sense verbs

Sense Verbs – Stative and Dynamic Verbs in English

English sense verbs like smell, sound, feel, look and taste are unusual because they have two or more meanings.

In this video lesson you’ll learn their meanings and how to use them correctly in conversations. You’ll also learn some important grammar to do with stative and dynamic verbs.

Kathy, my dog has no nose.
Really? How does he smell?
Terrible!

This lesson’s about verbs related to the 5 senses. You’ll learn how sense verbs can have different meanings, and you’ll learn some important grammar too. Let’s start with a conversation. How many sense verbs can you spot?

Do you want coffee?
Oh yes please.
Jay?
Hmph.
What’s wrong with you today Jay?
Nothing?
You look tired.
I feel fine.
You sound angry.
Well, I’m not.
Here’s your coffee.
Ooo thank you Kathy. It smells great.
It tastes great too.
Where’s mine?
You said you didn’t want any.
Huh!

Did you spot the sense verbs? Let’s check.

You look tired. I feel fine. You sound angry. Well, I’m not. Here’s your coffee. Ooo thank you Kathy. It smells great. It tastes great too. Where’s mine?

Notice the words that follow the sense verbs here. They’re all adjectives. Now in some languages you could also use an adverb. So for example, you might say “You sound angrily” or “The coffee tastes well”. But not in English. These sentences are wrong. After sense verbs we use adjectives.
We can also use the preposition ‘like’ after sense verbs and I’m going to make another video about that, so make sure you subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it.
Now there are a couple more sense verbs that are very common – see and hear.

Oh my.
What’s the matter with you today.
I’m worried about my iphone.
Your new iphone? I’ve lost it.
Well let me call it.
Oh.
Can you hear it? Yes, but I can’t see it.
It’s in your pocket.
Oh.

Notice how we used ‘can’ with these verbs. That’s very common because they’re general ability verbs. Hearing and seeing are abilities that people have and we don’t have to make an effort to do them. They just happen naturally, if our eyes are open and our ears aren’t blocked of course. So we use ‘can’ a lot with ‘see’ and ‘hear’.

I can see you but I can’t hear you.
Can you hear me now? Now I can.

Now there’s another interesting thing about sense verbs. They all have two or more meanings. And that’s why this old joke works

Kathy, my dog has no nose.
Really?
How does he smell? Terrible!

The joke plays of two different meanings of smell. One meaning is to sense an odour and the other meaning is to give off an odour.
Now here’s some grammar you’re going to find very useful as your English gets better.

I love this new shampoo Jay.
Do you? I don’t.
It smells like flowers.
Exactly.

The verb smell is a stative verb in this sentence because it describes a state – something that just is.
But here the verb smell describes an action – we call it a dynamic verb.
So why is this useful, Vicki? Well, we don’t usually use stative verbs in the progressive or continuous form. Even when we’re talking about a temporary situation or state we use the simple form. Understanding stative verbs will help you use simple and progressive forms correctly. Let’s look at another example.

Does my hair look OK Jay?
Yeah, it looks fine.
You’re not looking.
Oh.

So we’ve got two different meanings of ‘look’. Here it means appear or seem. ‘It looks fine’ means its appearance is fine.
But here look means using your eyes, turning them in a particular direction.
And notice the verb forms. With the dynamic verb, we can use the progressive. But with the stative verb, we usually don’t.
Taste is similar. We can taste food – so Jay is tasting some soup here. But we can also say something tastes delicious, salty, sweet and so on.
So let’s check you’ve understood.

Oooo this milk smells funny. When did we buy it?

Is ‘smell’ a stative or a dynamic verb here? It’s a stative verb. It’s descrining the state of the milk. And what about in this sentence? It’s a dynamic verb. An action. Great!
So let’s review
Sense verbs have two or more meanings. When they’re describing an action – something dynamic – we can use the simple or progressive. But when they’re describing a state, we usually use the simple form.
Oh, and don’t forget, sense verbs are followed by adjectives, not adverbs.

Oh hi Jason. I’m your surgeon.
My surgeon?
Yes and this is your kidney.
My kidney?
Yes, thanks for donating it. It looks very healthy.

Click here to learn how we use the verbs see, look and watch.
Click here to watch more videos on English grammar.
Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript

by and to Business English Prepositions

By & To: Business English prepositions that cause mistakes

If you’re learning business English prepositions can be VERY important.
This lesson is about the way we use the prepositions by and to to describe trends, numbers and figures.
There are situations where you could translate both by and to with a single preposition in many languages, but in English, their meanings are different.
Watch this video to fix a common mistake.

