Nov 152011

We’ve all heard it: We’ve all heard people say “Him and me went…”.

We’ve heard people say “Her and me went…” and we’ve heard people say “Me and him went…”.

But are these correct English? Is this something you want to learn and repeat?

The truth is that it is painful to hear English spoken this way.

We’re going to break these apart into several lessons.

  • The pronouns “him” and “her” are object pronouns. They are the pronouns to use when the speaker (or writer) is referring to the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.

The problem is when people – commonly – use these pronouns when they are referring to the subject(s) of a sentence.

  • The subject pronouns are I, you, her, him, it, we, they. So it would be proper to say “He and I went to a baseball game. ” It would be proper to say “She and I went to a baseball game.”

It would be proper to say “Mark invited him and me to the baseball game” and it would be proper to say “Mark invited her and me to the baseball game.”  (Using the plural object pronoun, it would be proper, in these cases, to say “Mark invited us to the baseball game.”)

TRY IT #1: So let’s say English grammar isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t really understand object pronouns. So let’s take the sentence “Mark invited her and me to the baseball game” and let’s play around with it. Let’s begin, “Mark sent an email to…….” and fill in the blank.

Your choices are (choose two):

1) him and me
2) he and I
3) her and me
4) she and I

A substitution like we just did above will help you to understand when to use an object pronoun.

The correct choices are 1)  him and me, and 3) her and me.
Rationalle:  We need an OBJECT PRONOUN to complete the preposition “to”.

TRY IT #2: Let’s begin, “……  sent an invitation to Mark.” and fill in the blank.

Your choices are (choose two):

1) She and I
2) Him and me
3) Her and me
4) He and I

The correct choices are 1)  She and I, and 4) He and I.
Rationalle:  We need  SUBJECT PRONOUNS  to indicate who is doing the action.

Next week you and I will discuss “me and her” or “me and him”.



Oct 242011

“English is my worst subject.”  True or False?

Whenever I tell people I’m an English teacher, they say “Uh oh… English was my worst subject in school.” Now what did they mean by this? These are people who are native speakers of English! So how could English have been their worst subject in school?

I put this, “Why was English your worst subject?”, into the search bar. One person said he didn’t like English because he was always asked to write his opinion of things and then told that he was wrong.

Have you ever had this experience?

In writing, we must present our ideas in a clear and orderly fashion. We must take ideas and support them with facts or real-life experience.  Sometimes when students write essays, we teachers are not telling our students that their opinions are wrong, but that they have not properly supported and developed their ideas.  At the same time,  much attention in writing classes is paid to the question: Is this a fact or an opinion? Some people confuse a fact with an opinion, but this can be remedied with proper training.

So if you are an ESL student or a native English speaker, in fact no matter what language you write in, your writing should reflect a logical flow of ideas that the readers can follow.   Learning to write clearly in this manner can be a really beautiful experience that can open up a whole new world to the writer.

Jun 022011

This is my “in my dreams” interview with Rafael Nadal, one of the world’s greatest tennis players, from Mallorca, Spain.


Rafa, first I want to say that I love watching you play.  You are my favorite tennis player.

Thank you very much.

I have always loved watching the Spanish tennis players, including the great Manuel Orantes.

That’s the true.

That’s the truth.

Yes, that’s the true.

That’s the truth. It should be a noun, truthThe truth. “True” is an adjective, as in “That’s true.”

Thank you very much.  That’s true.

Rafa, I saw you play at the US Open in 2010. It was thrilling to watch you play.

I played my best match at a very very important moment.  Always I try very hard.

I always try very hard.

Yes, you do.

I mean – the word order: First “I” then “always”, as in “I always try very hard” and “You always try very hard.”

Thank you very much.

Rafa, what is the key to success in your sport? What is the key to your greatness?

Important thing is be healthy, be in the right position mentally.  I’m always improving.  If you lose something in one part, you have to improve something in another part.

Yes, the important thing is to be healthy, and to be in the right position mentally.

Rafa, you are an inspiration to people all over the world. People love you not only for your successes on the tennis court but also for who you are as a person.  Good luck tomorrow in the French Open.  I will be rooting for you. 

It will be a very difficult match for me.  Thank you for all of your support.

Vamos Rafa!



Feb 102011

Is the name of the holiday President’s Day or Presidents’ Day? Or is it Presidents’ Day?

One of the most misunderstood aspects of proper English grammar is the use of the apostrophe for plural possessives.

Let’s explore this in regards to the holiday that honors America’s Presidents – and that we celebrate each year on the 3rd Monday of February.

First, many people celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, February 14, although it was never a Federal holiday.

George Washington’s Birthday, which is officially on February 22nd, became a Federal holiday. However, the Federal holiday “Washington’s Birthday” takes place a little earlier, on the 3rd Monday in February.

Soon a decision was made to combine the birthday celebrations for our Presidents, so an unofficial holiday developed.

Since the holiday is not official, there is no official name for the day.  Sometimes it is written as the plural possessive Presidents’ Day and sometimes it is written as a plural noun, Presidents Day. Most of the time, however, it is written as the plural possessive Presidents’ Day – the Day belonging to the Presidents. I personally prefer this latter name.

