Advanced Conditional Statements

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Last week, we talked about how to make conditional statements – sentences with “if.” We looked at the two simplest types of conditional statements, zero conditional and first conditional. First, let’s review how to form a conditional statement. There are two parts:

  1. the dependent “if” clause – if + subject + verb, etc.
  2. the independent “then” clause – (then) subject + verb, etc.

You can put the two clauses in either order (dependent + independent OR independent + dependent).

If you give me bad news, I will cry.
I will cry if you give me bad news.

Again, notice these two things:

  1. When the “if” clause is first, you put a comma at the end of it (before the “then” clause). When the independent “then” clause comes first, there is no comma.
  2. I didn’t use the word “then” at all in these sentences. It is optional in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. You can use “then” when you put the independent clause at the end of the sentence (If you give me bad news, then I will cry.), but you cannot use “then” at the beginning of the sentence.

You can review last week’s post to remember how to form zero conditional and first conditional.

Now let’s look at two MORE kinds of conditional statements – second conditional and third conditional.

Second Conditional

We use second conditional for imaginary situations and their probable results. Sometimes we imagine things that are possible, and sometimes we imagine crazy, impossible situations just for fun. The point is that these things are not true now. They are only hypothetical (imaginary).

If + subject + past-tense verb + , + subject + modal verb + base verb.
Subject + modal verb + base verb + if + subject + past-tense verb.

Here are some examples of second conditional statements:

  • If you drank 6 liters of water in one morning, you might die.
  • If I exercised regularly, I could lose weight.
  • Sally would meet more people if she went out more often.

In these sentences, we are imagining a situation. The situation is not real now. You are not drinking 6 liters of water this morning. I don’t exercise regularly. Sally doesn’t go out very often. We are imagining what is possible in a situation that is different from reality.

Imagine these crazy situations. Then finish the sentences with possibilities.

  1. If I had 10 fingers on each hand (20 fingers total), I…
  2. If I lived on Mars, I…
  3. If I were a mermaid/merman (part human, part fish), I…

Do you see anything strange about #3? It is not normal to use “were” with the subjects I, he, she, or it. However, in second conditional, when the verb in the “if” clause is BE, it is always “were,” no matter what the subject is.

Third Conditional

Third conditional is totally unreal because when we use third conditional, we are imagining a different past. We know the true past, but we want to imagine a different one and its probable results. Look at these examples.

  • True past: I didn’t study for the test. I failed the test.
    Imaginary past: If I had studied for the test, then I might not have failed.
  • True past: I went to the beach. I didn’t wear sunscreen. I got burned by the sun.
    Imaginary past: If I had worn sunscreen, I wouldn’t have gotten burned.
  • True past: I ate too much candy. I got sick.
    Imaginary past: If I hadn’t eaten so much candy, I wouldn’t have gotten sick.

In each one, we are imagining a different past. As you can see, we often use third conditional to talk about regrets. Here is how we form third conditional:

If + subject + past perfect verb (had + past participle) + , + subject + modal verb + have + past participle.
Subject + modal verb + have + past participle + if + subject + past perfect verb.

Third Conditional Discussion

Think about a decision that changed your life. Talk with your classmates about how your life would have changed if you had made a different decision. For example, I wanted to move to Europe. I had work opportunities in both Spain and Italy, and I visited both countries to decide where I wanted to live, but I decided to stay in Raleigh. Six months later, I started dating my husband, and a year after that, we were married. If I had moved to Europe, I wouldn’t have married my husband.

Now it’s your turn. Tell your story!

What if…?

When you want to ask a general question with an “if” clause, you can put “What” in front of the “if” clause. We usually ask these kinds of questions with second and third conditional because we are curious about a situation that isn’t real.

  • What if I lived on Mars?
  • What if I had studied for the test?
  • What if I had moved to Europe?

You can tell whether the question is second or third conditional based on the verb. A past-tense verb means it is second conditional. A past perfect verb means it is third conditional. These questions are very general, so you can answer them in many different ways.

  • What if I lived on Mars?
    You would have to wear a space suit every day.
    I would come to visit you.
    You might never see your mom again.
  • What if I had studied for the test?
    You would have passed the test.
    You would have passed the course.
    You might have attended a better university.
    You could have gotten a better job.
    I might never have met you.
  • What if I had moved to Europe?
    I wouldn’t have married my husband.
    We wouldn’t have had our daughter.
    I might have married a European.
    My life would be very different now.

Mixed Conditional

This sounds confusing, but it’s not too bad. In second conditional, we are imagining a different present. In third conditional, we are imagining a different past. In mixed conditional, we are imagining a different past that creates a different present. For example, if I had moved to Europe, my life would be very different now. See? I’m imagining a different past (if I had moved to Europe) and a different present based on it (my life would be very different now).

To form a mixed conditional, we use a third conditional “if” clause (for the past) and a second conditional “then” clause (for the present).

