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Grammar: Using “prefer” with gerunds

Welcome to another episode of my series “A sneak peek into an online class”.

In my second episode, I will be explaining how to talk about preferences using the verb “prefer” with gerunds.

Class details: This is a B1 level class (intermediate level). My student is from Perú, she’s a Spanish speaker.

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Wild Vs. Savage

Welcome to the second series of our WeSpeak English podcast! Since this time I will share my students’ participation in class, I’ve decided to call this series “A sneak peek into an online class”.

In the next 10 episodes I’ll be sharing segments of my classes so we can learn and analyze grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.

In this first episode we will analyze word choice.

Details of the class: A2 level (upper basic) My student is a Spanish speaker from Perú.

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Conversation strategies: Asking for favors

Episode 10

Can you do me a favor? Yes, that’s the typical question we use for making requests, but there are some other expressions that help us sound more polite. Look at the four different ways used for asking for favors below.

Asking for a favor politely

You can use these expressions to ask for a favor politely. They are useful in formal situations or

if you are asking someone a big favor

I was wondering, . . .

  • I was wondering, could you help me write my resume?
  • I was wondering, could you write a reference for me?
  • I was wondering, could you take care of my dog while I’m away?
  • I was wondering, could you drive me to the hospital?
  • I was wondering, could you pick up my daughter from school?
  • I was wondering, could you swap with me?

 Swap [intransitive, transitive] to do the thing that someone else has been doing, and let them do the thing that you have been doing SYN change 

  • They decided to swap roles for the day.
  • She ended up swapping jobs with her secretary.

I was wondering if I / you could . . .

  • I was wondering if I could ask you something.
  • I was wondering if you could help me write my resume.
  • I was wondering if you could write a reference for me.
  • I was wondering if you could drive me to the hospital.
  • I was wondering if you could pick up my daughter from school.
  • I was wondering if you’d like to swap with me.

I wanted to . . .

  • Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.
  • I wanted to ask you something.

Would it be all right / OK with you if I . . . ? (+ past form of verb)

  • Would it be OK with you if I picked it up next Tuesday?
  • Would it be Ok if you did the dishes tonight?
  • Would it be all right if you took the dog for a walk?

Responses

All right, OK, So, Sure

You can use All right, OK, and Sure to agree to requests:

A: I was wondering if I could ask you something.

B: Sure.

A: I was wondering, could you write a reference for me?

B: OK

A: I was wondering if you could drive me to the hospital.

B: Sure

Let’s practice

  1. You are busy and you need your roommate to take your dog for a walk.
  2. You are going to run some errands and you need your friend pick up your daughter from school.
  3. You and your friend are leaving a party. Your friend drove, but you didn’t. now you’re really tired.
  4. Your roommate is going grocery shopping and you need some milk.
  5. You didn’t understand something your teacher said. You need her to repeat.
  6. Your car broke down this morning and I had to take a taxi. I don’t have a ride home.
  7. You need to get to the bank by 4 p.m. but you finish work at 5pm.

Answers:

  1. I was wondering, could you take the dog for a walk tonight?
  2. I wanted to ask a favor, could you pick up my daughter from school?
  3. Would it be Ok if you drove home tonight? I had too many drinks.
  4. I was wondering if you could pick up some milk for me.
  5. I wanted to ask a favor, I was wondering if you could repeat the grammar explanation.
  6. I was wondering if you could give me a ride home after work. I think my house is on your way.
  7. I need to get to the bank by 4 p.m. Would it be all right if I left work a few minutes early today? so I can be sure I get there in time…

You can use All right, OK, and So to move a conversation to a new phase or topic:

Situation 1: The nanny didn’t show up today and you have no one to take care of your child.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

A: Would it be all right if worked from home today?

B: Sure.

Situation 2: You have a job interview at the same time your daughter leaves school.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

A: I was wondering if you could pick up my daughter from school.

B: Sure. What time should I be there?

Situation 3: You and your friend are leaving a party. Your friend drove, but you didn’t. now you’re really tired.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

B: Would it be all right if I left work a few minutes early today? so I can be sure I get there in time…

B: Right, you can leave as soon as you’re done with the report.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Reacting to a story

Episode 9

You can comment on things other people say to show you’re listening and interested in the conversation.

  1. You can use expressions of surprise like Oh, no!, Oh, . . . , Really? or You’re kidding!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: Wow!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: Oh, no!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: You’re kidding!