To create the plural possessive, we do the following:

First, we add ~s to the noun (President –>Presidents). This makes it plural.

Then we add the apostrophe to that:  Presidents –> Presidents’

Then we add the noun “Day”.

On the unofficial holiday of Presidents’ Day, we remember the Father of Our Country, George Washington, and our 14th President, Abraham Lincoln, who established the unity of the United State of America, and the right of all men to be free.

Jan 162011

First of all, the holiday is “Martin Luther King Day” but the person we honor isn’t Martin Luther King but his son, Martin Luther King, Jr.

What does the “Jr.” after somebody’s name mean? What does it stand for? The “Jr.” stands for the word “Junior”, which is the appellation used when a son takes on his father’s name.

So who was Martin Luther King, Jr. (Junior)?

I grew up when racial segregation was still legal in many parts of the United States.  Though it wasn’t a part of the culture in the state where I grew up, it was a big part of the culture in many other states, particularly in the southern states.

In the 1960’s I started hearing about integration, referring to racial integration. We learned that in many states there were many public places where blacks could not enter, or if they could enter they had to sit separately from whites.  We learned that there were schools and colleges where blacks could not attend.  We learned of laws in many states where a black person and a white person could not marry.  We learned that many blacks were not allowed to vote in municipal, statewide or federal elections.

When we look around us now, in the United States, we see a very different country.  And much of that is due to the efforts and inspiration of one man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a politician; he was not an elected official. But he was a strong person, and he had strong ideals, and he was able to influence politicians and to gain the confidence of blacks and whites of all ages who believed in racial equality and equal opportunity for people of all races and who were willing to stand up for those ideals in a peaceful manner. He was able to bring people together and elevate a nation.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we celebrate those ideals and the power of one person to change a nation for the better.

Oct 242010

An interesting debate took place among English faculty at the college where I used to teach.  We faculty were looking at one of the students’ essays in my Easy Writer software and the following sentence created a stir among us:

There is just one day in a person’s life when he celebrates with a big wedding.”

We faculty looked at this sentence and each one had a different idea about how to edit it.

One faculty member, me, wanted to keep it as is.

Another suggested the following:

There is just one day in a person’s life when he or she celebrates with a big wedding.”

Another person suggested this:

There is just one day in a person’s life when they celebrate with a big wedding.

Somebody asked whether it was a male or female writing this essay; if it was a female, then the sentence should read as follows:

There is just one day in a person’s life when she celebrates with a big wedding.

But in my opinion this is incorrect because it implies that all people are female, and that only women get married!

There has been a debate in English circles about what pronoun reference (he? she? they? he or she?) to use with the noun “a person” or the pronoun “everybody“. Some English teachers will become very upset when the general pronoun “he” is used.  Now and then you’ll notice a writer has avoided choosing a gender (the male “he” or the female “she“) by choosing the plural pronoun “they“.  But we know that the pronoun must agree in “number” with its noun or pronoun antecedent, and that because “a person” is singular and “everybody” is singular, the plural pronoun “they is incorrect.

I’ve seen some students write “he/she”, which is even worse and you will never find this in professional writing.

Call me sexist, call me conservative, call me old-fashioned, but our language has used “he” as a pronoun reference for “a person” and for “everybody” for ages, and frankly what’s more important to me is how people are treated, not what pronoun reference we use in writing. As long as English used “he” as a general reference and people were not confused about it, I don’t see why we should start becoming confused now!

Besides, now we can argue about which gender, male or female, should be listed first:  Should you write “he or she” or “she or he”?

So what should you use when writing? I’m recommending that you use the good old “neutral pronoun “he” in an essay – unless you have a professor who really objects.

And what about our Easy Writer software? Well, it will accept “he or she” and it will also accept “he”.   It’s very accepting!

Oct 192010

Is it difficult for you to find your way around the computer keyboard in English?

This blog post is Part Two of our look at the English language keyboard used here in the United States. Today we’ll look at the right side of the main cluster of keys. (Click here for Part 1.)

First on the top row we have the backspace key.

The backspace key deletes what you’ve typed, one keystroke at a time.
one stroke at a time
one stroke at a tim
one stroke at a ti
one stroke at a t

and so on.

Next we have the back slash ( \ ) key. You use this key when you are designating file locations on your computer: c:\myeslblog\thekeyboard.doc  or c:\myeslblog\thekeyboard.pdf.

Beneath the backslash key, you have the Enter key. When you use the Enter key alone, it returns you two lines down (i.e. double space).

like this.

and this.

When you use the Enter key and the Shift key at the same time, it returns you one line down.
like this.
or this.

On the bottom row you have the Shift key, again, just like on the right side of the keyboard.  The shift key, again, creates CAPITAL LETTERS or, in terms of the top row of the keyboard, &)&&((#$@%^%&+_), the symbols on the tops of the keys.

Below is a review of the vocabulary used in this blog post:

Now I’ll list our vocabulary:

(to) backspace, the backspace key

backslash      \

(to) enter/to hit the enter key

(to) shift/(to) hit the shift key

(to) return

(to) hit the shift key

So that’s PART TWO of today’s lesson, Navigating the Computer Keyboard in English!

