What Does “Groundbreaking” Mean in English?

We often talk about a “groundbreaking study” or a “groundbreaking invention,” but what does that mean exactly?

Learn how to use “groundbreaking” in English in this quick video from ESLPod.com:

Also, check out the Daily English lesson #88 – Socializing at a Reception that we talk about in this video.

Try a FREE Unlimited English lesson here: bit.ly/Free-English-Lesson

And learn more about our Unlimited English membership here.

~Jeff

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

 

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on What Does “Groundbreaking” Mean in English?

Flattery and Backhanded Compliments

There is a famous saying (short piece of advice or wisdom): “Flattery will get you nowhere.”

What is “flattery,” and what does this well-known saying mean?

We call saying nice things about a person praise (“What a beautiful dress you have on, dear!”). But when we give some too much praise so that it seems insincere (false; not saying what you really think), that’s called flattery.

People usually use flattery to try to get something they want.

If you want a promotion (higher-level job), you might try to flatter your boss. But if your coworker thinks that’s a bad idea, she may tell you, “Flattery will get you nowhere.”

This means that even if you say nice things about the other person, you will not get what you want from him.

If you flatter someone, you of course hope he or she will feel or be flattered. If you feel flattered, you feel pleased with the praise or respect that someone has shown you.

For example, if you asked me to sing at your wedding, I would be flattered!

Interestingly, to be flattered (or to feel flattered) doesn’t have the same negative meaning as “flattery.” It just means you feel good about what someone has said about you.

Rather than using flattery, if you genuinely (truthfully) want to say nice things about someone, you give them a compliment.

You can still have an ulterior motive (hidden reason) for complimenting someone, but a compliment by itself is not a bad thing. It’s a nice thing to say about person, without being too much or insincere.

If my wife gets a haircut, I might compliment her by saying, “Your hair looks nice!”

One thing I would never give my wife is a backhanded compliment.

You hear the term “backhand” most often in the sport of tennis (see photo). Backhand refers to hitting the ball while the back of your hand is facing where you want the ball to go — again, see the photo.

A backhanded compliment is something that sounds like a compliment, but really isn’t. It may even be an insult (something disrespectful).

Usually with a backhanded compliment, the insult is implied (not said directly).

Here are some examples:

– “I didn’t think you’d get the job. Congratulations!” (Implying that you are not qualified or good enough for the job)
– “Those pants really make you look taller.” (Implying that normally you look short)
– “It’s amazing that somebody is publishing your book.” (Implying that it’s not really a good book)
– “You look so good in the photo that I didn’t recognize you.” (Implying that you don’t normally look that good)

What do I do when I get a backhanded compliment?

I say “thank you.” Nothing is more annoying than an insult that doesn’t hit home (get the expected bad response)!

~ Jeff

P.S. For more information on how to use “compliment,” see our Daily English lesson #219 – Giving Compliments.

And for the difference between “complIment” and “complEment,” see Cultural English lesson #328.

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

 

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on Flattery and Backhanded Compliments

The Seven “Steps” of English

English is infamous for (famous for, but in a bad way) lots of confusing phrasal verbs. So today I’ll try to explain one set (group) of common phrasal verbs using “to step.”

Many of these phrasal verbs with “step” have a simple “physical” meaning. They describe an action you take with your legs.

But often they refer to a more “metaphorical” meaning, one that is not related directly to (in this case) a physical action.

A good case of this is the phrasal verb to step forward. To step forward can mean to move your legs so that your body goes forward.

If you’re waiting in a long line for a cashier (person who takes your money at a store), the cashier might ask the next person in line to step forward.

But to step forward is also used to mean “to volunteer,” to offer to do something when asked: “I was looking for someone in my company to help with the new project, and Julie stepped forward and said ‘Yes, I’ll help.’”

To step up can mean either to move forward with your legs OR to do a very good job with a difficult task: “Margo had a tough project last month, but she really stepped up and did a great job.”

