6 Ways to Improve Your English

Learn grammar tenses

There are 12 tenses but only the top 4 account for 85% of all conversations in English.

Those are:

  • Past simple
  • Present simple
  • Future simple
  • Present perfect

Although you can communicate pretty much everything with those 4, when you use more advanced tenses, native English speakers will notice your good command of the English language.

Here are some examples:

Michael will have been playing soccer for three years by then.
If it hadn't been for my parents I wouldn't been have born.

Know how to use definite and indefinite articles (a, an, the)

Many languages like Chinese, Japanese, Finnish and the majority of Slavic languages don’t use articles. If you are learning English, it might get confusing when to use “a” or “the”. In some sentences, they are interchangeable or have a slightly different implication. The sentence “I’m on the train right now” or “I’m on a train right now” has the same meaning and people use both.

The basic rules are that we use the definite article (the) to refer to specific nouns and indefinite (a, an) to refer to non-specific nouns. A small trick to remember: when you can use “any” in front of the noun and the noun is countable, it means you should use an indefinite article.

“I want a bottle of water” - you want any bottle.
“I want the bottle of water” - you want a specific bottle (maybe you’re pointing at one when saying this).

However, in reality, you will encounter texts that omit articles completely. Especially in newspaper headlines or public signs. The reason for this is to save space and make the sentence shorter. “Plane lands after hitting flock of birds” (a plane, a flock).
“Caution. Stand clear of door” (the door)

To read more about definite and indefinite articles, visit this link

Know the difference between many and much

English differentiates between countable and uncountable nouns.
Countable: pencil, mouse, molecule, ball, relationship, warning
Uncountable: sand, soup, music, happiness, money

With countable, we ask “how many?” with uncountable “how much?”. Lots of beginners, especially those that speak Chinese and other languages that don’t have this concept, make mistakes in this.

Some words can work as both countable or uncountable. For example, both of these sentences are correct: “I often eat pizza for dinner” - notice we didn’t say “a pizza”, because in this sentence the word pizza is uncountable “Yesterday, I ordered two pizzas” - the pizza in this sentence is countable

To make it more tricky, the plural of some nouns are irregular and you have to memorize them. You don’t say “two mouses” but “two mice”. It’s not “many cactuses” but “many cacti”.

On the other hand, some words only have a plural form, like “scissors” or “jeans”. With words like these, we have to ask “How many pairs of jeans do you have?”.

Improve your vocabulary - say “delicious” not “very good”

The size of your vocabulary matters. The more words you know, the better you can express your ideas. Not to mention, if you want to become fluent in English, you have to read. When you read, you come across new words and terminology that you’ll be forced to understand.

An easy trick to sound more native and eloquent is to replace common phrases like “very good” with a more suitable word.

Here are a few examples:

  • “The food was very good” -> “The food was delicious”
  • “That was such a good idea!” -> “That was a brilliant idea!”
  • “He was very sorry” -> “He was apologetic”
  • “She is so beautiful” -> “She is gorgeous”

Watch comedy and make new friends

This advice is more general than the rest, nonetheless, it’s very important on your journey of improving your English. Comedy shows and stand-up performances are often filled with language that uses:

  • double meanings
  • sarcasm
  • puns
  • wordplay
  • storytelling

To understand all of these, it takes a good mix of English skills. You need to know lots of words and how they’re pronounced to understand puns

Did you know the words “q”, “cue”, and “queue” are all pronounced the same?

Comedy artists often use colloquial language and slang, which is what you need if you ever find yourself surrounded by a group of native English speakers.

Watching and listening is only one half of English. Writing and speaking is the other half. There are plenty of websites and apps that help you find friends to practice your English with.

Websites and apps to practice English

  • https://www.interpals.net - Find internet friends to chat with. You’ll find both beginners or native speakers.
  • https://www.hellotalk.com - Similar to Interpals but more modern and feature-rich. Download as an app for Android or iOS.
  • https://italki.com - Originally a portal for finding English tutors, but you can create a “notebook entry” and let people correct your grammar for free.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t feel embarrassed when people correct you. English has become a worldwide language and you’ll meet people who have accents, use slightly different terms and phrases, but no one will think less of you only because you use the wrong article or mispronounce a word.

Write down new words when watching movies

Download a dictionary app to your smartphone. Not the one that translates words to your language, but the one with definition and examples in English (i.e. Dictionary.com). Whenever you’re watching a movie with English subtitles, when a new word appears on the screen, stop the movie, look up the word in your dictionary app and write it down.

Even if you don’t look into your notebook often, studies have shown that just simply writing down things with pen on paper helps you remember things better. Make this your habit, keep your small notebook with you when you watch movies and soon you’ll be able to enjoy movies without having to stop them at all.

Find out how good your English is.