Reading Pronunciation (Levels 1-3)

Van (image by 天然ガス)

Van (image by 天然ガス)

Is it difficult to read in English? Sometimes, we write and pronounce words differently. For example, you read, “I walked to school” like “I walkt to skool.” Sometimes the spelling and the pronunciation is not the same.

But there is good news! You can learn pronunciation rules that can help you pronounce words correctly. About 80% of English uses pronunciation rules. The other 20% are exceptions.

There is an order to learning the 44 sounds of English.


  • consonants (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z)
  • 5 short vowels (a, e, i, o, u)
  • words with short vowels (cat, leg, lip, mop, rug)
  • consonant blends (brush, grass, smart, etc.)
  • 5 long vowels (a, e, i, o, u)
  • words with long vowels (late, meet, like, smoke, flute)
  • exceptions to the rules

If you want to start with the letter sounds, click here. (This website is for children, but is the best one for hearing different sounds!)

Today we will look at short A.

Click on this link to hear a story. Practice reading the story. Repeat after the narrator. Does your “a” and his “a” sound the same?


Listen to the story again and write the word.

  1. Dan has a ____________.
  2. The _________ is for work.
  3. He has a _________ in his van.
  4. He looks at the _______ a lot.
  5. He _________ go west.
  6. He _________ go east.
  7. He _________ go north.
  8. He _________ go south.
  9. Dan is ___________ to have a ________ in his van for work.

For more stories, click here.

Next week, we will look at more difficult pronunciation and spelling. See you then!

What do you enjoy doing?


Going to the store is an ERRAND. (photo by WT instructor JLN)


Setting the table is a CHORE. (photo by WT instructor JLN)

What do you usually do on the weekend?

Do you work? Do you relax with your family? Do you run errands or do chores? Some examples of running errands are going to the post office, buying groceries at the supermarket, dropping off or picking up the dry cleaning, or buying necessities at the store. Chores are work you do around the house, like cutting the grass, washing the car, or vacuuming the floor.


I like running errands sometimes. I feel productive. I don’t enjoy doing chores around the house. I don’t like washing dishes. I don’t like doing laundry (I hate folding laundry)! I like cooking, but I don’t like cleaning up afterwards.

What about you?

Notice that when we talk about actions we enjoy or don’t enjoy (like / don’t like), we use the verb + -ing.

I like running errands sometimes. I feel productive. I don’t enjoy doing chores around the house. I don’t like washing dishes. I don’t like doing laundry (I hate folding laundry)! I like cooking, but I don’t like cleaning up afterwards.

“I like cook” is not correct. “I like cooking” is correct. Maybe you think this sounds strange, but these are the rules of English!

Are these sentences correct or incorrect?

  1. I enjoy listen music.
  2. I like dance.
  3. He enjoys making dinner for his family.
  4. The girl likes making the bed.
  5. No one likes spend money.

What about you? What do you enjoy doing? What do you dislike doing?

(By the way, if you neither like nor dislike something, you can say, “I don’t mind.” “I don’t mind cooking dinner” means that you are not very happy about cooking, but you are not angry about cooking either. It’s OK.)

Parts of Speech: Prepositions

(image by Christophe Dioux)

(image by Christophe Dioux)

Are you confused by prepositions in English?

Do you forget if you need to say, “at work” or “in work”, “on Sunday” or “in Sunday”?

You are not alone!

Many people have problems with prepositions in English. Prepositions are small words with a big meaning! There are more than 150 prepositions in English! Wikipedia lists 521! That’s a lot! This link gives you access to a free eBook from EnglishClub with a full list and examples of prepositions. It’s 56 pages long, so I don’t recommend that you print it, but you can use it as an online resource.

The good news is, it’s not necessary to memorize the entire list. But, you should study as many as you can. Today we’ll look at some of them and how to use them.

What’s a preposition? 

A preposition is a word that shows when, where, or how something was done.

  • I have class on Mondays.
  • The boy jumped into the lake.
  • Sarah opened the lock with a key.

How do I use prepositions? 

The word “preposition” means “pre- position.” Therefore, they go in front of another word, usually a noun.

Prepositions of Place


(photo by WT instructor JLN)

These prepositions show where things are.

In this picture, the bowls are beside (next to) the glasses. They are above the plates and the cups. The plates and cups are under the bowls and glasses. The plates are between the glasses and the cups. One bowl is inside another bowl. All of the dishes are inside the cabinet.

