ESL Learning: The “L” Sound

L letter

For those trying to learn a new language, all the subtle nuances between sounds can be very confusing. If you browse through the internet you will find a mountain of resources providing everything you need to perfect your accent, but all you really want is to be understood.

Take for instance the English consonant “L.” An internet search will bring up results for the DARK L, the LIGHT L, but for right now, all you want is to be able to pronounce the letter “L.” So let’s simply it. Forget about dark and light, and just concentrate on one sound.

Step 1

– Let’s start with the sound that is made when you say “uh.”

Do you feel your vocal cords vibrating? Excellent. The L is a “voiced” sound.

 Step 2

– Place the tip of your tongue against your teeth while your vocal chords continue vibrating.

You can place it behind your teeth, in front of your teeth, or even between your teeth, just keep it from moving. (English speakers, try saying the word “love.” You should be able to say the word with your tongue in any of these positions.)

 Step 3

– You can stop now, because you are done. That is it! That is the basic “L” sound.

As you continue to use this sound, you will notice that the placement of the tip of the tongue has a lot to do with the sounds that precede or follow the “L,” especially if the speaker is running the words together. So let’s practice, repeat after me…

It is a lovely day. I would really like to order a latte.

Well done.

Here are some more challenging words:

– lift       – left       – lily       – flu       – bottle

– legal       – cradle       – world       – ladle

L pronunciation

If you would like more help, English Tutor Online offers one on one lessons with native English speakers. Sign up for a free trial and start learning today!


By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

ESL Learning: Another, Other & The Other

Another Other the other

At first, it seems complicated, but there are clear rules that can help us to understand when to use another, other, and the other.

We use another with singular, nonspecific, countable nouns.

  • Singular means that we are talking about only one of something.

  • Nonspecific represents that we are not referring to a certain one.

  • A countable noun is a noun that we can talk about in numbers (for example, 4 shirts).

We can think of another as a/an + one more OR a different one.


  • Mom, this salad is great! Can I have another serving?

  • Excuse me; this glass is dirty. I’d like another glass, please.

We use other with nonspecific plural or uncountable nouns.

  • Plural means that there is more than one.

  • Uncountable nouns cannot be talked about directly in terms of numbers (for example, entertainment).


  • I would like some other chances to go to the beach.

  • She has some other equipment that we can use for gardening.

We use the other for specific nouns. These specific nouns can be singular, plural, countable, and uncountable nouns, as long as they are specific.

  • Specific nouns are nouns that have been introduced before in the conversation or that we can point to.


  • One of the things that I like about her is that she is really funny. The other thing that I think is great about her is that she is kind.

  • He has visited South Korea. The other countries that he has visited in East Asia are Japan and Taiwan.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog! There are many other posts about grammar here on the ETO blog. Would you like some other chances to build your English skills?

Another thing that you can do is to try a free ETO class! One of the other options is to study on your own, but studying with another person who is a skilled English teacher will help you to build your English more quickly, and to have more fun!

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher


Homophones: To, Too, & Two

two  too and to

To is a word that can actually be used as two different parts of speech. As you’ll notice, it is one of the most used connecting words in the English language.

First, it can be used as a particle, part of an infinitive verb (to + root verb). Infinitive verbs are often used after another verb.

  • I want to play that song again!

  • We love to sing along with that Bob Marley song.

To can also be used as a preposition. As this part of speech, to is often used to describe directional movement (both literal, or physical and real, and figurative, or as an idea or metaphor).

  • Please pass the cayenne pepper to your brother.

  • After years of war, Liberia is finally returning to peace.too to two

As a preposition, to can also be used to describe moving towards something, and towards a certain time.

  • I will come to your house on Saturday morning.

  • It’s ten minutes to 9 (8:50).

Too is an adverb.

It is used to describe an excess, when there is more than enough of something.

  • There is too much food for us to eat! Let’s invite the neighbors to share with us!

  • It’s never too cold for me to eat coconut milk ice cream.

In addition, too is used to mean ‘as well’ or ‘also’.

  • Make sure to leave some chicken for me. You ate some, and I want some, too.

