Some tricky English prepositions

Posted on 20. Jan, 2015 by in English Grammar

Tricky English prepositions.

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Learning to use prepositions correctly in a new language is not easy! Anyone who says differently is wrong, at least if you ask me. Part of what makes prepositions so tricky is that by themselves prepositions are rather meaningless and almost impossible to define. Prepositions only get their meaning by describing the relationship between other words in a sentence.  This means their meaning can change at times and a lot of their meaning is depending on the circumstances they are used in.

There are some particularly tricky prepositions in English for sure, but this inofgraphic from does a great job of pictorially illustrating and explaining how to use some of these really difficult ones. For example, the difference between ‘in to’ and ‘into’ is really hard to grasp, even for native English speakers.  This infographic does a nice job of highlighting the differences between these two similar prepositions and also giving some hints on how to check to make sure you are using the right one (into vs. in to) in the right context. This infographic also looks at three phrasal verbs that contain prepositions. Knowing the meaning of phrasal verbs, and how the meaning changes, depending on which preposition is used, can be particularly confusing. Again this infographic does an ice job of helping to sort this out.

Here are some more tricky English prepositions that are found in phrasal verbs that you may also want to take note of:

‘provide to’ vs. ‘provide with’
provide to = emphasizes the people receiving something that is provided
provide with = emphasizes what is being provided

Donations were provided to the disaster victims.
The victims will be provided with clothing, blankets, and food.

‘apply for’ vs. ‘apply to’
apply for = people apply for a thing (i.e. a job, a positions, a loan, etc.)
apply to = people apply to a place (the bank) or person (the banker)

Ruth applied to the bank for a loan.
Ruth applied for a car loan.

‘ask for’ vs. ‘ask to’
ask for & ask to = to try to obtain something by requesting or asking


ask + somebody + for + something
I asked him for help.

ask + to + infinitive + somebody
I asked to help him, he said he was fine without help.

Great American Cities – Philadelphia

Posted on 19. Jan, 2015 by in Culture, Travel

After visiting the Big Apple, it’s time to head to one of America’s most historic cities. This is the place where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – Philadelphia.


A map of Philly from Wikitravel.


Name: Way back in 1681, William Penn was given a large amount of land from King Charles II for what would become the Pennsylvania colony. Even though he was given to go-ahead from the British royalty, Penn still bought the land from a native Lenape chief, whom he became friends with. He decided to name the city Philadelphia, meaning “brotherly love” in Greek (philos – love/friendship + adelphos – brother).

Down by the Delaware River.

Down by the Delaware River.

Location: The state of Pennsylvania is located in the northeastern United States, and you’ll find Philadelphia in the southeast corner of the state. It’s located on the Delaware River, and crossing this river brings you into New Jersey. The state of Delaware is also nearby.

Skyline of Philadelphia

Skyline of Philadelphia

Nicknames: Not surprisingly, the most famous nickname for Philadelphia comes from the original meaning – “The City of Brotherly Love.” The name is also commonly shortened to simply “Philly.” Other nicknames include ” The Quaker City,” “The Cradle of Liberty,” and “The Birthplace of America” – all historical references.

Birthplace of America

Birthplace of America

Year Founded: Philadelphia was founded on October 27, 1682. As mentioned above, William Penn founded the city with land given to him from the King. Charles II owed Penn’s father a debt, and this was how he repaid it. Penn and other Quakers seeking religious freedom founded the city as a place where anyone could worship freely.

One of America's most important cities.

One of America’s most important cities.

Population: Just over 1.5 million people live in Philly, making it the 5th most populous city in the USA. It’s a very diverse city and home to people of many ethnic backgrounds. Philly has the third-largest African American population in the country, as well as the second-largest Irish, Italian, and Puerto Rican populations.

Transportation: Since it’s a major city, you can get into Philly just about any way – plane, train, bus, or car. As far as American cities go, Philadelphia has some of the best public transportation in the country. You can get around the City of Brotherly Love on the commuter rail, subway, bus, trolley, or taxi. It’s also one of America’s most walkable cities, so get some exercise and save some money.

Famous Places: As one of the country’s oldest and most important cities, there’s no shortage of historical places in Philly. Perhaps the most famous sight in the city is Independence National Historical Park. It has even been nicknamed “America’s most historic square mile.” Here, you can see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, two of the most famous symbols of the country.

Come to Philly for the crack.

Come to Philly for the crack.

Another must-see is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a building forever immortalized by the film “Rocky” where the main character – a boxer played by Sylvester Stallone – runs up the stairs during his training. It’s a huge museum, so you could easily spend the whole day here taking in all of the artwork.

Climb the stairs like Rocky.

Climb the stairs like Rocky.

That’s only the beginning, though – in Philly you can also visit the zoo, plenty of parks, many more museums, and more historical sites than you could count.

Culture: Philadelphia is a without a doubt a very cultural city. Just look at the many different types of museums you can visit there – art, history, science, and more. There’s a lot more art to be found in the city, including one of the country’s oldest artists’ clubs and plenty of galleries. Philly is also home to the more public art than any other American city.

Art is everywhere in Philly.

Art is everywhere in Philly.

Music is also an important part of Philadelphia’s culture, from in the 70s to rock and rap and in the 80s and 90s. Some famous acts from Philly include: The Roots, Patti Labelle, Boyz II Men, Hall & Oates, and even Will Smith (back when he was the Fresh Prince).

