The 70+ Most Common English Slang Words & Phrases

English slang words

Learning English slang words is one of the more intermediate to advanced stages of mastering the language, but if you’re a beginner, it doesn’t hurt to get a head-start!

Slang words are informal vocabulary words that aren’t typically found in a dictionary. Many of these words have multiple meanings, so you’ll have to pay close attention to the context of a conversation in order to use them correctly.

American English Slang Words & Phrases

As you work your way through this list, keep in mind that American English slang can vary depending on the region you’re in. For example, certain slang words are more commonly used in rural areas versus in the inner city.

Conversational English Slang Words

american english slang

1. What’s up? – Hey; what are you doing?

“Hey Tom! What’s up?”

“Not much!”

2. I feel you – I understand and empathize with you. Eg. “I feel you. That was really unfair.”

3. I get it – I understand. Eg. “I get it now! Thank you for explaining that.”

4. Same here – I agree.

“I’m having a hard time studying for this exam.”

“Same here.”

5. My bad – My mistake. Eg. “My bad! I didn’t mean to do that.”

6. Oh my God! – (Used to describe excitement or surprise). Eg. “Oh my God! You scared me!”

7. You bet – Certainly; you’re welcome.

“Thanks for the jacket, Tom!”

“You bet, Sally!”

8. No worries – That’s alright. Eg. “No worries about the mess. I’ll clean it up.”

9. No biggie – It’s not a problem.

“Thanks for tutoring me, Tom!”

“No biggie, Sally.”

10. No big deal – (Same usage as above).

11. No sweat – (Same usage as above).

12. No problem – (Same usage as above).

American English Slang Descriptors

english slang words for descriptions

1. Laid back – Relaxed or calm. Eg. “This weekend was very laid back.”

2. Chill – (Same as above).

3. Sweet – Fantastic.

“I passed the test!”


4. Cool – (Same as above).

5. Lame – The opposite of cool or fantastic. Eg. “That’s so lame that you can’t go out tonight.”

6. Bomb – Really good. Eg. “That sandwich was bomb.”

7. Bummer – A disappointment. Eg. “That’s such a bummer. I’m sorry that happened.”

8. Shady – Questionable or suspicious. Eg. “I saw a shady guy in my neighborhood last night.”

9. Hot – Attractive. Eg. “He/she is hot.”

10. Beat – Tired. Eg. “I was so beat after that soccer game.”

11. Sick – Awesome. Eg. “Those shoes are sick!”

12. Epic – Grand or awesome. Eg. “That was an epic party last night.”

13. Ripped – Very physically fit. Eg. “Tom is ripped!”

14. Cheesy – Silly. Eg. “The romantic comedy we watched was very cheesy.”

15. Corny – (Same as above).

16. Flakey – Indecisive. Eg. “John is so flakey. He never shows up when he says he will.”

17. It sucked – It was bad/poor quality. Eg. “That movie sucked.”

English Slang for People & Relationships

english slang words for relationships

1. Babe – Your significant other; an attractive individual. Eg. “Hey babe!” or “She’s a babe.”

2. Have a crush – Attracted to someone romantically. Eg. “I have a big crush on him.”

3. Dump – To end a romantic relationship with someone. Eg. “She dumped him last May.”

4. Ex – An old relationship or spouse. Eg. “That’s my ex girlfriend.”

5. A turn off – Something that’s repulsive. Eg. “Bad cologne is a turn off.”

6. Party animal – One who loves parties. Eg. “Jerry is a party animal.”

7. Couch potato – A lazy person. Eg. “Don’t be a couch potato! Let’s go for a hike.”

8. Whiz – A really smart person. Eg. “Sally is a whiz at math.”

9. Chicken – Coward. Eg. “Don’t be a chicken! Go ice skating with me.”

10. Chick – A girl or young woman. Eg. “That chick is hilarious.”

11. Getting hitched – Getting married. Eg. “Tom and Sally are getting hitched.”

12. Tying the knot – (Same as above).

13. They got fired – They lost their job. Eg. “Did Jerry get fired?”

American English Slang for Social Events

american english slang

1. Hang out – To spend time with others. Eg. “Want to hang out with us?”

2. I’m down – I’m able to join. Eg. “I’m down for ping pong.”

3. I’m game – (Same as above).

4. I’m in – (Same as above).

5. A blast – A very fun event. Eg. “Last night was a blast!”

6. Show up – Arrive at an event. Eg. “I can’t show up until 7.”

7. Flick – A movie. Eg. “Want to see a flick on Friday?”

8. Grub – Food. Eg. “Want to get some grub tonight?”

9. Wasted – Intoxicated. Eg. “She was wasted last night.”

10. Drunk – (Same as above).

11. Booze – Alcohol. Eg. “Will they have booze at the party?”

See Also: Common English Idioms [Infographic]

