PhD Blog Posts

Learning to write – Verbs


Would you believe that this is the second time I am writing this post? I accidentally deleted it the first time: just as I finished.

Before writing this post all I knew about verbs was that they are ‘doing’ words, and now I know that, ummmm, ill get back to you.

Without verbs not much happens

I school

I home

You me

With the verb

I love school

I walked home

you love me

Verbs like other elements of speech have been classified into, nice, easily-forgettable categories, for our learning pleasure. First I need to take a quick detour to talk about infinitives.

An infinitive form a verb is no specific such as the preposition – more on these in another post – ‘to’ and the verb be. To be or not to be. This is the infinitive form of the verb as it is not specific. The infinitive form of the verb has meaning but it is not specific.

To make an infintive into a finitive form of the verb – because this is what we do sometimes – we need an auxiliary verb or we need to conjugate the verb.

To confidently conjugate (*wink*) a verb you change the ending of it which changes the meaning.

Conjugate verbs have been changed to communicate person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, or voice. More on this here

I write: he wrote

auxiliary verbs help to specify time and number.

I am writing: He was writing: he has written.

Now we have the finitive form of the verb and it is specific

Why should you care if it is finitive or infinitive? Well, generally infinitive verbs do not show tense, number or person, whereas, the fintive form of the verb does not. Okay, I’m moving on.

Action verbs

Even I can guess this one, action verbs indicate an action!

I wrote

You read

non-action verbs

Non-action verbs canindicate a state of being, sense, emotion, desire, possession, or opinion.

To be – shows a state of being

I am a good writer? – opinion?

My Audience loves me? – emotion

verb tenses

verbs change to indicate past present and future.

I am writing – present

I have written – past participle

I will write – future

If you’re wondering what a past participle is, it is the past form of the verb; and these usually end in -ed,-d,-t,-en, or-n

I am not going to go into participles here, because I haven’t learnt about them yet!

Verb moods

Once again, as you should be used to by now, there are sub-categories! We have Indicative, imperative and subjunctive

indicative verb mood is the most common. It is used for statements of fact or opinion or for a question.

I student is likely to be stressed?

The earth is flat.

The imperative mood is used to command. Subjects are often implied in imperative moods

go over there! – you

the subjunctive verb mood is used to express a verb with an action or state that is doubtful, imagined, conditional, desired, or hypothetical.

I wish I were better at writing.

Closing the year with a ski trip – week eleven and twelve as a PhD student

This Is week 12; I have not written anything for last week as I was on holiday. I will, therefore, combine the two weeks, seamlessly. Last week I was skiing in Slovakia for four days; I would recommend waiting until after Christmas before skiing in Slovakia, as before this the snow is highly variable and you may find many slopes closed.

This Is week 12; I have not written anything for last week as I was on holiday. I will, therefore, combine the two weeks, seamlessly. Last week I was skiing in Slovakia for four days; I would recommend waiting until after Christmas before skiing in Slovakia, as before this the snow is highly variable and you may find many slopes closed. There is nothing too exciting to tell you about the skiing trip with the notable exception that I have been sick from food poisoning two times in a row from Slovak Ski trips. The ski trip essentially took up one of the weeks, so there is week eleven summed up.

Christmas and New Year. I usually spend Christmas with my parents and occasionally my partner. This year we spent Christmas day at our respective parents’ and then met up later to exchange presents. I also met up with my old school-friends, whom I meet once a year it seems. They are much more traditional than I, fifty percent of them have a long-term partner, mortgage and a dog; yes, the set menu for two. The set-menu has never imposed itself on me; for one reason or another, I have always been eating a la carte. It’s sentences like that, which probably prompted my dad to call me sanctimonious throughout the time I stayed with them this Christmas. Christmas this year was not quite as good as previous years, this is mainly because I didn’t feel as if I needed the break as much. Last year during the final year of my undergraduate degree, I needed the break, and it was excellent.

