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Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

December 1, 2017

Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs in English

Do you know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Understanding the difference will improve your English speech and writing.

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

Types of Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs use an object. The object can be a noun, a phrase, or a pronoun.

Transitive verb with a noun

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. A transitive verb works with the noun.

  • I see the car.
  • I love ice cream.
  • He wants hot chocolate.
  • Have you tried eggnog?

Transitive verb with a phrase

A phrase is a group of words. These words work together as a unit to mean something. There are many types of phrases. Transitive verbs can be used with phrases.

  • I see why you wanted to live in this neighborhood.
  • I love taking long walks by the sea.
  • He wants less now that he’s older.
  • Have you tried talking to your roommate about his dog barking?

Transitive verb with a pronoun

A pronoun is used in place of a noun (usually because we already referred to the noun).

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her.


Examples of Common Transitive Verbs

Here are some common transitive verbs in English.

  • Buy
  • Cost  
  • Give
  • Leave
  • Lend
  • Make
  • Offer
  • Pass
  • Sell
  • Show
  • Take
  • Wish

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs do not work with an object.

  • What time does your plane arrive?
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax.
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran.


Examples of Common Intransitive Verbs

Here are some common intransitive verbs in English.

  • Act
  • Come
  • Cry
  • Die
  • Do
  • Go
  • Grow
  • Laugh
  • Respond
  • Smile

Verbs that are Transitive or Intransitive

Some verbs can be both transitive or intransitive, depending on their use. Within the context of the sentence, you can see if the verb is transitive or intransitive.

  • Studying abroad will change you in wonderful ways. (transitive) 
  • This neighborhood has really changed! (intransitive) 
  • Can you close the door, please? (transitive) 
  • When did this cafe close? (intransitive) 
  • Please write an email to Jim and thank him for dinner. (transitive) 
  • When did you learn to write? (intransitive) 


Why is this important?

Knowing if a verb is transitive or intransitive will help you properly use each verb: using a transitive verb without an object will of course be a major grammar mistake!

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see. (incorrect)
  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her. (correct)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax myself. (incorrect)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax. (correct)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran myself. (incorrect)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran. (correct)


California Life Featured Grammar Lessons San Diego San Diego Travel Tips

“SO” + Adverbs and Adjectives (+ Things that are “SO” San Diego)

November 1, 2017

In the English language, we use the word “so” in several different ways. Each way allows us to speak with more emphasis; some uses of the word “so”  are more typically “Southern Californian” than others. Learn the most common ways of using the word “so” here!

“SO” + Adverbs and Adjectives (and Things that are “so” San Diego)

“So” means several things in English.

“To such a great extent”

In this meaning, “so” is an adverb that shows the degree (level) of an adjective or adverb.

  • Why are you so angry? (This person isn’t a little angry: he is very angry.)
  • I didn’t realize the car was parked so far away. (The person is surprised that the distance is very far.)
  • Why are you speaking so slowly?
  • My presentation didn’t go so well.

“Very, very”

In this meaning, “so” is an intensifier. It intensifies (gives more meaning to) the adverb or adjective it is modifying.

In these cases, we can switch the word “so” with the word “very.” The meanings seem the same, but “so” is more intense than the word “very.”

  • You are so beautiful.
  • Thank you so much!
  • That was so thoughtful of you.


We often use the construction SO + ADJECTIVE/ADVERB + THAT to show the effect of something.

  • He was so tired that he fell asleep while eating his ice cream.
  • I was so upset that I threw my shoe.
  • She was so tall that none of the pants in the store could fit her.

Slang: “so” for a characteristic

With this meaning, “so” is used to show that something or someone is the perfect example of another thing. For example, if someone’s name is Summer, and she lives in San Diego and goes surfing every morning, she is SO Californian!

  • My friend Jane is the perfect student. One day after the teacher gave us our assignment, she completed it! That’s SO Jane.
  • We went surfing, ate a burrito, and then watched the sunset. Today was SO Southern California.
  • With that shirt and those cowboy boots, you look SO country.
  • This sushi roll has avocado and cilantro. It’s SO Californian.

Things that are “so” San Diego

Fish tacos

Yes, tacos with fish. Or lobster. Or scallops! With its close proximity to Mexico, it’s no surprise that California food is influenced by typically Mexican spices and flavors. Since San Diego is on the beach, it’s also no surprise that the local food includes a lot of seafood! While in San Diego, be sure to try fish tacos. In most places, you can order the fish grilled or fried. The toppings will vary at each restaurant, but many include avocado or guacamole, salsa, and cabbage.

Seafood + Mexican food? SO San Diego!


The craziest and most exciting week in San Diego is ComicCon week! Every July, celebrities and comic book fans come to the city’s Convention Center for a crazy week of events, shows, and exhibits. It’s the perfect time to walk around Downtown San Diego and see all of the costumes. Be on the lookout for celebrities as well: you never know who you are going to see!

ComicCon? SO San Diego!