If + subject + past perfect verb (had + past participle) + , + subject + modal verb + base verb.
Subject + modal verb + base verb + if + subject + past perfect verb.

How would things be different NOW:

  • if you had stayed in your country?
  • if Michael Jackson hadn’t died?
  • if the Nazis had won World War 2?
  • if you had never started studying English?
  • if you had grown up with a different religion?

Write one complete sentence to answer each question, and ask your teacher to check it for you.

It’s a Little “Iffy” – How to Make Conditional Statements

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Have you ever heard someone say that something is “iffy”? It means that something is uncertain. We aren’t sure IF it will happen or not. It might happy IF everything goes right. It might not happen IF there is a problem.

  • Can we go to the park tomorrow?
    I don’t know. The weather looks a little iffy. (We don’t know what the weather will be like. It might rain, or it might be sunny. We aren’t sure.)
  • When are you going to move into your new house?
    Hmmmmm…it’s a little iffy. The construction has been slow because of all the snow, so we aren’t sure. They said it would be finished next month, but if this winter continues, it might take longer.

How do we use “if” in English? We use it in several ways, but it always shows a cause and an effect. This week, I will show you two kinds of conditional statements – zero conditional and first conditional. First, however, I will show you how a conditional statement is generally formed. There are two parts:

  1. the dependent “if” clause – if + subject + verb, etc.
  2. the independent “then” clause – (then) subject + verb, etc.

You can put the two clauses in either order (dependent + independent OR independent + dependent).

If you give me bad news, I will cry.
I will cry if you give me bad news.

I want you to notice two things:

  1. When the “if” clause is first, you put a comma at the end of it (before the “then” clause). When the independent “then” clause comes first, there is no comma.
  2. I didn’t use the word “then” at all in these sentences. It is optional in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. You can use “then” when you put the independent clause at the end of the sentence (If you give me bad news, then I will cry.), but you cannot use “then” at the beginning of the sentence.

Now let’s look at two kinds of conditional statements.

Zero Conditional

We use zero conditional for real things that really happen. When we use it, we are talking about general truths – things that are always true. The situations in zero conditional statements are real and possible. The verb in each part of the sentence (independent and dependent clause) is in present tense.

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + present-tense verb.
Subject + present-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Here are some examples of zero conditional statements. Which part is the dependent clause, and which part is the independent clause of each one?

  • If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.
  • If you cut yourself, you bleed.
  • Ice melts if you heat it.

In a zero conditional statement, you can change “if” to “when,” and the meaning does not change.

Finish these zero conditional sentences:

  1. If you are _______________, you eat.
  2. If you are hot, you turn on the _________________.
  3. Your clothes get dirty if you ____________________________________ for a living.

First Conditional

“Messy Toddler” By Larali21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

First conditional is similar to zero conditional, but we use it to talk about a specific, real, possible situation, not a general truth. In zero conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.” I am not talking about a specific person’s hand or water that is in the room. When I use first conditional, I am talking more specifically. In first conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in the water, it will get wet.” I say this kind of thing to my little girl all the time.

  • If you touch the hot stove, it will hurt.
  • If you throw the leaf off the balcony, it will fall down.
  • If you don’t want me to carry you, then you have to walk.
  • If you keep screaming, then we will not go to the park.
  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you will be hungry later.

Notice that the verbs in first conditional are a little different from the verbs in zero conditional. The dependent “if” clause still has a present-tense verb, but the independent “then” clause uses a future verb. This is because you are talking about a real, possible, present cause and a real, possible, future effect. “If you don’t pay your cell phone bill (now), Verizon will cut off your service (in the near future).”

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + future-tense verb.
Subject + future-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Finish these first conditional sentences:

  1. If you don’t exercise, you will ___________________________________.
  2. You will feel better tomorrow if you _____________________________________.
  3. If it is raining this afternoon, ___________________________________.

When you use “will” in first conditional statements, you are speaking with certainty, but if you aren’t sure about the effect (“then” clause), it is possible to change “will” to “might.”

  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you might be hungry later.
  • You might hurt yourself if you jump off the porch.
  • We might go to the park today if the weather is nice.

Classroom Activity

Here is a fun activity to do with your class. You can also play this game with your family and friends.

  1. Give each person two blank cards or small pieces of paper.
  2. On one card, write a dependent “if” clause. On the other card, write an independent “then” clause to go with the dependent clause. When you put the two cards together, you should have a complete sentence that makes sense.
  3. Collect all the cards, mix them up, and place them face down (so you can’t see the words) on the table.
  4. Take turns turning over two cards. If you turn over two cards that go together to make a complete sentence, you can keep them AND take another turn. If you turn over two cards that don’t go together, turn them face down again, and the next person takes a turn.
  5. When all the cards have been matched, see who has collected the most pairs. That person is the winner!

Five MORE Things to Check in Your Writing

By Petar Milošević (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we talked about five things to check in your writing, and I hope that was helpful for you. This week, I want to give you five more things to check. If you can correct all of these things, your writing will improve greatly!

