The LAEO Blog – Learn English Here Every Day

October 31, 2008  


Halloween is on the last day of October. It started long ago as a religious holiday, but now it’s a secular tradition for children who dress up in costumes, go to parties, and go door-to-door asking for candy. When children knock on your door and you answer it, they’ll say "trick or treat." You give them some candy and then they leave.

Here’s a funny picture an online student sent to me showing dogs trick or treating:


October 30, 2008

Reflexive Pronouns refer your attention back to the subject. For example: I hurt myself. Who did it? I did. Don’t say, "I hurt me." Today’s lesson is featured on the home page, so if you want to watch the video, go to the home page or you can go to Red Level Lesson 20.

Here are some more examples:

She always buys herself a present on her birthday.

He can see himself in the window’s reflection.

We decided to work for ourselves.

Reflexive pronouns also describe that a person or a group of people are alone:

Why are you sitting all by yourself? Can I sit with you?

It’s nice to see children learn how to do things by themselves.

I went to see a movie by myself.

October 29, 2008

Possessive pronouns can be used as subjects or as objects in a sentence:

Your class is in the evening. Mine is in the morning.

(Mine = My class; "Mine" is the subject)

She didn’t have a pen, so I gave her mine.

("mine" is a direct object)

All the other prossessive pronouns end in an "s:" yours, his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs.

Possessive pronouns are often used alongside possessive adjectives. It’s important to know the difference. For example: His car is parked outside. Hers is in the garage. In the first sentence, "His" is a possessive adjective. It comes before a noun. In the second sentence, "Hers" is a possessive pronoun and you don’t use if before another noun.

Look at this mistake: Hers car is in the garage. You should say, "Her car is…" This is a very common mistake. The person speaking is confusing the possessive adjective with the possessive pronoun.

To learn more about possessive pronouns, click here.

October 28, 2009

Gerunds look a lot like verbs because they have an "ing" ending; however, they function like nouns in a sentence:

  1. Swimming is fun.
  2. I like swimming.
  3. She is swimming.

The first two sentences use gerunds. The third is in the present continuous tense. Remember that continuous tenses are formed with the verb "be." That’s how you can tell it apart from a gerund.

Gerunds follow some verbs but not others: I avoid shopping at Walmart. After the verb "avoid," you can use a gerund but not an infinitive. How do you know which verbs take gerunds, which verbs take infinitives, and which can take both? That’s one of the things that makes English so difficult. It takes years to learn this through reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

For more practice with gerunds, click here.

October 27, 2008

Today’s featured lesson is on infinitives. An infinitive looks like a verb, but it often behaves like a noun. Consider the following sentences:

I like ice cream.

I like to eat ice cream.

In the first sentence, the subject is "I," the verb is "like," and the object is "ice cream."

In the second sentence, the subject is "I," the verb is "like," and the infinitive "to eat" indicates what the speaker likes. "Ice cream" becomes the object of the infinitive. You could also say, "I like to eat." That’s a good sentence, too.

Infinitives are also useful because they explain why a person does something:

I go to work to make money.

Why do I go to work? To make money.

She went to the store to get some new shoes.

Why did she go to the store? To get some new shoes.

There are more explanations for infinitives in this Red Level lesson.

October 26, 2008

A new email went out this morning. If you aren’t getting emails from me, please sign up for them on the home page. Emails contain updates and some instruction; however, most of the instruction for the website is contained within each of the seven levels: blue, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, and violet.

October 25, 2008

I made this video this morning for the conjunction "and."


October 24, 2008

"And" is an easy word to learn and use. It connects words, sentences, and ideas:

Bob and Jim are brothers. ("and" makes the subject plural)

She sings and dances. ("and" brings two verbs together)

We think George Bush is a terrible President, and most people agree with us.

("and’ joins two simple sentences together. Notice the comma comes before "and.")

To learn more about conjunctions, click here.

October 23, 2008

Today’s featured lesson is on adjectives. Adjectives describe nouns. They’re important to learn because they add information about the thing or person you want to describe:

This is a very interesting book. "Interesting" is an adjective. If I say, "This is a book," you might want more information because there are so many books in the world, and you would want to know what distinguishes it from all the other books.

