This week we’ll leave the Purple Level behind and move on to the Orange Level. This level focuses on the formation of sentences, so it’s a little more difficult than the first five levels, but if you’ve been following the program here every day since we began in September, you should be okay. It will help you to understand good subject-verb agreement for this level, so you might have to occasionally review your grammar in the Blue, Red, Yellow, or Green Levels.

This program repeats in a never-ending loop, so if you missed anything in the past, don’t worry. I’ll come back to it again someday. We’ll go back to the Blue Level in the spring.


There’s a new page for dictation. It’s the Yellow Level Dictation page. I’ll be adding additional recordings to this page during this week.

There’s a new YouTube video on the word "enough." If this word gives you trouble, check it out.


This is what January looks like on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. For exercise I usually walk around the entire lake. It takes about 45 minutes.

lake harriet

I took this picture last Friday. Everything is frozen and gray. But I like this time of year. It’s very quiet.

Your last lesson for the Purple Level is on the verb "do." This is an important helping verb and main verb, and it’s one of those verbs that a lot of students make mistakes with. Look at the sentences below:

  • He does a lot of work on the weekend.
  • She did her shopping in the morning.
  • They have done some interesting things with their house.

In each of these sentences the main verb is "do."

The verb "do" is also a helping verb for making questions and negatives. This is one of the reasons why people make mistakes. The sentences below are all negative:

  • He doesn’t do much work on the weekend.
  • She didn’t do her shopping in the morning.
  • They haven’t done anything interesting with their house.

This is what the questions might look like:

  • What does he do on the weekend?
  • Did she do her shopping?
  • Have they done anything with their house?

I recommend that you pay very close attention to how the verb "do" is used. It’s very popular in the United States as a main verb. It’s also used in a lot of slang and idioms.

Here’s a brand new quiz for the verb "do."

The verb for today is "send." This is a simple word, but it’s still very important to know.

This is a brand new quiz for the verb "send." Good luck!


The Purple Level lesson for today is Lesson Twenty-two on the verb "let."

Use the verb "let" when giving permission:

  • She let her kids have some ice cream.
  • The teacher let the kids leave class early.
  • I’m going to let you drive my car.
  • He wouldn’t let his kids go to the park.
  • We won’t let them have the cake until we finish dinner.

Use the verb "let" when offering an invitation or asking someone to participate in an activity. In this case, the verb is followed by "us" to form a contraction, "let’s."

  • Let’s go to a movie.
  • Let’s turn to page 21.
  • Let’s eat.
  • Don’t let them go.
  • Don’t let me fall asleep.

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Loyal readers of this blog: You can be among the first students to try the Red Level Dictation Page. Additional exercises will be added to this page over the weekend. These exercises are a little harder than the dictation exercises found in the Blue Level.

Today’s lesson is on the verb "seem." This word is used to describe appearances and impressions from a person’s point of view. The verb "seem" is similar to the verb "be." While "be" expresses certainty, "seem" expresses something that is less certain:

  1. You are tired.
  2. She is nice.
  3. This car isn’t working.
  1. You seem tired.
  2. She seems nice.
  3. This car doesn’t seem to be working.

I got a lot of positive feedback regarding the new dictation section of the website. You seem to be happy with it, so I’ll add additional dictation exercises for each of the other six levels.


If you received today’s email, you learned about the new dictation exercises. Let me know if these kinds of exercises are helpful for you.

The verb for today is "be."

The verb "run" is used to describe movement that is faster than walking, but we also use it for many other things:

  • The movement of water: I can hear the water running in the sink.
  • The pursuit of political power: He’s running for the U.S. Senate.
  • The direction of a street: This street runs north and south.
  • The source of energy: A hybrid car runs on a battery and on gas.
  • To replace the verb "go.": I have to run to the store.
  • To describe depletion : We’re running low on milk.

You can learn more about this very interesting verb by clicking here.

This is a brand new quiz for the verb "run": Click here to give it a try.


