Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Special – TOEFL Idioms Part II

TOEFL idioms are back with part II.  This is the beginning of my new schedule which I launched yesterday.  So, let’s break down these idioms!


Hit The Books – Study

So when we say “hit the books,” this means to study.

Usage: “I need to hit the books.”

We use this only with a gerund, too — not an infinitive.

Wrong usage: “I need to hitting the books.”

This is good to say to your American friends.

Hit The Sack – go to sleep

When you’re up doing something late at night, whatever the activity may be, this is a nice idiom to say to your friends when you’re trying to signal to your friends that it’s time to go home.

Family members would say this to each other late at night while watching t.v., but you can say it to your friends like this.

Usage: “All right, guys.  Time for me to go! I have an early morning and need to hit the sack early.”


Stab someone in the back – betrayal

This happens practically everywhere in the world.

Usage: “She stabbed me in the back.” – Past Tense


Sit tight – be patient/wait

I often hear this in movies when actors/actresses tell someone “hey, sit tight…I’ll be back.”


Pitch In – help pay for something.

This is one of my favorites because here in Thailand, some people aren’t known for pitching in.  They think one person should take the entire bill.  However, In America we help each other (well, 70% of the time).

Usage: “Are you going to help pitch in for _________?”


Ring a bell – something that sounds familiar.

Usage: “Does the name Arsenio Hall ring a bell?”


Blow steam – let some stress off

You hear this often with men.  When we “blow off steam,” that means we’re going somewhere to let off some steam — preferably the gym.


Cut to the chase – get to the point

Seriously, this is another favorite.  Sometimes people “beat around the bush,” which means talking about something outside of the main point.  This is something you can say, “hey, stop beating around the bush and cut to the chase — you love me. I understand.”

Obviously joking, but you guys get the point.

Up in the air – nothing planned.

This means that nothing is planned yet.  There are things in place, but nothing definitive.


Arsenio’s ESL Blog: Special Segment – TOEFL IBT Speaking Practice

Welcome to my blog, everyone! For those of you who are returning, welcome back. For those of you who are new here, welcome to my first ever TOEFL IBT speaking practice.

Although TOEFL IBT is becoming more obsolete (IELTS is replacing it), I figured I could give some guidance to some of you students out there who are studying it.

One of the speaking tasks on the TOEFL iBT often involves talking about an important person, place, or experience in your life.  To do well on this task, you may need to describe or narrate in the past tense and use -ed endings.

Because I’ve made a podcast on using -ed endings, or two, this could also help with you renunciation and repetition. So be sure to tune into the podcasts in the blue worded links above.

What I want you to do is to get a timer, stopwatch or anything, preferably on your phone.

Question: Talk about a person outside your family who has had the most influence on your life.  Provide details to support your choice.

Persona’s name:

Person’s background:

How/when you met this person:





  • It will take about 45 seconds to record your response.
  • Listen to your recording (or send it to me on My Facebook page) and monitor -ed endings.
  • For more practice, answer the same question bu discuss a person in your family, book, travel, experience or anything that has had the biggest influence on your life.

Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 48 – Grammar – Reported Speech

Reported speech is all about repeating what someone said, but going a tense back. 

Direct speech statements.

  1. Antwone fisher is my favorite drama movie.
  2. I hope children of all ages will love the new book.
  3. I think I’ve just swum the length of the Nile river.
  4. I feel quite tired.

Reported speech statements.

  1. Arsenio Buck said Antwone Fisher was his favorite drama movie.
  2. He told us he hoped children of all ages would love the new book.
  3. He said that he thought he had just swum the length of the Nile River.
  4. He told the interviewer that he felt quite tired.


Rules: verbs go back a tense when you use reported speech.

Direct Speech                              Reported Speech

Present simple                                  Past simple

present continuous                      Past continuous

past simple                                        Past perfect

present perfect                                 Past perfect

will                                                          Would

can                                                           Could

may                                                          Might

must/have to                                     Must/had to


Complete the sentences with said or told.

