Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two Word, or Phrasal Verbs. Please fill in the blanks and check your answers by clicking on the drop down menu.

"Summer Evening" by Edward Hopper

1. Every morning, I have to my daughter at school.

2. Then, after her school is over, I .

3. After you the application form, to me and I'll check it over.

4. Before you leave the store at night, don't forget to all the lights, and don't forget to any tools that you used.

5. Excuse me. Your television is a little too loud and it bothers me. Could you possibly ?

6. It looks like we all of the dish soap. We'll have to buy some more the next time we go to the store.

7. I'm sorry you have the flu. I hope you soon.

8. We had to the picnic because the weather was terrible.

9. The decorations for the party are still on the walls of the living room. When are you going to ?

10. I haven't decided whether I want to take a credit course next semester or not. I really have to .

11. Guess who I last week? George Parker! I hadn't seen him in five years.

12. I invited Melissa to my party. I sent her the invitation three weeks ago, but I haven't yet.

13. Are you sure that jacket isn't too warm? You should . You'll feel more comfortable.

14. I cooked a lot of spaghetti, but it was very popular. I'm sorry to say that I've .

15. Your English composition has too many mistakes. You should probably .

16. If you forget the meaning of a word, you can always in the dictionary or online.

17. I'm a single mother. It hasn't been easy. I three children by myself.

18. Welcome to my party. Of course you want to know where you can put your coats. You can in the hall closet.

19. He tried to keep it a secret, but his wife that he was planning a surprise party for her.

20. Why are you so excited? She agreed to marry you, but that's no reason to jump up and down. Why don't you try to ?

21. I haven't my new computer yet. It's still in the box!

22. I have a new job. I hope I will my fellow workers.

23. Do you usually early? Yes, I do, because I have to be at work at 7:30 AM.

24. Do you have any more grammar exercises and pronunciation practice? No, I'm sorry. I .

25. My wife and I have a couple of interesting photograph albums. We yesterday.

26. There's no toothpaste left. We've .

27. I've lost my car keys. I have to .

28. I your phone number yesterday. But I can't remember where I .

"If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint" Edward Hopper

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Feathertop" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, from Voice of America.

ANNOUNCER: Now, the VOA Special English program AMERICAN STORIES.


Our story today is called “Feathertop.” It was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Here is Shep O’Neal with the story.


STORYTELLER: The long cold winter was gone at last. At first the cold nights went away slowly. Then suddenly, the warm days of spring started to come. There was new life again in the earth. Things started to grow and come up. For the first time, green corn plants began to show. They pushed through the soil and could now be seen above the ground.

After the long winter months, the crows, the big black birds, were hungry. And when they saw the little green plants, they flew down to eat them. Old Mother Rigby tried to make the noisy and hungry birds go away. They made her very angry. She did not want the black birds to eat her corn. But the birds would not go away. So, early one morning, just as the sun started to rise, Mother Rigby jumped out of bed. She had a plan to stop those black birds from eating her corn.

Mother Rigby could do anything. She was a witch, a woman with strange powers. She could make water run uphill, or change a beautiful woman into a white horse. Many nights when the moon was full and bright, she could be seen flying over the tops of the houses in the village, sitting on a long wooden stick. It was a broomstick, and it helped her to do all sorts of strange tricks.


Mother Rigby ate a quick breakfast and then started to work on her broomstick. She was planning to make something that would look like a man. It would fill the birds with fear, and scare them from eating her corn, the way most farmers protect themselves from those black, pesky birds.

Mother Rigby worked quickly. She held her magic broomstick straight, and then tied another piece of wood across it. And already, it began to look like a man with arms.

Then she made the head. She put a pumpkin, a vegetable the size of a football, on top of the broomstick. She made two small holes in the pumpkin for eyes, and made another cut lower down that looked just like a mouth.

At last, there he was. He seemed ready to go to work for Mother Rigby and stop those old birds from eating her corn. But, Mother Rigby was not happy with what she made. She wanted to make her scarecrow look better and better, for she was a good worker. She made a purple coat and put it around her scarecrow, and dressed it in white silk stockings. She covered him with false hair and an old hat. And in that hat, she stuck the feather of a bird.

