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ESL Student Blog
Language points (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciaton) that are worth noticing for ESL students around the world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

ESL Student Blog: Asking Clarification Questions

Learning new vocabulary with a teacher (rather than just looking it up in the dictionary for a translation) has a big advantage – an opportunity to ask questions clarifying the word’s meaning and usage. While sometimes finding a translation can help you understand the new word(s) right away, it’s worth to explore the new words and expressions further, at deeper levels.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask in class to help you understand new vocabulary better:

• What does this word mean?

• What part of speech is it? (noun, adjective, verb, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction)

• What does it go with? What other words does it go with? What does it collocate with? (withdraw money/troops/application)

• How do you spell it?

• How do you pronounce it? How do you pronounce the second word in the fifth line? Which letter is silent?

• If you word is a noun, make sure you know its singular/plural forms (criterion-criteria, goose-geese) and gender differences (host-hostess), if a verb, check the irregular forms (hide-hid-hidden)

• How is _____ different from _____? (how is hear different from listen)

• Is _____ the same as _____? (e.g.: is among the same as between)

• What’s the synonym (the word with same meaning)/antonym of (opposite of) _____?

• What are its family words (words with the same root)? (predict, predictable, unpredictable, prediction)

• Do you use this word/expression in formal or informal situations? (How are you, Ms. Mitchell? vs. What’s up, honey?)

• Can you please give me a sample sentence with this word?

• Sorry, I’m not following you. Could you please explain it again/give additional examples with this word?

Getting answers for the questions above will help you get a better grasp on the English vocabulary. Having said that, always try and come up with ideas of your own with the newly acquired words/expressions to check your understanding. Once you have thought of an appropriate context (situation), ask something within these lines:

Is it okay to say _____? (provide your own example of a phrase or sentence with this word)

POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 11:24 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Friday, August 08, 2008

ESL Student Blog: Confident or Safe?

It probably comes from inaccurate translations from the students’ first languages, but the adjectives “confident” and ‘safe” are often confused in speech and writing.

confident – certain or having trust in something you do or have (e.g.: knowledge, skills, abilities):

confident speaker/negotiator/presenter/ advocate/ answer/ look/ voice/steps

I’m confident I locked the door. (sure, certain, positive)

The dentist was confident that tooth implants were the best choice in my situation. (I could trust his expertise and experience)

He spoke in such a confident voice that I quickly changed my mind. (he made me trust him by the tone of his voice)

safe – protected from danger, unthreatened

safe place/water supply/ toy/procedure/ ride

The streets are not safe to walk after dark.

After her foot surgery Stephanie felt safer moving around with a walker.

It’s safe to keep your valuables in this hotel.
Choose: confident or safe?

(1) Toys with small parts are not _____ for children 3 and under.
(2) The baby made two _____ steps forward and then fell down.
(3) Wear a lifejacket to stay _____on the boat.
(4) She has such a _____ look in this photograph!
(5) The model felt _____about the way she looked in this bathing suit.
Answer Key:

(1) safe (2) confident (3) safe (4) confident (5) confident
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 12:14 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, August 03, 2008

ESL Student Blog: Are Phrasal Verbs and Idioms the Same?

In a sense (in some ways) they are. Both phrasal verbs and idioms are expressions that cannot be understood from their actual words. Their meanings are figurative, that is, knowing each and every word doesn’t help to understand the meaning of the whole expression.
Grammar-wise, tense changes are possible in both phrasal verbs and idioms, e.g.:
work/worked/will work around the clock
take/took/will take off
Yet, idioms are fixed expressions. The order of the words that makes up an idiom is unchangeable. It’s impossible to move the words within an idiom around or change articles, add/drop negation, etc.:
it’s raining cats and dogs”, but not: “it’s raining dogs and cats”
in a split second”, but not: “in the split second”
 “not half bad”, but not “half bad”
The only possible changes that may sometimes be done to idioms (in addition to tense) are gender and number ‘adjustments’ in expressions that have pronouns:
work your way up to the top” can be adjusted to “work my/his/her/their/our way to the top” depending on the person using this idiom.
is full of himself”** can be changed to “is full of herself”, “are full of themselves/ourselves” depending on the speaker(s).
As to the phrasal verbs, they fall into 2 categories: separable and non-separable. Unlike idioms, the particle(s) in separable phrasal verbs can be separated from the verb by an object or/and more words (a clause):
He made the story up.
He made the story that he told everyone up.
Bearing this difference in mind (flexibility vs. inflexibility in word order), it makes sense to distinguish between phrasal verbs and idioms.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 2:20 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment


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