We have lots more videos about tricky English prepositions. Click the links below to see some.
For and to
By and until
For and since
For and during
In time and On time

By and To: Business English Prepositions

Prepositions. They’re often tricky in English. In this video we’re going to fix a common mistake with ‘by’ and ‘to’. And you’ll also learn some financial terms.
Let’s start with the prepositions.

Are you cold Rachel?
Yes.
Jay, check the thermostat.
I’m cold too.
It’s down to 68 degrees.
No wonder we’re all cold.

So the temperature has fallen and now it’s 68 degrees. We use ‘to’ to describe the level it’s reached. OK, let’s move on to ‘by’.

So that’s five, fifteen, twenty eight. Well done.
Ha! Ha! I’m going to beat you today.
I doubt it. You’re still down by sixty eight points.
Show me that

We use ‘by’ to talk about the difference between two levels. 68 points is the gap between our scores. Let’s look at two more examples.

The rate of inflation has increased to 4%
The rate of inflation has increased by 4%

Both these sentences are correct, but they mean different things. ‘Increased to’ means inflation has reached 4%. ‘Increased by’ means 4% is the size of the rise – the size of the difference.
In some languages, you’d use the same preposition here and people would understand what you mean from context. But not in English. We use two different prepositions with different meanings.

It’s good to be here with folks who are becoming old friends.
Well thank you Joe. Now I understand you want to be in this video
Yes.
OK, but you must stick to the examples.
You can’t talk too long, Joe.
OK. Do you understand?
Yes.
Off you go then.
When the president and I took office in January of 2009 this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted…
No, no Joe. You’re just going to stick to the examples.’To – by’. Remember?
Yes.
OK. Again.
We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis, to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced unemployment from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today.
OK. Good examples, Joe.
You could smile a bit, Joe
Now let’s do ‘by’. Ready?
Yes.
Since the year 2000 gross domestic product, our GDP, has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%.
That’s great!
Thanks.
Yes, that’s all we need, Joe. We’ll say goodbye now.
Take care.
Thanks for listening. And God bless you all.
He’s so serious!
He never smiles. Good examples though.

Can you remember what Joe said? GDP is the value of all goods and services produced in a country in a year. And productivity is the rate at which goods are produced. When productivity goes up it take less time and money to make things.
So what preposition did Joe use here? By. He was talking about the difference between the two numbers.
Next one. Unemployment is the number of people who can’t get a job. The missing preposition? To. Notice Joe said ‘from’. From was the starting point and to was the level they reached.
OK, one final example.

Here are your pay checks.
Oh thank you very much. Thanks. Oh great. I’m getting a salary increase this month.
Me too.
It’s great to be appreciated. Yeah.
They know we’re doing a good job. Great. Mine’s gone up by 3%. How about about yours?
Mine’s gone up as well.
By how much?
By 6%. They must be very pleased with my work.

We have lots more videos about tricky English prepositions. Click the links below to see some.

For and to
By and until
For and since
For and during
In time and On time

mind

Mind – How to Use this English Verb

Mind is such a useful English word. We can use it in lots of different ways and it’s often just the verb we need to be polite.

But mind has some peculiar ways of behaving grammatically that you should know about. And knowing how to reply if someone asks you a question with mind is another issue. In this video we cover it all.

I don’t care and I don’t mind mean different things in the US and UK. Click here to watch a video about it.
There are other English verbs that are also followed by a gerund. Check some of these verbs out:
Suggest
Be used to
Avoid and prevent
Try
Stop

‘Mind’ video tapescript

Do you mind if I have the last one?
No, take it.
Thank you.

This video is about the verb ‘mind’. It’s a tricky verb but very useful for making requests. In this video you’ll learn how to use it correctly.

Let’s ask someone. Excuse me. Would you mind taking a photo for us?
No, not at all.
Thank you.

‘Would you mind…?’ is rather a formal phrase and we might use it if we’re asking a stranger to do something for us. Or we might use it if we’re making a big request.

OK, I’m off.
Oh, are you going past the supermarket?
Yes. But I haven’t got much time.
We need milk.
OK. I can get that.
Good. And would you mind getting these things too?
This is a long list!
Yes, thanks very much.

So we often use this phrase when we think we’re imposing – asking someone to help us when it may not be convenient or pleasant for them.

Miss Carrington, I know this is going to be a bit unpleasant for you, but would you mind stepping into the next room with me?
Aaargh!

So what does the word ‘mind’ actually mean in questions like this? ‘Mind’ means dislike or object to something.

We’d love it if you could come to stay. But do you mind dogs?
Oh that’s good.

If we don’t mind something, we don’t object to it. We don’t find it annoying.

Listen.
What?
The neighbours are playing loud rock music again.
I don’t mind.

We don’t use ‘mind’ in positive sentences. We use it in negative sentences and questions. And something else. Notice how we form the question. If you want to use a verb after ‘mind’ you need to use a gerund – a noun form of the verb. Just add -ing to the verb to make it into a gerund.
Another word that often follows mind is ‘if’. These phrases mean much the same thing and we use them to ask if it’s OK to do things.

Do you mind if I borrow this?
Sure, no problem.
Thank you.

Um, do you mind if I sit here?
Oh no, not at all.
Thank you.

Use this phrase to ask for permission, to check it’s OK to do something. Now how would you answer these questions? If you want to agree, do you say ‘yes’ or do you say ‘no’?

Do you mind if I have the last one?
No, take it.
Thank you.

The answer is ‘no’! Saying no means ‘Yes, it’s OK to do it.’

Would you mind taking a photo of us?
No, not at all
Thank you.

‘No’ means ‘I don’t mind, I don’t object’.

No, not at all.

So if you want to say yes, you say no! Sometimes English is so confusing! OK, now there’s another expression with mind that you’re going to find useful.

Did you post that letter?
You mean this letter?
Never mind. I’ll post it this afternoon.

Never mind is similar to ‘Don’t worry about it’.

So, let’s look at sales. I’m afraid we don’t have this month’s figures yet.
Never mind. We can use last month’s.
Oh good. Last month’s were better.

I can’t open this jar.
Do you want some help?
Oh, never mind. I got it. Thanks anyway.
Good.

So never mind is similar to ‘forget what I just said’. We can use it to take back or withdraw a request.

I can’t get reception. Um. Do you mind if I use your phone?
No.
Oh hang on. Never mind. It’s working.

And that’s it! Now you know how to use the verb ‘mind’ in requests. Let’s see how much you can remember? We use ‘mind’ to ask people to do things for us. What’s the correct ending for this sentence? Taking. After ‘mind’ use a gerund.
We also use ‘mind’ to ask for permission to do things. What’s the missing word here? It’s if.
Now if you say ‘Do you mind if I sit here?’ and I say, ‘No, not at all’ am I agreeing to your request, or disagreeing? I’m agreeing. ‘No’ means I don’t mind, I don’t object. Great!
OK, let’s finish with a different example. As I said, ‘Would you mind…?’ is a fairly formal phrase. We use it with strangers or to make big requests. If we use it with small requests with people we know well, something else is probably going on. Perhaps we’re being sarcastic because we’re annoyed with someone.

I think it’s an interesting idea.
I agree. I think there are possibilities here.
What do you think Jay?
Jay!
What?
Would you mind putting your cell phone away?
Oh sorry!

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript
I don’t care and I don’t mind mean different things in the US and UK. Click here to watch a video about it.

Mind is not the only English verb that we follow with a gerund. You might also like videos on these verbs:
Suggest
Be used to
Avoid and prevent
Try
Stop

for and since

For and Since – How to use these English Prepositions

For and Since – we use both these prepositions to talk about time in English, so how are they different? Learn how to use these English prepositions correctly in this video.

Thank you for calling Pattersons. Your call is very important to us. Please hold. Sorry to keep you waiting. This is Rachel speaking. How can I help you?
At last. I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes. I have a question about….
Oh, I’ve got another call. Can I put you on hold for a moment?
Wait! I just have a question about my account. Hello. Hello?

We can use both these prepositions to talk about time, so what’s the difference? We use ‘for’ to talk about periods of time. And ‘since’ to talk about points in time. Let’s look at some examples. We’ll start with ‘for’.

I think you should throw this sweater away, Jay.
But I’ve had it for ten years.
Exactly!

All right. So she hasn’t written for a couple of weeks.
Three weeks.
Does that mean anything? Don’t worry so much.

I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes. I have a question about …
Oh, I’ve got another call. Can I put you on hold for a moment?
Wait! I just have a question about my account.

So we use ‘for’ to talk about periods of time. It could be years, weeks, 15 minutes or just a moment. It’s a length of time. Great! Now what about ‘since’? We use since to talk about points in time.

At last!
Hello everyone.
Nice of you to come.
What’s the matter. Am I late?
We’ve been waiting since two o’clock.
But it’s only three.

We bought this ball for Carter last Saturday.
And since then, he hasn’t stopped playing with it.
Oh, he loves it!

Last six months, we created more than two hundred thousand jobs each month. That’s the first time that’s happened since 1997.

