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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

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

Religions are always capitalized.

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

Languages

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. 

 

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English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN) + SF’s Best Beaches

July 1, 2017

Prepositions are some of the most difficult aspects of English for many language learners: especially English prepositions of location such as AT, ON, and IN. (These are also called prepositions of place.) Learn how to use them properly to avoid confusion! Since CISL offers English courses in San Diego and San Francisco, we can’t think of a better way to practice English prepositions of location than to use examples of these prepositions in relation to something every Californian loves: the beach!

English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

She is AT the beach, ON the sand, and IN the sun. Lucky girl!

English uses AT, ON, and IN for prepositions of location.

AT

The preposition AT can be used for a location, to show a destination, and to show a direction that something moved.

For location:

  • I’m at the store. Do you need anything?
  • I will call you when I’m at home.
  • Meet me at the coffee shop in Little Italy.

For a destination:

  • We will arrive at the final stop soon.
  • I thought the drive would be long, but before I knew it, we were at home!

For a direction:

  • Why are you looking at me?
  • In dodgeball, you have to throw the ball at the other players to try to hit them. (Notice how this is different than throwing a ball TO someone. When you throw a ball TO someone, they try to catch it. When you throw a ball AT someone, you are trying to hit them!)

ON

The preposition ON is used when we speak about the surface of a space. Imagine that something is on top of an area, not inside.

  • I was tanning on the beach when I saw dolphins!
  • I spilled coffee on my shirt.
  • They put some plants on the walkway of the house.
  • I was jumping on the bed and I fell.
English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

Do you get IN the water when you are AT the beach? Or do you stay ON the sand?

IN

The preposition IN is used when we speak about the area of a space. Imagine that something is inside of a space or area.

  • I am in my room.
  • She is still sleeping in her bed.
  • She won’t be in the office this week. She is sick.
English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

IN the wave or ON the wave? Both, actually!!!

Practice: IN or ON?

The prepositions IN and ON are often confused. Try this lesson to see if you understand the difference. Remember: when choosing the preposition, ask yourself if it is inside of a space or on top of a space.

  1. CISL is located __________ San Francisco and San Diego.
  2. The San Francisco location is __________ the top floor of a building.
  3. The school is also located __________ Market Street.
  4. Some students live __________ a hotel __________ San Francisco.
  5. The school is __________ Market Street; Market Street is __________ the Financial District.
  6. The other campus is __________ San Diego.
  7. The school is __________ a modern building.
  8. The building is __________ Broadway.

The answers are at the bottom of this page.

SF’s Best Beaches

San Diego gets all the credit for having beautiful beaches, but the truth is that all of California offers stunning coastline! Have you explored these five beaches that we consider to be SF’s best?

Ocean Beach

Surfers love Ocean Beach for its strong waves, and locals love it because it is a place where they have beach bonfires. Ocean Beach is also the perfect place to watch the sun set in SF!

wavy

A post shared by joe bennett (@tk.joe) on

How to get there:

Take the 5R bus to the La Playa and Fulton St. stop.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach provides visitors with a beautiful view of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, the beach is also a nude beach, but locals know that it is so much more: because fewer people visit Baker Beach than Ocean Beach, it’s a much quieter and more peaceful place for relaxing. Many couples come to Baker Beach to take their engagement or wedding photos, which prove that it’s a romantic beach spot!

How to get there:

Take bus 7 to Lincoln Way and 21st Ave,; transfer to the 29 Baker Beach bus and get off at Lincoln Blvd. and Bowley Ave.

Aquatic Park

Aquatic Park is actually a protected beach and swimming area in the San Francisco Bay. The protective cove makes it a safe place to swim, and Alcatraz and Marin are beautiful backdrops to your day at the beach. The best part? Across the street from the beach is Ghirardelli Square, so visitors have a delicious option for post-swimming dining!

How to get there:

Take bus 47 to Fishermen’s Wharf. Get off at Van Ness and North Point St.

