Posts by speakspokehavespoken

My name is Sarah and I'm an English teacher. I love helping my students improve their skills and understand how English works. I started this blog to share some tips on learning strategies, resources and tricky grammar points. I'm always happy to hear your ideas or suggestions for the blog!

In, at or on to describe places

Last week I wrote about using in, at or on to describe times. This week, I’ve got some advice on how to use these words to talk about places. Is it in the cinema or at the cinema? In Paris or at Paris? In the train or on the train? Read on for answers to these questions and more.

In

We use in to talk about:

  • closed spaces
    • The laptop is in my office.
    • The car is in the garage.
    • They are in the kitchen.
  • cities, regions, countries
    • They live in Norway.
    • The concert is in Glasgow.
    • She works in the Midlands.

At

We say at when we describe:

  • specific points and locations
    • Let’s meet at the front door.
    • I’m at the station.
    • He’s at the cinema.
  • addresses
    • I live at 14 Long Lane.
    • The company is at 17 Regent Street.
    • Is the restaurant at 8 Market Square?

On

On is used to talk about:

  • floors in buildings
    • I live on the second floor.
    • Our hotel room was on the ground floor.
    • The office is on the top floor.
  • a surface
    • The picture is on the wall.
    • The book is on the table.
    • My bag is on the floor.
  • roads
    • The office is on Station Road.
    • The school is on the ring road.
    • There is a traffic jam on the A47.
  • other ‘long’ places
    • There is a bench on the path.
    • We sat on the riverbank.
    • We walked on the beach.

Exceptions and extra trips

  • on the train or in the train?
    • Both! British English speakers say on the train and American English speakers say in the train, so both are possible.
      • I was on the train when you called me.
      • I was in the train when you called me.
  • in the cinema or at the weekend?
    • If we talk about generally being at a location, we use at.
      • My son’s at the cinema.
      • I’m at the office.
      • We’re at the hotel.
    • If we want to stress that we are inside that place, we can use in.
      • My son’s in the cinema, but I’m waiting outside.
      • I’m in the office; I’m not in the car park.
      • We’re in the hotel, so the rain isn’t a problem.

Do you have any other questions about using in, at and on? Or do you have some more tips? Leave them in the comments below!

In, at or on to describe times

Is it on Tuesday or at Tuesday? In winter or on winter? At the weekend or on the weekend? These little words like in, at or on can be difficult to remember because often they are different in every language. Here are some tips to remember how to use them to talk about times.

In

We use in to talk about:

  • months
    • My birthday is in October.
    • We’re going on holiday in July.
    • She started her new job in February.
  • years
    • They started the company in 2011.
    • The next elections will be in 2023.
    • The protests took place in the year 1968.
  • seasons
    • We always go on holiday in summer.
    • It sometimes snows in the winter.
    • The days get longer in spring.
  • times of day
    • He always drinks coffee in the mornings.
    • In the afternoon I’m meeting a friend.
    • The restaurant was very full in the evening.

At

We say at when we describe:

  • specific times
    • The show starts at 6pm.
    • My train leaves at midday.
    • They’re meeting at half past four.
  • festivals
    • We visit our family at Christmas.
    • They will be away at Diwali.
    • What food do you eat at Easter?

On

On is used to talk about:

  • days of the week
    • Our next appointment is on Tuesday.
    • Do you have time on Thursday?
    • I didn’t go the party on Saturday.
  • dates
    • The conference is on 12th March.
    • My flight is on 20th November.
    • On 5th September we’re visiting customers.
  • special days
    • I’m having a big party on my birthday.
    • We always eat a roast dinner on Christmas Day.
    • Are seeing friends on New Year’s Eve?

