Lesson #276: ‘Music on Christmas Morning’

In the days approaching Christmas, my thoughts have turned to some of the Christmas Carols (songs sung at Christmas) and the stories behind how they were written. ❇️ If you have ever spent the Christmas season in an English-speaking country such as Britain or Ireland, chances are that you have heard a Christmas carol being …

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Lesson #275: ‘I Will Honour Christmas In My Heart’: Past, Present, and Future Tenses in ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Dickens)

📗 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843) What better …

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Lesson #274: Easy Antonyms in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ You Already Know

📗 ‘So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by …

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Lesson #273: Mistakes Spanish Speakers tend to make in English (Part 2)

Welcome to the last section of our Lessons on common mistakes learners of English make (and Part 2 of Lesson #273). With the help of Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out (1915), we are analysing the main mistakes that Spanish students make when learning English. … 21 COMMON MISTAKES (CONTINUED) 📝 #11 ‘TH’ SOUND …

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Lesson #273: Mistakes Spanish Speakers tend to make in English (Part 1)

This is our last Lesson in our 5-part series looking at common mistakes English language students tend to make. If you have been following these since the start of November, you will have noticed that there are always some points that challenge more than one group of students (for example, affecting Russian as well as …

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Lesson #272: Common Issues for Hebrew Speakers studying English (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our Lesson in which we look at some passages from Anthony Trollope’s wonderful short novel, Nina Balatka (more on it in Part 1) as well as several challenging points for Hebrew speakers learning English. … 📝 #6 ‘CONGRATULATIONS’ (vs ‘good luck’) for ‘mazaltov’ מזל טוב Perhaps one of the most …

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Lesson #272: Common Issues for Hebrew Speakers studying English (Part 1)

If you have been following our Lessons since the start of November, you will have noticed that we are taking a look at some common mistakes made by students from different language backgrounds. I always mention that these Lessons are not a criticism of your mistakes! I hope instead to offer some helpful points on …

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Lesson #271: Understanding ‘While’ vs ‘When’ through Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’

Last Friday we looked at Anne Bronte’s first novel, Agnes Grey (1847), as a story on morality and education, women’s careers in the Victorian age, and personal character development. (Please read 👉 that Lesson first to get a good picture of what the novel is really about – you wouldn’t like to miss it!) Today …

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Lesson #270 (Part 2): Some Mistakes that Italians make in English

Here we will continue our Lesson by looking at common issues that Italian students of English often make. (If you missed Part 1 of our Lesson, have a look at it first 👈 – I shared in it more about the novel by Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, on which we are basing our Lesson). …

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Lesson #270 (Part 1): Some Mistakes that Italians make in English

If you have been following my Lessons over the past couple of weeks, you will have seen that we are looking at the most common or typical mistakes that students make when learning English, with a special focus on how different mother tongues influence your English studies. In Lesson #267 we looked at the common …

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Lesson #269: Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’: A short retelling of the novel (including 10 keywords you should know)

📙 ‘All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shriveled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.’ ― Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847) One of the books I turn to whenever I want a short, light, and …

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Lesson #268 (Part 2): Mistakes Russian students tend to make in English

📗 Welcome to Part 2 of our Lesson in which we look at difficult areas for many Russian students of English in particular. You may find it helpful to check 👉 Part 1 first to understand why we chose Henry James’ excellent novel, The Portrait of a Lady (1881), for this Lesson, as well as …

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Lesson #268 (Part 1): Mistakes Russian students tend to make in English

This month I am writing a series of Lesson posts covering the most common mistakes that students make. Today I am focusing on confusing English issues for native Russian speakers and hope very much it will help anyone who struggles with these areas. As I mentioned in my previous Lesson, there is no need to …

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Lesson #267 (Part 2): Common Issues French Speakers Struggle With In English

This is the second part of our Lesson, in which we look at some challenging points for French students studying English with the help of British author Frances Burney’s writings. 👉 If you haven’t read Part 1, please do read it first – everything will make more sense once you do! … 📝 #12 THE …

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Lesson #267 (Part 1): Common Issues French Speakers Struggle With In English

As someone who has been studying French for years and still make mistakes, I have become more aware of the kinds of pitfalls that native French speakers often experience while studying English. You might say I have a kind of ‘sympathy’ for their mistakes since those are often areas that native English speakers like me …

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Lesson #266: Some English Words That Are Difficult To Translate In Other Languages

Whenever you learn a new language, there are always words that you find challenging in themselves but also difficult to translate into your own language (or vice versa). I searched recently for some such words in English, and then realised that one of the very first works of English literature that I ever read as …

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Lesson #265: ‘from Eton pears to Parliamentary pairs’: 10 English Homophones

It has been a while since we turned to Charles Dickens for educational inspiration! On the other hand, I have just finished reading the last chapters of my favourite Dickens’ book, Little Dorrit (1857), and am paying tribute to it (acknowledging it respectfully) in today’s Lesson on homophones. You might be asking: what are homophones? …

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Lesson #264: ‘Girls, such as me and Miss Snowe, don’t need treats’: Understanding the differences between ‘Such As’ vs ‘As Such’

Every now and then, English language students mention how they are confused by the difference between ‘such as’ and ‘as such’. Are they the same? 🤔 No. As I was reading through Charlotte Bronte’s psychologically deep novel, Villette, I realised some of its lines could help illustrate the difference between these two expressions. 📘 Villette …

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Lesson #263 (Part 2): Vocabulary relating to Clothes, Fabrics, and different kinds of Textiles – ‘All Purple Cloth and Fine Linen’ (Elizabeth Gaskell)

In this second part of our Lesson on vocabulary relating to textiles, we will continue with four more words that specifically describe richer types of material. They are not the kind of fabric that you would wear every day, but there is a chance that at some point in your life you will wear a …

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Lesson #263 (Part 1): Vocabulary relating to Clothes, Fabrics, and different kinds of Textiles – ‘Who On Earth Wears Cotton That Can Afford Linen?’ (Elizabeth Gaskell)

This wonderful novel by Elizabeth Gaskell is set in mid-19th century (c. 1850s) England, where the main character, a strong-minded girl called Margaret Hale, is forced together with her family to leave their lovely home in the sunny south of England and move to a smoky, industrial town further north (‘Milton’ – a fictional name …

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Lesson #262: ‘This is the famous stone / That turneth all to Gold’ – George Herbert’s ‘The Elixir’

This Lesson’s feature image: George Herbert at Bemerton, Salisbury (1860), by painter William Dyce (1806-1864). Photo Credit: City of London Corporation (ArtUK.org) 📆 It is one year to the day – October 1st 2020 – since I started posting short Lessons on how to ‘learn English through literature’! A lot has changed since then, with …

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Lesson #261: Writing with a strong sense of wonder – Browning’s ‘Home-Thoughts, From the Sea’

📜 ‘Home-Thoughts, From the Sea’ (1845) Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-West died away;Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;Bluish ‘mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;In the dimmest North-East distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;“Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?”—say,Whoso turns as …

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Lesson #260: Effective advice on ‘How to Write a Letter’, by Elizabeth Turner

📜’How to write a Letter’ Maria intended a letter to write,But could not begin (as she thought) to indite;So went to her mother with pencil and slate,Containing ‘Dear Sister’, and also a date. ‘With nothing to say, my dear girl, do not thinkOf wasting your time over paper and ink;But certainly this is an excellent …

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Lesson #258: ‘Late Autumn’: Appreciating a colourful poem by English-Canadian poet Joseph Horatio Chant

As we draw close to the first anniversary of these regular Learn English through Literature Lessons, I thought it would be a nice celebration to read and reflect on inspiring English language poetry this week. 📚 As you will see, some of the poets we are considering are less well-known, so all the more reason …

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Lesson #257 (Part 2): ‘Oh, I do see …’ Analysing the many ways Henry James used ‘do’ in English (and how you can too)

📗 “… The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have. You’ve plenty; that’s the great thing; you’re, as I say, damn you, so happily and hatefully young. Don’t at any rate miss things out of stupidity. Of course I don’t take you for a fool, or I shouldn’t …

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Lesson #257 (Part 1): ‘Oh I do see …’ Analysing the many ways Henry James used ‘do’ in English (and how you can too)

📗 “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had? I’m too old— too old at any rate for what I see. What one loses one loses; make no …

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Lesson #256: ‘They Were All Wild To See Lyme’ (Austen’s ‘Persuasion’): Using ‘All’, ‘Both’, ‘Either’, ‘None’ Correctly

📘 ‘The young people were all wild to see Lyme … and to Lyme they were to go – Charles, Mary, Anne, Henrietta, Louisa, and Captain Wentworth.’ – Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818) … I was re-listening to the audiobook version of one of my favourite Austen novels – Persuasion – when this sentence inspired me …

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Lesson #255 (Part 2): A Look At Scott’s ‘Waverley’ (And How He Uses An Array of Sensory Words to Describe An Unforgettable Experience)

In our passage from Sir Walter Scott’s great historical novel Waverley (which we looked at in Part 1 of this Lesson), we see how Edward Waverley meets with Flora MacIvor and her companion Cathleen in a remote spot in the Scottish Highlands, where Flora plays on the harp and sings enchanting (fascinating) songs. Waverley is …

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Lesson #255 (Part 1): A Look At Scott’s ‘Waverley’ (And How He Uses An Array of Sensory Words to Describe An Unforgettable Experience)

