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

Check out what our clients have to say about us!

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

Image credit:


War & Peace Idioms


In 1969, Edwin Starr sang a song called War for Motown Records. It became a big hit*, popular in the United States and many parts of the world, and its chorus is:

*A big hit is a song that is very popular in a country or in the world.

War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

Today, many people around the world agree with this song. But while we are finally starting to figure out how to live peacefully with each other on this planet, we still have to learn the idioms around war. Just for fun, though, I’ve included one about peace.

All is fair in love and war

This idiom is used to explain that in war and in romantic relationships, many people used to think that tricking others was okay to do. Living in the age of the internet and the International Criminal Court, the idea that it is acceptable to lie during war or during relationships is quickly changing. In English, we call this new inability to lie to each other transparency.

Friendly fire

In English, we use friendly fire to describe when a person is shot accidentally (or on purpose) by a person from his own army or an allied force. This idiom is also used to describe soldiers who are accidentally killed by bombings, artillery fire, and/or explosions that came from one’s fellow soldiers or a friendly force. Of course, to those who are wounded or killed by friendly fire, it does not feel friendly at all!

Give peace a chance

This phrase became popular during the Peace movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and it suggests that we do our best to find a different way to create a solution, without violence or disrespect. John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded a song with the same name in 1969 that became very popular.


In conclusion, English is a language that was used during colonization and imperialism, a time during history in which the British and Americans took over huge parts of the planet. Back then, it was a language of war. But now, it has become a language of peace.

Today, most Americans and British people believe that war is not the answer to solving our problems. English is also a language that is now used to communicate and collaborate between people from Korea and Japan, Israel and Palestine, or France and Germany. The movement for peace, justice, and working together in the world is now being communicated in English.

Do you know any more War or Peace idioms to share? We invite you to leave your comments on this blog. We’d love to hear about it.

Would you like to create more peace, wealth, and success in your life? Sign up for a free class with ETO here. In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our Facebook, YouTube & Twitter pages!!

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

Image credit (second): War_Peace by Davidmartindel


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

Learn English Online: Finding English Teachers abroad

Why Many of the Best English Teachers Don’t Live in Your Country

Many young people with great potential as English teachers finish their educations in the United States, Canada or Western Europe, and they go overseas to teach.

ESL teacher_hannahspanna

Teaching in Japan, Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, or other developed nations around the world allows many of these teachers to develop skills and to create confidence in their abilities. As English teachers give to these societies, they also receive.

First of all, so many Asian cultures show tremendous respect for teachers. There is much more dignity and fulfillment while teaching in these cultures, and motivation to improve for serious teachers. And these educators are living in foreign cultures that welcome them, honor them, and offer the opportunities to travel and experience new things.

As English teachers develop more experience, they are given the chance to work with adults. After a few years of working with adults, committed English teachers often reach a level of mastery that makes studying with them really amazing, and helpful for mastering your English.

But life comes in. The teachers are often asked to work super long hours at the private schools where they find the best pay, and are discouraged (or even banned by law, as is the case in Korea) from accepting private clients outside of these schools.

No matter how excellent the level of teaching, the experienced, gifted English teacher is often faced with the fact that he or she has reached the highest pay grade and the greatest influence possible without risking his or her job by taking on many private students.


And, of course, especially as we reach our 30s, we develop a desire to start a family, to continue to build towards our dreams, and to create a home base. So, just as a high level of mastery is achieved, many serious English teachers are thankful for the experiences they’ve had and the expertise that they have developed, but they prepare to head back to North America and Europe.

Some master English teachers choose to stay in North America or Europe, and teach online. Nowadays, the internet has also allowed many great English teachers to live anywhere in the world where they can find dependable internet, and to participate in what we call conscious lifestyle design.

