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.

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?

Prepositions of Time

Used with permission from Toni Verdú Carbó via a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Prepositions are difficult. Many students have problems with prepositions. Here are some rules for using prepositions of time.

Preposition Use Examples
in with months a in April; in December
a year in 1785; in 2011
seasons in winter; in the fall of 1972
the morning, the afternoon, the evening in the morning; in the afternoon; in the evening
a length of time into the future in an hour (= 1 hour in the future from now); in two weeks (= 2 weeks in the future from now)
at night, midnight, dawn at night; at dawn; at midnight
a specific time of day at 6 o’clock; at 8:30
a time of year near a holiday at Christmas; at Easter
time phrases that show a specific time or moment at the same time; at the moment
on days of the week on Monday; on Saturday
dates on the 13th of November; on November 13
holidays and special days on Halloween; on the Fourth of July; on my birthday
a part of the day when the date is given on the morning of September the 11th*
for a length or duration of time for three weeks; for an hour
since from a time in the past until now since 2005; since this morning; since I woke up yesterday
from … to
from… till/until
beginning and end times from Monday to Wednesday
from Monday till Wednesday
from Monday until Wednesday
during in the middle of something continuing during the week; during class

Practice

Now you can practice using these prepositions. Work alone or with your classmates to complete the sentences. More than one answer may be possible. Ask your teacher to check your answers.

  1. They are getting married __________ Sunday __________ 3 o’clock.
  2. __________ midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a dog barking.
  3. The party will be __________ Sunday __________ 4:00 __________ the afternoon.
  4. Spring begins __________ March 21, and summer begins __________ June 21.
  5. The last time I saw Pedro was __________ the summer of 2006.
  6. The festival took place __________ August.
  7. They came to this country __________ August 5, 2008.
  8. They came to this country __________ 2008.
  9. The ESL classes went  __________ May __________ August.
  10. He has not felt well __________ a long time, ever __________ his crash.
  11. They never go out __________ night __________ the week.
  12. We’ll be ready to leave __________ an hour.
  13. I will see you ___________ the afternoon.
  14. __________ the storm, all the lights were out __________ several hours.
  15. He has been away from home __________ January 12.
  16. The temperature is below zero. __________ a few hours, the pond should be frozen over.
  17. He had been away from home __________ two weeks.
  18. She will be here __________ a few hours.
  19. Hannah’s party is __________ the Saturday before her birthday.
  20. I’m sorry that my phone rang __________ class.

Talk with your classmates about these sentences. How does the meaning change with a different preposition?

  1. I will see you in the afternoon.
    I will see you before the afternoon.
  2. They came to this country before 2008.
    They came to this country after 2008.
    They came to this country in 2008.
  3. We have ESL classes from January to March.
    We have ESL classes in January and March.
  4. She will be here for a few hours.
    She will be here in a few hours.

Clothes for All Levels

This week, we will look at clothes. We will learn the names of clothes. Study the vocabulary for your level:

  • Easy – Level 1 and Level 2
  • Medium – Level 3 and Level 4
  • Difficult – Level 5 and Level 6

If you have questions about the words, you can ask your teacher.

Photo #1

Dress

photo used with permission from Amaris Photography – http://amarisphoto.com/

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress is blue.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are red.
– She is wearing a blue dress. She is wearing red shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress and red, high-heeled shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress with cap-sleeves. She’s also wearing red heels with t-straps.

Photo #2

Vicky's Dress

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • pantyhose
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress has flowers on it.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are black.
– She is wearing pantyhose. The pantyhose are black.
– The woman is wearing black shoes, black pantyhose, and a dress with flowers on it.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, flowered dress, black pantyhose, and black dress shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black, flowered dress, black hose, and pointy-toed, black dress shoes.

Photo #3

Lane's Summer Clothes

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a tank top (or sleeveless shirt)
  • shorts

Easy – The woman is wearing a tank top. The tank top is blue.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are blue.
– She is wearing a blue tank top and blue shorts.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top and long, dark blue shorts.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top with embroidery at the neckline and long, dark blue, denim shorts with cuffs.

Photo #4

Beth's Coat

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a coat
  • a scarf

Easy – The woman is wearing a coat. The coat is black.
– She is wearing a scarf. The scarf is purple.
– She is wearing a black coat and a purple scarf.

Medium – This woman is wearing a hip-length, black coat and a large, purple scarf.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a hip-length, hooded pea coat and a large, purple scarf with tassels.