A related expression is “to step up to the plate,” which comes originally from baseball. The plate or “home plate” is where the batter (hitter) stands. To step up to the plate means to give something a try when you have an opportunity to do it, to make a good effort at something.

Similarly, to step down can mean to use your legs to go down, say, a set of stairs in your house. But it can also mean to resign or to quit: “The president of the company stepped down last month after the directors saw the Instagram photos of his vacation with his secretary.”

To step aside can mean to move your legs so that your body goes either left or right, such as when you need to get out of someone’s way on a busy subway train.

But to step aside can also mean to quit or simply to let someone else try something that you are not able to do: “The producers asked Martin, Sam, and Quentin to step aside and let Bong finish the movie.”

If you watch a lot of American crime shows, you may have heard the police say something like “Step away from the door!” to a criminal. That just means to move away from a place using your legs.

Informally, we also use “step away” at work, when we leave our desk for a short time: “Ms. Robbie has stepped away from her desk for a few minutes. Can I help you?”

Stepping back can mean the opposite of stepping forward, in the sense of physically moving your body by going backwards.

To step back (from) also means to be less involved with something, to do less of a thing: “I’ve decided to step back from some of my duties at work because I am working too hard.”

Finally, we have the phrase to step out, which can mean to leave a building for a short time. It is similar to “to step away” but implies that the person left the office or building completely: “I’m going to step out for an hour to visit a client (customer).”

To step out on someone means to cheat on one’s boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. To cheat on means to be romantically involved with someone who is NOT one of the above: “Juan is married to Maria, but I think he’s stepping out on her with that new blonde in accounting.”

~Jeff

P.S. For more information on phrasal verbs, see these Unlimited and Select English lessons:

Daily English #14 – Going to the Post Office

Daily English #552 – A Homeowners’ Association

Cultural English #288

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on The Seven “Steps” of English

Talking About Losing Weight in English

If you ate too much over the holidays, you may be looking to (trying to; hoping to) lose weight.

Find out how to use a few common expressions in English such as “to slim down” and “to drop a few pounds” in this short video.

Jeff

P.S. For more English expressions on weight loss, see our Daily English lesson #291 – Going on a Diet and #827 – Fad Dieting.

P.P.S. Like this short English lesson? Get a FREE sample lesson (no money needed) – SIGN UP BELOW!

Just fill out the form below and we’ll send a FREE lesson to try!

We hate spam, too! We will never sell, rent, or give your information to anyone – ever!

What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on Talking About Losing Weight in English

Age Before Beauty, Pearls Before Swine

Americans love surveys (questions asking people’s opinions). For example, I recently saw a magazine survey in which Los Angeles was voted the second rudest (insulting; not very nice) city in the United States.

(“Only second?” I asked myself.)

Now, being rude or impolite isn’t anything new in big cities. In fact, according to this survey, the #1 rudest city in America is New York City. Number three is Washington, D.C., number four is Chicago, and number five is Boston.

You’re probably asking yourself, “How can I be rude to people when I visit these cities?”

Well, if you want to fit in (be like other people socially), here are two classic insults (disrespectful phrases) you can use.

Actually, these aren’t really bad insults, not the kind that will get you beat up (assaulted or physically hurt). They are the kind of “insults” that good friends may say to each other in fun.

“Age Before Beauty”

Your age is how old you are, of course. Beauty is how attractive or good looking you are.

Typically (usually), you use this insult when you’re walking with someone, let’s say (use as an example) your friend. You reach a doorway (where you enter a room) and one of you needs to go through first.

You hold the door open so that your friend can pass through (walk through), saying, “Age before beauty.”

You mean that your friend is old and that you are younger (and more beautiful), so your friend (“age”) should go first before you (“beauty”).

Note you can also use “Age before beauty” to flatter (give a compliment to; to say something nice about) someone.

If you go first through the doorway and say, “Age before beauty,” you are saying saying that the person who follows you is younger and/or more beautiful. This meaning is possible, but it’s not used as often as the insult, and is certainly less fun.

