Learn English: Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

This post looks at the life of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.   Stevenson is most famous for writing Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde as well as many essays, poems and plays. Words with an * are explained at the end.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13th November 1850.  His father was a lighthouse engineer who wanted Robert to become an engineer also. Stevenson was an only child* and often too sick to attend* school. He frequently travelled with his family, for health reasons.  They would travel to find somewhere with a warmer climate* to help with Robert’s lung problems. In fact, Robert Louis Stevenson spent most of his life travelling and living in different places looking for the perfect climate.  He finally settled* on one of the Samoan islands a few years before his untimely* death. Stevenson’s travels helped inspire* many of his stories.

In 1867, Stevenson began an engineering degree at Edinburgh university.  However, his heart was not in engineering.  He didn’t attend most of his lectures because he spent a lot of time with his friends drinking, smoking hashish and trying to meet women. 

Eventually he gave up the engineering to become a writer.  However, to please his father, he began, and finished, a degree in law although he never practised*.

Stevenson had always been a writer.  Even before he could read he would dictate* stories to his mother and his nurse who then wrote them down*.  His first published book was ‘An Inland Voyage’ in 1878.  The book was about a journey through France and Belgium that Stevenson and a friend did in a canoe.  It was on this journey that Stevenson met a married American who was separated from her husband.  Her name was Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.  She had two children.  Stevenson fell in love.  He continued to write to Fanny even after she returned to America.  When Fanny finally divorced her husband, Stevenson moved to America to be with her.  The journey nearly killed him.  After a while his health improved and Stevenson began to earn money through writing.  However, he became ill again and his father had to send money. 

Stevenson married Fanny in the spring of 1880 and after their honeymoon* they moved with Fanny’s children to Britain.  They settled in Bournemouth, on the English south coast, and this is where Stevenson wrote some of his most famous novels; Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden Book of Verse (a collection of poetry for children).

On a wet, rainy holiday in Scotland, Stevenson entertained his bored step-son* with a picture of an island.  Stevenson began to create a story about the island, giving names to places on the island.  This was to become Treasure Island, possibly his most famous novel.

After several years in England and following the death of his father, Stevenson moved his family back to America.  He had been advised by a doctor to move somewhere with a warmer climate.  A year later, he hired a yacht and he and his family spent several years sailing on the Pacific Ocean, stopping at different islands around Hawaii and around New Zealand.  The family eventually settled on the Samoan island, Upolu.  He grew to love the Samoan people and was loved in return.  However, on 3rd December 1894, he became ill and, within a few hours, he died. He was 44. 

Stevenson’s body is buried on a hill top near his home.  During his life, the Samoans gave Stevenson a nickname*.  It was ‘Tusitala’ meaning ‘Teller of Tales’* (one who tells stories).

Vocabulary Check

An only child – someone who does not have any brothers or sisters

Attend – to go to

Inspire – to make someone feel they want to do something.

Climate – the weather conditions a place has (a warm climate, a cold climate, a harsh climate etc)

Settled – to start living in a place you are going to stay in for a long time

Untimely – earlier than expected

Practice law – to work in a particular profession – usually law or medicine

Dictate – to tell someone exactly what to write for you

Write down – to write something on a piece of paper

Honeymoon – a holiday many couples take just after getting married

Step-son – someone’s son by marriage not a blood relation

Nickname – a name friends or family call you that is not your real name

Tales – stories

Also, if you would like to know more about Robert Louis Stevenson, why not try,



Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson – a short biography for advanced learners of English

Samuel Johnson was born on 18th September, 1709 in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield in Staffordshire, England.  He was the son of a bookseller and his childhood was spoiled* by poverty* and illness.  A brilliant man, Samuel Johnson overcame his difficulties and became the author of one of the most famous English dictionaries in the world, ‘Dictionary of the English Language.’  He was a man determined to succeed. This is his story.

Samuel Johnson The English Tower


Continue reading Samuel Johnson

Adjectives ending in ed and ing

Adjectives ending in ed and ing

This post looks at adjectives ending in  ed or ing.  For example, look at the following sentences.  Can you see the difference between the two sentences?  They both contain an adjective from the verb ‘confuse’ but the endings are different.


English learners are often confused by adjectives. 

English learners often think that adjectives are confusing. 


Confused and confusing are both adjectives.  However, they are used in different situations.  This post explains when to use ‘ed’ and when to use ‘ing’.

For example:

I was bored.  The film was really boring.

Below is a list of some of the most common adjectives that can take either the ‘ed’ or ‘ing’ form.


