A Quick Reference Guide for Relative Clauses

What are the basics?

We know that relative clauses modify nouns. This explains why they are sometimes called adjective clauses. Unlike adjectives, relative clauses come after the noun they modify.

Courtesy of blog.powerscore.com

Courtesy of blog.powerscore.com

What kinds are there?

Relative clauses can be either restrictive or nonrestrictive. Some people use other words to classify them, but they have the same meaning. Restrictive clauses identify the noun that is being modified. Nonrestrictive clauses simply add information about the noun. Notice the difference here.

  • The boy who had his birthday party here was sick.
  • The boy, who is ten years old, is sick.

What about the pronouns?

There is a set of pronouns that is usually used with relative clauses. These are called relative pronouns. The most common relative pronouns are that, who, and which. Sometimes the pronoun can be omitted altogether.

When do we use these pronouns?

The most commonly used relative pronoun is that. It can be used with people or things. For people we can also use who or whom. Who is used for subjects and whom is used for objects. Many people use who for both. Which is used with things.

Do I have to use a relative pronoun?

No, sometimes it is possible to omit the relative pronoun. When the relative clause is for an object, the relative pronoun can be omitted. They cannot usually be omitted when the relative clause is for the subject.

These are some basic questions and answers about relative clauses. In our Grammar and Writing level 4 class, we go in to more detail about these clauses. If you are up for a challenge, try to find out what information I have left out. You can bring it to class or post it online.

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor


“The Alchemist” by Paulo Ceolho

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Read Paulo Ceolho’s story from “The Alchemist” and guess the moral of the story.

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

The Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls.

He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages.

“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

Courtesy of artsbeat.blogs

5 Tips to Improve Your TOEFL PBT Score!

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Test taking can be challenging for anybody. TOEFL PBT is no exception.  There are a few very simple things that you can do to improve your TOEFL score.

1. Know the test – It is important to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions on every part of the test. TOEFL is a timed test, so you do not want to take any time reading and trying to learn the rules on test day. You should take practice tests early and often to help you become completely confident in the directions of the questions and the style of the questions.

2. Listen for the meaning – On the listening section of the test, do not focus on words or phrases given in the answers that sound similar to the audio. TOEFL will try to confuse you with such questions. You should listen to each part carefully and try to understand the meaning of what each speaker says. The main section of the listening involves short conversations, and the answer is often found in the meaning of what the second speaker says.

3. Look for mistakes in the answers – The grammar portion of the test asks you to complete a sentence or find an error in a sentence. The answers often have one or two very obviously wrong choices. You may be able to eliminate these answers without reading

image courtesy of umshare

the question. Look for patterns or structures that will never be correct and eliminate them first. Then go back to the questions and pay close attention to subject-verb agreement and verb tense.

4. Read the questions first – The biggest problem for most people on the reading section is the limited amount of time given to complete the questions. One way to cut down on your reading time is to read the questions first. After you read all of the questions related to one article, you can skim or read the article quickly to look for the relevant information. Also, many questions in this section are vocabulary questions that simply ask the meaning of a word. These questions can be answered and eliminated early.

5. Answer everything – Finally, you should never leave an answer blank. A blank answer is a wrong answer, so guessing is better than skipping. Always double-check that you didn’t miss any question before the time runs out.

Listening Practice

Kody, Level 3 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Kody, Level 3 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Directions: Read the dialogue about alternative energy. Look up any new words.

Carl: Uh! What’s that smell?

Jody: I’m working on my latest invention. I’m turning our old food into an energy source for our car and our house.

Carl: Why? There are already lots of types of renewable energy that power cars and homes, and none of them smell like this!

Jody: Well, I think I’m onto a better alternative. Imagine being able to recycle your unwanted food into fuel. That’s the wave of the future.

Carl: You mean you think that it would be more efficient than wind power and solar energy? There are geothermal and hydroelectric power plants that already provide energy for lots of homes and businesses.

Jody: But I’m using food that would otherwise be wasted.

Carl: I hate to break it to you, but if you want to convert food into fuel, there are already different types of biofuels that work pretty well.

Jody: You mean somebody has already beaten me to the punch?

Carl: Yes, and I bet they’ve found a way to do it without this stench!

You can listen to the audio here.


Source: English for Everyone Blog: ESL Podcast 866

How to Write an Academic Essay Introduction

Academic Phrases for Writing Introductions

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor

Kody, Level 4 Writing Instructor

There are many ways to introduce an academic essay or assignment. Most academic writers, however, appear to do one or more of the following in their introductions:

  • establish the context, background and/or importance of the topic
  • indicate a problem, controversy or a gap in the field of study
  • define the topic or key terms
  • state of the purpose of the essay/writing
  • provide an overview of the coverage and/or structure of the writing

Examples of phrases which are commonly employed to realize these functions are listed below. Note that there may be a certain amount of overlap between some of the categories under which the phrases are listed.

Introductory sections for research dissertations are normally much more complex than this and, as well as the elements above, may include the following: a synopsis of key literature/current state of knowledge, synopsis of methods, lists of research questions or hypotheses to be tested, significance of the study, recognition of the limitations of the study, reasons for personal interest in the topic.

Establishing the importance of the topic:

One of the most significant current discussions in legal and moral philosophy is ……

X is the leading cause of death in western industrialized countries……

X is an important component in the climate system, and plays a key role in Y…….

X is an increasingly important area in applied linguistics……..

X is a common disorder characterized by……

Establishing the importance of the topic (time frame given):

Recent developments in X have heightened the need for ……

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in ……

The past decade has seen the rapid development of X in many …….

Over the past century there has been a dramatic increase in ……


Highlighting a problem in the field of study:

Despite its safety and efficacy, X suffers from several major drawbacks:

Questions have been raised about the safety of prolonged use of ….

