To Shop, or Shopping? Telling the difference between paired Gerunds and Infinitives


So do you or do you not like your teacher?

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?

First I walked. Then I stopped. Then I talked.

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.

We talked. Then we stopped. She can be so difficult sometimes!

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!

5 Things You Didn’t Know about the TOEFL

If you’ve ever applied to a university in the US, you know what they ask for after your transcripts and application fee – TOEFL scores.  This English language exam is recognized as an academic benchmark for understanding, and if you’ve taken the TOEFL before, you know why.  With all four language skills tested, and about four hours of testing time, you’re in for a hard day’s academic work.

You probably already know the basics – the four parts of the TOEFL exam, the difference between an independent and integrated speaking or writing task, how many lectures you’ll hear on the listening section.  But there are a few things that even the most seasoned test-taker might not know about this infamous test.


What does “22” even mean, anyway?

1. Your score is not your score!

In the TOEFL speaking section, the scores you receive are from 1-30, but that’s not how your individual responses are scored.  A TOEFL scorer gives each of your responses a grade from 0-4, and from those six responses your grades are averaged, then converted into a 1-30 score.  So, when you’re answering the questions on the speaking section, don’t be thinking “What does a 30 look like? a 27? a 19?”  Instead, think, “How can I get a 4/4 on this answer?”.  That’s a lot easier!

What do you think of this answer? What about this one?

2. LOTS of people are going to look at your test.

After you finish your exam, your answers get sent back to ETS (the company that writes and runs the TOEFL exam) and they break your exam up into its 4 parts.  The reading and listening sections, which are multiple choice, are graded by computer – but the writing and speaking sections require actual humans to assess and score them.  Enter, the TOEFL SCORER!  These are English teachers, university professors, retired instructors, and educational aides working with ETS to help award scores to exam responses.  Usually, to ensure accuracy, more than one person will score each of your responses on the writing and speaking sections.  If you receive several different scores, then even more scorers will grade your answers, to make sure that you get a correct assessment of your abilities.

Don’t worry, your name isn’t attached to any of your exam materials.  When your exam is sent to ETS, that file and each answer in it is assigned a number, so no one knows which answers belong to which exam.  Once the scores are entered, the system converts them back and assigns them to your exam file, which has your name.

Don’t worry, there’s always next time!

3. This is not the end.

You can take the TOEFL many times, and there is no limit on how many.  The only rule is that you won’t be allowed to retake the test within 12 days of your previous exam.  There are usually several different test centers to choose from in one city, and so long as you leave yourself time to recover from the exam, and the required two weeks, you can schedule another exam date whenever you like.

It is even recommended – by both ETS and LingoLoop! – that you take the exam at least twice.  The first time lets you become familiar with the test, and the second time lets you really show what you know.

But I’ve been teaching English for years!

4.  Sometimes, even native speakers don’t get perfect scores!

The TOEFL is meant to gauge how well you’ll do at an English-speaking University.  An English teacher might get a perfect score the first time they take the TOEFL, but a regular English-speaking dentist, for example, might not.  You need to be familiar with the TOEFL layout as well as the language to score highly.

For example, on the speaking sections, you’re sometimes required to give your opinion on something, sometimes you’re only expected to remember details from a lecture that you listen to.  Losing concentration or forgetting to give your opinion can really affect your score.

Check out LingoLoop’s TOEFL Speaking course for help getting familiar with the TOEFL speaking section, to learn how you can avoid these simple mistakes!

Do you think I could borrow your extra hand for my exam?

5.  Speaking English isn’t the only thing you need to know!

Using a QWERTY keyboard, being comfortable wearing a headset and speaking into a microphone, taking good notes – all of these are important parts of a successful TOEFL grade.  From there, being familiar with the format of each section of the test, and how to create great answers to each question, are even more important!




Contact LingoLoop today to learn how you can learn how to conquer the TOEFL Speaking section, and make your next exam a breeze.


“Hopes” and “Wishes” for the New Year!

Happy New Year!

Have you made any resolutions yet?  Is there anything that you’d really like to do in 2018?

You could start a new job!
You could get healthy!
You could learn a new language (like English)!

We often use the words “hope” and “wish” to talk about things we would like to do or see happen.  They’re very similar, but the way we use them can change their meaning.


“Hope” is a word that we use to describe something we want very much, and we think is possible. Hopes are REAL. The grammar is the same for the time that each hope is in. For example…

A hope in the present is in the present tense.
“I hope that I pass this test. I studied really hard!”

A hope for the future is in either the present or future tense.
“I hope that they will have cake at the party.”
“I hope that there is cake at the party.”

A hope from the past is in the past tense.
“I hope that his plane arrived on time, the weather was really bad.”

So to recap:
hopes in the present are present tense
hopes in the future are future OR present tense,
and hopes about the past are past tense.


