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Adjectives and adverbs

Confusing words & expressions


Adjectives and adverbs

'actually', 'in fact' and 'well'

Yukki from Japan writes: Could you please tell me the difference between actually, in fact and well? I think all of them can be used to correct the previous utterance. Is there any difference between them? They are all very similar, but there are also slight differences in use. actually / in fact Both actually and in fact can be used to modify or contradict a previous statement: I hear that you're a doctor. ~ Well, actually, I'm a dentist. Well, it may sound very straightforward to you, but in fact it's all very complicated. Would you agree with me that teachers should refrain from socialising with their students? ~ Well, actually I think it's a good idea for them to socialise - up to a certain point! Actually and in fact can also be used to introduce more detailed information or to make things clearer or more precise: I'm going to take on a bit more responsibility now that Kevin's left ~ John, that's wonderful news. ~ Yes, well, actually / in fact I've been promoted to senior sales manager. I got so bored listening to what he was saying that I actually fell asleep / in fact I fell asleep half way through his presentation. Note that we can also use in actual fact or as a matter of fact to clarify matters or to introduce new information: I got so bored with what he was saying that in actual fact / as a matter of fact I dozed off before he'd finished speaking. Actually is sometimes used to introduce unwelcome news: Richard wants to invite us to spend the weekend at his cottage in the Lake District. Isn't that exciting? ~ Well, actually, I've already said we can't go.


Note that when actually is placed at the end of the clause, it confirms news that others do not expect: I don't suppose you've posted my letters, have you? ~ I have, actually. Did you enjoy that modern opera at Covent Garden? ~ I did, actually. Very much. well Well is more widely used as a discourse marker than in fact or actually. As we can see from the examples above and below it is very widely used to indicate that we are about to say something. It is sometimes used to give the speaker more time to think: So how much do you want for your 1999 Renault? ~ Well, I was thinking of £2,500. So how do you propose to furnish the house? ~ Well, I thought we might invest in some second-hand furniture. Well is also used to introduce a statement which indicates that expectations have not been fulfilled: You know I said I thought I might go skiing with Jamie this year? Well, I'm not going to now. How was the tennis lesson? ~ Well, in actual fact, we forgot to go. Well can also be used to soften corrections or criticism: You live in South Kensington, don't you? Well, Pimlico, actually. You do like my yellow dress, don't you? ~ Well, yes, it's quite nice. But I think the blue one would have suited you more. Why didn't you give Bob a lift back home? ~ Well, how was I supposed to know he was at the match? I couldn't find my way to the music centre. ~ Well, why didn't you ask me? Well can also serve to introduce important information: You know I've been seeing a lot of Eddie lately? ~ Hmm. ~ Well, we're going to get engaged. Oh well! If you say oh well, you are saying that you accept the situation as it is, even though you are not very happy about it: I'm afraid you'll have to pull out of the trip to Greece. ~ Oh well, it doesn't matter. I'm afraid I forget to save that document and now I've lost it. ~ Oh well, it can't be helped. I'll just have to re-type it.


Adjective order I tried to answer latest Quiznet programme on your site of adjective order. I found it a bit tricky and difficult, so could you please give me any help of this matter. And Belen says: May I ask which the correct order in adjectives is? Hi Pasan and hello Belen! When we use two or more adjectives together to describe a noun, the order we put them in is quite important. For example, we don't usually say an old Indian beautiful carpet. It sounds much better say a beautiful old Indian carpet. As a general rule, adjectives are usually placed in this order: opinion > size > quality > age > shape > colour > participle forms > origin > material type > purpose The phrase a beautiful old Indian carpet follows these guidelines: 1 quality beautiful 4 age old 8 origin Indian


noun carpet

You don't have to include an example of every type of adjective, but the ones you do use should follow the order. So if you wanted to add red and green to the phrase a beautiful old Indian carpet, you would put it between old and Indian like this: 1 opinion beautiful 4 age old 6 8 colour origin red and green Indian


noun carpet

It sometimes helps to remember the order of adjective if you consider that adjectives whose meaning is closely, or permanently, connected to the noun are placed nearer to it in the sentence. So in this phrase: a large comfortable wooden chair ­ wooden has a very close connection with chair . 2 size a large 3 quality comfortable 10 material type wooden

noun chair

Here are some more examples: 3 7 quality participle noun a new improved recipe 1 3 10 opinion quality type an old-fashioned romantic candle-lit

noun dinner for two


Sometimes we can use but between adjectives, especially if their meanings seem contradictory. 2 size small 3 quality tasty



noun meal

If we use 2 adjectives that are similar in meaning, we usually put the shorter one first: a soft, comfortable cushion. I hope that's answered your interesting English questions, Pasan and Belen! Catherine


A group a Spanish learners of English have written with the following question: Hello! We are Spanish students and we want to find out all we can about adverbials in English with explanations and examples. An adverbial is an adverb, adverbial phrase or adverbial clause which gives us additional information about e.g. the time, place, or manner of the action which is described in the rest of the sentence: · · We have been living here in this house for over twenty years. We were sleeping peacefully in our beds when the earthquake struck.

From these examples, you can see that the most common position for adverbials is at the end of the sentence Place adverbials (here in this house) come before time adverbials (for over twenty years). Manner adverbials (peacefully) come before place adverbials (in our beds). They do not always follow this pattern. This applies particularly to adverbial clauses. In the above example we could begin with the adverbial clause, if it was important to highlight it at this stage in the discourse: · When the earthquake struck, we were sleeping peacefully in our beds.

Thus, adverbials answer questions such as: Where? How often? When? How long? How? How much? Why?

Where did you arrange to meet him? ~ I arranged to meet him outside the bank.


Why did you arrange to meet him there? So that he could give me the money. How long did you wait for him? I waited for half an hour but he didn't arrive. When did you first meet him? We first met when he became the manager of the bank. How often have you been seeing him since then? Once a week, usually. More frequently, if his wife was away. Note from the above examples that adverbs of frequency are often placed in midposition in the sentence, as well as at end-position. Placing them before the subject is sometimes also possible: · · · I sometimes call on my younger sister when I'm in London I never see my older sister, but occasionally I call my younger sister. Yes I see her from time to time. We get together once in a blue moon.

adverbial clauses A wide variety of different conjunctions are used to initiate adverbial clauses which function as the adverbial part of a main clause. Some of the most common are listed below: time: reason: purpose: contrast: comparison: condition: · · when, after, before, as soon as because, since, as so that, in order to although, whereas as if, as though if, provided (that), so long as, in case

We served drinks as soon as our friends arrived. After we had eaten, we played cards. We moved to Cornwall because we wanted to live in the countryside. As the winters in the north east can be quite harsh, we decided to move to the south west. I finished work early in order to catch the 4.30 train. I left work early so that I could catch the 4.30 train. When I arrived home I went to see Joan although it was very late. Whereas in the 70s and 80s most men worked until they were 60 or 65, nowadays most retire when they are in their fifties. He shook my hand warmly as if / as though he had known me for years.

· ·




You can borrow my car on Saturday, provided / so long as you return it by seven o' clock in the evening. Take a packed lunch with you, in case you get hungry.

adverbs of manner Note that not all adverbs of manner which answer the question How...? end in -ly. Most of them do, like this: · · How did they sleep? ~ They slept peacefully How well does she dance ~ She dances sublimely

But common exceptions include: hard · · · fast straight late

He worked hard in order to pass the exam He was driving straight at me and I ran very fast to get out of his way. There was a power failure earlier today and the trains are all running late now.

Note also that adjectives that end in -ly, e.g. lively, lovely silly, friendly, cannot form the adverb by adding another -ly as this would be impossible to pronounce. Instead some other way must be found: · He behaved in such a silly way I was ashamed of him Surprisingly, they were dancing in a very lively manner at the over 60s disco.

adjectives: appropriate/suitable and adequate/sufficient/enough Rosana Mendes Campos from Brazil writes: In Portuguese, we have one word, appropriado, which is used to talk about manners and something that is fitted to a purpose. We use this word when we refer to social rules and behaviour and when we talk about what one should, for example, wear under this or when we talk about weather conditions. I understand that in English you have three different words with different usages, namely appropriate, suitable and adequate. Could you please explain and illustrate the differences in use of these three words in English? appropriate ~ suitable Appropriate and suitable are both qualitative adjectives - i.e. they describe the quality of something - and are very similar in meaning and usage. As you suggest, they carry the meaning of 'fitted, suited to a purpose.' They are both placed as modifiers before nouns and they are both used as complements after the verb be, although appropriate is perhaps more commonly used in this way, especially with


the pronoun it. They are both used with the preposition for and are often used with negative prefixes. The adjectival form suitable (for) sometimes crops us in the verb format suited (to). Study the following examples: · · · · · · · · It is inappropriate to make jokes at funerals. It was inappropriate for her to joke with the Queen in such a light-hearted manner. The clothes she was wearing were quite unsuitable/inappropriate for the cold weather. Does this dress suit me? ~ Oh yes, it does. And it's very suitable/appropriate for formal occasions. It is a very violent film and is considered unsuitable/inappropriate for children to watch. I'm glad you praised him for that. It was an appropriate thing to do. He is just not suited to/suitable for this type of work. Such small flats are not really suitable for couples with young children. It is unsuitable/inappropriate accommodation.

adequate ~ sufficient ~ enough Adequate, sufficient and enough are slightly different in meaning. If something is adequate, there is enough of it, but only just enough. If there is sufficient quantity of something, this suggests that there is as much of it as you need. Usage of these adjectives often denotes quantity rather than quality, whereas appropriate and suitable suggest a qualitative response to something. Study the following examples: · · · · · · · The pay was adequate, but it certainly wasn't generous. The rate of pay £5.50 an hour - was barely adequate to raise a family on. His answer to the question was adequate but it wasn't developed sufficiently to gain high marks. The Prime Minister gave an inadequate reply to the journalist's question. The action taken to combat the spread of malaria was quite inadequate. There were not enough seats for all the guests. The supply of seats was quite inadequate. There was easily enough food for every one. There was a sufficient amount of food. There was insufficient evidence to convict him of house-breaking.

Approximately / Roughly / About / Nearly Dear Sirs, Could you please explain the difference in usage of approximately, roughly, about, nearly? Many thanks in advance.- Samad Hi Samad. I wonder why you asked this question ­ are you by any chance writing a report?! All of the words you list above are adverbs which describe a quantity or variation in quantity. Well, these words are known as degree adverbs and one of the


differences between the words you mention is their degree of formality, which would affect the times you use them. Approximately, about, nearly and roughly are most usually used to modify measurements or quantities. And I'm going to start with the adverb which is more formal in tone, which is approximately. Just listen to these examples: Approximately half of the residents in the survey stated that they agreed with the government's plan to reduce traffic in the city centre. Police say that the main suspect charged in the case escaped from custody approximately twelve days ago. I think Samad, you'll realise that these examples could be part of an academic paper or an official report. It's not impossible to use approximately in speech, but you'd be far more likely to use roughly, nearly or about in everyday situations and the rest of my explanation will look at the use of these three adverbs. Jane told me that she spends nearly one-third of her salary on rent. I guess there'll be roughly thirty people going to the party tonight. Because the traffic was bad, it took about four hours to get to my aunt's house. By about five o'clock, the library was deserted. It's possible to interchange roughly and about in each of these four sentences with the same meaning. About can be confusing for learners when they first see it as a degree adverb, because they're familiar with its use in prepositional phrases, such as Books and newspapers were spread about all over the room. Nearly is slightly different to roughly and about, because nearly means `almost', or `not quite'. So, if Jane spends nearly one-third of her salary on rent, it means that she spends just under one-third. If we said roughly or about, her rent could be slightly more or slightly less than one-third. If it takes me nearly ten minutes to walk to the station, it means it takes me not quite ten minutes. All of these adverbs could be used in writing too, but if you're writing a report it'd be usual to enter the actual figures or percentages in brackets, so: Roughly half (53%) of the children in the study could not identify the US on a map of the world. In conversation, we often use about when talking about time: Shall we meet at about seven o'clock? He says he'll be here in about five minutes. And interestingly, we often talk about distances in terms of time:


I live about half an hour out of town. It's about three hours on the train to London. Well, Samad, thank you for your question, I think that's about all I have to say about these adverbs!

'As well as' and 'in addition to' Van Anh from Vietnam asks: My question is: what is followed by as well as? For example, can we say I can swim as well as cook well?

I think it all depends on whether it is used as part of an adverbial phrase when making comparisons, in which case the infinitive or simple form of the verb is the norm, or whether it is used as a conjunction introducing clauses of comparison and similar in meaning to in addition to, in which case the '-ing' pattern is required. Let us compare the two usages: as + adj + as + clause/phrase as + adv + as + clause/phrase For example: · · · · · · 'I saw as many as three thousand people at the concert.' 'He was badly injured, but I did as much as I could to make him comfortable.' 'I waited for as long as I dared, but when it got dark, I went home.' 'Please come as quickly as you can. My father is very ill.' 'The Irish played as well as the Scots but didn't convert as many attempts on goal.' 'Richardson was as good an actor as Gieldgud (was).'

Note that if an adjective is placed between as and the noun, a / an must be placed after the adjective. What is interesting in your example, Van Anh, is that if you say: 'I can swim as well as cook well', you are stating that these are two things that you can do, whereas if you say: 'I can swim as well as I can cook', you are stating that you can do both these things to an equal degree of proficiency. When we use as well as - similar in meaning and usage to in addition to - as a subordinating conjunction, the '-ing' form in the verb which follows is required: · 'As well as playing tennis with Steve three times during the week, I (also) play badminton with my wife at the weekend.'



'In addition to working on his Ph.D. dissertation, he (also) translates articles for The Weekly Review.'

Note here that the adverb as well is similar in meaning to as well as and is often used as an alternative to too. Note that both as well and too must be used at the end of the sentence: · · · 'We enjoyed a rare night out last night. We ate at Luigi's, and went to the cinema as well.' ( = As well as eating out, we (also) went to the cinema.) 'We eat well here in Sardinia. The wine is excellent too.' 'My wife is a chemist and both her parents were chemists as well.'

Note the special use of as long as which is similar in meaning and use to provided that. Both are more emphatic forms of if and are used to introduce conditions: · · 'As long as you promise to help me, I don't mind cooking for twelve people on Easter Sunday.' 'I'll join you on this skiing holiday, provided I can have my own room at the hotel.'

'beside' / 'besides' and 'toward' / 'towards' Sanjay Khumar Bhola from India asks: I often confuse the difference between beside and besides. Please clear up my confusion. It is quite important not to confuse them, for they are different in meaning and usage. beside Beside is a preposition, similar in meaning to 'next to', 'at the side of' or 'by': · · 'Where is the apple orchard?' 'It's right beside the main road. You can't miss it!' 'We were lying beside the pool when the phone rang. It was his boss wanting to know why he wasn't at work.'

It is often used with verbs such as 'standing', 'sitting', 'lying'. It is also used in the expression beside the point when referring to something that is not relevant to the subject under discussion: · 'Modern art isn't really art at all!' 'That's beside the point when so many young people respond to it with such interest. They regard it as art.'

besides Besides is a preposition, meaning 'in addition to', 'as well as' or 'apart from':


· ·

'What exam subjects are you taking besides English and maths?' 'Were there any boys at the party besides Matt and Dillon?'

It can also introduce a participial phrase: · 'Besides bruising his face, he cut his lip and bloodied his nose.'

Besides also functions as an adverb, meaning 'as well', 'furthermore' or 'anyway'. It is often used to introduce an afterthought. Consider these examples: · · 'It's too late to start a round of golf now. We shall never finish before dark. Besides, it's starting to rain.' 'He doesn't have very much money and he doesn't have very many prospects. Besides, he's far too young to think of getting married.'

toward - towards What about towards and toward? One of my own students was worried that there might be similar pitfalls in store for her when using these prepositions. Well, I can re-assure all of you that these prepositions can be used quite interchangeably and that there is no difference in meaning. The only slight difference in usage is that toward is perhaps more characteristic of American English and towards more usual in British English. Toward or towards means 'in the direction of': · · 'Can you see that light over there?' 'I think it's coming towards us.' 'There are always more mosquitoes in the air toward evening. Have you noticed?'

Busy 'with' or 'about' Pierre from Malaysia writes: 'What are you busy with?' or 'What are you busy about?' Which sentence is correct? I have not heard 'What are you busy about?' before and find it unnatural. 'What are you busy with?' as in 'What are you busy with this morning?' is fine as a question, but I don't think you would repeat busy with in your reply. Instead, if you were a university lecturer, you might say: 'Oh, I've got so much to do. I've got essays to mark and reports to write and then I've got to go to the Dean's reception before lunch!' You often use busy directly with the present participle, as in: 'I was busy ironing when Jeremy arrived.' No preposition is then required. Adverb/adjective collocations: utterly excited? Why can't you say utterly excited? Thank you. utter - utterly Utterly doesn't go with excited because if you are excited about something that is normally a positive emotion and both utter and utterly (meaning


complete/completely) have negative meanings and are used only in negative contexts: To say that we'll be landing on Jupiter in 2010 is utter nonsense. If you think that, then you are a complete and utter fool. To spend all day window-shopping, especially at Christmas, is an utter waste of time. They had no means of support and were utterly dependent on their parents. To suggest that there should be a total ban on smoking is utterly ridiculous.

complete - completely Complete and completely are much more neutral and can be used in positive, neutral and negative contexts: Jon has sent me ten red roses and that has come as a complete surprise. I'm a pessimist and she's an optimist so she's the complete opposite of me. He has lied to me so there is a complete breakdown of trust between us. The PM's treatment for an irregular heartbeat has been completely successful. When I go on holiday next year, I'm looking for something completely different. Dozens of homes have been completely destroyed in the floods.

However, despite the flexibility of this adjective/adverb, we cannot say completely excited. One of the hallmarks of a proficient language learner is knowing which adverbs collocate with which adjectives. So, which adverbs go best with excited? terrible - terribly One of the most common adverbs used with excited is terribly. Note that the adjective terrible (meaning horrible, dreadful, awful) can only be used in negative contexts but the adverb terribly can describe extreme behaviour in both negative and positive contexts.: What's wrong? You look terrible. ~ I'm in terrible pain. His sudden death came as a terrible shock to the entire family. Prison life is terrible and I have the most terrible nightmares every night. The children were terribly upset when their pet dalmation puppy died. Children in Britain get terribly excited on Christmas morning when they come down to open their presents.


awful - awfully Note that awful and awfully follow a similar pattern. As an adjective, awful is used only in negative contexts, but as an adverb awfully has both negative and positive meanings: It's an awful shame that she's unable to come back home for the holidays. She was late and I was worried that something awful had happened to her. He was awfully drunk. It was an embarrassment to have him there. He may get on your nerves, but he has always been awfully nice to me. She's awfully pretty, don't you think? The most striking person in the room! It's awfully good of you to find the time to help us with this. awesome Note that awesome, meaning very impressive and sometimes a little frightening is a favourite adjective used by young people and people in the media currently: Thierry Henry's ability as a footballer is just awesome. It was an awesome party. We danced all night and then watched the sun coming up over the sea. No better way to welcome in the New Year. adjectives: comparitive and superlative forms

Babak Bagheri studying English in Canada writes: As you know, two-syllable adjectives ending in -y take the suffixes -ier and -iest for their comparitive and superlative forms. But what do you do when you have hyphenated adjectives? Does easy-going become easier-going or more easy-going? And does user-friendly become user-friendlier?

You are quite right, Babek, two-syllable adjectives ending in -y have -ier and -iest as their comparative and superlative. Thus:


pretty happy dirty messy · ·

prettier happier dirtier messier

prettiest happiest dirtiest messiest

Yours is the messiest room I have ever seen. She was the prettiest and happiest girl at the party.

Note that other common two-syllable adjectives ending in an unstressed vowel normally take the -er/-est patterns: simple clever · simpler cleverer simplest cleverest

The cleverest solution to any problem is usually the simplest one.

Others, particularly participial adjectives formed with -ing and -ed and those ending in -ious and -ful form their comparatives and superlatives with more and most: boring worried anxious careful · · · more more more more boring worried anxious careful most most most most boring worried anxious careful

Watching cricket is even more boring than playing it. My wife was certainly more anxious than I was when Penny failed to return. I bought the wrong type of hair shampoo for Joan. Next time I was more careful.

Note that most sometimes means very: · · · I was most careful to leave the room as tidy as I had found it. I became most anxious when I heard that there had been a fire at the hospital. I was most impressed by Deborah's performance as Lady Macbeth.

With some two-syllable adjectives, er/est and more/most are both possible: · · The commonest /most common alcoholic drink in Poland is vodka. He is more pleasant /pleasanter to talk to when he has not been drinking.

Three or more syllable adjectives take more or most in the comparative and superlative except for two-syllable adjectives ending in -y and prefixed with un-:


reasonable beautiful untidy unhealthy ·

more reasonable more beautiful untidier unhealthier

most reasonable most beautiful untidiest unheathiest

John is the unhealthiest person I know, but one of the most successful.

Hyphenated adjectives, which are also known as compound adjectives, normally use more and most for the comparative and superlative forms. This is the general rule. Sometimes we have to use more/most if, for example, the adjectival part of the compound ends in -ed. So, sun-tanned would have to be more sun-tanned, just as tanned would have to be more tanned: · You're more sun-tanned than I am.

Sometimes it is not so clear-cut, so we would say that one form is more likely than the other. In your examples, Babek, both are quite possible, it seems to me.

adjectives with -er/-est, more/most, less/least in comparative/superlative

Kim from South Korea writes: In a BBC article on a business news web page, a journalist wrote: "The emerging markets that investors can easily put money into seem a lot more risky than they did." Shouldn't it be riskier? Can you explain? Thank you in advance. -er /-est or more/most with one/three-syllable adjectives? It is clear that adjectives of one syllable normally end in -er and -est in their comparative and superlative forms whilst the comparative and superlative of adjectives with three or more syllables are formed with more and most: · · · The water in the pool was colder than I expected it to be on what was the hottest day of the year. They always go to the most expensive restaurants where you can see the most glamorous people in the world. The work I do is now more satisfying because the conditions under which I work are more satisfactory.

-er /-est or more/most with two-syllable adjectives? When it comes to two-syllable adjectives, the case is less clear cut. With some twosyllable adjectives, -er/-est and more/most are both possible: · The water here is shallower / more shallow than it is further up the beach.



The grey squirrel is one of the most common / commonest rodents that you will see in England.

Others, with particular endings, tend to folllow either one or the other pattern: -y > -ier Two-syllable adjectives which end with consonant + -y nearly always form their comparatives and superlatives with -ier and -iest: · · You are one of the messiest people I know. Even Jane is tidier than you are. I'm busier than I used to be so I have to get up even earlier than before.

It would be unusual, I think, for the comparative or superlative to be formed with more or most in these examples. However, in your example, Kim, with risky, both patterns appear possible. It may be the case that more risky works well here because it is combined with a modifying phrase such as a lot. Compare also the following: · Walking along this mountain path is much more risky in winter than it is in summer.

However, as a general rule, stick to -ier / -iest with two-syllable adjectives which end with consoant + y -ful / -less / -ing / -ed / -ous Note that two-syllable adjectives with these endings always form their comparatives and superlatives with more and most: · · · · · Having a tooth extracted was more painful than I expected it to be. The situation is even more hopeless than I thought. She will never recover. The most boring part of the weekend was listening to Jane's jokes. I'm more worried than you are about Tom and I've only known him for two days. The two brothers are both well-known internationally, but I would say that Giles is the more famous.

less / least Note that when we are making the not-so-much comparison, less and least are the only options open to us, unless we use the construction not · · · I'm not as hungry today as I was yesterday. I am less hungry today than I was yesterday. I was angriest with John about the spoilt weekend. I'm less angry with you. But I'm still angry, nevertheless.



Why don't you sit here? This is the least uncomfortable of our chairs. Note that we tend not to use less and least to form comparatives / superlatives with one syllable adjectives, as short adjectives often have other words as their opposites. Compare the following:

· ·

Your cooking is less bland than Mary's. - Your cooking is spicier than Mary's. It's less warm today, don't you think? - It's cooler today, don't you think?

as ... as and as Hello! I hope you are in the best of health. Would you kindly tell me what parts of speech as... as are. I know that we use adjectives or adverbs between them, but I don not know what they are themselves. Kind regards. as... as as adverb / preposition Look at this example: · He came as quickly as he could.

This structure is used to measure and compare things that are of similar proportion. In this construction, the first as functions as an adverb modifying the following adjective or adverb. The second as functions as a preposition when it relates to the following noun or pronoun. (It can also function as a conjunction when it relates to the following clause.) Compare the following: · · · · The meal was as good as the conversation: spicy and invigorating! She spoke as slowly as she could Has everybody eaten as much as they want? I hope you will agree that I am as imaginative a cook as my wife (is)!

Note from the above example that if there is an adjective and a noun after the first as, a / an must go between them. Note also that if we want to make a negative statement, we can use instead of · · He is not so / as intelligent as his sister is. The cafeteria was not so / as crowded as it was earlier.

There are a large number of idiomatic expressions or fixed phrases which we use in informal English when we are making comparisons like this. Here are a few of them in context: · · · · He went as white as a sheet when he saw the ghost. My maths teacher is as deaf as a post and should have retired years ago. She sat there as quiet as a mouse and wouldn't say anything. Electricity will be restored to our homes as soon as possible.


· ·

All the children were as good as gold when they came to visit me. These stories are as old as the hills and have been passed down from generation to generation.

Remember that when we are measuring or comparing things that are of unequal proportion, we need to use the structure comparative + than: · · Let me finish the report. I can type much faster than you (can). He played the piece of music more slowly than I had ever heard it played before.

as as subordinating conjunction Note that as by itself is used as a subordinating conjunction in a variety of different ways. as = when (for clauses of time) We may use as as an alternative to when when we are comparing two short actions or events that happened or happen at the same period of time. We often combine it with just: · · She left the house (just) as the sun was rising. The telephone rang (just) as I was climbing into my bath.

as = because (for clauses of reason) We may use as as an alternative to because when the reason is already known or self-evident to the reader of listener. As - clauses are often placed at the beginning of sentences. Because puts more emphasis on the reason or introduces new information. Compare the following: · · · As Mary was the eldest child, she had to look after her younger brothers and sisters. As it had started to rain we had to abandon the picnic. I've decided to end our relationship because my boyfriend has been cheating on me.

as for clauses of proportion Here, as means over the same period of time as: · · I think you become more tolerant of other people as you get older. As prices rose, the demand for higher salaries became more intense.

as as preposition Finally, note that as can also be used as a preposition when we want to avoid using the verb to be. Compare the following:


· · · · · · ·

As his father, it is your duty to ensure that he goes to school every day. As you are his father, it is your duty to ensure that he goes to school every day. As a social historian, I am always interested in people's life styles. Being a social historian, I am always interested in people's life styles. He established his reputation as a freedom fighter through many heroic acts. The police described him as a dangerous criminal. The police considered him to be a dangerous criminal

Tomokje, studying English in The Netherlands, writes: Sometimes when I read English newspapers or books I see some words with hyphens between them, for example densely-populated. I do not know what they are called, sometimes I do not know exactly what they mean. Finally, I would like to make them up by myself, but I don't know how. Could you please help me? Words like densely-populated are compound adjectives and they are made up of two or more words, normally with hyphens between them. Something that is dense contains a lot of things or people in a small area. Thus a densely-populated town or city is one with a high population count within the city boundaries. A denselywooded hill would be one that is difficult to get through because the trees are so close together. adj / adv + past participle Adjective or adverb plus past participle is one of the most common patterns for forming compound adjectives. Some common examples would include: cold-blooded brightly-lit · · · · · kind-hearted deeply-rooted old-fashioned densely-populated open-minded well-behaved

Most animals are warm-blooded but all reptiles are cold-blooded. He was a cold-blooded murderer and showed no emotion of any kind. She lived in an old-fashioned house, but was kind-hearted and openminded. Nevertheless, she held deeply-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage. The dimly- / brightly-lit streets in our town encourage / discourage burglars.

Note that adverb / past participle combinations when they are used with a copular verb like be or seem, and come after the noun they modify, are not hyphenated:



The streets in our town are dimly / brightly lit and encourage / discourage burglars.

There are sometimes many possible combinations, e.g. broad-minded, narrowminded, absent-minded, strong-minded, as well as open-minded. It is partly a matter of knowing which adjectives or adverbs collocate or go with which participles and nouns. We have brightly-lit streets, but also brightly-coloured dresses or swimsuits or sweets. Compound adjectives are regarded as productive features of English which means that use is not so restricted as it is in many categories of grammar. New combinations are always possible, so if you think something may work, try it out with your English-speaking friends, Tokmokje, and see if it is meaningful. For example, brightly-patterned curtains illustrates the productive nature of this combination, as would brightly-shining stars, and here we come to a new pattern, which is also very common: Adj / adv / noun + present participle Here are some common examples: good-looking far-reaching labour-saving · · · hard-wearing long-lasting mouth-watering free-standing never-ending record-breaking

The good-looking chef was dressed in hard-wearing clothing and sitting in front of a free-standing cooker. The dishes he had prepared with all the labour-saving devices at his disposal were all mouth-watering. We signed a long-lasting agreement for his services which we hoped would be never-ending.

Other common patterns for compound adjectives include: · · · · · · · · noun + past participle: shop-soiled, tongue-tied, sun-dried, noun + adjective: trouble-free, lead-free, world-famous, adj + noun: deep-sea, full-length, last-minute, number + noun: two-door, twenty-page, forty-mile. When they refused to exchange the shop-soiled item, I was tongue-tied and didn't know what to say. If you want trouble-free motoring, make sure you use only lead-free petrol. The sun-dried tomatoes that we sell are world-famous. She was wearing a full-length dress, quite unsuitable for deep-sea diving.



The forty-mile journey in the two-door, open-top convertible was illadvised in such inclement weather.

Try out other combinations of these patterns for yourselves, e.g. four-door saloon, five-page document, well-advised, etc. Make a note of compound adjectives that you come across in your reading and note the way they are used with particular nouns.

concern, concerned, concerning Eunice Cheung from Hong Kong writes: I would like to ask about the differences in meaning and use between concern and its related forms concerned and concerning. Thanks a lot.

You are quite correct, Eunice, to suggest that concern and its related forms are used in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most important. concerned (adj) = worried Note the different ways in which the adjectival form is used: · · · · Why do you keep ringing me? ~ Well, I'm concerned about you. Are you all right? I was very concerned that my daughter might not have proper clothing for the skiing trip. I was concerned for her safety as well. There have been a lot of avalanches recently. There was a concerned expression on his face. I knew something awful had happened.

it concerns me = it worries me Note that when concern is employed as a verb in this way, it cannot be used in the first or second person and it is normally used with the preparatory subject it. Note also that concern is not normally used with progressive forms. We need to indicate the idea of progression in some other way. Compare the following: · · It concerns me that she'll be in London for a whole week on her own. Rather than: That she'll be in London for a whole week on her own concerns me).


· ·

Doesn't it concern you? She's only nineteen. The pollution problem in that part of the river is beginning to concern all the local anglers.

concern (noun) = worry When concern is used as a noun, it expresses worry about a situation: · · There is growing concern that the climbers may have lost their lives. He expressed deep concern about the way in which the elections had been held.

concern (verb) / concerning (prep) = about When you use concern or concerning in this way, you are indicating what a question or a topic is about. Concerning and relating to are the formal equivalents of the much more informal about. Compare the following: Why are you arguing? What's it all about? What does it concern? · · · · · · ~ It's about the long lunch breaks enjoyed by the senior executives. ~ It concerns the long lunch breaks enjoyed by the senior executives. For information concerning / relating to opening hours during the summer months, contact the club secretary. If you want to know about opening hours in the summer months, give Joan a ring. A number of questions had been tabled relating to / concerning the dangers of the new vaccine. We had a lot of questions about people's concerns about the new vaccine.

concerned as past participle = involved / affected The participle modifies the noun or pronoun in these examples and can be used instead of a participle clause: · There was a brawl outside the nightclub. Those concerned were held in custody overnight. / The youths (who were) involved were held in custody overnight. Many have lost their savings. The pensioners concerned will receive substantial compensation / The pensioners who are affected by this will receive compensation.



as far as I'm concerned = in my opinion When you want to express an opinion, you can use this formula as an alternative to in my view or in my opinion: · As far as I'm concerned / In my view / In my opinion, the English football supporters should not be held responsible for starting the fight.

as far as x is concerned = concerning x You can use these expressions to introduce the topic that you wish to talk about or the issue you want to refer back to - i.e. it may have been raised once already and you, as the current speaker, want to return to that topic. As far as x is concerned is a bit less formal than concerning x: · · As far as foreign languages are concerned, I think they should be taught in primary schools. Concerning foreign languages, in my view it is appropriate to teach them at primary school level.

'effect' 'affect' and 'efficient' 'effective' Warda Jamal from Pakistan asks: I always get confused in the usage of effect and affect. Please give examples of their use in sentences. Kisy Kesh from Guadaloupe writes: I'm 16 and I've been studying English for a few years now. I'd like to know the difference between efficient and effective and the way to use them. affect ­ effect Affect and effect are often confused, Warda, even by native speakers of English. The most important thing to remember is that affect is used as a verb and effect is normally used as a noun. When they are used in this way, they are similar in meaning, signifying `influence', `impact' or `change'. Compare the following: · · · · · 'The really hot weather affected everybody's ability to work.' 'I know my neighbours play loud music late at night, but that doesn't affect me.I can sleep through anything.' 'The number of tourists travelling to Britain this year has not been affected by the strength of the pound.' 'The tablets which he took every four hours had no noticeable effect on his headache.' 'My words of comfort had little effect. She just went on crying and wouldn't stop.'


Note: we talk about someone or something having an effect on something or someone. If we use effect as a verb, it means to `carry out' or to `cause something to happen', but it is used only in very formal English. Consider the following: · 'Repairs could not be effected because the machines were very old.'

efficient ­ effective These two qualitative adjectives are often confused, Kisy. If somebody or something is efficient, then he, she or it works in a well-organised way, without wasting time or energy. Consider the following examples: · · · 'She was efficient in everything she did and was frequently commended for exemplary service to the organisation.' 'He hasn't made very efficient use of his time in revising for these exams: he has made no notes and his concentration spans appear to last for no longer than ten minutes.' 'This engine is really efficient, it can run for 30 km on only 1 litre of fuel.'

If something is effective, it works well and produces the results that were intended. Consider the following examples: · · 'These tablets really are effective. My headache's much better now.' 'The only effective way to avoid hay fever at this time of the year, if you are a sufferer, is to stay indoors.'

Eminent / prominent Please, I could not understand the difference between eminent and prominent... Javed Ahmed. Hello Javed! Eminent and prominent are both adjectives, and they can both be used to talk about people who are very well-known and successful in their profession. Here are some example sentences: The proposal for the research centre has the backing of Sir David Jones, one of the world's most eminent statisticians. As a prominent local businessman, Mr Johnson served on many committees and was elected to be the chair of the board of governors. Eminent contains the idea of respected. For example, if a doctor is very well qualified, has had a lot of success in his or her career and is often asked to give advice to other doctors because he or she is known to be so good at the job, we can describe them as eminent. Prominent has the idea of being well-known and important. Bill Gates is a prominent figure in the world of computers, for example. Now, it's possible to be a prominent person without being eminent, since eminence depends on respect which is earned through skill, education, public recognition. For


example, a pop star might be prominent but they probably wouldn't be described as eminent. And prominent has a couple of other meanings as well. It can mean 'easy to see or notice'. For example, we could say: His arm was badly cut in the accident and he has been left with a prominent scar. And a further meaning of prominent is 'sticking out', for example: The builders did a really bad job. The floor was very uneven and there was a prominent bump in one of the walls. So, let's summarise. Prominent means well-known, noticeable and important. Eminent means highly qualified, successful and respected. Right, I hope that answers your question, Javed, and I hope that you become both prominent and eminent one day!

emphasizing adverbs Aydyn Türk from Turkey writes: I have been learning English for eight months but some adjectives and adverbs are still a problem for me, especially adverbs such as absolutely, definitely, certainly, exactly, etc. These mean almost the same thing in Turkish and I don't know when to use them in English or which one to use. If you gave me some examples that would help me. - Thanks a lot. absolutely/definitely/certainly/exactly There is not very much difference in meaning or in use when these emphasizing adjectives are used to express strong agreement with a statement, question or suggestion. Absolutely is perhaps the strongest. If you use exactly, you are emphasizing that what someone has said is 100% correct. Compare the following: · · · · · Doesn't Sandra look stunning in that hat? Oh, absolutely! I couldn't agree more. Geoffrey is a complete and utter fool. Absolutely! / Definitely! / Exactly! Will you come shopping with me on Saturday? Definitely! / Certainly! If we can't find those tickets, we shan't be able to get into the show. Exactly! Are you going to Turkey again this summer? Definitely! Without a doubt!


absolutely/simply/utterly/totally/completely/perfectly These emphasizing adverbs are normally used with adjectives that are in themselves already quite absolute. They give even greater emphasis to what is said. Compare the following: · · · · Your advice was invaluable ­ absolutely invaluable! I was simply amazed when she said that she was going to marry Henry. It was perfectly clear that she was serious and I was totally powerless to stop her. I felt that she was completely wrong to even think about it and I am utterly exhausted by it all.

completely or quite Note that quite can mean very much or completely. It can also mean fairly or to some extent. Compare the following: · · Are you quite certain that Jack's in Paris? Completely sure? I'm absolutely sure. Are you coming to the pub? No, I'm quite tired, a bit sleepy. I think I'll go to bed.

certainly or surely When it is used in response to a request or suggestion, surely means certainly and they can be used interchangeably. Compare the following: · · Can you give me a hand washing up? Surely! / Certainly! / No problem! Would you join us for supper tonight? Surely! Where are you eating?

However, surely can also be used to express the speaker's surprise that something is happening. Certainly CANNOT be used in this way. Study the following and, as you say them to yourselves, give surely fairly heavy stress: · · · You're surely not going out again tonight, are you? You went out last night. Surely that can't be Felicity standing over there? I thought she was in Australia. I can't get any reply, but there's surely somebody at home. They can't all be out.



Surely you're not suggesting she poisoned him on purpose? I can't believe you could think that!

enough/sufficient/adequate I would like to know the differences in meaning and use of enough, sufficient and adequate. enough ­ sufficient Enough (where the second syllable is pronounced as in puff or stuff) and sufficient are very similar semantically, meaning as much as is needed: I don't have enough time to finish reading this report before the meeting. But I have sufficient information to know what the outcome should be. We have sufficient evidence to convict him for the crimes he has committed. adequate Adequate is also close in meaning to enough and sufficient. It suggests that something is good enough or large enough for a particular purpose: This country will never maintain an adequate supply of trained teachers if so many leave the profession after four or five years. This little car is perfectly adequate for any driving you need to do in town. His computer skills were adequate for the type of work required of him. inadequate ­ insufficient Note that the negative of sufficient and adequate can be formed with the prefix in-. For the negative of enough we have to use not: The level of funding available for the training of teachers is inadequate. I have insufficient resources to be able to deal effectively with this problem. We don't have enough milk if everybody wants cappuccino. enough as an adverb Enough can also be used as an adverb to modify an adjective, an adverb or a verb. When it is used in this way, it comes after the adjective, adverb or verb: In this climate it's not warm enough to go out without a jumper in the evening. You've missed him, I'm afraid. You didn't get up early enough. I didn't work hard enough so I was unsuccessful in the exam. I didn't revise enough so I didn't pass the exam. Modifying adverbs, of course, are normally placed before the adjectives or adverbs that they modify, so if we want to use the less common sufficiently in these examples instead of enough, they will look like this:


In this climate it's not sufficiently warm to go out without a jumper at night. You've missed him, I'm afraid. You didn't get up sufficiently early. I didn't work sufficiently hard so I was unsuccessful in the exam. I didn't revise sufficiently so I didn't pass the exam. enough as a pronoun Enough can also be used alone without a noun when the meaning is clear: I've only saved up £250. Will that be enough for this type of holiday? Some more dressing on your salad? ~ Oh no, I have quite enough, thanks. Enough of + determiner / pronoun Before determiners (this, the, etc) and pronouns we use enough of: I've had quite enough of this fruit salad, thanks. It's a bit too sweet for my liking. I didn't read it all, but I read enough of the report to get the main idea. I answered all the questions, but I didn't get enough of them right to pass the driving test. As you can see, Celine, enough is commonly used in a wider variety of contexts than sufficient or adequate. I haven't mentioned all of them, but that is enough for today! Enough is enough! as we say when we want to indicate that we wish to bring something to an end.

Especially & specially / continuously & continually Mark Brown in South Korea writes: Is there really any difference between the following: especially & specially continuously & continually If there is a difference, has common usage overwhelmed the distinction? The American Heritage Dictionary and Longman's Dictionary don't think so.

Especially and specially I don't think the distinction has been completely neutralised either. It is certainly the case that in usage these two adverbs are often confused and can sometimes be used with the same meaning.


specially - for a particular purpose However, when specially is used to mean for a particular purpose, this form of the adverb is the norm: · · · This shower gel is specially designed for people with sensitive skins. This computer programme is specially for children with learning difficulties. My father made this model aeroplane specially for me.

especially - particularly / above all We tend to use especially for emphasis, meaning particularly or above all: · · These butterflies are particularly noticeable in April and May, especially in these meadows. You'll enjoy playing tennis at our local club, especially on weekdays when it's not so busy.

Before adjectives, meaning particularly, especially is more usual: · · The road between Cairo and Alexandria is especially dangerous at night. It is a bit nippy, but it's not especially cold for this time of year.

special - especial Note that the adjective especial is rarely used nowadays. Its use is confined to particular contexts where it collocates with particular nouns, e.g. especial interest, especial value when we want to emphasise the exceptional nature of this interest or value: · · The police took especial interest in his activities and watched the house continuously. The Koh-i-noor diamond, now among the British crown jewels, has especial value as its history dates back to the 14th Century.

In all other cases and contexts, when it means important or different from normal, special is preferred: · · · · · · You're a very special person in my life - never forget that. On special occasions we have wine with our meal, but certainly not every day. In special cases, prisoners are allowed out on day release twice a week. He has such ability, I think he'll be the next special adviser to the President. The special effects in the Lord of the Rings films are quite mind-blowing. The grapes at the supermarket are on special offer - less than half price.

Continual - continuous Both adjectival forms, continual and continuous, mean without stopping or without a break. They are often used interchangeably:


· ·

This refectory has been in continual /continuous use since the 15th Century. The continual / continuous croaking of the frogs prevented any sleep that night.

In certain contexts only continuous is possible because continual here would imply that breaks are possible. In these examples, there are clearly no breaks, so continuous is preferred: · · · A continuous line of people stretched as far as the eye could see. They executed the dance in one continuous movement. The progress of pupils was measured though continuous assessment and not through examinations

When we want to describe things that happen repeatedly, continual is preferred: · · His continual drinking was bound to lead to liver failure one day. He refused to give up despite the continual warnings of his family.

continually - continuously The adverbial forms, continually and continuously, are often interchangeable. · She sniffed continually / continuously all the way through the film and disturbed everyone around her.

But when the meaning is clearly very often, rather than without a break, continually is preferred: · I've got a very bad stomach upset and I'm continually running to the loo.

Here, continually is behaving as an adverb of frequency, cf. always, all the time, constantly. If we arranged such adverbs along a continuum of frequency, starting with least often and ending with most often, it would read: · never > rarely > occasionally > sometimes > often >generally > nearly always > constantly/continually

Formation and use of adjectives

Three questions this week on the formation and use of adjectives. Vivian from Taiwan asks: Can the word fun be used as an adjective? Uma from Germany writes: Could you please enlighten me by explaining how adjectives work in English?


M. A. Khaliel from Saudia Arabia writes: Please let me know how to use adjectives and their formation. Fun is sometimes used as an adjective in the following contexts: · · · It was a fun thing to do. It was a fun place to go to. She is a fun person to be with.

instead of: · · · She is fun to be with. It was fun to go there. It was fun to do that.

Fun here means pleasant and enjoyable. It/she made you feel happy. However, funny is the normal adjective and fun is normally used as a noun. Note that when funny is used as an adjective in this way, it will have one of two quite different meanings. Consider the following: She is a funny person. She is a funny person. She makes me laugh. Her behaviour is really strange.

Adjectives describe the qualities of people, things and places. They are one of the largest word classes in English. They are normally placed before a noun but, as we saw above, they can also come after the verb to be and also after other linking verbs such as stay, look, seem, appear, become, etc. Study the following: · · · · A tall young man and a petite middle-aged woman were walking along the narrow road. Tasty, fresh, white French bread is always best served with Stilton cheese and red wine. The fine sunny weather is set to continue. It will stay fine for the next few days. New ideas are always interesting and exciting.

Note that if we have more than one adjective before a noun, the order in which they appear is not always fixed, although it tends to be in this order: quality, size, age, colour, class. Check to see to what extent this is true in the above examples. Note also that we often use adverbs of degree to modify the meanings of the adjectives we use. Among the most common are very, too, quite, rather, much, more, and most. Consider the following: · · · It was very noisy in the garden but much quieter in the house. I would have said he was rather tall. But my mother described him as exceedingly tall. She is a very gifted child. Her teacher says that she is too intelligent for her class.


adjectival endings Many of the most common adjectives have no special endings. Consider these pairs which are opposite in meaning: light - dark / heavy sad - happy cool - warm rough - smooth difficult - easy / simple cruel - kind

However, many common adjectives can be recognised as such by their endings. Here are some of the most common: -al: -ant: -ent: -ous: -ic: -y: -ive: -able: -ible: -ful: -less: -ed: -ing: typical, special, international, industrial, mental, physical, general pleasant, significant, tolerant, deviant, conversant, variant, valiant different, violent, patient, sufficient, convenient, excellent, frequent serious, anxious, nervous, dangerous, obvious, famous, conscious terrific, horrific, democratic, domestic, scientific, platonic, sympathetic, basic filthy, dirty, dusty, messy, noisy, sandy, stony, rocky, healthy, hungry, angry active, passive, secretive, attractive, expensive, sensitive, native comfortable, regrettable, probable, enjoyable, fashionable possible, horrible, terrible, sensible, susceptible useful, careful, beautiful, skilful, grateful, faithful useless, careless, pointless, breathless, tireless, toothless interested, bored, tired, surprised, worried, confused, excited interesting, boring, tiring, surprising, worrying, confusing, exciting

'good' and 'well' Sven Wagner from Sweden asks: Why do you use good instead of well in the following phrase?: 'We eat good and drink well.' (An English colleague put it that way.) good = adjective well = adverb Therefore it has to be we eat well as we are describing how we eat and drink. It might be said that adverbs answer the question How...? whilst adjectives answer the question What sort of...? Study the following: · 'She speaks good Japanese.'


· ·

'She speaks Japanese well.' 'She speaks Japanese better than I do.'

Note that better is the comparative form of both good and well. In English, we often play around with basic language, whether consciously or unconsciously, for effect. So, whilst 'we eat well and drink well' would be grammatically correct, 'we eat good and drink well' may be more effective in terms of impact because it breaks the grammatical rule. I would not recommend it, however, if you are taking an exam, but it will sound good over a drink with friends.

Why not sound well in this particular example? It is because when we use verbs such as be, seem, appear, sound, look, feel, smell, taste, they are followed by adjectives rather than adverbs as we are describing the subject of the sentence rather than the action of the verb. So we have: · · · · 'She looks really good in those clothes.' 'The food at the reception tasted really good - better than the food we had last year.' 'There's no way he'll get a distinction, but the work he's done appears good enough for a pass.' 'I felt really good when she congratulated me on winning the essay prize.'

For similar reasons we would talk about: A good-looking woman. A good-natured boy. (good describes his nature) But we would also say: · · A well-dressed woman. (well tells us how she dresses) A well-behaved boy. (well tells us how he behaves)

Look up good and well in your dictionaries to see if you can find further examples of adjectives formed in this way. The only time when well can be used as an adjective by itself is when we are talking about someone's health. Here well means in good health. Compare the following: · · 'How are you today?' 'Fine. Very well, thanks. / Not very well, actually.' 'I often feel unwell when I'm on a boat, but as soon as I get off, I'm fine.

Note that the expression well and good is used to indicate that you find a particular situation satisfactory or acceptable. Thus, we might say: · · 'If you can do the job in less time and leave early, I don't mind. That's (all very) well and good.' 'If you want to stay here on your own over Christmas, well and good.


Incidentally, there is now a trend among young people, particularly in the 18 - 25 age range, to use well instead of very in expressions like: · · · 'I am well happy with that.' 'I was well tired last night. 'She was well pleased with her birthday present.'

Again it breaks the rule and is effective in the impact it makes. Well used in this way often refers to exceptional circumstances or is used as a summary statement. I wonder if this creative use of the English language has reached you yet in your part of the world?

hardly/scarcely...neither/ Olga Ivanova from Uzbekistan writes: If my friend says to me: I hardly know this author and if I hardly know her, should I answer: Neither do I OR So do I? Are both answers possible here?

hardly....neither/nor Only Neither do I or Nor do I is possible here, Olga. This is because hardly has a negative meaning. It means almost not at all. So if you wish to agree with what is being said, you will also need a negative adverb and use neither or nor in response. Note that scarcely has the same negative meaning as hardly and that either of them can be used here. Compare the following: · · · I can hardly / scarcely believe you're twenty years old now. ~ Nor / Neither can I! They're hardly / scarcely ever at home. ~ Neither / Nor are we! He's dead now, but I hardly / scarcely knew him. ~ Neither / Nor did I.

Note that neither/nor always come at the beginning of the response clause and that inversion of subject and verb are needed with the tense form agreeing with that of the first clause.


not either As an alternative to neither/nor you can also use not either which has the same meaning, but normal word order: · · She had changed so much. I could hardly /scarcely recognise her. ~ I couldn't either. I've got hardly /scarcely any money left. What about you? ~ I haven't either.

neither...nor Neither...nor are used together when we want to link two negative ideas: · · · When I spoke to him, he neither smiled nor looked at me. Neither the chairman nor the treasurer was / were able to attend the meeting. Don't bother preparing dessert because neither Jane nor Julie eat / eats anything sweet.

Note that when singular subjects are connected with neither...nor, the verb which follows can be either singular or plural.

so / too When the frequency of occurrence increases from never or hardly ever to occasionally or sometimes, these adverbs give a positive rather than a negative meaning to what is being said. If we wish to agree with statements in a positive way, this is our opportunity to use so or too. Compare the following: · · · · · · · I would never work as a shop assistant in a large department store. ~ Neither would I. I could hardly / scarcely understand a word he was saying ~ Nor could your parents. Neither Henry nor Harry is / are coming to Edward's party. ~ I'm not either. They occasionally eat lunch at 'The Blue Parrot'. ~ So does Tom. / Tom does too. I sometimes have to work at weekends to get everything done ~ So do we. / We do too. I go to the cinema quite often - twice a week usually. ~ Me too. / So do I. She always uses olive oil in her cooking ~ So do my Spanish friends / My Spanish friends do too.


Note that the expressions Me too and Me neither, both of which are used in very informal speech, can only be used with first person singular agreement: · · Look, it's already two o' clock and I haven't done any work today. ~ Me neither. I'm so tired I could sleep for twelve hours. ~ Me too.

hardly, hardly ever, hardly any Pual from Thailand writes: I've learned that the words hardly and rarely have the same meaning and that moreover we can use these words interchangeably in any sentence. Is this right or wrong? They are not quite interchangeable as they stand, but need some modification first of all. If we add ever to hardly to arrive at hardly ever, then this is synonymous with rarely and also with seldom. hardly ever These adverbs describe how frequently or regularly something happens. Thus along a spectrum of frequency, starting with most frequent and ending with least frequent, we might find the following: · · · · · · Well doctor.... I always have two meat rolls for breakfast. Without fail. Every day. I usually have poached eggs on toast at the weekend. Not every weekend. But most weekends. I often / frequently have two chocolate biscuits or a pastry with my morning coffee. Not every day. But most days, I have to confess. And I sometimes have a brandy with my coffee after lunch. After a particularly good lunch. I hardly ever / rarely / seldom eat a full English breakfast. Once every two months perhaps. I never drink coffee after 7 p.m. Always tea. So what do you think is causing the high blood pressure?

Note that hardly ever, rarely and seldom equate with occasionally or very occasionally in terms of frequency, but that when you use hardly ever, etc, you are putting a negative gloss on what you are saying. Occasionally sounds much more positive. Compare the following: · · I occasionally see my daughter when I'm up in London. If she's free, around lunchtime. I hardly ever see my daughter. She's far too busy to find time for me.


hardly Hardly, as an adverb by itself, means only just, and equates with barely and scarcely. · · · Jonathan could hardly walk but already knew how to swim. I barely / hardly / scarcely knew Jack, although I know he was a great friend of John's. We had barely / hardly / scarcely finished dinner when they arrived.

hardly + any (+ -one/-thing) Hardly any means very little or very few and is the opposite of plenty of, or colloquially, loads of. Note again the negative tone in which it is used: · · · · · I've got plenty of friends, but hardly any money. I knew hardly anybody at the party, but Katie knew loads of people, nearly everybody in fact. It's worth hardly anything - practically nothing! Just a few pounds, perhaps. He's hardly said anything to anybody since the accident. He's said hardly anything to anybody since the accident.

