Today you should be finished with the Yellow Level. We will begin the Green Level tomorrow. The Green Level focuses on the passive voice. If you haven’t finished all of the lessons in the Blue, Red, and Yellow levels, you will be lost. I don’t recommend that you cram all of those lessons in on one night. That’s no good. If you have some basic understanding of English, studying the passive voice will help you realize just how good your knowledge of English grammar needs to be in order to avoid making mistakes. Remember, it’s always a good idea to go back to the previous lessons and study then in order whenever you feel like you are totally confused.


Today your assignment is to finish the second part of the Yellow Level Review. Make sure you write your answers in your notebook.

write by hand

On the schedule for today is the first part of the Yellow Level Review. If you don’t understand what to do, links are provided in each section to help you make good choices when filling in the blanks. This might take a lot of time, but I believe that it’s necessary for you to review what you have learned in order to remember it well.

Have you been trying the pronunciation exercises? This is a work in progress, so I appreciate your feedback (ideas and suggestions)!

How are you doing with the Yellow Level? We’re almost finished with it, but you have just a few more days to finish all of the lessons in the Yellow Level before you attempt the review. Of course, you are welcome to go to the review at any time, but if you are studying English for the first time, I recommend that you complete the lessons first.

This is a new video that shows you how to use an adjective + "enough" and an infinitive when describing what a person can do. Contrast this video with the one that was posted a few days ago:

The lesson for today is on intensifiers. This is the last lesson before the Yellow Level Review. You have just a few more days to complete all of the lessons in the Yellow Level. Starting in September, we’ll study the passive voice in the Green Level.

The pronunciation section of the website is still a work in progress, but I’ve just about completed the main vowel sounds. Of course, I’ll be adding to this section with additional exercises and videos. Hope it helps!

The lesson for today is on superlative adverbs. Many Americans don’t put adverbs into the superlative form properly, so I place this at the bottom of things that you have to really work on.

Yellow Level Lesson Twenty-two will help you use adverbs in the comparative form. If you have trouble with this, go back to Yellow Level Lesson Six and look at how the comparative form is made with adjectives. Remember that adjectives and adverbs are different.

This is a new video that explains how to use the word "too" with an adjective and an infinitive. Remember that one of the uses for the word "too" is to describe a situation that is not good, or it’s just a little negative:

The lesson for today is on adverbs.  

Today’s lesson on height and weight provides basic instruction in talking about a person’s physical appearance:

I’m five feet, eleven inches tall. (height)

I weigh 210 pounds. (weight)

This is what most people say when giving this information. There are some variations of this as you will see when you go to the lesson.

Many people are overweight. There are quite a few different adjectives you have to choose from when describing this condition, but be careful–you can easily hurt a person’s feelings. Women (as you know) are more sensitive to this than men.

  • He’s heavyset. / He’s heavy.
  • She could stand to lose a few pounds.
  • He’s got a large frame.
  • She’s very healthy.
  • He’s fat. (Be careful with the word "fat.")
  • She’s chubby.
  • He’s plump.
  • She’s pleasingly plump.
  • He’s as big as a house.
  • She’s kind of fat.
  • He’s enormous.
  • She’s a big-boned woman.

You also meet a lot of people who are underweight. This is what you’ll hear people say about that condition:

  • She’s very skinny.
  • He’s thin.
  • She’s kind of boney.
  • He doesn’t have much meat on him.
  • She’s anorexic. (This might indicate a mental or physical problem)
  • He needs to put on more weight.
  • She eats like a bird and she’s as thin as a rail.

Learning about the future continuous tense is part of your instruction for today.

I hope you are also going to the "Word of the Day" section and "Think in English." In addition to these regularly updated pages, there’s a new section for pronunciation. Listen to the audio and read the words at the same time. This might help you with your spelling as well.

This is a new video for the verb "make."


Prepositional phrases cause some problems for students, mainly because they include prepositions (*wink), but they’re also confusing because they can be placed within many different parts of a sentence. A prepositional phrase always begins with a preposition and ends with a noun. Can you find the prepositional phrases in these sentences?

  1. Denise goes to work in the evening.
  2. I need to get two cups of rice.
  3. Both of my feet hurt.
  4. Behind that old building there’s a police station.
  5. I left the house this morning without a coat. (Answers below)

If you had any trouble identifying the prepositional phrases in these sentences, you should go to Yellow Level Lesson Eighteen.

There’s a new "Think in English" exercise. I hope you find these exercises helpful.

(Answers: 1. to work / in the evening; 2. of rice; 3. of my feet; 4. Behind that old building; 5. without a coat.)


Today’s lesson shows you the difference between the present perfect continuous tense and the past perfect continuous tense.

Yellow Level Lesson Sixteen is an introduction to direct and indirect quotations. In this lesson, you learn how to describe what another person says.

