You’ve probably thought about this for a while: why do I need to improve my English?
Maybe you speak English at your job, or your teachers speak English, or maybe people speak English where you live. Maybe you just started studying, or maybe you took classes when you were younger, but now it’s time to get serious.
Why should you improve your English?
* 50+ countries have English as their official or preferred language
* ~1.75 billion people speak English around the world
* English is 1 of the 6 official languages of the United Nations
* 51% of the internet is in English
* English is the preferred medical language throughout the world
* English is increasingly the language of international business
Sadly, there’s no magical way to learn English, or any language. But just like you learned your native language, you can learn English. No matter what your reason is for WHY you want to improve your English, LingoLoop can help you feel good speaking English.
The best way to learn a new language is to practice. Watching videos and listening to music can help, but you can’t stop a video in the middle and ask ‘But WHY did he say “person” and not “people”?’ Having a real tutor available to answer your questions and help you practice is the fastest, easiest, and surest way to improve your English. Once you feel good speaking English with your tutor, communicating with people in your work, your neighborhood, and your life will be so much easier!
In future posts, we’ll be looking at English as it is used by businesses, governments, schools, and people in everyday conversations all around the world. Start improving your English today with LingoLoop, and let us help you feel good speaking English!
We’re returning today to speaking better English with modal verbs!
You’ll remember from our last post that modal verbs can be very powerful tools to help us speak English fluently. They can modify the verbs we use, in effect giving us a dozen or more meanings from just a single verb. For example, each of these three sentences has a totally different meaning, but only one word (the modal) has changed:
I can swim…. (so if our boat sinks, I’ll be ok!) I should swim…. (because I hear it is good exercise.) I might swim…… (because my friends want to go to the beach.) I would swim……. (but it’s too cold, so I’ll just go to the gym instead.)
Last time, we discussed modals of ABILITY – words like “can” and “could” that show that someone has the ability to do something. For example:
You can study English with a native speaker at LingoLoop.
This is an example of something you have the ABILITY to do, just like you CAN brush your teeth, or you CAN read a book.
So what else do modals do?
Modals can show that something MIGHT happen, or MIGHT not. They can let us talk about “Maybe….”. These are called modals of possibility.
The modals of possibility are:
– can – could
– may – might
You’ll notice that we see “can” and “could” again here, just like we did for ability. You’ll be able to see the difference in meaning in each sentence. For example:
I can write your name in English! vs I can come home at 3pm today if you need me to.
In the first sentence, the speaker is writing is saying that they have the ABILITY to write in English. In the second sentence, the speaker is saying that it’s POSSIBLE for them to come home, if necessary.
“Can”, “could”, “may”, and “might” all work in the same way, and you can use them interchangeably. For example:
I might go to the movies tonight.
I may go to the movies tonight.
I could go to the movies tonight.
I can go to the movies tonight.
A note about negatives: “may”and “might” can be made into negative possibilities by adding the particle “not”, so that “I may/might go to the movies tonight, or I may/might not.” However, “can” and “could” are NOT negatives of possibility. Saying “I can not go to the movies” turns “can” back into a modal of ability, so that you don’t have the ability to go to the movies, not just the possibility.
Finally, remember that after modal verbs, all main verbs stay the same.
You will never need to say “She mightgoes“, because “She might go” is already correct. Don’t you love how easy modals are? They make it so much easier to speak English fluently.
Let’s try a few examples:
What are you plans for the evening?
I don’t know, …
a) I might do my homework, but I want to go to the movies.
b) I couldn’t do my homework, but I want to go to the movies.
c) I might does my homework, but I want to go to the movies.
She’s always late for class! What do you think is the problem this time?
a) she may be stuck in traffic, or she cannot be coming.
b) she may be stuck in traffic, or she might not be coming.
c) she may is stuck in traffic, or she might not is coming.
Do you think the teacher will remember that he forgot to give us the exam?
I don’t know, …
a) he could remembers, but I hope not!
b) he might remembers, but I hope not!
c) he may remember, but I hope not!
Your answers should be A, B, and C.
Want to speak better English with modal verbs? You MIGHT choose a LingoLoop tutor to help you! Discover why our students think LingoLoop is the best online English class. Try our FREE TRIAL CLASS to feel good speaking English today.
