Friday, November 30, 2012

Taking a break while on vacation!

Well, I've been on vacation this week with one more week to go, and the week has been really great. It's been nice STAYING UP late, SLEEPING IN, not waking up to an alarm clock, and basically just resting. However, it's not all lying down and sitting in front of the tv; I'm definitely getting some work done. Being PRODUCTIVE and getting things accomplished are part of my goals these two weeks.

hauling old electronics for recycling
Small boxes that add up
to quite a heavy load
Among the many things I want to check off my TO-DO LIST is to organize our storage space and eventually move to a smaller storage unit. I've been keeping old air conditioners and OUTDATED electronics and empty boxes because I wanted to DISPOSE OF them properly, and I just don't have the time to do it when I'm working. So I've been HAULING heavy stuff the past couple of days to Best Buy for recycling (btw, it's a great program they have, so I want to give them a SHOUTOUT), as well as to the curb in front of our building--about 13 blocks from our storage unit--to be picked up by the NYC Department of Sanitation (I want to give them a SHOUTOUT, as well). 

Well, doing all this in the cold can TAKE A TOLL on your body, and it has TAKEN a bit of A TOLL on mine. I'm SNIFFLING a bit, my muscles are a bit SORE, so I decided to take a day off. I still need to HAUL a lot of heavy and BULKY stuff from one storage room to a smaller one, but that can wait till next week. 

hauling air conditioners for recycling
Not a pretty picture and
quite heavy TO BOOT
(in addition).
STAY UP - not sleep 
SLEEP IN - wake up late
PRODUCTIVE - accomplish a lot
TO-DO LIST - list of things to do
OUTDATED - old; old-fashioned; can't be used anymore
DISPOSE OF - throw away; get rid of
HAUL - move, usually something heavy
SHOUTOUT - a mention; a recognition
TAKE A TOLL - have a negative effect after a period of time
SNIFFLE - the sound you make when you smell something or when your nose is running
SORE - pain, hurting
BULKY - large; taking up a lot of space

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I'm GRATEFUL for this year

It's beautiful, bright, and sunny here in Brooklyn this THANKSGIVING DAY, and I'm GRATEFUL that I was able to SLEEP IN, which I'll probably also do tomorrow. With my six-day workweek, sleeping in is truly a RARITY. I'm also grateful for my two weeks of vacation that starts on Monday. It's my first one since I took a three-month-long break early in 2011. I will be very busy getting projects done and getting things organized; I also hope to find a writing job or two. Still, it will be a nice rest from the classroom.

With many people in the area still DEALING WITH TREMENDOUS devastation and loss caused by hurricane Sandy, I'm so thankful for the HUMBLE roof over my head and the WHOLESOME food that I can put on our table. I'm thankful for my job, my projects, for health, family, and friends, for hardworking students, for you all, my increasing number of followers here at the small English blog, at the small guide site, on Facebook, and on Twitter, and for the chance to share and teach what I know so I can make a difference, whether big or small, in others. THANK YOU!

I wish you all a wonderful, awesome, fantastic THANKSGIVING DAY.

Macy's holiday display 2012
A window display at Macy's on Herald Square, 2012 holiday season.

GRATEFUL - thankful
SLEEP IN - wake up late
A RARITY - something that is rare, not common
DEAL WITH - face, be challenged by 
TREMENDOUS - huge and amazing
HUMBLE - poor, simple
WHOLESOME - healthy, good for you

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Friday, November 9, 2012

President Obama's Victory Speech

POLITICS ASIDE, President Obama's victory speech Tuesday night was an INSPIRING reminder of what it means to rise above the ugliness of political campaigns, the CYNICISM of those who don't believe in what people can achieve, and the FIERCE, MESSY disagreements in a democracy in order to take part in the important work of building a nation that all Americans can be proud of.  I invite you to watch the speech, if you haven't seen it yet, whether you support the Democratic or Republican party and whether you are in the U.S. or abroad. I have a feeling you will also find it INSPIRING and MOVING.

This link from The New York Times also shows the speech together with a transcript, so you can read as you watch and listen.

POLITICS ASIDE - forget about politics; not mentioning politics
INSPIRING - something or someone that makes you want to do or be something
CYNICISM - not believing in the good intentions of others; negativity
FIERCE - strong; angry
MESSY - dirty
MOVING - emotional

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Here's a video from on the origins of HALLOWEEN. BOO! Do you know how wearing costumes, lighting a jack-o-lantern, and going trick or treating all got started? Well, check out the video, then see if you can hear the vocabulary mentioned below.

