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.

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

Past Simple Song Lesson – The Fools Who Dream

Today we are going to learn some grammar with a song from the movie La La Land. Maybe you have seen the movie, or maybe you have heard about it. The main actress in the movie, Emma Stone, won an Oscar (Academy Award) for her performance. It is a beautiful movie with great music. In this scene, Emma Stone’s character, Mia, is telling a story about her aunt. Mia’s aunt was an actress, and Mia also wants to be an actress.

Here are some words that might be new for you. If you have questions about them, please ask your teacher.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Mia is telling a story about the past, so many of the verbs in this song are in the past tense. Here are the verbs, their past simple forms, and their meanings.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

One more thing before I give you the song:

You will hear the phrase “here’s to” many times. We use this phrase when we are celebrating. Imagine that someone is holding up a glass of champagne at a wedding. The person is celebrating the couple who got married, and they say, “Here’s to the happy couple!” It is a phrase for celebration.

Now, read the words to the song.

My aunt used to live in Paris. I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad, and I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot. She smiled…

Leapt without looking
And tumbled into the Seine.
The water was freezing.
She spent a month sneezing,
But said she would do it again.

Here’s to the ones who dream,
Foolish as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that ache.
Here’s to the mess we make.

She captured a feeling,
A sky with no ceiling,
The sunset inside a frame.

She lived in her liquor
And died with a flicker.
I’ll always remember the flame.

Here’s to the ones who dream,
Foolish as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that ache.
Here’s to the mess we make.

She told me,
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see.
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us!”

So bring on the rebels,
The ripples from pebbles,
The painters, and poets, and plays.

And here’s to the fools who dream,
Crazy as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that break.
Here’s to the mess we make.

I trace it all back to then –
Her and the snow and the Seine.
Smiling through it,
She said she’d do it again.

Listen to the song, and read the words again.

Your Turn

Talk about the song with your classmates. Answer these questions in a small group. Remember, when the song talks about “dreaming,” it is not about sleep. In this case, dreams are the things that you want in life. Some people have simple dreams, and some people have BIG dreams. Some people want to live a simple, happy life, and some people want to change the world. These are the kinds of dreams we’re talking about.

  1. Do you have big dreams for your life? What are they?
  2. In some cultures, people are not encouraged to dream about their futures. What do you think about this? Do people in your culture dream about the future? Why/Why not?
  3. Do you think dreaming is foolish? Why/Why not?
  4. Think about a dream you have. Why do you have it? When did this dream start in your mind? Trace the dream back to its beginning.
  5. Do you think we need a little craziness in life? Why/Why not?
  6. Think of a person who inspires you. Tell us about him/her.
  7. What do you think about this song?
  8. Have you seen the movie? If so, did you like it? If not, would you like to see it? Why/Why not?

 

How Americans Speak – Sentence Rhythm

We have talked about shortened words. We have talked about sentence stress. This week, we are going to look at American speech rhythm. Every spoken language is like a song. Your language has a special sound, and it is different from the sound of English. The tones and rhythm of a language make its song, and learning these things in English is very important for communication.

Many students say that American people cannot understand them even though they are speaking English. Sometimes the problem is that you are saying English words, but you are still using the sound/song of your language. This confuses Americans. They think you are saying English words, but the sentences don’t sound like English.

The song of English is like a song for marching (walking like a soldier). It has strong, regular beats. We say content words on the strong beats, and we mumble (say quietly and not very clearly) the other words between the beats. If a content word has more than one syllable, we always stress one syllable more, and we put that syllable on the beat.

In this video, you can hear soldiers singing a marching song. They are clapping the beat, and you can hear them singing content words when they clap:

I want to (wanna) be an airborne ranger.
Live me a life of blood and danger.
Airborne ranger
Blood and danger

I want to (wanna) be a SCUBA diver.
Jump right in that muddy water.
Muddy water
SCUBA diver

1, 2, 3, 4
Run a little, run a little, run some more.

Here Is the Important Part

The beat stays strong and regular, and we say content words on the beat. Sometimes there is nothing between the beats. In a simple sentence where every word is a content word with one syllable, every word is spoken on the beat, and there is nothing in between.

Kim eats lunch.

