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English grammar listening comprehension

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English VOCABULARY for




thank you

stationary (noun)

in response to

cover letter


appropriately (adverb)

(to) focus


core (adjective)



infinitive phrase

infinitive phrase

base form



infinitive phrase

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(to) stop + gerund

(to) stop to + base form of the verb

the) meaning (noun form)

(a) case

romantic (adjective)

would rather


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How to Express Gratitude

English grammar expressing appreciation Today you have come to your ESL Help Desk, your home page for questions and comments about English grammar and writing.  We are podcasting from beautiful and historic Boston.  If you are in our listening audience today, welcome to!   Today's lesson is about saying "Thank you".

How do you express gratitude?  Sometimes people say "Thanks!" and sometimes they say "Thank you." But what's wrong with saying or writing a sentence such as "Thank you for answer my question"?

Whether you are writing a business letter on nice stationary, or writing a simple email letter, whether you are corresponding in response to a job opening or as a cover letter for a school application, you want to express gratitude appropriately - and you want to express it correctly.


Below is a sentence from an email that I received recently, and it contains an error that I see often.  Maybe you can spot the error:

Really thank you to answer me quickly.



Let's just focus on the core error in the above sentence, which is:

  "Thank you to answer me."

How shall we correct this sentence? 
Write your response in the box below.

Looking just at the core part of the sentence, the correct structure would be, "Thank you for answering me."

Now that we know what the correct sentence is, let's look at why this is correct and the other not.


Have you ever learned about gerunds?

(For reference see, Chapter 10 of the "Grammar HELP! Student Handbook".)

In short, a gerund is a noun that takes the ~ing form. 

In which of the two following sentences is "going" a gerund: 

"I am going to the North Pole"
"Going to the Bahamas is a great idea"? 

Yes,  "Going to the Bahamas is a great idea" contains the gerund. 

In the following sentence, "I can't stop loving you," the first line from the great hit song of the same name, popularized by Ray Charles, the phrase "loving you" is a gerund phrase.  It is the object of the verb:  When you ask the question, "You can't stop what?" you'll see what I mean, because the answer is "loving you", a noun phrase. 

In contrast, an infinitive phrase is a noun that has the to + base form of the verb pattern.  I would love to go there is our example.

Gerunds can be used as the subject of the sentence - or - as an object of a verb or prepositon

In your sentence, "Thank you for answering me," the gerund is used as the object of a preposition, answering the question "Thank you for what?

The Grammar Rule

Okay, so why use a gerund (answering here? Why can we not use an infinitive phrase (to answer)? 

In English, whenever you have the pattern V-Prep-Obj. (verb, preposition, object of the preposition), the object of the preposition will take on a gerund form.  That is why we say: "Thank you very much for answering me.


So is that why Ray Charles sings, "I can't stop loving you" and not "I can't stop to love you"?   No way!  The verb "stop" is a special case. 

In his lyric, the two sentences have different meanings.

  • If Ray sings "I can't stop loving you", he means that he will always love you.  
  • If Ray sings, "I can't stop to love you", he is saying that he is so busy that he does not have time to love you. 

Which one do you think is more romantic?  Which one would you rather have somebody sing to you?


The next time somebody opens the door for you when you want to enter or exit a building, you should say "Thank you for holding the door."  And the next time you want to write a letter or email to somebody who has answered your question, write, "Thank you very much for answering my question."


One last question: What about the short expression "Thanks" or "Many thanks"?  When you use this word or expression, you are actually using the plural noun thanks.

And now....

Thank you for listening in to!  Please listen in next week when we respond to your next question.

Read our Musical Notes

We apologize that we cannot link to Ray Charles singing "I Can't Stop Loving You" due to copyright reasons. Howeverk you can read the lyrics for  "I Can't  Stop Loving You", written by Don Gibson.  The great Ray Charles sang this song to the delight of millions of listeners.

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