VERB                          ‘ed’ adjective           ‘ing’ adjective


aggravate                            aggravated                         aggravating

alarm                                   alarmed                               alarming

amaze                                  amazed                                amazing

amuse                                  amused                               amusing

annoy                                  annoyed                             annoying

astonish                            astonished                        astonishing

bore                                     bored                                    boring

challenge                         challenged                          challenging

confuse                             confused                             confusing

convince                          convinced                           convincing

depress                            depressed                           depressing

disappoint                     disappointed                   disappointing

disgust                             disgusted                           disgusting

embarrass                     embarrassed                   embarrassing

encourage                     encouraged                      encouraging

excite                                excited                                exciting

exhaust                         exhausted                           exhausting

frighten                        frightened                          frightening

frustrate                       frustrated                          frustrating

interest                         interested                          interesting

please                             pleased                               pleasing

relax                                relaxed                               relaxing

satisfy                             satisfied                            satisfying

shock                              shocked                            shocking

terrify                             terrified                           terrifying

tire                                    tired                                   tiring

worry                               worried                           worrying


Adjective + ‘ed’

These describe how a person feels.

He often felt tired and depressed so he made an appointment to see the doctor.

The little boy was terrified of clowns.

I am disappointed that you can’t come to the wedding because  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever! I felt totally relaxed all week. 

I’m so frustrated with my boss. 


Adjective + ‘ing’

These describe the thing or person that makes you feel the emotion. 


He told his doctor that his work was really tiring and depressing.

The little boy thinks clowns are terrifying.

You can’t come to the wedding?  That is so disappointing .  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever!  It was so relaxing.

My boss is so frustrating.

adjectives ending in ed and ing


Using enough: Learn English grammar


This post looks at a word that is often confusing for many learners.

‘Enough’ can be either an adjective or an adverb.  It can be used with adjectives, adverbs, nouns, or it can be used instead of a pronoun.


Using enough with adjectives and adverbs

Word position: adjective or adverb + enough

 His painting wasn’t good enough to win the competition.

We didn’t leave early enough and we missed the train.

I’m afraid I haven’t been to the gym enough lately.  I have put on a bit of weight!

I ran after them but I couldn’t run fast enough to catch up with them.

 Using enough with nouns

Word position: enough + noun

I’m exhausted. I haven’t had enough sleep.

Have you got enough money to pay for your ticket?

Is there enough milk or do I need to go to the shop?

I don’t have enough time. I’m sorry.

Using enough with an adjective and a noun

When enough is used with an adjective and a noun, two positions are possible but the meaning changes. Look at these two sentences.


We haven’t got big enough plates.  They’re all too small!

Meaning: The plates we have are too small. We need bigger plates.

We haven’t got enough big plates. We need some more!

Meaning: We have some big plates but we don’t have as many as we need.


When enough comes between the adjective and the noun (big enough plates) it qualifies the adjective.

When enough comes before the adjective it qualifies the noun phrase.

Enough of

We don’t use enough of unless there is a determiner. We use enough of when there is a determiner (an article, this/that, my/your/his etc).

  • I’ve had enough of your noise, keep quiet! ‘Your’ is a determiner here.
  • I haven’t seen enough of the film to really form an opinion.

Enough can also be used without a noun.

  • That’s enough! Stand still!
  • Enough is enough.


Business Phrasal Verbs: Learn English Vocabulary

Business Phrasal Verbs

This post looks at phrasal verbs, in particular, business phrasal verbs.  A phrasal verb is a phrase describing a usually single worded verb in more than one word.  They can be made using a verb and an adverb or a proposition, or both.


Phrasal verbs are not usually used in formal, academic writing or business contracts.  However, they are very common in everyday English and often used in business situations such as emails, memos, conversation and small-talk.


Most phrasal verbs, but not all, have the same meaning as another verb.  For example,

Make up = to invent

My grandad was always good at making up funny stories. We used to listen to his stories for hours.

Some phrasal verbs have more than one meaning:

Make up = to invent (to create something or think of something that is completely new)

Make up = to reconcile (to become friends again with someone after an argument or disagreement)


Phrasal Verbs




Branch out

Expand a business (often into a different area of trade/business)



Our range of sports equipment is selling well. We thought we might branch out into sportswear. 



Back up

Make a copy of files etc on a computer



Don’t forget to back everything up before you leave tonight.



Call back

Return a telephone call


I’m afraid she’s in a meeting.  Can I ask her to call you back?



Call off

Cancel or stop something from happening



We need to call off tomorrow’s trip to Head Office. The boss is ill.



Carry on



I don’t think we can carry on with our plans to buy the new factory.



Carry out

Do something (especially something you said you would do)



We can’t stop now.  We need to carry out the plans to build a new office. 


Come up with




Think of (usually an idea, plan or suggestion)


Can anyone come up with an idea for the Christmas party this year?


Deal with

Meet or talk to someone (usually as part of your job)



I had to deal with some very difficult clients today.  I’m exhausted.



Fill out/in

Complete a form


He needs to fill out an application form.



Hold on



Can you hold on, please, I need to get my diary.



Lay off

To make someone redundant


The company is losing money. I hope they don’t have to lay anybody off.




Note down

Make a note of something/write something down



I forgot to take a note of his name and address.


Run out of

To use/finish/sell all of something



We’ve run out of envelopes. Can you order some, please?


Set up

Formally establish a new company, business or system



He set up his own business five years ago. I think he is a website designer.