She examined him closely, and decided she liked him much better now, dressed up in a beautiful coat, with a fine feather on top of his hat. And, she named him Feathertop.

She looked at Feathertop and laughed with happiness. He is a beauty, she thought. “Now what?” she thought, feeling troubled again. She felt that Feathertop looked too good to be a scarecrow. “He can do something better,” she thought, “than just stand near the corn all summer and scare the crows.” And she decided on another plan for Feathertop.

She took the pipe of tobacco she was smoking and put it into the mouth of Feathertop. “Puff, darling, puff,” she said to Feathertop. “Puff away, my fine fellow.” It is your life.” Smoke started to rise from Feathertop’s mouth. At first, it was just a little smoke, but Feathertop worked hard, blowing and puffing. And, more and more smoke came out of him.

“Puff away, my pet,” Mother Rigby said, with happiness. “Puff away, my pretty one. Puff for your life, I tell you.” Mother Rigby then ordered Feathertop to walk. “Go forward,” she said. “You have a world before you.”

Feathertop put one hand out in front of him, trying to find something for support. At the same time he pushed one foot forward with great difficulty. But Mother Rigby shouted and ordered him on, and soon he began to go forward. Then she said, “you look like a man, and you walk like a man. Now I order you to talk like a man.”

Feathertop gasped, struggled, and at last said in a small whisper, “Mother, I want to speak, but I have no brain. What can I say?”

“Ah, you can speak,” Mother Rigby answered. “What shall you say? Have no fear. When you go out into the world, you will say a thousand things, and say them a thousand times…and saying them a thousand times again and again, you still will be saying nothing. So just talk, babble like a bird. Certainly you have enough of a brain for that.”


Mother Rigby gave Feathertop much money and said “Now you are as good as any of them and can hold your head high with importance.”

But she told Feathertop that he must never lose his pipe and must never let it stop smoking. She warned him that if his pipe ever stopped smoking, he would fall down and become just a bundle of sticks again.

“Have no fear, Mother,” Feathertop said in a big voice and blew a big cloud of smoke out of his mouth.

“On your way,” Mother Rigby said, pushing Feathertop out the door. “The world is yours. And if anybody asks you for your name, just say Feathertop. For you have a feather in your hat and a handful of feathers in your empty head.”

Feathertop found the streets in town, and many people started to look at him. They looked at his beautiful purple coat and his white silk stockings, and at the pipe he carried in his left hand, which he put back into his mouth every five steps he walked. They thought he was a visitor of great importance.

“What a fine, noble face” one man said. “He surely is somebody,” said another. “A great leader of men.”


As Feathertop walked along one of the quieter streets near the edge of town, he saw a very pretty girl standing in front of a small red brick house. A little boy was standing next to her. The pretty girl smiled at Feathertop, and love entered her heart. It made her whole face bright with sunlight.

Feathertop looked at her and had a feeling he never knew before. Suddenly, everything seemed a little different to him. The air was filled with a strange excitement. The sunlight glowed along the road, and people seemed to dance as they moved through the streets. Feathertop could not stop himself, and walked toward the pretty smiling young girl. As he got closer, the little boy at her side pointed his finger at Feathertop and said, “Look, Polly! The man has no face. It is a pumpkin.”

Feathertop moved no closer, but turned around and hurried through the streets of the town toward his home. When Mother Rigby opened the door, she saw Feathertop shaking with emotion. He was puffing on his pipe with great difficulty and making sounds like the clatter of sticks, or the rattling of bones.

“What’s wrong?” Mother Rigby asked.

“I am nothing, Mother. I am not a man. I am just a puff of smoke. I want to be something more than just a puff of smoke.” And Feathertop took his pipe, and with all his strength smashed it against the floor. He fell down and became a bundle of sticks as his pumpkin face rolled toward the wall.

“Poor Feathertop,” Mother Rigby said, looking at the heap on the floor. “He was too good to be a scarecrow. And he was too good to be a man. But he will be happier, standing near the corn all summer and protecting it from the birds. So I will make him a scarecrow again.”


