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”

Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)

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by Kate Woodford

I recently wrote about phrasal verbs that we use to describe managing problems. While I was researching this area, I started to think more widely about the language of solutions.  I noticed how many words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

The first word that comes to mind is panacea. People often say that something is not a panacea for a particular problem, meaning it will not magically cure that problem. The idea here is that the problem is more complicated or varied than people sometimes assume: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems. A phrase with a very similar meaning is silver bullet or its variant magic bullet. Again, a silver/magic bullet is a solution that is too simple or too general for a complicated and varied problem. It is usually used in the phrase ‘There is no silver bullet for…’: The fact is, there is no silver bullet for managing water shortages. Continue reading “Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)”

Vertebrae, bacteria and cacti: Forming plurals in English 2

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by Liz Walter

Last month I looked at the basic rules for forming plurals in English . In this post, I look at some more complex cases, where the words come from Latin and Greek.

A large proportion of English words have Latin or Greek roots. We still use the Latin plurals for many words, particularly in scientific language, although it is acceptable to use English plurals (usually with ‘s’ or ‘es’) for some of them, particularly non-technical words such as stadium or cactus. However, this depends on the English plural being simple to pronounce – the plural of crisis is always crises, probably because ‘crisises’ is so difficult to say. Continue reading “Vertebrae, bacteria and cacti: Forming plurals in English 2”

Glancing and peeking (More words for looking and seeing)

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we considered words and expressions that we use to describe the different ways that we look at something. We focused mainly on the language of looking carefully and looking for a long time. This week we’re continuing the theme, but this time we’re including words that we use to describe looking at or seeing something briefly.

One of the most common ways to describe looking briefly is the word glance. If you glance at someone or something, you look briefly at them and then look away: He glanced at his watch and stood up. A range of prepositions may be used after ‘glance’. For example, you might glance around a room or glance up from your book. Glance is also a noun: She cast a glance in his direction before walking off. If you sneak a glance/look at someone or something, you look at them quickly and secretly: While her bag was open I sneaked a glance at its contents. Continue reading “Glancing and peeking (More words for looking and seeing)”

Guy Fawkes and the language of plots

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by Liz Walter

In November 1605, a man called Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellar of the House of Lords in London, along with 36 barrels of gunpowder (a powder used to cause explosions). His intention was to blow up King James I and the whole of parliament because of their hostility to Catholics.

The plan became known as the Gunpowder Plot, and it is remembered in the UK on November 5th every year with bonfires and firework displays. Originally, this festival was known as ‘Gunpowder Treason Day’ (treason means doing something to harm your country or your king or queen), but we now call it ‘Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ or ‘Guy Fawkes Night’. Continue reading “Guy Fawkes and the language of plots”

He really winds me up! The language of annoying others

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by Kate Woodford

We try hard not to, but from time to time we all annoy each other. It’s just inevitable. Sometimes we annoy each other with things that we say and sometimes with our actions. So how do we talk about this when it happens? Well, there are a lot of phrases to express annoyance, many of them idiomatic. Let’s take a look at the most frequent of them. Continue reading “He really winds me up! The language of annoying others”

Peering and gawking (Synonyms for the verb ‘look’)

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by Kate Woodford

One thing that we like to do on this blog is consider the many different ways that we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on looking. There are a lot of synonyms for the verb ‘look’, but as we observed in a previous post, ‘Many words in English have the same basic or overall meaning and yet are significantly different for one or more reasons.’ Continue reading “Peering and gawking (Synonyms for the verb ‘look’)”

My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re feeling positive so we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe having an advantage. (By ‘advantage’, we mean something that we have which gives us a greater chance of success.)

Starting with the word ‘advantage’ itself, we say that something good gives you an advantage over someone else: His height gives him a big advantage over other players. An adjective that you often hear before ‘advantage’ is unfair: When it comes to running, your legs are longer than mine so you have an unfair advantage! Continue reading “My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)”

We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)

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by Kate Woodford

Here on About Words, we frequently publish posts on phrasal verbs. This week, just for a change, we’re looking instead at a group of nouns that are formed from phrasal verbs. Some of these nouns are usually written with a hyphen between the verb and particle and some are written as one word.

Let’s start on a positive note, with the noun in the title. From the phrasal verb go ahead, the phrase the go-ahead refers to an occasion when you are given official permission to start a project. You get or are given the go-ahead: The council has given the go-ahead for a housing development in the area. Continue reading “We just got the go-ahead! (Nouns formed from phrasal verbs)”

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”