Prepositions of Time

These prepositions tell when you do something. In, On, and At are the three most common prepositions.


In general month, year, time of day, general time in January, in 2012, in the morning, in the future
On day, date on Christmas Day, on July 14th, on Saturday
At specific time, *night at 7:00 at night

Prepositions of Agent

These prepositions show how something is done.

  • The glass is filled with water.
  • The book was written by Cervantes.

For more lists and exhaustive explanations of prepositions, click here or here.

For some practice, try any of these exercises:


(More difficult)

(Even more difficult!)

You must love learning English!

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

These boys play soccer every week. They watch soccer on television. They play on community teams. They practice a lot. They must love playing soccer! 

(photo by WT instructor jLN)

(photo by WT instructor jLN)

Mark is from Canada. He sings all the time. He sings in the shower. He sings in his car. He sings at school. He goes to karaoke every week. He must love singing! 

Claire is from Canada. She goes camping with her friends. She goes hiking. She walks in the woods. She goes to the mountains. She must love being outdoors! 

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

He must love . . . 

The three examples above are examples of inferring. To infer is to deduce. The information is not explicit. But you come to a conclusion using the information you read.

Maybe you see a woman on the bus. She puts on a coat. She puts on gloves. She puts on a hat. You can infer that A) she must be cold, and B) she must be getting off the bus soon.


We use the word “must” when we make inferences. (It’s a difference “must” than “should.”)

You can use “must” with adjectives: “must + be + adjective” –> She must be cold. He must be hungry. They must be tired.

When you use “must” with “love,” “like,” “hate,” or “enjoy,” you use a noun or a gerund (verb with  -ing):

He must love driving. She must love swimming. You must love playing soccer.

Read the following scenarios and write a sentence using “must” for each one.

1. Jan goes to English class four nights a week. She listens to music in English. She watches English-language movies and watches English-language television. She must _____________________.

2. Peter wakes up at 5:00 every day and goes to the gym. He lifts weights. He does push-ups and pull-ups. He works on machines. He must _____________________. 

3. Danielle goes to dance clubs every Friday night. She takes dance lessons every Wednesday evening. She watches dance shoes on television and goes to dance performances at the theater. She must __________________.

4. Judy ate a salad for lunch. She didn’t eat dinner. She must ______________________.

5. I went to sleep at 1:00 in the morning. I woke up at 6:00 in the morning. I didn’t drink any coffee. I must _____________________. 

Parts of Speech: Nouns

There are 8 parts of speech in English: 1) verbs, 2) nouns, 3) adjectives, 4) adverbs, 5) prepositions, 6) conjunctions, 7) pronouns, and 8) interjections. You can see all parts of speech if you click here. We will look at one each week. Last week we looked at verbs. Today we will study nouns.

What is a noun? 

A noun is the name of any person, place, or thing/idea. We use a CAPITAL LETTER with proper nouns (names, cities, countries, months, day, etc.). We don’t use a capital letter with common nouns (unless they come at the beginning of a sentence).

Here are some examples:

Proper nouns: Paris, Mexico, Thursday, Ohio, North Carolina, September, Brian, Jessica, etc.

Common nouns: telephone, tree, chair, fence, dress

PRACTICE. Look at this list. Which are proper nouns? Which are common?

  1. Flower
  2. Betsy
  3. Michelle
  4. Texas
  5. Shirt
  6. Car
  7. Taxi
  8. Light
  9. Saturday
  10. Horse

(ANSWERS: 2, 3, 4, and 9 are proper nouns. The rest are common nouns.)

Most nouns you can touch. But Ideas are also nouns. You can’t touch ideas. Love, hate, disagreement, peace, violence, understanding, etc. are all nouns. We don’t use capital letters with them.

Singular and Plural

Nouns can be singular (1) or plural (2 or more).

Usually, we put an “s” at the end of a noun. 1 shirt –> 2 shirts, 1 table –> 2 tables, etc. If the word already ends in “s”, we add “es.” 1 dress –> 2 dresses, 1 bus –> 2 buses. Also, if the word ends in “ch,” “sh, “x” or “z.” There are other exceptions and rules for spelling plurals here.

For -es practice, watch this video. The pronunciation is British English, but the spelling is the same.