'Incredible' and 'unbelievable' Irene Cordoba from Brazil asks: I recently found the Learning English section of the BBC webpage (which was such a delight for me because I really love the language) and I was wondering if you could tell me the difference between incredible and unbelievable and the right uses of each of them. These two adjectives, incredible and unbelievable, are quite interchangeable and to these two you could add a third: unimaginable. They all describe things or events which are so amazing that they cannot be imagined or believed. Adverbial forms are incredibly, unbelievably and unimaginably. You can substitute any of these adjectives or adverbs under discussion as you wish: · · 'When she died, Aunt Isobel left me an incredible amount of money ­ so much I didn't know what to do with it!' 'I intend to work incredibly hard over the summer so that I pass my exams in September.'


· · · ·

'My performance at the Christmas concert was unbelievably bad.' 'The weather on the mountain yesterday was unbelievable. There was no chance of us getting to the top.' 'The operation was performed under almost unimaginable conditions. It is unbelievable that he survived.' 'The new computer game was unimaginably difficult. Neither Mike nor I could work out how to progress from level 1 to level 2.'

Inversion after negative expressions and 'only...' Jana from The Czech Republic asks: I have tried to learn English via the BBC, which is great! I like your Quiznet, but I need an explanation for the fifth item of Quiz Three: 5. Choose the correct answer: Only at night ..... the safety of their cave bats leave bats will leave leave bats do bats leave Why is it not possible to use 'bats leave'? I would like to acquire this grammatical rule. Quite often in English, certain expressions with a restrictive or negative meaning are placed at the beginning of a sentence. The reason for doing so is to emphasize the point that you want to make. It is striking, original or surprising in some way. And whenever you make such a statement, inversion is necessary. So, it has to be: · · 'Only at night do bats leave their cave.' 'Only after I had returned home did I realize that I had left my watch in Emma's bathroom.'

Inversion is also used after the not only ... but also construction: · 'Not only did we visit Cuba's capital, Havana, (but) we also spent three days exploring the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.'

Inversion is also found in expressions containing the word 'no', when placed at the beginning of the sentence: · · 'Under no circumstances are you (allowed) to walk home from school alone.' 'In no way will I agree to sharing an office with Ben.

The same rule operates for 'seldom', 'hardly', 'scarcely', 'rarely', 'never', 'never before' and 'no sooner':


· · · · ·

'Never before had I seen such realistic dinosaurs as there were in the BBC television series.' (This is a reference to a recent BBC series. If you want to know more have a look at the web site - Walking with Dinosaurs.) 'No sooner had I arrived at the station than the train came in.' 'Rarely do we see such brightly-coloured birds.' 'Seldom do we walk on such green grass.' 'Scarcely had we finished lunch when the bell rang for afternoon classes.'

Remember, you are registering surprise, or something similar, when you do this. If it is inappropriate to be so emphatic, you would say: · 'We had scarcely finished lunch when the bell rang for afternoon classes.'

Inversion after negative expressions, so, and in conditionals? Atefe, studying English in Canada,writes: I'm getting ready for the TOEFL exam and this part of the website has been really useful for me. I need an explanation for all kinds of inversion and I want to know if it is an obligation to use inversion patterns. Martine Talbourdet from France writes: I would like to know if you really use expressions like So do I, So can I, So must I. Do you use them or are they formal?

So do I, etc These expressions are quite informal, Martine, and are readily used in short answers in spoken English to express agreement with what has been said in the first statement. So is here followed by inverted word order: auxiliary verb + subject: · · · · Judy can run 100 m in 11 seconds. ~ So can Henry! I've got a blister on my big toe. ~ So have I. I'm going to get it seen to by the club doctor. ~ So am I. I like to eat really hot food on cold days and so do all my friends.

So is occasionally followed by normal word order in short answers to express surprised agreement: · · If you don't believe me, just look out of the window. It's snowing! ~ So it is! You've given me tea and I asked for coffee! ~ So I have! I'm sorry.

Neither / nor would I, etc


These expressions are used in a similar way to So would I, etc, to express agreement with negative statements: · · I can't swim very well and neither can my sister. I wouldn't dream of going into the water if the temperature is below 20° C and nor would any southerner.

inversion after negative expressions We can use inversion in statements for the purpose of emphasis if we decide to start the statement with a negative expression. Compare the following: · · Under no circumstances would I wear a mini-skirt. I wouldn't wear a mini-skirt under any circumstances.

In this example, the first statement is more emphatic than the second one. We can use this approach with a wide variety of adverbial negative expressions, although it makes them sound rather formal. Compare the following: · · · · · At no time would he allow his team mates to argue with the referee. Rarely / Seldom have I seen such an exciting game of football. Hardly had I taken my seat before two goals were scored. I had to show him my press pass and only then did he let me in. Only when the players had changed into smart clothes after the match were they allowed to talk to the TV reporters.

Inversion in conditional sentences We can use inversion in certain types of conditional sentences when the if-clause begins with had, were or should. Sentences with inversion sometimes sound more formal than those with the more conventional if-construction. Compare the following: · · · · · · Had he not resigned, we would have been obliged to give him the sack. If he had not resigned, we would have been forced to sack him. Were she to find out that he was seeing some one else, she'd go berserk. If she were to find out that he was cheating on her, she would go mad. Should you decide to cancel the contract, please let me know by Friday. If you decide to withdraw from the agreement, please phone me by Friday.

My question is about `no sooner' and `than' requiring the semi-inversion. Most of those sentences sound like 'no sooner came John to the station than the train arrived'. And my question is, how can I make two sentences of this one sentence, in order to understand better the way it functions? Prof Michael Swan answers: OK, yeah, that's a good and interesting question. And let's make it clear first of all what order things happen in. If I say "no sooner had I arrived at the station than the train came in", we need to be clear what happened first. Does it mean, the train came in and then me, or I came in and right after me the train? Well, my experience


is actually that I arrive at the station, and then the train doesn't come in for hours. But, to answer your question, if I say "no sooner had I arrived at the station than the train came in", it means, I came in, and right after me the train. I got there first... just! I'll give you another couple of examples: "No sooner had I put the phone down than it rang again". "No sooner had I finished the meal than I started feeling hungry again". It's actually a rather literary construction. I'd expect to read it, maybe write it, but I probably wouldn't say it. Instead I think I'd say something like this: "The train came in just after I got to the station", or " had only just got to the station when the train came in"...or something like that. Hardly and scarcely There's two similar structures, also rather literary, that have got the same meaning, with `hardly' and `scarcely'. You could say "hardly had I arrived at the station when the train came in", or "scarcely had I arrived at the station when the train came in". Same meaning: I got there just before the train. It's a slightly different structure to the one with `no sooner', because with no sooner we use `than' ­ after a comparative, sooner ­ with `hardly' and `scarcely' we say "when": "hardly had I arrived when the train came in". Trains are actually a bit unreliable in Britain today as I've suggested. I was on one recently on the way to London, we were moving extremely slowly, and the driver made an announcement over the loudspeaker saying "we apologise for the slow running of the train, but we have been moved onto a branch line because of engineering works, and we are likely to stay there for the foreseeable future!". I was pretty upset, because it was my birthday and I really didn't want to spend it on a train between Oxford and London! However, no sooner had he made the announcement than we started going faster again ­ so I had my birthday at home after all. So thanks for your question, Michael!

Irregular adjectives and adverbs Syed Aqil Shah from Pakistan writes I'm confused about adjectives and adverbs like expensive, dear, costly, dearly, etc. Can you please explain them to me?

Expensive / dear / costly These adjectives are all synonyms though they are used in slightly different ways and in different collocations. It is also the case that dear as an adjective has two


meanings, it means both expensive and well-liked, as well as featuring in expressions such as Oh dear! or in letters as in Dear Sir. The problem with costly may be that it looks like an adverb as it ends in -ly. This is confusing as most adverbs end in -ly, but costly is an exception and is an adjective. Compare the following uses and collocations in these examples: · · · · · It was an expensive suit, but if you want to work for this firm, you have to dress well. These are very nice. ~ They're a bit too dear / expensive, I'm afraid. Haven't you got anything cheaper? Agatha is a dear friend of mine. She is so kind and gentle in everything she does. Oh dear! I've forgotten to bring my ID and I shan't be allowed to take the IELTS test. It was a costly mistake and it meant I wouldn't have another chance until the autumn.

Dearly Dearly can only be used as an adverb and normally collocates with the verbs love / like and in this sense means a lot or very much: · · He's such a nice man. I love him dearly. I would dearly like / love to be in your shoes and to have the whole summer free to travel around Europe.

Common adjectives ending in -ly There are not very many, but other common adjectives apart from costly ending in ly include: friendly, lively, lovely, silly, ugly, unlikely: · · It was a lively party and there were lots of very friendly people there. He was really quite ugly and unlikely to succeed in the blind date competition.

Adverbs formed by adding -ly As you no doubt know, most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to the adjective: · He is a slow and careful driver. He drives slowly and carefully.



I'm going to give a house a thorough clean. I'm going to thoroughly clean the house.

But note that we cannot form adverbs in this way when the adjective ends in -ly. We cannot say: friendlily or uglily or sillily. We have to find some other way of modifying the verb, e.g.: · They greeted us in a very friendly / silly manner.

Adjective and adverb with the same form A number of adverbs have the same form as adjectives. The most common include: hard, fast, straight, early: · · · · I know he has a fast car, but he doesn't need to drive so fast. It's hard work, but if you work hard and really concentrate, you'll finish it by bedtime. I caught the early bus to be sure of arriving early. The Aurelian Way is a very straight Roman road which goes straight from Rome to Pisa.

Adverbs with two forms Some adverbs have two forms. Sometimes there is a difference in meaning. Sometimes there is not very much difference. Compare the following: · · · · · · · · I haven't seen very much of you lately (lately = recently). You always seem to come home late from work.(late = arriving after the expected time) Mary can jump really high on the trampoline.(high = vertical distance) Yesterday she jumped right off it. It was highly amusing. (highly = very) Alfonso can eat free in the restaurant where he works. (free = without paying) You can speak freely. Nobody can hear us. (freely = without feeling restricted) Can you please be waiting for me outside at nine o' clock sharp? (sharp = punctually) I thought she spoke to him rather sharply. (sharply = in a harsh tone)


· ·

Don't talk so loud. Everybody in the room can hear you. (loud = informal usage) Jonathan spoke loudly and convincingly about the advantages of leasing rather than buying cars. (loudly = more formal usage)

Likely / likely that / likely to Reinhard Hoffman from Germany writes: I would like to ask you about the meaning and grammatical construction of the phrase likely to be hard pressed to in the following sentence: ...this region is one of the least developed in China and the authorities are likely to be hard pressed to respond to the disaster.

likely Likely is most often used as an adjective, meaning probable, (opposites unlikely / improbable). If something is likely, it is probably going to happen: · · The most likely cause of the fire in the stadium was an unextinguished cigarette The most likely outcome to the investigation is that the stadium will have to be rebuilt.

With the modifiers most, quite or very, likely is also sometimes used as an adverb, meaning most probably: · They'll quite likely invite you out to eat in a restaurant when you're staying with them.

it's likely that + clause Likely is quite often used with it as a preparatory subject: · · It's unlikely that this afternoon's session will last very long. It should be over by five o' clock. It's more than likely that I shall see Chris in Cambridge. I am almost certain to bump into him, in fact.

be likely to + infinitive


As an alternative, we can use the be unlikely to + infinitive construction with a normal subject, but probable cannot be used in this way: · · · This afternoon's session is unlikely to last very long. I'm unlikely to be back late from the meeting. Are you likely to be staying in when you get back?

It is this realisation of likely that is used in your example, Reinhard: · The authorities are likely to be hard pressed to respond to the disaster.

Note that if we wanted to use probably as an alternative in these examples, it would need to re-phrase them as follows: · · · · This afternoon's session will probably finish quite early. I shall probably be back quite early from the meeting. Will you probably stay in when you get back? The authorities will probably be hard pressed to respond to the disaster.

hard pressed / pushed If you are hard pressed or hard pushed to do something, you experience great difficulty in doing it. Being pressed suggests being under pressure: · · It seems to me that the Labour government will be hard pressed to win the next election. We were hard pushed to complete all the preparations before the guests arrived.

Use of the adverb hard here suggests a lot of force being used against you. Note that hard also sometimes suggests physical force: This door is inclined to stick, but if you push it hard, it will open. pressed for time / money / etc Pressed also collocates with time and money and other ideas in a similar way to hard pressed, suggesting difficulty: · · · Are you pressed for time? If not, I suggest we have some lunch. This one's worn out. Why don't you buy a new one? ~ I'm a bit pressed for cash at the moment. It's not really her subject, but she says she could teach beginners Spanish if we're really pressed.

participles as adjectives


I am confused as to when I can use participles as adjectives. Let me give you an example. I can say: I saw a barking dog. Here the present participle barking is used as an adjective. But I can't say: I saw a barked dog, using the past participle as an adjective. Why not? Thanks. barking dogs [ yes ] barked dogs [ no ] There are not very many adjectives formed from verb participles, Tutul, that can be used in both -ed and -ing forms. You can often get a sense of what works and what doesn't by transforming the participial adjective into a participial clause. If it doesn't make sense as a participle in a clause, it is unlikely to make sense as a participle adjective. Consider the following: The barking dogs kept me awake all night. The dogs that were barking kept me awake all night. The barked dogs kept me awake all night. The dogs that had been barked kept me awake all night. Barking works in the first pair of examples because -ing forms when used as adjectives have similar meanings to active verbs. Barked doesn't work in the second pair of examples because most past participles have passive meanings when they are used as adjectives. Dogs can be washed, dried, combed, brushed, fed and walked, but they can't be barked. That is something they do themselves. abandoning child [ no ] abandoned child [ yes ] Abandon (meaning to leave someone when you should stay with them) is commonly used in passive structures. For this reason, abandoned works as an adjective, but abandoning does not. Compare the following: The abandoned child cried for three days without stopping. The child that had been abandoned cried for three days. The abandoning child was so unhappy she cried for three days. The child which was abandoning was so upset she cried for three days. Abandoning doesn't work because children cannot abandon themselves, though the unfortunate ones are sometimes abandoned by their parents. There are a few participial adjectives that can be used in both -ing and -ed forms, but note the differences in meaning, depending on active or passive use in these examples below.


broken hearts [ yes ] breaking waves [ yes ] She is suffering from a broken heart Her heart has been broken by his cruel behaviour. The breaking waves pushed the surfboard further out to sea. Huge waves breaking on the beach pushed the surtboard out to sea. alarmed houses [ yes ] alarming reports [ yes ] Alarmed houses afford some protection against burglary. Houses which are alarmed afford some protection against burglary. Alarming reports are coming in that refugees are being racially abused. Reports are coming in that refugees are being racially abused. This alarms me. A small number of verbs have past participles that can be used as adjectives before nouns with active meanings. Note with these examples there may not be so much change in meaning between the -ing and -ed forms: falling/fallen [ yes ] advanced/advancing [ yes ] developing/developed [ yes ] The falling leaves covered the path and made it quite slippery. The leaves that were falling covered the path and made it slippery. The fallen trees blocked the road and only pedestrians could get through. The trees that had fallen blocked the road and made it quite impassable. When we think of countries that are still developing and countries that have developed, it is true to say that: a) developing countries need as much help as they can get. b) it is the developed nations which should provide it. This class is appropriate only for advanced students. It is suitable for students who have advanced beyond level five. The advancing army surrounded the city and cut off all its supply lines. The army, which was advancing rapidly, had cut off the city by nightfall.


Ed and -ing as adjectives: Patrizia Rapali from Italy writes: I'm Italian but I'm working in Ireland now. It sounds as if they say I'm finished or Are you finished? to state or to ask if you have concluded your work. Why do they use to be instead of to have? Shouldn't they say: I've finished and Have you finished?? I don't understand. Thank you for your answer. The confusion arises because finished operates both as an adjective and as the past tense and past participle of the verb to finish. So if your colleagues say 'We're finished for today', they are using it as an adjective. If they say 'We've finished work for today', they are using it as the past participle of the verb to finish. (This would be more normal in standard English). -ed as an adjective When we use it as an adjective, we can talk about things being finished as well as people being finished with something: · · · Their marriage is finished. It was a disaster from the beginning, so it's good it's over. She's not ready to leave. She won't be finished for at least another hour and a half. Sheila wasn't finished with Paul yet. They still had a lot to talk about.

There are, of course, a wide range of adjectives ending in -ed which follow the verb to be and other linking verbs such as seem, appear, look and become. Here are a few of the most common: · · · · · I became interested in the tennis as soon as I heard that ticket prices would be reduced. I was bored with the performance and decided to leave as soon as the interval arrived. She seemed surprised - even amazed - to see me. She thought I was in the States. They were quite satisfied with the arrangement. Sharing the cost suited them both. Ned was frightened of Lucie. He was also worried that they might be late back.

Note that all of these adjectives ending in -ed describe people's feelings, mental states or emotional reactions to something. There are many more. Check those


you don't know in a dictionary to see how they are used and which prepositions they can be used with: amused, appalled, confused, delighted, disappointed, excited, pleased, puzzled, shocked, tired, concerned, convinced, determined, prepared, thrilled -ing as an adjective There are also a large number of adjectives ending in -ing which relate to verb forms and are used in the same way as -ed adjectives. Note that these adjectives usually describe things rather than people directly, although they also describe the effect that something has on your ideas and feelings: · · · · · The meeting was very satisfying for all concerned as everybody got what they wanted. The play was quite interesting and commented on many aspects of contemporary life. These results, Tom, are disappointing and must be very worrying for your parents. I don't want to go to the seaside again this year. It's boring. His answers were misleading. In fact, everyone thought he was lying.

Here are some more which can be used in the same way. All of these -ing adjectives listed here have their -ed counterparts: alarming, amusing, annoying, astonishing, charming, confusing, convincing, depressing, disgusting, embarrassing, encouraging, entertaining, humiliating, inspiring, intriguing, refreshing, rewarding, tempting, terrifying, thrilling Remember: · · The storm was terrifying. I was terrified by it. His offer - three weeks in the Caribbean with nothing to pay! - is tempting and I am tempted to accept it.

-ed adjectives Leung Waiteng from Hong Kong writes: I am confused by the way adjectives are formed from verbs with just an -ed added, e.g. Have you finished your homework? Are you finished with your homework?


The same thing happens with complete (verb) and completed (adjective). Is there any difference in meaning between the two sentences? Which one is more appropriate in spoken English?

There is no real difference in meaning or use between finish (verb) and finished (adj) or between complete (verb) and completed (adj). Both sound very natural in spoken English: · · · · Is your work finished for the day or do you still have some to do? Have you finished your work for the day or do you still have some to do? Can I read the manuscript of your latest novel? ~ No, sorry, it's not completed yet. Can I read the manuscript of your latest novel? ~ No, sorry, I haven't completed it yet.

Note, however, that complete as an adjective with the slightly different meaning of whole or entire is more frequently used than completed as an adjective, meaning finished: · · · No house is complete without carpets on the floors and pictures on the walls. If you think I can handle all this work on my own, that shows a complete lack of understanding on your part. With only one hand on the steering wheel he was not in complete control of the car he was driving .

Adjectives ending in -ed A large number of adjectives in English end in -ed. Many of them have the same form as the past participle of the verb: · · Your behaviour this evening has disappointed me. I am disappointed with your behaviour this evening.

They indicate that something has happened or is happening to the person referred to. Thus, a child who is spoilt is a child who has been spoilt by something. Here are some more common adjectives which have a similar meaning to the related verb: amused astonished confused delighted depressed


distressed satisfied · · · · ·

embarrassed shocked

excited surprised

frightened tired

interested worried

It worries me that Jack stays out so late every night. I am a very worried mum. I would be interested to know if you are planning to visit Greece this summer. That interests me because I shall be there throughout August and September. You will embarrass your father if you dare to wear clothes like that. She came down the stairs wearing jeans with holes in them and I have never been so embarrassed.

Occasionally, the adjectival form has a meaning which is different from that of its related verb. Compare the following: · · · I spotted her through the crowded room. She was wearing a spotted dress. We advanced through the jungle as quickly as we could as we needed to reach the clearing by nightfall. The cancer was quite advanced and he had only a few weeks to live.

-ed / -ing adjective or verb?

Alex from Israel writes: Hi, Roger. I'd like to ask a very simple question. How do I say: It's very interesting to me. It's very interesting for me. It's very interesting me. Which one is best? Thank you in advance. Of the three, only the middle one is a possibility. But even here, it sounds slightly awkward. I think most people would say simply: · · That's very interesting. OR: It's very interesting. OR:



I find that very interesting.

If you want to use interest as a verb, rather than interesting as an adjective, you would need to say: · · That interests me a lot. That doesn't interest me very much.

-ing adjective or -ed adjective? Remember: people might be interested in something and it is the thing itself that people find interesting. Other adjectives describing emotions follow a similar pattern: confusing / confused shocking / shocked amazing / amazed Compare the following: · · · · · · His explanation was confusing. Most students were confused by it. I was disappointed not to get the promotion I deserved. A disappointing day, yesterday. I'm starting a new job and I'm quite excited about it. I think it will be quite exciting. The news was shocking. We were shocked when we heard that everyone had drowned. Everybody was surprised when Jenny came top of the class. It was really amazing! It was a tiring day. I was dead tired after all that shopping. disappointing / disappointed surprising / surprised annoying / annoyed exciting / excited tiring / tired boring / bored

Note that people can also be adjective -ing, if they awaken this emotion in others: A: Frank is such a boring person, isn't he? I find his conversation really boring. B: He may be boring, but at least he's not as annoying as Ben who sniffs all the time. A: Paul's an amazing guy, isn't he? He amazes me. He can always see the funny side of things. B: I'm quite amazed by all the things Paul gets up to, I must say!

interested / disappointed / surprised / pleased + infinitive clause


Note that some of these adjectives are often followed by an infinitive clause: · · · · I shall be interested to hear about how you get on in Cairo. We were most surprised to see Kevin and Henry holding hands at the bus stop. I must say we were disappointed to learn that he had abandoned his job. I shall be pleased / delighted to accompany you to the exhibition on Thursday.

Interested in / surprised by / pleased with / etc Note that if you are using a prepositional structure with these adjectives, it will normally be either with or by, sometimes both are possible. Interested, however, is usually followed by in. Compare the following: · · · · We were pleased / delighted with all the wedding presents we received. We were surprised by his rudeness at the family gathering. Quite disgusting! I was quite disappointed with / by the film. He's normally such an exciting director. I would be interested in working in Britain if I could get a work permit.

Interest / surprise / please / etc as verbs Note that the verb forms of these adjectives describe an emotional state, not an action, and are thus rarely used with continuous tenses: · · · · She wanted to please him, but disappointed him when he discovered that she had spent so much money. (NOT: ... was disappointing him...) It surprises me to see you making so many basic errors in this game. (NOT: It is surprising me...) The novel interested me because it seemed to reflect real life so accurately. It amused me so much that I kept bursting out with laughter.



How can I use the word pitiful in a sentence? ­ Sandro Hello Sandro. Well, that's an interesting question. Now, pitiful is an adjective and it comes from the word pity. Now pity is a feeling that people have of kind of kindhearted sympathy, or sorrow or compassion... when you see a person or an animal that's suffering in some way, maybe hungry, cold, not looked after. And these feelings of pity will often lead you to help the person or animal that's suffering. So, if something is described as pitiful, it's suffering in a way which makes you feel sorry for it and you recognise that it needs help. And here's some examples: The horses were in a pitiful condition. They hadn't been fed for weeks, and they had sore and infected patches all over their skin. The children had made pitiful attempts to look after their mother but it was clear that the family could not manage. You can use words like sorry and pathetic as synonyms for pitiful. Now these words pitiful, sorry and pathetic can also have quite a negative meaning. They can be used to mean a feeling of pity but mixed with contempt or disgust for the lack of skill or care or attention that's caused the situation. Here's an example: After years of mismanagement, his finances were in a pitiful state. And another one: He made a couple of pitiful excuses about why he hadn't finished his work, but they were not accepted. And here are some synonyms for this second meaning of pitiful. They are: deplorable, woeful, disgraceful and contemptible. Thanks for your question, Sandro!

Hwang Minsu from Korea writes: What is the difference in meaning between impossible mission and mission impossible? In English, many adjectives, including past participles, can come before or after nouns. But in many cases I don't know what the difference is between an adjective placed before the noun and after the noun. adjectives before nouns Adjectives are normally placed before nouns and this is known as the modifier or attributive position. Thus, we would normally say: · Getting all the way round Brazil in five working days proved an impossible mission.


· ·

He asked me a number of difficult questions. I was sitting next to the open window which I couldn't close.

Mission impossible, if I remember correctly, was originally the name of an American television series which was later made into a film which you have probably seen. There is, in fact, no reason for putting the adjective after the noun here other than for effect. It sounds original and therefore your attention is drawn to it. exceptions to the general rule: adjectives after nouns Attributive adjectives can be placed after the verb to be (and other copular verbs). Then we would have: · · · The mission was impossible. All the questions he asked were difficult. The window remained open.

Copular verbs, which join adjectives to their subjects, describe the state of something or someone or a change of state. They include: be, seem, appear, look, sound, smell, taste, feel, get, become, stay, remain, keep, grow, go, turn: · · · The policemen became angry. The suspects remained calm although I could see that they were anxious. The soup looked, smelt and tasted good.

Also attributive adjectives with their own complement, e.g. capable of achieving first-class degrees, usually require the whole expression to come after the noun rather than before it: · We are recruiting students capable of achieving first-class degrees. NOT: We are recruiting capable of achieving first class degree students. BUT: She was a capable student. I used to live in a house next to the Royal Opera House. NOT: I used to live in a next to the Royal Opera House house. BUT: I live quite near you. In the next street, in fact.


In a similar way, participles are placed after the nouns which they define: · · The people questioned about the incident gave very vivid accounts of what had happened. The issues discussed at the meeting all had some bearing on world peace.

In all of these last four examples, however, it is perhaps more normal to use a relative clause: · We are recruiting students who are capable of achieving first-class degrees.


· · ·

I used to live in a house which was next to the Royal Opera House. The people who were questioned about the incident gave vivid accounts of what had happened. The issues that were discussed at the meeting all had some bearing on world peace.