  1. Are all of the verbs in the correct form for their subjects?
  2. Are all the words spelled correctly?
  3. Do you have adjectives and nouns in the correct order?
  4. Have you corrected all run-on sentences?
  5. Have you corrected all sentence fragments?

Let’s look at each one to learn more.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Sometimes, teachers talk about subjects and verbs “agreeing.” This means that the verb is in the correct form for the subject. Look at these two sentences:

  • He was born in Guatemala.
  • They was born in Guatemala.

In the first sentence, the subject (he) and the verb (was) agree because “was” is the correct past-tense form of the verb “to be” for the subject. In the second sentence, the subject and verb do not agree. “Was” is the wrong form of the verb for the subject “they.” The sentence should say, “They were born in Guatemala.”

It is especially important to check for subject-verb agreement with these verbs:

  • be (present and past)
  • all present simple verbs (-s or no -s at the end of the verb)

Spelling

Check the dictionary to make sure you have spelled all the words correctly in your writing, and be careful about homophones. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation, but their meanings and spellings are different. In this video, you can see many examples of homophones. It is important to know about them because you might spell a word correctly, but it’s not the word you need.

Adjective-Noun Order

In English, we have two ways to put nouns and adjectives in order.

  1. We put the adjective(s) before the noun. – “She has long, red hair.” Long and red are adjectives.
  2. We put the adjectives after a verb like “be” or “seem.” – “Her hair is long and red.”

To learn more about adjectives and adjective order, check out this post.

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence is a sentence that is too long. The grammar is not correct, and it should be two or more separate sentences. Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting he wanted to talk about the new park, it was a very boring meeting.

Here are some ways to correct this run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting because he wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting. He wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting, and he wanted to talk about the new park, so it was a very boring meeting.

There are more possible ways to correct the sentence, but you can see that you need to add periods or connecting words to make the grammar correct.

Sentence Fragments

Imagine that your teacher walks into class and says, “Because I don’t want to.” Do you know what she is talking about? What if your friend calls you and says, “While I was on vacation.” What does he mean? These are sentence fragments. A fragment is a piece of something. It is not a whole/complete thing. We use sentence fragments often in conversation because we are responding to a question.

  • Why don’t you eat dinner?
    Because I don’t want to.
  • When did you get your hair cut?
    While I was on vacation.

In a conversation, the meaning is clear, but in writing, these fragments are not complete sentences, and we cannot write them like they are. We must connect them to the rest of the sentence to make a whole sentence. Look at this:

  • I think that chocolate is delicious. Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

You understand the meaning, of course, but there is a problem here. “Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods” is not a complete sentence, so we cannot write it as a sentence. We MUST connect it to the first part to make one complete sentence.

  • I think that chocolate is delicious because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

When you check your writing, imagine that each sentence is alone. Imagine that there are no sentences before or after, and see if the meaning is clear. If one sentence doesn’t make sense without the sentence before or after it, you might have a sentence fragment.

Your Turn

A few weeks ago, I told you how to write a good paragraph in English. At the end of that post, I gave you 5 prompts to practice writing paragraphs. Choose one of those prompts, write a paragraph, and then check your writing. Use these tips as well as the tips from last week. Then, ask your teacher to check your writing. How did you do? Was your writing improved?

Five Things to Check in Your Writing

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

For many students, writing in English is very difficult. You can understand when you read, and people can understand you when you speak, but your teacher always finds MANY mistakes in your writing. How can you improve your writing?

First, when your teacher corrects your writing, ask WHY. Why was my writing wrong? Why did you change it? Why is this way correct? Your teacher can explain the corrections, and the next time you write, you might not make the same mistakes again.

Second, is your teacher correcting the same mistakes again and again? Pay attention! When your teacher corrects your writing, study it. Don’t just throw it away.

Five Things You Can Check

Now, here are 5 things you can check by yourself before you turn in your writing. When you finish a writing assignment, make sure you can answer YES to all of these questions.

  1. Does every sentence start with a capital letter?
  2. Does every sentence end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point?
  3. Does every sentence have at least one subject and one verb?
  4. Does every subject have at least one verb?
  5. Does every verb have at least one subject?

Let’s look at each one a little more.

Start a Sentence with a Capital Letter/End with a Period

The first letter of every sentence should be a capital letter. It is not important what the word is. For other rules about capital letters, here is a good article. Most sentences end with a period (.), but some end with a question mark (?) or an exclamation point (!).

A comma (,) NEVER ends a sentence. When you use a period, question mark, or exclamation point, you are probably at the end of a sentence, so your next letter should be capital.

Many times, when you have a new subject and a new verb, you should also have a new sentence.

Subjects and Verbs

The subject of a sentence is usually the thing or person doing the verb. Look at this sentence:

The baby played.

In the sentence, we have a person (the baby) and an action (played). The baby is the person who is doing the action. “The baby” is the subject of this sentence.

Some sentences have two (or more) subjects and one verb because both of the subjects are doing the same action.