This is a new video for the word "what" when it’s used to increase the meaning for an adjective or a noun:


Brrrrrr! It’s been a cold week here in Minnesota. Last Friday morning was about 25 degrees below zero. For people in countries that use Celsius to measure temperature, that’s about -31 degrees Celsius. When it gets this cold, you can throw boiled water up into the air and it will instantly evaporate. This is from a video I made a few years ago:


The verb of the day is "play."  soccer ball This is a good word to learn about on the weekend because it’s on Saturday and Sunday that many people play sports.

There are a few different uses for this verb. We use it with musical instruments, roles and positions in activities, and, of course, we use this word with sports. The one important thing I’ll bring to your attention today is the difference between the words "play" and "go" when describing sporting activities.

The word "play" is usually used with team sports:

  • He plays soccer.
  • She played basketball in high school.
  • Have you ever played hockey?
  • They don’t play rugby at that school anymore.

The word "go" is usually used with recreational sports or sports that highlight individual effort:

  • We go fishing in the summer.
  • My neighbors went snowmobiling last week.
  • Let’s go swimming.
  • Do you like to go ice skating in the winter?

However, "play" is also used with some individual sports in which there is one or more opponent:

  • We played golf. ( or….We went golfing.)
  • Let’s play some chess.
  • Do you like to play ping pong?
  • I don’t play tennis.

Some sports use neither "play" nor "go," but not that many:

  • He lifts weights. He’s a weightlifter.
  • She practices gymnastics. She’s a gymnast.

Would you like to take a quiz on the word "play." Click here to give it a try.

Today’s verb is fairly simple. Click here to go to the lesson for the verb "cut," or you can go directly to the quiz.


The verb you’re going to learn about today is "keep." You can use "keep" for many different things, but its main use is in describing storage (Putting something somewhere for a short or long time). The words "keep" and "put" are similar is this regard:

  • Where do you keep your onions?
  • He keeps his cell phone in his pocket.
  • We kept our car in the garage last night.

However, "keep" also means to continue:

  • She keeps asking the same questions.
  • You keep coming back to this website to learn English.
  • They kept driving the same car even though they could afford a new one.

There are other uses for this important word. To learn more, click here.


The lesson for today is on the verb "tell." We use this verb when giving directions, providing information, and noticing differences.

I told her to go to the store for some eggs.

He told me he moved here from Mexico.

I can’t tell the two brothers apart.

Here’s a brand new quiz for the word "tell." Remember, I recommend that students write out their answers by hand. It’s better for you to do it that way so that you can remember what you have learned. I haven’t posted the answers for this quiz yet because it’s so new, but I’ll provide them sometime later today — I promise!

Do you know what some of the differences are between "say" and "tell"? Take this quiz to see how much you know.


Did you receive today’s email? If not, you can subscribe on the homepage.


Today’s lesson is on the verb "want." This is similar to "need," however, "want" is used to express desire:

  • She wants to get a new car. Her old car is okay, but she wants a new one.
  • Bill’s parents wanted him to become a doctor, but he wanted to do something with his artistic talent so he became a painter.
  • I want to see a movie today.

Many Americans put "want" and "to" together to form "wanna." I don’t think this is a good idea for beginning level students, but if you’ve been speaking English for a few years, and want to try it, go ahead. You can only do this with "want" and "to." You can’t do it with "wants" and "to" or "wanted" and "to."

  • I want to see a movie today. / I wanna see a movie today.
  • They want to go downtown. / They wanna go downtown.
  • Do you want to get a pizza? Do you wanna get a pizza?

Don’t say, "Do you wanna to get a pizza?" Sometimes I hear my students use "wanna" and "to" together. That’s completely wrong.

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Day in the United States. To learn more about this important American civil rights leader, click here.

Click here to read and listen to "Androcles and the Lion."

Here’s a new video for the word "too."


Click here to take a new quiz on the verb "know."


Today’s lesson is on the verb "need." The verb "need" is used for things that are necessary:

  • Our family needs a new car. Our old car doesn’t work.
  • I need to buy some groceries at the store.
  • That baby needs some attention.

Notice that the verb "need" is followed by a noun or an infinitive:

  • My computer needed a new optical scanner. (The word "scanner" is a noun.)
  • You will need to buy a book for this class. ("To buy" is an infinitive.)
  • I need more time to finish this test. ("Time" is a noun.)
  • He needs to call his mother. ("To call" is an infinitive.)

