Today’s lesson on "have to" is important because some students confuse "have to" with "have." Look at the sentences below:

  • I have a guitar.
  • I have to practice my guitar.
  • I don’t have a guitar.
  • I don’t have to practice my guitar.
  • Do you have a guitar?
  • Do you have to practice your guitar?

Following the verb "have" is a noun. Following "have to" is a verb in the simple form. "Have to" expresses necessity or need. "Have" expresses ownership and possession.

To learn more about "have to," click here.


The lesson for today is on the modal verb "can." This is used to express ability:

  • A: What do you know how to do?
  • B: I know how to use a computer.  or…
  • B: I can use a computer.

Here are some other examples:

  • I can play the guitar.
  • I can speak Spanish.
  • I can fix a car.

To make "can" negative, add "not." You can use "can not," "cannot’ (one word), or the contraction, "can’t."

  • They cannot understand what he’s saying.
  • You can not go into that part of the building.
  • Mice can’t swim very well.

"Can" expresses a situation in the present tense. The word "could" expresses past activities. When used in the past tense, "could" is often (but not always) negative:

  • He can go to school today.
  • He couldn’t go to school yesterday because he was sick.
  • She can speak English.
  • She couldn’t speak English last year.
  • We can’t see the sun.
  • We could see the sun earlier because there weren’t any clouds.

"Can" is also used in place of "may."

  • May I help you?
  • Can I help you?
  • May I borrow your pencil?
  • Can I borrow your pencil?

Some people might tell you that using "can" in place of "may" isn’t a good use of English, but I personally don’t think it matters.


Following yesterday’s lesson on numbers is a lesson for talking about addition and subtraction in English. I realize you know how to do math already, but doing it in English is yet another thing you have to know how to talk about, especially if you are raising children who go to school in the United States.

Here’s a new page for the prepositions section: near

Today’s lesson is on numbers. If you need practice counting from one to a hundred, or if you need help with ordinal numbers (numbers that show sequence), click here.

There’s a new quiz for the Blue Level. This will help you when using the words "there" and "be" together. Some students make big mistakes with these words in the present and past tense.

Have you seen the new Blue Level Review page yet? If not, there’s a link to it below this post. Let me know if this page is helpful. I hope it isn’t too hard or too easy.


There’s a new Blue Level Review page if you want to see how much you remember from the Blue Level, or you can see how much you already know. I put this on the weekly schedule for this Friday, but you can start working on it now I’d you like to.


Yesterday Steven Colbert, a popular late-night television host, spoke before a U.S. Congressional committee about problems related to immigration and migrant workers in the U.S. It’s unusual for an entertainer to speak in such a setting while in character, but this is what he did, and as he said during the hearing, he spoke for the powerless and those who need representation but have none. It was a great way to bring attention to the important issue of migrant labor.

Migrant farm laborers in the U.S. have very difficult jobs, and their situation is made even more difficult by people here who are telling them that they have to leave the country. Here’s a link to a website that dares Americans to take the jobs that migrant workers do. I don’t think very many people have signed up for the opportunity.


Knowing the difference between count and noncount nouns is necessary in English because it affects your choice of words used with nouns. Take a look at the question below. Do you use "much" or "many" in the blank space?

How __________ people were at the party?

You chose "many," right? You chose "many" because "people" is a count noun. You can learn more about choosing "many" or "much" in this Red Level lesson. We will study all of the Red Level in the month of October. You can also test your knowledge of count and noncount nouns with this quiz.

In this sentence, choose between "fewer" or "less."

He has __________ responsibilities in his present job.

If you chose "fewer," you’re correct! The word "fewer" is used with count nouns. The word "less" is used with noncount nouns. Both words are used when making comparisons.


Did you receive today’s email? If not, you can sign up on the homepage. Signing up for this website is free!

The lesson for today is on time, day, and date. I’ve already told you what the date is today, but what day is it? It’s Wednesday. We’re in the middle of the week. Tomorrow is Thursday. The day after tomorrow is Friday, and then after Friday it’s the weekend. Actually, for many people the weekend begins on Friday afternoon. Saturday and Sunday are usually days of rest (but I know that many of my students in the United States work on the weekend), and then the week begins again on Monday, which is the first day of the work week.