The baby and her brother played.

In this sentence, two people played – the baby (subject 1) and her brother (subject 2).

Some sentences have one subject and two (or more) verbs because one person is doing more than one action.

The baby played and danced.

In this sentence, we have one subject – the baby. The baby did two actions. If we want to write two sentences, we can.

The baby played. The baby danced.

Or if we want to put those two sentences together with “and,” that’s fine too.

The baby played, and the baby danced.

But if you don’t want to repeat “the baby,” you can simply write it one time and have two verbs.

The baby played and danced.

Of course, we can also have multiple subjects and multiple verbs.

The baby and her brother played and danced.

In this example, two people BOTH did two actions.

The rules are that every sentence needs at least one subject and one verb, every subject needs at least one verb, and every verb needs at least one subject. Look at some examples of incorrect sentences to help you understand.

  • The baby and her brother. – Here we have 2 subjects, but no verbs.
  • Played and danced. – Here we have no subject, but 2 verbs.
  • The baby with her brother. – “With” is not a verb.
  • I took care of the baby while danced. – This sentence is confusing because it is not clear who danced. We have a verb, “danced,” but I don’t know if the subject is “I” or “the baby.”

Your Turn

Read this paragraph, and ask the 5 questions above. Can you correct 10 mistakes with capital letters, periods, subjects, and verbs?

i think Katherine Blake knows the rules for a successful job interview she wears professional clothes and looks Mr. Brashov in the eye. she about her experience, and she takes her resumè. she shakes Mr. Brashov’s hand Rosa doesn’t shake his hand. Katherine very professional and nice she is good in the interview.

Ways to Say Goodbye

One of our ESL supervisors is leaving this week, so we are saying goodbye to him. We have many ways to say goodbye in English.

Formal Goodbyes

Waving Goodbye

By George Eastman House [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Goodbye. – Maybe you learned to say “goodbye” when you are leaving, but it is really very formal. Most Americans do not use it every day because Americans are generally more casual.

Farewell. – This is a VERY formal way to say goodbye. You will not hear it often, and you might never use it. It sounds like something people say in old movies.

Take care. – People often use this phrase at the end of an email. We sometimes say it in conversation when we think that we will not see the other person for a long time.

Have a good day! – This is very common. We use it in conversations and at the ends of emails. It is the most common of all the formal goodbyes. When someone says, “Have a good day,” you can respond with, “You too!”

Casual Goodbyes

See you later! – When you finish a face-to-face conversation, you can say, “See you later!”

Talk to you later. – When you finish a telephone conversation, you can say, “Talk to you later!”

Later! – When you finish a text message conversation, you can say, “Later!” You can also use this in response to “See/Talk to you later!”

Bye! – This is probably THE MOST COMMON way to say goodbye. It’s short, it’s easy, it’s casual – everything Americans want in a conversation. We use it on the phone, in person, and in text messages. We use it with friends, family members, coworkers, bosses, and clients. We often use it after some of the other expressions in the list.

  • Have a good day!
  • Thanks, you too!
  • See you later!
  • Ok, bye!
  • Bye!

Bye-bye! – Very young children say, “Bye-bye,” and adults say it to children. When adults use “bye-bye” with each other, it can sound strange. However, in the southern United States, you will hear adults use “bye-bye,” and it is fine.

Have a good one. – This is a very relaxed way to say goodbye. When you use this expression, you mean, “Have a good day,” or, “Have a good week.” Some people find this phrase annoying or silly. They think you should say “week” or “day” instead of “one.”

So long. – “So long” is an old way to say goodbye. Not many people use it now, but you may hear it or read it.

Slang Goodbyes

Catch you later! – This is a super relaxed way to say, “See/Talk to you later.” It is extremely casual and reminds me of a surfer.

Toodles! – This is a funny way to say goodbye. It sounds like something a woman might say, but probably not a man.

Peace!/Peace out! – These expressions come from 1980s/1990s hip-hop music culture. Some people say them now, but most people do not say them in a serious way. They sound old, like when your dad tries to use words that are cool, but he doesn’t sound cool.

See you later, alligator! – The correct response to this is, “After a while, crocodile!”

Goodbye Body Language

High five!

High Five By Ingorr (http://flickr.com/photos/ingorrr/2087347754/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Different cultures use their bodies differently to say hello and goodbye. Here are some ways Americans use their bodies to say goodbye (hello is similar).

  • We raise a hand to wave. This is common when you are far away or in motion. It is also common for people who don’t like to touch others.
  • We shake hands. This is a formal way to say hello and goodbye. We use it with people we don’t know well, and we use it in professional situations.
  • We high five. This is a very informal way to say goodbye. Young people high five more than older people. Older people might high five a child who does not want to give a hug.
  • We hug. Americans usually hug friends and family. Some Americans are comfortable hugging people they don’t know well, but usually only when they have some sort of connection. For example, if you introduce your boyfriend to your best friend, they might hug because YOU connect them. If you meet someone for the first time and feel like you have known the person forever, you might hug when you say goodbye because your conversation made you feel connected.
  • We kiss (but not much). Americans don’t kiss people they don’t know. We don’t kiss strangers on the hand, on the cheek, or on the mouth. We rarely kiss friends. We only kiss family and romantic partners.