ANNOUNCER: You have heard the American story, “Feathertop.” It was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Your storyteller was Shep O’Neal. The producer was Lawan Davis. Listen again next week at this time for another American story in V.O.A. Special English. I’m Steve Ember.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe


Our story today is called "The Cask of Amontillado." It was written by Edgar Allen Poe. Here is Larry West with the story.



Fortunato and I both were members of very old and important Italian families. We used to play together when we were children.

Fortunato was bigger, richer and more handsome than I was. And he enjoyed making me look like a fool. He hurt my feelings a thousand times during the years of my childhood. I never showed my anger, however. So, he thought we were good friends. But I promised myself that one day I would punish Fortunato for his insults to me.

Many years passed. Fortunato married a rich and beautiful woman who gave him sons. Deep in my heart I hated him, but I never said or did anything that showed him how I really felt. When I smiled at him, he thought it was because we were friends.

He did not know it was the thought of his death that made me smile.

Everyone in our town respected Fortunato. Some men were afraid of him because he was so rich and powerful. He had a weak spot, however. He thought he was an excellent judge of wine. I also was an expert on wine. I spent a lot of money buying rare and costly wines. I stored the wines in the dark rooms under my family's palace.

Our palace was one of the oldest buildings in the town. The Montresor family had lived in it for hundreds of years. We had buried our dead in the rooms under the palace. These tombs were quiet, dark places that no one but myself ever visited.

Late one evening during carnival season, I happened to meet Fortunato on the street. He was going home alone from a party. Fortunato was beautiful in his silk suit made of many colors: yellow, green, purple and red. On his head he wore an orange cap, covered with little silver bells. I could see he had been drinking too much wine. He threw his arms around me. He said he was glad to see me.

I said I was glad to see him, too because I had a little problem.

"What is it?" he asked, putting his large hand on my shoulder.

"My dear Fortunato," I said, "I'm afraid I have been very stupid. The man who sells me wine said he had a rare barrel of Amontillado wine. I believed him and I bought it from him. But now, I am not so sure that the wine is really Amontillado."

"What!" he said, "A cask of Amontillado at this time of year. An entire barrel? Impossible!"

"Yes, I was very stupid. I paid the wine man the full price he wanted without asking you to taste the wine first. But I couldn't find you and I was afraid he would sell the cask of Amontillado to someone else. So I bought it."

"A cask of Amontillado!" Fortunato repeated. "Where is it?"

I pretended I didn't hear his question. Instead I told him I was going to visit our friend Lucresi. "He will be able to tell me if the wine is really Amontillado," I said.

Fortunato laughed in my face. "Lucresi cannot tell Amontillado from vinegar."

I smiled to myself and said "But some people say that he is as good a judge of wine as you are."

Fortunato grabbed my arm. "Take me to it," he said. "I'll taste the Amontillado for you."

"But my friend," I protested, "it is late. The wine is in my wine cellar, underneath the palace. Those rooms are very damp and cold and the walls drip with water."

"I don't care," he said. "I am the only person who can tell you if your wine man has cheated you. Lucresi cannot!"

Fortunato turned, and still holding me by the arm, pulled me down the street to my home. The building was empty. My servants were enjoying carnival. I knew they would be gone all night.

I took two large candles, lit them and gave one to Fortunato. I started down the dark, twisting stairway with Fortunato close behind me. At the bottom of the stairs, the damp air wrapped itself around our bodies.

"Where are we?" Fortunato asked. "I thought you said the cask of Amontillado was in your wine cellar."

"It is," I said. "The wine cellar is just beyond these tombs where the dead of my family are kept. Surely, you are not afraid of walking through the tombs.

He turned and looked into my eyes. "Tombs?" he said. He began to cough. The silver bells on his cap jingled.

"My poor friend," I said, "how long have you had that cough?"

"It's nothing," he said, but he couldn't stop coughing.

"Come," I said firmly, "we will go back upstairs. Your health is important.You are rich, respected, admired, and loved. You have a wife and children. Many people would miss you if you died. We will go back before you get seriously ill. I can go to Lucresi for help with the wine."

"No!" he cried. "This cough is nothing. It will not kill me. I won't die from a cough."

"That is true," I said, "but you must be careful." He took my arm and we began to walk through the cold, dark rooms. We went deeper and deeper into the cellar.

