London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.”

Egging on, storming out and making up: phrasal verbs connected with arguing (2).

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by Liz Walter

My last post looked at phrasal and prepositional verbs connected with starting arguments and what happens during arguments. Today I’ll start with describing other people’s involvement in an argument and then go on to talking about what happens when an argument is over.

Continue reading “Egging on, storming out and making up: phrasal verbs connected with arguing (2).”

Falling out, lashing out and blurting out: phrasal verbs connected with arguing (1).

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by Liz Walter

We use phrasal verbs a lot, and it’s worth learning as many as you can. In this post, I will look at phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs connected with arguing – there is a surprisingly large number of them! It is often important to know what preposition to use after a phrasal verb, so pay particular attention to the prepositions highlighted in the example sentences.

Continue reading “Falling out, lashing out and blurting out: phrasal verbs connected with arguing (1).”

Day in day out: phrases with ‘day’

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by Liz Walter

Back in March, I wrote a post about phrases containing the word ‘time’: https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2018/03/07/having-the-time-of-your-life-phrases-with-time/. Today, I’m going to look at another set of phrases connected with time, all of which contain the word ‘day’.

Continue reading “Day in day out: phrases with ‘day’”

Love, work and police: pronouncing the letter ‘o’.

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by Liz Walter

Pronunciation is one of the hardest things to master in English. Today I’m going to look at the letter ‘o’ and concentrate on some common pronunciation errors.

Most students have no problem with the short vowel sound /ɒ/ found in British English in words such as hot, boss and across. (Americans pronounce this as a longer sound /ɑː/.) Students also generally understand how adding an ‘e’ to the end of a word leads to a longer sound /əʊ/ (UK) /oʊ/ (US), for instance hop/hope, not/note.

Continue reading “Love, work and police: pronouncing the letter ‘o’.”

Breaking the mould: words and phrases for things that are new or modern.

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about ways of talking about people or animals that are young. This post looks at a related set: words for things that are new or modern.

Firstly, if we want to emphasize that something is very new, we say it is brand new: She bought herself a brand new sports car. This phrase means that something has just been made, but the thing itself does not necessarily have to be modern.

Continue reading “Breaking the mould: words and phrases for things that are new or modern.”