Finally, adjectives come after most measurement nouns and after some-, any- and no- words: · · · · · The fence around the estate was three metres high, thirty-five kilometres long and one hundred and twenty years old. This place doesn't look very promising, but let's try and find somewhere nice for dinner. I couldn't find anything interesting on the television so I had an early night. There's somebody outside who wants to speak to you. Shall I let him in? Nobody present at the meeting was able to offer me any useful advice.

Jang-Joon Lee from Korea writes: I studied English for more than twenty years in school. But I still don't know the exact position of an adverb. Is there any rule regarding the position of adverbs? Thanks a lot.

There are three normal positions for adverbs in a sentence: 1) initial position (before the subject) 2) mid position (between the subject and the verb or immediately after be as a main verb) or 3) end position (at the end of the clause). Different types of adverbs favour different positions and I describe these trends below. There are sometimes exceptions to the general rule, so please regard this as a basic guide.

Initial position Linking adverbs, which join a clause to what was said before, always come here. Time adverbs can come here when we want to show a contrast with a previous reference to time. Comment and viewpoint adverbs (e.g. luckily, officially, presumably) can also come here when we want to highlight what we are about to say. Compare the following: · · Two of the workers were sacked, and, as a result, everybody went on strike. We invited all the family. However, not everyone could come.


· · · ·

The weather will stay fine today, but tomorrow it will rain. Initially, his condition remained stable, but over the last few weeks it has deteriorated. Margaret ran the office, although, officially, Trevor was the manager. I haven't made any plans yet, but presumably you'll want to show her around London

mid position Focusing adverbs (e.g. just, even), adverbs of indefinite frequency (e.g. often, always, never) and adverbs of certainty and degree (e.g probably, obviously, clearly, completely, quite, almost) all favour this position. Note that when auxiliary verbs (e.g. is, has, will, was) are used, they normally go between the auxiliary verb and the main verb: · · · · · She's been everywhere - she's even been to Tibet and Nepal. Tom won't be back yet, but I'll just see if Brenda's home. I'll give her a ring. My boss often travels to Malaysia and Singapore but I've never been there. Have you finished yet? I haven't quite finished. I've almost finished. She's obviously a very bossy woman. ~ I completely agree!

adverb-adjective When adverbs modify adjectives, they are placed immediately before them: · · We had some really interesting news last night. John's been offered a job in Australia. He's absolutely delighted. I bought an incredibly expensive dress last week which fits me perfectly. But John says I shouldn't wear it. He says it's too tight.

An exception to this rule is enough which is placed after the adjective or adverb that it modifies: · I got up quite early but not early enough to eat a good breakfast.

expressing possibility: perhaps/maybe, may/might


Katinka Raupenstein from Germany writes: Hi! I'd like to know when you should use maybe and when you should use perhaps. I'm not sure, buy maybe perhaps was used only in former times. In any case, I've never heard perhaps on the radio. All the VIPs use only maybe.

maybe / perhaps In British English both of these adverbs are still very commonly used and have the same meaning. You use them to say that something is possible or may be true, but you are not certain. They can be used interchangeably but of the two, maybe is very appropriate for more informal contexts and perhaps is used in more formal situations. Compare the following: · · · · · · · I can't find it anywhere. ~ Perhaps / Maybe you threw it away. How old is Jane? ~ I don't really know. In her twenties, certainly. Twentyfive, maybe. There were perhaps as many as fifty badly wounded soldiers in the hospital. Perhaps I should explain to you how they came to be there. St Paul's Cathedral is perhaps one of London's most prominent landmarks. Why don't you join us for the New Year celebrations? ~ Yeah, perhaps / maybe I will. Maybe you are right! Perhaps it would be best if you didn't invite Johnnie

Note that perhaps is pronounced 'praps'. Note also from the above illustrations that perhaps and maybe can be used to refer to past, present or future events.

may / might Similarly, we can use the modal auxiliaries may or might to say that there is a chance that something is true or may happen. May and might are used to talk about present or future events. They can normally be used interchangeably, although might may suggest a smaller chance of something happening. Compare the following: · · · · · I may go into town tomorrow for the Christmas sales. And James might come with me! What are you doing over the New Year, Ann? ~ Oh, I may go to Scotland, but there again, I might stay at home. If you go to bed early tonight, you may / might feel better tomorrow. If you went to bed early tonight, you might feel better tomorrow. One of my New Year resolutions is to go to the gym twice a week! ~ And pigs might fly!


Note that 'Pigs might fly' is a fixed expression and always uses might. It means that something will never happen. In the first conditional example, will perhaps could be substituted. · If you go to bed early tonight, you may / might feel better tomorrow.

In the second conditional example, where might is an alternative for would perhaps, may cannot be substituted. · If you went to bed early tonight, you might feel better tomorrow.

Steven Tan from Singapore writes: Hi Roger! My friends often argue about the meaning of the adverb quite. Webster's Dictionary defines it as extreme or very. Am I right to say that it is the same in British English? In British English, quite has two different meanings. It does mean completely or entirely, but it also means fairly or rather. quite = completely When it is used for emphasis with adjectives that cannot be graded, quite means completely. The colour adjective black, for example cannot be graded. Things can't be more black or less black. They are just black. So, if we put this into context and look at some more examples of quite with ungradable adjectives, we may find: · · · · · There's no trace of red in her hair - it's quite black. I see no hope - the future looks quite black to me. It's quite impossible to learn twenty new items of vocabulary each day. His performance on stage was quite amazing - we were just spellbound for three hours! Are you quite sure? I think you're quite wrong about this.

not quite = not completely When not is used with quite, it always means not exactly or not completely. Study the following: · · · Shall we go? ~ I'm not quite ready. Do you like this one? ~ It's not quite the colour I wanted. Have you finished that book on Che Guevara yet? ~ Not quite.


quite = exactly / I agree Quite can be used in an emphatic way as a one-word response, meaning exactly or I completely agree: · · I always knew their marriage would never last. ~ Quite! / Exactly! / So did I! If you stay quite still, those animals won't harm you. ~ Quite! / That's absolutely right.

quite = fairly / rather If we are using quite with an adjective that is gradable, it means fairly or rather. The adjective easy, for example, is gradable. Things can be easier or harder. Thus, quite, when used with easy, means fairly or rather. Study these examples: · · · How did you find the maths test? ~ Oh, it was quite easy, really. / It was quite difficult. What did you think of the cabaret? ~ Oh, it was quite entertaining. I'm quite tired but I'll try and finish this book review before I go to bed.

quite with verbs When quite is used to modify verbs, the meaning depends on whether the verb is regarded as gradable or not. Compare the following: · · · · I wouldn't want to be on holiday with him, but I quite like him. How did you get on at Barry's party? ~ Oh, it was quite nice. I quite enjoyed myself. I haven't quite finished decorating Jim's bedroom yet, but I will have by Saturday. I quite agree with you. Young children must never be left at home on their own.

quite with a / an + (adjective) noun When quite is used to modify nouns or adjectives with nouns, it normally has the meaning of rather. Compare the following: · · · · I know they left in a hurry. How did they leave the house? ~ Oh, it was in quite a mess. How was the house contents auction? ~ Oh, it was quite a success. Nearly everything went. Let's take a picnic with us. I think it's going to be quite a nice day. Did you get to see Hamlet at the Barbican? ~ Yes, it was quite an interesting production.


So / Very Halimatus from Malaysia asks What's the difference between 'so' and 'very'? And what is the difference between 'were laughing' and 'are laughing'? I think both have the same meaning. Can you explain it to me?

Mark Shea answers: Hi Halimatus, thanks for your question. Let's start with the easy bit... "We are laughing" is the present continuous tense, and that normally means that it is happening right now. We might say that "We are laughing at the comedy on television" or "Don't worry, we are not laughing at you - it was something John said earlier!" In expressions with 'when', it might mean every time we do something, for example, laugh: "When we're laughing, I forget about our problems." But "We were laughing" is the past continuous tense, and so normally talks about a time in the past: "We were laughing at the story about Paul when he walked in the room" or "I saw what happened, but why were you laughing?" So the difference is the present and the past: If it's happening now, say 'are'. If it was happening at some time in the past, say 'were'. The other question is a bit more complicated... We use 'very' with adjectives - those are words which describe people, places or things to make them more extreme. So: "London is a big city, but Tokyo is a very big city." "Einstein was a very intelligent man." "The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur are very tall." When we use 'so', there's normally another clause - that's part of a sentence - after it. The 'so' part of the sentence explains why the 'that' part of the sentence happens: "Tokyo is so big that it is difficult for tourists to find their way around." "Einstein was so intelligent that some other scientists had problems understanding his theories." "The Petronas Towers are so tall that they were once the world's tallest buildings." The first part of the sentence doesn't really make any sense without the second part, so although we can say: "The Malaysian grand prix is very noisy" it doesn't really make sense to say: "The Malaysian grand prix is so noisy" - unless you're replying to something another


person has just said. For example: "I don't like motor sports!" "No - me neither. I went to the Malaysian grand prix and it was so noisy." What we mean here is that it was so noisy that she didn't enjoy it. So use 'very' when you don't mean that something is good or bad, just extreme, and use 'so' when you want to add extra information afterwards. I hope this answers your question Halimatus. It was very difficult - so difficult that I think I need a rest now! Use of 'so' and 'such' Savino Carrella from Naples asks: Could you kindly tell me whether the use of so in the following sentence is correct: 'Miles looked older than his brother, revealing so a strange maturity.' Here so should stand for 'in this way'. If so here means 'in this way' or 'thus', it would normally come immediately after the main clause: · · 'Miles looked older than his brother, so revealing a strange maturity.' ('so' = less formal) 'Miles looked older than his brother, thus revealing a strange maturity.' ('thus' = more formal)

However, if you are using so or such for emphasis to mean 'to a very great degree or extent', their position immediately before the adjective is correct. But take care using these two forms. It has to be such before a noun or before an adjective plus noun. So it will be: · 'Miles looked older than his brother, revealing such a strange maturity.'

So is obviously used in a similar way, but is placed before adjectives standing alone or before adverb plus adjective, thus: · 'She was so indescribably beautiful that we couldn't take our eyes off her.'

Remember: such + noun so + adjective such + adjective + noun so + adverb + adjective The noun with such is normally preceded by the indefinite article: · 'We had such a good time at Henry's party.'


· ·

'I've been working far too hard today and I've got such a headache now.' 'She really embarrassed me. She is such a fool.'

Occasionally, in certain expressions, when the noun has a gradeable meaning, the indefinite article is dropped: · · · · 'Such lovely countryside (around here)!' 'Such awful weather (these days)!' 'We had such fun at Henry's party!' 'I don't know how you have such patience (when dealing with such awkward customers).'

Frequently heard examples of so in this sense might include: · · · · · · 'I'm so glad you are here!' 'He was so pleased to see her.' 'Don't go so fast! Slow down!' 'What's so funny about that?' 'I'm so tired! It's as if I haven't slept for a week.' 'I love you so much!'

You will already have noticed from at least one of the above examples that so and such are often followed by 'that'-clauses suggesting result or consequence. Note that when plural nouns are used after such, the article is, of course, omitted. · · · · · · 'I'm so glad (that) you could come!' 'It had been so hot on the journey (that) we had to drink a litre of water when we arrived home.' 'There was so much to do on that holiday (that) nobody ever got bored.' 'They were such good swimmers (that) they had no difficulty swimming across the fast-flowing river.' 'She prepared such good meals (that) no one ever thought of going out to eat.' 'I've got such a high temperature (that) I'm hoping (that) my husband will drive me straight to the surgery when he gets home from work.'

There is one exception to the general rule as set out above and that is that only so can be used with indefinite determiners much and many and it is more usual with little and few when these are followed by a noun. We therefore have the new pattern: so + determiner + noun · · · 'So many sun-worshippers had crowded on to the beach that there was no space left for my towel.' 'I'm sure there will be so much noise in the restaurant that I shan't be able to hear what anybody is saying.' 'I had so little rest over the weekend that I couldn't go to work on Monday morning.'



'There were so few leaves on the tree that it was pointless to try to shelter from the rain beneath it.'

You cannot say: 'such many sun-worshippers', or 'such much noise' and it would be unusual to say: 'such few leaves' or 'such little rest'.

Finally compare: · · 'Such little people!' ('Little' here is used as an adjective meaning 'small'.) 'So few people!' ('Few' here is used as a determiner meaning 'not very many'.)

You will already have noticed from at least one of the above examples that 'so' and 'such' are often followed by that-clauses suggesting result or consequence. Note that when plural nouns are used after 'such', the article is, of course, omitted. 'I'm so glad (that) you could come!' 'It had been so hot on the journey (that) we had to drink a litre of water when we arrived home.' 'There was so much to do on that holiday (that) nobody ever got bored.' 'They were such good swimmers (that) they had no difficulty swimming across the fast-flowing river.' 'She prepared such good meals (that) no one ever thought of going out to eat.' 'I've got such a high temperature (that) I'm hoping (that) my husband will drive me straight to the surgery when he gets home from work.' though / as though / like Tamas from Hungary writes: I'm a bit confused about using the word though. It's often used at the end of a sentence. For example: · The house isn't very nice. I like the garden though.

Can you help me out and explain the usage of this word?

'though' as conjunction We normally think of though as a conjunction introducing a contrastive statement, and as the less formal and less forceful equivalent of although and even though. Compare the following: · · · Even though it was suffocatingly hot, she was wearing a thick woollen sweater. Although she was very fond of him, she had no intention of marrying him. We could try to phone her before we go, though we might miss the train if we do.


'though' as adverb But in your example, Tamas, though is used as an adverb as the less formal equivalent of however. We use though and however when we want to add a comment that seems to contradict or contrasts with what has already been said. As in your own example, Tamas, though often indicates an afterthought. Compare the following: · · I performed so well at interview I thought I would get the job. However, it was not to be. The economic outlook is not very good. However, I can assure you that nobody will lose his job. I'm sorry, I can't stay for lunch. I'll have a coffee, though. What a lovely sunny day! ~ There's a chilly wind, though, isn't there?

· ·

as though / as if / like Like though, as though and as if are subordinating conjunctions. We use as if or as though when we want to give an explanation for something which may not be correct: · · · She looked at me as if / as though I were mad. Take an umbrella. It looks as if / as though it's going to rain. I can't understand why she's so keen on him. It's not as if / as though he's good-looking or anything.

In spoken informal English, particularly American English, we sometimes substitute like for as if and as though: · · She looked at me like I was stupid. It looks like it's gonna rain.

Strictly speaking, like, meaning similar to, is a preposition which can only be followed by a pronoun, noun or noun phrase. So, if you want to be grammatically correct, make sure you use like in this way: · · · Like all good curries, it was served with fresh coriander and nan bread. Like me, she refuses to work after six o' clock in the evening. On the phone you sound just like your mother. In fact, I always think it is your mother.

'before' or 'ago' I am studying how to use tenses correctly in English. I am having difficulty with the difference between ago and before. Ago cannot be used with the present perfect


tense. We cannot say: I have met him five years ago. We have to say: I have met him before. Why is present perfect possible with before, but not with ago? 'before' - any time before now Before means: at some unknown time before now. It does not say when. Therefore we would say: I know that chap. I've met him somewhere before. Have you been here before? ~ No, I've never been here before. This is my first time. We normally use the present perfect tense because the effect of meeting or seeing someone or being somewhere is still felt in the present. Simple past is also possible because we are talking about unknown occasions in the past, but it is less likely: I know that chap. I met him somewhere before. Were you here before? ~ No, I was never here before. This is my first time. 'ago' - at a certain time before now Ago tells us how long before the present time something happened. It tells us when and gives us a time or a date. Because we are referring to a specific time in the past, the simple past is used: Your mother phoned five minutes ago. Can you phone her back? I saw her for the first time at film festival in Cannes some twenty years ago. 'before' - at a certain time before then Ago always counts back from the present time. Note that if we are counting back from a past time, before or earlier or previously are used, not ago: I met him at the AIDS conference in Durban in December 2002 when he told me that he had contracted AIDS four years before. ( = 6 years ago) Last year I went back to my hometown that I had left ten years before and discovered that the house I grew up in was no longer standing. (= left home 11 years ago) Last year I returned to my hometown that I had left ten years ago and discovered that the house I grew up in had been demolished (= left home 10 years ago) 'before' - conjunction and preposition as well as adverb Note that before can be used as a conjunction or preposition as well as an adverb. If before is used as a conjunction, it often connects two clauses together which discuss past events. But note that it can also be used with a present tense in the subordinate clause to indicate future activity. Compare the following:


They left the dining table before I had finished my meal. How rude of them! He knelt down to say his prayers before he got into bed. I shall read all the reports before I decide what action to take. It can also link clauses denoting habitual current activity with the simple present: I always shave before I take a shower. You must take off your shoes before you enter the mosque. If before is used as a preposition, it usually refers to time, not to place when in front of is preferred. Compare the following: To stay young and beautiful, try to get to bed before midnight each night. To stay in shape, I try to go for a jog and a swim in the sea every morning before breakfast. There were so many tall people in front of me that I could see nothing of the procession as it passed by. 'Ever' and 'whenever' Tiffany Teng from Singapore asks: We know it is correct to say: `I have never been to London'. But for someone who has been to London before, is it correct to say: `I have ever been to London'?

No. Ever means at any time, so it is inappropriate in the above sentence. Ever is used mainly in questions. Although it is usually associated with the present perfect, it can also be used with a present, past or past perfect verb form or with future reference. If the answer is no, we often use never in the reply, meaning `not at any time'. If the answer is yes, we might add once or twice, etc, to indicate how many times we have done whatever is being referred to. Compare the following: · · · · · · 'Have you ever been to Ireland?' 'Yes, I've been there twice, once in 1983 and again in 1995.' 'Did you ever meet Tom Robinson when you were at uni?' 'No, I never did.' 'My driving instructor asked me if I'd ever driven before.' 'I said, no, I never had.' 'Do you ever go to the cinema?' 'No, I prefer to watch films on video or DVD.' 'Are you ever going to finish this book?' 'I'll try and finish it over the summer. I've no time now.' 'Will you ever marry me?' 'No, Jason I don't think I ever will.'

As you can see from this last example, ever can be used in an affirmative sentence with not as an alternative to the more usual 'never'. It can also be used in affirmative sentences with if and with adverbs which express a negative idea, like


hardly. Remember the meaning of ever is always `at any time'. Compare the following: · · · · 'If you ever change your mind, let me know. We'd love to have you on the team.' 'If you are ever in London, be sure to come and see us.' 'We hardly ever go to the theatre. It's too expensive.' 'I don't think we shall ever see Jenny again now that she's emigrated to Australia.'

Remember also that ever can be tagged on to `where', `when', `what', `which', `who' and `how' to make the conjunctions wherever, whenever, whatever, whichever, whoever and however, meaning 'no matter where', `no matter when', `no matter what', `no matter which', `no matter who' and `no matter how'. Compare the following: · · · · · · 'We were playing `Hide and Seek' and we couldn't find him wherever we looked.' 'If you have a problem, you can phone me up whenever you like ­ at any time of the day.' 'Whatever advice I gave her, she would be sure not to take it.' 'Whichever path we took, we were unable to find our way out of the maze.' 'I shall sell my computer to whoever wants it.' 'However hard I try, I can never seem to learn vocabulary.'

Finally, ever is used in the comparative expression as ever and than ever, meaning `as/than at any time in the past'. Study the following two examples: · · 'You'll have to work harder than ever today, if you want to finish this job before it gets dark.' 'Jayne, it's so long since I heard you sing, but you sing as beautifully as ever!'

Time expressions, adjectives and adverbs Min from South Korea writes: I'd like to know the difference between lately and recently. My dictionaries say they are almost the same, but I guess there's a slight difference, isn't there? Aston Ndosi from Tanzania writes: Please assist by explaining to me the difference in use between prompt and punctual. S. Rajandran from India writes: I would like to know the difference between instantaneous and simultaneous.


Recently / lately - late There is a slight difference in use between recently and lately (see below) but note that the adverb late is quite different in meaning from lately: its opposite is early. Compare the following: · · · · · The supermarket has recently opened a new superstore outside town (= a short time ago) I haven't been to the theatre recently / lately. (= over the last few weeks or months) My health hasn't been too good recently / lately - I've hardly been out at all. I arrived late for the performance and couldn't get in. It's a good idea to arrive early so that you have time for a drink before the show starts.

Recently / lately - late There is a slight difference in use between recently and lately (see below) but note that the adverb late is quite different in meaning from lately: its opposite is early. Compare the following: · · · · · The supermarket has recently opened a new superstore outside town (= a short time ago) I haven't been to the theatre recently / lately. (= over the last few weeks or months) My health hasn't been too good recently / lately - I've hardly been out at all. I arrived late for the performance and couldn't get in. It's a good idea to arrive early so that you have time for a drink before the show starts.

Promptly - punctually - on time - in time If you arrive punctually, you arrive at the right time, neither late nor early - you arrive on time. Punctually is normally used with the verb arrive, but promptly, which means without delay, is used with other verbs (see below and note the position of promptly in these sentences. In time has a slightly different meaning


from on time. If you do something in time, you do it with time to spare - before the last moment. Compare the following: · · · · · · · · · He sat down to watch the television programme and promptly fell asleep. He sat down to watch the television programme and fell asleep straightaway. I received his letter a week ago and I replied promptly to it. I received his letter a week ago and I replied to it immediately. He was saved from falling overboard by the prompt action of the skipper. My guest arrived punctually at seven o' clock, as I expected. He's always very punctual. The train left exactly on time. The show started exactly on time. I didn't get to the house in time. They had already left. We're in plenty of time. We can have a coffee. There's no need to go in now.

Instant(ly) - instantaneous(ly) If something happens instantly it happens immediately. If something happens instantaneously it also happens immediately but at the same time very quickly. Instantaneous and instantaneously are used only in a restricted range of contexts (see below): · · · · The Beatles songs are instantly recognisable - everybody seems to know them. When I saw Barbara crying I knew instantly what was wrong. Death was instantaneous for all the people in the car when the bomb exploded. The airbags for the driver and front seat passenger inflate instantaneously on impact in a head-on collision.

Simultaneously - at the same time If things happen simultaneously, they happen at the same time. Note that simultaneous is used in more formal contexts than at the same time (see below):


· · ·

The two-minute silence in memory of the famous footballer was observed simultaneously on all the football grounds in England. The shots were fired simultaneously and three of them hit their target. We arrived at the same time. I arrived at the same time as Judy.

In informal and semi-formal registers, at the same time can also be used to connect ideas between sentences. It introduces a statement that slightly changes or contradicts the previous statement. Simultaneously cannot be used in this way. Compare the following: I admired her for her courage in the face of such adversity. At the same time, I was slightly afraid of her. (NOT: Simultaneously I was slightly afraid of her.) Cities are becoming more and more crowded. At the same time, people are using their cars less and less in city centres. (NOT: Simultaneously people...)

always or ever? Could you please explain when I have to use ever and when I have to use always? ever = at any time Ever usually means at any time and can be used to refer to past, present and future situations. The converse, meaning at no time, is never. Ever is mainly used in questions. Sometimes it is used in negative sentences (not ever) as an alternative to never. Compare the following: Were you ever in the Boy Scouts? ~ No, I never was. Have you ever been to the Everglades in Florida? ~ Yes, I was there once, but it was years ago. Will you ever speak to her again? ~ No, I don't think I ever will. If you ever need any help, just give me a ring. ever : for emphasis We sometimes use ever to give emotive emphasis to what we are saying as an indication that we feel very strongly about it. Thus, in speech, ever receives strong word stress: If I ever catch you fiddling your expenses claims again, you'll be sacked.


Don't ever do that again! How ever did you manage to drive home through so much snow? When ever will I find time to get to the bottom of my in-tray? Why ever did he marry such a domineering woman? We sometimes use ever in compound expressions with hardly or if: hardly ever = very rarely / seldom It seldom / hardly ever / very rarely rains in Puglia in the summer. seldom, if ever = almost never Now that we have young children, we seldom, if ever, go out in the evening. ever = always? We do not often use ever to mean always, i.e. on every occasion or all the time. We have to say, e.g.: I always bike to work now. It's so much healthier. (Not: I ever bike to work now. It's so much healthier.) Compare the difference in meaning between these two example sentences. In the first sentence, they often agree, but not on every occasion. In the second sentence, they never agree: My mother and I don't always agree about the best way to rear children. My mother and I don't ever agree about the best way to rear children. ever = always But occasionally, ever is used to mean always. We sometimes end letters with Yours ever or Ever yours as an alternative to Yours sincerely. Here Ever yours means Always yours. And in these contexts too, in which we are indicating that a person has particular qualities, ever is used to mean always: Let me open the door for you. ~ Ever the gentleman! I always year loose-fitting clothes like this ~ Ever the hippie! In a number of compound expressions, ever is used to mean always. These include as ever, for ever and ever since: as ever


As ever, they couldn't agree. They've never ever agreed on anything. As ever, he was dressed in the style of Eminem. I thought she might be upset by this, but she was as unperturbed as ever. for ever or forever We plan to live in this village now for ever. We shall never move out. I intend to remain married to you forever. I shall always love you. ever since She's had a drink problem ever since her husband died. I first met him when I was in the army and we've remained friends ever since. Note that with the ever since construction the 'always' period commences when something happens. In the above examples, this is husband's death or army service meeting. Finally when ever is combined with a comparative adjective, it is used to mean always: The water was rising ever higher and we were in danger of being cut off. The volume of work is going to increase and I shall become ever more busy. always = very often As well as all the time or on every occasion, always can also mean very often when it is used with the progressive form: She always going on about the cost of living and how expensive everything is. I'm always losing my keys. I put them down and can never remember where I've put them. Note the difference in meaning between these two examples of use: I'll always lend you money when you have none. You know you can depend on me. (Always = on every occasion) I'm always lending you money when you have none. Why don't you try to budget more carefully? (Always = very often)

yet / still / already : position and use


Maria Rita Barros from Brazil writes: I always get confused when I use still, yet and already. Could you please explain them again with examples. Maria-Leena Luotonen from Finland writes: I've been wondering why my grammar book says that yet goes at the end of the clause in interrogative and negative sentences when I have seen the examples: I got the book a month ago and I haven't yet had a chance to read it. (Cambridge Dictionaries on line) Later issues are not yet published.(British Library)

Yet - position in sentence I would say that your grammar book, Cambridge Dictionaries and the British Library are all correct, Maria-Leena. Yet is normally placed at the end of the clause, particularly in informal English and in questions, but can go immediately after not in negative sentences in a more formal style, such as Cambridge Dictionaries and the British Library have used. Compare also the following: · How long have you been in Britain? ~ For over a year now. ~ Have you been to Wales or Scotland yet? ~ No, not yet. I haven't even ventured out of London yet.

