Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category


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 ?


Countability – grammar codes

November 26, 2014

by Dom Glennon​​


Advices and informations

Have you ever noticed strange codes in square brackets on entries in Cambridge Dictionaries Online and wondered what they mean? These are grammar codes, giving you a brief summary of how that word behaves grammatically. More information can be obtained by hovering your cursor over the code, and there’s a full page of them here, but we thought we’d look at some in more detail.
Read the rest of this entry ?


Come on – you can do it! Phrasal verbs with ‘come’.

November 19, 2014

by Liz Walter​
As part of an occasional series on the tricky subject of phrasal verbs, this blog looks at ones formed with the verb ‘come’.

If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you already know come from, as it is one of the first things you learn in class:

I come from Scotland/Spain.

You probably also know how to invite someone to enter your home, using come in:

How lovely to see you! Please come in! Read the rest of this entry ?


New words – 17 November 2014

November 17, 2014


silver splicer noun informal a person who marries in later life

Newly retired and now newlywed – rise of the ‘silver splicers’
Reaching pension age becomes a trigger to tie the knot as baby-boomers begin to redefine retirement

[ 12 June 2014]


SBNR abbreviation spiritual but not religious; used especially on dating websites

A few minutes on Google revealed that SBNR is more than just an acronym. One in three Americans defined themselves as spiritual but not religious.

[ 24 May 2014]

brotherzone noun informal a category of friendship where a man is like a brother to a woman, and therefore not a potential sexual partner

In my experience the ‘brotherzone’ is a lot more fun, when it’s short term/you have other female ‘friends’ cause 95 per cent of men will ‘slip-up’ before the girl. then [sic] they just end up looking sad and desperate.

[ 11 May 2014]

About new words


Are you feeling any better? (Talking about colds and flu)

November 12, 2014

by Kate Woodford​​​
Autumn has arrived with its beautiful display of gold and red leaves. Unfortunately, it has also brought with it various germs (=very small living things that cause disease). Many of us are now suffering from colds and, if we are really unlucky, flu (=a very bad cold, but with pains and a hot body). If you have caught a cold (=got a cold) or come down with (=started suffering from) the flu, you will probably want to tell someone about how bad you feel. You might tell a good friend, who will be kind to you, or even a doctor if you are really poorly (=ill). Here, then, is a selection of words and phrases that you can use to describe your symptoms (= physical feelings that show you have a particular illness).

Let’s start with the nose. You may have a runny nose, with liquid coming out of it all the time. (A cold with a runny nose is often described as a streaming cold). Or your nose may be bunged up or blocked (up), meaning that you cannot breathe through it. If any of these phrases describes your symptoms, you will probably want to blow your noseto clear your nose by forcing air through it into a piece of soft paper.

A cold often brings with it a sore throat (=a hurting back part of the mouth). Often, it makes you cough (=have air come out of your throat with a loud sound). If that cough is particularly loud and sounds as if it hurts, you might describe it as a hacking cough. Read the rest of this entry ?


There I was, minding my own business… (The language of anecdotes)

November 5, 2014

by Kate Woodford​​
We all like to tell anecdotes – to share with our friends short, funny stories about things that we have done or seen. Of course, the subject matter of our stories varies hugely, from chance meetings with unusual characters to disasters in the kitchen. However, the phrases that we use to tell these stories are often quite similar. This week we’re looking at anecdote phrases and seeing how they are used in the telling of tales.

Of course, to start with, we need to introduce our anecdote, (which often relates to a topic that is already being discussed). To do this, we often use phrases such as these:

Did I ever tell you about the time I invited Al’s boss round for dinner?

I’ll never forget the time I got locked in a public toilet in Portland.

That reminds me of the time I gave a talk to some children at my daughter’s school. Read the rest of this entry ?


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