Entries Tagged as 'How To'

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


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.

Get Social with AllEnglish

Did you know you can now subscribe, follow, and like AllEnglish all over the internet? Here are some different ways:

So many of my posts are inspired by comments and suggestions from people with the same language questions as you, and I would love to hear what’s on your mind.  So, now your job is to comment, call, subscribe, and, of course, like!

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.


5 Activities to Learn New Nouns

There are several ways to learn new vocabulary, but today I’ll discuss 5 ways to learn more nouns.

  1. Group nouns into categories:  list nouns at the beach, nouns at the department store, or nouns in the car. Compete with your friends or classmates to list as many nouns in each category.  Challenge yourselves by making spelling count for higher points.
  2. If you know some basic nouns, start challenging yourself to learn new words that surround the basic word.  You know the word computer, so you probably also know keyboard, monitor, mouse, and mouse pad.  What about control panel, pixel, resolution, scroll button, tab, memory, hard drive, port, keystroke, or character?  Really look closely at things and see if you can name everything about them.
  3. Play a guessing game where you try to describe a noun without using the name of the noun itself.  For example, if you’re thinking of the word “table”, describe it’s characteristics.  It has legs, a top, and matching chairs.  If you’re trying to describe  a coat, you can say it has long sleeves, buttons or a zipper, pockets, and a lining.
  4. You can get a lot of exposure to nouns by examining your food, going grocery shopping, or preparing  a meal.  Read labels on your food to learn about vitamins, calories, ingredients, and preparation ideas.  When you need someone to pass you the ladle, the spatula, or a serving spoon, you need to know the name of it to get the right one!
  5. Find a hobby.  You don’t actually have to do the hobby to learn nouns from it.  Pretend like you’re going to become a fly fisher, scrapbooker or a chocolatier.  Do research.  Find out what supplies you will need.  You might come across some words that apply to a world that extends beyond the scope of the hobby.


13 Personal Projects Ideas for English Language Students

Personal projects are on the minds of so many students:  they are great for learning new skills, building up a college application, and beating summer boredom.  If you are studying English, here is a list of ideas that will promote your academic and cognitive growth and enhance your English skills simultaneously!

  1. Develop a scrapbook.  A page of programs, movie tickets, notes from friends, and logos that you like…that’s just the beginning of scrapbooking.  If you want the English practice, annotate your entries!
  2. Create a photo journal.  Make sure you take the time to describe your pictures.  Otherwise, it won’t be very good English practice.
  3. Write book reviews or summaries of poetry from English speaking authors.  This will expose you to different styles of writing, new vocabulary, and depending on the poetry, rhyming words to help with your pronunciation!
  4. Write a children’s book in English.  In the process, you could do research by reading some children’s books and learn vocabulary for popular kids’ games.  If you’re an artist, you can also illustrate it!  Double fun!
  5. Make a cookbook!  Translate your favorite hometown recipes into English.  Depending on your location and audience, make sure the measurements are in the right measuring system (English or Metric).
  6. Keep a travel diary in English.
  7. Design a vocabulary collage that tells a story.  RSA Animate has some videos for inspiration.
  8. Keep a Funny Tumblrof jokes you learn in English.  Tumblr is easy to use.  Just remember, it’s public so everyone can see what you post.
  9. Watch movies and write summaries and reviews of them.
  10. Organize a yard sale.  The more extroverted of you can organize a neighborhood yard sale.  This involves talking to people and describing the objects that are for sale.  Go the extra mile and really try to sell something by using persuasive language.
  11. Make hand-written cards and mail them to all of your English speaking friends.  Lots of people type fast and don’t care about their errors on social networks, but when you put ink to paper, you’re committed to what you write.  You will be more likely to take extra steps to make sure you are writing and spelling accurately.
  12. Volunteer. Have you ever heard that it’s better to give than to receive?  Give some of your time.
  13. Develop a campaign to educate the public about an issue.  You could tie this into the yard sale by taking the proceeds from the sale and donating them to your cause.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope it’s a success.  At the very least, these opportunities will increase your exposure to English, and that’s the real goal!



6 Ways to Meet English Speaking Practice Buddies

You’ve been trying for a while now to master English.  You read books, do online grammar practice activities, read articles, comment on blogs, and tweet all the time.  So why is it that when you speak English, people still struggle to understand you?

