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

by Liz Walter

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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”

It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)

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by Kate Woodford

Anger solves nothing, or so they say. Whether or not this is true, we all feel angry now and then. You probably already know the angry synonyms annoyed and irritated, but perhaps you’d like a more interesting range of expressions to describe this feeling? If so, read on! Continue reading “It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)”

Divulging and disclosing (The language of giving information)

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by Kate Woodford

We tell each other things all the time, whether it’s our news, some important information or just interesting facts. This week we’re focusing on the language that we use to describe giving information.

Starting with a really useful phrasal verb, if you pass on a message or a piece of news that someone has told you, you tell it to someone else:

Remember to pass on my message to Ted.

No one passed the news on to me.

The verb relay means the same: He heard the announcement and immediately relayed the news to his colleagues.

Sometimes we pass on information to lots of people. The verb spread is often used for this. It frequently comes before the nouns gossip and rumour:

I hope you’re not spreading gossip, Alice!

He’d apparently been spreading rumours about her around the school.

Spread’ is also used intransitively to describe the way that information quickly becomes known by lots of people: So why does fake news spread so quickly?

The verb circulate is also used in this way: News of her retirement quickly circulated around the office.

Another verb meaning ‘to tell information to a lot of people’ is broadcast. People use it especially about information that they would prefer to be private: I’d rather my news wasn’t broadcast to the entire office!

The more formal verb disseminate is also used, but without the negative meaning: One of the organization’s aims is to disseminate information about the disease.

Other words mean ‘to give secret information’, for example reveal, divulge and (formal) disclose:

He wouldn’t reveal what was written in the letter.

When asked, she refused to divulge her salary.

They made an agreement not to disclose any details.

An informal phrasal verb with this meaning is let on. If you let on, you tell others about something secret: Please don’t let on that I told you she’s leaving!

Another phrasal verb is blurt out. If you blurt out a secret fact, you say it suddenly and without thinking, usually because you’re nervous or excited: I was supposed to be keeping it secret and then I just blurted it out!

There are two nice idioms for giving secret information. If you let the cat out of the bag or spill the beans, you tell people something that should have been secret:

I wasn’t going to tell anyone about my plans but Anita let the cat out of the bag.

So who spilled the beans about Daniel’s promotion?

Be careful what you divulge this week!

The life and soul of the party (How we behave at social events)

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by Kate Woodford

How do your friends behave at social events? Is one of them the life and soul of the party, chatting, laughing and dancing with everyone? Or perhaps you know a party pooper, someone who spoils other people’s enjoyment by refusing to join in and have fun. This week we’re looking at language that relates to spending time with other people socially. Continue reading “The life and soul of the party (How we behave at social events)”

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

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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”

Bad Hair Day (Words and phrases that describe hair)

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by Kate Woodford

Do you know the phrase bad hair day? It refers to a day when your hair looks unattractive but is also used for a day when everything goes wrong. This connection between bad hair and failure suggests that, for many of us, hair is very important! Accordingly, we have lots of ways to describe it. If you’d like some interesting English expressions for hair, read on! Continue reading “Bad Hair Day (Words and phrases that describe hair)”

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

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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”

Do help yourself! (The language of party food)

by Kate Woodford

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The Christmas season is once again here and around the world, people who celebrate this festival are going to parties and gatherings with family, friends and colleagues. One important feature of most gatherings is food so we thought we’d take a look at the language in this area.

When you are hosting (=organizing in your home) a get-together of any type, you have to make decisions about catering (=providing food). How much and what type of food will you offer your guests? You might plan a proper dinner for people. This is sometimes called a sit-down meal, meaning that it is the sort of meal that people eat while sitting at a table: a sit-down meal at a wedding A meal in someone’s house in the evening used to be called a dinner party, though this now sounds a little formal. Nowadays, most people talk about having or asking their friends round/over for dinner: I thought I’d ask Jamie and Luisa round for dinner. Continue reading “Do help yourself! (The language of party food)”

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

Liz Walter

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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”

Fussy eaters and healthy appetites (Words and phrases to describe the way we eat)

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by Kate Woodford

Do you eat to live, or live to eat? If you’ve never heard this phrase before, someone who eats to live, eats only because they have to in order to carry on living. For this type of person, food is just fuel. Someone who lives to eat, on the other hand, regards food as the best part of living and is always looking forward to their next meal. I think it’s true to say that most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes! Continue reading “Fussy eaters and healthy appetites (Words and phrases to describe the way we eat)”