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April’s Fool Day

In the United States and Europe, April 1 is called April Fool’s Day or All Fool’s Day. Nobody really knows the origins of April Fool’s Day. Differently from Brazil, on April Fool’s Day, people don’t usually tell lies, they prefer to play pranks and practical jokes. On this day, people are on the look out for a […]

A vitória do “Basic English”

Quando a gente começa a aprender inglês, às vezes vêm aqueles sentimentos conflitantes – de animação e de frustração. De animação por que subitamente você começa a se comunicar em outra língua; onde antes não havia nada, agora há muito. De repente você começa a reconhecer palavras, entende uma fala aqui e ali nos filmes, […]

When an ‘a-‘ is not an opposite

It was a winding path that led me to teaching the English language, which started with an interest in the development of language. I think you can appreciate language more when you have an idea of where it comes from, what has influenced it and how it has changed over its history. There is an […]

Pronunciation Tip #1

After listening to many of my students mispronounce the “Th” sound in words like “Think,” “Thought,” “Through,” “Thigh,” “Thief,” and “Theft,” as if it were an “S” sound, I kept thinking about a way to improve their pronunciation and reduce the misunderstandings caused by such mispronunciation. Thinking about the “Th” sound goes beyond we, Brazilian Engish […]

Improve your Listening Skills and Have Fun

Everyone loves music, everyone has a favorite song or artist. Lyrics Training is  a website  where you can improve you language skills in a fun and enjoyable way:  by listening to your  favorite songs! The website offers not only the song and its music clip, but also the lyrics with  gaps to be  filled in. You can choose […]

What kind of movies do you like?

Hello, dear reader, In this post, I propose we talk about vocabulary that is commonly used in English to talk about movies. Many are the words used to describe how we feel about a movie, how it was made, the kind of movie it is, etc. Without further ado, let me jump right in and […]

Numbers vs Periods & Hyphens

Hi, dear reader, The title of this post might sound puzzledly mathematical, but its content does not require prior knowledge of advanced calculations. In English, periods and hyphens are frequently used when numbers need to be set to paper: Periods:  Periods are used to separate the number from its decimal ($ 3.35) . This period […]

Confusing verbs: Been or Gone?

Hi, dear reader, Two verb forms that are often confused is been and gone. They are the past participle of the verbs be and go.  I ask you, what’s the difference between,  he’s gone to Africa and he’s been to Africa? Well, use gone when someone visits a place but has not come home yet. “Michael can’t come […]

Confusing words: all together vs altogether / aid vs aide

Hello, dear reader, Here are two pairs of words that are often confused. What is the difference between altogether X all together and aid X aide ? Well, they are really different: Altogether  is an adverb that means completely, totally. “His latest business plan for the second trimester is an altogether new approach to our deficit problem. All together means […]

Colorful Words – Housing

There’s a natural tendency in all of us to keep things the way they are. However, when it comes to writing, vocabulary is a valuable tool to make your piece stand out. We tend to stick to common words, such as house, and not pay attention to the several types of housing there are.Instead of […]

Confusing verbs: Borrow vs Lend?

Hi, Many are the verbs in English out there that confuse the eager language learner. As a fellow blogger of mine in these pages have already introduced you to lay/lie and raise/rise, I thought I could give my contribution so that you avoid the common pitfalls every student tends to fall into. Borrow vs Lend […]

Confusing Verbs: Lay or Lie?

Another pair of confusable verbs is lay and lie. Lay is a transitive verb, so it’s used with a direct object. For instance, “as the kids arrive, they lay their backpacks next to the window.” Their backpacks is the object of the verb lay. Its past is laid and so is its past participle form. […]

Confusing Verbs: Raise or Rise?

Students usually confuse the verbs raise and rise. Raise is a transitive verb, so it needs a complement. For example, “she raised her hand to ask the teacher to go to the bathroom.” Her hand is the complement. In the sentence, “Manchester Evening News raised more than one million pounds after fire destroyed dogs’ home” (Sept 15,2014 ), more than one […]

Seven Basic Steps For Writing a Good Essay

    First of all, choose a topic you feel like writing about and brainstorm on it. What do you know about the subject you have chosen and its relevance to your audience? Make sure your choice is related to a subject which you are familiar with. The more you know about your topic, the […]

Separation: A Tough Thing To Do

Hello, dear readers, Students often ask me, “Teacher, how do I separate a word in English?” If you speak Portuguese, you probably separate a word based on the letters this word has; however, in English we do it differently. The syllables and not the letters are more important for you to learn to separate properly. […]

Teens vs Adults in English Pronunciation

I’d like to start my participation in this blog by approaching a very interesting topic related to pronunciation. More specifically, to the difference between adults’ and teens’ pronunciation in English. Many adult students of mine have complained that their teen children “don’t study at all, but have awesome English pronunciation.” They also add that they […]

“Homework” or “Homeworks”?