Every word is a content word. Every word has one syllable. You can clap and say all of these words. Try it.

However, sometimes there are syllables between the beats.

Kim eats her lunch.

Kim is eating lunch.

Kim is eating her lunch.

Kim is eating her delicious lunch.

Try to say each sentence. Say the content words (or the stressed syllable of the content words) on the beat. Put the other words and syllables between the beats. Here is a slow beat for practice.

Ask your teacher for more practice! We will continue with our pronunciation lessons next week!

How Americans Speak – Sentence Stress

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

I have a 15- month-old baby. She is learning to speak, and she knows a lot of words, but she can’t speak in sentences yet. She says only the words she needs to communicate basic things. When she wants water, she says, “Water.” When she wants cheese, she says, “Cheese please.” When she is finished with something, she says, “All done!” In English, we call these kinds of words content words. Content words are necessary for communication.

Content words include:

  • main verbs – the verbs that show the action
  • nouns – people, places, things, ideas
  • adjectives – words that describe nouns
  • adverbs – words that describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  • negatives – no, not, never, nor, etc.
  • question words – who, what, where, when, why, how
  • interjections – Wow! No! Yay!

We also have function words – words that are necessary for grammar. Function words include:

  • articles – a/an/the
  • conjunctions – and, but, or, so, etc.
  • prepositions – of, to, from, in, etc.
  • pronouns – he, she, you, we, they, I, him, her, us, etc.
  • auxiliary verbs – have/has (in present perfect verbs), is/are/am (in present continuous verbs), modal verbs (would, could, should, can, might, must)

Function words are necessary for grammar to be correct, but without them, we can probably still understand the meaning of a sentence. Look at these words:

WANT BROTHER PLAY

Imagine you are at a soccer game with a friend. Your friend’s brother is on one of the teams, but he is not playing in the game right now. It is very loud at the game, and you can’t understand every word your friend says. You only hear, “want brother play.” What is he saying?

I WANT my BROTHER to PLAY.

You probably understood that because the content words made sense in this situation. Imagine the same words in a different situation. A 2-year-old child has a baby brother. The 2-year-old wants to play, but the baby is too little. He can’t play yet. The 2-year-old looks at his mother and says, “Want brother play!” This child is also saying, “I want my brother to play,” and we understand him because we know the situation, and it makes sense.

How is this related to MY pronunciation?

Americans pronounce content words louder and more clearly than function words. In the sentence, “I want my brother to play,” Americans will pronounce the content words (want/brother/play) very clearly, but the function words (I/my/to) will not be loud or clear.

In these sentences, the content words are in CAPITAL ITALIC letters. Try to read the sentences out loud. Say the content words loudly and clearly. Say the function words softly. You can cover your mouth when you say the function words if you want.

  1. I HAVE to GO to WORK.
  2. He TOLD me he would CALL.
  3. It’s NOT a GOOD IDEA.

Find the Content Words

Now let’s practice finding the content words. In these sentences, which words are content words? Which words are function words? Look at the lists above to help you decide.

  1. I told you not to do it.
  2. We’re going to the park.
  3. Raleigh is a great city.
  4. Hannah and her brother are playing outside.
  5. What would you like for dinner?

Here are the answers:

Sentence Content Words Function Words                                    
1 told, not, do I, you, to, it
2 going, park We’re, to, the
3 Raleigh, is, great, city a
4 Hannah, brother, playing, outside and, her, are
5 What, like, dinner would, you, for

Circle or highlight the content words. Read the sentences again, and put a strong emphasis on those words. Say the function words quietly and quickly.

Your Turn

Look in a book, magazine, or newspaper. Choose a few sentences to practice. Circle the content words. Then practice reading the sentences out loud. Pronounce the content words loudly and clearly. Pronounce the function words more quietly and less clearly. Ask your teacher if your pronunciation is correct.

How Americans Speak – Shortened Words

For ESL levels 4+

For the next couple of weeks, we are going to learn how Americans speak. Maybe you can read very well, but you cannot understand Americans when they speak. We speak quickly, and we do not pronounce all the sounds clearly. Sometimes we don’t pronounce things at all! This week, we are looking at how Americans make words and phrases shorter.

