Summer Homework!

The blogs are going on vacation for the summer. **** I’ve  refreshed an earlier post with great ideas for  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.


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


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.

Online Listening Practice for All Levels

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

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

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

For ALL Levels

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

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

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

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

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

For Advanced Students

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons on States

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

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

Levels 1 and 2 – Prepositions of Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk with your classmates.

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

Levels 3 and 4 – Compass Directions

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levels 5 and 6 – Abbreviations and Internet Research

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

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

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

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

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

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

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!

Family Relationships

“The holidays are coming up.”

Americans say this before Thanksgiving. When we say “the holidays,” we are talking about all the special days at the end of the year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. “Coming up” means coming or happening soon. We spend a lot of time with our families during the holidays, so this week, we’re going to learn what we call our relatives. By the way, “relatives” is a general word we use for people in our families. All of your relatives are related to you.

Immediate Family

Your immediate family is very closely related to you. Immediate family includes parents (mother and father), siblings (brothers and sisters), and children (sons and daughters).

Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you know this family? Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama are immediate family.

Malia and Sasha are sisters. They are the daughters of Barack and Michelle.

Michelle Obama is the mother of Malia and Sasha. She is the wife of Barack.

Barack is the father of Malia and Sasha. He is Michelle’s husband.

Barack and Michelle are the parents of Malia and Sasha.

Immediate family can also include these people:

  • half siblings – A half brother or half sister shares one parent (mother or father) with you, but not both. Maybe you have the same father, but different mothers, or you have the same mother, but different fathers.
  • step siblings – A step brother or step sister has different parents from you, but one of his/her parents is married now to one of your parents. For example, Brian and Kate have different parents (different mothers AND different fathers), but Brian’s mother is now married to Kate’s father. Brian and Kate are step siblings. Brian is Kate’s step brother. Kate is Brian’s step sister.
  • step parents – A step mother or step father is not your biological parent, but is married to one of your biological parents.
  • step children – A step son or step daughter is not your biological child, but you are married to one of the child’s biological parents.

Extended Family

Your extended family is outside of your immediate family. It includes:

  • aunts
  • uncles
  • grandparents
  • grandchildren
  • cousins
  • great-grandparents (great-great-grandparents, etc.)
  • in-laws
  • and more

Here is a short description of each family member’s relationship to you.

  • aunt – the sister of your father or mother/the wife of your uncle
  • uncle – the brother of your father or mother/the husband of your aunt
  • grandmother – the mother of your mother or father
  • grandfather – the father of your mother or father
  • grandparents – your grandmother and grandfather
  • grandson – the son of your son or daughter
  • granddaughter – the daughter of your son or daughter
  • grandchildren – your grandsons and granddaughters
  • cousin – the son or daughter of your aunt/uncle
  • great-grandparents – the parents of your grandparents
  • great-great-grandparents – the parents of your great-grandparents (for each extra generation, add another “great”)
  • in-laws – the family of your spouse/the spouse of your family
    – The mother of my husband is my mother-in-law.
    – The husband of my sister is my brother-in-law.
    – My husband’s family are my in-laws.

Your Turn

Make a family tree to show the relationships in your family. Use this tree to start, but add more relationships and names. Ask your teacher for help if you need it. Then show the tree to your class and talk about your family. You can say:

  • I have ___ sisters and ___ brothers. Their names are…
  • My parents are ______________ and ______________.
  • My mother has ___ sisters and ___ brothers. My aunts’ names are…, and my uncles’ names are…
  • I have ___ cousins.

Tell as much as you can!

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Health Problems: Part 1

When you are sick, can you explain your problems? This is important! When you go to the doctor, you must give correct information. This week, we will learn different ways to talk about common health problems.

Head Pain


By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When you feel pain in your head, you can say:
– I have a headache. (Pronunciation: /hed-eik/)
– My head hurts.

A doctor might ask you:
– Did you hit your head?
– Did you bump your head?
(“Hit” and “bump” are the same.)

Stomach Pain/Discomfort

stomach ache

By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are different kinds of stomach pain. If you eat too much junk food, you can say:
– My stomach is upset.
– I have an upset stomach.
– My stomach hurts.
– I feel sick.
– I have indigestion.

If you feel like you need to vomit, you can say:
– I’m nauseous.
– I feel nauseous.
– I feel queasy.
– I am queasy.
– I feel like I’m going to throw up.
– I’m going to be sick.
– I feel sick to my stomach.
(We have many ways to say “vomit” – throw up, puke, hurl. Ask your teacher for more words and expressions.)

If you have a strong pain in a specific place, you can point to the place and say:
– It hurts here.
– I have a strong pain here.
– I feel a sharp pain here.

