Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions--Series 31--Professional English Teachers Network

Please go to Post 68 and then come back here. Thanks.

Series Thirty-one
Topic 98
Said Ibrahim English Instructor at Saudi Electricity Company
Hello guys, Hope you are doing great! Any ideas or tips on how to run one to one conversation classes?

Hi Said
There are so many possibilities for this as well as variants. It greatly depends on the people with whom you'll be speaking. Using common interests or aspects of work are usual, or finding interesting articles to discuss. I normally use the first lesson as a get to know session (even if you have them as a group student, you will need to know more about them, and vise verse) During this session I tend to make notes on interests and language issues. From this I create an overview of the course and develop lesson topics. If you send me your contacts I will forward a very nice book on starters and conversation topics.

Thank you very much Garry! I do appreciate your comment and tips. It would be so kind of you to forward that book! My email is:

Hi, another thing that works well is to have pictures as a spring board for a conversation. You can compare them, and/or talk about who might be doing what, where why and when in them etc. Mini role plays are also useful, and those relating to a funny situation can be really good. If they are looking to practice speaking in real life situations it is even easier to use role plays with some guided language (depending on their level of course). Hope you can get something going. Good luck.

Thank you so much Sheri for those amazing tips! I will try them out.

hi Gary, I will be interested in that book. Can you kindly forward the book to me?

My own contribution is to use the engagement techniques. It works even for first lesson.

I always try to have a real interesting conversation. I generally succeed in one-to-one chats. Who will talk about Mrs Smith´s having to go to the supermarket to buy eggs?

Whole heartedly agree with Garry's points. Something I worked when teaching in China (returning there in March) was to use the approach on have the student talk about themselves, family, likes/dislikes, favourite hobbies and/or sports - use that as a springboard to also give your student some idea about you. With men sports is usually a good talking point but ladies (sorry ladies) one favourite hobby is Clothes shopping no matter where in the world Lol.
Garry - your book sounds interesting and would love a copy -

Good luck Said

One-to-one conversation classes are great fun, but watch out some teachers speak far too much if their student is quiet. Find out what interests the person then look for suitable topics, this will get them going. Make them talk, don't correct them all the time, what I do is write down grammatical mistakes or structures that may be translated wrongly and when the conversation comes to an end, go through everything you have written down. Enjoy your classes so that your students enjoy them too.

There are lots of things we like to talk about other than clothes. I´d never talk about clothes to a man!

Well there is nothing wrong if you speak about clothes, its fashion, isn't it?

Yep, nothing wrong at all, in fact a good topic to use in IELTS speaking prep, Fashion.

I think its better to evaluate the language proficiency of your learner first. then based on this knowledge you could start your work. If he/she is a beginner, you could use their mother tongue for a couple of sessions.

I disagree with that male comment about women and clothes.Something interesting may be talking about films, books, sports ,etc
Of course first you must evaluate the level of your students

I wouldnt take that male comment badly, i perfectly understand what he meant. Certainly there is a myriad of topics to speak about but obviously you have to find out what the person is into.

I only expressed the comment about clothes shopping as in almost all responses I have had to the question 'whats your favourite hobby, tell me about it', the answer has been clothes and cosmetics shopping. I can then continue the conversation about any particular brand, style etc... no doubt as I understand. So no offence was intended. Yes there are indeed many topics to speak about and as Mary has stated it comes down to what the person is actually into. To draw a parallel, it's like understanding what your teenage daughters like, and I have identical twins with different ideas, so to strike up a good chat with them it helps me to know their likes dislikes etc, what pop singers they like and so forth.

Hi Said, I wrote a short ebook with 30 activities for one-to-one classes. You might get a few ideas:

I like to give the students a series of questions about a particular topic and let them ask the questions to one another. You could even tell them the topic and try to elicit appropriate questions as a warm-up I then prep the activity by demonstrating follow-up questions. So I'll ask one student for example, "what did you do yesterday" and instruct them to give me a simple answer. I then board, "what, where, how long, how much, with who, etc.," and explain that for each response from their partner they should ask a few follow-up questions about the response their partner gave. That way it makes them do more than simply ask and answer questions given to them, they must construct questions based on their partner's responses. Monitoring them is essential to make sure they don't just quickly run through the questions you give them and actually create their own follow-ups and to encourage and help them form the follow-up questions.

Use your imagination to conduct one to one conversation classes. Be spontaneous. Play it by ear.

A good starting point is really in how you as tutor determine your students ability and from that you trigger a conversation topic, do not make it sound like an interview, but just encourage your student to speak and develop that into an interactive chat. Find a common ground you can talk about e.g. your student might like Art and can talk about it, but show your interest and ask things like "... so do you have a favourite artist? My favourite is Da Vinci.." and so on.

Or, depending on what country your student is from a good conversation/talking point can be " what would you say are controversial issues is your country?" and you both can discuss the pros/cons e.g. it could be say death penalty, human rights issues, gambling and many more. Another conversation could be, say, about each others hometown.

Above all else encourage the conversation to be interesting not boring, asuming your face 2 face encouyrage use of body language to express points, usually this is hand gestures, no monotone - encourage use of voice to make it sound interesting, have some laughs along the way, and ensure some detail is introduced.

Example, "How are you?" answer "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" = Boring! Encourage your student to expand on the answer to that first question with a bit more detail. Be interesting.

Know their interests by getting the Ss. to make a list of favourite activities, explain the 7 question words and off you go. Correct only to stress basic relevance, but let the Ss. feel comfortable with their answers, there's plenty of time to correct later. Initial confidence is of utmost importance!

I endorse Gary's and David's suggestions as an ice breaking activity. Building the learner's confidence is essential to success in spoken English. So initially you may note mentally the communication problems of your student and ignore them for the time being so that your student acquires the confidence and fluency. Then you can get to improving his phrasing, choice of words, pronunciation, syllable stress, and very importantly the rhythm.

Hi Said,
I find all the comments posted have been really good advice. I also find that once you have found common ground and isolated different interests then its easier to find material. One website which I enjoy using is: Good luck!!!!

I always correct by rephrasing what the student has said so that they realize that there is another way. I think subtlety is essential to push the conversation forward. If we must learn chemistry in English, let´s learn chemistry! I have learnt a lot from my students! How to make a heart operation, Economy, Diplomacy, loneliness, happiness, fractions, personal stories and what not. We must listen and push gently, I think.

I agree with Paul. It's very important to make a list of questions about a particular topic. Then help him practise and try to eager him to speak as much as possible.

i have read all comments with great interest, as this is the kind of teaching I mostly do these days!
I always use the first lesson to conduct a Needs Analysis, which is very thorough. Interspersed with light conversation and "getting to know you" stuff and setting up a rapport. We tend to laugh a lot, also about the vagaries of Irish life, they often use me as a safety valve to talk about frustrations with life in this country, and I always listen, I can take it!

I keep a short record of each session, and plans for the next one. Plans are often shelved as another need of the student comes up. We go through my notes regularly, and I ensure that we are still sticking to the overall plan that the student wants, whether it be learning to write well, extend speaking skills, whatever. All have homework, which is up to them to do, or not do....unless an exam is looming.