For more on adjectives, click here.

October 22, 2008

There are a few different ways to use the word "like." The most common expresses a desire for something or someone: She likes ice cream. We like to go to the zoo. I like working on my website. Notice that "like" can be followed by an infinitive or a gerund.

"Like" is also used when making a comparison or a description: A bratwurst is like a sausage. He’s like a brother to me. / What does it taste like? It tastes like chicken.

There’s one more really important use for "like" in American English. Many people here use it in conversation, but it doesn’t really have much of a meaning. It’s similar to "uhh" and "you know" which also don’t have any real meaning: I was, like, so tired last night I couldn’t stay awake. This is, like, really easy. (In this application, "like" is often used after the verb "be.") I don’t recommend the use of "like" in this manner, but if you talk to a lot of young Americans, in particular, it’s important to know about.

October 21, 2008

The early bird catches the worm.

This is a popular saying in the U.S. What do you think it means? Email me and I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong.

October 20, 2008

Lessons this week will focus on the future tense using "will" and "going to."

What will you do tomorrow? What are you going to do tomorrow? Both of these questions ask about the future. One uses "will" as a modal verb; the other uses an idiomatic modal, "going to." Both are good but "going to" is very popular in American English. However, many Americans speak so quickly, you might not be able to hear someone say it. It usually sounds like "gonna." What are you gonna do tomorrow? You’re also supposed to use the verb "be" with "going to," but this also might not be heard by the listener when someone asks, "Whatchya gonna do tomorrow?"

October 19, 2008

Another email lesson will probably go out this week, perhaps Monday or Tuesday. Some of you have emailed me and asked why I haven’t sent anything out recently. One reason is the cost. I have to pay a monthly charge for sending out email, and now that the list of members is almost at 3700, I can’t send out lessons weekly anymore. But that shouldn’t stop you from going to those sections of the website that you find helpful. And remember the Links page is a good source for other websites that will help you with your English.

October 16, 2008

Three lessons that go well together are linked to on the home page. Red Level Lessons 8, 9, and 10 will help you understand the differences between count and noncount nouns. There’s a video on that page also which I mentioned a couple of days ago. Why are these lessons so important? If you don’t know how to use words such as many, much, a few, a little, any, some, and a lot, your English will always sound bad. I recommend that you look carefully at all three of these lessons and then go to the Red Level and take Quizzes 8 and 9.

October 15, 2008

There’s a new lesson in the Violet Level. Click here.

October 14, 2008

What’s the difference between "much" and "many"? Use much with nouncount nouns (milk, water, rice, air, traffic, fruit, etc.) and use many with count nouns in the plural form (apples, trees, people, cars, children, pencils, etc.)

The featured YouTube video on the Home page is important to look at today because you really have to learn about count and noncount nouns if you don’t know about them already.

October 13, 2008

I’m going to try something different on the website. On the homepage now, you’ll see the Lesson of the Day and a link to that lesson. Today’s lesson is on the main verb "do."

"Do" can be both a helping verb and a main verb. That’s why so many mistakes are made with it.

  • A: What do you do? (I’m asking about your job)
  • B: I’m a cook.
  • A: When do you do your shopping?
  • B: I do it in the morning.
  • A: How much work did you do yesterday?
  • B: I did a lot.

October 12, 2008

Get over it. This is a common expression in English. It means that you should stop thinking about someone or something that bothers you. Be careful how you use this expression. Some things are hard to get over, so you should be careful not to hurt the feelings of the person you say it to. Here are a couple of examples:

  • His girlfriend broke up with him and he’s having a hard time getting over it.
  • Sara kept talking about how much she hated her teacher, andI told her to just get over it.

Here’s a YouTube video from OK Go entitled "Get Over It."



October 11, 2008

One of my students sent me my name in Arabic. I tried to post it here, but the computer settings don’t allow it.

Thank-you for sending that to me. Not only was it a nice gift, it also serves as a reminder of how different English is from other languages. It really takes an enormous amount of effort to learn English–especially for those students whose first language is Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Khmer, Amharic…..the list is long.

