Well, it’s the end of the month and that means it’s time for all of us to move on to a different section of the website. We’ll leave the prepositions section and come back to it another day. Of course, you’re welcome to go there at any time to learn how to use "for," "to," "with," etc. because as you know, learning how to use prepositions correctly is a lifetime pursuit.

In the month of May, we’ll focus on American Speech. In this section of the website, you’ll learn about idioms, expressions, slang, and proverbs. There’s a lot of material here. I think it’s especially important for immigrants who live in the United States to learn about the American vernacular.


I’m up early this morning with the rest of the world watching the events leading up to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It’s very interesting to see all the preparations and behind-the-scenes work that go into the wedding of a future king and queen.

Best of luck to the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

If you are interested, this video shows the typical arrangement for a wedding ceremony in the United States. It’s probably similar to wedding ceremonies held in the countries that you are from, but I wanted to post this so that you could become familiar with some of the English vocabulary related to weddings.


This page features additional vocabulary related to a wedding ceremony.


Here’s a new video that shows how to change an adjective clause into an adjective phrase:


Now you try it. How would you reduce these sentences so that an adjective phrase is used instead of an adjective clause?

  1. The people who are working with me are very nice.
  2. The man who is sitting in the booth needs some ketchup.
  3. I can’t find the book that’s missing from the library.
  4. Maria has a lot of antiques that are collecting dust in her attic.
  5. The police found a woman who was living under the bridge.

If you didn’t get today’s email, here’s a link to a new page for the prepositions section for the preposition, "via."

And here are the answers:

  1. The people working with me are very nice.
  2. The man sitting in the booth needs some ketchup.
  3. I can’t find the book missing from the library.
  4. Maria has a lot of antiques collecting dust in her attic.
  5. The police found a woman living under the bridge.


Last night I taught a beginning level English class. Most of the students in that class have good speaking skills, but they’re a little weak with vocabulary. As we were discussing vocabulary related to health care, a student wanted to know more about the word "use." Of course, this word is commonly heard as a verb, but it can also be a noun, and you can change it to make it into an adjective.

As a verb, it looks and sounds like this: use

  • She uses pain relievers for her back.
  • We used the subway to get around New York.
  • I can use my cell phone to access the internet.

As a noun, it looks and sounds like this: use

  • A cell phone has many uses.
  • There’s only one use for a bottle opener.
  • We have no use for our old TV set.
  • What use is it to argue with him? He always thinks he’s right.

These words look the same, but there’s a difference in the sound. When "use" is a verb, the "s" sounds like a "z." When "use" is a noun, the "s" makes an "s" sound.

Add the "ful" suffix to "use" to form an adjective:

  • That is a very useful book.
  • My doctor gave me some useful advice.
  • This pocketknife is extremely useful.



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The prepositions for you to study today are "on top of" and "onto."


You must learn about the different ways to use the preposition "on." This video shows many different applications for it:


Today’s prepositions are "of" and "off."

Here’s a quick YouTube video for members of this website only:



This is a video I made following a recent visit to a Detroit neighborhood where an artist has improved the quality of life in his neighborhood through his art:

The song you hear is Johann Brahm’s Alto Rhapsody sung by Janet Baker. As I was videotaping this, music could be heard coming from a radio left on in one of these abandoned houses. It was a truly eerie, beautiful moment, to be in this seemingly vacant neighborhood surrounded by art as the radio played opera music.

Click here to learn more about the Heidelberg Project.


Today’s prepositions are "into" and "near."

The prepositions for today are "inside" and "instead of."

During a class I taught last week, a student asked me why the word "free" was placed at the end of certain words. He thought it meant that the thing was "free," as in "no charge." You can put "free" after certain nouns to mean that there isn’t any of that thing. It’s almost always used with nouns that describe things, but sometimes you can use it with people:

  • My back is finally pain free. (There’s no pain in my back.)
  • I’m eating fat-free yogurt. (There’s no fat in the yogurt.)
  • She’s a very carefree person. (She has nothing to worry about.)

This video provides more examples:


Notice that when an adjective is composed of two words and it comes before a noun, it’s hyphenated: fat-free yogurt. The words "fat-free" function as an adjective and "yogurt" is a noun. When placed after a noun, you can separate the words (pain free) or place them together (carefree). There are many different variations that you’ll come across.

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The prepositions for today are "in" and "in front of."