  • She also knows my wife. They are friends, too.

Two is the spelling of the number 2.

  • I don’t need two cars! One is enough.

  • Two more minutes of exercise, and then I will be done!

Like we say in English, it’s not where you’re from; it’s where you’re going to! Let’s put your skills to the test!

I want _______ learn how ________  play the accordion.

  1. to, two

  2. two, too

  3. to, to

Barcelona is a successful soccer team because their players pass the ball so well ________ Lionel Messi.

  1. too

  2. to

  3. two

She has ______  brothers, and ________ sisters, _________!

  1. two, two, too

  2. to, two, two

  3. two, two,  to

Thanks for taking the time to read this ETO blog! What are you going to do next? Are you interested to learn more English? Why don’t you sign up for a free lesson? You won’t have to pay until lesson number two! You will be glad that you did it, too.


By Joseph

ETO American English teacher



ESL Learning: 3 Keys to Fluency

During my time teaching in Korea, I was surprised to find that despite many years of studying English, students often still struggled to have basic conversation.

Why would that be? I was working with Korean students who were clearly brilliant and hard working, and they sometimes knew more English vocabulary than the average American. They could often complete complex grammar exercises that many Americans or Canadians, even those with a four year university degree, could not figure out.

Well, first of all, you can study grammar and vocabulary until the cows come home (a phrase in English that means for a very, very long time), but if you do not get in the habit of speaking English, then you will never feel good about speaking.

That is why conversation has recently become such an important part of English education in Korea. Topics such as debate and speech are a regular part of the English academy classes nowadays. The new English testing program for Koreans focuses on conversation and writing.


Did you know that scientists have found that in order to communicate clearly in a language, only 400-500 words are needed? The key is not to study more vocabulary, it is to use the vocabulary in conversation. The more you talk, the more you will find that idioms, or sayings using these 400-500 words to create new meaning, are the key to fluency.

And that leads us to the second point: don’t let perfectionism stop you from speaking English. Perfectionism is being unwilling to make mistakes. But it is usually by making mistakes that we learn. Most people do not learn to walk without falling many times first.

In addition, riding a bicycle is difficult at first, and it is likely that when you learned to ride a bike, you probably fell off several times!

Working with an ETO teacher will allow you to make mistakes (in private and online) while talking about topics that are interesting to you. This is the third key: improve your English while talking about things that you are most interested in.  Our teachers will help you correct your mistakes in a friendly and supportive way, and introduce you to new idioms that will help you to be more fluent.


We look forward to providing great service to you, and helping you to move past the perfectionism that might have kept you from speaking English with confidence in the past!

Sign up for a free class with ETO today! In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our FacebookYouTube & Twitter pages!!

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

ESL Learning: Can vs. Could

Modal verbsNext up in our series on modal verbs are can and could.

Let’s start with can. Remember that can + not = cannot or can’t.

Can is used to express ability (or inability) in the present tense.

  • We can practice our English online with ETO.

  • They can’t feel confident speaking English until they practice.

Can is used to make informal* requests for the present and future.

  • Honey, can you come here, please? I need some help with preparing dinner.

  • Can you come to my soccer game on the 5th of March?

Can is used to ask informally (in an informal way) for permission, and to give (or refuse) permission informally.

  • Mom, can I go outside when I finish my homework?

  • No, you can’t. First, I need to practice my English conversation with you for five minutes.

  • After that, you can go.

Informal speech is usually made to close family or friends.

Honey is a nickname (a special name) that many English speaking people use to refer to their romantic partners and/or children.

Soccer is used to describe football in the United States and Canada, as American and Canadian football were more popular in these countries first.

Modal verbs2

Now, on to could.

Could is used to express ability in the past tense.

  • You should have seen your father when he was at university! He was so hungry that he could eat a whole pizza by himself!

  • He could understand English, but he couldn’t speak well until he practiced his conversation.

Could is used to make formal requests.

  • Could you please pass the sea salt?

  • I’m running late. Could you meet me at 8 pm instead of 7:30?

Please note that we can also use would in place of could in these examples. You can see our blog on Will vs. Would for more information.

