How to learn English effectively

Learn English with Google

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How to check my writing using Google?

Suppose you want to write When did you get here? and you are unsure if you should use the present perfect tense or the past simple tense. So you make two queries on Google:

(Note the quotes - this way you tell Google to match only the exact phrases.)

The first query turns up more than 28,000 results and the second only one. So it's easy to see that the first sentence is correct.

Of course, the results aren't always that clear. Lots of pages on the Web contain mistakes. You also need to check the context to make sure that your phrase can be used to express the meaning you want.

Use the asterix sign

Suppose you want to say That sounds pretty silly, doesn't it?, but you are unsure which question tag to use at the end of the sentence (doesn't it or doesn't that?). You do two queries on Google:

  • "That sounds really nice, doesn't it?" (28 results)
  • "That sounds really nice, doesn't that?" (3 results)

This time you are disappointed. Both queries turn up very few results, so you can't really tell which sentence is correct. But there's a nice trick that will help you get around this problem. Simply replace the words really and nice with asterix signs:

Now it's clear that the first sentence is correct - Google turned up more than 160,000 results with similar sentences.

The method of using Google to answer grammar questions was originally described on Antimoon.

How to find definitions of English words on Google?

Suppose you want to know what a tank top is. A definition from a paper dictionary won't tell you too much:

tank top = American English a piece of clothing like a t-shirt but with no sleeves

Instead of looking the word up in a dictionary, you can do a Google search for it. Now, look at the blue bar above the search results:

If you click on the [definition] link, a new page will open. You can find detailed definition of tank top there, as well as an entry from Wikipedia (a free online encyclopedia). The entry gives you even more information and, what's more important, a picture.

You can also use Google's Image Search feature to find pictures of tank tops.

How to find song lyrics on Google?

If you know the author and the title of a song, just type them in the search field along with the word "lyrics" (for example lyrics U2 Beautiful Day).

Don't know the song's title? No problem, if you know a couple of words from the song Google can find it for you (try typing something like lyrics "I see skies of blue").

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