Although she has been in Britain for more than a year, Maria has not yet visited either Wales or Scotland. Yet - meaning and use We use yet in questions to ask whether something has happened up to the present time. Not yet then indicates that it hasn't happened yet: · Is dinner ready yet? I'm starving. ~ No, it's not ready yet. It'll be another half an hour.

In a more formal style it is possible to use yet in affirmative sentences: · · We have yet to discover whether there are any survivors from the plane crash. I have yet to speak to the personnel manager to discuss my future.

In a less formal style, we might say: · · We still don't know whether there are survivors from the plane crash. I haven't spoken to the manager yet, so don't know what my future will be.



I still haven't spoken to the manager, so don't know what my future will be.

Thus, in negative sentences, as we can see from these examples, there is considerable overlap in meaning and use between yet and still. Still is the more emphatic of the two. still - meaning and use We use still in questions, affirmative and negative sentences to indicate that something is not finished and that we are perhaps surprised or concerned about this. Because it is emphatic, it often carries considerable word stress: · · Is it still raining? ~ Yes, it's still raining. No chance of playing tennis today, I'm afraid. I still don't know whether Brendan will be coming to the engagement party. I've tried to reach him several times on the phone, but can't seem to get hold of him.

already - meaning and use Whereas still and yet normally refer to present and future circumstances, already normally refers to something that is in the present or recent past. It is mainly used in questions and affirmative sentences and usually expresses surprise that something has happened sooner than expected. · · · · · When do you expect Polly to arrive? ~ She's already here! Haven't you seen her? Can you give me a hand with the layout for this article. ~ No, I'm sorry, I'm already late. I have to leave right now. Can you help me move those boxed upstairs? ~ I've already moved them. Have you finished that typing already? Yes, I finished it about five minutes ago. By the age of three, Mozart had already learnt to play the piano.

still / already - position in sentence Note from the above examples that in contrast to yet, still and already usually occupy mid position in the clause.

A question from Katie Burton in China: Some of my Chinese colleagues asked me about the phrase 'well and truly'. We can say 'well and truly stuck' but not 'well and truly beautiful'. Are there any rules for


using this phrase or is it just a case of learning it? Is 'well and truly' an adverb and what should follow it, or is it an adjective and is it only for negative things? Karen Adams answers: Thank you for your question Katie. And first let me explain what 'well and truly stuck' means. If something is 'well and truly stuck' you really can not move it. So for example if your car breaks down and you try to push it and it won't move it may be well and truly stuck. So 'well and truly' here means absolutely stuck, you can't move it. And really when we say something is well and truly stuck it shows that we are actually a little bit frustrated or we really aren't very happy about the fact that we can't move it. So for example if I come home and I want to have a biscuit and I look in the biscuit tin and there are none there I can say 'well they are well and truly finished'. However 'well and truly' is a very difficult phrase to use because it doesn't go with lots and lots of different adjectives. If you were to say the words 'well and truly' to someone in Britain they would imagine that the next word would be stuck. 'Well and truly' is an adverbial phrase to describe the adjective stuck. And they just go together. There are no clear rules to for why certain adverbs go with certain adjectives, they just do. So, for example, if you say to someone in Britain the adverb ­ 'stunningly' ­ the adjective they're most likely to think of is 'beautiful'. These are what we call fixed phrases. They're phrases which just go together, they collocate ­ co locate ­ they go together. It's not just adverbs and adjectives which go together in this way. We often find nouns and nouns go together. So for example 'fish and .... chips'. Or adjectives and nouns, for example we can say - 'heavy smoker', someone who smokes a lot, or 'heavy drinker' someone who drinks a lot. But someone who eats a lot? No it's not a 'heavy eater' it's a 'big eater'. Basically these phrases which go together form patterns, there are no real rules to learn. You just have to be able to work out what the patterns are. So how do you learn these phrases which go together? Well the two best things you can do are to read and to listen. When you're reading a newspaper or a book try to work out phrases that you see coming up more than once. If you see a phrase which goes together maybe two or three times then you can think 'mmm I think those go together, I think those collocate.' And similarly if you're listening to the radio, when you're listening to the BBC World Service if you hear the phrase two or three times, make a note of it, because then you know 'mmm this is a collocation, this is a phrase which goes together.' So hopefully Katie that answers your question. To sum up, 'well and truly is an adverbial phrase and most often you use it with the adjective 'stuck', 'well and truly stuck.' You can use it in one or two other circumstances, but usually you will hear it with he adjective 'stuck'. Although now I'm well and truly finished and I'm going to go and have a cup of tea.

Worth and worthwhile Roberto Miguel from Argentina writes:


Would you please explain the difference between these two sentences: This book is worth reading It's worth reading this book. and also the use and meaning of: It's worthwhile... It's worth somebody's while... There is no difference in meaning between the first two sentences. In both of them we are talking about the value of an activity. The difference is one of form only and both forms are frequently used Is it worth repairing this car? Worth usually follows the verb to be and is often used with a preparatory it. It can then be followed by an -ing clause: · · It was definitely worth making the effort to watch this documentary. It is always worth fighting for your freedom and independence.

Note that with this construction, it can be used to refer to an action mentioned in the previous sentence: · · Shall we have this car repaired? ~ No, it's not worth repairing. I shall never have any independence. ~ It's worth fighting for, you know.

This car is not worth repairing With this structure the object of the -ing clause is made the subject of the sentence and the preparatory it becomes superfluous: · · · This documentary was definitely worth watching. This documentary was definitely worth making the effort to watch. Freedom and independence are always worth fighting for.

Be worth a lot of money Worth is also often followed by a noun phrase when we are discussing the monetary value of something or somebody and saying how much it or they are worth. With this construction the question forms how much and what are often used: · · What / How much do you think this violin is worth? ~ It must be worth a fortune. It's a stradivarius. He bought me earrings worth two thousand pounds. ~ Gosh, how much is he worth? ~ He's a dollar millionaire!

be worth a lot / a great deal /etc


With these expressions we are saying how good, useful or reliable something or someone is: · · She's always there for me. Her companionship is worth a great deal to me. She's worth her weight in gold. The government's promises and policies are not worth very much. The policies are not worth the paper they're printed on.

Note that to be worth your weight in gold and not worth the paper they are printed on are both idioms. Word order cannot be changed. be worth somebody's while If you say it will be worth your while to do something, it means that you will get some (financial) advantage or benefit from it, even though it may take some time or trouble: · · It would be well worth your while to invest in shares now while the stock market is low. It's not really worth my while to spend the whole day on my feet behind the counter for as little as fifty pounds.

Note from the above example that worth can also be modified by well to make the expression well worth. worthwhile If something is worthwhile it is well worth the time, money or effort that you spend on it: · · It was a worthwhile journey - he got to see everyone on his list. The meeting was so worthwhile and all the arguments about profit margins have now been sorted out.

Sometimes, worthwhile simply means of value and can be used in a similar way to worth with preliminary it. Compare the following: · · · It may be worth comparing this year's profit margins with last year's It may be worthwhile to compare this year's profit margins with last year's It may be worth your while to compare this year's profit margins with last year's

worthless Note that if something is worthless, it has no value or use: · · The guarantee will be worthless if the company goes out of business. With hyperinflation the local currency has become virtually worthless.


'yet' as conjunction and adverb Viji Palaniappan from India writes: Yet is similar in meaning to but. But people also say: not yet. This is confusing. ~Did you receive the book? ~Not yet. The problem is that yet can be used as an adverb as well as a co-ordinating conjunction. Let's look at its function as a conjunction first of all. yet as conjunction You are right, Viji. Yet is similar in meaning to but. But is a co-ordinating conjunction used to contrast two statements: · · They can speak Arabic but they can't read or write it. He tried to book a holiday on Bali, but he didn't have enough money to pay for it.

We use yet as the preferred alternative to but when we want to emphasise that contrast to achieve a stronger effect: · · She can play the piano very well, yet she can't read music at all. The yachtsman had lost all sense of direction, yet he refused to give up in his attempt to cross the Atlantic.

We sometimes put and in front of yet when it is used in this way or use even so as an alternative to yet or and yet: · · She can play the piano very well, and yet she can't read music at all. The yachtsman had lost all sense of direction. Even so, he refused to give up in his attempt to cross the Atlantic.

However and nevertheless are sometimes used as more formal alternatives to yet: · · He had no chance of winning the race or even of coming in the first six. However, he kept going and crossed the finishing line ahead of his team mates. He had not slept for three nights. Nevertheless, he insisted on going into work the following day.

In colloquial spoken English, mind you, but still or still are sometimes used as less formal alternatives to yet: · The weather was lousy. It rained every day. Still, we managed to enjoy ourselves.


· ·

I don't like the work very much. Mind you, the people I work with are very nice. You can be very annoying at times, but we still love you.

yet as adverb When yet is used as an adverb, it is used to talk about something over a period of time, up till now: · · Is lunch ready yet? Are the Hunts back from their holiday yet?

It is often used with the negative when you are saying that up to the present time something has not happened. It is normally used with present and perfect tenses, though in American English you will sometimes hear it used with the past tense. Still can sometimes be used as an alternative to yet. When we use still in this way, it is emphatic. We are saying that we are very surprised that it hasn't happened. Compare the following: · · · · Don't eat the plums. They're not ripe yet. / They're still not ripe. I haven't been to Wales or Scotland yet, though I've visited England many times. I still haven't been to Wales or Scotland, even though I've visited England many times. Did you phone him yet? No, sorry. I forgot.

As we can see from the above examples, yet is normally used with negative sentences and in questions, but it is sometimes used in affirmative sentences in a more formal style: · · I have yet to meet the man I wish to marry. We have yet to learn whether there will be any survivors from the earthquake.

Confusing words & expressions

'accident' and 'incident' I would like to know the difference between 'accident' and 'incident'. Mark Shea answers: Hi Richard - I can see the confusion here - the words even sound nearly the same! I think that the most important difference is that 'an accident' is something which happens purely by chance, there was no intention involved, and we can?t really use 'incident' like this.


If you do something by accident, you don't mean to do it, perhaps it's something you do or did without thinking. Post-it notes, for example, are little sticky pieces of paper that we use to write notes on. And they were discovered by accident when a scientist, who was trying to make a very strong glue created a very weak one instead. He didn't mean to discover Postit notes - he made them by accident. We often use 'accident' to describe something unpleasant or unfortunate ? "She had an accident while she was skiing and broke her leg." It's especially common to use it when we are talking about traffic and vehicle collisions ... "The car accident caused a big problem on the motorway." 'An incident' is much more general - we can use it to talk about almost anything that happens, any single event. If we were describing a particular time when something went badly wrong, we might talk about "the incident last summer" for example. It might be something completely intentional - someone deliberately starting an argument ... "We don't talk about politics at home since the incident last summer. Li was looking for an argument and brought up the subject of the recent elections." We couldn't call the argument 'an accident' because Li started it deliberately. We often say 'incident' when we don't want to mention what actually happened, or sometimes if we want to make an event sound less important. The police use 'incident' to talk about possible crimes, if they're not yet sure if a crime has been committed. It's quite common to hear: "Police are looking into the incident." It means that they are investigating to see if someone has committed a crime. So the biggest difference is that accidents are never intentional, but incidents might be! I hope this answers your question Richard.

Acting / Acting as A question from M. Mbewe in Zambia: What is the difference between 'Acting as Chief Executive Officer' and 'Acting Chief Executive Officer'? This is in relation to office duties.


Susan Fearn answers: So first of all, let me explain that the Chief Executive Officer is the person at the head of a company. But you might not have actually heard this said very much, and that's because it's such a mouthful that speakers of English often just use the initials - 'CEO', and that's true of both speech and writing. I've got a couple of examples from BBC news stories. Here's one from October 2006: "Streiff resigns as CEO of Airbus" The chief executive of troubled plane maker Airbus has resigned... And here's another: "CEO swaps hedge fund for charity" (Sep 2006) The chief executive of the world's biggest hedge fund, is to step down to focus on private philanthropy... But anyway, the question here isn't 'What is a chief executive officer?' it's about Acting Chief Executive Officers. And here's an example: A friend of mine, who's the CEO of a charity, recently took a few months off to have a baby - she went on maternity leave. And while she was away, someone else took her job for a few months. That person had an official job title, Acting CEO - Acting Chief Executive Officer. Now acting here has nothing to do with Hollywood - it just means being temporarily but officially in a job. And the person that normally does that job is away - perhaps they've left and a permanent replacement hasn't been found. You can be an acting anything, pretty much: an Acting Manager, Acting Head, Acting Editor, but your role is recognized. So in my friend's case, the Acting CEO got the job title, the money and the recognition. She was lucky! Sometimes, a company might not find a replacement immediately, or perhaps not find one at all. And some poor person still has to do all the extra work. That person might be acting as the CEO - they're doing the work but not necessarily getting the recognition, the pay or the official job title - they may or may not be. So, two examples: Maurizio is the Acting CEO That means he gets the official title, the money, the recognition. And he's also doing the work - he's acting as the CEO. On the other hand, poor old Maria, in her company, is acting as the CEO but she's not getting the job title or the extra money; she's not officially the Acting CEO. Now a quick word about a related phrasal verb 'act up'. If you fill an acting position, it's normally a level above your usual job; you're acting up. So, we can say, for instance: Maurizio is acting up while Glenda's away. You have to be careful with this verb though. Like many English phrasal verbs it's got


more than one meaning. 'Act up' can also mean 'misbehave', as in: "My children have been really acting up today." And if you say: "My boss is acting up" - it could have either meaning!

adjective-noun collocations Amin studying English in New Zealand writes: I usually get confused using adjectives like heavy, strong, severe, hard. For example, should it be : heavy traffic or severe traffic or heavy / strong / severe wind or heavy / strong / severe / hard rain or They hit me so hard/strong...? I would be much obliged if you could give me an answer. As you progress further with your English studies, Amin, you will become more sensitive to which adjectives best collocate with which nouns and which adverbs best collocate with which verbs. You can learn this by listening to as much spoken English as possible and reading as much written English as possible. Always try to learn use of vocabulary from the context in which it appears and with the help of an EnglishEnglish dictionary which gives plenty of examples of use as well as definitions. In your examples, we would talk about: · · · The heavy rain and heavy traffic made me late for my appointment. The strong wind whipped the waves up into three-metre-high breakers. They hit me so hard that I found it difficult to stay on my feet.

Other examples or contexts of usage with heavy / strong / severe / hard might be:

heavy · · · · · · He won't be able to lift such a heavy suitcase. He's only nine years old. He's been a heavy smoker and drinker all his adult life. It was a very heavy meal ­ far too much meat and not enough vegetables or salads. She had a very heavy cold and her breathing was heavy too. I've had a really heavy week ­ I've got a really heavy timetable this term. The First World War yielded much heavier casualties than had ever been known before.

Interestingly, thinking about antonyms of heavy, although we would talk about light suitcases, light meals, light weeks, light timetables and light casualties, we wouldn't quite so often say a light smoker or a light drinker. I think you would rarely hear


someone say a light cold. Instead it would be a slight cold, although you might say that someone's breathing was very light.(The antonyms of a word is another word which means the opposite.)

strong · · · · Martina Hingis has always exerted a strong influence on the way I play tennis. Although I have strong views on this, I had the strong support of everybody in the room. He has a strong case and there is a strong chance that his appeal will be successful. She speaks English quite well but with a strong French accent.

I am strong in the social sciences and psychology is perhaps my strongest subject. Thinking of antonyms of strong in these contexts, although we would talk about a weak influence, a weak case, being weak in social sciences and my weakest subject, we would have to say a slight chance, and a slight accent. For the converse of strong views and strong support, we would probably say: I don't have very strong views on this and I had some support.(The converse of a statement or fact is the opposit of it.)

severe · · · · The severe weather/severe winter meant that hundreds of schools had to be closed. The heavy rain caused severe damage to crops and, later on, a severe shortage of food. We are under severe pressure to reduce the wage bill and make 500 workers redundant. The magistrate imposed severe penalties ­ they were severely punished.

Conversely, we would talk about mild weather and mild winters, slight damage and slight shortages, some pressure, lenient penalties or leniently punished.

hard · · · It was a hard exam and the final question was really hard ­ it was a hard nut to crack! It's been a long hard day and I've been working very hard. They had a hard life and worked through hard times. We had no hard evidence that they had used hard drugs.


Conversely, we might say an easy exam, easy questions, an easy day, an easy life, easy times, soft drugs, circumstantial evidence and I haven't worked very hard. The expression a hard nut to crack, which means that it was difficult to do this, has no converse form. Faroush from Iran asks: What is the meaning of 'afraid' in different sentences and situations? Rachel Wicaksono answers: This is an interesting question, Farhoush and I'm afraid that there are at least seven ways to use the adjective 'afraid'! The most common meaning of 'afraid' is the one I have just used to introduce the topic -when we want to politely tell someone something that may upset, disappoint, annoy or even worry them. In terms of the grammar, we can say either: 'I'm afraid that there are at least seven ways' OR... 'I'm afraid there are at least seven ways' - without using 'that'. We usually hear this meaning of 'afraid' in spoken English. The next most common meaning of 'afraid' is 'to be frightened'. But remember that 'afraid' can't be used before a noun, so we can't talk about 'an easily afraid person'. That's not right. Instead, try these: 'He's an easily frightened person' or even simpler, 'He's easily frightened.' 'He's afraid of something' - for example, ?He's afraid of spiders? 'He's afraid to do something - for example, ?He's afraid to ask for help.? 'He's afraid of doing something - for example, ?He's afraid of flying.? So lots of examples there! Less common uses of the adjective 'afraid' are used as a way of saying either 'yes' and 'no'. 'Afraid' + not... is used to mean 'no' And 'Afraid' + so... is used to mean 'yes'. Here's an example of how we can use 'afraid' to mean 'no': A: Are you doing anything nice this weekend, Femi? F: I'm afraid not, I have to work - I need the money! Or when someone calls and the person they want to speak to isn't there: A: Could I speak to Sun Chen please? B: I'm afraid not, he's not available at the moment. Would you like to leave a message? Next, 'afraid' meaning 'yes': A: Are you leaving now, Yvonne? Y: I'm afraid so, I have to be home by 9 o'clock.


So let's sum up... We can use the word 'afraid' in the following ways: First, to politely tell someone something that may disappoint them. Second, to simply mean: 'frightened'. And third, to mean 'yes' when we say 'I'm afraid so' and 'no' when we say 'I'm afraid not'. So, to return to the most common meaning of 'afraid'; I'm afraid that there are several uses of the word! And I hope this has helped.

A question from Mechekef in Algeria: I would like to ask a question and I would be very thankful if you answered it. Sometimes you write 'had' as 'hath', 'give' as 'giveth' and 'should' as 'shouldst'. I cannot understand this method of writing. I'll give you an example to explain clearly my question: 'Thou seest their eyes overflow with tears.' Sian Harris answers: Hi there, thanks for your question. This is a really interesting one. In some very old forms of English you will see these type of words - 'thou', 'giveth' 'hast' etc - most notably in certain religious texts such as The Bible or possibly English translations of The Qur'an. In other words, these forms are what we call 'archaic', meaning they're not in active use anymore, other than in either religious or ancient texts, or as they appear in literature and other forms of writing from previous centuries. A specialist in the development and history of English would perhaps be able to tell you more about the origins and the use of the specific words in your example, but most of them would have been in use from around the 15th century onwards in a form now known by academics as 'Early Modern English'. Although this was by no means used consistently if one examines different texts from the time, by about the 18th century these forms were not so widely used and I can clarify that nowadays we would definitely not see or hear these in typical situations, spoken or written. In today's English, 'thou' would always be replaced with 'you', for example, 'seest' with 'see' and so on.

afraid / scared - frightening / terrifying Hasan asks: when do you use afraid and when do you use scared? Natali asks: Could you please explain to me the difference in meaning between scary, frightening and terrifying? afraid / scared / frightened There are differences in use and I shall try to illustrate these. But all these adjectives express roughly the same degree of worry or fear and can therefore be used interchangeably to some extent. Frightened suggests more sudden fear:


All small children are afraid of / scared of / frightened of school bullies. Don't be scared / afraid / frightened. I'm not going to hurt you. All three can be followed by of + -ing clause. Frightened cannot always be followed by of + pronoun or noun: He's afraid of / scared of / frightened of flying in small planes. He's a strict teacher. Everyone seems to be afraid of / scared of him. All three can be followed by the to + infinitive pattern: She seemed too scared to swim where there were such big waves. After such an experience she's afraid to go anywhere near the sea. I was too frightened to jump in at the deep end of the pool. We can be scared by or frightened by something. We cannot use afraid in this way: She was scared by the hooting of the owl. They were frightened / terrified by the gunfire and the breaking of glass. Note that terrified expresses a stronger degree of fear. She's terrified of / by large dogs and won't go near them. afraid / scared / frightened - position in clause Note that afraid is one of those adjectives that cannot normally be used before a noun, but instead is used after a verb. Scared and frightened can be used in both positions: He seemed afraid. He appeared frightened. He was, without doubt, a frightened man. I'm afraid I / we / he / etc I'm afraid... is also used in another way, meaning: I regret that I have to tell you that.... It is used to introduce bad news in a gentle or polite way: I'm afraid there's been an accident at the crossroads. Your son's been knocked over on his bike. I'm afraid we shan't be able to come on the skiing trip with you. John's got to work.


He's done very little work, I'm afraid. He'll have to repeat the course. I'm afraid so. / I'm afraid not. We can use these forms as short answers to confirm bad news: Will I really have to repeat the course next year? ~ I'm afraid so. Can't you really come on the skiing trip with us? ~ I'm afraid not. frightened / frightening As a general rule, adjectives ending in -ed are used to describe how people feel. Adjectives ending in -ing describe the things or situations that give rise to these feelings. So, remember, frightened describes how you feel. Frightening describes the things that make you feel frightened: She looked very frightened when I told her she would lose her job. It was one of the most frightening films I had ever seen. It's frightening to think that they are capable of producing nuclear weapons. terrified / terrifying Similarly, terrified describes you feel. Terrifying describes the things that make you feel terrified. Terrified and terrifying express a higher degree of anxiety or worry than frightened and frightening: I was so much in debt. I was terrified I would lose my job when the restructuring was announced. It was a terrifying experience. I doubt he will ever recover from it. scared / scary Scary is the adjective relating to things or situations; scared the adjective relating to how people feel. Scary and frightening express similar levels of fear or worry: Being alone in a cave with five thousand bats was scary. I felt scared when night fell and I was nowhere near human habitation.

Using 'approve'


Frank Hasenmueller from Germany asks: I would like to know if there is a difference in using approve with or without the preposition of in your sentence structure. Or is it just the same? The meaning of approve changes when you add the preposition of to make approve of. Approve'by itself means 'sanction' or 'endorse' as in these two examples. In the first, an accountant is speaking and in the second, a university admissions tutor. · · 'I cannot approve the reimbursement because you haven't given me the receipts for your expenditure.' 'I cannot approve your application to study law because you do not have the relevant qualifications.'

f you approve of something, then you consider it to be good or you agree with it. Consider: · · 'I don't approve of smoking in restaurants because it is so upsetting usually for non-smokers.' 'Why don't you approve of my friends? They are all good upright people.'

archenemy Thank you for your efforts to teach us English, my beloved language. I want to know, what does this statement mean? " our arch enemy " Rachel Wicaksono answers: Hi Awad! Thank you for this vocabulary question. Well, first of all, 'archenemy' is a countable noun that is usually spelled as one word, though I notice that the BBC choose to use a hyphen to join the two parts of the word - as in 'arch hyphen enemy' - 'arch-enemy'. In general usage, 'archenemy' means 'the main enemy'. Sometimes 'Archenemy', usually beginning with a capital 'A', is used to mean 'the devil'. 'Arch' in the word 'archenemy' is from the Greek 'arkhos' meaning 'most important'. Some examples, all from films and TV shows, of how 'archenemy' is used include: "...they're bringing back Doctor Who's archenemies, the Daleks..." - the Daleks are Dr Who's most dangerous enemies and have threatened the Doctor's life on many occasions. "Oscar-nominated actor, Thomas Haden Church, is to be Spider-Man's next archenemy, according to reports..." "The actor playing Harry Potter's archenemy, Lord Voldemort, has been chosen for


The Goblet of Fire..." If we'd like to talk about our friends, as well as our enemies, we could use the words 'main ally' as an opposite to 'archenemy'. 'Ally', when used as a noun, means a person, group or nation that is linked to another or others because they have something in common that they'd like to achieve. For example: "Britain and the United States were allies in World War II." So 'ally' is a formal noun. But on a more personal level, we might say: "Rachel is my best friend; I've known her for years!" But perhaps a word of warning here: some people think it's only possible to have one best friend, so choose carefully. But maybe that's another topic! So, have you got an archenemy? I don't think I have, or maybe I do, and just don't realise it yet. Let's hope we have some allies and at least one best friend as well!

As / Like Well thank you! What poetic examples you've given me to work with! If I could fly like a bird and I love you just as before. Well, I think the main difference between like and as is in formality. Like is common in conversation in comparative metaphors; as is still used in conversation, but it's more frequent in written English. I don't think I can think of examples as romantic as yours Silvio, but I'll try! Here we go: The view was just as I remembered it. In conversation, we might say, The view was just like I remembered it. Exercise is just as important as diet for good health. In conversation, we might say: Exercise, just like diet, is important for good health. But I think we'd use the as ... as structure to say something like She's as lovely as her sister. In all of these examples, two states or things are being compared: the view before and now; exercise and diet; two sisters. We can see that as is being used as a preposition to show comparison, and like is the informal equivalent. And, to continue with like: as well as being a verb that we're all familiar with (as in I do like you, Silvio), like has a couple of different meanings you may not be aware of. We can use like to give examples, where it means such as. Here we go: Some consumer goods, like household electrical products, are cheaper to purchase than repair.


Many successful Broadway shows, like Chicago, Annie and Fame, have been turned into films. We were looking for a good present for a five-year-old, like a bicycle or a remote controlled toy. And finally Silvio, I'd like to tell you about another use of like, which is as a kind of filler or a speech marker. Listen to these examples, which are taken from conversation: My brother is like really, really good on the electric guitar. I've just got to get, like, one hundred more points to move onto the next level. This kind of usage is very common in the speech of young people, like my son. And I'm going to end my explanation here ­ thank you for your question and I hope this has helped, Silvio!

'beyond' and 'behind'. English language learner Oksana wants to know how to correctly use the words 'beyond' and 'behind'.

