There, they're, or their?

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. This can be confusing sometimes as one must rely on context to figure out which word is meant or should be used. 

 

Even native speakers sometimes fail to use the homonyms "there," "their," and "they're" correctly. Here is a quick review of which one is appropriate for which occasion. 

 

1) The word "there" is used to refer to a physical or abstract location.

 

When I flew in on the float plane, they were all there on the boat.
Caption 4, Alaska Revealed: Endless Wave

 

Also, it is commonly combined with a conjugation of “to be” or a modal verb to discuss the existence of something.

 

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
Caption 28, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. 
Caption 9, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Opening

 

2) "Their" is a possessive adjective used before a noun when the subject is "they." With "their," we are speaking about something that belongs to two or more people.

 

What are their names? -Their names are Naya and Alex.
Caption 14, Caralie and Annie: Getting to know each other

 

Their goal is a plan to finally help humanity reduce its carbon footprint.
Caption 3, Green TV: What Is COP21?

 

3) "They’re" is a contraction of "they are" used to refer to two or more people in the third person. It is especially useful for shortening sentences in the present continuous tense.

 

I think they're nice. 
Caption 12, Comic-Con 2015: Jennifer Lawrence

 

They're playing a game on the lawn.
Caption 10, Jessica: In Prospect Park

 

Further Learning
Check out the examples above on Yabla English to get a better sense of the full context for the use of "there," "their," and "they're." Try to write a few sentences in which you use two or even all three of these words to solidify your understanding. An example would be: "They're not sure when they will get there. It depends on when their plane lands."

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Winter Vacation and the Holidays

As we approach the end of December, many people are looking forward to having some time off. The “holiday break," “Christmas break,” or "winter vacation" observed by schools gives students up to two weeks off. Universities may have closer to a month of time off. Workplaces and offices close as well, although not for so long!

 

It is a time to relax and a time to spend with family and friends. If the weather outside is cold, there are some classic outdoor activities that people enjoy, although you may decide to simply stay nice and warm indoors.

 

And nowadays Rose and I do downhill skiing primarily.
Caption 73, Jimmy Carter - interviews Jimmy Carter

 

She could only rest in a corner next to the fireplace,
Caption 12, Fairy Tales: Cinderella

 

Many families take time to do activities like baking or cooking together, and also decorate to their homes.

 

And what's your favorite part of the Christmas dinner?
Caption 13, Christmas in London: People

 

But, up until that point, we decorate our houses with lots of different things.
Caption 6, Christmas traditions: in the UK

 

Many people are also preparing for the holidays and the tradition of exchanging presents:

 

I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards.
Caption 13, A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

...and then unwrap our presents and all the family will be there.
Caption 12, Christmas in London: People

 

Of course, the holidays can be stressful, especially if you are late with the preparations!

 

So they're looking for their last-minute presents for their loved ones.
Caption 3, Christmas in London: People

 

Our Yabla English team wishes you a lovely winter break and holiday season, filled with relaxation and the warm company of family and friends!

 

Further Learning
Go to the links listed above, or do your own search for Yabla English videos that reference holiday traditions. Another idea: look up the English words for the presents you are giving people this year if you don’t know them already.

 

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Winter is Coming

Characters in the popular television series Game of Thrones often repeat that "winter is coming," but somehow it never actually arrives. The results of the recent presidential election in the United States, however, have left many liberals preparing for a political winter that could last for at least four years. Here are some Yabla videos dealing with common expressions relating to this coldest of seasons.

 

Welcome to winter time... right here.
Caption 33, Jason Mraz: Tour of Studio

 

The winter came and the lake froze over.
Caption 37, Fairy Tales: The Ugly Duckling

 

However, there's still a large difference between winter and summer.
Caption 4, English with Lauren: The Weather

 

In this winter of our hardship, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.
Captions 87-89, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

Instead of lush fields, we would have long winters and sparse, ice-covered landscapes in Europe.
Captions 55-56, Nature Preservation: The Gulf Stream & Climate Change

 

You will have your home prepared and winter-proofed in next to no time.
Caption 38, British Gas: Top Tips on Preparing your Home for Cold Weather

 

Further Learning
Watch the above videos in their entirety and search for examples of winter on Yabla English to see other related terms used in a real-world context. 

