Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good Pronunciation Symbol Chart With Audio and Animation For Teaching English Sounds

I started teaching a pronunciation and intonation workshop at the local public library and quickly discovered I needed some pronunciation symbols to help teach my students what each symbol sounded like. It is so difficult for ESL students to know how to say the different vowels and vowel combinations in our vast assortment of words.

It was hard to find what I really wanted since pronunciation symbol charts don't really cut it on their own.

A chart with symbols and sample words doesn't really help someone who has never heard, or cannot remember how to say the sample word in English. The symbols used in a lot of dictionaries (phonetic symbols, rather than phonemic symbols) often confuse my students since they don't know how to pronounce the vowels in the first place from one word to the next. And the American versus British variations on pronunciation, which are depicted using different vowel phonetic symbols ( sounds in speech)  is simply too much to add on top of this.

This is why I like to stick to the international symbols. These translate well to the sounds that occur in all languages in the world, functioning like a rosetta stone.

And so my hunt for pronunciation symbol charts with audio clips began. Below are my suggestions for the best ones I have found to date.


- the international sound symbols shown in a chart that was nicely laid out, and easy to read

- example words in English and possibly another language to help learners remember the sound
in a word context

- audio clips of how to say the sound

- instructions (preferably animated images) about how to make the sound- including descriptions of showing how to position your tongue and lips and mouth to make the sounds


 1. English Cafe / University of Iowa

Pronunciation tool embedded on this site ( University of Iowa webtool) 

English Cafe homepage

This chart on this page shows the consonant and vowel symbols- the international symbols and a sample word below.

Scroll down to see a tool that shows you - visually, with animation - how to say the sounds.
(animated model showing a cross section of a person’s mouth when making the sounds, so you can see the way to position the tongue and lips in real time).

Don't let the scary linguist terms on the menu bar scare you off. 

Just click on the pink menu tabs (any word),  and then click on a symbol in the main part of the page below and watch what happens; you will quickly figure it all out.

How To Use This Site/ Tool in Detail:

1. Scroll over a word (fricative, liquid, nasal, etc).
2. Click on a symbol ( the thing between the /slashes /) that shows up in the white space to the bottom left below.
3. Watch the animations of the mouth and the video clip of the woman saying the sound.
4. click on each example word to hear it pronounced

Since the tool uses the proper names of the phonemic sounds ( fricative, nasal, dipthongs, monothongs, etc) it would be intimidating, but since it the diagram and letters look like something you can click on, and they are , it is fairly easy to navigate. It would be best to use it 'live' in class to show people how to use it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Great Sites For Teaching How to Pronounce 'ed' Endings

A common problem adult learners of English often have is how to pronounce the 'ed' ending on words.

I always wind up spending time on this when teaching the past simple verb tense and decided to look for sites to help students learn and practice on their own. Here are a few recommendations.

Here are my top picks of sites with resources to help students learn and remember how to pronounce 'ed' at the end of words:

1. Elemental English

2. Perfect English Grammar 

 3. The English Club

 4. English Maven

1. Elemental English has a great 8 minute video on this topic so students can watch, see the spelling and hear the pronunciation for the different endings. It goes on to describe why the 'ed' pronunciation changes. The lesson is described with words of the lesson listed right below the video as well, for those who prefer to read rather than listen and watch:

2.  Perfect English Grammar gets to the heart of the lesson immediately, with a short written explanation of each rule followed by lots of examples (written and audio clips) of each way 'ed' can pronounced.

3. I liked this description from The English Club site because it had a 2:36 minute audio clip:
 English Club - ' ed' endings
English Club - 'ed' Endings page
Related to this, you can find a worksheet that uses a lot of the same examples as you find on English Club here: English for Everyone has a free, printable worksheet and answer key on this topic:


Answer key:

4.  English Maven  has 5 interactive multiple choice exercises and one final exam for students to practice what they have learned. (One page has the explanation and another a list of exercises and final exam.)
If the link above doesn't work, then go to the homepage and search for 'ed' endings.

