Entries Tagged as 'Quick Tips for Learning English'

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

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…

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.

Forming the Past Simple – a quick reminder

When you form the past simple, typically you add an -ed to regular verbs.  However, it might be worth it to spend time reviewing irregular verbs because many common verbs are irregular (eat, sleep, drink, be, see, hear, etc.).

When you use the auxiliary to form the negative in the past, or to ask a question in the past, use “do” in the past:  did.  With the auxiliary (did) in a question or negative, go back to the base form of the main verb.  Because you’re using “do” in the past, you don’t need the main verb in the past.

Here are some examples:

  • incorrect:  didn’t found (did + find in the past)
  • correct: didn’t find
  • incorrect:  didn’t called (did + call in the past)
  • correct:  didn’t call

16 Things You Can Do to Learn More English

  1. Take a vacation.  Leaving your familiar area will put you in situations where you might have to use English more to get around.
  2. Take a class.  Any class will do…it doesn’t need to be an English class.
  3. Talk to people around you.  If you’re in a familiar situation on a regular basis (like a class) talk to people you don’t know very well.
  4. Volunteer in the community.
  5. Get to know your neighbors – bond over the loose step that the landlord needs to fix or the noisy couple upstairs.
  6. Gossip.  Read People, Time, or Us and share what you know about Kim, Ashton, and Brad.
  7. Hang out with people outside of your native language group.
  8. Go to the movies.  Renting works too, but be honest with yourself.  If you rent a movie, you’re going to use subtitles, aren’t you? That won’t help you as much.
  9. Teach English.  Share what you learned in English with other people.  They might be interested, and you will be surprised at how much you actually know.
  10. Read books in English.
  11. Select English as the default setting for your electronics.
  12. Make shopping lists in English instead of your native language.
  13. Learn how to play a board game by reading the English instructions.
  14. Have dinner with English speakers regularly.
  15. Talk more.  Seriously.  In every situation (shopping, going out, seeing a movie, waiting for a show to start, standing in line), just make some small talk.
  16. Fall in love with someone who speaks English.


Child’s Play and Spatial Vocabulary Development

This Science Daily article refers to research about how playing with blocks increases spatial development.  Interaction during this play time also increases spatial vocabulary.

The researchers found that when playing with blocks under interactive conditions, children hear the kind of language that helps them think about space, such as “over,” “around” and “through.”

So, is there an age limit to playing with children’s toys in the classroom to learn these prepositions?  Some classes are academic leaning and don’t allow for much play.  However, other groups might be willing to play around, especially if it helps them master prepositions reflecting spatial concepts that are often difficult to explain with words and pictures only.

The Passive Voice: 2 things to remember

Two things to remember when using the passive voice are:

  1. The subject in the passive voice doesn’t perform the action in the verb.
  2. The passive voice is not a verb tense.  The past tense is a verb tense, but the passive voice can be written in any verb tense.  I see students confused by the difference between passive voice and the past tense all the time.  They are not the same thing.  Remember that.

If you are troubled by English…

Sometimes when learning a language, or anything new, we can get so wrapped up in pushing ahead and learning more.  More vocabulary, less frequent verb tenses, the exact translation of a phrase, or figuring out why they use this preposition over that!

If this sound like you, take a moment to relax.

As you relax, think about the early days when you were too timid to utter a sentence.  What are some of the things you learned in your first class?  What are some things you and your first English speaking friend talked about?

My point is that you should take some time and revisit the basics.  You might benefit by realizing how far you have come in your studies.  You might build your confidence by mastering those grammar points that seemed so confusing last year.  You might even find that there, within the first pages of your notebook, or on page 6 of your 400-page textbook, is the answer you’ve been looking for all along.