It was agony: talking about pain

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by Liz Walter

When we experience pain, it can be important to be able to describe it accurately. The most common way of talking about pain is with the verb hurt. We can say that part of our body hurts, or start a sentence with ‘It hurts …’  to explain when it is painful to do something:

My knee hurts.

It hurts to bend my knee / It hurts when I bend my knee. Continue reading “It was agony: talking about pain”

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”

It’s all in the mind: phrases with ‘mind’

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by Liz Walter

Since our mind is the part of us that enables us to think and feel emotions, I suppose it’s not surprising that there are lots of phrases that include it. In this post I am going to talk about some of the most common and useful phrases.

When you decide something, you make up your mind or make your mind up:

It’s time to make your mind up. Are you coming with us or not? Continue reading “It’s all in the mind: phrases with ‘mind’”

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’”

Hurling insults and hazarding a guess: ways to talk about communication

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about the importance of collocations (word partners) for making your English fluent and natural. In this post I am going to concentrate on collocations connected with a very basic topic – communicating.

A major reason to learn good collocations is to avoid using common words too much. So while it’s fine to say that someone ‘starts’ or ‘has’ a conversation, it would be much more impressive to use the collocations strike up a conversation or hold a conversation:

She struck up a conversation with one of the other passengers.

I know enough French to be able to hold a conversation. Continue reading “Hurling insults and hazarding a guess: ways to talk about communication”

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”

Going from bad to worse: talking about things getting worse

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about words and phrases for talking about improvement. This post covers the opposite: talking about things getting worse. Get worse is the most common way of expressing this idea:

The weather seems to be getting worse.

Continue reading “Going from bad to worse: talking about things getting worse”

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”

Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement

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by Liz Walter

Today’s post is about words and phrases that express the idea of things improving or being improved. The most common way to talk about improvement is to say that something gets better or that we make something better:

The weather was terrible earlier, but it’s getting better now.

We are always looking for ways to make our products better. Continue reading “Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement”