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Tips on Knowing the Difference Between They’re, Their, and There

Many ESL students–and even some native English speakers–will often mix up the spellings of the homonyms they’re, their, and there (homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings). It can be tricky to remember which one to use and when, but sticking to these rules will help you memorize the differences between each one.


Let’s begin with they’re. As you can probably tell by the apostrophe, they’re is a two-word contraction. (A contraction is two words linked to form one word. Contractions are mainly used in informal settings or conversations).

The contraction stems from the words they are. This means you are speaking in the plural form of third person. If it becomes confusing, keep in mind that the apostrophe (‘) is a replacement of the letter [a] in the word are.

Check out the following examples:

They’re sitting on my sofa.”
(“They are sitting on my sofa.”)


Their is a possessive adjective, meaning it denotes ownership or belonging. Note also that it’s plural.

If we are talking about Mr. and Mrs. Martinez and then we notice that they have a black and white dog, we can easily use their in conversation.

For example: “Mr. and Mrs. Martinez have a cute dog. Their dog is black and white.”
As you can see, we are using their to refer to Mr. and Mrs. Martinez. This helps us avoid using their names again.

Let’s look at another example.

“The children are eating dessert. Their dessert is a chocolate cake that their mother made.”

If you change the sentence and substitute their with the nouns, it would look like this:

“The children’s dessert is a chocolate cake that the children’s mother made.”

The difference is that we are substituting the children’s with their. The idea of using the possessive nouns is to avoid repetition of the nouns.

Other possessive adjectives are:


Finally, we have there. When you think of the word there, think of a physical or abstract place.

An easy way to remember the spelling is by thinking of it’s antonym: here. Simply add [T] to here to get there… 


Let’s look at an example:

“My sister was standing over there.” (Far)

“My brother was standing over here.” (Near)

There can also be used to signify a task is complete i.e. “There. All finished.” (Informal).


There. That covers there, their, and they’re. They’re a bit tricky, but we hope this will help you to remember their spelling.

In Defense of Y’all: Pluralizing the Second-Person

When you first learned English, you probably spent a lot of time on pronouns, especially those in the first-person (I, we, me, us) and third-person (he, she, it, him, her). You probably didn’t devote much energy on the second-person. You didn’t have to—it’s just one word!


Unlike most world languages, English has just one word to second-person. It doesn’t matter if the antecedent is the subject or object, male or female, singular or plural, subordinate or elder.

Addressing one man? You. Two women? You. Your children? You. Your boss? You.

An imaginary blog readership? You.

You get the idea.

Ever the innovators, Americans have adopted a few to distinguish the second-person plural in spoken English. Americans in northern states, for example, pluralize you as “you guys.” It’s a grammatically correct modification to be sure (and efficient, too, with just one added syllable), but it can be a little confusing to non-native English speakers. That’s because they (we) use “you guys” when addressing a group, any group, regardless of gender—even a group comprised of 100 percent of women!

In New York City, a gender-neutral plural form arose at the turn of the 20th century: youse (or youse guys). The idea was simple enough: just add an S to you, same as you would do to most other common nouns. For whatever reason though, youse never really caught on beyond the five boroughs. In fact, these days it appears to be dying out in its hometown—rarely will you hear a youse in 2018 outside of All in the Family reruns (Google it).

Which brings us to y’all.

At some point in the 19th century, American southerners adopted “You all” to distinguish the plural second person. Drop the ou and you have y’all. During and after the Great Migration, African Americans popularized its usage in industrial northern cities. Unlike the endangered youse, usage of y’all appears to be spreading, not waning. In some ways, that makes sense. Not only is the addition of all grammatically correct, it’s also logically sound. Unlike guys, all is all-inclusive. Plus, it’s relatively easy to pronounce (Go ahead. Try it. If it feels unnatural to you, don’t force it. Maybe you’re more of a you guys type of person. The point is that you recognize/understand both when you hear them in everyday life).

