Either/Or vs. Neither/Nor

I recently was asked when to use neither/nor instead of either/or.  The rule is pretty simple.  You use either/or when you are talking about something in a positive sense.  You use neither/nor when you are talking about something in a negative sense.

Remember either must be paired with or and neither must be paired with nor.  Below are some examples of both pairs of words.


I like neither chocolate flavored ice cream nor vanilla. (Of course, this is not true. I love all flavors of ice cream.

There are neither dogs nor cats in my house, only birds.


Either come over here and talk to me or I will go over there and talk to you.

My son is either very sleepy or just plain lazy as he just fell asleep while he was eating his dinner.



Who vs. Whom

Who and whom are 2 words that many native English speakers confuse. Where I live it doesn’t matter if you say ‘whom’ when you are supposed to say it. People of all backgrounds use ‘who’ many (if not all) of the times when you should use ‘whom’. But, it is still useful to know when you should use which one. Also, in some other areas of the US and in other English speaking countries, it may be more important to use the correct word.

Do you know when to use Who and when to use Whom? Here are some hints for you!

Who is used as the subject of the sentence. If you can substitute ‘he’ into the sentence and it is correct, then ‘who’ is correct.

Who/whom called me? You can substitute he in this example, He called me. So, the correct answer is Who called me?

Whomis used as the object of the sentence. If you can substitute ‘him’ into a sentence and it is correct, then ‘whom’ is correct.

This is the man whom you saw last night. You can substitute him here, and say: You saw him last night.


1. Whom/Who are you going to visit?
2. Whom/Who is in the bathroom?
3. Whom/Who did she marry?
4. I don’t care whom/who you talk to.


1. Whom – object (I’m going to visit him.)
2. Who – subject (He is going to the bathroom.)
3. Whom – object (She married him.)
4. Whom – object of an indirect question (I don’t care if you talk to him.)

Near vs. Nearby

Someone from twitter recently asked me what the difference between near and nearby is. I thought I would post my answer in case others had the same question.

adverb –in close relationship, within a short distance.
Christmas is drawing near.

– close in time, space or position, short and direction, barely avoided, close kinship
Julianne is my near and dear friend.

preposition – close to
I live in a town that is near the beach.

adverb – not far away.
I live nearby.

adjective – a short distance away
There is a great restaurant in this nearby town.

As you can see only ‘near’ is a preposition and there are subtle differences between the uses of the 2 as adverbs and adjectives.

Try this little quiz to see if understand the differences between the two words.

  1. In the _______ future, I will be president!
  2. I ate at a _________ restaurant.
  3. My grandmother is _____ death.


  1. near
  2. nearby
  3. near

Make or Do?

Do you know the difference between ‘do’ and ‘make’? Here are some pointers that could help you to know which one to use.


You can use ‘do’ when you are talking about daily activities. Usually these activities do not produce something physical.

Today I’m going to do the housework.
Ugh, I hate doing homework.
I need to stop tweeting and do the dishes.
Some people really like to do the ironing.

You can also use ‘do’ when you talk about things in general.

What are you doing?
That frog is doing nothing, but sitting there.

There are some expressions that use ‘do’ in them as well.

Can you do me a favor?
Please do your best.
He can do no harm.


‘Make’ is used for building, creating and constructing things.

Sit down, I’m going to make you some food.
I have to make a cup of tea, can you hold on?
My kids spend their days making a mess.

Here are some expressions that use ‘make’.

Let’s make plans.
Can you make an exception and let me in?
I have to make a phone call, can I use yours?
Let’s get crazy and make some noise.

The differences between Each and Every

Here are 2 words that have almost the same meanings, but you cannot always use either one. Below are some rules for their uses.

Each – both (2 or more objects or people)
Every – all (3 or more objects or people)

Here is an example of when they have almost the same meaning:

I go to the festival every year.
I go to the festival each year.
The difference of the 2 sentences is that in the first sentence with every, we are thinking of the festivals in total. In the 2nd sentence with each, we are thinking of them more individually.

