Confusing Pairs – What’s the difference?

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

Dead vs. Died

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

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

Borrow vs. Lend

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

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

Meet vs. See

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

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

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

Remind vs. Remember

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

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

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

See vs. Look vs. Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discuss vs. Argue

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

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

Your Turn

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

Types of Families

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

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

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

Nuclear Families

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

Single-Parent Families

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

Blended Families (Step Families)

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

Grandparent Families

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

Childless Families

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

Extended Families

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

Your Turn

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

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

Telling the Date

For all ESL levels

Americans write and say dates differently from people in other countries. Do you know how to write and say dates correctly?

How to Write the Date

Americans always give the month first, the day second, and the year last. There are several different ways we can write it.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

  • March 27, 2016
  • March 27th, 2016
  • 03/27/2016 or 03-27-2016
  • 3/27/16 or 3-27-16

You can use a slash (/) or a hyphen (-) between the numbers. There is no difference. When you write the name of the month, you must use a comma (,) after the date.

Sometimes, you will see instructions for writing the date that look like this:


The M means month, the D means day, and the Y means year. If a website or form asks for a date like this, you should use two numbers for the month (01, 09, 11, etc.), two numbers for the date (07, 10, 29, etc.), and four numbers for the year (1982, 2016, etc.).

Sometimes the instructions look like this:


Do you see the difference? In this case, you only use the LAST two numbers of the year – 82 (not 1982) or 16 (not 2016).

When you write the date in _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _ format, it is VERY important that you write the MONTH first and the DAY second.

How to Say the Date

Americans usually do not write “st,” “nd,” “rd,” or “th” (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) on the date, but we ALWAYS say it. If you write, “3/27/2016,” you say, “March twenty-seventh, twenty-sixteen” (you can also say, “two thousand-sixteen”). Here is how we write and pronounce all the dates.

**We only add -st, -nd, -rd, and -th to the pronunciation of numbers in dates.**

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

  1. first
  2. second
  3. third
  4. fourth
  5. fifth
  6. sixth
  7. seventh
  8. eighth
  9. ninth
  10. tenth
  11. eleventh
  12. twelfth
  13. thirteenth
  14. fourteenth
  15. fifteenth
  16. sixteenth
  17. seventeenth
  18. eighteenth
  19. nineteenth
  20. twentieth
  21. twenty-first
  22. twenty-second
  23. twenty-third
  24. twenty-fourth
  25. twenty-fifth
  26. twenty-sixth
  27. twenty-seventh
  28. twenty-eighth
  29. twenty-ninth
  30. thirtieth
  31. thirty-first

When we say years, we usually say the first two numbers together and the last two numbers together. If the year is 1982, we say the first two numbers – nineteen – and the last two numbers – eighty-two.

  • 1980 – nineteen eighty
  • 1776 – seventeen seventy-six
  • 1430 – fourteen thirty
  • 2016 – twenty sixteen

If there are zeros in the middle of the year (2002), the rules change a little. Here is how we say 2000 years:

  • 2000 – two thousand
  • 2001 – two thousand one
  • 2002 – two thousand two

Here is how we say other years:

  • 1903 – nineteen oh three
  • 1409 – fourteen oh nine
  • 1207 – twelve oh seven
  • 1804 – eighteen oh four

Your Turn

Write and say the answers to these questions (search the internet or ask your teacher if you don’t know):

  1. When were you born?
  2. When did the United States become an independent country?
  3. When did Princess Diana die?
  4. When was Barack Obama born?
  5. When is Thanksgiving this year?
  6. When will Americans elect the next president?
  7. When is the last day of your class?
  8. What is today’s date?
  9. What is an important date in your life (wedding, birth of a child, when you moved to the U.S., etc.)?
  10. When was the last time you took a vacation?

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

Practical Writing Tips

(image by David Vignoni)

(image by David Vignoni)

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

-Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839



Do you have to write sentences or paragraphs in class?

Does your teacher return your paper with red (or green, or blue) corrections on it?