Answers:

  1. CISL is located IN San Francisco and San Diego. (The school is inside the area of San Diego and San Francisco.)
  2. The San Francisco location is ON the top floor of a building. (The school is located on top of 
  3. The school is also located ON Market Street.)
  4. Some students live IN a hotel IN San Francisco. (The students live inside of the hotel; the hotel is located inside of the area of San Francisco.)
  5. The school is ON Market Street; Market Street is IN the Financial District. (The school is on the area of Market street and is located inside of the area of the Financial District.)
  6. The other campus is IN San Diego. (The school is inside the area of San Diego.)
  7. The school is IN a modern building. (The school is inside of a building.)
  8. The building is ON Broadway. (The school is on the area of Broadway St.)
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The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF + Sunset Color Vocab

June 21, 2017

California sunsets are one of the best things about living in this beautiful state. When you’re studying English in San Francisco, be sure to enjoy the sunset each evening! These locations offer the 5 best sunset views in SF.

How amazing are the sunsets in California? Take a look on Instagram and you’ll see! Each of these photos were posted within the last day, which shows how amazing the California sunsets are.

The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF

Twin Peaks


Wear comfortable shoes and grab a jacket: the wind at Twin Peaks can be strong, and the hike up is a bit of work! Once you’re at the top, you have stunning views of San Francisco. Stay after sunset and watch the lights of the city come on: this view is beautiful any time of the day.

Twin Peaks: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Lands End

A post shared by Robert L. Gee (@_no.27_) on


Lands End is a park in San Francisco that has many hiking trails, including the famous oceanside California Coastal Trail. San Franciscans use this trail to run and hike, but they also take a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset from the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Mile Rock Point and Mile Rock Beach.

Lands End: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Bernal Heights Park (and Summit)

A post shared by Karen (@moxykk) on


Bernal Heights Park is built on a hillside, and its park and trails provide stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco. Enjoy the trails and the view past San Francisco: on a clear day, you can see surrounding cities in the Bay Area such as Daly City.

Bernal Heights Park: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Corona Heights Park

A post shared by David Olem (@davidolem) on


Corona Heights Park is next to the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods in SF. The views, which are unobstructed, allow visitors to see Twin Peaks, Downtown San Francisco, and beyond. Be careful: the steps leading up to the top do not have handrails, so it can be a little scary!

Corona Heights Park: Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Alamo Square

A post shared by Steven Lemeshow (@slemeshow) on


This park has views of the most famous houses in San Francisco: the Painted Lady Victorian houses! Alamo Square Park was just renovated and re-opened in May, 2017. In addition to enjoying the architecture of the mansions surrounding the park, visitors can see San Francisco City Hall, Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge . . . and beautiful California sunsets! 

Alamo Square: surrounded by Webster Street (east), Golden Gate Avenue (north), Divisadero Street (west), and Fell Street (south)

Best Sunset Views in SF

Sunset Color Vocab

How do you describe the beautiful clouds, the amazing colors, and the effects of the ever-changing sunset over the Pacific Ocean waters? These colors will help you

Shade:

Definition: the intensity of a color (whether it has more light or dark to it).

Example: Look at the many shades of pink in tonight’s sunset!

Hue

Definition: a color or shade (similar to the word “shade” . . . although an artist could explain that they are different! For learning English, think of “hue” as a synonym for “shade” or “color”).

Example: Last night’s sunset had so many beautiful hues.

Color + ish (blueish, pinkish, etc.)

Definition: a color similar to the one used in the word, but not exactly the color. (Use this word when you don’t know the exact color you’re describing.)

Example: The sky was a blueish, purplish color: it was so lovely.

Stunning

Definition: very beautiful.

Example: What a stunning view . . . and sunset.

Ablaze

Definition: on fire.

Example: The sky was ablaze during the red and orange sunset.

Cast (verb)

Definition: to cause light or shadow to appear on a surface.

Example: The sun cast its light on the clouds and created a stunning sunset.

Ray

Definition: the streaks/lines of light (from the sun).

Example: The sun’s rays were shining through the clouds as it set.

Best Sunset Views in SF

Radiant

Definition: bright.

Example: The radiant sunset was impossible to capture in a photo. You had to be there to really see  it.

Crimson

Definition: a shade of red (often used to describe the sky).

Example: The crimson sky turned into a deep blue.

Glow

Definition: to shine brightly.

Example: It looked like the sky was glowing.

Trace

Definition: a hint of something; a touch of something.

