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Preview: The PhraseBlog Blog

A blog about learning English as a foreign language through

Last Build Date: Fri, 19 Feb 2016 03:46:17 +0000

Copyright: 2018

A new look for!

Fri, 19 Feb 2016 03:39:10 +0000

If you're a regular PhraseMix reader, you've probably already noticed that things look a little different.

This is a redesign that we've been working on for many months now. The main goals of the redesign were:

1. Make the site easier to read and navigate

We made the page wider, made the text bigger, and made the design simpler so that you can focus better on the content. We also improved the navigation, especially for mobile devices. Check out on your smart phone or tablet and see how much easier it is now to navigate!

2. Improve the audio player

The audio player has gotten an upgrade. Visit the Sample Player to see for yourself. Here are some cool things that you can do now:

  • Use the keyboard to play, pause, and skip lessons (Press the bar to stop and start, "]" to go to the next item, and "[" to go back.
  • Click the progress bar at the bottom of the page to skip around in the audio file.

3. Explain PhraseMix more clearly to new visitors

When you visit the home page of now, you'll see a clear explanation of what PhraseMix is and how it helps you to learn English. This is important for new visitors. Of course, you can still read the latest lessons by going to "Free Stuff > Lessons" or bookmarking this link:

Your feedback is welcome!

Do you have strong feelings about the new design? Love it? Hate it? Have you found something that's broken? Please let us know, with as much detail as you can, on the Contact page or just leave a comment here in this blog post.

Moving from "I" to "we"

Tue, 29 Sep 2015 12:10:10 +0000

Third person and first person When you write something in English, you have to choose which "person" you're going to write in. You can choose to write in "third person", which means that you talk about things as "he", "she", "it", "they", "that", and so on. Here's how I might write about PhraseMix in third person: PhraseMix began in 2009. When you write in the third person, your writing seems straightforward and factual. Another way of writing is to use the "first person", which means that you write about "I", "me": I started PhraseMix in 2009. When you write in first person, your writing seems more personal and emotional. This is the way that I've chosen to write in most PhraseMix articles and emails. For example: Someone recently told me about a cool trick for memorizing things.  I wish I could remember who told me about the trick, and where they got it from. ("A cool trick for memorizing sentences") Moving to "we" But recently, I've noticed that my writing style has started to change. Instead of using "I", I've started to use "we" instead. For example, I wrote this in an email recently: This week, we're working on creating audio files for a new list of 100 lessons that will be released on PhraseMix Premium over the next 3 or 4 months. You use "we" when you're writing something on behalf of a group of people, like when the CEO of a company writes something that represents the whole company. When you use "we", it seems less personal than "I". But it also seems more official and respectable. The reason that I've started to change my writing style is that, these days, PhraseMix is not just me. For many years, it was mostly me. I wrote all the lessons, drew the illustrations, and built the site myself. These days, there are a lot of people who are making contributions to the site. There are still no full-time PhraseMix employees (including myself), but there are lots of people doing different jobs. My job now is mostly to coordinate everything and come up with new ideas. The PhraseMix Contributors So now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people whose work makes PhraseMix possible: Emily Hitz has been writing a lot of articles recently, such as "25 ways to say 'sorry' in English", and has taken over writing most of the daily English lessons. Roy Ardianto has taken over drawing most of the daily illustrations. Misako Yoke was the translator for the PhraseMix book, 英語はもっとフレーズで話そう and has been providing Japanese translations for the website since 2010. Eri Yokoyama has produced videos for PhraseMix, including the video for A cool trick for memorizing sentences and the recent book release video. Leigh Laird is the voice actor for PhraseMix Premium audio lessons. She records the example sentences for female speakers. Anthony Gettig is the voice actor for the example sentences spoken by male speakers in PhraseMix Premium audio files. Dianne Palmer is the narrator for the scene descriptions in PhraseMix Premium audio lessons. And, of course, there's you: PhraseMix readers and PhraseMix Premium subscribers who use this site, share it with other people, and support it with your subscriptions. I'm so grateful to all of these people! [...]