The really good side of this teaching is that I can cater exclusively to the needs of one person, and end up with very satisfied customers.

You sound like me Bridget! I bet your students enjoy your classes!

Thank you , Mary B. That's nice. Don't you think a lot has to do with having good listening skills, i.e. that the teacher pays attention???

I believe you should get some pieces of news on internet, the ones your student could be interested in reading, and make some questions that can cause disagreement. This way, you tease him/her to speak.

Definitely Bridget! Do you know I also think that it would be a great idea for ALL teachers to learn another language so as to understand the problems that people experience. Regards Bridget, keep up the good work!

I think you could ask ypour students what the topics she/he is most interested in, then you look for information like: newspapers aarticles, readers. Maybe you can ask her/him to read about an specific topic and discuss it later. Or just to start ask her/him ´what her/his opinion is about the different life styles in different cultures, or if its an adult, you can also ask hin/ her to talk about his/her job. Hope you find it helpfull!
good luck!

Cathy's Cards--Instant Conversation in the Classroom. With a multitude of topic areas, these cards are excellent for any ESL class, and especially suited for ESL Conversation. You could also make up your own on index cards if you wanted to. Students really enjoy using them. Cathy's Cards are available at Amazon, you can check them out there.

Lots of great suggestions here.. I think a key concern is watching the "Teacher Talking Time". In one-to-one it is easy to get off track from your lesson plan.

Coming in with plan to practice a certain TARGET LANGUAGE point is key for me. Be it either a grammar point or a vocabulary list, the lesson should encapsulate something that is digestible to be learnt in a single session. You can base the target language around your student's level and interests of course to make the lesson more personable.

Allowing the student to preview the material for next week's lesson also has been one thing my students have told me in feedback that they really benefited from. They get a chance to pour over the target language (grammar point, context vocabulary list, or simply a news story) and clear up some new things on their own thus making your limited class time much more pointed and efficient.

Finally giving a brief writing assignment as (optional) homework that helps them recycle and review the target language of the lesson is fantastic way for them to solidify knowledge. Correcting the writing together for the first 5 minutes of next week's class is great review also. Repetition is key to acquisition. has some great FREE print and teach lesson plans complete with instructions and answer sheets that work well for one-to-one teaching sessions.

make personal questions would be helpful. make the student get involved with his own life or maybe the teacher's

I like using The Economist's magazine covers, they help jolt imagination and their variety of images, can fire off the student's free release of vocabulary. Have fun.

Have a look at - text, questions the lot!

Start by a thorough needs analysis. this will be of great help. vary your resources and your activities/ skills (reading, listening, and speaking). E-mail your student any article that he/she should read in advance on which you base your questions and your discussions. Through this article you may teach grammar, functions,.. meanwhile you push your student to speak and comment.

My approach to this issue developed over the many years I've spent teaching ESL to adults/ (professionals) on a 1:1 basis, And -
Resulted in the e-guide I authored: How to Become a Personal ESL Trainer.
The Kindle Edition (2010) is available from Amazon.
Have a look! 

I always have a real conversation while I explain mistakes kindly.

I like many of the above comments, such as asking personal questions about likes and dislikes and correcting mistakes in a kind manner. You can ask the questions in a colloquial way, (what's up, what's happening) and then if they don't get it you can explain that expression. Or speak rather quickly, at a native speaker's pace, and then slow down and enunciate to get the student more familiar with a native speaker's pace of talking. Also, using pictures as a springboard for conversation, such as: what's happening in the picture?, what is the person feeling in the picture?, or simply: describe what is happening in the picture. Then you can use that start as a way to take the conversation in a different or deeper direction. But asking about a person's life, as long as you are culturally sensitive, is a tried and true method.

You can use as a starting point or some of Sean Banville's other sites for ideas.

An exercise I find good to make students participate a lot is talking about the best, the worst, and the ugliest part of something. Also debate it is a great idea. One of the topics I like to use for it is "Men prefer them dumb." and students get really interested in defending their position. In addition, I also use role plays, eg: I make them chose three people to travel to another planet because ours is going to dissappear, so some judges have to chose the candidates from different characters students have to represent like: a teacher, a priest, a scientist, a pregnant woman, a stripper, a judge, and a farmer.

Topic 99
Sergio Casado Rodríguez Profesor de inglés y español en Wizard
10 TIPS ABOUT HOW TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE•We all make many mistakes while we are learning a new language . So, I decided to write some tips in order to help language students. Let´s have a look. 1) Be constant. It is impossible to learn a language if we are not constant studying and...

Mr Sergio, good , go ahead and continue to give the tips

Thanks a lot. It is my first post in English, sorry if I made many typos :)

Your tips are very helpful.

Dear Mr Casado
am Looking for an english not expensive teacher on line (conversation and traslation)
Please if you are interested send me your cv at or in skype id jmpm2020
Thank you
José Manuel

My share:
i. Listen with total attention, without distraction.
Listen for the message through connotations, tone, voice, intonation.i
ii. Speak without minding grammar or inappropirate vocabulary.
Speak your mind without hesitation but politely of course where necessary.
iii. Read plenty, be hungry for books, magazines, journals.
Again comprehend the messages in their totality, enjoy the humour, appreciate seriousness of the thought process.
iv. Express yourself in writing freely, without inhibition, let go.
Practise what you listened to , what you read, exercise your mind, tinker your expressions.
v. Watch films, plays, people when they speak and listen.
Learn appropriate body language.
vi. Practise, practise, practise listening, speaking, reading and writing.
vii. Develop a positive attitude towards learning the language. Have self-belief,
grow in self confidence, engage your sources actively.
viii. Above all be warm towards, wear a smile.
ix. Willing participation in the learning process is a must.
x. Seek every opportunity to listen to , to speak, to read and to write.
2 months ago

Topic 100        
Pick up or fetch
anjali chatterjees poken english and language skills at private Top Contributor
Dear colleagues, Do you 'pick up' or 'fetch' in the following sentence, Please give reasons for your answers. "I will pick up Mary from the airport" or "I will fetch Mary from the airport". This was discussed in my class some weeks back. Could you give suggestions as to how would it be possible to explain the difference.Thanks in advance

Top Contributor
Pick up—(i) go somewhere in your car and collect someone who is waiting for you(collect)
I’ll pick you up at five.
(ii) Allow somebody to get into your vehicle and take them somewhere
The bus picks up passengers outside the airport.

Fetch---(esp. Br E) go to where sb/sth is and bring them back
To fetch help/.doctor
She’s gone to fetch the kids from school.
They have to walk a mile to fetch water.

Collect—conveys 7 messages
but strangely enough ‘pick up’ is not listed
Please collect the children from school

From the entries in Advanced Learner’s and Reader’s Digest’s
I think all the three words can be substituted for each other:
I’ll pick you up/fetch you/collect you at five
anjali chatterjee likes this

Thank you K. R. sir, I started to doubt my abilities as a teacher of language skills and wondered as to how many foreign students have gone back to their land, speaking English in their homelands and 'laughing' away at the mere thought that we have an 'amusing'way of speaking English.I have had students from Europe and Afghanistan who have now gone back to their countries.Your comment has left me feeling a lot better..