Exceptions and extra trips

  • at night or in the night?
    • We say at night to talk generally about things that happen during the night.
      • The stars come out at night.
      • At night my cat is very active.
    • We say in the night to talk about one particular night.
      • I heard a strange sound in the night.
      • We’re flying home in the night.
  • at the weekend or on the weekend?
    • Both! British English speakers say at the weekend and American English speakers say on the weekend, so either is possible.
      • The weather was great on the weekend.
      • The weather was great at the weekend.
  • On Sunday morning or at Sunday morning?
    • Here, we say on Sunday morning because the day comes first.
      • I always go running on Tuesday afternoons.
      • We often go out on Friday evenings.
      • He already has plans on Wednesday morning.
  • At Christmas or on Christmas?
    • We say at Christmas to describe the whole festive period.
      • Our company has a party at Christmas.
      • I like to give my friends gifts at Christmas.
      • At Christmas the shops are always busy.
    • On Christmas Day describes that one day.
      • I visited my grandparents on Christmas Day.
      • Lots of people watch films on TV on Christmas Day.
      • Children get up early on Christmas Day.

Do you have any other questions about using in, at and on? Or do you have some more tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

If or when?

When I see my friend or if I see my friend? When I visited my brother or if I visited my brother? Is there always a difference between if and when, and if so, how do I know which to use? This is one of the most common question my students ask. In many languages, there is just one word for both, so it can be confusing. Here are some tips to help you remember when to use if or when.

Is it always true?

If you are describing something that is always true, you can use if or when and the meaning is the same. Both parts of the sentence should use the present simple. For example:

  • When I’m tired, I go to bed. / If I’m tired, I go to bed.
  • When they win, they’re happy. / If they win, they’re happy.
  • When the price increases, we sell less. / If the price increases, we sell less.

Is it certain?

If something is definitely going to happen in the future, we use when. In these sentences, we’re sure that these things will happen and we’re describing what will happen in that situation.For example,

  • When I see my friend, I’ll give her the information.
  • When I give the presentation, I’ll speak loudly.
  • When he goes to France, he’ll visit the Eiffel Tower.

If I’m not sure something will happen, we use if. All of these sentences talk about things that may or may not happen. For example:

  • If I see my friend, I’ll ask her about her new job. (Maybe I will see her; maybe I won’t.)
  • If I give the presentation, I’ll prepare well. (I don’t know if I will give the presentation yet.)
  • If he goes to France, he’ll visit Nice. (He hasn’t decided yet if he’s going to France.)

If we swap if and will, the meaning changes:

  • If I see my manager, I’ll ask her. (I don’t know if I’ll see her.)
  • When I see my manager, I’ll ask her. (I know I’ll see her.)

Is it the past or just an idea?

If we are talking about something that really happened in the past, we use when.

  • When I was at school, I liked art classes.
  • When I lived in Scotland, we often went to the beach.
  • When I visited my friend, we went to a great restaurant.

However, if we’re talking about unreal actions (in the past, present or future), we need if. These sentences describes ideas that didn’t or probably won’t happen. Here are some examples:

  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a house.
  • If I took a plane, I would get there quicker.
  • If I had read the email, I wouldn’t have made the mistake.
  • If I hadn’t been late, my boss would be angry.

Summary

So, to summarise, we use when to talk about something real in the past or certain in the future. We use if to talk about about things that are not certain or not real. We can use either if or when to talk about things that are always true.


Do you have any more tips to help you remember when to use if or when? Do you have other questions about if sentences? Leave them in the comments below!

The most important sound in English

Want to take your English pronunciation to the next level? You’ve masted vocabulary and grammar, but you’d like to sound more like a native speaker? Or maybe you still find it hard to understand native speakers? There’s one trick that can help to understand and make pronunciation more natural. It all comes down to one sound: the schwa sound.

Though it’s the most common sound in the English language, most people never learn about the schwa sound in their English classes. It is written /ə/ and is pronounced ‘uh’. This video shows you how to make the sound.

The schwa sound is used to say some vowels. In every sentence and some words, there are sounds that are stressed and some which are not stressed. Some unstressed sounds are a schwa sound. Here are some examples of words with this sound:

  • computer /kəmˈpjuːtə/
  • teacher /ˈtiːʧə/
  • under /ʌndə/
  • future /ˈfjuːʧə/
  • yesterday /ˈjɛstədeɪ/
  • company /ˈkʌmpəni/
  • around /əˈraʊnd/
  • about /əˈbaʊt/
  • Australia /ɒˈstreɪliːə/

In addition, in sentences there are some words which are stressed and some which are not stressed. Normally, we stress nouns and verbs because these are most important to understand the meaning.

