Entries Tagged as 'Speaking in General'

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


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.

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.

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?



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.

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.


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.