Avoiding a Misstep with Verbs

I have a few high intermediate and advanced private students who could benefit from additional review and practice with tricky verb forms. They’ve studied the subjunctive, and they also have strong familiarity with gerunds and infinitives, yet the occasional mistake can happen. I’ve written a set of forty practice sentences targeting the kinds of verb…

Who Wears Watches? (-s and -es endings)

Who still wears analog watches? Are smartwatches worth the expense? How easily can students discuss such questions with accurate pronunciation of the -s and -es endings? If you have learners who could benefit from practice saying and hearing the -s and -es endings, please view my handout. It’s designed for intermediate and advanced students. I’ve…

Understanding the Possible Meanings of Modal Verbs

When I first present modal verbs to a learner or a group of learners, I usually limit the focus to necessity, certainty, or ability. I also make sure students are comfortable using modals with base verbs (in the affirmative and negative) before asking them to work with progressive, perfect, or passive forms. However, with upper…

Pronunciation Challenge: Saying Unstressed Words

I’m no weightlifter. I use weights daily, but they’re limited to two- and three-pound free weights. However, I worked with heavier weights when I went through physical therapy, and I remember the challenge was not just to lift weights upward, but also to let them descend in a controlled manner. Lifting weights involves moving up…

Understanding the Past Perfect

While we may not use the past perfect as much as other verb forms, it’s still one worth knowing. Communication is all about getting someone to understand us, and if our message isn’t clear, we need ways to clarify. I always tell students that the past perfect helps us explain which of two past actions…

What We Say but Don’t Write

I recently shared a lesson on common uses of “again.” (Watch video.) They include the question “Come again?” and the humorous or cantankerous observation “Here we go again!” I noted that all the expressions are conversational in nature. What does that mean exactly? It means you might possibly use the expressions when texting or messaging…

Who Knows What about Forming Questions?

I have a couple of intermediate students who are making progress with tense and aspect. The tricky grammar has turned out to be question formation. It’s easy to choose who for people and what for things, but it’s a bit of a challenge to remember that these two wh- words can help us form questions…

Think Before (and After) You Type: Correcting Mistakes

The other day I corrected my son’s grammar mid-conversation, and I thought to myself, The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My father used to correct me. He’d insist on subject pronouns in comparative structures whenever I’d say something like “taller than me.” At the time, I didn’t know the terms “prescribed” and “descriptive”…

Off-Road Grammar: Reducing Adjective Clauses

While getting ready to publish my latest grammar lesson on common mistakes with adjectives, I felt simultaneously giddy and scared because I was including examples that weren’t like most I found in other resources. I felt like a driver going off-road. I could either gleefully yell “Yeehaw!” and embrace the bumpy, messy ride or I…

Training to Hear Differences: Central Vowels and Diphthongs

I’d like to round out the set of materials I’ve been creating lately with one more handout. It’s easy enough to come up with a few words for any given sound on the spot, but having a ready-to-go list for each vowel sound is very useful. I plan to keep my PDFs handy for whenever…

Tuning In to Differences between Back Vowels

If you found the previous handout on front vowels helpful, I hope you’ll also be able to make use of this follow-up collection of drills for back vowels. These PDFs are meant for upper intermediate and advanced students. Again, I’ve included practice with individual words, phrases, and short sentences. Back Vowels_Practice Drills Featured image by…

All Ears: Learning to Hear Differences between Front Vowels

A good number of private students want to work on pronunciation, but we only meet once a week. Obviously, leaps and bounds don’t occur in the space of 30 or 60 minutes. Instead, small steps toward accuracy are taken through teacher-led training and independent practice over time. Weekly lessons are opportunities to check in with…