20 April 2017


Welcome to the English Skills blog! 

This blog is designed for students in ENG140ENGL143, and ENGL146 at Athabasca University. 

It is also open to students in ENGL155ENGL177, and ENGL189 who wish to develop their English language skills.

The goal of this blog is to increase communication between students and instructors, and to provide students with an opportunity to communicate with each other and to practice the skills taught in these courses. If you post general questions about the assignments or the course, they will be addressed in the blog. If you have detailed questions you want answered, then it is probably better to e-mail your instructor directly.

Feel free to post comments and suggestions on how to improve this site!


A hearty welcome to all the new students joining these courses. We hope you enjoy your studies and have fun participating in this blog.

Assignments marked with asterisks (*.*) are mandatory for ENGL140 students (Assignment 9).

For information on how to participate, please visit the instructions page or contact the administrator.

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Also, be sure to let your tutors know the nickname you have chosen for this blog; otherwise, they will not be able to give you the marks/bonus marks that you have earned for your participation.

Next blog: Thursday, May 4, 2016


The commentator said its the most unique program was skated at the competition and they are skating unbelievable therefore it hasn't been surprised that the audience have given them the standing ovation.

1. Word choice:

We often use the phrase "very unique". But "unique" really means "the only one", so it should not be qualified. Delete the word "most" or change the description to something that can be modified, like "innovative".

2. Pronoun reference:

As a rule, the pronoun should refer to a previous noun. In this case, unless we assume the referent was established in an earlier sentence, we don't know what "it" is. To avoid confusion, it might be better to say something like "...the skaters' program was...".

3. Apostrophe:

If we decide to keep the word "its" in the sentence, we need to keep in mind that it's a contraction of "it is" and that we therefore need an apostrophe to indicate that a letter has been omitted.

4. Passive voice:

The verb form depends on how we construe the subject. If we go with something like "...the skaters' program", we can use the simple past: "...the skaters' program was the most innovative...". Otherwise, we might use the past participle: "...it was the most innovative program skated..."

5. Pronoun  reference:

Again, unless we assume that the referent was established in an earlier sentence, we don't know who "they" are. It might be better here to make this clear by saying something like "the pair" or "the skaters".

6. Word form:

"Unbelievable" is an adjective, but we want to modify a verb ("are skating"), so we need an adverb ("unbelievably"). Otherwise, we need to change the verb into a noun and say something like "...their skating was unbelievable..."

7. Verb tense/form:

The action happened over a very short period of time, so it might be better to use the simple past tense ("wasn't") instead of the present perfect ("hasn't been"), and follow it with the present participle ("surprising") instead of the past participle ("surprised").

8. Verb tense:

Again, use the simple past ("gave") instead of the present perfect ("have given").

9. Article use:

“The” refers to something definite, but in this case "standing ovation" is indefinite (there could have been any number of standing ovations during the competition), so we need to use the indefinite article ("a").

10. Punctuation:

We could use direct speech here (putting the comments in quotation marks), but we often report speech indirectly. In that case it might be helpful to put "that" after the reporting verb ("...said that... and that..."). Also, remember to put a comma before the dependent (after "competition").

Possible solution:

The commentator said the skaters' program was the most innovative one at the competition and that their skating was unbelievable; therefore, it was no surprise that the audience gave them a standing ovation.


Correct the errors in the following sentence:

Michaels always been borrowing his red stylish sporty-looking newer car to his brother who’s lending it while his old battered rust-spotted white truck is in the garage for repairing.

The solution will be posted in the next edition of the blog.


Solution to the previous puzzle:

1. sue
2. cur
3. lies
4. socks
5. pants
6. braces

New Puzzle:

Find the word pairs defined below.

Hint: The two words will be the same except for the extra letter at the beginning of the first word.

