Bad Habits, but Good Instincts: Grammar Tip

I have a student who has expressed frustration with the preposition “to.” She certainly isn’t alone. Other students have confused infinitives with combinations of the preposition “to” followed by gerunds. How many times have you corrected students when they write or say, “I look forward to meet you” or “I look forward to hear from…

How to Get Things Done Right: Passive Constructions with ‘GET’

In my previous post, I shared practice tasks with GET TO + noun combinations as well as GET + a couple infinitives, namely get to know and get to do.  I wanted to help students distinguish between “to” as a preposition and “to” as part of an infinitive. Because the verb get is used so often…

When We Get to Thinking about ‘Get’

A private student asked me about the verb get. Most dictionaries have at least a dozen definitions listed, including start, arrive, and become. My student had heard the verb used in phrases like get a move on and get to know. As different as they are, the two expressions share a similar sense of beginning…

Words That Confuse Students (and Teachers!)

Let’s face it. English has some confusing words. To a degree, we can rely on our knowledge and our instincts. Thankfully, we’re not without resources. Which ones have you turned to? Some of mine include: Learner’s dictionaries. I have a few bookmarked and I compare findings. In the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online, I…

Subject-Verb Agreement: There’s still more to talk about!

Students’ questions are very informative. Their queries tell us what topics interest them and which aspects of a topic they need to study. An intermediate student recently asked me about There is/There are statements. A short, simple sentence is easy to construct: There is a car. There are cars. “But what about a string of nouns?”…

Taking Another Look at Plural Nouns

After tackling tricky points about uncountable nouns in a recent YouTube lesson, I’m now thinking of the challenges that plural nouns pose for intermediate and advanced students. If only it were as simple as adding -s to every singular noun! Spelling rules present the first challenge. We also can’t avoid using irregular plural nouns. Child-children…

Continuing the Conversation about Count and Noncount Nouns

Is a noun countable or uncountable? Students still have doubts even after a number of explanations. I find a balance between explanations and practice helps build comfort with this topic. Students need to develop awareness of the meaning differences in order to use nouns accurately. Success with subject-verb agreement depends heavily on whether students understand…

From pictures to words: How was your summer vacation?

My most recent YouTube lesson about summer vacation could be a springboard for different age groups at different levels of proficiency. Would you like your students to talk about their summer vacations? Do you want to share some common ways to ask how a vacation was spent? This could also include a review of question…

Time Out: Let’s practice correlative conjunctions!

Just as in sports, we need time-outs in language learning. Students can learn a lot by playing the game, so to speak, but circumstances can call for a brief pause. The teacher observes the performance on the “field” and recognizes when explicit instructions are called for. I recently understood that a private student has never…

Simplifying Complex Prepositions

A quick task on Facebook revealed some confusion over complex prepositions, meaning prepositions that are more than one word. Not all students were able to identify “due to” and “other than” as a single unit that functioned as a preposition. Instead, they identified only the more common simple prepositions “to” and “than.” This is a…

Understanding Uses of Reflexive Pronouns

My Student Stumper category began on this blog back in 2009, and my first post was about reflexive pronouns. A private student recently asked about the different uses of these pronouns, and I felt it was best to create some practice activities to illustrate the different meanings of these words. If your upper level students…

Teaching Syntax: Helpful or Hellish?

Seeing some students struggle to build clear sentences has made me reflect on what information might help to guide them. I’ve posted videos on types of sentences according to purpose and structure. But understanding the difference between a statement and a question or the difference between a compound and complex sentence doesn’t always eliminate doubts…