Liu

Liu (China)

Why did you search for an online English teacher?

It’s easy to learn local American English face to face.

Why did you choose me as your teacher?

Because you give us many times public English free, so it’s let me know you and trust you can teach well.

What are three important things we have done in class?

Grammar, built structure of sentence , correct some mistakes when I say something in the class.

What is one important thing you have received from my lessons?

Grammar improves

What is something you really like about me or my personality?

Self-confidence, Optimistic

Bogdan

Bogdan (Russia)

Why did you search for an online English teacher?

I needed to practice my English

Why did you choose me as your teacher?

because I saw your video and liked your pronunciation

What are three important things we have done in class?

talking, different tasks and jokes

What is one important thing you have received from my lessons?

cool experience and new skills

What is something you really like about me or my personality?

your great laugh and kindness

Using Time Phrases in the Simple Past

An Amazing Journey

Ten years ago, I first discovered that I liked teaching English. At that time, I had no training, but I enjoyed the students and tried my best to help them. Last year, I started HollyTreeEnglish and this blog. An nine months ago, I began offering public classes on weekends. Yesterday, I created the live events for my first class about motivation for learning English. It has been an amazing journey and I have met some wonderful people. My students are my heroes.

We Need to say When

No, this is not an advertisement. It is another post about using simple past tense. When we talk about the past, we often need to explain how long before now the event happened. Or we need to explain the time period of an action. To do this, there are some phrases that are useful to know. This post will teach you some common ones.

Using Time Phrases in Simple Past

When you studied simple past before, your teacher told you that simple past tense is used for actions that were completed at a specific time. You know that this is not the only time we use past tense. However, it is very common to use simple past for explaining that actions, events, etc happened at a specific time. Here are some useful phrases to know.

1 2 3…. years/months/weeks/days/hours/minutes ago

last year/month/week

the day before yesterday

yesterday

at that time

How do we Use Them?

How Long Ago?

The first group of phrases are used when we want to explain how long before now something happened. This is important for example when we want to say how long ago we started working at a current job. In my case, I explained how long before now I learned that I liked to teach English.

Ten years ago, I first discovered that I liked teaching English.

A Short Time Ago

The second group of phrases is used if we only want to tell someone that something happened in the year, month, week, hour, or minute before the time that we are speaking/writing.

Last year, I started HollyTreeEnglish and this blog.

“Yesterday” and “the day before yesterday” are easy. “Yesterday” is the day before today and a word that you learned in your beginning English class. “The day before yesterday” is the same as “2 days ago.” We can also say things like “the week before last,” and “the month before last.” They mean the same as “2 weeks ago,” and “2 months ago.” Learning these different ways to say things will add variety to your English speech and writing.

Special Phrase, “at That Time”

The phrase “at that time” is used when we already know the specific time. Sometimes we want to say that another event happened near the time of another event. We can also use it when we have already said a specific time. this phrase is used so that we do not repeat the specific time.

Ten years ago, I first discovered that I liked teaching English. At that time, I had no training, but I enjoyed the students and tried my best to help them.

Do you see how the 2 sentences go together? I did not have to repeat the time that I was writing about. i wrote the specific time only once. Learning phrases like “at that time,” and the other phrases in this post are useful for making your meaning clear when you talk about your life and adding variety to your English.

Special Note

A learner asked me if it is necessary to give the specific time of an action in every sentence. The answer is no. It is usually necessary to mention the only once. After this, the listener/reader knows the time, and can remember it when you finish your speech or story.

Your Turn

Yes, it is your turn again. Time to practice what you have learned. Leave a comment to tell me about some things that happened in your past. Use some of these time phrases to tell me when they happened.

Use Adverbs of Frequency to Talk About the Past

Bad Eating Habits

When I was a little girl, I did not often eat healthy food. I never wanted to eat salad. I rarely ate fruit. I usually liked eating my mother’s meat loaf and home-made chicken nuggets, or something delicious like that. I know, I was a bad little girl. But I am better now.

How Often?

Did you notice the words I was using to say how often or how rarely I ate healthy food? This is another useful way to use past tense. In another post, I explained how we can use simple past tense to talk about past habits with “used to.” We can also do this with adverbs of frequency: adverbs that say how often something happens.

