When no one was looking, she opened the door: Using narrative tenses

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by Liz Walter

Everyone tells stories. We do it every day, even if it’s just telling our family that we met an old friend in the supermarket. English exams often ask students to write anecdotes or descriptions of past events. An important part of telling a story is using the right tenses because they show the reader or listener how the events in your story fit together. There are four main tenses that are often used for stories – in English language teaching, they are often known as the narrative tenses, because they are used to narrate (=tell) a story. Continue reading “When no one was looking, she opened the door: Using narrative tenses”

New words – 24 July 2017

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volcano boarding noun [U]
UK /vɒlˈkeɪ.nəʊ.bɔː.dɪŋ/ US /vɑːlˈkeɪ.noʊ.bɔːr.dɪŋ/
the activity of moving down the side of a volcano while standing, sitting or lying on a board similar to a snowboard

Lakes, volcano [sic] and beaches dot the landscape of Nicaragua, set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in Central America. While searching for things to do there, we ran across volcano boarding. Maybe not the most thrilling experience you will have around an active volcano, but a distinctive one to say the least.
[www.tourismontheedge.com, 3 March 2017]

blob jump noun [C]
UK /ˈblɒb.dʒʌmp/ US /ˈblɑːb.dʒʌmp/
an activity in which one person sits at one end of an inflated airbag that is floating on water and one or more other people jump onto the other end from a platform in order to send the person flying into the air

Yaiza travelled to Ibiza along with 20 other Spanish applicants to battle it out for the two places available for Spaniards. They would be taking part in a blob jump. When it was Yaiza’s turn, she flew much further than expected, slamming into the water face first wearing a home-made astronaut suit.
[www.thelocal.es, 20 April 2016]

swimrun noun [C]
/ˈswɪm.rʌn/
a competition in which the people competing must swim and run a certain distance without stopping between events

Forget triathlons. The latest fitness trend and fashionable Scandi import is the “swimrun”, a fusion of cross-country running and open-water swimming – essentially a triathlon without the cycling. Originating in Sweden, it is gaining converts here, with thousands of people set to take part in the UK this year.
[The Times, 4 February 2017]

About new words

Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’)

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by Kate Woodford

Recently, we published a post on words for things that confuse us. This week we’re considering the opposite and looking instead at words and phrases that we use to describe things that are easy to understand.

Let’s start with the very common adjective clear. Something that is clear is easy to understand, often because it has been explained well: clear instructions / directions. If we want to emphasize that something is extremely clear, we might describe it as crystal clear: My instructions were crystal clear. We also use ‘clear’ to say that we understand something: Are you clear about what you’re supposed to be doing? Continue reading “Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’)”

New words – 17 July 2017

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awareable noun [C]
UK /əˈweə.rə.bᵊl/ US /əˈwer.ə.bᵊl/
a device worn on the body that uses computer technology and connects to the internet, and is used to monitor and decrease stress

This year sees the launch of a range of therapeutic tech bracelets designed to pick up on your stress levels and offer techniques to calm you down. Think of them as Fitbits for your brain or, as the tech industry is calling them, “awareables”. Unlike activity trackers and smartwatches, these gadgets prioritise emotional wellbeing over your step count.
[The Sunday Times, 12 March 2017]

holoportation noun [U]
UK /ˌhɒl.ə.pɔːˈteɪ.ʃᵊn/ US /ˌhɒl.ə.pɚˈteɪ.ʃᵊn/
a technology that allows three-dimensional models of people to be created and sent over the internet

Holoportation … is a virtual form of connecting people together and allowing them to interact as though they were in the same location. The benefit to this, over verbal communication, or even video-based communication, is the ability to read body language. 
[hololens.reality.news, 13 February 2017]

OLED noun [U]
UK /ˌəʊ.el.iːˈdiː/ US /ˌoʊ.el.iːˈdiː/
organic light-emitting diode: a type of device that produces a light, especially on electronic equipment

OLED … maybe you’re unsure exactly what it means and, more importantly, why it’s so important to home entertainment lovers. In short: OLED truly is the next big thing in home entertainment and it’s finally at a price where the average consumer can buy one of their own. It offers better image quality (think blacker blacks and brighter whites), reduced power consumption and fast response times over traditional LED TVs.
[www.techradar.com, 13 January 2017]

About new words

I was so sorry to hear your news: Expressing sympathy

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by Liz Walter

It can often be difficult to know what to say to someone we know who has experienced loss, illness or another painful event, and even harder if we have to do it in another language. Today’s post looks at phrases we use to express sympathy in a sincere and empathetic way.