Today is also international Carfree Day. I’ll be riding my bike to and from school today as usual. I hope to see many more people today riding their bikes to get around.


How are you doing so far? Are you still following the schedule that appears on the homepage? We’ll be finished with the Blue Level in just another ten days, so if you have missed any lessons, this is a good time to go back and work on lessons and quizzes.

Some students have emailed me and asked why they can’t click on the quizzes. I want you to write your answers by hand. It’s better for you to write your answers in a notebook. In fact, any time you work on this website, you should be using your notebook to take notes and write.

Today’s lesson is on the verb "be" in the past tense.


The lesson for today is on possessive pronouns. These words look similar to possessive adjectives, except there’s an "s" at the end of the word, and possessive pronouns can be used as the subject or the object in a sentence. If you aren’t sure what possessive pronouns are, go to this Blue Level lesson, and it might also help if you take a look at the video that I posted yesterday.

Let’s see how well you do in this exercise. In each pair of sentences, a comparison is made. Replace the words in green with the correct possessive pronoun.

  • 1. Your book is new.
  • __________ is old. (a woman)
  • 2. Her car works okay.
  • __________ doesn’t. (a man)
  • 3. Our team won the game.
  • __________ lost. (a group of people)
  • 4. Your family celebrates Eid ul-Fitr.
  • __________ celebrates Christmas.
  • 5. You gave your money to a charity that helps the poor.
  • I gave __________ to the Red Cross. (your teacher, Paul)
  • 6. I set my alarm clock for 6:00 in the morning.
  • You set __________ for 5:30. (you)

How well did you do? If you aren’t sure what to put in the blank space, go to the lesson and practice. Here are the answers:

1. Hers; 2. His; 3. Theirs; 4. Ours; 5. mine; 6. yours

Here’s a new video I made for people interested in becoming U.S. citizens. After passing the test and the residencey requirements, they attend a public ceremony. It’s very interesting.


Here’s a new video for pronouns in English. This replaces the one I made a few years ago. It was dark and the sound wasn’t very good. This video is easier to see and hear.

Today’s lesson is on possessive adjectives. These words look like pronouns, but they aren’t. Possessive adjectives can only be used in front of a noun. Some people confuse possessive adjectives with possessive pronouns. Try not to do that.

  • My classroom is very large.
  • Your books are on the table.
  • His five children are all in school.
  • Her boss told her to come to work early. (notice the second "her" is an object pronoun)
  • Its food is in the bowl. (We use "its" for animals and things. Don’t confuse "its" with it’s = it is!)
  • Our class starts at 8:00.
  • Your opinions matter to me.
  • Their decisions are final. (Be careful! "Their" has the same sound as "there" and "they’re." This YouTube video explains the differences.)

I think the biggest challenge for students learning English is when they need to replace the possessive adjective + noun with a pronoun. You have to learn how to do that. Would you like to try?

handWrite these sentences by hand and use the correct subject pronoun.

  • 1. ________ is very large.
  • 2. ________ are on the table.
  • 3. ________ are all in school.
  • 4. ________ told her to come to work early.
  • 5. ________ is in the bowl.
  • 6. ________ starts at 8:00.
  • 7. ________ matter to me.
  • 8. ________ are final.

* (Scroll down to see the answers.)

Yesterday I attended a naturalization ceremony in downtown Minneapolis. It was very exciting. Over 100 people from countries all over the world took the oath of citizenship inside the Crystal Court in the IDS Center. It was a beautiful setting and a beautiful ceremony. I’ll make a short video soon to show you what the ceremony is like.

naturalization ceremony

The Honorable Joan Ericson presides over the ceremony.

* (ANSWERS: 1. It; 2. They; 3. They; 4. He / She; 5. It; 6. It; 7. They; 8. They)


Yesterday I posted a photo sent in by Wagner, a student from Brazil, and I asked you to provide a caption* for his activities. What did Wagner do yesterday? Here are the results:

wagner from brazil

Christine says….

"After he had lunch with his friends, he skateboarded across the park."

