Allowing for Laid-Back Grammar

In a recent lesson on YouTube, I decided to teach and practice agreement with the informal responses “Me too” and “Me neither.” (Watch Basic English Lesson 106.) I had seen some online discussion about the correctness of such phrases (or the lack thereof), but I decided that if I hear it and I personally use…

Practice with Paraphrasing

Students learn to paraphrase for different reasons. In the academic world, students must avoid plagiarism, so to refer to a key idea in a written text they have two choices: include a quote or restate it. In the ESL classroom, we regularly paraphrase to make unfamiliar vocabulary understood. We offer explanations such as, “If you…

Exposing Students to Ellipsis

Using ellipsis confidently and appropriately in speaking comes with practice. I decided the first step to helping students was to call awareness to the practice of omitting words. My video lesson goes through about a dozen patterns. Some should already be familiar to intermediate students. My hope was to show learners how some patterns have…

Guiding Students to Form and Use the Past Progressive

Thankfully, a bunch of previously recorded lessons will allow me to continue publishing new videos in my Basic English playlist on YouTube. I’m up to Lesson 103 on the past progressive. In the video, I chose to use personal photos to prompt use of this verb form, but just about any photo with people can…

Testing Our Ability to Explain CAN, COULD and BE ABLE TO

The fun thing about having a live weekly Q&A session with a large group of students is that you’re basically allowing them to test your knowledge and ability to explain just about anything related to the English language. I’ve been doing this for a few months, and I enjoy the challenge of seeing what I…

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…