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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
American Traditions Featured Listening Practice Vocabulary

Christmas Pop Songs + Holiday Vocabulary

December 15, 2016

The holiday season is here, and with it comes the traditions of this time of year: drinking eggnog, giving gifts, hanging stocking by the fireplace, ice skating, and of course decorating the tree! Another holiday tradition? Famous pop stars often produce a Christmas or holiday-themed album. Sometimes the songs are old favorites remade to fit the singer’s style; other times, the songs are brand new. Either way, these songs are great ways to learn holiday-related vocabulary! How many of the songs below do you know? And how many of the holiday-related vocabulary words are you familiar with?

Christmas Pop Songs

Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

This classic pop song is guaranteed to be played at every holiday party. Listen to the song as you also read the lyrics.

Do you know the words below?

Fireplace: the area of the house where the fire is built. 

Stockings: an old word for socks! Now, “stockings” are the large “socks” that people hang on the fireplace. Traditionally, they are filled with gifts and opened on Christmas morning. 

Bells ring: when decorative bells make a sound, they are “ringing.” This is a common collocation!

Kelly Clarkson, “Underneath The Tree”

This simple song repeats many of its lyrics, so it’s easy to learn (and fun)! These romantic expressions are common in holiday songs, since holidays are often associated with romance.

 

To hold something/someone tight: to hug someone closely.

Carolers: people who sing holiday songs to neighbors. 

Snow falling: this is a common collocation. When it snows, the snow is “falling.”

Ariana Grande, “Santa Tell Me”

Is Ariana Grande singing a love song to Santa? It seems so if you read the lyrics! In fact, this “Christmas” song has very few lyrics that are related to the holiday!

Mistletoe: a plant that is placed in houses around the holidays. Tradition says that you must kiss someone if you are standing under the mistletoe together!

NSYNC, “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”

This song covers Christmas and the other holidays with the lyrics “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.”

 

Christmastime: the Christmas season (December).

Have you read our article about the difference between saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays?” N’SYNC uses both salutations in this song!

Christina Aguilera, “This Christmas”

Christina’s beautiful voice makes this traditional Christmas song even more enjoyable . . . and the lyrics to this song provide some excellent English collocations related to the holidays.

 

Hang the mistletoe: to put the mistletoe in a high place (so that people can walk under it and kiss). 

Trim the tree: to decorate the Christmas tree. 

Fireside: the area next to the fire. 

Britney Spears, “My Only Wish (This Year)”

Of course the “Princess of Pop” has a Christmas album! You can read the lyrics here.

 

Christmas Eve: the night before Christmas.

Sleigh: a cart that is pulled by horses along the snow.

Bow: the beautiful (usually red) ribbon around a package.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, “Winter Wonderland”

The song isn’t exactly one you’d think of when you think of pop music, but this combination of pop star Lady Gaga and crooner Tony Bennett lyrics

 

Winter wonderland: a common expression for landscapes covered in snow. 

Snowman: a “person” built out of snow.

To build (or make) a snowman: another collocation! When you create a snowman, you are building (or making) one.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Last Christmas”

The lyrics to this classic song are short and easy. The lyrics also provide an easy way to practice the Simple Past tense, since the singer is talking about what happen “last Christmas.”

Wrapped it up: a phrasal verb meaning to wrap a gift. This phrasal verb is separable. 

Would you like to learn some more holiday-related songs? Check out our post on Popular Christmas Carols.

Happy Holidays to our students and staff!

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!”
Featured Learning Materials Listening Practice Social Media

The best of TED: 5 great videos for English learners

November 7, 2016

TED.com is a much-loved website for learning about everything from the wonders of the ocean to how the internet is so powerful. Because of its vast amount of videos on many subjects, its transcripts, and its subtitles in many languages, TED is also a great place to learn English!

Want to learn a little more about the English language? Check out these fascinating videos! Remember to use the subtitles or transcripts if you find the language too difficult. Enjoy these lessons and the new vocabulary you will learn!

The best of TED: 5 great videos for English learners

“A brief history of plural words” By John McWhorter

We say one book and two books . . . but why do we say one man and two men? Or one foot and two feet? Learn all about these remnants of Old English that still remain in today’s modern English. Check out the University of Victoria lesson on plurals for a full list of irregular plural nouns in English.

“Where did English come from?” By Claire Bowern

Like all other languages, English has evolved. But from what? A language called Proto-Germanic! Learn all about the origins of English in this interesting history lesson and understand why German, French, and Latin words are often found in English. To understand more about how Latin works in English, read our grammar lesson on Latin Words in English.

“10 ways to have a better conversation” By Celeste Headlee

Having a meaningful conversation can be difficult . . . especially when it’s not in your native language! Headlee’s advice is great for native speakers and English learners and will help you as you navigate your life as an international student in California.

“What we learned from 5 million books” by Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden

Have you used Google’s Ngram? It’s a fascinating tool that searches millions of books to see how often words are used. These Harvard researchers explain how Ngram works and what it means for language.

“Your body language shapes who are you are” by Amy Cuddy

When speaking about language, we can’t forget an important one: body language! Cuddy’s inspiring TED Talk about how your body language changes your mental state is an excellent reminder of the many ways in which we communicate. The talk is also great for anyone who has an interview coming up: watch the video and hear her story to understand! Afterwards, read our article on Interview Tips for Career English students.

Featured IELTS Learning Materials Listening Practice

IELTS Writing Part II + Lyrics Training

August 30, 2016

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
― Albert Einstein

Would you like to use music to improve your English? We suggest an incredible website, Lyrics Training!

With this website, you can watch music videos from some of the most popular artists. Under the video are the lyrics, but words are missing. You add the words while the music plays, and Lyrics Training will keep score to see how well you do! Players can choose different levels, such as Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, so that they can play at the appropriate level.

image1 IMG_1659

Check it out!

It’s incredible how the internet has changed language learning. The internet has also changed many things about the entertainment industry. We are looking at this topic, along with the IELTS Writing Part II.

IELTS Writing Part II

With the IELTS Writing Task 2, you must write a minimum of 250 words.

You are given a prompt (a topic). In the essay, the IELTS committee will see how well you:

  • Give an opinion and justify this opinion with reasoning, facts, etc.
  • Discuss a topic
  • Summarize details
  • Illustrate problems and provide solutions
  • Support all of this reasoning by presenting arguments, personal examples, etc.

In short, you must approach a topic, discuss it at length, and present an opinion or solutions.

Let’s look at some Writing Task 2 sample topics.

image2

In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). You should use your personal experience, which would probably include:

  • If your government censors music.
  • Other types of censorship you’ve experience (did your parents censor the TV or computer when you were a child?)
  • Violence that you’ve encountered in movies, film, or video games.
    image1

In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). Your answer will probably include discussions on:

  • The laws on what minors can and can’t do in your country
  • Any examples you have of singers/performers who reached fame at any early age
  • Your government’s influence on matters such as these

FullSizeRender

Your answer might include the following:

  • How you obtain your music (do you download? Watch online? Buy CDs? Why?)
  • The laws your country currently has regarding illegally downloading music or movies
  • A discussion about who owns the internet and who can police it

For more information on the IELTS exam, check out the following:

 Cover photo from Shutterstock.