Here are 8 tips to help you write better and see less corrective ink!

1. Think before you write.

Great writers don’t immediately put a pen to paper as soon as the teacher tells them to create something. Everyone needs time to think about what to write. Think about your purpose for writing, your audience, and your topic. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it?

2. Believe in what you write.

When you don’t want to write, you don’t enjoy it. Find a topic you are interested in. Practice writing will make you into a better writer. When you don’t care about the topic, you won’t put in your best work.

3. Ask for “sentence frames” if you need them.

Many teachers help their students by giving them “sentence frames”: half-completed sentences that the student finishes.

Here is an example:

When I was a child, I lived in ____________ with _____________. My favorite activity was _________________. Every year my family and I would ___________. Now I live in __________ with ______________. I enjoy _____________. Life is very different now!

4. For better vocabulary, read, read, read.

Reading often helps you absorb more vocabulary. You need a book on your level, where you you can understand 80-85% of it. If you have to look up a word in every sentence, the text is too hard. Aim for 2 or 3 unknown words per page.

5. Check for flow.

After you write, read it again. Make sure all of your ideas make sense and are connected. Use transition words like “first,” “next,” “then,” “finally,” to help your reader understand the order of events.

6. Check subject-verb agreement and verb tenses.

Make sure your subject and verbs are correct. “She was happy” is correct. “She were happy” is not correct. Verb tenses are important, too. Use past tense verbs in the past and present tense verbs in the present.

(Image by Revital9)

(Image by Revital9).  

7. Check capital letters and punctuation.

Start every sentence with a capital letter. Write “I,” names of people, cities, states, countries, days, and months with a capital letter, too. End every sentence with a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation mark (!).

8. Edit as necessary.

All writers edit their work. Writing is a work in progress. Editing helps you learn from your mistakes and become a better writer. Enjoy the process!

Writing by Hand

(image by AndrewBuck)

(image by AndrewBuck)

The English alphabet has 26 letters, but 4 ways to write them!

  1. 26 uppercase (big, capital) print letters: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
  2. 26 lowercase (small) print letters: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
  3. 26 uppercase cursive letters (on the left)
  4. 26 lowercase cursive letters (on the left)

Capital letters are all the SAME SIZE.

Lowercase letters have different sizes. Some lines go up, some lines go down, but the circle of each letter is always on the line.

The way you write is called your handwriting. Everyone has different handwriting. Some people write very neatly (perfectly). Some write sloppily (messily). Do you think handwriting is important? If someone can read what you write, does it matter?

When do you write?

Maybe you don’t have many opportunities to write. Many people use computers. Our society doesn’t use handwriting a lot at all. But maybe you write by hand in these situations:

  • writing a note to your child’s teacher
  • filling out an application
  • filling out a timesheet
  • taking notes in class

Does handwriting help you learn?

Studies show that you learn more when you write by hand than when you type on a computer. The connection between your hand and your brain helps you learn more. This is why it’s important to take notes in class!

How do I write?


If you want to improve how you write, watch this video. Pay attention to the lowercase letters!

If you want to learn to write in cursive, watch this video:

If you want practice using handwriting sheets (good for teachers, too!), try

Your Opinion

What do you think? Is handwriting important or not?

How do you write?

When do you write?

Send us a comment below!

Parts of Speech: ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS

Forest (photo by WT instructor JLN)

Forest (photo by WT instructor JLN)

To end our series on parts of speech, let’s look at adjectives and adverbs.

Adjectives are words that describe a noun. They usually answer the question “What kind?” or “What is it like?”

The forest is green. The forest is peaceful. The path is straight.

These words describe the forest.



We have several great posts about adjectives. Take a look:

  1. What are Adjectives? (Beginning)
  2. Using Adjectives (Beginning/Intermediate)
  3. Adjectives for Nationalities (All Levels)
  4. Adjective Antonyms and Synonyms (Intermediate/Advanced)
  5. Kinds of Adjectives (Advanced)
Takoyaki (photo by WT instructor JLN)

Takoyaki (photo by WT instructor JLN)


Adverbs describe a verb.

