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BlogLAEO October 2009

Today is Halloween. Click here to learn about the holiday.


So, did you finish all of the lessons in the Purple Level? If not, go back and finish.

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Okay, so now that you’ve finished all the lessons, let’s review the reasons for studying these 20 verbs so closely:

1. Most Americans prefer to use smaller words and idioms when speaking English. If you know how to match these verbs with prepositions, nouns, and adjectives, you’ll master English much faster, but these 20 verbs will require years and years of practice.

2. Most of these verbs are irregular. It’s necessary to study irregular verbs more closely than regular verbs because they change in unpredictable ways. You must remember these verbs in the simple form, the past tense form, and as past participles.

3. The 20 verbs presented in the Purple Level comprise roughly eighty to ninety percent of the verbs used in English–particularly American English. (British speakers are more precise in their choice of words and the general population has a higher level of diction when compared to Americans–in my opinion–so the range and number of word choices is greater in countries like England.)

4. I have a belief that if you learn these particular 20 verbs well and focus on them solely, setting aside for now other words in English, your English will improve. From there it will be easier to develop a new vocabulary. Focus on the small words first!

Congratulations! You finished the Purple Level.

Below: Paul working at his computer.

Here’s a new video. It’s for the verb "be."


The word of the day is "run." It usually describes fast movement with the legs, but it has many other meanings that you should know. You can click here to see them, and here are some additional examples below with prepositions added to make new meanings:

run-in = to meet someone unexpectedly, sometimes with bad consequences (used as a noun).

Marcos had a run-in with the law last week and was put in jail.

Have you ever had a run-in with the police?


runaround = to avoid a topic or situation; to divert attention (used as a noun)

When I tried to get my money back at the store, the manager just gave me the runaround, so I left.


run (something) past = to get someone’s approval; to ask permission from someone in a position of authority.

Before you get a dog, you’ll have to run that past the manager for the apartment building.

Here’s a new video that shows a common pattern used in sentences:


I don’t think it’s a very good video, but I’ll let you be the judge. It seems there’s always someone who is able to learn something from these short YouTube vids. The point of this video is to show that a lot of sentences in English begin with the word "it’s" when someone is trying to explain an idea. While this might seem obvious to someone who speaks English, it’s not obvious to someone learning the language.

The word of the day is "cut." As with other verbs that you have studied this month, the meaning of it can change depending on the prepositions or nouns that follow it. Generally, it’s used when taking a sharp object such as a knife or scissors to make smaller pieces:

She cut her steak with a steak knife.

I cut the paper with the scissors.

Try not to cut yourself when you shave!

But there are also many idiomatic meanings when the word "cut" is used:

He’s not cut out for acting.

The company cut their suppliers a check for $26,000.

We needed to cut through a lot of red tape to get what we wanted.

For more idioms that use "cut," click here.

Follow me on Twitter if you want to get daily examples of American slang and idioms. This is something new:

Did you get today’s emailed lesson? If not, sign up for lessons on the homepage. It’s free.

You can click here to study the word "say," and tomorrow click here to study the word "tell." These are good words to study at the same time because they are often confused. After you look at these two lessons, here’s a new quiz for you to try.

I received an email from a student recently who asked me why the name of the website is titled "Learn American English Online." She wanted to know if I favored American English over British English. Actually, I like British English very much. I like the word choices made by speakers of British English and their vocabulary and grammar. I love to listen to their pronunciation of words, and I think the study of British literature is absolutely necessary for anyone who learns English, particularly advanced students. But I’m an American, so I focus on American English because that’s what I know. By the way, there isn’t a website or URL titled, "Learn British English Online," but perhaps someone should start one. That would be interesting.

Here’s a new video for using "must" to express probability.

A new email will go out Wednesday or Thursday. I’m still thinking about what to put into it, so if you have questions or special problems with English grammar or vocabulary, let me know and I’ll see if I can work it in.

For the next two days, study the words "need" and "want" in the Purple Level. These words are often confused. Remember, if you "need" something, than it’s necessary. If you "want" something, you desire it but it might not be necessary. Look at the example sentences below:

She needs to see a doctor for her back pain. (necessary)

We want to see a movie this afternoon. (desire)

They need to make more money to pay the rent. (necessary)

He wants to be a millionaire. (desire)

In the sentences above, the words "need" and "want" are followed by infinitives (to _____). You can also use nouns after these words:

I need a new job.

Samuel wants some jello.

Here’s the lesson for today.

How are you doing with the Purple Level so far? The idea behind this level is for you to become familiar with 20 commonly-used verbs in English. It doesn’t really matter if you complete the lessons in order.

Thanks for all the feedback on the new poetry section. I’ll be adding more content to that part of the website soon. I think poetry is useful for ESL students because you learn to listen to the language in ways that you might not ordinarily in a classroom or on the street. I don’t have a linked section yet for poetry here, so you’ll have to bookmark this page or keep coming back to the blog for the link.


"Know" is one of those words that has a specific meaning, yet it’s often used in conversation in a way that’s similar to "like" and "uhh," which is to say that in some dialogues it doesn’t really have much meaning other than to give the speaker time to think of something to say:

A: It’s a good thing we decided to get to class early, you know.