In these sentences, we could stress the following words or sounds:

Would you like a cup of coffee?

Do you have a laptop?

This is for you.

I’m going to work.

He’s from Malaysia.

Sometimes, we say words that are not stressed as a schwa sound when they are in a sentence. These are some common examples:

  • a /ə/
  • the /ðə/
  • of /əv/
  • to /tə/
  • for /fə/
  • at /ət/
  • from /frəm/
  • are /ə/
  • am /əm/
  • an /ən/

So if I just say the word for I would say: /fɔː/ “four”

But in the sentence ‘This is for you‘ I would say: /fə/ “fuh”

To in the sentence ‘I’m going to work‘ would be: /tə/ “tuh”

And from in the sentence ‘He’s from Malaysia‘ would be: /frəm/ “frum”

It can take some time to get used to this new sound, but once you master it, it will be a lot easier to understand native speakers – and to sound like one too!

Extra practice
- Download a short podcast and listen out for the schwa sounds. 
If you can, download a script and mark the schwa sounds you hear.
- Find a short text and mark where the schwa sounds should be. 
Practise reading the text aloud with schwa sounds. If you are 
not sure, you can use a dictionary to check.
- The BBC Pronunciation Workshop has a great video with more
examples.

Can you think of any more words with a schwa sound? Are there any other sounds you find difficult to pronounce?

10 common mistakes made by German speakers learning English

When we learn a language, the way we speak the new language is influenced by our native language. One way to reduce this problem is to learn to think in the new language, so we no longer translate from our mother tongue. Despite this, we may still make some mistakes because we have structures and vocabulary from our first language in our mind. Here are some of the most common errors made by German-speaking learners of English.

10. to remind/to remember

These two similar verbs are very often mixed up by learners of English. To remember means to think about something from the past; to remind, on the other hand, means to make someone remember something. It is a transitive verb, which means it is always used with an object. Here are some examples:

I remember my first day at school. 

I will remember to buy bread.

I reminded to buy bread. –> I reminded him to buy bread. 

9. to make/to do

German uses the verb machen a lot, so German-speakers often use the verb to make in English. As a general rule, we use to make  when we are talking about creating or forming something, e.g. to make a plan, to make dinner, to make a confession, to make a cake. However, if we are focussing on a process itself, we use to do, e.g. to do a course, to do homework, to do the cleaning, to do someone a favour. This rule doesn’t work in all cases, but it’s a good start.

8. I drive with the bus.

English has several verbs to describe travelling, depending on the distance, the means of transport and whether we are the driver or passenger. Whilst German uses the verb fahren in lots of situations, in English we only use the verb to drive when we are the driver of a car, bus, train or boat. If we use a bike, we say we ride our bikes or we cycle. If we are a passenger, we have several options:

  • I took the bus/the train/a taxi.
  • I got the bus/the train/a taxi.
  • I went by car/boat/bus.
  • My friend gave me a lift. / My friend drove me. (as a passenger in a car)
  • I flew. (also as a passenger on a plane)

7. Is there the possibility to …?

This is another example of English having lots of translations for one word in German. The German Möglichkeit is most often translated as possibility, but in many cases there may be a better English word to use:

  • possibility: something that may happen, e.g. There is the possibility that we may lose the game.
  • option: something that can be chosen, e.g. Consider all your options before you make a decision.
  • opportunity/chance: a situation that makes something possible, e.g. I have the opportunity/chance to learn a new language.
  • way: a method, e.g. There must be another way to solve this problem.
  • can: to be able or possible, e.g. Can I book a table for this evening?

6. I didn’t went.

When using the simple past, we need a helping verb (did) when we form questions and negative sentences. However, only the helping verb needs to be in past form to show the time we’re talking about, so we use did/didn’t followed by the base form of the main verb.

