Halloween: 5 Phrases

On October 31 here in the U.S., we celebrate the holiday of Halloween!

It has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

For most people – especially kids – Halloween means dressing in a costume, eating candy, and maybe some scary activities like visiting a haunted house or watching a scary movie. Popular decorations are pictures of skeletons, witches, and ghosts, and jack-o-lanterns.

Today, we’re going to learn about some popular Halloween-related vocabulary and phrases! Watch the video and read along!


A jack-o-lantern is a pumpkin (real or plastic) that has a face drawn or carved into it with a knife. With a real pumpkin, people often put a candle inside it so that the face lights up. With a plastic jack-o-lantern, it often has a handle so that children can use it to collect candy on Halloween.

jackolantern halloween

Bonus vocabulary word: A “lantern” is something like a lamp that you carry.



For Halloween, it is common for children, and sometimes even adults, to wear a costume, or to dress up as someone else. For example, a cowboy, a princess, or a super hero. Children might wear the costume to school and at night, wear it around their neighborhood to go trick-or-treating. Many adults wear costumes to Halloween parties or maybe even to work.

halloween costume


Trick or treat!

When children go to their neighbor’s houses to ask for candy on Halloween, when someone opens the door, the children say “Trick or treat!” It means, “I’ll play a trick on you, or you need to give me a treat (candy)!” But in reality, there is no “trick.” The children just say “Trick or treat,” and they get candy from the person at the door.

“To go trick-or-treating” means when children go from door to door in the neighborhood on Halloween asking for candy.



A nightmare is a very bad, frightening dream. There is an old series of scary Halloween movies called “Nightmare on Elm Street.”


haunted house

When a place is haunted, it means that ghosts or spirits live there. It is popular during the Halloween season (for a few weeks leading up to Halloween) for people to visit a “haunted house” to get scared. But the house is not really haunted! To go to a haunted house means that you walk through the house and other people – dressed as ghosts or zombies or witches or something else scary – jump out at you to make you scream. Here is a video example of people going through a haunted house, from The Ellen Show. It’s really funny!


What about you?

Is there a celebration like Halloween in your country? Do you celebrate Halloween? What is (or would be) your costume this year?


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English Intonation

(Tip: Listen while you read!)

What is Intonation?

Intonation is the “music” or “melody” of speech. It’s the way the pitch or sound of a person’s voice rises and falls while speaking.


How is it Used in Speech?

When someone raises or lowers their pitch while speaking, it can mean different things:

  • A raised or rising pitch means:
    *The speaker is changing subjects.
    *The speaker is taking over from another speaker.
  • A much higher or lower pitch on a word/phrase:
    *It’s the focus of the speaker’s message.
    *The speaker is feeling a strong emotion, like excited or angry.

Common English Intonation Patterns

There are three main intonation patterns in English: falling, rising, and fall-rise.

1) Falling Intonation  ➘

  • Indicates something is definite or complete
  • The pitch falls on the last stressed syllable of a phrase.

Here’s your wallet.

I can’t find it.

  • Common in wh- questions

What time is the movie?

Where’s your teacher?

2) Rising Intonation ➚

  • Common in yes/no questions
  • The pitch rises on the last stressed syllable of a phrase / group of words.

Are you happy?

Is that your teacher?

3) Fall-Rise Intonation ➘➚

  • Something is incomplete or uncertain.
  • There’s more to be said.

I don’t play soccer.

(This implies that something more is coming, and that maybe I play something else, as in “I don’t play soccer. I play tennis.”)

My first day was great.

(This implies that perhaps the second day was not great, and that something more is coming.)

  • In questions: Makes them more friendly or polite.

What’s your name?

Is this your purse?

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Using “come” and “go”

Do you have a hard time deciding if you need to use “come” or “go” in English? Check out this video lesson!

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4 ways to improve your English pronunciation

“Can you repeat that?”

Anyone who has studied a foreign language has definitely had this experience: You try so hard to communicate something – what you want to order at a restaurant, to tell a story to someone, or to ask where something is – but the person you’re talking to can’t understand you.

Sometimes it’s because you don’t know the correct vocabulary word, sometimes it’s because you’re using incorrect grammar, but many times, it’s a matter of pronunciation.