Example: I could still see traces of orange in the sky an hour after the sun set.

Share your California sunset photos to Facebook and be sure to tag CISL and add #CISL to your photos!

Photos from Pixabay. 

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The Word ‘ALSO’ in English + Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

May 1, 2017

Do you know how to correctly use the word “also” in English? It might be a small word (just four letters!) but it is used quite often. Today we are looking at how to use the word “also” in English; then we will look at this word in action by learning about some places you should “also” visit while studying English in San Francisco!

The Word ‘ALSO’ in English

We use the word “also” to add an agreement to a statement.

Examples:

  • Yesterday I went to Little Italy. I also went to Mission Beach.
  • I tried surfing and we also tried kite-boarding.
  • I took the TOEFL exam. I also took the IELTS exam. I know, I’m crazy!

Placing “also” in a sentence

The word “also” is placed in the sentence in relation to the sentence’s verb or verbs.

Use #1: With a “be” verb

The word “also” comes after the BE verb.

Examples:

  • My teacher is a Cambridge instructor. She is also an IELTS teacher.

Use #2: For all other verbs

For all other verbs, “also” is placed before the verb.

  • I tried fish tacos. I also tried a shrimp burrito.
  • My teacher taught us how to use phrasal verbs during the Cambridge Speaking Module. He also helped us learn how to naturally incorporate idioms into our speech.

Notice that these verbs are one-word verbs: in the examples above, we use “tried” and “helped,” which are in the past tense. What about verb tenses that are more complicated?

Use #3: For sentences with more complex verb tenses

For verb tenses that use two words, “also” goes between the two parts of the verb. Examples include the Present Continuous, Past Continuous, or Present Perfect. This also includes verbs that are used with modals.

  • You’ve been to the theater in SF? I’ve also been there!
  • I was also working out last night at the gym.
  • We could go check out Haight-Ashbury tonight. We could also explore the Mission District.
  • When you’re living in SF, you should definitely go to Dolores Park. You should also see the cool Comic Museum!

Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

You’re probably going to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, and Alcatraz. Chances are, you’re going to check out Golden Gate Park, ride a cable car, and explore neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District. But we also suggest that you leave the city on occasion: there is so much to do and see outside of SF! The following suggestions are for day trips or weekend trips for SF residents. Have you visited these really great cities and locations?

Sausalito

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and you arrive in Sausalito, a charming seaside town with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay. The city is famous for its houseboat community (almost 500 in total!) and is a lovely place to explore: check out the Marinship neighborhood’s waterfront and beach (you can rent canoes and kayaks!) and walk down Caledonia street for some excellent shopping. The city is filled with excellent restaurants and adorable cafes.

To most fun way to get to Sausalito is by ferry. Check out our post on Sausalito and the Golden Gate Ferry for more information.

Berkeley

The city is famous for many things: its prestigious university, its liberal community, and its hippie culture are just a few! Berkeley is considered the intellectual heart of California by many: you might feel smarter just walking along its streets! (We are joking . . . but we really do recommend walking down some of its streets, particularly famous Telegraph Avenue and Solano Avenue.)

Berkeley is easily accessed by public transportation: the BART station in Berkeley is located on Shattuck Avenue (very close to UC Berkeley).

Napa and Sonoma Valley

The most famous wine region in the United States is just a short trip from SF! Napa is the most popular of the two regions, but Sonoma also offers award-winning wines and beautiful scenery. Check out some of the tours you can book if you’d like to have a guide, or rent a bike for a closer view of the grapevines! The area also has charming towns to explore such as Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford.

Before taking a trip to Napa, read our article on Wine Tasting Vocabulary.

Santa Cruz

The beach boardwalk, beautiful parks, and downtown are heavily influenced by California surfer and hippie cultures; these locations are some of the many reasons to visit Santa Cruz. Walk down the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and ride the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster, check out the beaches and watch the surfers, and then go hiking in the beautiful mountains and see the gorgeous pine trees.

The Highway 17 Express bus will take you from San Jose to Santa Cruz in about an hour. Check out the Santa Clara Valley Transport Authority for more information.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay’s beaches, water sports, fishing, and hiking make it a popular destination for many Northern Californians. Explore one of California’s most charming seaside towns (and be sure to enjoy some of the Pacific Ocean’s fresh seafood)!