Some sentences and phrases you will hear from the video:
  • On a day when so many spirits LURKED (wait quietly & secretly)
  • Druid priests tried to FORETELL (predict) whether their villages would survive the winter.
  • disguised themselves to REPELL (push back, drive away) and confuse the spirits
  • The Celts' demonic disguises became the SINISTER (evil, wicked) costumes of modern Halloween.
  • By the early part of the 20th century, Halloween was GAINING A FOOTHOLD (achieving a secure foundation) as an American institution.
  • It's a day to step into costumes, GORGE (eat a lot) on sweets, THROW GHOULISH GALAS (have scary parties), and scare ourselves silly.

SHARE this with your friends if you find it useful; use the buttons below. LIKE the small guide site on Facebook, and FOLLOW Joe on Twitter @joeyu2nd. Thanks, and have an enjoyable and safe Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are you CARVING a pumpkin this Halloween?

With Halloween just a week away, you might be thinking of doing a bit of pumpkin CARVING, yourself. If you're CONTEMPLATING doing something completely new and different from the usual TRIANGULAR eyes and nose, check out this entertaining video from the Wall Street Journal and get some fresh ideas and tips on how to GO ABOUT carving a nice pumpkin this season.

CARVING - cutting and forming shapes
CONTEMPLATING - thinking; considering something
TRIANGULAR - in the shape of a triangle
GO ABOUT - do something; execute a process 
                  [example: Teach him how to GO ABOUT designing a website, will you?]  

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New vocabulary exercise

autumn leaves

Episode 10 of our vocabulary exercises is ready, and our story continues with the autumn chill arriving and the trees in the neighborhood beginning to show some yellow and red. There are a couple of new developments in our story. John and Tabitha have set the date of their wedding; they will TIE THE KNOT (get married) in June. In addition, Ted is now thinking of quitting his job. It seems like he'S HAD IT (have had enough) with the stress, just like John in the past.

Check out the following sentences with the vocabulary in capital letters, and head over to our Try This! page to test your knowledge.

1. The athlete realized it was almost impossible to make the team, so he THREW IN THE TOWEL and stopped training. (quit; give up)
2. The coach told the other athletes not to FOLLOW SUIT. They should keep working hard and never quit.  (imitate; do the same thing)
3. Everyone's beginning to feel depressed. It's been OVERCAST for the past 5 days now. (cloudy; gray)
4. His family gives a SIZABLE donation to the museum every year. (a huge amount)
5. The kids are always PSYCHED to go to amusement parks on summer weekends. (excited)
6. They planned on going to Six Flags one weekend. However, since the day was such a SCORCHER, they decided to head to a water park instead. (a very hot day)
7. The family prefers to eat fish and vegetables, but they do eat meat ONCE IN A BLUE MOON. (very rarely)
8. Everyone had a wonderful time at their NUPTIALS; most of their family members flew in from out of town and hadn't seen each other in a long time. (wedding)

Now you're ready to try our newest exercise at the small guide site and see how well you can use the above vocabulary. Good luck and have fun!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Present Perfect vs. Past perfect

If you haven't checked out our lessons on the present perfect or the present perfect progressive, as well as the past perfect or the past perfect progressive, go there first to BRUSH UP on (review) these tenses. For this lesson, we're going to CONTRAST (show the differences between) the present and past perfect tenses to clarify them even further. I hope that after this lesson, you'll have an even clearer idea of how to use these tenses.

First, the main difference is that the present perfect tenses somehow connects the present with the past, while the past perfect connects the past with another time further back in the past.

Take a look at the following diagram.

Present perfect vs past perfect
Here's another diagram to illustrate the difference.

present perfect vs past perfect English verb tenses
"I have already eaten" means the action is done and you probably don't need to eat now. (Remember, if you mention specific time, you have to use the past tense: I ate an hour ago. I ate at 1p.m.) On the other hand, "I had already eaten" means the action was done before a time in the past. A reference to the past is usually used with the past perfect. In fact, without any kind of reference to the past tense, there's usually no reason to use the past perfect

In the diagram below, the verb "took" in situation 2 is the reference to the past.

present perfect progressive vs past perfect progressive English verb tenses
"We've been studying for hours" connects the past with the present, whereas "we'd been studying for 5 hours" connects the past with another point further in the past.

