Entries Tagged as 'ESL Expressions and Phrases'

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.

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?

Stand Your Ground – idiom

To stand your ground means that you won’t change your opinion on the topic which you are discussing.  You can use this expression in various ways.

  • I stood my ground during the debate because I was well prepared.
  • She is standing her ground and will not relent.
  • If you are confronted, you should stand your ground because you have all of the facts.

What’s the difference between warning and caution?

A warning refers to something dangerous and serious – something you should avoid.

  • Warning:  Beware of Dog = don’t enter this gate because there is a dog behind it that will hurt you.

A caution is a suggestion to take extra care.

  • Caution: This floor is slippery. = be extra careful when walking near this area because you might slip.

If used in casual speech between friends, these words are sometimes used as synonyms.

Take this advice as a word of caution: this man will break your heart.

6 weeks later:

I told you he would hurt you.  You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

There is, are, was, or were – Subject Verb Agreement

In this quick 1-minute video, you can learn whether to use there is or are in the present tense and there was or were in the past tense.  I hope this helps!

When someone says “Merry Christmas”, what should I say?

Traveling, spending time with family, and getting everything prepared in time for guests are all adrenaline producing activities.  Emotions during this time (a cocktail of joy, mixed with stress and homesickness) can overwhelm the brain and people might not stop to think, “Wait.  Is this person a Christian?”

So, if someone wishes you a Merry Christmas and you don’t celebrate Christmas, they might not be trying to be insensitive to other cultures or religions.   They might be so busy, they’re not stopping to think, so they just repeat the same adage they’ve heard for years.

Still, the question is, “What should I say?”

One option:

Person:  Merry Christmas!

You: Thanks! You too!

Another option:

Person: Merry Christmas!

You: Merry Christmas to you, too! (stress on the word “you”)

Non-Christian options:

Person: Merry Christmas!

You: Happy Holidays to you.

Many people the world over have at least some time off between December 20th and January 7th.  So another possibility is to wish the person to have a good rest during their well deserved break.  So another non-Christian or non-religious option would be:

Person: Merry Christmas!

You:  Yes, I’m looking forward to the time off.  How about you?



What does “eve” mean?

When speaking of Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, “eve” means the evening before.  So Christmas Eve is December 24th, and New Year’s Eve is December 31st.


Prepositions in the Christmas Tradition

Prepositions and phrases to use this season:


  • What are you doing during the holidays?
  • You can shop during our holiday store hours.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing everyone during our visit.
  • Don’t talk on your cell phone during Christmas dinner.


  • on Christmas Eve
  • on Christmas day
  • on New Year’s Eve
  • on New Year’s day
  • The name on this box is yours.


  • I’ll be at home on Christmas Eve.
  • You can reach me at my parents’ house.
  • The stores are more crowded at Christmas time


  • What are you giving your sister for Christmas.
  • I’m baking these cookies for Christmas.
  • What are you doing for the holidays?


  • You should wait until Christmas morning to open your presents.
  • I can’t wait until our guests arrive.


  • You will find presents under the tree.
  • If you stand under the mistletoe, someone might kiss you.

Vocabulary for Air Travel

I asked one of my students how he came to Virginia, and when he told me he arrived on an airship, it became clear that he needed some travel vocabulary.  For his benefit and yours, here’s a list of some vocabulary words you might need if you’re traveling by plane:

  • ticket, e-ticket,  reservation number, confirmation number
  • passport, identification, visa, photo ID
  • airport, airplane, plane
  • flight, itinerary, documents, vaccinations
  • check-in, check-in counter
  • take-off (departure, to depart), landing (arrival, to arrive)
  • baggage, luggage, baggage claim area, checked baggage, carry-on
  • passenger, journey, route, layover, transfer
  • on time, on schedule, delayed
  • time difference, jet lag
  • window seat, aisle seat
  • flight attendant, overhead compartment
  • first class, business class, economy, coach
  • customs and immigration