Learn American English Online Blog
November 30, 2010
Today is the last day for the Yellow Level. Clicking on this link will bring you to Part 2 for the Yellow Level Review.
How are you doing so far? Have you been following the lessons daily? Or did you try to finish an entire level in one day? While it might be possible for some students to complete the lessons here quickly, I highly recommend that you go through the website slowly and write answers to questions by hand in a notebook.
It’s also a good idea to go back to the Blue Level, the Red Level, and the Yellow Level if you are having problems understanding verb tenses. Understanding verb tenses is especially important when you study the passive voice in the Green Level.
November 29, 2010
Today and tomorrow, you can work on the Yellow Level Review. This is kind of like a test.
This is a new video for other, others, and another:
November 28, 2010
If you have finished all the lessons in the Yellow Level, you can begin the Yellow Level Review. There are fifty fill-in-the-blank questions, and I’ll probably be adding another fifty within the next day or so. Notice the inclusion of my conference bike. If the bike is interesting enough for visitors to this website, I might start including it more within the lessons.
A conference bike is a seven-person bike. One persons steers and operates it–just like a car– and the other six people provide the pedal-power to make it go. It’s a lot of fun!
My conference bike:
November 27, 2010
Today’s lesson is on intensifiers. These are adverbs that increase the degree of meaning for adjectives and other adverbs.
November 26, 2010
Lessons Twenty-two and Twenty-three in the Yellow Level are on comparative and superlative adverbs. There’s one more lesson after these and then the Yellow Level review. The Green Level will begin on December 1.
Remember, you don’t have to follow the lessons as they are scheduled, but many online students do it that way because it feels like being part of a class.
The video you see below will help you in making suggestions to other people:
November 25, 2010
Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. On this day, we give thanks for all the good things in our lives–our families, our good health, our good fortune–and we get together with family and friends. If you want to learn more about Thanksgiving, click here.
November 24, 2010
The next three lessons are on adverbs. These are words that are used with verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They provide important information about activity in a sentence.
She ate her breakfast.
More information is provided with the addition of an adverb:
She quickly ate her breakfast. or She ate her breakfast quickly.
How did she eat her breakfast? She ate it quickly. The word "quickly" is an adverb. You can put adverbs into many different places within a sentence, but there are some rules for the placement of these words.
She usually eats breakfast before she goes to school.
When does she eat her breakfast? She eats it "before she goes to school." This is an adverb clause that describes when she eats. In this sentence, there’s also the adverb "usually" which indicates the frequency of this action (eat).
Understanding how to use adverbs properly will help you express your ideas in greater detail. Click here for today’s lesson.
November 23, 2010
The lesson for today is an easy one. It’s about height and weight. I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve taught English that students make small mistakes when talking about these things. Look at the examples below:
When asking about a person’s weight, you can say:
How much do you weigh?
What’s your weight?
When buying food at a store or when talking about an object, you say:
How much does it weigh?
When asking about the height of a person, most people say:
How tall are you?
When asking about the height of an object, you can say:
How tall is it?
How high is it?
Here’s a YouTube video for you if you need more help.
November 22, 2010
Did you receive today’s email? It contains a lot of links to new lessons and new material for the website. Be sure to sign up on the home page to become a member here.
Here’s a new video to help you when making a polite request in English:
November 21, 2010
Here’s a new video. This will help you with English vocabulary related to baking:
November 20, 2010
The lesson for today is on prepositional phases. As a teacher of English as a second language, I’ve always stressed the importance of learning how to use prepositions and prepositional phases because they are hard to learn when English is not your first language. I recommend that you pay attention to how prepositions are used when reading or listening to conversations. You can also find examples of prepositions in the prepositions section of this website.
Here’s a new quiz on the verb "look."
November 19, 2010
The present perfect continuous tense is generally easier to use than the present perfect tense. In today’s lesson, I’ll show you why:
To make the present perfect tense, the formula looks like this:
Subject + has or have + past participle
Consideration of the subject is important because it determines your choice of "has" or "have." Then you have to know the past participle for the main verb. That’s the difficult part, especially if the verb is irregular.
The formula for the present perfect continuous tense looks like this:
Subject + has or have + been + (main verb) ing
Once again, you have to consider the subject when choosing "has" or "have," but then you always use "been" and the main verb is in the simple form with an "ing" ending.
Here are some examples with the verbs "see," "go," "work," and "drive."
Laura has been seeing a doctor for the last six months.
