Posts Tagged ‘words’

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July 4th, Bastille Day, and the language of revolution.

July 1, 2015

by Liz Walter​
languageofrevolution
With America’s Independence Day on the 4th and France’s Bastille Day on the 14th, July certainly has a revolutionary theme, so this blog looks at words and phrases we use to talk about the dramatic and nation-changing events that these days celebrate. In particular, it focuses on one of the most important skills for advanced learners of English, which is collocation, or the way words go together.

July 4, 1776 was the day on which Americans declared independence from Great Britain. When a country becomes independent, it gains independence, and if a ruling country allows another one to become independent, it grants independence to it.

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution. On July 14, 1789 a group of rioters attacked the Bastille fortress in order to seize weapons and explosives. We refer to this event as the Storming of the Bastille, and it is still common to talk about troops or gunmen storming a building when it is a fast, violent attack. Read the rest of this entry ?

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As fresh as a daisy: using similes in English.

June 17, 2015

by Liz Walter​
similes
There are two ways of forming similes. The first is with as … as:

The countryside here is as flat as a pancake.

I knew Polly was scared because she was as white as a sheet.

These similes have the structure: as + adjective + as a/an + noun.

We use them to emphasize the adjective. The examples above mean that the countryside is extremely flat, and Polly’s face was very pale.

Here are a few more very common similes:

as stubborn as a mule

as light as a feather

as different as chalk and cheese Read the rest of this entry ?

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May I sit here? Asking for and giving permission.

June 3, 2015

by Liz Walter​
permission
We often find ourselves in situations where we need to ask for permission or to reply to people who ask us for permission. Here are some words and phrases to help you do this in a natural way.

The simplest way to ask for permission is with the modal verb can:

Can I sit here?

Can we come in, please?

In a more formal situation, where you want to be very polite, you can use may:

May I borrow your pen?

May we look at the documents?

If you are asking about something that might have an effect on the person you are asking, you could say ‘Do you mind if …?’:

Do you mind if I open the window? Read the rest of this entry ?

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She’s got very good posture. (How we stand and sit)

May 27, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
posture
Recently on this blog, we looked at the words that we use to describe the way we move. This week we’re looking at words for describing our bodies when they are still, whether we are standing or sitting.

Since most of us do far too much of this, let’s start with sitting. When you are working at your desk, how would you describe your posture (= the way that you hold your shoulders, neck and back)? Do you sit upright, (=with a straight back) or are you slumped or hunched, with your head low and shoulders forward?: He sat slumped at his desk./She spent the evening slumped in front of the TV. If you are relaxing, you may be reclining, leaning back with the upper part of your body in an almost horizontal position: I was reclining on the sofa when he called. If you are very relaxed, you may even be sprawled, with your arms and legs spread out in a careless and untidy way: He lay sprawled on the sofa in his pyjamas. Read the rest of this entry ?

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What’s All The Commotion About? (Words to describe sounds)

May 20, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
commotion
In this post we look at a range of words and phrases that we use to describe noise and the absence of noise. Starting with complete quiet, we sometimes use the noun hush to describe silence: A hush fell over the room as the bride walked in./There was a deathly hush (=complete silence) after the announcement.

A slight noise that you cannot hear well may be described as faint or low: There’s a faint hissing noise coming from behind the TV./They spoke in low voices and I couldn’t hear what they were saying? (Of course, ‘low’ used to describe a voice can also mean ‘near the bottom of a range of sounds’.) A sound that is quiet and not clear may be described as muffled: I could hear muffled voices next door, but I couldn’t make out any words. A muted noise, meanwhile, is more quiet than you would expect, sometimes suggesting a lack of enthusiasm: The applause, when it came, was muted. Read the rest of this entry ?

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You remind me of someone… (Words for remembering)

May 13, 2015

by Kate Woodford​​​​
remembering
Do you have a good memory? Is your memory so good, it’s photographic, allowing you to remember precise things in exact detail? Perhaps your memory is good at particular things. You might have a good memory for faces or a good memory for names. Or you may not be so lucky. You might be forgetful, (often forgetting things). Worse, you may have a memory/mind like a sieve. (A sieve is a piece of kitchen equipment with a lot of little holes in it!) Whether your memory is good or bad, you will find yourself using words and phrases to describe the process of remembering. This post aims to increase your word power in this area.

Let’s start with useful words and phrases for remembering. Two other ways of saying ‘remember’ are recall and recollect: I seem to recall she was staying with Rachel./I don’t recollect her precise words. If you cast your mind back, you make an effort to think about something from the past: Cast your mind back to that evening we spent with her. Do you remember how sad she seemed? If you succeed in remembering something, you might say you bring or call it to mind: I remember that name, I just can’t call his face to mind. If something – for example a name – rings a bell, it sounds familiar to you, but you can’t remember quite why: The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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They sometimes go here and they never go there: using adverbs of frequency

April 29, 2015

by Liz Walter​
frequency
Sometimes, always, often, never: these are some of the most common words in English.  Unfortunately, they are also some of the words that cause the most problems for students.

Many of my students put them in the wrong place, often because that’s where they go in their own languages. They say things like, ‘I watch always TV in the evening’, when they should say, ‘I always watch TV in the evening’.

There are some basic rules about where to put adverbs of frequency, and if you only remember the first two, you will get them right most of the time!

Here is rule number one: They come after the verb ‘to be’:

  • Alex is never at home.
  • The children were sometimes rather noisy.

Rule number two: They come before all other verbs:

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