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Featured Grammar Listening Practice

Love as a (Non-action) Verb: Grammar through John Mayer Lyrics

February 1, 2017
Love-Non-Action-Verb
There is a popular song by John Mayer called “Love is a Verb.” In the song, Mayer says that love is a verb, and something that must be shown. We agree, love IS a verb: specifically, a Non-Action Verb!
Today we are looking at love as a Non-Action Verb (and how LOVE can also be used in the Active sense when speaking informally).

Love-Is-Non-Action-Verb

Non-Action Verbs

 Non-Action Verbs are also called “Stative” verbs. There are many in English, and they usually express emotions, states of being, desires, senses, opinion, or possession. These verbs are typically not used with the Present Progressive or other tenses that use -ING.
Here are some examples of these verbs.
Happy.Relax.Smile.Free

“I feel happy and free.”

Emotions

  • feel
  • like
  • love

Examples:

  • I feel like eating Thai food tonight. (Not “I am feeling like eating Thai food tonight.”)
  • I really like the band New Direction. (Not “I am really liking the band New Direction.”)
  • I love this song. (Not “I am loving this song.”)

States of being

  • be
  • exist

Examples:

  • I am a student. (Not “I am being a student.”)
  • Does the truth exist? (Not “Is the truth existing?”)

Desires

  • desire
  • need
  • wish
  • want

Examples:

  • The desire for wealth can be a motivator for many people. (Not “The desiring for wealth”)
  • I need some coffee! (Not “I am needing some coffee.)
  • I wish I could take a vacation. (Not “I am wishing I could take a vacation.”)
  • I want to go to the Bahamas. (Not “I am wanting to go to the Bahamas.”)
Listening Student Frustrated

What emotion is he feeling right now? And why can we use “feeling” in this sense? Some verbs can be both Active and Non-Active!

Senses

  • feel
  • hear
  • see
  • smell
  • taste
  • touch

Senses are interesting verbs. They can actually be used in the Active or Non-Active sense: see our article on Taste and Other Active/Non-Active Verbs for more information!

Student.Question.Class.Teacher.FAQ.Verb.love.Action

Opinion

  • agree
  • disagree
  • believe
  • think

Examples:

  • I totally agree with you. (Not “I am totally agreeing with you.”)
  • I disagree with what the man said. (Not “I am disagreeing with what the man said.”)
  • I believe you. (Not “I am believing you.”)
  • I think you’re right! (Not “I am thinking you’re right!”)

Road Trip Ocean Love Action Verb

Possession

  • have*
  • own
  • possess

Examples:

  • I have a car. (Not “I am having a car.”)
  • He owns a house on the beach. (Not “He is owning a house on the beach.”)
  • You possess a great happiness. (Not “You are possessing a great happiness.”)
It is important to note that there are times when these verbs can be used in the -ING form. See our article on Action vs. Non-Action Verbs for more details.
*Have can be used in the -ING form when it is a part of an expression. For example, “I’m having dinner with Tim tonight” or “Are you having a good time?” are perfectly acceptable because HAVING + A MEAL and HAVING + A GOOD TIME are common expressions. 
Love-non-action-verb-guitar-song

Love as a Non-Action Verb

Love is a Non-Action Verb, but it CAN be used in the Active sense when speaking informally. As we have all heard, McDonald’s famous slogan is “I’m lovin’ it!” This is technically grammatically incorrect, but it reflects an informal way of saying “I currently really like this.”
John Mayer’s song states that “Love is a verb.” Now you know exactly what type of verb it is! Take a look at Mayer’s lyrics and listen to the song using the video below.

“Love is a Verb” by John Mayer
Love is a verb
It ain’t a thing
It’s not something you own
It’s not something you scream
When you show me love
I don’t need your words
Yeah love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb
Love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb
 
Love ain’t a crutch
It ain’t an excuse
No you can’t get through love
On just a pile of I-O-Us
Love ain’t a drug
Despite what you’ve heard
Yeah love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb
Love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb
So you gotta show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb
You gotta show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb
Love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb
Business English Career English Featured Grammar

Grammar Lesson of the Month: English Tenses Used in Interviews

January 1, 2017

With Career English, students first improve their English in the CISL classroom and then spend time with an American company, where they continue improving their English in the professional environment. But between time at CISL and time at their Host Company, students must experience the “dreaded” interview! To prepare for an interview, most people practice the “typical” interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work for this company?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” But for a CISL Career English student, interview prep also consists of English grammar practice. Learn these tenses in relation to the questions you may face, and you’ll be prepared for an interview in no time!

InterviewBusinessWorkCompanyInternship

English Tenses for Interviews

The Simple Present

Use the Simple Present to talk about general truths or states.

  • I am from Germany.
  • I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Communications.
  • I study at Converse International School of Languages.

The Simple Past

Use the Simple Past to talk about things you did or completed in your home country.

  • I went to school in Berlin.
  • I completed my studies last year.
  • I was an intern for a large bank in my hometown.
  • I wrote my final research paper on currency exchanges and world market trade.