You really need to talk…a lot…to people…face to face. You need the two-way interaction with another human being to build speaking skills.

How can you meet these people?

  1. Signing up for an English speaking class seems obvious, and I bet there are free classes within driving distance, but during group work, who are you partners with?  Not native English speakers, I bet.  Instead, sign up for an English literature or career training class where you’ll learn alongside native speakers.
  2. Sign up for any class, but preferably one where you’ll work in groups.  Business leadership, team building, or conflict resolution classes will give you the speaking opportunities you need.
  3. Join a sports team and invite your teammates out for snacks or drinks after practice or a game.
  4. Go to a social media club meeting.  Don’t just listen to the presentations;  network with other attendees during intermission. You don’t have to be clever.  Start with, “Where are you from?”  or “Have you been here before?”
  5. Get a roommate if you can.  It’s really difficult to avoid speaking regularly with someone who shares your kitchen and bathroom.
  6. Get a part-time job.  It’s only temporary, so you don’t have to love it.  You make friends immediately because of all the other employees who are in the same boat as you.  You might even be able to talk to the customers.  The best part is that it’s 10-20 hours per week of additional English practice.

The key is to actually speak.  Get out of your shell, get out of your patterns, get out of your house, meet people and speak.





Pesky Apostrophes: Irregular Plural Nouns

Irregular plural nouns break the rules when it comes to using apostrophes.

For regular plural nouns, the apostrophe goes after the -s.  An example would be:

I don’t like that dining room set because the chairs’ legs are iron.

But irregular plurals will rarely have an -s to indicate more than one, such as in the word people, children, men, and women.  In this case, since there is no –s on the word, add the apostrophe as you would on a singular verb, but keep in mind that they are still plural.

The People’s Court (the court belongs to all the people)

The Children’s Room (the room belongs to more than one child)

The Men’s Section (the section has clothes for men)

The Women’s Department (the department has items for women)

Sometimes you will see Ladies’ Department.  That is correct, too.  The word lady is not irregular.

One Language at a Time? Not so…

This summary of a research study by the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that when adults read in their new language, they’re recalling their first language. According to one of the researchers,

“Bilingual individuals retrieve information from their native language even when it’s not necessary, or, even more surprising, when it is counterproductive, since native language information does not help when reading or listening to second-language words,” Thierry said.

Even when it’s counterproductive?  Also of note,

Michael Chee, MBBS, of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who was unaffiliated with the study, said the findings show that even though people who learn a second language later in life are discouraged from directly translating words from their native language, they may be doing so anyway.

My takeaway for adult students of English is this: If you’re studying and you know that your brain is using your native language for translating without your conscious permission, try to incorporate study habits that intentionally avoid translation.

Some activities might include:

  • not using a dictionary…use context clues for definitions of new words
  • turn off subtitles while watching movies in English
  • ask a native speaker to explain a word or phrase instead of translating it

Basically, your brain is translating anyway, and it might not be helping you.  You can help yourself by adding some small changes to your study habits to at least cut down the amount of translating you do.

Awesome Resume Writing Tips

I’d much rather be gardening and planting that writing this post, or a resume for that matter.  Just as you may have just graduated and need to leave the nest, or lost your job and need to work hard to keep your nest egg, from wherever you are coming into the job market, it’s important to keep updating your resume.

I recommend the following:

  1. Resumes are like gardens that need constant tending.  Don’t let the weeds grow.  What might have been relevant experience 5 or 6 years ago might need rewording.
  2. Add annuals to your garden of experience.  Don’t lie, and don’t embellish, but what might have seemed like a one-time project can really add depth to your job description.  It’s not always about how long you did a job, but how successful your performance was.
  3. Be trendy.  Documents are like fashion…the trends change.  Don’t just update the content (what you have done/are doing);  make sure your style, font, and organization of information is in line with modern resume styles.  This is especially true if you have been in one place for a long time and are looking for something new.  It’s also important if you are older and looking to compete with a younger generation.
  4. Use the most accessible format for your document.  For example, I once sent a document in a PDF to New Mexico and was told to reformat it in Word because they “didn’t have that program.”  If you’re sending your resume to a different country, the standards for formatting might be more behind or more advanced than yours.   It might be worth looking into.
  5. Edit!  Please edit.  If u leaf at two you’re spill check, yule bee sari.

To the guy who inspired me to write this, and you know who you are, keep your spirits up!  The right job is right around the corner!