A doctor might ask you:
– What have you eaten recently?
– When was the last time you ate?
– On a scale of 1-10, how much does it hurt? (If you have only a little pain, you say 1. If it is the worst pain of your life, you say 10.)
– Have you had any diarrhea? (Diarrhea is very watery – liquid – poop.)


We always say:
– a cold
– the flu

I don’t know why we always use “a” with cold and “the” with flu, but we do. Always. Usually, you have a fever with the flu. You probably do not have a fever with a cold. The other symptoms are similar.

This means that you have mucous in your head, nose, or lungs. If there is too much mucous in your sinuses, you might get a headache. If there is too much mucous in your nose, you will have trouble breathing. If there is too much mucous in your lungs, your chest feels tight. When the mucous comes out of your nose, we call it mucous or snot. When the mucous comes out of your lungs, we call it mucous or phlegm (pronunciation: /flem/).

You can say:
– I have sinus congestion. (In your head)
– I have chest congestion. (In your chest/lungs)
– My nose is stopped up.
– I have a stuffy nose.

Runny nose
When snot comes out of your nose like water, you have a runny nose. When you push snot out of your nose with air (into a tissue, usually), you are blowing your nose.

You can say:
– I have a runny nose.
– My nose is runny.
– My nose is running.

When your body wants to force mucous out of the lungs, you cough. You also cough when you are choking.

You can say:
– I have a cough.
– I’ve been coughing.

A doctor might ask you:
– When did you start feeling bad?
– What color is your mucous/snot/phlegm?
– Is your cough productive or dry? (Productive = mucous comes out. Dry = nothing comes out.)
– Have you had a fever?
– Are you feeling any chills (like you are cold)?
– Do you have any pain?
– Any nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea?

Transportation Vocabulary

For ESL levels 1+

In your class, you probably learned some words for vehicles (kinds of transportation – bus, car, airplane, etc.). This week, we are going to learn some important words to use WITH those vehicles. For example, we say that we get in a car, but we get on a bus. Do you know when to use “get in” and “get on”?

Get In vs. Get On

We use “get in” for smaller vehicles that carry only a few people – cars, trucks, small boats, etc. The opposite of “get in” is “get out of”. When you arrive at your destination, you get out of a car. Look at this picture. Ask your teacher about words that you do not know.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

How many people can use these vehicles at one time? Probably not more than 10.

Now, let’s look at “get on”. The opposite of “get on” is “get off”. We use these phrases for bigger vehicles like buses, airplanes, and large boats, but we also use them for small vehicles for only one person. We use “get on/off” for bicycles, motorcycles, and horses because you sit on top of them. You can use “get on/off” for anything you sit or stand on top of (skateboard, surfboard, elephant, etc.). Look at this picture. Ask your teacher to explain words you do not know.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Ride, Drive, or Take?

Finally, let’s look at three words:

  1. ride
  2. drive
  3. take

We use these words with different vehicles.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

We use “drive” or “ride in” for the same vehicles. Use “drive” if you are operating the vehicle. Use “ride in” if you are a passenger. In this old picture, a man is driving a car, and his family is riding in the car.

Sharpe family posing in their new car – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sharpe family posing in their new car – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Your Turn

Finish these conversations. Practice with your classmates.

  1. A: How did you get here?
    B: I ______________ my car.
  2. A: Do you ______________ the bus to school?
    B: No, I usually ______________ my bike.
  3. A: Where do you ______________ the bus?
    B: There is a bus stop near my house.
  4. A: Can you ______________ a skateboard?
    B: No, but my cousin can.
  5. A: Do you ______________ a bicycle these days?
    B: No. I ______________ a bike when I was young, but now I ______________ a car.

House Vocabulary and Problems (Part 1)

For ESL Levels 1-3

Do you have problems with things in your house? Can you talk about these problems? This week, we will learn some words for things and problems in your house. You will see the name of a thing, a picture of the thing, and some common problems with it.

First, here are some important words about problems. All of the words are problems.

  • leaking – Water is coming out.
  • clogged/stopped up – Water is not moving down.
  • dripping – Water is coming out little by little.
  • overflowing – There is too much water. It is coming out and falling on the floor.




photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The toilet is leaking.
  • The toilet is running. (I hear the water in the toilet for a long time. It does not stop.)
  • The toilet doesn’t flush. (NO water moves at all.)
  • The toilet is stopped up.
  • The toilet is overflowing.



photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The sink is leaking.
  • The faucet is dripping.
  • There is no water.
  • The sink is overflowing.


The paint is peeling.

The paint is peeling.
photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

The paint is cracked.

