The LAEO Blog

December 31, 2007  Blog Archives: 2006


When learning English, it’s very important to consider the difference between the verbs "be" and "do." In some sentences they must be kept separate; in others, they work together. Perhaps you can consider that all verbs fall into two groups: be and do. "Be" expresses existence and reality. "Do" expresses action. Of course, that’s a very simple explanation, but the examples below might help illustrate my point.

be + do
How are you?
How do you do?
How are you doing?

All three questions are different, but the answer can be the same: I’m fine. How are you? Notice that the continuous form can mix "be" and "do," while the simple present tense form cannot. The first few lessons in the blue level on this website focus on the verb "be" while the first few lessons on the red level focus on the verb "do."  If you are confused by the two verbs, a review of these lessons will help you.

Happy New Year, everybody! I’m excited about the prospects for new learning experiences in 2008 and hope that we can explore them together.

(psst. Edwards-Obama in 08. You heard it hear first.)

December 29, 2007

The vocabulary section continues to grow. Right now I’m working on Food, which is almost finished. If you have any ideas for vocabulary sections, please email me and tell me what you’d like to see there.

December 27, 2007

Condolences go out to the people of Pakistan who lost their great leader, Benazir Bhutto, assassinated just an hour ago. She was a brave and inspirational person and her loss will be felt by people who admired her all over the world .
benazir bhutto

December 26, 2007

The day after Christmas is very busy for retailers (stores) because people who have received gifts sometimes have to take them back to the store where they were originally purchased by the person who gave the gfit.

Some reasons for returning a gift: 1.The shirt, sweater, or pants are too small or too big;  2. The thing you received is not the right color;  3. The product doesn’t work;  4. You don’t like it. There are many reasons for returning a gift. Whatever the situation might be, you have every right to return the item to the store. Sometimes the store will give you a full cash refund. Sometimes you get in-store credit, which can only be used to buy something at that store. Occasionally, you can only exchange the item for another. Having a gift receipt makes the exchange easier, but some of the big retailers don’t require it if the product is still in its original packaging.

Here’s how the conversation at the store might go:

You: Hi. I’d like to return this please.

Customer Service: Okay. Do you have the receipt?

You: Yes. It’s right here.

Customer Service: Would you like a refund or in-store credit?

You: I’ll take a cash refund please.

December 23, 2007

Here’s some information and vocabulary related to the Christmas holiday.

December 17, 2007

The chatroom is getting a lot of use among my students. Not everyone in there, however, goes to it through my website. You’ll chat with many people who find it through Google. But it can be a good experience if the other people in the room are willing to be patient and chat with someone who is learning English as a second language. Try it out.

December 10, 2007

I’ve added a chat room to the website. We’ll see how well this works. Because it’s open to the general public, it might not be good for my students. The idea here if for students to practice their English with other people. I will be there on a regular basis and post the times when I go on. I’m also adding more video of my own and posting it through You Tube.

This week in my regular classes students will learn about important social institutions: schools, hospitals, legal institutions, etc.

December 6, 2007

The vocabulary section of the website is expanding. Recently I’ve added pictures for fruit, vegetables, and grains and bread.

December 3, 2007

This week: The causative form. Both classes will learn how to use the verbs "have" and "get" to express that someone does something for you. For example, I got my haircut last week. This is similar to the passive voice. For more practice, go here.

November 26, 2007

Now that we’re into the holiday shopping season, classes will spend some time in the next week talking about shopping. We’ll read some ads (advertisements = information paid for by companies that try to sell you things), and we’ll discuss ways to save big money when shopping.

November 18, 2007

I’m going to start a new holiday section for the website. This will probably take about a year to complete because I’m going to make the pages as each holiday approaches. Here’s the first one for Thanksgiving.

November 16, 2007

What kind of people do you like? What kind of people do you respect? In answering questions such as these, you can use an adjective clause to describe the word "people." For example, "I like people who are nice."  Or, "I like people who work at self-improvement." Or, "I respect people who work hard."

