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.

Summer Homework!

*** Refreshing  an earlier post that has some ideas for homework to do  over the summer. There is one activity per week. In July, explore the blog — look at these links or these sites to practice your English online!


Level       Week 1     Week 2      Week 3       Week 4
1 & 2  Learn Signs  Practice months and seasons  Practice body parts with your kids  Practice Pronunciation
3 & 4  Practice Simple Present vs. Continuous  Practice colors  Practice the weather Practice irregular past tense verbs
5 & 6  Practice Pronunciation  Learn to Complain  Read a Recipe  Practice past tense pronunciation
ERV  Read more!  Take a vocabulary test  Practice your spelling  Stay abreast of current events

Have a great summer! See you in the fall!

Contractions for Beginners

For all levels, 1 and up.

Today, our topic is contractions. You see contractions every day. Do you understand them?

What is a contraction?

  • It’s
  • I’m
  • You’re

These words are contractions. A contraction is two words together in one word with an apostrophe (‘). An apostrophe looks like a comma at the top of a word. Here is the pronunciation of apostrophe.

Why do we use an apostrophe?

When we put two words together, we remove (take out) some letters. We use an apostrophe in the place of those letters.

  • It is –> It’s – We remove the “i” from “is” and put an apostrophe in that place.
  • We are –> We’re – We remove the “a” from “are” and put an apostrophe there.
  • I am –> I’m – We remove the “a” from “am” and put an apostrophe in its place.
image by WTCC instructor

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

How do you pronounce contractions?

We only say the letters we can see. We do not pronounce the letters we removed. When I say, “He is,” I pronounce the “i” in the word “is” because I can see it. When I say, “He’s,” I do not pronounce the “i” because it is not there.

Practice saying these contractions. Ask your teacher to help you.

  • I’m
  • He’s
  • She’s
  • It’s
  • You’re
  • We’re
  • They’re

Winter Break Practice

(image from Wikimedia Commons)

(image from Wikimedia Commons)

Dear Students,

Can you believe it? The semester is almost over! This post will be the last blog post until January 2016. In this post, you will find links to previous posts. Click on the links in the box and practice and review what you learned in class.

This post is also the last post I will write. I started writing for the blog in January 2013. I have written a lot of posts in the past almost-3 years! It was very fun to write for the blog and to receive feedback and comments from all of you students. Thank you! A new writer for the English Language blog will start in January 2016. That person will have a lot of good, new ideas to help you all learn more English.

Enjoy the post, and have a great vacation!


Jaimie Newsome, Wake Tech ESL Blog Team

Level Listening Speaking Reading Writing
1 & 2  Where are you from?

What are you doing?

 Common Words  Reading  Writing by Hand

(watch the video)

3 & 4  The Word “Ain’t”  Phonics Stories  The Kiss That Missed  Writing Advice
5 & 6  A Taxi Drive  Stress and Intonation  Long Distance Call  Speaking or Writing?
ERV  President Obama’s Addresses

NPR Story Corps

 Perfect Pronunciation  Many Stories  Writing

Homophones in English

Have you noticed that English has a lot of words that seem similar? There are a lot of words in English that you pronounce the same but write differently. Let’s look at some!

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)


 I and EYE

I have blue eyes.



(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)


ADD and AD

Add is mathematics. Ad is publicity.



(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)


SEE and SEA and C

See is look. Sea is ocean. C is a letter.



(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)



Meat is chicken, pork, and beef. Meet is “Nice to meet you!”



photo by WT instructor JLN

photo by WT instructor JLN



I ate half a hot dog. I can’t eat eight (8) hot dogs!

(“Ate” is the past tense of “eat.”)


(photo by Jenny Martin)

(photo by Jenny Martin)



I don’t like my new hair cut. My sister knew it was a bad idea.

(“New” is not old. “Knew” is the past tense of “know.”)


(screenshot by WT instructor JLN)

(screenshot by WT instructor JLN)



YOU’RE is the contraction for you are. YOUR is possessive.

*Remember: “You’re welcome” is correct. “Your welcome” is bad English.

Many Americans confuse “your” and “you’re.” Please be better than them!


English has a lot of words that you spell differently but pronounce the same. Here is a list of some homophones. Don’t worry. You don’t learn them all in one day. You learn them in years and years!

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!

