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Grammar Lesson of the Month: The Modal “MUST” + 5 Things CISL Students Must Do in 2016

January 1, 2016

A New Year means New Year’s Resolutions: do you have any for 2016? When you are studying English in San Diego or San Francisco, there are so many fun resolutions to make! For January’s Grammar Lesson of the Month, we are looking at the modal MUST and 5 things you simply MUST do while living in California.

California Palm Trees

The Modal MUST

The modal MUST is used to show obligation.

  • Employees must always treat customers with respect.
  • You must always bring a passport when you travel.
  • You must not smoke when inside.

MUST is also used when giving strong advice.

  • You mustn’t worry so much about the future.
  • You must see the new Star Wars movie! It’s so good!

When using MUST to give strong advice, we often speak about things we love and want our friends to see or do.

  • When you are in San Diego, you MUST go to Mission Beach. It’s so beautiful!
  • You MUST try fish tacos while you are in San Diego!

For this reason, we use the modal MUST to describe the “Must-do” things for travelers. The following list includes CISL’s “Must-do’s” for 2016. How many of these will you make sure to do while you are studying English at CISL?

“Must-do’s” for CISL Students in 2016

San Diego Beach Sunset Surf

Watch a California sunset

Is there anything better than watching the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean? To Californians, watching the sun set is an almost religious experience. Grab your friends, sit on the beach (or get a table at your favorite beach hangout), and toast to the end of a beautiful California day.

Read about restaurants with the best ocean views in SD and the best rooftop bars in SF.


Eat a burrito (or three!)

Burritos are a big part of California culture, and depending on where you live, your burrito will be different. What’s your preference: a Southern California carnitas or California burrito with avocado, or an SF-inspired Mission burrito with cilantro rice and black beans?

To learn the differences in burritos, read all about California’s Burrito Culture.


Check out the local museums

San Diego and San Francisco are packed full of incredible museums, and entrance is often discounted for young adults or students. Talk to the CISL Front Desk for information on discounts, or read about the museums in San Diego’s Balboa Park and San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. The latter is an awesome museum unlike any other!

Road Trip Ocean

Plan a road trip

It might be hard to leave a city as beautiful as San Diego or San Francisco, but the rest of California is calling! Take a trip to Los Angeles, cross the border into Nevada and hit up Las Vegas, see beautiful Yosemite, wine taste in Napa Valley, go skiing in Big Bear or Lake Tahoe, explore sunny Santa Barbara . . . your options are seemingly endless when it comes to exploring the West Coast.

Click here to learn about renting a car if you are an international student.


Get outdoors

Californians love nature, and San Diego and San Francisco offer many trails, national parks, and beautiful beaches to enjoy. Enjoy our Guide to Hiking In and Around San Francisco before hitting the trails!


What are your resolutions for 2016? We would like to wish our students a Happy New Year! We are looking forward to helping you improve your English skills while studying at CISL . . . all the while enjoying the beauty of California.

All photos from Shutterstock. 

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Using the Imperative Voice for Giving Directions in English

April 30, 2015

San Diego and San Francisco are incredible places to study English, and each city offers so many exciting activities that sometimes, it is hard to leave! But the mountains, beaches, charming towns, gorgeous nature, and fast-paced cities of California beckon.

CISL students often take road trips while studying in SD or SF, and part of the fun is renting a car and driving to your destination. But, as we all know, driving includes . . . getting lost! To give or receive directions, you must understand the Imperative Voice. This is what we use to give commands (like directions) in English. Learn this grammar form and you are one (giant) step closer to being the best navigator on your next road trip!

Planning the perfect Memorial Day Weekend getaway? Click here for CISL’s guide to planning this trip!

Click here for information on how to rent a car while in San Francisco. 

Using the Imperative Voice for Giving Directions in English

Using the Imperative Voice for Giving Directions in English

Overview of the Imperative Voice

The Imperative Voice is simply the base form (infinite without the “to”) of any verb. You do not have to conjugate the verb to match the subjects, as with English tenses. As you can see from the examples below, it is used to give commands.