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A more modern day pop culture reference to the city can be found with the hit sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The show, set mostly in an Irish pub, is getting ready to start its 10th season,

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One cannot talk about the culture of Philadelphia without mentioning the city’s most famous dish – the cheesesteak. When you visit, try one at rival restaurants Pat’s and Geno’s and decide who is the king of the Philly cheesesteak.



Sports Teams: Sports are a huge part of the culture in Philadelphia, which makes sense as it is one of only twelve US cities that has all four major professional sports. There’s also a soccer team, but that doesn’t count in America’s major sports. Here’s a list of the city’s pro teams:

  • MLB – Philadelphia Phillies
  • NFL – Philadelphia Eagles
  • NBA – Philadelphia 76ers
  • NHL – Philadelphia Flyers
  • MLS – Philadelphia Union

Philly fans are known as some of the worst in the country – they even booed Santa Claus! So much for the brotherly love…

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Travel Experience: My family actually lived in Philly for a short time, when I was between the ages of 2-6. Despite being so young, I still have vivid memories of my time there – my mom taking me to visit my dad at work, playing in the park, and eating in my favorite restaurant. Through the years, we have been back to visit many times, usually on the way to visit family in Delaware. In the fall of 2013, I got to go back on an east coast road trip that my girlfriend and I were taking. I was excited to show her a city I used to call home for the first time, and we were both happy to be seeing one of our favorite bands in concert there – Philadelphia’s own Disco Biscuits. Friday and Saturday nights were spent at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, as the band put on a weekend-long party called City Bisco.

At a concert in Philly.

At a concert in Philly.

When we weren’t dancing at the shows, we did a bit of sightseeing. First up, we hit South Street to do some window shopping, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy some Happy Hour drinks.

Some scenes of South Street.

Some scenes of South Street.

A cool, artsy shop on South Street.

A cool, artsy shop on South Street.

Art lovers need to make sure to check out the Magic Gardens on South Street. This is the largest mosaic work by artist Isaiah Zagar, made up of just about everything from tiles, bottles, and wheels. It’s an incredibly interesting place to spend an hour or so wandering around.

A great place to spend an afternoon.

A great place to spend an afternoon.

Another afternoon, we did the historical walk through Independence NP and some of Philly’s old neighborhoods. Although I had lived in Philly for a few years and visited many times, I learned more about the city on this visit than I had in my previous 28 years of life.

Historical Philadelphia

Historical Philadelphia

Of course, we couldn’t leave Philly without a visit to the art museum – even if it meant getting out of bed after staying up all night hanging out with friends. After spending a few hours in the museum, we rewarded ourselves for a weekend well done with a cheesesteak from each of the famous restaurants. “Which one was the best?”, you ask… you’ll just have to go and try for yourself!

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art


  • Have you ever been to Philadelphia?

  • If yes, what did you do there?

  • If no, would you like to go?

  • Which places would you like to visit?

English Modal Verbs: How and why to use them.

Posted on 13. Jan, 2015 by in English Grammar

Image by bixentro on

Image by bixentro on

Modal verbs are a unique category of verbs in English, they have their own rules, which are not the same as other verbs. This post offers an overview (or review) of how modal verbs are different from other verbs, and how/why we use them in English.

To start off, here is a list of common modal verbs.

Modal verbs…
…most often to talk about the present. can, must, may, shall, ought, might
… most often to talk about the past. could + have, would + have, should + have, may + have, might + have
… most often to talk about the future. may, might, will, could, should, would

Here are some ways that modal verbs are different from other English verbs.

Modal verbs always require another verb with them in the sentence; they cannot be the main verb of a sentence.

For Example:
I can speak English very well. I can English very well.
You should clean your room. You should your room.

Modal verbs are followed directly by the infinitive of another verb without ‘to’ in front of the infinitive.

For example:
We will dance together all night. We will to dance all night.
They might tell the secret. They might to tell the secret.

The modal verb is not conjugated and neither is the main verb it modifies – just use the infinitive version of the main verb.  Also, the main verb never takes “-s” in the third person present (this is a common mistake).

For example:
She can cook very well. She can cooks very well.
He would come over if he could. He would comes over if he could.

The word “not” is used to make the negative with modal verbs.

For example:
You should not be late to class. You should no be late for class.
Grandpa might not visit us this winter.  Grandpa might no visit us this summer.

Questions that involve modal verbs use inversion. When making a question with a modal verb, the modal verb should be at the start of the question, followed by the subject, and then the main verb.

For example:
Can she come over?
Will you call the police?

Now, here are some reasons why we use modal verbs in English.

They are used to express probability, certainty, or speculation.

For example:
It’s sunny outside, so it must be hot.
My bill can’t be right, I didn’t order all this food.

They are used to express ability or used to talk about skill (generally use ‘can’ or ‘could’ for this).

For example:
Sally can type faster than anyone in the class.
I couldn’t drive until a year ago when I got my license.

They are used to express obligation or necessity and to give advice (generally use ‘must’ and ‘should’ for this).

For example:

You should drive slower when you are near a school.
We must complete this assignment tonight.

They are used to ask for or give permission (generally use ‘can,’ ‘could,’ and ‘may’ for this).

For example:
Could I have your dessert, if you don’t want it?
He may not spend his vacation with us!

They are used to talk about habits (past, present, and future) or repeated past events (generally use ‘will’ or ‘would’ for this).

For example:
When I was a little girl, we would often play out in the yard until it was dark.
No matter what I do, we will always be late leaving the house in the morning.

I hope this overview of modal verbs has been helpful!