Those Pesky Prepositions… and How to Get Them in Line!

“In my time, things were more cheaper. By example, apples costed 5¢ per lb. It was the Depression, Pa was outta work, on the BS, us young bucks participating at a work camp program. The family depended of that money so much, I tell ya! But, at the end, when Gratien and me went at the army barracks to join up in ‘39, it all worked out.”*

Among the many barbarisms found in the above text, there is one that grabs the reader’s attention – incorrect prepositions. With prepositions being the bane of learners of English as a Second Language, it is the incumbent on any ESL teacher worth her salt to help her students to master them.

Alas, there are not many rules at the teacher’s disposal. What follows is an attempt to give practical tips and tricks so these pint-sized words cease being an obstacle to clear and concise communication.

Perhaps we should begin with a definition: in fact, what is a preposition? According to Words and Ideas, prepositions serve “…to relate a noun or a noun-equivalent to the rest of the sentence.”

While they are usually two-letter words, prepositions can be longer, as illustrated below:

-at         -on         -in         -with
-with      -from      -of         -to
-about    -above    -below   -under
-until      -during    -for       -without

Let’s look at some strategies we can use to marshal these words.

1. MOVEMENT versus PLACE (TO versus AT)
I frequently encounter students who say, “I go AT work every day” when they should be saying I go TO work every day.” How to correct this? Try the following: Associate ‘to’ with ‘movement,’ (there’s an O in ‘movement’ as there’s an O in ‘to’) and ‘at’ with ‘place’ (as in ‘staying in place’ or ‘stationary’ – yes, they’re full of A’s!)

2. INVERTED TRIANGLE (IN, ON, AT – prepositions of time and place)
Here are some classic mistakes: “At June, we’ll go on a summer vacation” or “I live on 5757 St. Denis Street.” NOO! It should be “IN June” and “AT 5757 St. Denis Street.” The solution to this conundrum? Learn the inverted pyramid:

As we can see in the diagram, ‘IN’ is used more frequently and in more general circumstances; the further down we go, the narrower the usages of the following two prepositions (‘ON’ and ‘AT’) become. Ideally, the best approach here for any student is to memorize the pyramid.

 Relatively speaking, we can make the same observation when ‘IN,’ ‘ON,’ and ‘AT’ are employed as prepositions of place:

The key to the correct usage of prepositions is understanding their meaning. Memorizing set expressions or sentences can help us retain such info. Here are just a few examples:

BY = manner or means
ex. by foot, by train

OF = origin or cause
ex. She died of cancer.

WITH = accompany
ex. I went with my sister to the movies.

Keep in mind that some prepositions are polysemic: for example, ‘by’ can also have the meaning of ‘in proximity to’ as in ‘Mandy’s standing by the fire exit.’

Mnemonics is a word of Greek origin which means “technic for improving the memory” (Merriam-Webster’s.) For our purposes, it will serve as a little trick to help us to remember which preposition to use.
Mnemonics can be very handy when it comes to preposition combinations. Here are just two examples:

-to be interested in: There’s an ‘in’ at the beginning of the word ‘interested,’ so there’s an ‘in’ at the end of the expression
-to depend on: Think of ‘on’ as the solid foundation on which you’ll build a house.

Mnemonics tend to be very personal: What works for one person doesn’t for another. Therefore, be creative and think up something to jog your own memory!

Finally, another strategy to mastering prepositions combinations is to keep a glossary. Better yet, why not break them down into lists? One list could contain, for example, expressions which are formulated the same way as in French; the other could consist of expressions which differ from those found in the language of Molière. 

Here are two examples:

SIMILAR                                                    DIFFERENT
To agree with (être d'accord avec)               To feel like (avoir envie de)
To be patient with (être patient avec)           To complain about (se plaindre de)

Whenever you consult these lists to look up an expression, put a dot next to it. Once an idiom has accumulated three dots, you should consider the expression to be important enough to commit it to memory. (Suggestion: Try writing it out several times.)

Prepositions play a vital role in linking nouns with other elements of grammar. (Not examined here are phrasal verbs (ex. to get on, to get along with) -- this is a vast subject unto itself and deserves its own blog!)