Not much else has happened to me over the last two weeks, as it is the holiday season. I reviewed my finances based on the theoretical spreadsheet I made; I am underinvesting by £300 each month. I don’t think I have the mental strength to set my direct debit any higher for the moment; I will just keep topping up the remainder each time I get paid. I don’t feel too sad about holding slightly more cash than I had planned. I have started a new book, ‘Infinite Jest‘ by David Foster Wallace. All I have to say at this point is, wow that is a huge book with very dense text. The book is very well written; I am hoping some of it will rub off on me. Looking back over the year, I have read 33 books, I started regularly reading as a new year’s resolution. I am certainly going to continue this new found passion for the foreseeable future. The summation of someone else’s life’s work, into an easily digestible format, is probably worth taking advantage of. I think my resolution this year will be to stop passively wasting hours watching and playing video games, as I should be able to free up a few hours each day, which will probably get filled with other useless pursuits.

Learning to write – pronouns

I thought this was going to be an easy one, and it would just be an extension of nouns. However, it seems pronouns are just as complicated.

Pronouns are essentially words that take the place of nouns. And from my understanding, their only purpose is to make the text more interesting.

Instead of writing ‘Sam wants to be a lawyer, therefore, Sam needs to go to law school’.

Sam wants to be a lawyer, therefore, he needs to go to law school’.

There are many different categories of pronoun, there are: personal, relative, subject and object, demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, intensive, possessive, reciprocal and lastly interrogative.

So… let us start with the personal pronouns.

The personal pronouns are: I, me, you, he, she, her, him, it, we, us, they and them.

Despite the term ‘personal’ they do not have to refer to a person – what is it?

They are essentially the pronouns that are associated with ‘person’ in writing i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd.

Relative pronouns

These are used to connect relative clauses – which can be restrictive (provides essential information about the noun) and non-restrictive (can be left out without affecting the meaning of the clause) – to independent clauses. Relative clauses are used to identify the noun that came before them.

The relative pronouns are: which, that, whom, whose, who, when, what.

My writing, which is relatively poor, is improving.

Subject and object pronouns

Who and whom. When referring to a subject use the ‘who’ pronoun, and when referring to an object use whom. I will look at subject and object in another post. But in short, the object is acted upon by the subject.

To whom, should I send this letter?

Who will receive the letter?

Demonstrative pronouns

A demonstrative shows distance as I spoke about in this post.

The demonstrative pronouns are: that, this, these, those.

This is used for singular items that are nearby, whereas, these not those (over there) is used for many items that are close.

Indefinite pronouns

Are used when you need to refer to something unspecific, one, none, other, some, anybody, everybody and no one.

Reflexive and intensive pronouns

reflexive pronouns are used when both the subject and object of a verb refer to the same person or thing. They have self or selves on the end. Himself, themselves etc

The writer set himself the task of writing about pronouns.

Intensive pronouns are more unnecessary as a category in my opinion; they are similar to reflexive pronouns but they do a different thing, they add emphasis.

I wrote the blog post myself. The ‘myself’ is unnecessary but it adds emphasis.


Not technically a pronoun but it is important. The antecedent is the noun that the pronoun refers to.

My girlfriend (antecedent) bakes me cakes, I love her (pronoun) for that.

Possessive pronouns

its, his, her, our, their, My, your and whose

Seems obvious, and it is. Basically, they show possession

Absolute pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs) can be substituted for the thing that belongs to the antecedent.

BloggerX is working on his blog post.

They are absolute because they stand alone and do not modify nouns.

Reciprocal pronouns

Reciprocal pronouns are each other and one another

each other refers to two things, one another refers to multiple things.

These are used when two or more things are acting in the same way towards the other.

The blogger and commenters are talking to one another.

Interrogative pronouns

These, as the name suggest are used in questioning: whose, who, what, which

who wants to leave a like and follow?

The Christmas quiz – week ten as a PhD student.

You can see how long the delay is in these posts based on the content of this one!

