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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Count Nouns vs. Non-Count Noun

Count nouns

Can be counted as one or more.

  • pen, computer, bottle, spoon, desk, cup, television, chair, shoe, finger, flower, camera, stick, balloon, book, table, comb, etc.
Take an s to form the plural.

  • pens, computers, bottles, spoons, desks, cups, televisions, chairs, shoes, fingers, flowers, cameras, sticks, balloons, books, tables, combs, etc.
Work with expressions such as (a few, few, many, some, every, each, these, and the number of).

  • a few pens, a few computers, many bottles, some spoons, every desk, each cup, these televisions, the number of chairs, a few shoes, a few fingers, many flowers, some cameras, every stick, each balloon, these books, the number of tables, many combs, etc.
Work with appropriate articles (a, an, or the).

  • a pen, the computer, a bottle, the spoon, a desk, the cup, a television, the chair, a shoe, the finger, a flower, the camera, a stick, the balloon, a book, the table, a comb, etc.
Do NOT work with much (for example, you would never say much pens or much computers).

Non-count nouns

Cannot be counted. They usually express a group or a type.

  • water, wood, ice, air, oxygen, English, Spanish, traffic, furniture, milk, wine, sugar, rice, meat, flour, soccer, sunshine, etc.
Generally cannot be pluralized.

Work both with and without an article (a, an, or the), depending on the context of the sentence.

  • Sugar is sweet.
  • The sunshine is beautiful.
  • I drink milk.
  • He eats rice.
  • We watch soccer together.
  • The wood is burning.
Work with expressions such as (some, any, enough, this, that, and much).

  • We ate some rice and milk.
  • I hope to see some sunshine today.
  • This meat is good.
  • She does not speak much Spanish.
  • Do you see any traffic on the road?
  • That wine is very old.
Do NOT work with expressions such as (these, those, every, each, either, or neither).


Choose all of the non-count nouns in the following list:

wine, student, pen, water, wind, milk, computer, furniture, cup, rice, box, watch, potato, wood

wine, water, wind, milk, furniture, rice, wood

Monday, March 18, 2019

Information on Grammar pertaining to English Speaking

In order to obtain English fluency for ESL students, studying grammar can slow your progress down significantly. Basic grammar is a necessity, but focusing on grammar will prevent you from being able to speak English fluently in a reasonable time frame. Grammar is most effective to improve communication and writing skills, but this only pertains to those who have a solid foundation in English fluency.

If you are studying for an exam or want to learn the details of grammar rules, you can study our grammar section at English Grammar Basics.

One commonality among everyone in the whole world is that they learned to speak before they learned grammar. Speaking is the first step for any English learner. So if you are a novice at English, please focus on your speaking and listening skills prior to studying grammar. After being able to speak English fluently, you will realize how much easier grammar is. But it does not work the other way around. Being fluent in English speaking will help you with your grammar studies, but studying grammar will NOT help you with your speaking.

In this article, the four most basic grammar topics are explained, which consists of 1) subject, 2) predicate, 3) verb, and 4) article.  This is the absolute minimum you should know.  After you become comfortable with speaking, then you can study more advanced grammar topics.  For now, please review and study the four items described below.

What is a subject?

The subject in a sentence is "who" or "what" you are talking about. Every sentence needs a subject. If you don't have a subject, then the sentence is incorrect and nobody will understand what you are talking about.

In other languages, the subject is not always required. Verbally, the person listening to you will understand what you are talking about, so a subject is not required. In English, a subject is always required.

Here are examples of small sentences with the subject underlined.

"I am hungry"
"My brother is very smart"
"That computer is very expensive"
"We are going to the store now"
"My sister and I will be waiting here"
"The building is very big"

"When are you going to eat lunch?"
"Why are they waiting in line?"
"Who is going to take you to the store?"

What is a predicate?

The predicate in a sentence is the section that informs the person what the subject is or what it is doing. It is a phrase that contains a verb. The verb is always in the predicate.

Let's look at the sentences we used in the subject lesson to identify the predicates. They will be underlined.

"I am hungry"
"My brother is very smart"
"That computer is very expensive"
"We are going to the store now"
"The building is very big"

In the above short sentences, we have identified the subject and predicate. In the most basic sentences, you need a subject and an action associated with the subject. Let's go on to verbs to understand this in more detail.

What is a verb?

A verb is an action, existence, or occurrence. In the simple sentences we used so far, the verb is mostly in the existence form. They are "am", "is", and "are".

Other types of verbs are action verbs such as:


There are many action verbs, but I only listed a few to let you know what I am referring to. Here are some sentences to help you understand.