To conclude, I’d like to reassure those who find prepositions to be a perpetual stumbling block to fluent speech: you learn by making mistakes! With time, practise, and determination, you can eradicate these errors. It is my sincere hope that the strategies provided here will you help you reach that goal.

GRELLET, Françoise (2015) Initiation au thème anglais. France: Hachette. 224.
GUTH, Hans P. (1959) Words and Ideas. A Handbook for College Writing. San Francisco: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc. xxviii + 585. (Consulted 2020/08/04)
MILLARD, C.M. (1988) A Biography of the English Language. US: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers. xxii + 386.

* “In my youth, things were cheaper. For example, apples cost 5¢ a lb.It was the Depression, and Pa was out of work and on social assistance. We young bucks participated in a work camp program. The family depended on that money so much, I’m telling you! But, in the end, when Gratien and I went to the army barracks to join up in ‘39, it all worked out.”

Brenda Prai
ESL teacher

[email protected]

Communication Workshops

At Prolang, we believe language learning can happen inside and outside of the classroom; our offer goes beyond our professional language courses.

Our second language and communication workshops provide excellent opportunities for practical, situational learning outside of a traditional session. The subjects are precise and can be tailored to the specific needs of your team, based on the subjects most pertinent to your work realities.

Who can benefit from communication workshops?
Prolang has been designing and delivering workshops for language learners for over 25 years. Our clients incorporate our workshops into their company training offer, either alongside or independent of a Prolang language learning session. Content is precise and tailored to address the nuances of second-language communication in a corporate setting. In addition, we have expanded our offer to include soft-skills communication workshops for professionals (outside of second-language learners). These subjects focus on impactful communication tips with concrete applications.

Prolang is accredited in the province of Québec by Emploi Québec for the 1% law concerning employee training. Our courses and workshops are also recognized by several professional orders for the purpose of mandatory continuing education.

How are workshops organized?

Prolang workshops are delivered by our team of experienced and dynamic language and communication coaches. They deliver dynamic and interesting presentations and share impactful tips to help your team concentrate on a specific skill and communicate more efficiently.

Flexible schedule
Workshops are typically organized to take place over one or two hours, at a time that is most convenient for your team. Depending on the subject, half or full day options are also available. We design and deliver workshop series based on clients’ specific needs.
Session add-on or stand alone
Prolang language or communication workshops can be added to a language session proposed company-wide or organized à la carte.
On-site or virtual format
Our experienced trainers can deliver workshop content on-site at your offices or virtually, via one of our educational and interactive platforms.
Pricing is per participant and per workshop (or workshop series). Workshops allow for a larger number of participants than language training sessions. For second-language workshops, an upper-intermediate level is required for participation.

What topics are covered?

Second-Language Communication
Presentation skills in a second language
Telephone and virtual communication
False friends – avoiding misunderstandings
Corporate email communication – best practices
Punctuation and capitalization – details make the difference
And more!

Soft-Skills Communication
Corporate presentations – making an impactful presentation
Dare to ask: the art of negotiating
Resolving conflicts in a factual manner
And more!


Prolang’s second language and communication workshops are a great complement to traditional language sessions. Outside of a session, they are opportunities for company or department-wide team-building training on precise subjects, engaging participants while improving their communication skills in practical ways. Our team of experts will propose a workshop or series most adapted to your company’s needs and objectives.
Contact us today for more information or a personalized quote for your team!

Language Coaching and Training

Prolang Approach

As a professional language training company, Prolang’s mission is to help our clients improve their communication in a foreign language for work-related and social purposes. The communicative approach is at the heart of our methodology. With the majority of class time focused on speaking and communication, Prolang’s experienced trainers structure classes to give our students opportunities to practice and apply grammar points in context and through conversation.

Prolang’s approach is both business-oriented and student-centered. In addition to our emphasis on communication and conversation, our courses are adapted to each employee’s industry and professional context. In the ‘skills’ section of each class our trainers provide materials adapted to the needs of their students. For example, students may choose to focus on writing and corporate communication, pronunciation and accent reduction, or vocabulary based on the sector and their roles within their company.

