Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category

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Three for a quid: talking about money

March 11, 2015

by Liz Walter​
threeforaquid
When teaching an intermediate class recently, I was surprised to find that very few of the students (who were from various parts of the world) knew how to say prices, so this blog will explain this very basic function and also look at some other vocabulary connected with money.

First, the prices. There is more than one correct way to say a price, but the most common one is simply to say the number of pounds followed by the number of pence (or the number of dollars followed by the number of cents):

£3.50 ‘Three fifty’

$4.95 ‘Four ninety five’

Sometimes we also say the words pounds, pence, dollars, or cents in the price. There is no difference, and neither way is better or worse. In American English, if you use these words, you have to say and in the middle. In British English, you can say and or leave it out: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Euphemisms (Words used to Avoid Offending People)

March 4, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
euphemisms
We recently looked at the language that we use to describe lies and lying. One area of lying that we considered was ‘being slightly dishonest, or not speaking the complete truth’. One reason for not speaking the complete truth is to avoid saying something that might upset or offend people. Words and phrases that we use to avoid being offensive or upsetting are called euphemisms and there are a great number of them in the English language. Many euphemisms are known by native speakers of English, but are rarely used. Some are used to be intentionally humorous while others are very much part of normal, current English. Here, we focus on the last set – those euphemisms that genuinely are used by English speakers today to express things more gently or politely.

Not surprisingly, some of the most frequently heard euphemisms relate to death. A lot of people do not like to say that someone has died. It sounds too direct, perhaps even a bit shocking. They prefer instead to use the gentler phrasal verb pass away: I’m afraid her mum passed away yesterday. Another euphemistic way to say that someone has died is to say that you have lost someone: She lost her father only recently. Similarly, when people take a very sick or old pet to a veterinary surgeon in order to have it painlessly killed, they often say they have had the pet put to sleep: We’re all sad today, having had our beloved dog, Daisy, put to sleep. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Lies, lies, lies!

February 25, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
lies,lies,lies
According to sociologists (=people who study the relationships between people living in groups), we are good at lying. As a species, we have developed a remarkable ability to deceive each other (= persuade each other that something false is true). Being able to say things that are not true can help with relationships, apparently, and helps us to work together as a community. This may sound strange, (surely lying is wrong?), but when we think about it, most of us occasionally say things that are not completely true, and often for the best of reasons. This week, then, we’re looking at the language of lies – big lies and little lies, bad lies and good.

Let’s start with those ‘innocent’ lies. White lies; are those lies that most of us tell in order to be polite or to stop someone from being upset when the truth is bad. People sometimes use the informal noun and verb fib to mean the same thing. ‘Fib’ is defined in the Cambridge advanced Learner’s Dictionary as ‘a small lie that does not cause any harm’. The word is often used by children and the collocation is to ‘tell a fib’. Read the rest of this entry ?

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What’s she like? Idioms to describe personality

February 18, 2015

by Liz Walter​
idioms_personality
Students of English are usually introduced to personality words such as friendly, shy, confident or lazy fairly early on in their studies. This blog offers a selection of colourful yet common idioms that can offer a more interesting response to the question ‘What’s s/he like?’.

For instance, we often say that shy people wouldn’t say boo to a goose (British)/wouldn’t say boo (US), while lazy people don’t lift a finger and tend to think that the world owes them a living. Someone who is always confident enough to give their opinion is not backward in coming forward. (This phrase usually implies that the person is a little bit more assertive than the speaker would like!)

A useful way of describing the sort of person who frequently manages to cause offence or annoyance is to say that they tend to rub people up the wrong way, while someone who boasts a lot about what they are going to do but never actually does is all mouth and no trousers (British)/all mouth (US). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Oh wow! (Responding in conversation.)

February 11, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
oh_wow
When you are chatting in English, do you always know how to respond? Do you sometimes wish you knew a few more words and phrases to show that you are interested in what the other person is saying? Read on!

To let the speaker know that you have understood them, you can just say Ah. People often say right or okay after this. The phrase I see is also used here:

A: The date is wrong on the letter.

B: Ah, right, I see.

A: So we have to be here by eight o’clock, not nine o’clock.

B: Ah, okay, fine. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Take it away! (Phrasal verbs that use ‘take’)

February 4, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
takeitaway
Continuing with our occasional series on the subject of phrasal verbs, we look this week at ones formed with the verb ‘take’.

Phrasal verbs are extremely common in English. That is why teachers are so keen to teach them even to beginners. One of the first phrasal verbs that students of English learn is take off, meaning ‘to remove something, often a piece of clothing’:

I was hot so I took my jacket off.

Students also learn early on the aeroplane sense of the same phrasal verb, meaning ‘to begin to fly’:

Twenty minutes later, the plane took off.

Note that this sense is intransitive, meaning that it has no object. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Think long and hard; the language of decisions

January 28, 2015

by Liz Walter​
think_long_and_hard
One of the best ways (perhaps the best way) to improve your English is to learn how words go together in phrases, idioms, or other patterns such as verb/noun or adjective/noun pairs (often called ‘collocations’).

This blog looks at some useful phrases and collocations connected with the subject of decisions, something we often discuss.

Firstly, make is the verb most often used with decision, but we often say that we reach or come to a decision too, especially when we need to put a lot of thought into it (= think about it carefully).

If we have a difficult/tough decision to make, we will want to take time to consider the pros and cons/advantages and disadvantages of the possible choices (= the good and bad things about them). We will weigh them up (= decide which are most important) carefully. When there is more than one thing we could do in a situation, we have to consider our options. Read the rest of this entry ?

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