Unlike its Portuguese equivalent, “homework” is always uncontable in English. I know that you don’t feel like it’s uncountable, considering the amount of activities your teacher may assign to you! But, seriously, the word “homework” should always be used in the singular. Look at these examples: 1) My teacher always assigns too much homework over […]

“Advice” or “Advices”

Another very common mistake among students is to say “*advices” instead of “advice“. In English, “advice” is an uncountable word, so it is always used in the singular form. But how to quantify it? You can do this: 1) Let me just give you a little piece of advice: study hard! 2) My mom has […]

Are you rich or wealthy?

When we say that a person is rich, we mean that he/she has material possessions and money. “Wealthy” means the same thing, but the word is less common than rich. So, we can say “My uncle is rich” or “My uncle is wealthy” with no change in meaning. Now, “a rich meal”, for example, implies […]

Expressions with the word “finger”

Hello, dear reader, Some time ago I posted an entry to our blog about the names of the fingers in one’s  hand in English. Today I’d like to show you how the word “finger” is used idiomatically. There are, obviously, many idiomatic expressions that use the word finger, but I’ll show you the ones I think […]

Cleft sentences

“Cleft sentences” is a very elegant term to a very simple structure in English. In fact, ‘cleft sentences‘ are a way to give emphasis to something we want to talk about, or to correct a piece of information. Examples: 1) Normal sentence, withouth ‘clefting’: I love teaching because I get to know different people every semester. […]

Pronunciation in English – The Web Can Help You

As you, dear reader, have realized by now, pronunciation in English is always a challenge. You never really know how a word should be pronounced unless you either check it in a dictionary or hear someone say it correctly. In English, the spelling and the pronunciation of a word are so at odds with each […]

Uses of ‘still’

“Be still my heart, my heart be still” “To remind you how I still love you, I still love you” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 18: Foes step forward in preview and stills”   As you may have noticed, the links above all contain the word ‘still’ in some form. You have probably guessed that […]

“Wasn’t” and “Didn’t” Don’t Go Together

In the post you´ll learn how to use the auxiliary verbs “Was” and “Did” in the negative form. You´ll also see them in context to realize that they never go together in a sentence.

Education – How to Use this Word?

The word “educação” in Portuguese can refer to a person’s formal instruction, as in “educação básica; educação superior; sistema de educação”, etc. It can also refer to good manners, etiquette and social rules related to behavior. For example, ‘ele é bem educado'; ‘isto é uma questão de educação’, etc. In English, the corresponding words would […]

Confusing Words in English – Especially & Specially

Students are generally in doubt how they should use the words especially and specially. In this post, learn once and for all which word is the correct one depending on the context of the sentence.

Past Participle in a Nutshell

Some English learners struggle to use the verb tenses correctly. In this post, we will explore the use of the past participle in the present perfect and the past perfect.

Expressions with “Face”

Nowadays it’s very common to hear Brazilian people saying “face” to designate Facebook. However, this post has nothing to do with that “face”!

Here are some common expressions with the word “face” that might interest you.

Idiomatic fruits

We all know idioms are widely used in English. All types of words can be part of an idiom, and a special group is the one about fruits. Apples, pears, bananas, peaches, cherries, etc. They can all be used idiomatically. For this post, I have selected the most common so that if you ever come […]

It ain’t that, ain’t it?

You probably have across ain’t either while reading, listening to a song, or even watching a movie. Ain’t is not really what you could call proper English, so it should never be used for academic writing; however, it is commonly used either in American or British English. But what is ain’t exactly and how is […]

Sport Metaphors III

How are you guys doing? Great I hope. So, going back to our topic of sports metaphors, I’m going to talk about some that are connect to another of American’s greatest passion: Baseball.

Syndicate x Trade Union

These two words have the same meaning in Portuguese (sindicato), but there is a difference in usage between them in English.

Which Word? Some time x Sometimes

This is a very simple topic: when to use ‘some time‘ and ‘sometimes’. Some time means ‘one day’, ‘one occasion’ that is not very clear when it’s going to happen in the future. There in no idea of repetition involved. Examples: 1) Let’s have dinner together some time next week. 2) We could travel some time […]

Children’s Games – From the Past?