Screenshot of Exercise 1

Screenshot of the lesson portion of the English Maven website: 

More Words -If you are having trouble thinking of examples of words that end with 'ed', look no further:

 I also considered (but can't really recommend):
5 Minute English
 I liked the clean layout and explanation of how to pronounce the different 'ed' endings ( voiced / unvoiced), and the fact that there was a quick quiz at the end to check your understanding, but without an audio clip or video clip it would be hard to make sense of the lesson unless you were a native speaker, or had one with you while reading through the lesson.

I hope this proves useful to you!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summary of the Best Grammar Sites for Teaching ESL / EFL

This is the last post  (4/4) in my 'Best Grammar Sites' series.

In previous posts I reviewed grammar sites that work well for teaching English for beginning, intermediate and advanced students.

This post is a summary of the best all 21 grammar sites I  considered. It includes a 'Best of the Best' list,  a full list of all the sites I looked at, and charts that show the breakdown of the rankings I gave each site.

Here are my favorites, in order of my preference:

 1. UCL's The Internet Grammar 

This site has it all: a comprehensive list of grammar points, an organized layout with a lot of white space that`s easy to navigate, comprehensive explanations that are easy to understand, many examples, and interactive quizzes at the end to test comprehension and mastery of a grammar point.

2. The Grammarly Handbook

I love the attractive and clean layout. it`s so easy to navigate, there is a comprehensive list of grammar points, and clear explanations and numerous examples. I especially like the inclusion of a lot of topics (grammar, punctuation, mechanics and sentence clarity) that help people learn how to write English well. Too bad it doesn`t include interactive exercises below each grammar point.

3. Edu Find 

As a teacher I really like this resource: its clean layout,  clear explanations, inclusion of usage and exceptions to the rule, and large number of examples make this a simple site to use for quick reference and to turn around and use with students in lessons. Too bad it doesn't include interactive quizzes at the end of each point.

4.Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online 

This is such a comprehensive grammar site, and has so many exercises and quizzes to help people learn each point, that I keep coming back to it despite it's cluttered interface.

Honorable Mention:

Study and Exam - I love the straightforward simplicity of the layout and explanations, and how relevant all the topics are to an ESL or EFL student. It is obvious that the site was not written by a native English speaker since sometimes the phrasing is not very natural, but sometimes the site writer manages to sum up complex grammar points in an impressively simple way. Too bad there aren't any interactive exercises at the end of each explanation.

University of Victoria ELC Study Zone -
I really like the clean and simple layout and organization of grammar points according to the level of language learner, the only site I stumbled across that organized the grammar points in this way.

Special Mention

For true beginners just learning their first words in English and the basic structure of the language ( a pre-grammar site, in a way):

For teens, Grammar Bytes was a clear winner. Too bad it has such a hidden index of grammar points and is  a bit hard to navigate in terms of looking up specific grammar points.


Below are all the sites I reviewed in alphabetical order and my overall rankings for each. -

BBC Grammar-

Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online -

English Club-

English Grammar 4U -


ESL in Canada-

Grammar Girl-

Grammar Monster

Grammar Bytes-

Grammarly Handbook -

Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch - 

CCC Guide to Grammar -

Internet Grammar of English-

Many Things -

Study and Exam -

Talking English -

The Blue Book of Grammar -

UCL Internet Grammar

University of Victoria ELC Study Zone -


Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I thought best suited to Advanced Learners:
Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I thought were best suited to intermediate learners:

Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I felt were best suited to beginning students:

Have I missed a great grammar site? Let me know!

I hope you find this series of posts useful.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Best Grammar Sites for Advanced ESL EFL Students and English Teachers

This is the third post of four on the topic of ' Best Grammar Sites'. This post is about grammar sites for advanced English language students and English language teachers.

I have reviewed 26 grammar sites (the top listings that came up in Google when I did a search for 'grammar sites'), and the following 5 made my top picks list of great grammar sites for advanced students.