Finally, we arrived in a small room. Bones were pushed high against one wall. A doorway in another wall opened to an even smaller room, about one meter wide and two meters high. Its walls were solid rock.

"Here we are," I said. "I hid the cask of Amontillado in there." I pointed to the smaller room. Fortunato lifted his candle and stepped into the tiny room. I immediately followed him. He stood stupidly staring at two iron handcuffs chained to a wall of the tiny room. I grabbed his arms and locked them into the metal handcuffs. It took only a moment. He was too surprised to fight me.

I stepped outside the small room.

"Where is the Amontillado?" he cried.

"Ah yes," I said, "the cask of Amontillado." I leaned over and began pushing aside the pile of bones against the wall. Under the bones was a basket of stone blocks, some cement and a small shovel. I had hidden the materials there earlier. I began to fill the doorway of the tiny room with stones and cement.

By the time I laid the first row of stones Fortunato was no longer drunk. I heard him moaning inside the tiny room for ten minutes. Then there was a long silence.

I finished the second and third rows of stone blocks. As I began the fourth row, I heard Fortunato begin to shake the chains that held him to the wall. He was trying to pull them out of the granite wall.

I smiled to myself and stopped working so that I could better enjoy listening to the noise. After a few minutes, he stopped. I finished the fifth, the sixth and the seventh rows of stones. The wall I was building in the doorway was now almost up to my shoulders.

Suddenly, loud screams burst from the throat of the chained man. For a moment I worried. What if someone heard him? Then I placed my hand on the solid rock of the walls and felt safe. I looked into the tiny room, where he was still screaming. And I began to scream, too. My screams grew louder than his and he stopped.

It was now almost midnight. I finished the eighth, the ninth and the tenth rows. All that was left was a stone for the last hole in the wall. I was about to push it in when I heard a low laugh from behind the stones.

The laugh made the hair on my head stand up. Then Fortunato spoke, in a sad voice that no longer sounded like him.

He said, "Well, you have played a good joke on me. We will laugh about it soon over a glass of that Amontillado. But isn't it getting late. My wife and my friends will be waiting for us. Let us go."

"Yes," I replied, "let us go."

I waited for him to say something else. I heard only my own breathing. "Fortunato!" I called. No answer. I called again. "Fortunato!" Still no answer.

I hurried to put the last stone into the wall and put the cement around it. Then I pushed the pile of bones in front of the new wall I had built.

That was fifty years ago. For half a century now, no one has touched those bones. "May he rest in peace!"



You have just heard the story "The Cask of Amontillado. " It was written by Edgar Allan Poe and adapted for Special English by Dona de Sanctis. Your storyteller was Larry West. For VOA Special English, this is Shep O'Neal.

Comprehension Check

1. The narrator of the story says that Fortunato has _______________ him since childhood.
a. been angry at
b. made fun of
c. been good friends with
d. given him money

2. Fortunato last words were that he thought the whole thing was a __________ .
a. joke
b. terrible crime
c. bad dream
d. demonstration of wall building

3. Fortunato didn't suspect anything because he thought that the narrator was his ________ .
a. enemy
b. wife's lover
c. future employer
d. friend

4. Amontillado is a type of ______________ .
a. festival
b. wine
c. many colored costume
d. restaurant

5. On the way down to the wine cellar, the narrator and Fortunato had to go past some _________ .
a. tombs
b. other celebrants
c. wet rocks
d. other wines

6. As they walked further into the wine cellar, Fortunato began to ____________ .
a. laugh
b. sing
c. stumble
d. cough

7. Fortunato stared stupidly at two _______________ that were attached to the wall. He didn't know they were meant for him.
a. handcuffs
b. whips
c. knives
d. bricks

8. Before the narrator placed the last brick, he called Fortunato's name, however, he heard _____________ .
a. only a low crying sound
b. Fortunato's curse
c. no answer
d. the sound of scratching

9. Another name for this story could be ________________ .
a. "An Italian Festival"
b. "The Best Wine in Rome"
c. "Wealthy Italian Families"
d. "Fortunato's Fortune"

10. The story is mainly about _______________ .
a. Italian wine
b. a tale of revenge
c. two rich Italians
d. how to find tombs

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Practice with the Present Perfect Progressive Tense. Fill the blanks and check your answer by clicking on the drop down menu.

