English Challenge 18

I.  Grammar Focus

A. How to Ask Questions Properly – Link / Learnclick Quiz


Before we can learn how to ask questions properly, we must review the two types of verbs – linking verbs and action verbs.

  • Linking verbs link a noun to another noun (he is a man) or to an adjective (he is tall).
  • Action verbs express some action on a noun or by a noun (he hit the ball; she said no; he was hit).
  • The main linking verb is “to be” (am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been). Other linking verbs are the “sense” verbs (smell, look, taste, sound, feel), appear, seem, become, grow, remain, stand, and turn.
  • Virtually all other verbs are considered to be action verbs.
  • Asking questions requires inverting the normal subject-verb order to verb-subject order.

Asking Questions with Linking Verbs (simple inversion)

  1. He is a man. Is he a man?  (linking pronoun to noun)
  2. You are Are you tired?  (linking pronoun to adjective)
  3. You are the one who asked about this. Are you the one who asked about this?
    (linking pronoun to pronoun)
  4. She looks Is she pretty?  (linking pronoun to adjective)
  5. He seems to be French. Is he French?  (linking pronoun to adjective)
  6. He feels ill. Is he ill?  (linking pronoun to adjective)
  7. That sounds That is strange.  Is that strange?  (linking pronoun to adjective)

Asking Questions with Action Verbs (inversion with do/does/did)

Recall the three forms of the present tense:  he sees, he does see, he is seeing.  Recall that action verbs require inversion with the use of “do/does/did” when asking a question.

  1. He sees Does he see me?
  2. She lives in New York. Does she live in New York?
  3. He knows the material well. Does he know the material well?
  4. She rejected Did she reject him?
  5. She talked for a long time. Did she talk for a long time?

Asking Questions with Question Words

Questions words include words like who, what, which, where, why, when, and how.  These words typically are the first word in the sentence.  They are sometimes called the
“wh” words or interrogative words.

Question Words with Linking Verbs (no “do/does/did”)

  1. He was my manager last year. Who was your manager last year? (“who” => no inversion)
  2. He is going to New York. Where is he going?
  3. She was born in Iraq. Where was she born?
  4. He was born in 1950. When was he born?
  5. We are leaving in five minutes. When are we leaving?

Question Words with Action Verbs (with “do/does/did”)

  1. He said Who said that?  (“who” => no inversion)
  2. Irascible means “easy to become angry”. What does “irascible” mean?
    What is the meaning of “irascible”?
  3. This word means “lucky find”. What does this word mean?
  4. I prefer blue. Which color do you prefer?
  5. I did that for your benefit. Why did you do that?
  6. They left Why did they leave early?
  7. You do this task like this. How do you do this task?
  8. I know this because I read it yesterday. How do you know this?
  9. I have known him for 10 years. How long have you known him?
  10. I go there often. How often do you go there?  How frequently do you go there?
  11. I have five properties. How many properties do you have?
  12. We get a lot of snow every year. How much snow do you get every year?
  13. This is very difficult. How difficult is this?
  14. You say “irascible” like “eye RASS uh bul”. How do you say “irascible”?
    How do you pronounce “irascible”?
  15. This word is pronounced “in DELL uh bul”. How is this word pronounced?

Asking Questions with Modal Verbs (modal verb replaces “do/does/did”)

  1. We may visit you sometime. May we visit you sometime?
  2. We can go Can we go tomorrow?
  3. We must complete Must we complete it?
  4. They would help us. Would they help us?
  5. She could ask her mother. Could she ask her mother?
  6. We should go this way. Should we go this way?

Asking Tag Questions

Tag questions are sometimes tacked onto the end of a sentence.  Sometimes they are asking for confirmation from the listener.  Sometimes they are asked rhetorically (for emphasis or dramatic effect but not really expecting an answer).

  1. He’s the one you were talking about, right? (confirmation)
  2. He’s handsome, isn’t he? (rhetorical)
  3. Let’s go, shall we? (rhetorical)
  4. You didn’t really do that, did you? (confirmation)
  5. He said that, did he? (emphasis, anger)

Implied Questions

In speaking, a statement can be turned into a question by simply using a rising tone at the end of a sentence.  In writing, however, a question mark must be used for clarity.

  1. You believe him. (statement)
    You believe him?  (question)
  2. You’re really going to do that. (statement)
    You’re really going to do that?  (question)

II.  Article

A. Creating an Inspired Workplace – Link / Excerpt /

B. Excerpt to Read and Record

“Head up, shoulders back, chest forward – now, get after it!”