November 15, 2007

Students at the Mall of America are learning about how to look for and apply for a job. They’re also learning new vocabulary and phrases commonly used at an American workplace. Where do you work? What do you do? I’d love to include pictures of students at work in the Photos section. You can email an attachment to me and then I would use only your first name and the name of the country that you are from.

November 12, 2007

Students in my 7:30 class have been learning about adjective clauses. The way I teach this is through sentence combining:

That is the woman. + She lives next to me. =

That’s the woman who lives next to me.

Simply substitute the word she with who and these two sentences can be combined. "Who lives next to me" describes the woman. Let’s try this with another couple of sentences:

Florida is a place. + I like to go there on vacation. =

Florida is the place that I like to go to on vacation.

Math is a subject. + I like it the best. =

Math is the subject that I like the best.

For more practice on sentence combining click here. Some of the practice material is best suited for intermediate level students.

November 8, 2007

Some parts of the website aren’t working very well. I’m trying to fix the problem right now, so come back if you’re having difficulties.

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween! Today I expect this website will get its 500th member. The goal of 1000 by January of 2008 is within reach.

My 7:30 class is studying reflexive pronouns today. We’ll also spend some time talking about holidays and the reasons for celebrating Halloween. The 10:00 class will read about and discuss problems that are typical in a neighborhood in a city or suburb.

October 17, 2007

The 7:30 beginning level class is starting to learn about the present perfect tense. This very useful tense is a little difficult for students because they must remember so many irregular past participles. However difficult it may be, it is essential. One of the most commonly asked questions to someone who lives in the U.S. from another country is "How long have you lived here?" That question is in the present perfect. The answer to the question? "I have lived here for _____(number) years." Or, "I have lived here since ________ (year or month).

October 11, 2007

The 10:00 intermediate level class is now reading Rip Van Winkle, a short story written by Washington Irving. Here’s a link to a quiz if you’d like to print it out and take it yourself. If you’d like to read the entire story before taking the quiz, here’s a link to it on

October 6, 2007

According to the survey results so far, 86.4 percent of you believe that the Blue Level has been the most helpful section of the website. Keeps those results coming in. I’m really learning a lot about what you like or don’t like.

October 1, 2007

In an effort to improve this website, I’ve included a survey for students who would like to share their opinions on what they like or don’t like about it. Click on the link on the home page. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Thanks!

Also, I’ve changed the Photos section of the website. Instead of pictures of students, I’ve decided to use this section for basic vocabulary. I don’t know if I’ll keep the photos of students on the website. Let me know if you’d like to have your picture included. That will help me make a decision.

September 29, 2007

Here are some American citizenship questions and answers. I have to find a good place for them on the website, but for now you can find them at the link above.

September 25, 2007

My 7:30 beginning level is studying modal auxiliary verbs and the subject of money (how to open an account, what to say, thinking about the future, etc.)

One really important thing to keep in mind about modal verbs is that they are followed by the main verb in the simple form. For example: I can go to the movies tonight. It’s impossible to say " I can to go to the movies tonight," or "I can will go to the movies tonight." For more on modal verbs, click on this lesson.

September 11, 2007

Of course we all remember what happened on this date six years ago. It’s frustrating that the U.S. is being led by such an incompetent leader, whose response to 9/11–the Iraq War–seems to have put us at a greater risk of being hit again.

Both my beginning and intermediate level classes have begun a new book, but I’m so tired of using it. I wish I could find something a little more interesting for the students (and the teacher) to use.

September 4, 2007

Today is the first day of school for millions of school children across the United States. Traditionally, the day after Labor Day, which was yesterday, is the first day.

August 6, 2007

The 7:30 beginning level class is now studying modal verbs, reading schedules, and writing compound (two-part) sentences. The 10:00 class is studying the physical world — plants, animals, weather, energy, the universe. We’re also still studyng perfect modals but almost finished with that.