"Detail of Two Triangles" by Abstract Artist, Jack Reilly

1. It raining a lot this week.

2. your brother and sister getting along?

3. Rick studying hard this semester.

4. I'm tired because working out.

5. Julie in Italy since May.

6. you been studying German?

7. watching TV for 3 hours and we're tired.

8. too hard today. You need a break.

9. raining since you arrived?

10. My brother traveling since he finished school

11. She at that company for three years. (work)

12. The students a new textbook this year. (use)

13. Barry very well lately. (feel -- negative)

14. We a lot about perfect tenses. (learn)

15. it all day? (rain)

16. My sister on her cell phone for the last hour. (talk)

17. My car very well lately. (run--negative)

18. How you in school? (do)

19. How long he her? (date)

20. I very hard on my English. (work)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grammartalk 9hb, Page 2 - Future Progressive Tense

Franz Kline Kooning: Untitled

A: Will you be home later tonight?
B: Yes, I will. I’ll be reading until ten o’clock.
A: Will your brother and sister be home also?
B: Yes, they will. They’ll be playing cards for most of the evening.
A: Would you like me to bring over some ice cream?
B: That’s a nice idea. Yes. We’ll enjoy eating some
ice cream together.
A: Hi, Gloria. This is Arthur. Can I come over tonight?
B: No, Arthur. I’ll be shopping all evening.
A: Can I come over and visit tomorrow night?
B: No, Arthur. I’ll be working late at the office.
A: Can I come over and visit this weekend?
B: No, Arthur. I’ll be visiting my sister in New York.
A: Hi, Gloria. This is Arthur again. How’s Wednesday?
B: No, Arthur. I’ll be visiting my uncle in the hospital.
A: Okay, Gloria. Let’s make an appointment for sometime next spring.
B: No, Arthur. I’ll be getting married next spring.
A: What did you think? I wanted a date? No, I’m engaged myself. I want to sell you an encyclopedia.
B: Oh, really? Then, come over this evening. I’ll be waiting for you.
A: How long will your Aunt Sophie be staying?
B: She’ll be staying with us for a few months.
A: How late will Jose be working tonight?
B: He’ll be working until around 10 o’clock.
A: How late will our daughter be studying this evening?
B: She’ll be studying until she finishes her homework.
A: We’re having some problems with our front door.
B: I’ll be glad to help. When can I come over?
A: You can come over at 7 o’clock. How’s that?
B: That won’t work. I’ll be repairing a window then.
A: Can you come over after you finish the window?
B: I’ll be working on it until 9 o’clock. I’ll come over
when I finish.
A: Welcome to San Francisco. I’ll be your tour guide.
B: What sights will we be seeing today?
A: Well, we’ll be going to Chinatown and North Beach.
B: Will we be visiting Civic Center?
A: Yes, we will. We’ll also be seeing Golden Gate Bridge.
B: But, when will we be having lunch? I’m hungry already.
A: We’ll be having lunch around noon.
B: And after that, will we be going on a cable car ride?
A: That’s right. We’ll also be taking a tour of the zoo.
B: Tell me, tour guide. Where will we be having dinner?
A: I’m glad you asked. We’ll be having dinner at the Cliff House, right at the ocean.
B: It sounds like we’ll be having a great tour of San Francisco.
A: I want to return the dictionary I borrowed.
B: I will be home this evening. You can drop it by then.
A: I don’t want to bother you if you’re going to be busy.
B: That’s OK. I’ll just be doing the laundry.
A: Then, I won’t be coming over this evening.
B: Don’t worry. You won’t disturb me. This evening is fine.
A: How old is Jessica now? She’s a big baby.
B: She’s growing up fast. She’s already one year old.
A: Soon, she’ll be talking and walking.
B: How old is Tommy now? He must be almost 12.
A: Yes. Soon, he’ll be driving and shaving.
B: Soon, he’ll be going out on dates. He won’t be a little boy much longer.
A: How old is Kathy now? She must be almost 18.
B: Yes. Very soon, she’ll be going to college.
A: I can’t believe how quickly time flies.
B: She’ll be living away from home for the first time.
A: It won’t be long, she’ll be starting a career.
B: She won’t be a teenager much longer. Soon she’ll be a young adult.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Past Progressive Tense - Grammartalk 9 (High Beginning)

