Words connected with driving

by Liz Walter

 ©Natasha Japp Photography/Moment/Getty
©Natasha Japp Photography/Moment/Getty

Driving is a common activity with a very specific set of vocabulary, including a surprising number of phrasal verbs. It is also one of those areas where there are a lot of differences between British and American English. For instance, the glass window at the front of the vehicle is a windscreen (UK)/windshield (US), the place where you put your luggage is the boot (UK)/trunk (US), and the cover over the engine is the bonnet (UK)/hood (US).

When you get into a car, you fasten your seat belt and start the engine by turning/switching on the ignition. Most cars in the US are automatic, whereas in Britain most people still drive manual cars where you have to change gear (UK)/shift gears (US) using the gear lever (UK)/gearshift (US). You start driving in first gear and stay in a low gear until you start to drive faster. Then you move to a higher gear. Before changing gear, you press the clutch (the middle pedal you operate with your foot). It is important to let the clutch out gently, otherwise you can stall the engine (make it stop working).

To go faster, you press the accelerator. This causes the car to accelerate or, more informally, speed up. In order to slow down or decelerate you need to press the brake. Brake is also a verb, and is commonly used in the phrases brake gently or brake sharply (very suddenly). At junctions (places where two or more roads meet – usually called intersections in the US) or when you stop completely, you need to put on the handbrake (UK)/pull the emergency brake (US).

Wide roads such as motorways (UK)/highways (US) usually have two or more lanes. The inside lane or slow lane is where you drive until you need to overtake (UK)/pass (US) (go past) another vehicle. Then you pull out, moving into the middle lane or the outside/fast lane, first looking in the rear view mirror. When you have passed the other vehicle, you pull in again.

When you want to turn left or right, you indicate (UK)/signal (US), using the indicator (UK)/turn signal (US). When you drive backwards, you reverse. For example, you might reverse into a parking space.

If your car breaks down, it stops working, and if you run out of petrol (UK)/gas (US), you will need to fill up your petrol tank (UK)/ gas tank (US) at a petrol station (UK)/gas station (US).

There are many more specific words connected with vehicles and their parts, but I hope that this selection is useful. Do feel free to suggest others!









New words – 26 September 2016

ZenShui/Laurence Mouton/PhotoAlto/Getty
ZenShui/Laurence Mouton/PhotoAlto/Getty
aquafaba noun the water from cooked beans, used as an egg white substitute in vegan cuisine

Don’t pour that slimy chickpea brine down the drain – ‘Aquafaba’ is the latest healthy food substitute being used in cakes, meringue and mousse desserts

[www.dailymail.co.uk 29 November 2015]

food swamp noun an area with an abundance of fast food retailers but a dearth of healthy, fresh food sellers

‘The food swamp or the lack of access to healthy food is a much bigger problem than the food desert,’ she said.

[http://www.thestar.com 10 November 2015]

wackaging noun product packaging that contains a cute or humorous element, often using an exaggeratedly friendly tone on its labelling

Most of the Innocent-inspired wacky packaging or ‘wackaging’ on the market ends up sounding twee or cringeworthy.

[www.beliyf.com 10 November 2015]

About new words

It’s very entertaining. (Words for describing movies and books)

by Kate Woodford

Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty
Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty

Most of us like to discuss movies and shows that we have seen and books that we have read. This is the first of two posts that will provide you with a range of adjectives and phrases for describing what you have seen and read in a way that is precise and varied.

We often want to say that we found a movie or a book enjoyable. Two very useful ‘-able’ adjectives here are readable and watchable. Books that are readable are easy and enjoyable to read (sometimes despite being about subjects that might seem difficult or boring): It’s a very readable account of the history of this great city.

Movies and shows that are watchable give you pleasure when you watch them: It’s probably not his best movie but it’s very watchable. An adjective with a similar meaning is entertaining: It’s not a great novel but it’s fairly entertaining.

Meanwhile, a book that is very enjoyable may be described as a good read: I’d really recommend his latest novel – it’s a good read.

A number of adjectives describe movies and books that are very interesting. Absorbing is used for a movie or book that is so interesting, it completely holds your attention: I really liked her last novel – I found it very absorbing.

Engrossing means the same, but is stronger: The movie was completely engrossing from start to finish.

A movie or book that is intriguing, meanwhile, is very interesting in a way that is unusual or mysterious: I found the storyline so intriguing – I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next.

Other adjectives and phrases describe books and movies that are very exciting: Gripping is one such adjective and riveting another:

This is a series with great characters and a gripping storyline.