With the weekend approaching, it seemed a good idea to write about some games or activities children like to play or do (when they’re not hooked to their iPads or iPhones!) Maybe some of these activities were more common when you were younger, so here’s a chance to go back in time for a while. […]

Sport Metaphors II

Hello everybody.On my last post I talked to you about a few sport metaphors that are commonly used. Also they were quite general, referring to more than one sport activity. This time I want to address those that are related to American football. So, let’s start with my favorite one which is Monday morning quarterbacking. […]

I Worked There for One “Ear”

You must now be thinking I’ve gone mad, or that this post is about body parts. Relax, I want to talk about pronunciation. English language learners often have problems to say the words ear and year correctly. They are pronounced differently. Year needs to have a /y/ sound at the beginning such as when we say the words yellow or young. Ear does […]

Eat Your Way to Learning English: Pesto

Learning a language can be a daunting task, but it can also be a lot of fun! On this post, I invite you to learn English and learn how to make two delicious recipes to wow your family and friends.

Sport Metaphors I

Just the other day I was talking to a couple of friends when I realized how many sport metaphors we use during conversation. Actually, to be more accurate we use a lot of soccer analogies. And then it dawned on me to talk about that. You see, contrary to Brazil where the world of sports […]

What are the names of the fingers?

I bet you have never thought of that. In Portuguese we have names for the fingers of a hand (mindinho, seu vizinho, pai de todos, etc). Likewise, fingers also have specific names in English. From your thumb (the one we put up to signal OK) to your smallest finger, they are: Thumb / Index finger […]

Animals and the Pronoun “it”

I am animal lover, more specifically, I am a dog lover. The fact that I have three is a clear sign that they play an important role in my life. One day, during a class, I used the personal pronoun “she” to refer to one of my dogs, and one of my students gave me an inquisitive […]

The Oscar: How do You Say It?

The Oscar nominations have always generated quite a buzz in the media; however, the 2014 list of nominees has caught my attention for something other than the great performances given by the actors. The name of one of the nominees is so different that frankly I didn’t even know how to try to pronounce it! I am talking about British actor, […]

Saying Dates in English

It is surprising when an advanced student still hesitates when saying dates in English. We assume that dates are learnt/taught in the basic level, so it is strange to notice this difficulty in an advanced student.   Here are some of the difficulties I have observed among my students:   1) Wrong pronunciation.   We […]

Review: Will vs Going to

Hi, dear reader, As the year is coming to an end, I think it’s high time we reviewed some of the basics about English grammar. First, I would like to talk a little about the differences between using will and going to when talking about the future. Basically, what you should know is: Use will when you want […]

Separating Syllables in English

There is a rule of gold in English: “never separate words”. If it is absolutelly necessary, try to separate the words into syllables, but observe the following rules: 1) Avoid leaving one or two letters alone in the following line. Ex.: fath- er. 2) Avoid separating suffixes like -able; -ible; -cial; -tial; -tion; -tious, etc. […]

It’s Christmas Time

Is it too soon to talk about Christmas? I hope not! Christmas time (or Christmastime) refers to the holiday season that goes from Christmas Day (December 25) until January 6th. So, to get into the mood of Christmas time, how about getting to know some vocabulary related to it? Árvore de Natal: Christmas tree (remember […]

Which word is correct: soda, pop, or coke?

What’s the general term that Americans use for a carbonated drink such as Coca Cola? Is it soda, pop, or coke? What do Americans call a rubber sole shoe worn in a gym class? Sneakers, gym shoes, or tennis shoes? The answer would really depend on geographic location: all of these words are widely used […]

Grammar Tip: “me and my friend”

I always come across sentences like “me and my friend went out yesterday”, “me and my family traveled to the USA last year” and so on. So, just for clarity, this way of phrasing is OK if you’re in an informal context, like in spoken English. But, in a formal environment, like in a composition or test, […]

Never Fail a Test Again!

Do you have a test coming up and need to study some concepts, words, or ideas? Are you traveling and need to learn some expressions to get by? Nowadays, we can use our gadgets to help us learn on the go. Organize a set of flashcard on your device and get ready to learn in […]

Don’t Forget “it”

Have you noticed how we, Brazilians, like to omit “it”? Take a look at these common mistakes: *Rains a lot in Manaus. The correct is: “It rains a lot in Manaus.” A: “Why didn’t you like the party?” B: “*Because was boring. The correct is “Because it was boring.”   A: “How was your weekend?” […]

How Do You Spell It?

Many words are  misspelled in English, but why do English learners make these mistakes, and how to avoid them? First, many words do not follow familiar spelling rules, and they can`t be spelled phonetically. The most commonly misspelled words can trouble even experienced writers, and the best thing is to learn from the mistakes we make […]

What is “TGIF”??