American English Slang for Actions

english slang words for actions

1. Pig out – To eat a lot. Eg. “I pigged out last night at McDonald’s.”

2. Crash – To fall asleep quickly. Eg. “After all those hours of studying I crashed.”

3. Lighten up – Relax. Eg. “Lighten up! It was an accident.”

4. Screw up – To make a mistake. Eg. “Sorry I screwed up and forgot our plans.”

5. Goof – (Same as above).

6. Score – To get something desirable. Eg. “I scored the best seats in the stadium!”

7. Wrap up – To finish something. Eg. “Let’s wrap up in five minutes.”

8. Ace – Pass a test with 100%. Eg. “I think I’m going to ace the exam.”

9. Cram – To study a lot before an exam. Eg. “Sorry I can’t go out. I have to cram tonight.”

10. Bail – To leave abruptly. Eg. “I’m sorry I had to bail last night.”

11. Ditch – To skip an event. Eg. “I’m going to ditch class tomorrow to go to the beach.”

12. Busted – Caught doing something wrong. Eg. “I got busted for turning in homework late.”

Miscellaneous English Slang Words

1. Freebie – Something that is free. Eg. “The bumper sticker was a freebie.”

2. Lemon – A bad purchase. Eg. “That phone case was a lemon.”

3. Shades – Sunglasses. Eg. “I can’t find my shades.”

4. Shotgun – The front seat of a car. Eg. “Can I sit shotgun?”

5. In no time – Very soon. Eg. “We’ll have our homework done in no time.”

6. Buck – One dollar. Eg. “It only costs a buck.”

7. Rip-off – A purchase that was very overpriced. Eg. “That phone case was a rip-off.”

As you can see, you can’t just learn a language by studying a textbook! Listening will be a key step in mastering these slang words and using them in the right contexts. So hang out with more native speakers, observe the way they use slang in conversation, and then imitate them.

Memorizing these English slang words and their meanings will get you one step closer to sounding like a native. Need more help practicing your skills? Try working one-on-one with an English tutor, or take free online English classes at TakeLessons Live.

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The Complete List of English Idioms, Proverbs, & Expressions

Idioms in English

Although English idioms don’t make sense at first, these unique expressions (together with proverbs) add substance and humor to our conversations. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “idiom” as a: “group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light).”

This means that English idioms should not be taken literally, because their meaning is metaphorical. You don’t really wish someone would “break a leg,” do you? And it’s not actually “raining cats and dogs,” is it?

On the other hand, proverbs – which are equally important to learn in English – are “short, well-known pithy sayings, stating a general truth or piece of advice.” Proverbs like, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” have neither a metaphorical meaning nor a literal one. Still, their meaning is greater than the meaning of the individual words put together.

List of English Idioms, Proverbs & Expressions

English idioms aren’t easy to understand at first, especially if you’re speaking English as a second language. But learning their meanings is crucial if you want to sound more like a native. So let’s get started with our complete list of English expressions and proverbs!

Check out the infographic below to preview some of the most common idioms that made it on our list.

Idioms in English

English Idioms About People

  • To be on cloud nine – To be extremely happy
  • One-trick pony – A person with only one talent or area of expertise
  • Wouldn’t hurt a fly – A person that is inoffensive and harmless
  • Like a fish out of the water – Very uncomfortable
  • Fit as a fiddle – Very healthy and strong
  • To have your head in the clouds – To be daydreaming and/or lacking concentration
  • To be under the weather – To feel sick
  • To be as right as rain – To feel healthy or well again

English Idioms About Relationships

  • Like two peas in a pod – Two people who are always together
  • To give someone the cold shoulder – To intentionally ignore someone
  • To cut somebody some slack – To stop being so critical of them
  • To give someone the benefit of the doubt – To justify or excuse someone’s actions, and not assume malice
  • To let someone off the hook – To not hold someone responsible for something he/she has done wrong
  • To rain on someone’s parade – To ruin one’s plans or temper one’s excitement