B: Yeah, I know. Look at all this snow!

So we could take "you know" out of both of these sentences above and it wouldn’t change the meaning of what was said. Listen carefully when Americans speak naturally. You’ll hear "you know" a lot.

Here’s today’s lesson for the verb "know."

I sent out an email to everyone yesterday. If you didn’t get it, make sure you sign up on the homepage. It’s not necessary to sign up just to use the website. I don’t ask for passwords or registration because there are so many passwords these days, it makes everyone life easier to forgo their use.

I’m thinking about adding a new section to the website for poetry. The vocabulary you find in poetry is extremely challenging, but there is a benefit. Listening to poetry read to you will help you develop your listening skills as well as an appreciation for the language. When I was studying German, I used to listen to a lot of German poetry, which was really difficult, but I learned to love the sound of the language. So here’s something new for the website. It was inspired by this Levi’s commercial. (I love this commercial and the guy who’s reading the poem is really great!)

Here’s my version. I read it and put the text of the poem on a page so that you can read along and listen at the same time.

This is the Levi’s commercial. It features the first part of the poem.

The word of the day is "see." The most obvious use for this verb is when you use your eyes to view the world, but there are other uses for it:

A: Do you want to see a movie?

B: I’m not sure if I have time. Let’s see. (I’ll decide later.)

Tina is seeing someone new. (She has a new boyfriend.)
Do you see what I’m trying to say? (see = understand)
Let me see that. (I want to hold it in my hands and get a closer look.)
I think I need to see the dentist. (I need to go to the doctor or dentist.)

Go to this Purple Level lesson to learn more.


We got our first snow of the season this morning. On the left-hand side of the picture, you can see the small cherry tree I planted last weekend. In some years, Minnesota gets snow six months out of the year.

Notice the use of the word "get" when talking about the weather. Here are some more examples of this:

We got some snow last night. (past tense)

We’re going to get some rain this weekend. (future tense using "going to")

The state of Minnesota gets about 80 inches of snow every year. (present tense)


Congratulations to President Barack Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement was just made this morning. I can’t think of a better person to give it to, even though he’s only been in his job for nine months. He’s worked hard to promote the idea that people around the world and here in the United States can find ways to work together and find peaceful solutions to problems.

Here’s a new page for idioms beginning with the word "give."

This is a new video that shows how "come to" is used when describing total amounts.

I just added a new page to the website. Click here to see the many different ways in which the verb "take" is used.

For an English teacher, the verb "use" is essential. You will hear your English teacher say things such as, "How do you use this word in a sentence?" and "Do you know how to use the present tense?" It’s useful for other purposes. Click here to find out more in today’s lesson.

The word for the day is "put." Click here to see how it’s used. You’ll find some examples of "put" in idomatic expressions here.

A student emailed me over the weekend with an interesting question. She asked me about the use of "here" and "there." I often forget how important these words are in sentences like these:

There you are. (I’m giving you something)

Here you are. (I’m giving you something.)

There it is. (I’m showing you something.)

Here it is. (I found something.)

There he goes. (Someone is suddenly going somewhere or someone is quickly passing by.)

Notice the use of the pronoun after "here" or "there?" You wouldn’t say, "There Bob goes," or "There the car is." That sounds weird. However, with the word "go" you can say this:

There goes the tent. (A large wind blew the tent down.)

There goes our chance to win. (The other team scored another point.)

There goes our picnic. (It’s raining and now we can’t eat outside.)

"There goes ______" indicates that something has interrupted one’s plans or chances of success.


Here are some more uses for the verb get not included in Lesson Two or in the examples of idioms:

get ready = prepare to leave or do something.

What time do you get ready in the morning to leave for work?

get a handle on = begin to understand something; to learn.

It took Daryl a few weeks to get a handle on operating the machines at his new job.

get (one’s) feet wet = get some experience.

He decided to do some volunteer work as a teacher in order to get his feet wet.

Tomorrow we will look at the verb "put."


Yesterday I planted a tree in my backyard and made a video of the experience. I think some of the words used in this video might be useful for your vocabulary development. You never know where you might learn a new word or useful term. This is the key to vocabulary development. If any of the words here are new to you, write them down.

My condolences to the people of Indonesia, who are recovering from an earthquake, and the people of the Phillipines, who are dealing with flooding from typhoons. One way to help is to make a contribution to Network For Good and tell them where you want your money to go.

The word for the day is "get." Click here to see the lesson. Click here to see how it’s used within idiomatic expressions. "Get" is a hard verb to learn because it has so many different uses, but if you become good at using it, you will understand English better.

I’m still going through the responses from yesterday’s email. When you send out 10,000 emails you know you’re going to be busy afterwards.

Today is the first day of October. Here in Minnesota, the leaves are changing color and it’s getting cooler. It’s time to start thinking about indoor activities. In my case, I look around the house and see a lot of things that need to be fixed: a broken toilet, a few door locks, a shower door. I also have to do some painting.

Today you begin the Purple Level. This level will help you become familiar with simple verbs in English, some of which you might not be using right now.



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