You use them all the time when speaking English. They pair with other verbs, ask questions, modify statements. They’re “extra” words, “helping” words. They have a name: MODAL VERBS!
Modal verbs are those auxiliary words that we use to modify verbs used for standard actions and they are the key to speaking better English. Verbs like “can”, “should”, “will”, and “might” are very important to communicating accurately. For example, these two sentences are very different.
I swim. -> Maybe they swim every day? Maybe they swim for exercise? Either way, they probably swim often.
I can swim. -> If this person falls out of a boat, they’ll probably be ok. They didn’t go swimming today, though.
“Can” is a modal that belongs to the family of modal verbs that express ABILITY, or things that you can or can’t do. The modals of ability are:
Can / Can’t, Cannot
Could / Couldn’t, Could not
“Can” means that you have the ability to do something now. For example, maybe you “can drive” a car, or you “can cook” a delicious dinner. “Could” is for things that you had the ability to do before, but not now. For example, maybe you “could visit” your grandma every day when you were younger, but then you moved away, so you can’t anymore; or maybe you “could ride” your bike to school when you were a kid, but now the traffic is really horrible and anyway, you have a car.
The wonderful thing about modals is THEY DON’T CHANGE. That’s right! So many verbs in English change when they’re in the “she/he/it” form, and when they’re in a different tense, and when they’re continuous or simple, but modals NEVER change.
You sentence will always be:
“I can run very far, since I run every day for exercise.”
You will never write:
“He cans run very far…” “He can runs very far…” “He can run verys far…” (ok, ok, this one is a bit much, I know)
Place your modal before your main verb, delete any changes you would make to that verb, and you’re done! Let’s try a few examples to practice:
She ___________ very well, she has been studying for years.
a) can writes
b) cans write
c) can write
They love to sing, and they learned music in school, so they _________ beautifully.
a) can sing
b) can sings
c) cans sing
He never learned, so he _________ at home.
a) can cooks
b) can’t cook
c) can cook not
Your answers should be C, A, B. Isn’t it wonderful? No more changing verbs! Now, let’s look at “could” and “couldn’t”, the modal for past ability.
She used to love basketball, but after she broke her knee she ________ anymore.
a) could play
b) couldn’t play
c) couldn’t plays
When I lived in my country, I _________ home to my family’s house every weekend.
a) could go
b) could goes
c) coulds go
Your answers here should be B and A. Nice work!
Want to become a master of modals? You CAN always contact LingoLoop to talk to an experienced tutor who CAN help you practice! Discover why our students think LingoLoop is the best online English class. Try our FREE TRIAL CLASS to feel good speaking English today.
We don’t often hear: “I am going to the store later, but I cannot take you with be because you will need time to do your homework.”
Even when we read it, it sounds like a robot! You’re more likely to hear: “I’m going to the store latter, but I can’t take you because you’ll need time to do your homework.”
How do contractions work? In one of three ways:
Negative contractions are for when we need to use the “no” version of something. The “not” part of the sentence gets pushed together, usually with a helping verb, and we exchange the “o” for an apostrophe [‘]. Negative contractions are words like:
Can not = Can’t
Do/Did not = Don’t/Didn’t
Would not = Wouldn’t
Could not = Couldn’t
Will not = Won’t
Should not = Shouldn’t
Might not = Mightn’t
Even though you see a lot of modal verbs in this list, there is no “may not” contraction: just say “That may not work” and use both words.
2. Be-verb Contractions
You probably heard a be-verb contraction before you even knew what a contraction was! These are very common, and we use them all the time. They give us words like:
I am = I’m
You are = You’re
She/he is = She’s/He’s
We are = We’re
They are = They’re
Be-verb contractions are only used for present tense verbs. There is no “I was = I’s” contraction.
3. Helping verb contractions
Helping verbs like “have” and “will” and modal verbs like “would”, “could”, or “should” can be contracted with their subjects. Be careful though! Sometimes they can look the same, so be sure to read the whole sentence before you decide which verb has been contracted!
I would = I’d
Also: I had = I’d
You have = You’ve
She will = She’ll
Remember that usually* you can only use one contraction per subject. “I have not” does NOT become “I’ven’t“.
* The only exception to this is “would + have”, which can sometimes be contracted in speaking to “She’d’ve”, for example:
She would have gone home, but she was having too much fun! She’d’ve gone home, but she was having too much fun!
