Learn American English Online Blog
November 30, 2011
Have you tried any of the dictation exercises on the website? Almost every level has them. The dictation exercises for the Orange Level are here. If these exercises are too hard, try the dictation exercises on the Blue Level and then work your way up from there.
November 29, 2011
Practice your reading in the Orange Level Reading Room.
We have just one more day in the Orange Level tomorrow and then on Thursday, we’ll begin the Violet Level.
November 28, 2011
Using "have to" in various verb tenses is a real challenge for many students. Lesson Twenty-two in the Orange Level will show you how to form questions in the present, past, future, and present perfect tenses with "have to."
This is the last lesson in the Orange Level. Have you taken all of the quizzes for this level. If not, you can find them on this page.
November 27, 2011
If you enjoyed last week’s video on the word "done," you might also like this most recent video on the word "gone."
November 26, 2011
Today’s lesson is all about question words. Monday’s lesson is also on question words, so I expect you might go back and forth between the two lessons. There’s an easier lesson on making questions in the Blue Level.
November 25, 2011
The day after Thanksgiving starts the holiday shopping season. I plan to stay home and relax today. I hope you do, too. Spend some time learning English. Today’s lesson is on embedded questions.
There’s a new Think in English exercise here.
November 24, 2011
In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. We give thanks for all the good things in our lives, and we reflect upon the reasons why people came to America 400 years ago. It’s a good time to think about why people continue to come here. In a sense, we are all immigrants, or at the very least we are the descendants of immigrants.
November 23, 2011
Today’s lesson is on tag questions. A tag question appears at the end of a sentence:
She’s here today, isn’t she?
Notice the question isn’t formed until the end. Use the same verb that appeared at the beginning of the sentence, and use a pronoun to match the subject. Here’s another example:
Tom wants something to eat, doesn’t he?
This sentence above is in the present tense, so when you make a question at the end, you must use the helping verb that matches. The subject is Tom, who is a man, so the pronoun, "he," comes after the helping verb.
I find tag questions to be an interesting thing to teach and to learn about. Click on the link above to learn more.
November 22, 2011
I’m having some problems with setting up the new chat room, so if you are unable to use it today, don’t be too surprised. Everything should be fixed by this afternoon.
Today’s lesson shows you have to use the words "still" and "anymore."
November 21, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Seventeen shows you how to use "either" and "neither." These two words cause a lot of difficulty for students, especially "neither" because it’s negative.
I’m thinking of using a new chat room format. You can get a sneak peak in the Yellow Level Chat Room.
November 20, 2011
As you know, I’m always adding new things to the website to make it an interesting place to visit. Many ideas come from students who email me and offer suggestions. The sections on the right side of the homepage originated as suggestions. Word of the Day, Think in English, Pronounce, and What’s the question? all started as a result of an idea from a student. Which of these sections of the website do you like the most? You can participate in an online survey here.
There’s a new Think in English exercise. I recommend you write your answers in your notebook.
November 19, 2011
You might be happy to know that today’s lesson is easier (or should be easier) than the other lessons that you did this week. You can use "so" or "too" when describing things that are the same or similar:
Do you notice where the word "so" appears in the first sentence? It’s before the verb. In the second sentence, "too" is after the verb. Also, the verb that appears in the second part of the sentence has to match the main verb or the helping verb in the first part of the sentence. This might be a little confusing at first, but with a lot of practice, you’ll get good at it:
Why is the helping verb "does" in the second part of the sentence? it matches the verb tense in the first part. Click here for more practice.
November 18, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Fifteen is the last lesson that describes a situation that isn’t true now or wasn’t true in the past:
He wishes he didn’t have to work today.
After the word "wish," the verb is in the past tense and it’s negative, but the sentence describes a present reality: He has to work today.
I wish I had gone to bed earlier last night.
But I went to bed late and now I feel really tired! Notice that the verb after "wish" is in the past perfect tense. This describes a past situation: I went to bed late.
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There’s a new reading selection for the Red Level Reading Room. This is about raccoons.
November 17, 2011
The most difficult conditional sentence to make is the past conditional. This is also called the past contrary-to-fact or the past unreal. Here’s an example of how it’s used:
If she had planned carefully, she wouldn’t have made this mistake.
Did she plan carefully? No. Did she make a mistake? Yes. This is a very common type of sentence in English. Learn more here.
Here’s a new video. It will help you use, "I think so," or "I think" + the subject and the verb that was in the original question:
November 16, 2011
Sentences in the present conditional describe something that is true or not true now:
If I had more money, I would buy a car.
Do I have the money now? No. Will I buy a car? No.
If he didn’t eat so much, he’d be healthier.
Does he eat a lot of food? Yes. Is he healthy? No.
Notice that after the word "if" the verb is in the past tense, but the situation is in the present. In the second part of the sentence, you can use "would," but "could" and "might" are also possible.
Conditional sentences require a lot of practice. Click here to get it.
November 15, 2011
For the next three days, you will study conditional sentences. I think it’s helpful to look at these types of sentences together and then study them individually:
For a future situation, use the future conditional:
If I have time, I will call you later today.