Go to Mission and Pacific Beaches and most days you will see Slomo: a man on rollerblades who rides up and down the beach boardwalk for hours. Slomo is a staple of the city, and he is now famous throughout the nation: the New York Times made a video about him! Slomo is actually a doctor who retired in order to pursue real happiness. He found it . . . on the beaches of San Diego!

The happiest person alive is a doctor-turned-rollerblader? SO San Diego!

Surfboard museum in a taco shop

A taco shop in Pacific Beach isn’t just a taco shop: it’s also a museum that pays tribute to Southern California’s surf culture! In 1989, Cindy and Sam McLarty opened Taco Surf, a surf shop that displays more than 90 surfboards.

Is there anything more “San Diego” than a surf museum in a taco shop? Nope! SO San Diego.


American Traditions Grammar Suggested student activities

5 Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

October 28, 2017

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  -L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables

Are you studying English in the United States during the fall? You are in for a treat!* Enjoy some of these American fall traditions!

*in for a treat: an expression meaning you will experience something very enjoyable soon.

5 Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

#1: Visiting a pumpkin patch (and carving pumpkins)

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

A pumpkin patch is an open space, like a field, where pumpkins grow. People visit a pumpkin patch to choose their pumpkin. Which pumpkin will you choose? The tall and skinny pumpkin, the perfectly round pumpkin, the strange looking pumpkin with weird bumps . . . each has its own character!

Pumpkin patches often sell apple cider, pies, and other fall foods: be sure to enjoy them during your trip. (To learn about traditional fall foods, read our article Fall is Here: Time for Pumpkin-Flavored Everything!)

After bringing home their pumpkins, friends or family carve their pumpkins. Carving a pumpkin is when people use a knife to cut designs into the pumpkin (usually a face). Our Guide to Pumpkin Carving has all the information you need for this fun activity. 

#2: Trying pumpkin flavored everything

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Pumpkin has always been an important part of American fall food (after all, pumpkin pie is a staple of Thanksgiving dinner!). However, Americans now have a strange obsession with putting pumpkin flavor in everything during the fall. The craze began with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte and seems to have made its way into all foods: there is now pumpkin flavored beer (yes, beer!), pumpkin candies (such as M&Ms), and even pumpkin cereal. There is a science behind the Americans love for pumpkin: read all about it in this CNN article.

#3: Exploring a corn maze

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

A corn maze is a large labyrinth made from corn plants. It is common for local farms to create a corn maze, which the public can enter (and get lost in)! Sunflower mazes and hay bale mazes are also popular. They’re a fun fall activity!

#4: Going to a haunted house

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Get into the spirit of Halloween and scare yourself by going to a haunted house! This terrifying experience is one of the most traditional for Americans (and also the most scary)! If you’re studying English in San Diego, check out the Haunted Trail in Balboa Park. This outside haunted “house” is actually a trail built in a portion of Balboa Park. It’s one of the most impressive (and frightening) experiences!

Before checking out a haunted house, read our article Synonyms for ‘Scary’ to be able to describe your experience!

#5: Dressing up for Halloween

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Americans LOVE to dress in costume for Halloween: make sure you join in on this fun holiday! Costumes can be fun, scary, cute, gory*, or even related to something that was in the news. Visit one of the costume stores that open during this time of year and find some inspiration (or, if you’re crafty, make your own costume)!

*gory: involving violence or a lot of blood.


Featured Grammar

Common Irregular Plural Nouns in English

October 1, 2017

Do you know the difference between plural and singular nouns (and which plural nouns in English are irregular)? Read on to find out!

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Making singular nouns plural

Most singular nouns in English are easy to make plural: simply add an “-s.”

  • One dog
  • Two dogs
  • One bottle
  • Five bottles

For nouns that end in s, x, z, ch, and sh, we add “-es.”

  • One bus
  • Two buses
  • One watch
  • Two watches
  • One fox
  • Two foxes

For nouns that end in consonant + y, we remove the y and add “-ies.”

  • One baby
  • Two babies

However, there are some irregular nouns in English that do not follow these simple rules. The following list includes the common irregular noun plurals in English.

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Singular                  Plural

Analysis                    Analyses

Basis                          Bases

Child                         Children

Crisis                        Crises

Data                          Datum

Deer                         Deer (or deers)

Diagnosis               Diagnoses

Fish                          Fish (or fishes)

Goose                      Geese

Half                          Halves

Loaf                          Loaves

Man                          Men

Moose                     Moose

Mouse                     Mice

Scarf                        Scarves

Self                           Selves

Series                      Series

Sheep                      Sheep

Thief                       Thieves

Tooth                      Teeth

Wife                         Wives

Wolf                        Wolves

Woman                   Women

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Practicing Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Can you complete the chart?


