14 December 2016


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 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.

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.

Next blog: Thursday, January 5, 2016


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.

The solution 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:

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 Noël
7. Fröhliche Weihnachten
8. Kala Christouyenna
9. Mele Kalikimaka
10. Bada din Mubarak
11. Nollaig Shona Dhuit
12. Buon Natale
13. Shinnen omedeto
14. Kuwa na Krismasi njema
15. Sung Tan Chuk Ha
16. Linksmų Kalėdų
17. Feliz Navidad
18. Natale hilare
19. Maligayang Pasko
20. Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia
21. Feliz Natal, Gajan Kristnaskon
22. S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
23. Suksun Wan Christmas
24. Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
25. Nadolig Llawen

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

I will also award a bonus mark for any Christmas/New Year greeting in a language not listed here.


There are three idioms that use the word head:

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 stingy old man never gave any money to charity.


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 -scrib- (meaning "to write") 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:*

... I'm starting to look 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) 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.

Yesterday, the Santa at the mall handed out cheap toys to the shoppers while an elf took pictures of the children who came to sit on Santa’s knee.


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.


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


We can describe a hard worker as assiduous

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 fling.

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 handed out cheap toys to the shoppers while an elf took pictures of the children who came to sit on Santa’s knee.


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: I hate the cold.
Sentence 2: The snow is freshly fallen.
Sentence 3: I think the snow looks beautiful.


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

Write a sentence with an independent clause in the past perfect tense and an independent clause in the simple past tense with a prepositional phrase that includes a gerund.