The most celebrated day of the week is probably Friday: it is the end of the working week, when people are finally free to catch a movie, go out with their friends, or get some well-deserved rest. The popularity of this weekday gave rise to an interesting expression: TGIF, which stands for “Thank God it’s […]

“Too” and “neither”

A: I like Linkin’ Park a lot! B: Me too!   Who has never used “me, too”? It’s quite easy for us to know what it means and to use it comfortably. But, what happens if the person says: A: I don’t like pineapple at all. Do you say “me too”? No…actually you have to […]

“So” and “neither”

The usage of “so” and “neither” is not that hard, but it’s a bit tricky because we need to know the auxiliaries well and it involves inversion of words. Let’s take a look at each example – I guess it’s easier to understand this way. Examples with “so”: 1) A: I think U2 is still […]

“ill” and “sick”

This is another pair of words that cause confusion. Both of them mean “bad health”, but there’s a difference in usage. 1) Sick – meaning ‘vomit’. Examples: I feel sick. Where’s the bathroom? I don’t like traveling by boat because I feel sea-sick. He was sick three times in the night. 2) Sick – meaning […]

“comic” or “comical”?

There are some adjectives in English that have different meanings when they end in ‘-ic’ and in ‘-ical’. Let’s look at some of them. Comic x comical ‘comic’ means ‘artistic comedy’. Examples: comic verse; comic opera ‘comical’ means ‘funny’ (though it’s not a very modern word). Examples: a comical expression; his attempt to beat that […]

Policy and politics

In Portuguese, we just have one word to mean “política”, but it English there are two, and their meanings are different. Policy (plural: policies) is a set of rules of behavior or practices, or an approach concerning a subject. For example, if you work at a company, this company has a set of rules that […]

Pronunciation – A Collection of English Accents

The Speech Accent Archive is a collection of a variety of English accents – both native and nonnative. The usefulness of this collection lies in the possibility of comparing and contrasting how English speakers pronounce things differently depending on their geographical area. Although the website might look a bit technical at first, especially because they […]

Remember and Remind

The words “remember” and “remind” are a bit similar in meaning: they imply “not forgetting”. The difference lies in the usage of each one. So, let’s take a look at some examples. 1) Remember: transitive verb; you remember something or somebody. a) Do you remember John? He used to be my neighbor when I was […]

Do you speak English or American?

It is often said that the United States and England are two countries divided by a common language. Although for the most part the two varieties are mutually intelligible, there are a lot of differences between the two, especially as regards to pronunciation. In this video, you can explore some of these pronunciation differences.   […]

malapropism. Mala…what?

Have you ever heard of malapropism? This strange word defines what happens when somebody uses a certain word instead of another. The words in question usually sound similar, but have different meanings. This lapse can be intentional, especially in humorous contexts (TV shows or in jokes), or they can be unintentional. When it’s unintentional, the […]

English Expressions with Nerve

Who generally gets on your nerves? Expressions are an important part of any language. Learners need to be aware of them, learn and keep practicing their use in context. We´ve prepared this poster to help you with expressions related to nerve. Watch out because some expressions use nerve and others take nerves.

Improve your Vocabulary – “Bear” Expressions

You probably know the word “bear“, right? That cute big animal that most people love! Well, did you know that are some expressions with the word bear with lots of different meanings? Let’s take a look at some of them. 1) Bear in mind This means “to remember”, “to think about”. Examples: Don’t lose your […]

Brazil News — in English!

Everyone knows that exposure plays a central role in the learning of a foreign language. And thanks to the Internet, access to authentic materials and resources in English is at the click of a mouse. However, the seemingly unlimited number of resources can be very intimidating at times! Besides, it can be difficult to know […]

Cognates – When Looks Are Not Deceiving

There are words in English that look like words in our mother tongue, but mean something totally different. If we take the word actually  as an example, we notice that it looks like the word “atualmente” in Portuguese, but in English it does not have this meaning; These words are called false cognates and we […]

Pronunciation Tip – “ss” pronounced as “z”?

Don’t feel embarrassed if you have also mispronounced words like ‘possessive’ or ‘possess’ at least once in your life. I believe everyone has done that! The fact is that the words ‘possessive‘ and ‘possess‘ are pronounced like ‘pozessive’ and ‘pozess’. Click on the words to listen to their pronunciation. But, we, Brazilians, tend to think […]

English Practice – Idioms with Body Parts II

I know this was supposed to be an idiom post with a topic other than body parts, but I kind of left some pretty common ones out from the last post. Therefore I am adding them here if you guys don’t mind.So, let’s start with hand full. It seems quite self-explanatory, doesn’t it?! And it […]

English Practice – Idioms with Body Parts

As you guys can see this is a follow up post to the ‘color idioms’ one. And this time I thought it would be interesting to talk about body idioms. Specially because some of them can be quite common. For instance, you can be talking about some polemic topic with a friend and the both […]

How do you say “concurso” in English?