We are so used to having a wide range of historical fiction titles at our fingertips (accessible to us) that we sometimes forget there was once a writer who began to research and write such works. Many scholars agree that Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish novelist and poet, was such a writer. His 1814 classic …

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Lesson #254: ‘I’ve learned a new and valuable lesson today’ – 7 Study Insights from ‘Anne Of Green Gables’

📗 “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” “I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.” “Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about …

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Lesson #253: A line-by-line reading comprehension exercise with analysis (Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’)

A few days ago, I mentioned how I enjoy painting whenever I have the opportunity. 🎨 To be honest, there was a time when I thought I would pursue this interest more professionally. But for now, I just enjoy it as a pastime – that said, the urge to perfect paintings or drawings is still …

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Lesson #252: ‘The best master in the world’: Considering different learning & teaching methods through Dickens’ ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’

📙 … For Mark had some practical knowledge of such matters, and Martin learned of him; whereas the other settlers who remained upon the putrid swamp (a mere handful, and those withered by disease), appeared to have wandered there with the idea that husbandry was the natural gift of all mankind. They helped each other …

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Lesson #251: September 2021 – A season to remember? (and 3 tips on how to improve your English in one semester)

It has been a busy summer here in the west of Ireland! I spent several weeks editing my Learn English Through Literature book (I promise to keep everyone updated on its progress!) while also preparing study materials, workbooks, etc. for my English language coaching students this season. 📚 🎨 And as you can see from …

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Lesson #244: ‘We should be kind while there is still time’: Reflecting on Philip Larkin’s Poem ‘The Mower’

A few days ago, on my early morning walk, I noticed these nice daisies that grow so plentifully by the roadside near my home. 🌼 I took a photograph of them to remember them by when they would be withered away. I was glad that I did, because when I returned a few days later, …

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Lesson #243: Observations on How Austen Reported Speech (Free Indirect Speech in ‘Emma’)

📗 “You had better explore to Donwell,” replied Mr. Knightley. “That may be done without horses. Come, and eat my strawberries. They are ripening fast … ” [Mrs Elton replied]: “It is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite a simple thing. I shall wear a large bonnet, and bring one of my …

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Lesson #242 (Part 2): 12 Pairs of Antonyms and Synonyms through Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Classic

This is Part 2 of our Lesson covering useful pairs of antonyms (words expressing contrast, opposition) and synonyms (words expressing similar meanings) as found in A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous children’s classic. We have covered some antonyms in Part 1, and are focusing here on 8 pairs of synonyms that you will find …

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Lesson #242 (Part 1): 12 Pairs of Antonyms and Synonyms through Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Classic

A Little Princess is a 1905 classic by British author Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote the famous Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911). I found my old copy of it recently, and while reminiscing (remembering with pleasure) how much it meant to me as a child, I saw how Hodgson Burnett’s …

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Lesson #241: ‘Each other’ vs ‘one another’ through George Eliot’s ‘Daniel Deronda’

📗 Our novel today is George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876), which tells the story of two characters on a quest to find out their meaning in life and their place in the community they live in. While each of them has personal questions and struggles to face, sometimes they are able to share those experiences …

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Lesson #240 (Part 2): How to fix the most common punctuation mistake in English

📙 Grace’s disposition to make the best of everything, and to wink at deficiencies in Winterborne’s menage, was so uniform and persistent that he suspected her of seeing even more deficiencies than he was aware of … ‘… It reminds me so pleasantly that everything here in dear old Hintock is just as it used …

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Lesson #240 (Part 1): How to fix the most common punctuation mistake in English

As a proofreader and a tutor, the most common mistake I see on a daily basis is the misappropriation (placing in the wrong places) of apostrophes (‘) in English. Even native English speakers make this mistake from time to time! If you have been reading my Lessons for a while, you may remember that I …

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Lesson #239: Connecting with the past through memories: Thomas Hood’s famous poem ‘I Remember, I Remember’

One of the nicest aspects of preparing these Lessons is that I am always on the look-out for inspiration. In the last few days, I noticed how beautiful the laburnum’s flowers in our garden looked – the laburnum being a tree with drooping branches and yellow blossoms (flowers) that flower in May and June every …

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Lesson #238: The differences between Sometimes vs Some Time, Anytime vs Any Time, Overtime vs Over Time

📘 ‘Altogether it was a perfect night, such a night as you sometimes get in Southern Africa, and it threw a garment of peace over everybody as the moon threw a garment of silver over everything.’ – H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines (1885) … For many of you, reading adventure stories was an important …

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Lesson #237 (Part 2): ‘To what extent?’ Adverbs that modify Adjectives

📘 ‘He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him was gone for ever.’ – Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818) … Welcome back to our …

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Lesson #237 (Part 1): ‘To what extent?’ Adverbs that modify Adjectives

📘 She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing: indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it … No second attachment, the only thoroughly natural, happy, and sufficient cure, at her time of life, had been possible to the nice tone of her mind, the fastidiousness of her taste, in the …

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Lesson #236: Three Ways To Use ‘Been’, The Past Participle Of ‘To Be’

📙 “My dear Miss Catherine,” I began, too vividly impressed by her recent kindness to break into a scold, “where have you been riding out at this hour? And why should you try to deceive me by telling a tale? Where have you been? Speak!” – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847) … You may remember …

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Lesson #235 (Part 2): Being or Been? What you need to know about the present participle of ‘To Be’

📙 ‘“… Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again …”’ – Cathy Earnshaw in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) In this second Part of our Lesson …

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Lesson #235 (Part 1): Being or Been? What you need to know about the present participle of ‘To Be’

📙 ‘Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. “Wuthering” being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.’ – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847) Have you ever been confused about the differences between ‘being’ and ‘been’ in English? 🤔 ✍️ Both of these …

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Lesson #234: ‘To own her for a Friend’ (Emily Dickinson) – Making English a part of your thinking

To see her is a Picture – To hear her is a Tune – To know her an Intemperance As innocent as June – To know her not – Affliction – To own her for a Friend A warmth as near as if the Sun Were shining in your Hand. – Emily Dickinson, The Complete …

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Lesson #233: ‘While’, ‘During’, ‘Meanwhile’, and Other Common Expressions of Simultaneity (Co-occurence)

📗 ‘It was in this scene of strife and bloodshed that the incidents we shall attempt to relate occurred, during the third year of the war which England and France last waged for the possession of a country that neither was destined to retain.’ – James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative …

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Lesson #232 (Part 2): Homographs in ‘Bleak House’: English words that are spelled the same but are not related

Welcome to Part 2 of our Lesson on homographs! In Part 1 we already looked at what homographs mean (quick reminder: they are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and often different pronunciations). We also covered some key homographs in the English language, starting with those word pairs that share the …

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Lesson #232 (Part 1): Homographs in ‘Bleak House’: English words that are spelled the same but are not related

How familiar are you with homographs? 🤔 You might not recognise at first what a homograph means, but you have probably been using them (or at least noticing them) without even realising it! Homographs are basically words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. ✍️ Sometimes these word pairs are related because they …

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Lesson #231: How two different tenses can be used together correctly in reported speech

Earlier this week we delved into (dived into) the ‘nuts and bolts‘ (an expression that means ‘everything relating to’) of direct and indirect speech. But of course, it takes time and space to cover such a large topic, and I noticed that some students had questions about the difference in tenses used in retelling indirect …

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Lesson #230 (Part 2): ‘To say’ vs ‘to tell’: What you need to report Direct and Indirect speeches accurately

This Lesson post builds on what was covered in Part 1, so if you missed it why not quickly review our basic outline of ✏️ 1) what direct and indirect speeches are, ✏️ 2) the main differences between them, and ✏️ 3) how to correctly use the verbs ‘to say’ and ‘to tell’ in those …

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Lesson #230 (Part 1): ‘To say’ vs ‘to tell’: What you need to report Direct and Indirect speeches accurately

For the last couple of years, I have been reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch throughout May and June. It has 8 books (or sections) and so I read one book per week, finishing one of the longest books in just 8 weeks! 📆 It is a marvellous work, and has in fact been described as ‘one …

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Lesson #229: Reading for Appreciation: ‘A Psalm of Life’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As you may remember, every second Saturday we take the time to look at a poem from English or American literature. This week I am sharing with you a poem by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (whose poem, ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’, we looked at in Lesson #187). 🖋️ As I thought about this poem …

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Lesson #228: The transformative power of adjectives – a look at Kingsley’s ‘Water Babies’

I recently rediscovered a book on our shelves that my mother bought when we were children, and which I had been intending to read many times – only beginning now at last! 🗝️ 📗 This book, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1863), is about a chimney-sweep, that is, a little child who used to sweep …

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Lesson #227 (Part 2): ‘We are going’ cf. ‘We will go’: 2 constructions of the future tense

We continue our Lesson on the differences (and similarities) between the expressions ‘be going to [verb]’ cf. ‘will [verb]’ to talk about the future in English. (If you missed it, we looked primarily at ‘be going to …’ in Part 1 of our Lesson) … 📝 ‘WILL [+ VERB]’ (SIMPLE FUTURE) In Part 1 of …

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Lesson #227 (Part 1): ‘We are going’ cf. ‘We will go’: 2 constructions of the future tense