The machine cooks slowly.

We finely chop the cabbage.

We cook Japanese food poorly.


They can also describe an adjective.

  • Yo-Yo Ma is an extremely talented cello player.
  • His music is immensely popular.

Adverbs answer the questions “How?” “When?” and “Where?”

Most adverbs end in -ly. You can form adverbs by adding -ly to an adjective:

  • Nice –> Nicely
  • Cruel –> Cruelly
  • Beautiful –> Beautifully
  • Intense –> Intensely
  • Thirsty –> Thirstily
  • Poor –> Poorly

Some exceptions are:

good –> well

fast –> fast

You speak English well. You play the piano well. He runs fast (or quickly).

For more explanations, click on this link.

For good practice on both adverbs and adjectives, click here.

Finally, for an advanced discussion on kinds of adverbs, click here.

Parts of Speech: CONJUNCTIONS

Symphony (photo by WT instructor JLN)

Symphony (photo by WT instructor JLN)


Read these 3 sentences. Which is good?

I like the symphony but I don’t go.

I like the symphony and I go.

I like the symphony or I go.


Coffee (photo by WT instructor JLN)

Coffee (photo by WT instructor JLN)


1. I like coffee but I don’t drink it.

2. I like coffee and I drink it.

3. I like coffee or I drink it.


Each sentence is a little different. It depends on the conjunction between the two ideas.

“I like coffee BUT I don’t drink it” = I have a reason that I don’t drink it. Maybe my doctor said, “No coffee!” Maybe the caffeine is bad for me. I like it, BUT, I don’t drink it.

“I like coffee AND I drink it” makes sense. “And” connects two positive ideas.

“I like coffee OR I drink it” doesn’t make sense. “Or” connects two different ideas, two options.

AND, BUT, and OR are the three most common conjunctions. They connect ideas or sentences. In the 1970s, there was a popular educational children’s TV show called “School House Rock.” Here is their conjunction video. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand it . . . just get an idea!)

There are more conjunctions than and, but, and or, though. Here is a list of some of them.

You don’t need to know all of them right now. But, you should study some of them. Let’s look at 6 conjunctions today:

1) AND

“And” connects sentences or lists. You don’t use a comma with two things. You DO use a comma with 3 or more (more on punctuation rules later).

I like chocolate and strawberries. I like chocolate, strawberries, and milk.

We are going to go to school and learn English.

Sam and Patty are going to Toronto and Mike and Darlene are going to New York.

2) BUT

“But” connects a different idea. You use a comma with two sentences.

I like that shirt, but it’s too expensive.

Mary can’t go, but John can.

3) OR

“Or” connects opposing ideas. You don’t use a comma with two things. You DO use a comma with 3 or more.

Do you want to go to Paris or Rome?

My brother can’t eat fish, wheat, soy, or nuts.

4) SO

“So” usually connects a sentence after a reason.

We are hungry, so we eat. (We eat because we are hungry.)

Sherika studied a lot for the test, so she made 100. (She made 100 because she studied.)

Jason didn’t want to go to the park, so he stayed home.

5) EITHER . . . OR

Similar to “or.” This structure gives you two options.

We can either eat at home or go to a restaurant.

You can call either your brother or your sister, but not both.

You can either go to Level 6 or to ERV.


Similar to “in spite of” or “but.” Use a comma between the clauses.

Even though I’m not hungry, I want to eat!

Although we usually start class at 9:00, today we’re going to start at 9:30.

Kyle is sleepy today, even though he slept for 8 hours last night.

I tried to make a banana cake, although I didn’t have a lot of sugar.



You can practice more conjunctions here and here.

Parts of Speech: Pronouns

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

Subject Pronouns

Salem is from Bangladesh. He can cook. He can cook well. He is wearing a red t-shirt. He is standing. He is cooking.”

“Salem” is the subject of the sentence. Subject perform (do) the action. Subject pronouns replace (substitute) the subject.

