Learn American English Online Blog
August 31, 2010
The last set of prepositions for you to study this month are "within" and "without." They are not opposites. "Without" is especially important to understand because it makes a sentence negative and it has almost the same meaning as "no" or "none."
Sorry it took so long to post a blog entry today. I was working on a new video for the preposition "on." Here it is:
August 30, 2010
August 29, 2010
There are two more days in which I’ll provide instruction on prepositions, and then we’ll begin the Blue Level on Wednesday. If you haven’t been on the website lately, you’ll notice a lot of new lessons and some new videos for prepositions. Go to the bottom of this page and work your way upward.
The Blue Level was designed for beginning level students, but if you are intermediate or advanced, there might be some new things for you to learn there. If you know anyone who wants to learn English, tell that person that we are starting from square one* on Wednesday.
* square one = the beginning of something; the first step
August 28, 2010
For many students learning English, the preposition "towards" sounds like a strange substitute for "to," yet it’s very common in the United States. You can also say "toward." The two words are basically the same.
Which one is better, "to" or "towards?" You can choose either one, but the word "towards" means in the direction of something.
Here are some other examples for "towards" (or "toward"):
There’s also a YouTube video for "to" here.
August 27, 2010
The preposition for today is "through." This ten-second video shows one way to use this word. Click on the picture below:
There are many ways to use this word:
** Don’t confuse the preposition "through" with the verb "throw" in the past tense: threw
throw / threw / thrown
August 26, 2010
Here’s a link to the preposition for today: past. This word is very similar to "after."
Don’t confuse "past" with the verb "pass."
pass / passed / passed
The verb "pass" in the past tense and as a past participle sounds like this. (listen).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
August 25, 2010
The word of the day is "over." It’s similar to "above" when used as a preposition, but the meaning of the word changes when combined with verbs to make idioms and verb phrases:
Of course, "over" is also used as an adjective to mean "finished."
August 24, 2010
Today you’ll learn about the words "out" and "out of."
The preposition "out" is the opposite of "in." Its more common use comes in the form of an adjective when you want to say that a person is not in the office or at home, or you want to say that something is empty or used completely:
In each of the sentences above, you could easily add the word "of" after "out" to form "out of." Look at how similar these sentences are:
August 23, 2010
There are three prepositions for you to learn about today: on, on top of, and onto.
"On" is often used with verbs to make a verb phrase (come on, take on, work on, fall on, etc.) or it’s used as an adjective (The TV is on.), or it’s used as a preposition (I’m on the phone.) Click on the link to see additional ways of using this important word.
"On top of" is used only as part of a prepositional phrase and it usually describes a location:
He climbed on top of a mountain.
A tree fell on top of a car.
She puts slices of bananas on top of her cereal.
"Onto" generally expresses movement from one place to another place, and it can has some idiomatic meanings. Sometimes "onto" is similar to "on," but these two words are usually used for different reasons.
August 22, 2010
This is a good time to remind everyone that we will go back to the Blue Level starting on September 1. The lessons on this website repeat for a couple of reasons. First, of all, new students come here regularly and they need help with basic English. Secondly, it’s helpful for everyone to review things that they already know. It’s easy to forget! Even something as basic as the verb "be" requires review. By the way, here’s a new video for the verb "be" on YouTube. I’m redoing some of the old videos because they were dark and hard to see or hear.
Following the Blue Level, we’ll go in order through the rest of the levels: red, yellow, green, purple, orange, and violet. Each level is designed to help you learn English slowly, step-by-step. There’s no such thing as learning English quickly, so we go very slowly, and then we repeat. Some people have been coming to this website for years now because it helps if they repeat lessons they have finished in the past.
If you come to the website at least once every day, your English should improve over time. However, it’s important for students to learn from more than one teacher. That’s why you should look at the links section of the website for other places to learn English. I’ve reviewed all of these sites. Almost all of them are free. Some are better than others, but they all have something valuable to offer to people who want to learn online.
If you know someone who needs to learn English, send that person a link to this website so that he or she can start in September.
August 21, 2010
Today’s lesson is for the preposition "off."
Thanks to everyone who has been emailing me with errors in lessons and broken links. Sometimes I crank these pages out a little too fast and the errors show up online.
