Our four-legged friends (Talking about animals)

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by Kate Woodford

We share our planet with a huge number of other creatures – living beings that we categorize as animals, birds, fish or insects. This week, we’re taking a look at the language that we use to talk about these creatures.

Let’s start with the phrase in the title. Four-legged friend is a humorous expression used in British English to refer to an animal, especially a dog or a horse: This week, we publish poems on the subject of our four-legged friends. Birds, meanwhile, are sometimes referred to as ‘our feathered friends: So how can we help our feathered friends survive the cold weather?

Many other animal terms reflect their relationship with humans. For example, a pet is an animal that lives in a person’s home as a companion: Isabel wanted a pet so we bought her a cat. Pets are sometimes referred to more formally as companion animals: Over sixty percent of all UK households have one or more companion animal.

Domesticated animals have been brought under human control in order to live or work with us: domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses

Meanwhile, wild animals live independently of people, in their own natural conditions: wild horses

A stray is a pet that no longer has a home or cannot find its home. ‘Stray’ is often used adjectivally: a stray dog / I think that cat’s a stray. The adjective feral describes an animal that exists in a wild state. It is used especially for animals that were previously kept by people: feral dogs/cats

Creepy-crawly is a child’s word meaning ‘insect’. It is sometimes used negatively, suggesting a fear of insects: I’m not really a fan of creepy-crawlies. / a child’s book on creepy-crawlies

Prey refers to an animal that is hunted and killed for food by another animal: A hawk hovered in the air before swooping on its prey. A predator is an animal that hunts, kills, and eats other animals: lions, wolves, and other predators

A pest is an insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops: common pests such as mice

The plural noun vermin is used for small animals and insects that are harmful and difficult to control in large numbers: flies, rats, cockroaches and other vermin

Sadly, a word that is heard more and more is endangered.  Endangered animals may soon not exist because there are very few now alive: Mountain gorillas are an endangered species.

Whether you’re an animal lover or not, we hope you find some useful words and expressions in this post!

 

 

 

On the spur of the moment (Words and phrases to describe sudden actions)

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by Kate Woodford

Much of what we do each day is planned or expected but not everything. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we suddenly do things that we are not expecting to do or have not prepared for. This week, we’re looking at the language that we use to express this.

Let’s start with a very useful adjective: spontaneous. A spontaneous action is sudden and done as a natural response to what is happening at the time: The silence was broken by spontaneous applause. / When she got up to leave, everyone applauded spontaneously. The noun from ‘spontaneous’ is spontaneity: We all need a little spontaneity in our lives.

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Flaring up and bouncing back: phrasal verbs relating to illness

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by Kate Woodford

A recent blog that we published on phrasal verbs meaning ‘argue’ was very popular, reminding us to keep providing you with useful sets of these important items! This week, then, we’re looking at phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs connected with illness and recovery.

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Millennials and snowflakes (Words and phrases for ages and stages)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re all about ages and stages as we look at words and phrases that refer either to people of a particular age or to people at a particular stage in their life. Some of these words and phrases have additional meanings and connotations.

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Picking holes and taking a dig (The language of criticizing)

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by Kate Woodford

Even the most positive among us now and then say that we think something is bad. Very often we do it for the right reasons, hoping for improvement or even suggesting ways in which something can be improved. Sometimes, we do it because we are angry, upset or jealous. This week we’re looking at the words and idioms in this area, as ever, focusing on current, useful language.

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Raising your game and squaring the circle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in this post come from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We write a post on newspaper idioms every couple of months with the aim of keeping you supplied with up-to-date, frequently used English idioms.

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Common idioms with the word ‘head’

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we focused on idioms that included various parts of the body. This week, we look at idioms featuring the most productive part – the head! As ever, we only cover phrases that are frequent and current.

If there is a problem and you bury your head in the sand, you behave as if there is no problem because you do not want to deal with it: This is an environmental catastrophe and we’re just burying our heads in the sand. Someone or something that is head and shoulders above other people or things is very much better than them: There’s no comparison with the other teams – they’re head and shoulders above them. If you keep your head down, you deliberately try to avoid making someone angry, usually by saying little and keeping busy: He’s in a bad mood this morning. I’m just keeping my head down. A discussion that goes over your head is too difficult for you to understand: I must say, parts of the talk went over my head.

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Getting the hang of it (Words and phrases for getting used to things)

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by Kate Woodford

Getting used to things is a part of life. We all deal with situations, tasks or tools that are new to us. At first, they may seem difficult or strange. With time or practice, they become familiar and normal.  In this blog, we look at the language for expressing this idea.

Starting with single words, if you familiarize yourself with something that you don’t know about, you intentionally learn about it, usually to prepare for something: I need to familiarize myself with the new software. If you acclimatize, you become familiar with different weather or surroundings so that you are able to deal with them: More time will be needed for the troops to acclimatize to the desert conditions.

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Twisting arms and sticking your neck out (Idioms featuring parts of the body)

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by Kate Woodford

Parts of the body feature in a great number of English idioms. This week we’re taking a look at some of the most commonly used. How many of these have direct equivalents in your language?

 

Starting with the top of the body, the neck is quite productive! If two people or groups who are competing are neck and neck, they are level with each other and have the same chance of winning: Recent polls suggest the two parties are neck and neck. The strange phrase neck of the woods refers to a particular area. (We usually put the words ‘your’/‘his’/‘her’ etc. or ‘this’ before it): I didn’t expect to see you in this neck of the woods! / Portland – isn’t that your neck of the woods, Gina? If you stick your neck out, you take a risk, often by saying what you think will happen in the future: I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a win for Chelsea.

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The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup)

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by Kate Woodford

With the FIFA World Cup just one day away, we thought you might like to brush up on (=improve what you know about) your tournament vocabulary.

Let’s start by getting up to date. The qualification phase ended in November 2017. In this period, the various countries’ national teams played against each other in order to qualify for (= succeed in getting into) the tournament. From a field of 211, a total of 31 teams qualified, ‘field’ here meaning ‘all the people or teams in a competition’. As always happens, the host nation (= country where the World Cup takes place – this year, Russia) qualified automatically. The resulting 32 teams were put into eight groups of four teams.

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