  1. He __________ he sometimes wore bandanas.
  2. He __________ me he had come to Thailand from Ethiopia.
  3. He __________ us that he could jump over the wall.
  4. He __________ that he was working as a journalist.
  5. He __________ us he didn’t like Som Tum.
  6. He __________ that he didn’t know how to get to the supermarket.





Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 47 – Pronunciation – Interactive Exercise + Bonus Teaching Hours

I wanted to do this with you guys and provide you with a bonus feature, too.  So, last week (or about two weeks ago), I did an interactive exercise with you guys.  You were suppose to enunciate a paragraph and send it to me, the winner being awarded two hours of free teaching on the topic of their choice.  My winner was from Morocco that time, and now there’s this time.

I’m going to repeat 10 sentences out loud.  You’re going to have to read this blog and circle the correct word you THINK I say.  Send me your answers on my Facebook Page or email me

Whoever gets them in quicker could win the free two hours of teaching (subject of your choice).  So you will have to listen to the podcast to hear what I’m saying and circle the words down below.

Need         Neat

Believe     Belief

Wide         White

Leave        Leaf

Feed           Feet

Lab             Lap

Have           Half

League        Leak

Prize            Price

Blog              Block



Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 46 – Grammar – Gerund & Infinitives Part II

I’m bringing back more gerund and infinitive work, and with that will be a lot of exercises to discover yourself: personality, romance, ideal jobs, advice, etc.  Enjoy the exercise down below!


  1. When I go shopping, I don’t buy anything.
  2. I love giving presents.
  3. Understanding other people’s opinions isn’t easy.
  4. I find it easy to talk about how I feel.
  5. I learn by watching.
  6. Nobody wanted to make the decision.

7. A: Why did you shout at the waitress?

B: To tell her that our food is cold.

We use the gerund:

  • with go to talk about physical activities.
  • as the subject of a sentence.
  • after verbs of liking or disliking
  • after prepositions

We use the infinitive: 

  • after certain verbs like want.
  • immediately after adjectives.
  • to explain why somebody does something.

Exercise – complete the texts with the gerund or infinitive form of the verbs with to.

You’re warm and caring and you think it’s easy _______________(make) friends.  You do many things ______________(make) your friends’ lives better.  But ____________(be) helpful can sometimes get you into trouble because you want _________(know) what problems people are having.

You never want ______________ (argue) about anything.  You’re calm and open-minded.  You enjoy ____________(listen) to other people and you think it’s important ____________(hear) different opinions.  But __________________(do) what other people want all the time can be tiring.


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 45 – Vocabulary – Noun Suffixes -ness, -ship, -dom

There’s always time and room for understanding suffixes.  These suffixes are used to describe a person’s state of “feeling.”

Which suffix, -ness, -ship, or -dom, can we add to the words down below?

Words: bored, free, friend, happy, ill, king, leader, lonely, mad, relation, sad, weak.

Answers in the podcast.

Complete the sentences using the noun form of the appropriate words above.


  1. That’s a crazy idea.  It’s ______________!
  2. ___________ is being able to control and lead a group of people.
  3. To be the other team we need to find their _____________.  There has to be something that they’re not good at.
  4. He loves the ______________ of being able to do what he likes, when he likes.
  5. What’s the _____________ between you guys? Are you guys boyfriend and girlfriend?
  6. The flu is a very common ____________.
  7. As the saying goes, money can’t buy you _______________.
  8. I think television is popular because of the _____________ that people feel when they have nothing to do.



Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 44 – Pronunciation – Voice & Unvoiced Stretching

Hello, everyone! I want to emphasize how the stretch the vowel (voice) versus voiceless sounds.  Many of my students still have difficulty with producing the voice sounds compared to voiceless, so here’s an exercise for you!