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The Four Seasons

The four seasons in English are winter, spring, summer, and fall. The season "fall" is also called "autumn." The name of the seasons are written lower-case. Different places and cultures have different ways of reckoning the dates of the seasons, but by scientific meteorological methods, winter in the northern hemisphere is from December 1 to February 28 (or 29 in a leap year). In the southern hemisphere winter is from June 1 until August 31.

 

In the winter it's very cold in New York.
Caption 7, Caralie and Annie: Get to know each other

 

Spring in the northern hemisphere is from March 1 to May 31, in the southern hemisphere from September 1 to November 30.

 

First, we have spring, when the leaves turn green.
Caption 19, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Summer in the northern hemisphere is from June 1 to August 31, in the southern hemisphere from December 1 to February 28 or 29.

 

The summer is especially beautiful this year.
Caption 2, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

 

Fall (or autumn) in the northern hemisphere is from September 1 to November 30, in the southern hemisphere from March 1 to May 31.

 

Third, we have fall, or you could say autumn.
Caption 21, Lydia explains: weekdays, seasons and months

 

Further Learning
Search for examples of the seasons on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Frequency Adverbs

There is a standard set of adverbs (words that modify verbs) that describe how often something happens, from not at all (never) to all the time (always). Let's see some examples from Yabla English.

 

I've never done that in my life. 
Caption 70, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

I very rarely have a day off.
Caption 11, Sharon Stone: Jimmy Carter interview 1994

 

Do you have someone who can take the air out of your tires occasionally?
Captions 40, 41: Will Smith: Enemy of the State

 

I sometimes will write it on a piano.
Caption 27, Bee and Flower: Interview

 

Whales feed at depth in waters that are often pitch dark.
Caption 19, Sustainable Human: How Whales Change Climate

 

I usually leave it to simmer a little bit.
Caption 85, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pam's Trinidadian Caribbean Kitchen

 

It is always held in Leicester Square.
Caption 25, In London with Lauren: Piccadilly Circus

 

The adverbs are written in bold above in increasing order of frequency: never, rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, usually, always.

 

Further Learning
Search for examples of frequency adverbs on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Infinitive Verbs Part II

An infinitive verb is the plain form of a verb that is not conjugated and often has the word "to" before it. It is good to know the plain or base form of a verb, since that is the form that is typically the main listing for the word in a dictionary. You may hear the infinitive "to sit" conjugated as "sat" or "sitting," but the form of the word you will need if you care to look it up is the infinitive "sit." In standard usage, the infinitive will always be preceded by another verb.

 

An infinitive is often used in a sentence in combination with a conjugated from of "to be." In these examples, the subject "it" is used to make general observations: 

 

It is going to blow up!    
Caption 37, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pam's Trinidadian Caribbean Kitchen

 

It is going to boil down.
Caption 6: Cooking with Aria: French toast and a berry topping

 

It is not enough to obey Big Brother. 
Caption 15, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

It is time to detox.
Caption 55, Greenpeace: Detox: How People Power is Cleaning Up Fashion

 

The infinitives are written in bold above: to blow up, to boil, to obey, and to detox.

 

Further Learning
Read this in-depth article on infinitive verbs, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Infinitive Verbs

An infinitive verb is the plain form of a verb that is not conjugated and often has the word "to" before it. It is good to know the plain or base form of a verb, since that is the form that is typically the main listing for the word in a dictionary. You may hear the infinitive "to sit" conjugated as "sat" or "sitting," but the form of the word you will need if you care to look it up is the infinitive "sit." In standard usage, the infinitive will always be preceded by another verb.

 

The Japanese tradition is to sit on the stool in front of the faucets.
Caption 22, An apartment: in Japan

 

In the example above, the infinitive is "to sit." Infinitives preceded by "to" are called "full infinitives."

 

You can sit right here. -Thank you.
Caption 5, Jessica and Liz: in a Restaurant

 

In this example, the infinitive is the verb "sit." An infinitive without the "to" is called a "bare infinitive."

 

It's really exciting to know that I'm setting a good example for young people.
Caption 24, peta2 Interviews: Vegan Surfer Tia Blanco

 

You did well to tell me. We must know everything.
Caption 35, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

In the first example above, you see the full infinitive "to know," and in the second example the bare infinitive "know."