 

 

Online Listening Practice for All Levels

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Sometimes, students say to me, “Teacher, I learned grammar and writing in my country, but I never practiced listening and speaking. I don’t understand Americans. How can I practice more listening?” Of course, you can watch TV or listen to the radio. You can also sign up for Crossroads Cafe at your site. It is an excellent program for improving your English.

However, if you want more listening practice at home, I have several ideas for you!

For ALL Levels

These websites have lessons for all levels. You can choose the level that is right for you!

Talk English – This site has free listening courses for all levels. On the main page, they also have vocabulary and grammar lessons!

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab – Scroll down for listening activities and quizzes. You can choose easy, medium, difficult, or very difficult listening activities.

Breaking News English – On this site, you can choose your level at the top of the page. Then you choose the story you want to read and hear. You can also choose the speed of the listening. You can listen to it very slowly or at normal speed.

VOA English News – Voice of America English News has short news stories that you can read and listen to. The site has three levels. On the site, “Level One” might be good for you if you are in a level 3 or 4 class at Wake Tech.

For Advanced Students

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Do you know what a podcast is? Imagine people on TV talking about a topic. Now turn off the picture so you are only listening to them. That is a podcast. It is an audio (listening only) recording of people talking about a topic. You can find podcasts about all kinds of topics. These podcasts are about English.

English Class 101 – Some episodes are for intermediate students, and some are for advanced students, but they are not organized so that you can choose your level. You can sign up for a free account on the website or listen on iTunes.

ESL Pod – This site offers some free lessons, and you can listen to episodes on iTunes, or you can pay for an account for more practice.

All Ears English – Two women talk about American English. You can find this free podcast on the website or on iTunes. You can also download a transcript (written version) of each episode if you want. Click here for the the transcripts.

American English Pronunciation – Listen for free on the website or on iTunes to learn about American English pronunciation rules.

The next two resources I want to show you are NOT made for ESL students. Many Americans enjoy listening to them because they talk about a wide variety of interesting topics. You might enjoy some of them as well!

How Stuff Works – This website is FULL of information on so many things! You can read articles and listen to podcasts about almost anything. You can find information about all of the podcasts here, and I will tell you about some of them as well. You can find all of them on iTunes.

  • Car Stuff – Two men talk about cars
  • Stuff of Genius – A podcast about some of the greatest inventions in the world
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – History lessons you probably didn’t learn in school
  • Brain Stuff – Science in the world around us
  • Stuff You Should Know – A general information podcast with each episode focused on a different topic
  • Tech Stuff – A podcast about technology
  • Stuff Your Mom Never Told You – Two women talk about women’s issues

TED Talks – TED is a conference where people come to share ideas about technology (T), entertainment (E), and design (D), but people talk about almost everything. You can watch videos of the speeches from the conference online. Go to the website, and search for a topic you find interesting. You can even choose the duration (length) of the video. If you want to watch a short video, search for 0-6 minutes. If you want to watch a longer one, you can choose a different duration.

How to Write a Good Paragraph in English

When you are learning a new language, you have to learn more than vocabulary. You have to learn grammar and pronunciation, too. You also have to learn something more difficult. Especially in writing, you must learn how people in the culture communicate. In some cultures, people communicate very directly, and in other cultures, people do not say exactly what they mean. Both styles of communication are fine if they are used in the correct culture. However, using the wrong style for the culture can cause a lot of confusion and frustration.

In writing, Americans are usually very direct. If you come from a culture that is also very direct, this will be easy for you. If you come from a culture that is not very direct, you will need more practice. Most students learn American writing style easily once they understand how we do it.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

The easiest way to explain how to write a good paragraph in English is with a hamburger (which is also very American). A hamburger has:

  1. a top bun (bread)
  2. meat and toppings (lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup, pickles, etc.)
  3. a bottom bun

The bread is important for holding the sandwich together, but the reason you eat a hamburger is for the stuff in the middle. A good English paragraph also has three parts:

  1. an introduction or topic sentence
  2. support
  3. a conclusion

The introduction and conclusion are important for writing a complete paragraph, but the most important part is the support in the middle. Let’s look at all three parts of a good paragraph a little bit more.

Introduction/Topic Sentence

Usually, you will write a paragraph about a specific topic. Your teacher will ask a question, or you will read a prompt (a sentence or question to help you think about ideas for a paragraph). Your first sentence should answer the question very directly or make a statement about the prompt very clearly. Here are some examples of prompts and topic sentences. For each prompt, I will show you a few possible topic sentences.