Alright, folks! I hope that helped. Bookmark this page so you can refer to it now and then. If you found this useful, spread the word! Follow the small guide site on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons. Have fun using English and catch you next time!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

fun, more fun, the most fun

Consider this sentence: Sue is such a fun person to be with, but I think Jim is more fun than Sue. However, I think Ted is the most fun. We don't say "funner than" or "the funnest" although these are apparently slowly becoming acceptable. This is because English is a living language and continuous to evolve (slowly change).

I've never really considered or even wondered why fun doesn't have the same comparative or superlative forms as other adjectives. I've just thought of it as one of the many exceptions to the rules in English. I simply point it out that unlike most one-syllable adjectives that get an 'er' or an 'est' suffix, the word fun is just different--for some reason. So while tall becomes taller and the tallest, and thin becomes thinner and the thinnest, fun becomes more fun and the most fun. "It's just English," I would say, to which my ESL students would usually chuckle (laugh lightly) in understanding.

What I didn't know until recently is that fun was once only used as a noun! Wow! Who could have known? Well, apparently, a lot of people especially those born before 1970, as Grammar Girl points out. Fun has only relatively recently been used as an adjective and is still not completely accepted as such by strict grammarians. This makes complete sense! This explains why we say "more fun" and "the most fun" just like we say "I want more soup," or "He ate the most pie for desert." 

While most of us have no problems saying, "That was a fun party," or "We had a fun class," it still sounds strange to say "This game is funner than that one," or "Tom was the funnest person at the party." It sounds much better to say "This game is more fun than that one," and "Tom was the most fun at the party." 

As I mentioned earlier, funner and the funnest are slowly becoming acceptable. For now, however, say "more fun" and "the most fun." They sound much better to most people including your strict grammar teacher.

Thanks for checking out this small lesson. Be sure to like the small guide site on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd. Have fun using English, and catch you next time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chip in

To chip in means to contribute to some cause or project. You can chip in $5 for an office party or chip in to get a coworker a birthday present. You can chip in with your talents, skills, or expertise; you can also chip in with your opinions during a discussion. In addition, when you volunteer or help out in some way, you're essentially chipping in.

These days, it's increasingly common to be asked to chip in online to help a cause, and people are chipping in to support their favorite organizations. For example, if you care about the environment, you've probably chipped in a few dollars to help preserve it. So, do you chip in on a regular basis? What causes are you passionate about? Have you been asked to chip in lately?

Here are more examples of how and when we chip in.

1. During campaign season, many supporters chip in huge amounts of money to help their favorite candidates win.
2. Alright, folks! We need everyone here to chip in so we can finish this quickly and we can all go home.
3. Times are tough for Sarah and her kids, so when her car broke down, we all chipped in to get it fixed.
4. We need as many ideas as possible, so everyone, please chip in if you have any good ones.
5. The manager sometimes calls and asks them to come in on the weekends to chip in when it's busy.

expertise - something you are good at or an expert in
essentially - basically; mainly

Alrighty, folks. Thanks again for checking us out. Please like the small guide site on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons. Catch you later.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Present perfect progressive

Like the present perfect, the present perfect progressive connects the past with the present. However, the progressive tense focuses more on the action or activity of the main verb, while the present perfect presents the sentence more as a fact. In addition, the present perfect progressive is almost always used with for (to convey duration), since (to convey the begining of an action), or a phrase that conveys a length of time, such as "all day" or "all morning." 

To form the present perfect progressive, we use have or has + been + verb ing (present participle)
1. We've been studying for 5 hours. Let's take a break.
2. She's been cleaning since she woke up this morning.
3. They've been practicing their lines all day, but she still hasn't memorized them.
The three sentences above 
are in the present perfect progressive tense and focus on actions that began in the past and continue to the present.

With certain verbs, there isn't much difference between the present perfect and the progressive form especially when you use either tense with for or since. With these verbs, it mainly depends on whether the speaker wants to convey activity (ing/ progressive form) or convey fact and a sense of accomplishment (present perfect).

1. We've waited for 45 minutes. (present perfect)
    We've been waiting for 45 minutes. (present perfect progressive
Both of these sentences convey the same message; however, the second one just has a stronger emphasis on the act of waiting.