Since two o’clock, since last Saturday, since 1997. They’re all points in time. And another thing. Points in time can be marked by things that happened – by events.

And tonight we look back. It’s been ten years since the Wall Street crash. So where are we now?

So the Wall Street crash was an event that maked a point in time.

Have you heard? Tom’s getting married.
When? I don’t know. I haven’t been able to speak to him since I got his email.
Give him a call.
Oh, right.

So again, ‘I got his email’ was an event that marked a point in the past. ‘Since’ is about points in time.

May I introduce myself? I’m Watson Pritchard. In just a minute, I’ll show you the only really haunted house in the world. Since it was built a century ago, seven people including my brother, have been murdered in it. Since then, I’ve owned the house. I’ve only spent one night there, and when they found me in the morning, I was almost dead.

You’ve been watching this video for several minutes now. We hope that it’s helped you learn when to use ‘for’ and when to use ‘since’. One more example?

Oh hi doctor. What’s up?
I’m afraid I have some bad news and some very bad news.
Oh no! Give me the bad news first.
The lab called with your test results. They say you have 24 hours to live.
Twenty four hours? That’s terrible! What could be worse?
Here’s the very bad news. I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.

Oooo, you’re still here. Then perhaps you’d like another example. It’s about a young couple called Sue and Larry. They’re in love and they want to get married.

Now let’s see. You’ve known each other for…. three months, one week, two days and seventeen hours.
And you’re eighteen, Sue? And nineteen, Larry? Have either of you ever been in love before?
Well, but not like this. This is the real thing.
Yeah.

So what do you think? Should Sue and Larry get married.

Why, ever since I first met Larry, I haven’t wanted to date anyone else. The whole three months now.

Is that a good enough reason? Write to us in the comments and tell us what you think. Bye now!

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript

wait expect

Wait, Hope, Expect, Look Forward to – Future Verbs

Wait, hope, expect and look forward to – they’re very common and useful verbs that you’ll need to talk about the future in English. The thing is, we don’t always use a future tense. In fact technically speaking, English doesn’t have a future tense. You’ll find that very often we use a particular verb to talk about the future in English instead.
Here are some more videos about words and expressions we use to talk about the future:
Due
About to and Bound to

Video transcript

I’ve got a new trick to show you.
Oh good.
Now you sit over here and I’ll sit over here.
Uhuh.
And then I’ll wave my magic wand.
Nothing’s happened. Oh hang on. We’ve changed places.
Yes.
Well, I didn’t expect that.

Here are four very common and very useful verbs and they have similar meanings so they can be confusing. Let’s look at what you need to know to get them right. We’ll start with ‘wait’.

Mmmm. This is good.
Wait! It’s not ready yet.

Waiting is doing nothing until something else happens.

Carter’s waiting for Ksenia to come. She’s going to take him for a walk.

Wait for me. I’ll be about ten minutes.
All right Mr Hunter.

So waiting is just staying in a place and passing the time. Travellers wait for busses. Pedestrians wait to cross the street. And surfers wait until a big wave comes along. Notice what follows the word ‘wait’. We can wait for something. We can wait to do something. We can wait until something happens. And we can just wait. But notice that we can’t wait something. ‘Wait’ isn’t folowed directly by a noun.
Now here’s a nice expression to learn. When we say we can’t wait for something, it means we want it to happen very soon.

Milk and cookies. Santa Claus is coming tonight. I can’t wait.

So if you want something to happen soon, say you can’t wait.

I’m so tired, I can’t wait for the weekend.

Now let’s compare ‘wait’ with another verb.

I’m waiting for Jay to come home. I expect he’s looking for a parking space.

Waiting is passing the time, but when we expect something, we think it’s probable.

Ah Jay, this weather’s lovely.
Yes, but we’re expecting hurricane force winds tonight.
Oh, we’d better take the deck furniture in.
Yup.
OK, give me a hand.

If we don’t think something is probable, then we don’t expect it.

For you.
Oh, I didn’t expect that. Thank you.

Come in. Oh, it’s you.
Well, who did you expect? Frank Sinatra?

So if something’s a surprise, say you didn’t expect it.

Nothing’s happened. Oh, hang on. We’ve changed places.
Yes.
Well, I didn’t expect that.

Well, well. This is a pleasure. I didn’t expect to see you Charlie.
But Chris, you asked me.
My wife. Well it’s good to see you anyway.

Now here’s another expression. If a woman is going to have a baby, we can say she’s expecting.