“Wish” is a little more complicated.  Wishes are usually about things that we want, but we’re either not sure they’ll happen or we’re sure they won’t.  Wishes are UNREAL.  The grammar of “wish” reflects this, so “wish” kind of works like a conditional.

A wish for the present uses the past tense, like an unreal conditional.
“I wish I studied more, I never feel prepared for exams.”
(They didn’t study, and now they’re regretting it!)

A wish for the future uses the word “would”, like a second conditional.
“I wish he would quit smoking, he smells terrible.”
(We know he’s not going to quit smoking, but we want him to anyway.)

A wish about the past uses the past perfect, or a past-tense modal verb.
“I wish the teacher had spent more time on conditionals, I still don’t understand them.”
(The teacher didn’t spend a lot of time on conditionals, but we wanted them to.)

So to recap…
wishes in the present use past tense,
wishes in the future use “would”,
and wishes about the past are past perfect.


Let’s try some examples.  It’s almost 2018, and…

“I hope I learn more English this year!”
“I wish I learned English this year!”

It’s your choice, real or unreal?  “Hope” or “wish”?  You decide!  Contact LingoLoop today and turn your wishes into hopes!



How to Write a Basic Email in English


Ready to dazzle with your English email skills?


Here’s an example of the main components necessary to write an email in English! The most important things to keep in mind when writing an email in English are:

-Keep a clear format

-Keep the tone polite and professional

-Avoid unnecessary information


Subject line

This should make it obvious to the receiver what the email is about.

RE: Request for brochure to place new order



Dear Sir/Ma’am,    (Formal greeting: if you don’t know the receiver’s name)

Dear Ms Baker       (Formal greeting: if you know the receiver’s name)


Hi Alex,    (Informal greetings: suitable for someone you already know)

Hello Alex,    


First item

Introduce yourself if necessary.

My name is Jenna Stevens, manager at Brown’s Bakery.


We bake bilingually


Second item

State your reason for emailing.

I’m emailing to request a brochure of your products available this winter.


Emailing in English will be easy as pie!


Third item

Main message: Explain your reason for emailing, giving necessary details. Do not write too much. Emails should only contain necessary information.

We are hoping to create a new line of breakfast options at Brown’s Bakery and we would like you to be our main supplier for our base ingredients. We will have a order drawn up by Monday 11/27, and we hope to launch our new menu on Friday 12/15.


Fourth item

Any additional information such as contact details.

Our hours of operation are Mon-Fri  7am-5pm. You can contact our business at 775 986-7767.


And now for the icing on the cake…


Signing off

Best regards,   (Formal sign off)

All the best,    (Less formal sign off options)


Spanish Speakers Learning English: Common Pronunciation Errors

Spanish speakers!

Can you tell the difference between reading ‘I’m starving’ and ‘I’m ehstarving?’

What if you were to hear it? Do you think you could you tell the difference then?

This is a pronunciation error that repeatedly comes up for Spanish speakers learning English.

It’s hard to consistently use letters in English differently than how you’ve been using them your whole life in Spanishand it’s nearly impossible when you can’t pinpoint these errors.

Below we outline some common mistakes for Spanish speakers, from Madrid to Monterrey, and tips on how to smooth out your speech.

Words Beginning With ‘S’:

‘I am from Spain’ vs ‘I am from Ehspain’ ; ‘I’m starving’ vs ‘I’m ehstarving’

Cause of error: As many words in Spanish begin with ‘es’, Spanish speakers sometimes unconsciously use the ‘eh’ sound before English words beginning with ‘s’ .

Helpful tip:

  1. Practice saying words beginning with ‘s’ by emphasising the ‘sss’ sound.
  2. Practice running the previous word into the ‘s’ word: ‘I’mssstarving’- Leave no room to come up for air in between the two words.
  3. With practice, you can shorten this ‘sss’ sound until it sounds natural.
Who’s up for sssoup, sssteak and sssorbet?!


The ‘Y’ Sound

‘I was there last year’ vs ‘I was there last jear’

Cause of error: Transferring from some dialects of the Latin American Spanish ‘y’ sound (also the English ‘j’ sound), to the English ‘y’ sound.

Helpful tip: Remember ‘y’ in English is a soft sound, made primarily using your lips.

Compare this to the ‘y’ sound in Latin American Spanish (Example: ‘Yo’) here it is a sound made primarily with your tongue.

Mountain Fountain

‘I love the mountay-ns’ vs ‘I love the mountains’, ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountay-n’ vs ‘Let’s get a drink at the fountain’

Cause of error: This is a tricky one English pronunciation loves to twist and turn: some words in English have ‘silent vowels’. These are vowels and vowel combinations that don’t necessarily follow regular pronunciation rules. This is a very common error for Spanish speakers, as in Spanish nearly every letter is always pronounced.