Conscious lifestyle design is creating a life that would require a person to be a millionaire in North America or western Europe, but doing it for much less, by living in beautiful locations in Central and South America or South Asia.

digitalnomad_Giorgio Montersino

With a lower cost of living, nicer climates, and continued opportunities to travel and enjoy the world, these places have become some of the most popular destinations for gifted, master English teachers. Many other professionals who have established job mobility (the ability to work from anywhere in the world) are also relocating in large numbers to these developing countries.

But just like you are looking for the best English teachers, they are also looking for you. Most citizens of the hot spots that allow for conscious lifestyle design, such as Chile, Panama, Brazil, Uruguay, the Philippines, and Malaysia, cannot afford to pay master English teachers fairly.

Would you like higher quality English classes with some of these master teachers? ETO allows you to work with highly skilled North American teachers who have lots of expertise working with clients from developed Asian countries and all over the world.

And the best part is that the price is much more reasonable than you would pay for private lessons in your own country!Home page english woman

Study from home, and enjoy experiencing a new found level of confidence with your English. Contact ETO now for a free class. We only work with the best English teachers!

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

By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

Photos by:  hannahspannaGiorgio Montorsino & Au Pair

ESL learning: There, Their & They’re


OK ladies and gents, I will answer a question that I had recently from a student studying a course in Business English.

Is there a difference between There, They’re and Their?

Yes. Of course! Here are the basic usages and differences in brief; we will look at them more closely further down in this post.

1. Use “There” when referring to a place.
2. Also use “There” to indicate the existence of something.
3. Use “Their” to indicate possession.
4. “They’re” is a contraction meaning ‘they are’.

1. Adverb which means the opposite of “here”

The English book is over there.
Freeze! Stay right there.
Would you study English here or there?

2. Pronoun which introduces a clause or a noun.

We say ‘there’ + verb-to-be (is, am, are, was & were).
This shows the existence of a thing.
Also, we can use There to say something for the first time.
There is a great Travel English Program at ETO.
Are there any sodas here?
There is an old house on the corner.
There are a lot of people learning English as a second language.

3. Adjective which specifies a certain person, thing or noun.

That fish there is pretty.
That Native English teacher there is the best.

4. Noun which translates to “that place.”

He is not climbing up there!
From there, she jogged home.


Their is an adjective that shows 3rd person possessive usually, but not always, in the plural form. This means that it shows that something belongs to another group of people. The word There nearly always comes just before the noun

Where are their grammar tips?
Is this their house?
At the ETO website, their demo class is posted for everyone to view.
ETO’s online textbooks are on their website too.
Her parents lost their car in the big parking lot.


There is a contraction. It means they are. There is usually followed by a continuous verb, (verb+ing)

They’re leaving tomorrow.
Who knows which English thesaurus they’re reading?
I see they’re improving their American pronunciation.
When they’re here, we will begin the conversation class.
When they’re richer, they can buy a nicer car.


Helpful ways to remember these grammar rules

There: Has the word ‘here’ inside to remind us there refers to places.
Their: Has the word ‘heir’ inside to remind us that something belongs to someone.
They’re: Try spelling out the contraction as ‘they are’ and see if it still sounds correct.

Grammar Quiz Time ^__^
Please try to complete the below grammar test and see how you do!
1. ___ cat is big.
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

2. ___ was a common grammar point on the test.
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

3. Her students will come today. ___ driving from Chicago.
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

4. Many years ago ___ weren’t any SAT exams; universities only looked at high school grades.
a. their
b. there
c. they‘re

5. My friends bought new English material for learning. ___ new material is great!
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

6. Both drivers have a license. ___ both able drive legally.
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

7. When you drive over ___ , can you please take my sister with you?
a. their
b. there
c. they‘re

8. Will you show me where ___ ETO Blogs are?
a. their
b. there
c. they‘re

9. ___ building is across the street.
a. Their
b. There
c. They’re

10. Can you tell me where ___ English class is?
a. their
b. there
c. they‘re

Please omment below with your answers..

How to keep learning?