Example: Begin --> Sour
Answer:   Start   --> Tart

1. Outer layer                      -->     Oxidized metal
2. Defraud; violate rules      -->     energy in transit
3. Sensation of cold             -->     Local land elevation
4. Go upward                      -->     Jointed appendage; branch
5. Strong metal rope           -->      Having necessary skill
6. Confined; restrained        -->     Old; grew older
7. Stop; discontinue             -->     Freedom from hardship
8. Lacking dirt                     -->      Lacking fat

*Note, the first person with the correct answer gets the bonus point.


There are three idioms that use the word fruit:

Watch this video, and then write a sentence that uses one (or more) of these three idioms.

Try not to use the same idiom as the other participants.



Change the words in the sentence below as indicated.

Please change only the exact word in the sequence given. Each participant should build on the changes made by the previous participant.

For instance, if the original sentence is "Benson hurriedly told the bad news to his friends":

participant 1 could write "#1 Subject Noun: Michael hurriedly told the bad news to his friends";

participant 2 could then write "#2 Direct Object Noun: Michael hurriedly told the bad joke to his friends";

participant 3 could then write "#3 Indirect Object Noun: Michael hurriedly told the bad joke to his wife";


You are free to make as many changes as you wish. Just remember to number each change (and indicate the part of speech) so it is clear to everyone where we are on the list.

Participants who make all 7 changes will receive 2 bonus marks for their efforts.

When all 7 changes have been made, do not repeat
 the original sentence; return to the top of the list, but keep building on the changes made by the previous participant.

Here is the sentence:

The learned professor gave an interesting lecture to his class on ancient Rome.


1. subject noun

2. direct object noun          
3. indirect object noun                  
4. adjective(s)
5. adverb(s)    
6. verb name      
7. verb tense


The word stem cogni- (meaning "know") occurs in many words.

1. Add an affix to this stem to make another word.
2. Explain the meaning of the word and use it in a complete sentence.

Each participant should add a different word to the list.


Follow the instructions below to create three different sentences from the following clause:*

… April showers bring May flowers …

Sentence 1. Add a phrase
Sentence 2. Add a dependent clause
Sentence 3. Add an independent clause

*Add your words to the beginning or end of the clause (but not both) and do not use a semi-colon to join your independent clause.


If the sentence is singular, change it to the plural; if it is plural, change it to the singular.

The first participant to make the correct changes will receive the bonus mark.

My old high school friend often comes over for a visit on Saturdays and spends the day with me. He usually brings his dog, who likes to run around while we throw the ball or play Frisbee in the yard.


Vocabulary building is important for both reading comprehension and writing. 

Use the following two words in one sentence (note the parts of speech).

incognito (noun) and recognize (verb).

To further improve your vocabulary, remember to check out the Word of the Day
The site also has word games and puzzles.


You can also test your skills while contributing to the World Food Programme here:


We can describe a general agreement as a cognizance

First, write a sentence that uses this word.

Then rewrite the sentence, first using a synonym and then using an antonym for this word. 

Each participant should suggest a different synonym and antonym.

Example: easy.


This exercise is easy.
Synonym: simple. This exercise is simple.
Antonym: difficult. This exercise is difficult.


Write two sentences using the verb forget.

In the first sentence, use the word in the active voice; in the second sentence, use it in the passive voice.


Change the time in the following sentences by using a different verb tense and replacing any necessary time clues. Each student should choose a different verb tense.

Ever since you started your new job, you have shown more confidence and enthusiasm; and I have noticed that you have made a lot of new friends.


Learning to combine ideas into more complex sentences is an important writing skill. There are many ways to do this. Try to combine the following three sentences. Do not use a semi-colon.

Sentence 1: The Immigrant Access Fund provides loans for internationally trained migrants.
Sentence 2: Many immigrant professionals find it hard to pursue their careers in Canada because of accreditation difficulties.

Sentence 3: The loans help pay the costs associated with accreditation, training, or upgrading.


Write a sentence using the vocabulary and grammar indicated. Do not use a semi-colon.

Write a sentence using a dependent clause in the simple past tense and an independent clause in the simple future tense.