One last (and very important) note: y’all and you guys are considered very informal and are more appropriate to spoken than written English. Avoid using it in academic papers, business letters, and other formal writing.

We hope y’all found this helpful.


5 Top Tips for a Successful Job Interview in English

5 Top Tips for a Successful Job Interview in English

Passing a job interview is difficult. Job interviews make us uncomfortable, make us sweat, cause us to misspeak, and make us say things that we often don’t mean. It’s a difficult process and not speaking English as your native language makes it even harder. However, it’s not impossible. It’s important to be fully prepared when walking into an English job interview and the right preparation is key.


Here are our five top tips for effectively preparing for (and passing) a job interview in English as a non-native English speaker.


Make a Great First Impression

Whether you like it or not, we are all guilty of judging people at first glance. And while it’s true that the perfect candidate may be hiding behind sweatpants and an AC/DC t-shirt, the fact is that first impressions are everything. Make sure to dress nice without overdoing it. That means smart-looking shoes and a formal or semi-formal business outfit. Do a quick Google image search for “business interview attire” to get an idea of what is OK and what isn’t. Ensure that your hair and/or facial hair is properly groomed and make sure that there is nothing on your hands or neck that might distract the interviewer from giving you his or her undivided attention. You want to be interesting, but not overly distracting.


Be Prepared

If you’ve gotten through the initial online selection process, you’re already being considered as a top candidate for the position. The interview exists as a way to make sure that you’ve got the proper business soft skills to fill this new position. That means great communication, listening without interrupting, taking proper instruction, and showing interest are all things you will be judged on during your first contact with a future employer. Show lots of interest in what the interviewer is saying and try to take mental note of anything that isn’t clear. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will most likely ask you if you have any questions. This is your chance to show your excellent listening comprehension skills as well as to ask questions that show you’ve prepared for the interview. Make sure to check out the company website and do some digging on Google beforehand. Jot down some quick notes on recent company news and anything else that piques your interest. This is your chance to show the interviewer that you aren’t interested in just any job. You are interested in this job.


Don’t Be Late!

You can make a lot of missteps during an interview and still secure the job, but being late is not one of them! You must arrive on time under any and all circumstances. You should try and arrive about 10 minutes before the interview and make sure you have enough time to locate the exact location if it’s inside a large building. You will probably have to wait a few minutes, but try and use this time to mentally review all of the key takeaways you’d like the interviewer to receive during your interview. Ask yourself, “If I were an employer, what would I be looking for in a candidate seeking this position?” Make sure that you are able to transmit whatever that is during the short time that you have with the interviewer. And once again, don’t be late! If you don’t have a great history of being punctual, try showing up much earlier and grab a coffee near your interview location. Prepare yourself mentally and imagine the interview going exactly like you want during this time. When it’s time for your interview, you’ll be right next door and “unforeseen circumstances” will be much less likely to occur.


Keep It Direct and Professional

When we’re nervous, we often go on and on about unrelated subjects as a way to calm our nerves. Don’t worry, it happens! But  during an interview you’ll need to be relaxed and professional if you want to land the job. Make sure that everything you say is directly related to the question being asked and try not to go on too much about your personal life. It’s good to add personal details, but make sure they’re always related to how you can better help the company and highlight your professional experience without boasting. After the interviewer asks a question, take a breath and think clearly about what you’re going to answer before opening your mouth. It’s easy to begin answering without understanding the question or thinking about how you can relate it to your professional experience. So relax, take a deep breath, and answer honestly. That’s what your interviewer wants after all.


Common Sense (And A Smile!)

This should never be an issue, but make sure to always keep it professional – your looks, your speech patterns, and the content of the interview. No swearing. No bad habits like burping or chewing your fingernails. And no taboo topics like religion, race, or politics. Culturally, you may not be accustomed to the professional demeanour of specific interview situations, but if the business appears to be professional, then you also must act like a professional. Of course, the true key to success lies in being yourself! After all, that’s the person they want working at their company. So get in the right mindset, put on a smile, and envision that the job is already yours. You’ll be calmer, more collected, and will come across as your true self.