I went. / I didn’t go. / Did you go? I didn’t went. / Did you went?

I saw it. / I didn’t see it. / Did you see it? I didn’t saw it. / Did you saw it?

In the same way, in the simple present, only the helping verb needs an  added with the third person.

He goes. / He doesn’t go. / Does he go? He doesn’t goes. Does he goes?

She tries. She doesn’t try. / Does she try? She doesn’t tries. / Does she tries?

Here are more tips about using negative sentences.

5. Have you time?

The verb to have has two main functions. It can be used as the main verb of a sentence to mean to own/possess; it can also be a helping verb, often in the present perfect.

The general rule is that if we use to have as the main verb, the negative form is usually don’t/doesn’t have and the question form is ‘Do you have …?’

I have enough time. –> I don’t have enough time. –> Do you have enough time? (main verb)

When it is used as the helping verb, the negative form is haven’t/hasn’t and we can make questions such as ‘Have you seen …?’

I have seen the film. –> I haven’t seen the film. –> Have you seen the film? (helping verb)

4. Yesterday I have been …

One of the hardest things about learning English is mastering the tenses. It can be confusing to decide which tense to use, and the structure of present perfect looks like the most commonly used past tense in German. However, signal words like yesterdaylast weeklast year and on Wednesday that show that an action is completed and not relevant for now are clues that we need to use the simple past.

Yesterday I have been to work. –> Yesterday I went to work.

Follow this link for more tips on the present perfect and past simple.

3. Two persons

There are a few special cases when English speakers use persons instead of people, but these are only in legal or very formal texts, or signs in lifts or buses (e.g. ‘maximum 10 persons’). In all other cases, we use people as the plural form of person.

There are five persons in my office. –> There are five people in my office.

2. If I would have …

In if sentences in English, would and will do not normally belong in the same half of the sentence as if. Instead, we use the present simple, past simple or past perfect forms to show a condition:

If I see her, I’ll tell her. (First conditional: If + present simple , will + base form. These situations are possible and likely.)

If I saw her, I would tell her. (Second conditional: If + past simple , would + base form. These situations are possible but unlikely.)

If I had seen her, I would have told her. (Third conditional: If + past perfect , would have + past participle. These situations are not possible because they’re in the past.)

  1. Informations

Unlike in many other languages, information in English is uncountable and therefore it is not possible to talk about ‘one information’ or ‘informations’. It’s always simply ‘information’. The same goes for advice.


Can you think of any other typical mistakes? Which tips do you find most useful?

Four apps for learning vocabulary

We have our smartphones with us all the time, so what better to learn new words than with vocabulary apps. When we learn new words, it’s important to be active and to review them regularly. Apps are perfect for practising for short periods of time wherever you are – and having fun at the same time! Some apps have sets of vocabulary to learn; others let you add your own. There are so many out there, it can be hard to choose one. I’ve made a list of my favourite apps for learning new vocabulary on the go. (I don’t have links to these apps; they’re just my preferences.)

Quizlet

I love using this app with my students. You can create your own sets of vocabulary or use sets made by other people. I would recommend organising the sets by theme, such as restaurants or shopping, and writing a description for each new word in English instead of translating the word into your native language. This will help you to think in English. You can also add pictures from the Quizlet library to help.

Once you’ve created sets of vocabulary, you can test yourself by looking at the ‘cards’, playing games or testing yourself with a quiz. It’s possible to share sets of vocabulary too – perfect for learning with friends and classmates.

Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge (British Council)

This app is excellent for reviewing vocabulary for certain situations. There are three modes: grammar, words and spelling. In the words section, you can choose from different categories, such as restaurants, hobbies, shopping, idioms, etc. There are three levels for each category (but ‘easy’ is not suitable for beginners). You then play multiple-choice quizzes against the clock. When time is up, you can review the vocabulary from that round.

The spelling mode is also a good way to check you know how to write words. Here, there are no categories; you are given a random selection of words. You choose the correct word from two options.

In addition, the grammar mode provides multiple-choice questions on grammar topics such as prepositions, irregular verbs, modal verbs, and many more.

