Library or bookshop? Fabric or factory? Avoiding common false friends

by Liz Walter

Maskot/GettyImages

Sometimes words look the same or similar in two different languages but have different meanings. We call these words ‘false friends’ because they seem as though they will be ‘friendly’ and easy to learn, but they trick us into making mistakes. In this post, I will discuss a few false friends with English: I have tried to pick ones that are problematic for speakers of several other languages. Continue reading “Library or bookshop? Fabric or factory? Avoiding common false friends”

I’m hoping to become a vet: talking about our future lives

Topic Images Inc./Topic Images/Getty Images

by Liz Walter

It is common to ask young people about their hopes and plans for the future. This post looks at some words and phrases you can use to respond to such questions.

We often use the general phrases I’m hoping/planning to … or I’d like to … :

I’m hoping to become a vet.

I’d like to live abroad for a few years.

Continue reading “I’m hoping to become a vet: talking about our future lives”

He decided, he was deciding, he’s decided: choosing the correct past tense

Emilija Manevska/Moment/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

English has several ways of talking about the past, and it can often be difficult to decide which one to use. In this post, I am going to look at three very common past forms: the past simple (he decided), the past continuous (he was deciding), and the present perfect (he’s/he has decided) and try to give some simple advice on which form to use. Continue reading “He decided, he was deciding, he’s decided: choosing the correct past tense”

Wildfires and mid-term elections: a look back at 2018 in the US

Liz Walter

RichVintage/E+/GettyImages

In this, the second of two year-end posts, I look at words associated with some major events and trends of 2018 from the perspective of the US. I’ve picked just six topics from an action-packed year, and I’ve tried to go for variety rather than simply importance, since the purpose of these posts is to provide useful vocabulary, not to report on the news or provide an opinion on it. Continue reading “Wildfires and mid-term elections: a look back at 2018 in the US”

A royal wedding and an attempted murder: a look back at 2018 in the UK

Sean Gladwell/Moment/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

As 2018 draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look at just a few of the year’s major events. This post takes a UK perspective; my next one will cover events in the USA. I should make it clear that the purpose of this post is to focus on vocabulary – much as I might like to, I am not expressing any personal opinions about things that have happened! Continue reading “A royal wedding and an attempted murder: a look back at 2018 in the UK”

London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names

travel destination
kwanisik/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

Place names are amongst the hardest words in English to pronounce. Even people with English as a first language are often unable to guess the pronunciation of an unfamiliar place. I have restricted myself to major English towns and cities because there simply isn’t enough space in one post to venture more widely, but do let me know if you’d like posts on the pronunciation of other major place names.

I want to start with the capital, London, because many learners of English pronounce the two ‘o’ sounds here to rhyme with the ‘o’ in ‘dog’. However, the correct pronunciation is /ˈlʌn.dən/. The first ‘o’ rhymes with the ‘u’ in ‘fun’ and the second one is almost omitted: if you simply try to pronounce ‘dn’ at the end, it will sound correct. Continue reading “London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names”

It’s a piece of cake! Words and phrases to describe things that are easy.

images by Tang Ming Tung/Moment/Getty

by Liz Walter

One of the first idioms that students of English usually learn is a piece of cake – maybe because it is such a strong image. We use it to describe things that are easy to do: Getting into the building was a piece of cake – I simply walked through the open door. This post looks at several other words and phrases for easy things.

The phrases child’s play and a walk in the park are used in a similar way: Installing the software was child’s play for Marcus. She’s been running marathons for years, so a 5k run is a walk in the park for her. We can also say that something is a breeze or (more informally, in UK English) a doddle: Cleaning the floors is a doddle with one of these machines. If someone breezes through an activity, they accomplish it easily: She seemed to breeze through her exams. Continue reading “It’s a piece of cake! Words and phrases to describe things that are easy.”

Making an effort and telling a joke: avoiding common errors with collocations

NickyLloyd/E+

by Liz Walter

Collocation, or the way we put words together, is a very important part of English. In this post, I am going to look at some of the most common mistakes learners make with verb + noun collocations. If you make these errors, people will still understand you, but your English will not sound natural and you will lose marks in exams. Continue reading “Making an effort and telling a joke: avoiding common errors with collocations”

Don’t sweat the small stuff: words and phrases connected with keeping calm

S_Bachstroem/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

I’ve written quite a bit recently about arguing and fighting, so I thought it would be nice to turn to something more pleasant: staying calm and relaxed. This can be difficult in the modern world, where many people report feeling stress or pressure (the anxious feeling you have when you have too much to do or difficult things to do): I couldn’t stand the stress of that job. We were under pressure to work harder. The related adjectives are stressful and pressurized: The situation was very stressful. She works in a pressurized environment. Continue reading “Don’t sweat the small stuff: words and phrases connected with keeping calm”

Ghosts, coughs and daughters: how to pronounce ‘gh’ in English.

belchonock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

There are many common words in English that contain the pair of letters ‘gh’. ‘Gh’ can be pronounced /g/ (like ‘goat’), /f/ (like ‘fun’) or it can be silent, but in that case it will affect the vowels that come before it. Unfortunately, many of these pronunciations simply have to be learned. However, there are a few basic rules that can help.

Continue reading “Ghosts, coughs and daughters: how to pronounce ‘gh’ in English.”