Even if you don’t live near other English learners or speakers, you can still improve your pronunciation on your own.

1) Practice your listening skills

Yes! Listening will help your pronunciation!

When you listen to how native or fluent speakers pronounce English, it helps train your ear and informs your own pronunciation.

Check out my 5-part series on how to improve your listening comprehension skills.

2) Online practice

If you don’t have a friend or teacher who can help you with pronunciation, there are still many free online options to help you practice.

One great one is ManyThings.org. There are “listen and repeat” sections, as well as quizzes you can take.

3) Pay attention to syllables

Syllables are parts of words in English and are generally divided by vowel sounds.

For example, the word “paper” has two syllables: “pa” and “per”.

Whenever a word has more than one syllable, one syllable is always stressed more than the others.

Knowing what syllable is stressed is crucial to pronouncing a word correctly and being understood by your listener. Dictionaries always have a mark similar to an apostrophe – – over or near a stressed syllable.

4) Study and practice correct word stress

Another important part of pronunciation is word stress. If you stress the wrong words in a sentence, or the wrong parts of words, you’ll sound strange to your listener, and they might misunderstand you.

In general, important words – like nouns, verbs, and adjectives – are stressed. These types of words are called content words.

Smaller words, like articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (on, in, for, etc.), are not stressed.

The important words in the following sentence are in bold:

The dog ate the food on the floor.

There it is! I hope you find these tips helpful!

Do you have other ways to improve your pronunciation? Please leave a comment!

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You can get Unit 1 completely free, and optional add-ons for purchase include one-on-one conversation sessions with me!

Click the button below for more information, free Unit 1 materials, or to enroll.

UPDATED! Moving: 6 American English vocabulary words

Last year, I made a post about English vocabulary words related to moving because I had just moved. And I just moved again! So I am re-posting the lesson, but I have updated it by adding more information and example sentences.

1. to hire movers vs. get/rent a U-Haul

“Did you hire movers or get a U-Haul?”

When moving from one place to another, you either hire people (movers) to move your belongings for you with their truck, or you rent a truck and move your belongings yourself, which is many times referred to as renting or getting a U-Haul.

“U-Haul” is simply a brand name of a popular company that rents moving trucks nationwide, but people use “U-Haul” many times to mean any company that rents moving trucks.

2. pack and unpack

“I don’t mind packing, but unpacking boxes after moving is the worst!”

Probably the most self-explanatory word in this list, “pack” and “unpack” means putting your things into boxes and taking them out before and after a move.

Note that “unpack” officially stresses the first syllable – UN-pack – but it is not uncommon to hear the second syllable stressed, or even to have both equally stressed.

3. apartment vs. condo

“How many units are in your apartment building?”
“Is your condo on the first floor or the second?”

The difference between an apartment and a condo is usually ownership: apartments are rented and condos are owned.

“Condo” is short for “condominium.” Both are usually located in larger buildings with other units.

4. mail forwarding; to forward [your] mail; to have mail forwarded

“Did you forward your mail to your new house yet?”

Telling the post office about your new address so that they can send mail to your new home, or mail forwarding, is a phrase that may be slightly different in other English-speaking countries outside the U.S.

5. utilities

“What utilities are included in the rent?”
“Rent is $1000 per month, all utilities included.”

A service such a water, electricity, gas, garbage pick-up, etc are called utilities. Home owners must pay all of these themselves. Renters, however, may have to pay all, some, or none, depending on where they live.

6. moving vs. relocating

Technically, any type of moving is relocating…and relocating is moving, but they are used differently.

a) We’re moving next month!
b) We’re relocating next month!

Statement “a” is more general and implies “We are moving out of our current home and into a different home next month.” How far they are moving isn’t indicated, although it likely is not a move far from their current location.

Statement “b”, however, implies “We are moving out of our current home in this city/country and moving into a different area far away.” “Relocating” indicates the speaker is moving far – generally out of the state or even out of the country. You can also use “relocating” if your job is transferring you to a new area far from where you currently live: “My job relocated me to the West Coast from Chicago.”

Note that it is perfectly fine to use “moving” for large distances: “I’m moving to Russia next month! I got a job teaching in Moscow!”

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