The LAEO Blog – Learn English Here Every Day

April 30, 2009  


This is the last day of the month, and I’m all out of new lessons for the Orange Level, so you can go to the Idioms section of the website.

A new email went out this morning. It features vocabulary related to sickness. Click here if you didn’t get the email.

April 29, 2009

Prepositions are those little words like to, for, with, from, etc. It takes a lot of study and many years to learn them well. I’ve started a new section of the website to help students learn prepositions. Click here. The pictures and the matching captions should help you a little, but you should look at many different sources for practice. Listen to the radio. Read the newspaper. If you watch TV, listen carefully and see if you chan pick the prepositions out of conversations. They’re very hard to hear, but over time, you will get better at it.

How many prepositions do you see in the paragraph above? Count the words in bold print. Those are all prepositions.

April 28, 2009

Today’s lesson is on embedded questions. Click here.

Here’s a quiz for today’s lesson. I just made it today,

April 27, 2009

You can make a question in English in many different ways. One popular way to do it is by putting the question at the end of a statement. This is called a tag question or attached question:

You don’t want to go to school today, do you?

She didn’t eat all of her lunch, did she?

They’ve seen the Eiffel Tower before, haven’t they?

He has time to play soccer today, doesn’t he?

Like many things in English, this requires a good knowledge of verb tenses. For more practice and instruction in tag questions, click here.

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This swine flu outbreak is troubling. It’s important for all of us to pay attention to announcements made by public health officials and do what they tell us to do. Recognize the symptoms of the illness, and it you think you are sick, stay home and take care of yourself. Don’t go to to work and don’t go to school. That’s good advice for any illness; however, as this dangerous flu spreads, it’s especially important. Also, wash your hands well after going out into public. That will help keep you and your family healthy.

April 26, 2009

There’s a new preposition added to the preposition section of the website: between

This is a new video from a recent trip to Chicago. It’s subtitled to help you understand the conversation a little better:


April 25, 2009

Do you like to garden? I asked my students this question this week and almost everyone said that they did. Or, they said that they had a garden when they lived in the country that they came from. Gardening is an interesting activity that nearly everyone can appreciate and learn from.

The word "garden" can be used many different ways. You can use it as a verb:

She’s gardening. (present continuous tense)

You can use it as an infinitive or gerund:

I like to garden. (infinitive)

Gardening is a good way to get expercise. (gerund)

And you can use it as a noun:

I put some carrot seeds in my garden.

April 24, 2009

How do you use "so" and "too?" "So" and "too" are used with affirmative verbs, unlike yesterday’s lesson when we looked at the use of "either" and "neither," which are words used with negative verbs.

She wants to get married, and he does, too. (present tense)

She wants to get married, and so does he.

Notice that "too" goes after the auxiliary verb, and "so" goes before the auxiliary verb. (What is an auxiliary verb? Click here for a YouTube video explanation.)

In the next two sentences, the auxiliary verb "have" is repeated in the second section of the sentence because it’s in the present perfect tense:

I’ve been to Europe, and George has, too. (present perfect tense)

I’ve been to Europe, and so has George.

Today’s featured lesson is not on "so" and "too," but I was too busy to blog about it on Wednesday, so I’m putting it up here today. Today’s featured lesson is here.

Have a good day!

April 23, 2009

How do you use "either" and "neither?" These two words often confuse my students. Look at the difference:

I don’t want to eat this stuff, and she doesn’t either.

I don’t want to eat this stuff, and neither does she.

It’s also important that the verb tenses match. The above example is in the present tense; the example below is in the past tense:

She didn’t go to class today, and he didn’t either.

She didn’t go to class today, and neither did she.

"Either" and "neither" are used in negative sentences, usually in describing two people or two groups of people. Notice the placement of each words in sentence. For more practice with this, click here.

April 22, 2009

A new email lesson went out this morning. If you didn’t get it, make sure you sign up on the home page or on the membership page. It’s free to become a member of this site.

April 21, 2009

roxana saberi Roxana Saberi, born in the United States, daughter of an Iranian father and a Japanese mother, was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran last week. Her crime? She’s accused of spying for the U.S. government. While I and other Americans don’t have all the facts in the case (because the trial in Iran was secret), it seems that the Iranian government has made a big mistake. This is a young woman who has lived and worked in Iran out of an interest in her father’s homeland. She worked as a journalist for American radio and TV networks and she did her job as a professional who was interested in reporting the truth. Spying for the U.S. government? What do you think? Who do you believe? Roxana or the Iranian government? My Iranian students must know this is a politically-motivated case.

Here’s a new video for the use of "should have." It’s used to describe something that happened in the past that was a mistake, or something should or shouldn’t have happened.


Here are some conversation questions that my students will be discussing in my intermediate level class this week. The subject is manners.

April 20, 2009

How do you describe a situation that didn’t happen? You use the past conditional:

They didn’t get an invitation to the party. They weren’t happy.