For a present situation, use the present conditional:
If I had time, I would call my wife–but I’m busy right now.
For a past situation, use the past conditional:
If I had had time, I would have called you–but I was too busy.
The lesson for today is on the future conditional.
November 14, 2011
Today’s lesson is on reported speech. This is important to understand in order to describe what other people say.
My teacher said that he wanted to order some new books.
What was the original statement from the teacher? It was probably this:
"I want to order some new books."
The original statement is in the present tense, but when you describe what the person said, you have to change it to the past tense? Why? I don’t have a simple explanation, but most people who speak English do this automatically. There’s just one lesson for this, but it’s a difficult thing to learn, so watch the videos very carefully. If you already know everything there is to know about reported speech (a.k.a. indirect quotations) there are two quizzes you can take: here and here.
This is a new video that offers additional explanation:
November 13, 2011
I just love this video. One of my Facebook friends, Pif, posted it on YouTube. He’s a music teacher in Malaysia. The song is originally by the Swedish pop rock group, Abba. The lyrics are below:
I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything.
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can see the future — even if you fail.
I believe in angels.
Something good in everything I see
I believe in angels
When I know the time is right for me
I’ll cross the stream — I have a dream.
November 12, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Ten explains the sequence of tenses. There are a few different ways of referring to this, most of which are confusing, so I’ll just tell you that understanding what you see in Lesson Ten is important for the following reasons:
Next week we will study all of these situations. These lessons are intended for intermediate and advanced level students, but if you are a beginning level student you are certainly welcome to do the work and watch the videos. For intermediate level students in particular, after you go through Lessons Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen, you’ll realize how important it is to understand basic verb tenses.
November 11, 2011
Today’s lesson is on adverb clauses. These types of clauses explain why, when, and under which conditions something happens. They are very common in English, so you must learn how to form an adverb clause.
November 10, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Eight is on adjective clauses. What is an adjective clause?
If this video is helpful, you might find these other videos to be helpful, too:
adjective clauses using "where"
adjective clauses using "whose"
November 9, 2011
Today’s lesson will show you how to use the word "that" when forming a clause as part of a sentence. It’s also important to learn that "that" is sometimes unnecessary.
I heard that the school is raising its fees next year.
I heard the school is raising its fees next year.
The only difference between these two sentences is one uses "that" at the beginning of the clause and the other doesn’t.
November 8, 2011
Noun clauses can take the place of a noun or a pronoun in a sentence. They can be a little complicated, but if you know what a clause is, you’ll be okay.
I don’t remember what I ate last night.
Do you see the noun clause? It’s "what I ate last night." We could replace the noun clause with "it" or "that," but the noun clause provides a specific reference to something important in the sentence. Noun clauses often contain words like "that," "what," "why," "how," etc.
She doesn’t understand why he’s mad.
Why he’s mad is a mystery to her.
Orange Level Lesson Six has more examples and a video for you to watch.
There’s a new Think in English exercise for a measuring cup.
November 7, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Five explains what compound-complex sentences are. After you finish this lesson, you’ll have learned about the four main types of sentences used in English. Did you finish Lessons One, Two, Three, and Four? All of these lessons are important for you to complete before you go on to the next set of lessons in this level.
November 6, 2011
The big news of the day is that the time changed this morning. We all set our clocks back an hour, so Daylight Saving Time ends and Standard Time begins.
People who celebrate Eid get an extra hour today for their celebrations. Happy Eid al-Adha! The word of the day (suggested by a student that I chatted with this morning) is "feast."
November 5, 2011
The lesson for today is on complex sentences:
Here’s a new survey question for you: What’s your favorite kind of food? Perhaps I should have asked What’s your favorite ethnic food? because the choices available in the survey are for the kind of food that you can get here in the United States only because we are lucky enough to attract people from countries all over the world. I love Thai food, Indian food, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Chinese ….Unfortunately, the poll is limited to just nine choices. The company that provides the online survey only allows for nine choices; otherwise, the list would be very long.
November 4, 2011
Today’s lesson is on compound sentences. A compound sentence is formed from two independent clauses that are joined together by a conjunction. Look at the sentences below:
If you aren’t sure what a conjunction is, go to this Red Level lesson.
November 3, 2011
Orange Level Lesson Two is extremely important to complete before studying the Orange Level lessons that follow. If you want to improve your writing and speaking skills, you must understand the difference between a clause and a phrase. What is a clause and what is a phrase?
November 2, 2011
The first lesson in the Orange Level is about forming simple sentences. If you know what a subject and a verb are, you shouldn’t have any trouble understanding this lesson.
November 1, 2011
Today we begin the Orange Level. This level concentrates on making sentences. It’s not necessary to have completed all of the previous lessons in the other levels before studying the Orange Level lessons, however, it does help.
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We have just two more months of work to complete before we end for the year. Here’s the schedule:
In January we will return to the Blue Level.
Click here to go to October 2011. During that month, we studied the 25 most important verbs in English.