English Idioms About Communication

  • To break the ice – To get the conversation going
  • To let the cat out of the bag – To reveal a secret
  • To spill the beans – To reveal a secret
  • To beat around the bush – To avoid talking about what is important
  • To pull someone’s leg – To say something that is not true as a way of joking
  • To get wind of something – To hear a rumor about something
  • To wrap your head around something – To understand something complicated
  • A penny for your thoughts – Tell me what you are thinking
  • To play the devil’s advocate – To argue against an idea for the sake of debate
  • To see which way the wind is blowing – To try to discover information about a situation before taking action
  • To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth – To hear from someone who personally observed a certain event
  • The elephant in the room – An obvious problem that people do not want to talk about
  • Comparing apples to oranges – Comparing two things that cannot be compared

English Idioms About Scenarios

  • A blessing in disguise – A good thing that seemed bad at first
  • The best of both worlds – Benefiting from two different opportunities at once
  • A perfect storm – The worst possible situation
  • To be on thin ice – To be in a risky situation
  • A snowball effect – A situation that becomes more serious and potentially dangerous over time
  • When it rains it pours – Everything is going wrong at once
  • To get out of hand – To loose control in a situation
  • To get a taste of your own medicine – To be treated the way you’ve treated others
  • To throw caution to the wind – To do something without worrying about the risk
  • To bite the bullet – To force yourself to do something unpleasant or difficult
  • Barking up the wrong tree – To pursue the wrong course of action
  • To go down in flames – To fail miserably at something

English Idioms About Time

  • Hold your horses – Wait a moment; slow down
  • To do something at the drop of a hat – To do something at once, without any delay
  • Once in a blue moon – Rarely
  • To take a rain check – To postpone a plan
  • To have bigger fish to fry – To have more important things to do with your time
  • To miss the boat – To miss an opportunity
  • Call it a day – It’s time to stop working on something

Miscellaneous Idioms in English

  • It’s raining cats and dogs – It’s raining very hard
  • A dime a dozen – Something is very common, or of no particular value
  • By the skin of one’s teeth – Narrowly or barely escaping a disaster
  • Come rain or shine – No matter the circumstances, something will get done
  • It costs an arm and a leg – It’s very expensive
  • It went to the dogs – Something is no longer as good as it was in the past
  • To run like the wind – To run very fast
  • Go on a wild goose chase – Go on a futile search or pursuit
  • A cloud on the horizon – Something that threatens to cause problems in the future

Need to hear the above idioms in example sentences before using them in conversation? Check out the video below to learn how to pronounce many of these common idioms.

Common English Proverbs

  • Better late than never – It is better to be late than never to arrive or complete a task
  • Time flies when you’re having fun – Time seems to move faster when you’re enjoying something
  • Actions speak louder than words – What someone does means more than what they say they will do
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – Don’t make plans that depend on something good happening before you know that it has actually happened
  • Every cloud has a silver lining – Difficult situations usually have at least one positive aspect
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – Don’t risk everything on the success of one venture
  • Good things come to those who wait – Be patient
  • Kill two birds with one stone – Achieve two goals at once
  • There are other fish in the sea – There will be other opportunities for romance
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover – You shouldn’t determine the value of something by its outward appearance
  • Curiosity killed the cat – Being inquisitive may get you into trouble
  • Birds of a feather flock together – Similar people usually become friends
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder – When the people we love are not with us, we grow even more in love
  • It takes two to tango – Both parties involved in a situation are equally responsible for it
  • The ship has sailed – It’s too late
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right – If someone has done something bad to you, there’s no justification to act in a similar way
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do – When you are visiting another place, you should follow the customs of the people in that place
  • The early bird catches the worm – The one who takes the earliest opportunity to do something will have an advantage over others
  • Save up for a rainy day – Put some money aside for whenever it may be needed
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away – Apples are good for your health
  • Your guess is as good as mine – I’m unsure of the answer or solution to a problem
  • It takes one to know one – Someone must have a bad quality themselves if they can recognize it in other people
  • Look before you leap – Take calculated risks
  • Don’t cry over spilled milk – Stop worrying about things in the past because they cannot be changed
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink – You can’t force someone to make the right decision, even after guidance is given
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – The things you already have are more valuable than those you hope to get
  • You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar – You can get what you want by being nice

We hope you enjoyed this complete list of the most common proverbs and idioms in English. Can you think of any English idioms we missed? Leave a comment and let us know! And if you’d like to improve your English skills even more, try the free online English classes at TakeLessons Live.