The first-ever PhraseMix book is coming out soon!

Mon, 07 Sep 2015 14:22:49 +0000

I'm proud to announce that the first-ever printed book from PhraseMix will be released on September 15th, 2015. It's being sold in Japan, with the title "英語はもっとフレーズで話そう" ("Let's learn English more phrasally!"). It was translated into Japanese by Misako Yoke and is being published by GOKEN publishing company. If you read PhraseMix in English, that means that you're an intermediate or advanced English learner. You already know a lot, but you use PhraseMix to get even better. This book is a great opportunity for PhraseMix to reach a new audience: English beginners. This book is a collection of past PhraseMix lessons, with the explanations translated into Japanese. Since the explanations are translated, Japanese readers who don't know a lot of English can read the lessons and get started with the PhraseMix method of learning phrases and memorizing sentences. I hope that this book is only the beginning. If this project goes well, I would like to write more books for English learners in Japan. I also hope to release books in other countries around the world: Korea, India, Brazil, Russia. How the book was born I've considered publishing a PhraseMix book for many years.  When I thought about publishing a book, I had one concern: How can I make the book useful in a way that's different from the website? I didn't want to just re-print lessons from I wanted for there to be some added value to the printed book. Translating PhraseMix lessons into another language seemed like a great way to make a book that's useful to a different group of people. Japanese seemed like a good choice because I know a little Japanese, I've lived in Japan, and lots of PhraseMix readers and subscribers are from there. An editor from GOKEN publishing contacted me late last year after following me on Twitter. He asked whether I'd be interested in publishing a book for beginners, so of course I said yes! For the translations, I contacted my friend Misako Yoke. Misako has volunteered her "English support" to PhraseMix for years, and has translated over 380 PhraseMix lessons into Japanese. Even though the lessons were already written and many of them were already translated, it took almost a year to complete the book! Unlike a website, which can be changed at any time, a book is permanent. it's important to get everything right: the explanations, the examples, the illustrations, spelling, grammar, and design. We all spent many hours reading and re-reading to make sure that everything is the best it can be. Please help! PhraseMix needs your help to make this book a success, so that we can expand to more books and more different countries. If you know anyone who speaks Japanese and would like to learn English, please share this book with them! You can send them to, where you can buy or pre-order the book starting today:英語はもっとフレーズで話そう-PhraseMix-com/dp/4876153019 Thanks for your support!    ~ Aaron [...]

When will you be perfect in English?

Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:37:23 +0000

A PhraseMix reader wrote to me recently about her problems with learning English, and I noticed this sentence:

My problem is that I can't apply for a job because I am not so perfect in English.

I thought it would be good to talk about this idea of "perfect in English". If you study English really hard using the best study methods like PhraseMix, how long will it take for you to become perfect? Six months? A year? Two years?

Actually, you will never be a perfect English speaker.

There's no such thing as speaking a language "perfectly". Native speakers don't speak perfectly. Take me as an example. Here are just a few of my flaws:

  • I don't know much about finance and economics, so I would be completely lost if I got a job at a big bank.
  • I sometimes mumble and don't pronounce words clearly, so people have to ask me to repeat myself.
  • There are words that I've read but never heard, so I pronounce them incorrectly.
  • Sometimes I don't know what to say in social situations.
  • I have a hard time understanding what people are saying when I watch British TV shows.
  • I've never been good at telling stories.

So we're in the same boat: neither of us are perfect English speakers.

On the other hand, think about all of the things that you can do in English. For example, you can read this article! That's amazing. You can probably do a lot of other things in English:

  • order dinner at a restaurant
  • ask someone where the bathroom is
  • talk about where you're from
  • understand a weather forecast on the news

That's a small list, but there are hundreds of other tasks that you could add to it.

Your job as an English speaker is not to become perfect. Your job is to identify something that you want to accomplish in English and practice that. If you want to go to a university, get some English university textbooks and start reading them. If you want to get a job as a salesperson, talk to English-speaking salespeople or watch videos of them on YouTube.