Helpful tip: Words like ‘mountain’ and ‘fountain’ are pronounced more like ‘moun-tin’ ’ , and ‘foun-tin’

We do not pronounce the ‘a’, nor over pronounce the ‘i’. It’s a soft vowel sound.

But English loves to confuse: There are many other words ending with ‘ain’ (abstain, pain, refrain) which do not follow this soft vowel rule: which need full pronunciation of all vowels.


Heavy horses

“Does my ‘h’ sound stand out?”

Cause of error: Over-pronunciation of the ‘h’: Directly transferring the ‘j: jota’ sound from Spanish to the ‘h’ sound in English.

Helpful tip: The ‘h’ in English is often very soft. Instead of the ‘h’ sound coming all the way from the back of your throat, concentrate on the sound coming from the middle of your tongue.


It’s the subtle common errors that make the difference between being perceived as an advanced English speaker, or as a Spanish speaker learning English. Book a lesson today with LingoLoop to get tailored tutoring in English pronunciation!

5 Signs You are Turning into a TOEFL-Wolf!

Studying English can really transform you!

Have you met the TOEFL-Wolf? It’s an English student who has been studying for the TOEFL exam. Slowly, they transform into an English-language beast! It can be contagious, so let’s see if YOU are turning into a TOEFL-Wolf.


Here’s a little test:


Your friend asks, “Are you coming with us to the movies this evening?”

How do you answer?


  1. Yep, see you there.
  2. Bananas
  3. Yes I am coming with you to the movies this evening!


Did you answer (c)? Beware! You might be turning into the TOEFL-Wolf!

Preparing for any big day can be scary, but preparing for language exams like the TOEFL or IELTS can be so stressful that your daily habits start to change. Your friends might ask you, “Why don’t I see you anymore?” or “Have you been sleeping poorly?” or even “Why are you so hairy?” Ok, ok, maybe that last one is just for were-wolves, but getting ready for the TOEFL can also transform you!


So, get ready! Here are the signs that you’re slowly changing into a TOEFL-Wolf!

You can never have too many complete sentences, right?

You answer even basic questions with long, complete sentences.


“Hey, are you coming with us to the movies tonight?”


Normal person: “Yep!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I am coming with you to the movies tonight!”


“I’m ordering dinner, do you like Chinese food?”

Normal person: I do, sounds good!

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I will order dinner with you and do like Chinese food because Chinese food is delicious!”


The TOEFL speaking section has two parts, and both ask you to listen to a short recording and then respond with your own thoughts and ideas. You have 45 seconds to speak your answer, which is actually a lot longer than you may think. To take up more response time, and to keep your answer focused on the question, you can use language from the recording in your answer. Just try not to repeat the recording word-for-word; the exam is trying to judge your speaking, not your memory!

You can have 6 opinions on 5 restaurants, but don’t expect anyone to want to listen to them.

You give your opinion on EVERYTHING.


“Hey, I’m ordering pizza, what kind do you want?”

Normal person:“Cheese and pepperoni, please.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Cheese is the traditional topping, but I personally think that sausage and onions are better for a dinner pizza, since the meat is more filling and the onions are a delicious vegetable.”

Both the speaking and writing sections on the TOEFL ask for your opinion on different kinds of information. It might be something as familiar as “What was your favorite game to play as a child? Why?” or it could be as complicated as “Listen to this lecture on globalization and give your opinion on how a country can be successful in the modern business world.” Either way, you need to be ready to have an opinion and talk or write about that opinion. So, you can practice by having opinions on EVERYTHING.

Your friends might decide that they no longer want to ask you where to go for dinner because you take at least 10 minutes to write out your opinions on several different restaurants and, by the time you’re finished, everyone has decided to just quietly leave without you.

You’ve got headphones coming out of your ears! I’m practicing idioms today.

You suddenly have pairs of headphones in every jacket pocket, every bag, every pair of jeans you own. You use them to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, not music.


“Hey, you always have those things in your ears, listening to something, do you have a new playlist?”


Normal person:“Yeah, I love this new album!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I don’t listen to music anymore. Have you heard of this podcast call “The Moth”? I’m listening to a Great Courses lecture too, it’s about shark DNA.”


The listening section on the TOEFL is one of the most variable. You might listen to conversations, lectures, or classroom discussions on anything from school habits and customs to specific lecture topics from a university class. Trying to follow all these different topics in your daily life can be difficult. However, listening to topics from a lot of different sources can help you prepare. Listening to music can be nice to help with rhythm, but it’s better to listen to people talking, not singing, to practice for the exam. The questions on the listening section come in lots of different styles. So, don’t just pay attention to WHAT you hear, but also HOW it’s being said and WHY the person is saying it.

