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Learn the names of animals

Here is a new quiz for learning the names of 40 common animals.

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What is the size of a native speaker’s vocabulary?

What is the size of a native speaker’s vocabulary?
The answer is not so simple. There are two sides to a person’s vocabulary. The first is the number of words they use on a daily basis. This is their active vocabulary. The second is the number of words that they recognise, but may not use themselves. This is their passive vocabulary.
For instance, most native speakers would understand the word ‘ajar’, which means ‘slightly open’, as in the door is ajar. But it is probably not a word that they use very much. Perhaps they never use it!
Lexicographer Susie Dent says that most native speakers of English have an active vocabulary of 20,000 words and a passive vocabulary of 40,000. I have seen other sources that claim most people have an active vocabulary of as little as 12,000 words.
Still, for an English learner, that is a lot of words to learn to catch up with the natives.
But there is a way to improve your vocabulary without learning new words. That is, to transfer some words from your…

Forty Business English Roleplays

Here is a selection of forty business English scenarios for Business English teachers to use with their students. Scenarios range from asking the boss for a raise to dealing with scheming co-workers. 

The PDF is free to print out and use, or try using the presentation version in class on your smartboard.

PDF version

Presentation version

Easy Reading Activities

Here are 20 short texts that are suitable for A1 - A2 level learners.

Each one has vocabulary items and a few simple questions.

They are free to use and work on smartphones too!

Click here for the activity.

Click here for advanced reading passages.

Jobs - Elementary Vocabulary Activity

Here is a new activity for learning basic vocabulary related to jobs:
The activity features a glossary and a picture practice activity featuring 20 different jobs. Users listen to the name of the job and click on the correct picture.
This activity is perfect for beginners, or bands A1-A2 of the CEFR standards.

Why is WENT the past tense of GO?

In present tense, it is GO. In past tense, it is WENT. Why is this? The two words look completely different from each other.

In the past, when English was Old English, there were two words for GO. There was GO and there was WEND. The past tense of GO was GAED and the past tense of WEND was WENT.

As time passed, WEND became less popular and GAED became less popular. In modern English, we are left with GO and WENT. GAED and WEND are no longer used. The word WANDER is related to WEND/WENT.

Why do some words become more popular and some become less popular over time? There are many reasons, but mainly they just sound nicer. Perhaps GAED and WEND do not sound as nice as GO and WENT.


Everybody knows the word ‘often’, but have you ever heard the word oftentimes? Oftentimes is an old-fashioned word that simply means ‘often’. It is old-fashioned, but it has started to become popular once more as the chart below shows.

By the way, as an English teacher, students always used to ask me about the pronunciation of the word ‘often’.

You can pronounce it with or without the T sound – both pronunciations are correct!

Vocabulary: Describing Feelings

Here is an activity for learning and practising words used to describe feelings.

It is a picture activity and it features 25 words. 

Teachers, you can use it on your smartboard or ask your students to access it on their mobile devices. The language is kid-friendly.

Road to Grammar English Test - Find Your CEFR Level

The Road to Grammar English Test is now available.

It is free to take at


the test takes around 20 minutes to completeit tests vocabulary, grammar, reading and listeningfeedback is given in the form of a CEFR levela short, but very detailed report is provided at the end of each test, you will find out your strengths and weaknesses and the description of your levelyou can take the test on a smartphone or tablet although a laptop is recommended as there is some typing the test is free to take

The Final Straw

The final straw ‘The final straw’ or ‘the last straw’ is an interesting idiom. It means the last in a series of negative incidents that leads to disaster. Okay, maybe that is a little difficult to imagine. How about the following: Imagine a man has a camel and he uses the camel to carry straw (straw as in hay, not drinking straws!). He places pieces of straw on the camel’s back one by one until slowly the camel is hopelessly overburdened. Eventually, the man will place one final straw on the camels back and the camel’s back will break! This is what we call ‘the final straw’. And, yes, another version of the idiom is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Now imagine Bob’s boss is really mean to him. He shouts at him every day and insults him, but Bob perseveres. One day, Bob wants to take the afternoon off to visit his sick mother in hospital. His boss says no and Bob resigns. This is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ or, as we said earlier, means the last in a series of negative…

Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary in ESL

A useful concept for ESL teachers (and learners) is the concept of expressive and receptive vocabulary. If you have ever learned and used a foreign language, you may have noticed that it is much easier to take in information (listening and reading) than to produce it (speaking and writing). The language that you understand is receptive language and the language that you produce is expressive language.
There may be a lot of words that you recognise, but when it comes to speaking, the words just don’t come to mind. Alternatively, you may get stuck because you lack the repertoire of sentence structures to say what you want to say.
Native speakers, too, use a smaller range of language than they recognise. For example, someone might tend to use the word ‘maybe’ and never use the word ‘perhaps’. Of course, they recognise the word ‘perhaps’ when they hear it.
Native speakers tend to have a smaller difference in the ratio of expressive to receptive vocabulary. ESL speakers tend to have a larg…

The CEFR Levels

The CEFR Levels are a way of describing a person’s level of English. They are getting more and more popular all the time.
There are six CEFR levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. A1 is the lowest and C2 is the highest.
See a summary of the levels here:

Or click on the image below to enlarge it:

Switching Sentence Parts Around to Improve Your Writing Style

One of the keys to good writing is sentence variety and one easy way to achieve greater variety in your writing is to switch sentence parts around.
English sentences, as you may have noticed, are made up of blocks.
Or we could say: English sentences are made up of blocks, as you may have noticed.
Or we could say: As you may have noticed, English sentences are made up of blocks.
Let’s look at this sentence structure:
Pete went to Japan to learn Judo.
The clause ‘to learn Judo’ explains why Pete went to Japan. We can move it to the front of the sentence:
      To learn Judo, Pete went to Japan.
Now we have a more sophisticated sentence structure! Let’s see a couple more examples:
                I need more eggs to make this cake.
                To make this cake, I need more eggs.

                They offered discounts to attract customers.
                To attract customers, they offered discounts.

We can use the same trick with ‘in order to’:
                They offered discounts in order to…

Exercise: Avoiding repetition

In English writing, repetition is considered to be a bad style. Look at the following example:
Bad:  We look forward to your participation when you participate in the event. Good:   We look forward to having you participate in the event.
Can you improve on these sentences?
1 Janice went to the beach, but the beach was cold and windy. 2 I like my job because it is an easy job. 3 Fish is not only tasty, but fish also helps your brain. 4 The dust made the air really dusty. 5 I like chocolate because the taste is really tasty. 6 The teacher teaches us many things. 7 On my travels I traveled to Rome, Milan and Palermo. 8 I have not yet decided on my decision. 9 I spent my holiday in Timbuktu. Timbuktu is a city in Mali. 10 I signed up for a Spanish course. The Spanish course lasts three weeks.

CLICK HERE for sample answers

Conversation Worksheet: Talking Money

Teachers, here is a great conversation worksheet for introducing the topic of money.

It includes vocab, reading of people's opinions and a long discussion section. There is also a follow-up on some of the grammar points.

Download it here: