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Tutor profile: Maja B.

Maja B.
Stanford English Tutor with 10+ years of experience!

Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

Why should I care about my thesis sentence when writing an essay?

Maja B.
Answer:

Your thesis sentence gives you three very powerful opportunities to make your essay both persuasive and interesting to read. 1) The first opportunity your thesis sentence gives you is that of hooking in your reader! Normally positioned at the end of the introductory paragraph, a thesis gives the reader a roadmap for where the essay's argument will be headed. If your roadmap is compelling, clear, and organized, your reader will understand where your flow of thoughts is going and will be more receptive to absorbing your points, examples, and interpretations. 2) The second opportunity your thesis sentence gives you is that of outlining your body paragraphs. Your thesis will hit on the main subject of each of the body paragraphs that you will be using to support your argument. By writing a strong thesis, you will have a much easier job writing your body paragraphs and completing your essay! 3) The third opportunity your thesis sentence gives you is that of cross-checking whether the first draft of your essay has resulted in a coherent and complete argument. You can go back to your thesis at any stage of the writing process in order to check whether your argument is on track and also to make sure that your completed essay doesn't have any holes or confusing transitions. Finally, believe it or not, your thesis sentence can be changed if your body paragraphs take on a different emphasis or flow than expected. The key is to always make sure that your thesis supports every main subject of your argument; think of your thesis as an anchor that links to each of your body paragraphs. The more theses that you can formulate, the more essays you can write! So, let's first focus on the thesis and then tackle the rest, step by step!

Subject: English as a Second Language

TutorMe
Question:

When should you use the present progressive tense instead of the simple present tense?

Maja B.
Answer:

The present progressive tense is the form of the present tense that is used when an action is happening in real-time (like a movie scene that we are watching in the moment). For example: "I am eating cookies in front of the TV," "She is studying for her exams," and "They are listening to music while on the bus to school." In these three examples, the actions, "eating," "studying," and "listening" are ongoing in the present tense (they are "progressive," or, "still in progress). We can imagine the subjects, "I," "She," and "They," as if they are in the middle of these activities. The simple present tense, on the other hand, is used when an action is habitual or descriptive of a condition. For example: "I eat cookies in front of the TV every evening," "She studies for her exams at the last minute," and "They listen to music every day on the bus to school." Now we can imagine our same subjects "I," "She," and "They" performing these actions as part of a routine or definition. Try writing three of your own sentences in the present progressive tense, and see what you need to change in order to convert them to the present simple tense!

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

What is the difference between a dependent and an independent clause?

Maja B.
Answer:

A dependent clause, like the word "dependent," has a "dependence" on something else in order to belong in a proper, full sentence. What is this "something else" that a dependent clause depends on in order to be grammatically sound within a sentence? This something else is....an independent clause! Working together in a sentence, an independent clause expresses a complete thought, while a dependent clause adds an extension to that same thought. We can think of the dependent clause as belonging in a sub-category (a box within a box) of the independent clause. Now, what is tricky here is that both independent and dependent clauses meet the same requirement of a "clause," which is to have a subject and a verb. In order to differentiate between independent and dependent clauses in the same sentence, ask yourself this question: "If I remove this clause from the sentence and read it aloud, does it still make sense as a complete thought? Can it stand on its own, "independently," as a sentence?" Take this sentence as an example: "Sally registered for online tutoring because she is motivated to improve her grades." Step 1: Let's isolate the two clauses in this sentence. To do that, find where there are natural breaks in the sentence, either before a preposition or a punctuation mark like a semicolon. Our two clauses here are: "Sally registered for online tutoring" and "because she is motivated to improve her grades." Step 2: Ask yourself the question, "Which of these clauses reads as a complete thought?" "Sally registered for online tutoring" is our independent clause because it makes sense as a complete thought on its own. If we read, "Because she is motivated to improve her grades," we are left needing more information in order for the clause to make sense as a fully expressed idea. Play with these questions as you're reading through a book or blog post, and see if you can start identifying the interconnected independent and dependent clauses that abound in English literature! I am here to help. :)

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