Monday, December 6, 2010


Have you heard the news?   That's not news!  Where do Americans get their news?  Read the latest news headlines right here!

What is this word "news" anyway?

When I was growing up, my teachers told me that the word "news" was an acronym that represented the four points of the compass: north, east, west, south.

I now know that's not true, but the word "news" is still a puzzle and interesting for learners of English.

Is it a noun or an adjective?

If it's a noun, is it singular or plural?

The motto of the New York Times newspaper is "All the news that's fit to print."  From this sentence, you can see that it is a noun (the news) and you can see that it is singular (is).

Is it count or noncount? It is a non-count noun.  In the phrase, "That's not news!"  a non-count noun (meaning "news in general"). To quantify this word, use quantifiers such as some (I have some good news for you) enough, not enough, more, less, etc.

The word "news" can also be used as an adjective.  In this phrase, "local news headlines", the word "news" is an adjective (describing the noun "headlines").  The same is the case in the noun phrase, "a news story", where the noun is (a) story.

What a funny word "news" is, and how strange that a noun ending in ~s should be singular!

Do you want to know where this word came from? What is its origin?  The immediate origin of the word is French, from the word nouvelles, meaning new things.  English took this hundreds of years ago and kept the ~s, but uses the word in a singular form.

So now we ask you: Where do you get your news from?   From a newspaper or TV or the radio or from an online source? And why?  Please send us your answers by posting a comment, below.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Difference between a Salary and a Wage

In the end, both a salary and a wage are money that you have earned! And both are money that you've worked hard for!  And whether you earn a salary or wages, you have to report your earnings to the IRS!  

But these are two different words that do not refer to the same thing. So what's the difference between a salary and a wage?

SALARY:  Some jobs pay an amount per year.

This is the meaning of a salary.  For example, if you are the President of the United States, you earn an annual salary. You earn $400,000. per year.  If you are a Supreme  Court Justice, you earn a salary.  Your salary is $223,500  .  If you are a United States Senator, your salary is set at $162,100.

WAGES:  The vast majority of jobs do not have set salaries, but hourly wages.

This is the amount you are paid per hour.  The United States Congress sets the minimum hourly wage, which is currently at $7.25 per hour.

A recent example of an advertisement wrote this:

Hourly Wage for All Hours, Plus Bonus, Putting Up Christmas Decorations  Starting pay is $10 hour. If you are willing and able to climb on steep roofs, you will be paid $12 per hour. Over-time will be paid over 40 hours.

If you are a teacher, you probably have a salary.

If you are a waiter or a waitress, you probably earn an hourly wage plus tips.

Generally, people at "the bottom" of the income scale receive (hourly) wages, that is, they are paid a rate for each hour that they work, while people who are "at the top" of the income scale receive a salary.

So the next question is - what do you ask when you want a raise? What do you say to your employer when - whether you receive an hourly wage or an annual salary, you want to climb that income ladder??

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to Talk about Money and Coins

When you're learning a new language and you are living or visiting in a new culture, there are few things that can cause you to feel so embarrassed and "stupid" as dialogues that occur in public that deal with money when you're trying to purchase something.

Today let's continue to talk about talking about money and after you read this post, you can go out and practice what you've learned.

This is twenty-five cents.

And this is twenty-five cents:

What's the difference?

This is a quarter...

and this is change for a quarter.

If you are at a restaurant and all you have is a one-dollar bill...

...and you want to give the waiter or waitress a 50 cent can ask for
change for a dollar

If you have a quarter and you need a dime, you can ask for change for a quarter.

We have four types of coins commonly in circulation
in the United States:
a penny
a nickle
a dime
a quarter.

We also have a half-dollar, which is less commonly in circulation.

Maybe it will help you to remember the names for the coins if you understand how each one got its name.

The name penny comes from the old English. A penny is worth one cent.

A nickle is so named because it is made of the element nickle.  It is worth five cents.

A dime is worth ten cents. It is so named because of the decimal system, from the old French, meaning one-tenth (here, one-tenth of a dollar).

A quarter is so named because it is worth one quarter (1/4) of a dollar.

Our next blog post will continue to talk about money! 

If I had one dollar for each blog post that I have about money... how much money would I have???

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Talk about Money

You have a one dollar bill and you have a car and you need to put money into the parking meter. The meter takes quarters, dimes, and nickles.

You see somebody nearby and show this person your one-dollar bill and, pointing to the parking meter, you say, "Do you have.....    " and the words to complete your request aren't there.  You feel embarrassed!  You can ask this in your native language so easily, just not in English!  You hope this person will get the message. What is the question you need, what are the words you are trying to get out?


Let's talk about talking about money. Let's talk about the money that you have, the money that you have in your pocket, or in your hand,or the money you'd like to have in your hand!

This is one dollar.

And this is one dollar:

What's the difference? 

This is "one dollar in change"...


...while this... "a one-dollar bill".

So then, what is this, below?

If you answered, "This is something I'd like to have", that's correct, but you can't have it.  If you answered, This is a twenty-dollar bill, you're also correct! This is a picture of my twenty-dollar bill.

So let's get back to our problem:  When you have this...

...and you want this, such as our friend who is at the parking meter,...

...then what do you ask? You ask "Do you have change for a dollar?"

Let's repeat:  "Do you have change for a dollar?"

Let's review today's vocabulary:

a bill (a one-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, a ten-dollar bill, etc.)
change (Please notice that this is a non-count noun.)
money (Please notice that this too is a non-count noun.)

Tomorrow we will continue our discussion about MONEY and HOW TO TALK ABOUT IT.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breaking News: The idiom "to break"

Every CNN page title includes these words: "Breaking News".

What exactly is that? "This story just broke minutes ago...." The media uses (to) break as a verb (and breaking here as an adjective). What does that mean?

Is "a news break" anything like "a coffee break"?

Yes and no.

Yes, in that a news break means that the program is "breaking", that is, temporarily taking a break from, its current program in order to bring you this special news story. So you have a break between classes, or a break in the middle of one long class.

No, in that a news break is supposed to alert or awaken people and gain their attention, whereas a coffee break is supposed to give people a bit of physical and mental relief and respite from a difficult meeting or work day (or English class!)

"Breaking News" is any news that is considered "big" or important enough to interrupt the current story.

Of course CNN and Cable TV always have breaking news. The media use this term so often that it has almost no meaning. When I see the term "breaking news" now, I just ignore it.

And so why do they use this term, "breaking news", so constantly?

It's to gain your readership.

Anybody for a coffee break around now?

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Is Just the Beginning!

Welcome to our English blog.

The focus of this blog is English vocabulary, English idioms, and any expressions in English that we need to live our lives day to day.

And see that dog in the picture to the right? That's our Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Joey.  He doesn't speak English, but he can occasionally understand it.

Please bookmark our blog!


Vocabulary in today's lesson:

a bookmark (noun)

(to) bookmark (verb)