Intern.Interview.Intership.Career.English.Work.Company.CV

The Present Progressive

Use the Present Progressive to talk about your current state here in California. This is not linked to a time that this state began (see below).

  • I am currently studying at CISL.
  • I am living in Little Italy with a lovely roommate.

The Present Perfect/Progressive

Use the Present Perfect or Present Perfect Progressive to talk about things you are doing now that started in the past.

  • I have been studying here in San Diego for five months.
  • I‘ve interviewed with two companies so far.
  • I’ve been having a wonderful time here in California.
  • I’ve had the chance to see many parts of the state since I arrived.

Need more practice before your interview? Check out some of our other articles!

Is one of your goals in 2017 to use English to further your career, then check out CISL’s Career English program!

American Traditions Featured Grammar Holidays Listening Practice Reading Writing

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Irregular Verbs in Christmas poetry

December 1, 2016

One of the most difficult aspects of learning English is the language’s irregular verbs. These verbs make it tough for students to correctly use grammatical structures that require a past tense or past participle verb, such as the Simple Past, the Present Perfect, or the Passive. Students spend hours practicing long irregular English verb lists, but still have difficulties when speaking English.

The best way to practice? Learn these verbs while in use! This month we are looking at irregular English verbs in use through a famous Christmas poem: “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. (Fun fact: this poem is more commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which is the first line of the poem.)

For many American families, it is tradition to read this poem around the holidays. Enjoy this piece of American holiday culture (and the chance to practice these irregular verbs)!

 Christmas-ESL-SanDiego-San-Francisco

Irregular Verb Practice: Gap-Fill Exercise

First, read the poem below and see if you can complete the missing words with the correct form of the verb in parenthesis. If you need to, listen to the poem being read as well: the video is below.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were _____ (hang) by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there _____ (arise)  such a clatter,
I _____ (spring) from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I _____ (fly) like a flash,
_____ (tear) open the shutters and _____ (throw) up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
_____ (give) a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I _____ (know) in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they _____ (come),
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they _____ (fly) 
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I _____ (hear) on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I _____ (draw) in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas _____ (come) with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had _____ (fling) on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he _____ (hold)  tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That _____ (shake) when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon _____ (give)  me to know I had nothing to dread;
He _____ (speak) not a word, but _____ (go) straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And _____ (lay) his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he _____ (rise) ;
He _____ (spring) to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all _____ (fly) like the down of a thistle.
But I _____ (hear) him exclaim, ere he _____ (drive) out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

 

Answers: Irregular Verbs

Did you get the correct answers?
A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
American Traditions California Life CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Dining Featured Grammar Holidays San Diego San Francisco Student Activities

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Preposition/gerund combinations + things a CISL student can be thankful for

November 1, 2016

November 1st marks the day that Americans put away their Halloween decorations (and costumes!) and turn their focus to the next exciting holiday: Thanksgiving! Many Americans consider this to be their favorite holiday because of the warm traditions surrounding it: dinner with friends and family, lots of delicious home-cooked food, and a holiday focused on spending time with loved ones and being thankful for our blessings.

Thanksgiving.Food

A Thanksgiving tradition is to say what you are thankful for as you eat traditional Thanksgiving dishes. This is an excellent way to practice gratitude . . . and it is also a great way to practice a common grammatical construction in English: saying you are thankful for something uses the construction adjective + preposition + noun (gerund).

Here are some examples of this construction.

  • I am thankful for having dinner with my family. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for spending time with my friends and family. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for being healthy. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for not working on this holiday. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for my job. (noun)
  • I am thankful for my Mom’s delicious pie! (noun)

Note that with the negative example, we use the construction adjective + preposition + not + gerund.

Grammar English

Adjective + preposition + gerund combinations

Here are just a few of the many adjective + preposition + gerund combinations we have in English. Can you think of example sentences? Some suggestions are below.

  • afraid of
  • bored of
  • committed to
  • excited about
  • famous for
  • guilty of
  • happy about

Here are some examples using these combinations.

  • Afraid of. She was afraid of taking public transportation when she first arrived. But then she read our Guide to Public Transport in SD and SF and now she’s a pro!
  • Bored of. He was bored of doing grammar lessons and not speaking much in class. Then he switched to our school, CISL, and now he’s much happier.
  • Committed to. Our teachers are committed to providing our students with the best educational experience possible as an international student in California!
  • Excited about. I’m excited about celebrating the upcoming holidays. I just read the Guide for Shopping in SD and now I know exactly where to go!
  • Famous for. San Diego is famous for having beautiful weather all year, but did you know that it also has some great skiing just a few hours away?
  • Guilty of. We went to the SD Courthouse to watch a court hearing, and the man was found guilty of violating parole.
  • Happy about. He was happy about scoring so high on the CAE exam.

Things a CISL student can be thankful for

As an international student learning English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco, you have so much to be thankful for! Here are just some of the things our students said they most appreciate.

Heart Beach Love Girl Sunset California

Great classmates and friends

With such a diverse student population (check out our nationality mixes for SD and SF!), CISL students have a diverse classroom of students. At break and after school, it’s not uncommon to mingle with students from around the world. What an exciting and unique opportunity!