By the way, last month I posted about intermediate grammar sites and the month before about best grammar sites for beginning ESL and EFL students. The post after this one will be an overview, with a master list of all grammar sites reviewed as well as a breakdown of my rankings for each.


  I gave each site a rating out of five for each of the following categories:
  • How easy the site was  to navigate
  • Whether it had a good ´look up list´of grammar topics
  • Has grammar lessons, not just dictionary-like explanations
  • Has clear explanations or just cryptic 'dictionary like' explanations, in easy to understand English
  • Includes many examples using language English students and non-native English speakers  could easily understand
  • Includes interactive exercises and quizzes 

1. The Internet Grammar

2. Edu Find 

3. The Grammarly Handbook

4. Study and Exam

5. Lynch´s Guide to Grammar and Style


1.The Internet Grammar
My ranking: 30/30 

I included this site in the post 'Best Grammar Sites for Intermediate ESL EFL Students' too.  I think it fits even better as a site for advanced students because it covers so many of the finer points of grammar, such as 'minor word classes' and types of clauses (restrictive and non-restrictive), which are rarely covered in grammar sites.

As I`ve mentioned previously, I really like the clean layout, all the white space, the easy navigation, and inclusion of interactive quiz questions at the end of the grammar point explanation. An excellent reference site for teachers because it offers explanations that would be very easy for teachers to use with their students as well.

2. Edu Find
My Ranking: 28/30

Very clean and clear layout. Not overwhelming. The menu structure - major grammar topics visible first, with sub-points appearing only when you click on one- is very easy to navigate.

I also like that there are many examples of each grammar point.

There are interactive quizzes, however they are for testing your knowledge rather than interactive exercises to help you learn in the first place.They are in a different section, not attached to the grammar explanation, so it may be a bit tricky for ESL students to find the appropriate test.

3. The Grammarly Handbook
My Ranking: 25/30

I really like this site, and just wish it had interactive quizzes and exercises.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really like the clean layout, easy navigability and inclusion of many examples of each point. 

I included this site in the 'Best Grammar Sites for Intermediate ESL EFL Students' post as well. I think it`s appropriate for advanced students and English instructors because further down the homepage it gives in depth instruction on advanced English grammar topics,  as well as writing and style tutorials, on great topics such as transitions and transitional devices, and parallelism.

4. Study and Exam
My ranking: 25/30

I really like the straightforward simplicity and choice of topics - very relevant to English language learners - on this site, and just wish it had interactive quizzes to help reinforce each grammar explanation / lesson.

This site appears high in the evaluations in my reviews of grammar sites for beginning and intermediate students as well. I included it as a great site for advanced ESL and EFL students because further down the home page are advanced topics such as indirect speech with modals, and passive voice for tenses which often trip up students on the TOEIC and TOEFL tests.  

5. Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style
My ranking:  24/30
JLynch Guide to Grammar and Style

This is the most comprehensive grammar site I have found in terms of topics included. It includes all major and a myriad of minor grammar points, as well as words and phrases that are often used erroneously.

Definitely a useful resource for teachers and English instructors, and for advanced students who are trying to perfect their English.

However, the level of language used in the descriptions is high, the introductions to many points are quite wordy, and the long topic index is so comprehensive. It would be daunting to most English language students (and even to many native English speakers).

I wish there were more example sentences included for each point, and interactive exercises to help people check their level of comprehension.

Of note is the link to the section of the website called ' Getting and A on and English Paper' (look in the first paragraph on the homepage), which breaks down the structure of an essay and how to write one. This would be useful for teachers teaching students in high school or university, and for advanced students preparing to study abroad.

Other Grammar Sites I Considered By Can`t Recommend As Great Grammar Lookup and Learning Sites:

Talking English
My ranking:24

This site is geared more towards pronunciation than grammar instruction.