I am going to + verb

We use “going to” in 2 ways:

  1. going to + place – I am going to Target. I am going to New York.
  2. going to + verb – I am going to see him tomorrow. I am going to eat dinner.

When we use “going to” with a place, we don’t make it much shorter, but it is common for Americans to drop the final “g” on “going” (I’m goin’ to Target).

When we use “going to” with a verb, we can make it very short. You will hear all of these shortened forms of “I am going to”:

  • I’m going to (acceptable in speaking and writing)
  • I’m goin’ to (only for speaking)
  • I’m gonna (only for speaking and VERY informal writing like a text message or Facebook)
  • I’m-n-a (only for speaking)
  • I’m-a (only for speaking)

Practice saying these sentences. Remember, the part in bold has the same meaning as “I am going to.”

  • I’m going to talk to her.
  • I’m goin’ to talk to her.
  • I’m gonna talk to her.
  • I’m-n-a talk to her.
  • I’m-a talk to her.

Now practice these:

  • I’m going to find it.
  • I’m goin’ to find it.
  • I’m gonna find it.
  • I’m-n-a find it.
  • I’m-a find it.

A general rule for English is that shorter sentences are more casual, and longer sentences are more formal. I can say, “I’m-a talk to her,” to my friends, but when I speak to my boss, I will use a longer pronunciation.

What do you

When speaking quickly, Americans will say, “Whadaya.” We do not pronounce the “t” at the end of “what,” and the vowels in “do” and “you” are very relaxed. This phrase is usually followed by a verb. We put a strong emphasis on that verb.

  • What do you do? => Whadaya DO?
  • What do you want? => Whadaya WANT?
  • What do you think? => Whadaya THINK?

(What/When/Who/How/Why/Where) did you

Americans push words together when they speak, and sometimes, we combine the ending sound from one word with the beginning sound from the next word. When one word ends in “d” and the next begins with “y” (like “did + you”), we say a “j” sound. “Did you” becomes “di-ju” or “di-ja.” There is no difference between “di-ju” and di-ja.” Some Americans say “di-ju” and some say “di-ja.” Some say both. They have the same meaning.

  • What did you say? => What di-ju say?
  • When did you go there? => When di-ja go there?
  • Who did you see? => Who di-ja see?
  • How did you get here? => How di-ju get here?
  • Why did you hit me? => Why di-ju hit me?
  • Where did you eat dinner? => Where di-ja eat dinner?

want to

You have probably learned this one already. In pronunciation, “want to” becomes “wanna.” You will see “wanna” in very informal writing, like Facebook or a text message, but it is not a real word. It is only a pronunciation. In speaking, it is also common for Americans to drop “Do you” at the beginning of a question with “want to.”

  • Do you want to see a movie on Friday? => Wanna see a movie on Friday?
    OR
  • Do you want to see a movie on Friday? => Do you wanna see a movie on Friday?

I do not know

“I don’t know” often changes to “I dunno” or “I-da-no” in pronunciation. You can use it alone in response to a question:

  • Who’s playing in the Super Bowl?
    – I dunno.

Or you can use it as the beginning of a sentence:

  • I dunno who’s playing in the Super Bowl.

have to/has to

Most Americans don’t use “must.” We say “have/has to” instead. In conversation, “have to” is pronounced “hafta,” and “has to” is pronounced “hasta.”

  • I have to go to work now. => I hafta go to work now.
  • She has to pick up her son. => She hasta pick up her son.

have got to/has got to

The meaning of “have/has got to” is the same as “have/has to” or “must.” In conversation, we make this phrase VERY short. Look at how it changes.

  • I have got to answer these emails. (acceptable in speaking and writing)
  • I’ve got to answer these emails. (acceptable in speaking and writing)
  • I’ve gotta answer these emails. (only for speaking and VERY informal writing like a text message or Facebook)
  • I gotta answer these emails. (only for speaking and VERY informal writing like a text message or Facebook)
  • Gotta answer these emails. (only for speaking and VERY informal writing like a text message or Facebook)

You will see “gonna,” “wanna,” and “gotta” in very informal writing, and you will hear them in conversation, but THEY ARE NOT REAL WORDS. Do not use them in writing for school or work.

should have/could have/would have/might have/must have

If you have not learned how to use perfect modals, you can ask your teacher. Basically, when we use a modal verb (should, could, would, might, must) with “have” and a past participle, we are putting the modal verb in the past. In pronunciation, Americans do not pronounce “have” very clearly. We just say “uh” or “a.”