Sian Harris answers: Hi, thanks for your question, there are quite a few different definitions we need to look at here but the meanings of 'behind' and 'beyond' are actually quite different. One of the principal meanings of 'behind' is as a preposition of place. If you are behind a thing or a person you are facing the back of that thing or person. For example: 'There were two boys sitting behind me.' In these terms it means the opposite of 'in front of.' But 'behind' also has adverb uses: if you stay behind, you remain in a place after others have gone. For example: 'John stayed behind after school to take the test.' Equally, if you leave something behind, you do not take it with you when you go: 'They'd been forced to leave behind their businesses and possessions.' As a time expression, behind appears when someone or something is behind, they are delayed or are making less progress than other people think they should: 'The bus was behind schedule.' There are also some more abstract uses of behind that you should be aware of. If an experience is behind you, it is finished. So, for example, 'Now that the divorce is behind us, we can move on.' Also the people, reasons or events behind a situation are the causes of it or are responsible for it as in the sentence: '...the man behind the modernisation of the organisation.'


Finally, if you are behind someone, you support them. 'The country was behind the president.' If we turn now to think about 'beyond' - 'beyond' can also function as a preposition of place. If something is 'beyond' a place, it is on the other side of it, as in the case of '...a house beyond the village.' But there's a more abstract meaning to 'beyond' as well - it can mean to extend, continue or progress beyond a particular thing or means to extend or continue further than that thing or point. For example: 'Few children remain in school beyond the age of 16.' 'Beyond' also has some quite interesting idiomatic usages. If someone or something is beyond belief, understanding or control, it has become impossible to believe, understand or control it. 'The situation has changed beyond recognition.' If you say that something is beyond you, you mean that you cannot understand it. 'How he managed to find us is beyond me.' So, quite a few different meanings there to contend with, but I hope this helps you to identify which word you might use.

British measures: feet, inches, etc. I was reading a biography of an actor whose height was given as 6'3''. In Europe we have centimetres and metres for the height of a person. Could you possibly tell me how this height would correspond in metres? Feet and inches / metres and centimetres Six foot (or six feet) three (inches) would describe a fairly tall man. Note that we would normally say six foot despite the plural reference, although six feet is also possible. As a rough guide, three feet is almost one metre, so six feet would be nearly two metres. To be precise: 1 inch = 2.54 cm (two point five four centimetres) 12 in (12'') = 1 foot (1') = 30.48 cm (thirty point four eight cm) 3 ft (3') = 1 yard = 0.9144 m (zero point nine one four four metres) Here are some more tall men and women for you to practise feet and inches with: Who is the tallest man in the world and how tall is he? ~ It's Radhouane Charbib from Tunisia and he's 7 ft 8.9 in. ~ That's pretty tall! And the world's tallest woman? ~ It's Sandy Allen from the US who is 7' 2.5''. By the age of ten she was already 6' 3''. ~ That's amazing!


We also use inches, feet and yards to measure length and width as well as height. Note the following examples: Our dining room is long and narrow - it's about 30' by 10'. We had over a foot of snow this morning. How much did you have? ~ Oh, we had about six inches. The post office is about a hundred yards down this road on the left. ~ Is that two blocks away in American English? ~ Two or three, I'd say. To complete the table: 1760 yd = 1 mile = 1.6093 km (one point six o nine three km) If you are planning to drive in Britain next year you will need to know the following: The speed limit in towns and built-up areas is normally 30 mph (thirty miles per hour) although in some areas it may be 20 mph. The speed limit on roads outside towns and villages is normally 60 mph except where it is sign-posted as 50 mph. The speed limit on motorways is 70 mph, but watch out for lower speed restrictions which may be sign-posted. Thirty miles per hour - is that approximately 50 kph? ~ I guess it is. And seventy miles per hour - is that roughly 110 kph? ~ Round about 110, yes. Ounces, pounds and stones / grams and kilograms English people just like to be different, don't they? The bad news is that we still use pounds and stones to measure people's weight instead of kilograms. At least the older generation do. Here is another conversion table and note the abbreviations that are used: 1 ounce = 28.35 g (twenty eight point three four grams) 16 oz = 1 pound = 0.4536 kg (o point four five three six kilos) 14 lbs = 1stone = 6.35 kg How much do you weigh? I'm eleven stones eleven pounds - that's about 75 kilos. I'm a little bit overweight for my height. Somebody my height and build (I'm 5' 8'') should weigh between 10 st 7 and 11 st 7. And if you are cooking something in an English house, you will know that recipes for solid substances are still given in pounds (lbs) and ounces (ozs) and for liquid substances in pints (1 pint = 0.57 litres). A rough guide here is that 4 ozs is very roughly 100 gr.


Yorkshire Pudding 4 oz plain flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 egg, ¼ pint milk, ¼ pint water To make Yorkshire Pudding to accompany your roast beef, you will need 4 ounces of plain four, an egg, a quarter of a pint of milk and a quarter of a pint of water. And a pinch of salt. Dresses / shirts / shoes Finally, if you are going shopping in England on your next visit, you will need to note English clothing sizes, although European equivalents are usually also given on the labels. presenter, broadcaster, and announcer; I'm confused about the difference between presenter, broadcaster, and announcer; and the difference between reporter and journalist. Your answer must be very helpful for me. Thanks. Hi Suharno, All these words are used to describe people who work in the media. The first three: presenter, broadcaster and announcer are all related to TV and radio: media which is delivered partly ­ or wholly ­ through sound and speech (this type of media is increasingly available on internet too). A presenter is a person who introduces or hosts television or radio programmes. A presenter's opening words on a programme are usually something like Good evening, and welcome to[name of show] with me [name of presenter]. On tonight's show we will be... [presenter talks about the content of the programme]. The topic of the programme is not all about the presenter. The presenter is the person who introduces the programme, introduces or links sections of the programme together and says goodbye at the end. Some well-known presenters include Johnny Carson (an American TV chat show host), Trevor MacDonald (a British TV news presenter), and Karim Kouchouk (the presenter of BBCe for BBC Learning English Arabic Service). An announcer's job is similar to that of a presenter. He or she provides spoken information about news, weather, programme content, links between programmes, advertising etc. However, an announcer may have a smaller role in a programme than a presenter does: on TV programmes, an announcer may only feature as a voice whereas a presenter will be seen on the screen. Another main difference between an announcer and a presenter is that the announcer usually reads word-forword from a script, whereas a presenter may have some flexibility regarding the things they say. The word broadcaster can refer to an organisation such as the BBC (UK) or NBC (USA) which produces television and radio programmes. It can also be used to describe someone who is well-experienced in the TV and radio industry. He or she usually has multiple talents ­ scriptwriting, directing, presenting etc. and his or her


programmes may be considered to be very important and well-respected. Famous British broadcasters include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Robert Winston and Sir David Frost, and Larry King in the USA. Turning to the second part of your question, Suharno: you wanted to find out about the difference between a reporter and a journalist. In fact, these jobs are very similar, and in some respects the terms are interchangeable. A journalist's work is most often seen in print ­ especially newspapers ­ but they can work for TV and radio too. A journalist gathers, writes and reports news stories, and may also edit and present news articles. A reporter is a type of journalist who gathers information about newsworthy issues. This may involve researching through several sources ­ interviews, police and public records, photographs etc. When the information is gathered, the reporter will create a report for publication or broadcast in the media. Reporters often specialise in a particular area, for example: crime, politics, health or education. Finally, Suharno, I'd like to mention one more media profession. A columnist is a writer (usually a journalist) who writes regularly (often weekly) for a newspaper or magazine. She or he chooses a topic that is in the news and writes not only about the events that have become newsworthy but also often offers some analysis and/or personal opinion. This job is usually reserved for senior journalists at a particular newspaper or magazine. Well Suharno, I do hope this has been a useful answer to your question!

Calling and kidding

Tanya from Russia writes: In American English, one of the meanings of the verb to call is to make a phone call. And the verb to kid means to joke. Do these verbs have the same meaning in British English and are they widely used?

call Yes, call is very frequently used in British English, as an alternative to ring or phone, meaning to make a phone call: · · I decided to call / ring / phone him at home as he's always in meetings at the office. Your wife called while you were in the meeting. Can you ring her back?



If you need more information, you can call this number.

Do you also know the informal expression used in British English to give sb a bell, meaning to phone? · I'll give you a bell next week and we'll make the final arrangements then.

call - phone or visit? When it is used without an object, call can also mean visit as well as phone. Note that if the context does not make the meaning clear, this may lead to confusion: · By the way, Jenny called while you were at the hairdresser's. ~ Do you mean she rang or she popped in?

Note that if we want to use call with an object, meaning to visit, we normally say to call on sb: · · I called on my sister on my way home from work. She was pleased to see me. I called my sister on my way home from work from my mobile phone.

call = name / shout / etc Note that call is also frequently used with these meanings: · · · · · If it's a boy, they're going to call him Cedric Alexander Roderick or Car for short. This area is sometimes called the garden suburb because there's so much greenery around. Did you call me? ~ I called you three times. ~ Sorry, I didn't hear you because the hair dryer was on. If I call your name, please come to the front of the queue. He called me into his office because he wanted a private chat. This train calls ( = stops) at all stations to London Victoria.

kid (verb) Kid is widely used as a verb in British English meaning to joke if you want to suggest that what has been said may not be appropriate or true:


· · ·

I'm going to call her and tell her she should marry Ben. ~ Are you kidding? Ben's the last person she should marry! I'm going to buy her a ring with diamonds and emeralds. ~ You're kidding me! Where are you going to get the money from? He says he's going to make a million before he's forty! ~ Who is he kidding? He is kidding himself if he thinks that.

kid (noun) Note that kid and kids are also widely used as nouns to refer informally to children, sons and daughters: · · · · We're going to take the kids to see Lion King at the theatre in London. He's just a kid. He doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong. A group of kids were stealing the apples from the orchard and selling them on the street corner. They don't have any kids so there's always plenty of money for holidays.

'come' or 'go'? 'bring' or 'take'?

Joo from Korea writes: Hi. I've been learning English in Australia for 5 months. I've been having a hard time because English syntax is so different from Korean. Some of the meanings of words too. Especially go and come. For example: · Do you want to come with me to Tom's party?

In Korean it would be: Do you want to go with me to Tom's party? Please explain to me how to use go and come in the correct way. Andrzej Macalik from Poland writes:


I've got a problem with go back, come back and return, because in my opinion (only?) - they are the same!

Whether we use go or come all has to do with perspective and position. go We use go to describe movement away from the place or position where the speaker or hearer is: · · · Are you going to the pub tonight? Let's go and see Auntie Mary before the holiday is over. They've gone to live in Australia and I don't think they'll ever come back.

come We use come to describe movement to the place where the speaker or hearer is: · · · Could you come here for a minute, please, Diane? ~ I'm coming. We've come to ask you if we can borrow your car for a week. I've got some people coming for a meal tonight. Can you and Henry come too?

go back, come back, return The same rule applies with go back and come back, Andrzej, but you can use return for both come back and go back: · · You must have come back / returned very late last night. I didn't hear you come in. He went back / returned to Mexico when he had finished post-graduate training.

Note, however, that come with and not go with is normally used when we are talking about joining a movement of the speaker or hearer, even though the movement is away from their current place or position: · · I'm going to the hospital this afternoon to get the test results. Could you come with me? We're going to Egypt for a week at Christmas . Would you like to come with us?


bring or take? Note that the difference in use between bring and take is similar to that between come and go. We use take to describe movement away from the position of the speaker/hearer and bring to describe movement to the place where the speaker/hearer is, was or will be: · · · Can you take the car in for its service tomorrow, Jan? I'm going to take the train. They're not here. He must have taken them to the club. He's taken my umbrella too. These shirts that I bought don't really fit me. I`m going to have to take them back.

· · ·

It's kind of you to invite me to supper. Is it all right if I bring my boyfriend? Always remember to bring your calculators when you come to these maths lessons! I've brought you some beans and tomatoes from my garden. I hope you can use them.

'come' or 'go'? 'bring' or 'take'?

Joo from Korea writes: Hi. I've been learning English in Australia for 5 months. I've been having a hard time because English syntax is so different from Korean. Some of the meanings of words too. Especially go and come. For example: · Do you want to come with me to Tom's party?

In Korean it would be: Do you want to go with me to Tom's party? Please explain to me how to use go and come in the correct way. Andrzej Macalik from Poland writes: I've got a problem with go back, come back and return, because in my opinion (only?) - they are the same! Whether we use go or come all has to do with perspective and position. go We use go to describe movement away from the place or position where the speaker or hearer is:


· · ·

Are you going to the pub tonight? Let's go and see Auntie Mary before the holiday is over. They've gone to live in Australia and I don't think they'll ever come back.

come We use come to describe movement to the place where the speaker or hearer is: · · · Could you come here for a minute, please, Diane? ~ I'm coming. We've come to ask you if we can borrow your car for a week. I've got some people coming for a meal tonight. Can you and Henry come too?

go back, come back, return The same rule applies with go back and come back, Andrzej, but you can use return for both come back and go back: · · You must have come back / returned very late last night. I didn't hear you come in. He went back / returned to Mexico when he had finished post-graduate training.

Note, however, that come with and not go with is normally used when we are talking about joining a movement of the speaker or hearer, even though the movement is away from their current place or position: · · I'm going to the hospital this afternoon to get the test results. Could you come with me? We're going to Egypt for a week at Christmas . Would you like to come with us?

bring or take? Note that the difference in use between bring and take is similar to that between come and go. We use take to describe movement away from the position of the speaker/hearer and bring to describe movement to the place where the speaker/hearer is, was or will be: · · · Can you take the car in for its service tomorrow, Jan? I'm going to take the train. They're not here. He must have taken them to the club. He's taken my umbrella too. These shirts that I bought don't really fit me. I`m going to have to take them back.


· · ·

It's kind of you to invite me to supper. Is it all right if I bring my boyfriend? Always remember to bring your calculators when you come to these maths lessons! I've brought you some beans and tomatoes from my garden. I hope you can use them.

A question from Charles Otoghile: What rules do I need to help me combine words - usually putting two words together to form one word, such as classroom, blackboard etc.

Amos Paran answers: Your question, Charles, touches on an important process in forming words in English, a process that we call compounding. What happens is that two independent words combine and make one compound word. Many compounds are spelled as one word - as in the two words that you mentioned: classroom and blackboard. But there are many compound words that are not spelled as one word, but that are spelled with a hyphen. And in many cases some people will spell them one way, and others will spell them another way - so eye-witness with a hyphen can be spelled eyewitness without a hyphen; the same is true of drop-out. You can see it written in both ways (drop-out or dropout). Other compounds are always written as two different words - like petrol station or heart attack. There are two rules that can help - or maybe I should call these generalisations rather than rules. Let's look at some words that are compounded and written as one word: blackbird; whiteboard; bathroom; skateboard; greenhouse. Observe how many syllables they have - they have two syllables, and each of the independent words that make them up is one syllable. On the other hand, compounds where one of the words has more than one syllable are normally written with a hyphen or as two separate words. So bathroom is one word; but living room is written as two words. Blackboard is one word, but drawing board is written as two words. The second important rule concerns the stress. Teachers always like to talk about the difference between a blackbird, which is a compound that refers to a specific kind of bird, and a black bird, which is any bird that is black, and is not a compound. Or about a greenhouse - a glass building where you grow plants, which is a compound and a green house, which is a house that is green - and is not a compound. You will notice that in these short compounds, made of two words of one syllable, the first syllable is stressed, and this is always true. This is also true for most longer compounds - not all, but most of them - so, for example, we talk about a petrol station, not a petrol station; or a heart attack, not a heart attack. So, to sum up, I have made two generalisations about compounds, and this may help you. But there is really no substitute for a good dictionary in this case, because these rules are not fixed!


Confusing pairs: definite~definitive etc. I teach English in Germany and have lived here for 26 years. I notice a word which is being used in Britain these days for which I would have used another. The new word definitive appears to be used with the same meaning as definite something that is sure. What is the difference, if any?.

I think the difference is still maintained by most users: definite = certain, clear, precise, unlikely to be changed definitive = something that provides a firm conclusion that cannot be challenged · · In 1993 he wrote a definitive work on the behaviour of stem cells. Barry and Susan have now got a definite date for their wedding.

I notice, by the way, that teenagers in Britain these days always appear to prefer definitely to certainly in the following sort of exchange: · Are you coming to the concert on Saturday? ~ Definitely!

If any of the following pairs of words are easily confused, you might try this sort of activity as a class exercise with a more advanced group of students. cook and cooker One is the person who cooks and the other is the stove that food is cooked on. But which is which...? · · He was a really good cook and his spaghetti made me think I was in Italy. The cooker was really dirty and I could see that it hadn't been cleaned for weeks.

dessert and desert One is the sweet food that is served at the end of a meal. The other is an area of land where nothing grows and there is very little water. But which is which...? · · For dessert I had chocolate cake with whipped cream and then a bowl of cherries. The hot desert sand cut into our faces and we had to close our eyes.

satisfactory and satisfying


One of them describes something that gives you a feeling of fulfilment. The other describes something that it good enough to be acceptable. But which is which...? · · The doctor said he was making satisfactory progress but it seemed very slow to me. There's nothing more satisfying than concluding an agreement after five days of talks.

alternate and alternative One describes something that you can choose to have or do instead of something else. The other describes an activity that is off then on, then off then on again. But which is which...? · · We could see our father only on alternate weekends. Unfortunately not every weekend. There is no alternative to a prison sentence for such a serious crime.

principle and principal One of them describes a general rule or set of beliefs that you try to adhere to. The other means first in order of importance or the person in charge of a school. But which is which...? · · He was a man of very few principles who later came to regret the path his life had taken. His principal interest in life was to look after the welfare of others.

There are many other pairs that can be used, depending on the level of the class: · · · · · · · · · · electrical ~ electronic economical ~ economic historical ~ historic complement ~ compliment personal ~ personnel stationery ~ stationary emigrate ~ immigrate housework ~ homework tasty ~ tasteful complexity ~ complication

confusing road signs

John Chan from Singapore writes: I need your help in answering the following:



Push your bicycles across the underpass (i.e. a short tunnel under an expressway).

Does this mean that you push your bicycle through the underpass across the expressway? Why not write it simply this way instead: · Push your bicycles through the underpass

You are quite right, John. Logically it should be: Push, do not ride, your bicycles through the underpass, if the underpass crosses a road beneath the expressway or motorway. I understand that the rationale for this instruction is that it would be too dangerous to pedestrians if cyclists rode their bikes through the underpass. Road signs can sometimes be confusing, often because they are too concise. Can you work out the intended meaning in the following: CAUTION - CATTLE CROSSING AHEAD Does this mean: · · (a) drive carefully because when you go round the next bend, you will see cattle crossing the road in front of you? (b) drive carefully because when you go round the next bend, you will come to the place where cattle sometimes cross the road?

DIVERSION AHEAD Does this mean? · · (a) that there are some amusements ahead which will enable you to take a break from driving and take a rest? (b) that the road ahead is blocked and you will have to take an alternative route?

Public Conveniences 100 yds Does this mean that: · · (a) you will find all the facilities you need, banks, shops, restaurant etc approximately one hundred metres to you left? (b) there are public toilets approximately one hundred metres to your left?


STOP CHILDREN CROSSING Does this mean: · · (a) you must do all you can to prevent children crossing the road ahead? (b) you must stop because there are children crossing the road in front of you? ROAD WORKS Does this mean that: · · (a) the road ahead is open and in a good state of repair? (b) repairs are being carried out on the road ahead?

'Dedicated / Devoted' A question from Ikram in Pakistan: I really appreciate your efforts to help us to learn and improve English language. I have a query about two words in English language. 'dedicated' and 'devoted' are the two words which are commonly used in speaking and writing. I am well aware of the meanings of the two words. My question is that in some situations we prefer to use the word 'dedicated' rather than 'devoted' while in other circumstances we prefer to use 'devoted'. Please enlighten me when it is appropriate to use 'dedicated' rather than 'devoted' and vice versa.

Mark Shea answers: This is a tricky question, Ikram - the words 'dedicated' and 'devoted' seem very similar. If we look at the etymology of the words - that's how they came into English - we see that they have quite similar meanings originally. Both come from Latin: 'devote' comes from the word meaning 'a vow', and 'dedicate', which has changed very little, comes from the word meaning 'to proclaim', 'consecrate' or 'devote'. Both words have a religious background, and both mean to have great love, affection or enthusiasm for something. We might identify some differences in the use of each word today, however... 'Devoted' has remained far closer to its original meaning - we still use it to talk about someone's commitment to a particular activity or object. It's particularly used


to talk about someone's love for their family "He's a devoted father" OR "She was devoted to her grandchildren." We can use it, perhaps less frequently, to talk about other areas of life: "Years of devoted research finally produced results," for example, or... "The teachers were devoted to their students." The central meaning is that effort and concentration are involved in the object of the devotion. And it's worth noting that the noun 'devotions' might also mean religious activities like praying, for example. 'Dedicated' has become more flexible over time... We're less likely to use it to talk about love for one's family or in a religious context it's a more general word. If you are dedicated to something, you believe that it's right and worthwhile and you give a lot of time and effort to it. It's especially useful to talk about someone's attitude to their job "A dedicated worker" is very committed, for example. But 'dedicated' could also be used to describe someone who believes very strongly in the importance of an ideal... 'A dedicated vegetarian' believes very strongly that people should not eat animals. 'Dedicated' can be used in another way though: A song on the radio might be dedicated to a particular person - you can call some radio stations and they'll play songs which you request for your friends or family. 'A dedication' is a statement which says who a book has been written for or who a song has been sung for. To sum up then, both words have similar origins and meanings, but we're more likely to use 'devoted' to talk about family or loved ones, and 'dedicated' to talk about work or other interests. So thanks for being such a dedicated learner of English, Ikram! 'deny', 'refuse', 'reject' Thuy Nhien from Vietnam asks: Could you please show me the difference between 'deny', 'refuse', 'reject', 'decline'...

Mark Shea answers: Hi Thuy Nhien, This is a very common question as 'deny', 'refuse', 'reject' and 'decline' often translate to the same word in other languages, so learners often have problems distinguishing between them. One useful way of seeing the difference between words is to look at the opposite of each one...


'Accept' could be the opposite of 'refuse', 'reject' and 'decline', so we can see that these words have very similar meanings. The opposite of 'deny' would be 'admit', however, so this is different to the others an 'odd one out'. The main meaning of 'deny' is to say that something is not true. If the police are questioning somebody, the suspect might deny that he committed a crime, for example. 'Deny' also has a less common use, which is quite similar to 'refuse' - if you deny somebody something, you 'refuse' to give it to them - for example: "The guards denied their prisoners food and water" Finally, if you 'deny' someone, you say that they aren't connected to you at all - but this use is rather old-fashioned. To 'refuse' is the opposite of to 'accept' - if you refuse to do something you choose not to do it, or say firmly that you will not do it. You could also refuse something, which means that you don't accept it. For example: "I offered him a cold drink but he refused it" Notice that the pronunciation has the stress on the second syllable - refuse as opposed to refuse, which is a formal word for rubbish. 'Reject' is quite similar to 'refuse' - the opposite of both would be 'accept'. If you reject a proposal or a request, for instance, you decide not to agree with it... "Judge Dread rejected the lawyer's request for more time to study the case" If you reject a belief or a theory, you decide that you do not believe in it and you do not wish to follow it... "The rebels rejected the authority of the central government." 'Reject' often carries the added meaning that you don't think something is good enough - if an employer rejects a job applicant, or a machine rejects a credit card it is because something is considered unsuitable, invalid or wrong in some way. If someone rejects a lover, their family or friends, they behave with cruelty or indifference towards them and perhaps do not want to see them any more. Notice that in all cases, the pronunciation is reject, reject, with the stress on the second syllable, which is common for verbs with two syllables.


The noun, a reject, has the stress on the first syllable and means somebody or something which has not been accepted. For example: "This shirt was very cheap because it was a reject" Finally, we come to 'decline'... 'Decline' can be a rather formal synonym for 'refuse' - if you decline something or decline to do something, you politely refuse to accept it or do it... "The princess is believed to have declined various proposals of marriage" for example. It can also be a noun - but this time it is pronounced the same as the verb, decline. Then there's the intransitive verb - that's a verb without an object. If something declines, it loses quality, importance or strength. Listen to how the verb 'decline' is used in this sentence: "As China and India become more powerful, the economic power of the United States may be declining" So, in conclusion then, we might deny an allegation refuse an offer reject a suggestion - and decline a formal invitation. Thanks for your question Thuy Nhien.

expressions with do/did/done

Navid, studying English in the United States, writes: I have difficulty understanding the meaning of done in this sentence: · It's not done to call your teachers by their first names.

I would like to know why done doesn't appear to make very much sense in this sentence in American English.


In British English there are a large number of expressions with do/did/done in regular use. In your example, Navid, it's simply a matter of usage. Americans that I have consulted would all recognise this expression, as they would an almost identical expression it's (not) the done thing to, though they might not use them actively in speech or writing. In British English, both of these expressions are commonly used. The meaning is that it is (not) socially acceptable to do this. It may not be politically correct, to use another similar expression to describe actions which might appear insulting to particular groups of people (also sometimes referred to as PC and non-PC). Compare the following: · · · · In this society, it is quite the done thing to eat with your hands. It's not the done thing to poke fun at disabled people. It's not done to remain seated when your National Anthem is played. It is clearly politically incorrect (non-PC) to refer to childcare workers as nursemaids.

Sometimes, expressions which may appear similar at first glance have quite different shades of meaning. Use of the past participle done in expressions normally suggests completed action, but whereas done and dusted means successfully completed and refers to something that you are upbeat about, over and done with suggests something mildly unpleasant which you are pleased is now finished: · · I finally completed that project last month. Yes, it's all done and dusted. At long last their divorce has come through. Now the whole thing's over and done with.

What about he's done his nut and it's done his nut in? In both of these nut means head, as in nutcase to describe someone who is crazy or insane. But are these two very informal expressions the same or different? What do you think? · · I didn't have time to clear up after the party and my mum's done her nut. He was so tired he couldn't concentrate on the details in his contract. It did his nut in.

Clearly, they are different. To do your nut means to lose your temper, to fly into a rage. It did his nut in means that it confused or bemused him.


And what about have done with and do away with? Are these two informal expressions the same, similar or different? · · Aren't you still going out with Robert? No, I've done with him. They've done away with the death penalty in many countries recently.

Slightly similar, though have done with means end relations with someone and do away with means abolish or put an end to. If we substituted done away with for have done with in the first example, it would mean murdered! How about do a good turn to and done to a turn? Same, similar or different? · · He did me a good turn and took care of Felix while I was on holiday. The goose was done to a turn: lovely soft breast meat with the juices oozing out of it!