This video shows the 7 subject pronouns we use in English:


Singular Plural
1st person           I 1st person         We
2nd person         You 2nd person       You (Y’all in North Carolina, not New York)
3rd person          He, She, It 3rd person        They

A Few Important Points:

  • Pronouns replace (substitute) nouns. You don’t need to repeat a name 100 times (“Salem is from Bangladesh. Salem can cook. Salem can cook well.”) You DO NEED to introduce the subject, and THEN replace his name with a pronoun.
  • It is NOT NECESSARY to say both the name and a pronoun: “Salem he is from Bangladesh” is redundant. Don’t be redundant.
  • Remember “it” is for an object (pen, car) or an animal with no name (dog, elephant, etc.).

PRACTICE. Replace the noun with a pronoun.

Example: Bob –> He

1. Sarah     2. I     3. John and I     4. The zebra     5. Samuel     6. The pencil     7. The books     8. Love


Do you remember the Barney song? “I love you.  . . you love me . . . “? Here, “you” and “me” are object pronouns. Object pronouns receive the action of a verb. 

This video has a list of object pronouns:

Singular Plural
1st person           Me 1st person         Us
2nd person         You 2nd person       You (Y’all in North Carolina, not New York)
3rd person          Him, Her, It 3rd person        Them

PRACTICE. Write the object pronoun:

1. the ball     2. the girl     3. the flowers     4. the tree    5. Jamar   6. Alicia    7. Julia and Isabel  8. you

Putting it all together:

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

(photo by WT instructor JLN)

The baseball player throws the ball.

WHO throws the ball (subject)?

The baseball player.

WHAT does he throw (object)?

The ball.

He throws the ball.

He throws it.



This video uses both subject and object pronouns. Have a listen!

Practice. Write the sentences again, changing the subjects and objects for pronouns.

  1. I love my boyfriend.
  2. The girl hugs her brother.
  3. Daniel kissed Mary.
  4. You buy a book.
  5. Jason picks up the notebooks.

Once in Winter . . .

(Photo by Brian May, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo by Brian May, Wikimedia Commons)

Last Wednesday, February 18, was Ash Wednesday. (Ash — plural, ashes — is the black stuff you get after you burn something.) It is an important holiday for Christian people around the world.

Many poems have been written about Ash Wednesday. T.S. Eliot wrote a famous poem about Ash Wednesday. It is a nice poem, but it is complicated and difficult even for native English speakers. Walter Brueggemann wrote another poem about Ash Wednesday. It is also nice, but a little difficult.

I like the poem below. It is short, and simple. The writer is anonymous —  we don’t know his or her name.


Ash Wednesday

Once in winter,
I stood,
White flakes brushing my face
With white fingers,
I waited with the others
We shivered on the steps–
Stuck out our tongues to catch snowflakes
So cold they would burn.

Soon the big doors would open
On smoke and candles
and a cold thumb would brush
My forehead with a cross of ashes
“Dust to Dust” he would mutter
While snowflakes melted in my hair. 


Imagine two pictures: 1) Someone waiting outside a church in the snow. 2) That person inside the church participating in the ceremony.

The first part of the poem is in past tense. Stood (stand), waited (wait), shivered (shiver), stuck out (stick out) are all past tense.

The second part of the poem is in conditional tense. (You can read more about it here.) Would burn, would open, would brush, and would mutter are conditional.

Last year, my students wrote their own poems. They were not about Ash Wednesday. They were about a time they were waiting to do something. Some students wrote about waiting for a party. Some students wrote about waiting for school to start. You can read their poems here.

Do you feel creative? You can write your own poem about waiting. You can follow the guidelines below. Please share them!

Once in _____________ (season)
I _______________ (action)
It was ___________ (weather)
Everything was _______ (color) and ______ (description)
I was ____________ (action)
Everyone around me was _________ (action)
I felt _________ (emotion)
I knew that ________ (result)
And _________ (conclusion).