The grammar guide is far down the menu on the left hand side (look for the word ' grammar'). It has a lot of words on each page, and a high language level is used, so that would be off-putting to a lot of ESL students even though the list of topics includes topics that would be useful for helping low beginners.

I like how there was a very short little quiz at the end of each lesson to help students know if they understood the grammar point or not.

However, overall,  it would be best for teachers looking for explanations of how to describe pronunciation in English rather than as a grammar 'look-up' site.

BBC Learning English
My ranking: 22/30

This site includes a lot of grammar points that learners often mistake, in very appealing multimedia presentations (video clips, audio clips, attractive graphics), but it didn`t meet my criteria as a quick look-up reference grammar site. It is set up as an interesting learning site rather than a quick look up site, and would work best to fill in the gaps of knowledge of an advanced student, in a visually and intellectually interesting way.

The Blue Grammar Book
My ranking: 21/30 

Looks promising but only a small portion of the content is free. The list of free grammar topics is not comprehensive enough for me to recommend.  This site is mostly a high pressured sales pitch for selling the book, The Blue Grammar Book. The language of the explanations is advanced English, and geared to the native speaker of English, not a language learner. There are interactive exercises but you have to read through a lot of promotional material to find them.

Grammar Girl
My ranking: 11/30

Although this site covers some advanced grammar topics and words that people often use incorrectly, it fell short in my evaluation in a number of ways, unfortunately. It lacked an index list of grammar topics, grammar lessons, interactive exercises and quizzes and wasn`t comprehensive in its coverage of grammar points and parts of speech. An interesting site, but not very useful for the purpose of being a thorough, quick look-up site.

Stay tuned for one more wrap up post, with recommendations of best sites overall, and a breakdown of the rankings.

Did I miss a great grammar site?
Let me know!
Comments welcome.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Best Grammar Sites for Intermediate ESL /EFL Students

This post is the second of 4 posts on this topic of 'best grammar sites'.

This post is about the best grammar sites to use with intermediate level English students.

By the way, last month I posted about best grammar sites for beginners, and next month I will post about best grammar sites for advanced students and teachers. I will wrap up with a masterlist of all the grammar sites I`ve mentioned to date, including a breakdown of my rankings.

  I gave each site a rating  out of five for each of the following categories:
  • How easy the site was  to navigate
  • Whether it had a good ´look up list´of grammar topics
  • Has grammar lessons, not just explanations
  • Has clear explanations or just cryptic 'dictionary like' explanations, in easy to understand English
  • Includes lots of examples in English that language learners could easily understand
  • Includes interactive exercises and quizzes  


1.The  internet grammar

2.  Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online
Ranking: 28/30

3. Guide to Grammar and Writing by Capital Community College Foundation
Ranking: 26/30

4. Grammar Bytes
Ranking: 26/30

 5. Study and Exam
Ranking: 25/30

 6. The Grammarly Handbook
 Ranking: 25/30

7. The English Club
Ranking: 24/30


1. The Internet Grammar

I really like this site. Clean layout on the page linked above, clearly organized menu on the left, very comprehensive. Nice interactive exercises immediately below each grammar point explanation and many examples given, using English that intermediate level students would likely understand.

There is one downside, which is that the comprehensive list of grammar topics on the menus may be overwhelming to a language learner. It`s  not clear where to start, or which topics are more important to learn first before tackling others. Offsetting this is the division of menu links, with the parts of speech listed to the left of the sub-points, making it easier to know which are the broader topics and which are more specific sub-points.

2. Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online
Ranking: 28/30
screen shot of homepage for Englisch Hilfen Learning English

I listed this site in my post on 'great grammar sites for beginners' too, but included it here as well since it has such a comprehensive topic list, many of which are geared to intermediate students.

I find the homepage very confusing - too many ads. But is it easy to look up information using the menu to the left, and easy to move around once you are past the homepage, so give students inside links, not just a link to the homepage.

