On the spur of the moment (Words and phrases to describe sudden actions)

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by Kate Woodford

Much of what we do each day is planned or expected but not everything. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we suddenly do things that we are not expecting to do or have not prepared for. This week, we’re looking at the language that we use to express this.

Let’s start with a very useful adjective: spontaneous. A spontaneous action is sudden and done as a natural response to what is happening at the time: The silence was broken by spontaneous applause. / When she got up to leave, everyone applauded spontaneously. The noun from ‘spontaneous’ is spontaneity: We all need a little spontaneity in our lives.

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Millennials and snowflakes (Words and phrases for ages and stages)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re all about ages and stages as we look at words and phrases that refer either to people of a particular age or to people at a particular stage in their life. Some of these words and phrases have additional meanings and connotations.

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Picking holes and taking a dig (The language of criticizing)

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by Kate Woodford

Even the most positive among us now and then say that we think something is bad. Very often we do it for the right reasons, hoping for improvement or even suggesting ways in which something can be improved. Sometimes, we do it because we are angry, upset or jealous. This week we’re looking at the words and idioms in this area, as ever, focusing on current, useful language.

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Raising your game and squaring the circle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in this post come from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We write a post on newspaper idioms every couple of months with the aim of keeping you supplied with up-to-date, frequently used English idioms.

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Day in day out: phrases with ‘day’

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by Liz Walter

Back in March, I wrote a post about phrases containing the word ‘time’: https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2018/03/07/having-the-time-of-your-life-phrases-with-time/. Today, I’m going to look at another set of phrases connected with time, all of which contain the word ‘day’.

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Getting the hang of it (Words and phrases for getting used to things)

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by Kate Woodford

Getting used to things is a part of life. We all deal with situations, tasks or tools that are new to us. At first, they may seem difficult or strange. With time or practice, they become familiar and normal.  In this blog, we look at the language for expressing this idea.

Starting with single words, if you familiarize yourself with something that you don’t know about, you intentionally learn about it, usually to prepare for something: I need to familiarize myself with the new software. If you acclimatize, you become familiar with different weather or surroundings so that you are able to deal with them: More time will be needed for the troops to acclimatize to the desert conditions.

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Breaking the mould: words and phrases for things that are new or modern.

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about ways of talking about people or animals that are young. This post looks at a related set: words for things that are new or modern.

Firstly, if we want to emphasize that something is very new, we say it is brand new: She bought herself a brand new sports car. This phrase means that something has just been made, but the thing itself does not necessarily have to be modern.

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Knee-high to a grasshopper: words and phrases that mean ‘young’.

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by Liz Walter

Over the last couple of months I’ve written about words and phrases for being old or old-fashioned, so now it’s time to look at the opposite. I’ll start with expressions connected with being young.

We often describe very young children as small or little: There were lots of little children at the show. A small child sat alone in the corner. However, to talk about someone’s younger brother or sister, you always need to use little, not ‘small’: That’s Brad’s little sister.

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The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup)

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by Kate Woodford

With the FIFA World Cup just one day away, we thought you might like to brush up on (=improve what you know about) your tournament vocabulary.

Let’s start by getting up to date. The qualification phase ended in November 2017. In this period, the various countries’ national teams played against each other in order to qualify for (= succeed in getting into) the tournament. From a field of 211, a total of 31 teams qualified, ‘field’ here meaning ‘all the people or teams in a competition’. As always happens, the host nation (= country where the World Cup takes place – this year, Russia) qualified automatically. The resulting 32 teams were put into eight groups of four teams.

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A glimmer of hope (The language of hope)

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by Kate Woodford

For many of us, spring – the season of new beginnings – is a time of great hope. With the flowers and trees in bloom and the temperature rising, it’s a time for feeling positive about the future. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at words and phrases related to hope.

Starting with the verb ‘hope’, people sometimes emphasize how much they hope for something by saying they hope and pray that something will happen: I just hope and pray that she’s well enough on the day to take the exam. If you say you hope against hope that something will happen, you very much hope for it, although you know it is not likely: We’re just hoping against hope that the police catch the burglar.

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