English Essential Vocabulary Builder

The Essential Vocabulary Builder helps lower level learners practise the most important words needed to communicate in English. First, you work through a selection of words and mark which ones you know and which ones are new. You can then complete multiple-choice activities to check you know the meaning and spelling of new words. The apps gives simple definitions and examples in context, and it’s easy to track progress over time.

WordUp Vocabulary

When you start using WordUp, you take a test to check your level. You can then decide how many words you would like to learn each day and whether you would like to see translations of words you’re learning (I would recommend English definitions).

The app then suggests words to learn. You can learn by reading the definition and example sentences. What I really like about the app is that it shows famous quotations and lines from films and songs that include this word. This is great for remembering new vocabulary!

When you think you know a word, you can test yourself with multiple-choice question or simply say you already know the word. The app will then show the word a few days later so you can review it.


What are your favourite apps for learning vocabulary? I’d love to hear about your experiences with these or other apps!

How to get the most out of online language classes

Have your language lessons moved online? Or have you started taking a new course with an online platform? Learning online is becoming more and more popular, and in many areas it may be the only way to take classes at the moment. However, it can feel a little different to a face-to-face course, so I’ve put together a checklist to help you get the most out of your online classes.

Practice makes perfect

Before starting online lessons, check what platform you’re going to use. Find out if you need to download any software and if possible, test it before the lesson. There are also lots of YouTube tutorials on how to use platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Webex or Hangouts.

Equipment

If you can, it’s best to use a laptop or desktop computer. The screen is bigger and it’s easier to type or share documents. However, a phone or tablet will also work well with most platforms.

Headsets can help to make sure you can hear your teacher well and they can hear you. They also reduce background noise. The headset that came with your mobile phone is fine for this!

If possible, connect to the internet with an ethernet cable rather than wifi. This will make the connection more stable by linking your computer directly to the router.

Lights, camera, action!

It will help your teacher if you use a camera. They can see if you understand well, and it makes the lesson more natural. If you’re in a group, it’s also nice to see your classmates. It’s best to sit somewhere light, and position your camera at eye-level. Don’t sit too close to the camera.

Preparation is key

Aim to come to the ‘classroom’ five minutes before the lesson starts. That way, if you have problems connecting, you won’t lose any lesson time. This is especially important for the first online lesson.

Close any documents or programmes you don’t need as they can slow down your device.

Prepare your workspace as you would if you went to class: make sure you have paper and a pen, a drink, and switch your phone to silent.

Keep calm and carry on

Don’t worry if you have problems with the platform or your device. Often leaving the platform and coming back again solves the problem. If there’s a problem with your device, you could try restarting it. If the connection is bad, try using an ethernet cable or turning the router off and on again.

If you can’t hear the teacher or other students well, try using the chat box to ask for help or give others tips. Here are some useful phrases to use in online classes.

Organisation

Check with your teacher which notes they will send you, so you know what you should write down during the lesson. Your teacher may send you notes or homework after your lesson, so it’s a good idea to have a folder where you save all these documents together. Some students like to print them out too.

Staying in touch

Check you know how to contact your teacher or school outside of the lessons. This is important in case you have questions, can’t come to a lesson or have technical problems.

If you don’t already have one, you could set up a group chat on an instant messaging app for everyone in your class. This is a good way to catch up on anything you miss in class or homework. It’s also great for practising the language with your classmates.


Learning online may feel different to face-to-face lessons, but it can be a great opportunity to stay in touch with others and keep learning while many of us are at home.

Do you have any other tips for online language classes?

Present perfect or past simple?

I have gone or I went? I saw or I have seen? How do I talk about experiences in the past? And how do I use for to describe past events? The English language is famous for its different tenses, and it can be difficult to know when to use which. Here are some questions we can ask to decide if we should use the present perfect or the past simple.

Form

As a quick reminder, this is how we form the past simple:

  • I visited my friend. (Regular verbs add -ed; irregular verbs have different forms, e.g. went.)
  • I didn’t visit my brother.
  • Did you visit your friend?