“Pearls Before Swine”

Pearls are small, hard, round balls with a beautiful shiny (usually white) surface (see photo). They actually grows in oysters, a type of animal in the sea with a shell.

Pearls are often used for necklaces. Good-quality pearls are very valuable (and cost a lot of money, as any man with a girlfriend or wife knows).

Swine is another name for a pig, a farm animal that I look like after I eat a big Thanksgiving dinner.

“Swine” is also an insulting term for someone who is a jerk, a person who isn’t very nice, though it’s not as common these days as it once was.

The expression “Pearls before swine” comes from the Bible (Matthew 7:6), when Jesus tells his disciples (followers) that they should not take spiritually valuable things and give them to people who do not want or appreciate them.

You can use “Pearls before swine” when you give or show something to others who don’t appreciate it, who don’t think it’s as good as it really is, as good as you think it is.

Let’s say I sing a song in front of my friends. They laugh and tell me that I’m a bad singer (that happens a lot, actually).

I might say to them, “Pearls before swine!” I mean that my singing is great but that pigs, like my friends, can’t appreciate its beauty.

Now you know two commonly-used insults you can try on your friends. I can’t guarantee, though, that you won’t get beat up.

Jeff

P.S. For more on insults in English and ways of getting into a fight, see these episodes in our Unlimited English program:

Daily English 1299: Trading Insults

https://secure3.eslpod.com/podcast/daily-english-1299-trading-insults/

Daily English 529: Insulting Other People

https://secure3.eslpod.com/podcast/esl-podcast-529-insulting-other-people/

Daily English 282: Offending Someone

https://secure3.eslpod.com/podcast/esl-podcast-282-offending-someone/

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Image by ?? ? from Pixabay
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Age Before Beauty, Pearls Before Swine

Has the CAPTCHA Gotcha?

Gotcha” is an informal way in English of pronouncing the words “got” and “you” together.

But what does it mean when we say “Got you!” or “Gotcha!”? And what does it have to do with CAPTCHA?

GOTCHA

We say “Gotcha!” in a couple of different situations.

If you are chasing (trying to catch) someone who is running away from you, and then you reach the person, you could say “Gotcha!”

You might say this to your young son or daughter, for example. When the police catch a criminal, they could also say “Gotcha!”

And if your child is a criminal, both you and the police can say “Gotcha!”

“Gotcha” can also be used when someone is lying or hiding something from us or doing something wrong. It can mean, “Now I know the truth!” or “I caught you (discovered your secret)!” For example:

“I saw you taking cookies from the cookie jar (where you store or put cookies). Gotcha!”

Sometimes “gotcha” can just mean “I understand you.” For example:

“I won’t be back until Thursday.”
“Okay, gotcha!”

CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA is not a normal word in English, but is an acronym.

An acronym consists of (is made up of) the first letter of some phrase or expression, but is pronounced as a word.

For example, “NATO” is an acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “NASA” is an acronym for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

CAPTCHA is what we call those “tests” that some websites make you do to make sure you’re not a computer, that you are a real person. Usually CAPTCHAs require that you click a box or type some letters.

CAPTCHA stands for (means):
C – Completely
A – Automated
P – Public
T – Turing test to tell
C – Computers and
H – Humans
A – Apart

To be “completely automated” means that something happens because it is programmed into a computer or a website. Every time you land on (go to) that page on the website, the CAPTCHA will appear.

Public” just means everyone can see it.

The “Turing test” is the most important part of the acronym. Alan Turing was one of the first experts in modern computing, a brilliant British mathematician.

A “Turing test” is any test that measures the “intelligence” of a computer. The idea of the Turing test is that you can tell the difference between a human and a computer by giving a test only a human can pass (get correct).

Of course, some people think that someday computers will become so sophisticated that you won’t be able to “tell them apart.”

To tell (someone/something) apart means to be able to distinguish or see the difference between two people or things.

Computers and Humans are what can take a Turing test. The Turing test should be able to tell computers and humans apart.