2. They've lived in this city since 2010. (present perfect)
    They've been living here since 2010. (present perfect progressive)
There isn't much difference between these two sentences, either. You would say the first one as a fact and emphasize the idea that they've lived there up to the present and say the second one to focus on the action and usually convey the idea that they are not finished living there yet.

Sometimes, depending on the context, the activity in a present perfect progressive sentence may continue or may have recently stopped just before the speaker says the sentence.

1. We've been cooking since 10 this morning, and we're almost done. (This action is continuing; they are still cooking.)
   We're finally finished; I can't believe we've been cooking since 10 this morning. (This action has just stopped.)

2. The kids have been swimming for 5 straight hours! I can't believe they're not tired yet. (The kids are obviously not done swimming.)
    They're going to the locker room to change. They're exhausted; they've been swimming for 5 straight hours. (They have obviously stopped swimming and are now going to the locker room.)

Alright, folks. Feel free to leave a comment here or on Facebook if you have any questions. Better yet, like the small guide site on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons. Catch you again soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I've been thinking about clutter a lot lately. I don't like it, but I see it quite a bit these days. Clutter the noun is synonymous to a mess and is pretty much any disorganized collection of things especially if they're strewn across a space or an area. As a verb, to clutter means to make a mess, and as an adjective, a cluttered space is a messy space.

If you are organized, you probably detest clutter, but sometimes it's inevitable. If you live in a tiny apartment, like I do, it's very easy to accumulate stuff and get your space cluttered. When you're busy, for example, you may not have time to sort through the mail or keep stuff on a shelf organized; things pile up quickly and before you know it, you have clutter everywhere.

Clutter can also affect someone's thoughts or someone's life. Worries and problems can clutter your mind and keep you from concentrating. Similarly, if your life is cluttered, you may be having a hard time moving forward with your goals and dreams. Psychologists say that a cluttered house is a reflection of a cluttered life, and vice versa, but that's a whole other topic for another blog. Bottom line, clutter has to be cleaned up. Do you have clutter around you? If so, I hope you find the time and energy to clean it up.

I don't want to clutter up your email or those of your friends, but if you find this post useful, feel free to share it with friends. You can also enter your email address on the right margin to get our small lessons automatically in your inbox. Then you can forward them to friends who could use them. If you like this post, use the buttons below and tell your friends about it. 

clutter - a mess
quite a bit - a lot; not just a few times
strewn - scattered; spread [strew, strewed, strewn]
detest - hate; loathe
inevitable - unavoidable
accumulate - add up; gather
sort through - go through; check & organize
pile up - accumulate; one on top of another
the bottom line -  the main message or reason

Alright, folks. Remember the small guide site is also on Facebook, and you can follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd. Take care!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the present perfect

The present perfect has a couple of uses, and if you understand the ways it is used, remember them, and practice, you're on your way to mastering this tense. First, however, you should know the structure. The present perfect uses "have" or "has" as an auxiliary verb and the past participle as a main verb. In other words, the present perfect of "she eats" is "she has eaten"; the present perfect of "they drove" is "they have driven," and for "I wrote," it's "I have written."

We use the present perfect to talk about something you have done already. However, you cannot say when you did it. In other words, you cannot use specific time. Otherwise, you'll have to use the past tense.

Here are some examples of sentences in the present perfect and the past tense. The ones with specific time are in the past tense, while the ones without specific time are in the present perfect.

1. I have already eaten. - present perfect
    I ate 2 hours ago. - past tense
2. He has taken out the garbage. - present perfect
    He took out the garbage when he got home. - past tense
3. She has done her homework. - present perfect
    She did her homework before dinner. - past tense

Similarly, we use the present perfect to talk about our experiences without saying when we experienced them. Like the above examples, we have to use the past tense if we want to say exactly when we did them. Here are some examples.

1. They have been to China. - present perfect
    They were in China in 2010. - past tense
2. She has gone bungee jumping twice. - present perfect
    She went bungee jumping when she visited New Zealand and Peru. - past tense
3. He's kind of nuts. He has even swum with sharks before. - present perfect
    He swam with sharks last summer. - past tense

We also use the present perfect to talk about action that started in the past and continues to the present. This is usually used with for (to indicate duration) or since (to indicate the beginning of the action). Here are some examples.

1. They have lived in Miami for 10 years now.
2. She has studied English since she was 10 years old.
3. I've worked at this job since 2009.
The sentences above all show action that started in the past and continues to the present. A quick note: this particular usage can have a similar meaning as the present perfect progressive.

