Archive for the ‘Grammar and Word Usage’ Category

Mixing it up!

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

I almost NEVER teach grammar explicitly (directly).  I believe that MOST of the time, but not all the time, you can learn most grammar rules through being exposed to proper grammar.

I remember when I was studying “how humans learn language” when I was in university.   It was a 4th year psychology course.  The thing is that humans have a special part of the brain that can learn grammar rules automatically, without having to study them directly.  That is why native speakers who never went to school can usually speak in a way that that is mostly “grammatically correct”.  It’s not always true, but it’s true most of the time.

I don’t even “know” all the grammar rules.  I don’t think about it.  I just know what “feels right”.  That’s from me being a native speaker and from listening to millions of proper sentences and “getting a feel for what is right and what is wrong”.  When I learned Chinese as a second language, I found the same thing.  Of course it isn’t as good as my English, but I still have a feel for what sounds right and what sounds wrong.  We all have that feeling, we just need to pay attention to it.  Studying “verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns… is fine sometimes, and sometimes it’s necessary, but there is certainly no need to go overboard”.   Not only is it boring to study that stuff too much, but it’s so hard to remember when it’s talked about in that way, AND it’s slow for the brain to use when speaking.

If I always had to think, “I need to do this with a noun and that with an adverb, except in this and that case, it would take FOREVER to write or speak a simple sentence”.  I think you get my point.

BUT… Sometimes it can be necessary.  I’ve been noticing that many people who write me questions have a really difficult time understanding the differences between “IS and DOES” at the beginning of a question.  Native speakers NEVER make this mistake, so it’s important to learn the difference so you don’t look “uneducated”.  I don’t mean to sound unkind, but when someone reads that mistake, it looks really really bad.

So here I’m going to explain the difference here:  Grammar Lesson – Important Difference Between IS and DOES

Big tip:  Besides using the lessons at China232, I highly recommend getting in the habit of going to literally EVERY DAY.  We are making new free lessons on there every single day!  It’s a lot of work, but we want to build it into the best English learning site in the world BY FAR for helping serious people take their English to the next level.  Please tell your friends, teachers, and students to get in the habit and join this new exciting site!  And don’t forget about  We’re still making the best podcasts we can and teaching everything through conversation.

The combination of using BOTh and everyday should be INSANE.  Please help us spread the word to the whole world!  Share you success stories with us.

And by the way, Add and I have a special plan for the milestone VIP lesson # 200 next week.  It’s gonna be SICK!  Get ready!

Mutually exclusive

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Mutually exclusive is a term that pops up all the time in books I read. This is a mathematical term with a very precise meaning, but in general English it is used to mean that two things can’t happen at the same time.

For example, being in a relationship and being single are mutually exclusive. In other words, you can’t be in a relationship and be single at the same time. (unless you are a good liar. haha).

Often this term is used by saying that two things are “not mutually exclusive”. This means that the two events can, at least in theory, happen together.

Doing well in school and having a fun social life are not mutually exclusive if you know how to manage your time well.

Knowing how to use this term well will impress native speakers. I even know some native speakers who don’t know what it means.


“Fond”, “Keen”, and “Ought to”

Monday, October 1st, 2007

This post is inspired by Anas’ comments on one of my last posts. Thanks for the comments Anas, and thanks for sharing the website with your classmates. We really appreciate it.

Your writing was quite good in the comment, but there are a few words I’d like to advise you on. The words “Fond”, “Keen”, and “Ought to” are words that I personally never use. They aren’t wrong but they sound very old to me. They are words that I often hear my grandparents using but no one younger. Maybe some people in other English speaking countries still use them, I’m not sure, but my personal opinion is to avoid using them.

You could say, “I’ve always been a fan of your posts”, “I’ve always really liked your posts”, or “I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts”. Those sentences sound less old fashioned than, “I’ve always been keen on your posts”.

The phrase “ought to” can always be replaced with “should”. It may sound boring to use “should” all the time, but that’s what we do.

The word “fond” can be replaced with, “like” or “enjoy”. “I really like your podcasts”, or “I enjoy listening to your podcasts” sound more natural than “I am fond of your podcasts”.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughtful comments. I hope to read more soon.

Also, make sure you are practicing your writing on our discussion forum. There’s only one way to improve your writing and that is to practice. No excuses!



Sunday, August 5th, 2007

I was asked how to use “get” in the sense of “get nervous” or “get drunk”. Thanks for your question IOIO. You said in your question that Chinese people say, “when I nervous” or “when I drunk”. That is incorrect. You can say “I am nervous right now”, or “I get nervous when I see snakes”, but you can’t say “I nervous”.

Here, “get” means “become”. We almost never say “become” in this way but that’s what it means. It is used with states or feelings that change. We can use it with “nervous”, “drunk”, “tired”, or “excited” because these are states that change. We aren’t always drunk for example, but we “get drunk” when certain things happen. ie. drink alcohol. We aren’t always tired but we “get tired” when we don’t sleep enough.

You could say, “I get really drunk if I drink too quickly”. Another is, “My friend gets nervous around beautiful women”.

You use “got” for the past tense. “I got really tired the last time I went running”. Or, “Sarah got really excited when she met that famous movie star”.

Please help support this blog by recommending this website on a forum or bbs in your country.

I look forward to reading your comments.




Saturday, August 4th, 2007

This is a short blog entry about the overuse of the word “delicious” in China. I always hear, “Do you think this is delicious?” “What foods do you think are delicious?” Native speakers almost never use “delicious” in a question. For example, I might say, “Wow, this pizza is really delicious” but I would never ask, “Do you think this pizza is delicious?” Instead I would ask, “Do you like this pizza?” or “What do you think of this pizza?” or “Do you think this pizza is any good?” In fact, I almost never use the word “delicious” at all. I rarely say “this pizza is really delicious” I usually say, “This pizza is really good” or “this pizza is amazing”.

If I were asking someone if they like pizza in general, not a particular pizza, I would just ask “Do you like pizza?”

Most of the time you can just use the sentences, “Do you like …..?” or “I like ……” if you are talking about food in general.

Do you like ice cream?

I like hamburgers.

If you are talking about a particular something you could say “This …. is really good”

This salad is really good. This hamburger is really good.

I hope it helps and I hope to read your comments.