Learn to recognize correct and incorrect usages of Their, There and They’re. It always helps us learn if we can teach these new points to a friend or if we write a few example sentences using the new grammar knowledge.

If you are still having challenges with this grammar, consider hiring a private tutor online.

In the meantime, please stay subscribed to our Facebook, YouTube & Twitter pages

By: Luke 

ETO American English teacher

Image credit 1:


ESL Learning: Work idioms

Love it or hate it, we’ve all got work to do in our lives.

Let’s talk about some phrases and idioms that we use around work.

work ethics

Tremendous work ethic/Great work ethic: dearly valuing hard work, and able to work hard for long amounts of time. Someone who has a tremendous work ethic will most likely succeed after learning to direct his or her actions well.


  • She works two jobs in a row, and still comes home and cooks dinner! She has a tremendous work ethic.

  • You must develop a great work ethic to succeed in business.

  • He does not have a great work ethic, so he was happy to find a job where he did not have to work too hard.

Work smart: use logic and strategy to do your work in the best possible way.


  • Because he learned to work smart, he does not have to work so hard.

  • One way to work smart is to find ways that we are wasting time in our work.

  • She decided to work smart, and started having a personal assistant answer her company’s emails.

midnight oil

Burn the midnight oil OR Burn the midnight lamp: work late into the night. Often, artists and musicians say that they do some of their best work late at night.

To explain the root of the phrases ‘burn the midnight oil’ and ‘burn the midnight lamp’. Before the times of electricity, we, of course, used oil lamps to light our homes after the sun had set.


  • The project is due tomorrow, so we might have to burn the midnight oil to complete it.

  • Some people are sleepy the next day after they burn the midnight oil.

  • “I continue to burn the midnight lamp, all alone.” –Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, considered to be one of the best American guitarists of all time, even has a song called “Burning of the Midnight Lamp:

Jimi Hendrix was famous for burning the midnight oil in the music studio, often erasing his band mates’ tracks, re-recording while playing their instruments, and experimenting with new effects and alternate tuning for his guitar well into the morning hours.


Burning the candle at both ends: working (or playing) until late at night and getting up early in the morning.

A candle that burns at both ends will be finished quickly, and working (or playing) too hard and not getting enough sleep are considered to be bad for people’s health in English speaking cultures.


  • After five days of working 15 hour days, he slept almost all weekend. Too much burning the candle at both ends!

  • I’m going to sleep! I’ve got work in the morning, and I won’t be burning the candle at both ends!

  • Get some sleep, my dear; you don’t want to be burning the candle at both ends.

So in conclusion, remember to get enough sleep. It’s okay to burn the midnight oil sometimes, but don’t burn the candle at both ends!

It’s good to have a tremendous work ethic, but it’s even more important to work smart! Believe in yourself, and know that amazing things are in the works for you and ETO this year.

If this was interesting or useful to you, you may also be interested in many of our new English topics at EnglishTutorOnline. Get started with a free English class today!

Thanks for visiting our blog. May your work be successful, purposeful, and joyful in all that you do!

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

Idioms & Slang- Needle in a Haystack

This post is part of an ongoing series of posts from our website that help you learn more about idioms and slang. Let’s learn about a needle in a haystack today!


Have you ever lost something? Have you ever looked for something that you could not find? Imagine trying to find one small single needle in a haystack! Wouldn’t that be very difficult? Of course it would!!!

So the next time you are trying to find something that is very hard to find you can say this is like finding a needle in a haystack.

What do I lose? There are two things that I am always looking for. They are my writing pens and my car keys. I have so many things in my office that finding a pen is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Have you ever searched for a needle in a haystack?

What did/do you lose? Share with us in the comment section.

My last comments:

If you enjoy learning lots of new language for a range of topics, you might like our Social / Global English Program; it is packed with lots of unique classes & expressive language.

If you have never learned English online, but you want to try, please do not hesitate to book a free English class with ETO today!

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

Additional resource:

The idiom Dictionary: Here

By: Luke 

ETO American English teacher