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

This, That, These, and Those

This week, we are going to learn about 4 words:

  1. this
  2. that
  3. these
  4. those

We will begin with an easy lesson, and then we will continue to some more difficult lessons. You can choose your lessons.

Lesson for Levels 1-3

Look at the chart, and read the explanations for each word.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

THIS – Use for 1 thing close to you.
**Example** I am touching a book, or I can touch it because it is near me. It is only one book. I say, “This book is good.”

THAT – Use for 1 thing far away.
**Example** A book is far away. I cannot touch the book because it is far from me. I point with my finger and say, “That book is good.”

THESE – Use for 2+ things close to you.
**Example** I am touching 4 books, or I can touch them because they are near me. There are many books. I say, “These books are good.”

THOSE – Use for 2+ things far away.
**Example** Four books are on the book shelf. I am not near the book shelf. I cannot touch the books because they are far from me. I say, “Those books are good.”

Your Turn

Write a short sentence with each noun. If the noun is singular (near), add “this.” If the noun is singular (far), add “that.” If the noun is plural (near), add “these.” If the noun is plural (far), add “those.”

Example 1: table (near) – This table is tall.
Example 2: tables (far) – Those tables are old.

  1. cup (near)
  2. dog (far)
  3. sofa (near)
  4. babies (near)
  5. buildings (far)
  6. jacket (far)
  7. toys (far)
  8. bags (near)
  9. shirt (near)
  10. pants (far)

Lessons for Levels 3-6

First, make sure you understand the easy lesson. Now I will add some more information.

Lesson #1
Some things are near or far in space. For example, I can touch something because it is close to me, or I cannot touch something because it is far away.

Things can also be near or far in time. For example, I am listening to music. The music is playing now. “Now” is close to me in time, so I can say, “this music” or “this song.” When the song is finished, I will probably say, “that song” because it is not so close to me in time now. Here are some more examples:

  • I am watching a movie with my friend now. I say, “This movie is exciting!”
  • I watched a movie with my friend yesterday. We are talking about the movie now. I say, “That movie was exciting!”
  • I am at a party. I say, “This party is fun!”
  • I am planning to go to a party on Saturday. I say, “That party will be fun!”

Lesson #2
When we introduce people in English, we usually say “this” or “these.” We do not usually say “he,” “she,” or “they.” I know it’s strange because we usually use “he,” “she,” or “they” for people, but in the case of introductions, we use “this” or “these.” For example:

  • These are my parents, Don and Sheila Mosby.
  • This is my friend Kyle.
  • This is Ashley.
  • These are my sisters, Michelle, Angela, Shelley, Kathryn, Rebecca, Denise, and Lisa.

Lesson for Levels 5+

This is an advanced grammar lesson. First, make sure you understand the easier lessons. Now I will give you some more information.

Lesson #1
This, that, these, and those are called “demonstratives” in English because they demonstrate (show) which thing/things we are talking about. We can use these words as adjectives or pronouns.

  • When a demonstrative is an adjective, it has a noun after it. – this book, these people, those rooms, that song
  • When a demonstrative is a pronoun, it includes the noun, so it does not have a noun after it. – That is my coffee. This is your shirt. These are our plates. Those were my friends. – You don’t have to say, “This shirt is your shirt.” It is only necessary to say “shirt” one time.

Maybe you noticed that we use demonstrative pronouns when we introduce people.
– This is my friend Kyle.

You can also use a demonstrative adjective in an introduction if you add a noun.
– This man is my friend Kyle.

In general, Americans speak very efficiently. We say things as clearly as we can with short sentences and words. If your sentence is clear with a demonstrative pronoun, it is not necessary to use a noun with a demonstrative.

Lesson #2
When you use a demonstrative adjective, you never need these words:

  • a/an
  • the
  • my/your/his/her/our/their/its

Your Turn

You can practice using “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” on this website. Click an exercise to take a quiz. Have fun! I hope THIS lesson helps you!

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?