‘-ed’ and ‘-ing’ Adjectives in Pop Songs

A lot of students have difficulties using -ed and -ing adjectives. These can help you.


The Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited

The Kinks – So Tired


Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood

(“The way you love me it’s frightening”)

Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring

Get Grammar Lessons From The Movies – Part 1


YouTube is an excellent way to learn English in small clips from popular movies. Here are a couple of examples. Don’t be afraid to repeat the clips over and over.

High Fidelity – “I haven’t seen Evil Dead 2 yet.”

Present perfect and the adverb ‘yet’.

Speed – “There’s a bomb on a bus.”

Practice with the simple present and zero conditional.

How many times should I repeat this?

I’m writing this in reply to a Twitter conversation.

When you listen to a video or a CD and don’t understand, how many times should you repeat it or replay it?

As many times as it takes. However, are you taking notes? Can you check words in a dictionary. Can you repeat what the speaker says?

If you can take notes, this helps. You will get hints about conversational topics and maybe even guess how the topic will change.

If you can check words in a dictionary, you can check that you understand correctly.

If you can repeat what the speaker says, you can use your phone to take notes, then make paper notes too.

I hope this helps.

Say Different City Names in English


Paris Map by Stefano Creative Commons: Attribution

Some cities have slightly different names in English to the way their names in other languages. Some of these are different pronunciations of the same spelling, such as Paris; others are wildly different, such as Florence and Prague. This week’s podcast teaches you how to say different city names in English. Download the podcast by right-clicking the link below.

6 – City Names in English

If you are using iOS, you can subscribe to the podcast by clicking this link.

Become a ‘Specialist’ to Improve Your Vocabulary


Previously I’ve written about studying what you find interesting. This has built-in motivation and will help you talk about the things you do every day.

However, sometimes you want to learn new things. To do this, become a ‘specialist’. Focus on a topic and learn vocabulary about it by listening and reading about it. This may be a long project, definitely more than one week. Don’t worry about spending too much time on this project; worry about whether it is interesting enough.

Brainstorm vocabulary ideas first

What words do you think you are going to read/hear? Perhaps it would be a good first step to use a dictionary to translate from your first language to English if you don’t have any ideas at all.

Take notes while you read and listen

Try to write what you read or heard in your own words. Do you agree with it? Will you try out the idea that you read about or heard?

Make word cards for new vocabulary

New vocabulary from any reading or listening should go onto word cards. You might also want to add these new words to a glossary, a list of specialist words and what they mean.

Carry on until you are a ‘specialist’

You might want to start a new specialist topic while you are in the middle of another. It’s possible but it is a lot of work. Why not write it down and start it when you feel you know enough about your current topic. You know when you have finished if you feel you have improved your vocabulary enough to tell your friends about your specialist topic in English.

From my own experiences I have found this to work, while studying photography, running and fitness training in Japanese. All are really fun, as is my new specialism, psychology.

Leave Your Comfort Zone to Learn More


Comfort Zone: a place or situation where everything is comfortable and familiar.

You can already read English well enough to understand this blog.

This blog is not reading practice; it is part of your reading practice. I know that ‘real’ English (as opposed to ESL textbook English) is difficult but life is difficult, too. If you want to get better, you have to leave your comfort zone.

Trying costs you nothing. You can’t fail, because trying means you win. If you have problems this time, remember that next time will be easier.
Let me know what you try in the comments.

Read Poetry to Develop Vocabulary


One of the most pleasurable ways to develop your vocabulary is to read poetry. A short poem can give you something interesting to think about and you can see different ways to describe things, people and feelings than you might have thought.

A poem can be read on a short commute, in line at the post office or, well, anywhere. There are some great resources on the internet. You can also listen to poetry on the internet, too.

Writer’s Almanac has a poem a day and a podcast.
Radar Poetry has an audio player on its site, too. Some of the poems are difficult, some are easy to understand.

On Twitter, you could follow Poetry Verve and Poetry_Society.

If you have any other ideas, leave them in the comments, please.

Focus Your Input for TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS


Sometimes you aren’t studying English. This is certainly true when you are studying for tests like TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS you study specialised kinds of English. What you study depends on the test.

TOEIC tests English for business (as well as everyday English).
TOEFL and IELTS test academic English.

The best ways to study for these tests are to read materials similar to the tests’ reading materials and listen to podcasts about relevant topics. For TOEIC, listen to business and news podcasts. For TOEFL and IELTS listen to podcasts about arts, social sciences and science for TOEFL and IELTS.

Sites I recommend for TOEIC:


Take Notes of Grammar and Vocabulary

Don’t forget to take notes of new grammar structures and make word cards for new vocabulary. Remember also to learn whole word families because these tests sometimes test your knowledge of word families. If you study these as you go, it should not be a problem.

Understand Passive Verb Forms

For all these tests you should learn to understand the passive verb form because it is used frequently in formal business English and in academic English.


He improved his English test scores by reading serious news articles and listening to college lectures. Not passive.

His English test scores were improved by reading serious news articles and listening to college lectures. Passive.

The basic construction is:

THING + ‘BE’ verb + ACTION verb (done to the thing) + DETAIL/CONDITION (optional but more common).

For a long-term skill increase you should study different materials anyway. However, to get a higher score in standardised tests such as TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS, you need to understand the style of their reading and listening materials.