Could is used to formally (in a formal way) ask for permission

  • Could I take your coat?

  • I noticed that you are getting ready to play basketball. Could I play with you guys?

We can also use may to replace could for these examples, and to give permission formally, we will always use may. For example, we would answer the first question formally by saying, “Yes, you may.”

For more details, visit our blog on May vs. Might

Formal speech is made to elders, people we do not know very well, and when we want to show extra respect.

Running late is a phrase that means someone is behind schedule, or taking longer than expected.

Take your coat is a phrase that means to put your coat in a special place when you come inside.

Finally, could is also used to describe a situation when we have the ability to do something, but we choose not to do it.

  • I could play basketball this evening, but I think that I will do yoga instead.

  • I could take a nap, but I’d rather go get some exercise.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read our blog! At ETO, we know that you can become fluent in English with the help of our teachers! Could you send us an email to let us know what topics you want us to talk about next in our blog? Or perhaps you can sign up for a free class right now!

Home page english woman

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By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

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ESL Learning: Will vs. Would

What is the difference between Will & Would

We continue our discussion of modal verbs with will and would. Will you be able to know the difference between the 2 words by the time you finish reading this blog?

I would say that it is possible!

I will be

Remember that contractions are often used with will and would.

  • I will = I’ll

  • She will = She’ll

  • They would = They’d

  • We would not = We wouldn’t

Will: used to describe when something is certain to happen in the future


  • I will be here tomorrow at 10 am.

  • They will go fishing next weekend.

  • We will surely succeed!

Will: also used for first conditional situations, in which there is real possibility that will not change


  • If it rains while I am outside, my hair will get wet, unless I use my umbrella.

  • If his favorite team wins, he’ll be happy.

  • If she gets paid tomorrow, she will take me to the movie.

Will: to describe a choice that is made quickly, a promise, an offer, or something that is likely to happen


  • There’s a lot of traffic on the highway. I’ll have to get off and take a side street.

  • I promise that I’ll call as soon as I get home.

  • I’ll take you out to eat when I get home.

  • I bet she will be happy to see you!

Note that will can also be used with questions that have a clear outcome, or are asked in a very direct way (such as by a boss to his assistant).

  • Will they be coming tomorrow?

  • Will I have the report by tomorrow morning?

Will also has several different meaning when it is used as a noun, usually related to the ability to choose, a legal document that describes how one’s belongings will be divided after death, or a strong desire.


  • One of the greatest gifts that humans have is our free will, our ability to choose.

  • It is important to create a living will before we die.

  • Her will to succeed was unstoppable.

Will & Would

Would: used to show good manners with questions when making invitations, asking for permission, or exploring a preference


  • Would you like to have dinner with us this weekend?

  • Would I be able to borrow your car for a couple of hours?

  • Would you like eggs or fruit for breakfast?

  • Would you like to stop and get some food before we get there?

Would: to express a preference, invite, or respond to an invitation in a polite way


  • We’d like to eat before we go to the movie.

  • They said that they would like to invite us to their home in Paris!

  • She would rather go to a Thai restaurant than to eat hamburgers.

  • I would love to go, but I’m not available at that time. How about next Saturday at 7 pm?

Would:  with second or third conditional statements, used to describe imaginary situations


  • If she liked rock music, she would enjoy this album.

  • If we ate before, we wouldn’t be hungry now.

  • If they had learned assertive communication skills, they wouldn’t have gotten in a fight.

  • If I hadn’t written this blog, you would not have been able to read it now.

Note that these conditional statements can also be expressed as questions:

  • What would you do if you had a million dollars?

That reminds me of a classic commercial from my childhood: “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”

Would can also be used to answer that question, along with other second and third conditional questions, or to express an imaginary solution.

  • I would use solar power to make fuel if I had a million dollars.

  • If I could, I would end poverty all over the world.

Now that you know the difference between will and would, let’s put your skills to the test!

They __________  definitely be there tomorrow.

  1. will

  2. would

We ___________ like to be able to meet her there, but we may be too busy.

  1. will

  2. would

I’__________ send you an email when I’m ready.

  1. ll

  2. d

We’re really enjoying this movie. We __________ have watched it when it was in the theatre if we knew that it was so funny!

  1. will

  2. would

Remember to visit our Facebook page for more quizzes, games, and resources. And finally, let me invite you: would you like to set up a free class with ETO online? We will be happy to schedule one here.

You can count on us. We’ll be there!

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

ESL Learning: Weather Idioms

How’s the weather where you are today?

Let’s talk about some idioms related to the weather.

It’s raining cats and dogs: this is a phrase used to describe very heavy rain. Very, very heavy rain, so heavy that it sounds like animals are landing on the roof! Some people claim that the origin of this phrase is the Greek “cata doxa”, which translates to something like ‘beyond previous experience or belief’.


There is also a sadder explanation for the beginning of this phrase in English. Long ago, before we had good rain drains in cities, many cats and dogs would die during heavy rain because they would drown in suddenly flooded streets. In English, we call sudden flooding flash floods.

Nowadays, “it’s raining cats and dogs” can be used for any time when it is raining unusually hard.


  • The weather report says that it will be raining cats and dogs tonight. We better not go to the soccer game.

  • Oh my gosh! It’s raining cats and dogs out there! My clothes are totally soaked!

  • When it’s raining cats and dogs, it’s important to be careful while driving. Some drivers will slow down suddenly, and others may panic. You may want to pull off the road until the rain slows down, if it is safe to do so.

Come rain or shine: we use this phrase to express that it doesn’t matter what the weather will be like. It is often used to let someone know that he or she can depend on us (or is expected) to be somewhere despite any challenges, including bad weather.  This phrase may also be expressed as rain or shine or come rain or come shine.

come rain or shine


  • I’m going to meet you here at 10 am, come rain or shine.

  • Although there were protests throughout the city, my taxi driver got me to the airport. He’s the  best! He always gets me there, rain or shine.

  • Come rain or come shine, no matter what comes, a good husband will be loyal to his wife, as long as she is loyal to him.

How’s the weather up there?: this phrase is used to ask the literal (exactly as the words suggest) question about the weather when someone is at a higher elevation. It can also be used when someone short is speaking to someone taller. Be careful not to ask this question to someone who is embarrassed of being tall. This phrase can also be used when a short person is positioned higher than you are, like a child who is sitting on his father’s shoulders.

  • Wow! You must really be enjoying your vacation to the mountains! How’s the weather up there?

  • Hey, Shaq! How’s the weather up there?


No matter how the weather is, ETO is here for our clients. So come rain or come shine, you can count on us. It may be raining cats and dogs, but you can have an exceptional class from the comfort of your own home. Check out what our clients have to say about us!

We’re happy to be at your service in any weather!

In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our FacebookYouTube & Twitter pages.

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

ESL Learning: May versus Might


May and might are words that have very similar meanings in English, and it might be hard to decide which of these words to use. But then again, after reading this blog, it may be a lot easier!

May: used to ask (or give) permission in a formal way


  • May I ask you a question?

  • Yes, you may!

  • May I have a raise?

May: to suggest that something is probable (will probably happen).


  • I see some dark clouds in the sky. It may rain this afternoon.

  • He loves basketball so much that he may continue practicing in the rain.

  • They have been saving up money, so they may go on a vacation during their break from work.


Remember that may often suggests something is probable to happen (or at least we have hope or faith that it will). Also, please note that May is the English name for the fifth month of the year on the Western (Gregorian) calendar, when it is used as a proper noun.

Might: used when an outcome is less probable, or probably will not happen


  • The weather reporter said it will snow, but I think that it might be hot later on today.

  • The team is not very good, but they might get lucky and qualify for the playoffs.

  • He drank so much beer that he might not remember his name.

Might: also used as the past tense form of may


  • Native Americans might have been in the Americas before the Bering Strait migration.

  • Bill Clinton might have been the best musician out of all of the American presidents: Here

Remember that English is a fluid language, meaning that it is always changing, but these are the official grammar rules for now. You may sometimes hear native English speakers say, “I may have been there before.” But according to current grammar rules, this is not correct.