I’ve been going bowling on the weekends lately.
He’s been working late at night.
They’ve been driving the same car for the last ten years.
When you use the present perfect continuous tense, the action started some time in the past and continues up to the present. Click here for a quiz.
The lesson for today also shows you the past perfect continuous tense.
November 18, 2010
Today you’ll learn about changing direct speech to indirect speech in Yellow Level Lesson Sixteen.
This is also referred to as "reported speech" or using "indirect quotations." There are many times when it’s necessary to describe what another person said. To do this correctly, you have to change pronouns and verb tenses, and sometimes you need to change the word order. Look at this example:
"I need to take a test today," said Maria.
The person speaking is Maria. The quotation marks (") indicate her exact words. The sentence is in the present tense (need). When describing what she said, it looks like this:
Maria said that she needed to take a test.
Notice that the word "need" in direct speech changed to "needed" in the indirect form of speech. Why does this happen? It’s difficult to explain, but most people who speak English do it, and it’s something you have to learn.Today’s lesson will help you. Here are a few more examples:
"It’s supposed to rain this afternoon," said the meteorologist.
The meteorologist said it was supposed to this afternoon.
"The teacher can help you," John said.
John said that the teacher could help me.
"My car won’t start," said Carmelita.
Carmelita said that her car wouldn’t start.
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Here’s a new quiz for the Yellow Level. It’s on the use of "be able to" in the past tense.
November 17, 2010
Here’s a new video made after a request. It’s on possessive nouns:
The past perfect tense is hard to learn and it’s hard to use. It’s useful when indicating that one past event comes before another. It’s similar to the past tense; however, the construction of the past perfect tense is quite different from the past tense.
In the chart above, I’ve included some of the most confusing verbs to use when making the past perfect tense. To make the past pefect tense, the formula looks like this:
helping verb: had + past participle
She had done many good things in her life before she retired.
(She did many good things in her life — past tense)
He hadn’t gone to see a doctor until he had his first heart attack.
(He didn’t go to see a doctor — past tense)
If we‘d had the time, we would have stayed longer.
(If we had the time, we would have stayed longer — past tense)
You always use the helping verb "had" and the past participle when making the past perfect tense. When making the past tense, you only use the helping verb for questions and negatives but not for statements:
She did her homework.
Did she do her homework?
She didn’t do her homework.
The past tense describes one event in the past. The past perfect describes the first of two events in the past. Click here to learn more about the past perfect tense.
This YouTube video explains the differences between the past tense and the past perfect tense:
November 16, 2010
Today’s lesson is on using perfect modal verbs in the form of a continuous tense (known as the "conditional perfect progressive").
Whatever you want to call this, the formula looks like this:
This is used to describe conditions or situations that happened in the past, but there’s the consideration of an alternative reality:
To my students around the world, I wish you a happy Eid if you celebrate it. I know this is a special day for you and your family Peace!
November 15, 2010
The word of the day is the verb "pour."
pour / poured / poured
The verb "pour" is similar to "put." We use it for liquids, but sometimes it’s used for solids:
You can also use "pour" when spending or investing large amounts of money:
The word "pour" sounds exactly like the word "poor."
Click here to go to today’s lesson on the present perfect continuous tense.
November 14, 2010
There’s a new reading assignment for the Yellow Level. Click here to take a look.
November 13, 2010
In Yellow Level Lesson Twelve, you’ll combine your knowledge of the present perfect tense with your knowledge of modal verbs. This is a useful thing to know how to use in order to describe things that didn’t happen in the past. For example:
He should have finished his work.
Did he finish his work? No. It would have been a good idea for him to finish it, but he didn’t.
I could have eaten the entire pizza.
Did I eat the whole pizza? No, I didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t eat all of it. I could have gotten a stomachache.
Pedro shouldn’t have quit his job.
Did he quit his job? Yes, he did. Notice the word "should" is negative in this example. When you make the modal verb "should" negative, then add "have" and the past participle, using "should" + "not" + "have" + the past participle means the action happened, but the result of the action wasn’t good.
After you finish Lesson Twelve, you can take this quiz.
Here’s a new quiz for yesterday’s lesson on "(be) able to" in the present tense.
November 12, 2010
There are some very popular substitutions for modal verbs which I refer to as idiomatic modal verbs in Yellow Level Lesson Eleven. While these are not really modal verbs, they act in almost the same way, and they are very popular. That’s why you should learn about them.
have to = must (in the Blue Level)
(be) able to = can
(be) going to = will (in the Red Level)
There isn’t a separate page for "be able to" yet, so let’s take a look at how it substitutes for "can."