📗 “We will go—you and I alone, Caroline—to that wood …” “We are going to see Miss Shirley Keeldar.” – Charlotte Bronte, Shirley (1849) … 🔎 In what ways is the future tense in these two sentences different? This is a question that baffles many students – understandably, since the differences are very subtle! This …

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Lesson #226: Two simple rules to help pronounce words beginning with ‘c’

Have you ever been reading aloud and come across a word you don’t know how to pronounce? 🤔 I can imagine that this happens to a good many students who are studying English. English pronunciation can be difficult to predict, partly because English words are derived from (they come from) many other languages with different …

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Lesson #225 (Part 2): Reviewing Expressions of Place and Movement (through Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’)

Welcome to Part 2 of this Lesson, where we have been looking at expressions of place and movement in English (mostly adverbs which English speakers use on a daily basis). … 📝 #15 DOWN THE [PATH, ROAD, WALK, STREET, ETC] 📘 ‘[Fanny] was again roused from disagreeable musings by sudden footsteps: somebody was coming at …

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Lesson #225 (Part 1): Reviewing Expressions of Place and Movement (through Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’)

For a couple of years now, I have been re-reading Mansfield Park (one of my favourite novels) on my birthday. I am fond of this book for many reasons, one being that it emphasises the importance of making space in our lives for quietness, thoughtfulness, and real gratitude. 🌼 A walk in the woods with …

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Lesson #224: Reflecting on Emily Bronte’s Poem ‘Plead for Me’ (including new vocabulary list)

If you have been reading these Lesson posts for some time, you may remember how much I like Emily Bronte’s poetry. She was a poet I discovered only in the last few years, and I wonder how I could have been reading literature for so long and yet not have read her poetry before! I …

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Lesson #223: Avoiding confusion in your writing: 3 Punctuation Tips

📗 “I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!” “That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first—” “Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!” – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1871) … Have you ever read …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #222 (Part 2): ‘At Home, In Days Gone By’ – 9 prepositions that express time

📙 ‘There was all the more time for me to hear old-world stories from Miss Pole, while she sat knitting, and I making my father’s shirts.’ – Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (1853) … ✏️ (If you missed the first part of this Lesson on prepositions of time, you can find it here). ✏️ … 📝 #5 …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #222 (Part 1): ‘At Home, In Days Gone By’ – 9 prepositions that express time

📙 ‘Miss Matty and I quietly decided that we would have a previous engagement at home: it was the evening on which Miss Matty usually made candle-lighters of all the notes and letters of the week; for on Mondays her accounts were always made straight— not a penny owing from the week before; so, by …

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Lesson #221: How and When To Use Paragraph Breaks in Writing

💮 Spring is such a beautiful season! A few evenings ago, as I was walking in the garden, I saw the sunlight touching these blueberry flowers and had to stop to appreciate the beauty of the moment. I took a photograph of them of course, but nothing compares with the experience of seeing flowers like …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #220 (Part 2): When to Use ‘Whether’ vs ‘If’ in English – Their Similarities and Differences

📘 I really do not know whether I felt that I did this for Estella’s sake, or whether I was glad to transfer to the man in whose preservation I was so much concerned some rays of the romantic interest that had so long surrounded me. Perhaps the latter possibility may be the nearer to …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #220 (Part 1): When to Use ‘Whether’ vs ‘If’ in English – Their Similarities and Differences

📘 No; I should not have minded that, if they would only have left me alone. But they wouldn’t leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they failed to point the conversation at me, every now and then, and stick the point into me. I might have been an unfortunate little …

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Lesson #219: ‘Annabel Lee’: Edgar Allan Poe’s Melodious and Melodramatic Poem

‘Annabel Lee’ (1849) It was many and many a year ago,    In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know    By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with no other thought    Than to love and be loved by me. .. I was a child and she was a …

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Lesson #218: Learning From A Letter – Charlotte Bronte’s words to her Aunt

Since yesterday (April 21st) was the 205th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth, I thought it would be nice to have a look at some of the personal letters that she wrote during her lifetime. 📚 Most people remember her for her classic Jane Eyre (1847) or even Villette (1853), both of which considered what life …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #217 (Part 2): ‘I want an appropriate simile’: Popular Similes English Speakers Use

📗 “I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.” “It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do— for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #217 (Part 1): ‘I want an appropriate simile’: Popular Similes English Speakers Use

📗 Thorpe told her it would be in vain to go after the Tilneys; they were turning the corner into Brock Street, when he had overtaken them, and were at home by this time. “Then I will go after them,” said Catherine; “wherever they are I will go after them. It does not signify talking. …

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Lesson #216: Seven Nouns with Identical Singular and Plural Forms in ‘Adam Bede’

📗 Arthur had passed the village of Hayslope and was approaching the Broxton side of the hill, when, at a turning in the road, he saw a figure about a hundred yards before him which it was impossible to mistake for any one else than Adam Bede, even if there had been no grey, tailless …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #215 (Part 2): ‘Besides vs beside’, ‘Always vs alway’, ‘Forwards vs Forward’ – Different meanings and usages

📙 ‘I hope I shall always behave so as to be respected by every one; and that nobody would do me more hurt than I am sure I would do them.’ – Samuel Richardson, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) In Part 2 of our Lesson, we continue to differentiate the differences between similar-looking words like …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #215 (Part 1): ‘Besides vs beside’, ‘Always vs alway’, ‘Forwards vs Forward’ – Different meanings and usages

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between words like ‘beside’ and ‘besides’? 💡 Believe me, one little letter makes all the difference in what the word means and how it can be used! Today’s Lesson in two parts looks at 3 ‘mistakable’ pairs of words: Besides vs beside Always vs alway Forwards vs …

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Lesson #214: Appreciating April through Ancient Eyes (Chaucer’s poetry)

I have been looking forward to April for some time, knowing that these lines from the 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer would be perfectly seasonable! 🌼 This Lesson is in 3 parts: ✏️ A modern translation of Chaucer’s medieval poem’s opening lines (with a vocabulary list) ✏️ The original lines in medieval English (just for …

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Lesson #213: On Anthony Trollope (and 3 Easily Mistaken Verb Forms)

📘 ‘Lady Carbury, having finished her third letter, threw herself back in her chair, and for a moment or two closed her eyes, as though about to rest. But she soon remembered that the activity of her life did not admit of such rest. She therefore seized her pen and began scribbling further notes.’ – …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #212 (Part 2): Multiple Verbs and Correct Word Order

This is Part 2 of our complete Lesson in which we look at past perfect verb form + adverbs past participles + infinitives present participles + infinitives simple past tense + 2 infinitives 2 simple past tense constructions in a row 2 different verb forms (simple past + present participle) in a row … 📝 …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #212 (Part 1): Multiple Verbs and Correct Word Order

📙 Many American ladies on leaving their native land adopt an appearance of chronic ill-health, under the impression that it is a form of European refinement, but Mrs. Otis had never fallen into this error. She had a magnificent constitution, and a really wonderful amount of animal spirits. Indeed, in many respects, she was quite …

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Lesson #211: 10 Intermediate/Advanced Phrases & Words to Enrich Your Writing (from Oscar Wilde)

Every time Easter approaches, I am reminded of a short story, The Selfish Giant (1888), written by the Irish poet and playright Oscar Wilde. As I was rereading it today, I was impressed again by how splendid and eloquent his writing is, while being easy to read. In fact I think its language is even …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #210 (Part 2): Intermediate and Advanced English Vocabulary (through Gaskell’s ‘North and South’)

Here we continue the story of Margaret Hale on her return to her parents’ country home in Helstone (a fictional village, probably based in Hampshire, England). … 📗 # FROM GASKELL’S NORTH AND SOUTH And walk Margaret did, in spite of the weather. She was so happy out of doors, at her father’s side, that …

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #210 (Part 2): Intermediate and Advanced English Vocabulary (through Gaskell’s ‘North and South’) Read More »

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #210 (Part 1): Intermediate and Advanced English Vocabulary (through Gaskell’s ‘North and South’)

As an intermediate or advanced level student of English, it can be hard to learn new vocabulary without understanding how to use them correctly in a sentence. For that reason, students are often encouraged to read more and more, but that in itself can become an overwhelming experience without the right kind of support from …

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #210 (Part 1): Intermediate and Advanced English Vocabulary (through Gaskell’s ‘North and South’) Read More »

Lesson #209: ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening’: Reading aloud in English (and enjoying poetry at a new pace)

STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING Whose woods these are I think I know.    His house is in the village though;    He will not see me stopping here    To watch his woods fill up with snow.    My little horse must think it queer    To stop without a farmhouse near    Between the woods and frozen …

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Lesson #208: “Don’t go frightening the princess”: Ten English Verbs ending with -en

In last Monday’s Lesson we looked at adjective groups based on their endings; we saw how they were different from verb forms that look similar. In today’s Lesson we are going to also look at verbs ending with -en, many of which are created from adjectives. ✏️ 👉 For this reason, some of them will …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #207 (Part 2): Adjectives that end with -ed and -ing in English (through Bronte’s ‘Villette’)

In this second part of our Lesson on adjectives, we are going to focus on adjectives ending with -ing in English (for adjectives ending with -ed, check Part 1 of our Lesson). … 📝 #4 ADJECTIVES ENDING WITH -ing 📘 ‘It seems as if I had been pioneered invisibly, as if some dissolving force had …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #207 (Part 1): Adjectives that end with -ed and -ing in English (through Bronte’s ‘Villette’)