However, a major problem with this kind of application is ……..

Lack of X has existed as a health problem for many years.

Highlighting a controversy in the field of study:

To date there has been little agreement on what ……

The controversy about scientific evidence for X has raged unabated for over a century.

The issue has grown in importance in light of recent ……

One of the most significant current discussions in legal and moral philosophy is ……

More information can be found at http://www.manchester.ac.uk/

*Source: The University of Manchester website

Get to Know our Teachers

Kody, ESL Instructor

Kody, ESL Instructor

Meet Kody

Kody Salzburn is a certified TESOL teacher and has been teaching in the English as a Second Language Program at Auburn University Montgomery since January 2011. He graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from AUM, where he is currently an MBA student.  Kody has a passion for interacting with people from different cultures and teaching English as a Second Language. He enjoys teaching IEP classes as well as a TOEFL test prep class. When he is not teaching, Kody enjoys photography, music, and traveling. He loves traveling in Europe and hopes to teach English abroad in the future.

TOEFL Test December 7, 2012

If you plan to take the TOEFL PBT test be sure not to miss the TOEFL Prep Class on Wednesday afternoons. We meet from 2:45 – 4:00 in Classroom #2. This class prepares test takers for the paper based TOEFL test. We will practice listening, reading, and grammar questions similar to those from the test. In addition, we will discuss strategies and test rules to help you become familiar with the style of the PBT test.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for the test is become familiar with the instructions and question styles. This will help you save valuable time while taking the test and know what kind of answer you may be looking for.

Come join us on Wednesday. This course is open to all full-time students in the AUM ESL program.

The next TOEFL Test at AUM will be on Friday, December 7 from 9:30am – 11:30am on the 7th floor of the Library Tower.  To register for the TOEFL Test contact the ESL Office at 334.244.3131 or stop by in person – Office #700 on the 7th floor of the AUM Library Tower. The TOEFL Test fee is $35.

*AUM requires a minimum score of 500 on the PBT TOEFL test. The requirement for IBT TOEFL is 61.

Kody, TOEFL Test Prep Instructor

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

This week in Low-Intermediate Grammar we are studying active and passive voice. Active and passive voice are both important and should be used for different reasons. Let’s look at the differences.

Active Voice

One common sentence structure in English is SUBJECT + VERB + DIRECT OBJECT. This sentence style emphasizes the person or thing that does the action. Look at the example below.

            We will make a decision about our trip soon.

The emphasis in this sentence is on “we”. In other words, the sentence is focused on the people doing the action.

Passive Voice

Passive voice sentences also have common SUBJECT + VERB structure. The difference in passive voice is that the subject is the receiver of the action. Look at the example below.

            A decision about our trip will be made soon.


In this sentence the emphasis is on “a decision about our trip,” not the people making the decision.

There are different reasons for using both. One reason is to emphasize different subjects. A good time to use passive voice is when the “actor,” or person doing the action is unknown. Look at the example below.

            The money was stolen.

In this example, the person who stole the money may be unknown. Therefore, passive voice is used to emphasize the action, but not the actor.


In your writing you should think carefully about what information you wish to send. Any writer must choose the more appropriate voice for each.

Source: Keys to Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners by Keith S. Folse

Kody, Level 2 Grammar & Writing Instructor

American Presidential Elections

If you haven’t noticed, the United States is currently in the middle of a very important season. It’s election season.

Every four years, America chooses its next president. The process has not changed very much in many years, but it is complicated and very expensive.

Currently the United States government has two main political parties. There are other parties, but they are relatively small. Every president in the past 150 years has been associated with one of these two major parties.

The first step in choosing our president involves choosing a nominee from each of the parties. The parties hold elections called primaries to decide which candidate will be the nominee for the party. Once the two nominees are chosen, the parties hold a convention and officially begin the race to the White House.

The candidates or nominees spend a lot of time giving speeches, debates, and appearances in virtually every state in the country. They also raise huge sums of money to run their campaigns and to purchase advertisements promoting themselves.

On election day, which is the first Tuesday in November, Americans vote for their choice for president. The president is not elected based on popular vote, but on Electoral College votes. The Electoral College is a system that gives each state a number based on that states population. When the votes are counted for each state, the majority winner receives all of the Electoral College votes for that state. The candidate with 270 electoral votes wins the election.


Primary – an election to choose a candidate for each party

Nominee – a person who is entered as a candidate

Candidate – a person who is nominated for a job

Convention – a large meeting of a political party

Campaign – organized actions of a politician taken to win an election

Kody, Level 1 Reading & Discussion Instructor

Stop Studying and Start Practicing!

Many people say they have been studying English for years, but they can’t speak English. One reason is that language is learned best through practice.

Here are four ways to get you practicing English.

1. Speak Only English – It is a very simple way to practice. When you go home, don’t switch back to your native language. Try to continue speaking English even when you are not in class. This could be strange at first, but it will help you become familiar with English.

2. Speak with a Native – Don’t be shy about this one. Find a native speaker to meet with regularly. You can meet daily, weekly, or when works for you. Go to a coffee shop and just sit and talk about anything you want. Try not to focus on a book or grammar too much.

3. Post in English – You probably already use Facebook or Twitter. Try posting your thoughts, messages, or comments in English. This will allow you to share your English with many people very easily. You can receive comments and read what others think about your ideas.

4. Listen in English – If you watch a movie, watch it in English. You can watch it with or without subtitles. This can help you hear and see situations in English and listen for correct pronunciation. You can watch old movies or new movies. Invite friends to join you and enjoy your favorites.

So the next time someone asks you if you speak English, say yes!

Kody, Level 3 Listening and Speaking Instructor