2. You can give personal information or your opinions:

A: We were making Jerk chicken for a bunch of people . . .

B: Oh, I love Jamaican food.

A: We were making Jerk chicken for a bunch of people . . .

B: Oh, I love Jerk chicken.

3. You can use expressions with that’s + adjective:

A: Then I hid the burnt pan under the sink and started spraying perfume in the kitchen.

B Oh, that’s hilarious.

A: Then I turned on the diffuser and added a mix of lavender, orange and peppermint oil in it.

B: That’s resourceful.

4. I bet . . .

You can use I bet in different ways.

• You can start a statement with I bet . . . when you are pretty sure about something:

A: I get distracted so easily and forget I have appliances on….

B: I bet your family is used to that.

A: Yes, they are. My dad actually gave me a nickname Katrina, after the hurricane. He says whenever I’m in the kitchen a disaster happens.

• You can use I bet as a response to show you understand a situation:

A So the chicken was Ok but the rice was burnt and I remember my mom used to tell me to put a piece of raw onion in the rice maker when that happened. It’s supposed to fix it, or at least remove the smell. It didn’t work.

B: I bet.

A: Yeah, after a while the essential oils did the trick and the smell wasn’t a problem anymore, but the rice didn’t taste too good. I freaked.

B: I bet.

Let’s put everything we learned today into practice. I am going to give you some news. You have to think of how to react to the following statements following my instructions.

Now, think of how to react to the following statements.

  1. I was going down the stairs, tripped over my shoes and fell. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s terrible!
  2. I go to the gym every single day, even on Sundays. (Use “I bet”) I bet you’re fit.
  3. Last week I was in Thailand for a work conference. (Use “I bet”) I bet you loved the country.
  4. My aunt Sam is pregnant with her fifth child. (Express surprise) You’re kidding!
  5. My boss told me today she was giving me a big pay rise. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s great! That’s amazing!
  6. Did you know that she’s getting married next week? (Use “I bet”) I bet she’ll have a big reception.
  7. I’m going to start working on that new project in India next month. (Express surprise) Wow!
  8. My company has started laying people off because of corona virus. (Express surprise) Oh no!
  9. Mark didn’t get the job as human resources manager. He’s still looking for a job. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s disappointing.

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Conversation strategies: Asking politely

Episode 8

Making requests

Sometimes you need to ask to do something or ask someone to do something. 

  • You can use Do you mind if + subject + verb . . . ? to ask permission to do something:

Do you mind if I look around? ( = Can I look around?)

  • You can use Would you mind + verb + -ing . . . ? to ask someone to do something:

Would you mind helping me in the kitchen? ( = Can you help me?)

You can use No to agree to requests with Do you mind if . . . ? and Would you mind + verb  + -ing . . . ?:

A: Do you mind if I open the window? 

B: No, go ahead.

A: Would you mind helping me with my project? 

B: No, not at all.

The tricky part is the answer. In both examples, No means “I don’t mind. It’s not a problem.”

Do you mind = would it be a problem?

What’s the difference between do you mind if I and would you mind?

  1. Do you mind means if… means _________ do something?
  2. Would you mind + ing means __________ do something?

Agreeing to requests

You can use Yes or No to agree to requests. Use Yes to agree to requests with Can and Could:

A: Can I look around? 

B: Yes. / Sure. / Go (right) ahead.

A: Could you chop the potatoes? 

B: Yes. / Sure. / Yeah, no problem. / OK.

On the other hand, if questions start with do you mind if I or would you mind say No.

A: Do you mind if I look around? 

B: No, go (right) ahead. / No, not at all.

A: Would you mind helping me in the kitchen? 

B: No, not at all. / Oh, no. No problem. I’m happy to help.

A case where you would yes as an answer:

A: It’s really cold and someone says Do you mind if I open the window?

B: Yes, I do mind. It’s really cold. (You are not giving permission)

B: No, not at all. (Go ahead open the window)

To listen to the episode, click the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Responding to suggestions

Episode 7

Picture this, you meet with your friends and would like to go to a coffee shop. One of them suggests: Why don’t’ we go to Starbucks? How do you respond to that suggestion?

  • Suggestions that we like

You can use these expressions to respond to suggestions that you like:

A: We could go to a bar.  B: That’s a great idea.