Remember, only use this double-contraction in speaking, and try to avoid it in writing!
Have you ever been retelling a story and gotten a little tongue-tied? This happens to native English speakers too! When we are retelling information this is called indirect speech or reported speech. The tricky thing with this is that often in reported speech, the tenses change. To make your speech flawless, you need to know which tenses you need to change when you are retelling information. LingoLoop has the rules for perfect reported speech.
Speak better English (and tell better stories) with these rules for reported speech:
Introduce the initial speaker: “She/He/They said/told me…”
Insert ‘that’. This part is optional. When it is used, it is put in right before the information you are retelling. In the examples below, we have put the ‘that’ in brackets- it is correct to both use it and to leave it out.
Change of tense. The tense which the initial speaker used may change when you are repeating what they said.
Change of pronouns.
Past simple: No change or change to past perfect
“I liked the dishes you brought – even if I seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
>He told me (that) he liked the dishes I brought- even if he seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
> “He said (that) he had liked the dishes I brought, even if he had seemed unable to handle the spiciness”.
Past continuous: Change to past perfect + continuous
“I had been wearing a costume all day, there was no way I was going to another party dressed like that.”
>She said (that) she had been wearing a costume all day, and there was no way she was going to another party dressed like that.
Past perfect: No change
“I hadn’t used my mom’s discount card before, so I needed the assistant’s help”.
>Mark said (that) he hadn’t used his mom’s discount card before, so he needed the assistant’s help.
Present simple: No change or change to past simple
“I love your sweater, I love how you even wear it in summer”.
>She told me (that) she loves my sweater, she loves how I even wear it in summer. I think she was being sarcastic.
>She told me (that) she loved my sweater, she loved how I even wear it in summer. I think she was being sarcastic.
Present continuous: Change to past simple
“I am freezing! Who throws a barbeque in February!”
>She said (that) she was freezing. She wondered who throws a barbecue in February.
Present perfect: Change to past perfect
“I have parked by your apartment, so I hope I don’t get a ticket!”
>He said (that) he had parked by my apartment. I should have told him he would get a ticket.
Future with ‘will’: Change to ‘would’
“I’m so excited for Saturday- I will bring my best hummus.”
>She said (that) she was so excited for Saturday, and (that) she would bring her best hummus.
Future with ‘going to’: Change to ‘was going’ or ‘would’
“I am going to kill him. That bird of his was squawking all night”
Mom said (that) she was going to kill him because his bird had been squawking all night.
Mom said (that) she would kill him because his bird had been squawking all night.
Would: No change
“I would go to your yard sale but I think I am busy that night”.
>Jamie said she would go to our yard sale, but she thinks she is busy that night.
When Asking a Question
When repeating a question that someone asked, we follow the same rules for the changes in tenses. The only changes are:
Change ‘He/she said…’ to ‘He/she asked…’
Replace ‘that’ with ‘if’- for repeating a question in reported speech, we must include the ‘if’:
“Did she eat my cheese fries when I went to the bathroom?”
He asked if you ate his fries when he went to the bathroom- it’s a good thing you left when you did, it was about to get ugly.
Changing tenses in reported speech can be a bit hard to keep track of. If you learn off some of these basic rules off for past, present and future instances of speech, and you will have a flawless grammatical repertoire for the next time you need to retell details! Try a lesson with one of Lingoloop’s expert tutors to practice using these rules to produce perfect reported speech!
The French and English languages have an amazing amount in common- some sources even say up to 45 percent of English words come from French! So as a native French speaker you have a big advantage: you already have half of the lexical database in your head!
One thing that French and English definitely do not have in common is pronunciation. As much as English speakers struggle to perfect the French accent, many French speakers cannot lose theirs when speaking English. There are common errors that we see popping up for native French speakers. Here we’ve put together a list of the most common pronunciation difficulties that French speakers have when speaking English. By identifying these errors you can work to minimize them in your speech.
Losing the last syllable
French speakers often carry over this element of their native pronunciation to English:
They tend to elongate the last syllable of a word, by adding a slight ‘eh’ sound to the ending. Pinpointing this error can be difficult as it is so subtle, but listen for this sound in your speech to spot where it might be slipping in.
To combat this, by focusing on pronouncing the last letter of a word very quickly- not even half a second. Keep this in mind when speaking and you will become more conscious of when you are dragging out words too much.