Mmm. Come in. Oh hi Rachel, sit down.
Hi Rachel.
Hi.
How are you?
I’m fine thanks.
You look terrific.
Thank you.
You’ve put on a lot of weight Rachel.
Well, yes Jay. I’m pregnant.
You’re expecting?
Yes.
Congratulations! So you’re not fat.

Now something to note. When we expect something we generally have a good reason to believe it’s going to happen.

So we’re waiting for Jason.
Yes.
Where is he?
He left at ten so I’m expecting him any minute.
OK.

If Jason left at ten, we can expect him soon. If there are dark clouds, we can expect rain. So we expect things when there’s evidence that they’ll happen. Now notice that expecting isn’t about what we want to happen. We have other verbs for that.

I got Vicki a necklace for Christmas. I hope she likes it.

I hope you like the dinner.
Sure. It’s fine.

When we hope something, we don’t know if it will happen or not. Perhaps he’ll like the dinner, or perhaps not.

I’m expecting a baby. I hope it’s a boy.

So ‘expect’ is rational and logical and ‘hope’ is more emotional. It’s about what we want to happen.

We didn’t win the lottery.
Did you expect to win?
No, but I hoped we would.

OK. So we’ve looked at the verbs ‘wait’, ‘expect’, and ‘hope’, and there’s one more.

So when are you going to California, Jason?
Erm, the twenty second. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends.

When something good is going to happen and we think about it with pleasure, we look forward to it.

I am going to take Carter for a walk.
Oh, look at his tail wagging. He’s really looking forward to it.

When we’re looking forward to something, we’re happy and excited about it.

Good morning. I’m Joan Spencer.
Oh yes, Miss Spencer. We’re expecting you. Won’t you have a seat?
Thank you.
How do you do Miss Spencer. Ready to go to work?
I’m looking forward to it, Mr Arnold.

You’ll often hear this verb in business contexts, and you’ll often see it at the end of business emails, when we’re referring to future contact and what’s going to happen.
Look forward to’ is always followed by a noun. We look forward to things like parties, birthdays and holidays or vacations. So what happens if you want to use a verb after ‘look forward to’?

I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends.

You have to add -ing. That way to make a gerund. A noun form of the verb.

Jay, your mum called earlier.
Oh yeah? Yeah, she’s looking forward to seeing us on Sunday.
Sunday? Oh!

And that’s it for these verbs. We hope you’ve enjoyed this video and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Bye!

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Here are some more videos about words and expressions we use to talk about the future:
Due
About to and Bound to

do you like what's it like

Do you like…? What’s it like? Two different English questions

In this video we look at two meanings of like and fix a common mistake. We’ll compare the verb like with like as a preposition and you’ll learn how to use two useful English questions: Do you like…? and What’s it like?

Click here to learn how to use the phrase looks like
Click here to learn about English sense verbs
Click here to watch more videos about English grammar

Like video script

Did you know the word ‘like’ can be all of these things? Now that can be confusing. In this video we’re going to look at two meanings of ‘like’ and fix a common mistake. Let’s start with ‘like’, the verb.

What are you watching?
Detective Smith.
Oh, I like this programme.

When we enjoy things, we like them.

Happy birthday, Jay.
Oh, thank you. Oh, it’s a bow tie. Oh, thank you! I love it.
Oh I’m so glad you like it.

OK. Now let’s look at another meaning of ‘like’.

Come on, Vick. Let’s go for a run.
Oh no. Do we have to?
Your heart is like a muscle. You have to exercise it.
Oh.

If one thing is like something else, it’s similar. Like is a preposition here, and we use it to talk about things that are similar.

It’s freezing out.
I know, feel my hands. They’re like ice.

Now, now darling. You mustn’t cry any more. Cheer up. Would you like to hear old uncle make a noise like a duck? (duck noises) Well sorry. Hmph.

Now there’s a question that often confuses my students. Do you know what it means?

Hi! Where are you?
I’m in my hotel room.
What’s it like?
It’s fabulous.

Is ‘like’ a verb or a preposition in this question? It’s a preposition. So this question doesn’t mean ‘Do you like it?’ It means what’s it similar to? Describe it for me.

We went to a networking event last night.
Oh, what was it like?
Boring.
It was very useful. There were about a dozen people there and everyone made a short presentation.
I didn’t like it.
Kathy’s not asking if you liked it, Jay. She wants us to tell her about it.
Did you meet any interesting people?
Yes. Well, I did.
I didn’t talk to anybody.

So these are useful questions and they mean tell me what you think. Use them when you want people to describe things. Now here’s an English food product that I like, but most Americans haven’t tried it. I’m going to give some to Jase. Let’s see if he likes it.