Schwa: The Secret to Perfect Pronunciation in English

image by fabiform

image by fabiform

Hello! Last week we talked about long vowels in English. Two weeks ago we talked about short vowels. Today we finish vowels. Let’s talk about SCHWA! Schwa looks like an upside-down “e” in phonetic transcription.


What is “schwa”? “Schwa” is the most common sound in English. How many sounds are there in total? 100? 500? No. Just 44. There are 44 sounds in English. And “schwa” is the most common sound.

“Schwa” sounds like “uh.” Every vowel — A, E, I, O, and U — can make the sound “uh.” It’s a relaxed sound. It is the sound on unstressed syllables.

Watch this video and practice with the teacher:

Stressed or Unstressed? 

In some other languages, you say every syllable the same. In English, some syllables are stressed and some are not stressed. (What’s a syllable? A part of a word with only one vowel. “America” has 3 syllables: A / me / ri / ca.)

There are at least 8 different ways to put stress on words. This article has that information.

Schwa only happens in words with two or more syllables, except “a” and “the,” which can both sound like schwa. The unstressed syllable receives the schwa sound.

  1. Pass me a banana.
  2. Where is the book?
  3. What is that book about?

How do you spell schwa? 

The bad news is, you can write schwa with all of the vowels. It makes spelling difficult. Tenacious, replicate, percolate, etc. all have a schwa sound. Schwa is represented by ALL of the vowels!

For some interesting facts on schwa, click here.

For some more pronunciation practice, click here.

Long Vowels in English

You know that can you pronounce every vowel (A, E, I, O, U) 3 different ways. Last week we looked at short vowels in English. Today we will look at long vowels.

Long vowels say the name of the letter. Watch this video to see how to pronounce them correctly:

One of the difficult parts of English is spelling. You can spell long vowels in many different ways. Let’s look!

A E I O U / OO
make Pete bike note rule
wait meet tie coat fruit
day meat night toe few
eight sky throw blue

The most common way to find a long vowel is the “vowel + silent ‘e'” pattern.

MAKE, PETE, BIKE, NOTE, RULE all end with “e.” The “e” is silent. You don’t pronounce it. The first vowel says its name.

Here is a video that shows how short “o” changes to long “o.”

When you read, look for the “silent ‘e’.” You will see how you change the pronunciation.

We will look at “schwa” next week!

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!

The Nightmare of English Spelling

The English alphabet has 26 letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.

From these 26 letters, we get the 750,000 words in the English language.

You know that English spelling is difficult. English has roots in many languages, including Anglo-Saxon, French, German, and Latin. Because it is a hodgepodge of many different languages, sometimes its spelling doesn’t make sense.

There are a lot of silent letters in English. 18 of the 26 letters are, at one time or the other, silent. In the list below, you see words with a silent letter. You write it, but you don’t pronounce it.

A = dead

B = doubt

C = scene

D = handsome

E = come

F = off

G = sign

H = honest

I = weird

K = knife

L = salmon

M = mnemonics

N = column

O = too

P = raspberry

T = often

U = guess

W = answer

(list from “Errors in English” by Harry Shaw, B&N Publishers, 1962)

Are there silent letters in your language?

Besides having silent letters, many words in English have the same sound but different spelling. They are called homophones.

Here are some examples:

  • Hear, here:                        Come here so I can hear you.
  • Hole, whole:                     Hit the ball into the hole.                        He ate the whole pizza.
  • Loose, lose:                      I want to lose ten pounds so my pants will be looser.
  • Rein, rain:                         I left the horse’s rein in the rain and it got wet.
  • Right, write:                      Do you use your left hand or your right hand to write?
  • Their, they’re, there:        Where are William and Mary? They’re standing over there in front                                                      of their house.
  • Threw, through:                Someone threw something through the windows and broke them.
  • To, too, two:                     The two lambs are too tired to walk.
  • Your, you’re:                     You’re doing your homework now, aren’t you?


  1. The opposite of “left” is                                               write              right
  2. The contraction for “they are” is                                  there              they’re          their
  3. The opposite of “tight” is                                             loose              lose
  4. “Listen” is the same as                                                hear               here
  5. You + are =                                                                your                you’re
  6. The past tense of “throw” is                                        through         threw
  7. Here and                                                                     there              they’re          their
  8. The number after “one” is                                            to                    two                 too
  9. The present tense of “wrote” is                                   write              right
  10. What is ___________ name?                                        you’re            your