Posts Tagged ‘words’


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 ?


Say and tell: How to talk about talking (1)

November 11, 2015

by Liz Walter​
say and tell
Most of us spend a lot of time talking – in fact a recent study showed that the average Brit spends 6 months of their life talking about weather alone! It’s no wonder therefore that we often need to describe that activity.

Unfortunately, simple verbs such as speak, say, talk and tell cause a lot of problems for learners of English. This post looks at two of the most common ‘talking’ verbs – say and tell –  and gives advice on how to use them correctly.

We often use say to report what someone else has said, using a that-clause. You can usually leave out ‘that’:

She said (that) she was thirsty.

He says (that) he’s a friend of yours. Read the rest of this entry ?


Women and biscuits: common pronunciation errors in English

November 4, 2015

by Liz Walter​
There’s no getting away from the fact that pronunciation in English is difficult. Unlike many other languages, the relationship between the letters in a word and its sound is often weak, to say the least.

For this reason, there are pronunciation problems with extremely common words which I notice over and over again in my classes, so this blog post will explain how to avoid some of the them.

I want to start with one really general issue: the –ed ending on past tenses. This causes a lot of problems for learners but there is in fact a simple rule: it is only pronounced as ‘id’ when the verb ends with a ‘d’ or ‘t’ sound, e.g. folded, painted.

For all other verbs, -ed is pronounced as ‘d’.  After some consonants, it will come out sounding more like ‘t’, but you don’t need to worry about that because it will happen naturally. Read the rest of this entry ?


I’ve known Sara for years (Talking about friends)

October 28, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
Our friends are important to us so we tend to talk about them. And what sort of things do we say? We might talk about how strong a friendship is. If we say that we are close to someone, we mean that we know and like them a lot: I’ve known Sara for years – we’re very close. / She’s very close to her brother. You might instead describe someone as a good friend (of yours): Paolo’s a good friend of mine. You could also use the phrasal verb get on (UK) / get along (US), meaning ‘to like someone and have a good relationship with them’: I like James – we’ve always got on / gotten along.

Sometimes we talk about how a friendship started. You may say that you met a friend through another person: I met Alice through a work friend of mine called Lucy. (The friend who introduced you – a friend of two people – is known as a mutual friend). Perhaps you were at a party and you started talking with someone although you didn’t know them. For this, you could say you struck up (= started) a conversation: We were both waiting to get a drink and struck up a conversation. If you liked the person immediately, you could use the informal phrase hit it off: Jamie introduced us at a party and we hit it off immediately. Of course, as we spend more time with a person, we gradually learn more about them. To describe this process, you may say that you get to know someone: He seemed so nice. I thought I’d like to get to know him. / We worked together on a six-month project so I got to know her quite well. If you have known someone for a long time, you might use the phrase to go back a long way: Claire and I met at college twenty years ago so we go back a long way. Read the rest of this entry ?


Specially or Especially – is there a difference?

October 14, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Specially or Especially

A reader recently asked me to explain the difference between ‘specially’ and ‘especially’.

In order to find the answer, I looked at the Cambridge International Corpus, which is a collection of almost two billion words of English from many different sources. Cambridge University Press’s authors and editors use the corpus to find evidence about the use of English.

The first thing I discovered was that ‘especially’ is much more common than ‘specially’. In fact, ‘especially’ occurs 149.2 times for every million words of text, as opposed to 8.1 times for ‘specially’. Read the rest of this entry ?


Take the rough with the smooth (Idioms to describe dealing with problems)

October 7, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
Readers of this blog will know that from time to time, we focus on frequent idioms. This week, we’re looking at idioms that we use to describe the way we deal with – or fail to deal with – problems and difficult situations.

Starting with the positive, if you are in a difficult situation and you take it (all) in your stride (UK)/take it in stride (US), the situation does not upset or worry you: Sarah often has problems with staff but she takes it all in her stride. Someone who weathers the storm or rides the storm is not harmed during a difficult period. You might say this of a person whose reputation is not damaged despite difficulties: For a while, the scandal threatened to destroy the president, but somehow he weathered the storm. Meanwhile, to get/come to grips with a difficult situation or task means to succeed in starting to deal with it: This is a problem that the government really needs to get to grips with. Read the rest of this entry ?


Lectures, lessons and seminars: words and phrases for talking about studying (2).

September 30, 2015

by Liz Walter​
I passed my exams
As promised last time, this post continues the theme of study, and once again there are many differences between British and American English.

In the UK, the school year is divided into three periods, called terms. In the US, the school year can be divided into two periods, called semesters, or three periods, called trimesters. Many US universities have summer periods, so their year is divided into quarters. Students have a timetable (UK)/schedule (US) to tell them the times of their classes. To talk about what is taught in a particular subject area, we use the words syllabus or curriculum.

The person in charge of a school is called the headteacher in UK English and the principal in US English. Read the rest of this entry ?

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