Using Intensifiers and Downtoners in Spoken English

Intensifiers and downtoners are fun to cover because we use them in many different situations, so it’s fairly easy to create examples and practice tasks. But since I feel they’re used a lot more in conversation, I chose to limit my examples to spoken contexts in my latest YouTube lesson. Another decision I had to…

Mastering the Passive Voice

The passive voice may not be used as much as the active voice, but knowing when and how to use the passive appropriately gives a person a higher level of accuracy in written and spoken English. I recently met a request for an updated lesson on the passive. In the ideal world, I would have…

Getting Mixed Up About Mixed Conditionals

  Conditionals are challenging for students and for teachers. When I decided to cover this grammar topic on YouTube back in 2017, I knew a whole playlist was in order. (View lessons.) I needed more than a dozen lessons to feel like I covered all the bases. To be truthful, I think there’s still more…

Student Stumper 52: “Earlier” vs. “Before”

QUESTION: What’s the difference between “earlier” and “before”? Is there any difference between “I saw him before” and “I saw him earlier”? ANSWER: There can be overlap in meaning, but first let’s find the more obvious differences. First, we can use “before” as a conjunction to form an adverb clause of time. It’s in direct…

Student Stumper 51: “Kind of” vs. “Kinds of”

QUESTION: Can I use “kind of” with a plural noun or do I have to use “kinds of”? ANSWER: Yes, you can use “kind of” with a plural noun, but first consider the difference in meaning between “kind of” and “kinds of.” “Kind” refers to a type. If you’re referring to one type, then use…

3 Fun Ways to Practice Future Time Clauses

A grammar lesson is certainly less scary, less aggravating, more meaningful, and more memorable if you inject some laughter into it. Basic level students often struggle with confidence, so gradually increasing their output rather than putting them on the spot to deliver big contributions at the start of a lesson would also help. That was…

Should We Talk About Romance on Valentine’s Day?

One doesn’t have to talk about romance on Valentine’s Day. I find the topic makes some feel uncomfortable, so you have to consider how best to approach it if you’re going to approach it at all. I just hosted a live stream with a couple hundred learners, and I invited them to build a story…

Can Anyone Hear Me? — Erasing Confusion Over Indefinite Pronouns

I recently shared a handout to help basic English students with indefinite pronouns that refer to people. See my earlier post. It turns out that more practice is needed, or so I discovered after I met with less success than expected during a recent lesson. Some of your students may also have some lingering doubts,…

The Perfect Aspect: Replacing confusion with comfort

Do we need the perfect aspect in communication? It seems like we have quite a number of ways to avoid it. I’ve discussed the challenges in understanding aspect in an earlier post. (Click to view 2017 post.) One thing that confuses students is the frequent use of the simple past instead of the present perfect…

Someone, Anyone, and Other Indefinite Pronouns

  My basic English students, Flavia and Andreia, have made good progress over the past several months. The most recent lessons posted on YouTube were recorded back in June 2019, so they are noticeably farther along the path to proficiency now in January 2020. There are still a number of topics I’d like to cover…

Modals for Beginners

Modals find their way into grammar lessons at all stages of learning English. At the lower levels, it’s wise to present modal verbs in small doses, allowing time for practice and feedback. With one of my beginners, Natasha, I decided to teach “Would you like…?” for polite requests and invitations. (See beginner video lesson.) That…

Practice with “That” Clauses

I know that… I think that… I’m happy that… We use such sentences all the time with and without “that.” Some of your basic level students already form sentences with that clauses, not knowing they’re using complex sentences. Well, there’s no need to bog them down with terminology. However, raising awareness of sentence patterns can…