I like the layout of the grammar lessons, with lots of charts and colours to teach ESL students the parts of speech and rules of English usage using visual clues that are univerisally understood. Great sets of exercises  and quizzes and games to help reinforce what has been explained previously.

Tip: look way at the bottom for the  'Exercises - Levels' link, to get directly to things organized by years of English learned ( so, this is where to find things for intermediate or beginner or advanced students).

There is a lot of great content on this site, and the more you look, the more you find! This is the most comprehensive grammar site geared especially towards English language learners that I have found to date. Too bad about the cluttered homepage with excessive and distracting ads.

3. Guide to Grammar and Writing by Capital Community College Foundation
Ranking: 26/30

I like the content of this site, but not the navigation. The parts of speech and grammar sections are listed under  'word and sentence level' which is not somewhere most people would think to look for grammar terms and lessons. I like the explanations of each grammar point and how there are many sentences to demonstrate each part of speech but would like to see more examples.

This site uses higher level grammar terms, so it would be most suitable for higher level intermediate students  and teachers, although there are a lot of explanations that beginning students would benefit from as well, if they could find them.  I like the interactive quizzes at the bottom of each page to reinforce and check comprehension.

4. Grammar Bytes
Ranking: 26/30

This site is geared to native English speaking kids and teens, judging from the name, images and examples. The navigation scheme is not intuitive, however. You have to know to click on the gorilla to enter the site ( it looks like an ad for something rather than a portal, in my opinion). The content is solid and English language level easy for learners to understand,  once you get to the actual grammar lessons, so it would appeal even to adult learners at an intermediate level.

There is not an obvious 'quick look up' or  menu system for easy navigation through this site. You have to know to  click on ' terms'
to find an index list of parts of speech and grammar topics. Also, you would have to know to look for ' exercises' to find the interactive quizzes. Also the quizzes do not directly correspond to the grammar topics. Students would not know which exercise to choose.

Although there is a poor navigation structure,  I actually really like the layout in terms of whitespace and grammar point lesson layout.

I  really like the short clear explanations, which wouldn`t overwhelm English language learners with too much information at first glance. I also like that it has multimedia in the explanations, including You Tube Videos.

5. Study and Exam
Ranking: 25/30

I included this site as a great grammar site for beginners too. It is equally useful for intermediate students. The only thing missing are interactive exercises or quizzes to help reinforce what has just been explained.

As I have mentioned before, I like the clean, clear layout of menu links, and the way they start with things that are useful for beginners to learn and lead into more complex topics useful for intermediate and advanced learners (topics such as 'articles - a/an' come above/ before the parts of a sentence and before types of sentence clauses: very logical progression).

I also like the detailed explanations of the parts of speech, including the subparts of speech, which is perfect for intermediate level students who already know, in general, what the parts of speech are.

The choice of grammar points would be particularly relevant for students preparing  for the TOEIC, TOEFL and other international level English exams.

This site shines in its inclusion of many examples of every point, examples in plain and simple English.

For all these reasons, this is one of my favorite 'quick look-up  reference' grammar site, but it isn`t at the top of my rankings because it isn`t the best self guided study site to recommend to students since it lacks interactive exercises and quizzes. If it had that, it would be.

6.  The Grammarly Handbook
 Ranking: 25/30

This is another one of my favorite quick look up reference tool for lower to mid level intermediate students. The only fault I find with this site is that it is missing interactive exercises and quizzes.

The nice clean layout and easy to navigate. I like that each section begins with examples, before getting into an explanation of the grammar point.  The explanations are also quite playful and entertaining (they use vampires and zombies and funny example sentences) that would appeal to teens and adults alike.

Unfortunately, the introduction blurbs to the site and to many pages uses very advanced language that only a well educated native speaker would understand instantly, so make sure to give inner links, not the link to the introductory page, to your students.

7. The English Club
Ranking: 24/30

I wanted to like this site, but found I didn`t.

This site is geared to kids, judging from the banner and ads, which is too bad since this may turn off teens and adults that would benefit from using this site to learn English.

