Finding it hard to improve your English? Here are some tips to keep you motivated

Finding it hard to improve your English? Here are some tips to keep you motivated

Most English learners will find that they reach a plateau at some point. This is where you can speak English well enough to communicate with others but you notice less improvement in your language skills than you did at the start. Many find they have reached a comfort zone where there is a danger of becoming demotivated as they can already get by using the English words, phrases and tenses with which they are comfortable.

If you want to progress in English, this can be the most difficult stage on your learning journey but it’s important to push past this. Here are some tips on how to stay motivated when learning English:

1. Picture yourself in the future

Imagine what you could do if you could speak English as fluently as your first language. Would you be able to get your dream job? Get promoted in your current work? Delve deeper into English-language culture? Whatever your motivation was to learn English in the first place, try to remember it throughout your language-learning journey.

2. Go on holiday

Go on holiday somewhere where you don’t speak the language. If you’re living in an English-speaking country, you will be able to see how far you have come by going to a country where you hardly understand anything. You can then come back refreshed and motivated to keep going.

3. Get into an English-language TV series

There are a number of great TV shows in English that are addictive and will keep you coming back for more. You will also be motivated to improve in order to increase your understanding of the storyline.

4. Join a local club or try volunteering

Local clubs and societies are a great way to meet new people and can be great motivators to improve your English. Try to join a group or volunteer in something outside of your comfort zone. That way, you can improve your vocabulary and speak about subjects that would normally never come up in your everyday life. is a great way to find groups like this.

5. Challenge yourself

Set yourself a goal such as taking an official English exam. This will put pressure on you to improve before the date of the exam and will allow you to measure your success in a formal context.

6. Imitate your favourite celebrity

If your favourite celebrity is a native speaker of English, or if they have learned English as a second language, you can use their story as motivation to improve your own language skills.

7. Take a course

By taking an English language course, you are committing yourself to taking the time to improve. It’s also the best learning environment as you will consistently learn new things and your mistakes will be corrected by the teacher.

8. Improve your relationships with native speakers

A great motivator to improve your language skills is to build on your relationships with your English-speaking friends and/or colleagues. Native speakers will sometimes subconsciously change they speak when speaking to non-native speakers (think of the way you communicate with people who are learners of your own language). Get to know people in a new light by improving your English to a stage where native-speakers will speak to you as they would other natives.

9. Remember there is still a lot to learn

Those with the ability to speak English at a native level generally have one thing in common – they never stop learning. Even if you are comfortable at the level you can communicate in, learning a language is a life-long process where there is always room for improvement.

10. Take action

By improving your English, you are opening doors to more opportunities in your career, social life and personal development. There is no better time than the present, so take the first steps towards improving your English today!

At inlingua Edinburgh, we offer evening and part-time General English and Exam Preparation courses to fit around your work and life here in Edinburgh. Lessons are led by qualified, native-speaking trainers in small groups to maximise speaking practice. We have classes to suit each level and there are no mixed level groups. Why wait? Take the first step towards improving your English and contact us now!

200 common phrasal verbs, with meanings and example sentences

200 common phrasal verbs, with meanings and example sentences

Phrasal verbs are usually two-word phrases consisting of verb + adverb or verb + preposition. Think of them as you would any other English vocabulary. Study them as you come across them, rather than trying to memorise many at once. Use the list below as a reference guide when you find an expression that you don’t recognise.

The example sentences will help you understand the meanings. If you think of each phrasal verb as a separate verb with a specific meaning, you will be able to remember it more easily. Like many other verbs, phrasal verbs often have more than one meaning.