  • Call me when you get home.
  • Turn off the car.
  • Look over there!
  • Come here.
  • Stop it.

Click here for CISL’s guide to taking a road trip to Las Vegas. 

The Imperative Voice (Affirmative)

When we use the Imperative Voice in the affirmative, we are giving instructions or commands.


  • Turn left.
  • Take the next right.
  • Turn in here.
  • Keep going straight.

Click here for CISL’s guide to taking a road trip to Napa. 

The Imperative Voice (Negative)

For the negative form of the Imperative Voice, we use DO + NOT + BASE VERB. Usually we make DO + NOT into a contraction.


  • Don’t take the next right.
  • Don’t turn here.
  • Don’t drive too fast.

Click here for CISL’s guide to taking a road trip to Palm Springs.

Tips for Using the Imperative Voice

The Imperative Voice is very direct. In normal conversation, it isn’t always the best way to express yourself because it can seem very impolite. However, in a situation like giving directions, the Imperative Voice is necessary: you might not have a lot of time to give the directions before you miss a turn!

If you have a little more time, you can “soften” the language a little by adding phrases like “it’s a good idea to” or “you will need to” before the verbs.


  • You will need to turn left up here.
  • It’s a good idea to take the next left.
  • Try to take the next street.
  • If you can, turn left up here.

Click here for CISL’s guide to taking a road trip to Lake Tahoe.  

Helpful Vocabulary

The vocabulary words listed below are very helpful for giving directions. How many do you know?

General vocabulary

  • continue
  • turn
  • keep going
  • go straight
  • on ramp
  • off ramp
  • highway/freeway
  • intersection
  • stoplight
  • stop sign
  • to speed
  • speed limit
  • corner
  • park/parking
  • turnoff


  • take a left/right
  • take the next street/turn

Phrasal Verbs

  • turn in (to a place)
  • pull in (to a place)
  • pull over (stop the car and park it on the side of the road)
  • slow down
  • speed up
  • go ahead
  • go over (the speed limit)

Practice giving imperative voice directions

The image below is a map of a walking route from CISL San Diego (which is located Downtown) to beautiful Seaport Village, where many students go after school to relax, have lunch, shop, and view the San Diego Bay. Can you give a friend directions using the vocabulary from the lists above? Once you have mastered this, you will be ready to give directions to a driver during your next road trip! The only question is . . . where should you go?


Click here for CISL’s guide to taking a road trip to Bodega Bay.


CISL San Francisco Las Vegas Student Activities

Weekend Adventure in Las Vegas!

September 10, 2013

7 students, 5 Drivers from 4 different countries, 3 States, 1 Van, All in One Weekend Adventure!

CISL San Francisco students enjoying a weekend in Las Vegas

CISL San Francisco students enjoying a weekend in Las Vegas

Students at CISL San Francisco work hard during the week and plan exciting weekend getaways to enjoy the U.S. as much as possible. I spoke with Thais, a long-term student from Brazil, one Monday morning during Break time and she told me about the fabulous road trip she and her friends had taken over the weekend. After class on Friday afternoon, the students rushed to a local rental car company and selected a classic minivan.  The first stop on their trip was Las Vegas, a journey 8 hours and 570 miles away. The students on the trip were from Brazil, France, Spain, and Switzerland so they had a lot of opportunity to speak in English throughout the course of the weekend.

After a fun evening enjoying the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas city lights, the students set out on their journey to the Grand Canyon. It was a first-time experience for everyone and though they had to drive another 4 hours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon they couldn’t have been happier.

At one point Thais told me that they got into a controversial midnight debate with their international friends in the van. “At that point, I didn’t know which language I was speaking. It was a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and French, but my objective was to speak in English!”

The beauty of studying at CISL San Francisco is that there are so many exciting destinations close by. Often times our students enjoy visiting Yosemite National Park, the central coast of Carmel and Monterey, Napa Valley for winetasting, Hollywood, and more. The trips are always more exciting when taken with great international friends to these new destinations. The result is an All-American experience filled with a variety of global perspectives.

Where are you most excited to travel when you study at CISL?