Hisako says….

"He came to the shopping center in downtown to check out some of the new skateboards, DVDs, and girls."

Leonel says…

"Wagner was walking in the street with a skateboard under his arm."

Gunther says…

"He rode his skateboard around downtown."

Thanks to everyone for participating. I only got four responses, but they were four really great responses, and I’d like to try doing this kind of thing again. If you have an interesting picture of yourself or of you and your friends, send it in to me and I’ll try to work it into the blog.

Here’s today’s lesson on information questions.

* caption: a short description below a picture that explains the activity within the picture. Captions are commonly used in newspapers.


Did you have a good day yesterday? What did you do? Where did you go? Were you at home last night? Was the weather hot or cold? These are all questions in the past tense. Do you know how to answer these questions?

There are some important things to remember about making the past tense. First, the verb "be" takes two forms: was and were:

  • A: Were you at home last night?
  • B: Yes, I was. (or) No, I wasn’t.

Do you see how the verb "be" changes depending on the subject? If the subject is "I," one man ("he"), one woman ("she"), or one thing ("it), use the verb "was." If the subject is "you" singular, or if the subject is plural, use "were."

Here’s another question for you to answer in the past tense:

  • A: What did you do yesterday?
  • B: I _____________________.

There are many different ways to answer this question:

  • A: What did you do yesterday?
  • B: I went shopping.
  • B: I talked on the phone with my friends.
  • B: I helped my brother move.
  • B: I took care of my children.

Here’s a picture sent in from Wagner, an online student who comes from Brazil. What did he do yesterday? If you want to email me with some ideas, I can post your responses here in my blog.

wagner from brazil

  • A: What did Wagner do yesterday?
  • B: He _______________________.

Email me with your response. Title the email "Wagner…."


Today you’ll learn something about prepositions. Prepositions are those small words such as "in," "from," "for," and "with." There are over a hundred prepositions that are found in English, and you should become familiar with all of them. This takes a lot of time. The best way to learn them is through reading and listening, but the prepositions pages on this website will help you too. Click here to take a look at some common prepositions. This page includes a video. Click here to see examples of how prepositions are used in sentences. This page also includes quizzes, so you can see how good you are at making choices.


Did you receive today’s email? If not, be sure to sign up on the homepage. Emailed lessons and updates are free on this site.


I gave the verb "have" its own page in the Blue Level because so many people make mistakes with it, and it’s a very important verb. Click here to learn more about the verb "have."

Here are a few ways to use it:

  • I usually have two cups of coffee in the morning. (have = drink)
  • She has lunch at noon. (have = eat)
  • They have a new car. (have = possess)
  • He has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
  • We had a great time at the party. ("had" is the past tense of "have.")
  • Let’s have a round of applause. (Everyone clap.)
  • I’m having trouble with my car.
  • She’s having a baby in two months. (have a baby = deliver)

So, as you can see, there are many different ways to use "have" as a main verb. It’s also used as a helping verb in forming perfect tenses and it can be used as a modal verb: have to.

This lesson shows how to use "have" in the present tense and the past tense.

There’s a new section of the website intended for advanced learners of English. This is a collection of proverbs that are commonly heard in English. Speakers of English use proverbs often. If you understand what they mean and commit them to memory, you can use these proverbs in conversation. Notice that most of these proverbs are in whole sentences. Some of these proverbs are very old, and you will probably recogize some of them in your own language. I’ll probably add audio files to the ones that are hard to pronounce. Is this helpful? Let me know.

proverb: a well-known statement of general truth or wisdom.


A student asked me about the difference between the present continuous tense and gerunds, so here’s an explanation on video.

In today’s lesson, you will learn how to make questions using the present continuous tense. At the end of the lesson, there’s a quiz.


For the next two days, you’ll learn about the present continuous tense. Most of my students tell me that it helps to compare the present continuous tense with the present tense, which you learned about yesterday:

The present tense uses the verb "do" and the main verb is in the simple form:

  • Statement: She goes to school five days a week.
  • Negative statement: She doesn’t go to school on the weekend.
  • Yes-No Question: Does she go to school?
  • Answer: Yes, she does.
  • Information Question: How does she get to school?
  • Answer: She takes the bus.

