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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 17, 2006


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

How do I know when to use A or when to use THE?

For some students of English, learning which article to use can be challenging, especially with “A” and “THE”. There are general rules of how to use them, but remember that in English, there are often exceptions to the rule.

“A” is used to talk about a noun which is not specific, such as “A chair in my office”. We often use “A” the first time we mention a noun, because until we mention it once, it is considering unspecific.

“THE” is used to talk about a noun which is specific. What this means is that both the speaker and listener are familiar with the noun being talked about. We often use “THE” the second, third, fourth, etc., time that we refer to a noun. For example, I can now say “The chair in my office”, because I have already introduced it to you in the previous paragraph.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2006


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.

Here are some slang expression related to sports:

Out in left field

Drop the ball

Step up to the plate

A curveball

Take a raincheck

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, February 15, 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.

It is important to remember and use a person’s name in a business setting. This is valuable because it helps to build a bond or relationship with the person, whether it is a client, colleague or your boss.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember someone’s name, especially if it is a name you are unfamiliar with. In this case, it is helpful if you can write the name down. Then, try to use the person’s name in your conversation, especially at the end.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


February 14 is commonly celebrated as Valentines Day. The traditions of this holiday include the exchange of cards, chocolates, flowers or gifts between loved ones. It is often a day of romance for couples.

The history of Valentines Day is not clearly defined, however it is believed to have originated from Saint Valentine and has Christian and Roman ancestry. One legend says that Saint Valentine was a priest who married lovers secretly and was killed for his illegal actions on February 14th. Another tale suggests that while in jail, Saint Valentine sent a letter to a young woman he loved (possibly the jailer’s daughter) and signed it “Your Valentine”. This is a common expression used in greeting cards today. Whatever story may be true, Saint Valentine was a man of romance, just like the holiday we celebrate on February 14 each year.

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

Monday, February 13, 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.

With the Olympic Winter Games currently taking place in Turin, Italy, this can provide you with many opportunities to practice English. Firstly, try to keep informed about the Olympic events through the news or the Internet. Watch or listen to the news and then check your understanding by looking for information on the Internet.

Secondly, the Olympics is a great topic of conversation and again provides you the opportunity to use and improve your English. Try to talk to people each day of the Olympic Winter Games, which run from February 10 – 26th.

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