I thought the homepage was cluttered and this made it difficult to navigate. However,  I like that this site provides an introduction, ' What is grammar'?, giving students a clear place to start, and a basic explanation of what grammar is, which many sites assume and don`t explain.

Unfortunately, students may not recognize this as an introduction and good place to start, and they also may have trouble finding the grammar index, since it is called ' the 8 parts of speech' and is located lower down on the homepage, below the hotlinks.

The hotlinks section mixes grammar topics ( e.g. adjectives) with examples of particular grammar points (e.g. passive voice, going to), which I think is very confusing to language learners. They wouldn`t know that 'passive voice' is an advanced topic and '(un)countable nouns' is a good thing to learn early on, before tackling other more advanced topics like passive voice.  They also wouldn`t likely realize it was best to start with the section listed below the hotlinks, the 8 parts of speech section topics.

The lessons are long and wordy and don´t include many examples, Only some grammar points have interactive quizzes.  And furthermore, the choice of grammar topics, and quizzes, is not very comprehensive or easy to match up with the grammar points explained on the site.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Best Grammar Sites For Teaching English to Beginner Level Students

This month I did a big review of different grammar websites that work well for teaching and recommending to ESL students (English language students).

This post is the first of 4 posts on this topic of 'best grammar sites'.

Of the 21 sites I reviewed,  only 6 fit the category of being best for beginners, and I would really only recommend 5 out of 6 of the sites listed below, as noted.

NOTE: I gave each category a score out of five point for each of these categories: 
  • How easy the site was  to navigate
  • Whether it had a good ´look up list´of grammar topics
  • Grammar lessons
  • Clear explanations or just cryptic 'dictionary like' explanations
  • Lots of examples
  • Interactive exercises and quizzes
1. University of Victoria ELC Study Zone (My ranking 29/30)

2. Grammar Monster (geared to kids and teens) (My ranking 29/30)

3. Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online (My ranking: 28/30)

4. Study and (My ranking: 25/30)

5. Manythings- Interesting Things for ESL Students (My ranking:19/30 )

6. English ( My ranking: 12/30--Not recommended)

Here is a review of each of my top 5 recommendations in more detail:

1University of Victoria ELC Study Zone (My ranking 29/30)

Great site!
I love how it is easy to find grammar topics  by level, including a basic introductory level (upper beginner level). Easy to navigate and use. 

You have to be able to read some English, so it would be best for false beginners.
There is a lot of white space. It`s  intuitively laid out. 

There is a very natural and useful progression of grammar topics. If you start clicking on the top menu link, this is a good place to start learning English.

I like that this site has grammar lessons and exercises as well as an index with quick look-up topics that were made with ESL students in mind, and organized in a way that it would be very easy for students to find their level and begin learning.

This site would be great for intermediate level students too, but shines as a beginner grammar site since it is so clean, clear and easy to navigate by level, starting with an introductory level of English.

2. Grammar Monster  (My ranking 29/30)

This site had everything I was looking for, except it was geared towards kids and not adults.
It would work well for low beginners who happen to be adults if they weren`t turned off by the cartoon character images which makes it appealing to kids. 
It was clearly laid out and easy to navigate, although I would have preferred that the parts of speech were listed on top instead of punctuation. 

I really like the simple design of the site and menu lists. The clear and simple definition for each grammar point is easy to spot and understand as a result of the intuitive layout and font sizes, and there are a lot of simple examples to help students understand the definitions. I liked how they separated the sub-points of a grammar topic, so it`s easy to know what is the important point to learn first. I also really like the interactive quizzes at the bottom of each page.

3. Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online (My ranking: 28/30)

This site is a very comprehensive grammar site perfectly suited to the ESL language learner.

Although best suited to German students because of the occasional translations to German,  the simple and clear layout would be easy for any language student to understand and be able to learn from if they could read some English to start with (false beginners).