  • should have => shoulda
  • could have => coulda
  • would have => woulda
  • might have => mighta
  • must have => musta

Practice saying these sentences. Use the shortened pronunciation:

  • I should have used sunscreen.
  • I could have met you at the park, but I didn’t know you were there.
  • I would have gone to the store, but I didn’t know what we needed.
  • I might have left the oven on.
  • She must have forgotten about the meeting.

Watch this video to hear many of these shortened phrases spoken by a native English speaker.

How to Say Big Numbers

For many students, very big numbers are difficult to read. For example, what is this number?

436,709,582,114

Can you read it? It’s four hundred thirty-six billion, seven hundred nine million, five hundred eighty-two thousand, one hundred fourteen. Let me show you how we do it.

In the United States, we use commas in large numbers. This separates large numbers into smaller pieces. Each small piece has no more than three numbers in it – 436 / 709 / 582 / 114. Think of them separately.

  • 436 = four hundred thirty-six
  • 709 = seven hundred nine
  • 582 = five hundred eighty-two
  • 114 – one hundred fourteen

Now you just have to say them in order, and when you see a comma, you add another word like thousand or million.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Say each smaller piece (3 numbers) and then the word at the comma.

  • 952 = nine hundred fifty-two
  • 716 = seven hundred sixteen
  • 301 = three hundred one
  • 400 = four hundred
  • 538 = five hundred thirty-eight
  • 952,716,301,400,538 = nine hundred fifty-two trillion, seven hundred sixteen billion, three hundred one million, four hundred thousand, five hundred thirty-eight

How do you say a zero?

hundreds-tens-onesIn a three-digit number (like 538), the number on the left represents hundreds. The number in the middle represents tens (20, 30, 40, etc.), and the number on the right represents ones (1, 2, 3, etc.). In 538, there are 5 hundreds, 3 tens, and 8 ones.

  • 500
  •   30
  •     8

When you see a zero (0) in the hundreds place, say nothing. There are no hundreds to talk about. For example, 76 has no hundreds. You don’t say, “zero hundred seventy-six.” You only say, “seventy-six.” When you see a zero in the tens place, say nothing. There are no tens. When you see a zero in the ones place, say nothing. There are no ones. Here are some examples of numbers with zeros.

  • 1,076 = one thousand, seventy-six
  • 403 = four hundred three
  • 820 = eight hundred twenty
  • 820,403 = eight hundred twenty thousand, four hundred three
  • 400,000 = four hundred thousand
  • 7,000,000 = seven million
  • 20,001,040 = twenty million, one thousand, forty

For Fun

Listen to this song, and read the words below. Then answer the questions.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
525,000 moments so dear
525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets?
In midnights? In cups of coffee?
In inches? In miles?
In laughter? In strife?

In 525,600 minutes?
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love
Seasons of love

525,600 minutes
525,000 journeys to plan
525,600 minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried?
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died?

It’s time now to sing out.
Though the story never ends,
Let’s celebrate, remember a year
In the life of friends!

Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Measure in love.
Measure, measure your life in love.

Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Your Turn

Think about the past year (from 12 months ago until now). Discuss with your classmates.

  1. How many cups of coffee have you drunk? What is your favorite kind of coffee? How do you prepare it?
  2. How many miles have you traveled? Where was your favorite place (only in the past year)? Where do you want to go in the next year?
  3. How many new people have you met? Did you meet anyone new who is now a good friend?
  4. How many times have you laughed? When was the last time you laughed really hard? What was so funny?
  5. How many difficult times have you had? What did you learn from a difficult experience?
  6. How many friends have you celebrated? Talk about a birthday party or wedding you attended recently.
  7. Say this number: 68,037,240,900,501. Ask your teacher if you are correct.
  8. Do you think we can choose to be happy? Do you think we should always try to be happy?
  9. Have you had a good year?
  10. What do you hope the next year will bring?

Time Idioms

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In the last post, we talked about saying and writing the date in English, and last week on the Civics, Culture, and Community blog, there was a post about American time. Let’s continue talking about time by learning six idioms related to time.

