Category Archives: grammar

New Links

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bookmark-new from openclipart.org

I’ve added some new links to the sidebar on the left.

Here’s some information about each one.

  • Learning English from Friends: Terry is a non-native English speaker from Korea who’s been working in the US as a systems application engineer since 2006. This cool blog is about his and his friends’ experiences learning English. (The way you really learn a language when you live overseas is that you talk with people, you make mistakes, and you learn new things from your friends. That’s what he’s writing about. It’s fun!) I really like this blog. Terry is a great example of an enthusiastic language learner who likes thinking about language.
  • Jukugo: If you are Japanese and use Twitter, you probably know about Jukugo already. This blog is bilingual (English/Japanese) and focuses on idioms. The author includes cute drawings with each post.
  • Business English in 5 Minutes: Naturally, this blog is about business English. Each post is short.
  • ESOL Courses Blog has short posts to help you study English.
  • ESOL Courses – Free English Lessons Online has grammar practice, vocabulary, and other activities.
  • Listen a Minute: This site gives you listening practice. You can listen to a short speech about something (Harry Potter, the World Cup, fast food, etc.). You can read the words, too, and test yourself on it. The English is at an low-intermediate to intermediate level. There are no definitions or explanations, so you might have to use a learners’ dictionary.

I’m going to change the organization of the site when I have time. If you like these links, you should save them. I recommend using Delicious, Xmarks, or another bookmark manager. If you do that, you can have the same bookmarks on every computer that you use.

Farmers’ Market

This is the first post of the new Readable Blog! I’m still working on the blog design, but from now on I will mostly be writing easy-to-read posts so that you can get English-reading practice. If my posts are too hard, too easy, too long, too boring, or or if it’s good and interesting, please tell me.

By the way, you can click on the pictures to see a bigger version.


People shopping under the tents for nuts and more
People shopping under the tents for nuts and more


I live in California, near San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In many parts of the US, people buy their fruits and vegetables at grocery stores. This stuff is often very old because it was grown far away, in another state or even another country, and then taken to the grocery store. Recently, it’s become popular to try to buy food that was grown closer to where you live. People think it tastes better because it’s fresher. (I think it does.) They also think that this is better for the environment, because the food did not have to be driven for thousands of miles. Because most of the US has a cold winter, most places can’t have farmers’ markets all year. But California doesn’t get very cold, so our farmers’ markets are open all year! There are about four markets very close to me, and more in other towns near here.

Each seller’s place is called a booth or a stall. Each stall has one or more tents and one or more tables. Because of the tents, we can still go shopping when it rains. Not as many people go shopping when it rains, but it’s still crowded then! Some of the stalls that sell hot food don’t come then. I think their electrical equipment isn’t safe in the rain.


Farmers' market van
Farmers' market van



One nice thing about shopping here is that we can ask questions. The farmers can tell you how they grow their fruits and vegetables, so you feel safe. A lot of the things sold here, including eggs and sausage, are organic, or they use very few chemicals.


Colorful fruit
Colorful fruit


My husband likes citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.), and we can buy a lot of it during the winter. Some sellers have special kinds that taste and look really interesting. They can tell you all about each type, how to cook it, etc. We can also buy fresh strawberries almost all year, although they’re best in the summer.


Tasty-looking potatoes and onions
Tasty-looking potatoes and onions

Potatoes and onions–looks like stew!


A pile of carrots and other vegetables
A pile of carrots and other vegetables

Sometimes I don’t know what I want to cook until I come to the market and see what they have.


Fat daikon
Fat daikon

Daikon is just one of the many Asian fruits and vegetables at our market. We have lots of things that are originally from India, China, Japan, and so on. Many of the shoppers and sellers speak languages in addition to English. (In fact, some of the sellers speak English and Spanish and enough Mandarin to sell their vegetables!) It’s pretty fun to try new things.


Fresh mushrooms
Fresh mushrooms

I haven’t tried buying mushrooms here yet, but I want to. They’re much cheaper than the mushrooms at the supermarket. Actually, many of the farmers’ market items are cheaper than at the supermarket, even though many Americans think that farmers’ markets are just for rich people.


Bouquets of flowers for sale
Bouquets of flowers for sale

I’ve never bought flowers here, but they look so pretty, don’t they? I didn’t take pictures of the sellers who sell bread, pies, sausage, fresh fish, eggs, hot food, etc., so maybe I’ll take photos again sometime!

We usually buy bread, vegetables, cooking ingredients like garlic, and fruit. In the winter we buy more vegetables like carrots and potatoes, but in the spring we buy asparagus, and in the summer we get tomatoes. In the winter, the main fruits that we buy are apples and citrus, but in the summer there’s a lot to choose from–peaches, all kinds of melons, and so on.

Of course, outdoor markets are standard in a lot of the world. How about where you live? Where do you buy fresh fruit and fresh vegetables? What else can you buy there?

Grammar note: “Fruit” is usually non-countable (I like to eat fruit). However, when we use it to mean “types of fruit” or “kinds of fruit, we can say “fruits.” So —
1. A lot of different kinds of fruit are sold at the farmers’ market.
2. A lot of different fruits are sold at the farmers’ markets.