Our Expertise

Prolang’s team of language experts draws on years of experience in the industry and is proud to serve as your partners in the process of organizing and delivering high-caliber second-language training. From the initial needs analysis to the end of session training report, our team of specialists is with you every step of the way. A dedicated account manager will be your main point of contact at Prolang, proposing a training program adapted to your needs and budget and ensuring prompt follow-ups throughout the organization of each session. Our team of experienced language coordinators complete level evaluations and select the best fit from our team of specialized corporate language trainers. Our teachers adapt course content based on the unique needs of each student or group, drawing from an extensive bank of resources provided to them. Throughout the session, all three points of contact (account manager, coordinator, and trainer) are present to support your team and ensure goals and objectives are being met.

Training & Coaching Formats

Our professional training is available in a variety of formats to suit our clients’ needs and availabilities. After a thorough needs analysis, our team of experts will propose the following formats based on participants’ levels and objectives: private, semi-private (2 participants), or group (3+). We offer training in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, and many other languages.

Our classes are available on-site at our clients’ offices or virtually on one of the education-based platforms used by our trainers (see our article Language Learning in a Digital Age). Virtual training options allow employees in multiple offices, around Canada and around the World, to join the same course together, creating an ideal atmosphere for team-building and professional development. Our corporate trainers use all the tools available to them to create dynamic and comfortable environments for language learning.

Prolang students have the choice between our standard and blended learning programs. Our blended learning option multiplies target-language contact by adding an asynchronous online-learning component to the session. In addition to the essential conversation time with a Prolang trainer, access to online activities in the target language allows for an accelerated learning session, with content adapted to each learner’s strengths and weaknesses (powered by artificial intelligence).

Contact Prolang’s team of language experts for more information about how we can help your team reach their language and communication objectives. We’re here as your partners every step of the way!

Language learning in the digital age: tools for online learning

For nearly a decade, Prolang has promoted virtual training as an excellent option for remote learners. This year has proven the incomparable value of virtual training options and the capacity of training to bring teams together at a time when work from home has become the norm. Prolang holds innovation as one of our core values; as such, our team strives constantly to offer the most up-to-date and effective online training solutions for our learners.

Distance learning – virtual platforms

Prolang has been offering interactive virtual training options for our clients since 2012. Our trainers use several platforms to deliver their courses, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom for Education, Svi eSolutions, WebEx, and Google Meet. Our Prolang pedagogical team equips our experienced trainers with best practices and platform tools to ensure the same high-quality virtual training our learners have come to expect from Prolang on-site.

Blended training
Our blended learning option has established Prolang as an innovative leader in our industry. In addition to the invaluable communication time with an experienced trainer, our blended learning option multiplies target-language contact by adding an asynchronous, online-learning component to the session. Participants embarking on the blended learning option can choose from several programs providing exercises outside of classroom time, tailored to their learning styles and objectives. These programs construct highly personalized learning plans and use artificial intelligence to enhance the pedagogical experience and maximize learning for each participant. Together with our language specialists, learners can choose from the following approaches:

Micro-learning : 15 minutes per day are dedicated to language learning. Daily activities are received directly by email, up to 5 days per week. Activities focus on oral and written comprehension, grammar and conjugations, and vocabulary based on industry and interests. Each exercise is corrected automatically, and the learning path is adjusted based on progress.
Macro-learning : Personal account on an online platform with an unlimited access to learning activities. An initial language evaluation powered by artificial intelligence creates a personalized learning path based on needs and objectives (communication for work, cultural immersion, etc.). Learners also retain an unrestricted access to activities from all levels, allowing them to navigate freely on the platform.

Training management tools
To ensure the seamless and efficient organization of our learning sessions and professional language evaluations, Prolang uses a variety of online learning management tools. These tools provide peace of mind to our Human Resources partners throughout the registration process and allow unequivocal visibility of session attendance, participation, and end of term progress reports.