Hi Sondra,
I’m sorry but the way you mix up certain words in your comment makes me make these observations (I’m very curious about how certain expressions are understood (this is MERELY AN ACADEMIC EXERCISE from one teacher and user to another, I’m sure you’ll see my observations as such):

‘It is amazing how different English is in other countries from the US.’
amazing (=very surprising leading to pleasure or admiration). Or do you use ‘amaze’ differently where you live? I ask this because of what follows.

‘Sometimes it sounds so funny when you hear someone speaking English from another country that you want to laugh at them.’
‘funny’ (=making you laugh, amusing). Or do you use ‘amusing’ differently where you live?

Have a good laugh, yes. But ‘want to laugh at them’? ‘Laugh with them’ (=enjoy a joke together) is possible if I’m not mistaken but then ‘they’ don’t laugh when they say something ‘in English’, do they, unless they tried a joke?

In almost the same breath, you’ve used three expressions to convey three different responses to what you hear from ‘someone speaking English from another country’ (here you’re probably referring to some who have learnt English as another language, not your British, Australian or New zealand cousins, I suppose)

Another usage that evokes interest:
‘Go get Mary at the airport’
Where you live, people probably imply this: ‘go get Mary, she’s at the airport’, do they?

You further say, ‘I feel confident they feel the same why when they hear us talk and often can't understand what we mean by what we have said, ...’

They may be confused but they won’t ‘feel the same way’ (=laugh at you), I’m sure.

Tricia says: People in the eastern area of the United States use the word 'carry' for this action. i.e. "Will you carry me to the store in an hour?" The correct word to use would depend upon the dialect of the region using it, -as their socially accepted form.

Is this how I should understand your use of these expressions?

English Language Instructor
Top Contributor
Sondra, I enjoyed how you implied, inferred meanings in your post. Unfortunately, not all readers may understand fully what you attempted to convey, in such metaphorical ways. I found it intriguing that one example in the above response to you included my comment, but lacked any connection to it. This response also included: "(here you’re probably referring to some who have learnt English as another language, not your British, Australian or New zealand cousins, I suppose) ." I am of the mindset that this particular thread is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. To me, one that examines another person's use of language in such detail, as KR has done, -to you Sondra, should at least rise to the occasion, by assuming that their own language skill set would be scrutinized. So to KR I state the following: That which was placed within parentheses, -which I dislike, as they are usually used by someone that has no confidence in their own words, was grammatically inferior. The word learned, spelled 'learnt,' may have been accepted at one time historically, therefore placed in a dictionary or two, but it is not used by educated individuals of late. Then there is the use of "here you're probably referring to some who have learnt." Even spell check dislikes learnt. 'Here' where? A place? It would be 'has' not have, even if you used 'learnt' correctly. 'You are probably referring' equates with 'I assume' does it not? Why not accept ownership of your own words instead of putting them in another mouth without permission? "To some who have learnt" Some what? Things? It should be followed by 'someone,' not 'some. 'Then there is the "learnt English as another language" as opposed to what language? You only stated relatives and their possible countries of origin, not languages, by stating: "not your British, Australian or New zealand cousins." Don't we capitalize 'Z'ealand? In Britain, it is the English language, though it is the Queen’s English. As for Australian, WHAT? Actually they speak English, French, Bislama, Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Marshallese or Nauruan. New Zealanders speak what language? English! Maori is their language as well. These countries are not human relatives of each other, such as cousins. You severely insulted all these cultures, in one fell swoop! Then, after stating "you are probably" you became redundant by stating: "I suppose." This, at the end of your 'stream of un-consciousness,' made it quite obvious, to even any untrained eye, that you were supposing ALL of your words. Perhaps you should look into the art of inference and implication. You also need to look into the fact that words have more than one meaning. Because you claim a word is defined by your selected definition, that doesn't mean only you are correct. It simply means you selected it to mean what only you selected, for your purpose and your purpose alone. Your post was beyond any valid, true scope of understanding. KR, it was your attempt to make yourself look good at someone else's expense. By stating: this is MERELY AN ACADEMIC EXERCISE from one teacher and user to another" was to hold yourself up high on a self-built pedestal, by your use of capital letters! I can understand your wanting to learn about another country, trying on another language, and how people speak that language, one you are obviously still learning. Words can cut like a knife, but learn how to use a knife first, lest you cut off your own hand. You'll need to clean up your own backyard before you tell your neighbor to clean up their backyard! And, in the future, do not attempt to wipe your boots on me! My post was not, is not and never will be fodder for hurling your insults at any colleague. To stick it in your post, -to someone else, then not validate that choice, is what brought this post of mine, directly to you, KR. You have also not learned the art of Proofreading! Lastly, In America, we respect others because they earned respect, not their titles.

Why are you so vehement, Tricia? I have been reading your invaluable comments.You are knowledge personified, my dear! I have great love and respect to you. But why are you perturbed and frown upon. LOVE is God.
anjali chatterjee likes this

Yes,Tricia,you are so right.We as teachers have all one thing in common and that is the art of using words and laying them down artistically on this platform for all to see and comment.I do apologise for starting this discussion as I feel responsible for each and every post put down here.But friends and colleagues,we are but human,all one in God's sight and free to give our opinions.Retaliation is a human trait which is why K.R
has given some food for thought. No one here has tried to hurt sentiments,but only opinionated one's feelings towards certain usage of words.Sondra dear,you are and will always be an important part of this forum,do continue to be so. We all should keep one thing in mind and that is we are globally here as a team,sharing ideas and reaching out to a whole world out there.

Anjali, my dear child! Your humility humbles me. What a noble character you are, my child! I am a proud father.
anjali chatterjee likes this

Write the right words
Where do I begin to answer all the comments and insults. I meant no hostility or to downgrade anyone. I was not laughing at people. That is just my way of for expressing I was being surprised at the differences. That is what we say here. Again, it all depends on where you live as to what and how you say things. I guess that is in the same category as "fetch". I do not laugh at people because they do things differently than I do. I actually can learn from their way of "expression". It gives me new way to look at things. If they mispronounced a word they said, I may chuckle WITH them and try to teach them the correct way to pronounce a word. Each country in the world does things differently from their neighbor. As a matter of fact, each of the 50 states in America has different ways of saying things. They have accents and drawls and express one's self entirely different than their neighboring state. If you have not had the opportunity to travel, then you would not realize or understand what I am saying. I have been in almost all of our 50 states. It is a real "kick" (joy) to have done so. By saying "kick" is a way to express joy too, where I live. There are hundreds of such words.

Amazing...yes, amazing. It is an expression. The way one may speak to an individual, expressing lots of things..."surprise, outstanding, great wonder". By saying amazing, we shortcut the long drawn out sentence of saying your were surprised by something, for instance.

Tricia, you are correct in your statement, about being misunderstood. Thank you for saying that. Again, if I have offended anyone, I apologize to you.