Photo.Friend.Friends.Students.Park.Picture.Selfie.Instagram

Quality instruction

CISL teachers have advanced degrees and years of experience teaching English to international students. In addition, many have also lived and worked or studied abroad, so they understand what life is like for an international student!

Student.Question.Class.Teacher.FAQ

A beautiful city

How can you not be thankful when you are surrounded by the beauty of San Diego or San Francisco? From the unique neighborhoods like Little Italy, Chinatown, the Mission, or Gaslamp to places like Dolores Park or Balboa Park, there is always something new to explore.

San Diego

New experiences daily

Speaking of exploring, both San Diego and San Francisco provide students with the most exciting events, festivals, and activities. Check out a local happy hour, attend the next film or music festival, or check out CISL’s Activities Calendar to see what fun events CISL has planned for you. Of course, there’s always the beach!

Beach.Friends.Selfie.Summer.Photo

Real-life English practice

Living in the U.S. is a priceless opportunity to meet and mingle with native speakers. Learning doesn’t end when class is over each day: with your new friends from around the world and your after-school and weekend social activities, you are continually practicing your English while a student at CISL. Fun AND learning at the same time, in beautiful places and with wonderful people? That’s a lot to be thankful for!

 

 

Featured Grammar

Adverbs of Frequency + a day in the life of a CISL student

October 1, 2016

For October’s Grammar Lesson of the Month, we are looking at adverbs of frequency. We use adverbs of frequency to state how often we do (or do not) do something. These words are perfect for describing actions on a daily basis, so we will use them to talk about the day in the life of a CISL student.

What’s it like to be a CISL student? Your mornings are packed with English lessons and your afternoons are filled with fun activities in beautiful SD or SF! From exploring each city’s neighborhoods to taking advantage of CISL’s awesome afternoon activities, there is always something fun to do.

Adverbs of Frequency

Here is a simple chart to help you see how often we use these common adverbs.

Frequency Adverb of Frequency Example Sentence
100% always We always start class at 9 am.
90% usually My teacher usually starts class with a warm up.
80% normally / generally I normally have a bagel at break.
70% often / frequently I often go to the beach after class.
50% sometimes I sometimes go to the computer lab to study.
30% occasionally I occasionally go to Coronado.
10% seldom I seldom go to La Jolla.
5% hardly ever / rarely I hardly ever take the bus.
0% never I never forget to do my homework.

CISL San Diego class

Placement of Adverbs of Frequency

Here are two of the more common uses of adverbs of frequency: in sentences with and without helping verbs.

subject + adverb + base verb (without to)

  • I always do my homework.
  • We seldom have more than an hour of homework per night.
  • I rarely stay out late, but I often go out.
  • She hardly ever misses a question on her tests.

subject + auxiliary + adverb + main verb 

  • We can always take an uber if we can’t find a cab.
  • I have never missed a day of class.
  • She can often be seen in the computer lab studying.

CISLclass

Rules to remember

The following adverbs can be placed at the start of a sentence:

Usually, normally, often, frequently, sometimes, occasionally

 

The following adverbs canNOT be placed at the start of a sentence:

Always, seldom, rarely, hardly, ever, never

 

We use hardly ever and never with positive, not negative verbs:

  • She hardly ever makes an English mistake.
  • My teacher never makes me feel uncomfortable.

We use ever in questions and negative statements:

  • Have you ever taken the TOEFL exam?
  • I haven’t ever taken the TOEFL exam.
  • I have never taken the TOEFL exam.

Roommates.Study.Photo.Pic.Phone

A day in the life of a CISL student

What’s it like to be a CISL student? Check out our sample paragraph and see how many adverbs of frequency you can spot!

My days as a CISL student are always fun. I usually wake up at about 7:30 am: this gives me plenty of time to get ready, grab some breakfast, and walk to school. (Sometimes, though, I sleep in until about 8:15!)

I typically walk to class with my roommate. We usually stop at the local coffee shop for a coffee and a pastry: she often has a panino and I typically get a bagel. We take our time walking to school because the weather is almost always perfect!

Coffee Shop Friends

Class always starts at 9 am. We usually begin with a warm up and we discuss what we did the day before. We always review homework (since we always have homework!) and then we begin an activity. We hardly ever work from our textbook; instead, we do many speaking activities. We are always doing something different and engaging that helps us improve our English skills. 

After class I generally go with my friends to lunch or we go shopping. Sometimes we participate in a CISL activity, such as a baseball game or a trip to a local museum. Whatever is on the calendar is always fun!

Girls Students Coffee Shop Shopping-Friends-Students

Occasionally I go home and take a nap and then go out later that evening, but I rarely do this on school nights. I save the weekends for parties and late night socializing. 

Something I always do? Watch the sunset! It’s like a ritual for Californians. I love watching the beautiful colors of the sky and seeing the sun sink into the ocean. Another end to a perfect day in CA!

Manhattan.Beach.Palm.Tree.Sunset.Pier.California.Ocean