Online database for language evaluations : each participant completes written and speaking language evaluations prior to being assigned to a level. Our online testing database allows easy online access to the evaluation for participants from any location.
Registration questionnaires : Prolang uses online registration questionnaires to streamline the process and tailor it to each client’s specific needs. The process includes automated options depending on client needs; approval requests can be programmed and sent to managers and the link for the written evaluation sent directly to the participant once approval is received. Information is tracked and archived, ensuring a straightforward registration process.
Digital quality control : Prolang places the utmost importance on quality of our training options. Quality controls are sent to each participant after the beginning of the course, to ensure things are going smoothly and address any requested changes. A survey is also sent at the end of training, to ask for feedback on the course, approach, and trainer. Questionnaires are sent via email and responses are saved and shared with our trainers in the goal of continual improvement.
Learning management platform – attendance and participation: Our online learning management platform provides separate accesses to Prolang trainers, learners, and training managers, allowing real-time visibility of class attendance and participation. Prolang trainers record attendance during each class. End of session progress reports and marks are uploaded to the platform by Prolang trainers and shared with participants and Training Managers.


Prolang strives to constantly innovate our digital learning and training management solutions to ensure we continue to provide the highest quality and most accessible learning environments for our clients. Our comprehensive training offer, including our blended training approach and customizable registration processes, allow us to offer highly tailored approaches for each of our clients, accompany them throughout their learning path, and most importantly, help them reach their language goals. Our team is passionate about proposing engaging and lasting training solutions; contact us today to learn more about how we can help!

Professional Language Evaluations

When looking for new talent, finding the perfect fit for your team is no easy feat. The process becomes even more complex when the employee needs to be comfortable in a second language. How can you be certain that your candidates are proficient in a second language and will perform and excel in their future position? ‘Bilingual’ indicated on a CV unfortunately does not always align with an employer’s expectations to ensure smooth and efficient communication in the target language. How can you best avoid the uncomfortable experience of hiring a person not fit for the position? What tools are available to help recruitment team during this period of working from home?

What skills should be evaluated?
Prolang proposes professional language evaluations in a variety of formats:

• A preliminary grammar evaluation.
• A speaking evaluation (oral expression) including a role play based on the job position.
• An advanced writing evaluation (comprehension and written expression) with adapted essay prompts.

Depending on the competencies required, all three evaluations or a combination of two may be suggested. Following a detailed needs analysis, certain parts of the evaluations can be adapted based on the position.
A detailed report provided at the end of the evaluation process will help your team better understand how the candidate can communicate and perform in the target language.

How are evaluations completed remotely?
The past few months have shown us the absolute importance of having reliable solutions in place for remote work; hiring and onboarding are no exception. All Prolang evaluations are available and accessible online or by telephone. Your online client space through our Prolang database, where you can view candidate test results and archives, is accessible at all times.

How do I interpret results of the evaluations?
Prolang offers much more than a final score at the end of the evaluation process. We work closely with your team throughout the process to establish language benchmarks for the positions you are hiring for. By analyzing the responsibilities central to each role (customer service, sales representative, manager, etc.), our team will suggest the minimum language requirements necessary for the position, as well a minimum level which would ensure clear and efficient communication in the target language. With detailed comments from our language specialists and concrete examples from the candidates’ evaluations, we will ensure you have everything you need to make an informed decision.

What if our ideal candidate does not have the minimum language level?
The candidate with the strongest level in the target language may not always be the best fit for your team. Top recruiters often emphasize the importance of choosing a candidate who shares the same values and goals as your company. After all, the use of the plus-que-parfait tense in French can be practiced and fine-tuned; personal values are more deeply engrained!

Upon request, our team of language specialists can provide a personalized training plan for any candidate, highlighting a suggested learning path to reach certain language benchmarks.

Prolang provides concrete and easy-to-navigate solutions for your recruiters facing challenges in bilingual recruitment. Our highly qualified team of experts will be with you at every step of the process to ensure you have the tools to make your hiring decisions effectively and confidently.

Please, contact our team for more information or a demonstration of the evaluations available!

Not talking about Covid-19

From our teacher - Pandora Hobby

When my son, at the age of 5, asked me if the Zombie apocalypse would happen (he had participated in the zombie walk that year) I said I thought it would be more like an illness, a pandemic. Little did I know. I have always been very open with my kids, no sugar coating, pragmatic explanations, and further inquiry together if I haven’t got an answer.