Guest Author: Diana Lăpușneanu is a movie geek, story lover, and language learner at Mondly. She is passionate about creative writing, classical mythology, and English literature. You can follow Mondly on Instagram here.  

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The Simple Secret for How to Improve Your English Accent

how to improve english accent

In this guide, we’ll dive into the different methods of listening and how to improve your English accent. English is currently the most studied language in the world, with an estimated 1 billion people learning it.

Because English is the international language of business, that number is only expected to grow.

If you’re working to perfect your English skills, then you know how hard it is to learn the American English accent. You might use proper grammar and sentence structure, but still have a hard time being understood due to your accent.

This is not to say that having a foreign accent is “bad.” Amy Chua once said: “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.”

The difficulty comes however, in the pronunciation of certain English words. For example, “tomb,” “bomb,” and “comb” are all pronounced differently.

If you’re looking for practical suggestions to improve your English pronunciation, check out the video below for starters, then keep scrolling for additional tips!

While using the proper accent is not an easy task, there is a secret for how to improve your English accent faster: listening. 

How to Improve Your English Accent

Listen to Native Speakers

Native speakers are your greatest resource to learn the American English accent. By listening to native speakers you will learn the vernacular, or the common language and slang that people use on a daily basis.

Fortunately, technology has made this incredibly easy. There are countless podcasts, movies, songs, and videos available for you to use.

how to improve english accent - listen to music

One of the hardest parts of learning a new language is finding the time. Listening to music is an excellent solution because it’s so accessible – you can easily play music as you go about your day.

Music is also written for native speakers, so it’s full of common words and phrases. Songs easily get stuck in your head, so the phrases will play over and over, helping you learn them.

Similar to music, podcasts are very helpful to learn the American English accent. You can listen to podcasts while driving, working, cleaning, etc. There are podcasts that deal specifically with English pronunciation, but there are also many others on a range of interesting topics.

Find one you’re interested in and play it throughout the day. This naturally conditions your brain to pick up the pronunciations of various words and tones.

how to improve english accent - watch videos

YouTube is a great help since there are many educational videos aimed specifically at English pronunciation. For some extra practice as you watch, pay attention to how the speaker moves their mouth when they speak. Mimic what you see to learn to better pronounce certain words.

Movies are another fun way to work on your accent. Not only are they entertaining, but the characters are put in a variety of situations, allowing you to take note of inflections, speaking at various speeds, and conversations.

Bonus tip: turning on the subtitles will reinforce what you’re hearing and help facilitate your learning!

Listen to Yourself

So we know that listening is the key for how to improve your English accent, but this goes beyond just listening to others. Once you’ve become more comfortable with English, you should also listen to yourself. It sounds intimidating – we know!

Most people are not fond of their own voice, but listening to yourself and making note of where you can refine your accent will really speed up your learning progress.

learn american english accent - read books aloud

One of the best ways to do this is to record yourself using a computer or cellphone. Try recording yourself as you read a paragraph out loud. Poetry is great for this exercise because of the natural rhythm that comes when reading it.

If you don’t know how to read in English yet, record yourself having a practice conversation with a friend or family member. As you play back the recording, make note of the individual words and phrases that need additional practice.

To take it a step further, if you chose to read a passage from a book, look for an audio recording of that book. Then, listen to the native speaker read that same passage. This will help you really hear the difference and specifically show you which words need more attention.

Bonus tip: stay motivated by recording yourself each week, reading the same paragraph, to notice your improvement over time.

Listen to Feedback

Practicing on your own is a great way to polish your accent. However, if you really want to know how to improve your English accent, getting feedback from a tutor is crucial. An English tutor can listen to the way you speak and comment on areas that need more attention.