Last week I traveled with my family from Minneapolis to Detroit to attend a wedding. We had some time to stop by the Heidelberg Project near downtown Detroit.

Heidelberg House 1Heidelberg Project House 2
An artist uses abandoned and (some) occupied houses for this art project. It’s a very large canvas that he works upon!
Heidelberg Project picHeidelberg Car
Visitors come from all over the country to see how everyday objects are used for creating art.



Today’s lesson is on the word "except." This is very similar to the word "not." We use it when excluding something or someone.


  • Everyone–except Kevin–wants to go to the museum.
  • You can have any cookie except that big one. I’m saving that for later.
  • All of the students were happy about the grades on their tests except for Helena.

The preposition "except" is often used with "for." You can also substitute the preposition "but" for "except."

    Here’s a link to a video about prepositions. I used to watch this on TV when I was as a child, so it’s kind of old but still useful. There are many other Schoolhouse Rock videos that are also good for learning about English grammar. Just do a search on You Tube and you’ll find them.


    The preposition for today is "during." We use this for any kind of simultaneous activity (two things happen at the same time):


    • He goes to work during the day.
    • Someone was talking on a cell phone during the movie.
    • A fight broke out among some of the fans during the game.
    • lily Lily visited many famous places during her trip to Washington D.C.

    You can also put "during" at the beginning of a sentence:

    • During the day, he goes to work.
    • During the movie, someone was talking on a cell phone.
    • During the game, a fight broke out among some of the fans.
    • During her trip to Washington D.C., Lily visited many famous places.

    How are you doing so far in studying all of these different prepositions this month? Are the examples that I’ve presented on the website helping you to understand how to use them better? Remember, prepositions provide information about location, direction, time, proximity, and situation. As we move through the alphabet during the month of April, the prepositions that we come to for today are "despite" and "down."

    Use "despite" when describing contrasts and differences. Here are some examples:

    • They’re going to get a new wide screen TV despite the cost. (So, this means that the TV is expensive, but they’re going to get it anyway.)
    • Hodan wants to become fluent in English despite the many years of practice it will require.
    • Despite losing his job recently, Javier feels pretty confident about his future opportunities.

    Use "down" when indicating direction:

    • His friends live down the street. (In this example, "down" is not exactly the opposite of "up." Instead, it can mean "straight in that direction.")
    • Look down the menu and you’ll see the entrees. (In this example, "down" is the opposite of "up.")
    • We’re going down south during our vacation. (You can use "down" and "south" together when describing a southward direction.. You can also say the opposite, "up north" if you intend on describing a northward direction.)


    Thanks to everyone who sent in photos. I found some that were useful for demonstrating the meanings of prepositions:

    Manzar is standing by the water.Taibi is over there by the camels.

    This is a new video that explains some of the differences among "ing" words:

    bridgebridge 2
    Yesterday I rode my bike across this bridge.Below me was the highway. There were a lot of cars on the highway.

    The two prepositions that I’ve chosen to contrast today are "behind" and "behind in."

    The preposition "behind" is used to when one thing is fully or partially concealed by another:

    • The sun is behind the clouds.
    • The little boy is hiding behind the house.
    • Look behind those boxes and you’ll see a door.

    The preposition "behind in" is used when someone is late or is having some problems maintaining a rate of speed:

    • They’re falling behind in the rent.
    • He’s falling behind in some of his classes.
    • She’s behind in the competition.

    Florerence Holbrook authored this book for the alphabet in English. It was published in 1910. The illustrator is H.D. Pohl:

    This video provides instruction in using the preposition "at."

    A student from Honduras emailed and asked for an explanation for the differences between "certain" and "certainly." Here’s the video response:

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    Do you know how to use the prepositions "among" and "around"? Click to read and listen to the examples provided on these pages.


    The prepositions for today are "ahead of" and "along."

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    Yesterday in class, I asked my students a question about their performance on an assignment. This is the question:

    How did you do?

    The main verb in that question is "do." It’s in the past tense, so the helping verb is "did." There are many different possibilities for an answer. Here’s what to say if your performance is good:

    • A: How did you do?
    • B: I did well. / I did pretty well. / I did great. / I did good. / I did fine.

    Here’s what to say if your performance isn’t good:

    • A: How did you do?
    • B: I did terrible. / I didn’t do very well. / I didn’t do so good. / I did bad.