A: There was a blackout last night in our neighborhood.
B: I was watching TV when the blackout happened.
A: We were cleaning the apartment when it
B: Irene was brushing her teeth when it happened.
A: The cats were eating dinner when it happened.
B: When the blackout happened, nobody expected it.
A: You have a black eye. How did you get it?
B: I got it while I was arguing with my neighbor
A: Mary has a bandage on her finger. What
B: She burned herself while she was cooking dinner.
A: Your aunt and uncle look very worried. Whatʼs up?
B: Somebody stole their car while they were
A: Laura likes to use her time efficiently.
B: She usually does two or more things at the same time.
A: Yesterday, she washed the dishes while listening
to her English tape.
B: The day before yesterday, she fixed the sink while
watching her exercise tape.
A: Last week, she vacuumed the rug while cooking dinner.
B: Too bad. While she was vacuuming, the soup boiled over.
A: There was a robbery at the Bank of America.
B: Really? When did it happen?
A: About 11:00 am yesterday. What were you doing?
B: I was attending class at Mission Campus.
A: What were your parents doing?
B: They were driving to the airport to get my sister.
A: There was an accident on Mission Street last night.
B: I know. I was leaving Walgreenʼs when I saw it.
A: What was Patricia doing when it happened?
B: She was standing on the corner of Mission and 24th.
A: What were your other classmates doing?
B: They were crossing the street at Mission and 22nd.
A: Were you home when the fire happened?
B: No, I wasnʼt home, fortunately. I was shopping.
A: Were your children shopping also?
B: No, they werenʼt shopping with me. They were at the playground, thank God.
A: And your wife? Is she all right?
B: Sheʼs fine. She wasnʼt home, either. She was at work.
A: Do you think Friday the 13th is an unlucky day?
B: Not really. I had a great day on Friday the 13th.
A: So did I. What happened to you?
B: While I was walking on 24th, I found five dollars.
A: Thatʼs interesting. While I was working, my boss gave me a nice compliment.
B: While my sister was waiting for the bus, she met a very nice man.
A: Do you think Valentineʼs Day is especially romantic?
B: Yes, of course. My husband took me dancing.
A: My husband and my children took me out to dinner.
B: While I was getting ready, he sang me a love song.
A: While I was getting out of the cab, he held the door open for me.
B: I like Valentineʼs Day a lot. I wish there were more Valentineʼs Days.
A: Do you enjoy Motherʼs Day?
B: Yes. What mother doesnʼt like Motherʼs Day?
A: Last year, my son gave me flowers.
B: Last year, my daughter gave me a CD with my favorite music.
A: Yes, I heard it. You were playing it while polishing your silverware.
B: I was feeling lonely when suddenly I got a call from my grandchildren.
A: Henry is upset. His day started badly.
B: Why? What happened?
A: He lost his wallet while getting off the bus.
B: Iʼm sorry to hear that.
A: And before that, he cut himself while shaving.
B: Thatʼs too bad.
A: And while he was looking for a bandaid, he slipped on the wet bathroom floor.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Present Progressive Tense

This is a very cool video illustrating the Present Progressive. Enjoy.
These grammar exercises are a great way to review
BASIC ENGLISH. We'll start with the Present Progressive Tense. Use this tense to describe an action taking place in this moment, temporarily, or in the near future.

Exercise One, Exercise Two, Exercise Three, Exercise Four,
Exercise Five, Exercise Six, Exercise Seven

This one, for Level 7/8, is a little more difficult: Exercise Eight
This one is from song lyrics: Exercise Nine
Now, write the contractions; what the British call "Short Form": Exercise Ten

Gene Kelly uses the present progressive tense during his song and dance. Enjoy!
"I'm singing in the rain."

Present Simple and Present Continuous/Progressive

Watch Rebecca's very good explanation of these two tenses on
Present Simple, Present Continuous/Progressive

Present Simple, Present Progressive conversation practice: Grammartalk
Exercise One

Practice Grammartalk 1, Present Simple and Present Continuous/Progressive