Week 10, or as Apple would call it, week X. I am aiming for 300 words or fewer this week. I finished my program! I can now just point it to a directory of images, and it will analyse them all automatically for me. I think I will leave it there in terms of development, as I think I need to produce some results from my experiments. I may, however, work on a GUI in my own time and release if for other people to use and improve. This week, it was the Christmas party part one, part two is in two weeks. It was my first party with academics, I know what you’re thinking, but it turns out it was very similar to any other Christmas party. As a new PhD, there was one significant difference between an academic party and the standard work party. The difference was that I was definitely the weakest link as far as the quiz is concerned, especially as a fair few of the questions were about the professors. I did win the Jenga tower building challenge for my team; alas, it still wasn’t enough to win the quiz, I don’t know what position we finished in. All you need to know about a party with academics is that they are students who never stopped being students.

Next week I am going skiing, so there will not really be anything to report back. I am going to stay at my parent’s little ski shack in Slovakia, so nothing too extravagant. I don’t feel too good about going, mostly as I am going to be missing a few important meetings. Imagine that. Skiing used to be my biggest passions, I would spend 90% of my time inside the park, flipping and grinding anything I could or couldn’t. The further I have come through academia the less willing I am to take risks, I wonder if this is normal?

I will sign off here, I have failed to do it in 300 words, but oh well. I hope to have something interesting to talk about next time.

Learning to write – Articles

This week I am going to be focusing on Articles of speech.

What is an Article? Or a Article?

Well, all the following are articles: the, a, an.

Articles are words that define nouns. What does it mean to define a noun?

Take the following sentences:

At the park, I kicked the football

At a park, I kicked a football.

The use of the and a here give specificity to the situation. ‘The park’ is a specific park whereas

a park’ is any park.

There are technical terms for the differences in the two types of article. Definite and Indefinite.

The is the definite article as it makes the noun specific, and yep, you guessed it, a and an are indefinite articles.

Which indefinite article do I use? I hear you ask’.

Well, there is a general rule for this, and yes there are exceptions. The rule is a comes before a noun where the noun begins with a consonant, and ‘an’ comes before a noun that begins with a vowel.

For example:

I want an Ice cream – started with an ‘I’ (vowel) and therefore, is an.

I want a new car – adjective started with ‘n’ (consonant) and therefore, is a

There is such a thing as a zero article.

A zero article usually applies to plurals or mass nouns

For example:

People are not good with wasps (including me). As ‘wasps’ is plural, no article is required.

It is also worth noting that pronouns and proper nouns do not require articles.

for more articles like this click here

Easily influenced – Week nine as a PhD student

This was written well over three months ago, and I remember the next morning after writing this and thinking, that I would never publish this as it is quite weird. I think it is essential to show the process of improvement so it will be posted.

Week 9. I mentioned last week that I had a lab meeting this week, surprisingly, It went very well. To explain why I have to take you back to my first year at university. During the 1st summer holiday, I spent my time working as a paid intern at an olive factory. It was closer to my parents home than it was to my home, so during the week I would stay with my parents, and travel home on the weekend. I got bored almost instantly and the fact that I had stopped learning was grinding on me; I decided I should learn a language (One of my friend’s brother learnt mandarin and now is earning a wedge in China). I’m sure, that most people reading this are native English speakers. My thinking was to choose a language by-the-numbers, so Spanish or Chinese. However, I didn’t really want to learn either. Another one of my friends was studying computer science; I ended up choosing to learn a programming language instead. I must skip forward to the present day, as the nostalgia is leading me to become a tourist in my own youth (Sickboy). I am leaving the realms of beginner python programmer and am now touching the bottom of the boot of an intermediate programmer. I have previously mentioned that I have been working with ImageJ to analyse the colour of decaying plant tissue. I showed the group what I had been doing and got a fantastic reception. Now I am mid-development on my own program; it will do what I was doing in ImageJ but in an automated fashion. When I have finished writing this program, I will have something I can use throughout the rest of my PhD which should make things easier in the long-run.