 This week I was watching TV when I saw an ad for a new Brazilian movie that has just come out: “O Concurso.” I haven’t watched this movie (not yet, anyway!), so this is not a review. I’m just mentioning the movie because it got me thinking about a very common mistake Brazilian students make […]

Forget “have”!

One of the most recurring mistakes among Brazilian learners of English is to use “have” when they want to express the idea of “exist”. And, believe me, it’s a mistake that can kill your English! So, let’s just remember: we use “there +be” for this. Let’s take a look at these sentences. The first ones […]

Difference between “it’s” and “its”

The difference between “it’s” and “its” is really simple. Take a look: 1) It’s  “it’s” = “it is” or “it has”. See the examples below: a) It’s getting late. (It is getting late.) b) Oh, it’s so beautiful here! (It is so beautiful here.) c) It’s been so hot lately that everybody is already dreaming […]

The Difference between Do and Make

Many students have a hard time using make and do correctly , and it`s not  complicated if we understand the basic difference and also understand a little about collocation.Many of my Brazilian English students get confused because in Portuguese, both verbs can be translated as “fazer”. In Brazil, we usually say “fazer um favor”. So, […]

Learn Words about Soccer

Even though there has been many protests on the streets in Brazil, they are not necessarily  against our beloved national sport. We love soccer, and this post is meant to help learners talk about our most popular sport. In English, there are many specific words one should learn to be able to talk about soccer […]

There to Be X Have – The Difference

I usually hear the question “Have homework today?” many, many times. All teachers do, and it sounds really bad because it is incorrect, but what`s wrong with it? Why do English learners make this mistake over and over? In English, we do not start a sentence with the verb have when we mean exist. We have […]

Present Perfect

The present perfect is the verb tense that puzzles us Portuguese speakers the most, due to the fact that we have no equivalency in our language. It is usually at this point that I tell my students that we have reached the point where the languages divorce each other; and that they have to forsaken […]

Multitasking to Boost Learning

Are you a busy person who has to work a lot and does not find time to practice your English? Are you? Well, I happen to understand what you are going through. I have been trying to learn Hebrew, but I just cannot find the time to devote to studying. I am motivated, but I […]

What is “AIN´T”?

Casa Thomas Jefferson´s Teacher Magda, in her post about the contraction “ain´t”, mentions that the contraction is not generally found in any textbook. “Ain´t” is very informal and typically spoken on the streets. So, here´s Magda´s tips about it: Ain´t can mean “doesn’t” in the following case:  She ain’t no brothers or sisters. = She doesn’t have […]

False Cognates – When Looks Are Deceiving

Do you know that even though some words in English sound like familiar ones in Portuguese, they mean something totally different? That`s right! They are called false cognates, or false friends. Unlike our beloved friends, they are not trustworthy and many of them can lead us to misunderstandings. As a teacher, I can remember some […]

Learn Phrasal Verbs with Look
The Phrasal Verb Machine

What is a phrasal verb?  It is a combination of verb and one or more adverbial or prepositional particles functioning as a single semantic unit and often having an idiomatic meaning that could not be predicted from the meaning of the individual parts. And that’s what you’ll find if you look it up on the […]

TED Talks

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences put together to show “ideas worth spreading.”  TED talks are available online and they offer  the chance to listen to short talks delivered by inspiring speakers about many different topics. It’s a weekend ritual: I sit on my couch and watch a TED talk , […]

Vocabulary Learning Strategies

Learning how to sound natural in a second language is very important and here goes a few tips that might help you learn words, expressions and idioms to enrich your vocabulary range. 1. Notice, be curious when you are listening to music, people or movies. 2. Try to make the piece of vocabulary come alive. […]

13 Reasons Why

  Have you read this book? If you haven’t, it is possibly because you haven’t heard about it. Well, ’13 Reasons Why’ is the debut novel of author Jay Asher. In this work of fiction he tells the story of the school boy Clay Jensen who arrives home and finds a shoebox-sized package by the […]

Practicing English With CTJ Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual bookmarking platform. You can check your favorite links and resources on the move, from your work computer to your cellphone (it has app for both iOS and Android). Though it has become really popular due to its visual appeal and its usefulness, not many people are aware of its potential for […]