The paint is cracked.
photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The paint is cracked.
  • The paint is peeling.



photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The refrigerator isn’t working. / The refrigerator is broken.
  • The refrigerator is leaking.


photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The shower is dripping.
  • The shower is leaking.



photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The door is broken.
  • The door is sticking. (The door touches the area around it. It is difficult to open and close.)
  • The door won’t close.
  • The door is squeaking. (The door makes noise when it moves.)
  • The lock is broken.



photo by WTCC instructor ecparent


  • The carpet is dirty.
  • The carpet is torn.
  • The floor is scratched.
  • The floor is uneven.

Light Bulb


photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

The lamp is on, but there is no light. What is the problem?


  • The light bulb is burnt out.

Water Heater

The water heater is usually in a closet, basement, or attic. It looks like this.

Water Heater

By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


  • The water heater isn’t working. / There is no hot water.
  • The water heater is leaking.

Air Conditioner

Your air conditioner has two big parts. One part is outside your house. The other part is inside your house. This picture shows the outside part.

Trane unit installation Richardson, TX

photo by Samms Heating and Air, Plano Air Conditioning Repair Company – – Used with permission

This picture shows the inside part.

Indoors trane air conditioning pic

photo by Samms Heating and Air, Plano Air Conditioning Repair Company – – Used with permission


  • The air conditioner isn’t working.
  • The air blows, but it isn’t cold.
  • The air smells bad.
  • The air conditioner is frozen. / There is ice on the air conditioner.

Body Parts

Today, we are going to learn the names of our body parts. Look at this man.

Body Parts

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Now, we will look at some smaller body parts. All of the fingers have names.

Hand Parts

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Here are the parts of the face.

Face Parts

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Here are the parts of the eye.

Eye Parts

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Your Turn

Talk with your classmates.

  1. Are you wearing a ring? Which finger is your ring on?
  2. Do you paint your fingernails? Why/Why not?
  3. I ask, “What color are your eyes?” Which part of the eye are we talking about?
  4. Which body parts are included in the torso?
  5. Which body parts are included in the head?

5 Easy Rules for Using THE

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

I know what you’re thinking. There are no easy rules for using “the.” It is true that articles (a/an/the) are very difficult to master, but here are five simple rules you can start using today.

1. Use “the” with names of rivers, seas, and oceans, but not lakes.

We use “the” with the names of rivers and oceans. We do not use “the” with the names of lakes. It’s a weird rule, but it’s not difficult.

  • the Nile (or the Nile river)
  • the Amazon (or the Amazon river)
  • the Mississippi (or the Mississippi river)
  • the Mediterranean Sea (or the Mediterranean)
  • the Caribbean Sea (or the Caribbean)
  • the Atlantic Ocean (or the Atlantic)
  • the Pacific Ocean (or the Pacific)
  • Lake Johnson (NOT the Lake Johnson)
  • Jordan Lake (NOT the Jordan Lake)

2. Use “the” with some country names.

We use “the” with names of countries that:

  • include a noun as part of the name (state, republic, kingdom, etc.) – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic, the People’s Republic of China
  • include a plural word – the United States, the Philippines, the Netherlands

We do not use “the” with names of most countries – China, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil.

3. Use “the” for mountain and island chains (groups), but not for individual mountains or islands.

In these sentences, notice that the name of the tallest mountain does not use “the,” but the name of the mountain chain does use “the.”

  • Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain in the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in the Alps.

In these sentences, notice that the name of the biggest island does not use “the,” but the name of the island chain does use “the.”

  • Andros is the biggest island in the Bahamas.
  • Tenerife is the biggest island in the Canary Islands.

4. Use “the” with superlative words.

We always use “the” when we use superlative adjectives and adverbs (best, worst, most, least, biggest, smallest, etc.).

  • the tallest mountain
  • the biggest island
  • the best singer
  • the worst restaurant
  • the hottest pepper

5. Use “the” with ordinal numbers.

We usually use “the” with numbers that show order (first, second, third, etc.).

  • I live on the third floor.
  • Nora is always the first student to arrive.
  • On November 21, 1789, North Carolina became the twelfth state.

Of course, there are many more rules for using “the” in English, but you can start with these five.

Your Turn

In these sentences, decide if the spaces need “the” or not.

  1. On my vacation, I visited ____ Cayman Brac in ____ Cayman Islands.
  2. ____ United States of America is ____ fourth largest country in the world.
  3. Russia is ____ largest country in the world.
  4. My sister lives on ____ 5th floor.
  5. I have visited, ____ Appalachian Mountains, ____ Mediterranean Sea, ____ Mississippi river, and ____ Lake Como.