The past perfect tense is a real challenge for many of my students. Sometimes it seems as though there’s very little difference between the past the tense and the past perfect tense.

This YouTube video explains the differences between the past tense and the past perfect tense:

If you have been working in the Yellow Level this month, and if you have finished all of the lessons and all of the quizzes that lead up to today’s lesson, you should be able to understand the sentence you see below:

She shouldn’t have been talking on her cell phone.

Do you see all the parts of the verb phrase? The formula looks like this:

modal verb + have + been + ________ing

The main verb is in the continuous form, but the action takes place in the past. Or, the action never happened (or isn’t happening now):

I would have been teaching today, but the school is on break.

So I’m not in the classroom right now. Instead, I’m on the computer typing this sentence.

Here’s a new video that shows you how to make and answer questions in the present perfect continuous tense:

This week you’ll learn about the present perfect continuous tense, the past perfect tense, and indirect quotations. These are difficult lessons!

Some modal verbs can be used with what looks like the present perfect tense. You can learn about these verbs in Yellow Level Lesson Twelve. The formula looks like this:

modal verb + have + the past participle

Understanding this is very useful because it allows you to talk about things in the past that did or did not happen. Look at the sentence below:

  • Harold should have gone to sleep earlier last night.

Did he do that? No, he didn’t. He should have done it, but he didn’t do it. There was a negative consequence because he didn’t go to sleep earlier.

  • Sara shouldn’t have tried to fix her computer herself.

Did she do that? Yes, she did. She shouldn’t have done it, but she did it. Something bad happened as a result. Of course, you can’t change the past, but you can talk about it and how some past activity should or should not have happened.

Watch this video:


This quiz will determine how well you understand perfect modals. If you don’t do very well on this quiz, make sure you take another look at today’s lesson

You’ll learn more about this kind of verb construction in the Orange Level when we study past conditional sentences in November.

If you do a search on "idiomatic modal verbs," my website will pop up right away. Not too many other teachers use this term to describe verb phrases used as modals, so I wonder if this is actually the correct term. I could be wrong. It happens sometimes. But whatever words we use to describe something, the most important thing is that you improve your English. The idiomatic modal verbs or verb phrases that you will learn about today are….

(be) going to

have to

(be) able to

These verb phrases are very common in spoken English, often taking the place of other modal verbs. Look at the sentences below:

  • She will go to the store.
  • She’s going to go to the store.
  • I must see a doctor.
  • I have to see a doctor.
  • They can’t come over later.
  • They aren’t able to come over later.

As you can see, it’s very easy to replace modal verbs with these idiomatic modal verbs. They are more complex and require a lot of practice, but if you want to become a better of speaker of English, I urge you to learn about them.


For students who are new to English, modal verbs are a little confusing at first. Modal verbs change the modality (quality, mood, possibility) of the main verb. While the main verb remains in the simple form, the modal verb used in front of the main verb can drastically change its meaning. Let’s consider how the verb "drive" changes in the sentences below:

  • Sharon will drive to work tomorrow. (future)
  • Sharon might drive to work tomorrow. (future possibility)
  • Sharon may drive to work tomorrow. (future possibility)
  • May Sharon drive? May I drive? (asking for permission)
  • Sharon can drive to work. (ability)
  • Sharon couldn’t drive to work yesterday. (past possibility)
  • Sharon must drive to work. (necessity)
  • Sharon should drive to work. (recommendation)
  • Sharon would drive if she had a car. (conditional)

To learn more about modal verbs, click here.

The lesson for today shows the differences between the past tense and the past continuous tense. Look at the sentences below:

  • Bill washed his car yesterday.
  • Bill was washing his car yesterday when he discovered a dent on one of the doors.

The first sentence is in the simple past tense. The second sentence is in the past continuous tense. An on-going activity happens over a period of time when suddenly it’s interrupted by some other action.

For some situations, it’s much better to use the past continuous tense instead of the past tense. Consider these two sentences:

  • What were you doing before you answered the phone?
  • What did you do before you answered the phone?

The first sentence is better than the second sentence because it asks about an activity before another past activity. In this situation, the past continuous tense sounds better.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter too much whether you use the past continuous tense or the past tense. For example, among these three sentences, there is very little difference in meaning:

  • Jose was working at a restaurant while he was living in the United States.
  • Jose was working at a restaurant while living in the United States. (Notice you can drop the subject and the verb "be" in the second part of the sentence.)
  • Jose worked at a restaurant when he lived in the United States.

(Sorry for not posting on August 9. I was traveling.)

Today’s lesson introduces superlative adjectives. These are words that have an "est" ending, or these words use "most" when describing one thing or person within a group. Here are some examples:

  • Yesterday was the hottest day of the year. It was 104 degrees Fahrenheit!
  • This is the most interesting move that I have every seen.
  • She’s the best student in the class.