An English instructor can show you how to retrain the muscles of your lips, tongue, and mouth. It can be difficult to move your muscles in a way that is different from your native language, but an instructor will show you how to physically modify your movements.

learn american english accent - work with a tutor

Additionally, you can mimic and impersonate the way they speak. TakeLessons has many English instructors who are native speakers that can help you quickly learn the American English accent.

Learning a new language is a great endeavor. It opens up a world of opportunities from travel, to careers, to new friendships. It can be challenging, but remember to relax and take your time with it.

Daily practice is necessary to truly see improvement, and with consistency you will be amazed at how far you’ve come. Language learning is supposed to be enjoyable and hopefully these tips have shown you how to improve your English accent in a fun way!  

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How to ace the IELTS

The #1 Tip on How to Ace the IELTS

How to ace the IELTS

The International English Language Testing System (also known as the IELTS) is recognized worldwide as the most popular English proficiency exam. Millions of people from around the globe take the IELTS every year, and unfortunately, many of them do not pass.

There is one trait, however, that everyone who successfully completes the IELTS has in common. It’s something you might not expect.

Our friends at Magoosh describe it in one word: confidence. Self confidence is key to passing the IELTS with flying colors. Keep reading to find out how to apply this simple principle to each section of the exam so you can ace the IELTS.

How to Ace the IELTS with Confidence

Project Confidence in Your Interview

The IELTS assesses every aspect of your English skills, including speaking. This section of the test is unique in that it is set up as a one-on-one, oral interview. Just like when you’re applying for a job, confidence in the interview room is a necessity.

Imagine what would happen if you showed up to a job interview overwhelmed by nerves and the fear of rejection. Chances are, you would perform poorly. You might stumble over your words, look down rather than make eye contact, or speak quietly and unclearly.

Your prospective boss would have trouble understanding you, and probably assume that you’re incapable of getting the job done well.

Nobody wants to be that person in a job interview, and you certainly don’t want to come across that way in an IELTS interview. In IELTS Speaking, it’s just as important to enunciate clearly, and pay attention to your body language. Project confidence with every move you make!

Refuse to be intimidated by your interviewer. Think of this part of the exam as an interview for a job that you know you’re going to get. In a sense, the IELTS is your gateway to a new career, either through immigration or university study.

Write Your Essay with Poise

A lack of confidence comes across the most obviously in IELTS Speaking, but in IELTS Writing there are also ways to “sound” confident in your essay.

To write in a confident tone on the IELTS, use vocabulary and grammar that you’re comfortable with. Be sure to include a variety of word choices and grammar constructions, while not overdoing it. Remember to keep it simple. If you use too many big, esoteric words and complex sentence structures, it’ll open you up to making more mistakes.

It can also come across as unnatural, and all of this can hurt your score. But if you write using the words and syntax you truly understand and feel confident in, you’ll be on your way to achieving the best possible IELTS Writing Score.

If maintaining this balance sounds complicated to you, remember that practice makes perfect. Review the many IELTS books and resources that are available so you can become acquainted with writing style and vocabulary.

RELATED- ESL Learners: Are You Making These 21 Common Mistakes?

Stay Calm During Listening and Reading

What makes a general successful in war? “Grace under fire,” as we like to say in English. This means that good military commanders feel calm and confident, even as they face dangers that would make a less confident person panic.

Of course, the IELTS Reading and Listening sections aren’t literally a battlefield. But as you look across a seemingly hazardous reading passage, or face a bumpy ride through an audio track, for a moment it can seem like you’re waging a personal war for your IELTS score.

Try to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the Listening and Reading sections of the test. Don’t let fear and panic set in. Tips to ace the IELTS

Approach questions, reading passages, and audio strategically. Look for and listen for the most important keywords. If you don’t know the meaning of a written word, or you miss something that was said, stay confident and focused. Look for contextual clues to find the meaning.

Employ elimination techniques on multiple choice questions, and think critically when you need to write down your own short answers. You can practice all of these approaches before you take the test by working through an IELTS study schedule.

Whether you’re taking the IELTS for university admissions, immigration, or employment, one thing is for certain. The more you believe you can pass the IELTS, the more focused and successful you’ll be. Another excellent way to prepare for the IELTS is with the help of an experienced tutor that specializes in English as a second language.

A tutor can help answer any questions you have as you study for the exam. Look for a qualified English teacher near you to receive one-on-one guidance and feedback that will take you one step closer to acing the IELTS. Good luck!