My point is that you shouldn't worry about becoming perfect, just about becoming better. And you shouldn't try to learn all of English, just the parts which are important for you.

How to remember phrasal verbs without mixing them up

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 04:30:25 +0000


You have to learn phrasal verbs if you want to sound natural in English. English speakers use phrasal verbs all the time. They give our language color and life.

How have you learned phrasal verbs in the past? Most English learners study phrasal verbs in lists grouped by verb like these:

  • go out with (someone)
  • go around (doing something)
  • go for (something)
  • go on about (something)

This approach has a problem, though: it's easy to forget which words at the end (which we call 'particles'*) to use. It's easy to get them mixed up later when you try to remember which phrasal verb to use.

I'd like to suggest a different approach. Instead of grouping phrasal verbs by the verb, what if we grouped them by their particles like this?

  • chip in (for something)
  • break in (something)
  • hand in (something)
  • give in

I think that you'll find that it's easier to remember phrasal verbs that are listed this way because the main verb is usually easier to remember than the particle.

There's another point to learning phrasal verbs this way as well. Particles are hard to pin down. It's hard to define exactly what they mean, and they often have many different meanings. By learning many phrasal verbs that all use the same particle, you start to get a "sense" of what they mean and how they change the meaning of a verb. This happens in the back of your mind, even if you still can't explain the difference consciously.

Give it a try! Pick a preposition like "in", "down", or "over" and learn 5-10 phrasal verbs that include that word. See if it's easier to remember all of the phrases the next day than you might expect.

*Note: "particles" are what we call prepositions when they're used in phrasal verbs.

41 unique ways to practice listening to English

Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:55:44 +0000

Our PhraseMix Premium service gives you a super-easy way to improve your English by listening to key example sentences. But there are lots of other ways to practice listening to English, if you're willing to put in the time and effort. We've pulled together a big list of 41 interesting ways that you can improve your listening skill. Tweet This Idea! Get hooked on an English TV show. Find an English-language drama or comedy that seems interesting, and start watching it from the beginning. Follow the storylines and get to know all the characters. Not sure what to watch? Here's a list of some of the best TV series of all time. How this can help: To learn English, you have to practice consistently for a long time. When you find a TV show you like a lot, it's easy to spend hours and hours watching it. Tweet This Idea! Listen in the background. Find an English podcast (You can browse thousands of free ones on iTunes). Play it on your headphones while you work, ride the bus, exercise, or cook dinner. How this can help: This is another way to spend more time listening to English. It's easier to find time to listen to English if you do it while also doing other things. Tweet This Idea! Listen on low volume. Visit YouTube and find an interesting English video. Turn the volume down low so that it's a little hard to hear. Try to figure out what's being said. How this can help: In the real world, you can't control how loudly the people around you speak. It's good to practice trying to figure out what people are saying, even when the volume is low. Tweet This Idea! Listen while you read. Visit a site like and listen to one of the conversations while reading the transcript that's included on the page. How this can help: English speakers often pronounce words very differently than you might expect. If you've learned English mostly through reading or in a classroom, you might be surprised to learn what words really sound like in the "real world". Listening while you read along helps you to match your expectations with reality. Tweet This Idea! Listen to yourself. Record yourself speaking English using your computer or phone. Play it back and listen to your own pronunciation and accent. Fix any problems that you notice and try again. How this can help: By listening to yourself, you can quickly find problems in how you speak. If you continue to listen to yourself over time, you can also track how much you're improving. Tweet This Idea! Listen to the same sentence 30 times in a row. Find a recording of a single sentence. You can use the lessons on PhraseMix if you're a member. If not, use the sample audio player on Listen to the sentence on "repeat" 30 or more times in a row. Try to notice new things each time you hear it. How this can help: Listening to something again and again makes it "stick" in your memory. It's a great way to remember phrases. It also allows you to notice important sounds that you might miss if you just listen once or twice. Tweet This Idea! Listen to an audio book. An audio book is a recording of someone reading a book. Buy one or download a free one, and listen to the whole book. How this can help: Books use a wider range of vocabulary than everyday speech, so they can teach you new words. The readers for audio books also speak in a very clear and entertaining way, so they're easy to listen to for many hours. Tweet This Idea! Listen to two things at once. Get two recordings of people speaking English, like a TV show and a podcast, and try listening to both of them at the same time. Try to keep up with what's being said in at least one of them. How this can help: If you're speaking to someone in a public place like at a restaurant or a busy office, there will be a lot of people speaking at once. You will need to "tune out" all the noise and focus on the person you're sp[...]

