Me, myself and I: How to use pronouns (1)

by Liz Walter

Lamaip/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Lamaip/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Pronouns are words we use instead of nouns in order to avoid repeating the nouns. Compare the following:

Laura picked up the book. Laura gave the book to Zalie.

Laura picked up the book. She gave it to Zalie.

We use pronouns when we have already mentioned a person or thing, or when it is obvious who or what they are.

The most common pronouns are personal pronouns – pronouns that refer to people or things. The most important thing to remember about these is that (with the exception of you and it), they are different according to whether they are the subject or the object of a sentence. Continue reading “Me, myself and I: How to use pronouns (1)”

New words – 13 February 2017

Jonathan Fletcher/EyeEm/Getty
Jonathan Fletcher/EyeEm/Getty

thrisis noun [C] /ˈθraɪ.sɪs/
feelings of unhappiness, worry, and disappointment that some people experience when they are around 30 years old and that can sometimes lead them to make important changes in their life

From the outside, my life looks pretty good. I’m 32. I have fantastic friends and a great job … So why do I feel like I’m doing everything wrong? Welcome to the 30-something crisis – or ‘thrisis’ – the feeling that, just a decade into being a grown-up, you’re running out of time.
[Grazia, 22 November 2016]

JAM noun [C] /dʒæm/
abbreviation for just about managing; used in the UK to describe people who have just enough money to survive, but nothing more

Jams account for two-thirds of all families with children receiving tax credits … More than two thirds have less than a month’s income’s worth of savings. So, the argument goes, Jams are especially vulnerable to weak income growth, rising costs and the freeze on working-age benefits until 2019.
[www.bbc.co.uk/news 21 November 2016]

social menopause noun [U] UK ˈsəʊ.ʃəl ˈmen.ə.pɔːz US ˈsoʊ.ʃəl ˈmen.ə.pɑːz
the time in a woman’s life when she no longer wants to stay out late, go to parties etc.

Late-twenties social menopause opens up space for new ventures. Maybe we’ll finally learn to cook. Maybe we’ll actually start saving.
 [www.manrepeller.com 05 October 2016]

About new words

Head over heels! (Love idioms)

by Kate Woodford

LWA/Dann Tardiff/Blend Images/Getty
LWA/Dann Tardiff/Blend Images/Getty

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, our attention at About Words has turned to love, or more specifically, the various phrases and idioms that we use to describe romantic love. If love is on your mind, read on…

We’ll begin this post with the start of romantic love. When you fall in love, you start to love someone romantically: They met in the spring of 2009 and fell madly in love.

If you start to love someone from the first time you see them, you may describe the experience as love at first sightAl and I met in a friend’s kitchen and it was love at first sight for both of us. Continue reading “Head over heels! (Love idioms)”

New words – 6 February 2017

KidStock/Blend Images/Getty
KidStock/Blend Images/Getty

Gameboy disease noun [U]
/ˈgeɪm.bɔɪ dɪz.iːz/
a spinal condition in children caused by looking down at hand-held devices for long periods

Kids these days are spending so much time hunched over smartphones and tablets that their spines are at risk of developing incorrectly – a condition known as gameboy disease.
[www.mirror.co.uk 07 June 2016]

computer vision syndrome noun [U]
UK /kəm’pjuː.tᵊ ˌvɪʒ.ən ˌsɪn.drəʊm/ US /kəmˈpjuː.t̬ɚˌvɪʒ.ən ˌsɪn.droʊm/
a condition of the eye caused by spending a large amount of time looking at a computer screen

We spend nearly 50 hours a week looking at computer screens, according to research conducted by the College of Optometrists. But prolonged use can result in what has been dubbed “computer vision syndrome”, with symptoms including eye strain, double vision and temporary short-sightedness.
[www.express.co.uk 27 January 2016]

thunderstorm asthma noun [U] UK
/ˈθʌn.də.stɔːm æs.mə/ US /ˈθʌn.dɚ.stɔːrm æz.mə/
a medical condition that makes breathing difficult, caused by a large amount of pollen in the air after a storm

A sixth person has died almost a week after Melbourne was hit by an unprecedented thunderstorm asthma outbreak. 
[The Guardian 27 November 2016]

About new words

Transitive or intransitive; Countable or uncountable – what does it all mean??

by Liz Walter

RonTech2000/iStock/Getty Images Plus
RonTech2000/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It’s all very well being told that we use many in front of countable plural nouns and much before uncountable nouns, but what happens if you don’t know what ‘countable’ and ‘uncountable’ mean? People like me, who write about language, use these terms all the time but why should we assume that our readers know them? After all, they are quite technical, and most people in the street wouldn’t know their meaning. That’s why I thought we’d take a step back this week and look at a few really basic terms that help learners understand language. Continue reading “Transitive or intransitive; Countable or uncountable – what does it all mean??”