  • prompt: Do you think all American school children should wear uniforms to school? Why/why not?
    topic sentence: I think all American school children should wear uniforms to school.
    topic sentence: I don’t think all American school children should wear uniforms to school.
    topic sentence: I think American school children should be able to choose their own clothes for school, not wear uniforms.
  • prompt: Do you agree with the saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”? Why/why not?
    topic sentence: I agree with the saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
    topic sentence: I don’t agree with the saying, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
    topic sentence: I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • prompt: Describe one of your heroes.
    topic sentence: One of my heroes is ___________________.
    topic sentence: ___________________ is my greatest hero.
    topic sentence: I think ___________________ is a good example of a hero for me and for other people.

In each of the examples, we see a very clear answer to the question or prompt. Now the reader knows what the paragraph will be about. We are prepared to read more. The next step is to explain or give reasons for your answer.

Support Sentences

After you give your answer in the topic sentence, you need to elaborate (give more information). Many prompts will say something like:

  • Why/why not?
  • Explain your answer.
  • Describe…
  • How…
  • What should you do?

These questions are asking you to give reasons, statistics, or stories to show why you chose your answer. You should write 2-4 support sentences. Here is an example:

  • prompt: Do you think all American school children should wear uniforms to school? Why/why not?
    topic sentence: I think all American school children should wear uniforms to school.
    support 1: Children should be free to focus on their school work and not have to worry about their clothes. If children wear uniforms, then they will not waste time thinking about their clothes or comparing them to other students’ clothes.
    support 2: Wearing uniforms makes all children equal in school because they cannot show off their family’s money by wearing designer clothes. This helps children see each other as equals, so they can work together better.
    support 3: If children wear uniforms, then parents and teachers do not have to worry about a school dress code. All students will obey the dress code easily, and teachers can focus on their job.

Conclusion

The last part of a good paragraph is the conclusion. This is one final sentence to end the paragraph. When you end a phone call, you don’t just stop talking. You always take a moment to say good-bye. A conclusion is similar. There are a couple of ways to write a conclusion. The easy way is to repeat the idea from your topic sentence.

  • topic sentence: I think all American school children should wear uniforms to school.
    conclusion: For these reasons, I think it’s a good idea for kids to wear uniforms to school.
  • topic sentence: I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.
    conclusion: That’s why I think two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • topic sentence: One of my heroes is ___________________.
    conclusion: All of these qualities are what make ___________________ my hero.

The more difficult way to write a conclusion is to make the reader think more about the topic or suggest an action.

 

  • topic sentence: I think all American school children should wear uniforms to school.
    conclusion: If you agree, write a letter to your local school board today, and tell them that all students should wear uniforms.
  • topic sentence: I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.
    conclusion: The next time someone does something wrong to you, think twice before you get revenge.
  • topic sentence: One of my heroes is ___________________.
    conclusion: We should all try to be more like ___________________.

The difficult conclusion is always more interesting, but if you can’t think of a really good ending for your paragraph, the easy conclusion is always correct. As you get more comfortable writing paragraphs in English, try to improve your conclusions by writing more of the difficult kind.

Paragraph Form

Finally, let’s talk about how a paragraph should look when you write by hand. Look at this paragraph.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

 

  • Look at the first line of the paragraph. We start the first line a little bit into the line. This is called indenting. We indent (push in) the first line to show that it is a new paragraph.
  • All of the other lines start at the left side, and they are straight. We do not have some lines starting farther to the left or slowly moving to the right. They are straight down the left side.
  • You can see the three parts of a paragraph here (introduction, support, and conclusion), but the parts are not separated or labeled. They are simply there in the paragraph.
  • Finally, when a sentence ends, you do not need to start a new sentence on a new line. You can continue on the same line.

Your Turn

Choose one of the prompts below, and write a paragraph. Ask your teacher to check your work.

  1. What is a hobby that you enjoy? Why do you like it?
  2. Do you think that all adults should get married? Why/Why not?
  3. What is the perfect number of children to have in each family? Explain your answer.
  4. In English, we have a saying: “The early bird gets the worm.” This means that if you start something early, you will have more opportunities. Do you agree with this saying? Why/Why not?
  5. You want to plan a surprise party for your friend’s birthday. How do you do it?

How to use ‘work’ and ‘job’ correctly

Men at Work (photo permission from flickr via codey's453) For educational purposes only.

Men at Work
(photo permission from flickr via codey’s453)
For educational purposes only.

What is the difference between work and job?

The biggest difference is that work is both a verb and a noun, but job is only a noun. But let’s look at both words to see other differences.

Work

When you work, you use effort or energy, usually to achieve a goal, finish a task, or make money.  In one way, it is the opposite of play because work is not usually a lot of fun. However, work and play both require energy. Work is really the opposite of rest because work uses your energy while rest does not. Here are some examples of how we use work as a verb:

  • Lisa works for Wake Tech Community College.
  • Jamal works in a café.
  • Kyle worked in his yard all weekend.
  • Right now, Andrea is working on her university degree. She will graduate next year.

office

By Phil Whitehouse (Flickr: New office) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In these examples, we do not know exactly what the person’s duties, activities, or responsibilities are. Jamal works in a café, but we do not know if he cleans the tables or cooks the food. Lisa works for the community college, but we don’t know if she is a teacher or a secretary or the president. Kyle worked in his yard, but we don’t know if he was mowing the grass or building a dog house. And we can guess that Andrea goes to classes, studies, and does homework, but we cannot be sure.