Have you ever had marmite before?
No I haven’t. Wow! It’s almost like Nutella or something.
Uhuh. So it’s like a dessert.
Uhuh. Like a… like a chocolate or something. That’s different. It’s erm… almost like beef bouillon, or something. Wow!
What do you think?
It’s pretty powerful stuff.
It is powerful stuff, isn’t it? But all British kids grow up on it.
Wow!
So what’s marmite like? Is it really like a chocolate dessert? No. The taste surprised Jase. Marmite is like beef bouillon.

So Jase, do you ever want to have marmite again.
Erm… Possibly.

Do you think Jase likes it or is he just being polite? Tell us in the comments below.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to learn how to use the phrase looks like
Click here to learn about English sense verbs
Click here to watch more videos about English grammar

say and tell, tell and say

Say and Tell – Learn their different meanings and uses

Say and tell – English learners often make mistakes with these verbs. There are situations where we can use either, but there are also situations where only one is correct.

Another tricky thing is the grammar patterns tell and say follow. Tell is followed by and object but say isn’t, so we say something but we tell someone something.

And finally there are some common expressions with tell where we don’t follow the normal rules. Learn all about them in this video and start using these verbs correctly.

Click here to watch more grammar videos

Say and tell video script

Vicki, great job with the Boston report. You’re a star! Jay, try to keep up with Vicki. She’s going places.
But I wrote the Boston report. You told her you wrote it?

In lots of situations we can use ‘say’ or ‘tell’ and there’s no difference in meaning.

Hey, if the bank manager calls, say I’m in New York.
But you’re not in New York. You’re here.
But tell her I’m in New York.
Ah!

So there’s no difference in meaning here, but notice the construction is different. After ‘tell’ we say who we’re telling.

So are we ready to start? Where’s Peter?
He told me he might be late.
Ah! And where’s Jay?
He said he might be late too.

So we say something but we tell someone something. Don’t forget that. OK. Now there are some situations where we use the verbs differently. Let’s look at some.

Ah ha! No kidding. All right. Wow!
Is that Scott? Say hi from me.
Vicki says ‘hi’.
Say thank you for the flowers.
Errr. She says ‘thank you for the flowers’. Oh, you’re welcome.
Say sorry about Friday.
Vicki says… Vicki, why don’t you talk to him?
Oh hi Scott! How are you?

We can’t use ‘tell’ here. We have to use ‘say’. So here’s an important thing about ‘say’. We use it with the words someone says. If you’re quoting someone, use ‘say’. Now what about ‘tell’?

Officer, can you tell me what time it is?
Err yeah. It’s two fifteen.

Excuse me. Could you tell me the way to City Hall?

We use ‘tell’ when we’re talking about information or instructions.

Could you tell me the way to City Hall?
Oh sure. You want to go three blocks that way. When you get to the traffic light, turn right. At the stop sign turn left immediately. Go round the circle and into the tunnel.
Thank you. Did you understand what he said?

It’s not just people that can tell us things. We can get information in other ways too.

Now for you folks who’ve never been up on a flight deck before, this is it, and here are the controls. The air speed indicator tell us how fast we’re going. The altimeter tells us how high we are.

So ‘tell’ has another meaning. When we know things because we can see signs, we can tell.

You’ve been lying in the sun again, haven’t you?
How could you tell?

Telling’ is like ‘knowing’ here. This question means how did you know?

Brrr. It’s so cold today.
Yes. It’s a bit chilly.
It’s twenty five degrees. What would that be in England?
Oooh, minus something. But how did you know I was English?
Well, I could tell by your accent.
Oh!

So when we know things because we can recognise signs, we can tell.

Most people fall in love quite a few times in their lives.
Well then, how can you tell when you’re really in love?
Well, I’ll have to think about that.

It’s time to review. Which verb do we use with the words someone says? We use ‘say’. And what about information and instructions? We use ‘tell’. And what about the different sentence constructions? We tell someone something but we say something. Did you remember that? Good!
Then it’s time to look at some special expressions. We normally say who we’re telling after the verb ‘tell’, but there are a few special cases where we don’t have to. Let’s look at some situations and see if you can complete some phrases. Are you ready?

Lola, you’re so tired. Let’s take you up to bed. Can you tell me a story first?
Hmmm. It’s late but OK. Once upon a time there was a little girl…

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Why don’t you answer him?
I don’t know what he’s saying.
He’s asking you if you’ll swear to tell the truth.
Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Certainly.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
Yeah!
My daddy snores.

So this one’s Coke and this one’s Pepsi.
Err. I can’t tell the difference.