PRACTICE. Write the plural for each word:

  1. house
  2. monkey
  3. church
  4. box
  5. call
  6. computer
  7. window
  8. watch
  9. glass
  10. match

(ANSWERS: houses, monkeys, churches, boxes, calls, computers, windows, watches, glasses, matches)

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Finally, it is important to know that you can count some nouns, and you can’t count other nouns.

Things you can count:

animals, flowers, houses, people, days, keys, potatoes, apples, bananas

Countable nouns can have “a” or “the” in front of them: “I have a flower, a house, an apple, etc.”

Things you can’t count:

love, patience, flour, coffee, sugar, music, money, information, water

Uncountable nouns don’t use “a” or the.” We just say, “I have information, patience, etc.” without “a” or “the.”

Another option is to add a countable noun. You can say, “I have a lot of money, a piece of music, a glass of water, etc.

You can read more about countable and uncountable nouns by clicking here.

Stay tuned for next week: Adjectives!

“The” or no “The”?

“The” is a very common word in English. We use it all the time! Sometimes we need to use “the.” Sometimes we don’t. Make sure you use “the” correctly.

Here are some examples of when NOT to use “the”:

NO (incorrect)

YES (correct)


The my friend is nice. 

I go to see the my friend.

My friend is nice. 

I go to see my friend.

You don’t use the + a possessive adjective (my, your, his, her, our, their) 

Use “the” OR use “my.” Don’t use both.

I go to class on the Tuesday. I go to class on Tuesday. Days of the week don’t use “the.”
She goes to sleep at the 10:00 in the night. She goes to sleep at 10:00 at night. Times of day don’t use “the.” 

“In the night” is incorrect. “At night” is correct.

The Maria is my friend. Maria is my friend. Don’t use “the” with names.
The January is cold. 

The 2015 is a good year.

January is cold. 

2015 is a good year.

Don’t use “the” with months or years.
I go to the shopping.I go to the home.


I go to the work.

I go to the class/the school.


I go shopping.I go home.


(****”go to shopping” and “go to home” is incorrect****)
I go to work.

I go to class/to school.

“Shopping,” “home,” “work,” “class,” and “school” don’t need “the.”
The coffee is delicious.I eat the lunch at the Wendy’s.

I like to listen to the music.


Coffee is delicious.I eat lunch at Wendy’s.

I like to listen to music.


General things don’t use “the.” Names of restaurants don’t use “the.”

This article has more information on when NOT to use “the.” It’s very helpful!

This post has information on “the” vs. “a/an.”

Let’s practice! Are the following sentences correct or incorrect? If they are not correct, please write them correctly.

1. The flowers are on the table.

2. The my feet are cold.

3. The children are playing the games.

4. We go to the school every day and study the English.

5. The boys are watching TV.

6. Let’s go shopping tomorrow.

7. The James and the John are cute.

8. The chair is black.

9. The my computer is old.

10. We go to the Wal-Mart on the Tuesday.

English Signs: Beginner Version

Every country has signs on the roads and in cities. Some are the same as in the U.S. Some are different.

It is important to know the signs around you.

Here are the names of the signs:

  1. Poison
  2. Ambulance
  3. Hospital
  4. Handicapped
  5. School Crossing
  6. Railroad Crossing
  7. Pedestrian Crossing
  8. Yield
  9. Do Not Enter
  10. No Trespassing

These are the signs:

1. poisonPOISON (image by SilsorIf you drink or eat POISON, you could die. 

2. ambulanceAMBULANCE (image by Pixabay)

3. hospital HOSPITAL (image by Govt. of Ontario)

4. handicappedHANDICAPPED (image by USDOT)

5. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA SCHOOL CROSSING (image by BrokenSphereCrossing = intersection

6. railroadrailroadRAILROAD CROSSING (images by Frye1989 and Ian Britton

Railroad = train

7. pedestrianPEDESTRIAN CROSSING (image by Mark Buckawicki

                                   Pedestrian = a person who walks

8. yieldYIELD (image by Frye1989)  Yield = wait 

9. do not enter DO NOT ENTER (image by Fry1989)

10. tresspassing NO TRESPASSING (image by Rutebega

No trespassing = Do NOT enter. Do not go in. The place is not your place. 

You can practice some (not all) of the signs at this link. It is a test for drivers.

You can read more about signs at this link.

Enjoy . . . and be safe!

English All Around You: Intermediate/Advanced Version

English is everywhere! There are signs all around us.

(Photo by Mark Buckawicki)

(Photo by Mark Buckawicki)

Some signs have only pictures. Some signs have words, too.




