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Willian Antunes

Learning English through the spaced repetition system

17 minute read

english, spaced repetition

Table of contents
  1. The way I do it
    1. Tools and books
    2. Advice
  2. Notes for verb tenses
    1. Rule of thumb
    2. Present simple
    3. Past simple
    4. Future simple
      1. Will
      2. Going to
    5. Present perfect
    6. Past perfect
    7. Future perfect
    8. Present simple continuous
    9. Simple past continuous
    10. Simple future continuous
    11. Present perfect continuous
    12. Past perfect continuous
    13. Future perfect continuous
  3. Notes for conditionals
    1. Zero conditional
    2. First conditional
    3. Second conditional
    4. Third conditional
  4. Notes for prepositions
  5. Notes for words that end in ED
  6. Notes about phonetics
    1. Tricky words
  7. Notes for words that confuse
  8. Conclusion

This post is different from the others where I talk about programming. Instead, I will show how I study English using the systematic review system. Researching about it, it seems it's called Spaced Repetition System (SPS). It has some problems, but it has worked many times for me; thus, it may work for you also. There are many articles about this method, like this one discussing the true story about spaced repetition.

The way I do it

I review all the English tenses at least once per day to reduce forgetting. Most of the time, I do it after breakfast. When I started with this practice three years ago, I would read all the tense rules. Then, after 2 weeks or so, I started explaining all the tenses to myself in front of the mirror. It's fundamental to recite looking at you because you can gain confidence.

Beyond tenses, I like to repeat the exact phrases from Friends' characters from some episodes. I change the dialogues sometimes in order to be more versatile, but in summary, they're the same. For instance, before the commercial break, I know all the dialogues from the first part of the first episode. I do this dialogue review at least once in a span of two hours.

I usually review alone and I use phonetics to correct my speaking. Sometimes, I mimic all the conversations in front of a native English person. I highly recommend Cambly for this.

Tools and books

I've used many during the last 10 years, but If I had to recommend some to someone, I would list the following:


I think I started to learn a new language a bit late. I guess I was 21 years old. But, during the last three years, I took it more seriously. If I'd had the knowledge I have nowadays, I would have started a lot earlier. So, if you are in the same situation as me, don't worry. You'll learn English if you are patient, consistent, and disciplined. This applies to whatever method you'll use to study English or any other foreign language.

In the following few sections, I will list my notes for studying English. Remember, as I described a moment ago, when I'm reviewing, I explain everything to myself or someone else. So only use the notes if you forget something. Another important thing is that my notes are not complete. So if you need further explanation, just explore more details on the internet.

Notes for verb tenses

Rule of thumb

In reality, you only need to know the present, the past, and the past participle. Then, using these as the basis, you will know all the rest.

Present simple

We use the present simple to talk about things in general. For example, we use it to say that something happens all time or repeatedly or that something is true in general. Samples:

  • I play games with people every time I go shopping.
  • I talk to you every morning.
  • I don't run very fast.
  • She doesn't speak hard words such as "theoretically".

Past simple

We use this tense when we want to talk about actions finished in the past.

  • I swapped my cupcake for a candy bar yesterday.
  • I wasn't hungry yesterday night.
  • They were here last week.

Future simple

The simple future is a verb tense used to talk about things that haven't happened yet. You have two options if you'd like to use this tense.


Basically, you have three conditions:

  1. Future actions that happen without the speaker's intention.
  2. Predictions, assumptions.
  3. Spontaneous actions.

Examples of each, respectively:

  • The sun will shine tomorrow.
  • I think Sue will arrive in Paris at 6 pm.
  • Hang on! I'll have a word with you.

Going to

You have only two conditions:

  1. Planned actions in the future.
  2. You are confident that something is going to happen in the future. This is pretty common in logical consequences.


  • We are going to sing at the party.
  • Look at that car! It is going to crash into the yellow one.

Present perfect

The present perfect indicates a link between the present and the past. The time of the action is before now but not specified, and we are often more interested in the result than in the action itself.

Another way to explain this is that it refers to an action or state that either occurred at an indefinite time in the past (e.g., we have talked before) or began in the past and continued to the present time (e.g., he has grown impatient over the last hour).

  • I have swapped three toys with you already.
  • I've written 4 entries in my diary this week.
  • They have worked together since they were hired at XYZ company.

Past perfect

The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to clarify that one event happened before another in the past. It does not matter which event is mentioned first - the tense makes it clear which one happened first.

  • When Jafar arrived, the party had already started.
  • I had swapped seats with my brother before you arrived.
  • I had talked to her before you delivered the letter.
  • My brother had already left by the time you got here.

Future perfect

We use it to express that something will already have happened before a specific time in the future.

  • I will have the letter written by the time you arrive.
  • I will have improved my English to a better level by tonight.
  • If you don't come soon, they will have explained how a rocket works, and you will miss it.
  • They will have shown (demonstrated) the results by the time you arrive.

Present simple continuous

We use the continuous for things happening at or around the time of speaking, which means that the action is incomplete.

  • I am swapping phone numbers, wait a moment, and then we can talk.
  • I am currently studying Material UI, which is known by the abbreviature MUI.

Simple past continuous

The simple past continuous tense, also known as the past progressive tense, refers to a continuing action or state happening at some point in the past. For example, it is often used to describe conditions that existed in the past.

  • The sun was shining every day that summer.
  • They were explaining how N64 works, but he couldn't understand it.

Simple future continuous

The future continuous refers to an unfinished action or event that will be in progress at a time later than now. The future continuous is used for quite a few different purposes. For instance, it can be used to project ourselves into the future.

  • I will be swapping Pokemon cards when you come here tomorrow.
  • When I come to school, the other kids will be waiting for me.
  • Just think, next week you will be working in your new job.

Present perfect continuous

Actions beginning in the past and still continuing (focus is on the action). Primarily used with since (point of time) or for (period of time).

  • I have been swapping phone numbers in clubs since I was eighteen.
  • I have been supporting all those people for 4 days. Could you help me please?
  • I've been proactively teaching people about how to program since I started my career as a tech lead.

Past perfect continuous

How long something had been happening before something else happened.

  • I had been swapping cards until you arrived with the new ones.
  • I had been waiting for 2 minutes when you suddenly arrived.
  • I had been working at the company for five years when I got the promotion.

Future perfect continuous

Something that will have already begun and will be continuing after something else in the future.

  • I will have been cooking for 8 hours by the time you arrive.
  • At five o’clock, I will have been waiting for thirty minutes.

Notes for conditionals

Zero conditional

It's used to talk about situations that are always true, like a scientific fact. So you can simply summarize it with general truths.

  • If you heat water, eventually, it boils.
  • If it rains, the ground gets wet.
  • If you heat ice, it melts.
  • If you pour oil on water, it floats.
  • If you mix blue and yellow, you get green.
  • If two or more people drift apart, their relationship may gradually ends.

First conditional

It's used to talk about events in the future that are likely to happen or have a real possibility of happening. You can also say that it expresses a possible condition and its probable result.

  • If it rains tomorrow, I will stay at home. It means I think there is a real possibility of rain tomorrow. In this condition, I will remain at home.
  • If you go by bus, it will be cheaper.
  • If I have money (and it's possible one day), I will make a donation.
  • If I have enough money, I'll buy some new shoes.
  • She'll miss the bus if she doesn't leave soon.

Second conditional

It's used to talk about a situation in the future that is unlikely to happen or is imaginary, hypothetical, or impossible. So you have a hypothetical condition and its probable result.

  • If I knew what to do, I'd do it.
  • If I won the lottery, I would travel worldwide and buy a castle.
  • If I had hair, I would cut it right away.
  • I don't know what I'd do if I lost my password.
  • On your daily walk, If you went right at the end of the street, you would see a bank on your left.
  • I am not hungry, but if I were hungry, I would eat something.
  • I won't forget your birthday, but if did forget your birthday, would you be angry with me?

Third conditional

It's used to express the past consequence of an unrealistic action in the past. So you have an unreal past condition and its possible result in the past.

  • If this thing had happened, then this thing would have happened.
  • If he'd had money, he would have made a donation.
  • If the weather had been good, we would have gone water-skiing.
  • If I had seen you, I would have said hello for sure.
  • If I'd had the knowledge I have nowadays, I wouldn't have bought all the books about English that I currently have.
  • If you had said "on Christmas day" instead of "on Christmas", you would have said it correctly. We use "on" for the day and "at" for the seasonal celebration. Consequently, you can say "at Christmas".
  • I wasn't hungry yesterday, but if I had been hungry, I would have eaten something.

Notes for prepositions


  • At
    • I'm waiting for you at the airport.
  • On
    • You're on the bus.
    • I'm on a boat (only use it if it's a big boat).
    • You are always on the bicycle.
  • In
    • I'm in a boat (if a boat is small enough).
    • She gets in the car.

Place and location:

  • At
    • Jafar wasn't at home yesterday.
    • Meet me at my house or do you prefer at 231 Bering Ave in Toronto?
  • On
    • The picture is on page 10.
    • The map lies on the desk.
  • In
    • I'm writing this in a room.


  • At
    • Jafar drinks a lot at Christmas.
    • Let's meet at noon.
  • On
    • Jafar drinks a lot on Christmas day.
    • We moved into this house on 18 December 2021.
    • Let's talk on Sunday. How about on my birthday?
  • In
    • I started my professional carrier in 2013. In the year 2013, I created my first program.
    • I'm writing this blog post in the evening.

James gave a great explanation in his channel about prepositions on, at, in, and by. I recommend also the sites Walden University, Englisch Hilfen, and English Club.

Notes for words that end in ED

When the last sound before -ed is voiced (which means you will feel your vocal cords vibrate), the -ed sound is /d/.

When the last sound before -ed is voiceless (which means you won't feel your vocal cords vibrate), the -ed sound is /t/.

When the last sound before -ed is /t/ or /d/ the -ed sound is /id/.

Notes about phonetics

In regard to the video Vowel and Diphthong Comparison made by Rachel's English:

Monophthongs (short vowels):

  • ɪ: ship, lip, myth, sit.
  • ɛ: said, bed, head.
  • æ: bat, cat, pan, ant.
  • ʌ: butter, cut, bung, some.
  • ɒ: watch, pot, hot.
  • ʊ: push, put, should, wood.
  • ə: astray, agree, tomato.

Monophthongs (long vowels):

  • i: bee, sea, meal.
  • ɜ: burn, worm, turn.
  • ɑ: arm, half, car.
  • ɔ: order, law, caught.
  • u: shoe, sue, boot.

Diphthongs (also known as vowel cluster):

  • ɪə: queer, here, near
  • ɛə: square, there, stair.
  • ʊə: newer, sure, manure.
  • eɪ: daily, make, lay.
  • aɪ: my, try, sigh.
  • ɔɪ: noise, boy, oyster.
  • əʊ: know, toe, owe.
  • aʊ: now, trout, bough.

I use the charts below to understand how I pronounce phonemes. Still, it's important to point out that they are not totally accurate, so check with a native English speaker as your last resource:

Tricky words

Tricky words are those words that cannot be sounded out easily. One of the reasons is concerning phonemes that do not exist in people's mother language, like TH sound for Brazilians. In addition, English has many vowels that are not used in other languages, thus making the learning process a bit difficult.

Notes for words that confuse

Some words may confuse even native English speakers, so don't blame yourself. With proper training, we can mitigate misunderstandings. Let's learn through sample phrases:

  • I don’t like to lay my purse on the floor.
  • Yesterday, he lay down to sleep at ten o’clock. Tonight, he won’t lie down until midnight.


Over time I'll come here and update this post with more data and even corrections. Ultimately, I'm going to use it for myself 🤣. As I explained initially, this repetition process helps me a lot, and it's crucial to have a native English tutor helping you during the path. I hope it turns out to be useful for you too.

Posted listening to No Time for Caution, Hans Zimmer 🎶.

Have you found any mistakes 👀? Feel free to submit a PR editing this blog entry 😄.