The words could have been written by my mother, who used to encourage me to stand up straight since I was prone to slouching—by fourth grade I was as tall as I am now.   But this note was not written by my mother.  It was a message scribbled on a sticky note and stuck to a mirror in the women’s restroom at our Boston office.  And it wasn’t the only one like it.  There were other encouraging messages on vibrantly colored sticky notes, each one anonymous and yet powerfully personal.  “You can do it!  You will do it,” one message read.  “Have you encouraged another woman today?” was written on another note.  A third said: “You are smart and brave and rocking it!”  Somebody was definitely rocking it—the person who had kicked off this grassroots self-empowerment campaign.  But who?  It turned out that a group of women in the Fidelity Center of Applied Technology, an innovation group, had started writing and posting these notes as a way of offering inspiration and support to one another.  The effort quickly went viral, spreading to other ladies’ restrooms in our Boston office and then made its way to other Fidelity locations in New Jersey and Westlake, Texas.

Seeing these notes made my day—and not just because I appreciate a little motivation as much as the next person.  More importantly, I loved the empowerment that was implicit in this small but powerful effort.  It was exciting to see these women take the initiative to do something a bit out of the box and to have it quickly be embraced by women at Fidelity across the country.  When someone, perhaps a more traditional thinker or someone in a fit of cleaning, removed all the notes in the Boston restrooms one day, “We just went back the next day and put out more notes and pens, and people wrote even more notes,” one plucky colleague, Anita, told me.  I asked her to let me know if it happened again and I would personally intercede.

Interestingly, the sticky notes were taken down again in the next location, so Anita called me.  Was there something I could do?  There sure was.  I made it my personal mission to get these inspiring notes back up.  Yes, I wanted to support these women who took a risk.  And I also wanted to make a symbolically broader point.  We need to support people who think differently, who show their passion, who are willing to push the envelope and who are not conventional thinkers.  That is how we get a lot of our best ideas.  To be sure, our little sticky note movement was probably inspired by a national trend involving uplifting notes and signs on walls, streets, subway stations and mirrors—little moments of kindness and reinforcement.  But I couldn’t help but read between the lines:  Our women employees wanted to provide and enjoy the support of their colleagues, and they were determined to do it in their own creative way.  Initiatives like this take gumption.

This kind of ongoing inspiration, however small and informal, is exactly what workplaces need.  If nothing else, these notes provide support and encouragement in our otherwise busy days.  I picture someone spotting one of these notes before a big meeting.  “Be proud.  You’ve got this!” one of the other notes says.  Or: “Your voice matters!”  Seeing these notes also reminded me of a bumper sticker someone gave me that proudly hangs in my office: “Well behaved women rarely make history.”  And I suppose that’s the real point.  If we want workplace environments that are more inclusive, vital, and affirming, we need people who dare to think differently, who challenge conventional wisdom and support their views with passion.  And we need an environment that supports and promotes this behavior!

C. Questions

  1. What is the gist of this article?
  2. What was the purpose of these anonymous sticky notes?
  3. Why do you think someone was removing them?
  4. Do you agree or disagree with this use of sticky notes for this purpose in this way?
  5. Search the Internet and give me one bumper sticker saying that you find to be humorous or funny.

D. Grammar

  1. Pattern: I appreciate ___ as much as the next person but…
    (This means I admit or acknowledge that (this) is a good thing, but there is a downside to too much of (this).  )Try to use this pattern in an example.
  2. Pattern: If nothing else, ….
    (If xxx does nothing else, at least it does this…)Try to use this pattern in an example.
  3. To be prone to do something = to tend to do something, to have a tendency to do something (a probability but not a certainty).Try to use this pattern in an example.
  4. Idiom: to think outside the box.
    This article uses the expression “do something a bit out of the box”.  Explain what this expression means.
  5. Describe what a “bumper sticker” is, including its purpose?