If you have ever tried to describe someone you know, or an experience you have had, or something that you like, you will have almost certainly used some adjectives. Adjectives in English often end with similar endings – ‘-al’, ‘-ous’, ‘-ful’, ‘-ed’, and ‘-ing’ being some of the most common. In today’s Lesson we are …

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Lesson #206: Understanding, Identifying, and Using Relative Adverb Clauses in Writing

📗 “I have broken where I should have bent; and have mused and brooded, when my spirit should have mixed with all God’s great creation. The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother. I have turned from the world, and I pay the penalty.” – Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1841) …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #205 (Part 2): Understanding ‘Used To’ vs ‘Be Used To’ (with examples from Austen’s ‘Emma’)

Welcome to Part 2 of our Lesson, where we will focus on understanding ‘be used to’ and what makes it uniquely different from ‘used to’ constructions (covered in Part 1 of this Lesson). … 📝 ‘BE USED TO’ Be (conjugate the verb) + Used To + Gerund OR Noun ✍️ This construction expresses a state …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #205 (Part 1): Understanding ‘Used To’ vs ‘Be Used To’ (with examples from Austen’s ‘Emma’)

‘Used to’ or ‘be used to’? 🤔 At first glance it might seem that both of these expressions are the same, but they are not! They imply (help us to understand something without actually saying it directly) two different things. Today’s Lesson will help to clarify the differences between them, with examples taken from another …

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Lesson #204: Considering Coleridge’s poem ‘Desire’ from 3 different perspectives

📜 Where true Love burns Desire is Love’s pure flame; It is the reflex of our earthly frame, That takes its meaning from the nobler part, And but translates the language of the heart. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge This very short but thoughtful poem is our text for today’s poetry-based Lesson (you may have noticed …

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Lesson #203: ‘Still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside’: A reading comprehension exercise with vocabulary from ‘Jane Eyre’

📚 I have been re-reading my favourite classic, Jane Eyre (1847), and discovered anew (again) one of the beautifully descriptive passages on springtime in this book. It makes for a perfect reading comprehension exercise for this time of the year! In this Lesson I have included a vocabulary list to help you better understand Bronte’s …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #202 (Part 2): The Differences Between ‘If’ and ‘When’, through Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’

We are outlining the usages and differences between the conjunctions ‘if’ and ‘when’ in today’s Lesson, with the help of Anna Sewell’s influential Black Beauty. Not only did Sewell espouse (promoted) animal welfare through it, but the public’s response to it helped to introduce new anti-cruelty legislation in Britain and the U.S.A. – as such, …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #202 (Part 1): The Differences Between ‘If’ and ‘When’, through Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’

📗 ‘When it was hot we used to stand by the pond in the shade of the trees, and when it was cold we had a nice warm shed near the grove.’ – Anna Sewell, Black Beauty (1877) … ‘If’ and ‘when’ are two small conjunctions describing time that are often confusing for English language …

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #202 (Part 1): The Differences Between ‘If’ and ‘When’, through Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’ Read More »

Lesson #201: Reading to Improve English Language Skills? 3 Recommended Children’s Classics

📚 One question I am often asked is: ‘which classics are good for English language learners?’ It is one of my favourite questions, because it allows me to recommend great books that can be useful and enjoyable for you. 😊 As you can tell from this Lesson’s title, I recommend getting started on children’s classics …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #200 (Part 2): Different Ways of Seeing: Wordsworth’s ‘The Daffodils’

🌼I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils … – William Wordsworth, ‘The Daffodils’ (1807) 🌼 This is Part 2 of our Lesson on ‘Different Ways of Seeing’: having read Wordsworth’s poem in Part 1, we …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #200 (Part 1): Different Ways of Seeing: Wordsworth’s ‘The Daffodils’

🏵️ The first of March – also known as ‘St David’s Day’, Wales’ national day, when the Welsh like to wear small daffodils (or leeks) as a national symbol. That, together with our own daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops has brought to mind one of the most famous poems in the English language, William Wordsworth’s ‘The …

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Lesson #199: Observing changes in English words over time, through Cowper’s ‘The Rose’

🥀 ‘Does it not make you think of Cowper? “Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.”‘ – Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park Austen fans will be interested to know that William Cowper (1731-1800) was her favourite poet, as well as her contemporary. Cowper (pronounced COO-per) was known not only for his …

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Lesson #198: Appreciating Descriptive Writing from Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’

📘 One of Charles Dickens’ most famous novels is Oliver Twist (1838), also one of his earliest works.  Even if you haven’t read the book, you may well have watched one of the musicals or movies that have been made on the story. I watched the 1968 Oliver! musical when I was young, and it has remained one of …

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Lesson #197: Alice’s Adventures With Homographs and Homophones (Words That Are Spelled Or Sound The Same)

📗 “Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) One of the most famous children’s books in the word is certainly Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), which has been translated into at least 174 since it was first published over …

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Lesson #196: ‘As If’ vs ‘As Though’ through Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’

📙 ‘As though a rose should shut And be a bud again.’ – Thomas Hardy, Far From The Madding Crowd (1874) 🥀 … If you have been around native English speakers enjoying a casual conversation, you are likely to have heard them use the word ‘like’ often when making a comparison of some kind. ✒️ …

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Lesson #195: ‘At’, ‘By’, ‘In’, ‘Into’, ‘On’, ‘Out of’: Describing Location and Movement with Prepositions of Place

📙 So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates.   He flew into dark lanes, and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets.   Under the archway of a bridge …

Lesson #195: ‘At’, ‘By’, ‘In’, ‘Into’, ‘On’, ‘Out of’: Describing Location and Movement with Prepositions of Place Read More »

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #194 (Part 2): ‘Must’, ‘Have To/Have Got To, ‘Should’, And ‘Ought To’: Modal Verb Forms That Express Obligation

📗 ‘I probably never should have loved him, and if I loved him first, and then made the discovery, I fear I should have thought it my duty not to have married him.’ – Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall We will continue our Lesson on ‘modal verb forms that express obligation’ here. We …

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #194 (Part 2): ‘Must’, ‘Have To/Have Got To, ‘Should’, And ‘Ought To’: Modal Verb Forms That Express Obligation Read More »

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #194 (Part 1): ‘Must’, ‘Have To/Have Got To, ‘Should’, And ‘Ought To’: Modal Verb Forms That Express Obligation

📗 ‘You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.’ – Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Since modal verbs (also known as auxiliary or helping verbs) are so important in English, we are going to look at four forms that are sometimes problematic for English learners of all levels. These are …

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Lesson #193: ‘A Song of Harvest’: Some Observations on Whittier’s Poem

🌳 I am sharing a poem with you today from my 110-year-old volume of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poems (published in 1894 and this edition dating from 1911)! Anyone who knows me knows of my love of books, and especially any old copies I can find. What makes the acquisition (the fact of owning or getting) …

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Lesson #192: Inversions of Word Order When Using Interrogative and Relative Pronouns

‘Who’, ‘how’, ‘which’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘where’ – these are often called question words or interrogative pronouns. But they are also relative pronouns. These two different functions sometimes lead to common mistakes, especially in relation to where they are placed in a sentence’s word order. In this Lesson we will look at the functions of both …

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Lesson #191: Describing Contrast with Transition Words ‘Although’, ‘Though’, and ‘Even Though’

If you have ever heard someone mention ‘Lilliput’ or ‘Brobdingnag’, you have heard a reference to one very early English classic, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726). 📗 It is a fantasy story of a surgeon and captain called Lemuel Gulliver who is shipwrecked on islands of tiny people …

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Lesson #190: Understanding the Difference between ‘Beside’ vs ‘Besides’

📙 “And one day, I remember, I met Miss Matty in the lane that leads to Combehurst; she was walking on the footpath, which, you know, is raised a good way above the road, and a gentleman rode beside her, and was talking to her, and she was looking down at some primroses she had …

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Lesson #189: ‘We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened …’: All About The Pluperfect/Past Perfect Tense in English

📗 ‘Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Neverland had again woke into life. We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is better and was always used by Peter.’ – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan (1904) … Perhaps you have heard or even watched a movie on Peter Pan, …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #188 (Part 2): Considering ‘Can’, ‘Could’, and ‘Be Able To’ through Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’

📘 ‘He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed the contest, I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed, I go so far as to hope that I regarded myself while dressing as a species of savage young wolf or other wild beast. However, I got dressed, darkly wiping …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #188 (Part 1): Considering ‘Can’, ‘Could’, and ‘Be Able To’ through Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’

If you are interested in classic English literature (and if you are reading these Lessons, why wouldn’t you be? 😊), you have surely heard of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861). 📘 “Well, then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be comfortable— or anything but miserable— there, Biddy!— unless I can lead …

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Lesson #187: ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’: How a Poem by Longfellow Tells a Story from American History

Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year … – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ (1860) It may be that your experience with reading poetry goes back to …

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Lesson #186: Advanced Reading Comprehension from Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’

Today’s Lesson draws on one of Sir Walter Scott’s most beloved works, the medieval romance Ivanhoe (1819). Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish novelist who both lived concurrently (at the same time) with Jane Austen, and also admired her writing (especially Pride and Prejudice, which we enjoyed yesterday). In his own right, Scott was one …

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Lesson #185: ‘And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting!’ – Uses of ‘Which’ in Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

