Before or after? grammar game

Sarah Stokes

In this article, we’re sharing an activity from the Games for Grammar Practice resource book, part of the Cambridge Copy Collection.  This activity is part of the unit on present perfect and past perfect, suitable for an intermediate or upper-intermediate level, and includes free downloadable cards for use in the classroom.

This game offers plenty of input contrasting the past perfect simple and the simple past.  There are visual clues as to the relation between these two tenses and the order of events on a time line in cause-and-effect statements.  The activity focuses on both meaning and form, while encouraging leaners to monitor their peers and negotiate group discussions.

Language focus Past perfect simple
Level Intermediate or upper-intermediate
Topic Causes and consequences
Interaction Groups of four or five
Time 15-20 minutes
Material Two sets of cards per group


Conjunctions: as, since, because, so

Words and expressions: be fired, fail, flat broke, know your way around, fall asleep, miss class, overdrawn

Language output

As/since/because I hadn’t slept all night, I was very tired.

I was very tired because I hasn’t slept all night.

I was very tired, so I fell asleep.


1. Before class, cut out one set of situation cards and one set of causes-and-consequences cards for each group.

2. Model the language by writing I had a fight with my sister last month on the board. Elicit possible causes, e.g. She had borrowed my bike and scratched it and list them on the left.  Elicit possible consequences or effects, e.g. I didn’t talk to her for three days and list these on the right.  Have students combine the ideas into compound sentences with the right conjunctions, paying attention to the use of simple past and past perfect simple.

3. Divide the class into groups and hand out the material

4. Playing the game:

a) Players shuffle the situation cards and place them face down on the table. Then, they shuffle the causes-and-consequences cards and deal these out evenly.

b) One player turns up a situation card. Whoever is holding a card expressing a plausible cause or consequence for that situation may place it, accordingly, to the left or right of the situation card, and connects the ideas with the right conjunction.

c) The group then decides whether the connection is plausible or not. If it is, the card placed on the table is considered discarded; if not, the player must take it back.

d) For any given situation, all players may discard as many cards as they like, provided the connections are plausible.

e) The first player to get rid of all of his or her cards wins the game.

Note on language

You may want to point out to your students that, in spoken language, it is more common to invert the clauses when the conjunction because is used, e.g. I was very tired because I hadn’t slept all night but the verb forms and meaning remain unchanged.

Download the situation cards and causes-and-consequences cards.

For another game you can use in the classroom, try Mike Astbury’s personalised sentence matching game.

Mike Astbury

Word formation game

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