Alright, folks. Practice makes perfect, so read and reread, then practice as much as you can. Look out for exercises on verb tenses at the small guide site in the future. Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below, on the small guide site page on Facebook or tweet me a message @joeyu2nd on Twitter. Catch you again soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Getting the hang of a new schedule

I'm on my third week on a new schedule and I'm still getting the hang of it. I still teach until 10 at night. However, instead of starting at noon, I now start at 10 a.m., which makes for a long day and means I have to go to bed as soon as I get home in order to get at least 6 hours of sleep. Seven hours is doable, but tough. It's tough because I have a one-hour commute and I have to rest, take a shower and eat before I hit the sack. It's tough also because I'm naturally a night owl. This means it's easy to stay up late but very difficult to get up early. Night owls are usually not morning people, and I'm not an exception.

Being a glass-half-full kind of person, however, I always look at the positive side. Yes, I do have to rush to get to bed when I get home and rush to get to work on time in the morning, but I do get a good few hours in the afternoon that I can use productively to get things done. If I'm not doing a private lesson or two, I can work on projects or even take a nap. I can hack it; it's definitely not a problem. I just have to get the hang of it first.

Getting the hang of something - getting used to it; it is easier to do
Doable - possible; can be done or accomplished
Commute - travel between home and work or school
Hit the sack - go to bed
Night owl - a person who tends to stay up late or enjoys staying up late
Morning person - a person who likes to get up early and be active in the morning.
A glass-half-full kind of person - an optimistic person
[A glass-half-empty kind of person - a pessimistic person]
Can/able to hack it - can handle or deal with something difficult or challenging

Small reminder: You can find the small guide site on Facebook, and you can also follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd.

Thanks for reading and listening. I'll catch you later.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking for a needle in a haystack

needle and button in Midtown NYC Garment district
Needle & button in Midtown Manhattan
If you're in New York City, you'll find this enormous (huge) needle and button leaning against an information booth in Midtown Manhattan. I walk by this sculpture in the city's Garment district everyday and have often thought of the expression "like looking for a needle in a haystack." (Yes, I do think of idioms now and then.) A haystack is a pile of cut grass that is often used to feed horses. You can imagine how hard it would be to find a needle in a stack of hay although, of course, not this one.

Understandably, we use this expression as a metaphor to talk about how difficult it would be to find something. For example, if you're looking for someone in the middle of Time Square on New Year's Eve, when the square is packed with hundreds of thousands of people, you can say, "We probably won't be able to find him; that's like looking for a needle in a haystack." Similarly, if you dropped your ring in the sand at the beach, it would probably be close to impossible to recover the ring, and you can say, "Looking for that ring is like looking for a needle in a haystack, so we might as well forget it."

So, can you think of a situation in the past when you could have used this expression? Perhaps you had to look for an old friend online who has a common name or perhaps you left a book on a shelf in a huge library, but you're not sure where you left it. In these two situations, searching for the book or your friend would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Alright, folks. Thanks for checking out this small lesson. If you haven't yet, please join us on Facebook, and follow me, Joe, on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons. Catch you later!

Friday, May 18, 2012

off the beaten path

I took this photo from an ad by Aruba (the country) on the subway. The ad LURES (invite; entice) subway riders to the island's clear Caribbean waters and white sand. I wonder how many COMMUTERS (people traveling from home to work/school) actually booked tickets to Aruba after seeing this ad. I remember wanting to go, myself, as I STARED (look at for a long time) at the ad in my winter coat in the middle of January. Apparently, flamingo sightings are likely when you WANDER (roam; walk) around the island and even when you go somewhere OFF THE BEATEN PATH (away from busy, touristy areas). 

Have you been somewhere warm, relaxing, and OFF THE BEATEN PATH lately? We'd like to hear from you and even CHECK OUT (see; examine) your photos. You can tell us about it here at the small blog, on the small guide site page on Facebook, or on my page on Twitter.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the past perfect progressive

the past perfect progressive

First, be sure to review our small lesson on the past perfect. Once you understand how to use the past perfect, the past perfect progressive shouldn't be too difficult. Like the past perfect, the past perfect progressive occurs before the past tense. The progressive or "ing" form means that we're focusing on an activity that is happening until a point in the past. This activity may continue or it may stop at this specified point in the past. 