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Guest post by David Recine, IELTS expert at Magoosh. David has a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and has been teaching ESL since 2007.

16 Unexpected Things International Students Face

international exchange student

Here on the TakeLessons Blog, we’ve explored the best cities to visit in Spain, taken a foodie tour of Korea, and even learned about fun festivals like Germany’s Oktoberfest.

But what about the unique experiences international exchange students have when they come here to the US? You might be surprised to hear the things that baffle everyone else.

Curious? We were too, so when we came across an article over on the StudentUniverse blog sharing these revelations from an international exchange student, we knew we had to pass it along.

Here’s an excerpt:

  • Food portions are the size of Titanic, no kidding. When you order your first meal at a Cheesecake Factory, you will feel like you have been missing out on all the meals you ate before that point. While portion sizes are big, the economical thing to do is get what you cannot finish ‘to go’ and eat it the next day. Trust me, on a college budget, every dollar will start to matter.
  • You thought you were a football or cricket fan? Wait till you see American obsession with sports! The biggest fans in the US are of the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and college football/basketball. Yes, get used to all the sports abbreviations and yes, college sports are a BIG deal.
  • If you are a wanderlust, good news! Students travel for less. Americans work hard and enjoy every long weekend during the year! Except weekends, there are many short holidays during the year, such as Memorial Day weekend (May), Labor Day weekend (September), Columbus Day weekend (October), and Thanksgiving break (November). Start planning your trips early and you can get some amazing deals! Student-specific travel sites like StudentUniverse are here to help you save money traveling as a student. So why spend breaks bored on campus when you can see the world?
  • Your accent will definitely be noticed. Whether you have a stereotypical accent of the country where you’re from or whether you manage to sound just like any other American, people will notice your accent and comment on it!
  • These boots are made for walking. Depending on which country you’re from, get used to toning those calf muscles because you will surely be walking a lot.
  • Not every city is like New York and Chicago. It’s such a stereotype to think every city in the US is the American dream city of New York. To your surprise, if you’re at a campus university, you are likely to be in the suburb of a city!

Continue reading the article here!

Are you an international exchange student? What have you found most surprising?

Photo by Jirka Matousek

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ESL Learners: Are You Making These 21 Common Mistakes?

20 Words Most Misused By ESL LearnersThere are certainly some tricky words in the English language! And sometimes, people who have learned English as a second language mix up these words. Want to avoid making the same mistakes? Here are the words ESL learners misuse the most.

Them, Those, and These

“Them” is a pronoun that stands in the place of a plural noun. It is commonly used as the subject of a sentence, as in: Did you see them? or Have you seen the scissors? I used them to cut the labels off my T-shirts; now I can’t find them.

“Those” indicates a group that is distant from the observer, for example: Those girls are the ones who found the missing keys.

“These” refers to a group that is near the observer: These pencils are the ones I use for drawing.

Their, There, and They’re

These three words are frequently mixed up – even by native English speakers, let alone ESL learners.

“Their” is a plural possessive, referring to something that belongs to a group the speaker is not a part of. Look at this sentence: A common characteristic of the members of the Red-Headed League was their red hair.

“There” is a location that is somewhat distant from the observer or speaker, as in: Put the suitcases over there on the bed. However, it can also be used to refer to a state of being: There are 12 items in one dozen.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are,” as in: They are going to the store.


“Similar” is used in the objective case, whereas “similarly” is an adverb that describes function. For example: Apples are similar to pears in that they are both fruit vs. Laptops function similarly to desktop computers.


“Whether” is used when there is a decision to be made, as in: I am not sure whether or not I should mow the lawn.

“Weather” refers to an external condition, such as rain, snow, or sunshine. Here’s an example of both: I’d better mow the grass, whether I want to or not, because the weather report is predicting rain for tomorrow.

To, Too, and Two

Again, these are homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) that are often confused by ESL learners. Here are some examples:

I am going to the store. – Indicates a desire to travel from one place to another.
I meant to do it. – Indicates intention.
If you are going to the store, I want to go, too. – Here, “too” means to be added on to something.
If the two of us go to the store, we can carry back the ice cream, and some soda pop, too. – “Two” is the spelling for the numeral two.


“Of” often gets used when the correct word is “have.” For example: I should of done it. Instead, the correct written statement is: I should have done it, which is frequently contracted into: I should’ve done it.

