Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category

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We don’t really get on. (Phrasal verbs for describing relationships)

June 10, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
relationships
Two people who have a good relationship are often said to get on (well): I get on really well with both of my brothers. Meanwhile, people who stop being friends after an argument are frequently said to fall out: The brothers fell out over money. Our relationships are very important to us so we talk about them a lot. Often, to describe the way we feel about a person, or something that has happened to a relationship, we use phrasal verbs such as these. This week, we are looking at the most important phrasal verbs in this area. Some are used for talking about romantic relationships and others relate to friends and family members. All are common.

Let’s start with the first time we meet another person. If we like them, we may say that we take to them and if, (as sometimes happens), we decide that we do not like them, we may say that we take against them: I hadn’t met Jamie’s girlfriend before but I really took to her – I thought she was lovely./Tom took against Rebecca because she said something mean about his friend. If we very much like someone that we have just met and become friendly immediately, we sometimes use the informal phrasal verb hit it off: I introduced Jake to Ollie and they really hit it off. (Notice that ‘it’ is always part of this phrase. This is true for a small group of phrasal verbs.) If one particular thing about a person you have just met makes you not like them, you may say that it puts you off them: Kate’s husband was very rude to our waiter and it put me off him a bit. Read the rest of this entry ?

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May I sit here? Asking for and giving permission.

June 3, 2015

by Liz Walter​
permission
We often find ourselves in situations where we need to ask for permission or to reply to people who ask us for permission. Here are some words and phrases to help you do this in a natural way.

The simplest way to ask for permission is with the modal verb can:

Can I sit here?

Can we come in, please?

In a more formal situation, where you want to be very polite, you can use may:

May I borrow your pen?

May we look at the documents?

If you are asking about something that might have an effect on the person you are asking, you could say ‘Do you mind if …?’:

Do you mind if I open the window? Read the rest of this entry ?

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She’s got very good posture. (How we stand and sit)

May 27, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
posture
Recently on this blog, we looked at the words that we use to describe the way we move. This week we’re looking at words for describing our bodies when they are still, whether we are standing or sitting.

Since most of us do far too much of this, let’s start with sitting. When you are working at your desk, how would you describe your posture (= the way that you hold your shoulders, neck and back)? Do you sit upright, (=with a straight back) or are you slumped or hunched, with your head low and shoulders forward?: He sat slumped at his desk./She spent the evening slumped in front of the TV. If you are relaxing, you may be reclining, leaning back with the upper part of your body in an almost horizontal position: I was reclining on the sofa when he called. If you are very relaxed, you may even be sprawled, with your arms and legs spread out in a careless and untidy way: He lay sprawled on the sofa in his pyjamas. Read the rest of this entry ?

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What’s All The Commotion About? (Words to describe sounds)

May 20, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
commotion
In this post we look at a range of words and phrases that we use to describe noise and the absence of noise. Starting with complete quiet, we sometimes use the noun hush to describe silence: A hush fell over the room as the bride walked in./There was a deathly hush (=complete silence) after the announcement.

A slight noise that you cannot hear well may be described as faint or low: There’s a faint hissing noise coming from behind the TV./They spoke in low voices and I couldn’t hear what they were saying? (Of course, ‘low’ used to describe a voice can also mean ‘near the bottom of a range of sounds’.) A sound that is quiet and not clear may be described as muffled: I could hear muffled voices next door, but I couldn’t make out any words. A muted noise, meanwhile, is more quiet than you would expect, sometimes suggesting a lack of enthusiasm: The applause, when it came, was muted. Read the rest of this entry ?

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You remind me of someone… (Words for remembering)

May 13, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
remembering
Do you have a good memory? Is your memory so good, it’s photographic, allowing you to remember precise things in exact detail? Perhaps your memory is good at particular things. You might have a good memory for faces or a good memory for names. Or you may not be so lucky. You might be forgetful, (often forgetting things). Worse, you may have a memory/mind like a sieve. (A sieve is a piece of kitchen equipment with a lot of little holes in it!) Whether your memory is good or bad, you will find yourself using words and phrases to describe the process of remembering. This post aims to increase your word power in this area.

Let’s start with useful words and phrases for remembering. Two other ways of saying ‘remember’ are recall and recollect: I seem to recall she was staying with Rachel./I don’t recollect her precise words. If you cast your mind back, you make an effort to think about something from the past: Cast your mind back to that evening we spent with her. Do you remember how sad she seemed? If you succeed in remembering something, you might say you bring or call it to mind: I remember that name, I just can’t call his face to mind. If something – for example a name – rings a bell, it sounds familiar to you, but you can’t remember quite why: The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Go ahead! (Phrasal verbs with ‘go’)

May 6, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
go ahead
Every few weeks, we focus on phrasal verbs that are formed with a particular verb. This week, we’re looking at phrasal verbs that start with the verb ‘go’. As ever, we present a range of the most useful and common phrasal verbs.

Some of the most common ‘go’ phrasal verbs are easy to understand because the ‘go’ part of the phrase has its usual meaning, which is ‘to move or travel somewhere’. When ‘go’ in a phrasal verb has its usual meaning, the other part, which is the particle, (away, off, out, etc.) also has its regular meaning. For this set of phrasal verbs, it is easy to work out what they mean:

She went away (= left) for a few days.

When are you going back (=returning) to Paris?

A pink sports car went by (=passed).

I looked in the shop window but I didn’t actually go in (= enter).

Helena went off (= left) about an hour ago.

Are you going out (= leaving your home to go somewhere else)? Read the rest of this entry ?

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They sometimes go here and they never go there: using adverbs of frequency

April 29, 2015

by Liz Walter​
frequency
Sometimes, always, often, never: these are some of the most common words in English.  Unfortunately, they are also some of the words that cause the most problems for students.

Many of my students put them in the wrong place, often because that’s where they go in their own languages. They say things like, ‘I watch always TV in the evening’, when they should say, ‘I always watch TV in the evening’.

There are some basic rules about where to put adverbs of frequency, and if you only remember the first two, you will get them right most of the time!

Here is rule number one: They come after the verb ‘to be’:

  • Alex is never at home.
  • The children were sometimes rather noisy.

Rule number two: They come before all other verbs:

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