Do not use "need" with gerunds:

  • They need working on this project. (They need to work….)
  • He needs fixing his car. (He needs to fix…)


Purple Level Lesson Eleven is on the verb "come."

The thing that my beginning level students often have trouble with is in understanding the difference between "come" and "go." The pictures below might help:

woman on phonearrowbusiness man on phone
"Hi Todd. Can you come to my office today?""Sure. I can be there this afternoon."

The woman asks the man to visit here in her office. She’s in her office as she speaks to the man, so she uses the word "come," not "go." But later she says….

woman on phone 2New York
"I have to go to New York next week."
New York

She’s in her office and she’s talking about going to New York, so she uses the word "go" because she’s not in New York yet.


The lesson for today is on the word "make."

There are many idioms that use this word. Click here to learn about them.

Did you receive today’s email? If not, make sure you sign up on the homepage for lessons and updates to the website. It’s all free!


Lesson Eight in the Purple Level is on the verb "know." This is an irregular verb:

past participle

This word is most often used to express comprehension and understanding:

  • Do you know how to drive a car?
  • She knows a lot of new words after studying online.
  • The doctor needs to know more about his patient.
  • He wants to know the answer to a question.

"Know" is also used to describe relationships among people:

  • How long have you known your teacher?
  • Do you know anyone who can help you with your English?
  • I know most of the people in my neighborhood.
  • Martha never knew her parents because they died when she was a baby.

Do you know the story about "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." This is a new addition to the Purple Level Reading Room.


Click here to see examples for the verb "look."

There are a few things that are interesting about this word. In addition to being used as a verb, you can also use it as a noun:

  • She gave the man a strange look.
  • That’s not a good look on you.
  • You should give the new Chevy Volt a look.

In the first example, "look" describes the expression on a person’s face. When you "give a look," sometimes it means that a person has made a negative impression. On the other hand, "She gave him a long look before turning away," could mean that she is attracted to the man. In the second example, "look" refers to a person’s appearance, and in the third example, to "give a look" at something is to review it for the first time.

The word "look" is also used to introduce a statement, usually a matter that needs serious attention

  • Look. We all know that this is not a good solution to the problem.
  • Look. You’ve got to improve your grades or you won’t be able to get into college.
  • Look. If things don’t improve, I’m leaving.

The word "look" is also a part of many idioms and expressions. Click here to see some examples.

The verb of the day is "see." You can use this word to describe sight:

  • I see the stop sign. (present tense)
  • She saw a lot of things on sale. (past tense)
  • He has seen several deer by the side of the road. (present perfect tense)

But you can also use "see" to describe a visit:

  • Martha tries to see the dentist at least twice a year.
  • I’m going to see some friends after work tonight.
  • The children saw their grandmother yesterday.

The verb "see" often describes romantic relationships:

  • They’ve been seeing each other for the last six months.
  • He hopes to see her again sometime.
  • She doesn’t want to see him any more.

We also use "see" in the same way that we use the verb "understand."

  • A: Do you see what I mean?
  • B: Yes, now I see.

See how much you know about using the verb "see" in various verb tenses by taking this quiz.

The verbs we’ll learn about this week are see, look, know, make, come, and need.

Here’s a new YouTube video explaining some of the similarities and differences between "really" and "very."


The lesson for today is on the verb "give." You can find some idiomatic uses for this verb by clicking here. If you’re confident in understanding how to use this word in various verb tenses, click here to test your knowledge.

Click here to read and listen to a new addition to the Purple Level Reading Room: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.


The verb "take" is interesting because it has so many different meanings when combined with prepositions to form idioms:

  • She’s decided to take up yoga in order to stay fit. (take up = to begin a new activity)
  • Take us through your ideas. We’re very interested in hearing what you have to say. (take ____ through = present; show)
  • Most dogs naturally take to water. It’s in their nature. (take to = adapt to conditions; to enjoy doing something)
  • What do you take me for? An idiot? (take one for = to have an opinion about a person)
  • Marsha and Bill are going to take in another foster child. (take in = to make someone part of your group or your family)
  • We should try to take in a movie this afternoon. (take in = to see some form of entertainment)

As you can see, there are many different ways to use "take." I should also mention that in the United States, we usually don’t use "take" when eating breakfast or drinking something. For example….