📘 “But it is not merely this affair,” she continued, “on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place, my opinion of you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what …

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Lesson #184: Describing A Process and An End Result: How to Correctly Use ‘Eventually’, ‘Finally’, ‘Gradually’, and ‘Ultimately’

Many students have struggled with understanding the differences between two essential adverbs: gradually and eventually. So in this Lesson I will try to define each with plenty of examples and synonyms where possible. I mentioned in yesterday’s Lesson (on Cecilia, by Frances Burney) that this week we would be looking at some novels that either …

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Lesson #183: ‘Probably’, ‘Possibly’, ‘Maybe’, and ‘Perhaps’: Talking About Likelihood or Chance in English

Have you ever struggled with knowing exactly when to use the words ‘probably’, ‘possibly’, ‘maybe’, or ‘perhaps’? In this Lesson we will look at all the different ways you can emphasise the likelihood or chance that something is going to happen. I cannot think of a better book full of helpful examples than Frances Burney’s …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #182 (Part 2): The Influences of Great Dictionaries on the English Language – Noah Webster’s ‘Dictionary’

As we saw in the first part of this Lesson, Samuel Johnson spent nearly ten years working on his dictionary. Our next dictionary-writer (or lexicographer), Noah Webster, probably spent decades (tens of years) preparing the research for his dictionaries. In his lifetime, he saw several editions of his dictionaries being published, and each time he tried to improve and refine …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #182 (Part 1): The Influences of Great Dictionaries on the English Language – Samuel Johnson’s ‘Dictionary’

If every English language student has one book in common, it is almost certainly an English dictionary! The question would be: which one to choose? 📚 There are so many nowadays, but if we could travel back a few hundred years or so, we would be lucky to find a copy of one.  I am …

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Lesson #181: Remembering a lost paradise: Christina Rossetti’s Poem ‘Shut Out’

One theme that often appears in English literature – novels and poetry – is that of a lost paradise. Christina Rossetti, one of the major female poets of the Victorian era, penned (wrote) a poem on this very theme, and since Saturdays are our days for enjoying a little bit of poetry, we will look at ‘Shut …

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Lesson #180: Describing Habits and States of Existence with ‘Used to’ and ‘Would’, through Trollope’s ‘The Warden’

When I choose a novel to read, I tend to like books that have social morality or human motivation as some of their themes or topics. Anthony Trollope’s book, The Warden (1855), is one such book. It is the first of his collection of a series of novels he wrote called the ‘Chronicles of Barsetshire’.  Anthony Trollope …

Lesson #180: Describing Habits and States of Existence with ‘Used to’ and ‘Would’, through Trollope’s ‘The Warden’ Read More »

Lesson #179: Agreement Between Subject and Verb Form – 7 Rules to Avoid Common Mistakes

📙 ‘He and his family had been weary when they arrived the night before, and they had observed but little of the place; so that he now beheld it as a new thing.’ – Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) … Although the principle of this lesson is a simple one, namely: ✍️ RULE: A singular …

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Lesson #178: Different Forms of the Verb ‘To Know’ in Charles Dickens’ ‘Our Mutual Friend’

📗 He knew his power over her. He knew that she would not insist upon his leaving her. He knew that, her fears for him being aroused, she would be uneasy if he were out of her sight. For all his seeming levity and carelessness, he knew whatever he chose to know of the thoughts …

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Lesson #177: Appreciating a Medieval English Poem: William Langland’s ‘Piers Plowman’

Every single language that is spoken today has undergone (gone through) many changes over the years, over centuries. This is also true of English, which could be described as having several phases or historical stages of development: 🪔 c. 500-1150 AD: Old English  This is made of the dialects of Anglo-Saxon tribes, with a very few words …

Lesson #177: Appreciating a Medieval English Poem: William Langland’s ‘Piers Plowman’ Read More »

Mini-Lesson Monday: Lesson #176 (Part 2): ‘All the Mole’s lively language …’: Distinguishing Between Formal and Informal Registers in English

In the last part of this lesson (see here), we covered the distinctive traits of the formal and informal registers in the English language. I recommend that you check this Part 1 first before reading this, since what we are going to addressed here builds on what was covered before! Through the help of Kenneth …

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Mini-Lesson Monday: Lesson #176 (Part 1): ‘All the Mole’s lively language …’: Distinguishing Between Formal and Informal Registers in English

Another childhood favourite (I seem to be sharing a lot of these lately!) is today’s classic, The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame, a Scottish writer at the turn of the twentieth century. His children’s classic is a story about four animals with human characteristics and personalities (a kind of writing called anthropomorphism, when an animal or …

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Lesson #175: Browning’s ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ and the Magic of Prefixes

The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood  As if they were changed into blocks of wood,  Unable to move a step, or cry  To the children merrily skipping by —  Could only follow with the eye  That joyous crowd at the Piper’s back.   – Robert Browning, ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ (1842) …  Once …

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Lesson #174: Enriching Your Vocabulary With Synonyms: Reading from Radcliffe’s ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’

📚 If you are an intermediate or advanced level English language student, you have almost certainly been told that you should read more in English if you want to improve your command of the language. One of the reasons this rings true is that reading (especially literature) exposes us to new or choice words that …

Lesson #174: Enriching Your Vocabulary With Synonyms: Reading from Radcliffe’s ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ Read More »

Lesson #173: The Passive Voice in Gaskell’s ‘Cousin Phillis’

📗 Early as it was, every one had breakfasted, and my basin of bread and milk was put on the oven-top to await my coming down. Every one was gone about their work. The first to come into the house-place was Phillis with a basket of eggs. Faithful to my resolution, I asked – ‘What are those?’ She looked at me …

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Lesson #172: ‘Let’s have no accusing of the innocent’ (‘Silas Marner’): Using the verb ‘Let’

📙 ‘Ah, you’re fine and strong, arn’t you?’ said Silas, while Eppie shool her aching arms and laughed. ‘Come, come, let us go and sit down on the bank against the stile there, and have no more lifting. You might hurt yourself, child. You’d need have somebody to work for you – and my arm …

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Lesson #171: Words and Phrases that Indicate Time Sequences, through Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’

🏝️ Robinson Crusoe (1719) has been widely acknowledged as the first novel ever written in English. Many of us, whether or not we grew up in an English-speaking culture, are long familiar with the storyline of Robinson Crusoe – an Englishman who gets shipwrecked (the ship is sunk by a storm at sea) and ends up …

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Mini-Lesson Monday: Lesson #170 (Part 2): Virginia Woolf’s ‘Moments of Being’ – Modal Verbs to Express Regrets for the Past and Hopes for the Future

In this second part of our lesson on modal verb forms ‘should/should have’, ‘could/could have’, and ‘would/would have’ to express past regrets or desires for the future, we will be focusing mainly on the differences between ‘could/could have’ and ‘would/would have’. 👉 If you would like to review our analysis of ‘should/should have’, you can find …

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Mini-Lesson Monday: Lesson #170 (Part 1): Virginia Woolf’s ‘Moments of Being’ – Modal Verbs to Express Regrets for the Past and Hopes for the Future

📜 Here I come to one of the memoir writer’s difficulties– one of the reasons why, though I read so many, so many are failures. They leave out the person to whom things happened. The reason is that it is so difficult to describe any human being. So they say: “This is what happened”; but …

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Lesson #169: ‘For Auld Lang Syne’: An Appreciation of Robert Burns’ Famous Song

Another poet for another Saturday post! As we are drawing close to Robert Burns’ Day, a celebration of Scotland’s poet around January 25th, the time is right to take a look at some of his most famous lines. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 And our family thimbles (small caps to protect the thumb from being pricked by a needle while …

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Lesson #168: 3 Important Irregular Verb Forms in Dickens’ ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’

Many English language students struggle with memorising the many different verb forms we have in our language. It can be difficult, especially when they are studied out of context.  So in today’s lesson, I hope to share 3 essential verb forms that are not only commonly used on a daily basis by native English speakers, but …

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Lesson #167: Portrayals of Scotland in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Kidnapped’ (Reading Comprehension Exercise)

📗 ‘O!’ says I, willing to give him a little lesson, ‘I have no fear of the justice of my country.’ ‘As if this was your country!’ said he. ‘Or as if ye would be tried here, in a country of Stewarts!’ ‘It’s all Scotland,’ said I. – Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (1886) … We are approaching …

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Lesson #166: Everyday English Idioms (From One of the Most Influential Books in English)

If you have been watching the ceremonies to commemorate the inauguration of the U.S. president today, you will have overheard several references in their speeches and poems to one very influential book in the English language: the Bible. This is because for centuries, the English Bible – specifically the King James Version, first published in …

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Lesson #165: Affirming Something Emphatically With ‘The’, ‘Do’, or ‘Did’

📗 The fire being lit, the hearth swept, and a small kettle of a very antique pattern, such as I thought I remembered to have seen in old farmhouses in England, placed over the now ruddy flame, Frances’ hands were washed, and her apron removed in an instant; then she opened a cupboard, and took …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #164 (Part 2): Lamb’s ‘Tales From Shakespeare’ – Expressing Reason and Result

📘 ‘The King of France … called the Duke of Burgundy in contempt a waterish duke, because his love for this young maid had in a moment run all away like water. – ​Charles ​and ​Mary Lamb​,​ Tales from Shakespeare ​(1807)​ If you have been reading and understanding these short lessons, chances are that you are …