Anjali, thank you, for your kind words.

Hi Sondra, I think the response you got here is frank and most of our community members are very caucious and mindful of how them communicate with one another that makes this forum wonderful, Maybe you misplaced your comment , THE PHRASE YOU USED WAS OFFENSIVE. because when you said I LAUGH AT THEM was insulting, we all appreciate you contribution and will always do.

Views are acceptable as long as we dont use degrading or insultive words that makes us educators.

I am sure you are, if you watch football you will see in recent news what the manager of newcastle football club did, instantly people took on him because they said as a manager he must live by example.

as an educator, IT IS VERY UNETHICAL TO USE THE WORD I LAUGH AT THEM, Since i have been following this forum, no one has received the kind of negative response as it is with your comment but does not mean we hate you we sincerely appreciate your contribution as it is said, WELEARN FROM MISTAKES

Hi Tricia
Thank you for your frank response.

Hi Sondra
I've been as careful with my wordings as I can be, yet you feel they are 'insults'. I was only curious about how certain words are combined and are put together. My curiosity seems to have hurt you. Sondra, I apologise to you.
 anjali chatterjee likes this

We are all grown up and we have certain responsibilities to be meted out to society we live in. Let us not indulge in such things and be cordial to one another. After all, life is to live with purpose, though it is short. Forget it and let us not precipitate. Smile, please! You are all dear to me.

KR "laying down words artistically on this platform" What an image! Nice! Sondra, you were on point with your words. I appreciate that and always a good metaphor! Professor, flowery words, Philosophy in there, deep down? The new father? Careful there... . Has anyone noticed the variation on the spelling of the word 'apologize, apologise?' It reminds me of color vs. colour, favorite vs. favour. Hmmm.
anjali chatterjee likes this

Tricia dear!

I am a simple person with no desires. I love and respect all. I have been a father figure in my college. The students love me because I represent knowledge character and love. I don't know how long I am going to live as I am 57. I want to be a person of values and service within my limited means. I want to spend the rest of my life in peace with service being the motto. I believe in unconditional love.

KR, the ref. you gave color and favour is in writing but the pronunciations are just as same, we have to be careful here and make makes that will enhance others and not destroy them particularly our studentsapologize/se is the same in pronunciation


I'd typed the comment and only then did I realise you didn't mean me. So I deleted it. You've been like lightning. Thanks for the clarification.

I’m presenting here a letter from Sondara for it relates to this thread
Dear KR, 

Thank you, for inviting me to your network. I appreciate the connection very much. 

It has been interesting in the group we both have been participating in. I recognize (recognise) your name;-) After all the criticism I have received, I am pleased that you would want me as part of your network. Thank you, for understanding the world is a big, different place and people have their own way of saying and doing things that are different from our neighbors on the other side of the world. 

I do hope you have a nice, fun weekend. 

Best Regards, 

In around a month, your thread has picked up momentum and fetched us some nice little tour over regions we've all enjoyed.

I know,sir. And I am thrilled at the response. Here, on this forum, professionals have given a great feedback which has brought out reactions and over reactions and a sense of knowledge and understanding on the topic. Thank you .
Topic 101
Hi all, Any excellent english (UK) grammar reference books recommended for self learning in order to achieve proficient level from only fluent? Thanks! :)
Jason W Y Chee Project Engineer at Kellington Group (Shanghai) Co., Ltd

English Language Teacher at Cambridge College International
English Grammar in Use is absolutely brilliant! It's by Cambridge, it's set out so that one page explains the grammar point (modal verbs, second conditional et ) and the next page has questions. At the back there are answers. It's divided into three books: red for elementary, blue for intermediate, green for advanced.

There's a similar book series by Oxford as well, but I can't remember the name off the top of my head.
Nada Stojanovic likes this


Experienced English teacher (individuals and groups), owner at CHATTER BOX
@Christopher: I have been using the same English Grammer for years now and I have been very satisfied. It is comprehensive, the explanations are very good and the exercises very illustrative.
Christopher Riddett likes this

Absolutely agree! Murphy is the best!

The English in Use series is great overall. I also have: English Phrasal Verbs in Use, English Collocations in Use, English Vocabulary in Use, English Idioms in Use. They are all brilliant either as self-teacher materials, or for use in the classroom. I highly recommend this series!

@Christopher: I absolutely agree. "English Vocabulary in Use" though could have been more imaginative sometimes.

Hi Jason
I've published A Handy Book on English Grammar. It also treats every topic at elementary. intermediate and advanced levels and has a lot of exercises.

If this interests you, please visit my blog: wherein there's a post on this book. You'll also see some excerpts at the end of the post.

English Grammar in Use is absolutely brilliant! It's by Cambridge, it's set out so that one page explains the grammar point (modal verbs, second conditional et ) and the next page has questions. At the back there are answers. It's divided into three books: red for elementary, blue for intermediate, green for advanced.

There's a similar book series by Oxford as well, but I can't remember the name off the top of my head.
Nada Stojanovic likes this


@Christopher: I have been using the same English Grammer for years now and I have been very satisfied. It is comprehensive, the explanations are very good and the exercises very illustrative.
Christopher Riddett likes this

Absolutely agree! Murphy is the best!

The English in Use series is great overall. I also have: English Phrasal Verbs in Use, English Collocations in Use, English Vocabulary in Use, English Idioms in Use. They are all brilliant either as self-teacher materials, or for use in the classroom. I highly recommend this series!

Experienced English teacher (individuals and groups), owner at CHATTER BOX
@Christopher: I absolutely agree. "English Vocabulary in Use" though could have been more imaginative sometimes.

Hi Jason
I've published A Handy Book on English Grammar. It also treats every topic at elementary. intermediate and advanced levels and has a lot of exercises.

If this interests you, please visit my blog: wherein there's a post on this book. You'll also see some excerpts at the end of the post.
Topic 102
Ha, ha,,,the poor old apostrophe seems to be suffering yet again...
Victor Romain Executive Language Consultant for Professionals Top Contributor
Missing apostrophes filled in after Cambridge city council had them removed from street signs to help emergency...

Top Contributor
Hi Victor
You've put up an interesting topic for discussion. I hope many will participate.

Cambridge Council cites as reason '... apostrophes could lead to mistakes, particularly on emergency service callouts.' This appears to be its own interpretation of the guidelines The National Land & Property has provided regarding removal of information that can cause confusion: 'This is because of two main reasons:
1) machine readability – punctuation can be misinterpreted by computers
2) usability – for example, if loaded into say an emergency service command and
control system and a caller provides a street name, the search will be faster if
the search is entered and returned without punctuation.'

So it appears that the machine decides or rather the software writers based on the
limitations of the software they use decide that removal of punctuation would make information processing easier and faster. Yes, there is a logic to it. May be software writers could have provided for the use of punctuation marks but then writing a new software might involve time and money. Why would they do it when there was an easier way out?

