The U.S. Map; “Say” or “Tell?”; Four Parts of Speech

The word “tell” requires an object. “Say” does not require an object. 
Examples: What did you say? What did you say to him? I always say what I think.Tell me what you want. I told them what time the movie started.
Here’s a good place to test yourself on “say” and “tell.”
say/tell conversation

Remember: “Parts of Speech” in English tell us how a word is used. The same word may be several parts of speech, depending on how it’s used. 
“Dancing is fun.”  (The word dancing acts like a noun.)
“She is dancing the tango.”  (The word dancing is part of the verb)
“At the circus, we saw dancing horses.” (The word dancing is an adjective describing horses.) 
Here’s a super-fun game that let’s you practice identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
Parts of speech Jeopardy
For a quick, fairly accurate understanding of the origins of America’s Thanksgiving celebration, see:

Flashcards For All Kinds of Verb Practice

Each card in this set contains a subject and a predicate. My class will be work in small groups, practicing the present perfect.

One student will ask a question of the others in his group, using the present perfect. Has Amy written a letter yet?. The next student will answer, Yes, Amy has already written a letter. The next student will answer, No, Amy hasn’t written a letter yet. 

These cards can be adapted to many levels. I also have used them with dice, the six sides of the die each representing a tense. If the students rolls a four,” for example, she might have to express the card in the present progressive tense. Amy is writing a letter. To make the exercise even more challenging, another student may be assigned to say whether the sentence is expressed as a statement, a question, a negative statement or a negative question!   +, -, ?

(The cards may be printed out or used with an opaque projector.)

Present Perfect: The Scariest Tense of All!

The present perfect tense puzzles many ESL students. The good news is that the past participle of regular verbs is the same as the simple past. Usually, add an “ed” and you have it. “I’ve walked to school every day this week.” The bad news is that many of the most common verbs in English are irregular. “I’ve spent too much money.”

It’s difficult to know when to use this tense too. Try to remember to use the present perfect in these three instances:

1. When something happened very recently. I’ve lost my keys! Help me find them, please.

2. When something began in the past and is still true. I’ve lived in the U.S. most of my life. (I still live in the U.S.) But remember: If something happened at a particular time in the past and is no longer true, use the simple past. I lived in Japan when I was a child. (I don’t live in Japan now.)

3. When something happened in the past, but the particular time isn’t important. She’s already finished her homework. (Did she finish it last night or last week? It doesn’t matter.) Have you ever been late for work?

Beware! Even with the words “always” and “never,” use the simple past if something happened at a particular time. For example: I never ate cereal for breakfast when I was a child. My grandmother always made pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. (Poor Grandmother is dead now.)

Listen to these irregular past participles. You will hear me use the contractions “I’ve,” “they’ve,” “he’s” and “she’s.” Of course, it is correct to say “he has” instead of “he’s,” but the more contractions you use, the more you will sound like a native speaker. And you must be able to understand contractions when you hear them because we use them so often.

past part. BEEN – LENT                        past part. LET – WRITE

*** A perfect tense is a tense that includes some form of “to have” as a helper verb plus the past participle. The present perfect tense includes the present tense of “to have” as the helper verb. In the present perfect tense, the helper verb is either “have” or “has.” It is never “had.” But remember that “had” can also be used as a past participle. For example: I’ve had a bad cold all winter. In this present perfect sentence, the helper verb is “have” and the past participle is “had.”

Here are the irregular verbs included in the audio files used on this blog:

Irregular Verbs: LET through WRITE, Present and Past Tenses

LET thru WRITE pres. & past

Click on the blue link and listen to me use the present and past tenses of the verbs in the list. I am saying,  “Every day, I …”  to remind you that we use the present tense when we speak of things we do routinely. For example, every day I brush my teeth and read the newspaper. Every day, she practices English verbs and improves her pronunciation. I say “yesterday” to remind you that we use the simple past when we speak of something that happened at a particular time.

This time, I am using the pronoun “she” so you can practice all those s-s-s-s-s and sh-h-h sounds.

*Note that there are two verbs “to lie.” One meaning of “to lie” is to say something that is not true. That verb is regular. The verb you hear me use is the other “to lie.”  It means to recline. It is usually used in a phrasal verb, such as “to lie down.” For example: I try to lie down for a quick nap every afternoon. I lay down yesterday, but I got up when the doorbell rang. My dog lies on the rug while I work on my blog.

MORE CONFUSION! “To lay” is an entirely different verb. It means “to place” or “to put something down.” It requires an object. (What did you lay?) For example: My hen laid two eggs! She lays the baby in his cradle and rocks him to sleep. Even native English speakers confuse “to lie down” and “to lay,”

Phrasal verb = a verb whose base form has more than one word. The extra word is usually a preposition. “Get up,” go away,” “get rid of,”  “turn off” are phrasal verbs.

Irregular Verb Pronunciation: “Be” through “Lend”

1present & past irreg. verbs

Practice listening to these irregular verbs. Notice that the simple present is like the base form of the verb, except you must often add an “s” sound when you are using the he, she, it form. (That’s called the third person singular form.) These s-s-s-s-s sounds are very important in English.

To emphasize that we always, always use the simple past tense when we speak of something that happened at a particular time in the past, I use the word “yesterday” when I practice the past tense. Five million years ago? Five minutes ago? Five nanoseconds ago? It doesn’t matter. If I tell you a specific time something happened, I must use the simple past. Got it?

Notice that the word “today” is not pronounced “2-day.”

simple tense = a tense that doesn’t require an auxiliary verb, like “have” or “is.”

Got it? = Do you understand?

Antonyms, Rhymes and the Scary Present Perfect Tense

Here is a fun game that lets students share and increase their vocabulary in a conversational setting. Print out a playing board on legal-size paper for every group of three or four players. You will need a single die for each board and a playing piece for every player.  The second or third student to land on a particular space must use a new word and not repeat another’s word. (Teachers, be prepared to provide candy or candy IOUs. FREE CANDY spaces mean free candy!))

Note: Antonym means opposite word. Some words can have multiple meanings and may have multiple opposites too. For example, the word “right” can mean the opposite of “left,” or it can mean the opposite of “wrong.”

Words that rhyme must have exactly the same ending sound. Don’t be fooled by English’s goofy spelling.  “Boot” and “look” do not rhyme. “Boot” and “flute” do rhyme.

Here are some more sites where you can practice distinguishing between the past and the present perfect tenses.

Sites for Practicing Minimal Pairs, Verb Tenses

minimal pairs

What? More verb practice?

Our discussion panel on “Ghosts and Superstitions” will talk about such intriguing subjects as ESP and aliens from Outer Space. Writing prompt: Share a traditional ghost story from your country, or write about a traditional superstition. .