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Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #164 (Part 1): Lamb’s ‘Tales From Shakespeare’ (Part 1) – Reading Comprehension 

Perhaps you have wondered what kinds of books native English-speaking children read and study at school. While today’s book is not currently a school textbook, it was originally intended for children when it was written over 200 years ago – Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (1807). It includes retellings of Shakespeare’s plays in …

Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #164 (Part 1): Lamb’s ‘Tales From Shakespeare’ (Part 1) – Reading Comprehension  Read More »

Lesson #163: Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shallott’

🖋️ How much have I looked forward to sharing today’s poem with you – Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shallott’ (1842 version). As a teenager, I used to listen to a recording of it (if I remember well, narrated by Anton Lesser) and I loved its dramatic expression. I memorised it and recite it …

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Lesson #162: All About Hyphens and Dashes (in UK and US English)

​Nearly everyone knows about – even if they have not read – Jane Austen’s famous novels: Pride and Prejudice (1813), Sense and Sensibility (1811), Persuasion (1818), and Emma (1815), not to mention Mansfield Park (1814)and Northanger Abbey (1817). 📚 But most people, including native English speakers, are less familiar with Austen’s earlier (or unpublished) writings. Works like The …

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Lesson #161: Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns Illustrated through Charles Dickens’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby’

📙 Here was one of the advantages of having lived alone so long! The little bustling, active, cheerful creature existed entirely within herself, talked to herself, made a confidante of herself, was as sarcastic as she could be, on people who offended her, by herself; pleased herself, and did no harm. If she indulged in …

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Lesson #160: ‘The sand stirred and spun and scattered …’: Alliteration and Assonance in Everyday English

📙 The White House was on the edge of a hill, with a wood behind it— and the chalk-quarry on one side and the gravel-pit on the other. Down at the bottom of the hill was a level plain, with queer-shaped white buildings where people burnt lime, and a big red brewery and other houses; …

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Lesson #159: Wondering Wildly in ‘Wuthering Heights’: Expressions Using ‘If … Then …’

​📗 ‘I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from …

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Lesson #158 Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): Choosing Between Two Alternatives: How to Use Either/Or, Neither/Nor, And Both

If you missed the first part of this lesson where we described the main functions of ‘either/or’, ‘neither/nor’, and ‘both’, you can check it out here. This is part 2 of our lesson on these important word groups, where we consider how they relate to the preposition ‘of’, their word order and verb conjugation rules, …

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Lesson #158 Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): Choosing Between Two Alternatives: How to Use Either/Or, Neither/Nor, And Both

​📘 ‘​Lucy was never visible at these times, being either engaged in the school-room, or in taking an airing out of doors; but, knowing that she was now comfortable, and had given up the, to him, depressing idea of going off to the other side of the globe, he was quite content.​’​ – Thomas Hardy, …

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Lesson #157: An Oasis to Dream About: Yeats’ ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’

📜 I am sharing a poem today that I particularly like: ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).  Yeats’ poem rings a chord in these days when we cannot readily travel but can only dream of places of tranquil beauty. In English, we often speak of such places as ‘oases’ …

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Lesson #156: The Many Different Ways You Can Use ‘Thank You’ In English

📘 And so it came about, in the end, that Mr. Spenlow told me this day week was Dora’s birthday, and he would be glad if I would come down and join a little picnic on the occasion. …  At six in the morning, I was in Covent Garden Market, buying a bouquet for Dora. …

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Lesson #155: Tenses to Tell Stories With: The Past Progressive, Simple Past, and Past Perfect Continuous

If you have ever read books set in Victorian Britain, you may have noticed that women were generally discouraged from reading any books that might cause them to become intellectual. While novels, magazines, and some plays were considered acceptable for them to read, they were discouraged from reading works of science, philosophy, theology, or the …

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Lesson #154: ‘Courage to go forth into its expanse’: Finding The Purpose And Perseverance You Need To Keep Studying English

A new year, and new beginnings! 🌼 This small snowdrop in our front garden reminds me of British novelist Charlotte Bronte, who was described by her neighbours as looking ‘just like a snowdrop’ on the day she got married. It brings to mind a passage in Jane Eyre (1847) – very suitable for the beginning of a …

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Lesson #153: How Writing Is Made Memorable: Three Observations On A Poem

As a short break from the grammatical lessons we have had of late, todays’ lesson will be short and sweet! I have been looking forward to an opportunity to share a favourite poem of mine by William Blake (1757-1827). It is called ‘The Tyger’ (an archaic or old-fashioned way of spelling ‘tiger’) and is often …

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Lesson #152: ‘If I May …’: Using ‘May’ And ‘Might’ To Ask / Give Permission And Express Possibilities

‘I am sorry I have been so long, ma’am,’ said she, gently, as she finished her work. ‘I was afraid it might tear out again if I did not do it carefully.’ She rose. 🧵 ‘I don’t know how to thank you for all you are doing; but I do love you, and will pray …

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Lesson #151: ‘To Put One’s Finger On The Passage’: How The Indefinite Pronoun ‘One’ Is Used In English

📜 Miss Tita confided to me that at present her aunt was so motionless that she sometimes feared she was dead; moreover she took hardly any food—one couldn’t see what she lived on. – Henry James, The Aspern Papers (1888) If you have been studying or reading in English for a while, chances are that you have …

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Lesson #150 (Part 2): When Should You Use ‘Shall’ Vs. ‘Will’?

This lesson post completes the yesterday’s one, so please make sure to read it before this one. The last principle or rule for distinguishing how to use ‘shall’ vs. ‘will’ in English: … 📝 #5 Should you use ‘shall’ or ‘will’ to describe a future action or decision when you are not asking a question?  The best …

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Lesson #150 (Part 1): When Should You Use ‘Shall’ Vs. ‘Will’?

📘 ‘I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself up very warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; and I wish you would try to keep some account of the money you spend; I will give you this little book on purpose.’ – Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1817) Have you …

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Lesson #149: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): An Overview Of Essential Time Words And Verb Tenses

🪔 “Yesterday was a quiet day, spent in teaching, sewing, and writing in my little room, which is very cosy, with a light and fire …”– Louisa May Alcott, Good Wives (1869) Here we continue our lesson reviewing seven sets of key verb tenses and time words that often go together. In Part 1 of this lesson, we reviewed …

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Lesson #149: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): An Overview Of Essential Time Words And Verb Tenses

🪔 “I’m the man of the family now papa is away, and I shall provide the slippers, for he told me to take special care of mother while he was gone.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women; Or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (1868) As another month draws to a close, I have been thinking about time …

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Lesson #148: Your Language Learning Journey: Assessing How Much You Have Truly Learned So Far

🍁 Since autumn (or fall, as it is known in Canada and the USA) is my favourite season of the year, I have included several poems and literary passages in recent lessons on this topic. 🍂 I have yet another poem on autumn to share, one by the Welsh poet R. S. Thomas (1913-2000) called ‘A …

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Lesson #147: An Advanced English Sentence Structure That All Native Speakers Use

📗 ‘Having decided to conquer the Land of Oz and to destroy the Emerald City and enslave all its people, King Roquat the Red kept planning ways to do this dreadful thing, and the more he planned the more he believed he would be able to accomplish it.’ – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of …

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Lesson #146: Do We Ever Use Double Negatives In English?

‘And unrecorded left through many an Age, Worthy t’ have not remain’d so long unsung …’ – John Milton, ‘Paradise Regained’ (1671) These lines come from a poem – ‘Paradise Regained’ – which I first read as a teenager and whose opening section I copied into the notebook featured in the photograph above. … You may have seen …

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Lesson #145: A Lesson In ‘Stitch-By-Stitch’ Perseverance, From Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’

There’s a popular idiom in English: ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ In other words, the best way to tackle a large task is to take small, consistent steps to complete it day by day. 🧵 It so happens that these days I am trying to complete a small cross-stitch design for a friend. It is …

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Lesson #144: Five Small But Important ‘Fruits’ Gathered From Gaskell’s ‘North And South’

I thought it would be nice for a change to take a short text from a classic and analyse it in today’s lesson.  So I have the pleasure of re-introducing one of my top favourite novels, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), having been inspired today by this biscuit tin which I bought last year when I …

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Lesson #143: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): Three Things Your Writing Needs If You Want To Be Understood Well

In the first part of this lesson (see previous post), we talked about small changes you can introduce in your writing that make a huge difference in how others read and understand it. After all your effort writing something, the last thing you want is for someone to skim or even ignore all you had …

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Lesson #143: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): Three Things Your Writing Needs If You Want To Be Understood Well

I am dedicating today’s lesson to three important points that I often find missing in work that I proofread. These three points might seem obvious or too minute to make a difference, but trust me, they will help to clarify your writing greatly. Clear writing is always the first step towards great writing. … 📝 …

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Lesson #142: Improving Your English Expression By A Different Path

As I have mentioned in these short lessons before, I am convinced that one of the best ways to improve your standard of English is to memorise vocabulary in context. What better exercise then than to read some English poems, choose a few that you like, and learn them off by heart! I would like …

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Lesson #141 (Part 2): American Vs British Punctuation: How To Use British English Quotation Marks

