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

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty

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’)”

My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)

SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

by Kate Woodford

This week we’re feeling positive so we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe having an advantage. (By ‘advantage’, we mean something that we have which gives us a greater chance of success.)

Starting with the word ‘advantage’ itself, we say that something good gives you an advantage over someone else: His height gives him a big advantage over other players. An adjective that you often hear before ‘advantage’ is unfair: When it comes to running, your legs are longer than mine so you have an unfair advantage! Continue reading “My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)”

We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)

ismagilov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

by Kate Woodford

Here on About Words, we frequently publish posts on phrasal verbs. This week, just for a change, we’re looking instead at a group of nouns that are formed from phrasal verbs. Some of these nouns are usually written with a hyphen between the verb and particle and some are written as one word.

Let’s start on a positive note, with the noun in the title. From the phrasal verb go ahead, the phrase the go-ahead refers to an occasion when you are given official permission to start a project. You get or are given the go-ahead: The council has given the go-ahead for a housing development in the area. Continue reading “We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)”

What’s cooking? (Cutting and mixing food)

AfricaImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

A few weeks ago we looked at cooking words – specifically the range of verbs that describe cooking with the use of an oven. Today we’re focusing on words for cutting up and mixing food.

Let’s start with the cutting. There are various verbs for cutting, each with a particular meaning. If you peel fruit or vegetables, you remove the skin using a knife or other sharp object: I’m just peeling the potatoes. To core a piece of fruit is to remove the hard part inside that contains the seeds: Peel and core the pears. If you slice a piece of food, you cut it into thin, flat pieces: Could you slice the bread? / sliced tomatoes. The verb carve, meanwhile, is usually used for cutting cooked meat. You carve meat when you cut thin pieces from a large piece: Dan carved the chicken. Continue reading “What’s cooking? (Cutting and mixing food)”

Make a splash! (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

Garry Solomon/EyeEm/Getty

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)

Caiaimage/Chris Ryan/Getty

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’)

stanciuc/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

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

Mark Horton/EyeEm/Getty

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)

Fuse/Corbis/Getty

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’)

Peopleimages/E+/Getty

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’)”