You can also see in these examples that we use work to talk about things you do to earn money AND things you do when you aren’t paid. If you are using energy, you can probably say that you are working.

People don’t do all the work in the world. I don’t want to use my energy to wash my clothes, so I put them into my washing machine. When we talk about machines, we use work as a verb to mean “function.” If my washing machine is broken, I say, “My washing machine doesn’t work.” If I have a new DVD player, I read the instructions to learn how it works.

Work is also used as a noun in two ways:

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. to talk about the things that you do or make. If you look at a painting, you are seeing the artist’s work (a finished product). If your boss tells you that your work is good, he/she means that you are doing well. When we talk about a finished art product (painting, symphony, sculpture, etc.), we often call it a “work” of art. When we use this meaning of “work,” it is a countable noun. For example:

  • His favorite works include Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet.
  • None of Van Gogh’s works were famous when he was alive.

2. to talk about your place of employment or the activities you do there. For example, we say, “I go to work every morning.” That means you go to the place where you are an employee. If someone asks you, “What do you do for work?” they want to know what you do as an employee.

Job

Job is similar to this last meaning of “work.” It usually means the name for the work that you do to earn money. For example:

  • Jamal has a new job. He is a handyman in a small restaurant.
  • My job is to teach adult students how to speak, read, write, and understand English.
  • Katherine has two jobs. She is trying to earn more money so she can buy a computer for her son.

We can also use “job” to talk about a task. Sometimes, I will say to my husband, “I have a job for you.” I am not going to pay him, but I have a task that I hope he will do.

Lessons on States

Here is a map of the United States of America. We are going to use this map for several different lessons. Find the lesson for your level, and let’s get started!

image by Wikimedia Commons user:Wapcaplet, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Levels 1 and 2 – Prepositions of Place

Next to” and “beside” are the same. They mean “on one side” or “to the side of.”

  • North Carolina is next to Tennessee.
  • North Carolina is beside Tennessee.
  • Tennessee is next to North Carolina.
  • Tennessee is beside North Carolina.
  • Illinois is next to Indiana.
  • Indiana is beside Illinois.
  • Colorado and Nevada are next to Utah.
  • Nevada and Arizona are beside California.

Between” means “in the middle” (side to side OR up and down).

  • Utah is between Colorado and Nevada.
  • North Carolina is between Virginia and South Carolina.
  • Iowa is between Missouri and Minnesota.

In” means “inside.” The states have borders (lines where one state stops and a different state starts). Cities are in states.

  • Raleigh is in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina is in the United States.
  • We live in the United States.
  • We live in North Carolina.
  • We live in Raleigh.

Practice with a partner. Person A will ask a question. Person B will answer the question. Take turns asking and answering.

  1. A: Where is Durham?
    B: Durham is in North Carolina.
  2. A: Where is Oklahoma?
    B: Oklahoma is next to Arkansas.
  3. A: Where is Montana?
    B: Montana is between Idaho and North Dakota.
  4. A: Where is New Jersey?
    B: New Jersey is beside Pennsylvania.
  5. A: Where is Hawaii?
    B: Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean.
  6. A: Where is Alaska?
    B: Alaska is next to Canada.
  7. A: Where is Alabama?
    B: Alabama is between Georgia and Mississippi.
  8. A: What is next to Massachusetts?
    B: New York is next to Massachusetts.
  9. A: What is beside Missouri?
    B: Illinois and Kansas are next to Missouri.
  10. A: What is between New York and New Hampshire?
    B: Vermont is between New York and New Hampshire.

Talk with your classmates.

  1. Where do you live? (I live in __________.)
  2. Which state do you want to visit? Why?
  3. Do you like to travel? Why/Why not?

Levels 3 and 4 – Compass Directions

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

A compass shows the direction you are traveling. There are four main directions on a compass – north, south, east, and west. When we compare the locations of two places, we can use the compass directions and “of.” Here are some examples:

  • Virginia is north of North Carolina.
  • California is west of Nevada.
  • Texas is south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is east of Pennsylvania.

In those examples, the states are touching, but they don’t have to touch. Look at some more examples:

  • California is west of North Carolina.
  • Florida is south of New York.
  • Minnesota is east of Washington.
  • South Dakota is north of Texas.

If you want to show clearly that the states are touching, you can use “just” with the compass direction.

  • Virginia is just north of North Carolina.
  • California is just west of Nevada.
  • Texas is just south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is just east of Pennsylvania.

