Posts Tagged ‘words’

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My leg hurts: Talking about illness (1)

January 13, 2016

by Liz Walter​
myleghurts
If you are ill, it is important to be able to describe what is wrong with you. This two-part post looks at some vocabulary to use at the doctor’s. This first one offers some basic, general words for describing medical problems.

Firstly, a note about a UK/US difference: the word ill is used more frequently in British English, while sick is more common in US English. If a British person says they were sick, they usually mean that they vomited.

Symptoms are the things that show you have an illness. For example, common symptoms of a cold include sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, a runny nose or a stuffed-up nose / blocked nose (UK). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Since, for and ago: talking about periods of time

December 30, 2015

by Liz Walter​
since for ago
It often seems that small, common words cause the most mistakes, and I certainly hear my students making errors with words like since, for and ago. This post therefore looks at some common errors connected with talking about periods of time and explains how to avoid them.

First, let’s look at the difference between since and for. They are both used to say how long something has been happening, but while since is followed by a precise time or a date, for is followed by a length of time: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Shopping for the festive season

December 23, 2015

by Liz Walter​
shopping festive
With Christmas fast approaching, many of us will be busy buying presents, whether we are Christians or not, so in this blog I’m going to look at some vocabulary connected with gift shopping.

If you are a well-organized person, you will probably want to get ahead by starting your shopping early. That way, it is easier to find bargains, for example by having the time to compare prices or by looking out for special offers. Some people even use the January sales to stock up on items for the following year.

Others prefer to leave everything to the last minute. They may end up paying exorbitant prices because lack of time means lack of choice, and they risk discovering that the items they wanted to buy are out of stock. They will probably also need to find stores that offer a gift-wrapping service, since they are unlikely to have the time to buy wrapping paper and wrap the presents themselves. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Money for Old Rope! (Money idioms)

December 16, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
money_old_rope
Continuing our occasional series on idioms that relate to the world of business, we look this week at phrases that express something about money.

There are a number of phrases relating to making money (and not all are admiring). A cash cow is a product or an area of a business that a company can rely on because it always makes money. The money made is often used to support other business activities: The credit card had become the bank’s cash cow. A person or company’s main way of earning money may be described as their bread and butter: They provide legal advice for companies – that’s their bread and butter. In UK English, a way of earning money that is very easy, needing little effort, may be referred to as money for old rope or money for jamA lot of people assume that buying and selling property is money for old rope. Similarly, on hearing about an easy job that earns a lot of money for someone else, someone might say humorously, Nice work if you can get it! Eighty pounds an hour for rubbing someone’s shoulders? Nice work if you can get it! Read the rest of this entry ?

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I appreciate that this is hard for you. (Other ways of saying ‘understand’)

December 2, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
understand_1
Following on from last week’s post on near-synonyms, we’re looking this week at various ways of saying that we understand things. Starting with a very common near-synonym, the verb ‘realize’ is often used for talking about the state of understanding and knowing things: I realize this is difficult for you. It is also used to say that we start to understand something: As she was speaking I suddenly realized that we’d met before. The verb ‘grasp’ also means ‘understand’ but is used to mean ‘to succeed in understanding something’ and is often used to talk about understanding difficult things: It was quite a high-level talk but I think I managed to grasp the main points./She couldn’t seem to grasp the concept. (The noun ‘grasp’ is also used: His grasp of grammar is very impressive for a seven-year-old.)

A phrase which is used for succeeding in understanding is ‘get the gist’. If you get the gist of something spoken or written, you manage to understand the main points though you may not understand or remember the precise details: I think I got the gist of what he was saying. Another such phrase is make sense of. If you make sense of something complicated or unclear, you manage to understand it: I’ve read the paragraph three times now and I still can’t make sense of it! Appreciate’ is used in a similar way. If you appreciate something serious about a situation, you understand it or you understand the reasons for it: I appreciate that this is a very difficult decision for you to make.

As we mentioned in a previous post (There is no such thing as a true synonym in English), ‘comprehend’ is a formal near-synonym for ‘understand’. We comprehend serious, difficult things, usually situations rather than subjects: They evidently failed to comprehend the seriousness of the threat.

An informal word for ‘understand’ that is very commonly used in conversation is ‘get’. It is often used in the phrase ‘get it’: Everyone’s going crazy for him. I don’t get it – what do they see in him? Note that we often say that we ‘get a joke’ when we understand what is funny about a joke. We use this sense of ‘get’ in other phrases too. For example, you might say ‘I get the message’ to someone who is asking you to do something but is saying it in an indirect way, usually because they don’t want to offend you: Oh, I get the message – you want to go without me, right? Similarly, you might say ‘I get the picture’ to a person who is describing a bad situation in a slightly indirect way to let them know that you understand what they are saying: ‘He’s not the most organised person and he can be a bit forgetful.’ ‘I get the picture. I’ve worked with people like that.’

Sometimes it takes a while to understand something. In British English, the phrase ‘the penny drops’ is used to say that you or someone else finally understand what is being said or what is happening: Then I saw them together at Sophie’s party and the penny dropped. I had no idea that they were a couple!

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There is no such thing as a true synonym in English. Discuss!

November 25, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
synonym
In the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary the word ‘synonym’ is defined as ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’. As you might expect, definitions for this word are broadly similar in other dictionaries and yet the italicized phrase ‘or nearly the same’ is often absent. This seems to me an omission. Many words in English have the same basic or overall meaning and yet are significantly different for one or more reasons. Let’s look at the word ‘comprehend’ for example. Essentially, it means ‘to understand something’. And yet we don’t usually say that we comprehend an area of mathematics. We are more likely to say something like this

No one in the government seems to comprehend the scale of the problem. Read the rest of this entry ?

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How to talk about talking (2)

November 18, 2015

by Liz Walter​
talk about talking
In my last post I explained how to use the verbs say and tell. This post looks at some other common verbs connected with talking and explains how to use them correctly.

Speak and talk have similar meanings. In general, speak is slightly more formal than talk. Remember to use the preposition to before the person. With can also be used, but is more common in US English:

He didn’t speak/talk to me at all.

The teacher spoke/talked with the girl’s parents.

We usually use the preposition about before the thing that is being discussed:

He talked about the weather.

She never speaks about her work. Read the rest of this entry ?

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