Adverbs of Frequency With Simple Past

We need adverbs of frequency when we want to explain that something happens or happened many times, (a frequent happening,” not so many times, (a less frequent happening”, or did not happen. Some common adverbs of frequency are: never, rarely, sometimes, often, usually, always. In this list, the frequency goes from nothing, “never,” to most frequent, “always.” Here are some examples from my story.

I never wanted to eat salad.

I rarely ate fruit.

I usually liked eating my mother’s meat loaf and home-made chicken nuggets, or something delicious like that.

The Same and Different

When we use adverbs of frequency to talk about habits, actions, or happenings in the past, we can use them to talk about things that are not true now, like when we use “used to,.” or we can use them to talk about things that are still true now. For example, it is still true that I rarely want to eat fruit. But I often want to eat salad. the first is the same as before, (still true), and the second is different from before, (not true now). When we talk about something that is still true, we must also use simple past. This is because our focus, the important part of the speech, is that it was true in the past. For example, when I wrote that I rarely ate fruit, I was writing about something that is still true. But I was focusing on the time that I was a little girl. So I had to use simple past tense because I am not a little girl now.

Your Turn

This is not a hard lesson, but it is still important to practice. Leave a comment to tell me about some things that happened in your past. Use adverbs of frequency to tell me how often they happened. Did you eat salad often? Did you always eat fried food? Of course, you can talk about a different topic. But don’t forget your adverbs of frequency.

Use Simple past Tense to Tell a Story

Birthday Fun

On my last birthday, I took the day off from work. My mom took me out for breakfast. Soon after, I went to the electronics store with my dad because he and I like to look at computers and other technology. Then I went to lunch with my sister-in-law. After that, my niece and I went to the pet store because we both love animals. Finally, my whole family ate a big dinner and one of my favorite cakes at my house. It was a wonderful birthday with some of my favorite people. What did you do on your last birthday?

Telling Stories with Past Tense

Why did I write all about my last birthday? Because I wanted to demonstrate another common use of past tense. We often use past tense in English to tell a story. Sometimes, like in my little story, we only use past simple.

Stories are Useful

Stories are a good way to help someone understand how we live. They can help people to understand our cultures, our family life, and many other things. When the stories are about past events, we need the past simple tense to help others understand that the story we are telling is in the past; not the present, not the future, but in the past.

On my last birthday, I took the day off from work.

It was a wonderful birthday with some of my favorite people.

Organizing Stories

Of course, when we tell a story, we need to organize it. Did you notice the words I used to help you understand that my story was moving from one event to the next?

Soon after, I went to the electronics store with my dad because he and I like to look at computers and other technology.

Then I went to lunch with my sister-in-law.

After that, my niece and I went to the pet store because we both love animals.

Finally, my whole family ate a big dinner and one of my favorite cakes at my house.

Using words like “soon after,” “then,” “after that,” “next,” and “finally” helps us to make it clear when our stories move from one moment or action to the next. These words can be used to show movement in present and future tenses too, so learning them is very useful.

Your Turn

Now it is your turn to practice. Write a comment and tell me a story. What did you do on your last birthday? Don’t forget to use past forms of verbs and words to show the movement of your story.

Use Simple Past Tense for Completed Actions

Yesterday’s Actions

I did several things yesterday. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I did some teaching. And my niece and nephew helped me train my dog. But I was a little bit of a bad girl because I didn’t write in my blog. What did you do yesterday?

The Easiest Use of Past Tense

I know you are not reading this blog post to learn about my day. But it is a good demonstration of the easiest and most common way of using simple past tense in English: talking about completed actions. Do you remember the post about past structures? Did you recognize some of them from my story? If not, feel free to pause here and read the post again. Then continue reading this one.

Completed Actions

The biggest reason we need past tense in English is to talk/write about an action that happened in the past. Maybe it is an action you did.

I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I did some teaching.

Maybe it is an action another person/other people did.

And my niece and nephew helped me to train my dog.

Of course, simple past can be used to talk about things that didn’t happen.

But I was a little bit of a bad girl because I didn’t write in my blog.

Finally, we can ask questions about past actions.