I'm not sure if people protesting do know that convenience of information processing is the real cause. But the Council's insufficient interpretation seems to have caused the stir and people have naturally reacted emotionally. It seems insufficient or inefficient communication or deficient interpretation of an instruction is prevalent even in societies that speak English as L1! As a result, people seem to react emotionally.

The Guardian that published a news item provides an example:
'A street sign reading "Scholars Way leading to Pepys Court
and Fitzgerald Place" is among those that have been changed
with a marker pen, with apostrophes added to the words
"Scholars" and "Pepys".'

Now there are two issues:
1. Probably, the apostrophe serves as a symbol for removal of punctuation. There is no
example to show the apostrophe (') has been removed because its continuation
would or could cause confusion. The only example in the news item provided is that
of double quotation marks ("). Its absence is not going to lead to

2. As long as removal of punctuation marks doesn’t create confusion where is the harm
in removing them? Even in writing, especially an informal one, the comma is used
only when its absence would create doubt in the mind of the reader. And use of
punctuation marks in a letter layout is no longer considered obligatory.

Bear with me a moment further. The topic says '...the poor old apostrophe seems to be suffering yet again...' Can I know what 'yet again' refers to or means?
Victor Romain likes this

@ K R Lakshminarayanan. I'll get back to you with some examples a bit later...

@ K R Lakshminarayanan. As are some examples:

And this rather witty, but excellent pdf article.

Thanks, Victor for the trouble you've taken.

I certainly enjoyed reading Hashimoto's deep concern and dilemma about how silly and illogical rules are and how to manage teaching why the apostrophe is used or not used, what messages both use and non-use convey, and so on. But teaching and learning to use the apostrophe is not as messy as he makes it; the 'messiness' is in the attempt to look for logic.

Why would it be wrong if we didn't add the suffix '(e)s' to the verb in its present tense and the subject in third person singular? Why couldn't we have all verbs regular? Why couldn't we say: some one stole my car or for that matter 'my car was stolen by someone' but rather say only: 'my car has been stolen'. Why don't we simplify by using 'is' for both 'I' and 'you' in the singular? May be these things would happen! Perceptions change with time and new usages come in.

Such changes happen only when existing 'rules' are questioned, not as illogical but as 'unwnated' or 'unnecessary' or when 'change' is desired. For instance, in 'Hashimoto's article' the apostrophe may be thought unnecessary (logic plays no role in removing or retaining it) because there's no ambiguity and so we don't use it. For another, we use 'they' (a plural pronoun) as pronoun to refer to 'every one' or 'no one' (a singular noun) and provide 'avoidance of sex bias' as logic, however illogical this logic may sound!

As an old adage goes: love and language know no logic.

@ K R Lakshminarayanan.Thanks for your feedback and comments. I have to say that I have never heard of that "old adage" before, but I like it:-)

Punctuation saves lives. Consider "Let's all eat grandpa." and "Let's all eat, grandpa."
Topic 103
There are some students who are afraid to talk in straight English in front of their classmates. What can be done to lessen their public speaking anxiety?
Rodel Bryan Valdez College Instructor at Data Center College of the Philippines
Top Contributor

The hesitation and shyness are purely the products of their inability to twist their tongue as the sounds of the language English are quite different from their mother tongue's. None realizes this, not even the teachers. Unless the vocal chord gets used to them one can never speak. I have insisted this in many forums. We have to realize that there are two
hurdles, both are of Mother tongue influence.

* inability to think in English as the process of thinking is always in mother tongue in such students.

1. The vocal chord rejects the sounds of the language English as her phonemes are quite contrary to mother tongue's which they are not used to.

I realized this at young age and started reading loudly. I used to get up at 4 in the morning
and read aloud for two hours.

This can be effective only if you every day listen to BBC, CNN, and such channels. They must listen keenly.Only then can they understand intonation, articulation and pronunciation.
When these two activities combine they have to have an impact, thus enabling them to come out hesitation.

It doesn't stop there. Writing pages every day. this makes mind register the structures, words and the spellings as it is an automatic process of subconscious mind a biological feature.
I lay stress on these and whoever dedicates comes out triumphant. Learning the language English is easy if one has basic knowledge of one's mother tongue.

This has been my module and I am revered by my students. Unrelenting effort with love to the subject brings better results. Dedication is the key.
38 years have gone with the wind. I remain zealous, enthusiastic, energetic and committed. God's grace!

Fear arises from lack of self confidence. Fear results from being afraid of making mistakes and so being laughed at. Fear comes from awareness about not knowing the right words and constructing wrong sentences. But foremost is the lack of confidence that must be dealt with. Successfully at that.

Tell your students these:
Look, native English-speaking students make mistakes when they learn English. And you made mistakes when you learnt your mother tongue. You are learning English like the others are learning, say, French. They will make mistakes and you’ll make mistakes. The English learnt French only after making mistakes and you will learn English after making mistakes. No one learns anything without making mistakes.
So make mistakes and learn, if you don’t speak how can you make mistakes, and if you don’t make mistakes, you cannot learn. So don’t worry, come to the front of the class, say your thoughts however they come to you. Continue to say them. When others speak, listen to them, listen to how they say their thoughts, you can learn from this.

Tell your students to clap, cheer, smile and enjoy speeches from their classmates. You, as their teacher, clap, pat on the back, smile.

Tell them to use English to speak among themselves. Give English versions of their sentences in the local or regional language. Show and make them understand the differences between both the languages.

Let the flow come, this is the most important part of learning. Once the flow stabilises, mistakes can be corrected.

Excellent, K.R.L! I failed to mention another pivotal feature, which you have mentioned.We have to make them realize the structural changes.How the frames of the language English differ from mother tongue with simple examples so that they understand.

Thank you for your responses. I appreciate them a lot. Actually I am trying to boost their confidence by ignoring their accent. I allow them to mispronounce some words as long as they are able to express themselves. That's my primary goal. I guess my students are afraid to talk because they are very conscious with their pronunciation but I always explain to them that they are not native speakers of the English language. There are certain sounds that they could hardly produce since those sounds are not present in our language. I also tried "one-minute free talk" activity (I adapted this from my college instructor.) where they can talk about anything they want to share in class and I remind them that they are allowed to commit mistakes. It pretty worked well to some but there are still those who are really afraid to talk.

You're on the right track, keep going, chat with those outside class, get other students to talk to these and in time, these will join, too. Fear not!

Head of Teaching & Training at Gallery Languages
Top Contributor
Prof. your description reminded me very much of Harold Palmer's Oral Approach. He also advocated some sort of 'mouth gymnastics' in order to get the muscles used to their new job!
I think on the broader topic of why students might be less eager to speak than we may like, we can usefully call on studies on the Affective Filter (Krashen) which suggests that if we are not at ease, our performance will suffer. Part of a teacher's job, in my view, is to create an affective environment in which students feel safe and supported (as others above have noted). Also worth checking into is Ego Permeability (Guiora): how much one resists the need to maintain one's outer shell (so to speak) and not morph into a new personality which accompanies using a 2nd Language. Crudely put but I hope you get what I mean. Lastly, Tolerance of Ambiguity studies propose that the more we are able to accept that we can't understand everything and can't 'do' everything in this new L2, the more likely we are to be relaxed and acceptant - and so we return to the Affective Filter!
I mention these because they helped me as a young teacher: to understand better what was really happening, that I was not alone and that with appropriate responses, I could (in general) change the status quo. I hope they do the same for others.