How to Learn Idioms

Idioms are expressions – groups of words that do not change their order – where the whole phrase has a different meaning from the individual words. When you read or hear an idiom, you probably understand all the words, but you are still confused about the meaning.

When you learn a new idiom, it is important to learn:

  1. the meaning of the phrase
  2. the order of the words
  3. any possible ways to change the phrase

You might be able to change the phrase by changing the verb tense, changing the pronoun(s), or making nouns singular or plural. Usually, when you learn an idiom that includes a pronoun, the idiom says “one” or “someone.” When it says “one,” it means the person in the idiom is the same as the subject of the sentence. When it says “someone,” it means the person in the idiom is different from the subject of the sentence.

  • off one’s rocker – This idiom means “crazy.” There is only one person involved. I can say, “Susan is crazy.” Or I can say, “Susan is off her rocker.” I use “her” because Susan is a woman and “one’s” is possessive.
  • to stab someone in the back – This idiom means “to hurt someone and break their trust.” There are two people in this situation. The person in the idiom is different from the subject of the sentence. I can say, “Bill hurt me and broke my trust.” Or I can say, “Bill stabbed me in the back.” It’s also possible that Bill stabbed Susan in the back. Notice that I used the verb in the past tense. I can also use it in the present or future. Also, we always say “the back,” never “my back” or “her back.”

In the following idioms, I will give you example sentences so that you can better understand how to learn idioms.

Six Idioms Related to Time

Now it’s time to learn six English time idioms! Watch the video, and then read the definitions and example sentences below.

  • to have the time of one’s life – to have a great time/to have a lot of fun/to enjoy an experience very much
    – I had the time of my life at my wedding.
    – Sharon is going to have the time of her life at her surprise party.
    – Steve has been having the time of his life at his new job.
  • to take one’s time – to do something as slowly as necessary/not to rush
    – You can take your time on the exam. There is no time limit.
    – We were late to the party because Sharon took her time getting ready.
    – I don’t want to have an accident, so I will take my time and be careful.
  • to do time – to spend time in jail or prison
    – Peter did time after he robbed a gas station.
    – If Wanda is convicted, she will have to do time.
  • to run out of time – to have insufficient time to complete something
    – I didn’t finish the exam because I ran out of time.
    – Paul has run out of time on his project. He should email his professor to ask for more time.
  • to give someone a hard time – to give someone difficulty/to treat someone harshly/to pick on someone or make fun of someone
    – Some college professors give new students a hard time to see who is serious about learning.
    – Brian’s coworkers gave him a hard time when they saw the love note from his wife in his lunch bag.
  • to be ahead of one’s time – to have thoughts, ideas, or actions that are not normal for a person’s time in history (but will become normal in the future)
    – My great-grandmother was ahead of her time. She went to college at a time when most women did not get more than a high school education.
    – Leonardo da Vinci was way ahead of his time. He drew plans for a helicopter almost 500 years before the first helicopter was built.

Your Turn

Do you think you understand all of these idioms? Click here to take a quiz!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – Intermediate Grammar/Listening Practice

For ESL levels 3 and up.

This song is by a band called U2. Maybe you have heard about them. They have been making music for a very long time. Most of the verbs in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” are in the present perfect tense. This chart shows how to make present perfect verbs:

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

If you are confused about subjects and don’t know which one you need, please read the explanation in the last post.

Past Participles

Now let’s talk about past participles. Every verb has several different forms. One form is the base form. This is the verb with no changes – no -s, no -ed, no -ing at the end, no “to” at the beginning. “Be” is a base verb. “Go” is a base verb. “Eat” is a base verb.

Another form is the past simple form. We use this to talk about action in the past. “Was,” “went,” and “ate” are past simple verbs.

  • Yesterday, I was hungry. I went to a restaurant. I ate some food.

Another form of a verb is the past participle. Many times, the past simple form and the past participle form are the same. If the past simple form of a verb ends in -ed, the past participle is usually the same.

  • walked (past simple) – walked (past participle)
  • shopped (past simple) – shopped (past participle)
  • wanted (past simple) – wanted (past participle)

However, many verbs in English are irregular. That means they don’t have an -ed ending in both the past simple and past participle forms. There are MANY irregular verbs in English. Click here to see and download a chart of many common irregular verbs.

