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What is Ginseng?

Well, you already know that Ginseng is an online English school. But as we talk to more and more people around the world about Ginseng, we’ve learned that more and more people want to know about the word ginseng:

  • What does it mean?
  • How do you pronounce it?
  • Why is it the name of an English school!?!?

Well, ask and you shall receive. Let's get some answers to those questions!


What is Ginseng?

Ginseng is a plant! And it's a funny plant because the root—the underground part of the plant—is more famous than the flowers and leaves.

Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to help people relax. Some people even say it improves your memory!

The word ginseng comes from the Hokkien pronunciation (/jîn-sim/)of the Chinese word (人参) for the plant. That literally translates to person-root, because the root often has two “legs” and looks like a person.


How do You Pronounce Ginseng?

First, that G is soft. This means it sounds like an English J, as in jump. G is often—but not always—pronounced this way when it is before either an E or an I.

The first syllable sounds exactly like the word gin, a common alcohol. It also sounds like the first syllable in ginger, another root.

The last syllable sounds exactly like the English word sing. The E is pronounced like a short I sound. (Note: some people pronounce the -seng with a short E sound, but that's not what we say for Ginseng English).

The stress in the word is on the first syllable. So all together, the word ginseng is pronounced jin-sing (IPA: /ˈdʒɪn sɪŋ/).


Why did you name the school Ginseng?

Lots of reasons! Many of the best brands out there are not literal descriptions of what the company does. Think about Google, Nike, Mercedes. This was the type of brand we wanted. We didn't want to be Rob’s Online English School. We wanted something more abstract and suggestive, something evocative.

 Early logo for Engma English

Early logo for Engma English

The first idea was Engma, the name for this symbol: ŋ. After a while, we decided that this was a little too esoteric and just didn't work for our company.

Ginseng worked better for a couple of reasons:

We first started considering this name because of its sound. It’s one of the only other words in which the letters E-N-G are pronounced /ɪŋ/ like they are in Eng-lish

Also, ginseng has lots of positive connotations: it's relaxing and it helps your memory. These are two very important things for learning a language!


What about that logo?

Ginseng root is often made into a relaxing tea, so our logo is a steaming cup of tea to help you relax while you learn English with us! As you may have noticed, it’s also our letter G, upside-down!

What is Ginseng?

More about Ginseng English

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Best Instagram Accounts for Learning English

Learning English online isn't easy, and your best options are generally actual online classes with real teachers, but Instagram does have some great ESL sites to help you improve your English! Here's a list of our favorite accounts. 

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Confusing words: Rise, raise, and arise

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Hi there! Remember me? I'm Yentelman, the blogger who's been helping Spanish students with their English (and even their Spanish!) for quite a few years now. I'm back at Ginseng English to try and teach you the differences between a trio of confusing words. As an English teacher whose mother tongue is Spanish, I am well aware which words students of English struggle with. Been there, done that myself!

Today's confusing words are three common verbs: rise, arise and raise. Look at them. Just look at them. They look like they're actually mocking you, don't they? They are like, "We’re so confusing that you'll never use us right!" Well, let's prove them wrong!


 
 The Sun Also  Rises  - Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

 

Rise

 How about  the cocktail of the same name?  Yeah, I thought so.

How about the cocktail of the same name? Yeah, I thought so.

Pronounced /raɪz/, its simple past is rose and past participle risen when it's working as a verb. When I try to use this one properly, I always link it to the noun sun. It's a perfect collocation, actually. You may remember it from such books as Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. You don't? OK, what about the movie, Tequila Sunrise? No? C'mon guys, the one with Mel Gibson? Michelle Pfeiffer? An all-slicked-back Kurt Russell? OK, whatever.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that, if you remember rise with sun, it will be easier for you to distinguish rise from the other two verbs that are going to show up here. You can also tell the difference between rise and raise in that the former is an intransitive verb, i.e. it's not followed by a direct object. For example, keeping with the sun topic, in the sentence:

The sun rises in the east.

We can clearly see the verb rise is not followed by an object (a noun or pronoun). If you have no direct object, you need rise, not raise.

Rise can also be used to indicate that something abstract is going up, as for example in

Gas prices are rising again!

 I bet it was not the only thing that  rose ...

I bet it was not the only thing that rose...

This sense can convey a positive meaning when we are speaking, for instance, of moods or expectations.

My expectations rose when the pretty blonde girl at the bar looked at me.

You may have noticed that in the two examples above the meanings of rise were, respectively, "to ascend above the horizon", and "to increase in degree, intensity, or force". I'm crediting Dictionary.com for the meanings, and if you bother to look at the definitions they give of rise, you'll see there are more than 50!