📘 ‘Why do you say “poor Rosamond”?’ said Mrs Plymdale, a round-eyed sharp little woman, like a tame falcon. – George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871) As observed in our last lesson post (Part 1 of this lesson, ‘American vs British Quotation Mark Punctuation’), there are 4 main rules on how to punctuate quotations in English. Today we will …

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Lesson #141 (Part 1): American Vs British Punctuation: How To Use American English Quotation Marks

📙 “… my mother has not gone into details. She chiefly communicates with us by means of telegrams, and her telegrams are rather inscrutable. They say women don’t know how to write them, but my mother has thoroughly mastered the art of condensation. ‘Tired America, hot weather awful, return England with niece, first steamer decent …

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Lesson #140 (Part 2): How To Correctly Identify And Position Adverbs

​🍁 ‘Marilla whisked into the kitchen, grievously disturbed, leaving a very much distracted little soul in the porch behind her. Presently Anne stepped out bareheaded into the chill autumn dusk; very determinedly and steadily she took her way down through the sere clover field over the log bridge and up through the spruce grove, lighted …

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Lesson #140 (Part 1): How To Correctly Identify And Position Adverbs

🌺 ‘Now, you mustn’t cry any more, but come down with me and show me your flower garden. Miss Cuthbert tells me you have a little plot all your own. I want to see it, for I’m very much interested in flowers.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908) [emphasis mine] Even if you are reading this …

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Lesson #139: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): All About The Unmissable Conjunction ‘And’

👱‍♀️️ ‘I like books and dolls and friends and babies and bicycles and holidays …’ These were the words of a lovely 5-year-old girl called Lois I met several years ago. I still remember her excited face looking up at me as she shared some of her ‘favourite things’. I was reminded recently of Lois’ enthusiasm …

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Lesson #139: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): All About The Unmissable Conjunction ‘And’

🌺 “It’s the Magic and— and Mrs. Sowerby’s buns and milk and things,” said Colin. – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911). Before we dive into today’s lesson, I have a question for you: is the quotation above, taken straight from an English classic, grammatically correct? Whether you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, why do …

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Lesson #138: Common Mistakes Corrected: Apostrophes, Possessive Pronouns And Possessive Apostrophes (It’s vs Its)

Is it ‘its’ or ‘it’s’? If you have ever asked yourself that question, you are in the right place! Even if you are uncertain of the answer, know that by asking that question, you show more awareness of the possibility of making a mistake here than many people do – native English speakers included – …

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Lesson #137 (Part 2): Understanding The Differences Between ‘Borrow’ And ‘Lend’ (Through Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’)

Part 2 of our lesson looking at the differences between ‘to lend’ and ‘to borrow’. ✍️ ‘to borrow‘: This verb means to take something from another person with their permission and consent, usually for a short period only. For example, we borrow books from the library – we don’t own them, neither does the library …

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Lesson #137 (Part 1): Understanding The Differences Between ‘Borrow’ And ‘Lend’ (Through Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’)

As mentioned in our Mini-Lesson Monday this week, I would like to address some common mistakes that I sometimes see English language students making. One mistake I encountered in a few places was a tendency to mix up the verbs ‘lend’ and ‘borrow’. I met even advanced English speakers who tripped up on these two words.  There are …

Lesson #137 (Part 1): Understanding The Differences Between ‘Borrow’ And ‘Lend’ (Through Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’) Read More »

Lesson #136 (Part 2): Using Word Order For Emphasis In Advanced English

If you read the last lesson post (part 1), you may be wondering when and how you should alter typical word order in your English writing to achieve emphasis. THE ‘WHEN’: ✏️ Firstly, you should only rearrange word order when you want to emphasise one point in the sentence over the rest (as shown with …

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Lesson #136 (Part 1): Using Word Order For Emphasis In Advanced English

Several years ago we went to a Russian dance performance and bought these very pretty Matryoshka dolls. We have them nicely lined up in order, from the largest to the smallest, in our sitting room. Today I had the thought, ‘What if I line them up in a different order?’ I took a photo of …

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Lesson #135: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): Clarifying Modal Verb Forms (‘Must’, ‘Must Have’ And ‘Should Have’) Through Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’

As mentioned in the first part of this Mini-Lesson (see previous post), ‘must’ is a modal verb expression that is commonly seen in written English. We looked earlier at usages of ‘must’ in sentences where the action is taking place in the present or future tense – ‘must’ followed by an infinitive such as ‘must …

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Lesson #135: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): Clarifying Modal Verb Forms (‘Must’, ‘Must Have’ And ‘Should Have’) Through Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’

There are some common mistakes that English language learners are prone to make, even at an advanced level. Truth be told, native English speakers sometimes make these same mistakes too from time to time. I hope this week to address some of these common issues. Starting today with our Mini-Lesson Monday over two lesson posts, we …

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Lesson #134: Improve Your Writing In English With Three Daily Exercises

Do you struggle with writing in English, even though you have spent many hours, days or even years studying the language? This is a common experience not just among English language learners, but also among native English speakers. Writing involves the combination of several processes: thinking, arranging, remembering the right vocabulary and spelling, and considering …

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Lesson #133: Common Mistakes Made With Comparative Adjectives (Part 2)

Comparative adjectives can also work for describing lesser amounts of something. Again, from Gaskell’s Mary Barton: 📗 ‘The friend whom they met was more handsome and less sensible-looking than the man I have just described; he seemed hearty and hopeful, and although his age was greater, yet there was far more of youth’s buoyancy in his appearance.’ …

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Lesson #133: Common Mistakes Made With Comparative Adjectives (Part 1)

A mistake English learners often make is that they INCORRECTLY DOUBLE comparative adjectives. This is partly due to not fully understanding the differences between the main types of comparative adjectives. To recap, comparative adjectives are versions of adjectives that describe a greater quantity of that particular thing. For example, the comparative of ‘good’ is ‘better’, …

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Lesson #132: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): A Look At The Imperative Tense Through Emily Bronte’s Description Of A November Day

One thing that we might miss when reading the first stanza of Emily Bronte’s poem, ‘Faith and Despondency’, is how the poet used the imperative tense throughout. When we are first taught the imperative tense, we are usually given examples that emphasise a command or order: ‘Stop that!’ or ‘Listen to her!’ or ‘Buy now!’ …

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Lesson #132: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): A Look At The Imperative Tense Through Emily Bronte’s Description Of A November Day

Mini-Lesson Monday: (Part 1) 🍁Welcome November!🍂 As I sit at my desk, looking out of the window at the wind and rain (yes, it is stormy here in Ireland as I write), I appreciate just how warm and cosy it is indoors.  Often with weather like this, the adjective ‘wuthering’ comes to mind – the …

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Lesson #131: All Hallow’s Eve Reflections On Autumn, With Scottish Poet James Thomson

The last day of October, Halloween or ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ as it used to be called! Personally I don’t enjoy dark and scary stories, so instead I am sharing something bright and cheerful with you to close the month of October – a photo of the sunshine on the birch trees at the bottom of my …

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Lesson #130: Introducing ‘Evelina’ (And Appositive Phrases)

I thought that today it would be nice to share from my current reading – Frances Burney’s Evelina – and use some texts from it to elaborate on what we looked at yesterday, namely, the value of COMMAS in your writing. We talked about the ‘Oxford comma’ (also known as the ‘serial comma) and how …

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Lesson #129: The Oxford Or Serial Comma (And When It Should Be Used)

Do you ever wonder, when you are writing a series of items, whether or not you are using commas in the correct manner? In the past I also used to be unsure about this serial comma, also known as the ‘Oxford comma’ because of its widespread use by the Oxford University Press. Today I will …

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Lesson #128: Understanding Essential And Non-Essential Clauses Through Dickens’ ‘Dombey And Son’ (Part 2)

Here we will look at a paragraph from Dombey and Son that illustrates how many ‘NON-ESSENTIAL CLAUSES’ (defined in the last post) Dickens tended to use. ✍️ By including such essential or non-essential clauses in your writing, you are discreetly REINFORCING or even INTRODUCING information that would otherwise ‘clutter’ your writing, and you are doing …

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Lesson #128: Understanding Essential And Non-Essential Clauses Through Dickens’ ‘Dombey And Son’ (Part 1)

Have you ever tried to write a sentence only to realise that you cannot seem to fit all the important points you wish to mention?  We all understand that very long sentences are counterproductive; I am not recommending that you write those! But I have learnt that it is very effective sometimes to include some …

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Lesson #127: ‘Grinding Through’ The Differences: Gerunds And Present Participles (Part 2)

In the last post we defined both gerunds and participles in English grammar and noted the differences between them. We also read two passages taken from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (1854) to consider which of them might be using gerunds or participles.  Do you feel confident in knowing how to identify gerunds from present participles …

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Lesson #127: ‘Grinding Through’ The Differences: Gerunds And Present Participles (Part 1)

For many students, one tricky point in English grammar is understanding the distinction between gerunds and participles.  How do you find them? Are they clear to you? If not, don’t worry! I will offer a brief explanation and a couple of illustrations from Charles Dickens’ classic, Hard Times.  Firstly, a participle is a word that …

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Lesson #126: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 2): Using Influential Adjectives in Written Texts

Having read through George Eliot’s Middlemarch passage in the last post, I will share some insights into how she (George Eliot was Mary Ann Evans’ pseudonym) used ADJECTIVES to achieve her purpose. A little bit of background: This passage describes Dorothea Brooke, a young woman who is newly married to a middle-aged scholar. In this …