A: Why don’t we have Chinese? B: Sure

A: Let’s go to that coffee shop that serves coffeetails. B: That sounds great!

By the way, there is a coffeeshop that sells coffeetails, like cocktails but with coffee. It’s a little hole in the wall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was actually going to another coffee shop but I kind of got lost and ended up going to this little café called “Graft café”. If you ever go to Chiang Mai and are a coffee lover, I highly suggest you check out this tiny, unique coffee place.

So, if someone suggests going to Graft café, I will always say That’s a great idea! Or That sounds great!

  • Suggestions we don’t like

You won’t always want to accept a suggestion. For example: There’s a Peruvian dish I hate called “Olluquito”. If someone suggests having Olluquito for lunch, I would probably say: “I don’t know. I don’t really like that dish”.

To respond to suggestions that you don’t like you can use these expressions:

Suggestions we don’t like

A: We could have a pizza or something. B: I don’t know. We had pizza last weekend.

A: Why don’t we have an early dinner? B: I guess we could but then I’ll get hungry again by midnight.

A: Let’s have vegetarian. B: Maybe, but you know it’s hard to find good vegetarian restaurants here.

A: Why don’t we have pasta? B: I guess we could, but we’re in Thailand you know? Thai food makes more sense.

If someone suggests going to a vegetarian restaurant in my city, I wouldn’t be so excited about it because there aren’t really good vegetarian restaurants and the few good ones are kind of expensive. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is well-known for offering good and affordable vegetarian food. Here I had the best Pad Thai made with papaya noodles; it was absolutely delicious.

After making a negative response, people usually offer an explanation or excuse:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B: I don’t know. I’d like to, but it’s not that easy. I doubt my boss would agree to that. (a little dosis of reality there).

I guess

You can use I guess when you’re not 100% sure about something or if you don’t want to sound 100% sure. It can make what you say sound softer:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B:  I guess it’s not that easy.

A: Let’s go window shopping. B: Maybe. It’s actually kind of risky, though. I guess I could end up buying something I can’t afford.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Checking information

Episode 6

In a conversation, you may need to check something that you didn’t hear or understand. Now, think about ways you check for information you didn’t hear in your mother tongue, what do you say? Are there any phrases you say to ask someone to repeat something? Well, in English there are different ways we can do that.

Now, let me tell you a little about the examples I’ll be using in this podcast.

All these examples are true for me. They are contextualized with my recent trips. The reason why I use real examples is because I want to show how these conversation strategies could be used in real conversations. When I recorded this podcast, I was in Spain. Barcelona was my first stop, then I went to Granada and finally, Seville, so all these examples are about these amazing cities.

Today I’ll show you 4 strategies to check information.

You can:

  1. use the expression Did you say . . . ? or What did you say? to check information

A:  There’s usually about a 13-minute wait for the bus.

B: Did you say thirteen or thirty?

A: I said 13, so you can cross the road and get that ice cream you want before the bus comes.

2. repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.

A:  Well, there’s a Moroccan estaurant within walking distance.

B:  Within walking distance?

A: Yes, it’s around the corner.´

3.  use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me? to ask the speaker to repeat what he or she said

A:  Are there any markets to shop around here?

B:  Excuse me? Did you say markets to shop?

A: Yeah, I mean, local markets.

A: Which bus should I take to the Alhambra?

B: I’m sorry? Did you say to the Alhambra?

A: Yeah

B: Oh, you should take the C32.

4. Ask an “echo” question, which is to repeat something you heard and add a question word to check the information you didn’t hear:

A: There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.

B: I’m sorry. There’s a tea shop where?

A: On the Main Avenue, it’s right in front of the bank.

In this case the question word is “where”, other question words are what, who, when and how. Before you ask a question word you need to know what the question is about, for example if someone says “There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.” And the focus is the place, my question word is going to be “where”. There’s a tea shop where?

Another example:

A: Is there an ice cream place around here? 

B:  I’m sorry, a what?

A: An ice cream place. I heard about a famous Italian ice parlor on Gran Via Avenue.

In this case if the information I didn’t hear was ice cream parlor, the question word should be “what”, I’m sorry, a what?

Now think about how to ask an echo question with a question word after the following statements. I’ll give you some time to think about the question and then will give you the answer. Here we go:

A: The sandwich that sells the Iberian ham opens at 11:00am.  (The information you missed is the time.)