Set up (2)



Organise an event or activity that is going to happen



Can you set up a meeting with the directors for next Monday?



Take on





We have taken on six new members of staff in the last four months.



Take over



Take control of


Our company has been taken over by a big American corporation.



Take up



Occupy/fill time


I hope I haven’t taken up too much of your time!



Weigh up




Have you weighed up all the possibilities?

Thank you for reading Business Phrasal Verbs.  Why not try

Phrasal verbs with take: learn English grammar and vocabulary


Articles: Definite and Indefinite, using a, an, and the

Indefinite and definite articles: A, an, the


This post looks at when we use a, an and the. We call A and AN ‘indefinite articles’ because they describe something that is not definite; not specific.  They are used to describe a general thing not a particular thing. THE is a ‘definite article’.  Therefore, listener and speaker both know which thing the speaker is talking about.


Indefinite Articles: Using A and An

We use a or an to talk about singular countable nouns (one noun that you can count), for example:

A dog, a hospital, a thought, a letter, a dream, a neighbour, a wedding, a house,

Continue reading Articles: Definite and Indefinite, using a, an, and the

Classroom and learning phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs about the classroom and learning

 (by guest: Lizzie Gregory)


This post looks at phrasal verbs used to talk about activities in the classroom and learning.  classroom and learning phrasal verbsAt the end is a quiz activity to test your skills.


A phrasal verb is a phrase describing a usually single worded verb in more than one word. Phrasal verbs make a verb using an adverb or a proposition, or both. Most phrasal verbs, but not all, have the same meaning as another verb.  For example,

Make up = to invent

My grandad was always good at making up funny stories. We used to listen to his stories for hours.

Some phrasal verbs have more than one meaning:

Make up = to invent (to create something or think of something that is completely new)

Make up = to reconcile (to become friends again with someone after an argument or disagreement)

Phrasal verb

Classroom and Learning


Sentence example


Work out



To learn


Work out how to use the laptop


Cross out



To erase


Cross out your name


Hand in



To submit


Hand in your homework


Look up



To search


Look up that word in the dictionary


Turn down


To lower the volume


Turn down the video, please



Turn up


To raise the volume


Turn up the video, please


Set up



To arrange/organise/make

something ready to use



Set up the hall for assembly


Throw away




Throw away your rubbish


Put off




The homework will be put off until tomorrow


Make up




Make up a poem


Sign up




Sign up to this course


Use up


Use completely


Don’t use up all of the glue


Read over




Read over your homework


Find out




Find out how to use the calculator


Classroom and learning phrasal verbs activity:

 Fill in the sentences below with the correct phrasal verb from the table above


1) For her English homework, Mary had to _____ a story about life on Mars

2) John was asked to_____ the classroom for a meeting

3) Students should always _____their work to check for mistakes

4) My science teacher wants me to _____ why the sea is blue

5) _____ any mistakes

6) I need to _____ my geography homework

7) The teacher told me not to _____ all the glue

8) The teacher wanted to _____ the homework

9) We must _____ our rubbish at the end of class

10) I must _____ for my new course



Classroom and learning phrasal verbs: answers

1)  Make up

2) Set up

3) Read over

4) Find out

5) Cross out

6) Hand in

7) Use up

8) Put off

9) Throw away

10) Sign up

Learn English: Agatha Christie


Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Early life

 Agatha Christie was born on 15th September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England.  Her family lived in a large house and money was not a problem for the Christies.  Agatha did not go to school.  Instead she was taught at home by her parents and a governess*.  She was an intelligent child who taught herself to read. Her father died when Agatha was only 11 years-old although money was a worry for her mother, Clara,  they managed to survive.*


Continue reading Learn English: Agatha Christie

Giving Advice: Learn English Vocabulary

Giving Advice

This post looks at ways of offering someone advice.  We often use groups of words in conversation for example: ‘If I were you’ or ‘Have you tried..?’  This post looks at some of the most common expressions we use when giving someone advice.

Why don’t you look at the examples below and practice giving someone advice using the expressions below?  Ask yourself ‘What would you recommend?’


Beginners – Intermediate

  1. You could …….
  2. You should ……
  3. I think/I really think you must/should …
  4. You probably/definitely/really should …
  5. You could try (verb + ing)
  6. Have you tried (verb + ing)
  7. Why not ….?
  8. One thing you could/should/have to/must do is …
  9. My suggestion/advice is …
  10. Why don’t you …?
  11. It’s usually a good idea to ….
  12. The most important thing is to …..
  13. If I were/was you, I would ….
  14. You had better …

Continue reading Giving Advice: Learn English Vocabulary

Learn English Grammar: The verb ‘BE’

This post looks at the verb ‘to be’. It is an irregular verb.  It is different to regular verbs and learners will need to learn the different forms.

This article looks at:

1: The verb ‘to be’ in present and past simple and continuous sentences.

2: The verb ‘to be’ when used in passive sentences.

3: The verb ‘to be’ in the subjunctive.

4: Be in the continuous form ‘being’. Continue reading Learn English Grammar: The verb ‘BE’