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

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty

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’)

SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

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)

ismagilov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

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

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty

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”

Rushed off my feet: words connected with hard work

Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty

by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about laziness and doing nothing, but this month, when most people are back at work and school begins again (in the UK at least), the topic is the opposite: hard work and being busy.

There are several colourful idioms connected with having too much work to do. If you are up to your eyes/eyeballs/neck/ears in work, there is a very large amount of it to do. We can also say that we are rushed off our feet – this phrase is usually for when the work involves standing up or moving around, for example working in a shop or café. In UK English, an informal way of saying that a job or situation (for example, running a family) is busy is to say that it’s all go. Continue reading “Rushed off my feet: words connected with hard work”

What’s cooking? (Cutting and mixing food)

AfricaImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

A few weeks ago we looked at cooking words – specifically the range of verbs that describe cooking with the use of an oven. Today we’re focusing on words for cutting up and mixing food.

Let’s start with the cutting. There are various verbs for cutting, each with a particular meaning. If you peel fruit or vegetables, you remove the skin using a knife or other sharp object: I’m just peeling the potatoes. To core a piece of fruit is to remove the hard part inside that contains the seeds: Peel and core the pears. If you slice a piece of food, you cut it into thin, flat pieces: Could you slice the bread? / sliced tomatoes. The verb carve, meanwhile, is usually used for cutting cooked meat. You carve meat when you cut thin pieces from a large piece: Dan carved the chicken. Continue reading “What’s cooking? (Cutting and mixing food)”

Time to put your feet up: words connected with doing nothing

Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty

by Liz Walter

It’s August, and for many people that means holiday time (vacation time if you’re a US English speaker), so in this post I thought I’d make some suggestions for words and phrases connected with being lazy and not doing much.

There are several words for lazy people. They are all negative, but some are more disapproving than others. Describing someone as a layabout indicates strong disapproval, while lazybones could be used almost affectionately. Slacker could be used seriously or semi-humorously, as could the informal couch potato. Work-shy is a very disapproving word, often used for unemployed people suspected of not wanting to get a job. Continue reading “Time to put your feet up: words connected with doing nothing”

I’ll believe it when I see it: talking about certainty, probability and possibility

Blend Images – ERproductions Ltd/Brand X Pictures/Getty

by Liz Walter

Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. We all know how annoying it can be when someone seems to be completely sure about all their opinions, so it is important to be able to express certainty only where it is justified, and other degrees of probability or possibility where they are appropriate.

The most common way to do this is to use modal verbs. Compare the following sentences: Continue reading “I’ll believe it when I see it: talking about certainty, probability and possibility”

Let’s bake a cake. (Cooking words)

Caiaimage/Chris Ryan/Getty

by Kate Woodford

One thing we haven’t dealt with yet on this blog is cooking vocabulary. We’re now making up for it with two posts devoted to common words used for preparing food. If you’re a keen cook, read on!

Let’s start with some basic cooking verbs relating to the inside of the oven. When we cook bread and cakes in an oven, we say we bake them: freshly baked bread / I’m going to bake a cake. However, for cooking meat and vegetables inside an oven, we use the verb roast: I’m roasting a chicken. / roasted vegetables. (We also use the verb ‘roast’ for cooking food, especially meat, over a fire.) Continue reading “Let’s bake a cake. (Cooking words)”

Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’)

stanciuc/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

by Kate Woodford

Recently, we published a post on words for things that confuse us. This week we’re considering the opposite and looking instead at words and phrases that we use to describe things that are easy to understand.

Let’s start with the very common adjective clear. Something that is clear is easy to understand, often because it has been explained well: clear instructions / directions. If we want to emphasize that something is extremely clear, we might describe it as crystal clear: My instructions were crystal clear. We also use ‘clear’ to say that we understand something: Are you clear about what you’re supposed to be doing? Continue reading “Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’)”