B:  Excuse me? It opens at what time?

A: After Granada, I’m headed to Seville. (The information you missed is the place where I’m headed after Granada)

B: I’m sorry, you’re headed where?

A: Breakfast and dinner is included in this hostel? The information you missed is what is included)

B: Excuse me? what is included?

A: We’re flying to Amsterdam the day after tomorrow. (The information you missed is the time)

B: You’re flying to Amsterdam when?

A: I’m meeting Giannina in Miami next year. (The information you missed is the person I’m meeting)

B: You’re meeting who?

Let’s summarize

  1. Use the questions Did you say . . . ? or What did you say?
  2. Repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.
  3. Use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me?
  4. Use echo questions plus a question word.

To listen to the episode, click the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Correcting information in a conversation

Episode 5

In written English, letters, emails, reports, etc we have the chance to correct our mistakes, we can even use tools that help us correct grammar and spelling. However, in spoken English, what is said, has already been said and we can’t change it. That is why it’s important to learn strategies to correct ourselves.

When you make a mistake in English, how do you correct yourself? Well, today we will learn a new strategy: how to correct information in a conversation.

Using “well”, “actually” and “no, wait”

You can correct the things you say with expressions like well, actually and no, wait

A:  Is this you in the photo? Look at how cute you were…

B : Thank you. Yes, that was me. I was 4 in that photo. No, wait, I was 3.

A: Do you remember much about kindergarten?

B:  Not really. Well, I remember my first day of class, my teacher gave me a lollipop because I wouldn’t stop crying, it worked!  Do you remember your first day of school?

A:  Yes, I think so. No, wait… I remember my first day at elementary school, not kindergarten. You have a good memory. To be honest, I don’t remember much from when I was little.

B: I do! I remember there was a tiny bed in my classroom. No kidding. Well, it wasn’t a bed, it was more a little crib.

A: You must be talking about day care, not kindergarten.

B: No, it was Kindergarten, I’m sure. I remember the classroom, my teacher, my classmates and everything…

A: That’s crazy, a bed in the classroom?

B: Yeah, I mean. I started when I was only 2 years old and I supposed it was for us when we were tired or sleepy, I remember sleeping in that crib.

A: So, did you used to take the school bus?

B: Yeah, Uh . . . actually First, my parents would take me to school and then, in high school, I started to commute to school on my own. I would take a bus.

A: The school bus.

B: Yeah, Well, in my country there wasn’t such a thing as a school bus, I just took a regular bus. 

As you can see, in this conversation we used the expressions well, actually and no, wait

At first I said “I was 4 years old in the photo”, but then I remembered I was actually 3 when that photo was taken so I said No, wait and then the corrected the information No, wait. I was 3.

When I was asked if I remembered much about kindergarten, I said Not really but then I said “Well, I remember my first day of class…” Well indicates there’s a correction.

Then I said there was a tiny bed in my classroom, but it wasn’t really a bed but a crib, so I corrected the information using Well. Well, it wasn’t a bed, it was more a little crib.

*A crib is a bed for a baby or young child, with bars on the side to stop the baby from falling out.

After that Chris asked me if I used to take the school bus, I said Yeah, Uh…  actuallyfirst, my parents would take me to school and then, in high school, I started to commute to school on my own.  In this case I’m using actually to correct information.

Chris wanted to confirm if I took the school bus and I first said Yeah but in reality in Perú, where I went to school, we don’t have the iconic the yellow school buses of the United States owned which are owned and operated by a school. What we have is school vans, it’s funny how kids in Lima don’t use buses but vans, and the system is different because these vans offer a private service, they aren’t owned or leased or operated by schools. This is actually an interesting question. Because Chris is from London, he could have assumed that there are school buses everywhere in the world but as far as I am aware, public schools in many developing countries can’t afford to offer that service so they don’t have school buses. That’s why I said, Well, in my country there wasn’t such a thing as a school bus, I just took a regular bus. 

Using “I mean”

You can use I mean to correct yourself when you say the wrong word or name.:

A: I got lost once at a supermarket once.

B: How did your parents find you?

A: Well, the manager, I mean, a cashier told the manager that there was a kid wandering around and he made an announcement through a loudspeaker  

Other examples

  • I love coffee. I mean, dark coffee, never with cream or milk.
  • My friend Ruby is a Spanish teacher, I mean, she teaches English as well.
  • My Jamaican, I mean, he’s half Jamaican, his dad is English and his mom from Jamaica.
  • Now you know 4 different ways to correct your sentences when you make a mistake in a conversation.