You may start to develop super-natural hearing. DO NOT offer your opinion on the conversation you can hear in the other classroom, even if you wrote it down.

How did I get here? Why am I holding a pencil? Who are you?

You start to wake up at strange times, in strange places.


We’re going out tonight, there’s going to be karaoke until 1am! Do you want to come?

Normal person:“Yeah! I’m going to sing  the Rolling Stones!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, I go to bed at 8pm and get up at 5am and practice eating breakfast and getting into my car before 6am.”


Why do you always beat me to class? What time do you get here in the morning?

Normal person: “Oh, I’m an early-bird, class starts at 8am so I get here at 7:30.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I’ve been in this chair since 9pm last night.”


It’s no secret, getting a good night’s sleep before a test can help your brain A LOT. Usually, the TOEFL exam is given on Saturdays, so you might start missing out on Friday night fun, or staying up late. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this forever, but it’s a good idea to get into the habit about a month before the exam so that you’re comfortable.


On exam day, if you’re driving, make sure you have a friend ready to give you a ride if you have car trouble or get a flat tire. If you’re going to take a taxi, call the taxi company and book in advance, then call again the night before to confirm. Try to think of everything, and plan for it – this will help minimize your anxiety, and let you focus on the exam. You’ve already prepared for everything else, so there’s nothing to worry about but your fantastic English skills!


You might start keeping snacks in your pockets. This is also normal, and eating is allowed during the break in the middle of the exam.

When all your friend start to call you “Teacher”, your transformation is complete!

You begin correcting your friends and asking them questions about things they’ve already said.


“Do you want get ice cream after class?”


Normal Person:   “Sure, sounds good.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, it’s ‘Do you want TO get ice cream’.”


“I just tried on this jacket. I think I like it, but I might get the green one instead, since it’s warmer and I don’t have a lot of winter clothes.”


Normal Person: “Good idea, I hate the cold.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Which jacket did you decide to get? Was it:

a) The warmer jacket

b) The more beautiful jacket

c) The cheaper jacket


If you reach this stage, there is no turning back: you have become a complete TOEFL-Wolf!


To prepare for the reading and listening sections, it’s a good idea to think about both what is being said and what it means. If someone says they’re going to do something, think about why and how, not just what they are doing. Remember, the TOEFL is testing your language understanding, not just your memory, so don’t expect there to be an option like “d) the green jacket”. The test doesn’t want to know if you can repeat something, but if you can comprehend it.




Are you a TOEFL-Wolf? Would you like to learn the wild ways of this English exam? Talk to a LingoLoop tutor today to begin your transformation!

How Should I Order My Adjectives?

Look at the bottom of this article for the answer!

Sometimes we need more than one adjective to describe something. This is because objects can be similar to each other, but not exactly the same.

For example, imagine there are three cars:

  • All three cars are silver
  • One car is old, and two are new
  • One of the new cars is German, and the other is American

If I ask, “Which car is yours?” you would need more than one adjective to answer the question.

If you answered, “It’s the silver car,” I would be confused because there are three silver cars.

If you answered, “It’s the new silver car,” I would be confused because there are two new silver cars.

If you answered, “It’s the new silver German car,” I would not be confused because there is only one of those!

So, using more than one adjective can avoid confusion by creating a more specific answer.

When we use more than one adjective, we can remember how we order them with the acronym: N.O.S.A.S.C.O.M.P (it kind of sounds like “nose-as-comp”).


So, for example, let’s take an easy noun, like “desk”. You might have:

Number – one
Opinion – ugly
Size – big
Age – old
Shape – round
Color – brown
Origin – American
Material – wooden
Purpose – classroom

We almost never need more than three adjectives to describe something, but it’s good to know the order we should put them in if we do.

Most problems occur with the last three types of adjectives: Origin, Material, and Purpose.

Origin is where the noun comes from. Maybe you have a “Swiss watch” or a “Korean cell phone” or a “German car.”

Material is what the noun is made of. Maybe it’s a “metal chair” or a “porcelain dish” or a “plastic toy.”

Purpose is what we use the noun for. Sometimes, this adjective becomes so important we actually add it to the noun: this is where we get words like “teacup” (a cup used for tea) or “bathroom” (the room you go to for a bath). So you might have a “paint brush”, or a “coffee mug” or “snow boots.”

Origin, material, and purpose can be tricky because all of these things can be nouns on their own.

Try to remember: when one word describes another, the word that IS is the noun, and the word that DESCRIBES is the adjective. Do you have boots, or do you have snow? You have boots, but they are made for the snow. So, you have “snow boots.”

Ready to talk more about the order of adjectives? Try one fun 50-minute new Western digital English conversation class today!

As promised, the quiz answer is B because “beautiful” is an opinion, “new” is an age, and “silver” is a color. Check back for another quiz soon! Click HERE to try a free online English class with Lingoloop!