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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 16, 2005


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

How do I know what preposition to use?

This is a complicated question with a simple answer. There are really no rules for prepositional use (there are some guidelines, but often there are too many exceptions to make it a rule). Therefore, the only way to know which preposition to use is by practicing the prepositional combinations.

They reason that native speakers know which preposition to use is only because it sounds right. They have said or heard the combination many times and simply use the preposition for that reason. Doctor English recommends that you practice saying the prepositional combinations out loud to help you remember them. For example, repeat the phrase “demand for, demand for, demand for” fifty times and it will help you to remember the next time you say “demand” to follow it with “for”.

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

Thursday, December 15, 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.

Many students of English struggle with differences in vocabulary between “North American English” and “British English”. In many schools where English is not the first language, students are taught British English. Therefore, when they come to Canada, they are surprised to find that we use different vocabulary in some cases.

One situation in which there are differences is when talking about parts of a car. For example in Canada the front of the car is the hood and in Britain it is the bonnet. The back of the car in Canada is the trunk and in Britain it is the boot. Also, we call a vehicle that is bigger than a car a truck and in British English it is called a lorry.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Do you find English pronunciation confusing? Well, don’t worry - you are not alone. Even native speakers of English struggle with how to correctly pronounce some words.

One of the reasons why English pronunciation is difficult is because there are many words which are spelled differently, have different meanings, but are pronounced EXACTLY the same. These are called homophones. Here are some examples of commonly mispronounced homophones :

Dye (the color you use on hair = Die (the verb for death)

Band (musical group) = Banned (restricted/not allowed)

Steal (to take smth/ rob) = Steel (the material)

Wear (to put on clothes) = Where (question word –location)

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

Tuesday, December 13, 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

In business, it is essential to make a good first impression and therefore it is valuable to practice and feel confident with your formal greeting.

When you first meet a client or colleague, smile and make eye contact. Offer your hand and make sure that your handshake is strong, but not overpowering. Say “Good morning (or afternoon) Mr. (or Mrs/Ms.) Family Name. Nice to meet you “. Introduce yourself if the person does not know your name by saying, “My name is Bob (first name) Smith (family name).”
Role-playing this type of introduction or greeting will help you feel more comfortable and make a good first impression.

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

Monday, December 12, 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.

Participating in sports is a great way to utilize your English skills and have fun. Team sports are a good way to practice your communication skills with other team members, however individual sports can also give you a chance to use your English.

For example, a popular sport in the winter is skiing or snowboarding. This is a sport which you practice on your own, but has a great social element to it. When you are riding on the chair to the top of the hill, you have a perfect opportunity to talk to the person or people next to you. Ask them questions about what run they like to ski or make a comment about the snow or weather. That will help you get a conversation started and use your English skills.

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