So, you reaaaally need to observe each context properly when you are going to use any of the three verbs in this post. As long as you remember rise is intransitive and you pay good attention to what goes after the verb, you should be good to go. If in doubt, check a good dictionary.

I'll wrap up this section saying that rise can also be a noun. As is the case of the verb, its meaning is related to ascending or increasing. We can also use it to talk about value, prices, or temperature, as in the following example:

Sam couldn't help complaining about the rise in temperature. What did he expect of our holidays in Mount Doom?


Raise

You should be able to easily distinguish raise (/reɪz/)  from rise if you just remember raise is transitive, which means it will be followed by a direct object.

The student raised his hand to answer the question.

As you can see in the example, raise is followed by the direct object, his hand. Remember you can find out whether there's a direct object after the verb in a sentence by asking the verb, "what?" What did the student raise? His hand. There you go. We have a direct object, so you need to use raise, not rise.

Raise Rise and Arise
Base Verb Pronunciation Simple Past Perfect
rise /raɪz/ rose risen
raise /reɪz/ raised raised
arise /əˈraɪz/ arose arisen

Another thing you may have noticed in the above example is the verb is in the simple past, ending in -ed. This could be another hint to help you distinguish between the two confusing verbs. While rise is irregular, raise is regular and both its past and past participle end in -ed. Check out the chart for a conjugation of all three verbs.

 
 A random worker in the USA.

A random worker in the USA.

Raise can be a noun, too, especially talking about salaries, as in the following example:

I hate that bastard Pete. He's been given yet another pay rise. It's his third this year, for fuck's sake!

I'd ask you to pardon my French (or my English in this case), but I always try to use real-life examples. Now I think of it, has anybody been given a pay raise in real life? Not here in Spain, that's for sure...


Arise

Last but not least, we have a third verb: arise. Everything seems to hint that there are plenty of similarities with rise: it is also intransitive, irregular (with a past and past participle forms that are very similar to those of rise: arose and arisen) and it's also pronounced similarly: /əˈraɪz/. One would say it's just rise with an a- at the beginning of the word.

And its meaning? While it's true that it can replace rise, meaning "to get up from sitting, lying, or kneeling", this usage is fairly outdated and only used in very formal contexts.

"Arise, Lord Snow!" - Said Queen Daenerys after Jon Snow had bent his knee.

 Always. Just in case.

Always. Just in case.

When do we use arise, then? Mainly when we want to convey the meaning of something coming into being, originating or occurring. That "something" will usually be a problem, an occasion, a necessity, a situation or difficulty of some sort, etc. Even in this context, arise is a verb with quite an abstract meaning, indicating that something not only becomes evident but people are also aware of it happening.

The opportunity arose for Rick to purchase a 1554 Spanish shipwreck gold bar.



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Let the Cat Out of the Bag

English Idiom - Let The Cat out of the Bag

Have you ever accidentally told a secret, or shared something you shouldn't? If you have, you let the cat out of the bag. We use this phrase to say that you let a secret 'escape'.

Here’s some examples!

Examples

Christine told us not to tell anyone that she is pregnant, but I accidentally mentioned it to a friend and let the cat out of the bag. I felt awful! 

Lynn told me that she was quitting her job. I didn't realize this was a secret, and I let the cat out of the bag by telling her coworker. Luckily, her boss wasn't mad!

My fiancé and I weren't ready to tell our parents we were engaged, but when I forgot to take off my engagement ring, the cat was out of the bag." 💍


Other free English resources:

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Cat Got Your Tongue

English Idiom - Cat Got Your Tongue

Today's idiom is cat got your tongue. We use this idiom when someone has nothing to say, or when they are unusually quiet.

This may be an easy one to remember, because it's quite visual! If the cat has your tongue, you are literally unable able to speak! 👅 😸

Here’s some examples!

Examples

I had a big speech prepared, but when I got up on stage, I froze! Cat got my tongue!

Why are you so quiet? Cat got your tongue?

Lilly was very opinionated but today she didn't have much to say. I wondered if the cat got her tongue!

 


Other free English resources:

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Catnap

English Idiom - Catnap

Today's idiom is catnap. If someone takes a very short nap, you can say that they took a catnap. We use this expression because cats are known for sleeping for short periods of time throughout the day.

Catnaps are great because even though they are very quick, you can usually get a good boost of energy from them!

Here’s some examples!

Examples

I'm so tired, but I only have a couple of minutes before my next meeting, I guess I'll try to squeeze in a quick catnap!

Wow, I only slept for 10 minutes, but I feel so refreshed! What a great catnap!

Jolene had a long drive ahead of her, so she took a catnap so she could stay awake.