In other news, I finally finished ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ by Tom Wolfe. I did not enjoy reading the book therefore, I will be switching back to non-fiction. With Christmas approaching I am feeling a strong bout of niggardliness coming on (if you have read the book you won’t be surprised by that word) I sensed this would be an issue now that I am more fiscally aware. I will just have to try and re-program my brain, a seasonal patch back to Self 0.5 when consumption was the well-placed hit that kept me on the ride. This week has been one of the better ones, but if you forced me I could not pin down exactly why that is, my guess would be a sense of progress. I earned £5 this week for being a participant in a psychology experiment; the true meaning of the study has eluded me, but the task was related to finding smiling faces among other facial expressions and then hitting the appropriate button upon seeing a smiling face. Half an hour of being a lab rat; £5 tacked on to my net-worth, I’ll take that over a real job all day long.

Next week presents us with a plethora of Christmas parties, my first exposure to partying with academics, into the fray we go! I am also going back to the lab to correct some of the work that was brought up in the lab meeting; the meeting was very productive. Another reason for getting back into the lab is that I am tired of staring at my computer screen. I’m running out of steam for this week’s post and am trying to wrap up. Choose a blog. Choose an error. Choose to work 9-5 as anonymous desk flesh because you’re too scared to do anything else. Choose to be like everyone else. Choose a mortgage. Choose a cat or dog, or both. Choose consumerism and a life filled with debt. Choose to read something else, by someone who can actually write. Don’t choose anything; rise with the tide and have your life be dictated by circumstance, there are no right answers.

P.S. I wasn’t high while writing this: I watched Transpotting2 last night.

Learning to write – nouns

Recently I realised that the goal of this blog was to improve my writing and that I had lost sight of that. To rectify this, I have decided to take an in-depth look at all the aspects of writing, starting with nouns.

I have used My grammar and I by Caroline Taggart and Grammarly’s blog post on noun’s as a resource for this post.

This should be a quick one? The essence of a noun is that it is a ‘naming word’.

However, as is the way with the English language, there are many categories and sub-categories within the categories of nouns. So, without further ado, let’s get into nouns. Fun fact: every sentence must have a subject, and the subject will be a noun.

Nouns can also be the verb of a sentence, just to confuse things. An object can either be an indirect or direct object. A direct object is a noun that receives the action from the subject. An indirect is much rarer and is the recipient of a direct object.

Common nouns

Common nouns are nouns used to name a person, animal, place, thing or abstract idea. An abstract idea would be success, failure, delight, boredom etc.

There are two sub-categories of common nouns, concrete and abstract nouns.

Abstract nouns names something that has no physical existence, such as success, delight and failure.

Concrete nouns are used to name something you can sense with your senses – sight, smell, touch, sound, taste – e.g. parsnip, red, umami etc

All I have to say is why?

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are used to name a specific person, animal, place or thing. Christmas, Wednesday, John etc

Compound nouns

A compound noun as you may have guessed is a noun mad up of more than one word; normally it is two nouns but could be an adjective to.

Science-fiction, level cap, word limit, truck driver etc.

Yet another way of categorising nouns is by countable and non-countable nouns; why you would want to do this, I have no idea.

Countable nouns are used to name something that can be counted; I am not going to bother giving examples for this other than words, 238 words…Use fewer when talking about these nouns, again I don’t know why, probably just convention and now we cant be bothered to consolidate.

non-countable nouns: air, food, sand, wisdom, stupidity etc. Use ‘less’ when talking about these nouns

Last one, I promise!

Collective nouns

A collective noun refers to a group or number of individuals, such as staff, team, jury, colony. Basically, there are loads, check this out for all animal related collective nouns.

The key point is that it is one noun that talks about many of the same.

An issue with the collective noun is that one can refer to a group acting together, or all the groups the members of a group acting as individuals.

There is much more to this subject and I am not the man for the job, here is a good resource

I will leave plural and singular nouns for another day.