Summer Idioms

In America, summer officially ends on September 22nd, though in many places it starts to feel like fall much earlier than that! To make sure we enjoy summer for as long as possible, here are some fun summer idioms!



Past Continuous Tense

The past continuous is an important and challenging verb tense in English. It is used to describe actions that were in progress at a specific point in the past. Read about the rules for using the present perfect tense and how we form it, with charts and over 25 example sentences!



Silent T Words

Stop pronouncing these words wrong! If you’re looking for explanations and examples of words with silent T, you’ve come to the right place. Charts, definitions, a word list of over 20 examples, and the history of how silent T became silent.


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Battle Idioms

Today’s idiom posts are all about dogs! Check out this post for several example sentences, definitions. and images to help you remember these idioms!

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Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous is a common but challenging verb tense in English. It is used to describe actions that are happening at the current moment. Read about the rules for using the present perfect tense and how we form it, with charts and over 25 example sentences!



Pronouns in English

Pronouns are among the most common and important words in English.  Pronouns can be difficult because we use different ones for different parts of speech. This post teaches all the types of pronouns with charts and examples.



Dog Idioms

Today’s idiom posts are all about dogs! Check out this post for several example sentences, definitions. and images to help you remember these idioms!



Cat Idioms

English has tons of idioms about animals. Have a look at these idioms about cats. Check out this post for several example sentences, definitions. and images to help you remember these idioms!



Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect is a common but confusing verb tense in English. It is used to connect the past to the present.. Read about the rules for using the present perfect tense and how we form it, with charts and tons of example sentences!



Low Hanging Fruit

English Idiom - Low Hanging Fruit

Today's idiom is low hanging fruit. We use this expression to describe the tasks or jobs that are the easiest to finish first, don't require a lot of hard work, but make a big difference.

The reason we describe the easiest jobs as low hanging fruit is because the fruit that is hanging lowest on a tree is always the easiest to pick! Once you take care of the low hang fruit, you can work to pick the fruit that is higher from the ground.

Here are some examples!


When trying to sell their new product, the company called customers who had already bought from them first. They seemed like low hanging fruit.

I needed to save some money, so when I looked at my budget, I decided to cut out the low hanging fruit first, and stop getting so many drinks with friends! 

The website needed a lot of improvements, but we had to take it one step at a time so we started with the low hanging fruit, such as changing the color scheme and fixing the homepage.

This article about healthcare is good, but it seems like the writer chose to write only about the low hanging fruit issues, and not the more complex ones that really need to be talked about.


Other free English resources:



Simple Future Tense

The simple future is a very common verb tense used to talk about plans and expectations in English. Read about the rules for using it, how we form it, and tons of example sentences!



...And Sometimes Y?

How Many Vowels Are There?

How many vowels are there in English? Five? Six? Twenty? Five and a half? 

If you ask an American what the English vowels are, we will almost all say the exact same thing that we learned in school as children:

A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.

Ellen Degeneres recently tweeted at NSYNC, and she jokingly congratulated for making a major accomplishment "without a vowel" in their band name. However, as many people (including Ginseng) explained, Y is a vowel in NSYNC. Ellen was just making a joke, of course, but many people, learners and native speakers alike, really don't understand what it means when we say that Y is "sometimes" a vowel.

Let's look a little closer at what exactly we mean when we say "and sometimes Y" in order to help us understand several important aspects of English pronunciation and spelling.

How Many Vowels Are There?

Vowels and Consonants

Before we can say how many vowels there are, we need to clarify what exactly a vowel is. The answer is not as simple as you may think. The most common dictionary definitions say something like this

vowel (n.) 

1. a speech sound in which air flows out through the mouth and is not blocked by the teeth, tongue, or lips;

2. a letter representing one of these sounds.

On the other hand, consonant is usually defined something like this:

consonant (n.) - any speech sound or letter that is not a vowel.

So a vowel is a sound made with your mouth open, and a consonant is basically every other sound.


Sounds and letters

You may have noticed that the definitions of consonant and vowel above talk about both sounds and letters, and this is where the confusion comes from. Sounds and letters are different things. Letters are written and are meant to represent the sounds in a language.

However, you have probably noticed that English sounds and letters don't have a perfect correspondence. For example, sometimes the letter C sounds like S (as in city) but other times it sounds like K (as in cat). 

This is especially true about vowels. If we ignore Y for a moment, there are 5 vowel letters: A, E, I, O, U. However, if we look at vowel sounds there are between 14 and 21 (depending on the accent). 

How is this possible? Think about the different sounds that A makes in the words father, bake, and cap, and the different U sounds in put, cup, and nuke.

The most important idea here is that letters can make different sounds.


Why is Y Special?

Okay, but we're talking about Y, right? Is it a consonant or a vowel!? How many vowels are there!? We need a number!