Photo #5

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a t-shirt
  • sunglasses
  • earrings

Easy – The woman is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is pink.
– She is wearing sunglasses. The sunglasses are dark.
– She is wearing earrings. The earrings are silver.
– She is wearing a pink t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver earrings.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings. The t-shirt is nice and would be appropriate for work in many places.

Photo #6

By Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (P120612PS-0463 (direct link)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • Barack Obama
  • a shirt
  • a tie
  • a jacket

Easy – Barack Obama is wearing a shirt. The shirt is white.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is dark blue.
– He is wearing a tie. The tie is royal blue.
– President Obama is wearing a white shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie.

Medium – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie with white spots.

Difficult – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down, collared shirt, a royal blue tie with white spots, a dark blue suit jacket with an American flag pin on the lapel, and a watch.

Photo #7

By May Lee [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • a man
  • a t-shirt
  • a jacket
  • jeans
  • boots

Easy – The man is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is gray.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is gray.
– He is wearing jeans. The jeans are blue.
– He is wearing boots. The boots are brown.
– This man is wearing a gray t-shirt, a gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown boots.

Medium – This man is wearing a gray graphic t-shirt, a dark gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Difficult – This man is wearing a gray t-shirt with a skull design, a gray denim jacket, cuffed blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Photo #8

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a jacket
  • shorts
  • socks
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a jacket. The jacket is black.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are pink.
– She is wearing socks. The socks are tall.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are for running.
– This woman is wearing a black jacket, pink shorts, tall socks, and running shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, tall, striped socks, and purple running shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, striped knee-socks, and purple running shoes. The dog is wearing a collar with a leash.

Your Turn

What are you wearing? Describe your outfit (clothes that you are wearing together). Describe the outfits of your classmates.

Confusing Pairs – What’s the difference?

This week, we are going to look at pairs (2) or groups of words that students often confuse. For example, do you know the difference between “borrow” and “lend”? What about “dead” and “died”? Many students are confused by these pairs. Let’s look at them (and more!) to learn the differences.

Dead vs. Died

“Dead” is an adjective. We use it to describe a person who was alive before, but is not alive now. “Died” is a pas verb (present is “die”). We use it to describe what a person does. For example, my grandmother died many years ago. She is not alive now. She is dead.

We also use these words for electronics and appliances when they stop working. For example, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you last night. My phone died.” Here, we mean that the battery died, so the phone had no power. Here’s another example: “We need a new refrigerator. Ours is dead.” This means the refrigerator does not function any more. There is something wrong with it, and we cannot repair it.

Borrow vs. Lend

  • borrow (v) – to take for a short time
  • lend (v) – to give for a short time

I do not have a pencil. I need a pencil. You have a pencil. I want to take your pencil for a moment. I want to borrow your pencil. I ask, “Can I borrow your pencil?” I can also ask, “Would you lend me your pencil?”

Meet vs. See

When I go to a new place with new people, I meet new people. I say, “It’s nice to meet you.” I only say that the first time. When I see someone I already know, I say, “It’s nice to see you.”

(first meeting, at a party)
Ana: Hi, I’m Ana.
Kyle: It’s nice to meet you, Ana. I’m Kyle.
Ana: Nice to meet you, too.

(one week later, at the supermarket)
Kyle: Ana?
Ana: Oh hi, Kyle! It’s nice to see you again.
Kyle: Nice to see you, too.

Remind vs. Remember

Remember only requires one person. When an idea or thought comes into my mind again, I remember. For example, I think, “I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels from the bathroom and put them in the dirty laundry.” Then I go into the bathroom and think, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” Then the thought comes into my mind again. “Oh yes, I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels and put them in the dirty laundry.” When the thought comes into my mind the 2nd time, I remember why I came into the bathroom.

Remind might require two people. When someone helps me to have an idea or thought again, that person reminds me. For example, I think, “I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels from the bathroom and put them in the dirty laundry.” Then I go into the bathroom and think, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” I say to my husband, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” He says, “You are going to get the towels.” Then the thought comes into my mind again. “Oh yes, I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels and put them in the dirty laundry.” When my husband says, “You are going to get the towels,” he reminds me that I am going to wash them. He helps me to remember.

You can put an appointment in the calendar of your phone, and your phone will remind you about the appointment. Your phone helps you to remember.