The structure of the past perfect progressive is had + been + past participle. For example, the past perfect progressive of eat is had been eating, and the past perfect progressive of fly is had been flying. In addition, because the past perfect progressive conveys an activity that occurred to a point in the past, it usually includes for or since or some way of showing the duration of this activity.

Here are some examples:
1. We had been driving for 5 hours when we got pulled over (stopped) by the cop.
2. The kids were not hungry at dinner because they had been eating sweets since two o'clock this afternoon.
3. They had been chatting for hours when the lights suddenly went out.
4. Sue wanted to take a walk because she'd been studying all day.
5. Jack was thrilled to finally get his car fixed. He'd been taking the bus since last Friday when the battery died and the garage found other things wrong with it.

Alright, folks. I hope that makes the past perfect progressive clear for you. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or by email:

If you haven't already, follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd, and be a fan of the small guide site on Facebook for more quick, small English lessons. Catch you later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

pun: "to the core"

Here's the second photo that I took from a poster at Whole Foods Market. As in the first one, we're sure the PUN (play on words) is totally intended. On this one, the pun is in the phrase "to the core"; it has a couple of meanings.

1. The core of an apple or any object is its center. For an apple, it's where the seeds are.

2. "A value to the core" is another way of saying, "a true or genuine value."

"Our organic apples. A value to the core."

Alright, folks. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions or comments. You can do it here, on Facebook, or email me at

If you haven't yet, you should follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd and LIKE the small guide site on Facebook for more quick, small English lessons.

pun: over easy

Here's one of two photos I took at Whole Foods with clever PUNS (play on words). On this poster, "over easy" has a couple of meanings. 

1. Eggs cooked "over easy" is a fried egg flipped over gently and served with the YOLK (the yellow part) still RUNNY (liquid). 

2. "A price that goes over easy" is another way of saying, "A price that is not a problem."

"Cage-free eggs. With a price that goes over easy."

When we unintentionally say a pun, we usually say, "No pun intended." However, since this is a promotional poster, I think the pun is totally intended.

Any questions or comments? Do it below, on Facebook, or send me an email at Also, you can follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons, and be a fan of the small guide site on Facebook.

Take care, and I hope to hear from you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Made from scratch

"Made from scratch like grandma's. At prices she remembers."

MADE FROM SCRATCH - prepared from basic ingredients (flour, water, sugar, ...)

I found this cool idiom on a poster at Whole Foods. I go there QUITE A BIT (often) to get some work done, take advantage of their free wifi, and have some of their prepared dishes. They're A BIT PRICEY (a little expensive); you're definitely paying for some quality fresh ingredients that are MADE FROM SCRATCH, but they're quite TASTY (delicious). With my busy schedule, it's tough to find time to MAKE anything FROM SCRATCH, so I don't mind paying for it NOW AND THEN (sometimes). What about you? Can you MAKE anything FROM SCRATCH?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Survey: next lesson on verb tenses

We had a nice TURNOUT (number of visitors) for my last lesson on the past perfect tense, so I thought of preparing another small lesson on verb tenses. For my students, the future perfect and the future perfect progressive tenses can also be challenging, so I'm considering doing one of these next. 

What about you? Which verb tense is difficult for you to MASTER (completely understand & be very good at)? I just put up a survey at our page on Facebook, where you can vote and even add a verb tense that is not already listed. Drop by, and while you're there, LIKE us.

Reminder: I'm also on Twitter @joeyu2nd. I hope to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the past perfect tense

The past perfect can be challenging for some English learners. It can be tough to figure out exactly when or how to use it. But it's really not very difficult. Basically, the past perfect tense occurs before the past tense and is usually used when you tell a story that happened in the past. When you're telling a story, the past tense is usually the base tense or the tense where the story occurs, and everything that happens before that is told using the past perfect.

As always, we should master its structure. The past perfect is formed with had + past participle. For example, the past perfect of fly is had flown; the past perfect of go is had gone. Mastering the structure of the past perfect is the first and important step in learning how to use it.

Once you've mastered the structure of this tense, you can start using it when you're talking about the past. Remember, anything that happened before the past tense should be told in the past perfect.

Here are some examples:
1. I had already eaten when I got to the party. ("Had eaten" happened before "got".)
2. They wanted to watch the new Will Smith comedy, but their friend had just watched it the day before. ("Had watched" happened before "wanted".)
3. He almost had a heart attack when he realized he had forgotten his passport at home.
4. His family traveled a lot. By the time he was 12, he had been to most of Europe and Asia.
5. He had gone to the doctor before he went to the post office.

