Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Past Perfect

The good news: the past perfect is not as commonly used as the present perfect in English.

More good news: the past perfect is not *quite* as complicated as the present perfect.

Of course, I wouldn't call it "easy,' either!

What does it look like?

  • HAD+ past participle
  • Example: He had studied English before he came to the US.
  • Example: He had left the house before Bob.
For a helpful chart of forms and a few examples, visit this edufind page.

I've forgotten the past participle forms. Where can I find a list?

  • For regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the past simple: just add "ED"

What are the rules for using past perfect?

  • Typically, past perfect is used to refer to an action or event that happened before another past action or event.
  • Example: I had studied English before I came to the US. (I studied first; then, I came.)

  • It can also be used to talk about something that happened for a period of time, but ended at a specific past time.
  • Example: I had lived in Germany until 1999.

For one helpful, clear explanation and more examples, visit English Page.com  here.
For another (longer) explanation, you may also visit this British Council page here

I understand now (I think). Where can I get some practice?

Here are some exercises to try!

  • Practice 1 (past simple and past perfect- English Pages)
  • Practice 2 (from perfect English Grammar)
  • Practice 3 (from Really Learn English)
  • Practice 4 (past simple,, past perfect, and present perfect- English pages)
  • Practice 5 (from Really Learn English)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Are you feeling under the weather?

Are you a night owl?

Do you have a bucket list?

Those are examples of idioms.

(Idioms are one of our favorite aspects of English!)

But they can be challenging to master. They are not a piece of cake!

What is an idiom?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it is:
  • "an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own"
  • "a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations"

The more sophisticated Oxford dictionary definition is:
  • "a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light)."

What are some other examples of American English idioms?


Where can you find the meaning of idioms that you hear?

Are you ready to practice?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Making Writing More Academic

The language we speak with friends and the language we use in academic/formal writing are quite different. Knowing this one of the first key steps in college success.

 How do we learn how to make our writing more academic? 

A few easy tips are:

1) Avoid contractions
2) Avoid the informal "YOU" pronoun (use WE or a specific noun to indicate whom you are referring to)
3) Avoid informal expressions such as "guy," "kid," and "stuff."
4) Don't start sentences with FANBOYS such as BUT, AND, SO. Instead, use clear transition words to link ideas (however, thus, therefore, in addition)

For more suggestions, visit these helpful sites:

The DC IELTS page
English Grammar page
University of Surrey (a helpful printable reference page!)
CPALMS Writing Tips
UMC Writing Center (information on word choices)
Purdue Owl Word Choice Tips

For practice with this skills, try these:

Practice 1
Practice 2 (word choice)
Practice 3 (word choice)
Practice 4 (word choice)

Looking for more? Check out these more advanced articles on how to become a better writer!

Article 1
Article 2
Article 3 (very advanced- more tips from the Purdue Owl)
Article 4 (Tips for ESL writers- advanced article)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Word Forms

Some of the most common mistakes for ESOL students are related to word forms.

These can include verb form mistakes, subject-verb agreement errors, or singular-plural form errors.
They also often include errors related to parts of speech.

How can we improve our skills in this area?

First, we can study what nouns, verbs and adjectives often look like (and what they do in a sentence).
For more information on this, and tips about common endings, visit this helpful page.
These activities ask you to identify which type of word would fit in each sentence (noun, verb adjective, etc.), or what part of speech a specific word is:

Practice 1 (Quia)
Practice 2 (a4esl)
Practice 3 (McGraw Hill)
Practice 4 (challenging but fun...and involves cartoon gorillas)
Practice 5 (Grammar Bytes)

We can also try these activities, which ask us to figure out which word form (Illustrate? Illustration? Illustrative?) fit best in each sentence:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Phrasal Verbs

Look out!  Prepositions are difficult enough...but phrasal verbs make them even more challenging.

What is a phrasal verb?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines one as: :  "a phrase (as take off or look down on) that combines a verb with a preposition or adverb or both and that functions as a verb whose meaning is different from the combined meanings of the individual words."

(They are the verbs+preposition combinations that don't translate well and tend to confuse non-native English speakers.)

I can't FIGURE THESE OUT! How do they work? FIND OUT here:

  • For a good explanation of the grammar and structure of phrasal verbs, visit this English Page explanation.
  • And for our native English-speaker friends- or those who are very curious about the advanced workings of phrasal verbs- visit this very thorough explanation from Wikipedia

What are some examples? 

Need more information and practice? CHECK OUT one of these sites for activities and info:

Looking for a quick quiz to test your skills? FIND OUT how you are doing!

Are you ready to KEEP ON studying? For more practice and study:

Visit this quizlet page for a whole list of flashcard sets and games to help you with Phrasal Verbs.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Future Forms

How do we speak about the future in English?
Of course, to make things complicated, we have FOUR ways to do it!

1) TO BE GOING TO +verb

2) WILL + verb

To practice with WILL and BE GOING TO, try these exercises:

3) Present Continuous (am/is/are + verb+ ing) (yes, we really do this!)

These exercises focus on this form for the future:

4) Present Simple (yes, we really do this, too!)

Try these exercises to practice with Present Simple and Present Continuous Future forms:

These exercises focus on all 4 types:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Articles, part 2


Even thought there are only three articles in English, the rules on how to use these can get rather complicated.

Learning articles in English is best done through practice and study-- but it takes time, as there are lots of rules (and exceptions to the rules) to consider.

  • (3) For another basic explanations of the uses of A/An/The, please visit the "English Pages" explanation page here.
  • (4) To practice with these, click here, and complete English Pages exercises 7-11

  • (8) For another comprehensive (advanced and very thorough) explanation of article use (with practice activities), visit the"Grammar Quizzes" page here.