Please note as well that might as a noun means strength. The noun might is used less often than the modal might in English. Some people say that eventually, may will replace might in English, and may is now used more often, especially in spoken English.

Are you ready to put your learning to the test? You might be! No, you may be!

I __________ go to the store later, but it’s so cold outside tonight! Maybe I will wait until tomorrow.

  1. may

  2. might

She _________ have an easy time finding a husband. She is very beautiful, and a good cook!

  1. may

  2. might

We _________ pay less money for phone calls now that we can Skype online for free.

  1. may

  2. might

Sir, it would be good to get some fresh air. __________ we continue this meeting outside in the garden?

  1. Might

  2. May

Who knows? We may be speaking soon! You can set up a free trial class to get started now!

In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our FacebookYouTube & Twitter pages.

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

What Are Collective Nouns?


A noun that refers to a group of individuals or individual things (e.g., team of players, bundle of newspapers or a wealth of blogs, as seen on the ETO blog page at the ETO website).

I have put together a list of collective nouns for you guys and girls. There are so many collective nouns in English grammar, so I have picked a few that I think are more fun and interesting.

Have a read, go out and use these collective nouns and impress your friends.  Enjoy ^__^

Objects Collective Noun

Apples Bushel

Bananas Bunch, Comb

Cash/Bills/Notes Wad

Bread Batch

Canyons Maze

Chairs Fold

Clothes Suit

Condiments Accompaniment

Documents Dossier, Wealth

Drinks Round

Drugs Cocktail

Eggs Clutch

Firewood Faggot

Flowers Bunch, Bouquet

Furniture Suite

Grapes Bunch

Information Wealth

Islands Archipelago, Chain, Group

Keys Ring

Machine guns Nest

Mountains Range

Paper Pad (together), Ream (loose)

Ribs Rack

Ships Armada, Fleet, Flotilla

Stairs Flight

Steps Flight

Sticks Fagot

Things Bunch, Cluster

Trash Heap, Pile

Trees Clump, Coupe, Forest, Grove, Stand, Stillness, Thicket, Wood

Trucks Convoy

Winnings Purse

Your thoughts

Please write in the comment box which one of these collective nouns you liked the most.

Want to learn more?

If this was interesting or useful to you, you may also be interested in our Social / Global English Course, which focuses on a wide variety of language useful for many topics.

Also, check out our class demo and see how easy & fun it really is.

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By: Luke 

ETO American English teacher

What is a Gerund?

A gerund is a part of speech. It is a common grammar question from those learning how to speak English. For answers to other common grammar questions, please visit our primary website and read a few of our blogs.

A gerund is a verb + ing. The word gerund actually means ‘to carry on’. Think of a gerund as a noun and as an activity.


Examples of gerunds

1. Running is healthy.

2. Smoking is bad for you.

3. Cheating is for losers.

As we can see, running, smoking and cheating are all activities. These 3 activities are the subjects of the sentences above.

What is a gerund phrase?

A gerund is so much like a noun, that it can form subjects, objects, compliments and clauses. When we make a gerund phrase, we combine the verb + ing with other modifying words. Improve your English more and look at a few examples of gerund phrases below?

1. Running in the mornings is a good way to wake up.

2. Eating fruits and vegetables is the best way to stay healthy.

3. Working from daylight till dark will make you old very quickly.

We can see the activities above are Running in the mornings, Eating fruits and vegetables & Working from daylight till dark.


What is the difference between a gerund and the present continuous?

When I teach my online English classes, I get this question a lot. The answer really is simple. Let’s look at the difference between the two.

1. Gerund – Verb – ing + possible modifiers

Running every day is fun.

2. Present Continuous –   Verb to be (helping verb) + verb – ing

We are running right now.

Your Comments:

Please feel free to write in our comment box below a question, comment or a response for our teacher to check for you.

Final remarks:

If you want to improve your English with an online English teacher, try a free ESL conversation class with ETO.

In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our FacebookYouTube & Twitter pages.

By: Luke 

ETO American English teacher