Notice that the verb "be" changes according to the subject. You can also use this in the past tense:
In the example above, "be able to" is not a perfect substitute for the past tense of "can," which is the word "could," but the meanings are close, especially when used in the negative:
This is what "be able to" looks like in the future:
There are some small differences in meaning between "can" and "be able to" which you will discover as you continue to learn English. Keep in mind that "be able to" is very common in conversation. Also, while "can" generally expresses ability, "be able to" expresses ability, possibility, and permission.
November 11, 2010
Today you’ll learn about modal verbs. The modal verb helps to address particular situations by changing the quality of the main verb. Here are some examples of that:
Click here to learn more about modal verbs.
November 10, 2010
I get a lot of questions from students who ask me about the difference between the past tense and the past continuous tense. Sometimes there’s not much of a difference between them. At other times there is a difference.
These questions and answers are similar; however, the past continuous tense is used for activity during a period of time, so it’s not always a good choice. Look at the example below:
Which response is better? If you answered "C," you’re correct. You could also say, "I was shopping." In some situations the past tense is a better choice than the past continuous tense. It depends on the situation. (It also depends on the verb.)
It’s also very important to learn how these two tenses can be used together:
I learned how to speak German while I was living in Berlin.
There are two verbs in this sentence: learn and live. One is in the past tense (learn) and the other is in the past continuous tense (live). Here’s another example:
She was talking to her friends when she got a call on her cell phone.
The verb "talk" is in the past continuous tense. This is a good choice. The verb "got" is in the past tense. This is also a good choice. The second verb interrupts the action of the first verb.
Now consider rewriting the sentence like this:
She talked to her friends when she was getting a call on her cell phone.
This sentence doesn’t sound good. Can you understand why? If not…
November 9, 2010
The lesson for today on the past continuous tense is on YouTube. Click here.
You can click here to take a quiz.
November 8, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the superlative form for adjectives. It’s a good idea to complete this lesson after the lesson for comparative adjectives.
Remember that adjectives describe nouns, and adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
November 7, 2010
There’s a new page for the Yellow Level reading section. Click here to read about Christine and Tom.
November 6, 2010
This weekend, you can learn about using comparatives for adjectives. Monday’s lesson is on superlatives, but you should study the comparative form first.
A big shout out to my friends in Mumbai. President Obama is visting there today. Some students from India emailed me recently with questions about American slang. You can go to this section of the website to learn more about that.
November 5, 2010
Today’s lesson is on making questions in the present perfect tense.
In these questions, the answer is "yes" or "no":
These questions ask for information:
November 4, 2010
The lesson for today is on the present perfect tense in the negative form. To make the negative, all you have to do is add "not" to the helping verb, "has" or "have." Here are some examples:
He hasn’t had breakfast yet.
She hasn’t finished her homework.
They haven’t been on a vacation in a long time.
There’s a new YouTube video. This one is on the subject of lines:
November 3, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the present perfect tense. To make this tense, use the verb "has" or "have" and the past participle for the main verb. The past participle for regular verbs always ends in "ed," but the past participle for irregular verbs changes in unusual ways, or it doesn’t change at all. See the chart below:
Click here for a list of irregular verbs. This is not a complete list, but it’s a good start. Commit these verbs to memory in the past tense and as past participles.
Here are some examples of the present perfect tense. Notice that these sentences are all very similar:
I have worked as a teacher for over 20 years.
I have been a teacher for over 20 years.
I have taught English at four different schools.
I haven’t changed jobs in a long time.
November 2, 2010
Did you receive today’s email? If not, make sure that you sign up on the home page for free emailed lessons and updates.
There’s a small mistake in today’s email. See if you can find it.
November 1, 2010
Today you can start the Yellow Level. The first lesson is a review of the past tense, and the second lesson is on the verb "have." These two lessons help you think about the differences between the past tense and the present perfect tense, which you will study in the Yellow Level.
If you are new to this website, there’s still time to go back and study the first two levels, the Blue Level and the Red Level. To get the greatest benefit from studying English on this website, work through the lessons sequentially: blue, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, and violet.
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This new YouTube video was made on request from a student who wanted to know how to talk about geometrical shapes in English.
Did you miss the month of October? We studied…
Click here to go to October 2010