“Of” also gets used interchangeably with “from”: My feet felt as if they were made of/from lead.


This is a word combination that will have native English speakers reaching for a dictionary. Simply put, “to affect” something is to change it (it’s usually used as a verb), but “effect” is the result or change that has been achieved.

To affect change in the environment, everyone must work together.
Internal combustion engines have a negative effect on the air quality.


“Lay” always needs a direct object, whereas “lie” is used when there is no direct object.

Example: Please lay the suitcases on the floor, so that I can lie down on the bed.


“Sit” doesn’t require an object and refers to live things—similar to lay/lie. “Set” is used when directing someone to place an item on a surface.

Example: Sit down in the comfy chair, and I will set the tea table in front of you.


“With” is often confused with “to” – and this is made even more confusing by the alternation sometimes being correct usage. For example: Ford Rangers, when compared to/with Ferraris, are a much better buy for a working man. However, even though you might say, I will go to the store, you would not say, I will go with the store.

ESL Learners

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Guest Author: Cari Bennette is a blogger and content creator at custom writing service Jet Writers. Her favorite topics are academic writing, education, blogging, and career. Feel free to drop her a line on Twitter.

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The 6 Toughest English Writing Rules – and How to Remember Them

English Writing Rules and Tips

In this article, online tutor Natalie S. shares her best tricks for remembering some of the toughest English writing rules…

Grammar isn’t for everyone. In fact, most people tend to forget the majority of their English grammar and punctuation lessons by the time they graduate from high school. Even though grammar tends to be a boring subject to learn about, it’s still important to understand and utilize grammar and punctuation rules correctly. These seemingly small details make a big difference in the quality of your writing.

Below are a few tips to help you easily navigate some of the trickiest grammar, punctuation, and overall English writing rules!


This is one of the most abused and misused punctuation marks in the English language. Semi-colons are used to connect two complete sentences (often called independent clauses) into one sentence. For example, “I went to the beach; it was too hot.” This single sentence shares one common idea (the beach) and contains one complete sentence on either side of the semi-colon. Pro tip: Try to split your sentence into two complete thoughts. If you cannot do it, a semi-colon doesn’t belong in your sentence.

Fewer Vs. Less

“Fewer” means a quantifiable number. For example, “I had three fewer items than Tom.” “Less” is used in a non-quantifiable situation, such as “I was less sad after eating chocolate.” Pro tip: If you can attach a number to the sentence and it still makes sense, you should be using the word “fewer.”

Who Vs. Whom

“Who” is a subjective pronoun, whereas “whom” is an objective pronoun.  Pro tip: If the word, “he” can be substituted into the sentence, use “who.” If the word “him” can be substituted into the sentence, use “whom.” For example, “Who went to the store? He went to the store.” “She bought an apple for whom? She bought an apple for him.”

Its Vs. It’s

This is one of the easiest English writing rules to remember, but it’s still one of the most common mistakes that people make. “Its” is possessive. For example, “The cat licked its paw.” “It’s” stands for “it is” and it’s an abbreviation.  Pro tip: To remember which one to use, try replacing the phrase with “it is.” Does the sentence still make sense? If yes, then you use “it’s.” If no, then use the possessive “its.”

Writing in Active Voice

Avoid sentences like, “Bob was chased by the crowd.” Instead, write, “The crowd chased Bob.” The first example illustrates passive voice. The second sentence is an example of active voice.  Using active voice makes your writing more compelling to read. Pro tip: If you can insert the phrase “by zombies” at the end of your sentence and it makes sense, you are using passive voice! For example, “Bob was chased by zombies.”

Ambiguous Pronouns

Pronouns can be used in place of nouns to make your writing flow better. For example, start with these three sentences: “Nancy went to the store. Nancy bought ice cream. Nancy bought oranges.” To make it flow, we use pronouns in place of Nancy: “Nancy went to the store and she bought ice cream and oranges.”  When using pronouns, be careful to avoid the ambiguous pronoun. For example, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party. She had cake.” The pronoun “she” in the second sentence is ambiguous.

Pro tip: Ask yourself questions like, “Who had cake? Was it Sarah or Jenny?” to figure out how to correct the sentence. Technically, Jenny is the “she” in this sentence, but considering that the subject of the sentence is Sarah, the writer is actually intending to use “she” in place of “Sarah.” It should say something like, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party, and she enjoyed eating the birthday cake.”