If you have questions, please leave a comment!

English with Stacy

If you are an intermediate to advanced learner, I recommend subscribing to English with Stacy on Youtube. Here’s one of her videos: “-ing and -ed adjectives.” This video will help you use adjectives like “interested” and “interesting” correctly. The videos are great because they include some review and practice so that you can check your understanding. She doesn’t just talk to you! It’s very nice.

These videos will help you with listening and with grammar. She also explains how Americans (and some other English speakers) change their pronunciation when they are talking in a relaxed or normal way, which she calls “Fast English.” You don’t have to copy this pronunciation unless you have a special reason for needing to sound like this kind of English speaker. However, it’s still very useful for listening comprehension.

By the way, Stacy is the co-author of the current edition of Understanding and Using English Grammar, the advanced grammar book that I recommend for self-study.

Language Exchange Done Right?

Happy New Year! I’m slow to post again. Sorry! I have an important project that I have to finish, so I can’t spend enough time here. Anyway, I hope you had a good new year and will have a good 2009.

Today let me tell you a little about Lang-8. It’s a language exchange website. Usually I don’t link to these websites. Users often get bored or frustrated, because they can’t explain grammar problems, etc. (Yes, a native speaker can tell you “This is wrong.” However, it takes a language teacher to explain why something is wrong.) Or people just write short notes to each other. That’s pretty useful, but any language exchange site is fine for that.

Anyway, Lang-8 is a little different. It focuses on writing correction. You write a short journal entry in English. Native/fluent English speakers use Lang-8 sections to make corrections to your entry. You can see their corrections highlighted in red, marked out, etc. It’s easy to see the changes. (And you can help other people who are learning Korean, Japanese, German, etc.)

Of course, there’s still a problem. If you ask the commenter “Why did you change that?” he or she probably can’t explain very well. As a result, it’s hard for you to understand why you should write differently next time.

So I have a suggestion: If you use Lang-8, use it to practice specific grammar points and sentence patterns. Pick something where you basically understand the rules and write just a couple of sentences practicing that grammar point. Make several journal entries over several days working on that grammar point. Use Lang-8 to “check your homework” (except that the “homework” is your self-study). I think this will help make Lang-8 more useful to you.

Actually, I’m going to try this myself with Japanese! Wish me luck…

Pitfalls: “Married TO,” Not “Married WITH”

warning symbol of exclamation point in triangle, by zeimusu at openclipart.org

She is married to him. He was the first in his family to get married to someone from another country. Two of my friends would like to be married to each other, but it’s still not legal in this state, because they are both men.
heart with scroll, saying “married TO,” based on an image by Andy at openclipart.org

In these sentences and others, referring to the state of being married, the correct phrase is “married to.” However, many English learners say “married with.” This common preposition mistake won’t confuse listeners or readers too much. After all, your meaning is still clear. However, it may make the listener or reader pause momentarily, because this phrase isn’t part of standard American English.

The reason this mistake is so common is because many other languages use a preposition meaning “with”–and really, it makes more sense! Unfortunately, preposition choice is rarely based on logic, so it’s just a rule that has to be memorized. “Engaged” works the same way when referring to “promising to marry each other in the future”: She is engaged to him, etc. The noun “marriage,” on the other hand, usually is found as “marriage to” (7 million English Google hits) but may sometimes occur as “marriage with” (less than 3 million hits).

When you are referring to the actual act of getting married, you don’t need any preposition at all: She married him on August 20, 2003. He was the first in his family to marry someone from another country. Two of my friends would like to marry each other someday.

“Dating” is similar–I have heard even advanced non-native English speakers say “she is dating with him,” but this is never correct in American English. Instead, simply say: She won’t date sexist men. They dated each other for three years before deciding to get married. Are Pat and Leslie dating? etc.

(I know these rules are confusing. Prepositions are one specific area that I think is helped by reading a lot: once you’ve seen “married to” thousands of times in your reading, you’re likely to say it correctly without having to think about it!)

Take a Peek at the San Francisco Bay Area…Present Tense

Do you remember the present tense? (she walks, I read, he tells me, they buy some coffee, etc.) It’s probably one of the first things you learned in English. One place where you will often find the simple present tense is in captions–the explanatory writing that goes with a photo in a newspaper, magazine, etc.

image of newspaper from artvex.com

In journalistic style, the captions are usually written in present and present continuous/progressive tense, as though the event is happening as you look at the picture. Of course, the actions have already occurred, so past tense may seem more logical. However, you can think of the photo’s events as “frozen in time.” If you study academic writing in English, you learn to do the same thing when referring to other writings (Dr. Krashen writes that reading and listening are important, etc.).

Through the Lens is a feature of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s website. Every week, images from around the Bay Area are posted, with captions. The captions show a mix of tenses depending on the situation. For example, in this week’s Through the Lens, we have these captions posted:

If you’re interested in the San Francisco area, you can bookmark Through the Lens and get a regular look at life here.