If they had gotten an invitation to the party, they would have been happy.

Recall that in the sequence of tenses, the following changes occur: the past tense become the past perfect. That happens in the first part of the sentence after "if." In the second part of the sentence, you use "would" + "have" + the past participle. Click here for the third and most difficult of the three lessons for making conditional sentences.

April 19, 2009

There’s a new section for the website. Click here to learn about how to use prepositions. This will be one of those sections that grows in size. How many different prepositions are there? Hundreds! I’ve started this part of the wesite with only eight.

April 18, 2009

Thanks to all the students who have sent me pictures of themselves recently. Why do I put so many pictures in the Photos section on the website? They help me connect the face of the person with the email that is sent, or when I’m in the chat rooms I know who I’m chatting with. It also makes the website feel more like a classroom with other students rather than a solitary exercise of clicking through a website alone.

Thanks also for the great words of encouragement. I read all the email that you send, although sometimes it’s difficult to respond to all of it. Please understand if I don’t reply right away. On average the website gets about 70 to 80 emails every day.

Here’s a new pronounciation video. I think it’s especially helpful for people who have trouble with the "s" sound. I’ve noticed over the years that people from Viet Nam, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and other southeastern Asian countries don’t make this sound when they speak in English. It’s a very important sound:


April 17, 2009

If I had more time, I would spend it working on my garden.

This sentence is in the present conditional. It describes a situation that is not true now. Notice the use of the past tense after "if" (had) in one clause and the use of "would" followed by the simple form of the verb (spend) in the other clause. It’s possible to say the same thing this way:

I don’t have time to spend working on my garden.

However , this sentence is not conditional. It’s in the present tense, but it doesn’t have the same meaning. It doesn’t indicate how the situation could be different if something were true — in this case, having more time.

The present conditional requires a knowledge of the sequence of tenses. Click here to learn about how this is applied. It’s the same thing you need to know when you change direct speech to indirect speech. Click here for more practice with the present conditional.

Sometime today I will work in my garden once I find the time.


April 16, 2009

Today’s featured lesson (the future conditional) and the lessons that we’ve studied this week (indirect speech) both require an understanding of the sequence of tenses. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you take a look at all the lessons listed on the home page, starting with Monday, in order to gain a better understanding of how important it is to know the various verb tenses. This is very complicated stuff. Many of my regular classroom students suddenly realize how important it is to learn the verbs tenses really well when they study indirect speech and conditional sentences.

The first three levels of the website (Blue, Red, and Yellow) provide you with lessons in learning how to use all the verb tenses: present, past, future, continuous, and perfect. The fourth level (Green) is all about the passive voice. If you really want to understand English well, you should review those lessons. Do them in order and see if that helps you with your understanding of the language.


April 15, 2009

A new email went out this morning. The main subject of the email was the use of indirect speech. If you aren’t getting email lessons, you can sign up on the home page or on the membership page.


April 14, 2009

Last week I went to Chicago to see an old friend. We went out to eat at many different places–Mexican, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern–but my favorite remains Indian and Pakistani. These are pictures taken from Devon Avenue in Chicago. I know some of you who visit this website live in Chicago. How lucky you are!

devon avenue
devon avenue
Your teacher in front of an Indian grocery store. This is on Devon Avenue in Chicago.This is a great place for cheap and tasty Indian/Pakistani food. Almost everyone in there ordered the chicken biryani. Yumm!

How do Indian and Pakistani people make such good food?! This is a question I will pursue until I learn the answer.


April 13, 2009

Today’s lesson is on adverb clauses. An adverb provides additional information about a verb, an adjective or another adverb. An adverb clause does something similar by providing additional information found in another part of the sentence. Here’s an example:

She drinks a cup of coffee before she goes to work in the morning.

She drinks a cup of coffee

….before she goes to work in the morning.

The second part of that sentence is the adverb clause. It gives you information about the first part of the sentence, "She drinks a cup of coffee." When does she drink the coffee? (before she goes to work in the morning.) The first part of the sentence is an independent clause and the second part of the sentence is a dependent clause, so it’s a complex sentence. Here’s another example:

If I have time, I’ll stop by tomorrow.

Where’s the adverb clause? Look carefully at the two parts of the sentence. The first part ends in a comma. That’s one clue. It also begins with the word "if." Adverb clauses often begin with words such as if, because, when, whenever, before, after, etc.

Go to this lesson in the Orange Level for more practice. Knowing how to use adverb clauses will improve your English.

Here’s a video on adverb clauses. I made it today.


April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! I don’t expect a lot of people to visit the website today because it’s a holiday, but not everyone celebrates Easter, so if you want to do something new on the website, visit the new chat rooms on the Chat page.


April 10, 2009

Adjective clauses provide information about a noun in a sentence. One good way to practice using adjective clauses is through sentence combining:

The woman is a good mother.

She lives across the street.

