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BlogLAEO February 2010

Have you finished the Red Level lessons yet? If so, that’s good. If not, you really should try to complete lessons in that level before going on to the Yellow Level which we start tomorrow.

There’s a new webinar scheduled for this Wednesday in the evening. Click here for more information. A webinar is a live chat session, but it’s more than just text-based chat. You can see my computer screen, listen to me talk, and students can ask the teacher questions. If you haven’t participated in a webinar yet, sign up. It’s good experience and it’s free. (I’m only taking donations to help pay the monthly costs for hosting the webinar. If you can’t make a donation right now, that’s okay.)


I’m happy to report that I finally caught the rabbit that was eating my bushes and pulling the bark off of my apple trees. Here’s a picture of the little beast in a trap:

Don’t worry. I brought him to a park nearby and let him go. He’ll be happier there than in my backyard. Now I have one less rabbit to worry about, but when spring arrives, I expect to see more.


Reflexive pronouns show action by the subject of the sentence:

I hurt myself.

You drive yourself to work every morning.

He blames himself for the accident.

They congratulated themselves after winning the game.

Intensive pronouns emphasize the action of the subject. They look exactly like reflexive pronouns, but the meanings expressed are a little different:

I will do it myself. / I myself will do it.

He painted the house himself. / He himself painted the house.

They built the house themselves. / They themselves built the house.

It doesn’t really matter what you call these pronouns, relflexive or intensive, as long as you know how to use them. They are also used to indicate that a person does something alone…

She’s sitting by herself.

or they indicate automation….

The alarm went off by itself.

The car knows how to park itself.

My computer shut itself down at night.

You can learn more in this Red Level lesson. Remember, next week we will begin the Yellow Level. Also, please sign up for the free webinar that I’m having tomorrow, February 27, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. CST.

Possessive pronouns are often confused with possessive adjectives. Look at the differences between these two conversations:

  • A: My car is parked in the garage. Where is your car?
  • B: My car is parked in the street.
  • A: My car is parked in the garage. Where’s yours?
  • B: Mine’s parked in the street. (mine’s = mine is)

The first exchange uses only possessive adjectives. The second uses one possessive adjective (my) and the rest are possessive pronouns.

Possessive pronouns can be used as subjects and objects in a sentence.

  • A: Oh no. I forgot my cellphone at home.
  • B: That’s okay. You can borrow mine.
  • A: I see your work, but where is Sara’s?
  • B: Hers is over there on that table.

. Usually possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns are all mixed together, so you need to know which is which. Click here to learn more about possessive pronouns.


Gerunds are similar to infinitives because they function like nouns in a sentence:

Learning English is necessary for my career.

What’s the subject in that sentence? If you said "English," that’s not right. The subject is "learning" and the verb matching the subject is "is." The word "English" is the object of the gerund. You should also understand the difference between gerunds and the continous form of a verb (a.k.a. present participles):

Walking is good exercise.

She’s walking to work today.

Which sentence uses a gerund? If you said the first one, you’re correct. The second sentence is in the present continuous tense. To learn more about gerunds, go to this lesson. If you didn’t finish yesterday’s lesson, it’s a good idea to do it because infinitives (from yesterday) are very similar to gerunds. That’s why these two lessons are together in the sequence of the course. Here’s today’s lesson.

The webinar last night was very well attended. There were about 30 people in attendance. I’m sorry some people had problems with the password. The password was "baseball." Remember that you have to be very careful in entering any password, especially if you have to type it twice. One problem is the "caps lock" toggle on the keyboard might be on and you don’t realize it.


Infinitives have two parts: the word "to" and the simple form of a verb. You’ll see infinitives after words such as "like," "need," and "want":

She likes to go shopping with her friends.

My neighbors need to get their car fixed.

I want to catch a rabbit that’s eating my bushes.

Infinitives also can substitute for the word "because." This is an important thing to understand and practice:

He’s studying English because he wants a good job.

He’s studying English to get a good job.

She’s here because she needs a haircut.

