Language Tips

This page includes links to posts we've created in response to questions multilingual graduate students often have about English. New posts will be regularly added, and we welcome suggestions for topics! If you have an idea for a topic you would like to see covered here, please send us a quick note at

Latest Language Tips

Test-Related Terms

Do you know the common expressions used for talking about different types of test questions or exam policies? Use the test below to check your knowledge and help you learn some ways to describe exams.

High-Frequency Phrasal Verbs

To help you practice and review phrasal verbs, we've divided the Phrasal Verb (PHaVE) List compiled by Garnier & Schmitt (2015) into 10 Quizlet practice sets with 15 phrasal verbs each. Only the most common meaning(s) for each phrasal verb are given.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs (like look up and find out) present many challenges to non-native English speakers. In this article, we'll review those challenges, offer some tips to help you handle them, and share activities and resources for helping you improve your mastery of these verbs.

Challenge #1: They're Hard to Recognize

Phrasal verbs can be hard to recognize since they are composed of two or more components, a main verb + one or more particles.

break down = break (main verb) + down (particle)

Grammar: Pronouns and Gender

Evolution of Third-Person Singular Pronouns in English

Language is constantly evolving. We add new words, and we adjust the ways we use old words. This happens a lot with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, but we don't see it happen as frequently with some other categories like pronouns (me, your, etc.) or conjunctions (and, but, etc.). There have been some notable changes to the use of pronouns, though, and those changes are related to gender. 

A few decades ago, it would be pretty common to see a sentence like this:

Grammar: Conditional Statements

Conditionals in English are one of the most challenging grammar structures for non-native English speakers. Review these images to brush up on conditionals and then complete the practice exercise to check your understanding.

Grammar: Past Simple vs. Present Perfect

Both present perfect and simple past can be used to talk about past events, so it can be tricky to figure out which one is best to use. Review these quick tips to help you remember the differences between the two.

Example Verbs in Past Simple and Present Perfect   walk study eat past simple walked studied ate present perfect have walked have studied have eaten

Here are some basic rules you can use:

Grammar: Prepositions of Time (at/in/on)

Choosing the correct preposition can be tricky in English since there are three different prepositions commonly used in expressions of time: at, in, and on. 

Fortunately, using the wrong preposition of time probably won't lead to misunderstandings, so if you say "at Tuesday" instead of "on Tuesday," people will still understand you. But, students commonly ask us for help with these prepositions, so here is a quick overview!

You can practice using the sentences below!