Ways to ask someone about their job

Here are some phrases you can ask someone about their job:

So, what do you do?

So, what do you do for a living?

Where do you work?

Do you work nearby?  Is your job close?

How do you get to work? (Do you drive to work or take the train/bus/public transportation?)

How long have you been … (a therapist, in the hotel industry)?

You can respond by:

  • smiling, nodding, agreeing
  • saying you know someone in the same (or a similar) industry or company
  • mentioning anything you have in common

Avoid talking about the following because they are too personal:

  • salary
  • level of expertise
  • training
  • awards
  • qualifications


Your vs. You’re

It never hurts to review this topic:

your = possessive adjective

you’re = you are

Use your before a noun when the noun belongs to the person you are speaking to (possessive).  For example:  Did you bring your coat? Are all of your documents in this file? Did you call your mother?

Use you’re when you mean “you are”.  For example: You’re not leaving without a hug.  Did you say you’re riding with us?

Test yourself!  Are the following correct or incorrect?

  1. Your having dinner at our house.
  2. Your baby is so cute.
  3. You’re pregnant.
  4. Your the father!


  1. incorrect
  2. incorrect
  3. correct
  4. incorrect

How to Identify Essential and Non-Essential Clauses

Sometimes a dependent clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence.  Sometimes, dependent clauses add additional non-essential details.  These steps will help you decide if a clause is essential or non-essential.

Step 1:  Read the whole sentence and identify the clause.  Underline the clause

Step 2:  Read the sentence without the clause.  Does it make enough sense?

Step 3:  Read the sentence again, but this time with the clause.  Does it make more sense?

Step 4:  If the sentence makes complete sense without the clause, place commas around the clause.  If the sentence needs the clause to make sense, do not place commas around the clause.


Follow the steps above and practice with these two sentences. Only one sentence needs commas.  Which one?

  • Our hotel which was near the beach offered free room service.
  • The room which has the ocean view is more expensive than the three-room suite.

Answer:  The first sentence contains a non-essential clause, and therefore, will require commas around the clause.

Monday Morning Quarterback – Repost

This was the original post from Feb. 1, 2009:

The expression Monday Morning Quarterback describes a person who says that they would have done something differently and better than what someone else did.  The term originates from Sunday being the day when most football games are played, and people talking the next day about how they would have done better plays, made better calls, etc., than the actual quarterback.

Although the term originated in football, it isn’t exclusively used when referring to it.  You may e a Monday Morning Quarterback when referring to how a colleague’s presentation should have been given (“I would have used a blue background on the PowerPoint”), or what a friend should have done at the party last weekend (“I would have asked for her number”).

Tomorrow when you are talking to your colleagues about tonight’s Super Bowl, please note the grammar pattern typically used by Monday Morning Quarterbacks:

modal auxiliary (should or would work best) + have  + past participle of the action you would have done better.

Conversation Tips: American Football

Here are some open-ended questions you can ask Americans about football:

  • Who’s your favorite team?
  • Where are they from?
  • Why do you like them?/Are you from that area?
  • Do they have a good defense/offense?
  • Who is their quarterback?
  • What is the goal/objective of the game?
  • Who is playing in the Superbowl?
  • Who do you think will win?

People = plural

Just a reminder:

The word people is a plural noun.  It’s an irregular plural.  Remember to use correct subject verb agreement if people is your subject.


  • Why are some people easier to work with than others?
  • People at the party were looking for the food and drinks.

The singular of people is person.  With the verb “to be”, subject/verb agreement looks like this:

  • People are…
  • People were…
  • A person is…
  • A person was…

ESL phrases to use while playing games

Now that the holidays are over, is it all work and no play?   Well, take a break to learn about some fun expressions to use the next time you play games:

  • You’re it.  (It, here, means the person whose turn it is)
  • Who’s it?
  • It’s your turn. (It, here, is just the subject of the sentence)
  • It’s your go.
  • It’s my turn.
  • It’s my go.
  • Let’s take turns.
  • Whose turn is it?
  • Whose go is it?

When you’re playing tag, there are many people in a group, and one person, “it”, has to chase everyone until they are caught. Can you think of equivalent games that are played in your country?  Here are some we played when we were kids:

  • hide and seek
  • red-light green-light
  • duck duck goose
  • tag
  • freeze tag

Small talk while playing games is a great way to pick up on these phrases and more.

The Present Perfect Tense and Having Experience

When you use the perfect perfect tense, one of the meanings implied is that you have experience.

Example:  I have driven a stick shift. 

In this sentence, you imply that in all your driving experience, you can include driving a stick shift.

Keep this in mind when if you say, “I have had experience driving a stick shift.”  If you’re interviewing for a job where the experience required includes driving a stick shift, such as a valet, using the present perfect with the word “experience” is fine.

In other contexts, however, you can just use the present perfect.

A New Year’s Quote by T.S. Eliot

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. – T.S. Eliot

Accent Reduction Tips

If you’re thinking about altering your accent, try focusing on these aspects of language:

  • study the characteristics of your language’s sound system and how it differs from English.  Start with the differing consonants, which seem to create more misunderstandings.
  • practice in phrases (not individual words) and how one word blends with the words surrounding it
  • move your mouth more than you’re used to – open it wider like you’re yawning, spread the corners of your lips to meet your ears!  This sounds like an exaggeration, but moving your mouth in different ways is a major component of forming new sounds.
  • watch Americans’ lips when they speak – watching on TV is OK to avoid any awkwardness, but the Simpsons, Family Guy, or some other cartoon won’t help you.
  • listen to and imitate sentence stress and intonation and stress patterns within phrases (my favorite activity for this is listening to and singing along with music)
  • copy what you hear exactly and often (as exact and as often as you can)

This is all I can think of for now, but there are more.  I’ll post them as I start to remember them.  For now, I hope these help.