A new coat of paint: the language of decorating

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by Liz Walter

In my last post, I looked at general language for home improvements. This post will focus on one specific area: decorating. As you will see, there are lots of nice collocations associated with this topic. Continue reading “A new coat of paint: the language of decorating”

Breaking the ice and throwing caution to the wind (Weather idioms, Part 3)

by Kate Woodford

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This is the last in a series of posts on idioms containing words for different types of weather. Today, we’ll mainly be looking at ‘ice’ and ‘wind’ idioms, but we’ll start with a very common idiom containing the word ‘weather’ itself. If someone is under the weather, they feel rather ill: I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather all week, as if I’m getting a cold. Continue reading “Breaking the ice and throwing caution to the wind (Weather idioms, Part 3)”

Home improvements: the language of making and repairing things in your home

by Liz Walter

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Apparently, a lot of people who are either in lockdown or working from home because of the pandemic are using their extra time to do jobs in the home, so this post offers some words and phrases to talk about these tasks.

Continue reading “Home improvements: the language of making and repairing things in your home”

‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ (Idioms with weather words, Part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

This is the second of three blog posts on idioms that contain words relating to the weather. Previously, we focused on idioms with stormy words. Today, we’re looking at idioms containing a wider range of weather – sun, rain and clouds. Continue reading “‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ (Idioms with weather words, Part 2)”

‘Cooking up a storm’ and ‘faces like thunder’ (Idioms with weather words, Part 1)

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by Kate Woodford

It may not surprise you to hear that the weather features in a lot of English idioms. In many of these, the weather words are used metaphorically, in a way that makes the meaning quite obvious. For example, a storm often features in idioms as something negative, referring to a period of trouble, and a cloud is something that spoils a situation. This post will focus on idioms related to storms, of which there are many! Continue reading “‘Cooking up a storm’ and ‘faces like thunder’ (Idioms with weather words, Part 1)”

I feel like my life’s on hold: Language for describing uncertain times.

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by Liz Walter

With many people around the world in some form of lockdown and almost everyone affected by the pandemic in some way, I thought it might be useful to offer some language suitable for talking about living in a climate of uncertainty (a general situation of not knowing what is going to happen). Continue reading “I feel like my life’s on hold: Language for describing uncertain times.”

Hitting it off and befriending people (Words for making friends)

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by Kate Woodford

In these troubled times, I thought you might enjoy a post with a positive subject matter so today I’ll be looking at words and phrases around the subject of making friends and being friendly. You’ll notice there are several phrasal verbs in the post.

Starting with a phrasal verb, if you begin a friendship with someone, you can say that you strike up a friendship:

He’d struck up a friendship with an older guy on his course.

 

If you are friendly towards a stranger, often in order to help them, you might say you befriend them:

Luckily, I was befriended by an elderly man who showed me where to get a cup of coffee.

If two people like each other and get on well as soon as they meet, you can say, informally, that they hit it off:

We met at Lucy’s party and hit it off immediately.

I didn’t really hit it off with his mother.

The verb click has a similar meaning, with the additional suggestion that the people understand each other and think in a similar way:

We met at a work party and clicked right away.

If two people develop a friendly or loving connection with each other, you can say they bond:

She didn’t really bond with the other team members.

If people become friends because of a shared interest, you might say they bond over that thing:

We bonded over our love of birds and vegan cake.

Someone who makes an effort to be friends with a person or group, often because it will give them an advantage, may be said to get in with them:

She tried to get in with the cool kids at school.

Something, (often a bad thing), that causes people to become friends may be said to bring them together:

As so often happens, the disaster brought the whole community together.

Of course, relationships may end as well as start. If two people stop being friends after an argument, you can say, informally, that they fall out:

Unfortunately, the sisters fell out over money.  

If a friendship between two people gradually ends over time, you might say the people drift apart:

You know how it goes – our lives took different directions and we just drifted apart.

If someone suddenly ends a friendship with someone, you can use the slightly informal verb drop:

I don’t know what I did to offend her, but she just dropped me.

Finally, to end on a more cheerful note, if you start to be friends with someone that you used to know well in the past, you may be said to rekindle the friendship:

I was glad of the opportunity to rekindle an old friendship.

An article of clothing and a ray of sunshine: making uncountable nouns countable (2)

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by Liz Walter

My last post introduced the topic of adding words to uncountable nouns so that they can be used in a countable way. In that post, I concentrated on food words. Today, we will look at some other topics. Continue reading “An article of clothing and a ray of sunshine: making uncountable nouns countable (2)”

Did you have a nice weekend? (Chatting about the weekend)

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by Kate Woodford

Readers of this blog often ask us for conversational English. They want to learn phrases for chatting informally with friends and colleagues. To help with this, some of our blog posts focus on the sort of conversations that we all have during the course of a day or a week. In this post, we’re looking at what you can say on a Monday when someone asks ‘How was your weekend?’ Continue reading “Did you have a nice weekend? (Chatting about the weekend)”

A grain of rice and a clove of garlic: making uncountable nouns countable (1)

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by Liz Walter

You probably already know that you can use many uncountable nouns in a countable way with words such as piece or bit:

I ate a small piece of cheese.

Why don’t you add a bit of cream?

However, we can also use more interesting and specific words. Today’s post will look at how we do this with food and my next post will look at other topics such as weather and emotions.

We often use the names of containers when we talk about amounts of food. These might be items of crockery or cutlery, for example bowl, plate, cup, glass, tablespoon or teaspoon, or items of packaging such as packet, bottle, can, carton, tub or tube:

I ordered a bowl of soup.

Add a teaspoon of salt.

She ate a whole tub of ice cream.

It is also common to use words that indicate the shape of an amount of food, for instance slice, sliver, hunk, chunk, lump or slab:

The soup contained large chunks of beef.

I used a whole slab of chocolate in the dessert.

The words portion or serving indicates an amount sufficient for one person. We use mouthful for any food or drink. We also use sip, slurp, gulp and swig for amounts of liquid we swallow at one time:

There are four portions of stew in the pan.

The recipe makes four to six servings.

He ate a few mouthfuls of rice.

I only had a sip of tea.

With foods that consist of many very small parts, such as rice, sugar or salt we often use grain, while for liquids, we often use drop. Other words are more closely linked to specific liquids, for instance a dash (UK)/splash (US) of milk or a glug of oil:

Use a fork to separate the grains of rice.

I like a dash (UK)/splash (US) of milk in my tea.

Other words that are usually used with specific foods are a pinch of salt and a knob of butter:

Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water.

He fried the fish in a knob of butter.

Several words that make uncountable foods countable relate to the action you use with them. For example, we can talk about a squeeze of lemon juice, a grind of pepper, a sprinkling/dusting of icing sugar (UK)/confectioner’s sugar (US), cocoa powder, etc. and a drizzle of olive oil, honey, etc.

Give the risotto a few good grinds of pepper.

Serve the figs with a drizzle of honey.

Finally, there is a group of nouns that describe single parts of a type of food. For instance we talk about cloves of garlic, sweetcorn (UK)/corn (US) kernels, orange/grapefruit segments and coffee beans:

Chop two cloves of garlic.

The sweetcorn (UK)/corn (US) kernels add a lovely texture to the salad.

Food is such an enormous topic, there are probably many more ways of talking about amounts of it, but I hope this post has covered the main ones and helped to explain the idea of how we can use uncountable nouns in a countable way.