If you haven’t finished the Orange Level, today is the last day to do that before we move to the Violet Level. Have you done any of the quizzes in the Orange Level? That’s a good way to know how much you understand when putting a sentence together in English.

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It’s Cyber Monday! This is a day when large numbers of people make Christmas purchases on the internet. Cyber Monday comes on the Monday after Black Friday, which is the busiest shopping day of the year for retailers.

Thanks to all the students who sent in their photographs during the month of November. I’m going to start a new Photos page for December now, so if you want to be included, you can send me your picture here:

Why is the photos section on the website? I think it helps build a sense of community, which is important for learning. It’s more fun and interesting to learn when there are other people who are doing the same thing you’re doing–just as you see in a regular classroom.

Last night Minneapolis kicked off (began) the Christmas season with the Holidazzle parade in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a tradition to have parades at night that feature lighted characters and floats. The picture below is of Santa and his reindeer:

The parade is great fun for children and their parents!

Are there any holiday traditions in your part of the world that you’d like to share? If so, just send the photo to me. I can’t guarantee that I’ll post it right away, but I will probably be able to use it somewhere in my website. As you know, a lot of the images that I use in my website are sent to me from students. Thanks!

Two people are talking and one asks the other…

A: Do you know what time is it?

B: Sorry. I don’t.

Do you see a mistake in the question? This is an example of an embedded question. The question should be asked like this:

Do you know what time it is?

Do you see the difference? If not, look closely, and then complete Lesson Twenty in the Orange Level. This is the last lesson in the Orange Level. Starting next Tuesday, we will begin the Violet Level.

Happy Thanksgiving! In the United States we give thanks today for all the good things in our lives, and we remember the people who came before us from other countries to make this a great nation. It’s important for immigrants who have recently come to the United States to remember that this holiday is especially relevant for them because Thanksgiving recalls the struggles of the first immigrants and the Native Americans who helped them to survive.

You can learn more about Thanksgiving by clicking here.

I want to thank everyone who comes to my site and makes it such a pleasant place to visit on the internet. Although I don’t have time to respond to all the email, I read absolutely everything that comes to me. When you write and say "thank-you" or give me advice for the website, I read all of that, and I try to answer all the questions. Thank-you to all of you for being a part of this website, and I hope you continue to visit as the website changes and grows over the upcoming years. Cheers!

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I added a short quicktime movie to the prepositions section of the website. If it doesn’t work for you, please let me know. Sometimes quicktime movies don’t work if you don’t have the right plug-in or if you are working with an older operating system.

Do you know the difference between "still" and "anymore?"

"Still" is used with affirmative sentences. It express that something is happening or true up to now:

She is still living with her parents. (She’s an adult)

He’s still mad at his friend for leaving him at the party without a ride.

"Anymore" is used with negative sentences. It expresses that something is not true or not happening now, but it happened in the past:

She isn’t living with her parents anymore.

He’s not mad at his friend anymore.

Take note of the position of the words in each sentence. "Still" can be placed next to a verb, but "anymore" usually appears after the verb or after the object at the end of sentence.

Both words can be used to make questions:

Do you still want your old guitar?

Do you want your old guitar anymore?

Click here to learn more about "still" and "anymore."

Click here to take a quiz on these two words. This is a new quiz. I just made it last night.

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President Obama hosted his first state dinner last night and the honored guest was Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh of India. I find this to be extemely interesting because it shows the level of interest that the president has in maintaining the relationship between our two democracies.

India is much more aligned with the United States in human rights, access to open markets, and freedom of speech compared to China. You know my website doesn’t show up in China anymore. The Chinese government is blocking it for some reason. Sorry China. Taiwan, on the other hand (the next best thing to China because they are Chinese), has shown a lot of interest. I’m getting a lot of traffic from Taiwan these days. Way to go, Taiwan!


Here are the answers for today’s emailed lesson:

He’s thirsty, and so am I.

He’s thirsty, and I am too.

Jim can’t play the piano, and his sister can’t either.

Jim can’t play the piano, and neither can his sister.

Here’s a new quiz you can try if you complete Lessons Sixteen and Seventeen in the Orange Level.

"So" and "too" are words used to express similar experiences among people or things. They’re very useful words when you want to put ideas together in a sentence. Look at these sentences below:

I like to ride my bike to work.

My friend Astrid likes to ride her bike to work.

Using "so" and "too," you can join these two sentences:

I like to ride my bike to work, and my friend Astrid does too.

I like to ride my bike to work, and so does my friend Astrid.

Notice that the word "too" goes at the end of the sentence after a helping verb, and the word "so" goes after the conjunction before the helping verb. Making sentences like these requires a good knowledge of helping verbs.

She has a new job, and so __________ he.

She has a new job, and he __________ too.

What goes in the blank space? If you’re not sure, you should complete today’s lesson. Click here.

This week we will finish the Orange Level. You’ll learn how to use words like so, too, either, neither, still, and anymore. We’ll also study embedded questions, which are confusing to many students.

This is an email question from a student on YouTube.

Hi, Paul,

I’m Vitaly, from Russia. Could you please explain some things for me? What’s the difference between the following:

1) Let’s start! / Let’s get (it) started!

2) Do it! / Get it done!

3) Have you ever [done something]? / Did you ever [do something]? / Do you ever [do something]?

I know English tenses, but in conversation, I think there are serious differences in meaning (connotation).



These are interesting questions, so I’ve reposted them on my blog. Let’s look at them one at a time:

1. "Let’s start" and "Let’s get started," are almost the same thing. The contraction "Let’s" is "let us" in uncontracted form. We use "let’s" to invite another person to do something or go somewhere. "Let’s get it started" is a little different from the other two expressions because of the pronoun "it," but it’s essentially the same. It just sounds more contemporary. (The Black Eyed Peas might have something to do with that.)

2. "Do it!" and "Get it done," are commands. Someone is telling you to do something now. Sometimes you’ll also hear someone say "Just do it!" That means that someone is getting impatient with you because you are delaying action. "Get it done" is sometimes "Get ‘r done" which was popularized by a well-known stand up comic, Larry the Cable Guy.

3. The third item on your list is explained as follows:

a. Have you ever done (past participle) something? This is in the present perfect tense. You’re asking if someone has had a particular experience within his or her life. Have you ever been to New York? Have you ever ridden on a horse? Has she ever talked to you about her problems?

b. Did you ever do (simple form of the verb) something? This is in the past tense. You’re asking if someone ever did something in the past. Did you ever go to that movie you wanted to see? Did you ever finish that project you were working on? Did you ever see call about that job you were interested in?

c. Do you ever do (simple form of the verb) something? This is in the present tense. You’re asking if someone does something now, or if someone does something on a regular basis. Do you ever go out on the weekend? Do you ever watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on TV? Do you ever eat Indian food?

Hope that helps!


The verb "wish" is sometimes used to make sentences that are similar to conditional sentences, but you can only use it with situations that are present or past:

I wish I had a new car. (now–but the verb is in the past tense)

I wish I hadn’t done that. (past–the verb is in the past perfect tense)

Lesson 15 ends a week of studying condtional sentences. I hope you improved in your ability to use them.


Past conditional sentences are more difficult to make than sentences in the present or future. Look at this example:

If I had had the time, I would have gone fishing today.

(I didn’t have the time, so I didn’t go fishing.)

If she hadn’t gone to school, she wouldn’t have learned English.

(She went to school, and she learned English.)

Compare these sentences to the ones I used yesterday. Do you see the differences? In order to use the past condtional, you must know how to form the past perfect. Remember that the past perfect always uses the helping verb "had" and the past participle for the main verb. If you need more help with the past perfect you can click here.

To learn more about past conditional sentences, click here.


Sentences in the present conditional describe a situation that is contrary to fact:

If I had the time, I would go fishing today.

(I don’t have the time, so I won’t go fishing.)

If she didn’t go to school, she wouldn’t learn English.

(She goes to school, and she learns English.)

The verbs after "if" are in the past tense; the verbs in the second part of the sentence use a modal verb such as "would," "could," "should," etc. and then the main verb. Click here to learn more about sentences in the present conditional.

After you finish that lesson, you can take a quiz here.

For the next three days you will study conditional sentences. Conditional sentences use "if" and establish a relationship between a situation and a result:

She will understand the lesson if you give her enough time.


If you give her enough time, she will understand the lesson.

condition: give enough time

result: she will understand

The word "if" has a very strong impact on word choices in a sentence. Click here to go to Lesson Twelve to study future conditional sentences. After you complete it, you can take a quiz.

It’s important to complete Lessons Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen in the Orange Level in order to fully understand how to use conditional sentences. These lessons also underscore the importance of knowing verb tenses.

Do you know how to describe what another person said? It takes a lot of practice, and there are some rules for doing it properly. Click here for Lesson Eleven in the Orange Level to learn about reported speech, or you can call it "indirect speech."

Also, the video below will help you. Understanding the Sequence of Tenses is essential when going from direct speech to indirect speech. It’s also important to know when you study present and past conditional sentences:


The lessons you study this week will help you describe what another person said in reported speech, and they will also help you to use the words "if" and "whether" when describing situations that exist under hypothetical conditions. If you have a good understanding of all the different verb tenses, these lessons should not be too difficult. However, if you don’t know how to use all the different verb tenses, these lessons should motivate you to go back to the first three levels of this website–Blue, Red, and Yellow–and study the lessons there very carefully.

Here’s a new vocabulary page. It’s for animals that are common in North America. I’ll put together another one in the future for animals around the world, but that’s going to take a lot of time!

Natasha, an online student who lives in Alaska, sent this picture to me of an eagle. In the background is a lake and some mountains.

If you click on the picture, it will take you to a larger image. Alaska is a really beautiful state that many Americans don’t get a chance to visit because it’s far from the lower 48 states. It’s the largest of the 50 states, and it has many beautiful national parks.

If you have any pictures of animals or interesting places where you live, you can send them to me and I’ll try to figure out how to use them. Of course, I’m always accepting pictures of students, too, at . Thank-you!

Today is Friday the 13th. For some, it’s an unlucky day. In fact, some people are so superstitious, they won’t go leave the house for fear of some unfortunate accident. If you choose not to leave the house today, you can take a look at Lesson 10 in the Orange Level. This lesson will be important to understand for next week when we study reported speech (or indirect speech) and conditional sentences.


Adverb clauses indicate why or when something happens:

Before you watch any TV, you have to finish your homework.

The adverb clause in this example tells the listener when he or she has to finish some homework: "Before you watch any TV…"

As with other types of clauses, this sentence pattern is easily reversed:

You have to finsh your homework before you watch any TV.

Notice in the sentence above that there’s no comma separating the two clauses. When the adverb clause follows the main clause (or the independent clause), you don’t need to add a comma.

She visits her friends whenever she’s in town.

Whenever she’s in town, she visits her friends.

If you need more help with adverb clauses, go to Lesson Nine in the Orange Level.

Today you’ll learn about adjective clauses. An adjective clause is a clause used to describe (or modify) nouns and pronouns. It contains a subject and a verb, but the clause might also contain an object, phrases and modifiers. Sometimes the adjective clause is longer than the main clause:

The woman who works at the restaurant across the street is single.

Do you see adjective clause in the sentence above? It describes the word "woman." The woman is single. "Woman" is the subject and "is" is the verb in the main clause, or you can call it the independent clause. The adjective clause contains a subject, "who," and a verb, "works."

The woman who works at the restaurant across the street is single.

Here’s is today’s lesson on adjective clauses.

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Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States. On this day we honor those who have served in the U.S. military, whether in combat or during peacetime.


Click here for a list of all the lessons on the website. When you complete a lesson, write down the date when you finished it. This way you can keep track of your progress.

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What’s the difference between "change" and "switch?" A student emailed me asking for help with an explanation. Both words can be used as a verb or as a noun, but they’re not always interchangeable:

We’re changing our living room furniture and buying something new. (change = to do something new. In this sentence, it’s a verb.)