You’ll love the novel – it’s riveting stuff.

Compulsive is used to describe movies and books that are so exciting, you cannot stop watching or reading them. The adjective is often used in the phrases (for movies, shows, etc) compulsive viewing and (for books) compulsive reading:

His latest book is compulsive reading.

I find hospital documentaries like these compulsive viewing.

The adjective compelling means the same: I found the whole series very compelling.

Meanwhile, a book that is (informal) unputdownable is so exciting, you cannot stop reading it (you cannot ‘put it down’): His last novel was totally unputdownable. I read it over two days.

We hope that you read something unputdownable or watch something riveting this week!

New words – 19 September 2016

Hero Images/Getty
Hero Images/Getty

fab lab noun a fabrication laboratory; a science laboratory equipped with the latest digital technology in order to facilitate the learning of all the STEM subjects

The ‘Fab Lab’ equips students with an array of tools in a small-scale workshop setting that offers personal digital fabrication – a project-based learning method that will allow students to create ‘almost anything.’

[http://ind.gmnews.com/ 08 October 2015]

flexi schooling noun an approach to schooling in which a child is registered with a school but attends that school for only part of the week, being home-schooled for the remainder

Other developments include offering more ‘flexi-schooling’ opportunities, where children can spend three days a week at either Hollinsclough or Manifold and two days being home-educated.

[http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk 06 October 2015]

forensicate verb to conduct a forensic examination of something

I suspect after they forensicate the phones and the computers from the evidence they collected, we’re going to find they used encrypted software to communicate.

[WNYC: The Takeaway (news) 18 November 2015]

About new words

Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2)

by Liz Walter


In my last post One thousand one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1) I looked at how to say large numbers. In this post I will look at other types of numbers: mathematical numbers, telephone numbers, and years in dates.

I’ll start with words we need for talking about numbers in the context of mathematics.

For decimal numbers, we use the word point for the dot, and we say the numbers after the point separately:

3.2 three point two

9.18 nine point one eight

55.39 fifty-five point three nine

For fractions, we use the word and before the fraction.

2 ½ two and a half

1 ¾ one and three quarters

For all fractions except half and quarter, we use ordinal numbers for the second number in the fraction:

four fifths

6 ⅞ six and seven eighths

For fractions containing numbers over 9, we use the word over and we say the numbers as full numbers, not separately:

15/33 fifteen over thirty-three

Other mathematical numbers include superscript numbers. For the superscript numbers 2 and 3, we say squared and cubed.

42  four squared

153 fifteen cubed

For other numbers, we say to the power (of):

319 three to the power of nineteen

147 fourteen to the power of seven

Negative numbers are numbers less than zero, written with a minus sign (-) in front of them. We usually use the word minus to say them aloud, though it is possible to say negative too:

-850 minus eight hundred and fifty/negative eight hundred and fifty

-1.3 minus one point three/negative one point three

Another form of numbers we often need to say aloud is telephone numbers. We say all the numbers separately, and we often pause in the middle of a long set of numbers. For the number 0, you can say zero or oh /əʊ/:

01283 569904 zero one two eight three, five six nine, nine zero four

In British English, when two numbers next to each other are the same, we sometimes say double:

01223 455933 zero/oh one double two three, four double five, nine double three

Finally, let’s look at years and how we pronounce them when we say them aloud.

1500/1900 fifteen hundred/nineteen hundred

2000 (the year) two thousand

1904 nineteen hundred and four/nineteen oh four

2005 two thousand and five/twenty oh five

1945 nineteen forty-five

2016 two thousand and sixteen/twenty sixteen

Numbers are an important part of the language, and it can be difficult to know how to use them in different contexts. I hope these two posts have helped.

New words – 12 September 2016


cook processor noun a piece of kitchen equipment that both processes (e.g. by chopping or kneading) and cooks food

My new toy – a KitchenAid cook processor, is pretty incredible and I have used it loads since Andrew bought it for Christmas.

[itsnoteasybeinggreedy.com 03 January 2016]

matcha noun a type of Japanese green tea, popular with health food enthusiasts

This brand new edition of Hello Panda features cocoa infused biscuits with a delicious matcha cream filling.

[www.tofucute.com 02 January 2016]

spiralizer noun a piece of kitchen equipment for cutting vegetables into long winding ribbons

Mary Berry used a spiralizer on her new cooking show and Twitter couldn’t cope

[http://home.bt.com (feature title) 26 January 2016]

Originally a Japanese invention, the spiralizer is the latest kitchen gadget must-have and it is now creeping into our restaurants.

[www.getsurrey.co.uk/ 11 January 2016]

About new words

Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds)

by Kate Woodford

Andrew Rich/Vetta/Getty
Andrew Rich/Vetta/Getty

This week we’re looking at the various expressions that we use to say that a thought or idea comes into our mind. As ever, when looking at a particular area of the language, we hope to provide you with a range of interesting ways to say something.

We’ll start with the verb strike. If a thought or idea strikes you, it suddenly comes into your mind: That was when the thought struck him. Like other verbs with this meaning, ‘strike’ is often used in the structure ‘It struck someone that…’

It struck me that Dan might not be the best person for the job.

Another very common way of saying this is the phrasal verb occur to. Again, the structure that we often use is ‘It occurred to someone that…’:

It occurred to me that we could invite Sophia.

Interestingly, we often use ‘occur to’ in negative phrases to describe thoughts and ideas that we didn’t have or we failed to have at a particular time:

I felt so bad – it never occurred to me that she would be upset.

It didn’t occur to me to leave the keys under the mat.

A number of idioms also convey this meaning. One such expression is cross your mind. If something crosses your mind, you think of it: I didn’t actually leave but the thought certainly crossed my mind.

Like ‘strike’ and ‘occur to’, this idiom often takes the form ‘It … that’: It crossed my mind that he might not want to come.

Again, this idiom is also often used in negative phrases:

It didn’t cross my mind that she might lie to me.

It never once crossed my mind to tell her.

Two other ‘mind’ idioms are spring to mind and come to mind. Thoughts and images that spring to mind or come to mind come quickly into your mind:

When I think of David Bowie, that’s the track that immediately springs to mind.

She asked me if I had any suggestions, but nothing came to mind.

Finally, people sometimes say that a thought or image flashes across/ through their mind, meaning that it suddenly enters their mind. This is often used of a frightening or worrying idea or image:

Scenes from the accident flashed across my mind.

It flashed through my mind that I might not see him again.

New words – 5 September 2016


grip-lit noun a genre of novel that has an exciting psychological storyline

The Bookseller magazine remembers otherwise. In a puzzling article in its most recent issue, it refers to ‘grip-lit’ (AKA the gripping psychological thriller) in a way that suggests it is a trend belonging to last year and, if we’re lucky, this year too […]

[www.theguardian.com/ 29 January 2016]

hunkvertising noun informal the use of pictures of attractive, scantily-clad young men to advertise products

Beckham in his pants and David Gandy in his swimming trunks: How ‘hunkvertising’ has put men under pressure to get the perfect body

[www.dailymail.co.uk 27 January 2016]

sad rap noun a form of slow rap music with emotionally intense lyrics

Hopsin is a kind of new rapper who has great potential, but this song just doesn’t cut it, there’s plenty other sad rap songs that belong in this spot.

[www.thetoptens.com 04 January 2016]

About new words

One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1)

by Liz Walter

UpperCut Images/Getty
UpperCut Images/Getty

In a recent lesson, I discovered that many of my students did not know how to read numbers aloud, especially long numbers. Numbers are a basic part of the language and it can sometimes be very important to say them clearly!

One important thing to remember is that we say and after hundreds, before the tens (20, 30, etc) or units (1, 2, etc):

319: three hundred and nineteen

507: five hundred and seven Continue reading “One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1)”

New words – 29 August 2016

Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty

prebuttle noun an argument against something that has not yet been said

[Hilary Clinton’s] campaign actually issued a prebuttle yesterday, asking for Sanders to endorse some of her proposals.

[WNYC: WNYC News (US and local New York news) 05 January 2016]

Berniesplain verb informal (of Bernie Sanders supporters and staffers) to explain Bernie Sanders’s positions to African-American voters in a patronizing

Charles Blow wrote a column in the Times today saying, ‘stop Berniesplaining’, and that he found that very condescending to African Americans.

[WNYC: Brian Leherer Show (NYC public affairs talk show) 11 February 2016]

virtue signalling noun demonstrating that you are right-thinking in your politics, for example, by wearing a charity ribbon or by updating your profile on a social media website to signal your support for someone

This is all a rather roundabout way of getting to ‘virtue-signalling’, a phrase that began to spread via op-ed sections last year and proliferated rapidly on Twitter, and against which quarantine measures now urgently need to be taken.

[http://www.theguardian.com 20 January 2016]

Are You Guilty of  “Virtue-Signaling?”

[http://acculturated.com 04 January 2016]

About new words