The present tense describes activities that happen every day. Sometimes it describes an activity planned for the future. (For example: His plane leaves at 4:00 this afternoon.)

Now compare the present tense to the present continuous tense. Look at the differences between the two tenses:

  • Statement: She’s going to school five days a week.
  • Negative statement: She isn’t going to school on the weekend.
  • Yes-No Question: Is she going to school?
  • Answer: Yes, she is.
  • Information Question: How is she getting to school?
  • Answer: She’s taking the bus.

The present continuous tense can be used for three different reasons:

  1. Something is happening now. (I’m watching TV)
  2. Something is happening in a person’s life. (He’s building a house)
  3. Something is happening in the future. (I’m leaving later tonight)

Click here for the first lesson for the present continuous tense.


The lesson for today is on the present tense:


After you watch the video, if you think you need more help, go to Lesson Seven in the Blue Level to learn more about the present tense.

You can also watch another new video about the word "ever." This word is often used in the present tense, but it’s commonly found in many other tenses as well.


I hope today’s lesson on the word "there" is helpful. "There" is an important word to use because it introduces facts, information, and truth–things you can see and things you can’t see:

  • There’s a lot of work to do.
  • There are a lot of people in the room.
  • There’s a good movie on TV tonight.
  • There are some trees down in my yard.

It’s also used when making questions to learn about the existence of something:

  • Are there any books for the students?
  • Is there someone at the door?
  • Are there any mice in your house?
  • Is there any food in the refrigerator?

You can use it as an adverb to modify or provide information for a verb:

  • She works there. ("There" modifies or describes the verb "work.")
  • We eat there.
  • I never shop there.
  • Don’t go there.

"There" is also found in a lot of common expressions:

  • Do you need some money? There you go. (I give you something)
  • Ahhh! There it is. The Eiffel Tower. (I see something interesting)
  • Okay! There! Take it. I don’t want it anymore. (I’m angry. You ask for something I have, but I don’t want to give it to you. Finally, I give it to you, but I’m still angry.)

This Blue Level lesson has more examples of how to use "there."

Learning how to use "this," "that," "these," and "those" is necessary when you first learn English. If you already know English, make sure that you don’t make mistakes with these words. Lesson Five in the Blue Level provides some help.

Because these words are pronouns, they can be used to substitute for nouns and other pronouns. Here are some examples of that:

twins game baseball game

  • The baseball game is very exciting. (You are watching now)
  • This baseball game is very exciting.
  • This is very exciting.
  • It’s very exciting.
  • The apples are very good. (You are eating the apples now)
  • These apples are very good.
  • These are very good.
  • They’re very good.
  • The car is going too fast. (The car is going past your house)
  • That car is going too fast.
  • That’s going too fast.
  • It’s going too fast.
  • The pancakes weren’t very good. (I ate the pancakes earlier)
  • Those pancakes weren’t very good.
  • Those weren’t very good.
  • They weren’t very good.

So as you can see, you have many different choices to make when using nouns and pronouns. Some choices are better than others. With time, you’ll learn how to choose the word that sounds best for each particular situation.


Today’s lesson is on nouns and pronouns. In the Blue and Red levels for this website, I use a lot of pronouns because they are generally easier to understand than nouns when first learning English. It’s very important to understand the differences between subject pronouns and object pronouns:

These are subject pronouns:


These are object pronouns:


The subject pronouns are green and the object pronouns are purple in these sentences:

  • I like her. (The pronoun "I" is the subject and the pronoun "her" is the object in this sentence.)
  • She likes me.
  • He wants it.
  • He wants them.
  • We eat it.
  • We don’t eat them.
  • They help you.
  • You help them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There’s a new page for the prepositions section for the word "among."


How are you doing in the Blue Level so far? The first few lessons are supposed to be easy and don’t take very long to complete, but don’t be fooled by how easy these lessons are. Soon we will learn about other verbs in the present tense, the past tense, and the continuous tenses. You might get confused if you don’t complete all of the lessons from the very beginning.