Quite different: done to a turn means cooked perfectly and do a good turn means do someone a favour. In very common use are: Well done! All done! and Done! But how exactly are they used? · · · · · How would you like your steak, sir? Well done, please. I don't want to see any blood. You've done really well to win first prize! Well done! Have you finished that job, Asha? Yeah, all done. What about you Jim? All done? All done! If I offered you £200 for your old car, would you accept it? Done!

Well done = cooked thoroughly or slightly overcooked Well done! = words of congratulation for someone who has done something successfully All done = completely finished Done! = one-word acceptance of an offer or a bet someone has made As an introduction or greeting, remember that How do you do? and Hi! How're you doing? are complete opposites in terms of formality - informality: · · Hi Bob! How're ya doin'? I'm fine, thanks. How do you do? How do you do? (Must be accompanied by a handshake and no kisses!)


Wear, put on, dress, be dressed in Tugba from Turkey writes: Hello. I would like to know the difference between wear, put on, dress, and dressed in. Wear When you wear your clothes, shoes or jewellery you have them on your body: · She was wearing a beautiful diamond necklace with matching earrings.

You can also wear your hair in a particular way: · David Beckham used to wear his hair short, but now he is wearing it long.

There is another meaning to wear. If something wears, it becomes thinner or weaker because it is used frequently over a long period of time. We also have the expression to wear thin and the phrasal verb to wear out. People can also feel worn out. If something wears you out, it makes you feel extremely tired. Compare the following usages: · · · · · This carpet is beginning to wear. We shall soon have to replace it. He is such an annoying person. My patience is wearing thin. If you didn't play football every day, your shoes wouldn't wear out so quickly. Don't rush around so much. You'll wear yourself out. I've spent all day shopping and I feel quite worn out.

Put on When you put clothes on you place them on your body in order to wear them. And when you have finished wearing them, you take them off. We also put on weight, the opposite of which is to lose weight. Compare the following (additional) usages of put on: · · · Take that shirt off and put on a new one. You can't go out in such an old shirt. The amateur dramatic company put on a new show, but had to take it off after three days as nobody came. The casserole is in the oven. Put the potatoes on now and put the rice on in five minutes.


· ·

I thought I was going to put some weight on on holiday, but I lost half a kilo as I swam every day. Why don't you put that new CD on so that I have some music while I'm ironing?

Dress When you dress, you put clothes on. You can also dress children, dress a wound by cleaning it and covering it and dress a salad by putting oil and vinegar on it. If you dress up, you put on different clothes to make yourself look smarter, if you dress down, you put on clothes that are less smart than usual. We often speak of getting dressed as a colloquial alternative to dress. Compare the following usages: · · · · · · You'd better get dressed now. Henry will be here in ten minutes. She came in covered in mud. So I bathed her and dressed her in new clothes. I must dress now for the party. Have you dressed the salad yet? I think it's better not to dress that wound. We'll just leave it so that the air can get to it. It is customary now to dress down in certain offices in the city on Fridays. There is no need to wear a suit. I just love dressing up and Edward's having an Edwardian party on Saturday.

Be dressed in If you dress or are dressed in a particular way, you wear clothes, usually for a particular purpose: · She was dressed in a multi-layered organdie gown with a duchess satin opera coat for the open-air production of Don Giovanni. Her chaperone was wearing a white dinner jacket.

Either, neither and too Qemal from Albania writes: I am a military man from Albania and I would be very grateful if you could give me some explanation of how to use neither, either and too. I find it very difficult. Wojciech Szczupa from Poland writes:


Try as I might, I couldn't find a clear answer to this question. How should we say: neither of them is or neither of them are? Which form would you use? Is one more proper than the other?

Either indicates a choice between two alternatives. Neither combines two negative ideas. Study the following examples of use: · · · · Which of these apples would you prefer? ~ I don't want either of them, thanks. You can have either the £15 cotton top or the £17 cotton-and-polyester blouse. You can't have both. Neither Richard nor Judy could come to the party. I want neither alcohol nor cigars for my birthday. Now that I'm fifty I must live a healthier life.

Both either and neither can function as pronouns, determiners or adverbs.

When they function as pronouns, they are often followed by of + noun phrase: · I've known you for two years, but I haven't met either of your two brothers yet. (OR: I've known you for two years, but I haven't met either Francis or Damien yet.) Neither of my two brothers survived the war. Neither Francis, nor Damien. Which of these fur coats is yours? ~ Neither (of them). That one's mine.

· ·

When they function as adverbs, they behave as linking words which can be tagged on in agreement at the end of a negative sentence. But with neither, subject and verb are inverted, with either this does not happen: · · · · · I can't make the meeting on Tuesday. ~ No, neither can I (OR: No, nor can I.) I can't make the meeting on Tuesday. ~ No, I can't either. I don't approve of sex before marriage. ~ No, neither do I. (OR: No, nor do I.) I don't approve of sex before marriage. ~ No, I don't either. I don't go mountain climbing and I don't go mountain walking, either. (OR: I don't go mountain climbing and neither do I go mountain walking.

Too can function as an adding adverb which is placed in agreement at the end of an affirmative sentence. Compare the following: · I like peaches and nectarines best. ~ Yeah, I like peaches and nectarines, too.



I don't like peaches or nectarines. ~ No, I don't like peaches or nectarines, either.

When either and neither function as determiners, they are placed before the noun. · · · On neither side of the road was there anybody to be seen. Neither player could raise his game. It was a very boring game of tennis to watch. The sisters in the photograph were standing on either side of their dad. (OR: ...on each side..., OR: ...on both sides....)

Neither of them is or neither of them are? I don't think there is a clear answer, Wojciech. Although this of-pronoun is normally considered singular, it is normally followed by plural nouns or pronouns. Thus, the boundary between singular and plural is blurred and effectively it can go with either a singular or plural verb form. Strictly speaking, it should be singular, but you will hear both formulations with no clear preference for one or the other: · · · · Neither of them are coming. They both have to work next weekend. Neither of them is coming. They both have to work next weekend. Which of these umbrellas is yours? ~ Neither of them are. That one's mine. Which of these umbrellas is yours? ~ Neither is. That's mine.

There is similar confusion, I think, when neither...nor are employed as conjunctions, meaning not one and not the other. Consider the following: · · · · Neither Francoise nor Helmut likes to eat English breakfasts, even at weekends. Neither Franciose nor Helmut like to eat English breakfasts, even at weekends Neither Emma nor Susan gets on with Chloe. Neither Emma nor Susan get on with Chloe.

A question from Qais Mohammed: What is the difference between effect and affect? Catherine Walter answers: Hi Qais, You have asked a question that many native speakers of English ask when they are writing and part of the problem is that these two words, although spelt differently, are pronounced the same by many people in many contexts. So many people say affect and effect - for the word that begins with 'a' they say and for the word that begins with 'e' they say . I tend to say and /Ifekt/ - so I tend to pronounce the one that begins with 'e', / Ifekt/ but not everybody does.


What's the difference? The main use of 'affect' - with an 'a' - is as a verb meaning to have an influence. So you could say: 'Your emotional state affects how you remember things'. The word with an 'e' - effect - is usually used as a noun and it means the result of an influence. So: 'What effect will the new law have on road use?' Part of the problem, you see, is not only that these two words are spelt very similarly, often pronounced the same, but their meanings are also very similar one's a noun, one's a verb. There is a rarer and more formal use of 'effect' as a verb - that's the one with the 'e' - meaning 'to make something happen'. So you could say: 'It is pointless to try and effect a chance in policy now'. There are also a number of fixed phrases so something that you might hear quite often is 'take effect'. So that's effect - with an 'e' - used as a noun. Here's an example: 'New privacy regulations will take effect on July 1st.' Since we're being complete here, I'll give you one last little meaning. You may sometimes run across the word with an 'a' but it's pronounced differently, meaning a good or bad feeling towards something, or an attitude towards something. And that's usually pronounced /æfekt/. So it's a psychology term. You might hear, or read more likely: 'The influence of positive effect on social behaviour'. But, that's quite rare and I hope that differentiating 'affect' - with an 'a' - as a verb, and 'effect' - with an 'e' as a noun, will at least set you on the right track. Hope that's helpful.

'effective' / 'efficient''? A question from Hervé in France: Could you explain the difference between something 'effective' and something 'efficient'? Both could be translated in French by "efficace", although the word "efficient" also exists in French and there is a difference between both. When it is 'efficient' in French, it means that it produces effect. When it is 'efficace', it means that it works well. Does that difference exist in English too - 'effective' / 'efficient''?

Gareth Rees: Well Hervé, thank you very much for your question. Your question in fact relates to the topic of false friends. These are words in a foreign language which seem similar to words in your own language. However, in fact they have a different meaning in the foreign language, so they're not really friends, they're false friends. English is a language that has developed from Germanic and Latin languages, and it has also adopted words from other languages such as Hindi and Urdu. Because English has, in part, developed from Latin, and so has French, there are many similar looking or sounding words. And this is the problem that Hervé has with 'effective' and 'efficient'. In French there are similar sounding words, but the meanings are not exactly the same.


In English, 'effective' means that something produces results or an effect. It does what it is supposed to do. 'Efficient' means that something is done in a good way, without wasting time, money or energy. For example, a car with an effective engine will move, because the engine does what it is supposed to do. It produces results. It moves the car. A car with an efficient engine is a car that travels a long way without using a lot of petrol. It is efficient, it doesn't waste energy. It seems from what Hervé says, that the French word efficient' is more similar to 'effective' than the similar sounding 'efficient'. However, I am not a French expert, so I?ll leave him to decide. A couple of other examples of these false friends include 'sympathetic' and 'sensible'. 'Sympathetic' is a false friend for the French and 'sensible' is a false friend for the Spanish. I hope my explanation has been effective, and that I have made it in an efficient way.

Assure, ensure, insure - assurance, insurance

Betty Choy from Hong Kong writes: I would be most grateful if you could tell me the difference between assurance and insurance. I was told that we talk about life assurance but property insurance. However, I have also heard that American insurance companies talk about life insurance. Please help. I will start with the verbs from which these nouns are derived as they are in more common use and then deal with the more specialist noun forms second. assure - ensure - insure If you assure someone that something is true or will happen, you tell them that it is definitely true or will happen, often in order to make them less worried. We often use such phrases as I can assure you or let me assure you in order to emphasise the truth of what we are saying: · · She hastened to assure me that the report contained no critical comment on my department's performance. Let me assure you / I can assure you that the children will be totally safe on this adventure holiday. No risks of any kind will be taken.


Ensure is subtly different from assure and people often confuse the two. If you ensure that something happens, you make certain that it happens. A less formal equivalent of this verb in spoken English would be make sure: · · Ensure / Make sure that your working hours as well as your rate of pay are written into your contract. I tried to ensure that everybody wore their life jackets the whole time that we were on the sailing boats, but not everybody carried out my instruction.

In American English, ensure is sometimes spelt insure: · I shall try to insure that you have a nice time while you are here.

Insure has another meaning, as you suggest, Betty. If you insure yourself or your property, you pay money to an insurance company so that if you become ill or if your property is stolen or damaged, the company will pay you a sum of money: · · We can insure your car against fire, theft and third party damage for as little as £30 per month.~ Make sure you remember to insure the digital camera and the mobile phones. They're not included under the house contents insurance.

Assurance First and foremost, assurance has the same meaning as assure. If you give someone an assurance that something is true or will happen, you say that it is definitely true or will definitely happen in order to make them feel less worried: · · He sought an assurance from me that i'd always be available on Saturdays to undertake the work. I was unable to give her any assurance that Beth would arrive in time for the family re-union.

Secondly, in British English we sometimes talk about life assurance as an alternative to life insurance to describe the form of insurance in which a person makes regular payments to an insurance company in return for a sum of money which is paid to them after a period of time or to their family if they die. Both terms are freely used in British English: · As we came down that hill, I thought we were going to die and I started thinking about my life insurance / life assurance policies.

Insurance is the term used to describe all other types of insurance: · That car is not insured. The insurance expired at the end of July and you haven't renewed it.


Note that we cannot say ensurance. There is no noun which is derived from ensure.

inquire and enquire question from Eric in Singapore: Please would you answer another question for me? What is the difference between inquire and enquire? Amos Paran answers: There is a very simple answer here - there is no difference in meaning. The spelling with 'e' is British, the spelling with 'i' is North American. The same goes for the nouns, 'inquiry' and 'enquiry'. There are of course other differences in spelling between American and British English. The most common ones are words that end with 'our' in British English and are spelled 'or' in American English - labour (labor), honour (honor), and so on. Another common difference is words that end in 're' in British English and are spelled with 'er' in American English- theatre, centre. And finally, words that end with - 'ize' in American English and are often spelled with - 'ise' in British English - sympathise, criticise, and so on. Luckily, my spell checker accepts both!

Equipment, utensil, tool and apparatus What is the difference between 'equipment', 'utensil', 'tool' and 'apparatus'? Thank you for these four items, Sam. They are clearly all from the same lexical field. What you need to know is what restrictions are placed on their use. Equipment usually describes (all) the necessary articles for a purpose. Thus you would say: · 'A lot of equipment was needed for this mountaineering (or camping) expedition.'

Apparatus is similar in meaning to equipment, although it tends to relate to particular contexts. Thus gymnastic apparatus refers to all the apparatus you would expect to find in a gym. It tends to be used in scientific or technical contexts: · 'The chemistry lab was full of the apparatus needed for a range of experiments'.


For tools and utensils it is also very important to know which other words they collocate with. For example, we talk about garden tools for a gardener and work tools for a carpenter, but kitchen utensils for a housewife or house-husband.

'take'- expressions Mirto F Santos from Brazil writes: I don't quite understand the meaning of the expression take for granted. Can you please help me? Derek from Taiwan writes: What does this expression mean: take it as it comes?

take something / someone for granted There are two realisations of this expression, Mirto. In one of them when somebody takes you for granted, they are befitting from your help, without acknowledging it: · He just takes me for granted - never any thanks for all the things I do for him.

If you take something for granted, you assume it will happen or is the case without thinking about it: · · I took it for granted that I would give the opening address at the conference. The things I take for granted in Madrid just do not apply to my life in London.

take it as it comes If you take things as they come, you take them in sequence or in order with no need to prioritise: · You're going to be very busy today - lots of customers. ~ Oh, that doesn't bother us. We'll just take it as it comes.

take-expressions We noted in another answer (to review that answer click here) that take is one of the most frequently used verbs in the English language. Consequently, there are more than fifty expressions in current use that incorporate the verb take. Here are eight of the more opaque.


take it lying down - submit to insult without protesting, like a dog when cowed · She's horrible to you all the time - don't just take it lying down!

take it on the chin - accept a difficult situation without complaining · Her criticism was quite justified. He took it on the chin and apologised.

take it out on someone - work off frustration by being unpleasant to someone · I know you've had a bad day at work, but don't take it out on me.

take one's breath away - stress that something is extremely beautiful · When you get a first glimpse of the Niagara Falls, it takes your breath away.

take one's hat off to - express admiration for someone's achievements. · I take my hat off to the police for managing the protest without arresting anyone.

take someone to the cleaners - deprive them of their money or possessions · They took me to the cleaners. I went into the casino with £100 and came out £1,000 in debt.

take someone for a ride - trick or deceive them, perhaps for financial gain · He's taking you for a ride. Why did you lend him £100? You'll never get it back.

something takes the biscuit - a stupidity that evokes surprise · I didn't mind her borrowing my jeans, but stealing me underwear - well, that just about takes the biscuit!

take multi-part verbs Similarly, there are numerous multi-part verbs where take is combined with a preposition and/or adverbial particle. Some of them have a literal meaning, like take away or take off which are relatively easy to understand: · · Have you finished with that yet? ~ Yes, I have. Please take it away. I took off my dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket.

Other examples have an idiomatic meaning where the meaning may not be clear from an understanding of the individual words. These include: take after - to resemble a family member in appearance, character or behaviour



Sylvia has always been a worrier - she takes after her mother in that respect.

take up an activity - become interested in it or start doing it. · She took up line dancing after her husband died.

take up on - accept an offer OR challenge someone verbally Can I take you up on that lift to Manchester? ~ Sure! No problem. I'd like to take you up on that. I don't agree that cloning is inevitable. take over - assume management, control or ownership · It's possible that the supermarket chain Safeway will be taken over by Sainsbury's.

Note that the verb needed for going past someone is overtake: · He overtook me on the brow of the hill - really dangerous driving!

take to - develop a liking for someone or something · · He's taken to drinking heavily since his wife left him. Tommy has really taken to his new teacher and can't wait to get to school.

Expressing views and opinions in my view / opinion I think we would normally drop point of and simply say in his view (in my view / in their opinion / etc): · · In my view, birds should not be kept in cages. How important is it, in your view, that the twins should stay together? ~ In my opinion, it's very important.

If we want to use point of view, I think we would more often say from my point of view rather than according to my point of view. Both these expressions emphasise the position or angle you are judging the situation from: · · From my point of view it makes no difference whether you return on Saturday night or Sunday morning. From a political point of view, the agreement of the UN is extremely important.



From the point of view of safety, always wear a helmet when you are on the building site.

to my mind / etc In my view, from my point of view, in my opinion are all fairly formal ways of expressing your opinion characteristic of written English. Less formal equivalents more characteristic of spoken English, include the following: to my mind: to emphasise that this is your opinion reckon: usually to express an opinion about what Is likely to happen feel: to express a strong personal opinion if you ask me: to express an opinion that may be critical to be honest (with you): to express a critical opinion without seeming rude as far as I'm concerned: to express an opinion that may be different from others' · · · · · · To my mind the quality of their football is just not good enough. I reckon it'll rain later today. Let's go tomorrow. I feel she shouldn't be getting married so young. If you ask me, it's unreasonable to pay for something which should be free. To be honest (with you), I'm surprised you got into university with such low grades. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is over and done with and we can now move forward.

academic writing and expressing opinions If you are required to write an academic essay in which you are asked to express an opinion (see below), useful alternatives to in my view include: I think that... It seems to me that... I would argue that... I do not believe that... I am unconvinced that... I do not agree that... · · How acceptable is it for wild animals to be kept in zoos? I believe that it is quite unacceptable for animals to be kept in zoos. It seems to me that when they are confined to a cage they never have enough room to


move around. I would argue that it is kinder to allow a rare animal to die naturally in the wilds rather than to prolong its life artificially in a zoo. making concessions To achieve balance in any essay, it may be useful to incorporate opinions that are different from your own. Useful linking words and expressions include: Of course, many / some people argue... It is sometimes argued... Admittedly... While... · It is sometimes argued that it is possible for conditions in the zoo to replicate the wild animal's natural habitat. While this may be feasible for smaller reptiles, it will never be possible, in my view, for the larger mammals which needs acres of space to roam around in.

clarifying an opinion It may sometimes be necessary to explain a thought in greater detail. Useful linking expressions for doing this include: By this I mean... Here I'm referring to... To be more precise... That is to say... · By spending money on confining wild animals to zoos, we are wasting resources. By this I mean there are more urgent economic problems to deal with: hospitals and schools should be our first priority.

faults, flaws, weaknesses and drawbacks Could you help me to work out the differences in use between the following words: faults, flaws, weaknesses and drawbacks? Are they interchangeable when talking about someone's character? Of these four synonyms, or expressions with similar meanings, fault is probably the most widely term used. Faults Fault is not so much used to talk about someone's character, Helen. Instead we talk about electrical, mechanical or technical faults: There was a fault in the wiring and I had no idea how to correct it. There was a delay in the broadcast of the programme and this was due to a technical


fault. A mechanical fault caused the train to come off the rails. A fault then describes a weakness in something, primarily. But sometimes it is used to describe a weakness in someone's character: She has her faults, but, on the whole, she's a nice person. We all have our own faults, I suppose. We also have the frequently used expression: It's (not) my/your/his/etc fault. This is a more idiomatic way of saying: I am (not) to blame or I am (not) responsible (for this unfortunate situation). It's not my fault he's late. Don't blame me. I'm sorry. It's my fault. I forgot to pass on the message. If you don't get enough sleep, it's entirely your own fault. It was partly the teacher's fault for giving them too much homework. Flaws We use flaw mainly to talk about a minor fault or weakness in something which make it less effective or valuable. We talk about flawed arguments for example. Note also a flawless complexion: There's a flaw in your argument. I agree with you up to a point, but the last part doesn't make complete sense to me. There was a tiny flaw in the necklace and it certainly wasn't worth all the money we had paid for it. She attributed her flawless complexion to the moisturising creams she used. However, we can also talk about serious or major flaws: There are major flaws in the way we train teachers in this country. There were serious flaws in the construction of the pedestrian bridge. And, yes, we can also use flaw to describe a fault in someone's character: The only flaw in his character was his short temper ­ he tended to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Weaknesses Weaknesses generally describe the state or condition of being weak and of lacking strength or resilience. The main weakness of this government is that it keeps changing direction on key policy issues. He showed great weakness in not owning up to his part in the bad behaviour. Weaknesses can also refer to faults or problems that make something less attractive or effective:


They were keen to know how well it would sell in Russia so they listed all the strengths and weaknesses of their product for this market. The only weakness in her character that I could spot was that she seemed to be over-dependent on others. Note that if you have a weakness for something, you are very fond of it: I have a great weakness for chocolate. I can never refuse it. Drawbacks We use drawback to refer to a feature of something which makes it less useful or acceptable than it could be. Drawback is often synonymous with disadvantage, but note that drawforward does not exist as an alternative to advantage! The only drawback / disadvantage with this accommodation is that it's a fifteenminute walk to the bus-stop. The main drawback of this examination is that it takes two months before the results are released. So, Helen, from the shades of meaning inherent in all four of these terms, note that we can refer to faults, flaws and weaknesses in someone's character, but we are less likely to talk about drawbacks in someone's character.

"to fire in anger" Could you, please, explain the meaning of the phrase "to fire or shoot (something or someone) in anger", and provide a paraphrase. I realise it doesn't actually mean to fire or shoot because one is angry. But I'm also unsure whether the phrase "to fire in anger" is used specifically in a war context or also applies to non-military conflicts. Rachel Wicaksono answers: Hello Pierre, and thanks for sending in such a challenging question! Well, none of the dictionaries I consulted (including a dictionary of military terms) had information about 'fire in anger', so I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to answer your question, Pierre! Luckily, two of my colleagues at York St John University are specialists in Military English and I was able to ask them about the meaning of the phrase. So, here goes... In a military context, 'to fire in anger' means to shoot for a purpose in war. For example, a submarine that 'fires in anger' shoots missiles at an enemy ship. Shots fired in anger are never just for practice; they're fired to deliberately cause damage or harm.


When I typed "fire in anger" into an internet search engine, the military websites clearly used the phrase to mean 'shooting in war, not for practice'. Interestingly, as far as I could tell, the non-military websites used the phrase to mean 'to shoot angrily', or as you say in your question, 'to shoot because one is angry'. For example: "The man waved his gun around, shouting and shooting in anger." So I think the best answer to your question is that 'fire in anger' has two meanings, depending on whether the context is military or non-military. The military meaning is 'in a real situation, not for practice' and has no connection with the emotion of the person or thing doing the shooting. You'll notice that from these authentic examples of the phrase, as used in a military context: "The sinking of the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, during the Falklands war by HMS Conqueror, the first British nuclear submarine ever to fire in anger, is fully recounted." "...the first military guns in World War I to fire its guns in anger on British soil..." "...becoming the first VII Corps unit to fire in anger since World War II." Now, in contrast, the non-military use of 'fire in anger' implies strong emotion. In our previous example, we heard how... "The man waved his gun around, shouting and shooting in anger." So it's clearly implied that the gunman was extremely upset, distressed and angry about something he felt was very important. I hope this helps, Pierre - and special thanks to my Military English colleagues for their specialist knowledge! Foot / Feet My question is - which of the responses is correct: When somebody asks me how tall I am, what should I say? I'm five foot tall, or I'm five feet tall?

Rachel Wicaksono answers: Thanks for your question, Maria. It's an interesting one because of the differences between the way we write and the way we speak. As you say, 'feet' is an example of a measurement for height, length and distance. 'Feet' is a non-metric measure, unlike 'metres' and 'centimetres' which are metric. Other non-metric measures, which we can use for distance, are: 'inches', 'yards' and 'miles'. For example: "It's a mile from my house to the centre of York, so it only takes me 20 minutes to walk there." Other non-metric measures, which we use for weight, are:


'ounces', 'pounds', 'stones' and 'tons'. For example: "I weigh fourteen stones, seven pounds. That's fourteen and a half stone! I really need to go on a diet." Non-metric measures are still widely used in the UK, especially for personal weight and height, and for distance. But some things are changing. Most people now use metric litres rather than non-metric gallons for volume. For example, we buy orange juice and petrol by the litre. Most people also use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit for temperature, for example: "Today, the temperature in London is 18 degrees Celsius, so you'll be fine in just a t-shirt!" Most older British people still use 'feet', rather than 'metres', to describe their own, and other peoples', height. They might say, for example: "He's just like his dad; he must be at least six foot tall." However, in an old passport of mine, issued in 1987, it states my height in metres. I suppose that's because metric measures are used here in Europe. The US, on the other hand, uses non-metric measures. But listen to that example again: "He's just like his dad; he must be at least six foot tall." You're absolutely right about 'five foot tall'; if you're talking to someone or writing and don't need to be formal, saying that you're 'five foot tall' is fine. However, to say you are 'five feet tall' is correct and is probably safer when you're writing in English. Maria, you don't have to tell us your real height, but if you really are five foot tall, you may be interested to know that you are the same height as the Australian singer Kylie Minogue and the Columbian singer Shakira! However, there does seem to be some confusion over Shakira's height, with some sources saying that she is 'four foot eleven' and others claiming she is 'five foot two'. Shakira, if you're listening to BBC Learning English, perhaps you could contact us and let us know! So I hope that's helped, Maria.

'Get' and 'become'

Olga from Latvia asks: Please tell me when we must use become and when we must use get. Margarete Stepaneke from Austria asks: I would very much like to know when to use become. My feeling is that verbs like


get, turn, go and grow are often preferred to become. Is there a rule for when to use become?

Get, as we shall see, has many different meanings whereas become basically indicates development of some kind. Get is more informal and is frequently used in speech; become is more formal and is more often used in writing. Get/become + adjective When used with adjectives, get indicates growth or development and can therefore be used as the preferred alternative to become in an informal register. Compare the following sentences:



I got interested in photography when I became interested in art in later life. I was ten. As he got older, his garden got really As he became older, he could no longer messy. maintain his garden It got colder and colder the further north we went. I'm getting quite hungry now, aren't you? It became increasingly cold as we travelled north. He became quite angry when he discovered there was no food

Become + noun We cannot, however, use get with a noun, even though the meaning is 'grow' or 'develop into'. We have to use become in this sense: · · 'She was only seventeen when she became a beauty queen.' 'Texas became the twenty-eighth state of the USA in 1845.

