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.

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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.