She’s here to get a haircut.

I set a trap because I want to catch a rabbit.

I set a trap to catch a rabbit.

For more practice with infinitives, you can go to Lesson Seventeen in the Red Level.

Today’s lesson is on time expressions. These are words and phrases that go into a sentence to help express the present, past, and future tenses. There are many different expressions that you should know, and you can find them in Red Level Lesson Sixteen. Time is a confusing subject for students of English. I think this is because we use a lot of prepositions and small words to talk about differences in time. For example…

  • Am I in time to get on the train? (Did I arrive early enough?)
  • Am I on time? (Am I not late?)
  • At times, I’m late to work. (Sometimes I’m late to work.)

The word "this" is a little confusing when describing time because you can use it for the present, the past, and the future.

  • I had to go to the airport this morning. (past tense)
  • What do you want to do this morning? (present tense)
  • Will you need any help later this morning? (future tense)

In the last webinar, someone suggested that we have a subject to discuss. How about the subject of time? If you haven’t signed up for the webinar yet, you can sign up here.


Today’s webinar will start at 11:00 a.m. C.S.T. You’ll need a password to enter. The password is "baseball." If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time.


Lesson Fifteen in the Red Level is about conjunctions. These small words (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so) hold other words and ideas together in a sentence. We can’t communicate without them. The three most important conjunctions to learn are "and," "but," and "or."

Word of the Day: take

take / took / taken

There are hundreds of different ways to use the word "take." Students I work with appreciate learning how to use the word by itself and with idioms and expressions.

  • Take five. (go on a break for five or ten minutes)
  • Who’s going to take charge of the company? (become a manager)
  • Take a look at this. (look)
  • Take it easy! (relax)
  • Do you take notes when you are on this website? (write ideas from the teacher)

I could probably come up with a new website for the word "take" because there are so many uses for it. There are more examples here and here.


Today’s lesson is on adjectives. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns:

This is a great computer.

Her house is enormous.

The weather was a little warmer yesterday than today.

We shopped like crazy and felt really tired afterwards.

Lesson Fourteen in the Red Level has additional examples of adjectives.

There’s a new webinar to sign up for. It’ll happen this Saturday. This time I want everyone to have a password. After you sign up, I’ll send it to you.

At the webinar, you’ll be able to hear my voice and see everything that is on my computer screen in real time. You’ll also be able to see me as I’m working with everyone. This is still an experiment, so don’t expect a lesson. I just want to get some practice using new technology.

There are many different ways to use the word "like." You probably know how to use it as a verb, as in "I like this website," but there are many other ways to use it. Lesson Thirteen in the Red Level shows you how.

I added a new page to the Prepositions section of the website. Click here to see examples for "in front of."

A student wrote to me and asked if I could explain where "gotta" comes from. You’lI hear a lot of Americans say something like, "I gotta go now," or "She’s gotta go to work." "Gotta" comes from "got to" or "have got to." Instead of saying "I have got to leave," or "He has got to move from his apartment," it sounds like "I gotta leave," and "He’s gotta move from his apartment." "Have got to" is the same thing as "have to," so if you don’t feel comfortable using "have got to" or "gotta," just use "have to."

The next webinar is scheduled for Saturday, February 20.


Yesterday’s webinar went very well. I’ll schedule another one within the next week. It was a litte different from what I expected. Most people asked me questions about things they have been having trouble with in English, or they asked me to explain the differences between similar words such as "useful" and "helpful." I’ll announce the date for the next webinar here on the blog very soon.

The lesson for today is on the "going to" future tense. Instead of using "will," you can use the verb "be," which changes depending on the subect, and then "going to" and then the main verb in the simple form. Pronunciation is a consideration with this form of the future tense. Many Americans say "gonna" instead of "going to." Here are some example sentences and I’ll pronounce them both ways:

I’m going to need some help. (I’m gonna need…)

You’re going to come to school tomorrow. (You’re gonna come…)

He’s going to go to the movies. (He’s gonna go….)

