Make a splash! (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

Every few months on this blog, we read a selection of national newspapers published on the same day and pick out the idioms that we find in the articles and reports. We read the news, the gossip columns and the sports pages and, as with previous posts, include only the most frequent, up-to-date idioms. Continue reading “Make a splash! (Everyday idioms in newspapers)”

Let’s bake a cake. (Cooking words)

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by Kate Woodford

One thing we haven’t dealt with yet on this blog is cooking vocabulary. We’re now making up for it with two posts devoted to common words used for preparing food. If you’re a keen cook, read on!

Let’s start with some basic cooking verbs relating to the inside of the oven. When we cook bread and cakes in an oven, we say we bake them: freshly baked bread / I’m going to bake a cake. However, for cooking meat and vegetables inside an oven, we use the verb roast: I’m roasting a chicken. / roasted vegetables. (We also use the verb ‘roast’ for cooking food, especially meat, over a fire.) Continue reading “Let’s bake a cake. (Cooking 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’)”

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”

It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re looking at the many phrasal verbs that are used to refer to things starting.

Let’s begin with the verb ‘start’ itself as it has a number of phrasal verbs. If you start off a meeting, you begin it by doing something: I’d like to start off the meeting with a brief summary of our aims. You can also use ‘start off’ intransitively: I’m going to start off with a few introductions. Continue reading “It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)”

I was completely baffled. (Words meaning ‘confused’)

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by Kate Woodford

From time to time, we all find ourselves unable to understand things, whether it’s instructions for a piece of equipment that confuse us, an event or situation that we can’t explain or just a comment by a friend. Life is sometimes just confusing! This is reflected in the number of near-synonyms and phrases that describe being confused and things that confuse us. This week we thought we would take a look at them. Continue reading “I was completely baffled. (Words meaning ‘confused’)”

Can I give you a hand? (Words and phrases for helping others)

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by Kate Woodford

Most of us enjoy helping other people. We like to feel useful and we feel like better people when we do things for others.  The act of helping also brings us together, often creating a sense of community. This week, then, we look at the words and phrases that we use to refer to actions that we do to help others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the noun hand, meaning ‘help’ is used in a number of common conversational phrases. It is often – although not always – used for physical rather than mental tasks. Could you give/lend me a hand with this table, please? / Ethan might need a hand with the clearing up.
Continue reading “Can I give you a hand? (Words and phrases for helping others)”

Playing second fiddle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

Every few months on this blog, we like to pick out the idioms that have been used in a range of national newspapers published on the same day. As with previous posts, we include only the most frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of idioms that you might read or hear in current English.

One tabloid newspaper reports that a television celebrity who used to be very concerned about what the public thought about her, at 49, ‘couldn’t give two hoots’. To not care/give two hoots about something is to not care at all. Another paper quotes a celebrity as saying that she and her husband are ‘not in each other’s pockets’ since they work away from home much of the time. If two people live or are in each other’s pockets, they are with each other all the time and depend on each other. The same paper describes the meeting of minds that sometimes happens in school lessons. A meeting of minds is a situation in which two or more people discover that they have the same opinion about something. Continue reading “Playing second fiddle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)”

He doesn’t pull any punches. (The language of telling the truth)

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by Kate Woodford

Most of us have mixed feelings about honesty. On the one hand, we think it a very good thing. We raise our children to be honest and we look for honesty in our adult relationships. However, most of us also recognise that in some situations, honesty is not so desirable and, in fact, can sometimes cause great offence. It is for this reason that words and phrases for speaking the truth can often be used in different ways. The same word or phrase can sometimes be neutral (=not negative and not positive), sometimes disapproving and at other times, even admiring. Continue reading “He doesn’t pull any punches. (The language of telling the truth)”

Deal with it! (Phrasal verbs for managing problems)

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by Kate Woodford

Earlier this month we focused on phrasal verbs that are used to describe problems and difficult situations. This week, we’re turning our attention to phrasal verbs that describe what we do in difficult situations. Deal with is one of the most common phrasal verbs in this area. If you deal with a problem, you take action that will solve it: When problems arise, it’s best to deal with them immediately. Get round (US get around) is another. If you get round a problem, you succeed in solving it, often by avoiding it: I’m sure we can find a way to get round the problem.  / We can always get around the problem of space by building an extension. The phrasal verbs sort out and work out are also used with the meaning of ‘take action that solves a problem’: It was a useful meeting – we sorted out quite a few problems. / It’s a tricky situation, but I’m sure we’ll work it out in the end. Continue reading “Deal with it! (Phrasal verbs for managing problems)”