So, like many other letters, the letter Y represents many different sounds. You can see the most common ones in the words only, cry, myth, and yet

Let's look more closely at those examples: in only, Y makes the long E sound /i/, the same sound E makes in we. In cry, Y makes the long I sound /aɪ/, pronounced like the I in mine. In myth, Y makes the short I sound /ɪ/, the same sound as the I in kid. As you can see, these are all vowel sounds.

The Y in yet is different. It isn't really a sound that other letters frequently make. Its "the Y sound" /j/. And this is a consonant sound. If you make this sound, you will feel that the back of your tongue rises up toward the top of your mouth. Remember, when we block or obstruct the air to make a sound, this is what makes a consonant.

So the reason that the letter Y is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant is that it makes several different sounds. Some of these sounds are vowel sounds, and one is a consonant sound. In the words only, cry, and myth, Y is a vowel. In yet, yellow, and you it is a consonant. 

In case you were still wondering about Ellen's NSYNC tweet, the Y in NSYNC is definitely a vowel.


Y is Almost Always a Vowel

So we know why Y is sometimes a vowel, but we were curious: How often is Y a vowel and how often is it a consonant. How common are the different sounds that Y makes? The answer was not easy to find, but eventually we came across an academic paper that contained the answer we needed. 

It turns out that Y is not just "sometimes" a vowel. It is almost always a vowel. It is only a consonant around 2.5% of the time. That means about 97.5% of the time it is a vowel. By far, the most common sound it makes is long E /i/. As you might guess, this is probably because -y and -ly are very common suffixes in English.

Next time you hear someone say "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y," you can correct them: "A, E, I, O, U, and 97.5% of the time Y!"

Y Vowel and Consonant Sounds






句型是我们学习说英语的一个很有用的方法。一个句型是一个空的位置,许多不同的词可以在许多不同的情况下放进去使用。例如,如果你学习了 I feel [ADJECTIVE] 的句型,你可以造出几百个不同的句子。你所需要做的就是学习一个新的形容词,放到合适的地方:我觉得饿。我觉得累。我觉得生气。我感觉不舒服。对于基础水平的学生,学习句型是学习英语的好方法!

句型1 -描述人的基本句子。


The man is [ADJECTIVE]. 


The man is tall. (这个男人个子高。) The man is fat. (这个男人胖。) The man is ugly. (这个男人丑。) The man is in shape. (这个男人体型好。) 你可以把任何人放在那个位置。

重要的是要知道,The man男人这个词是可以替换的。这个女人个子高。我朋友个子高。我爸爸个子高。简个子高。她个子高。你可以把任何人放在那个位置。



Adjectives to Describe People in English
英语 发音 中文
tall /tɔl/
short /ʃɔrt/
thin /θɪn/
fat /fæt/
old /oʊld/
young /jʌŋ/ 年轻
in shape /ɪn ʃeɪp/ 状态良好
out of shape /aʊt ʌv ʃeɪp/ 变形
beautiful /ˈbjutəfəl/ 漂亮
ugly /ˈʌgli/ 好丑
handsome /ˈhænsəm/ 英俊
bald /bɔld/

句型2 -描述特征的基本句子


The woman has [FEATURE].





句型3 -描述衣服的基本句子。


The woman is wearing [CLOTHES].



所有这些衣服都可以用颜色词语来描述。The woman is wearing black shoes. (这个女人穿着黑色的鞋。) The man is wearing a yellow tie. (这个男人戴着黄色的领带。)








句型4 -形容词之前的名词


The [ADJECTIVE] man is my neighbor.


The handsome man is my neighbor. (那个英俊的男人是我的邻居。The old man is my neighbor. (那位老人是我的邻居。The fat man is my neighbor. (那个胖子是我的邻居。)同样,句子的结尾(我们称之为谓语)也是一个可填充的位置,你可以在那里放进不同的动词:那个高个男人喜欢足球。那个高个子正在吃东西。那个高个男人有一辆汽车。



句型5 -特点和“with”

如果你想在同一个句子里谈论某人的特征,我们需要使用介词 “with”。我们可以说,戴眼镜的那个男人是我的邻居。任何其他特点都可以放入相同的位置:

The man with [FEATURE] is my neighbor.


The man with red hair is my neighbor. (红头发的那个男人是我的邻居。 The man with a mustache is my neighbor. (留胡子的那个男人是我的邻居。)

句型6 -衣服和 “in”

当我们想谈论衣服时,我们需要另一个介词。我们用 “in”来取代“with”。穿蓝衬衫的那个男人是我的邻居。上面的任何一个服装词汇都可以放进同一位置上:

The man in [CLOTHES] is my neighbor.


The man in the tie is my neighbor. (那个戴领带的男人是我的邻居。)The man in the grey pants is my neighbor. (穿灰色裤子的那个男人是我的邻居。)The woman in the red hat is my neighbor. (那个戴红帽子的女人是我的邻居。)




Rob Sheppard is the founder and Chief Executive Teacher at Ginseng. Over the past ten years, he has taught English in Taiwan, South Korea, and his hometown of Boston. Now he teaches online at Ginseng while traveling the world.

You can email Rob at