The main downside to this site is that the site is cluttered and the ads on the homepage make it difficult to know what is content and what is advertising, and where to begin.

Tip: Scroll down the left menu to find beginner English topics. There are simple definitions, a lot of examples, and an impressive amount of interactive exercises and quizzes to help students master each grammar point.

There is a ton of content on this site, so I´d recommend Look way to the bottom, for the ''Exercises - Levels'', to find things organized by years of English learned ( so, this is where to find things for beginners, intermediate and advanced students). Send the students the direct links to these pages rather than the homepage since the homepage is so difficult to navigate.

4. Study and Exam

I really like how simple and clean the layout is and the way it describes grammar points. The only things missing from this site are interactive exercises and quizzes.

Students would need to know how to read basic English to use this site,  so it is best suited to false beginners who can read some English, but it includes many ''beginner'' topics and grammar and writing topics that a lot of grammar sites don’t include (kinds of sentences and the parts of speech) as well as the finer points of English (all the different types of nouns, determiners, and adjectives) using a simple, straightforward format.

 Although it’s very comprehensive, the clean layout and very  short, simple examples of each point would not overwhelm beginning students as much as wordy, condense sites written for native speakers of English.

Because of its comprehensiveness, it would also be really useful for intermediate students and advanced students. It includes more complex topics, like the difference between phrases and clauses and subordinate clauses, indirect speech and narratives. I`ve listed it here as a great beginner site because it includes basic, ''beginner'' topics and has such a clean and easy to understand layout.

5. Many -

This site didn`t meet a lot of my criteria as a grammar ´look up´ site, and the ranking is low as a result, but it has a lot of really useful content for true beginners, including grammar (indirectly) so I decided to include it.

It would almost be best to think of this site as a 'pre-grammar' site well suited to learners with 0 English and a poor understanding of the parts of speech in their own native language. It is very well set up to introduce adult learners, and true beginners, to English.

I love the simple and intuitive layout, with ' Easy things for Beginners' so prominently displayed on the homepage. There is also a 'grammar' menu option at the top, which has a couple of very useful options that are perfect for true beginners.

For example, under the 'Grammar' menu at the top, there is  an amazing directory of 'Bilingual Sentence Pairs' phrases in 44 languages. Using this tool,students could figure out the nuts and bolts of the English language  in comparison to their own through learning common sentence patterns, and so be more prepared to dissect and understand the mechanics of the parts of speech in English.

Another useful too is here:   -- ''Fun, randomly generated sentences'', geared to helping students  learn the parts of speech.

There are also excellent audio exercises to help students learn pronunciation and improve their listening and comprehension skills.
A fine site, with unique content, and truly innovative. It is one of my favorite sites for low level ESL students.

That wraps up my reviews and top recommendations for great grammar sites for beginners.

Have I missed a grammar site that is great for beginners?
Let me know and I`ll review it and add it to the list!

Next month´s post will be ' Great Grammar Sites To Recommend to Intermediate Students'

I reviewed 21 grammar sites in total. I have broken my reviews of these sites into 4 posts, with good grammar sites for:

1. Beginners (true beginners and false beginners)
2. Intermediate students (intermediate and  upper intermediate)
3. Advanced students and teachers (those studying to get into university abroad, and teachers   who need quick, concise grammar lookup sites)

4. The fourth post will be a  summary with a 'Grammar Site Chart' - a chart  with a breakdown of my rankings, as well as a full and annotated list of all grammar sites reviewed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Verb Tense Timelines

Today I was looking for a timeline chart for all the verb tenses in English that was

  • intuitive
  • uncluttered
  • included the grammatical name of the verb tenses, and all the verb tenses
  • gave a good sense of when to use each verb tense
  • included at least one example sentence of each to show the grammatical form

There were not as many websites with verb tense timelines as I expected, so I thought I would save some other English language teachers some time by summarizing what I found, what I found most useful, and why.

Mostly, I found a lot of websites with charts filled with words in English, not simple graphic based timelines, which  I suspect would be  hard to read, boring, and downright mystifying to most English language students.

Below are my top picks, in order of preference.




1. an attractive, simply drawn series of illustrations showing verb tenses on a timeline, with intuitive examples to show how to form each verb tense. 

I really liked how all the tenses are grouped, with the past, present and future simple tenses shown together on one timeline. All continuous / progressive tenses were shown on another timeline, then the perfect tenses and then the perfect continuous/ perfect progressive verb tenses (4 timelines in total).

Example of the top half of the chart:

(There is more to this chart, but I couldn`t fit it into my screenshot.)

2. An online presentation with animated actions shown against a timeline. Although not exactly ' at a glance', it`s a short presentation and the animation depicting repeated actions, and the passage of time, works extremely well to get the idea of when to use each verb tense across to students.

Here is a screen shot of one slide in the presentation showing the present continuous (present progressive)  (the original shows the man really walking).

3. - Scroll down the page to see his color coded chart with timelines for each verb tense, the name of each, and simple tips about when to use each one.

There is a series of timelines is shown on the second page of this 2 page PDF document. I liked the symbols used (for example the circle reminiscent of a recycle symbol to show the idea of repeated actions and routines associated with the present simple). 

I also like how the tenses are grouped into two categories: Specific time (simple and progressive/ continuous tenses) and unspecified time (perfect tenses and perfect progressive/ perfect continuous).

By the way, the first page of this document shows a useful chart,  a 'verb tense continuum', showing all the verb tenses, and example sentences of each, on one continuous timeline. 

The sites above are my top 4 picks. 

Below are some more examples of websites with verb tense timelines. Although they didn`t meet my criteria, they may appeal to you and be useful to you in some way.


Other online resources I considered with noteworthy features: - I was a bit confused by the vertical layout of the timeline at first. It wasn`t intuitive to me to start the timeline at the top with the past simple, with a line going down towards the bottom of the page to show the other tenses (ending with the future tenses). However, this may work better than a right to left continuum for people in Arabic and Thai (and other cultures) who don`t read left to right, and therefore don`t associate the passage of time as moving from the left (the past ) to the  right (to depict moving into the future).  - Although it repeatedly turned up in Google searches for 'verb tense timelines', this online slideshow wasn`t very intuitive in my opinion. It would work if an English speaking teacher was explaining each slide, but isn`t as useful for self study purposes or quick reference. An infographic chart of verb tenses, a diagram chart with dots and lines that show all the tenses in relation to each other. To me the symbols were a bit misleading, since one simple dot doesn`t depicted the present simple, future simple or future continuous tense to my way of thinking. The dot oversimplifies it in my opinion. But it is a clean layout and shows how the verb tenses related to each other in one continuous timeline.
I wasn`t impressed with the layout since the sentence examples of each verb tense lacked labels telling you what each verb tense is called, and I found the successive lines of timelines confusing. However, perhaps this would work well as a review, to quiz or test students to name each verb tense and explain when to use each.

Google image search for verb tense timelines - This turned up a lot of different charts, most of them filled with words, which I think are overwelming and /or boring to ESL students. Many were like online posters, but I felt these lacked enough detail to allow instant understanding, how to form them and when to use each tense.

Quick Lesson Prep Tip:
Take a Screenshot!

Remember that you can take screen shots of these timelines for quick and easy reference during or after a class (email it, print it out or show it ' in vivo' during a class). This is much faster than copying and pasting into a Word document, in my opinion.

On a MAC, you can do a screenshot of any selected portion of the screen by using the shortcut key commands:
CMD + upper case arrow + 4

On a PC, hit the print screen button at the top, and then crop the image in Paint
use a free program like Screen Hunter to select and do a screenshot of any portion of a website or document on your computer screen.


Did you find this  post useful?

Did I miss a useful site about verb tense timelines? 

Please let me know!

I would appreciate your comments.