Using Apostrophes

How do you use apostrophes? While a common form of punctuation, apostrophes have multiple uses, which makes them hard for even native English speakers to always use correctly. Learn to identify these errors, and make an effort to avoid making them in your own speech and writing. Using Apostrophes to Form Contractions and Show Possession…

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Politeness in American English

Modern American English has few official rules for how politely you should address a given individual in a given situation. In French, Portuguese, and Spanish, for example, a second person singular pronoun takes different forms depending on who you are addressing. This formal/informal pronoun distinction is entirely absent in English, though there are some basic…

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December Quiz

Test your knowledge of some of the tricky pairs and groups of words that are common in the English language. For each sentence, choose the correct word or words from those in brackets. Answers and explanations can be found at the end of the quiz. If you have trouble with any of these words, feel…

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Adjective Clauses Quiz

An adjective clause is a group of words that modifies (describes) a noun or pronoun. These clauses begin with relative pronouns or subordinating conjunctions, such as who, which, what, that, whose, whom, when, and where. Adjective clauses are always dependent. In other words, you can remove an adjective clause without “breaking” the grammar of the…

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More Common English Homophones

This week, we’re going to explain the differences between an additional half dozen sets of English homophones. Recall from our last lesson that homophones are words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and different meanings. The distinction between or among homophones is essentially irrelevant in spoken language but vital in written language.   Ant and…

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Common English Homophones

In this lesson, we’re going to clarity the differences between several homophones found in the English language. Homophones are words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and different meanings. These words represent a challenge for non-native speakers of any language because the distinction between or among them is essentially irrelevant in spoken language. It is…

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Words Whose Meanings Have Changed Over Time

This week, we’re going to look at another five words whose meanings have changed over time. English, like any living language, continues to grow, change, and evolve. New words are created, old words fall out of use, and existing words take on new meanings. Many common English words have very different meanings now than they…

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Introduction to Collocations

Collocations are groups of two or more words that are commonly-used together. These groups of words are largely idiomatic. The “right” and “wrong” words to use in a given collocation have evolved through custom and usage as the English language itself has evolved. Because of this, you should think of collocations as whole units of…

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Nonreversible Word Pairs

Nonreversible word pairs such as trial and error, thick and thin, and give and take are learned through custom and usage. If reversed, these word pairs would sound “wrong” to a native English speaker.

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How to Close an Email or Letter

In this English lesson, we discuss formal, semi-formal, and informal closings in emails and letters. You will learn when to use Sincerely, Cheers, Respectfully, Warm regards, and more.

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