  /p/                          /b/

Lap                         Lab

Rope                      Robe

Cap                         Cab


  /t/                             /d/

Wheat                    Weed

Cart                         Card

Spent                      Spend


/k/                                /g/

Back                          Bag

Pick                           Pig

Buck                         Bug



  1. Lap or lab
  2. Rope or robe
  3. Cap or cab
  4. Spent or spend
  5. Cart or card
  6. Back or bag
  7. Buck or bug
  8. Ross or Roz


  • Run a ____________ around the track.
  • Pull the __________ to bring up the materials.
  • It’s hot outside today. I’m going to wear a ________.
  • Have you __________ all of the money?!
  • Grab the ________, we’re going to need it today for the groceries.  It’ll be too heavy to carry.
  • I’m going __________ to the office later today.
  • There’s a ___________ on my shirt! Get it off!
  • Have you ever shopped at __________? It was a clothing store in America back in the early 2000’s.


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 43 – Grammar – Used To/Didn’t Use To

Used to and didn’t use to can sometimes be confusing, so I decided to make a short blog and podcast about it.

  1. I used to walk to school when I was younger.
  2. They didn’t use to go to the University of Wisconsin.

Rules: We used to talk about about habits in the past. 

Rules: After used to we use the infinitive (present simple).

I used to live in Las Vegas.  Now I live in Bangkok.  Complete the sentences with used to or didn’t use to.

  1. Arsenio _____________ speak Thai all the time.
  2. He _____________travel by bus to work.
  3. He _____________swim in the sea because there isn’t a sea in Las Vegas.
  4. He _____________ to see thousands of people on the Las Vegas Strip.
  5. Because his neighborhood was small, he ______________ know everybody who lived there.
  6. He _____________ wear warm clothes in December.

Task: Complete the sentences that are true for you.  Use used to or didn’t use to.

  1. I ______________ practice English everyday.
  2. I ______________ like drawing and painting.
  3. I ______________ have a mobile phone.
  4. I ______________ read books in English.
  5. I ______________ spend a lot of time at home.
  6. I ______________ spend a lot of time alone.


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 42 – Grammar – Past Perfect Tense

Oh, past perfect is here! Do not fear: Arsenio is here!  Honestly, this is just like the present perfect — it’s just you have an action happening before another action.  Here’s the breakdown for you guys.

Look at the sentences.  Which actions happened first?

  1. John was angry at Tim because he had gotten to the theme park before him.
  2. When Stacy had finished talking, she went home.

Rules: We use the past perfect to talk about an activity in the past that happened before another activity in the past.

So, let’s break this down even more.

  1. I put my pyjamas on.
  2. He finished shopping.
  3. They finished their dinner.
  4. He got out of the pool.
  5. We finished the exam.
  6. I found my keys.
  • They left the restaurant.
  • I got into bed.
  • I opened the door.
  • He carried it home.
  • We gave it to the teacher.
  • He dried himself with a towel.


Rewrite the sentences in 3a as one sentence.  Put one verb in the past perfect and the other in the past simple. Use when or after.

  1. When I had put my pyjamas on, I got into bed.
  2. After he had finished shopping, he carried it home.

Now it’s your turn!



Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 2 – Episode 41 – Vocabulary – Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are made by joining two words.  Some words are connected with a hyphen (just as I stated in my episode of compound nouns), some words are not.  In this case, and when describing qualities of individuals, you will use a hyphen.  Let’s break some of these down.

Podcast spoiler – Listen to my podcast to hear the answers of 1-9.  I encourage everyone to at least answer them and then listen.

Complete the compound adjectives in the definitions with the following words: under, easy, full, good, part, right/left, well

  1. When you work 4 of the required 8 hours. __________ -time
  2. Relaxed/calm personality. __________-going
  3. When you don’t get much money in your job. _________-paid
  4. When you work 8 hours a day. ___________-time
  5. When you get paid a decent amount of money. _________-paid
  6. I’m a _________-handed teacher.
  7. Women would call attractive men ___________-looking.
  8. A famous person is also ___________-known.
  9. Rich. ___________-off