August 2, 2007

Tragedy struck the Twin Cities yesterday when a major (big) bridge that crosses the Mississippi River suddenly collapsed. (Collapse=to fall down, to break.) Here’s a picture of it:

35W bridge collapse

July 26, 2007

My 7:30 a.m. class is completing lessons related to the future tense formed by (be) + going to and then the main verb. For example: Where are you going to go today? Answer: I’m going to visit my friends. In class I refer to this as the "going to" future.

My 10:00 class is studying various states of mind, emotions, and thoughts we have of ourselves. We’re also studying the formation of questions. Soon we’re going to be studying perfect modals.

July 11, 2007

Summer is a busy time, so I haven’t been updating the website too much lately. That will be the case through the middle of August and then there will be more time to make additions to the content here.

June 15, 2007

Here’s a very funny video excerpt from a movie featuring Steve Martin in which he plays a Frenchman trying to learn English.


May 30, 2007

Here’s a great new way of looking at cities around the world using Google maps.

May 24, 2007

I’m still kind of experimenting with email here. If you received an email and want to tell me if it was useful or not, just send me an email and make suggestions for how it can be improved for teaching English in the future. Thanks!

May 17, 2007

Gas is going way over $3.00 a gallon in the United States. Of course, compared to other countries, it’s still cheap. However, many Americans continue to drive big cars and drive by themselves. It’s incredibly wasteful to see a huge SUV going down the road with one person in it, yet that’s a very common sight here. So now I’m hoping gas hits $4.00 a gallon this summer and hopefully this will encourage some people here to give up their big cars.

My intermediate level class has been discussing dilemmas in the last week. A dilemma is a problem that often doesn’t have an easy solution. We’re faced with dilemmas eveyday. Do you quit your job and look for a new one? Do you spend your money or do you save it for the future for something more important? Do you drive to work or do you take public transportation? Some choices are easier to make than others. And in some situations, is it okay to tell a lie? When is it okay to be dishonest? If your wife puts on an ugly dress and asks your opinion, do you say it looks great or do you tell the truth? Now that’s a dilemma.

May 13, 2007

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S.  Mothers across the nation are given flowers and cards in recognition of all their hard work and love for their families.

May 2, 2007

My 10:00 intermediate level class has been studying the high art of complaining in English. What do you say when you’re unhappy about something? Here are a few words and phrases worth knowing:

Irritate: I get irritated when I can’t find something in the store.

frustrate: It’s frustrating to learn a new language.

bother: It bothers me to see trash in the street.

May 1, 2007

Happy May Day! This day is celebrated around the world in different ways. In many countries, it’s a day to honor the contributions that workers have made to the development of their country. In others, it’s a day on which children pick flowers and leave anonymous gifts on the doorsteps of people in their neighborhood. In pre-Christian Europe it was the first day of summer. Here in Minneapolis there’s a big May Day Parade on the first Sunday of the month.

April 24, 2007

Here’s a YouTube video that focuses on getting an apartment. It also features a conversation in which two people meet for the first time.


April 19, 2007

What great industries the United States could create if it focused its energy on helping people up rather than putting them down or killing them. The People are as much to blame as the government for its current list of embarassing and avoidable failures–and that cuts across party lines, both Republican and Democratic. Yet there’s tremendous potential for good to be done here.

It’s especially hard to watch the scenes of horror played nightly on TV showing the carnage (destruction) of cities in Iraq. Is this really what the people there–the Iraqi supporters of U.S. policy–wanted when the war began? Good riddance to Sadaam Hussein. He was a bad guy, but to the thousands of innocent men, women and children in Iraq who have tried to live their lives in peace regardless of politics–I’m so sorry.

April 13, 3007

It looks like my first mass email campaign failed in a few ways. Oh well. We make mistakes and then we learn from them, right? Click here to get the assignment.