Omitting the ‘s’ at the end of words
In French the ‘s’ at the end of words is almost always left out – in English it is essential to pronounce this ‘s’ at the end of words, as often it changes the meaning of a noun from singular to plural.
Omitting the ‘h’ at the beginning of words
French speakers often leave out the pronunciation of the ‘h’ letter when it comes at the start of words.
In English when ‘h’ comes at the start of a word, it is almost always pronounced (with the exception of a few word such as ‘hour’ and ‘honest’- we kept the French pronunciation for these.)
Practice perfecting your ‘h’ sound with a simple trick- hold a compact mirror to your mouth, and pronounce the word ‘have’, so that your breath fogs up the glass. Then wind down that exaggeration a little – and you’ve got your ‘h’ in English. Think of this mirror trick when pronouncing words that begin with a ‘h’ to ensure you are making your ‘h’ sound.
In English, the ‘r’ sound is not as emphasized as it is in French . The pronunciation of ‘r’ in English always comes from the middle of the mouth, instead of the back of the throat.
Try practicing words beginning with ‘r’, and with ‘r’ in the middle with your mouth half closed. This will stop you bringing the ‘r’ sound from the back of your throat, and will give you the nice shallow sound perfect for the letter ‘r’ in English.
Zee famous ‘th’
The key for anyone trying to fake a French accent- the conversion of ‘th’ to ‘z’.
In English the ‘th’ sound is very soft, and comes from the tip of the tongue. Try not to engage any part of your tongue except for the very tip when making this sound to make sure you get a soft ‘th’.
These are some of the persistent problems that keep popping for French speakers learning English. By targeting these areas, you will dodge your biggest issues! Practice all of these sounds and more with an expert Lingoloop tutor- try one of our classes today to get your personal pronunciation guide!
We all know the rule about subjects and verbs: S + V = Sentence.
We also know the rules about changing verbs to fit their subjects, like:
– I like that restaurant.
– She likes that restaurant.
– We liked that restaurant.
When we separate the noun from its verb, things can get a bit trickier. This usually happens when you use an adjective clause to describe the noun your verb is attached to. For example:
That’s the man who is giving our exam.
or I am the student that has the highest mark.
The red words show the verb and noun in the adjective clause, but the blue words show the main subjects and verbs for each sentence. They can be easy to miss, because they’re usually small and right at the beginning, but be careful not to mix them up. What you don’t want is:
I am the student that have the highest mark.
It can be really tempting to do this, because we spend so long thinking about “I have” and “he has”, but remember that your verb inside the adjective clause has to be about what the adjective clause is describing, in this case, “student”, not “I”.
Let’s try another example. See if you can find the error.
You are the teacher who _____ music class.
Did you get it right? Remember, the verb “teach” isn’t about “You”, it’s about “teacher”. So, “teacher teaches”.
Here are a few more to try. Remember, always look for noun that is the subject of the adjective clause!
I’m usually the worker who _______ the latest, here.
We are the group that _____ to all the different restaurants together!
My homework is always the one that _____ the most red marks.
You are the student that _____ the exam!
*Remember, past tense is the same!
How did you do? Remember to use the noun that’s the object of the adjective clause, so:
student… passed (Get it? Because it’s past? I think my English jokes are funny!)
Great work! To learn more about how to better utilize adjective clauses, contact LingoLoop today!
Navigating English can be tricky – sometimes we use a lot of words that don’t have much meaning in themselves, but add meaning to something else we are saying.
To complement our speech we use filler words and phrases.
Here we’ll give you the perfect thing to say for those situations when you need a few extra words.
1: When you are stalling for time (At the start of a sentence)
We usually use these when we don’t know exactly what we are going to say, or are apprehensive about what we are going to say. You can buy yourself a few seconds using these.
–Well… This is a good filler to use when you haven’t fully formed your next thought
“Well … I think I could afford it if I cut out lunch for the next two weeks”
–I guess… This can be used when you are a bit apprehensive about what you are about to say
“I guess you could borrow my car… but didn’t you just lose your licence?”
2: Summing up a situation (In the middle or at the start of a sentence)
“He has them for breakfast, for lunch, at work… basically, he’s obsessed with fried tomatoes”
This can also be used at the start of a sentence:
“Why did you cancel your trip?”