    It’s worth noting that "I did good" and "I did bad" aren’t exactly correct grammatically because "good" and "bad" are adjectives and you should use an adverb in the examples above; however, most people break the rules in this kind of a response.


    Today you’ll learn about the prepositions "across" and "against."

    Use "across" when one thing is opposite from another, or there is a span of distance that connects two or more locations:

    • The man who lives across the street has a new car.
    • This bridge goes across the river.
    • My relatives live all across the country.

    Use "against" to describe the placement of two things or two people, or you can use this preposition to describe opposition to an issue:

    • Put the table against the wall.
    • Mario is leaning against his car.
    • They’re against the war in Afghanistan.

    Click on the links above for more examples.

    The prepositions for today are "above" and "according to."

    I’d like to start using more photos of students in lessons, so if you have a picture of yourself and you’d like to be included, just email it to me. Include your name and the name of the country that you are from.


    This week we’ll study prepositions that begin with the letter "a."

    Let’s start with the preposition "aboard." This is used for boats, planes, and trains. Generally, "aboard" is used with large vehicles:

    • There are many passengers aboard the airplane.
    • The equipment aboard the space shuttle is very expensive.
    • The company is welcoming aboard three new employees this week.

    As you can see in the last sentence, "aboard" is also used when someone joins a company or a group of people. You can substitute "aboard" with "on board."

    The next preposition, "about," is used when describing approximate time, distance, and amounts:

    • There were about 20 students in class today.
    • It takes about three hours to get to New York from here.

    You can also use "about" when describing the narrative in a story:

    • This movie is about a boy and a girl who fall in love, but then the girl dies, and the boy decides never to get married.
    • This book is about the Civil War in the United States.
    • What is this TV show about?

    Click here for a new video that explains how to use "but" as a preposition.

    This video explains some of the differences among "in," "on," and "at."

    If you have been following my lessons since we began the Blue Level in March, then you have finished all seven levels. Congratulations! That is quite a great accomplishment. If you haven’t been following my lessons since that time, don’t worry. You’ll get a chance to do that in June when we begin the Blue Level once again.

    Here’s the secret to learning English or any other language: You have to work hard at it every day. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s easy. Unless you learn a language as a baby or as a child, you have to spend at least an hour or two every day studying, and you can’t stop. If you stop, you might forget what you have learned. The average length of time to gain fluency in English is five years, but that depends on the individual. How committed are you to learn English?

    Understanding English should be a lifetime pursuit if you really want to learn it. That’s why I tell my older students that it’s never too late to learn something new. You have the rest of your life.

    So starting in June, we’ll begin the Blue Level again and continue on with a new level every month until the end of the year in December. The schedule will look like this:

    The 2011 Schedule for Lessons  
    June arrow
    Blue Level 
    July arrow
    Red Level  
    August arrow
    Yellow Level  
    September arrow
    Green Level 
    October arrow
    Purple Level 
    November arrow
    Orange Level 
    December arrow
    Violet Level  

    There are two months between now and June, so we will study prepositions in April and American speech (idioms, verb phrases, expressions, slang, etc.) in May. Of course, you are free to work on any of the lessons at your own pace, but many of my online students tell me that they prefer the discipline of working daily with a teacher. If you know someone who wants to learn English, let that person know now about this schedule: Tell a Friend(Click!)

    Fortunately, the internet provides you with many opportunities to learn new languages with people from all over the world, and most of those opportunities are free! Take advantage of that now. Go to the Links section of my website to find other websites for learning English. It’s important for you to learn from more than just one person.

    It’s also important to review the things you have already learned, so if you have gone through my online program, it’s okay to repeat it. In fact, if you go through all of the lessons–in order–again and again, you might find that to be a good method for remembering and learning English. But everyone is different. What works for one person might not work for someone else.

    Learning something new is one of life’s great privileges if you are lucky enough to have the time and energy to go to school. Teaching is also a great privilege. I’ve been teaching English for over 20 years. For most of those years, I’ve taught English as a second language, but I’ve also taught writing and literature classes. Teaching people how to understand the English language is really a pleasure as well as a privilege, and I look forward to every day that I go to work or sit down at my computer to create new material. It’s a very fun occupation. I hope you are also having fun when you come to my website.

    Click here to go to March 2011 to see what students learned in the Violet Level.