The LAEO Blog – Learn English Here Every Day

December 30, 2008  


"Feliz Año Nuevo". Saludos." This is how you say "Happy New Year" in Spanish. How do you do it in your language? If you send it to me, I can post it in the blog.

If you haven’t sent me your photo yet, please send it to this web addess:

Include your first name and the country that you are from. My goals is to have every country in the world represented on the website. I’m still missing Iceland, Latvia, and Switzerland, among others.

A new email went out last night wishing everyone a happy new year. Best of luck to you! Here in the United States, Americans are excited about the new President, and very happy to see the old one go. We’re lucky to live in a country where transitions of power are peaceful.

We all live in a very small world and have to work together to make things better for the future, especially for those who are less fortunate than we are. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you live a pretty comfortable life. There are still too many places in the world without electricity, safe drinking water, or food for children. What can we all do to help them?

As for me, I continue to support clean, renewable sources of energy. This, believe it or not, is the key to making life better for more people–especially the poor. Wind and solar technologies, in particular, need to be developed as an alternative to the burning of coal and petroleum as more countries become developed. Do you know what the air quaility is like in China? Well, if mass production starts to move from China to African countries, the same sort of thing is possible there.

While we wait for widespread deployment of clean energy sources, conservation of energy and human-powered alternatives to machines are available to us right now. How do you get to work or school? Do you drive? Or do you take the bus? Is mass transit available where you live? Is it possible to ride a bike? Those of you who follow my blog know that I ride my bike to school and for daily activities although it’s possible for me to drive. This year, I’ll try to address issues of energy conservation in the blog and elsewhere on the site because I think it’s one of the most important things an individual person can do.

Best wishes to all of you in the new year.

December 29, 2008

What will you be doing on New Year’s Eve?

When you want to talk about future activity, the future continuous tense is one of the tenses you can use. You can also use the "going to" future and the present continuous tense.

Today’s lesson is right here.

I’ve finished updating the Yellow Level. Some of the content has changed, but most of all I just wanted to fix the broken links and make it easier to navigate.

The U.S. Citizenship page has also been updated with links to the new citizenship test. You can also download the 100 practice questions from my site. The videos still match the previous test, but the information on the videos will help you prepare for the test as you practice listening to and reading the test questions.

December 27, 2008

I’m currently updating the Yellow Level, so if you have any problems with that part of the website, please let me know. Just email me and tell me exactly which page isn’t loading or what’s missing. Thanks!

December 26, 2008

The lesson for today is on weight. Do you know how to ask simple questions about a person’s weight or the weight of a thing? Click here to learn.

Here’s an interesting YouTube video of a water fountain in Fukuoka, Japan. Those Japanese sure are smart!


Canal City Fountain, Fukuoka, Japan

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!


December 23, 2008

Today’s lesson is on direct and indirect quotations. I’d like to use the words of a student who wrote to me yesterday to demonstrate how to change the words actually spoken or written by someone into words that are described by another person.


From Humoud, an online student:

"I have taken a look at your video lessons. They are fantastic and perfect. But I have a simple suggestion I hope you consider when you explain verb tenses. You didn’t mention why we use these tenses." (Hamoud’s exact words)

Hamoud said that he had taken a look at my video lessons. He said that they were fantastic. (Thanks!!) However, he had a suggestion for me. He hoped that I would consider explaining why verb tenses are used. (My description of what he said)


Of course, I changed a few words here and there, but did you notice how the verbs changed as well? This is something that speakers of English do naturally, and it’s a very good thing to learn, because we are all put in the position at one time or another of having to describe what someone else said.

Click here to learn more.

By the way, I think I’d like to include on this blog more excerpts from email written to me from students, especially questions about grammar and usage. I answer a lot of these questions individually, but there are probably many people who have the same questions. Don’t worry. I won’t include last names, and I’ll never post anything that would make a student look foolish.

December 22, 2008

If I hadn’t attended college, I never would have become a teacher.