The best way to get to Bodega Bay is by car (it’s less than 1 1/2 hours driving). For information on how to rent a car, read our post on Renting a Car as an English Student. With public transportation, the bus takes about 3 hours: take Bus 72 towards North (from the Perry Street stop) to the Santa Rosa Transit Mall (Second St. and B. St. stop). From the Santa Rosa Transit Mall, take Bus 95 towards Point Arena (Northbound) to the Highway 1 and Tides Inn stop at Bodega Bay.

 

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Best bike routes in SD and SF + biking vocabulary

October 17, 2016

There are so many ways to enjoy nature and stay in shape while studying English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco. From the running routes to the hiking trails to the yoga classes, there is always something to do that will keep you in shape!

Another great way to exercise while you are an international student in California is by biking. San Diego and San Francisco both have great bike paths to help you see the cities while exercising. Check out some of the best sites to plot your next ride, but before you do, be sure to learn some bicycling vocabulary!

Bike paths in San Diego

It probably isn’t surprising that many of the bike paths in San Diego are near the ocean. Ride with the ocean breeze in your face and the smell of the salty sea in the air, and make sure to stop along the way to enjoy some of the boutique shops and beautiful natural sights!

Mission Bay’s scenic 12-mile route

CISL students love the Mission Bay ride, which is 12 miles in total. The many bike rental companies in Mission Beach make it easy to rent a bike if you don’t have one! Check out the City of San Diego’s website for an excellent article about the Mission Bay Bike Ride.

Bike.Biking.Bicycle.Sun.Summer.Beach

San Diego Union Tribune’s Guide

The local SD newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune, has published an excellent guide to biking. This detailed article provides information on the level of difficulty for each trail, tips on where you can stop for bathroom breaks, and other pertinent information such as where to park, things to look out for (such as traffic, or pets on the trail), and ways to extend the trail if you’re not tired once you’ve reached your destination.

Silver Strand Bikeway

This trail, which takes you from Coronado to Imperial Beach, is a favorite for San Diegans (it can also be walked)! Choose between starting or ending in Coronado, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado and the beach voted the Best Beach in the U.S.

>Coronado.HoteldelCoronado.Beach.Hotel

Bayshore Bikeway

Are you ready for a strenuous ride? Check out the Bayshore Bikeway! This route, which is recommended by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, is a total of 24 miles: 13 of these miles are car-free, and the remainder is on designated bike lanes or bike routes. After a ferry ride across the San Diego Bay, your route begins at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Cyclists go through Coronado, the Silver Strand, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista before ending Downtown.

SanDiego.Harbor.Bay.Downtown.Skyline.Sail.Sailing.Boat.Coronado

Bike paths in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

See the iconic bridge in an entirely different way with this famous cycling trip! Starting in San Francisco, make your way across the bridge and ending in charming Sausalito. (Don’t forget to enjoy the view from this side of the Bay!) Numerous cycling companies offer bike rentals and tours.

GoldenGate.SF.SanFrancisco.Bay

SF Gate’s Guide to Flat Routes in SF

Don’t want to bike uphill in a city known for its steep terrain? Check out SF Gate’s excellent Guide to Flat Routes in SF. The secret to avoiding the hills? Knowing when to turn off of heavily traveled streets onto smaller, less-traveled ones in a way that avoids inclines. These routes are known to locals as “wiggles” and, according to SF Gate, “The best known of these serpentines is the one Weiss now correctly uses to connect central Market, via the path behind Safeway and through the Lower Haight, to the Panhandle and the western neighborhoods beyond.”

Couple.Dating.HoldingHands.Bike.Bicycle.Love.Relationship

SFist’s Guide to Bike Paths

In addition to some of the more popular routes, SFist’s Guide to SF Bike Paths provides routes that are slightly lesser known, such as the beautiful Baker Beach ride that’s just 5 miles from the Panhandle. Locals know best!

Bike Vocabulary

bike

Do you know each of these words? If not, look them up!

Bike parts

  • Handlebars
  • Pedals
  • Gears
  • Brakes
  • Spokes

Verbs

  • To pedal
  • To brake
  • To switch (gears)
  • To pump (tires)