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Conversation strategies: “Vague” expressions

Episode 4

You can use “vague” expressions in conversations when you don’t need to give a long list of things because the other person understands what you mean:

  • … and things (like that)
  • … and stuff (like that)
  • … and everything

Examples:

What’s Glastonbury?

 It is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret /kæbəˈreɪ/, and other arts.

Now listen to how I’ll include a vague expression in the last sentence:

In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, and things like that.  (everything we understand about other arts, comedy, theater, circus /ˈsɜːrkəs/, etc)

  • What’s the carnival in Rio like?

It has lots of parades, people dancing samba and stuff (like that).  (= everything we understand about a carnival, dancing, playing music, drinking, etc)

  • What can I get in the Mexican market?

You can get all kinds of tacos, quesadillas, burritos…

You can get all kinds of tacos, and things like that.

We can say and things like that, and stuff (like that) when we want to avoid listing a lot of things because we think that the listener has an idea of what we are talking about. We can also use

“and everything”.

  • What do people do for Halloween?

People wear costumes /ˈkɑːstuːm/ and make-up, some people visit haunted attractions, tell scary stories and watch horror films.

People dress up in costumes and everything, some people visit haunted attractions and things like that.

“Vague” responses to answer questions.

You can use a vague response if you are not sure about your answer to a question:

  • I don’t know
  • I’m not sure.  
  • Maybe.   
  • It depends.

Examples:

A:  Are you going to the festival this weekend?

B:  I don’t know. It depends.

A: Are you joining us for dinner?

B: It depends. If I’m done working before you leave, I’ll join you.

*Careful here, I’ve listened to many of my students say “it’s depend”.

It’s depend (incorrect)

It dependS (correct) Remember to use the third person singular with the subject pronoun “it”, so add ad “s” to the verb “depend”.

A: Are you watching Stranger Things today?

B: I’m not sure, I’m swamped with work.

A: When are you coming back?

B: I’m not sure. I’m thinking about changing my return flight.

A: which ones are better, individual lessons or group lessons?

B: It depends. Individual lessons are more flexible, they give you the change to schedule lessons at different times of the day. On the other hand, group lessons give you the change to interact with other English learners, which is very motivating.

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Conversation strategies: Showing surprise and asking follow-up questions

Episode 3

Use expressions like these to show surprise when talking to people you know well:

  • Oh!  Gosh!
  • Really?  Oh, my gosh!
  • Wow!  You’re kidding!
  • Oh, wow!  Are you serious?
  • No way!  No!

For example:

A: I’m working two jobs this semester.

B: You’re kidding! Two jobs? Wow.

A: I just got married, nobody knows!

B: Really? Are you serious?

A: My sister’s taking her driver license test for the third time.

B: No way!

Now, to keep the conversation going it’s a good idea to ask follow-up questions. We often use follow-up questions to show that we are interested and engaged in the conversation.

To show surprise when talking to people you don’t know well, use Oh! or Really!

A: I’m working two jobs this semester.

 B: You’re kidding! Two jobs? Where are you working?

A: I just got married, nobody knows!

B: Are you serious? When are you telling your parents?

A: My sister’s taking her driver license test for the third time.

B: No way! Hadn’t she been practicing for a while?

So, remember to ask follow-up questions to show that you are a good listener. One tip is to remember the question words what, when, where, why, who..?

Here’s an example of how not to have an English conversation:

A: How was your weekend?

B: Pretty good, yours?

A: It was OK.

Unfortunately, the conversation stops here because there’s no natural way to continue it. Now take a look at these examples.

A: how was your weekend?”

B: Pretty good! I went to the movies.”

A: Really? What did you see?

B: Aladdin, have you seen it yet?

A: No, I’m not into animated films.

B: No way! They’re amazing!

A: “Hey, how was your weekend?”

B: “Pretty good! I went to a soccer match with my brother.”

A: “Really? Who was playing?

B: Colombia vs.Argentina. You know, the Copa America match.

A: I know next to nothing about Copa America. I’m don’t care for soccer.

B: Are you serious?

A: Yeah, I’m just not into it.

Listen to episode 3 here: