Posts Tagged ‘words’

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When’s dinner? (Words for different meals)

July 22, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
whensdinner
Here at ‘About Words’ we’re always happy to get ideas for posts that we could write. A reader of this blog recently asked for a post on the language of meals and we thought this an excellent idea. If you are reading this post and have an idea for a topic or area of the language that you would like us to write about, please do say.

In the order that we eat them, then, breakfast is the meal that we have in the morning as the first meal of the day, lunch is what we eat in the middle of the day and dinner is our evening meal. This sounds simple enough, though in both the US and the UK it is a little more complicated than this – and in different ways!

In the UK, the meal that is eaten in the middle of the day is sometimes called ‘dinner’ and the meal in the evening may be referred to as tea. ‘Tea’ is used especially if the meal is of a simple type, prepared for children, often eaten early in the evening: Have the children had their tea? Read the rest of this entry ?

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Crash! Whisper and Purr (Onomatopoeias)

July 8, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
onomatopoeia
What do the words crash, whisper and purr have in common? They’re all onomatopoeias. An onomatopoeia is a word that copies or in some way suggests the sound of the action that it refers to, whether it is ‘crash!’, (the loud noise of two things hitting each other and causing damage), ‘whisper’, (to speak very quietly, using only the breath), or ‘purr’, (to make a quiet, continuous sound, such as a happy cat does). ‘Onomatopoeia’ is also an uncountable noun, referring to the use or quality of such words. This week, we are looking at this interesting category of words in sets of different types. As ever, we are focusing on frequent words that you are likely to hear or read.

Animal noises are a fairly obvious example of onomatopoeia. In the English language, dogs bark, lions roar, wolves howl, sheep bleat and mice squeak. (These verbs are also used as nouns.) There is another, smaller set of onomatopoeic animal sound words used mainly by small children or by adults speaking to small children. This set includes moo! for cows, baa! for sheep, woof woof! for dogs and hiss! for snakes. Interestingly, many animal sounds are represented by different words in other languages, even though animals everywhere tend to make the same – or similar – sounds. Read the rest of this entry ?

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

July 1, 2015

by Liz Walter​
languageofrevolution
With the USA’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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