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Lesson #126: Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): Using Influential Adjectives in Written Texts

Mini-Lesson Monday (Part 1): While admiring these white cyclamens in the pale autumn sunshine, I was reminded of the power of ADJECTIVES in description. Especially when they are suitably chosen! Adjectives are so important for several reasons.  # 1 They are valuable in DISTINCTLY DESCRIBING a person, object or event’s ASPECTS. # 2 They can …

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Lesson #125: How Reading Rhythmically Can Improve Your English Intonation

As I sit at my desk, I can see how windy, even stormy, the weather is outside. Sometimes the sun breaks through the clouds for a while, but it doesn’t last long! This changeable windy weather is very common here in Ireland during the autumn months, but it is one of the reasons that I …

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Lesson #124: Some Ways British English Expressions Can Differ From American Expressions

Over the last few days I have been listening to a few podcasts and YouTube videos while doing housework.  Nearly all of these are presented by English speakers from the U.S.A., and I noticed how many expressions are used in conversational American English that are not generally used in the U.K. or Ireland. Many English …

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Lesson #123: Discovering a Writing Style or Voice That Reflects Personality (Part 2)

In the previous post, we began looking at a passage by Jane Austen (continued below) to consider how she created distinctive voices for different characters: 📙 ‘Marianne was astonished to find how much the imagination of her mother and herself had outstripped the truth. “And you really are not engaged to him!” said she. “Yet …

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Lesson #123: Discovering a Writing Style or Voice That Reflects Personality (Part 1)

One of the most rewarding stages in language learning is when you begin to have your own STYLE or VOICE in the language you have been studying.  As a proofreader of many texts, I need to be careful when I correct a text that I do not end up changing the writer’s style but know how …

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Lesson #122: Different Usages of the Subjunctive in George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’

Perhaps the English grammar tense that learners (and even native speakers) struggle most with is the SUBJUNCTIVE. ✍️ It has many forms that can be used in different situations, as long as those expressions refer to either a demand, a wish, a suggestion or a hypothetical situation (a situation that could happen but hasn’t yet happened). ✍️ …

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Lesson #121: The Smallest Element in Writing That is Often Overlooked

There are so many important elements involved in writing well. Grammar. Vocabulary. Clear thoughts. But one of the most overlooked of all is PUNCTUATION. The right commas, semicolons and periods (besides the appropriate use of brackets, dashes and hyphens) can ‘make or break’ a sentence.  In many ways I believe that if you correctly understand …

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Lesson #120: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 2): How Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Book Illustrates Effective Writing

Mini-lesson Monday (Part 2): ✨This passage by Frances Hodgson Burnett is noteworthy for how simply yet effectively it describes ACTIVITY (both physical movement and internal thoughts).  It does this in two ways: ✒️ Firstly, by using SHORT SENTENCES that express some kind of tension and transformation. ✒️ Secondly, by including A SINGLE ADVERB in the whole …

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Lesson #120: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 1): How Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Book Illustrates Effective Writing

Mini-lesson Monday (Part 1):  I still have some childhood favourites on my bookshelf – books that I read and dreamt about so often as a young girl. One of those was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess (1905), which I am looking forward to sharing with you today (at least a small part of it)! …

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Lesson #119: Teatime Literary Reflections (and the Power of Good Storytelling) (Part 2)

As promised, here are some observations on the passage from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, as referenced in the previous post: 🖋️ Gaskell’s style here is more conversational than most classic novel’s styles are. This is because the story is narrated by one of the book’s characters.  🖋️ Gaskell uses the word ‘very’ several times in the …

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Lesson #119: Teatime Literary Reflections (and the Power of Good Storytelling) (Part 1)

Teatime! A light meal enjoyed in the late afternoon or evening that continues to be a favourite meal in Britain and Ireland.  This evening I am at home alone, and decided to treat myself to serving my tea and scone on my Grandmother’s china, an heirloom passed through the generations. However teatime is usually a …

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Lesson #118: Using Pronouns Correctly to Prevent Repetition in Your Writing (Part 2)

Subject pronouns and possessive adjectives – those were just some of the pronouns we began to consider in my last post! 📒 We also looked at a paragraph from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, in which she used them artfully to describe a tense moment in the novel. As promised, here are my tips on …

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Lesson #118: Using Pronouns Correctly to Prevent Repetition in Your Writing (Part 1)

Do you struggle with knowing when to use English pronouns or the named subject that they are referring to, especially in your writing? (Perhaps you can more easily indicate through your speech exactly WHO you are talking about, just by your body language or an obvious context).  As I have mentioned before, writing English is quite DIFFERENT …

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Lesson #117: More Vocabulary to Help with Reading Hardy’s ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ (and Other Books!) (Part 2)

As mentioned in the previous post, where I quoted from Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), here is a short list of vocabulary to help with understanding the same passage. 🍃A quick question: how did you find the text? Was it challenging in terms of vocabulary? Did you understand most of it? ✨Did you …

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Lesson #117: Starting to Read English Classics? (Part 1)

In my post yesterday I suggested a couple of tips to help English learners begin to read classic literature. Can I recommend some good classics to start with? Of course! I searched by bookshelf and right away noticed one of Thomas Hardy’s earliest books, Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), which is suitable for most English intermediate learners.  👉 …

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Lesson #116: ‘Passion for Dead Leaves’: Tips on How to Read (and Enjoy) Old Classics as an English Language Student

After admiring these acer tree leaves today, I was reminded of a memorable conversation between the Dashwood sisters in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811): “Dear, dear Norland,” said Elinor, “probably looks much as it always does at this time of the year. The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves.” “Oh,” cried Marianne, …

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Lesson #115: Some Tips for Memorising Even More Vocabulary

When we are learning a language, we often memorise new vocabulary by using flashcards or repeatedly writing out lists of words. Those methods can be helpful, but not everyone can recall afterwards what they have so laboriously studied! 🤔 A French teacher once shared a very helpful tip with me and I want to share …

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Lesson #114: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 2): Charles Dickens and How Vocabulary ‘Groups’ Create a Strong Atmosphere in Your Writing

Mini-lesson Monday, part 2: 2) While having the definitions of difficult vocabulary does help us to understand the passage, the most important thing when reading this paragraph from the opening pages of Bleak House (see previous post) is to focus on the repetitive word ‘FOG’ and how Dickens wants you to FEEL about it. So …

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Lesson #114: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 1): Charles Dickens and How Vocabulary ‘Groups’ Create a Strong Atmosphere in Your Writing

Another Monday, another mini-lesson (in 2 posts – this is part 1): My inspiration today comes from Charles Dickens, one of the most popular authors in the English language.  Bleak House (1853) is a favourite of mine, a long two-volume novel that interweaves two narrative voices in an intriguing story. I will quote from its …

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Lesson #113: Searching for the Best Words to Describe the Small Things in Life

This morning we picked some flowers from our garden to brighten the kitchen. I think one of them is a carnation, the other a dianthus, but I am open to correction! It brought to mind a passage in one of my favourite books, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1854): ‘… the sun-flower, shining fair,    …

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Lesson #112: Can Handwriting Actually Help You with Your English?

I was listening recently to a thought-provoking podcast by Italian teacher Lucrezia Oddone, where she talked about the importance of HANDWRITING texts that you would like to memorise.  In the process of writing a passage by hand, she says, you are present and attuned in an unique way to each word that you write. Handwriting …

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Lesson #111: Finding a Reading Partner (or Buddy) can Improve Your English

Have you ever heard the advice: ‘You should READ MORE to improve your English’? I have heard the same whenever I am trying to improve my level of French, for example. And I agree with the advice: if you read more, you learn new words; if you read more, you notice natural turns of phrase …

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Lesson #110: Being Focused and Intentional about Reading to Improve Ourselves

Before the global pandemic, I had had very different plans for Autumn 2020. In fact, I had thought that this very evening I would be meeting my fellow students and enjoying a special dinner with them, one that was to have celebrated the start of a new academic year. (Can you notice the past perfect …

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Lesson #109: Steps for Enriching Your Writing with the Right Vocabulary

While looking at this rose in my garden, I am reminded of the process of learning and improving our competence in any language. We learn a language word by word, step-by-step, layer upon layer, just as this rose’s petals layer over each other. And another point of similarity: just as these petals are relatively small, …

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Lesson #108: Why Reading Classic Poetry is Important: Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’

Sharing a short poem memorised in my childhood: O Rose thou art sick.  The invisible worm,  That flies in the night  In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. – William Blake, ‘The Sick Rose’ (1794) Have you ever wished to read …

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Lesson #107: Creating Drama with Description: A Look at Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (Part 2)

For this post, I will focus on the second half of the long sentence found in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 9: 📘 ‘…and towards one of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the …

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Lesson #107: Creating Drama with Description: A Look at Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (Part 1)

When you live in the countryside, you tend to pay attention to the weather. It can affect your mood but also your plans for the day. Today my morning walk was put on hold (suspended) because of the sporadic (sudden, unpredictable) showers. It reminded me of a passage in Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense …

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Learn English Through Literature

Lesson #106: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 2): Comprehending ‘The Fawn’

Mini-lesson Monday continued (part 2): You will see here how I approached the opening line of Edna St Vincent Millay’s ‘The Fawn’ in one of my English language lessons.  I made use of a few simple steps to help with textual comprehension and it only took a few minutes. I will share with you what …

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