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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, February 10, 2006


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

I have noticed of late that many otherwise intelligent people do not know (or were never taught) the correct past participle for many irregular verbs. Have they discontinued teaching the conjugation of verbs?

This is a great question and a problem that many students of English, as well as native speakers, struggle with. In fact, the conjugation of verbs is taught to both native and non-native speakers and is the grammatically correct form to use. However many English speakers still do not use the correct forms of verbs.

One of the reasons they do not conjugate the verb is that sometimes it is difficult to remember the correct form, particularly with uncommon verbs. Also, when someone is speaking fluently, they may just use the wrong form by mistake. Finally, there are people who simply use the base form of the verb because it is easier and they feel that it isn’t important to use the correct form. In all cases, however, it is grammatically incorrect to not conjugate the verb.

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

Thursday, February 09, 2006


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 :

Mail (sending something by post)= Male (opposite of female)

Made (the past of “make”) = Maid (a person who cleans)

Seen (the past participle of “see”)= Scene (part of a movie)

Would (a modal) = Wood (the material from trees)

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


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.

Writing for business is also a skill that often needs practice. Business writing requires formal language and also follows a particular style. It is important to pay attention to the common phrases and vocabulary that is used for business writing.

There are many websites that give information on writing business letters. These include common phrases that are used, the style that should be followed, as well as things to avoid, such as using acronyms. Check out some different sites for information about the newest writing etiquette.

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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

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.

Writing is a great way to practice your English skills on your own, at home or at school, and anytime that you like. You don’t need much equipment – just a piece of paper and a pen (or a computer) and you can start writing.

Don’t worry about what to write. You can write anything. Write down your thoughts, new ideas, or what you did on the weekend. You can also try describing something through writing, such as what your room looks like, what Canada is like or describe one of your friends. Writing will help focus and improve your grammar and your vocabulary.

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

Monday, February 06, 2006


Today, Monday February 6, 2006, Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was sworn in to office. Harper is now the official leader of Canada with a minority Conservative government.

This morning, a ceremony took place designating Stephen Harper as the new Prime Minister of Canada. As well, his new cabinet was also sworn in. There are 27 members in the new cabinet, including six women. This is much smaller than the previous cabinet of the Liberal government, which had 39 positions.

The biggest surprise in the new cabinet was the former Liberal industry minister David Emerson, who has joined the Conservatives as minister of international trade.

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


Do you find understanding jokes confusing? Well, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most students struggle with understanding humor. This is often because of the use of double meanings of words or phrases. See if you can figure out why this joke is supposed to be funny.

Q: Who earns money driving their customers away?

A: A taxi driver.

This joke has a double meaning because of the phrasal verb “drive away”. One meaning for “drive away” is to cause someone or something to leave. For example, the rain drove away all the people in the park. This is typically a negative meaning. Another meaning for “drive away” is to leave somewhere by driving in a vehicle, such as what a taxi driver might do.

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