October 9, 2008

Here’s a new video on YouTube. It explains the difference between "say" and "tell."


After "say" you can use a subject pronoun or noun:

She says she‘s tired. / She said she was tired.

After "tell" you use an object pronoun or noun.

He tells me he needs to find a new job. / He told me he needed to find a new job.

The use of "that" in the above examples is an option ("that is not necessary).

He told me that he needed to find a new job.

October 8, 2008

Did you watch the debate last night? I had to teach, so I couldn’t see the whole thing, but it’s becoming more clear that Barack Obama has what it takes to be President. He’s so cool under pressure, and he’s got a lot of really good ideas that are completely different from a Republican approach to government. He’s gaining in all the polls, and in some states he’s so far ahead that there’s little McCain can do buy concede those states to Obama. In just four weeks we go to cast our votes.

If you have any questions about the election process, just email them to me and I’ll try to answer them.

melon flower A student of mine from Thailand made this for me from a small watermelon. It looks like a flower, doesn’t it?

October 7, 2008

"Have got" and "have got to" are important verbs phrases that you should know.

"Have got" is almost the same as "have." Some examples: I’ve got a lot of work to do today. She’s got a new boyfriend. Notice in that last sentence that "she’s" is "she is." You could just use "have" instead of "have got," but it’s very commonly used in American English.

"Have got to" is almost the same as "must." Some examples: We’ve got to find a new place to live. My company has got to lay off half of its employees because of the bad economy. The U.S. has got to get its house in order (which means to fix the bad situation it’s in).

October 6, 2008

This week I’ll be working with my classroom students on the differences between the present tense and the past tense. Remember that it’s the helping verb, do or did, that can help you tell the difference between the two tenses when they are negative or in the form of a question. Also, regular verbs take an "ed" ending in the past tense. Irregular verbs must be memorized.

helping verb
simple form
past tense

do or does





went (irregular verb)

worked (regular verb)

The main verb is in blue. The helping verb is in purple.

I go to the store every weekend. (present tense)

I went to the store last weekend. (past tense)

I don’t go to the store in the evenings. (present tense)

I didn’t go to the store yesterday. (past tense)

Does she work today? (present tense)

Did he go to work yesterday? (past tense)

For more help in learning the differences between the present tense and the past tense, you can click here.

Now for something completely different. This is a short film from a popular TV show on Saturday nights–Saturday Night Live. It has captions, so I thought some of the bloggees here might like it. The music is pretty cool, too.



October 4, 2008

Did you see the debate on Thursday night between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin? Joe Biden did very well, and Sarah Palin was able to hold her own–but that’s about it. Overall, the debate wasn’t a game-changer. "Game-changer." This expression has been around for a while, but lately it’s getting used more often by the media and the public. A "game-changer" is an event or a person that suddenly changes everything or moves events in one direction.

October 3, 2008

One of my online students asked me recently to explain how the financial crisis started in the United States. The basic answer is that too many Americans bought houses that they couldn’t afford, so they lost their houses to the banks that loaned them the money. Now these banks own houses that are not worth the price paid that they paid, and at the same time, the value of real estate is falling. That’s the short answer, but it’s more complicated than that.

Americans simply spend too much money and have to learn how to save. There’s too much dependence on the use of credit and credit cards, and perhaps we are all learning a very painful lesson now. Unfortunately, the lesson might last a lot longer than is necessary to have an affect on those who learn from it.

learn a lesson — to experience pain from a mistake, usually resulting in something learned

October 2, 2008

One of the classes that I teach during the day is studying indirect speech. Here’s a video that explains what that is:


October 1, 2008

Tomorrow night is the big debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. A lot of people are going to watch it because they’re expecting gaffes to be made by each candidate. A "gaffe" is a mistake a person makes when speaking (for pronunciation: it rhymes with "laugh"). It’s an error in describing a fact, or it’s saying something kind of stupid. The expectations are for Sarah Palin to make more mistakes than Joe Biden, but they’re both capable of misspeaking. I have to teach tomorrow night, so I can’t watch the debate live, but I’ll video tape it and watch it after it’s done.

Click here to go to September 2008