Choosing appropriate words will of course depend on how well we know the person concerned, and also the type of event and how upset we think that person is likely to be. Continue reading “I was so sorry to hear your news: Expressing sympathy”

New words – 10 July 2017

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uncanny valley noun [S or U]
/ʌnˈkæn.iˈvæl.i/
the uncanny valley effect occurs when something that looks human, such as a robot, causes a feeling of unease

The uncanny valley is a well known problem in robotics. It is the moment when something not human closely resembles a real person, but just isn’t quite there yet, which makes its unhuman elements stick out.
[www.digitalsignagetoday.com, 17 March 2017]

biohacking noun [U]
UK /ˈbaɪ.əʊ.hæk.ɪŋ/ US /ˈbaɪ.oʊ.hæk.ɪŋ/
using the principles of biology to make your body work more efficiently

Biohacking has become an umbrella term for all kinds of interventions in biochemistry to improve health and performance. But for most, it’s simply a way to optimise their own bodies through new discoveries in nutrition, supplementation, exercise and more extreme measures such as cryotherapy and epigenetics.
[www.inews.co.uk, 19 November 2016]

transhumanism noun [U]
/trænzˈhjuː.mən.ɪ.zᵊm/
using advanced science and technology to enhance the human body’s capabilities

Transhumanism … is already a living reality for many people, to varying degrees. Documentary-maker Rob Spence replaced one of his own eyes with a video camera in 2008; amputees are using prosthetics connected to their own nerves and controlled using electrical signals from the brain; implants are helping tetraplegics regain independence through the BrainGate project.
[Wired, 15 February 2017]

About new words

Salt and pepper/Rain or shine

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by Kate Woodford

This week, as you’ll probably have guessed from the title, we’re looking at pairs of words that are used together in a fixed order, separated either by ‘and’ or ‘or’. Some of these word pairs are simply two things that we use or experience together, such as ‘knife and fork’ and ‘thunder and lightning’. Others are more idiomatic, their meanings not always obvious, for example bits and pieces (=small things or tasks of different types) and short and sweet (=surprisingly quick). The English language is full of these short phrases and this post aims to give you a useful selection of them. As ever, we focus only on items in current use. Continue reading “Salt and pepper/Rain or shine”

New words – 3 July 2017

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Generation Me noun [U]
UK /ˌdʒen.əˈreɪ.ʃᵊnˈmiː/ US /ˌdʒen.əˈreɪ.ʃᵊnˈmiː/
a way of referring to the group of people born around the year 2000

A leading private school headmaster is bringing in empathy lessons and calling for others to follow suit — warning that “Generation Me” has less understanding of other people than any generation in recent history.
[The Sunday Times, 5 March 2017]

generational nomad noun [C]
UK /dʒen.əˌreɪ.ʃᵊnᵊlˈnəʊ.mæd/ US /dʒen.əˌreɪ.ʃᵊnᵊlˈnoʊ.mæd/
someone who was born on the dividing line between two different generational groups

For those, like me, in the upper age bracket of millennials (who are aged, roughly, between 18-36), yet not quite old enough to be firmly in Generation X (aged 37-52), the disconnect is most glaringly evident on social media. Welcome to life as a generational nomad.
[The Sunday Times, 29 January 2017]

micro-influencer noun [C]
UK /ˌmaɪ.krəʊˈɪn.flu.ənsəʳ/ US /ˌmaɪ.kroʊˈɪn.flu.ənsɚ/
someone who has a small number of followers on social media and who influences what people buy through the products they write about

We’re all familiar with the names of Instagram’s top millennial female influencers. But the social platform is also home to a huge number of “micro influencers,” or users who might command just a few thousand followers yet whose style and brand affiliations are closely followed — and emulated — by their dedicated fans.
[Adweek, 19 March 2017]

About new words

Can you do a handstand? Talking about ability

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by Liz Walter

We often need to talk about things we can do and ask other people questions about their own abilities. This post looks in some detail at the common modal verb can and also suggests some other ways to express the same idea.

We use can extremely often to make statements and questions. Remember that can is always followed by an infinitive verb without to.

Laura can play the piano.

Laura can to play the piano.

Can you see the stage from here?

Can you seeing the stage from here? Continue reading “Can you do a handstand? Talking about ability”

New words – 26 June 2017

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asperitas noun [U]
UK /æsˈpe.rɪ.təs/ US /æsˈpe.rɪ.t̬əs/
a type of cloud that forms a thick layer in the shape of waves

The asperitas cloud is among the stars of the World Meteorological Organization’s scarcely published International Cloud Atlas.
[USA Today, 24 March 2017]

dark sunshine noun [U]
UK /ˌdɑːkˈsʌn.ʃaɪn/ US /ˌdɑːrkˈsʌn.ʃaɪn/
a substance thought to exist inside the sun that gives off a special type of light

While scientists continue looking skyward to find more insight into the mysteries of dark matter, some have begun looking to our sun for “dark sunshine.”
[Astronomy magazine, 25 May 2016]

red geyser noun [C]
UK /redˈgiː.zəʳ/ US /redˈgaɪ.zɚ/
a galaxy that contains a large number of very large black holes and where no new stars are able to form

Today, astronomers … are announcing the discovery of a new class of galaxies called “red geysers” that harbor supermassive black holes with winds that have the power to keep dormant galaxies quiet.
[Astronomy magazine, 25 May 2016]

About new words