This is my stance in the classroom too. I like to play the devil’s advocate, flip the script, ask students to consider all sides, offer alternative versions. In my classrooms we play scruples (what would you do if...), we talk about crazy historical and scientific facts (some cats are allergic to people), I try to keep it as open as possible. If a student brings up a difficult topic, in a class I try to run a diplomatic line. Unfortunately, when historically dire events are occurring it is impossible to avoid mention. We, as teachers must stay informed and be knowledgeable enough about news events to tread a tightrope of acceptable public vs private opinions. It is what makes for good conversations and we are in a historical moment when conversing is becoming a lost art.

And yet, and yet... with only one all encompassing story running through the media and on everyone’s lips for weeks at a time, with only one story that is both dramatic and bleak, heartbreaking and isolating, I, as a teacher spent hours finding the one, lone ‘other’ story to share in my classes. Covid ‘once removed’ stories of bike sales going up, of how different people were successfully coping. The sudden rise in drive-in theaters’ popularity, would you go see a live band while sitting in your car? If students insist on talking about the present elephant in the room, I might revert to analogizing the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ a way to both create distance and include some elements of fact rather than speculation.

I see my role here as directing the conversation to a place of reassurance. I know it is still a similar topic broadly, but I would rather debate a student’s favorite food delivery service than talk about recent statistics and policies.

The Communicative Approach - Why it works so well for our learners?

As a former language teacher, and now Manager of Training and Development with Prolang, I have a unique perspective of how trainings are delivered from both inside the classroom and behind the scenes. I’ve worked hands-on with learners helping them achieve their language goals and have also established company-wide programs that enrich the language learning for all involved. I’ve spoken with many learners about their specific language needs and have heard time and time again about the importance of practicing the target language.

Many language learners that come to Prolang have the language skills and knowledge but don’t have the practical implication of the language. They are interested in improving their communication related to their work to help them become more functional and comfortable in a foreign language but are not given the opportunity to speak and have difficulty developing their language skills. One of the strengths of language courses at Prolang is the flexibility and adaptability that we can provide our clients; we rely on our instructors to provide personalized, communicative lessons that will help learners to improve their language skills through dynamic, interesting activities that may be applied to their personal and professional lives.

The communicative approach is an ideal teaching method used to deliver the type of lessons described above. It is based on teaching language implicitly through structured lessons based on real life communication where learners can explore the language and learn how to use vocabulary and various grammar forms through context. The instructors act as facilitators and guide the learners to accurately use target language and help to solidify their knowledge of grammar.

The aim of the communicative approach is to promote interaction in the target language and to motivate learners to speak as much as possible. The instructor removes themselves from the discussion and allows the learners to speak without reservation or hesitation – first, developing spontaneous and natural speech and then working on accuracy. Developing oral fluency is not the only goal; learners may also use listening, reading, and writing activities in the communicative approach – so long as the comprehension and production activities also have an oral production component. The possibilities for activities are endless and so is the room to grow!
I encourage Prolang language instructors to use the communicative approach in their language courses and support them on appropriate usage and provide ideas of how to implement this approach for all levels. I do it because it works – I’ve seen it first-hand and from the testimonials of our learners and satisfied clients.

By Matthew King

Is e-learning right for you?

Are you planning to go back to school or to take a class to boost your professional career? If yes, know that there are different options for you to acquire the knowledge you need. You have the traditional option of physically attending a class or participate virtually.

Some people choose e-learning because they think that it will be easier. In fact, it it may be easier depending of your personality and ability to use technology easily. Online courses requires a lot of reading, which means you have to understand what you read and be able to summarize it on paper. In other words, if you are a good writer and like to read, an online course is for you.
You may have to ask yourself two questions and answer honestly :
Do I like to read online?
Do I like to write?
Taking online courses is not easier than attending a live class, but it definitely
requires discipline. It is known that a student should spend, to a minimum, the exact number of course credits in hours per week. For example, for a 3 credit course, a minimum of 3 hours per week should be dedicated to the course material. Keep in mind that for online courses, the hours can be doubled as you need to listen or to watch course material, read and study the content and do your homework. Make sure to plan your study time, write it in your agenda and follow your schedule. This will help you stay on track and respect deadlines.

Questions to think about :
Do I have a quiet place where I can work on my online course?
Am I a disciplined person or a procrastinator?

E-learning means using a computer all the time. The teachers may expect you to read online articles, download documents, do online research, create documents and to participate in online chats. Online learning is mediated by technology, so it’s important to be fully comfortable using a computer, Internet and software. Make sure to read the course calendar to ensure that you have the tools needed prior to starting the class.
Ask yourself :
Do I have high-speed and a reliable Internet access?
Am I comfortable troubleshooting basic technology problems?
The question is often asked whether e-learning is easier than traditional classes. But it really depends on you. Online courses offer a flexible alternative to professionals who have a full time job or have a family. This option is right for those who can’t fit face-to-face classes into their busy lives.

25 Key French and English Phrases to Learn While Traveling this Summer

Summer is upon us once again and traveling during this time can be both exciting and rewarding especially when learning a new language! So, whether you’re fluent in English or French, below are some key phrases to add to your vocabulary to make your travels savvier.

English Phrases

1. Thanks so much. ( Merci beaucoup )
2. I really appreciate it. ( J’apprécie beaucoup )
3. Excuse me. ( Excusez-moi )
4. I’m sorry. ( je suis désolé (ée ) )
5. I’m learning English. ( j’apprends l’anglais )
6. I don’t understand. ( je ne comprends pas )
7. Could you repeat that, please? ( pouvez-vous répéter s’il vous plaît )
8. Could you please talk slower? ( pouvez-vous parler lentement )
9. Thank you. That helps a lot. ( merci. Cela m’aide beaucoup. )
10. Hi! I’m [Name]. (And you?) ( bonjour, je suis [Nom]. Et vous ? )
11. Nice to meet you. ( Heureux ( se ) de faire votre connaissance )
12. Where are you from? ( d’où êtes-vous ? )

French Phrases

13. Bonjour ( Hello )
14. S’il vous plait… ( please)
15. Oui / Non / Dˈaccord (Yes / No / OK)
16. Parlez-vous anglais? - (Do you speak English?)
17. Je m'appelle… - (My name is…)
18. Quel est votre nom ? - (What is your name? - informal)
19. Je ne comprends pas. - (I don’t understand.)
20. Merci – (Thank you.)
21. De rien – (You’re welcome)
22. Excusez-moi - (Excuse me.)
23. Quˈavez vous avez dit ? – (What did you say?)
24. Où sont les toilettes ? – (Where are the bathrooms?)
25. Salut ! – (Hi! / Bye! – informal)

Now that you’ve learned a few common French phrases, the next thing to do is learn how to refer individuals in a polite way. For example, a man would be referred to as Monsieur (same as Mr. or Sir in English). An older woman (or married women) would be referred to as Madame and a younger lady would be referred to as Mademoiselle.

Are you planning to travel to a new country this summer? If yes, we would love to know where. Please share below!

Mastering The Corporate Email



With all the emails that we are receiving daily, it’s no wonder we don't have time to read them all. As such, when sending a corporate email you have to be as concise as possible.

Below you will find 3 tips for mastering the corporate email in order to communicate professionally.


Know what you’re writing about

When writing an email message, it’s important to know what it is you’re trying to convey. For example, “Why am I sending this email message?” When you know the purpose of the email, it makes it that much easier to stick to the point.


Outline to maintain structure

When you use a template, your emails have a better structure. Also, you never know who will read your messages, thus, it is better to keep the message clear and professional.

  • Greetings
  • Give a Compliment or Pleasant Remark
  • State the Purpose for Your Email
  • CTA (Call-To-Action)
  • Final Words (Conclusion)
  • Signature


Use professional expressions

Whether you write to your co-worker or to your boss, use one of the phrases below to keep your e-mail in the image of the company you are working for.


Greetings :

To Whom it May Concern: À qui de droit

Hi: Bonjour

Dear Mark: Cher Mark



I hope that you are well : J’espère que vous allez bien



Kind regards : Bien cordialement

Sincerely : Sincères salutations






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