Dear John letters

Monday, August 8, 2016




There is a famous quote that says, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," which means that separation intensifies love. Unfortunately this isn’t true for everyone because of the Dear John letter. 

A Dear John letter is a letter (or maybe an email nowadays) from a woman to a man (or vice versa), breaking off (terminating) a romantic relationship. Dear John letters are typically sent to servicemen or soldiers overseas by a wife or girlfriend, usually because they have found someone else. Rather cruel, isn’t it?

A romantic letter might contain affectionate language, such as Dearest John, Darling, or Dear Johnny, but if a serviceman received a letter beginning with an abrupt Dear John, the receiver would instantly know its purpose. Bad news.

Why John? It’s not sure how the name John was used. It was a popular name during World War ll (when Dear John letters started becoming a fact of life). Another reason may be that John is a name commonly used  when referring to any unidentified man (like John Doe).

These days you don't have to be in the service to receive a Dear John letter. Perhaps nowadays people end relationships with texts, which are just as heartless. Do you do something similar in your country to end a personal relationship? I hope you practice something more compassionate than sending a Dear John (or Dear Jane) letter.

American culture: dog bakeries

Monday, July 18, 2016



When you’re a sucker for something, you’re particularly attracted to or you like a specified thing. It’s informal English, for example:





  • Marco is a sucker for barbecued ribs.
  • Matteo is a sucker for Ray-Ban sunglasses.
  • I don't know why Debbie never takes a vacation. She’s a sucker for punishment, I guess.


For me, I’m a sucker for bakeries. I love the smell of freshly baked bread or simply looking in pastry shop windows. Most of all, I love eating pastries.

Americans often look for opportunities: If they like something, they feel others might like it too, including their pets. With this attitude, the dog bakery was born.

Do dogs have a weakness for bakeries? They must, because canine pastry shops have sprung up (grown) in cities all across the US. They have very funny names too, like Doggie Bistro, Petlicious Dog Bakery, The Barkery, and more.

Pet owners care more about the quality of food they feed their animals because often store-bought treats have a high amount of sugar, preservatives, and chemicals. Dog-friendly ingredients are typically natural or organic products, such as peanut butter, oats, whole wheat flour, or carob (no chocolate for dogs), so this is the main reason for the popular dog bakery trend.

In addition, there are some very attractive choices to treat your pet. Think doggie donuts, birthday bones, doggie cannoli, or puppy peanut butter cups. Who can resist?

Get your feet wet

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting wet is a great way to stay cool during the summer and you’re lucky if you live near the beach, a lake, or a swimming pool.

Since this blog is all about improving English, our focus is only on getting our feet wet, an idiom.

When you get your feet wet, you’re experiencing something for the first time and are slowing becoming used to the situation. The expression suggests the image of a swimmer slowly getting into the water rather than jumping in. Here are some examples:


- Christian has never played basketball so he practiced dribbling the ball just to get his feet wet.
- To prepare for her first public speech, Lisa rehearsed in front of her family to get her feet wet.
- Greg was excited to get his feet wet behind the wheel at his first driving lesson.


Are you getting your feet wet in some new activity? If so, please leave a comment. I would love to hear about it :)

Regular activities in the past with “used to”, “use to”, and “would”

Thursday, May 12, 2016



When you look back at your childhood or reflect on your life, do you ever think about activities that you did often in the past but don’t do any more now?

In English, the expressions use to and used to help you convey those activities that were regularly done in the past. When the statement is positive, the expression is used to.

- Bob used to go to the cinema every Saturday.
- Lucy used to be so excited about her birthday.
- Sheryl’s favorite color used to be purple.
- Brad used to ride his motorcyle without a helmet.

When the sentence is negative, we eliminate the “d” to make use to.

- I didn’t use to like eating vegetables; now I love them.
- Kim’s hair didn’t use to be blonde.
- Angelina didn’t use to laugh so much. She’s much more fun now.
- Bill didn’t use to like smart phones until he bought an iPhone.

Note that both used and use are followed by an infinitive.

Would also expresses repetition in the past. In this case there is no infinitive that follows, only the root verb.

- Nancy would always eat her dessert first.
- My dad would often sing at home.
- Otis would always arrive ten minutes late for everything.
- Lola would often go running to elminiate stress.


Now it's time to get nostalgic :)

Spring sprouts

Wednesday, April 20, 2016




Spring is the season of new beginnings and, for plant life, seeds get everything started.

Do you know the terminology for the evolution of a plant from its seed to maturity? It really seems like magic when seeds emerge into tiny plants after only a few days.

When seeds are planted, they first grow roots, which anchor plants in the soil. Once roots develop, a small plant will begin to emerge and eventually break through the soil. When this happens, we say that the seed has sprouted and the scientific name for this whole process is germination.

A sprout is also a noun: it’s the shoot of a plant. With the correct amount of water and sunshine, the shoot (or sprout) grows and different parts of the plant develop: the stem, leaves, flowers and fruits.

The stem is the stalk of the plant. It helps the plant stand upright. It carries water and minerals from the roots to the leaves and carries food prepared by the leaves to the different parts of the plant.

The leaves take in light that the plant uses to make food (photosynthesis). Flowers, the reproductive parts of the plant, continue the life cycle by either turning into fruits with seeds, or by simply carrying seeds so other plants can grow.

So here we are back to where we started, with the little seed. Even though they’re small, seeds contain food and all the instructions necessary to become a plant. I wish I could exist so efficiently.

"A" or "an" before "H" words

Tuesday, April 5, 2016



The English language is certainly full of exceptions. There are rules, and then there are exceptions to these rules.

One rule that is hard-and-fast (fixed, strongly enforced) is with indefinite articles (a, an) before words:

  • Use “a” before words that begin with a consonant, such as “a surf board,” “a potato chip,” or “a crazy person.”
  • Use “an” before words that begin with a vowel as in “an exit,” “an avalanche,” or “an uncle.”

Simple, right? Then what about "H" words? Many letters of the English alphabet do more than one job. They are pronounced in some words and silent in others, so to use the correct indefinite article, the pronunciation of "H" words is key (very important).

  • Use “a” before words with a voiced “H” such as “a hero,” “a holiday” or “a hangover.”
  • Use “an” before words where you don’t pronounce the letter “H” such as “an herb,” “an hour,” or “an honest answer.”

Indefinite articles before words that begin with "H" are no problem if you know their correction English pronunciation.

Look at, watch, and see

Friday, March 25, 2016



When you're at the cinema, are you watching a film or are you looking at it? To be precise, you are watching it.

Why is it watch and not look at if they mean practically the same thing? It depends on how long your attention is on the activity.



Look at and watch are both active words. It’s something you want to do.
Look at is for a short time. We are trying to see what it is and we are paying attention.
(Example- Nancy looked at the clock.)

Watch is for a longer period of time. We observe attentively, typically over a period of time. (Example- Let's watch television.)

See is an inactive word. When your eyes are open, you do it without thinking; something “comes to our eyes”. It doesn’t always mean that we are paying attention. (Example- Richie saw an eagle in the sky.)

I often hear errors from English learners regarding look at, watch, and see. For example, when you talk with something in person or on Skype, you look at them. You're not watching. You're not observing their activities. It's an interaction, so you look at them and they look at you. In Hawaii, many tourists like to go whale watching (an extended activity).

Think about your attention to an activity (active or passive) and how long your attention is on an activity (short or long time) and you'll have no problem with look at, watch, or see.