We will complete the keyboard in subsequent lessons. Continue reading »

Oct 122010

Are you having trouble expressing your computer-literate self in English?  One summer my husband and I traveled to Spain and found our hotel internet to be down.  So we went to some of the public internet sites that abound.  I had so much difficulty knowing how to navigate my way around the keyboard. The language on the keys was different.  Even the keyboard was different from the American keyboard: keys were in different places than I was accustomed to!

So let’s take a look at the English language keyboard used here in the United States and let’s learn what everything is.  We’ll begin with the left side of the keyboard.

The top left key that says “Esc” is for “ESCAPE“. You use this key to escape from any bad situations. Be careful, because this might close any programs that you have running. We use this word “escape” as a noun (he planned his escape), as an adjective (the escape route), and as a verb (he escaped).

On the left, you have the “Tab” key. The “tab” key moves a certain number of predetermined spaces to the right each time you hit, or click, it. We use this as a verb (to tab over to a certain point).

Beneath that, you have the “Caps Lock” key. “Caps” stands for “capitals” and it locks the capital letters into place.

Beneath that, you have the “Shift” key.  Pressing this alternates your letters between small letters and capital letters (small letters and “caps”) and alternates the number row between the numerals and the symbols (such as the numeral 2 and the symbol @, or the numeral 8 and the symbol *). “Shift” is also a verb: You shift between capital letters and small letters.

Beneath the “Shift” key you have the “Control” key. You use the Control key together with another key to perform some function that you desire. For example, if you select some text or an image, then press the Control key and the “C” key together, you will COPY the text you have selected onto your notepad, which you can then paste onto something else.

Below is a review of the vocabulary used in this blog post:

Now I’ll list our vocabulary:

(to be) down
(to) escape
(to) close a program
(to) run/(to) have running
(to) tab/(to) tab over to…
(to) lock
caps/capital letters
(to) shift
(to) alternate

So that’s PART 1 of today’s lesson, Navigating the Computer Keyboard in English!

We will complete the keyboard in subsequent lessons.

Oct 052010

Today I opened my AOL mail account and this example of bad grammar went off in my ears like a car backfiring. We hear it so often that people barely understand that it is entirely grammatically incorrect.

What’s wrong with the ubiquitous “You’ve got mail“?  This phrase is used in my own AOL account and shared by the blockbuster movie of the same name (which features this email relationship).

Even the most grammatically correct of us say “You’ve got to see this” but this is admittedly BAD GRAMMAR.

Let’s look at this verb by verb, beginning with the verb “(to) have“.

  • The simple present tense of this verb would be “You have mail. (Come pick it up.)”
  • The present perfect tense of this verb would be “You’ve gotten mail. (Why haven’t you opened it?)”

Let’s look at the verb “(to) get“.

  • The simple present tense of this verb would be “You get mail (every day except Sundays).”
  • The simple past tense would be “You got mail (yesterday).”
  • The present perfect tense would be “You have gotten mail* (every day for the last 2 months. Why haven’t I?”  * or “You’ve gotten mail…”)

So there is no such correct verb form for “You’ve Got Mail” at all! And yet we hear this composite of verb forms  everywhere.

A word of advice: Avoid saying it! Instead of “You’ve Got Mail”, say You Have Mail.” And instead of saying “You’ve got to hear this,” say “You have to hear this.

And if you are going to use it occasionally in conversation, be aware that it is not correct English and be able to use correct grammar when socially necessary. Speaking with bad grammar might mean you don’t get the job you are looking for, and more.  And certainly never use it in writing. Unless, of course, you want to write copy for advertisements.

Stay tuned for a future podcast, where we discuss the advertising slogan, “Got Milk?” and why that too is grammatically incorrect.

Jul 292010

The next question, “How do I know if a noun is countable or uncountable?”, is similarly not easy to answer!

We’re speaking about English, remember?

It’s time to take out our dictionaries – hard-bound, soft-bound, or electronic. We will be using an online version, from Longman’s Dictionary of American English.

We’ll begin with an easy noun:  the noun, advice. You can click on the hyperlink or you can see below:

This noun has one definition, and right away the dictionary listing says [uncountable].

That was easy.  So now we know that this noun has NO plural form and that the verb we use should be in a singular form. We also know to NOT use an article (a and an) before this noun.

So how do we count this noun, then? How do we quantify it?  Look at the example “a piece/word of advice“.  This would be the standard way of counting items of advice.

Just yesterday a friend offered me some advice that I did not solicit. I said to her, “Did I ask you for advice?” She said “No” and that part of the conversation ended, and the topic was changed.  Thus, grammatically, you see there was no article (a or an) used before the noun, which is correct for an uncountable noun.

Be sure, with looking up any word, in particular a noncountable noun, to see if the dictionary gives you any suggestions for how to quantify this noun.

We’ll stop here for today, at this easy place.

But there are many nouns that have both a countable and an uncountable form, such as the noun “change”! What about those?  In our next blog post, we will answer the question, “How (Do We Know) If a Noun Has a Countable and an Uncountable Form?”