Analysis                  ________

________           Bases

Child                       ________

Crisis                      ________

Data                        ________

Deer                       Deer (or deers)

________          Diagnoses

Fish                        Fish (or fishes)

Goose                     ________

Half                        ________

________          Loaves

Man                       ________

Moose                   ________

________          Mice

Scarf                      ________

Self                        ________

________         Series

Sheep                   ________

________        Thieves

________        Teeth

Wife                     ________

Wolf                    ________

________        Women

California Life Featured Grammar San Francisco Travel Tips Suggested student activities Writing

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

September 1, 2017

Do you know the basic English capitalization rules? Stick with these simple guidelines and you will understand the majority of the times that we capitalize something in English.

Basic English Capitalization Rules

The first letter of the first word of a sentence

This basic rule is something we always follow in English.

  • The thing I enjoy most about living in San Francisco is the city at night.
  • She said she loves living in California because of its beautiful sunsets.

If the sentence begins with a number, be sure to spell the number (not begin a sentence with the number).

  • Fifty states are in the United States. (correct)
  • 50 states are in the United States. (incorrect)

The word “I”

The word “I,” the first person singular subject pronoun, is always capitalized.

The first word of direct speech

Direct speech (the exact words a person says, which are in quotation marks) should be capitalized.

  • She turned to him and said, “Do you want to hear a joke?”
  • He responded, “Only if it’s a good one!”

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns (the names of people and places) are always capitalized.

There are many types of proper nouns: here are a few.

The names of people

The names of people are always capitalized.

  • Andrea and Whitney are coming to dinner on Friday evening.
  • Tim needs to respond to my email.
  • Has Mark called you yet?

Continents, countries, cities, and regions

Does a place have an official name? Capitalize it!

  • I would like to study in North America, but I can’t decide between the U.S. and Canada.
  • Where is she from in Central America?
  • We are going to Puglia, Italy next summer.
  • I had a wonderful time studying in Southern California.

Planets, mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes

Are you talking about a natural formation that has an official name? It should be capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital


Buildings that have official names are capitalized.

  • The San Diego Convention Center hosts ComicCon every year.
  • I think the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco is so lovely.
  • Have you ever been to Pier 39 in SF?

Businesses, organizations, programs, and sports teams

Officially formed groups and programs are capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Days and months (but not the seasons)

This simple rule is always followed. Note: the seasons are capitalized when talking about semesters in college.

  • I will see you on Wednesday.
  • My birthday is in October.
  • I love the spring. The air smells so good!
  • I will attend Grossmont College for Fall 2018.
    English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital


Religions are always capitalized.

  • My family is Catholic.
  • My neighbors practice Islam.
  • We are learning about Buddhism in school.


Languages are capitalized when written in English.

  • I will be studying English in San Francisco this fall.
  • She speaks Farsi and German.
  • I would love to improve my English phrasal verbs.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Holidays and festivals

Official holidays, festivals, and celebrations are capitalized.

  • What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
  • I love dressing up for Halloween. It’s my favorite time to be in the U.S.!
  • San Diego’s Little Italy hosts the Art Walk every spring.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Periods of time

Periods of time that have official names are capitalized.

  • Dinosaurs lived during the Mesozoic Era.
  • I enjoy art from the Middle Ages.
  • When did World War II officially end?

Visiting Sacramento, California’s Capital

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

The word “capital” is often confused with the word “capitol.” Do you know the difference? A capital is the government headquarters, but a capitol is the actual building.

The most famous cities in California are probably San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles . . . but the state’s capital, Sacramento, deserves some attention! Have you been to Sacramento? This beautiful city is located between two rivers and is known for its diverse population, tree-lined streets, historic Old Sacramento, incredible restaurants, and sports teams.

In honor of all things related to “capital and capitol” (in language, government, and architecture), we are looking at some of the highlights of Sacramento. Here are a few things you should see and do on a trip to Sacramento, California.

Old Sacramento

What did California look like in the 1800s? A trip to Old Sacramento will give you an excellent idea! This eight-block area has over 100 shops, restaurants, and many museums. Visit the old schoolhouse, take a ghost tour, ride a classic horse carriage, learn about the Gold Rush with the Gold Fever tour, and ride a riverboat before having dinner on the Delta King, a floating hotel and restaurant.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Capitol building

Before seeing the government at work, walk the beautiful parks of the Sacramento Capitol. Go inside for a tour and to visit the museum: you will learn about California’s history while seeing beautiful architecture. Afterwards, visit one of the many award-winning restaurants in the area . . . or take the quick walk to Old Sacramento.

Farm-to-fork dining

Sacramento is known for its restaurants, particularly the restaurants that use farm-to-table (also called “farm-to-fork”) dining. In this concept, the chef has close relationships with local farmers and buys the restaurant’s ingredients directly from the farmers. This allows the chef to control the quality of the ingredients.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Kings and Sacramento River Cats

While in Sacramento, check out a basketball or baseball game! An evening at a Sacramento Kings game is full of excitement and energy. During the warmer months, enjoy beautiful Raley Field and a River Cats baseball game. Play ball!

Photos from Pixabay. River Cats photo from River Cats Facebook.