phrasal verb meaning example sentence
ask out invite on a date Brian asked Judy out to dinner and a movie.
ask around ask many people the same question I asked around but nobody has seen my wallet.
add up to equal Your purchases add up to $205.32.
back up reverse You’ll have to back up your car so that I can get out.
back up support My wife backed me up over my decision to quit my job.
blow up explode The racing car blew up after it crashed into the fence.
blow up add air We have to blow 50 balloons up for the party.
break down stop functioning (vehicle, machine) Our car broke down at the side of the highway in the snowstorm.
break down get upset The woman broke down when the police told her that her son had died.
break down divide into smaller parts Our teacher broke the final project downinto three separate parts.
break in force entry to a building Somebody broke in last night and stole our stereo.
break into enter forcibly The firemen had to break into the room to rescue the children.
break in wear sthg a few times so that it doesn’t look/feel new I need to break these shoes in before we run next week.
break in interrupt The TV station broke in to report the news of the president’s death.
break up end a relationship My boyfriend and I broke up before I moved to America.
break up start laughing (informal) The kids just broke up as soon as the clown started talking.
break out escape The prisoners broke out of jail when the guards weren’t looking.
break out in develop a skin condition I broke out in a rash after our camping trip.
bring down make unhappy This sad music is bringing me down.
bring up raise a child My grandparents brought me up after my parents died.
bring up start talking about a subject My mother walks out of the room when my father brings up sports.
bring up vomit He drank so much that he brought his dinner up in the toilet.
call around phone many different places/people We called around but we weren’t able to find the car part we needed.
call back return a phone call I called the company back but the offices were closed for the weekend.
call off cancel Jason called the wedding off because he wasn’t in love with his fiancé.
call on ask for an answer or opinion The professor called on me for question 1.
call on visit sby We called on you last night but you weren’t home.
call up phone Give me your phone number and I will callyou up when we are in town.
calm down relax after being angry You are still mad. You need to calm downbefore you drive the car.
not care for not like (formal) I don’t care for his behaviour.
catch up get to the same point as sby else You’ll have to run faster than that if you want to catch up with Marty.
check in arrive and register at a hotel or airport We will get the hotel keys when we check in.
check out leave a hotel You have to check out of the hotel before 11:00 AM.
check out look at carefully, investigate The company checks out all new employees.
check out look at (informal) Check out the crazy hair on that guy!
cheer up become happier She cheered up when she heard the good news.
cheer up make happier I brought you some flowers to cheer you up.
chip in help If everyone chips in we can get the kitchen painted by noon.
clean up tidy, clean Please clean up your bedroom before you go outside.
come across find unexpectedly I came across these old photos when I was tidying the closet.
come apart separate The top and bottom come apart if you pull hard enough.
come down with become sick My nephew came down with chicken pox this weekend.
come forward volunteer for a task or to give evidence The woman came forward with her husband’s finger prints.
come from some place originate in The art of origami comes from Asia.
count on rely on I am counting on you to make dinner while I am out.
cross out draw a line through Please cross out your old address and write your new one.
cut back on consume less My doctor wants me to cut back on sweets and fatty foods.
cut down make sthg fall to the ground We had to cut the old tree in our yard down after the storm.
cut in interrupt Your father cut in while I was dancing with your uncle.
cut in pull in too closely in front of another vehicle The bus driver got angry when that car cut in.
cut in start operating (of an engine or electrical device) The air conditioner cuts in when the temperature gets to 22°C.
cut off remove with sthg sharp The doctors cut off his leg because it was severely injured.
cut off stop providing The phone company cut off our phone because we didn’t pay the bill.
cut off take out of a will My grandparents cut my father off when he remarried.
cut out remove part of sthg (usually with scissors and paper) I cut this ad out of the newspaper.
do over beat up, ransack (BrE, informal) He’s lucky to be alive. His shop was done over by a street gang.
do over do again (AmE) My teacher wants me to do my essay over because she doesn’t like my topic.
do away with discard It’s time to do away with all of these old tax records.
do up fasten, close Do your coat up before you go outside. It’s snowing!
dress up wear nice clothing It’s a fancy restaurant so we have to dress up.
drop back move back in a position/group Andrea dropped back to third place when she fell off her bike.
drop in/ by/ over come without an appointment I might drop in/by/over for tea sometime this week.
drop off take sby/ sthg somewhere and leave them/it there I have to drop my sister off at work before I come over.
drop out quit a class, school etc I dropped out of Science because it was too difficult.
eat out eat at a restaurant I don’t feel like cooking tonight. Let’s eat out.
end up eventually reach/do/decide We ended up renting a movie instead of going to the theatre.
fall apart break into pieces My new dress fell apart in the washing machine.
fall down fall to the ground The picture that you hung up last night fell down this morning.
fall out separate from an interior The money must have fallen out of my pocket.
fall out (of hair, teeth) become loose and unattached His hair started to fall out when he was only 35.