Looking to enhance your business soft skills or need a few practice sessions to make sure you’re ready for your next business interview in English? Sign up for one of our professional courses for adults. We offer specialized attention and teaching methods that were designed for success, making sure that you’re ready for anything your next English interview throws at you!


Visit us at 1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd in New York or give us a call to learn more about all of our classes for adults and business professionals.



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English for Business

English for Business

International Language Study for Professionals in NYC

As the world becomes more connected both digitally and physically, the English language plays an increasingly important role in international business. Have you ever considered how business is done all over the world when there isn’t a common language? How is it possible that Japanese car makers can effectively negotiate with Italian leather manufacturers and Brazilian rubber suppliers? For business professionals in all fields, English communication is a driving factor in making deals and ensuring that success is achieved in the easiest and clearest manner possible.

Many of our students at Speak Up quickly discover that learning English is a key factor in helping them stand out in their workplace. In fact, we have courses which are specifically tailored to business professionals learning English. These lessons incorporate vocabulary, expressions, and idioms which are sure to be important at some point in your professional future. If you ask around, a surprising amount of business professionals will tell you that their lack of English is one of the greatest factors holding them back from a company promotion. If you’ve ever had to give an important presentation in English or happened to be put in charge of taking notes for your company when listening to one, then you know how challenging it can be to have a responsibility that you don’t feel 100% confident or comfortable about.

Speak Up USA understands the incredible demands placed on international employees in the United States. Often times, your boss or company manager may not take into account that you have studied English for years or decades just to be able to perform your job effectively. Unfortunately, sometimes a lack of solid communication or a failure to express yourself properly in English can be poorly interpreted by a supervisor who has never had to realize the struggles of living and working with a foreign language. It’s important that you speak English properly so that your knowledge and hard work shine through as they should.

Whether you feel good about it or not, the English language is a necessity in the business world. Rather than shying away from English or hiding your lack of understanding, Speak Up USA encourages you to be open and vocal in a relaxed setting where you won’t feel judged or uncomfortable. We want our English students to embrace the opportunities that the English language can bring. We understand that it is often hard to get out of your comfort zone and will encourage you to share your unique experience with the English language.

In our New York City classroom, we have groups of adults from all over the world who are all there for one important reason – learning English. When you’re in a classroom with international students that have your same English level, it’s easier to feel comfortable speaking and sharing stories in English. You don’t have to feel shy or embarrassed if you make a mistake because it’s very likely that somebody else will also learn from your error. At Speak Up USA, we embrace diversity and culture in a laidback classroom setting that encourages dialog, interaction, and hopefully a little bit of fun.

Don’t let your fears hold you back from opening up a new door to your professional future. Whether this is the first English class you’ve ever taken or you’re a New York City native looking to elevate your professional skills, we’ll guide you through every step of the learning process until you see real results and gain confidence speaking English. The English language doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. Visit us today for a no-risk consultation and get started on your path toward professional English communication. We’ll even let you try us at no charge. Your first class is free!

Stop in and see us at 1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd in New York City or give us a call to unleash your English potential today!

3 Easy Tips for Learning English Fast and Effectively (Now and Always!)

Do you want to learn English fast? Learning English quicker and more effectively is the problem most English students are looking to solve. Whether it’s necessary to write your first application to university or you are anxiously preparing for a big interview with Google, the techniques for improving your English fast are the same.

The professional instructors at Speak Up USA have come together this month to present you three quick tips on how you can learn the English language faster and better when you’re on learning on your own.

