Concepts »

Perfect Aspect

In the mind of an English speaker, there's a difference between talking about something that happened in the past and talking about something that has happened. The difference is whether there's an effect on the speaker right now:

perfect aspect visualization

Here's how English speakers imagine the simple past tense:

simple past tense: I ate.


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Formal English

Formal English is a way of speaking that you usually use when you don't know the people listening to you very well. You also tend to use it more with people who are higher status and who you want to impress. English learners are usually taught formal English in school, and native English speakers...

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Telling stories is one of the most basic forms of communication. Most stories follow a common format in English:

  1. Setup: You describe the place, time, and what was happening.
  2. Event: You talk about an interesting thing that happened.
  3. Punchline: You describe the most important and interesting...

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Casual speech

(To listen to this post being read out loud, click here.) - Thanks to RhinoSpike!

Casual speech is a way of talking that you use with people that you are close to and trust. There are different words, phrases, and ways of speaking that you can use with your friends, your family members, and with...

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When people speak English, they don't say every word and every part of each word with the same speed, pitch, and loudness. English has patterns of stress, which means saying some sounds louder and stronger. There are two kinds of stress: stress within words and stress within sentences.


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Understatement is when you express an idea with a much lower degree of importance, emphasis, or emotion than it really should be given. For example, if a man is extremely good-looking, you can describe it like this:

He's so handsome!

What a hottie!

Or you can use understatement:

He's not a...

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(To listen to this entry being read out loud, click here.) - Thanks to Rhinospike!

When you exaggerate a fact, you state it much more extremely than it actually is. You can exaggerate things like numbers, sizes, lengths of time, emotions, degrees of like or dislike, and many other...

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Small Talk

Small talk is polite conversation that people have with people that they are not very close to. It's conversation about topics which aren't too important or too personal. 

When to make small talk:

English speakers make a lot of small talk.

  • People make small talk with neighbors when they see...

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Concession is a conversational technique that people use when trying to persuade someone. Here's an example from a conversation between a car salesman and a customer:

This might be a little more than you wanted to spend, but if you think about the long-term value it's a great deal.

In this...

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An adjective is a word that describes a noun. It's easy to understand simple adjectives. They're words like "big", "green", "young", and "expensive". Other adjectives are harder to spot.

Simple Adjectives

Adjectives tell something about a noun, like:

  • size
    three small holes
  • color
    a ...