How Could I Do That?

Some months ago I was asked to distinguish between How could I have missed that? and How could I miss that? Reading over my explanation, I’m not completely satisfied with the answer I gave. So, can I express my regret by saying, “How could I have been so unclear?” I initially wrote that the perfect form…

Down a Less Traveled Path: Less common uses of prepositions

It’s challenging enough to address common uses of prepositions because there are so many of them, so why seek more hurdles? Because our students will come across other uses, and it may be helpful to give some exposure and practice within a supportive classroom setting. After I published a video that explained the common uses…

Word Jugglers: Learning the Uses of -er

A learner asked me why we add the suffix -er to existing prepositions to form words like insider and inner. What a wonderfully curious question! I love how this person’s mind works. Talk about a teachable moment. I responded with an explanation about the versatility of -er and called attention to the parts of speech we can build…

Full of Holiday Cheer (and Grammar, too!)

Celebrate the diversity of December! Whether your students are all from a similar cultural background or not, the different December holidays can be a single topic for the ESL classroom. Articles, videos, and blog posts about different celebrations are shared widely over the Internet, so chances are students already have some familiarity with traditions from around the world….

Some Things Are Easier than Others: Some vs. Any

A YouTube viewer asked me about some vs. any. It’s one of those topics that seems simple at first, and then certain examples start revealing complexities. Early on, we teach the guideline to use any in questions and in negatives. That helps with simple There isn’t/aren’t any… statements and Do you have any.. questions. But what about this one: Where can…

Beyond Prepositions of Place 101

We teach in, at, and on to beginners. Of course, the study of prepositions of place doesn’t end there. Students move on to words like near and next to. This is when confusion can grow. What’s the difference between near and nearby? What about beside and besides? Is it correct to say near to? If you’d…

Back to the Basics (2)

Recent questions from students have prompted me to consider additional opportunities for review. Basic level students have asked me about the verb form after people and the reason for using helping verbs in questions. From subject-verb agreement to question formation, students need more practice with grammar. Comments and email sent to me reveal further doubts over…

Teaching Adverb Phrases with More Support

Previous posts on reducing adverb clauses to phrases assume that study and focused practice have been done to some extent already. One of my activities involves text manipulation and pushes students toward creative writing. A second activity also uses storytelling and offers practice with more types of adverb clauses. In connection with that second post, I discussed the variation…

From Day to Day: Learning Prepositions of Time

As I slowly build my playlist of videos on prepositions, I continue to reflect on use and meaning. What points cause confusion? Very often simple grammar structures turn out to be not so simple because the nature of language always allows for variations and exceptions. From…to… is a good example. It’s such a simple structure…

How Are You? How Ya Doin’? How Does One Understand Verb Tense Consistency?

A student sent a series of questions to me regarding verb tense consistency. She had heard an exchange in a TV series where one character apologized for his strange behavior recently. The listener responded by saying, “I didn’t notice.” In similar situations, this attentive language learner had heard other verb forms used. Wouldn’t it also be possible…