 

Further Learning
Read this in-depth article on infinitive verbs, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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English Gerunds

A gerund is a noun that has been formed by adding the suffix -ing to a verb. The gerund will often function as a verb within the clause, but in the context of the complete sentence forms a subject. Progressive active participle verbs also end in -ing, but retain verb form. Let's learn to tell the difference between a gerund (noun) and a progressive active participle (verb).

 

But believing ends in seeing.
Caption 43, Katie Melua: A Happy Place

 

You will be seeing them again.
Caption 37, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four - BBC TV Movie

 

In the first example, "seeing" and "believing" are gerund nouns. Try placing the definite article "the" before the words and see if the sentence still makes sense: "But the believing ends in the seeing." The fact that it works grammatically shows that both "seeing" and "believing" are gerunds. But in the second example, "You will be the seeing them again" would be grammatically incorrect, because in this case "seeing" is a verb. 

 

I'd like your opinion about fast driving on the highway.
Caption 21, James Dean: Interview & Famous Drive Safely Spot

 

I'm in a truck, we're driving through the bush.
Caption 23, Kiting For Conservation: Kenya

 

In the first example, "the fast driving" works, so it is a gerund noun. In the second example, "we're the driving..." does not work grammatically, so it's a verb.

 

Further Learning
Try taking examples of some English verbs and adding -ing to the end of them to make the gerund nouns, then search for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Irregular Verbs Part 3

In the previous lessons, we saw how a regular verb conjugates into the past tense and past participle by simply adding -ed to the end of the infinitive: ask/asked, talk/talked, watch/watched, etc. Irregular verbs, on the other hand, each follow their own set of rules of conjugation. There are, however, some basic patterns that can help you remember how to conjugate some of these irregular verbs.

Some verbs with "ea" as the central vowels may (or may not) have an added -t at the end in past and past participle forms, but all of the past and past participle forms have in common that the "ea" is changes pronunciation. "I am reading a book" (pronounced "reeding"), but "I have read a book" (pronounced "red"). 

Many of the challenges can't be dealt with by individual companies alone.
Captions 29-30, The British Monarchy: Global Sustainability

You can finally live the life you always dreamt of.
Caption 10, Movie Trailers, Bruce Willis: Surrogates

I meant what I wrote, shall we meet?
Caption 1, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

The father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people.
Caption 84, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

In all of the cases above, the present tense verbs "deal," "dream," "mean," and "read" have the long "ee" sound like "reed", but change in the past and past participles to the short "e" sound like "red."

Further Learning
Go back to the lessons for Irregular Verbs Part 1 and Part 2 and review some of the patterns that can help you learn English irregular verbs. Find examples of the verbs listed above in their past and past participle forms and learn them by searching for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 
 

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Irregular Verbs Part 2

In last month's first part, we saw how a regular verb conjugates into the past tense and past participle by simply adding -ed to the end of the infinitive: ask/asked, talk/talked, watch/watched etc. Irregular verbs, on the other hand, each follow their own set of rules of conjugation. There are, however, some more basic patterns that can help you remember how to conjugate some of these irregular verbs. 

Some verbs switch their central vowels to an "o" in the past and past participle, such as the verbs "to break" (broke, broken),"to choose" (choose, chosen), "to forget" (forgot, forgotten), "to freeze" (froze, frozen), "to get" (got, gotten), "to speak" (spoke, spoken), "to tear" (tore, torn) "to wake" (woke, woken) and "to wear" (wore, worn). Here is the verb "to steal" in the past and past participle:

Then they took you away, stole you out of my life.
Caption 41, Lana Del Rey: Blue Jeans

They've stolen my heart away.
Caption 49, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

Many verbs with "ee" as the central vowels change to a single "e" in past and past participle, and these are made easier in that the past and past participle forms are the same: "to bleed" (bled), "to feel" (felt), "to keep" (kept), "to lead" (led), and "to meet" (met). A few more examples using the verbs "to sleep" and "to feed":

The Frog slept all night.
Caption 8, Fairy Tales: The Frog King

They have fed quite well.
Caption 53, Nature & Wildlife: Search for the Ghost Bear

Further Learning
Find examples of the verbs listed above in past and past participle and learn them by searching for examples on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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