To ask questions and form negative sentences, we need the helping verb did or didn’t. In these sentences we use the base form of the main verb; we don’t need both verbs in the past.

The present perfect looks like this:

  • I have visited Japan. (As with the past simple, regular verbs add -ed, irregular verbs have different forms, e.g. gone.)
  • I haven’t visited Thailand.
  • Have you visited Japan?

In every sentence in the present perfect, we always need the helping verb have or has. These are often shortened to ‘ve or ‘s, especially when we speak. We also need the past participle of the main verb (also known as the third form).

Is the action still happening now?

We use the present perfect to talk about things that are still happening now.

  • I lived in Rome in 2015. (not ongoing – I don’t live there now)
  • I have lived in Madrid since 2016. (ongoing – I still live there now)
  • He worked at the company last summer. (not ongoing – he doesn’t work there now)
  • He has worked at the company for one year. (ongoing – he still works there now)
  • We played tennis at that club for two years. (not ongoing – we don’t play now)
  • We have played tennis at this club for six months. (ongoing – we still play)

Is the time point important?

We often use the present perfect to talk about experiences and things that have happened at some point in our lives. Here, the time is not important. However, when we talk about a specific event or give a time point (e.g. yesterday, last week, in 2018), we use the past simple.

  • I have visited Japan. (at some point but the time is not important)
  • I visited Japan in 2013. (specific event)
  • Have you ever been to Canada? (at some point)
  • I went to Canada last summer. (specific event)
  • I have seen the new James Bond film. (at some point)
  • I saw it at the cinema with my friend. (specific event)

Can we see the results of the action now?

If that action is important for the present, we often use the present perfect. For example:

  • I lost my keys. (not relevant for now)
  • I have found my keys. (I have them now)
  • Last week I baked a cake. (not relevant for now)
  • I have baked some brownies. (they are here now)
  • I passed my driving test first time. (not relevant for now)
  • I have passed my exam. (this is news now)

Are there signal words?

There are some words that we often use with either the present perfect or past simple. These include:

  • Present perfect: since, already, yet, just, ever
  • Past simple: last week, yesterday, last week, in 2018, in February, on Tuesday

The preposition for is often used with both the present perfect and the past simple, as well as with other tenses. It is used to show how something lasts, for example:

  • I have studied French for two years. (ongoing – I still study French)
  • I studied French for two years. (not ongoing – I don’t study French now)

These are some of the main things to think about when we’re not sure if we should use the present perfect or past simple. Do you have any other tips to help you remember which tense to use?

How to say the ‘-ed’ sound like a native speaker

Pronunciation is one of the hardest things about learning English. You have practised using the past tense and know that regular verbs add -ed. Writing these verbs is easy, but saying them can be difficult because -ed can have different sounds. Here are the three different sounds and how to know when to use them.

/ɪd/

We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in a d or t sound. This /ɪd/ sound makes another syllable at the end of the verb.

  • wanted: “want-id”
  • found: “found-id”
  • ground: “ground-id”
  • land: “land-id”
  • visit: “visit-id”
  • paint: “paint-id”

What counts is the last sound, so even if the last letter of the verb is an e, if it sounds like a d or a t, we add /ɪd/ .

  • taste: “taste-id”
  • waste: “waste-id”
  • promote: “promote-id”
  • code: “code-id”
  • shade: “shade-id”

/d/

We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in voiced sounds. A voiced sound is a sound we use our voice box (in the throat) to create. There is a simple test to check if a sound is voiced. Place your fingers across the front of your neck and say one sound or letter. If you feel a vibration in your throat, the sound is voiced. All vowel sounds are voiced. The other voiced sounds are:

  • /b/ “b”
  • /d/ “d”
  • /g/ “g”
  • /ʤ/ “j”
  • /l/ “l”
  • /m/ “m”
  • /n/ “n”
  • /r/ “r”
  • /v/ “v”
  • /w/ “w”
  • /j/ “y”
  • /z/ “z”
  • /ð/ “th” in this
  • /ʒ/ “s” in vision
  • /ŋ/ “ng”