August 20, 2010
The preposition for today is "of." We often use "of" for units of measurement. The amount comes first (a gallon, two pounds, a glass, thousands) followed by "of" and then the thing or person:
Some people who speak English as a second language forget to use "of." I think this is especially true for people who learn English only by listening. It’s hard to hear "of." It sounds like "a" — a glass a water– or you might not hear "of" at all.
It’s helpful to contrast the word "of" with another preposition: "off." The word "of" is shorter and the "f" makes a "v" sound (listen). The word "off" is longer and the two "f"s are made by the lips but not the vocal chords (listen). The sound made by the "o" is also different.
Here’s a new page for the prepositions section: instead of
August 19, 2010
Today’s preposition is "next to." This is similar to "beside" and "by."
The use of "next to" is very common. We use it to describe the position of two things. These two pictures were taken in my kitchen:
Here are more examples of how to use "next to."
I’ve been adding new pages to the prepositions section. This webpage for "along" was completed last night.
August 18, 2010
The preposition "into" usually describes movement from one place to another place:
However, there are many idioms that use "into" as well:
The witch turned the prince into a frog.
Word of the Day:
The word "step" can be used as a noun or as a verb. Let’s consider its use first as a verb:
step = put your foot into or onto something; walk
Here are some sentences that show how "step" can be used as a noun:
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
August 17, 2010
Today’s preposition is "in front of," which is not one word but three. Many prepositions consist of two or three words as you can see from this list.
"In front of" is fairly easy to use. It’s the opposite of "behind," so if something is in front of something else, you should be able to see it.
There’s a large red banner in front of this building. There are also some cars parked in front of the building.
They were sitting in front of the camera when this picture was taken.
Where are you right now? Are you in front of your computer? You can say "I’m sitting in front of my computer," or "I’m at my computer."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
August 16, 2010
The first preposition for this week is "in." This is an easy one, right? Sometimes it’s an easy choice to make, but the word has other meanings when used as an adjective. "In" is also a part of many idioms.
Where is the banana?
The banana is in the box.
You could also say, "The banana is inside the box." Remember that you often have more than one choice when deciding on a preposition. The word "in" is a good choice in this case.
Here are some more common examples of "in" as a preposition:
Here are some ways to use "in" as an adjective:
Here are some ways to use "in" as part of a verb phrase (or idiom):
Here are some ways to use "in" as part of an expression:
August 14, 2010
The preposition for today, "from," is very common. It describes the point of origin. It’s the place at which something originates.
This picture of a sunflower comes from my garden.
I got it from my garden.
August 13, 2010
I get a lot of questions from students regarding the preposition "for," especially from beginning level students. This is probably due to the fact that you can use "for" with many different verbs that create many different meanings. Here’s a webpage with some examples of how to use "for," but I’ll also show you a few other things about this preposition right here in the blog:
Use "for" when providing a service or giving something to another person:
Use "for" when describing a reason:
In the sentence above, "They went to Mexico for vacation," you could also say, "They went to Mexico on vacation." Remember that there are times when you have more than one choice for a preposition without changing the meaning of the sentence very much.
Use "for" when describing a length of time:
August 12, 2010
This morning I sent out an email to students who signed up to receive lessons and updates for the website. Did you receive an email from me this morning? If not, make sure that you sign up.
Today’s preposition is "during." We use this word to describe something that happens at the same time that something else is happening. For example:
He fell asleep during the movie.
What two things happened? He was watching a movie. He fell asleep. Notice that "during" creates a phrase, not a clause, so don’t use subjects and verbs after "during." If you say….
He fell asleep during
Look at these additional examples:
He likes to be outside during the summer.
She cried during the wedding.
Don’t talk during the lecture. Listen during the lecture.
Click here to see and hear more examples.
The section for Popular Expressions Used in the U.S. is finished. Click here to take a look.
August 11, 2010
The preposition of the day is "by." The meaning most people know for this word is "near," "next to," or "close."
The word "by" is also commonly used to show authorship. Who wrote the book, the song, the poem, etc.?
The word "by" is also found in many idioms:
To see more examples of how this preposition is used, click here.
Do you remember what you learned last week? If so, click here for a quiz.
August 10, 2010
Where is the red box?
It’s ______________ the blue box and the yellow box.
Do you know which preposition to use? If not, go to this lesson.
August 9, 2010
Here are some different ways to use beside:
There’s a wooden statue of a German man beside the store.
or…. Beside the store, there’s a wooden statue of a German man.