Did you take breakfast this morning?

Did you have breakfast this morning?

Which one would you say is better? They’re both okay, but the second one is more common in the U.S. I’ve noticed over the years that many people who speak Spanish will choose the word "take" over "have," "eat," or "drink," when describing consumption. I’ll let you decide what to say, but most people here wouldn’t use "take."

On the other hand, you can use "take" when describing how you like to drink something:

  • A: How do you take your coffee? Do you like cream or sugar?
  • B: I usually take it black, no sugar. (take it black = no cream)


The verb of the day is "use." This is a hard one to talk about because I end up saying things like, "Do you know how to use the verb "use?" But as a teacher, I use this word all the time when talking to my students about the different parts of speech or the meanings and applications of language.

Most importantly, we use language. We speak it and we write it, but we use it because we want something or we need to communicate an idea. We can’t read minds, and body language just isn’t enough, so we use language.

  • Click here for a new addition to the Purple Level Reading Room.


As a way to demonstrate the usefulness of the verb "put," sometimes I ask my students not to use it and consider alternatives instead. You can substitute words such as "place," "enter," "lay," "set," "invest," etc., but there is no better word than "put" when describing the placement of an object in a location:

  • I put some money in the bank.
  • Where do you put your money?
  • Please put the milk in the refrigerator.
  • Where did you put your shoes?
  • She puts peanut butter on everything she eats
  • We put a swingset in our backyard.
  • Put your hat on. It’s cold outside.

The verb "put" is also used idiomatically:

  • She’s put in 50 hours at work this week. (put in = work)
  • He’s putting on a lot of weight. (put on = add weight)
  • They have four kids to put through college. (put through = pay for, usually tuition)
  • I told you to stay put. (stay put = don’t move)

The verb "get" functions as both a main verb and as a substitute verb for "be" when forming the passive voice. It’s also used in many idiomatic verb phrases. If you look in a dictionary, you might see close to a hundred different meanings for this one word. For these reasons, it’s necessary to spend some time learning how to use "get."

It’s worth noting also that "get" is used a little differently in British English. While we use the past participle "gotten" here in the United States, British English uses "got" instead.

Here are just a few examples of how "get" is used:

  • I need to get home fast. (get = go)
  • Did you get him? (get = shoot with a gun)
  • He doesn’t get it. (get = understand)
  • You’re going to get mad at me. (get = become)
  • Let’s get together. (get + together = meet)
  • Get up! (get up = wake up)
  • Get dressed! (get dressed = put your clothes on)

The verb "go" is first on the list of Purple Level verbs for a good reason. It’s a very popular verb, but it’s also one that students frequently use incorrectly. This is usually because they don’t know enough about the different forms of the verb. Look at the chart below:

past participle
present participle

In each lesson for the Purple Level, you’ll notice that the verb is shown in the simple form (you can call it the "base form" or "the infinitive), the past tense, the past participle, and the present participle. If you have studied all the lessons in the first four levels of this website–Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green–then you know why these forms are necessary to study and remember.

Listen to the examples provided for each verb in the Purple Level and study the tenses and forms that each verb can take. There’s a lot of information on each page, so I don’t expect you to remember everything you learn there, but if you are having trouble with particular verbs in English, this level should help you.

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Click here to see a new YouTube video on combining words in English.


January begins with the Purple Level. When I put these lessons together, I did so with the intention of introducing a relatively small but useful collection of words that students should consider learning more about in order to improve their English. You’ll notice that most of the verbs on this list are small (three to four letters) and most of them are irregular. Some of the lessons have links to additional pages that show how these words are used in idiomatic verb phrases. (Click here for an example)

If you become familiar with these verbs, your English should improve.


Let’s all work together towards making the world a more peaceful place to live. Let’s also try to do our best to keep the planet clean. It’s really getting dirty!

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Did you miss the whole month of December? We learned about how to use the passive voice in…

the Green Level


Click here to go to December 2010 to see what students learned.