with a verb such as “participated” or “competed.”

The updated sentence could be something like this:

“I have won many local and regional tournaments and I have also competed in national championships.”

Closing thoughts

Toward the end of his message, Evgeny wrote:

“I think chess can help children improve their focus and concentration skills...”

We agree with Evgeny’s statement. We also wish him the best of luck with his English studies and his future chess matches.

If you would like to receive writing suggestions in a future report, send us a short description of your favorite book. Explain why you like the book and what it means to you. You can write us in the comments section or email us at learningenglish@voanews.com

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

hobby – n. an activity that a person does for pleasure when not working

regional – adj. describes a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way

focus – n. a main purpose or interest

concentration – n. the ability to give your attention or thought to a single object or activity : the ability to concentrate

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