Do you see where the superlative adjective is in each of these sentences? This video will help:

The word of the day is "want." This video provides additional help with this verb:

If you have any trouble watching my videos on your computer, your phone, or your iPad, please let me know and I’ll see if I can find a solution.

This week you’ll study superlative adjectives, the past continuous tense, and modal verbs.  


Today you’ll learn about comparative adjectives.


The formation of questions in the present perfect tense requires the helping verb "have" to go before the subject, followed by the main verb in the form of a past participle. I like to use the verb "live" when teaching this because this verb is often used when asking about a person’s life experiences:

  • How long have you lived in the U.S.?
  • Have you ever lived in another country?
  • How long has she lived in her apartment?
  • Has she ever lived anywhere else?

When making a question for information, you will hear people use "how long" to ask about the length of time. You will also hear the use of "ever" when someone is asking a question related to a person’s life experience.

Click here to go to today’s lesson.


The lesson for today shows you how to make the present perfect tense negative. Go to that lesson now and then come back to the blog because I want to show you something.

Did you finish the lesson? That’s good. What I’m going to show you now will help you understand the differences among negative verbs in the present tense, the past tense, and the present perfect tense.

Let’s start with the verb be:

  • I am not tired. (present tense)
  • I wasn’t tired this morning. (past tense)
  • I haven’t been tired all day. (present perfect tense)

The verb "be" always gets special treatment because of the way you make questions and negatives with that verb in the present tense and the past tense.

Now let’s look at how the verb see changes:

  • I don’t see a doctor very often. (present tense)
  • I didn’t see a doctor last year. (past tense)
  • I haven’t seen a doctor in a very long time. (present perfect tense)
  • I haven’t seen a doctor since 2003. (present perfect tense)

Notice the helping verb "do" is used to make the negative for the present tense, the verb "did" is used for the past tense, and the verb "have" is used to make the negative in the present perfect tense. Do you understand these differences?

Tomorrow you’ll learn about making questions in the present perfect tense.


In Yellow Level Lesson Three, you’ll learn about the present perfect tense. This is one of the most commonly used verb tenses in English, but it’s a little difficult to learn because you have to know all the past participles for irregular verbs.

Look at the sentences below and compare them to the sentences from yesterday’s lesson:

  • I have had a headache all day.
  • I haven’t had a headache like this in a very long time.
  • She has had a lot of problems lately.
  • She has never had so many problems before.

In these sentences the helping verb is "have" or "has" (It depends on the subject.), and the main verb is "have." Confused? Look at the chart below:

past participle

The past tense form of the verb "have" is "had." The past participle for this verb is also "had" The helping verb is "have." (This is not the same thing as the simple form of the verb "have.")

Now let’s make the present perfect tense with the verb "go."

  • I’ve gone on vacation. (I’ve = I have)
  • I haven’t gone on vacation since last year.
  • She has gone to a movie.
  • She hasn’t gone to a movie in over six months.

The link for today’s lesson will provide more information about the present perfect tense. I recommend you study it very carefully and watch the video.

So if this is your first introduction to the present perfect tense, I’m sorry if this is confusing. You should go back to the first two levels of the website if you have problems understanding the present prefect tense. We will continue to study the present perfect tense tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.


Today’s lesson is on the verb "have" in the present tense and the past tense. It’s very important to understand how to use this verb properly as a main verb because it’s used as a helping verb in the present perfect tense, which you will start learning about tomorrow.

These sentences are in the present tense:

  • I have a headache. / I don’t have a headache.
  • She has a problem. / She doesn’t have a problem.

These sentences are in the past tense:

  • I had a headache last night. / I didn’t have a headache last week.
  • She had a problem. / She didn’t have the problem for very long.

Notice how the negative is formed in the present tense and the past tense. Sometimes I hear my students use "haven’t or "hadn’t" when making the negative in these tense, but in American English, these words are used for the present perfect negative and past perfect negative. If you say…

I haven’t a headache. / She hasn’t a problem. / I hadn’t a headache.

…or anything like that, it sounds strange in American English. This is one of the differences between British and American English. The sentences aren’t incorrect, they just sound kind of strange to the ears of an American.

Tomorrow you’ll learn about the present perfect tense, but if you want to go to that lesson now, here’s the link.

The first two lessons in the Yellow Level review two important verbs in English: do and have. Today’s lesson shows you how to make questions in the past tense using the helping verb "do." Tomorrow’s lesson shows you how to use the verb "have" as a main verb in the present and past tense. It’s very important that you understand both of these lessons before you study all of the other lessons in the Yellow Level.

If you are confused, go back to the Blue Level and the Red Level and study all of the lessons for the present tense and the past tense.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

If you want to follow this website for the next five months and improve your English, here’s the schedule:

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  


Click here to go to July 2011. During that month, we studied idioms, expressions, proverbs, and slang.