Did you get them right? Let’s check. We can tell stories. We can tell the truth and we can tell lies as well. We can tell secrets, and when two things are similar we can talk about telling the difference. And that’s it! Now you can tell when to use ‘say’ and when to use ‘tell’.

An English gardener in England was showing some Americans one of those wonderful English lawns.
And this English gardener said…
He said all you have to do is get some good grass and roll it every day for six hundred years. I heard that story before you were born. English men tell it when they’re feeing down in the mouth.

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try to do and try doing

Try to do and Try doing (gerunds and infinitives)

‘Try’ is a special verb in English because we can follow it with either a gerund (ing form) or infinitive. However the meaning changes.
Watch the video and learn how ‘try to do’ is different from ‘try doing’.

Watch videos about some other verbs that can be followed by gerunds and infinitives. Learn how their meanings change.
used to do – be used to doing
stop to do – stop doing
Click here to watch more grammar videos

Try to do or Try doing script

What are you doing?
Oh, I’m trying to learn to touch type.
But what are all the stickie notes for?
Oh, I’m trying not to look at the keys.
Good luck with that.

The verb ‘try’ can be followed by an infinitive form or a gerund and the two structures have very similar meanings. In fact they’re so similar that in some situations you can use either.

Have you spoken to Rachel? No I tried calling her but the line was busy.
Have you spoken to Rachel? No I tried to call her but the line was busy.

In both cases Jay wanted to speak to Rachel. ‘I tried calling’ means he thought phoning might be the way to do it. I tried to call’ means he made an effort – made an attempt to speak to her.
So the difference is very subtle – very small. ‘Try doing’ is about getting results, achieving a successful outcome. Try to do’ is about making an effort.

I’m trying to change this lightbulb but I can’t reach.

We often use ‘try to do’ when we think something is hard.

We’re trying to do this jigsaw, but it’s very difficult.

What’s a frog’s favourite drink?
Jay, I’m busy.
Croak-a-Cola. Did you know cows have four stomachs?
Jay, I’m trying to work.

So we use ‘try to’ when an action iteself is hard. When an action is easy but we don’t know if it will achieve the result we want, we use ‘try doing’.

What do you think?
It’s a bit tasteless.
Try adding some salt.
OK.

Adding salt is easy, so the issue here is will salt make it better. Try doing’ is about experimenting to find something that works.

The television’s not working. Try plugging it in. Oh.

We often use ‘trying doing’ when there’s a problem and we’re suggesting a possible solution.

Coming?
I want to finish my coffee. It’s hot.
Try putting some ice in it.
Good idea.

I do wish you’d try going out with some of the other boys as well as Geoff.
Why? Mother I like Geoff a lot.
I know dear. I like him too. But after all, there are other boys in the world.

So ‘try to do’ – make an effort. ‘Try doing’ – experiment. You can see both forms in this sentence here. Learning to touch type is hard. You have to make an effort. Perhaps sticky notes will help, or perhaps not. They’re an experiment. One last example.

What are you doing?
I’m trying to get a paper ball into Kathy’s trash can.
Oh well done!
Can I try?
Sure.
OK. Here we go.
Try rolling it into a smaller ball.
OK.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript
Watch videos about some other verbs that can be followed by gerunds and infinitives. Learn how their meanings change.
used to do – be used to doing
stop to do – stop doing
Click here to watch more grammar videos

working hard or hardly working

Hard and Hardly (adjectives and adverbs)

Are you working hard or hardly working? What’s the difference?
Learn how to use the words hard and hardly correctly and avoid a common mistake.

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Be careful with these words. If you use them wrongly, you might say the opposite of what you mean.
The adjective ‘hard’ has several different meanings. One meaning is solid and firm. Rocks are hard. A chair can be hard. Another meaning of ‘hard’ is difficult.

Crikey, this is hard. How many pieces are there?
A lot.

You’re starting a new career. It can be fun or it can be hard.

Tea or coffee?
I don’t know.
Oh come on.
It’s not a hard decision.
Errr tea. No coffee. No tea.

So things that are hard require a lot of thought or energy.

My that’s hard work. It takes so much time too. But that’s woman’s lot in life.

Hard work requires either physical strength or mental effort.
Now ‘hard’ is an adjective, but what about the adverb? That’s ‘hard’ too. The adjective and adverb forms are the same.
The adverb ‘hard’ means with energy or force.
It’s raining hard. It’s snowing hard. If we hit things hard it means we hit them with force.

And now in financial news the latest figures show that luxury car makers have been hit hard by the recession.

When we work hard, we work with energy. Students have to study hard to do well in school.