"I need to wash my face"
"Jane taught Jill"
"Mike is laughing"

A verb can also start at the beginning of the sentence.

"Throw the ball at the catcher"
"Run towards the finish line"

It is important to understand the verb, but having just a subject and a verb is not sufficient. For example, "Jill run" is not a complete sentence. Although Jill can be the subject, and "run" is the verb, this is not a complete sentence. That is why the previous lesson on predicate is important. With the predicate, we can turn the sentence into a proper sentence. "Jill is running"

What is an Article?

Articles seem so easy, but it is extremely difficult to teach.

"A", "An", and "The" are all articles. It is easy to explain the difference between them, but it is difficult to explain when they are used.

"A" and "An" have the same meaning. They are both indefinite articles. They are only different depending on what word or sound is following. Here is a brief explanation.

You should use "A" when the following word starts with a consonant.

"A dog..."
"A boy..."
"A building..."
"A hamburger..."

You should use "An" when the following starts with a vowel sound.

"An eagle..."
"An umbrella..."
"An elephant..."
"An awesome book..."

"The" is a definite article. The difference is if the noun or subject you are talking about is specific or not. Examples are the best way to understand the difference, so let's take a look.

If you say, "I am going to a library to study", then the person you are speaking with does not know which library. If you say, "I am going to the library to study", then the person you are speaking with knows the specific library you are going to.

"I am going to a coffee shop" (No specific coffee shop)
"I am going to the coffee shop" (A specific coffee shop both the speaker and listener know)

Here is a slightly different example, but still using the same concept of specific or general.

"I am going to sit in front of one of the computers in the lab"
"I am going to buy a computer"

Although the computer in the lab can be one of many computers, the correct article is "the" because it is still a specific computer that exists in the lab. However, if you say you are going to buy a computer, you cannot use "the" unless you already have the computer specified. Buying a computer can be any brand, type, or size so it is very general. Therefore, you must use "A" in this type of sentence.

Here is another type of example:

"The heat wave is unbearable"
"I heard a heat wave is coming"

The difference between these two sentences is that the "heat wave" is specified in the first sentence, and not specified in the second sentence. In the first sentence, the heat wave is already present and both the speaker and listener knows that the heat wave they are talking about is the one they are currently experiencing. The second sentence is referring to a future heat wave that is not specific.

When and When NOT to use an article

One common rule to keep in mind is that articles are not used when referring to a name.

"Turn right at the burger store"
"Turn right at McDonalds"

"The boy was running very fast"
"Mike was running very fast"

Another example of when not to use an article is when referring to general things in conversation.

"Too much alcohol is bad for you"
"Cigarettes can cause lung cancer"

When you are referring to sports, you do not need an article.

"I love playing badminton" 
"Football is a dangerous sport"

In most cases, you don't need an article when referring to a country except when the name is referring to multiple countries or regions. For example, if you say "England" or "Scotland", you don't need an article, but if you are referring to "The United Kingdom" or "The United States", then you do need an article.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

5 Speaking Rules you need to know!

1. Don't study grammar too much

This rule might sound strange to many ESL students, but it is one of the most important rules. If you want to pass examinations, then study grammar. However, if you want to become fluent in English, then you should try to learn English without studying the grammar.

Studying grammar will only slow you down and confuse you. You will think about the rules when creating sentences instead of naturally saying a sentence like a native. Remember that only a small fraction of English speakers know more than 20% of all the grammar rules. Many ESL students know more grammar than native speakers. I can confidently say this with experience. I am a native English speaker, majored in English Literature, and have been teaching English for more than 10 years. However, many of my students know more details about English grammar than I do. I can easily look up the definition and apply it, but I don't know it off the top of my head.

I often ask my native English friends some grammar questions, and only a few of them know the correct answer. However, they are fluent in English and can read, speak, listen, and communicate effectively.

Do you want to be able to recite the definition of a causative verb, or do you want to be able to speak English fluently?

2. Learn and study phrases

Many students learn vocabulary and try to put many words together to create a proper sentence. It amazes me how many words some of my students know, but they cannot create a proper sentence. The reason is because they didn't study phrases. When children learn a language, they learn both words and phrases together. Likewise, you need to study and learn phrases.

If you know 1000 words, you might not be able to say one correct sentence. But if you know 1 phrase, you can make hundreds of correct sentences. If you know 100 phrases, you will be surprised at how many correct sentences you will be able to say. Finally, when you know only a 1000 phrases, you will be almost a fluent English speaker.

The English Speaking Basics section is a great example of making numerous sentences with a single phrase. So don't spend hours and hours learning many different words. Use that time to study phrases instead and you will be closer to English fluency.

Don't translate

When you want to create an English sentence, do not translate the words from your Mother tongue. The order of words is probably completely different and you will be both slow and incorrect by doing this. Instead, learn phrases and sentences so you don't have to think about the words you are saying. It should be automatic.

Another problem with translating is that you will be trying to incorporate grammar rules that you have learned. Translating and thinking about the grammar to create English sentences is incorrect and should be avoided.

3. Reading and Listening is NOT enough. Practice Speaking what you hear!

Reading, listening, and speaking are the most important aspects of any language. The same is true for English. However, speaking is the only requirement to be fluent. It is normal for babies and children to learn speaking first, become fluent, then start reading, then writing. So the natural order is listening, speaking, reading, then writing.

First Problem
Isn't it strange that schools across the world teach reading first, then writing, then listening, and finally speaking? Although it is different, the main reason is because when you learn a second language, you need to read material to understand and learn it. So even though the natural order is listening, speaking, reading, then writing, the order for ESL students is reading, listening, speaking, then writing.

Second Problem
The reason many people can read and listen is because that's all they practice. But in order to speak English fluently, you need to practice speaking. Don't stop at the listening portion, and when you study, don't just listen. Speak out loud the material you are listening to and practice what you hear. Practice speaking out loud until your mouth and brain can do it without any effort. By doing so, you will be able to speak English fluently.

4. Submerge yourself

Being able to speak a language is not related to how smart you are. Anyone can learn how to speak any language. This is a proven fact by everyone in the world. Everyone can speak at least one language. Whether you are intelligent, or lacking some brain power, you are able to speak one language.

This was achieved by being around that language at all times. In your country, you hear and speak your language constantly. You will notice that many people who are good English speakers are the ones who studied in an English speaking school. They can speak English not because they went to an English speaking school, but because they had an environment where they can be around English speaking people constantly.

There are also some people who study abroad and learn very little. That is because they went to an English speaking school, but found friends from their own country and didn't practice English.

You don't have to go anywhere to become a fluent English speaker. You only need to surround yourself with English. You can do this by making rules with your existing friends that you will only speak English. You can also carry around an iPod and constantly listen to English sentences. As you can see, you can achieve results by changing what your surroundings are. Submerge yourself in English and you will learn several times faster.

5. Study correct material

A common phrase that is incorrect is, "Practice makes perfect." This is far from the truth. Practice only makes what you are practicing permanent. If you practice the incorrect sentence, you will have perfected saying the sentence incorrectly. Therefore, it is important that you study material that is commonly used by most people.

Another problem I see is that many students study the news. However, the language they speak is more formal and the content they use is more political and not used in regular life. It is important to understand what they are saying, but this is more of an advanced lesson that should be studied after learning the fundamental basics of English.

Studying English with a friend who is not a native English speaker is both good and bad. You should be aware of the pros and cons of speaking with a non native speaking friend. Practicing with a non native person will give you practice. You can also motivate each other and point out basic mistakes. But you might pick up bad habits from one another if you are not sure about what are correct and incorrect sentences. So use these practice times as a time period to practice the correct material you studied. Not to learn how to say a sentence.

In short, study English material that you can trust, that is commonly used, and that is correct.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Singular and Plural Nouns

A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.

Usually, the first page of a grammar book tells you about nounsNouns give namesof concrete or abstract things in our lives. As babies learn "mom," "dad," or "milk" as their first wordnouns should be the first topic when you study a foreign language

For the plural form of most nouns, add s.

  • bottle – bottles
  • cup – cups
  • pencil – pencils
  • desk – desks
  • sticker – stickers
  • window – windows
For nouns that end in ch, x, s, or s sounds, add es.

  • box – boxes
  • watch – watches
  • moss – mosses
  • bus – buses
For nouns ending in f or fe, change f to v and add es.

  • wolf – wolves
  • wife – wives
  • leaf – leaves
  • life – lives
Some nouns have different plural forms.

  • child – children
  • woman – women
  • man – men
  • mouse – mice
  • goose – geese
Nouns ending in vowels like y or o do not have definite rules.

  • baby – babies
  • toy – toys
  • kidney – kidneys
  • potato – potatoes
  • memo – memos
  • stereo – stereos
A few nouns have the same singular and plural forms.

  • sheep – sheep
  • deer – deer
  • series – series
  • species – species


Choose the correct form of the noun in each sentence.

1)I have three (child, children).
2)There are five (man, men) and one (woman, women).
3)(Baby, Babies) play with bottles as toys.
4)I put two big (potato, potatoes) in the lunch box.
5)A few men wear (watch, watches).
6)I put a (memo, memos) on the desk.
7)I saw a (mouse, mice) running by.
8)There are few (bus, buses) on the road today.


1) children
2) men, woman
3) Babies
4) potatoes
5) watches
6) memo
7) mouse
8) buses

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Monday, March 4, 2019

Friday, March 1, 2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019

Fenris the Wolf

The Norse gods were not all-powerful. They had fearsome enemies in the supernatural world. Fenris the wolf was one of the most cunning creatures who tormented them. This story explains how the gods took him on - and how one of them lost an arm in doing so.

Read by Elizabeth. Written by Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore. Proofread by Claire Deakin.
To listen along, please click here.

Hello, this is Elizabeth, and I am here with another of our Norse myths from the time of the Vikings. It was a time when wolves were common across Northern Europe. The Norsemen had good reason to fear wolves, and this is reflected in the legends about their gods, as you will hear.

Loki looked like a god, he had the gifts of a god and the mind of a god, but his heart was elsewhere: it was with the giants, for was he not a giant at least in part by blood? And did he not have a home in Jotunheim, the cold, desolate and blasted Land of the Giants? I wouldn’t have liked to live there, and I don’t know anyone who would. As for Loki, although he had in Asgard a lovely wife, Sigyn, who was faithful to him to the end of days, in Jotunheim he had another family altogether. There his wife was a beastly giantess, and his children? Oh, it is better not to think about them. But if you must, there was Hel, who turned people to stone – only the gods were safe from her; the Midgard-Serpent, who was a horrible reptile, worse even than Fafnir the dragon, and who doubled in size every single day; and last, but not least, the cruel Wolf, Fenris, who was always hungry, and whose jaws were immense and whose pointed teeth were as sharp as swords.

Imagine keeping that lot in order at dinner! And these children of Loki’s just kept on growing…

One day Odin was looking around the world with his Eye – there was a lot to see – and although Odin was very wise, that was only after he had looked. As I said, Odin was looking around the world, and his Eye fell upon Loki’s home in Jotunheim, and he saw Loki’s terrible children. He saw how strong and powerful they were getting, and what dreadful trouble they would eventually cause, and he sent Thor and Tyr and some of the other gods to fetch them to Asgard.

I would never have brought them to my home, but perhaps Odin wanted to keep his Eye on them. However, this was not the reason, for Odin cast Hel down into the underworld. (As the people there were dead anyway he thought she couldn’t do anymore harm). He flung the Midgard-Serpent into the seas where it stayed growing ever bigger, and it was only the wolf, Fenris, that he kept in Asgard – because if the truth be known, he did not dare take him on directly.

Fenris was a strange and difficult pet – there is no doubt about that. He roamed freely about Asgard, frightening the goddesses. He scared even Odin, for Odin knew that in the Last Battle, it was his destiny to be destroyed by Fenris. One evening, some of the gods were too frightened to come to the Council Chamber as it meant passing Fenris who was snapping his huge jaws in the doorway, Odin decided it was time to act.

He opened up another passage into the chamber. When the gods had all come in, he closed the door. “What a mistake we have made,” he bemoaned, “to feed and pamper this wolf, who is already our enemy, so he grows ever stronger? No, we must find a solution. We cannot kill him, for we can have no bloodshed here.”

“Chain him up, that’s what I’d do,” said Thor.

“Yes, but how? How will we find a chain strong enough to hold such a creature?”

“Leave that to me,” said Thor, always a god of action. That night Thor worked away with his great hammer, and the other gods helped him. In the morning, all admired the thick chain with its complex links that gleamed in the sunshine.

Odin spread out the chain and put some meat high up on a tree. The gods called Fenris, spread out the chain, and asked him to show his wonderful strength by breaking it. “Then you can have the meat,” they promised. Fenris looked at the chain, and sniffed the meat. The wolf knew how strong he was, and that breaking the chain would not be a problem for him, so he agreed to be bound, and his feet were tied together so it looked as if they were to stay like that always. But the gods smiled too soon. The wolf flexed himself, snapped the vast chain, and was free once more. Reluctantly, Odin nodded, and Tyr gave Fenris the meat.

The wolf sloped off. “He has grown terribly strong,” said Odin, looking at the chain in pieces on the ground. “You’ll have to make a stronger chain.”

Again Thor stayed up all night hammering away to make a new and a stronger chain to bind the Wolf. All the gods wished him good luck and prayed for his success, and in the morning they did think that the chain he had made looked stronger. But was it?

Again, Tyr called the wolf over. “You astonished us yesterday, but if you can break this chain, you will win eternal honour and your strength will be known throughout the world and throughout the Heavens.”

“Where is the meat?” said Fenris.

“Oh we will give you the meat later,” came the furtive reply.

Fenris looked at the gods and saw the fear in their eyes. His evil heart told him they would be even more afraid if he snapped this chain too, and he knew that he could. He agreed to be bound. The gods made sure the chain was fastened tight around him. “Get the meat,” said Tyr.

Fenris waited until the meat was near, and then he strained the chain. His struggle lasted longer this time, and for a while it seemed that the chain would hold, but soon enough, it too burst apart with a snap. The gods stared at it in silence, while Fenris gobbled his meat and slinked away.

The gods looked at Odin. Something else must be done to curb this monster among them!

“We will have to ask the dwarves to help us,” said Odin slowly, “to make a chain so strong that Fenris will be unable to break it, and so light in appearance that he will agree to be bound by it. I will send a messenger to tell them of our desperate need. The dwarves have ever been our friends in times of danger.”

A messenger was sent, and soon he was in the underground home of the Dwarves. It was very dark, numerous lanterns lit the caves and the stalactites and stalagmites. In fact, it looked quite pretty. Some Dwarves ran about with yet more lights, some puffed bellows to heat the fires of the great forge, while others worked a different shift and were resting on toadstools chatting. The leaders of the Dwarves conferred together:
“We will make you an enchanted chain,” they said. They were a friendly lot and set to work at once. It took a long time, for there is much work in making a chain and even more in making enchantments. At last the Dwarves proudly handed over their work: “It is magic,” they said. “What is bound with this will remain bound until the End of Days.”

The gods’ messenger bowed low. “The gods will not forget their debt to the Dwarves and will gladly thank you and help you if you are in need,” and he flew back to Asgard.

When they saw it, the gods were not impressed. At first glance, it didn’t seem like a chain at all, just soft and silken string. Then one by one, the gods tried to break it. None could, not even Thor.

Odin smiled for the first time in a long while. “The time has come to ask ask Fenris to try it,” he said, and he called him.

“We know how strong you are,” said Odin, to the wolf. “You have shown us this twice. But now we have a further test for you.” He held out the twisted strand to Fenris, “It is this.”

The wolf looked at the silken string and paused – he was not stupid.
“Why should I?” he asked. “If I succeed, no-one will think anything of it, and if I fail, I remain bound.”

Odin smiled at him. “How could you fail, with your strength?”

“I fear a trick,” said Fenris. “If it is a trick, you will not help me. But you shall not call me coward: you may bind me if one of you will place his right hand in my mouth.”

The gods looked at each other, but they did not smile. There was a silence. Thor moved as if to volunteer, but Odin stayed him. “No,” he said. Thor and his hammer could not be risked. Then Tyr, always brave and courageous, stepped forward. Fenris opened his huge jaws and Tyr put his hand in the wolf’s horrible mouth.

The gods bound the whole length of the silken strand tightly around Fenris, and tied the ends together with the best knots they knew. They had a double worry: that the strand would not hold and that Tyr would lose his hand. Fenris thought this himself, and began his struggle to break free, but the harder he tried, the tighter he was bound.

Fenris jumped, stretched, and strained with all his strength but he could not break the strand. Then filled with fury at the trickery of the gods, he foamed at the mouth and bit off Tyr’s hand.

Even Tyr, brave as he was, let out a terrible cry. The goddesses led him away to bind his handless arm.

“Prepare a rock, Thor,” said Odin. “Choose a rock deep-rooted in the earth, and on an island. Bore a hole in it. Take Fenris to the island, thread the strand through the hole, and knot it well. Our lives and the lives of men depend on it.”

So it was that the wolf, Fenris, was bound and made fast to a rock, his jaws spread far apart, foaming and growling until the End of Days.

And that was story of Fenris the Wolf, adapted for Storynory by Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore.

I do hope you enjoyed it. And you might like to know that Charlotte has also written some verses which tell tales from the Old Testament. They are called Rhyming Bible Stories, and they are available from Amazon for Kindle, and will soon in paperback too. They are published by Storynory.

For now, from Elizabeth


What were the names of Loki’s children? Which do you think was the worst, and why?
Do you think the gods were right to trick Fenris?
What motivated Tyr in the story?
What would be the average height of you and your friends if you doubled in size every day?



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Word of the Month


(adj): Sacred, divine, blessed.

Holiday: a holy or festive day; a day off, vacation (also sacred)

Expressions: Holy Cow! Literally true in India.

Ex: Holly Mackerel! Delicious, healthy and full of mercury.

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