Using An

Here’s a simple topic but one that is still confusing to many students.

A or an article?

We use an when the noun starts with a vowel sound, but that doesn’t mean that the nouns are written with a vowel letter (a, e, i, o, u).

Let’s look at a few examples:

I’ll meet you in an hour.

The letter H in the word Hour is silent, we pronounce the word as [‘aʊər] which is why we use an.

I want to make a unique gift for our anniversary.

Even though the first letter is U, we pronounce it as ju [juˈniːk] which is why we use a.

A European is staying at our hotel.

In this case, the letters Eu are pronounced as jʊ [jʊrəˈpiːən] and that’s why we use a.

He got an MBA degree last year.

When it comes to abbreviations, you should check which sound they start with. The letter M has the sound ɛm [”ɛmbieɪ] which is why we use an.

There’s no magic trick to figure out where to use an, just say the word and if the first sound is a vowel sound, then you should use an, otherwise, go for a. 🙂

How about practicing a/an right now?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

Possessions

How many times have you heard and seen sentences like:

I went to my friend’s house last Friday

or

We can use my parents’ car

You may be thinking, why do we use friend’s and parents’ ? Is this a short form of is or is it something else?

Let’s find that out today.

When we want to show that something belongs to someone or something, we add ‘s or ‘ to a noun.

These are some other cases where and when we use ‘s:

1) When you’re talking about something that belongs to one person.

A photo

This is my father’s favorite photo.

2) With irregular plural nouns

Why should I worry about other people’s problems?

Restrooms

I’m sorry, I need to go to the men’s room.

3) When we talk about time or duration:

You can click on the words below to find the song they were taken from 🙂

Live today
There’s no time to lose
Cause when tomorrow comes
It’s all just yesterday’s news

Now, let’s look at when we use after the noun:

1) When you’re talking about something that belongs to more than one person.

We can use my parents’ car (My mom and dad’s car)

2) When your nouns end with s, it’s better to add after the noun instead of ‘s:

James’ hobby became his business. (Not James’s)

Dolores’ friends wanted to surprise her. (Not Dolores’s)

But you still read it as James’s [ˈdʒeɪmzɪz] or Dolores’s [dəˈlɔːrɪsɪz].

Let’s practice it now:

When you’re done practicing, I have a question for you. We make a lot of our decisions after getting advice from our friends and family. Have you ever done something unusual for you after hearing your friend’s ideas? Leave a comment for us to know and enjoy Autumn, as well as your weekend! 🙂

Frankly speaking

Sometimes we want to share our attitudes to a topic we’re talking about. One way to do that is by using adverbs, which we can put in the beginning or ending of a sentence or before verbs.

Let’s look at some adverbs that describe our attitude:

Frankly

Basically

Actually

Definitely

Fortunately

Unfortunately

We use frankly when we say something directly and honestly.

Sometimes, it can be offensive and/or disappointing.

Frankly, I don’t give a f**k about your problems.

I use basically when I only want to say the most important thing without going into details.

– What did they want you to help them with?

– Well, basically, they wanted to buy a new phone.

or

His job is basically chatting with customers. It’s nothing special.

We can use actually in the following cases:

1) When giving surprising or unexpected information.

Say No!

Actually, I don’t drink at all.

2) When we want to share our own, different opinion in a polite way.

– Jim is good at fixing things.

Changing a light bulb

– Actually, he’s not. He can’t even change a light bulb.

3) When we want to correct what someone said.

– Isn’t Tom in the hospital?

– Actually, Bill, he was in the hospital on Tuesday.

We use definitely when we’re 100% sure about something.

Arguing

You know what he can do when he’s drunk. He is definitely not invited to our wedding.

Fortunately and unfortunately are used when you tell good or bad news.

Open sign

I needed to buy some tools so I took the bus to the city. Fortunately, I got to the store just before it closed.

Fixing a car

Unfortunately, his car broke down so he won’t pick us up from the airport.

Now, let’s practice these adverbs:

I’m working on my next video, but, unfortunately, the audio is very bad and I’ll have to rerecord it by Monday. Fortunately, I have an extra microphone so I don’t think it will be too hard for me to do (Fingers crossed).

What about you? What kind of news have you got to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment below. 🙂

Say and tell

Sometimes people confuse say and tell, let’s look at their meaning and use and hopefully, things will make more sense to you 🙂

If you use Tell, you must follow it with the person whom you’re talking to:

He told me an anecdote.

Jamie told Mrs. Brown she was taking a vacation.

This is not necessary for said, we say something and this is also used for direct speech:

I said I would call him tomorrow.

The Professor said: “Work harder to get a scholarship!”

Okay, I know how to write and say them, but where do we use each of them?

Let’s look at a few examples starting with Say:

  1. When you’re quoting somebody (William Somerset Maugham said: “The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.”)
  2. When you want someone to pronounce something (Please say the word Asparagus)
  3. When you want to hear someone’s opinion (What do you say we watch the new movie today?)
  4. When you want to indicate something (Look, buddy, the sign says “No smoking”!)

Now, let’s look at tell:

  1. Tell can be used not only when talking to people, but also when you’re writing to them. (I just got an e-mail from Sandra. She told me about her trip to Beijing)
  2. This means that tell can mean give information. (Welcome to our online store, before we start shopping, please tell us your city and country of residence)
  3. You can start a question with tell me (So tell me, was the movie boring to you?)
  4. Tell can emphasize something you’ve said (I’m telling you, that girl is looking at you all night so go and talk to her! To tell you the truth, I didn’t like my meal at all.)

Let’s put both words into practice:

Now, I’d love it if you told me what you like listening to in your free time, because next time I’d like to focus on some words which are followed by prepositions. 🙂

Have you got a plan?