So that’s the entire acronym: Completely Automatic Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Websites use CAPTCHAs to prevent automatic “bots” or computer programs from hacking into or damaging the website.

But what happens if you can’t pass a Turing test?

Well, then the website has “gotcha” – it has found out that you are, in fact, just a computer!

Jeff

P.S. Get two months free access to all 1800+ lessons when you sign up for a yearly membership. See here for more information: tv.eslpod.com

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Language & Terms | Comments Off on Has the CAPTCHA Gotcha?

3 Bad Habits from Your English Classes You Need to Break

Is this you?

  • You studied English in school for years, but feel you can’t speak English.
  • You worked hard, you were motivated (eager to learn), and you did what the textbooks and your teachers told you to do.
  • Still, you feel that your English isn’t good enough.

If this sounds like you, then maybe it’s time to break some bad habits.

A habit is something we do without thinking about it very much, almost automatically. To break a habit is to stop that habit, to change the way you act.

The way many of you learned English in school didn’t help you become fluent in English. If you are still doing what you did in school, you’ll probably not make very much progress.

So it’s time stop learning as though you were still in the English classroom. It’s time to break those bad habits.

There are three bad habits I often see in talking to students. These habits stand in your way (stop you from making progress) to better English.

BAD HABIT #1: Do all the “exercises” in the book.

In English class, most of you did vocabulary worksheets, grammar exercises, perhaps recited (repeated out loud) in class, and similar activities.

These activities are very common, but they usually do not help you become better speakers of English!

Why? Because the key to improving your English isn’t to “practice” it by writing or through grammar exercises.

No, the key (most important thing) is to get more input. Input just means anything you read or listen to in English. (I’ll explain more in a minute.)

BAD HABIT #2: Try to remember everything you see or hear.

You have probably spent hundreds (thousands?) of hours doing what some teachers told you would improve your vocabulary and grammar: memorize, memorize, memorize.

And then two days later, you “forget” all you memorized!

Memorizing a lot of English doesn’t usually work very well because we don’t remember things because we try to remember them.

We remember them because they make sense to us, because we understand them, because we comprehend them.

We call this getting lots of “comprehensible input” – language you can understand by listening or reading.

BAD HABIT #3: Force yourself to pay attention.

We’re told in school to force ourselves to pay attention even when we’re bored.

That doesn’t work for learning English (or much else, really).

In fact, this strategy backfires (has the opposite affect). The more bored you are, the less you pay attention and the less you want to listen to or read in English.

And the less you listen and read, the less you improve.

You don’t want to spend your time listening or reading dull or boring things you’re not interested in.

Instead, you want to get language that is compelling (so interesting you can’t stop listening or reading!).

Turn Bad Habits into GOOD Habits

If you do the opposite of these three bad habits – trying to “practice” language through exercises, memorization, and suffering through boring English – you will be much more successful.

That’s because the key to improving English (or any language) is to give your brain compelling comprehensible input.

This just means listening and reading things that you are really interested in AND you can (mostly) understand.

That’s all you need to do!

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this Special Report I wrote that explains all of the “secrets” to improving your English.

You can get it here: tv.eslpod.com/p/5-things-report-signup

So stop wasting your time on things that don’t work. Start the new year off right by doing things we know from research that actually DO improve your English.

What should you listen to or read?

Well, you can of course start by listening and reading our lessons.

Or you could find other interesting and comprehensible materials. But remember: Don’t waste time doing the “activities.” Just focus on listening and reading.

Don’t try to remember everything you hear or read. With enough “input,” it will all enter into your memory.

And if you get bored, change to a different lesson and find a topic that keeps your attention!

Break these three bad habits and you’ll be on your way to improving your English.

~ Jeff

P.S. Get two months free access to all 1800+ lessons when you sign up for a yearly membership. See here for more information: tv.eslpod.com

P.P.S. Like this short English lesson? Get a FREE sample lesson (no money needed) – SIGN UP BELOW!

