Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category


Something to look forward to: three-word phrasal verbs

January 14, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Most phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and a single particle, but a few have two particles. This blog looks at some of the most common ones.

You probably already know the one in the title: look forward to. One important thing to remember is that if you use another verb after it, it must be in the –ing form:

I’m really looking forward to seeing you. (= I’m pleased and excited because I am going to see you)

Here are some more common three-word phrasal verbs which are well worth learning: Read the rest of this entry ?


All you need is willpower: the language of New Year’s resolutions

January 7, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Many of us see the new year as an opportunity to make a fresh start, to give up a bad habit or to take up a good one. Common resolutions (= promises to ourselves) include giving up smoking, doing more exercise, losing weight, or spending more time with our families.

Particularly after Christmas, when many of us have overindulged (= eaten and drunk too much), the idea of a detox (a strict diet designed to get rid of harmful substances from the body) can be quite attractive. However, those with less self-restraint (= ability to control ourselves) don’t need to feel guilty because evidence increasingly shows that such diets have no scientific basis, so all that self-denial (= not allowing yourself to have what you want) is actually a waste of effort.

Many resolutions are worth making, but what is the best way to stick to (= keep doing) them? The main thing is to set realistic goals (= decide on things you can really achieve). You might never run a marathon, but you could probably manage a brisk walk around the park most days. You may not be able to give up sugar completely, but perhaps you could cut down on (= have less of) fizzy drinks. Read the rest of this entry ?


Party Talk (The language of party chat)

December 23, 2014

by Kate Woodford​​​​
With the party season in full swing (= at its busiest now), we consider the language of socializing (= enjoying yourself with other people). We’re looking especially at words and phrases which are used to describe the different ways that people behave at a party and the sort of conversations that party guests may have.

Some people are very sociable (= liking meeting people). For them, a party is an opportunity to meet and chat to many people. They may choose to mingle, moving around the room and talking to a lot of guests: I guess I’d better go and mingle with my guests.

Other guests may be meeting for the first time. They may just exchange pleasantries, meaning that they say things to each other which are polite and pleasant but not especially interesting or important: Sarah introduced us at her party and we exchanged pleasantries. Another way of saying this is to make small talk: He doesn’t especially enjoy making small talk with people he doesn’t know. The informal noun chit-chat is also used to refer to conversation about matters that are not important: I don’t even remember what we spoke about – I think it was just the usual party chit-chat. Read the rest of this entry ?


Cleavage proves divisive in Cambridge’s words of 2014

December 19, 2014

by Alastair Horne​​​​​
Other dictionaries may choose faddish novelties as their words of the year, but here at Cambridge, we like to do something different. We look for the words that have seen sudden surges in searches over the course of the year – words that have been baffling users of English and driven them to their dictionaries for explanation.

Some of the most remarkable rises in search frequency occur when a popular news story involves obscure words or phrases – items that are unlikely to have featured in a student’s vocabulary notebook. Sometimes these words are obscure because they are technical: September’s vote on Scottish independence saw a massive rise in searches for the words ‘devolution’ and ‘referendum’, as our users tried to understand precisely what the vote involved. Read the rest of this entry ?


Let’s celebrate! (words and phrases for parties)

December 17, 2014

by Kate Woodford​​​​
With Christmas and New Year almost upon us, we thought it a good time to look at the language of parties and celebrations. First, let’s start with the word ‘party’ itself. To have or throw a party or, less commonly, to give a party is to arrange a party: We’re having a party to celebrate the end of the exams. If you provide the place where the party happens, often your home, you may be said to host the party: Rosie has offered to host the party at her place. A party for someone who is leaving a place or a company is often called a farewell party or a leaving party: We’re having a farewell party for a member of staff. An office party is a party for a company’s colleagues. Meanwhile, a party that you throw for a person who knows nothing about it in advance is a surprise party: It’s a surprise party so it’s all top secret.

A celebration is a party or other social event on a special day or occasion: There were lively New Year celebrations all over town. The verb celebrate is also used, meaning ‘to take part in a special social event’: We always celebrate our wedding anniversary by going out to dinner. If you celebrate in style, you celebrate in a place that is expensive and attractive: For those who like to celebrate in style, there are the castle function rooms. To mark the occasion means ‘to celebrate a particular event or day’: It’s not every day you turn twenty-one. I think we need to mark the occasion! Read the rest of this entry ?


Is Joe there, please?: phrases to use on the phone

December 10, 2014

by Liz Walter​
Sometimes really simple things can be difficult to do in other languages, because you need to know the exact words and phrases that people use. Making phone calls can be like that. How do you say who you are? How do you check who you are talking to? How do you ask someone to take a message for you?

Firstly, what should you say when you answer the phone? The most common thing is simply to say hello. However, in a more formal situation, you may want to give your name:

Hello, Max Roberts speaking.

If you are answering the phone in a company, it is common to say the company name or the name of the department you work in:

Hello, Cambridge Building Supplies. Max speaking.

            Hello, international sales. Read the rest of this entry ?


A nice, relaxing bath (Adjective order)

December 3, 2014

by Kate Woodford​​​
When we want to describe something, one adjective sometimes just isn’t enough! There may be two – or even three – things we want to say about something or someone. What order, then, do we put these two or three adjectives in? Consider the following:

He’s such a sweet little boy!

She seemed like a nice, polite girl.

It’s a really lovely, bright shade of blue.

There was a horrible, stale smell in there.

Notice the adjectives that are used first in each of these sentences – sweet, nice, lovely, horrible. They are all subjective descriptions – words that show our feelings or opinions about something. They do not actually tell us any precise facts about the boy, the girl, the shade of blue or the smell. They don’t, for example, tell us how big the children are or anything about the precise qualities of the shade of blue or the smell. These subjective adjectives, then, are the ones that go first. In other words, whatever your first feeling or opinion about something or someone, (Are they nice, nasty, gorgeous, unpleasant, etc.?), say this first! Read the rest of this entry ?


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