I’ve searched everywhere! (Words and phrases for looking for things)

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by Kate Woodford

What did you last look for? Was it your phone, a key or maybe a book? If you’re anything like me, it was probably a pen that works! Most of us search for something from time to time so let’s take a look at the language of searching.

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How was your day? (Phrases for asking about someone’s day)

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by Kate Woodford

On one thread of this blog we look at the words and phrases that people use in daily conversation in particular situations. This week, we’re considering the things that we say – especially the questions that we ask – when we see someone we know well at the end of a day at work, college or school, etc.

We often start by showing polite interest in what a person has done by asking the question How was your day?, How has your day been? or Did you have a good day? Continue reading “How was your day? (Phrases for asking about someone’s day)”

Keep me in the loop. (Words and phrases related to knowledge)

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by Kate Woodford

This week, we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe knowing a subject.

Starting with a very useful adjective, someone who is knowledgeable knows a lot, either about one particular subject or subjects more generally: Annie is very knowledgeable about wildlife. A slightly informal expression to describe someone with a detailed knowledge of one particular subject is the phrase clued up: Young people tend to be more clued up on environmental issues. Continue reading “Keep me in the loop. (Words and phrases related to knowledge)”

Staying the course (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

Every few months, we read a selection of national newspapers published on the same day and highlight common idioms and phrases in their articles and reports. We read all sections of the papers – news, sports pages and gossip columns – and, as ever on this blog, we pick out the most useful, up-to-date idioms.

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Deck the halls! (Decorating words and phrases)

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by Kate Woodford

The Christmas season is once again here and around the world, people who celebrate this festival are making their homes look festive and (informal) Christmassy by putting up decorations. In the past, Christmas decorations were usually quite simple – a Christmas tree hung with a few familiar ornaments that would come out year after year from a dusty box in the attic. Paper chains might be hung along the wall and an empty stocking or two for Santa placed hopefully by the fireplace. Christmas cards would be displayed on shelves and windowsills. Nowadays, for many of us, there are more decorative options.

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Introducing yourself

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by Kate Woodford

A visitor to this website recently asked for the sort of phrases he might use when introducing himself to people, for example in an English class. We thought we would write a blog post on the subject.

Starting with the most important piece of information, we could say ‘I’m Maria Gonzalez.’ or ‘My name is Maria Gonzalez.’ If we want to say how old we are, we simply say ‘I’m twenty-three.’ or ‘I’m twenty-three years old.’ Then we might say, for example, ‘I’m Spanish.’ or ‘I’m from Spain.’ To give more detail about where we live, we could say ‘I’m from Valencia in Spain.’ or even ‘I’m from Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.’ Continue reading “Introducing yourself”

Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)

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by Kate Woodford

I recently wrote about phrasal verbs that we use to describe managing problems. While I was researching this area, I started to think more widely about the language of solutions.  I noticed how many words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

The first word that comes to mind is panacea. People often say that something is not a panacea for a particular problem, meaning it will not magically cure that problem. The idea here is that the problem is more complicated or varied than people sometimes assume: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems. A phrase with a very similar meaning is silver bullet or its variant magic bullet. Again, a silver/magic bullet is a solution that is too simple or too general for a complicated and varied problem. It is usually used in the phrase ‘There is no silver bullet for…’: The fact is, there is no silver bullet for managing water shortages. Continue reading “Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)”

Glancing and peeking (More words for looking and seeing)

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we considered words and expressions that we use to describe the different ways that we look at something. We focused mainly on the language of looking carefully and looking for a long time. This week we’re continuing the theme, but this time we’re including words that we use to describe looking at or seeing something briefly.

One of the most common ways to describe looking briefly is the word glance. If you glance at someone or something, you look briefly at them and then look away: He glanced at his watch and stood up. A range of prepositions may be used after ‘glance’. For example, you might glance around a room or glance up from your book. Glance is also a noun: She cast a glance in his direction before walking off. If you sneak a glance/look at someone or something, you look at them quickly and secretly: While her bag was open I sneaked a glance at its contents. Continue reading “Glancing and peeking (More words for looking and seeing)”

He really winds me up! The language of annoying others

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by Kate Woodford

We try hard not to, but from time to time we all annoy each other. It’s just inevitable. Sometimes we annoy each other with things that we say and sometimes with our actions. So how do we talk about this when it happens? Well, there are a lot of phrases to express annoyance, many of them idiomatic. Let’s take a look at the most frequent of them. Continue reading “He really winds me up! The language of annoying others”

Peering and gawking (Synonyms for the verb ‘look’)

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by Kate Woodford

One thing that we like to do on this blog is consider the many different ways that we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on looking. There are a lot of synonyms for the verb ‘look’, but as we observed in a previous post, ‘Many words in English have the same basic or overall meaning and yet are significantly different for one or more reasons.’ Continue reading “Peering and gawking (Synonyms for the verb ‘look’)”