When you can read the signs on the street, you feel good! You feel smart. You understand.

When you can’t read the signs, maybe you feel frustrated. You don’t feel smart. You don’t understand.

The Same Experience 

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)


I lived in Japan for two years.

Everything was in Japanese!

During my first year, I couldn’t read anything! Maybe I understood one or two words. But I didn’t understand a lot.

I felt lost sometimes.

And I felt ignorant.

I was sad.

(Photo by WT Instructor Jaimie Newsome)

(Photo by WT Instructor Jaimie Newsome)



But sometimes the signs were in Japanese AND English.

I could understand.

And I felt good.

Thank you, City Planners!

(Photo by WT Instructor Jaimie Newsome)

(Photo by WT Instructor Jaimie Newsome)


Be Careful 

At the same time, I knew I couldn’t rely (depend) on translations all the time.

Sometimes translations are wrong. They are bad.

Look at this t-shirt. Is this good English? (NO!!!!!)

Maybe they wanted to say, “Think and dream within your heart.” Or “You need to think and dream with your heart.” Either way, the t-shirt is not correct.

The same problem occurs in the United States. Here, we usually translate English to Spanish. It is very common to see Spanish translations everywhere.

(photo by Michael Pereckas)

(photo by Michael Pereckas)

Sometimes the translations are correct. But sometimes they are horrible! 

If you speak a different language, you probably never see your language translated anywhere.


So what is the solution?

You are doing it — studying English!

One day, you will be able to read all of the signs, all of the papers, all of the books in English with no problem. And you will be very proud of yourself!

The Legend of John Henry

Statue of John Henry (photo by Ken Thomas)

Statue of John Henry (photo by Ken Thomas)

Every country has folk tales and legends about famous people or events that happened there. A folk tale is usually not true, but is passed down generation to generation. Legends are usually traditional but maybe not 100% true. There are also tall tales. Tall tales pretend to be true, but they have many parts that are not real or unbelievable.

Today we’re going to look at the tale of John Henry. John Henry is the hero of the story. He worked on the railroad in the 1800s. From the time he was a child, he worked on the railroad. When he was an adult, he continues to work on the railroad. He helped make a tunnel through a mountain. He is famous because he worked faster than a machine!

Here is some vocabulary you might need as you read the story:


Gather = come together
Hero = a person with a lot of strength and ability
Link = connect
Powerful = strong
Steel = a very strong metal
Steel-driver = a man who cuts rock for the railroad
Drill = a tool you use to make holes
Beat = rhythm
Lightening = the light in the sky during a storm
Competition = race
Ain’t = isn’t (casual, not standard English)
Claim = to say something is true, usually without evidence
Laborer = worker
Burst = explode

Click here to read the story. You can listen to it at the same time.

John Henry is very famous in American culture. There are a lot of folk songs about him You can listen to Johnny Cash sing the song. You can read the lyrics here. (It’s 8 minutes long, so have patience!)

Here is a shorter song. It has pictures of life working on the railroad a long time ago. You can read the lyrics here.

After you read and watch the videos, try these quizzes!

Quiz 1 

Quiz 2

Short Vowel Pronunciation in English

Hat, hit, hot, hut . . . can you hear the difference? Many students have trouble pronouncing short vowel sounds in English. Today we’re going to look at them.

If you speak Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Serbian, or any other phonetic language, you are lucky! In phonetic languages, you pronounce a letter the same way you write it. For example, you always pronounce the “a” in casa (“house” in Spanish) the same, always. Casa, estante, argumento, plato . . . the sound of “a” never changes.

But English is different!

There are five vowels in English: A, E, I, O, U. You can pronounce each vowel 3 different ways: long, short, or schwa (“uh”). We will look at long vowels and schwa later. Today we will look at short vowels.

This video shows how you move your mouth when you pronounce short vowels in English.

If you want basic short vowel instruction, you can look at It is a website for children learning how to read English, but it has excellent pronunciation!

This video can be good practice for you. First, listen to the words. Then try to write them without looking at the words:

It is important that you know how to pronounce short words correctly, so that you can pronounce long words better.

These words have short vowels in them. Can you pronounce them?

  • cat
  • egg
  • dip
  • pot
  • mug
  • chapter
  • percent
  • chimney
  • chocolate
  • supply

Next week we will look at some long vowels. Please let me know if you have any questions!