Today is Friday the 13th. In the U.S. and elsewhere this is a very unlucky day. Some superstitious people fear it so much that they don’t go to work or to school. They just stay home.

April 11, 2007

In my intermediate level class yesterday we discussed the qualities that a creative person should have. Among the most common mentioned were patience, self-discipline, resourcefulness, and curiosity. Here are some simple examples of each of these words, all of which are in noun form and followed by brief explanations of their meaning in case you find that necessary:

  • He has a lot of patience. (He can wait for things to happen without becoming upset.)
  • Her resourcefullness is clearly expressed through her art. (She uses available materials and is creative in how she uses them in her art.)
  • A musician must possess self-discipline. (That person must practice playing music every day.)
  • Without curiosity, human beings would be very dull creatures. (We naturally want to learn about and explore our world. It’s what makes us human.)

April 8, 2007

easter bunny

Every Easter the Easter bunny leaves candy and small toys for children all over the U.S. When they wake up in the morning, they look around their home to see what the Easter bunny has left them. It’s a traditional activity here, but not too many other countries do it. It’s very similar to Santa Claus coming on Christamas Day, but the Easter bunny mostly just leaves candy and very small toys. Children of all religious faiths may participate in this. It’s harmless fun.

April 3, 2007

Last weekend I traveled with my family to Southeast Minnesota where we stayed in a log cabin. There was no running water, and the bathroom was a simple outhouse. (shown on the right)

log cabinouthouse

The absence of running water made the three-day stay a little challenging at first, but we got used to it quickly. The cabin had electricity but no TV. So for three days we left the world behind, and it felt so good!

March 24, 2007

Here’s a video for learning about time in English. I got if off of YouTube, which is a great place to get free material. The narrator has a British accent and the actors have American accents. Can you tell the difference between a British accent and an American accent? Click on the middle button.


March 20, 2007

Today is the first day of spring. Here in Minnesota there’s still snow on the ground, but it’s melting little by little every day. Trees are beginning to form buds (which later turn into leaves), and the ground is beginning to soften up after being frozen all winter.

March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. In the U.S. we recognize people of Irish descent and their contributions to American society. Many people attend parades and parties on this day. Cheers!

March 8, 2007

How do you describe what another person has said? This is always a problem for learners of English because there are rules governing it. Verb tenses are supposed to change in order to reflect that you are quoting someone else. For example, a person says, "My name is John." Five minutes later, you tell someone else his name and you say this: He said that his name was John. The verb changes from the present tense to the past tense. This is something that I have to add to my website after I finish making the green level, but for now here is a table to show how verb tense may change:

Sequence of tenses
present tense
past tense
present continuous tense

past continuous tense
past tense

past perfect tense
present perfect tense

past perfect tense



March 4, 2007

"In like a lion; out like a lamb." This is an expression often used for March weather. If we get a lot of snow or other severe weather at the beginning of the month, we equate that with a lion because a lion is known for its strength. Then if the weather is mild at the end of the month, we equate that with a lamb because it’s a meek, peaceful animal. This expression can be reversed if the weather is not stormy or snowy at the beginning of March. In that case it might be "In like a lamb and out like a lion," depending on the weather at the last part of the month. Other variations: "In like a lion: out like a lion," and "In like a lamb; out like a lamb."

We’ve had about two feet of snow here in the Twin Cities in the last week, so the month is definitely rolling in like a lion.

February 27, 2007

The Green Level is half finished. The main focus there is on the passive voice which causes trouble for learners of English because the past participle looks like the past tense and the verb "be" is often put into some unusual forms. For example, if I say that, "A new house is being built down the street," this sentence is in the present continuous tense, but it almost looks like the past tense because the main verb "build" looks like "built." The past and the past participle forms sometimes are identical. Also, who is building the house? In that sentence, we don’t know. This, of course, is the advantage in the passive voice. You can describe action without indicating who is doing what.