What did you do yesterday?

The Rules

If the action is finished, or if you use a past time word/phrase, use simple past tense. It is so easy, right. Something about English has to be easy.

Your Turn

but now it is time for the hard part. You must practice. Leave a comment to tell me what you did yesterday or another time in the past. Did you study English, spend time with your family, go to work?

The Problem of the ED Ending

Pronouncing ED Endings

Have you ever noticed that words that end with ED in English are not always pronounced with Ed? Does your English teacher correct you when you try to pronounce regular verbs in the past tense or past participles? This post will help you to understand how we pronounce words in English that are written with an ED ending.

The Basic Rule: 3 Groups

Look at the present and past forms of these 3 words.

watch watched

lean leaned

note noted

If you use the pronunciation feature of your favorite dictionary website, you will hear that 2 of the words are not pronounced with an ED ending. You will hear that “watched” is pronounced with a T sound at the end, and “leaned” is pronounced with a D sound. In these 2 cases, the E is completely silent. “Noted” is the only word in the group that is pronounced with an ED ending. What does this mean? This means that we can divide words that end with ED into 3 groups: words that are pronounced with a T ending, words that are pronounced with a D ending, and words that have the ED ending. In the first 2 groups, the E is silent.

How do we Know?

How do we know which ending a word has? We know because of the sound that comes before the ending. For example, “watch” ends with a CH sound. If we add ED to a word that ends with CH, we pronounce it with a T at the end. Now I will tell you about the 3 groups of words and how we know which group a word is in.

Group 1: T Ending

The first group is words that are pronounced with a T ending. To know these words, pay attention to the letter before the ending. If the word has a K, P, S, Sh, Ch, or F ending, it is in this group. Here are some example words. They are verbs because verbs are good examples of the rule. You will see the present tense and the past tense. Look at the present tense and think about how it is pronounced. When you pronounce the past tense, add a T sound.

cook cooked

hope hoped

dance danced

wash washed

reach reached

laugh laughed

Were you able to pronounce the endings correctly? If you are not sure, use your favorite dictionary website to check.

Group 2: D Ending

The second group of words is words that have a D ending. If the sound before the ED is: B, G, V, Z, THE, J, M, N, NG, L, R, or a vowel sound, the word will end with a D sound. here are some examples. Try to pronounce them with a D ending.

grab grabbed

brag bragged

live lived

raise raised

bathed bathed

judge judged

aim aimed

plan planned

bang banged

roll rolled

care cared

play played

free freed

die died

show showed

boo booed

This time also, if you are not sure that you pronounced them correctly, check yourself with your favorite dictionary website or with Google Translate.

Group 3: Extra ED Syllable

The third group of words is the words that are pronounced with the ED ending. In these cases, an extra syllable is added when we pronounce the words. This group is the easiest because if the word has a T or a D sound before the ED ending, we pronounce the extra syllable. Here are some familiar examples.

wait waited

hate hated

download downloaded

need needed

Easy, right? Did you pronounce them correctly? Check with a website if you don’t know.

Special Note

There is one special note that I must make. English is a language with many exceptions to its rules. It is true for this rule also. There are a few words that do not follow the rule. they are adjectives and they are pronounced with the ED ending and not a T or a D. Here are 2 common exceptions.

wicked

legged

The second one is sometimes pronounced with the ED ending and sometimes with just the D ending. It depends on the speaker, so you can choose how you want to pronounce it. The first word, “wicked,” is always pronounced with the ED ending.

Why 3 Groups”

I am sure that you want to know why we divide the words into the 3 groups. We do it because we want our tongues to do less work. For example, it is easier for an English speaker to say a D sound after R, because of the movements the tongue must make for the american R. this is also true when we think about the P sound, like in “tap.” When we want to add ED to this word, it is easier for the tongue to make a T sound just after the P: “tapped.” For group 3, the English speaker’s tongue does not have to work very hard to add an ED syllable after a D or T. But if a speaker wanted to follow the other rules, he/she would have to make 2 D sounds or 2 T sounds together. English tongues don’t want to do this. I know, English is a little bit lazy, but it means that you can be a little bit lazy too when you speak English.