figure out understand, find the answer I need to figure out how to fit the piano and the bookshelf in this room.
fill in to write information in blanks, as on a form (BrE) Please fill in the form with your name, address, and phone number.
fill out to write information in blanks, as on a form (AmE) The form must be filled out in capital letters.
fill up fill to the top I always fill the water jug up when it is empty.
find out discover We don’t know where he lives. How can we find out?
find out discover We tried to keep the time of the party a secret, but Samantha found it out.
get across/ over communicate, make understandable I tried to get my point across/over to the judge but she wouldn’t listen.
get along/on like each other I was surprised how well my new girlfriend and my sister got along/on.
get around have mobility My grandfather can get around fine in his new wheelchair.
get away go on a vacation We worked so hard this year that we had to get away for a week.
get away with do without being noticed or punished Jason always gets away with cheating in his maths tests.
get back return We got back from our vacation last week.
get back receive sthg you had before Liz finally got her Science notes back from my room-mate.
get back at retaliate, take revenge My sister got back at me for stealing her shoes. She stole my favourite hat.
get back into become interested in sthg again I finally got back into my novel and finished it.
get on step onto a vehicle We’re going to freeze out here if you don’t let us get on the bus.
get over recover from an illness, loss, difficulty I just got over the flu and now my sister has it.
get over overcome a problem The company will have to close if it can’t get over the new regulations.
get round to finally find time to do (AmE: get around to sthg) I don’t know when I am going to get round to writing the thank you cards.
get together meet (usually for social reasons) Let’s get together for a BBQ this weekend.
get up get out of bed I got up early today to study for my exam.
get up stand You should get up and give the elderly man your seat.
give away reveal hidden information about sby His wife gave him away to the police.
give away take the bride to the altar My father gave me away at my wedding.
give away ruin a secret My little sister gave the surprise party awayby accident.
give away give sthg to sby for free The library was giving away old books on Friday.
give back return a borrowed item I have to give these skates back to Franz before his hockey game.
give in reluctantly stop fighting or arguing My boyfriend didn’t want to go to the ballet, but he finally gave in.
give out give to many people (usually at no cost) They were giving out free perfume samples at the department store.
give up quit a habit I am giving up smoking as of January 1st.
give up stop trying My maths homework was too difficult so I gave up.
go after follow sby My brother tried to go after the thief in his car.
go after try to achieve sthg I went after my dream and now I am a published writer.
go against compete, oppose We are going against the best soccer team in the city tonight.
go ahead start, proceed Please go ahead and eat before the food gets cold.
go back return to a place I have to go back home and get my lunch.
go out leave home to go on a social event We’re going out for dinner tonight.
go out with date Jesse has been going out with Luke since they met last winter.
go over review Please go over your answers before you submit your test.
go over visit sby nearby I haven’t seen Tina for a long time. I think I’ll go over for an hour or two.
go without suffer lack or deprivation When I was young, we went without winter boots.
grow apart stop being friends over time My best friend and I grew apart after she changed schools.
grow back regrow My roses grew back this summer.
grow into grow big enough to fit This bike is too big for him now, but he should grow into it by next year.
grow out of get too big for Elizabeth needs a new pair of shoes because she has grown out of her old ones.
grow up become an adult When Jack grows up he wants to be a fireman.
hand down give sthg used to sby else I handed my old comic books down to my little cousin.
hand in submit I have to hand in my essay by Friday.
hand out to distribute to a group of people We will hand out the invitations at the door.
hand over give (usually unwillingly) The police asked the man to hand over his wallet and his weapons.
hang in stay positive (informal) Hang in there. I’m sure you’ll find a job very soon.
hang on wait a short time (informal) Hang on while I grab my coat and shoes!
hang out spend time relaxing (informal) Instead of going to the party we are just going to hang out at my place.
hang up end a phone call He didn’t say goodbye before he hung up.
hold back prevent from doing/going I had to hold my dog back because there was a cat in the park.
hold back hide an emotion Jamie held back his tears at his grandfather’s funeral.
hold on wait a short time Please hold on while I transfer you to the Sales Department.
hold onto hold firmly using your hands or arms Hold onto your hat because it’s very windy outside.
hold up rob A man in a black mask held the bank up this morning.
keep on doing continue doing Keep on stirring until the liquid comes to a boil.
keep from not tell We kept our relationship from our parents for two years.
keep out stop from entering Try to keep the wet dog out of the living room.
keep up continue at the same rate If you keep those results up you will get into a great college.
let down fail to support or help, disappoint I need you to be on time. Don’t let me downthis time.
let in allow to enter Can you let the cat in before you go to school?
log in (or on) sign in (to a website, database etc) I can’t log in to Facebook because I’ve forgotten my password.
log out (or off) sign out (of a website, database etc) If you don’t log off somebody could get into your account.
look after take care of I have to look after my sick grandmother.
look down on think less of, consider inferior Ever since we stole that chocolate bar your dad has looked down on me.