The first part of the sentence above (hadn’t attended) is in the past perfect tense. This is a difficult tense to use properly, but it makes your English sound really good if you understand when and why it’s used. However, in many situations, if you choose to ignore the past perfect tense and use the past tense instead, you can get by with that. Learn to use the past perfect tense in this lesson.

Many Americans don’t use the past perfect tense, or if they do, they mess it up because they don’t know the past participles of irregular verbs. Do you know them? Click here to review past participles for irregular verbs.

December 20, 2008

Barack Obama takes the oath of office exactly one month from today on January 20. There’s a lot of work to do, but he has the ability to rally the American people to rebuild the country that George Bush ran into the ground these last eight miserable years.

December 19, 2008

One of the most difficult continuous tenses for ESL students to make is one that combines perfect modals. The formula looks like this:

could should would might  + have been ______ing

This describes past possibility, but it requires a good knowledge of how modal verbs act in a sentence, so make sure you have looked at Lessons 10 through 13 in the Yellow Level before you look at today’s featured lesson.

December 18, 2008

One of my intermediate level classes recenly practiced the present perfect continuous tense. This is used for activities that began in the past and are continuing now, so you can’t apply it to every situation, but it’s very popular in conversation.

I have been teaching English for the last 20 years.

In the example above, the activity (teaching) started 20 years ago and has continued nonstop up to this moment in time.

Nadia has been working at that bakery since last August.

They’ve been eating a lot of potatoes lately.

We’ve been preparing for the holidays since November.

December 17, 2008

When modals are perfect, they look like this:

modal verb + have + past participle

could have gone

I could have gone to California on vacation last summer, but I went to Iowa instead.

Modal verbs are used in describing past situations:

She shouldn’t have eaten all that ice cream. (She ate too much)

He would have stayed longer if necessary. (He didn’t stay)

You might have seen her at the party. (I’m not sure if you saw her)

Click here to learn more about perfect modals. I’ll try to make a video for this soon.

December 16, 2008

Idiomatic modal verbs are similar to regular modal verbs but they consist of more than word and they are very common in spoken English.

can = (be) able to

Are you able to come over to my house today?

must = have to

She has to go to school today.

will = (be) going to

I’m going to see a doctor today.

The YouTube video on the homepage demonstrates how (be) able to is used. Take note of how the verb "be" changes according to the tense.

December 15, 2008

This week we continue to learn about modal verbs. The lesson featured today is the same as the one featured on Friday because it’s so important and it takes time to learn how to use all the different modal verbs. Let’s look at "should." This modal is used to express when something is a good idea, a recommendation.

The doctor said that you should try to eat more fruit.

Everyone should try to help those who are in need.

You shouldn’t smoke. It’s very dangerous to your health.

"Should" is often used in place of "shall" in American English. "Shall" is not very popular in the United States although it’s commonly used in other countries where English is spoken. If you do hear "shall" used, it sounds like this: Shall we go? (Do you want to leave?) And that’s about it.

December 13, 2008

One of the first modal verbs students learn in English is "can." This word expresses ability or possibility:

  • A: Can you speak English?
  • B: Yes, I can.
  • A: Where can I find a good place to eat?
  • B: There’s a good Chinese place just down the street.
  • A: Can we find good solutions to reduce global warming?
  • (We don’t know the answer yet. It depends on how much people in developed countries really care about the problem.)

December 12, 2008

Today’s lesson is on modal verbs. Following a modal verb (can, could, will, would, may, might, must, should) is the main verb in the simple form. I think it’s helpful to use the verbs "be" and "do" as the main verb when teaching beginning level student how to use modal verbs for the first time. I’ve also noticed that some of my intermediate level students don’t consider "be" and "do" as main verbs because they are also used as helping verbs.

modal verb + be

modal verb + do

A: Where will you be today?

B: I’ll be at work.

A: Can I do this work tomorrow?

B: Yes, but you must finish it by then.

For more practice with modal verbs, click here.


December 11, 2008

Students in my daytime classes are studying all things related to the subject of shopping. In the U.S., shopping at stores for the holidays brings most Americans to shopping malls and department stores. There are more visits to the grocery stores as well because there are more parties and family get-togethers at this time of year.