For intermediate and advanced learners of English, I will continue to add more material for vocabulary and English grammar skills. I’m also working on a new website to help students with their writing and computer skills. It won’t be ready for several months, but when the new website is done, I hope you’ll find it to be very useful.

This week, you will learn about nouns, pronouns, and how to use the present tense and the present continuous tense. Many people get confused by the present tense and the present continuous tense because they’re not sure how to use the verbs "be" and "do." Pay attention this week. Some of you will learn something that will improve your English and reduce mistakes forever if you can remember what I teach you.



When you make a question using the verb "be," make sure it goes in front of the subject. Can you put these words in order to make a question?:

a  you  student  are

_______ _______ _______ _______?

If not, go to Lesson Three in the Blue Level. You can also watch this video:


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last night I worked on a new page for the prepositions section. Do you know how to use according to ? It’s important to know because we use "according to" to say who or what indicates that something is true.


Today I’ll teach you a few things about making the verb "be" negative. The most common way to do this is to use the word "not." Here are some examples:

  • He is not in class. (no contraction)
  • He’s not in class. (contraction: He + is = He’s)
  • He isn’t in class. (contraction: is + not = isn’t )
  • They are not at home. (no contraction)
  • They’re not at home. (contraction: They + are = They’re)
  • They aren’t at home. (contraction: are + not = aren’t)

However, you can also use "never." That changes the meaning a little bit:

  • He’s never in class.

  • There are never any classes on Sunday.
  • I’m never at home. ("Never" is often used as a form of exaggeration. This does not mean that a person is truly never at home. Instead, it usually means that the person isn’t at home very often.)

Some Americans use "ain’t." If you live in the United States, you will hear "ain’t" used. This is considered to be a poor form of English. To learn more about "ain’t" go to this YouTube video. I don’t recommend that you use "ain’t," but you must learn about it because it’s a part of the language spoken by some Americans.

Go to Lesson Two in the Blue Level to learn more about making the verb "be" negative.

** The Blue Level Chat Room is really starting to heat up! That’s great. It makes the website more active and more interesting for visitors. Remember, if it gets too busy, there are many more chat rooms to choose from.


Lesson One in the Blue Level introduces you to the verb "be," the most important verb to understand in English. If you are making mistakes with your English, it’s possible that you aren’t using "be" properly.

The verb "be" changes, depending on the subject. This chart below shows what "be" looks like in the present tense. All the words in blue are the verb "be."

I am
we are
you are
you are
he is
she is
they are
it is

Can you complete the sentences below?

  1. She __________ a friend of mine.
  2. The TV __________ on.
  3. The lights __________ off.
  4. My teacher __________ a woman.
  5. I __________ very tired today.

(The answers are below)

How did you do? If you need more help with the verb "be," click here.

* As you continue to learn English in this course, you’ll notice that the verb "be" can take many different forms in different tenses. This Green Level lesson is intended for intermediate or advanced learners of English if you find the Blue Level lesson a little too easy.

ANSWERS: 1. is; 2. is; 3. are; 4. is; 5. am


(click on the pic)

Today we’ll begin the Blue Level. Although this might seem easy for intermediate and advanced learners of English, almost everyone who studies English can benefit from studying the Blue Level lessons, especially online students who never learned English in a regular class or from a book.

The Blue Level introduces you to basic English. This level is necessary to complete before you go on to the other levels; however, if you think you know basic English grammar, try some of the Blue Level quizzes. These quizzes will help you learn about your strengths and weaknesses for each level of the website. There are also links to the quizzes in the lessons.

I recommend that you write while you complete each lesson. Writing is better than just clicking through a website because the act of writing helps to improve your ability to remember what you have learned. Keep a pen and a notebook by your computer as you work online. Unlike other websites, you can’t enter your answers on each webpage. You must write. If you write down what you see on each page and in the quizzes, your ability to make sentences in English should improve. Some students write down everything they see on this website. That’s good practice!

pen  +  notebook =  good study habits

It’s also a good idea to visit the chat room that matches each of the levels that you study. This month the Blue Level chat room will probably be very busy.



Did you miss the month of August? We studied prepositions.


Click here to go to August 2010