She’s going to meet her friends at the mall. (She’s gonna meet…)

It’s going to snow tonight. (It’s gonna snow…)

We’re going to watch the Olmpics on TV. (We’re gonna watch….)

You’re going to learn something new. (You’re gonna learn…)

They’re going to take a trip this summer. (They’re gonna take…)

Listen to these sentences and practice pronouncing them a few times.

Here’s a link to today’s lesson on the "going to" future tense.

Today I’m going to hold my first webinar. If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. Click here for information. If everything goes well, you should be able to type questions to me, and if you have a computer that is up-to-date and working properly, you should be able to hear my voice and see my computer screen. I would like the webinar to focus on lessons in the Red Level, but if you have other questions about English, go ahead and ask them. This is a new experience for me (and for you, probably), so it’s a day to learn how to use new technology. If this works out okay, I can hold webinars on a weekly or monthly basis; however, space will be limited and it might cost you money to participate. The progam I’m using is really expensive!

Today’s lesson is on the future tense using the modal verb "will." This is the easiest way to make the future tense, but it’s not the only way, and many speakers of English prefer other methods.

I’m working on a new section of the website for popular expressions and phrases in English. The first page is for expressions that begin with the letter "A." Tell me what you think. Is it too hard? It might be more appropriate for high intermediate and advanced learners of English.

WORD OF THE DAY: splurge

splurge / splurged / splurged

The word “splurge” means to spend a lot of money on something. I chose this word because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and it was the beginning of the Chinese New Year. People splurge on gifts during holidays. It’s not a word used all the time, so you probably don’t want to use if too often. When you use "splurge," you don’t have to use the word “money.”

  • He splurged on a diamond necklace for his wife.
  • They splurged on a new house.
  • You shouldn’t splurge on things you can’t afford.

  Today is Valentine’s Day. On this day, people give each other gifts of candy, flowers, jewelry, and Valentine’s Day cards. This is a day not to ignore if you are in a romantic relationship with another person. A man who doesn’t give his wife or girlfriend anything will make her very angry. Click here to learn more about Valentine’s Day.

Today is also the start of the Chinese New Year. For the next 15 days, people around the world will celebrate. Happy New Year! It’s the Year of the Tiger.

It’s the Year of the Tiger.


I woke up this morning and found frost on all the trees. This happens a lot in cold places. Tiny ice crystals formed overnight and this is the result. Some people call this "hoar frost." Isn’t it beautiful?

frosted trees
frost on pine needles

The pictures above look like they’re in black and white, but they’re actually in color.

Did you watch the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics last night? It was very interesting. However, overshadowing the event was the death of a Georgian luger who crashed during a practice run on the track.

overshadow: to draw attention away from something, usually in a negative way.

If you learn how to use "some," "any," and "a lot of" with nouns," you can speak a very simple form of English and limit your mistakes. There are a few rules to remember about these words:

Use "some" with questions and affirmative statements. You can use "some" with both count and noncount nouns:

  • A: Do you want to get some Mexican food?
  • B: Yes, I want to get some enchilladas.

Use "any" with questions and negative statements. You can use "any" with both count and noncount nouns:

  • A: Do you want any bananas?
  • B: No, we don’t need any fruit.

Use "a lot of" with questions, affirmative statements, and negative statements. "A lot of" is good to use if you can’t remember the differences between count and noncount nouns.

  • I’m going to get a lot of time off this month.
  • I’m not going to get a lot of time off next month.
  • I asked a lot of my friends to come over this weekend.

Finally, these words are sometimes used at the end of a sentence or question:

I don’t want a lot.

I want some.

I don’t need any.

This Red Level lesson will provide you more examples for "some," "any," and "a lot of," a video, and a quiz.


So far 120 people have signed up for the webinar. There’s room for anyone who wants to join. It’ll be a fun experiment. When you join the webinar, you’ll be able to see anything that I do on my computer screen and you’ll be able to hear my voice. There might be video, too, but I’m not sure if that can be done yet. You’ll be able to type questions to me, and there’s the possibility that students can speak one at a time. At first, I thought everyone would be able to speak, but you can imagine the chaos resulting from 120 people speaking at the same time. We’ll all learn together how to make this work.

