What time is it?: How to say the time

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by Liz Walter

Talking about time is a very basic skill, but one that can often cause problems, especially if your main language thinks about time in a different way.

Firstly, if you want to know the time, what question do you need to ask? Well, if you are sure that the person you are asking knows the answer, you can simply say: What time is it? or What’s the time? (this is less common in US English). However, if you are not sure if they know, for example if you want to ask a stranger on a train or in the street, you can say: Excuse me, do you have the time, please? or (in UK English) Have you got the time, please?

Continue reading “What time is it?: How to say the time”

How was your day? (Phrases for asking about someone’s day)

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by Kate Woodford

On one thread of this blog we look at the words and phrases that people use in daily conversation in particular situations. This week, we’re considering the things that we say – especially the questions that we ask – when we see someone we know well at the end of a day at work, college or school, etc.

We often start by showing polite interest in what a person has done by asking the question How was your day?, How has your day been? or Did you have a good day? Continue reading “How was your day? (Phrases for asking about someone’s day)”

Introducing yourself

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by Kate Woodford

A visitor to this website recently asked for the sort of phrases he might use when introducing himself to people, for example in an English class. We thought we would write a blog post on the subject.

Starting with the most important piece of information, we could say ‘I’m Maria Gonzalez.’ or ‘My name is Maria Gonzalez.’ If we want to say how old we are, we simply say ‘I’m twenty-three.’ or ‘I’m twenty-three years old.’ Then we might say, for example, ‘I’m Spanish.’ or ‘I’m from Spain.’ To give more detail about where we live, we could say ‘I’m from Valencia in Spain.’ or even ‘I’m from Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.’ Continue reading “Introducing yourself”

I think you should apologise: giving advice and making suggestions

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by Liz Walter

We all have times when we want to give advice to someone or to make a suggestion about something they could do to solve a problem. However, it’s not always easy to do that without giving offence, so this post looks at a range of language you could use in this situation.

The most obvious words to use for giving advice are the modal verbs should and ought to:

You ought to eat more vegetables.

You shouldn’t be so rude to your parents. Continue reading “I think you should apologise: giving advice and making suggestions”

What a nightmare! (Words for difficult situations)

by Kate Woodford

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Whether we like it or not, we all have to deal with things that annoy us or cause difficulties and stress. Sadly, it is part of life. This post won’t stop you from having to deal with these things, but it will at least give you a range of words and phrases for talking about them in English!

Let’s start with some single words that refer to different types of problem. A predicament is a bad situation that is difficult to get out of: She’s trying to find a way out of her financial predicament.

A dilemma is a situation in which you have to make a difficult choice between two different things: Now he has been offered the other job, which puts him in a bit of a dilemma. Continue reading “What a nightmare! (Words for difficult situations)”

Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year

by Liz Walter

Lewis Mulatero/Moment Mobile/Getty
Lewis Mulatero/Moment Mobile/Getty

New Year is a time when we often take stock of our life (think about what is good or bad about it). We may feel that we should draw a line under the past (finish with it and forget about it) and make a fresh start. This post looks at idioms and other phrases connected with this phenomenon.

If we decide to stop doing something we consider to be bad and to start behaving in a better way, we can say that we are going to turn over a new leaf. We might decide to kick a habit such as smoking (stop doing it), have a crack at (try) a new hobby, or even leave a dead-end job (one with no chance of promotion) or finish a relationship that isn’t going anywhere. Continue reading “Turning over a new leaf: idioms and phrases for the New Year”

Mixed feelings. (the language of being unsure)

by Kate Woodford

Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty
Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty

Some of the time we are absolutely certain about our opinions and feelings, but now and then we are not. This post looks at the words and phrases that we use to express the fact that we are unsure, either of the way we feel or the way we think.

Sometimes we don’t understand how we feel about something because we seem to experience two opposite emotions or reactions at the same time. A very common phrase for this is mixed feelings/emotions: I had mixed feelings about leaving home – in some ways sad, but also quite excited.

The same idea can be expressed by the adjective ambivalent:

Many were ambivalent about the experience, expressing both positive and negative views. Continue reading “Mixed feelings. (the language of being unsure)”

It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts)

by Kate Woodford

karandaev/iStock/Getty Images Plus
karandaev/iStock/Getty Images Plus

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of you will be braving the crowds in shops and shopping malls in order to find the perfect gift for a family member or friend. With presents very much on our mind, we thought it might be interesting to look at the language of gifts and giving.

For people that you know well, you will probably want to give a gift that is thoughtful and personal. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the shops, you might decide against a store-bought present and instead give a homemade gift. Or you might choose a gift token (or gift voucher), allowing the family member or friend to choose what they want for themselves, though you may think this approach lacks the personal touch (=the quality of being chosen specially for one person). Continue reading “It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts)”

Do you like swimming?: How to form questions in English

by Liz Walter

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock/Getty Images Plus
ChiccoDodiFC/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Questions are a basic part of our conversations, but they are quite difficult in English. Many students make mistakes with them. Here are some basic rules to make your questions correct.

Let’s start with questions that have a simple answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

For all verbs except ‘to be’, we use do and the infinitive form of another verb to make present simple and past simple questions. The word order is do/does + subject + infinitive:

            Do you like cheese?

            Does Oscar have any brothers or sisters?

            Did you visit the Taj Mahal while you were in India? Continue reading “Do you like swimming?: How to form questions in English”

They’re crazy about football. (Talking about interests)

by Kate Woodford

Chris Whitehead/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus
Chris Whitehead/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus

This week we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to say that we are interested in something.

If someone enjoys a particular activity or is very interested in a particular subject, we often say, slightly informally, that they are into that thing:

He’s really into jazz.

I got into cooking when I left home.

If they really enjoy something, we might, informally, say that they are mad about or crazy about it:

He’s always been mad about football.

They’re both crazy about basketball. Continue reading “They’re crazy about football. (Talking about interests)”