We’re switching the furniture in the living room with the furniture in the family room. (switch = exchange, put in different places. In this sentence, it’s a verb.)

That job is a big change for you. (change = something new. This is a noun)

You have to make a switch with another employee. He’ll take your desk for the next two months and you’ll take his. (switch = an exchange. This is a noun.)

Most of this week, you will study different kinds of clauses: noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses.

Today the lesson is on noun clauses. A noun clause is useful because it can provide more information in a sentence by replacing a noun:

  • A: Do you know her?
  • B: No. I don’t know her.
  • B: No, I don’t know who she is.

When using a noun clause it’s important to pay attention to the word order. In the example above, a person might say, "I don’t know who is she." Many students make mistakes with the word order in a noun clause.

Now, you try it:

  • A: Do you know what time it is?
  • B: No, I don’t know ________ ________ ________ ________ .
  • B: Do you remember when the class starts.
  • A: I’m not sure ___________ __________ ___________.


voyageur in two harbors minnesota

I recently took a trip to northern Minnesota and took this picture of a voyageur while passing through Two Harbors. The voyageurs were French trappers (hunters who used traps to catch animals and then skin them for their fur). They were among the first European settlers to live in Minnesota. "Voyageur" is a French word. In English, it’s "voyager" (someone who travels).

Other people who came to this region from France were explorers and missionaries, but only a small number of people came here from France as settlers compared to the large numbers of people from England who settled along the east coast of the United States.

Let’s review the four basic sentence types that are explained in the first five lessons of the Orange Level:

A simple sentence has a subject and a verb and it completes an idea:

She went to the store.

A compound sentence is two independent clauses joined together by a conjunction:

She went to the store, but she forgot to bring her purse.

A complex sentence is an independent clause and a dependent clauses joined by a conjunction:

She couldn’t buy the things she needed at the store because she forgot her purse.

A compound-complex sentence has two independent clauses and a dependent clause joined by conjunctions.

We usually order a pizza whenever we go to that restaurant, but sometimes we order spaghetti.

The first three sentence types are the most important to learn. If you didn’t finish Lessons One, Three, and Four in the Orange Level, you should do them now.

Click here for today’s lesson on complex sentences.

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When I was a kid, this was a very popular commercial for McDonalds. Everyone knew the words:


Two whole beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.


Compound sentences are easy to identify because they use some very common conjunctions:








That’s it. Put one of these words in the middle of two sentences, put a comma before the conjunction, and you have a compound sentence. Of course, both parts of the sentence have to fit together to create an idea. Examples of compound sentences are here.

While they may look like sentences, it’s necessary to learn about clauses and phrases so that you don’t confuse them with sentences. Look at the differences below:

Because I like the exercise. (clause)

I ride my bike because I like the exercise. (sentence)

During the day. (phrase)

She works during the day. (sentence)

In conversation, you can answer someone’s question with a phrase or a clause, and that sounds okay. But when you write in English, it’s obvious if you don’t know the difference among sentences, phrases, and clauses. This lesson will show you more examples of phrases and clauses.

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Today is Election Day in the United States. Elections are held on the first Tuesday every November. That’s today. Most of the elections are for school board members, mayors, a few special elections for vacated positions, and a few gubernatorial elections ("gubernatorial" is an adjective for "governor.")

The first lesson in the Orange Level is on simple sentences. It’s important to understand that a sentence needs a subject and a verb, otherwise it’s something other than a sentence. Look at these simple sentences below:

She’s reading a book.

(subject = she; verb = is reading)

He likes to go shopping.

(subject = he; verb = likes)

There are many interesting people in this classroom.

(subject = there / people; verb = are)

During the morning rush hour, the highways move very slowly.

(subject = highways; verb = move)

To learn more about simple sentences, click here.

During the month of November, I’ll provide online instruction on the formation of sentences and questions in the Orange Level. This is a very popular level because so many people want help in making good sentences in English. I recommend that you bookmark lessons which you think are helpful and review those lessons several times.

Click here to go to October 2009