“Basically, the whole resort is on lockdown because of the blizzard.”
–Okay, so… This can be used at the start of a sentence as an introduction to a long piece of speech, or retelling a story
“Okay, so, your main jobs are to respond to emails in this account, check and return voicemails, call tech support, reorder kitchen stock, and of course, get coffee, okay?”
4: Fillers in the middle of sentences
This is a very common filler, but use it sparingly – many natives even go overboard with this one!
‘Like’ can be used when you want a minute to pause, or think of your next thought in the middle of a sentence.
“The city is way too busy, like… everyone will be Christmas shopping. Besides, last time we went you, like, almost got lost!”
–Just / Only
‘Just’ and ‘only’ can be used to downplay or to soften the blow of what you are saying
“Can I borrow some money? Just 20 bucks!”
“I can’t believe I got a ticket! I was only over the time limit by an hour!”
‘Even’ is used to emphasize your next word or statement
“It’s so foggy, I can’t even see the street signs!”
“He was drinking all night at our open bar, but he didn’t even bring a wedding gift!”
‘You know’ can be used in the middle of a sentence, to check that the listener relates to and is following what you are saying.
“I want to see the Swedish movie, you know, the one based on that famous book?”
4: Adding fillers to the end of a sentence
–You know what I mean?
This is used to confirm and check if your listener is still following what you’re saying, or to see if they agree with you
“I was just sick of them showing up every weekend with the same pie, you know what I mean?”
‘You know?’ can also be added to the end of a sentence to see if your listener understands you.
“I feel like an amateur at the gym, everyone else seems to know what they are doing, you know?”
This can be used to downplay what you just said…
“Would you ever want to go out with me for dinner or something?”
…or if you are not exactly sure of what you just said
“He works in a bank, managing accounts or something”
Having a range of filler words and phrases will take your fluency to the next level. However, it is important to not overuse them – one or two every 3-4 sentences is enough. We suggest practicing these ‘til they roll off your tongue so they slip seamlessly into your speech!
Let’s be honest, you’re probably pretty good at grammar by now. You know what a verb tense is, you know your singulars from your plurals, you even know what the “passive voice” is. But the other day, you said something that confused your friend.
You: I stopped talking to my teacher yesterday. Your friend: Why? You: What do you mean? I saw him in the hallway, so I stopped talking to him. Your friend: Did he do something bad to you? You: No! I just saw him, so I stopped talking! Your friend: But I thought you liked that teacher! You: I do! That’s why I stopped talking to him! Your friend: That doesn’t make any sense! Why would you stop talking to him if you liked him? Wouldn’t you want to talk to him more? You:… that’s why I stopped to talk to him. Your friend: Oh!
If you had said, “I stopped to talk to my teacher” instead of “I stopped talking to my teacher” you could have avoided this whole mess!
It’s true that GERUNDS – the “ing” forms of verbs that can sometimes signify a noun – and INFINITIVES – the “to” form of a verb, which can also signify a noun – are easy to mix up sometimes. Did you “avoid studying” or “avoid to study”? Did you “stand to see” or “stand seeing”?
If you’re unsure, ask yourself which verb in your sentence CAME FIRST.
Here’s an example. In our situation above about “stop to talk” and “stop talking”, what happened first?
You were walking, THEN you STOPPED, THEN you TALKED. Use the infinitive if your first verb happened first.
“I stopped to talk to my teacher.”
Let’s try another example.
You and your friend get into a fight, and you don’t want to see, hear, or speak to them ever again. They’re so mean sometimes! First, you were talking, but now – after the fight – you STOPPED. So, since your second verb happened first, use the gerund.
“I stopped talking to my friend.”
Let’s try a few more.
Last week, I volunteered _______ at the animal shelter. a) working b) to work
Which one came first, the “volunteered” or “work”? You have to volunteer before you can work, so since our first verb came first, use the infinitive. Your correct answer is (b).
Let’s try another.
I practiced _________ with my LingoLoop tutor today. a) speaking b) to speak
Which one came first, the “practice” or the “speaking”? You have to speak before you can practice it (otherwise you’re not practicing, you’re learning!) so since our second verb came first, use the gerund. Your correct answer is (a).
Are you ready to speak? Would you like to practice speaking? Contact LingoLoop today to find a tutor who can help you navigate those difficult conversations!