When we use the past perfect, we make it easy for people to understand our stories because we're making the order of events clear. Our listeners can easily tell what happened first and what happened next. Sometimes, however, you can simply use the past tense instead of the past perfect if it's already clear which event happened first and which event happened next. We can do this when the words "before" or "after" are in the sentence.

Sentence number 5 above is an example. Because it has the word "before", it's already clear that the person went to the doctor first and then he went to the post office. Because of this we can also say, He went to the doctor before he went to the post office.

Similarly, the following two sentences are both correct and mean the same.
1. They went to the museum after they had eaten lunch.
2. They went to the museum after they ate lunch.

Alright, folks. I hope this lesson explained the past perfect well for you. If it had, you should bookmark it for future reference and recommend it to friends who could use the help.

Thanks for practicing your English with us. My name is Joe. Are you following me on Twitter yet? You'll find me there @joeyu2nd. You can also LIKE the small guide site on Facebook for more quick, small lessons. Catch you later.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Survey: next pronunciation lesson

I recently went through our stats here at the small blog; it tells us which posts are getting the most visitors. It turns out that a pronunciation lesson that I posted in February this year for the vowel sound /æ/ (as in cat) is among the most popular.

So, now I'm contemplating of preparing another lesson with another vowel sound that I could pair with /æ/. I was wondering which vowel sound you would like to practice with /æ/.

/æ/ & /ɑ/ (cat & car)
/æ/ & /ɔ/ (cat & coffee)
/æ/ & /ʌ/ (cat & cut)

Head over to our page on Facebook to vote, and let your voice be heard! While you're there, why not LIKE us if you haven't already?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Are you tolerant or judgmental?

"NYC: Tolerant of your beliefs, judgmental of your shoes."
Ad on the New York City subway
Once in a while, I come across clever ads in subway trains that make me CHUCKLE. This one is from Manhattan Mini Storage (No, I don't work for them.) It's STEREOTYPICAL of New Yorkers. Most of us are indeed TOLERANT of other people's ideas and beliefs, and we are proud of this. Those who aren't are at least good at keeping their opinions to themselves and their circle of friends. As for being JUDGMENTAL of people's shoes, I think that only describes a KEENLY fashion-conscious minority. ... unless I'm missing something.

What about you? Are you TOLERANT of other people's beliefs? What are you most JUDGMENTAL of?

CHUCKLE - laugh softly to yourself (go hehehe)
STEREOTYPICAL - a generalized and often simplified opinion about a particular group
TOLERANT - accepting; able to live with something different or unpleasant

JUDGMENTAL - having negative opinions about someone, often based on moral views
KEENLY - strongly, sharply

Follow Joe on Twitter @joeyu2nd, and be a fan of the small guide site on Facebook.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TT4BS /I/ (hit) & /i/ (heat)

Hello, folks! In this TongueTwisting4BetterSpeech, we will practice both the short vowel sound /I/ and the long vowel sound /i/. It's always good to practice the sounds separately especially if it's a bit challenging, so you can go to our April 3, 2012 post to practice /I/ and to our April 10, 2012 post for /i/.

If you're ready, we can begin with the words:
/I/ mit, fit, grit, dip, wit
/i/ meet, feet, greet, deep, wheat

/I/ chip, slick, rim, slip, sin
/i/ cheap, sleak, ream, sleep, scene

Now for the sentences. As always, we'll do it slowly first.
1. He took a chilly dip six feet deep in the sea. He says it keeps him fit.
2. Strict vegans eat beet chips with bean dip, and keep meat and fish dishes out of reach.
3. He thinks he's slick in his sleek wheels meeting and greeting the elite.

Alright, folks. Thanks for practicing with me. I hope you come back regularly to practice and to learn something new. My name is Joe. You can follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd and be a fan of the small guide site on Facebook for more small & quick lessons there. See you around.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New exercise at the small guide site

Our story continues with our newest exercise at the small guide site. Our main characters, John and Kate, are back from their quick jaunt (short trip) to Chicago. Click the TryThis! link above and head over to the small guide site to read about how their trip went.

Try the new exercise and practice the following idioms and vocabulary words: be fond of, a cinch, gear up, irrepressible, take on, drenched, on tap, and run the gamut.

Enjoy, and good luck!