Here is the song.

The verbs are in parentheses ( ). Write the verbs in present perfect tense. Don’t forget to use have/has and the past participle form of the verb. Then listen to the song. Click here to download and print the words.

I  _________________________ (climb) highest mountains
I ___________________(run) through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I ___________________(run), I ___________________________(crawl)
I _______________________(scale) these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for
But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for

I __________________________(kiss) honeyed lips
___________________(feel) the healing fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I __________________________(speak) with the tongue of angels
I __________________________(hold) the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for
But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
You carried the cross
And all my shame
All my shame
You know I believe it

But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for
But I still ___________________________(not find)
What I’m looking for

Now listen to the song.

What questions do you have?

  • Do you have questions about the vocabulary in the song?
  • Do you have questions about present perfect verbs?
  • Do you have questions about past participles or irregular verbs?

Ask your teacher or leave a comment!

Your Turn

Discuss your answers to these questions with your classmates:

  • Did you like this song? Why or why not?
  • What do you think the man is looking for? Do you think he will find it?
  • What are you looking for in life? Have you found it?

Without You – Beginning Listening/Grammar Practice

For ESL levels 2 and up.

This song is from a musical play called Rent. It is about a group of friends in New York City in the 1990s. A man and a woman sing this song together. All of the verbs in “Without You” are in the present simple tense. This chart shows how to make present simple verbs:

Present Simple Verb Chart

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Some students are confused about some of these subjects. I will explain a little.

  • We use “they” for all plural nouns (people or things).
    – brothers = they
    – telephones = they
    – teachers = they
    – cities = they
  • We use “it” for singular and noncount nouns (things only). We sometimes use “it” for animals (when we don’t know if the animal is male or female).
    – telephone = it
    – city = it
    – grass = it
    – coffee = it
    – dog = it
  • We use “he” and “she” for singular people. We sometimes use “he” and “she” for animals (when we know an animal is male or female, like a pet). We RARELY use “he” or “she” for things.
    – brother = he
    – sister = she
    – teacher = he (man) or she (woman)
    – dog = he (male) or she (female)

The subject of each verb is in italics. You must decide how to write the verb – with s or without s. Click here to print the song.

Without you,
The ground _________________ (thaw),
The rain _________________ (fall),
The grass _________________ (grow).

Without you,
The seeds _________________ (root),
The flowers _________________ (bloom),
The children _________________ (play).

The stars _________________ (gleam),
The poets _________________ (dream),
The eagles _________________ (fly)
Without you.

The earth _________________ (turn),
The sun _________________ (burn),
But I _________________ (die)
Without you.

Without you,
The breeze _________________ (warm),
The girl _________________ (smile),
The cloud _________________ (move).

Without you,
The tides _________________ (change),
The boys _________________ (run),
The oceans _________________ (crash).

The crowds _________________ (roar),
The days _________________ (soar),
The babies _________________ (cry)
Without you.

The moon _________________ (glow),
The river _________________ (flow),
But I _________________ (die)
Without you.

The world _________________ (revive),
Colors _________________ (renew),
But I _________________ (know) blue, only blue,
Lonely blue,
Within me, blue.

Without you.

Without you,
The hand _________________ (grope),
The ear _________________ (hear),
The pulse _________________ (beat).

Without you,
The eyes _________________ (gaze),
The legs _________________ (walk),
The lungs _________________ (breathe).

The mind _________________ (churn),
The heart _________________ (yearn),
The tears _________________ (dry)
Without you.

Life _________________ (go) on,
But I _________________ (be) gone
‘Cause I _________________ (die)
Without you.

Without you
Without you
Without you

Now listen to the song.

What questions do you have?

  • Do you have questions about the vocabulary in the song?
  • Do you have questions about present simple verbs?
  • Do you have questions about subjects – I, you, we, they, he, she, it?

Ask your teacher or leave a comment!

Talk to me!

  • Did you like this song? Why or why not?
  • Do you want more music on the blog?
  • Do you want more grammar on the blog? What do you want to learn?

Leave a comment, and tell me how I can improve the English Language blog!