Here are some examples of when you can use only one or the other:

My kids each received a present. (Each is used before a verb.)
My kids every received a present. Incorrect

Santa gave a present to each of them. (Each is used before of.)
Santa gave a present to every of them. Incorrect (However, you can put ‘one’ after every and then it is okay. Santa gave a present to every one of them.)

He was using each hand equally. (Each used to describe 2 things.)
He was using every hand equally. Incorrect

Once every 2 weeks, I go to the doctor. (Referring to a regular event).
Once each 2 weeks, I go to the doctor. Incorrect

6 words that have the same plural and singular forms

Is the plural of moose, meese? No. Moose is the same in its singular and plural forms. Here are 6 words I wanted to mention today, where the singular and the plural forms are the same:

deer – I see 1 deer. There are 20 deer grazing in that pasture.

moose – There are lots of moose in Canada. I saw a moose when I went to Alaska.

Sheep – I count sheep when I go to sleep. My sister had a pet sheep when she was little.

bison – There are very few bison left. I saw a bison when I was little.

Swine – There are many swine at the farm. My daughter gave one swine a hug.

aircraft – Look at all of the aircraft in the sky. Please sir, would you board the aircraft?

6 verbs that have 2 past tenses

Here are 6 verbs that have 2 past tenses which are both accepted as correct in English.


Does it matter if you use one word over another? It doesn’t matter as they are both correct; however, the ‘ed’ form is used in American English and the ‘t’ form is used more in British English.

Fish or Fishes???

Do you know what the plural of fish is? Is it fish or fishes?

The answer is, it is both.

We usually use “fish” as the plural of fish when we are talking about 1 kind of fish.
I saw many spotted fish today in the lake. (They were all the same kind of fish.)

We usually use “fishes” as the plural of fish when we are talking about 2 different kind of fish.
I bought 10 different kind of fishes for my fish tank. (They were all different species.)

However, according to most dictionaries you can use either form in either instance.

Articles in English – A vs. An

Lots of past students have asked me this question: When do I use ‘a’ and when do I use ‘an’?

You use ‘a’ when the word following it starts with a consonant.
a cat
a book
a big house
a yellow pair of pants

You use ‘an’ when the word following it starts with a vowel.
an apple
an angry man
an egg
an orange

There are exceptions:
If the word starts with a silent letter, and the next is a vowel, then you use ‘an’.

an hour
an honest mistake

Also, when ‘u’ has the sound like ‘y’ or when ‘o’ sounds like ‘w’, then you use ‘a’.
a union
a used piece of paper
a one-legged dog

Lastly, ‘m’ can sometimes be tricky and you will need to use ‘an’.
an MBA program

Using Can in English

The word ‘can’ is used a lot in the English language. Here are some of the uses:

You can use ‘can’ to talk about possibility of something happening. (You can also use ‘could’ here.)

Can I do that?
I cannot run a marathon.
You can park your car right here.

‘Can’ has 2 negative forms. ‘Cannot’ and the contraction ‘can’t’ We usually use ‘can’t’ when we are speaking.

I can’t go with you today.
She cannot eat peanut butter.

You can use ‘can’ to talk about ability or opportunity. (Another phrase you can use here is ‘to be able to.’)

I can speak English.
I can swim.
I have free time. I can help her now.

You can also use ‘can’ to ask permission for something. (You can also use ‘may’ or ‘could’ here. ‘May’ is more polite.)

Can I go to the park with you today?
Can I come in?

Giving instructions is another way to use ‘can’.

After you make your bed, you can go and sweep the kitchen.

You can use ‘can’t’ for deduction.
You can’t be tired, you just woke up.

And don’t forget the noun ‘can’.

Will you take the can of corn out of the pantry? (a metal container of food)
I’m going to kick him in his can. (the ‘bottom’ of a person)
She needs to run to the can. (another word for toilet)

Lastly there is the ‘can-can’ or (cancan) which is the French dance with high kicks.

She loves to dance the cancan in France!