From one day to the next: the language of change

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by Kate Woodford

Change is something that we all have to deal with throughout our lives. Whether at work, at home or in our relationships, change is something that none of us can escape. It makes sense that we have a tremendous lot of vocabulary for describing change. In this, the first of two blogs, we look at words and expressions that describe things becoming different. Continue reading “From one day to the next: the language of change”

Bird’s-eye views and headless chickens: animal idioms, part 3

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by Kate Woodford

This is the third in our popular series of blogs about common animal idioms. We’ll start with a creature that is found in a few frequently used idioms: the bird. (Sadly, the first two idioms have their origin in hunting.) If you want to say that with one single action you achieve two separate things, you might say you kill two birds with one stone:

I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and drop my coat off at the cleaner’s on the way to the library. Continue reading “Bird’s-eye views and headless chickens: animal idioms, part 3”

Abiding memories and long-term effects: words that mean ‘lasting a long time’

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by Kate Woodford

Last week I posted a blog on the language we use to talk about things that last a short time. This post focuses on the opposite: describing things that last a long time.

Some adjectives simply mean ‘continuing for a long time’, such as lasting and prolonged: Continue reading “Abiding memories and long-term effects: words that mean ‘lasting a long time’”

Passing phases and fleeting glimpses: words that mean ‘brief’

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by Kate Woodford

Today’s post looks at words and phrases that describe things that end after a short time. A very common adjective for this is brief. A brief activity or period of time does not last long:

We had a brief phone conversation.

For a brief period she taught in the US.

Continue reading “Passing phases and fleeting glimpses: words that mean ‘brief’”

Flies on the wall and fish out of water: animal idioms, part 2

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by Kate Woodford

This week we return to animal idioms, starting with the humble – and often irritating! – fly. Though small in size, the fly appears in a surprisingly large number of common idioms. To describe someone who is very gentle and who never offends or hurts others, you might say they wouldn’t hurt a fly:

I don’t believe Molly did that. She wouldn’t hurt a fly! Continue reading “Flies on the wall and fish out of water: animal idioms, part 2”

Dogs’ breakfasts and cats among the pigeons: animal idioms, part 1

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by Kate Woodford

Readers of this blog often tell us that they want to learn more English idioms. To help with this, we’ve decided to publish a short series of posts on animal idioms. Animals feature in a lot of English idioms. Some learners find them easy to remember because they create such a strong image in the mind. Continue reading “Dogs’ breakfasts and cats among the pigeons: animal idioms, part 1”

Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious

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by Kate Woodford

One thing that we aim to do on this blog is look at the many different ways we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on words that have the basic meaning of ‘obvious’. As you know, near-synonyms can be different from each other in a number of ways. Many of the synonyms that we will look at here are different because of the things that they usually describe and the words that they are often combined with. Continue reading “Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious”

Deaf ears and high horses: everyday idioms in newspapers

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by Kate Woodford

Today we’re looking at idioms and expressions from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We do this every couple of months as a way of supplying you with up-to-date, frequently used idioms.

One newspaper describes the UK Prime Minister’s plans for leaving the EU as ‘a leap of faith’. Leap of faith refers to the act of believing in something when you have no real reason to believe that it is true or will happen.

In the news pages of a different paper, a journalist remarks that the Prime Minister’s advice to members of her own party will ‘fall on deaf ears’. If a suggestion or warning falls on deaf ears, no one listens to it.

Another tabloid is confident that the plans for Brexit will succeed and says it will be ‘full steam ahead’ for the UK after the leaving date. If you say it’s full steam ahead in relation to a particular project or piece of work, you mean that it will be started with great energy and enthusiasm.

The same paper also warns politicians that if they oppose the Prime Minister’s plan, they ‘can kiss goodbye to their jobs and their party’. If you say that someone can kiss goodbye to something desirable, you mean they should accept that they will not have it.

Thankfully, Brexit isn’t the only topic being discussed in the papers! The fashion pages of one newspaper feature an article on ‘vegan style’: that is, clothes that contain no animal products, such as leather or wool. ‘Green is the new black!’, it claims. The statement […] is the new black is used to say that something is now very fashionable. (‘Green’ here refers to clothes made in a way that does not harm the environment.)

On the sports pages of the same paper, it is written that a series of defeats have ‘taken their toll on’ the manager of a Premier League football team. If problems take their toll or take a toll on someone, they cause them harm or suffering.

A sports journalist in another newspaper writes about a football club that has recently criticized another club for using dishonest techniques to improve their game. The journalist describes the first club as ‘getting on their high horse’. If you get on your high horse, you speak or behave as if you are better than someone else when, in reality, you are not.

Still in the sports pages, another writer says a previously successful football team is now looking like ‘a spent force’. A spent force refers to someone or something that does not now have the power or ability that they used to have.

Don’t hold your breath! The language of planning, part 2

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we looked at the language of planning and making arrangements. Sadly, not everything in life goes according to plan (=happens as intended) and it is wise to keep this in mind when making arrangements! This post, then, focuses on planning words and phrases that relate to problems.

A contingency is something that you know might happen in the future which would cause problems and require further arrangements:

We must prepare for all contingencies.

A contingency plan is a plan that can be used if a problem arises (=happens):

Fortunately, a contingency plan was in place for dealing with such emergencies. Continue reading “Don’t hold your breath! The language of planning, part 2”

Setting up and mapping out – the language of planning part 1

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by Kate Woodford

January and February seem like the right months of the year for a post on the language of planning. Since there’s so much useful vocabulary in this area, this will be a two-part blog post.

Starting with near-synonyms for ‘arrange’, a handy phrasal verb is set up. To set up a meeting or similar event is to organize it:

We need to set up a meeting.

I’ve set up interviews with both candidates.

You might also say that you line up an event or number of events: We’ve lined up some great speakers for you this week. 

To schedule a formal or an official event is to arrange for it to happen at a particular time:

The flight was scheduled to arrive at 8:45.

We have a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m.

If you reschedule something, you agree on a new and later time or date for something to happen: I’ve rescheduled Tuesday’s meeting for Wednesday.

If you plan in detail a period of time or future project, you might say that you map it out: He’s got his career all mapped out ahead of him

If you make temporary arrangements which may change in the future, you might describe them as provisional: These dates are only provisional.

You could say the same thing by saying that you will pencil in the arrangement: Okay, let’s pencil in a meeting for next Thursday at 11.

A related phrase is not set in stone, meaning ‘not fixed’: These dates may change nearer the time – they’re certainly not set in stone.

To say that you make a provisional plan definite, you might use the phrasal verb firm up: We’ll need to firm up the details of the agreement.

To call or write to someone in order to say that a formal arrangement is certain is to confirm it: Provisionally, we’ll say February 20th for the meeting, then, but confirm it later.

To anticipate something when you are planning is to expect that it will happen: I don’t anticipate any problems with this stage of the project.

If you allow for something that might happen, you consider it when planning and make arrangements for it: We have to allow for the possibility that the project might be delayed.

Meanwhile, if you reckon on or count on something happening, you think it is very likely and make plans that depend on it happening: We’re reckoning on selling 3,00 units a week.

Part 2 of this post will look at planning for potential problems.