The first requirement for learning English quickly is passion. Passion is defined as “something that produces a strong enthusiasm or interest in you.” This means that you must be emotionally committed to learning English. To really improve your English, you must be truly dedicated and driven and study as much as it takes for you to accomplish your goal. Learning a new language is a discipline and requires hard work and repetition – just like music and sports. Only through repeating and practicing English can we learn from our mistakes. To study effectively, you will need to be interested and alert at all times. So it’s time to silence your phone for a time and hit the books!

A great way to become passionate about English is to create a list of all the incredible benefits learning English can bring. Don’t just think about the exam or the interview, but instead try making a list of the long-term results that a successful exam or interview may bring. Will your ability to speak English help you achieve a raise? What would you do with more money? Can you imagine what may await you in the future? A new home? A new job? A future spouse? If you can visualize the huge rewards that learning English can bring, it is easier to become passionate about studying and will help motivate you during the difficult and frustrating times. The best part about learning English is that it often creates huge opportunities when you least expect it. Will you be ready to act when your workplace is looking for somebody to fill that new important role where English is necessary? Or will you be left behind and think about how you should have taken action sooner? As Malcolm X once said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

The second requirement for improving your English fast is to immerse yourself in the English language in a natural way. Lots of students dedicate themselves to countless hours of studying grammar and vocabulary, but don’t understand the context of these rules and words on their own. However, when you are just getting started, it is best to spend your time reading and listening as much as you can. Analyzing the English language through text and voice is the best way to improve quickly on your own. In fact, there are many great resources for learning English today thanks to the digital revolution of the internet. If you have an mp3 player or a mobile phone for example, you can easily download digital audio files and listen to them on your way to work, while you’re out shopping, or even at home while you’re cooking dinner. You can also ask a friend or go to your local library to find a book in English.

Reading is also a fantastic way to understand and interpret the English language. Begin with easy English novels or children books if your English level isn’t very advanced yet. You can move on to more advanced reading as your level improves. If a book seems like a lot to begin with, try buying a magazine about a topic that already interests you – politics, videogames, television and film news, etc. It doesn’t really matter what you choose. The important part is that you are interested in the topic and you are improving your English even while you’re not actively trying to do so. And of course, the best part about reading in English is that often times your “teachers” are some of the great masters of the English language. This is a cheap and effective way to learn English fast, so give it a try!

The third requirement for learning English fast is to step out of your comfort zone. You can read every English textbook that exists, but if you never open your mouth or try to speak with someone in English, all of your study time will have been for nothing. You will need to practice talking English and saying words out loud if you want to speak like a native English speaker. However, this means that you will have to forget your fear of making mistakes. Most native English speakers will try to help you with your English, so you don’t need to feel shy or embarrassed about not knowing the correct pronunciation or not understanding a particular phrase during the conversation. Even if your colleagues have never taken the difficult step to learning a new language, most will recognize that it takes incredible discipline and motivation and will want to help you on your journey. Search out friends and family that are willing to help you with your English if you are just beginning and need to feel more comfortable when practicing your speaking and listening.

To complement your own hard work, you can also sign up for local group activities or enroll in an English course with a reputable English academy. This hybrid technique of combining disciplined English studies with real-world experiences is the best way to connect the theoretical side of English with the practical side of English. After all, what good is English if you can only read it on paper? If you feel that you are ready to practice and meet new people, start first by exploring your local community. Even if you don’t live where English is the native language, there are probably lots of English-related activities waiting to be discovered by you. English is the world’s language, so many expats in your country may use English when communicating with friends or work colleagues. You can go on a nature hike, or take a trip to a farmers’ market, or just find a café and have a cup of coffee while discussing current events in English. The key is to erase your fears of speaking and share stories with others. It’s also a great way to make new friends if you’ve just arrived to a new country.

