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Ask Doctor English
Your ESL and English language learning specialist. Ask Dr. English whatever you like about the English language.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Here is a chance for you to have your questions answered by Doctor English. Today’s question is:

How do you pronounce the “TH” in many words?

Pronunciation of the English language can be a challenge, which is why this is a great question to ask. As with many constant sounds, “TH” can be voiced or unvoiced. (If you are not sure of the difference between voiced and unvoiced, voiced sounds are like “B” and “V” and unvoiced are like “P” and “F”). The voiced “TH” is in words such as in this, their, they. The unvoiced “TH” is in words such as in thick, fifth and tooth. Notice the difference in your tongue when you pronounce the voiced or unvoiced form.

The difficulty however, is knowing when to pronounce the voiced or the unvoiced “TH”. This depends on the position of “TH” in the word. In the initial position, the "TH" is voiced in function words such as pronouns, articles, and demonstrative adjectives (they, them, etc.). In the medial position, it is voiced when followed by "er" or a final silent "e" (feather, mother, etc.). In the final position it is voiceless with one exception: "smooth". Keep in mind, that in English there are always exceptions to the rule!

Thank you for sending your questions. If you have any further queries, please email Doctor English at drenglish@vec.ca.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Do you find learning Slang Expressions confusing? Well, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most students struggle with the many slang expressions in the English language.

The best way to learn new slang expressions is to listen to how and where they are being used. The most important thing for a non-native English speaker is to UNDERSTAND slang expressions, not necessarily to use them. If you do try to use a slang expression, use it in the SAME situation in which you heard it being used and do not try to apply it to other situations. This is how slang expressions are often used incorrectly.

Here are some slang expression related to animals:

Cat got your tongue?

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off

Raining cats and dogs

Kill two birds with one stone

In the dog house

See you if you can find out the meanings of these slang expressions and in what situations you might use them. Dr. English will provide the answers in the next edition of WORDS, WORDS, WORDS.

If you would like more information on WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


One of the challenges of learning English is that the language changes depending on the English-speaking country in which you are in. Whether you are in Canada, the United States, England, Australia, or any of the many other countries in which English is the primary language, you will find the language changes. Not only are there distinctions in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, but there are also many cultural differences which affect how we use the language.

In Canada, the leader of our country is called the Prime Minister. The Governor General is the Queen’s representative in Canada, being that Canada is a Commonwealth country. Yesterday, our current Prime Minister Paul Martin met with our Governor General Michaëlle Jean, to dissolve Parliament. This was due to a no-confidence vote Monday evening.

This means that there will now be a federal election on January 23rd. Over the next few months, you will see and hear the campaigns of the various political parties. Try to read the newspaper, listen to the news or look on the Internet for information about the different parties. There may be unfamiliar vocabulary terms, so please email Doctor English with any queries.

If you would like more information on CANADIAN, EH?, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Using English for business purposes can be challenging. Typically speaking business English is more formal than the language used in everyday situations. However you need to consider not only the use of the language, but also the culture when using English in a business environment

An important aspect to using English in a business setting is utilizing the telephone. Most non-native speakers are uncomfortable using the telephone for business so practicing telephone conversations with friends can be really helpful.

For example, imagine that you and your friend are from different companies and think of a situation where you might need to call that person. Then, use role-playing to help you gain confidence using the telephone. Remember to use formal expressions in your conversation. Instead of saying “How’s it going?” say “How are you?” and be sure to use polite modals such as “would” and “could”.

If you would like more information on BIZ TALK, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.

Monday, November 28, 2005

T.I.P.S – To Improve, Practice Skills

Tired of studying English through basic grammar practice? There are many other creative ways to practice and improve your language skills than just by using a textbook.

Another way to pass time during the cold winter season and improve your English is through playing board games. Board games are a great way to have fun with friends, keep warm inside and increase your vocabulary.

There are many fun board games to choose from, however ones that involve using words will help you to add new expressions to your vocabulary. A favorite game of Doctor English is Scrabble. Feel free to use a dictionary to help you discover new words. Other games such as Taboo, Boggle and Balderdash as well as many others are also options to help you increase your language skill and have fun at the same time.

If you would like more information on T.I.P.S for English, please email Doctor English with your questions at drenglish@vec.ca.