A. A Sci-Fi Vision of Love from a 318-Year-Old Hologram –
Link / Excerpt & Questions /

B. Read and Record – Excerpt

  1. Do I look real to you? Hope so.  I have no idea if you’re seeing this, but I’m just going to look ahead and trust that you’re there.  I’ve drawn a semicircle in the sand in front of me, so I don’t walk past it and look like I’m floating in midair.
  2. Right now I’m standing in the open air, on a beach under a palm tree, in the exact spot where your stage used to be. I have 12 minutes with you.  I set a limit.  My wife Navid once said that infinite possibility is a creator’s worst enemy.  So with these 12 minutes, I’m going to tell you about my greatest discovery.
  3. For my whole life, my obsession has been eternal life, as I know it is so many of yours. You may be happy to know that your research will pay off.  I am 318 years old.  The average human lifespan is now 432 years, and my work has been to extend the human lifespan indefinitely.  And I’ve never questioned that someday, we’ll reach a point where we’ll be content.  But the opposite keeps happening: the longer we live, the longer we want to live, the less we want to die.
  4. Who can blame us? The universe is so big.  There won’t ever not be more to see.  Just yesterday, I was reading about how you can take out a boat on Europa and sail from island to island all over the planet, and some of the islands have villages that you can stay and visit and sleep under the shadow of Jupiter.  And then there’s this other island where there’s just one songwriter who sits and plays mandolin for the ocean.  And then there are others where there’s no one and there never has been, and so you go just for the pleasure of touching your foot to sand that no foot has ever touched before.  You could spend 400 years doing just that.
  5. Right now the Moon is rising in the Northeast. I can see the cities on it with my naked eye.  They’re connected like nerve clusters:  Mariapolis on the South Pole, and Ramachandran on the Equator.  And New Tehran in the Sea of Tranquility.
  6. That’s where Navid and I met. We were both artists downtown.  The day we met, we were passing each other in Azadi Square, and we bumped shoulders.  And I turned to apologize and she, without saying hello or introducing herself or anything, said, “Well, why do you think we didn’t just pass through each other?”  And then she took off her belt, this belt that I’m wearing now, and she said, “Our universe is built so that particles have mass.  Without that basic constraint, we’d have just passed right through each other at the speed of light and never even known.”
  7. If my obsession was eternal life, Navid’s obsession was touch. She had a genius for it.  All of her work revolved around it.  My body was like a canvas for her, and she would draw her fingertip down over my face so slowly that I couldn’t feel it moving.  And she was obsessed with the exact moment when I would stop being able to tell the difference between her body and mine.  She would say, “It feels good because the universe chose its constraints, and we are its art.”
  8. It’s always funny what you think the future is going to be like versus what it turns out to be. In your time, scientists thought humans could freeze themselves and wake up in the future.  And they did — but then they died.  In your time, scientists thought humans could replace organs and extend life for hundreds of years.  And they did, but eventually, they died anyway.  In your time, Earth is the only place people live.  In my time, Earth is the place people come to die.
  9. So when Navid started to show the signs, our friends assumed I would do what everyone does, which is say goodbye and send her to Earth, so that none of us would have to look at her or be around her or think about her and her … failure to keep living.  More than anything, they didn’t want to be around her actual physical body.  They kept referring to it as “declining,” even though she herself was fascinated by it, the changes it was going through, following the rules of its nature day by day, independent of her will.  I did send Navid to Earth.  But I came with her.
  10. So, even here on Earth, I kept working on how to extend life. It didn’t occur to me that there could be any other response.  I kept going back to that thing that Navid said to me that day in Azadi Square, that without that basic constraint — a universe that granted mass to matter — we would not exist.  That’s one rule.  Another rule is that all mass is subject to entropy.  And there is no way to be in this universe without mass.  I know.  I tried everything.  But my final innovation was to create a coil dimension with the boundaries of a body in which time moved infinitely slower, but whose projection would appear to move in normal time.  That body would then appear in our universe as a hologram — here but not here.  When I realized I’d done it, I ran to her room, so happy to tell her I’d done it, moving through space almost normally to all eyes, even to my own, and went to lie down next to her, and forgot, and fell right through her.  I’d found a way to eternal life, at the expense of the one thing Navid loved most, which was to touch and be touched.  And she threw me out.  I still got to watch, though.
  11. I’ve always thought that what gives a life meaning is adventure. And death is just a problem we haven’t discovered the solution to yet.  But maybe a life has meaning only because it ends.  Maybe that’s the paradox: constraints don’t constrain, they allow perfect freedom.
  12. I can’t feel the wind here, but I just asked one of the caretakers who passed by what it felt like, and she said it felt warm, like melted butter. An answer worthy of my wife.  I have to find my way back to the flesh.  Until then, I take up no space but the space you give me.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. Regarding this woman talking to us on the TED Talk stage, how much does she weigh?
  2. What is her profession and life obsession? Was she successful in achieving her dream?
  3. What is her purpose in talking to us?
  4. Where is Europa?
  5. Where is the Sea of Tranquility?
  6. What basic constraint of the universe is mentioned in this article?
  7. Who was Navid and what was her obsession?
  8. What happened to Navid?
  9. How did the two girls perceive life differently?
  10. What is the great irony in this love story?
  11. The speaker seems somewhat mentally tortured at the end. Why?

D. Grammar Analysis

  1. In Paragraph 1, there is this question: Do I look real to you?
    Rewrite it as a statement.  In the statement, what is the verb?
    Why does the verb change form when the statement is changed into a question?
  2. Paragraph 2 states: “…infinite possibility is a creator’s worst enemy…”
    What do you think this means?
  3. In Paragraph 4, there is this question: “Who can blame us?”
    Why is there no “do/does” in this question?
  4. Paragraph 9 states: “So when Navid started to show the signs…
    What does “show the signs” mean?
  5. Paragraph 11 states: “Maybe that’s the paradox: constraints don’t constrain, they allow perfect freedom.
    What is a paradox?  Can you explain what the speaker is trying to say with this paradox?

Leave a Reply