You can also use Facebook or search engines like Google to search for other kinds of groups. Businesses, schools, libraries, and other non-profit organizations often have great community building events that can connect you with new colleagues and contacts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of business people and students in your city who are also trying to learn English just like you. This is also a great resource for sharing your questions and doubts about learning English. So think of something you love to do and find a group near you with similar interests. Once you’re out of your comfort zone, you’ll be forced to use your English and will soon discover that practicing what you know in real life situations is the best way to improve your English fast and effectively.

Of course, learning on your own is a fantastic step, but there are also students who need information explained in more detail or someone to act as a guide on the path toward English mastery. Speak Up USA offers flexible and professional English courses at economic prices that will surprise you. We provide efficient English studies for all levels, from beginner to master, and will work alongside you to accomplish your English learning goals. We also believe that everybody deserves a chance at improving their future through English, so we don’t ask for an ID or require any kind of background check. We want to help you learn English fast and effectively without wasting your time or money. Stop by and visit us if you’re in New York City or give us a call today to hear about our latest promotions. We speak English and Spanish and have years of experience speaking with students of all English levels, so don’t hesitate to get in contact if you’re looking for high quality English courses in the heart of New York City.


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1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10026

Why Do We Speak English in the USA?

Have you ever asked yourself why we speak English in the USA? After all, the United States is a country founded on immigration and English immigrants were just another immigrant group, right? So why does everybody learn English today? How did English become so important in the USA and why aren’t we speaking German, French, or Spanish?

To begin, it’s worth noting that for 10,000 years before the arrival of the first colonists, over 200 languages were already being spoken on the land we now call the United States. From coast to coast, hundreds of different indigenous tribes existed long before the first settlers and their civilizations and languages were as developed as those arriving from Europe. So, why did everyone start speaking English? As you most likely know, the English were not the only Europeans colonizing the Western Hemisphere. In a short period of time, the United States had become the number one destination for immigrants all over the world.

The first reason we speak English is that the British crown won territory and dominated among the early settlers. The English eventually conquered “New Amsterdam” (now New York City), establishing it as a primary force in the Americas. The English also managed to drive out the Spanish and eventually beat the French during the French & Indian Wars. That meant that the 13 colonies we ended up with were mostly English speaking (with the exception of some small enclaves of Pennsylvania Dutch/German). Later, with the Louisiana purchase, New Orleans became part of the US and French, Cajun, and Creole speakers were added. And as the US moved Westward, it acquired more Spanish-speaking residents. But of course the original leaders were mostly from England or had parents from England and they spoke English as their first language. The British culture was imprinted upon early US settlers from the very beginning.

In the USA, English had and continues to have a huge advantage over other immigrant languages because it has been the language of the government since the 17th century. By the late 18th century, there were a few areas where other languages were spoken, mostly German or Dutch, but the number of English speakers always substantially outweighed the others. And because we’ve never had another large-scale wave of immigration from any specific non-English speaking country, non-English speakers have always been outnumbered, even if within their neighborhood they felt like a local when speaking Spanish or Polish.

Linguistic assimilation is needed even more in places like New York City where there are lots of people who need to deal with each other every day. The pockets of German-, French-, and Spanish-speaking populations actually persisted longer in rural areas than in the cities, though if non-English-speaking immigrants clustered in a neighborhood such as Little Italy, later immigrants would also tend to be attracted to such a place.

Probably most importantly, children of immigrants tend to adopt English for the same reasons that the immigrant community as a whole tends to assimilate — convenience. Coming to the United States in general was (and continues to be) a point of pride for immigrants; their children are usually encouraged to learn English as it is seen as necessary for both personal and professional reasons.

Whether you just moved to New York City or have been here for years, it’s never too late to start learning English or improve your speaking skills. At Speak Up USA, it doesn’t matter what your English level is. We offer
English instruction that’s tailored to you. Our flexible schedules and innovative teaching method will help you achieve your English goals in no time. So whether this is your first time taking an English class or you’re
a life long English student, we are happy to help you achieve your English language goals. Get in touch today and let us show you how studying English in New York can change both your present and future.


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1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10026