New words – 30 January 2017

South_agency/iStock/Getty Images Plus
South_agency/iStock/Getty Images Plus

tech bro noun [C] UK /’tek.brəʊ/ US /’tek.broʊ/
a rich young man who works in the technology industry

The unfortunate tech bro insurgency in San Francisco continues with a guy … who has lived in the Bay Area for all of three years … and recently felt entitled enough to write the mayor and police chief about his distaste for the homeless. 
[www.jezebel.com 18 February 2016]

Textalyzer noun [C] UK /ˈtekst.ᵊl.aɪz.əʳ/ US /ˈtekst.ᵊl.aɪz.ɚ/
a device that the police could use to check if a driver has been using their phone while driving

The most provocative idea, from lawmakers in New York, is to give police officers a new device that is the digital equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer. 
[New York Times, 27 April 2016]

digital twin noun [C] UK /ˌdɪdʒ.ɪ.tᵊl ‘twɪn/ US /ˌdɪdʒ.ə.t̬ᵊl ‘twɪn/
a digital representation of a product or piece of equipment

Dunsdon says these “digital twins” are using information gathered during manufacture and operation to make predictions about the future. 
[www.ukbusinessinsider.com 11.07.2016]

About new words

I keep putting it off. (Phrasal verbs with ‘put’)

by Kate Woodford

Hero Images/Getty
Hero Images/Getty

As part of an occasional series on phrasal verbs formed with common verbs, this post looks at phrasal verbs that contain the verb ‘put’. As ever, the phrasal verbs that we include in this post are all common in everyday English.

Let’s start with an action that most of you have already done today – put on a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes:

Put your coat on, Jamie – it’s cold outside. Continue reading “I keep putting it off. (Phrasal verbs with ‘put’)”

New words – 23 January 2017

PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty
PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty

deep learning noun [U]
UK /ˈdiːp ˌlɜː.nɪŋ/ US /ˈdiːp ˌlɝː.nɪŋ/
a branch of artificial intelligence that uses algorithms based on the neural networks of the brain

They’ve all been made possible by a family of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques popularly known as deep learning, though most scientists still prefer to call them by their original academic designation: deep neural networks.
[www.fortune.com 28 September 2016]

cybersoldier noun [C] UK  /ˈsaɪ.bəˌsəʊl.dʒəʳ/ US /ˈsaɪ.bɚˌsoʊl.dʒɚ/
a member of the military who works in the field of cyberwarfare

Through this new kind of training, the Army is trying to perfect the fieldcraft of these experts in computers and digital warfare – cybersoldiers.
[www.usnews.com 29 August 2016]

malicious insider noun [C] UK /məˌlɪʃ.əs ɪnˈsaɪ.dəʳ/ US /məˌlɪʃ.əs ɪnˈsaɪ.dɚ/
a person within an organization whose actions threaten the security of that organization’s activities or data

One in fifty employees is believed to be a malicious insider.
[SC Magazine 15 September 2016]

About new words

Some or any? Little words that cause big problems

by Liz Walter

Elizabeth Livermore/Moment/Getty
Elizabeth Livermore/Moment/Getty

Some and any are extremely useful and frequent words in English, but they are also the source of many learner errors. This post looks at how to use them correctly.

The first thing to remember is that we only use some and any directly before either a plural noun or an uncountable noun:

We bought some clothes.

Do you have any milk?

Do not use some or any with a singular countable noun:

Would you like some piece of cake? Continue reading “Some or any? Little words that cause big problems”

New words – 16 January 2017

ALLVISIONN/iStock/Getty Images Plus
ALLVISIONN/iStock/Getty Images Plus

escape room noun [C] UK /ɪˈskeɪp ˌruːm/ US /ɪˈskeɪp ˌrʊm/
an activity that involves locking people in a room and giving them a set amount of time to escape by solving a series of puzzles

Escape rooms are very much the trendy way to gather your friends and family for a night out. You can put their puzzle skills to the test as the clock counts down every last second of your frantic attempts to emerge victorious from a locked room.
[Daily Record 22 October 2016]

night czar noun [C] UK /ˈnaɪt.ˌzɑʳ/ US /ˈnaɪt.ˌzɑːr/
a person who has been given special powers by the government to deal with a city’s night-time activities and events

Newly appointed London night czar Amy Lamé has described the challenge of reducing the number of live venue and nightclub closures as her “total priority” in a conversation with Music Week. 
[www.musicweek.com 7 November 2016]

micro-adventure noun [C] UK /ˈmaɪ.krəʊ.ədˌven.tʃəʳ/ US /ˈmaɪ.kroʊ.ədˌven.tʃɚ/
a short, exciting activity, such as a trip or experience

Bored of the 9 to 5? A micro-adventure could be just the thing.
[www.adaptnetwork.com 22 November 2016]

About new words