February 19, 2007

The word "sacrifice" has many different meanings. Sometimes it means that you give up something for someone else, as in a mother who works hard and makes sacrifices for her children by working more than one job. In that case, she’s sacrificing her time and physical effort. A "sacrifice" is also made when an animal (or, in extreme cases, a person) is killed in a ritual ceremony. The killing of a sheep or a cow or a pig brings good fortune. In rural communities it might help insure a good crop. I’ve been thinking lately about how difficult it must be to send a young son off to battle in Iraq or Afghanistan. Willing or unwilling, parents sacrifice their child in the name of national security, and the young soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice if he (or she) dies on the battlefield.

This website now has a message board. You can click here to access it.

February 15, 2007

The United States has a lot of rednecks, mostly in the south and the west, but really they’re in every state if you look hard enough. "Redneck" is a pejorative term for a white person, somewhat ignorant, very myopic, and not a very good representative of the American public as a whole. Few Americans want to be called "redneck." One origin of the word comes from the sunburn a white man (or woman) gets when he’s outside for a long time and wearing only a t-shirt. His neck gets very red. Many rednecks don’t like immigrants and non-white skinned citizens. Sad but true. They also don’t like to hear U.S. residents speaking other languages in front of them, particularly Spanish. Some try to pass English-only laws but fail because they’re unconstitutional. Below is an excerpt taken off of Yahoo! news: (some famous redneck groups include the KKK! Yikes!)

PAHRUMP, Nev. – The board of this growing desert town has struck down a law that made English the official language and barred residents from flying a foreign flag by itself.

The ordinance, which briefly put this community 60 miles from Las Vegas in the middle of the national immigration debate, was enacted in November but never enforced. The Pahrump Town Board repealed it Tuesday.

"I think it’s clear that the main purpose and effect of this bill was to spread fear throughout the community, particularly the immigrant community of Pahrump," said Lee Rowland, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the measure was unconstitutional.

February 12, 2007

In two days, it’ll be Valentine’s Day. Husband and boyfriends are expected to give flowers or candy or Valentine’s Day cards to wives and girlfriends. Children in schools exchange cards, and many kids give candy to each other. Florists (flower shop owners and workers) are very busy on this day.

February 4, 2007

A lot of people are sending me their email addresses. Thanks! I write them down by hand on a list. Soon I’ll send out email announcements to students on a regular basis.

email list email list for Learn American English Online.

February 3, 2007

Here’s a video I made of me throwing hot water into the air.


( It gets really cold in Minnesota. This is hot water. I’m going to throw it up in the air and it’s all going to evaporate before it hits the ground.)

January 30, 2007

My beginning level class which meets at 7:30 in the morning has been working on the present perfect and the present perfect continuous tenses. Let’s look at the difference between them:

The Present Perfect Tense: I have lived in Minnesota for two years.

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense: I have been living in Minnesota for two years.

The second example sounds a little more conversational, and it’s actually a little easier to use because the only past participle you have to remember is for the verb "be" which is "been." This is especially helpful with irregular verbs. Of course, the continuous form can only be used in a situation that is still happening. One more example:

The Present Perfect Tense: She has tried to find a job, but she hasn’t been successful. (sounds like she stopped)

The Present Perfect Continuous: She has been trying to find a job, and she’s still looking.

The meanings are different, but the main verb, "try," is the same in both examples.

January 27, 2007

I’ve started the next level–the Green Level. The focus will be on the passive voice in this level, so learn how to use those pesky past participles for irregular verbs.

January 15, 2007

 Martin Luther King Today is a holiday for civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a leading voice in the 1950s and 1960s for nonwhite Americans who felt the injustice of prejudice and discrimination in American society before Congress passed legistlation that would guaranteee protection under the law.

January 2, 2007

Every year at this time people decide to change something about their life. With the beginning of the new year, it’s a good time to reflect and think about how you can change those things in your life that you have control over. Many people try to lose weight; others try to give up smoking. Is there anything in your life that that you’d like to change? This is called a New Year’s Resolution.