See vs. Look vs. Watch

  • see (v) – to use your eyes / to take information into your brain with your eyes
  • look (v) – to put your eyes in a specific direction on purpose / to direct your eyes to something / to try to see something
  • watch (v) – to put your eyes on something that is moving / to direct your eyes to a moving object, show, game, etc.

If your eyes function normally, you can see. Light comes into your eyes, and your brain understands images. You do not do this on purpose. It is simply normal if your eyes work normally.

“Look” and “watch” are actions that you do on purpose. You move your eyes because you want to see something (you want your brain to take information in and understand the image). When you put your eyes on something, you look. When you put your eyes on something that is moving or changing for some time, you watch.

Here is an example. A father and his daughter are at a park. The father receives a text message while daughter goes down the slide.

daughter: Dad! I went down the slide! Did you see me?
dad: No, honey, I’m sorry. I wasn’t watching.
daughter: Watch me this time!
dad: Ok!
(Dad receives another text. He looks at his phone.)
daughter: Look, Dad! Watch me!
dad: I saw you that time. Great job!

“Look” and “watch” are like “paying attention” with the eyes. When you move your eyes in a specific direction, you are looking. When you pay attention for a period of time (long or short), you are watching.

Discuss vs. Argue

  • discuss (v) – to talk about
  • argue (v) – to fight with words

You can remember the difference because Argue and Angry both begin with A. Is it possible to discuss something angrily? Yes. We call that arguing.

Your Turn

Choose a pair/group of words you want to practice. Write some sentences or a conversation with them. Ask your teacher if you used the words correctly. You can also write your sentences in a comment, and I will tell you if you have used the words correctly.

Types of Families

Being Healthy is Beautiful by Army Medicine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Being Healthy is Beautiful by Army Medicine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This week, we are going to continue talking about families. Last time, you learned about family relationships. This week, we are going to talk about types of families. There are six different types of families we can see in our society today.

Nuclear Families

A nuclear family is two adults with at least one child. When most people think about a family, this is the kind of family they imagine. However, there are different kinds of nuclear families. Some have many children while others have only one. Some have a mother and a father while others have two parents of the same gender. Some have biological children, and others have adopted children. These are all nuclear families.

Single-Parent Families

In a single-parent family, there is only one adult who is raising children. The other parent might not be there for many different reasons – death, divorce, etc. About 25% of American children are born to single mothers.

Blended Families (Step Families)

A blended family forms when one single parent marries another single parent. For example, Sharon and her husband have 2 kids, and then they get divorced. Michael and his wife have 3 kids, and then they get divorced. Sharon and Michael get married to each other, and now they have 5 kids – 2 from Sharon’s previous marriage, and 3 from Michael’s previous marriage. They have blended (mixed/put together) two families.

Grandparent Families

Sometimes, for various reasons, a child is raised by his grandparents instead of his parents. When grandparents are raising their grandchildren without help from the children’s parents, this is a grandparent family.

Childless Families

Not all families have children. Some couples choose not to have children, and some couples are not able to have children, but they are still a family.

Extended Families

An extended family might include one or two parents, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and/or cousins all living together. As grandparents get older, they might move in with their adult children and grandchildren. Or if a spouse (husband or wife) dies, another adult family member might move in to help with the children. There are many reasons why a family might live together in this way.

Your Turn

Write your answers to these questions, or talk about them with your classmates.

  1. What makes a family – blood or love?
  2. What are some of the reasons people choose to adopt a child?
  3. Should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt children? Why or why not?
  4. Are your grandparents still alive? Did you meet them?
  5. Which type of family do you have now? Which type did you have when you were a child?
  6. Would you live with your parents after getting married? Why or why not?
  7. Who should take care of old people? Why?
  8. Describe a typical family in your country.
  9. Do you think married couples should have children? Why or why not? What do you think of married couples who choose not to have children?
  10. Is it okay to have more than one spouse? Would you like to be in this kind of family (as a spouse or as a child)?

Summer Homework!

The blogs are going on vacation for the summer, so I’m here today with your summer homework. Click on the blue links to learn and practice until we return with new lessons in the fall!

Confusing Word Choices

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In these blogs, we teach you the differences between two (or more) confusing words or phrases. Click each one to learn more.

Speaking/Pronunciation

In these posts, we teach you how to pronounce or say something.

Grammar

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions I hear from students.

Practical English

These articles will help you with the English you need every day.