The woman who lives across the street is a good mother.

"Who lives across the street" is the adjective clause that describes the word "mother."

Now try combining these sentences:

I want the car.

I test-drove it yesterday.

I want the car that I test-drove yesterday.

"That I test-drove yesterday" is the adjective clause that describes the word "car." Notice also the word "that" introduces the clause. It’s possible to drop the use of this word so that the sentence sounds like this:

I want the car I test-drove yesteday.

Do you understand? For more practice with adjective clauses, go to this lesson.


April 8, 2009

This week will be kind of busy for me, so I won’t post too much in the blog for the next day or two. Please follow the schedule for lessons as you see them on the home page. Also, be sure to look at the new message board on the chat page. I took down the chat room because of the rude comments that were being made by passersby. Many students emailed me and said that they didn’t like it, so I got rid of it. I’ll have a new chat room in the future, but I’ll have to figure out how to monitor it properly.

There’s a new vocabulary page for cooking. Put that together with new conversation questions I posted and you can post answers on the message board I just mentioned. This is one way to make the website more interactive. It’s kind of low-tech, but remember your teacher is still learning how to make a website. There’s so much I don’t know!

Thanks to students who recently sent in pictures. If you don’t see them yet, they’ll be posted sometime this weekend. The Photos page is usually updated on Friday or Saturday.

April 6, 2008

Lesson Four in the Orange Level covers complex sentences. There’s also a new video that provides an explanation for what a complex sentence is here.

If you master complex sentences, your English will sound better. The video and today’s lesson provide good examples, but there are a few more examples below. Notice that the independent and the dependent clauses can usually be reversed without changing the meaning of the sentence. Beginning a sentence with the dependent clause is harder to do, but you should practice it.

This sentence begins with a dependent clause:

Before we go on our camping trip, we have to make sure we have everything.

This sentence begins with an independent clause:

We have to make sure we have everything before we go on our camping trip.

Can you change these sentences so that they begin with a dependent clause?

She was talking on the phone while I was trying to watch TV.

We should go to the beach after we get home.

You’ll have to finish your homework before you play on the Wii.

April 5, 2009

Someone asked me to make a page for the preposition "to," so here it is.

In my regular classroom at the Mall of America, my students practiced conversations about cooking in class. Here are some conversation questions for you.

April 4, 2009

Here’s a new video on compound sentences.


April 3, 2009

Compound sentences are not difficult to make. They are usually divided by a conjunction such as and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so. The conjunction is placed between the two halves of the sentence like this:

Tom works for a solar energy company, and his wife works at a hospital.

Sarah liked the movie a lot, but Jennifer thought it was terrible.

We needed to take a vacation, so we went online to look for cheap airfares to Viet Nam.

Each half of the sentence is an independent clause. Each half of the sentence could be a sentence by itself:

Tom works for a solar energy company. (independent clause)

His wife works at a hospital. (independent clause)

The third lesson in the Orange Level has many more examples that you can learn from.

If you would like your photo shown on the website, please send it here. I’ll post it in the Photos section. Include your first name and the name of the country you come from or where you live.

President Obama is in Europe this week. What a great feeling it is to finally have a smart, capable leader representing the United States. It also feels like people in other countries like us again. Is that important? You bet it is.



April 2, 2009

Today’s lesson is on clauses and phrases. Understanding the differences among these sections of a sentence will give you good control over your speaking and writing.

A clause is put together with a subject and a verb. You have to have both. A clause can be a regular sentence (an independent clause), or it can be an incomplete part of a sentence (a dependent clause).

The girls are going to the mall. (independent clause: subject=girls; are going=verb)

Because the girls are going to the mall. (dependent clause)

Notice that the second sentence begins with "because" and it sounds incomplete. We need more information to understand it completely. Dependent clauses often begin with words such as because, if, after, before, when, although, whenever, etc.

A phrase doesn’t have a subject and a verb together. Having one without the other or neither produces a phrase. You can have prepositional phrases, verb phrases, noun phrases, adverbial phrases, and so on.

Click here for today’s lesson to learn more.

If you think you know a lot about clauses and phrases, you can go here to take a quiz.



April 1, 2009

This month we will concentrate on making sentences. A sentence is a group of words containing a subject and a verb and, sometimes, modifiers (adjectives and adverbs).

Here’s the first lesson in the Orange Level. If you complete all the lessons in order, you should improve your ability to create a good sentence.

Here’s a YouTube video explaining what a sentence is:


Today is April Fool’s Day. This is a day on which people play tricks or jokes on each other. It’s not hard to fool someone. Sometimes you just have to do one little thing, and if the person doesn’t realize the change, he or she has been fooled. The word "fool" can be used in a few different ways.

As a verb:

I fooled him into thinking that someone stole his car.

As a noun:

Tom is a fool for believing that he could make a lot of money working at that company.

As an adjective:

Don’t you feel foolish?



Click here to go to March 2009