A man who’s willing to work, and I mean work hard, you show me a man like that and I’ll show you a guy who’s going places.

Now let’s look at another adverb: ‘hardly’. It has a very different meaning to ‘hard’. Hardly’ means almost not.

Oh, I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. Oh, I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open.

There’s hardly any coffee left. There’s hardly any coffee left.

OK, bye. I make most of my calls with my cell phone these days. I hardly ever use the land line. I make most of my calls with my cell phone theses days. I hardly ever use the land line.

And I have here a fourteen carat seventeen jewel timepiece. And that’s only right because the man I’m giving it to is a fourteen carat seventeen jewel cashier.
It’s a very beautiful watch Chris.
Speech, speech. Speak up Chris, speak up. Come on Chris. Speech.
Well, I err… I hardly know what to say J.J. This er…. Why, it’s beautiful.

So let’s review. When things require energy and effort, we say they’re hard. The adverb ‘hard’ means with energy or force. The adverb ‘hardly’ means something different. It means almost not.

Well, I err… I hardly know what to say J.J.

So we’re at the end of this lesson. It wasn’t so hard, was it? One more example.

So this is our office.
Very nice! Who’s this?
Oh that’s Jeannie. She’s one of our best employees. She works really hard.
And who’s that?
Ah, that’s Jay. Some days he hardly works at all.

Click here to watch this video witha clickable transcript
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suggest and suggestions

Suggest – Learn How to use this Verb and Make Suggestions

Suggest is a tricky verb in English. We use it in lots of different grammatical structures, but there are some where we don’t use it as well.  For example, we might suggest doing something but we don’t say suggest to do or suggest me. These phrases are wrong.

Also when you want to make a suggestion, to sound natural, you might need to use a phrase without the verb suggest. Watch the video to see examples and avoid mistakes.

Click below to learn about some more useful verbs that are always or often followed by gerunds:
avoid and prevent
mind
try to do and try doing
stop to do and stop doing
be used to

‘Suggest’ video script

If you’re taking an exam like IELTS, TOEIC or TOEFL, this is a verb you’ll want to get right.

Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?
Why don’t we try the Chinese place?
Or how about Victor’s Bistro?
Good idea! Let’s book a table.

A lot of the time when we suggest things, we don’t use the verb ‘suggest’. We make suggestions with phrases like these instead.

Why don’t we try the Chinese place? Or how about Victor’s Bistro? Good idea! Let’s book a table.

Suggest’ is quite a formal word. We use it when we want to be explicit – so to be exact and clear that someone is making a suggestion.

What are you doing, Lola? Playing a game. I suggest you do your homework first, then play the game.
What are you doing, Lola? Playing a game. I suggest you do your homework first, then play the game.

How are we getting to the meeting? By car. You know, I’m worried about the traffic at that time of day.
Are you suggesting we take the train? Yes. OK. Vicki, can you book the tickets? Sure.
How are we getting to the meeting? By car. You know, I’m worried about the traffic at that time of day.
Are you suggesting we take the train? Yes. OK. Vicki, can you book the tickets? Sure.

There are a lot of mistakes in this report, Jay. Why don’t you do it again? Well, I could just change this and this. I suggest you do it again. Oh.
There are a lot of mistakes in this report, Jay. Why don’t you do it again? Well, I could just change this and this. I suggest you do it again. Oh.

We often use the word ‘suggest’ to report what someone said.

Hello? Oh hi, Jennifer.
Hey Jay. Can you send me that report?
I’m still working on it.
I thought you’d finished it.
Well Vicki suggested that I do it again.
Ah!

And here’s where it gets tricky. There are lots of different structures we can use to report what someone suggests.
All of these are correct. But there are structures that are wrong as well. Here are two mistakes you don’t want to make.
First, we don’t use an infinitive form after suggest. This is wrong.
Second, we can suggest something to someone, but we can’t suggest someone something.
These are the two mistakes students make most often, so let’s look at another example.

Or how about Victor’s Bistro? Good idea. Let’s book a table.

And don’t forget. When we make suggestions normally we don’t use the verb ‘suggest’. We use phrases like these.

OK, let’s open the office suggestion box.
Yeah!
Two suggestions!
That’s great.
Open the first one.
OK. ‘Why don’t we create a Facebook page for our company?’ I like this idea.
That’s a very good suggestion. Read the second one.
OK. ‘How about having casual dress days at the office every day of the week?’
Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea.
I wonder who suggested that.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript
Click below to learn about some more useful verbs that are always or often followed by gerunds:
avoid and prevent
mind
try to do and try doing
stop to do and stop doing
be used to