If a place is not exactly north, but not exactly east, we say it’s north-east. For example, Kentucky is north-west of North Carolina. Here are some more examples:

  • North Dakota is north-east of Wyoming.
  • Texas is just south-west of Arkansas.
  • New Mexico is just south-east of Utah.

Talk with a partner. Look at the map, and take turns asking and answering questions.

  1. What is just west of Georgia?
  2. What is east of North Carolina?
  3. What is just north of Florida?
  4. What is west of Oregon?
  5. What is just north-west of Missouri?

Now practice asking your own questions. Your partner will answer.

Levels 5 and 6 – Abbreviations and Internet Research

Study the easier lessons to make sure you understand. Then search the internet for the answers to these questions.

  1. Where is the Grand Canyon?
  2. Finish this sentence: Barstow, CA is ___________ miles ____________ of Wilmington, NC on I-40.
  3. Where was Abraham Lincoln born?
  4. Where are the Great Lakes? What are their names?
  5. Where is the biggest state? Where is the smallest state? (Don’t just say their names. Describe where they are.)

Every state has an abbreviation that is used for sending mail and writing the name of the state in a short way. Each abbreviation has two letters. We write them with capital letters and no periods. Here are all the state abbreviations.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

When we read a state’s abbreviation out loud, we usually say the full name of the state. For example, when I see “Portland, OR,” I will say, “Portland, Oregon,” NOT, “Portland, O-R.” This is especially important when you are talking about Louisiana. If you say, “L-A,” people might think that you are talking about Los Angeles, CA. Read these cities and states out loud to practice saying the full name of the state.

  1. New York, NY
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. New Orleans, LA
  5. Raleigh, NC
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Detroit, MI
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Las Vegas, NV

Say, Tell, Speak, and Talk – What’s the difference?

The verbs  say, tell, speak, and talk can be confusing to English learners. The meanings are similar, but we use them in different ways, so it is important to know how to use them correctly.

Say

He said learning English is fun! (photo by tcarr)

He said learning English is fun! (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

We use the verb “say” with a clause. A clause always includes a subject (a thing or person) and a verb (an action, usually). Sometimes, we use a “that” clause with “say” like this:

She said that she was tired.
He says that he forgot his homework.
I always say that you should wear sunscreen.

In all of these sentences, “that” is correct, but it is optional (you don’t have to use it).

She said she was tired.
He says he forgot his homework.
I always say you should wear sunscreen.

Sometimes we use a quote with “say” like this:

She always says, “Good morning,” to her friends.
He said, “I don’t love you anymore.”
I said, “I’d like a salad, please.”

And sometimes we use a phrase like one of these:

  • a word – Clark said a bad word.
  • a phrase – Mr. Brashov says a phrase in Romanian.
  • a name – When your order is ready, they will say your name.
  • a sentence – The teacher said a long sentence. I only understood half of it.

If you want to show the other person in the conversation, you can use “to” + someone.

She always says, “Good morning,” to her friends.
She said
to me that she was tired.
I said
to the waitress, “I’d like a salad, please.”

Tell

She tells her friend a funny story. (photo by tcarr)

She tells her friend a funny story. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

After “tell,” we usually use a noun (a person or a thing). This noun is either:

  • the person who is listening – He told me to clean my room.
  • a phrase like story or joke – I told a story about my father.

We use “tell” when someone gives an order to someone else. When we report an order, we use “tell + person + to + verb.”

He told me to clean my room.
I always tell people to wear sunscreen.

She tells him to call her.

It is possible to use “tell” with a “that” clause (like with “say”), but you must include the listener.

She told me she was tired.
He tells me that he forgot his homework.
I always tell you that you should wear sunscreen.

Speak and Talk

“Speak” and “talk” have similar meanings. Both mean that the person is using his/her voice or that two or more people are having a conversation. Look at these pairs of sentences. You can see that “speak” and “talk” are both correct, and the meaning is the same.

I spoke to her about the homework.
I talked to her about the homework.

Who were you talking to about the movie?
Who were you speaking to about the movie?

However, there are three differences between “speak” and “talk.”

The students speak English in class. (photo by tcarr)

The students speak English in class. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

1. We use “speak” when we want to say that someone has the ability to use a language.

She speaks English.
He speaks three languages.

2. “Speak” is often used for one-way communication (for example, when one person is giving a speech to a group of people).

The manager spoke to the employees about the new work schedule.

3. “Speak” is a little more formal than “talk.” We use “speak” for polite requests. People usually use “speak” when they ask for someone on the phone.

May I speak to the owner of this store?
Hello? May I speak with Jason, please?

She talks to her classmate.

An ESL student talks to her classmate. (photo by wtcc instructor tcarr)

“Talk” is used more with conversational meanings and informal situations.

She talks to her mother every day.
They talked to their teacher about the test.

Your Turn

If you would like to do some practice exercises with these verbs, click on the links below!

http://usefulenglish.ru/vocabulary/synonyms-exercise-one

http://www.tolearnenglish.com/exercises/exercise-english-2/exercise-english-36455.php