English as a Second Language/Different


Dear Shannon,
I am often confused - when to use "it is very good" and "it is very well"? Which is correct and what is the difference?

Also, what is the difference between "a week ago" and "a week before" - "One year later" and "after one year"? Are all correct? What is the differene?

I know we cannot say " I dreamt a dream" but "I had a dream". Is it correct to say "I smelled a (bad) smell" or must it be "I had a (bad) smell"?

Definite article with uncountable noun (weather)
"It is nice weather"; "a period of hot weather"; "We're going to have a picnic, weather  permitting."('the' is not used)

"What will the weather be like tomorrow?" ('the' is used)
"The weather in the hills can change very quickly, so take suitable clothing. "

Thanks a lot for your effort.
Kind regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Wow, these are varied questions, but I'll try to give a brief explanation...

1. Good = adjective, Well = adverb.  The apple is very good, but you swim very well.

2a. We would generally use "a week ago," especially if there is no object that follows.  If there is an object, we would choose "a week before."  If you wanted "a week ago" to mean exactly the same, change "a" to "the" in "the week before (this one)."
   Example: I graduated school a week ago, but he graduated two weeks before I did.

 b. "One year later" is a simple expression of time, but if you use "after one year," we would expect some consequence of a previous action.  Otherwise, to make a similar meaning as "one year later," you would change it to "one year afterwards/ after this event."  He graduated school in 2005.  One year later, he was an assistant manager.  Three years after becoming assistant manager, he was promoted once again.

3. This one is tricky.  We would say, "there was a bad smell" or "I smelled something bad."  If we say, "I had a bad smell," we might assume you were the cause of the bad odor!

4. I'll try to explain this one, but it's complicated: I can tell you that "a period of" is a type of "container" word for the uncountable noun, much as "a carton of" or "a bunch of."  I can also say that in "We're going to have a picnic, weather permitting" isn't really relevant to this point, as it's a bit non-standard and therefore we could substitute any countable noun there: "We're going to have a picnic, geese permitting."  In the example, "It is nice weather," the issue isn't whether or not to use "the", but if you should use "a/an."  Look at these uncountable and countable examples: "it is cold water," "it is excellent pizza," "it is a beautiful coin," "they are crazy chickens."  We wouldn't use "the" in these cases for either uncountable or countable.  In the final examples, the use of "the" is describing a specific (definite) type of weather (in the hills, on tomorrow's date, etc.).   I can say, "Milk is good for you."  But I can also say, "The milk in the refrigerator has spoiled."

Shannon Cole

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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