Writing assignments can be difficult; they require a lot of focused time and effort. If you remember and implement these simple tips and tricks, you will create writing that is easier to comprehend and more compelling to read.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Tips for Learning English in the U.S. | A Glimpse Through the Eyes of a Recent Immigrant


For immigrants new to the U.S., the challenge of learning a second language can be tough. With so many options available, what’s the best way to learn English? Read on as ESL tutor Gina C. shares her tips…

I recently interviewed Francy M., who arrived from Columbia seven months ago. Francy started studying English in her home country in high school, but only a little; now, she knows she needs to learn to speak and understand English if she hopes to work in the U.S., so she made that her primary goal when she arrived here.

When I asked Francy, a native Spanish speaker, what the main challenges are to learning English, she noted that the writing is very different.  “Words are not written as they are pronounced like in Spanish.” Also, she has to translate in her mind to be able to say what she wants to say and then many times she just does not have the English words to express what she is thinking.

These are just some of the challenges that students learning ESL face. So, how do you make learning easier? If you are new to the U.S. or have been here a while, but feel you need to improve your English, there are several different ways you can go about doing this.

  1. Community College ESL Classes: You can take ESL classes through a community college. Those don’t start at the beginner level, but may be appropriate for someone who knows some English and wants to start training for a career or getting college credits. If obtaining college credits is not part of your goal, but you have other aspirations such as improving your English to obtain a job or perform your current job better, you may want to consider a qualified coach, teacher, or small group option.

  2. Government-Subsidized ESL Classes: The government offers subsidized ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, usually available through the Adult Education Program at various high school districts. But due to budget slashing, those programs are often a challenge to get into. The other drawback is that there are usually 30+ students in a class and you are forced to go at the pace of other students who may be slower than you. Or, conversely, you may be confused and may not get all of your questions answered.

  3. Computer-Aided Instruction:

  • Rosetta Stone: Francy uses Rosetta Stone and says that it’s a good program, but not without having a class or tutor as a resource for consulting. “The program raises questions for me, like why does 3rd person singular have an s? And, what is the –ing ending? Since I am in a class, I can take my questions to the teacher.” Without a class to supplement your learning, I’d recommend working with a tutor or coach to walk you through the questions that come up when using Rosetta Stone or any other application or website for learning a language. The truth is, without a subject matter expert and the opportunity to practice, you may end up confused or may understand but not be able to actually produce as in conversing.
  • YouTube: Francy has found other tools to be helpful, as well. She searches for “How kids learn English” on YouTube and looks for children’s songs as well as popular songs that include lyrics, such as Fool’s Garden’s “Lemon Tree“.
  • ESL Websites: Another resource that Francy uses are ESL videos created by the Sacramento County Office of Education. They can be found at The California Distance Learning Project. If you click on “Other Learning Websites” at the top, you will be directed to many more free websites for learning English, including video, audio, and written scripts.

Of course, you’ll need to figure out what options works best for you. When Francy first got here, she enrolled in a private institute in the East San Jose area that was recommended by a friend. Perhaps if she knew more about American culture, she would have been suspect that the name of the school was in Spanish. If she had done her due diligence, she would have noticed that there were no reviews for it online nor much information. She enrolled and began taking classes and quickly realized it “was a waste of time” because the English class was conducted mainly in Spanish. Later, she sought out a community college. She is satisfied with her decision to use a community college, but it is good to keep in mind that the U.S. offers a variety of ways to learn English. If Francy had known about TakeLessons, she could have found a reputable tutor right away who could have gotten her on the right track to learning English.

Because Francy is so resourceful, I told her that she will be able to learn English with her dedication and ingenuity. She told me, “Thank you. Ojalá.” I fed her the English, “I hope so!” If you are looking to learn English and have found that the mainstream programs do not fit your schedule or needs, consider finding an ESL tutor or small group instructor who can get you speaking English quickly!

GinaCGina C. teaches languages, including English, ESL, and Spanish, in San Jose, CA. She received her MA in Hispanic Studies, her BA in English Literature, and has over 25 years’ experience teaching English, Spanish, and Business Communication. Learn more about Gina here!



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