Let’s look at why we use the Present Continuous in the future.

Here’s an example:

I can’t come to your party because I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow.

A doctor

In this situation, I’m seeing my doctor because I already called him and made an appointment for tomorrow.

Here’s another example:

Bobby is flying to my city next week.

Here, we know that Bobby already bought his plane ticket and he will be in my city (unless his plane is cancelled) so I should probably meet him. 🙂

A man traveling

When you’ve got your plans organized and you know what you’ll be doing in the future, you use the Present Continuous.

If you haven’t made the appointment with your doctor (You don’t need an appointment if you’re going to a walk-in clinic) or your friend hasn’t bought his ticket yet, you can use going to or will:

I’m going to see my doctor tomorrow.

Bobby will fly to my city next week.

But let’s focus more on the practice by doing some exercises. 🙂

Where are you going this Summer? Do you have any plans for a vacation? Feel free to let us know about your plans in the comments section. 🙂

Can we count that?

I recently had a lesson with a student who kept saying advices and that gave me the idea to write about some words which are uncountable in English.

Read on for more info

Let me introduce you to some of those words:

advice, equipment, information, knowledge, money, news, research, stuff, time, work

  • With these words, we don’t use a/an when talking about 1 thing.

Where did you find this stuff?

She bought new equipment for diving underwater.

We’ll send you the money when we get back to the office.

Knowledge is hard to get.

  • And, when we want to talk about more than 1 thing, we can use words like some, a bit of, a lot of and much.

I need some advice about traveling around Spain.

With a bit of money, he agreed to make the changes we needed.

I can’t come with you. I have a lot of work to do this Friday.

I don’t have much time so listen to me!

Let’s practice these words by completing a short story.

Now, see if you can find which sentences are wrong below.

The words time and work can also be countable, but they have a different meaning:

He tried to apply to university 4 times. (= 4 tries to become a student)

You can find the works of Michelangelo at our museum. (= creations: paintings, sculptures, music)

How many times have you given people some advice and did they often listen to you? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

Negatively speaking

Sometimes, we want to say something in a negative sense.
While one way to do that is just to add not to the words, like not practical or not legal, a better way to do that is to add a prefix to the words we use.

Today, let’s focus on 4 common prefixes:

We use il- when the word we want to say starts with the letter L (illegal, illegitimate)

We use im- when the words start with the letters M or P (impatient, imperfect, immature, immortal)

We use ir- when the words start with the letter(irresponsible, irrelevant)

We use in- mostly with words taken from Latin and we can’t use it with words starting on the letters I and U (inadequate, inconsistent, inaccuracy)

Let’s put these prefixes to practice:

One thing I’d like to ask you: are these short exercises relevant or irrelevant to you? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Intensifying your speech

A few days ago I watched an old movie.
It was so boring that I fell asleep while watching it.

Sleeping in the cinema

I could’ve just said that the movie was boring, but I wanted to give you a better idea about how I felt so I used “so”.

We call words like that intensifiers. What they do is give a better idea of what we talk about.

Let’s look at a few intensifiers.

The most common intensifiers are very and really.

The English test was really hard.

John was very unhappy to see his ex-wife.

They made the adjectives hard and unhappy stronger to give us an idea of how people felt.

When it comes to so, I use it instead of very very, like in the first example, or when I know the extent:

Why is he so slow? We always have to wait for him.

In this case, I use so to emphasize that he is slower than me and my friends so I know exactly how slow he is.

Some intensifiers can weaken the words we use with them, like quite and a bit.

I was a bit tired after traveling around the city for 6 hours.

Joe felt quite lonely after his best friend had moved to another city.

Sad and lonely man

In the first sentence, I meant that I’m not very tired, while in the second one, Joe may not suffer as much as we think. 🙂

Let’s also look at too and enough.

You’re driving too fast. Slow down!

What too means in the first sentence is faster than necessary (And I hope you’ll never have to say that to your friends who drive) 🙂

I don’t think he’s smart enough for the job.

Take a look at both sentences above? Notice anything different?

That’s right. The words have a different order. Enough always goes after the adjective.

Hope I didn’t give you too much information today, so now let’s practice the intensifiers a bit.

Do you ever feel too tired to do anything? In these situations, do you motivate yourself to do something or just take a short rest? I’d love to hear your ideas and advice in the comments.

A quick look at irregular plural nouns

Let’s look at a few nouns and how we make them plural.
Some nouns don’t fall under the general rule of adding -s to make it plural, so instead of saying childs, we say children when there’s more than one of them.

Children

We call these nouns irregular plural nouns.
Let me give you a few examples of irregular plural nouns:

  • Man -> Men
  • Woman -> Women
  • Foot -> Feet
  • Tooth -> Teeth
  • Mouse -> Mice
  • Person -> People
  • Knife -> Knives
  • Wife -> Wives
  • Fish -> Fish

Now, let’s practice them in sentences:

Your, You’re or Yours?

Here’s a quick look at a quite common writing mistake.

We use your and yours when we talk about things that belong to us.

Your is followed by the thing we are talking about

For example, if I dropped my phone and you wanted to give it back, you’d say: You dropped your phone.

When we don’t use a noun after your, we switch it to yours so I could ask you:

Excuse me, is this phone yours?

My phone is in my pocket and you left yours on the table.

A phoneAs for you’re, it’s really simple. It’s just a short form of you are which we can use in different contexts.

Come see us when you’re in Monte Carlo. (Being somewhere)

You’re stupid if you still trust her. (Describing people)

You’re lying to me and I don’t like when people lie to me. (Present Continuous for what’s happening now)

Let’s practice using these pronouns.

I hope this can help you solve your problem 🙂