 

 

3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

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Other free English resources:

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Gray Area

English Idiom - Gray Area

We use the term gray area to talk about a situation where things don't fit easily into categories or where the rules are not clear. Things are easy when they are black and white, but much more complicated when there is a lot of gray area. Examples below!

Examples

It seems like there is a lot of gray area in the university's policy on coworkers dating.

A good novel doesn't just tell you what to think about a character, if they are good or bad. The gray area is the most interesting part!

The law was designed before the internet existed, so there is still a lot of legal gray area surrounding it.

3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

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Other free English resources:

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Contractions in English

One challenging aspect of learning English is that there are different registers: we have spoken English and written English, formal English and informal English. Some words are okay in every register, but others are only okay in speech. Some only sound right in writing. 

Contractions are a big part of distinguishing between these different forms of English. If you ever go to an English-speaking university, you'll find that you can't use can't or don't or isn't in your academic writing. Let's take a look at what contractions are and how they can make your English more or less formal.

What are Contractions?

Contractions are words that combine two or more other words together into a new shortened version, usually using an apostrophe ('). Contractions are very common in spoken English. You have probably heard some of these common contractions: I'm, can't, aren't, don't, didn't

The apostrophe is small, but important. In writing you must use the apostrophe. You do not pronounce it, but it is important in writing. Notice that the apostrophe represents some letters that are missing from the longer form of the word. For instance, the apostrophe in didn't is in place of the O in did not and the apostrophe in I'm  is in the place of the A in I am.

Be careful, because not every word with an apostrophe is a contraction. Possessive nouns in English end with apostrophe -s, (Bob's house, Carla's mom) but these are not contractions.

Why Do We Have Contractions?

Contractions originate in speech. We are lazy when we speak English! When we are speaking quickly, we reduce certain sounds (make them shorter and quieter), and over time we elide them completely (we don't pronounce them at all). So over time, she will becomes she'll, I have becomes I've, going to becomes gonna

When do we use contractions?

This question has a slightly complicated answer.

We frequently use contractions in spoken English, and you should try to use common contractions in your speech to make your English more fluent. We generally do not use any contractions in formal writing (academic papers, for examples).

In between casual speech and formal written English, there is a gray area: we have more formal spoken English, like presentations and business meetings. We have less formal writing, like emails and letters. In this case, you have more of a choice. Some people use contractions and some do not. In this gray area, we should also talk about different types of contractions!

Standard Contractions

Not all contractions are the same. Some are more standard and acceptable than others. Standard contractions include the following:

  • aren't
  • can't
  • couldn't
  • didn't
  • doesn't
  • don't
  • hadn't
  • hasn't
  • haven't
  • he'd
  • he'll
  • he's
  • he's
  • how'd
  • how's
  • I'd
  • I'm
  • I've
  • isn't
  • let's
  • she'd
  • she'll
  • she's
  • shouldn't
  • there's
  • wasn't
  • we'd
  • we'll
  • we're
  • we've
  • weren't
  • won't
  • wouldn't
  • you'd
  • you'll
  • you're

You can use these in anything but formal writing. This means they are common in speech, creative writing, emails, text messages, notes, and letters. Try to pay attention when you are reading online. Are there contractions in what you are reading? If there are no contractions, you are probably reading a more formal style of writing.

Some Standard English Contractions

Nonstandard Contractions

But there are other contractions that are nonstandard. These contractions have evolved more recently and haven't become as acceptable in written English yet. Nonstandard contractions should only be used in very informal situations (text messages with friends, for instance) or to be funny. Here are some examples:

  • gimme
  • gonna
  • gotta
  • hafta
  • I'd've
  • I'm'a
  • must've
  • there're
  • there've
  • those're
  • wanna
  • we'd've
  • what're
  • who'd've
  • why'd

This is not a complete list. People can often get creative and make their own contractions like these, so watch and see if you can identify new contractions!

Nonstandard English Contractions

 

 

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Sick as a Dog

English Idiom - Sick as a Dog

Today's idiom is sick as a dog. This expression actually dates back to the 1700s when there weren't many veterinarians to help sick dogs, so it was common for dogs to be very sick. Now, if someone is very, very ill, we say that they are "sick as a dog." 🐶😷 

Here’s some examples!

Examples

Rebecca ate a bad hamurget and got food poisoning. Her boss said to her, "Rebecca, you look as sick as a dog, you need to go home right now!"

Jennifer was very tired while traveling in Costa Rica. She thought she was just homesick, but realized she was running a fever. She finally admitted that she was sick as a dog and went to the hospital.  🤒

I don't know what was in that seafood dinner, but afterwards, everyone in my family was sick as a dog!