He’s wearing lederhosen.
Click here for more examples of the preposition "beside."
August 8, 2010
August 7, 2010
The lesson for today is on the preposition "behind."
Do you see a red box in the picture below?
No? Well, that’s because it’s behind the blue box. We use the preposition "behind" when something isn’t visible, or it’s only partially visible from the perspective of the viewer. It’s similar to "in back of," but it’s not the same. Look at the picture below:
Where is the boy? He’s behind the tree.
You can’t see all of him. But you can see part of him. He’s behind something.
The preposition "behind" is also used for time, work, and personal relationships. Here are some sentences that use "behind." Try to guess what they mean.
Below are the meanings behind the word "behind" in the sentences above:
August 6, 2010
Today’s preposition is a really important one. Many beginning and intermediate learners of English have trouble with "at." It’s often used for time and location, but there are many idiomatic uses as well.
Here are some examples of how to use the preposition "at" for time:
Here are some sentences that use the preposition "at" for location:
There are also many unusual ways to use "at" that might be confusing for you:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
August 5, 2010
Today’s lesson focuses on the preposition "around." Its meaning is similar to "near," "in the area," or "in the general location."
Here are some examples:
"Around" is often used to describe approximate time:
Here are some idiomatic uses for "around" :
August 4, 2010�
The lesson for the day is on the preposition "against." When "against" is used to describe a location, it’s similar to "next to," but the object or person must be very close to another object–usually touching.
The red box is against the blue box.
However, in this case it would be better to say…
The red box is next to the blue box.
Here’s another example of how to use "against."
The waves are crashing against the rocks.
The waves are touching the rocks. The waves are next to the rocks, but "next to" would be a bad choice. The preposition "against" is the best choice in this sentence.
"Against" is also used to describe opposition or something that a person doesn’t like. If you don’t like something, you can say that you are "against" it.
"Against" can also be used to describe two sides in opposition in competition or in military conflict:
Click here for more examples.
August 3, 2010
The preposition "across" is similar to the word "opposite." It looks like this:
a ———————————————> b
The bear swam across the river.
He went from one side (a) to the other side (b).
(He went to the opposite side.)
Click here to see and hear some common ways in which the word "across" is used in the United States.
One way of using the word "across" might interest you. When you describe the act of communicating (talking, writing, filmmaking, the creation of art, etc.), many people use "across" with the verb "get."
Try not to confuse the preposition "across" with "across from," which is a little different.
x <——————————————–> y
In the picture below, two people are sitting at a table. One is a woman (x) and the other is a man (y), They are sitting across from each other. They are opposite each other at the table. They are facing each other.
In this kind of a situation, you have to add the word "from" to "across." If you say, "They are sitting across each other," that’s not quite right.
August 2, 2010
Every day during the month of August, I’ll teach you something about each of the prepositions featured on the prepositions page, and because I’m going to go in alphabetical order, today’s lesson is on the preposition "above."
"Above" is similar to "over." Take a look at this picture:
The mountains are above the valley.
The clouds are above the mountains.
The sky is above the earth.
In addition to the location of things, "above" is found in many expressions:
What does the word "above" mean in each of these examples?
August 1, 2010
During the month of August, we will work together to learn about prepositions. The pages on my website show examples of the most commonly used prepositions, but not all of them are included. For a more complete list of prepositions, click here.
Prepositions are the most difficult words to learn in English because they are used in a lot of idioms and slang. If you live in a country where English is spoken, it’s easier to learn how to use prepositions. However, if you live in a country where there aren’t a lot of people to practice English with, you must read a lot of English or listen to radio programs in English in order to learn all the odd ways in which prepositions are used. (or read and listen to my blog every day!)
There’s also a big difference between American English and British English when using prepositions. Many speakers of British English, will not end a sentence or question with a preposition. This is actually a grammatical rule. The British follow it and Americans don’t follow it. It’s especially noticeable in questions:
To whom is this letter addressed?
Who is this letter addressed to?
Which of the parking lots should I go into?
Into which of the parking lots should I go?
Of course, some Americans try to use prepostions the way they’re supposed to be used but many don’t. As an English teacher, I don’t consider this kind of a thing a mistake. It’s merely a difference of usage from one speaker of English to the next. But pay close attention. Whether you prefer British or American English, if you make a mistake with a preposition, it’s very noticeable by a native speaker.
Click here to go to July 2010