Topic 104
What is your best advice for people trying to improve their writing style?
Tanya Suprykina ESL teacher
English Exam Revision

Scribble a lot, keep scribbling a lot, read and re-read this scribbling,
read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, get to know how writing works in expressing thoughts,

write a lot, keep writing a lot, read and re-read those you like most,
edit (whatever that means to you), get it edited by people close to you
read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, get to appreciate their styles of expressing thoughts

enjoy the ease, comfort, lucidity, grace of their writing, let it all sink into you
the rest your subconscious will take care of.
it will be your repertoire from which your mind withdraws what it needs.

I'm a prime example of this process.
Ellen J C.Jeff Gerdes and 2 others like this

Prof Iyer, I do admire and hold dear all the great writers you've mentioned. But today's English, comes alive through fiction writers Arthur Hailey, Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follet, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Wilbur Smith, Robin Cook, Robert Ludlum, Michel Crichton, and a host of others.
Nadia McDonald likes this

I disagree with you, my dear! They were, way out of class. Their writings were brilliant. That is original English. You may call me adamant. Yes,I am.Their writings were were inspirational. One day, Bernard Shaw found a person who hated him along the path which was a log, where only one can walk. I forgot his name' He was adamant and said that he would not give way for the idiots as both of them were at the ridge. Bernard Shaw coolly said, "But, I give.?"

Read such works. They were great writers, K.R.L! Quite unmatched. I don't beleive in James Hardey Chase, Agastha Christie, and such writers, though I respect them. Lord Tennyson, John Milton, Bertrand Russel were all great. coming, going sitting, standing, sleeping, and such are not English which are the only ones that the Indians know about.I am vehement when it comes to the Indians' knowledge in the language English. Actually, basically, you know, how are you doing, I am doing good-rubbish. I love my country, but not their filthy language.

I'm sorry, Prof. Iyer, I must take exception to your 'filthy', please.

You are good, K.R.L. Please understand my love to the language. You are very knowledgeable. I have no second thought. Why am I so irritated/ It is because I love the languages, I love my mother tongue. Her richness is such, which I need not tell you. I have the same love and affection to the language English as I see her as my mother. Yasodha to Krishna?

Prof Iyer, thanks for the compliment. Loving mother tongue or English shouldn't amount to disliking how some others speak one or the other or both--however much badly they may speak it or them.

You spoke of Krishna; so I'm saying this (I'm sure you know this): (over)attachment to anything leads to sorrow and pain. He recommends 'action in inaction and inaction in action'.

Please consider this.

K.R.L action in rnaction and inaction in action. That is a great philosophy of this righteousness of my country.I value it as it was from Muralidhara.

Topic 105
Hi All, Can anyone suggest me how to write a recommendation letter in order to pursue my Masters at abroad.
Leonee Agnes Business Analyst at eGIANTS Top Contributor

Sorry but correct me if I'm wrong--I understand the first part of your statement as a request to know how to write a recommendation while the second implies that you want to recommend yourself to the course by writing a letter.

Or are you by any chance referring to Statement of Purpose (SoP) which students aspiring to get admitted to courses in the States for instance write where they recommend themselves stating in some detail what course to pursue and why they should be considered for admission.

If this is what you meant I can send a sample or two to your email ID.

Am glad that you are trying to help me out. I require a letter in the format of an professor stating that I am from his/her college and recommending myself to the universities at abroad that my conduct is good and so on.

Hi Leonee
So you want a letter from a professor attesting to your being a student in the college and write about you as a student of the subject he/she taught you, your performance as a student, your behaviour etc.

The general format is this:

The professor would be using his/her personal letterhead or one provided by the institution. The letterhead itself would carry his/her communicating address. Since the letter is a formal one, the letter should have on the left address of the institution where you're applying for admission.

Then the salutation comes.

Then the first paragraph begins something like this:
... (your name) has been a student in the Department and took a course I taught her during the ... (number) Semester/ fall /winter/summer.

Then the second paragraph will be about you as a student:
Ms ... has been a diligent, hard-working student. She exhibited curiosity about certain topics in the subject/paper (name to be mentioned) I taught, especially ... (the name of the topic). She always submitted her assignments on time and they revealed her scholarship in the subject. She has secured ... (your grades) in the subject.

Then the third paragraph will be about you as a person
Generally she is an introvert but would respond to instructions and requests willingly.
She is inquisitive by nature and wants to go deeper into the subject. She is analytical as well in her treatment of a topic.

Then the next paragraph will contain the recommendation
I have no hesitation in recommending her application for admission to the course she's chosen at your institution.

here comes the closure
... (signature)

What you see above is only a sample of how a recommendation letter sounds.

Hope this helps.

If you need to make a formal request to the professor through a letter here is a sample:

------------------------- (1)
----------------------- (2)

-------------------------- (3)

Dear Prof. .... (name)

I am applying to ...4a... at ...4b.... for admission into ...4c... programme. The Institution requires me to send testimonials form my teachers.

Therefore, may I request you to write a testimonial regarding my academics, my curricular and extra-curricular activities, my achievement, my capabilities as a student, a team player, as a leader and as a person.

I have enclosed relevant particulars regarding those other than academics.

I thank you in anticipation.

your name
your signature
... semester

1 dept naem, college name 2. date 3. name of professor, department, college name
4a institution name you're applying to 4b its place 4c the name of the course
Leonee Agnes likes this

Thank you so much. Its really a time full deed you have done.

I think Mr. K R Lakshminarayanan has explained everything in detail. Go ahead! Wish you good luck in all your future ventures!
Leonee Agnes likes this

Thank you Javed.

Kindergarden teacher/Creative Arts Director/ Aspiring author at Kingsway Academy Schools
Top Contributor
Hi again Ms. Agnes! Recommendation letters are very promotional. I suggest you ask a former employer or a teacher/professor to assist you with the letter. There are many types of letters and they all have differenct functions. In this regard, you are applying for a masters.
I've written many letters, therefore it will be to your advantage to get assistance from someone who highly favors your character, work ethic and academic ability. I wish you all the best!
Jeffrey Diamond likes this

Topic 106
I Wish I Had Known
Sarwan Singh Executive Director at The English Academy Top Contributor
This presentation is a reality check about our ay of thinking in life. It tells us about a few things we should change our thinking about.We either take many things in life for granted or have erroneous views about them. This presentation provides a different perspective about 10 very useful aspects of life.
I wish i had known !!!
This presentation is a reality check about our ay of thinking in life. It tells us about a few things we should change our thinking about.

Very thoughtful of you to share your presentation here.

The best of all was the reverse order on ‘marriage’, I love the humour!

No, life isn’t always fair, but
Yes, in spite of all the above, life is very much worth it.

I’d say 'I wish I had remembered!'

Thanks for your nice comments; Mr. Lakshminarayanan.

