Spotless or squalid? (Words for ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’)

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by Kate Woodford

COVID-19 has made us all very aware of how clean our hands and surfaces are. With cleanliness in mind, we thought it might be a good time to look at the language around being clean and being dirty.

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Staying at home, going home or working from home: using the word ‘home’.

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by Liz Walter

Spending several weeks under (partial) lockdown has made me think more deeply about the concept of ‘home’. It’s a word that has a huge amount of implied meaning over and above its main literal meaning of ‘the place where you live’. It is also a very common word that can cause problems for learners because it acts in odd ways with regard to the use of prepositions.

Continue reading “Staying at home, going home or working from home: using the word ‘home’.”

Playing up, showing off or letting someone down: phrasal verbs for bad behaviour (1)

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by Liz Walter

It struck me recently that there are rather a lot of phrasal verbs connected with people behaving badly so I thought this might be a useful topic. In fact, there are so many of them that there will be two posts: this one on children’s behaviour and general bad behaviour and one on more serious wrongdoing such as violence, bullying and dishonesty.

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Black sheep and white lies (Idioms with colours, part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

This is the second of two posts that focus on idioms that contain a word for a colour. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at blue, green and red idioms. This week, we’re rather monochrome, looking mainly at idioms with ‘black’ and ‘white’ in them.

The phrase in black and white is sometimes used to mean ‘in writing’, usually in the context of proof: I could scarcely believe it was true, but there it was, in black and white.

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From darkness into the light: metaphors of darkness and light

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by Liz Walter

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.’

‘In the midst of darkness, light persists.’

These quotes, from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, perfectly demonstrate the way darkness and light are used as metaphors in English (and many other languages), with darkness suggesting ignorance, evil and unhappiness and light signifying knowledge, purity and happiness. There are many common phrases that exemplify this, and this post will look at some of the most common ones.

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Going forward, sooner or later (Expressions to talk about the future)

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by Kate Woodford

This post takes a look at a group of phrases that we use when we talk about the future.

Some of the phrases that we use when we talk about our future plans and ideas simply mean ‘at some time in the future’, (without mentioning a particular time), for example at some point: At some point, we’ll look into buying a new laptop. Continue reading “Going forward, sooner or later (Expressions to talk about the future)”

Learning from home with Dictionary +Plus

by Kate Woodford

Many of you are still confined to your homes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Studying or working on your own can be tough. We at Cambridge Dictionary are also working remotely and we feel your pain!

Without the presence of teachers and classmates, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated. One useful strategy is to set yourself an achievable daily or weekly objective, for example, ‘I’m going to learn ten adjectives that describe food.’ Another approach is to persuade yourself that you’re not actually studying, but having fun. With Cambridge Dictionary +Plus, you can do both of these at the same time! Continue reading “Learning from home with Dictionary +Plus”

No smoke without fire: proverbs in English (3)

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by Liz Walter

I have recently written two posts about proverbs, but there are so many more incredibly useful and common ones, I decided to write one more! It is difficult to choose from a long list of lovely, colourful phrases, but I believe that every reasonably advanced learner of English needs to know the ones that follow.

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Same old same old: talking about things that don’t change

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by Liz Walter

Whilst writing about proverbs (see previous posts), I came across the phrase ‘A leopard doesn’t change its spots’, which means that a bad person never changes their character. That set me thinking about other ways of talking about people or things that don’t change.

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Don’t count your chickens: proverbs in English (2)

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by Liz Walter

In my last post, I introduced a few proverbs that are common in English, especially in conversations. In this one, I am going to look at some common uses of proverbs: to give warnings, to criticize, and to comfort people. I mentioned last month that some proverbs are so well-known that we often use only the first part. Where this is the case, I will show the part that can be omitted in brackets.

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