Yesterday I asked my students to write about the differences between shopping in the U.S. and shopping in the country that you are from. If you are living in the U.S. and would like to write something short about this subject, just email it to me and I’ll read what you have written.

December 10, 2008

Where were you living a year ago? Where were you working ten years ago? How much studying were you doing last weekend? These are all examples of the past continuous which is used to describe continuous activities in the past. You can’t use if for everything, and sometimes the simple past tense is good enough, but try not to confuse if with other tenses.

To make the past continuous: Subject + (be: was or were) + ______ing. The main verb is in the simple form–represented by the the big blank space–and you add "ing" to that. Here are some examples:

She wasn’t having much fun at the party, so she went home early.

I tried calling you last night but you didn’t answer. What were you doing?

I was living in Chicago in the 1990s at the same time that Barack Obama was living there.

For more practice, click here.

December 9, 2008

A special email went out today to students who have been on this website the longest.

Today’s lesson is on superlatives. You can click here to take a look at it.

December 8, 2008

The comparative form is used when describing the difference between two things. Today’s lesson focuses on adjectives, but you can also make comparisons with adverbs and nouns.

The comparative form for adjectives:

The weather today is worse than the weather we had yesterday.

This lasagna that you made is better than the stuff we ate at that terrible restaurant.

The grocery stores are more expensive here than where I used to live.

Click here to go to the lesson for today.

December 7, 2008

This week we’re going to study comparatives, superlatives, and the past continuous tense.

Monday: comparatives

Tuesday: superlatives

Wednesday: the past continuous tense


December 5, 2008

To make questions in the present perfect tense, follow this word order:

have or has + subject + the past participle

Have you been to New York?

Has she finished her work yet?

Where have they gone?

Here’s a link to today’s lesson.


December 4, 2008

To make the present perfect negative, change the helping verb to have not (haven’t) or has not (hasn’t): I haven’t had enough coffee yet. She hasn’t eaten all of her breakfast.

December 3, 2008

The present perfect is formed with the helping verb, "have," and the past participle. This is today’s lesson. Click here.

Well, I’m just about caught up with everyone’s email. Thanks for writing to me and for sending in pictures for the Photos section. If I haven’t responded to you yet, I will. It just takes a long time to sort through the hundreds of emails that I get every day now.

Many students ask me why the website is free. My answer is that some things should be free, and there are a lot of people who just don’t have the money to go to school or can’t pay $19.55 per month for a website. This is a fun hobby, and because I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years, it’s not difficult to do–so that’s why it’s free. I’m still thinking about publishing a book for learning English. That wouldn’t be free. This experience of operating a website has taught me a lot about what people need to learn to improve their English, and hopefully, that would make the book more useful for those who buy it.

December 2, 2008

Today’s lesson features the verb "have." It’s important to know that this word is used as a main verb and as a helping verb in the present perfect.

They have a lot of time to go shopping today. (present tense)

She doesn’t have a car. (present tense, negative)

He had a test yesterday. (past tense)

We didn’t have anything to do at work last night. (past tense, negative)

I have had the same car for the last ten years. (present perfect)

You haven’t had enough time to study English online (present perfect, negative)


December 1, 2008

Because we’re going to start studying the present perfect this month, it’s necessary to look at some differences among the present tense, the past tense, and the present perfect all at the same time.

The present tense is used for every day:

I go to school Monday through Friday.

The past tense is used for yesterday, last week, last year:

I went to school every day last week.

The present perfect is used to show a length of time or some indefinite amount of time:

I have gone to that school for the last three years.

The present perfect is one of the most important tenses for conversational English. In fact, one of the first questions asked of someone who is new to the United States is, "How long have you lived here?" You answer this way: "I have lived here for _______," or "I have lived here since _______.

I like to teach the present perfect because it really helps people at the intermediate level of English to improve. But you must know your past participles, especially for irregular verbs, so start studying them now.



Click here to go to November 2008