When we add the /d/ sound, there is no extra syllable, so a verb with one syllable still only has one syllable in the past form. Some examples of verbs that ended in a voiced sound and add the /d/ sound are:

  • logged: “log-d”
  • thrived: “thrive-d”
  • advised: “advise-d”
  • planned: “plan-d”
  • called: “call-d”
  • played: “play-d”
  • tried: “try-d”
  • measure: “measure-d”

/t/

We use this sound when we add -ed to verbs ending in unvoiced sounds. An unvoiced sound is a sound we do not use our voice box (in the throat) to create. We just use air and the shape of our mouth, tongue and lips to make the sound. If you place a finger across the front of your neck and say an unvoiced letter or sound, there is no vibration. Unvoiced sounds are:

  • /f/ “f”
  • /h/ “h”
  • /k/ “k”
  • /p/ “p”
  • /s/ “s”
  • /t/ “t”
  • /ʧ/ “ch”
  • /ʃ/ “sh”
  • /θ/ “th” in three

If a verb ends with one of the above sounds, we say the -ed as a /t/. Again, we do not add an extra syllable in the past tense, just the /t/ sound. Here are some examples:

  • packed: “pack-t”
  • stopped: “stop-t”
  • missed: “miss-t”
  • watched: “watch-t”
  • wished: “wish-t”
  • mixed: “mix-t”
Extra practice: When you learn new verbs, practise using them in
the past too. Here are more tips on learning vocabulary.

How to say any date in English

Do you have an important event coming up? Do you need to invite someone to a meeting? Or maybe you need to arrange an appointment? Here is your guide to using dates in English.

Weekdays

There are four possible parts to a date: the day, the ordinal number, the month and the year. We’ll start with the weekdays. As a reminder, here they are:

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday (“Wensday”)
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday
  • Sunday

It can be difficult to remember the difference between Tuesday and Thursday. Tip: Tuesday has seven letters and Thursday has eight. Thursday is longer so it comes later in the week.

Ordinal numbers

Once you’ve mastered the seven days, you can move on to the date in the month. Often we just add ‘th’ to the number to say the date, e.g. nineth, tenth. However, there are a few special numbers to watch out for:

  • first (twenty-first, thirty-first)
  • second (twenty-second)
  • third (twenty-third)
  • fifth – we swap the ‘ve’ in five for an ‘f’, but when we say it, we make it easier: “fith
  • sixth – we turn the ‘x’ into a ‘k’ sound: “sikth
  • twelfth is pronounced “twelth
  • twentieth is pronounced as three syllables: “twen-ti-uth

Months

The next element is the months. Lots of the months are very close to other Latin-based languages. Here are a few tips to help with pronunciation:

  • January: “jan-yu-ry” (3 syllables)
  • February: “feb-yu-ry” (3 syllables)
  • March
  • April: stress the beginning
  • May: like pay or stay
  • June: one syllable
  • July: “ju-lie” (stress second syllable)
  • August: “OR-gust”
  • September, October, November, December: all stress the second syllable

Years

In British English we say the years as follows:

  • 1900: nineteen hundred
  • 1905: nineteen-oh-five
  • 1998: nineteen ninety-eight
  • 2000: two thousand
  • 2003: two thousand and three
  • 2012: two thousand and twelve (also twenty-twelve)
  • 2020: two thousand and twenty (twenty-twenty)

In American English, the and is often left out. For example:

  • 2003: two thousand three
  • 2012: two thousand twelve

Putting it all together

In British English, the day comes before the month. When we write the date in numbers, it’s 14/06/09. We usually write the full date like this: Monday 14th June or Monday 14 June. However, we say: “Monday the 14th of June“.

In American English, the day is often after the month: 06/14/09 or June 14th. You could say this as either “June 14th” or “June the 14th“.

Extra practice: Change the language settings on the calendar on your 
phone so you regularly review months and weekdays in English. 
You could also go through some important dates for you and practise 
writing and saying them in English. 

Which days or months do you find it hardest to remember? Do you normally say dates in British or American English?