The webinar is from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. this Monday, February 15 on Presidents’ Day. This is a live event, so find out how the time in your part of the world matches up to Central Standard Time here (the time zone for Chicago). To get more information, go here.

Today’s lesson on "a little" and "a few" folllows yesterday’s lesson on "much" and "many." It’s helpful to study these lessons together because they require a good knowledge of count and noncount nouns.

  • How much time do you have to study today?
  • Just a little.
  • How many people do you know in class?
  • Just a few.

If you don’t know the differences between the questions and answers above, click here to learn about "much" and "many," and then click here to learn about "a little" and "a few."

A new email went out this morning. If you aren’t getting emailed lessons from me, sign up on the homepage. The email also has information about the upcoming webinar this Monday, February 15.


Last week we studied the verb "do" as a helping verb for making questions and negatives. Today I’ll show you some examples of the verb "do" as a main verb. When "do is used as a main verb, it can have many different meanings.

She does her shopping on the weekend. (do = finish, go)

Did you do the dishes? (do = wash)

All this work is going to do me in. (do in = kill)

Look at what he did to his hair. (do = style)

This wine isn’t doing anything for me. (do = affect)

Her salary doesn’t do her justice. (do + justice = deserve)

Today’s lesson provides other examples for using the verb "do" as a main verb.


When studying English, it’s necessary to learn about all the different pronouns. In today’s lesson, you will learn about object pronouns. Object pronouns come after a verb and receive the action of the verb:

with their homework.
in his garage.
The students
last week.

Sometimes an object or object pronoun isn’t necessary in a sentence. For example, "I called yesterday,"  is okay–but then you don’t know who I called.

If you say, "John has in his garage,"  that’s wrong. The verb "have" needs an object after it (Some verbs require an object and some don’t.) You can learn more about object pronouns, watch a video, and take a quiz in this Red Level lesson.

Did you watch the Superbowl last night? The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts. The score was 31 to 17.

Here’s a new page for the prepositions section of the website for the preposition "under."

Today is the Superbowl. This is a very important football game that’s played every year at the end of the football season in the United States. There are a few interesting things about this game that you should know. First, many people have Superbowl parties and watch the game with family and friends, so it can be a very social event regardless of which teams are playing. Second, the TV commercials that run during the game are almost as popular as the game itself. In fact, some people watch the Superbowl just to see the commercials. Finally, there’s a lot of betting on the winner of the game. If you like to gamble, this is the day to do it.

Remember, in the United States a football looks like this:

A soccer ball looks like this:


There’s a new page for the prepositions section of the website for the preposition "by."

Don’t forget to sign up for the Presidents’ Day Webinar.

This week we spent a lot of time studying the verb "do." There are just a few more lessons in the Red Level that explore this important verb, so I hope you have a chance to finish all the lessons. Today’s lesson is on making questions in the present tense using "do."

Three verbs often used with "do" are "want," "need," and "like."

What do you want to do?

The underlined words are the helping verb (do) and the main verb (want). The words in purple form the infinitive for "do." This is a very common way to make a question in English.

  • Question: What do you want to do?
  • Answer: I want to go to a movie.
  • Question: What do you need to do?
  • Answer: I need to go to the bank.
  • Question: What do you like to do?
  • Answer: I like to play soccer.

Notice that the answer to these questions don’t require "do."

* I’m holding a webinar on February 15. A webinar is kind of like a chat, but it can involve more people. This is the first webinar I have ever held, so I’m not sure what to expect. If you want to be a part of this experiment, go to this page and sign up for the webinar.


Commands (the imperative form) are used when telling someone to do something. The verb goes first and the subject in a command is always "you," but the word "you" is not used:

Go away!

Find your shoes.

Have some coffee.