Yes; in spite of all the problems life is still worth living to the fullest. In fact it is these problems which make the life worth living & interesting.

Regarding the title; another possible title is I wish I had been told. Because; no one tells us about these things when we step out in to the real world.

With warm regards,
Sarwan Singh

Even if they did, would we have been receptive enough, I wonder. Experience is the best teacher. Even then some of us fail to learn and hence but keep blaming others.

Can I know how to make slides like yours? Will Slideshare help?

Best wishes, Sarwan!

I will be happy to share with you some of mine. A few of my other ppts are also on Author Stream & Slide Share. I will mail you links to these other slides as well. The help is available in many places on net but putting it all together is really a creative process requiring lot of patience. I also conduct training program on Presentation Skills including how to make ppts. I will mail you the write up on the same as well. This offer also goes to any one reading this post.

With warm regards,
Sarwan Singh

Thanks for the write up you'll be mailing, Also thanks for the links to other slides as well.
I'm happy to have known you.

Topic 107
The use of 'can' and 'may'
anjali chatterjee Trainer at Helix consultancies, spoken English and personality development
Which is more appropriate 'Can I have a glass of water?' or 'May I have a glass of water?'One of my students asked if 'can' was rude and 'may' polite.
Now what should be the correct explanation? Thanks for your answers in advance.

'Can' is an informal alternative to 'may' which is used in formal contexts.

For more information on 'can' and 'may' and other modal verbs, please see the post in my when you find the time.
Farideh Ahmadi likes this

Can is ability, May is permission. Anything else is not correct. Can I lift this ten ton weight? May I help you? May I go out please? Can I win?

Gina C is correct :)
Can is the ability to do something; may is asking permission; therefore your student should say 'may I have a glass of water?' As they are asking permission from you.

I'd have to disagree - can is ability and may is permission. May I leave the table please = do I have your permission. Can I leave the table = am I physically able to leave the table.

Can has come into common usage but it is not correct - in the same way as "gotten" is not common but is incorrect.

It's not just a matter of manners, can is ability, may is permission.
Cheryl B. likes this

Page 73 of A J Thomson and A V Martine's A Practical English Grammar (OUP/ELBS 1970) has this:
'Formal permission is always expressed by MAY, but MAY can also be used informally as an alternative to CAN. It is fairly common in polite requests:
'MAY I use your phone?' is more polite than 'Can / Could I use your phone?'
Again on page 78, they say:
'Both CAN I? and COULD I? can used for requests.COULD is the more polite.

Page 199 of C.E Eckersley and J M Eckersley's A Comprehensive English Grammar (Longman 1960) has this:
'Both Can and could are used to make rather informal requests. ... In this case, could is felt to be rather more polite than can.'

(C) section numbered 131 in Michael Swan's Practical English Usage (ELBS and OUP 1980, 1983) has this:
'Can, could, may, might are all used in asking for permission. Can is probably the commonest of the four (though some people consider that can is 'not correct' and that one should say MAY I...?'
'Could is rather more hesitant than can,...'
'May and might are used in a more formal style; they often suggest respect. Might is more hesitant, and is not very common.'
Gina C.Rod Mitchell and 4 others like this

Thanks for that, well researched!

You're welcome, Gina.

thanks KR sir, that says it all!

People are still contributing to this thread and differ about when to use ‘c an’ and ‘may’.

 Topic 108
Slip of My Tongue
Mansoureh IR English Teacher Top Contributor
Today I gave an ungrammatical reply to my young adult student's question, although I knew the grammar. :-( I usually review in my mind everything went on in my class and after class I realized my mistake. I am always well-prepared; but today I was not mentally prepared due to a busy week and lack of concentration. What are your suggestions to compensate my mistake?

Top Contributor
In your next class, wait for five or ten minutes to see if any of your students is intelligent enough to have detected your mistake and look at you strangely or knowingly or be bold enough to point it out. If nothing of this sort happens, take them back to yesterday's moment when you uttered an ungrammatical expression, accept you slipped up, right the wrong, say if something of this happened in future, they shouldn't hesitate to say so.
Omar SattarMansoureh IR and 3 others like this

English Language Instructor at Royal Saudi Air Force
Top Contributor
I sometimes write mistakes on the board to see if any students notice the mistake.

Not a bad ploy. But you wouldn't be getting a response unless you gave them the confidence.

I think the idiom is 'a slip of the tongue'; there's also 'a slip of the pen'
Cindy LeaderOmar Sattar and 1 other like this

Licensed Elem.& Middle School English Teacher / ESL Private Tutor
@KR.. Yes. It took me a second, but I knew something was "off". As I start to type this, I saw your post. Too bad. "slip of the tongue".

I confessed my mistake and corrected it. I told them about my busy week and said: "I am really sorry."; they all accepted it with a smile on their faces.
@ K R: Yes, you are right. I know the idiom, too. But I supposed it would be correct if I say "slip of MY tongue", but apparently it is not. Thank you for pointing it out. :)
Cindy LeaderOmar Sattar and 1 other like this

Topic 109
Let us look at the simple prepositions. in, on, at, to, of, and for. Is there any textt hat defines their usage. How do you make the learners understand their usage?
Prof.Iyer Baalank Professor of English at PES School 0f Engineering, Bangalore
Top Contributor

Co-operative Teacher Mentor/English Language Educator/Project Teacher
Top Contributor
As to your question. Here is some material I use. I have included definitions and usage of the 6 prepositions you mentioned and threw in "with" just in case you had missed it. Hope this helps.

PREPOSITIONS: A preposition connects words, clauses, and sentences together and shows the relationship between them.

"My hand is on the table" shows the relationship between hand and table.

Prepositions are so called because they are generally placed before the words, whose connection or relation with other words, they point out.

The most common meanings expressed with prepositions are listed below. Development of the comprehension/production is in this approximate order:

•spatial location [topological prepositions]
• the relationship between two or more things [Euclidean prepositions]
• direction [projective prepositions]
• locates something in time [temporal prepositions]

1. A specific location: at 23 Chestnut Street; at the park
2. A point in time: at 5 o'clock; at Christmas
3. A condition: at peace; at war; at rest
4. An activity: at work; at school; at play
5. Towards: Look at someone; wave at someone

Note: When referring to a specific location or to a point in time, at is usually used. When referring to a certain street or a certain day, on is usually used. When referring to a location as an area, or when referring to a unit of time longer than a day, in is usually used.

e.g. at Christmas; on Christmas day; in the Christmas holidays

1. Duration of time: We walked for two hours.
:for is usually followed by a phrase referring to a period of time
2. Distance: I walked for five kilometers.
3. Purpose: I bought this jacket for you.
4. In the direction of: She left for New York.
5. In favor of: We are for the proposal.
6. Considering: The boy is clever for his age.

