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…

Word Order with the Prepositions FOR and TO

Prepositions are a grammar topic that require a degree of focused practice. Exposure to correct structures and acceptable uses is not usually enough for mastery. Recently I helped students understand when and why more than one word order is possible with indirect objects. We discussed phrases like giving someone an explanation and giving an explanation…

Getting a Firmer Handle on Word Order

In an effort to help an advanced student avoid awkward wording, I’ve been reviewing standard word order in our lessons. Some rules have been easy to state and reinforce, like putting the subject before the verb in statements and embedded questions. Other patterns are easier to recall only in the process of correcting a student’s writing. If…

The Truth behind Students’ Questions

Not all questions are easy to answer, are they? You know why? To answer a question you have to understand what the person is asking, but the words you hear may not accurately communicate the speaker’s needs. Pretty much seven days a week I answer questions from students. I’ve learned to categorize questions as soon as I…

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…

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….

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…

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…

Pondering the Placement of Prepositions

In my discussion of prepositions on YouTube, I’ve given a lot of attention to the choice of prepositions. Very often learners question whether we are surprised by something or at something. They ask if we can be happy about or with something. Another point of confusion is the placement of a preposition or a prepositional phrase…

Spotlight on the Little Guys: Prepositions

Prepositions may not get as much attention as verb tenses or modal verbs, but they sure raise a lot of questions. Every so often I think we can take some time and provide some answers. My goal for this month is to continue building my video playlist on prepositions. As I continue to work my…

The Answer to Everything: Practice with the Prepositions For, To, and With

Prepositions are problematic for many English language learners. Presenting some collocations to students can certainly help them understand what a particular preposition expresses and what kinds of nouns, verbs, or adjectives that preposition combines with. For example, talk with someone, argue with someone, and speak with someone all refer to communication involving two or more people. “With” expresses…

Dedicated to You: Practice with the Prepositions TO and AT

I’m finally turning my attention back to prepositions. My goal is to address some common points of confusion. In my next video lesson, I’ll explain some uses of TO and AT. Have you ever heard someone confuse throw a ball to someone versus throw a ball at someone? That’s one point I’d like to cover. The…