Commands can be used with one person or a group of people. I use commands all day because I’m a teacher. Parents of children also use commands daily, and so do police officers. We all use them.

To make a command negative, use "don’t"

Don’t go away.

Don’t do that!

Don’t stop.

Learn more about commands in the fourth lesson of the Red Level.


Today I’m going to teach you some interesting things about the present tense and the past tense using the verb "do." Remember that the verb "do" can take three different forms as a helping verb: do, does, and did. We use a helping verb (also known as an auxiliary verb) to make negatives and questions. Helping verbs are used with the main verb in the simple form. Let’s look at how this works with the verb "go."

helping verb





She goes shopping on the weekend. (present tense)

She doesn’t go shopping on Fridays. (present tense — negative)

Does she go shopping on Saturday? (present tense — question)

If I change the subject to I, you, we, or they look at what happens to the helping verb:

You go shopping during the week. (present tense)

You don’t go shopping on the weekend. (present tense — negative)

Do you go shopping on Monday? (present tense — question)

The helping verb changes to "do" but the main verb remains in the simple form. Finally, let’s look at these same kinds of sentences in the past tense:

They went to the park today. (past tense)

They didn’t go shopping. (past tense — negative)

Did they go shopping yesterday? (past tense — question)

I underlined both the main verb and the helping verb in all of these sentences and questions. Notice that the word "shopping" is not a verb in these examples. It’s a gerund.

You can learn more about "do" and "did," and watch a couple of videos in Lesson Three.

To make a verb in the present tense negative, add "do" and "not." This works for all verbs except for the verb "be." In the present tense, it’s also important to know the subject in a sentence because there are two choices for do: do or does.

I need a coat.
I don’t need a coat.
You walk to school.
You don’t walk to school.
He drinks coffee.
He doesn’t drink coffee.
She reads the newspaper.
She doesn’t read the newspaper.
It rains here a lot.
It doesn’t rain here a lot.
We like our teacher.
We don’t like our teacher.
You have new computers.
You don’t have new computers.
They enjoy the weather.
They don’t enjoy the weather.

Some Americans choose not to use "doesn’t" when making the negative in the singular form. This sounds bad. Many people here know the difference between good English and bad English, but they choose the bad English anyway. In the United States, you might hear someone say, "He don’t live here," or "She don’t want to go to school," or "It don’t work." This is a very bad habit in American English, but it’s possible you will hear Americans use this form of bad grammar. I recommend that you avoid doing this.

For more practice, click here to go to Lesson Two in the Red Level.

Writing is better than clicking. It helps you remember things that you learn. Date each entry in your notebook (day, month, year) and try to write something at least once a day. You can write out answers to quizzes, or write down new words that you have learned, or write something about what you did that day. After one month look at what you wrote. I hope you will see some improvement.


Many students have trouble with the verb “do.” I think this is because the verb “do” can be used as a main verb and as a helping verb. After you understand how to use “do” properly, your English will improve.

Present tense:

  • I eat yogurt for breakfast every day.
  • I don’t eat a big breakfast. (negative)
  • She doesn’t eat anything for breakfast. (negative)
  • * Do you eat breakfast? (question)

Past tense:

  • I ate yogurt for breakfast this morning.
  • I didn’t eat very much for breakfast. (negative)
  • He didn’t eat anything at all for breakfast. (negative)
  • Did you eat breakfast? (question)

Look closely at the differences between the present tense and the past tense. As you can see, the verb “do” is important when making questions and negatives in the present tense and the past tense. Now look at the present continuous tense:

Present continuous tense:

  • * I am eating some yogurt.
  • * I’m not eating toast.
  • * Are you eating anything?

Where’s the verb “do?” We don’t need “do” for the continuous tense unless it’s the main verb in a question:

  • * A: What are you doing?
  • * B: I’m eating breakfast

So we begin the Red Level today with the verb “do.” Click here to go to Lesson One. If you haven’t finished the Blue Level lessons yet, there’s still time. Here’s a new YouTube video for the “t” sound in the middle of a word.

Click here to go to January 2010


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