Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category


You remind me of someone… (Words for remembering)

May 13, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
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 ?


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 ?


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

April 29, 2015

by Liz Walter​
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:


The language of elections

April 22, 2015

by Liz Walter​
On May 7th, citizens of the UK will be going to the polls (having an election) to decide who will form the next government. This kind of election is known as a general election.

The country is divided into 650 areas, called constituencies. Each constituency elects a member of parliament (MP) to sit in the House of Commons, which is the elected lower chamber. The unelected upper chamber is the House of Lords.

In the UK, we use a system called first past the post, where the person with the largest number of votes in each constituency is the winner. In a safe Labour/Conservative, etc seat, where there is a large majority for a particular party, a vote for a different party is therefore essentially a lost vote, unlike with a system of proportional representation, where every vote counts towards the number of MPs a party will have.

Before an election, each party will prepare a manifesto, a document which gives a description of what the party will do if it wins. Politicians will put a lot of effort into their election campaign, often helped by party members or other supporters. Ordinary political activists are often referred to as grass roots supporters or simply the grass roots. Read the rest of this entry ?


Byronic, Orwellian and Darwinian: adjectives from names.

April 15, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Becoming an adjective is a strange kind of memorial, but it is often a sign of a person having had real influence on the world.

Science is full of examples, from Hippocrates, the Greek medic born around 460 BC, who gave his name to the Hippocratic Oath still used by doctors today, to Robert Brown, the 19th century botanist who discovered Brownian motion.

In cases where most people know something of the life or work of the person in question, their adjective often takes on a broader meaning. Although Darwinian often simply means ‘as described or discovered by Charles Darwin’, it is also used more generally to describe a fierce competitive situation (in business, for example), in which the losers will be eliminated.

Similarly, if we describe something as Freudian (from Sigmund Freud), we are often alluding to something that inadvertently reveals someone’s true thoughts, as in the phrase Freudian slip. Read the rest of this entry ?


I’m so sorry! (The language of apologizing)

April 8, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
From time to time, we all have to apologize (= say we are sorry for something we have done). This post looks at the language of saying sorry and also considers the way that people respond when someone says sorry.

First, then, the apology itself. The phrase ‘I’m sorry’ can be made stronger and more sincere by adding ‘so‘ or ‘really‘: I’m so sorry we’re late./I’m really sorry about last night. Note that people who are apologizing often say a little more at this point, either to explain why they did what they did, or to say why they are sorry:

I’m really sorry I said that. I was just so upset at the time.

I’m so sorry I said those things. I know I really upset you.

Often the phrase should have (or shouldn’t have) is used here:

I’m so sorry I didn’t let you know. I should have called you.

I’m really sorry, William. I shouldn’t have blamed you like that. Read the rest of this entry ?


I won’t tolerate it! Replacing formal words with phrasal verbs.

April 1, 2015

by Liz Walter​
When you are using a language, it is important to understand if a word is formal or informal, so that you can use it in an appropriate way. You might hear people saying dosh for money, or spud for potato, but they wouldn’t write those words in a formal essay. Similarly, a lawyer’s letter might include very formal terms such as heretofore or pursuant to, but nobody uses them in speech or informal writing.

Learners sometimes have problems with this issue when they try to avoid phrasal verbs by using a single word verb instead. This is particularly true when they have a similar word in their own language, for example tolerate in English and tolérer in French or tolerar in Spanish. Although the meaning is the same, tolerate is a more formal word in English. In speech, we would be much more likely to say put up with: I don’t know how she puts up with his behaviour. Read the rest of this entry ?


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