Your Turn

Of course, now you have to practice. What verbs can you remember which require an ED ending? Which group are they in? Try to leave a comment with 3 verbs or adjectives with ED and tell me which pronunciation group they are in. Don’t forget to say why you think so.

Talk About Life Changes with “Used to”

Reading Books

I didn’t use to like reading books about business. I used to not enjoy any non-fiction books. I mostly used to read mystery books, and nothing more. I used to live in a small world, didn’t I? Now, I read books about teaching English and about business. And I still read mystery books. What did you use to read? Do you read? different things now?

Explain Life Changes with Past Tense

We all have changes in our lives. We have certain habits when we are young, like staying up really late at night, and those habits sometimes change. When we are older, we sometimes want or need to talk about how our habits, thoughts, and feelings are different now. In English we do this with past simple tense and “used to.” This post will tell you how.

The Structure

If you want to use “used to,” here are the sentence structures.

Positive: subject + used to + base verb + object

Negative 1: subject + didn’t + use to + base verb + object

Negative 2: subject + used to + not + base verb + object

Question 1: did/didn’t + subject + use to + base verb + object

Question 2: question word + did/didn’t + subject + use to + base verb + object

Tag Question 1: subject + used to + base verb + object + didn’t + subject repeated

Tag Question 2: subject + didn’t + use to + base verb + object + did + subject repeated

Usage

These structures are useful if you want to talk about something that was true before, (in the past), and is not true now, (in the present). Or you can use them if you want to talk about something that was true before and is still true now. In my story above, I told you about something that was true about me.

I mostly used to read mystery books, and nothing more.

I didn’t use to like reading books about business.

I used to not enjoy non-fiction books.

You can see that it is possible to use negative and positive sentences to do this. And I used a tag question to confirm that you were thinking that my world was very small then.

I used to live in a small world, didn’t I?

Final Note

Very often, when we write or say sentences with “used to” for talking about the past, we use the present tense afterword for explaining what is different now.

Now, I read books about teaching English and about business.

And I still read mystery books.

Your Turn

You know what I am going to write. It is time for practice. In my story, I asked, “what did you used to read?” Tell me in a comment. Or you can leave a comment to tell me another habit you used to have. Did you use to be very athletic, write poetry, etc?

English Expression of the Week: get Someone’s Goat

The Expression

This week’s expression is “get someone’s goat.” This expression is very useful if someone is annoying or trying to make you angry.

The Meaning

“Get someone’s goat” means that someone is trying to annoy another person, or to make them angry. We can also say this if we want to say that a situation is annoying or angering.

How do we use it

We use this expression in a sentence. It cannot be used by itself as a complete sentence. We must use this expression with a possessive pronoun or with a person. And of course, don’t forget to use the correct tense.

Easy Examples

That really gets my goat. (Very common for this expression.)

Her barking dog really gets my grandma’s goat.

It will really get william’s goat if he can’t buy that car.

Your Turn

Now it is time to practice. What really gets your goat? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

“Get” Means “Move/go Away”

Go Away

When I was a child, I lived on a ranch, a place to raise animals for food. Sometimes I heard my father say, “Go on! Get!” He said, “Go on! Get!” because wild animals sometimes tried to eat the animals my father raised. He wanted the wild animals to go away, so he said, “Go on! Get!” very loudly to scare them.

A Specific Meaning

This story has an example of a very specific use of “get” as a main verb. We can only use this meaning in a specific way and in specific contexts. Keep reading to learn more about it.

“Get” = “Move/go”

Sometimes you have a reason to tell an animal or another person to go or move away from you. Maybe there is a lot of danger. Maybe the animal is wild, like the animals my father had to scare away. In these cases, English speakers will use the command “go on! Get!” Or we might just say “Get!” It just means “move away from here now.”

He wanted the wild animals to go away, so he said, “Go on! Get!” = He wanted the wild animals to go away, so he said, “Go on! Move/go away from here now!”

Special Note

This use of “get” is very informal. Do not tell your boss or colleague to “get!”

Your Turn

this meaning is a little more difficult to practice. But please try. Have you ever told someone or an animal to “get?” Leave a comment below to tell me about the situation. Do you have a command like this in your language? Leave another comment to tell me about how you use it.