1. Place thought of as an area: in London; in Europe
2. Within a location: in the room; in the building
3. Large units of time: That happened in March, in 1992.
4. Within a certain time: I will return in an hour.
5. By means of: write in pencil; speak in English
6. Condition: in doubt; in a hurry; in secret
7. A member of: He is in the orchestra; in the navy
8. Wearing: the boy in the blue shirt
9. With reference to: lacking in ideas; rich in oil

1. Location: east of here; the middle of the road
2. Possession: a friend of mine; the sound of music
3. Part of a group: one of us; a member of the team
4. Measurement: a cup of milk; two meters of snow

1. Touching the surface of: on the table; on the wall
2. A certain day: That happened on Sunday, on the 6th of June.
3. A certain street: on South Street
4. About: a book on engineering
5. A state or condition: on strike; on fire; on holiday
6. By means of: live on a pension; shown on television

1. In the direction of: Turn to the right.
2. Destination: I am going to Rome.
3. Until: from Monday to Friday; five minutes to ten
4. Compared with: They prefer hockey to soccer.
5. With indirect object: Please give it to me.
6. As part of infinitive: I like to ski; he wants to help.
7. In order to: We went to the store to buy soap.

1. Accompanying: He came with her; I have my keys with me.
2. Having; containing: Here is a book with a map of the island.
3. By means of; using: I repaired the shoes with glue.
4. Manner: with pleasure; with ease; with difficulty
5. Because of: We were paralyzed with fear.
branka V.Zoe Harwood and 5 others like this

All said and done, give the job to your subconscious by constant reading and listening, give the job to your conscious by speaking and writing. Things (prepositions, too!) will fall in place.
Omar SattarZoe Harwood and 1 other like this

Excellent, sir! How true it is!

Let me add to your sentiments this: We learn from each other as well.
Zoe HarwoodOmar Sattar like this

EFL/ESL Instructor (Willing to Relocate)
Well said K R.
Topic 110
Who is/ Who are
Mansoureh IREnglish TeacherTop Contributor
To a group of people:

-Who is ready?
-Who are ready?
- Who is/ are ready?

It's an intriguing question of usage.

I'd written to Mr Morrow, the then editor of ELT Journal, published in England on this very question:
Can’t a verb be used in the plural after the interrogative ‘who’:
who are coming to the party?
who have gone to attend the function?

No book on usage of English/grammar could provide me an answer. In an attempt to get an answer through internet, I came across the first page of an article entitled ‘Is WHO really a singular?’ and written by Sylvia Chalker at editor From the 16 examples she presents I understand that ‘who’ can (should) be followed by a plural verb. I am unable to know the ‘b’ of her tentative conclusions. However, what’s the final word?

There was no response from the editor.

Hope the air will clear from the response to come in.
Mansoureh IR likes this

Freelance tutor and trainer
Top Contributor
I would go with 'is'.
I am thinking that even though you addressing a group of people the question is addressing each individual in the group.

If you were addressing a group within a group would you not ask "Which team/group/pair is ready?" to which they could answer as a group. "We are!"

Alternatively to address a group you always have "Are you ready (to...)"

We use ‘who’ when we want to ask which person does an action or which person is in a certain situation / condition.

In this case, ‘who’ is a subject. The verb that follows it is usually in the singular form despite the fact that the answer CAN be in the plural.

A: Who lives in that house?
B: The Johnsons.

A: Who is hungry?
B: Eve and James.They haven't had lunch yet.

A: Who broke the window?
B: I think John did it. He often plays football in the back garden.

Hi Mansoureh: 'I understand that no matter what the response (singular or plural) would be, singular "be" is always used with "who".'

As far as English grammar is concerned, I believe that there are no such things as 'always' and 'never.'

On page 26, unit 26C, the Advanced Grammar in Use (6th printing 2007) by Martin Hewings says:

[However, the verb can be plural in echo questions (see Unit 27E) after a plural subject or a subject consisting of two or more noun phrases joined by and:

'Mr Smith and his family are here to see you.' 'Who are here?' (or Who's here?)]

I'm sorry if I have complicated things a bit!

Note: please see topic 69.

Topic 111
Could anyone explain why these sentences are ambiguous, please?
Sharifa Sulaiman English Teacher at Satri Islam Vitya Mulniti of Yala
1. They are eating apples.
2. The lamb is too hot to eat.
3. What annoys him is being ignored by his best friend.
4. They are building a ssmall arms factory.

Thank you

Retired teacher now developing educational software for ESL and other languages.
Not obvious at first but after some consideration:
1. a) Those people are eating apples.
b) Those apples are for eating. (as opposed to 'cooking apples')
2 a) This meat is too hot for us to eat.
b) The weather is so hot that the lamb doesn't feel like eating.
3 a) He is annoyed by the fact that his best friend ignores him.
b) His best friend is taking no notice of the thing that's annoying him. [clearer if you say: My best friend is taking no notice of the thing that's annoying me]
4 a) They are building a factory to make small arms.
b) They are building a small factory to make arms.

There is a certain amount of ambiguity in sentences 1 and 2: ‘eating’ as present participle or adjective qualifying ‘apple’; ‘hot’ with reference to ‘heat’ or ‘chilly hot’. I see 3 as: being ignored by his best friend (is what) annoys him. As for 4, I see ‘small’ qualifying ‘factory’ and ‘arms’ as a classifier to ‘factory’.

But the interpretations of sentence 2 by Ferd and Omar baffle me:
Ferd (Zoe and Omar)
Sentence 2
How do ‘the weather’ and ‘the lamb’ come into the picture at all? And ‘us’ is totally ignored! 'Meat' here could refer to any of those animal's normally forming part of Western food.
Sentence 3
Where does ‘the thing’ come from?
Omar Sattar likes this

EFL/ESL Instructor (Willing to Relocate)
K R: It's my wild imagination that led me to this interpretation -))). Now serious, at first these sentences were so clear that I couldn’t see any ambiguity. However, after some consideration, I mean by looking at them in different way, the picture gradually became less and less blurry.

Let's have a look at the second sentence. Our focus will be on the lamb as an animal, not its meat. If we replace 'hot' with 'weak' it becomes very clear i.e. The lamb is too weak to eat. Now, let’s look at the initial sentence again, ‘The lamb is too hot to eat’ means that the temperature is so high that it cannot eat. In a similar way, when I say ‘I’m too hot to do anything’ stems from the fact that because it’s roasting, I have neither the physical strength nor the desire to e.g. do the housework or even fall asleep.

I found the following examples on the Internet:

"Did you see the girl with the telescope?" 
The two possible interpretations are as follows:

"Did you see the girl who is holding the telescope?"

"Did you see the girl by using the telescope?"

The following are really ambiguous sentences:

1. The lady hit the man with an umbrella. (Is the lady using an umbrella to hit or is she hitting a man who is carrying an umbrella?)

1. He gave her cat food. (Is he giving cat food to her or is he giving her cat some food?)

1. They are looking for teachers of French, German and Japanese. (Are they looking for teachers who can each teach one language or all three languages?)

In all the instances above, the context does not clearly indicate the intended meaning.

Roslyn: Of course context is very important, but in this case, we tried to give different and plausible interpretations of them as standalone sentences without knowing any other details

Like the last one the most--the use of 'will' and the alliteration. Wow!
(Will Will will the will to Will?)