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What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in How to Learn English | Comments Off on 3 Bad Habits from Your English Classes You Need to Break

Turning Over a New Leaf

It’s New Year’s Eve and time to ring in the new year (welcome and celebrate the new year)!

For many people, the start of a new year means starting with a clean slate.

Slate is type of dark gray stone. In the old days, each student would have his or her own piece of slate to write on in the classroom.

Slate was easy to write on and to erase (removed writing). So “starting with a clean slate” means you’ve erased the past and are starting again.

For some, the new year is a time to kick a habit.

A habit is something we do that is difficult to stop doing.

Bad habits include smoking, drinking too much alcohol, biting your fingernails, and kicking cats (okay, not that last one).

To kick a bad habit is to stop doing something bad or something that is bad for you.

I will state (announce) right here that my New Year’s resolution (promise) is to kick no more cats.*

If you kick your bad habits and make better life decisions, you are turning over a new leaf.

We use this idiom, “to turn over a new leaf,” to mean that we are making a positive change in our life, usually after bad or negative period.

Earlier this year, I turned over a new leaf and began weight training (lifting heavy weights to build muscle) and exercising regularly. (You start losing muscles when you get old if you don’t do anything about it!)

I don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (yet), but check back with me (ask me again) in a few years…well, maybe in a few decades (groups of 10 years).

And if you falter (lose strength or motivation), don’t forget: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

This means to be persistent (don’t stop trying).

If all else fails (If every effort is unsuccessful), you and I will turn over a new leaf again in 2021.

Happy New Year!

Jeff

*Maybe

P.S. A great New Year’s resolution would be to start improving your English again. Try our Unlimited English Membership to get access to more than 1800+ episodes. More information here: tv.eslpod.com

P.P.S. Like this short English lesson? Get a FREE sample lesson (no money needed) – SIGN UP BELOW!

Just fill out the form below and we’ll send a FREE lesson to try!

We hate spam, too! We will never sell, rent, or give your information to anyone – ever!

What Will I Learn in My Free Lesson?

Here is just a small part of what you’re going to learn in this free lesson:

  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Life in the United States | Comments Off on Turning Over a New Leaf

Happy Holidays!

On behalf of (From) everyone here at ESLPod.com, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season!

We are lucky that all of you have chosen to learn English with us.

It’s both a pleasure and a privilege (a special honor) to do what we do, and we appreciate your support.

We especially thank our members who make it possible for us to keep ESLPod.com going.

From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you a holiday season filled with peace and joy!

~ Jeff and Lucy

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Happy Holidays!

The Best Gift of All for the Holidays

Tired of going to the mall (shopping center) to buy presents (gifts)?

Tired of searching online for the “perfect” gift?

Search no more! I have the best gift you can give yourself or your loved ones (people you love) this holiday season (Christmas, Hanukkah).

The gift of English!

Why, of course I mean a membership in our Unlimited English program. It’s the perfect gift.

Give yourself or a loved one an annual membership and save additional money! Get 2 months free when you sign up for a full year.

Or start with a monthly membership that also gives you access to 1800+ English lessons.

To sign up today, go to our website: https://tv.eslpod.com

~Jeff

P.S. You can also give this gift of English for birthdays, New Years Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and any national holiday where you live.

P.P.S. Get ready for the holidays in English with these special episodes:

Daily English 112 – Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

Daily English 854 – Singing Christmas Carols

Daily English 226 – Holiday Decorating

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  • What “take a rain check” means and how to use it in a conversation . . .
  • The difference between a “recluse” and a “busybody” . . .
  • Why “to fend OFF” means something from “to fend FOR” . . .
  • What it means to “take a rain check,” “keep to yourself,” and “to appoint (someone)” . . .
  • What a social secretary is . . .
  • The best way to use “to sort out” and “to turn down” . . .
  • How to use phrasal verbs like “to settle in” and “to settle down” (they’re not the same!) . . .

And much, much more!

Posted in Life in the United States | Comments Off on The Best Gift of All for the Holidays