Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category


The language of work

October 15, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Most of us talk about our jobs. We tell our family and friends interesting or funny things that have happened in the workplace (=room where we do our job), we describe – and sometimes complain about – our bosses and colleagues and when we meet someone for the first time, we tell them what our jobs are. Here, then, is a selection of English vocabulary to help you to speak about your work.

A career is a job or number of jobs of a similar type that a person does over a long period: I’d always wanted a career in teaching./I wasn’t interested in an academic career. The word profession is used in a similar way, but always refers to work that needs a lot of education and training: the medical/legal profession. Note that ‘profession’ also means the people who do a particular type of work: The medical profession is always looking to improve patient care. Read the rest of this entry ?


Just get on with it! Phrasal verbs with ‘get’.

October 8, 2014

by Liz Walter
My last blog about phrasal verbs attracted a lot of comments. Many of them were from people who find phrasal verbs difficult. One reason is that so many of them are formed with very common verbs such as get, give, set, or put.

I totally understand why this is a problem, and as I often say to my students, I do apologise for the English language! However, saying sorry won’t help, so here is the first in a series of blogs looking at phrasal verbs formed with common verbs, in this case get.

Firstly, it may sound obvious, but start by learning the most common phrasal verbs. A good place to begin is with a small learner’s dictionary. For example, the Cambridge Essential Dictionary, written for beginners, has only 9 phrasal verbs with get. In other words, the people who wrote that dictionary have already chosen the most useful ones for you. Read the rest of this entry ?


What a lovely dress! Paying and accepting compliments.

October 1, 2014

by Liz Walter
Paying compliments (telling someone that you like something about them) is an important part of communication, not only between friends but also at work and in other situations. This blog looks at phrases you can use not only to give someone a compliment but also – often harder – to accept a compliment in a polite and friendly way.


There are several simple phrases that can be used in lots of situations:


What a lovely dress/photo/garden!

I love/really like your apartment/poem/hair/coat!


However, most compliments depend on what it is you want to praise. For example, for clothes you could say:


You look lovely in that dress/those trousers.

You’re looking very smart today.

That jacket/colour really suits you. Read the rest of this entry ?


An introduction to phrasal verbs

September 24, 2014

by Liz Walter
All students of English need to learn phrasal verbs! A phrasal verb is a verb and a particle (e.g. up, off, over) used together. Phrasal verbs may seem difficult, but you probably know some already:

I wake up at 7 o’clock.

He puts on his coat.

Sit down, please.


It is often impossible to guess the meaning of a phrasal verb from the meaning of the verb. For example, if you give up smoking, you stop smoking, and if you carry on doing something, you continue to do it. You have to learn the meaning of these phrasal verbs in just the same way as you do with a single verb. Read the rest of this entry ?


A bit up and down – describing emotion with metaphors of height

September 17, 2014

by Liz Walter
Metaphor is when we use the word for one thing to describe the characteristics of another. For example, if we say ‘This city is a jungle’, we mean that the city is a wild and dangerous place.

That is a clear and obvious example of metaphor, but there are metaphorical ideas that are so common in our language that we hardly notice them. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson wrote about this in their famous book Metaphors We Live By. They say that these ideas are so much a part of our language that they actually affect the way we think and behave.

In this blog I want to look at one example – using words connected with height to describe happiness and depth to describe sadness. Lakoff and Johnson call this an orientational metaphor, meaning that it describes position in space. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Language of Losing

September 10, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Recently on this blog we looked at the idioms and collocations that we use to describe winning. Sadly, for every winner, there is a loser so this week, we’re looking at a set of less happy phrases – those that we use to describe losing.

Starting with the verb ‘lose’ itself, note that one person or side loses to another person or side: They lost to Liverpool on Saturday.

Moving on to the much used word ‘defeat’, a person or team that loses may be said to suffer defeat: England suffered defeat in their World Cup opener. If they lose by many goals or points, the result may be described as a crushing defeat, a humiliating defeat or even a resounding defeat: Van Gaal’s side suffered a humiliating defeat in the second round of the League Cup on Tuesday./This was a crushing defeat for the reigning champion. When, on the other hand, a person or team loses by very few goals or points, the result is sometimes described as a narrow defeat: United experienced a narrow defeat to Lucena in their opening game in Marbella. The phrase be narrowly defeated is also often used: The reserve side were narrowly defeated on Saturday in a pre-season run out against City. Read the rest of this entry ?


You must read this! (‘Have to’ or ‘must’?)

September 3, 2014

by Kate Woodford
In these blogs we make a point of looking at areas that often cause difficulties for learners of English. This week we are considering how we talk about obligation – the fact that we must do something, either because of a rule or some other need. We will start with the differences between ‘have to/need to’ and ‘must’, and when we use one and not the other.

Have to/Need to

The first thing to say is that if we want to talk about something that it is necessary to do, ‘have to’ and ‘need to’, (followed by the infinitive of the main verb), generally sound correct and natural:

You have to/need to be there for eight o’clock.

I have to/need to get some money out.

You have to/need to get a form from the office. Read the rest of this entry ?


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