3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

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Other free English resources:

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

English Idiom - Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

What is more peaceful than a sleeping dog? If you wake up a sleeping dog, you never know what might happen: They could either give you a big kiss, or a big bite! 

Today's expression is let sleeping dogs lie, which means that you should not bring up old fights or conflicts. Instead, it is best to just forget them and let them be. This is especially common if an argument has been dropped, but not resolved. Letting sleeping dogs lie is a way of keeping the peace and avoiding conflict.

Here are some examples!

Examples

My sister was wearing the shirt that I know she stole from me, but we were having a peaceful family dinner so I decided to just let sleeping dogs lie and not bring it up.

Hannah got her test back and noticed that the teacher made a mistake on her grade. She was getting an A in the class anyway, so she decided to let sleeping dogs lie and not bother asking the teacher to correct it.

Alex knew that him and his girlfriend would never come to an agreement about whose turn it was to do the dishes, so he thought it was best to let sleeping dogs lie and just do them himself. 

3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

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Other free English resources:

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At the End of the Day

English Idiom - At the End of the Day

Today's idiom is at the end of the day. We also use it to mean "ultimately," "when all was said and done," "in conclusion," "to sum it up," or "all things considered." You can use this expression when you have considered all of the facts and a ready to make a big decision. Some people will also say it before presenting the final and biggest fact of a situation, or as a way to summarize the final decision.

Check out the examples below! 

Examples

Of course I'll listen to all the sales pitches, but at the end of the day, it's about which company can save us the most money.

Everyone was fighting over the office space with the most windows, but they knew that at the end of the day, the boss would get the best office.

Molly's mom told her that she didn't have to do her homework, but at the end of the day it was Molly who would get the bad grades, not her mom.

3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

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Things in a Living Room: 2

English Vocabulary - Things in a Living Room: 2

Things in a Living Room: 2

Last week we brought you “Things in a Living Room”.  This week we have part two!

You will see a couple of the same things in this second living room for a little review! 🤓

As we mentioned last week, the living room is the room in a house that is most comfortable and welcoming. 

Let’s start in the center of this picture and work our way around it. In the center, you will see a piece of art with trees on it. 🖼🌳 You can also call this a painting.  

To the right, we have a bookshelf. Last week we talked about a bookcase. A bookcase is a piece of furniture that has many bookshelves in it. But you can also just have a bookshelf on your wall, like we see here! On this bookshelf, you will find a blue vase and are a couple of books ⚱️📚. 

On the floor, under the artwork is a lounge chair. A lounge chair is different from a couch because it usually fits only one person.  Lounge means to to sit back and relax, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do in a living room! On the lounge chair there are two throw pillows

Next to the lounge chair is a footrest. A footrest is a small piece of furniture next to a chair that you can rest (or relax) your feet on. On top of the foot rest is a cushion.

To the left of the lounge chair is a side table. We call it a side table because it is a small table that we keep on the side of a couch or chair.  On top of the side table is another vase with some flowers. 💐Next to the flowers is an old radio, which plays music or the news. 📻 

Did we miss anything?  How is this living room different than yours?  🤔

 

Things in a Living Room: 1

More free English resources 

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Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Today is Saint Patrick's Day! We usually abbreviate Saint to St., and we often just call it St. Patty's Day.

St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland in the fifth century. The funny thing about St. Patrick's Day is that it's heavily celebrated in the United States. Because of the large population of Irish immigrants in the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day changed from a serious religious holiday into a fun celebration of all things Irish. ☘️ 🇮🇪

On St. Patty's Day, many American cities, such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, have big parades in the streets. Chicago even dyes their river green! We'd be lying if we told you that there's not a lot of drinking (especially Guinness drinking). 🍻

You may have noticed this funny looking man in our post. He is called a leprechaun, which is a mystical type of mischievous small person. They come from Irish folklore, and are very common on St. Pattie's Day. Sometimes children set up traps to try to "catch" the leprechauns. It is rumored that leprechauns can be enticed by gold and candy...

In fact, leprechauns are fun to describe using the vocabulary and sentence frames from our Describing People blog post! Leprechauns are very short. They have red hair and red beards. Leprechauns wear green clothes and big green hats with a gold buckle on them.

Do you celebrate this holiday in your country? How is it different from how we celebrate? Do you have leprechauns too? Have you ever caught one?? 😎 


3 Steps to Studying with Ginseng

Studying with Ginseng is easy! Click the FREE DEMO CLASS button to request your demo. Then you will get an email from one of our staff to schedule your class. Then just log in and meet your teacher!

Request Demo Class Meet Ginseng Teacher Schedule First Class!
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Other free English resources:

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