11 December 2014


Welcome to the English Skills blog for English 140 (Grammar), English 143 (Writing for Academic Purposes), and English 146 (Reading for Academic Purposes) at Athabasca University. These courses may be taken separately or as part of the English Language Proficiency Program. The goal 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 e-mail your instructor.

Feel free to post comments and suggestions for 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.

IMPORTANT: This blog site is open to the public; do not post personal information that could identify you--first name and the initial of your last name are the only personal information you should post. Please watch this video from the Canadian Government explaining privacy issues and social networking. 

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.

Please note that we will be taking a short break during the Christmas and New year.

Next blog: Friday, January 9, 2014.


I wasn’t understanding what he means when in a speech he has given Mr Harper was saying the funding will help them suffering from mental illness and their family’s.

1. The underlying meaning: 

What were people suffering from? The current wording suggests that both the mental illness and the families were the cause of suffering. Add some clarification after “and” (e.g., “and help their families, too”).

2. Verb tense: 

Instead of the past progressive tense, which indicates that something continued to happen over time, use the simple past tense, indicating that it happened at a point in time. Change “wasn’t understanding” to “didn’t understand”.

3. Tense consistency: 

Since the first verb uses in the simple past tense, the others should as well, unless there is a good reason not to. Instead of “means” (simple present tense) use “meant” (simple past tense); instead of “has given” (present perfect) use “gave” (simple past); and instead of “was saying” (past progressive) use “said” (simple past).

4. Modal: 

For future possibility use “would”, not “will.”

5. Pronoun: 

“Them” is the 3rd person plural, direct object pronoun. In this case, use “those” to refer to people already mentioned or understood.

6. Plural: 

Use the plural form “families”, not the possessive “family’s”.

7. Punctuation: 

Remember to set off a non-essential (not grammatically needed) clause such as “in a speech he has given”, and remember to use a period after the abbreviation "Mr." 

Possible solution: 

I didn’t understand what he meant when, in a speech he gave, Mr. Harper said the funding would help those suffering from mental illness, and help their families, too.


Correct the errors in the following sentence:

On those short winter days over the Christmas and new year holiday, much people enjoying resting at home and eat traditionally foods; turkeys and all trimmings, the fruit cakes, the plum pudding, and minced meat pies. To sit by the fire is also a benefit as the weathers usually cold than but some people are liking participating in winter sport.

Solutions will be posted in the next edition of the blog.


Solution to the previous puzzle:  

1. Stamp on - Postman
2. For trees - Forester
3. Remit sin - Minister
4. Menial cop - Policeman

5. Court poser - Prosecutor

New Puzzle:

Try to identify the languages of these seasonal greetings:

1. Gesëende Kersfees
2. Boas Festas
3. Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
4. Glaedelig Jul
5. Hyvää Joulua
6. Joyeux Noel
7. Froehliche Weihnachten
8. Kala Christouyenna
9. Mele Kalikimaka
10. Bada din Mubarak
11. Nollaig Shona Dhuit
12. Bono Natale
13. Shinnen omedeto
14 Kuwa na Krismasi njema
15. Sung Tan Chuk Ha
16. Linksmu Kaledu
17. Feliz Navidad
18. Natale hilare
19. Maligayang Pasko
20. Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
21. Feliz Natal, Gajan Kristnaskon
22. Srozhdestovm Kristovim
23. Suksun Wan Christmas
24. Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
25. Nadolig Llawen

*Note, the first person to post the correct answer will get the bonus point.


There are three idioms that use a word for vegetables:

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 posters.



Change the words in the following sentence as indicated.

My younger sister quickly brought her three children to see Santa.

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

For instance, Participant 1 writes #1 Subject Noun, and changes the subject noun; Participant 2 writes #2 Direct Object Noun, and changes the direct object noun, etc.

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.

When all 7 changes have been made, return to the top of the list and continue.


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 hyper- (meaning "too much") occurs in many words. 

Add an affix (either a prefix or a suffix) to this stem to make another word. 

Each participant should add a different word to the list.


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

… I’m looking forward to the New Year 

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).


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

The Santa at the mall gave the child a cheap toy as a gift, and an elf took a photo of the child who sat on the Santa’s lap.


Vocabulary building is important for both reading comprehension and writing. 

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

credulous (adjective) and propensity (noun).

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


We can describe something mystifying as being confusing.

Provide a synonym and an antonym for this word. Each participant should suggest a different word.


Write two sentences using the word lay.

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.

Yesterday, the Santa at the mall gave the child a cheap toy as a gift, and an elf took a photo of the child who sat on the Santa’s lap.


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.

Sentence 1We are well into December.

Sentence 2The first snowfall of the season was weeks ago.
Sentence 3It won't be long until the Christmas vacation.


Write a sentence using the vocabulary and grammar indicated.

Add a dependent clause in the past perfect progressive tense to the following:

... we saw Santa Claus ...