look for try to find I’m looking for a red dress for the wedding.
look forward to be excited about the future I’m looking forward to the Christmas break.
look into investigate We are going to look into the price of snowboards today.
look out be careful, vigilant, and take notice Look out! That car’s going to hit you!
look out for be especially vigilant for Don’t forget to look out for snakes on the hiking trail.
look over check, examine Can you look over my essay for spelling mistakes?
look up search and find information in a reference book or database We can look her phone number up on the Internet.
look up to have a lot of respect for My little sister has always looked up to me.
make up invent, lie about sthg Josie made up a story about why we were late.
make up forgive each other We were angry last night, but we made upat breakfast.
make up apply cosmetics to My sisters made me up for my graduation party.
mix up confuse two or more things I mixed up the twins’ names again!
pass away die His uncle passed away last night after a long illness.
pass out faint It was so hot in the church that an elderly lady passed out.
pass out give the same thing to many people The professor passed the textbooks outbefore class.
pass up decline (usually sthg good) I passed up the job because I am afraid of change.
pay back return owed money Thanks for buying my ticket. I’ll pay you back on Friday.
pay for be punished for doing sthg bad That bully will pay for being mean to my little brother.
pick out choose I picked out three sweaters for you to try on.
point out indicate with your finger I’ll point my boyfriend out when he runs by.
put down put what you are holding on a surface or floor You can put the groceries down on the kitchen counter.
put down insult, make sby feel stupid The students put the substitute teacher down because his pants were too short.
put off postpone We are putting off our trip until January because of the hurricane.
put out extinguish The neighbours put the fire out before the firemen arrived.
put together assemble I have to put the crib together before the baby arrives.
put up with tolerate I don’t think I can put up with three small children in the car.
put on put clothing/ accessories on your body Don’t forget to put on your new earrings for the party.
run into meet unexpectedly I ran into an old school-friend at the mall.
run over drive a vehicle over a person or thing I accidentally ran over your bicycle in the driveway.
run over/ through rehearse, review Let’s run over/through these lines one more time before the show.
run away leave unexpectedly, escape The child ran away from home and has been missing for three days.
run out have none left We ran out of shampoo so I had to wash my hair with soap.
send back return (usually by mail) My letter got sent back to me because I used the wrong stamp.
set up arrange, organize Our boss set a meeting up with the president of the company.
set up trick, trap The police set up the car thief by using a hidden camera.
shop around compare prices I want to shop around a little before I decide on these boots.
show off act extra special for people watching (usually boastfully) He always shows off on his skateboard
sleep over stay somewhere for the night (informal) You should sleep over tonight if the weather is too bad to drive home.
sort out organize, resolve a problem We need to sort the bills out before the first of the month.
stick to continue doing sthg, limit yourself to one particular thing You will lose weight if you stick to the diet.
switch off stop the energy flow, turn off The light’s too bright. Could you switch it off.
switch on start the energy flow, turn on We heard the news as soon as we switched on the car radio.
take after resemble a family member I take after my mother. We are both impatient.
take apart purposely break into pieces He took the car brakes apart and found the problem.
take back return an item I have to take our new TV back because it doesn’t work.
take off start to fly My plane takes off in five minutes.
take off remove sthg (usually clothing) Take off your socks and shoes and come in the lake!
take out remove from a place or thing Can you take the garbage out to the street for me?
take out pay for sby to go somewhere with you My grandparents took us out for dinner and a movie.
tear up rip into pieces I tore up my ex-boyfriend’s letters and gave them back to him.
think back remember (often + to, sometimes + on) When I think back on my youth, I wish I had studied harder.
think over consider I’ll have to think this job offer over before I make my final decision.
throw away dispose of We threw our old furniture away when we won the lottery.
turn down decrease the volume or strength (heat, light etc) Please turn the TV down while the guests are here.
turn down refuse I turned the job down because I don’t want to move.
turn off stop the energy flow, switch off Your mother wants you to turn the TV offand come for dinner.
turn on start the energy, switch on It’s too dark in here. Let’s turn some lights on.
turn up increase the volume or strength (heat, light etc) Can you turn the music up? This is my favourite song.
turn up appear suddenly Our cat turned up after we put posters up all over the neighbourhood.
try on sample clothing I’m going to try these jeans on, but I don’t think they will fit.
try out test I am going to try this new brand of detergent out.
use up finish the supply The kids used all of the toothpaste up so we need to buy some more.
wake up stop sleeping We have to wake up early for work on Monday.
warm up increase the temperature You can warm your feet up in front of the fireplace.
warm up prepare body for exercise I always warm up by doing sit-ups before I go for a run.
wear off fade away Most of my make-up wore off before I got to the party.
work out exercise I work out at the gym three times a week.
work out be successful Our plan worked out fine.
work out make a calculation We have to work out the total cost before we buy the house.
Podcasts for Everyday English