Another interview: ALsensei from the English 2.0 podcast

Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:59:35 +0000

ALsensei from interviewed me recently for his English 2.0 podcast. We talked about the most common questions English learners ask, my ideas for how to learn English faster, and tips for being productive. Check out the interview here:

English 2.0 Teacher Interview 5 - Aaron from PhraseMix

A cool trick for memorizing sentences

Sun, 03 Nov 2013 01:34:53 +0000

(Watch this video or read the article below.)

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Someone recently told me about a cool trick for memorizing things. 

I wish I could remember who told me about the trick, and where they got it from. But I looked the trick up online and found an article about it from

Imagine that you're trying to memorize a PhraseMix sentence (which I strongly recommend that you do). The normal way to memorize the sentence would be to repeat the full thing, again and again, from the beginning. So try that now. Read this sentence out loud to yourself five times:

“I'd just like to say, on behalf of everyone here, good luck in your new home.”

Now close your eyes, wait a few seconds, and try to say the whole sentence without reading it.

Did it work? If so, great!

If not, then you probably got the first part of the sentence right, then lost your way somewhere in the middle.

Now let's try the trick!

The cool trick I heard about was to try learning backwards. Instead of starting from the beginning of the sentence, start by repeating a piece at the end:

new home

Then add to it:

in your new home

good luck in your new home

It might help to practice different parts of the sentence separately:

everyone here

on behalf of everyone here

And then put the pieces together:

good luck in your new home

on behalf of everyone here, good luck in your new home

And finally, the whole thing:

I'd just like to say, on behalf of everyone here, good luck in your new home.

Close your eyes and say the sentence all the way through again without reading it.

Did it help to review the sentence backwards?

Try it out with a few more PhraseMix example sentences, and let me know what you think in the comments below!

An interview with the "Let's Master English" podcast

Tue, 29 Oct 2013 12:34:34 +0000

This week, I was interviewed for a podcast called "Let's Master English". The host, Coach Shane, is a really smart guy and easy to talk to.

We talked about how I got started with PhraseMix, some of my recommendations for language learners, describe my idea of "bottlenecks" in language learning, and the upcoming live PhraseMix Academy class.

Listen here:

And you can also subscribe to the podcast with iTunes.


What's funny to you in English?

Mon, 02 Sep 2013 04:28:32 +0000


When I was in college, I studied the plays of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is probably the greatest writer in the English language, but he wrote several hundred years ago. So some of his plays can be hard to understand for modern English speakers.

The comedies were especially hard to understand. I remember the professor explaining some of the jokes in class. Eventually I understood Shakespeare's jokes. But even after understanding them, I still didn't laugh much. Shakespeare's jokes just aren't funny any more.

It can be the same thing across languages and cultures. Some of the things that are really funny to people in one country can seem boring, dumb, or odd to people in another country. If I say something using a funny choice of words, some native speakers might laugh. But if you're an English learner, you might not realize that it sounds funny at all.

Sometimes I have trouble with writing for PhraseMix because naturally I always want to be funny. My usual writing style uses a lot of sarcasm and strange wording. But I usually don't write that way for PhraseMix because I don't think it will go over well.

So I'm curious: what makes you laugh in English? Are there any TV shows, movies, books, that you've found really funny?