Podcasts for Everyday English

There are many ways to learn English, but certainly one the best and most effective is listening to native speakers. As much as you think you already know, there will always be some peculiar phrases that only native English speakers really use and understand.

Here is a small selection of those “useful” everyday English phrases. Get them into your vocabulary and start sounding like a native. Tune in and enjoy!




To have an axe to grind
An expression for when someone’s got a strong opinion.


Get somebody’s goat
A phrase about something annoying


Just another way to say “lots”


I’m sure you all know someone who gets angry when they don’t eat.


For further podcasts, tune into BBC Learning English

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is a festival for performances, workshops, talks and children’s events. Guests from all over the world are also invited for this great 10 days’ festival that takes place once a year in Edinburgh.

It’s the perfect chance to practise your English and learn about Scottish storytelling traditions. Here are some videos from previous years to give you an idea of what it’s like:



Date: Friday 21st – Monday 31st October 2016

Time: Various

Price: Mainly free but some performances are charged

Place: Various


[Teacher Feature] Prepositions of Position – In/On/At

[Teacher Feature] Prepositions of Position – In/On/At

Choosing the correct preposition in English can often be tricky, as the incorrect preposition can not only impair understanding but, in some cases, completely change the meaning of what you are trying to say.

The following feature will focus on the use of IN, ON and AT when speaking about place/position.


We use ‘in’ when we are talking about being specifically inside a larger area. For example:

I am in the classroom (the classroom is larger than me)

The classroom is in the school (the school is larger than the classroom)

The school is in Edinburgh (Edinburgh is larger than the school)


We use ‘on’ when we talk about a surface. For example:

The cup is on the table (the table is a surface)

The picture is on the wall (the wall is a surface)

The teacher writes on the whiteboard (the whiteboard is a surface)


So far, we have learnt that we use in for a larger area and on for a surface. However, let’s look at the following examples:

I’m on the bus

I’m on the train

I’m on the plane


I’m in the car

I’m in a taxi
One reason for this is that the bus, trains and planes are usually public, whereas cars and taxis are private.

Another reason for this is that buses, trains and planes have a pre-determined route (we don’t decide where it goes, it follows a specific route). You can’t for example, ask a train to stop outside your house. It is restricted to the tracks. You also can’t ask a pilot to land the plane in your back garden. However, you can decide where to go in your car or in a taxi.


We use ‘at’  when we talk about a point. For example:

I’m at the bus stop (the point where the bus stops)

Who is at the door? (the point just outside the door)

We also often use at  when we are talking about public buildings/services/conveniences:

I’m at the supermarket

I’m at the dentist

I’m at the pub



The following sentences are both correct:

I’m in the swimming pool

I’m at the swimming pool

Why is this?

The first example means you are actually in the water and swimming, whereas the second example could mean you are in the changing room, having a shower or getting dressed.

When we use in, we are specifically inside something (the swimming pool in this case), where at is much more general.

With that logic, you can say “I’m in the supermarket”, if you are INSIDE the supermarket or “I’m at the supermarket” to either mean you’re INSIDE or JUST OUTSIDE the supermarket.

Please note, this only applies to buildings/services/conveniences (you’re unlikely to find someone IN the door, they’re more likely to be AT the door).

This is a very brief overview of these prepositions. As with many language points, the important thing is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. The more practice you get, the more natural your use of prepositions will become.

[Teacher Feature] Top 10 Tips for Students in Class

[Teacher Feature] Top 10 Tips for Students in Class

It can be daunting (and exciting) to start a new class at Inlingua – but here are some tips from a teacher…

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you go to your class! Perhaps you are not sure about which classroom or what time – please ask us.

2. You might think that you don’t understand the teacher or class-mates – give it a little time, the teacher will soon know if you are not at the right level and will help you find the most suitable level.

3. Don’t sit next to someone of the same nationality! It’s easy to sit to someone who comes from the same place but you are here to learn English not chat to people in your own language – you can do that after school!

4. Please try to avoid using your phone – if you have finished an activity you can perhaps take a quick glance but don’t text – you have plenty of time at break.

5. Try to take part in some of the social activities – you might not like the activity but it is a way to get a free lesson by chatting to the teacher and other students who you don’t know.

6. Try and do all the activities the teacher asks you – he or she is trying to encourage you to use all skills (speaking, reading, listening and writing) – it is important that you can do it all.

7. Let other people speak – if you like speaking it’s tempting to speak all the time but let the others have a chance too – encourage people who are shy to speak.

8. Do your homework! The teacher is trying to make you think (a little) about what is done in the class, you need to think about the lessons outside the classroom.

9. If you want to talk about something in class, please do! Don’t just wait for the teacher to introduce topics, if you want to speak about something then it’s probably of interest to the others too.

10. Last but not least, ENJOY yourself – yes, you are here to learn but we want to make you have fun whilst learning.

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