Get + noun/pronoun When we use get with a noun or a pronoun as a direct object, get usually means 'obtain', 'acquire', 'receive' or 'fetch'. Become is impossible here: · · 'I got the highest marks in the class for my essay on Lord Byron.' 'I got my goldfish from the pet shop down the road.'


· · ·

'I was getting about fifty emails every day when I was working on the project.' 'Could you get me a punnet of peaches from the supermarket?' 'Let me get you a drink. What'll you have?'

Get and go to indicate movement Get indicates the end of a journey and can be used informally as an alternative to 'reach' or 'arrive at'. When we use go, we are talking about the 'complete journey', usually. Compare the following: · · · 'I usually go to work by car, but I went to Bristol by train yesterday.' 'I didn't get home until nearly midnight.' 'Can you tell me how to get to Buckingham Palace?'

Go, grow and turn to indicate a change of state Grow indicates a slow change and sounds literary. It can be replaced by `become' or `get'. Turn indicates a faster change and can be replaced by `go': · · · · 'As they grew richer, they invested more money in shares.' 'My aim is to grow old gracefully and with dignity.' 'He drove away as soon as the lights turned green.' 'The leaves turned brown as the weather got colder.'

There is so much more to get to know about get, Margarete, but I'll get into trouble with my editor if I make this reply any longer. It is a difficult area, but I hope it is slowly becoming clearer. Tien in Malaysia asks: What is the difference between hear and listen? This question has been confusing me for some time. Thank you. George Pickering answers: Hello, Tien. Thank you for your question about what is the difference between hear and listen. We use hear for sounds that come to our ears, without us necessarily trying to hear them! For example, 'They heard a strange noise in the middle of the night.' Listen is used to describe paying attention to sounds that are going on. For example, 'Last night, I listened to my new Mariah Carey CD.' So, you can hear something without wanting to, but you can only listen to something intentionally. An imaginary conversation between a couple might go:


'Did you hear what I just said?' 'No, sorry, darling, I wasn't listening.'

A question from Abdalla Salih: Which is correct: 'Let's go home' or 'It's high time we went home', and why do you use the past tense of 'go' here? 'It's high time we went home' Callum Robertson answers: This is a very interesting question, which is correct - "It's high time we went ", or "Let's go"? The first thing to say is that they are both grammatically correct; they are both examples of accurate English. This is often true in English that there are different ways to say more or less the same thing. Which one you use will depend on the situation, who you are talking to and sometimes the way you like to sound, your own style of speaking. Let's look at each of these in a little more detail and describe a situation when they could be used. First, the structure "let's" - which is the common short form for "Let us". This is followed by the infinitive of a verb without "to" and is usually an informal suggestion. When it's a suggestion it is often followed by the tag, "shall we?" Imagine that you are at a party, it's quite late at night, you are tired and you have to go to work the next day. You are there together with a friend and because it's late you want to go home. You might say to your friend something like, "Let's go, shall we?" You want to leave and you want your friend to come with you. "Let's go, shall we?" It's not really an order to do something but a polite way of suggesting that you want to leave. If you just say, "Let's go!" that is more of a polite instruction and suggests that you have made the decision that it's time to leave and you expect the person you are talking to do what you say. It could be a parent talking to his or her children - "Come on kids, let's go." However often there is no real difference between "let's go" and "let's go, shall we?" It really does depend on your tone of voice and the relationship you have with the person you're speaking to. Now, the other phrase from Abdallah's question was, "It's high time we went". This is quite an unusual structure because it has what looks like a simple past form "went", the past of the verb "to go." - "It's high time we went." - What is unusual about this is that this sentence is not talking about the past at all! There are a number of phrases, all using the word "time" where this happens. We have the example - "It's high time we went", but you could also say: - It's time we went, or - It's about time we went and you can use a continuous form as well:


- It's time we were going - It's about time we were going, and - It's high time we were going The past form in these examples is, I think, the subjunctive form of the verb. The subjunctive is often used when we talk about unreal or imagined situations. You can see it clearly in a conditional sentence like this one: "If I were you, I'd change my job" Normally you wouldn't expect to see the form "were" following the pronoun "I". You expect "I" to be followed by "was". But that is only true if the verb form is the past simple. However "I were" as in "If I were you" is the correct form of the past subjunctive which is used here because obviously I am not you and I can't be you so it's an imagined or unreal situation - "If I were you." And that's the same form that's being used in the expressions after the word 'time' However, to be honest, I wouldn't worry about trying to remember this or trying to work out if a sentence is subjunctive or not. You can remember the time expressions I mentioned above as fixed expressions and they all have more or less the same meaning. They are quite formal in their use and are stating that it's time that something happened. A parent might say to a child, for example - "it's time you went to bed!" Which means "I want you to go to bed". In the party situation you could say, as I mentioned above, "let's go!" - but you could also say - "It's time we went." You can imagine the person who said that might be looking at their watch and worrying perhaps about catching a train. And if the situation is a little more urgent, we use the expression "It's high time" which means it's very important that this happens now - "It's high time we left come on or we'll miss the train." Or again a parent might say to an older child - "It's high time you found a job, young man!" So in summary -

"Let's go" is an informal suggestion or a polite instruction "It's high time" - is a formal statement that it is important that something happen soon or that something happen now. And now - it's about time I finished this answer.

'hire' / 'rent', 'rise' / 'raise', 'drive' / 'ride'

Anne Beeker from the Netherlands asks: What exactly is the difference between to hire and to rent? I know American English uses to rent whereas British English uses to hire, but I thought there might


also be a difference between what you can hire and what you can rent. 'Hire a help' but surely not 'rent a help'?? 'Rent a car', but not 'hire a car'? Erica from Hong Kong asks: I want to know the difference between `rise' and `raise'. Sanjay Mishra from India writes: When I return from my place of work on a automotive two-wheeler (like a scooter or a motorbike), do I drive back or ride back? hire or rent? The meaning is the same: to rent or hire something, you pay money in order to be allowed to use it for a limited amount of time. It is simply a matter of usage. With some nouns you can use one or the other ­ it doesn't matter which as both are freely used. You can: rent or hire cars, bikes, electronic equipment: · · 'We rented a TV and video as we intended to stay in England for only six months.' 'If you're planning to go to Cambridge for the day, hire a bike when you arrive. It's the best way to get round the town.'

With other nouns it is customary in British English to use one and not the other. We would: rent a flat, caravan, cottage, house: · · 'I rented a cottage by the sea for the summer.' 'He rented me his flat in London while he was on holiday in Greece.'

(However, note the difference in use, depending on whether it is used as a verb or a noun: `flats to rent', but `bikes for hire')

We hire some help (i.e people), tools, equipment: · · · 'I had too much to do on the farm, so I decided to hire some help three mornings a week.' 'The police enquiries were making no progress, so we decided to hire a private detective.' 'I was painting the outside of the house and had to hire a tall ladder to get to the top.'

rise or raise? Two verbs which are similar in meaning: to move to a higher position. The essential difference is that raise is a transitive verb which needs an object to complete its meaning and rise is intransitive, it functions without an object and is sometimes followed by a phrase of time or place. Compare the following: · · 'The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.' 'I rise (i.e. get up) at six o' clock every weekday morning in order to be at work by seven.'


· · · ·

'He rose (i.e. stood up) to greet her.' 'I raised my hand because I wanted to raise a question, but he took no notice of me.' 'If you are raising a family as a single parent, you shouldn't try to work fulltime.' 'My child was ill and I had to raise money to pay for the operation.'

drive or ride? Anything with four or more wheels (like a car, a bus, a lorry or a train) we drive; anything with two wheels or that we straddle (like a horse, a bike, motorbike or scooter) we ride, (even though you need a driving licence to ride a motorbike. In a recent court case, a judge in Britain has ruled that riders of go-peds ­ those tiny scooters which have a very small engine at the back ­ will also need to have a driving licence to ride them on the roads.) Consider the following: · · 'I had never driven such a powerful car before.' 'I hadn't ridden a bike for over twenty years and wondered if I would remember how to.'

Note that when we are passengers rather than drivers, we ride in cars and trains, but we tend to ride on buses.

Hold or keep?

Jana from the Czech Republic writes: Can you please explain to me the different uses of keep and hold? I know there are some phrases where I must use keep and some where I must use hold but sometimes I don't know which one I should use. Hold or keep We use the verbs hold and keep in many different ways and with many different meanings. Only when the meaning is to prevent something from moving can they be used interchangeably: · · · · Hold / keep the ruler steady so that I can draw a straight line. Keep / hold still while I put this necklace on you. Her talk was so boring that she was unable to hold / keep my attention. This is a firm arrangement which cannot be changed. I'll hold / keep you to this.

We also keep or hold data and records: · He kept / held all his data on a hard disk.



For tax purposes, you do not need to hold / keep financial records for more than five years.

But you can only hold records in sport, etc, you do not keep them: · John Lees from the UK holds the record for the fastest walk across America 2628 km in 53 days 12 hours 15 minutes between 11 April (the eleventh of April) and 3 June (the third of June).

hold on to = keep You can see from the above example that one of the slight differences in meaning is that hold sometimes suggests something temporary while keep may suggest something more permanent. There is a similar distinction between hold on to and keep, meaning not to lose: · · · Can you hold on to these CDs for me while I'm away? Hold on to the instructions so that you know what to do if something goes wrong. Keep the instructions safely somewhere in case something goes wrong.

Hold somebody up = keep The phrasal verb hold somebody up, meaning delay, can also be used as an alternative to keep with this meaning: · I don't want to hold you up / keep you, but could I just have a word?

hold = carry / put arms around / contain / organise event When hold means to carry, or to put ones arms around or to contain or to organise an event, we cannot substitute keep in its place: · · · · · Can you hold my books for me while I look for my mobile phone? He held her tightly and hoped that she would stop crying soon. Old Trafford, the home of Man U, holds 67,000 spectators while Highbury, the home of their main rivals, Arsenal, holds only half that amount. I plan to hold a meeting soon to see if we can increase profitability. Referendums have been held in all central European countries in connection with EU membership.

Keep = continue / store / stay in good condition When keep means any of these, we cannot substitute hold in its place. When keep means continue, note that it may be followed either by verb-ing or by the preposition on + verb-ing: · · · Don't turn left or right, just keep right on till the end of the road. You must keep taking the medication until you are quite better. I kept (on) reminding him that he should take my advice, but he ignored me.


· · ·

Where do you keep the keys to the shed? I can't find them. Let's buy two kilos of peaches now. They'll keep in the fridge for about two weeks If you want to keep fit, eat plenty of fruit!

We also keep secrets and promises and you keep your word. You do not hold them: · · Can you keep a secret? Jane's going to have a baby. He failed to keep his promise / his word and told everybody about it.

horrible and horrific; terrible and terrific Charlie Qin studying English in Canada writes: What's the difference between horrible and horrific?

horrible You can describe something as horrible (or deadful or awful) when you do not like it at all: · The hotel was horrible - just awful. The walls were all painted a horrible colour and I've never had such dreadful meals.

horrific You would describe something as horrific when it is really upsetting or frightening to think about it or speak about it: · · Having to survive in the desert for eight days with very little water and practically no shelter from the sun was horrific. It was a horrific motorway accident: twelve people died, a further twenty four suffered horrendous burns.

horrendous - horrifying Horrendous can mean horrifying, describing something you feel dismay or disgust about, but it can also be used in a less extreme way, meaning unpleasant or shocking. Compare the following:


· ·

The traffic this morning was horrendous. It took me seventy-five minutes to travel eleven miles. It was a horrifying picture: the dead and the wounded had all been left by the roadside.

Note that all of these adjectives with their various endings -ible, -ic, -ous, -ing, are derived from the noun horror which also crops up in the compound noun horror film: · Horror films on television are usually screened late at night.

terrible - terrifying - terrific In a similar way, terrible and terrifying, which have similar shades of meaning to horrible and horrifying, are both derived from the noun terror from which we get the nouns terrorist and terrorism: · Ridding the world of terrorists and terrorism is easier said than done.

Be careful however with the adjective terrific which does not have the same meaning as horrific. Whereas horrific means very bad, terrific means very good. Compare the following: · · · The food was terrible. Nobody at the camp had any idea about how to cook. Everybody in the team was terrific. I had never seen them play so well together before. Sharing a prison cell with a convicted murderer was a terrifying prospect.

horribly - terribly These adverbs are used even more frequently than the adjectives terrible and horrible. They often mean little more than very. Note how they are used in these examples: · · · It was terribly important not to make any mistakes on the certificate as it was going to be framed. I'm terribly sorry. That was very clumsy of me to barge into you like that. Are you all right? I was terribly upset when I heard that James had gone to Mexico without telling me. I know that something is terribly / horribly wrong. They should be back by now. They were horribly / terribly expensive, so I could only afford one, I'm afraid.

· ·



We're going to be horribly / terribly late if we stop to buy flowers on the way.

Here are some more adjectives which are used informally and which mean very good and very bad. Note that they all have very common adjectival endings: Very good: fabulous amazing fantastic Very bad: awful shocking hideous dreadful revolting monstrous frightful appalling tremendous breathtaking wonderful marvellous outstanding magnificent stupendous smashing

Can you think of any others meaning very good or very bad, like superb or dire, which do not have these common adjectival suffixes? If you can, write to our Message Board and put them into sample sentences, e.g. · · Their performance was dire. Most of the audience walked out long before it was over. The dancers were superb. They had obviously spent a long time rehearsing it.

Hot dogs and hat tricks

Could you please tell me the origin of the words hot dog and hat trick? hat trick A hat trick was originally performed by a conjurer at a circus or variety show. The conjurer or magician pulled rabbits or other impossible items out of a top hat as if by magic. In a sporting context, it was first used in the game of cricket in 1887 to describe an unlikely situation where a bowler takes three wickets with three successive balls. This entitled the bowler to pass his hat around the ground for a collection of cash, or he might have been presented with a new hat or cap by the club he represented. This usage quickly spread to the game of football to describe three goals scored by the same person in a football match:



Geoff Hurst's hat trick in the 1966 World Cup Final will always be remembered by English football fans.

It has since spread to describe similar situations in other games: · Now as he approaches the tenth green, he's on a hat trick of birdies. A birdie on the eighth. A birdie on the ninth. Let's see if he can make it three in a row with a birdie on the tenth.

old hat If something is old hat, it is out of date or obsolete or so well-known and familiar that it has become uninteresting or boring. The expression is thought to originate from the fact that hats, and particularly ladies' hats, tend to go out of fashion long before they are worn out. · Wearing a tie with a jacket - for young people, that's really old hat.

hot dog For those among you who don't yet know this Western delicacy, a hot dog is a sausage, especially a frankfurter, inserted lengthways into a hot bread roll and garnished with onions, ketchup or other relishes. It originated in America and was an invention attributed to Henry Stevens, a caterer with the New York Stadium in 1900. There may have been an allusion to the 'sausage' dog or dachshund which is roughly the same shape. · · A diet of hot dogs, pumpkin pie and ice-cream sundaes is not good for your waistline! On the pier there were all the usual side-shows, plus hot-dog, hamburger and ice-cream stands.

Note that we also have to hot dog in slang usage, possibly derived from top dog or best person, meaning to show off or perform very well in skiing or surfing: · If you can hot dog on two-metre-high waves, you are king!

Similarly, hot dogger (noun): · On Bondi Beach in Australia, we noticed that almost every wave carried a hot-dogger performing tricks - fast slides, rapid turns, cut-backs and flickoffs. They were hot-dogging for all they were worth.

hot pants Hot pants were very brief skin-tight shorts originally worn by young women in the early 1970s in Britain - 'hot' because they looked sexy. · The mini skirt is back in fashion, but I don't think hot pants ever will be.


hot potato A hot potato is a delicate or tricky situation that has to be handled with extreme care. · The new law is politically a hot potato for the government as many people are very unhappy with it.

As you will know, the original hot potatoes are difficult to handle when you take them out of the oven or pluck them from the barbeque fire. Care has to be taken not to drop them!

Hope / wish J Daudt from Brazil asks: I was told by an English teacher that the main difference between the verbs hope and wish is that when we use hope we do not know all the facts (a kind of future meaning) and when we use wish we know all the facts already. For instance, 'I hope you will be OK' and 'I wish you were here' (from Pink Floyd). This led me to think about Christmas time. Why should I say 'I wish you a Merry Christmas' instead of 'I hope you a Merry Christmas'? Is there any grammatical explanation on this issue?

The answer is that the verb wish is used in a variety of different ways and hope cannot be used as a 'stand alone' verb in a sentence, other than in the expressions 'I hope so' or 'I hope not.' Let's look at wish first of all. In your 'Merry Christmas' example, or when you wish someone good luck or Happy Birthday, you are expressing the hope that they will have good luck in the future, often in connection with a particular event, or that they will enjoy their birthday which is to come. Thus we have expressions like: · · · · 'I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.' 'Remember it's Sarah's birthday tomorrow. Don't forget to wish her many happy returns.' 'They wished me all the best in my new job.' 'I wish you good health and every happiness in the New Millennium.'

As you suggest, wish is also used when you wish that something were the case or you would like it to be the case even though you know that it is impossible or unlikely. In this sense, the verb which follows wish has a past tense inflection. Thus we have: · · 'We wish you could be here.' 'He wished he hadn't said that, for Fiona was terribly upset.'


· ·

'It rained every day. I do wish I hadn't gone there for my holidays.' 'I wish you didn't have to work so hard.'

Wish, as in 'wish to', is also sometimes used as a slightly more formal alternative to 'want to'. So we have: · · · · · 'They were very much in love and wished to get married as soon as it could be arranged.' 'I don't wish to see him ever again,' she said, five months after they were married.' 'He could do most of his work from home, if he wished.' 'I don't wish to interrupt (your conversation), but the potatoes are burning dry.' 'I don't wish to be rude, but that red dress really doesn't suit you.'

Now let's take a brief look at hope. We speak of people's 'hopes for the future' and hope normally signals future intentions. If you hope to do something, you want to do it and intend to do it if you possibly can. Like wish it can be used with to, plus infinitive. So we might have: · · 'I hope to be a millionaire by the time I'm thirty.' 'I was hoping to catch the 5.30 train and would have caught it, if Jennifer hadn't phoned.'

However, when a new subject is introduced, hope must be followed by a clausal construction. Thus, we would find: · · · · 'I hope (that) she'll like these flowers.' 'Her mother hoped (that) Judith would become a doctor, but her heart was always set on the stage.' 'I hope (that) you won't think me rude, but that red dress that you're wearing definitely doesn't suit you.' 'They were stranded on the side of the mountain and hoped (that) the rescue team would reach them before nightfall.'

Hopes and wishes! It is my hope and wish that all of you out there reading this column will enjoy good health and every happiness in the New Millennium. Or, to put it in two other ways: I wish you good health and every happiness in the 21st Century. I hope you'll enjoy good health and every happiness in the 21st Century.

'house' or 'home' House describes a particular type of building. Home is the place where you live and feel that you belong to. Compare the following:


· · · · · ·

'Most people in Britain live in semi-detached houses.' 'We're going to buy Emma a doll's house for Christmas.' 'The Houses of Parliament in London are visited by 50,000 people each year.' 'I've enjoyed living abroad for the last six years, but it's time for me to go back home now!' 'We were at home in bed when our car was stolen from outside the house.' 'These children need a good home and we are in a position to give them one.'

Note also the differences in meaning and use between 'houseproud', 'housework' and 'homework', 'homesick' and 'homeless'. Study the following: · · · · 'I did my housework (i.e. cleaning the house) this morning and my homework (work given to me by my school to do at home) this afternoon.' 'People say that I'm houseproud because I spend so much time cleaning the house so that others will admire it.' 'She said that she was missing her home and family so much. She sounded really homesick.' 'I am homeless. I have no home to go to.

interfere and intervene Could you kindly explain what is the difference between interfere and intervene? Thank you. Amos Paran answers: Yes Eric, these two words are similar and yet so different. Both start with 'inter-', meaning 'between'. The difference is in the connotations of the two words. 'Interfere' has very strong negative connotations. There's a wonderful short story by Julian Barnes called 'Interference', in his collection Cross Channel, and the title refers to two types of interference which happen in the story. One type of interference that the title refers to is interference with radio signals - you know, when you're listening to a radio programme and there are other signals and reception is not very good. The other type of interference is the type where people interfere in other people's business, telling them what to do, how to behave, what to eat and so on. If I say to someone, Stop interfering I mean that what I am doing is none of their business. And there's some of that happening in the story too. 'Intervene' has got more positive connotations; it has the connotation of wanting to improve a situation, change things for the better. You intervene between two people in order to prevent a quarrel, for example.


job applications I would like to know the difference between an application letter and a cover letter. I would like to have examples of application and cover letters. This is because I am always confused as to why both must be sent when one is looking for employment.

letter of application If you are responding to a job advertisement you may be asked to write a letter of application. This is the letter which lists all your work experience and qualifications and should also explain why you want the job. Begin your letter by telling the reader where you saw the advertisement: · I am writing to apply for the post of Fashion Shop Manager advertised in the 'News Shopper' of 14 February 2002.

You would then go on to list your experience and relevant qualifications: · I have worked in the retail industry for a total of ten years, first as a sales assistant in a department store and for the last three years as a Section Head and Deputy Manager at Jones the Bootmaker.

You might then go on to say why you are particularly interested in this job and mention the particular abilities and skills that you have. · I am applying for this position as I am looking to progress from junior to senior management. I have always been interested in the latest fashion trends and developments and I believe your organisation is a well-run quality fashion business. I would very much like to work for your company. I believe I have all the skills, knowledge and expertise that you are looking for. I have lots of retail initiative, can schedule and prioritise tasks and can work to strict deadlines. I also work particularly well with people and would enjoy leading the team and working with clients and customers.


You might then close the letter with the following formula. · I look forward to hearing from you and hope that you will be able to invite me for an interview.

covering letter Many employers will ask you to write to them or phone them for an application form and further details when they advertise jobs. Sometimes you will be asked to send your CV or resume. Your CV or curriculum vitae lists your educational and career history and is a useful summary for an employer of all your educational and employment achievements up to the present time. You must always ensure that it is up to date.


A covering letter may then be very useful because you can enclose it with your CV or a completed application form. In your covering letter you can draw attention to particular information which you wish to highlight. Such a covering letter might look like this: Dear Mr Sorefoot Fashion Shop Manager Please find enclosed my completed application form for the above position. As you will see from my form, I have ten years experience with Bates Retail as a Fashion Shop Manager. I look forward to hearing from you and hope that you will be able to invite me for an interview. I can be contacted at any time by phone, fax or email at work or at home. I would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss my application in greater detail and convince you that I am the right person for the job. Yours sincerely

Frances Slimwaist If you have filled in an application form you do not need to send a CV because all the relevant information should be on your form.

cover Note that cover as verb, noun and adjective is used in a variety of different ways: If you cover something, you place something else over it to protect it or hide it or close it: · · · · Always cover what you are cooking with a tight-fitting lid and cook it slowly. His desk is always covered with papers. I don't know how he can work in such a mess. She covered all her bedroom walls with posters of Eminem. There are always lots of cafes and restaurants within the covered shopping malls in British towns and cities.

cover = protection Cover can also be used to talk about protection from enemy attack or for talking about insurance. · The air force was unable to provide any sort of air cover for their ground troops.


· · ·

There was no cover of any kind, no trees, no valleys, just the endless barren plain. Are you covered to drive this car? Do you have proper insurance cover? Does your travel insurance cover you against theft or loss of valuables?

cover = address or report on a topic Cover can be used to talk about studying a subject or in a journalistic context to talk about reporting. · · We haven't covered molecular biology yet. We're going to do that next term. He's going to cover the World Cup later this year for BBC World Service.

cover for = substitute for someone at work · · Can you cover for me this afternoon while I visit my father in hospital? There were not enough teachers to cover for absent colleagues and some students had to be sent home.

reporter and journalist I'm confused about the difference between presenter, broadcaster, and announcer; and the difference between reporter and journalist. Your answer must be very helpful for me. Thanks. Hi Suharno, All these words are used to describe people who work in the media. The first three: presenter, broadcaster and announcer are all related to TV and radio: media which is delivered partly ­ or wholly ­ through sound and speech (this type of media is increasingly available on internet too). A presenter is a person who introduces or hosts television or radio programmes. A presenter's opening words on a programme are usually something like Good evening, and welcome to[name of show] with me [name of presenter]. On tonight's show we will be... [presenter talks about the content of the programme]. The topic of the programme is not all about the presenter. The presenter is the person who introduces the programme, introduces or links sections of the programme together and says goodbye at the end. Some well-known presenters include Johnny Carson (an American TV chat show host), Trevor MacDonald (a British TV news presenter), and Karim Kouchouk (the presenter of BBCe for BBC Learning English Arabic Service). An announcer's job is similar to that of a presenter. He or she provides spoken information about news, weather, programme content, links between programmes, advertising etc. However, an announcer may have a smaller role in a programme than a presenter does: on TV programmes, an announcer may only feature as a voice whereas a presenter will be seen on the screen. Another main difference between an announcer and a presenter is that the announcer usually reads word-forword from a script, whereas a presenter may have some flexibility regarding the


things they say. The word broadcaster can refer to an organisation such as the BBC (UK) or NBC (USA) which produces television and radio programmes. It can also be used to describe someone who is well-experienced in the TV and radio industry. He or she usually has multiple talents ­ scriptwriting, directing, presenting etc. and his or her programmes may be considered to be very important and well-respected. Famous British broadcasters include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Robert Winston and Sir David Frost, and Larry King in the USA. Turning to the second part of your question, Suharno: you wanted to find out about the difference between a reporter and a journalist. In fact, these jobs are very similar, and in some respects the terms are interchangeable. A journalist's work is most often seen in print ­ especially newspapers ­ but they can work for TV and radio too. A journalist gathers, writes and reports news stories, and may also edit and present news articles. A reporter is a type of journalist who gathers information about newsworthy issues. This may involve researching through several sources ­ interviews, police and public records, photographs etc. When the information is gathered, the reporter will create a report for publication or broadcast in the media. Reporters often specialise in a particular area, for example: crime, politics, health or education. Finally, Suharno, I'd like to mention one more media profession. A columnist is a writer (usually a journalist) who writes regularly (often weekly) for a newspaper or magazine. She or he chooses a topic that is in the news and writes not only about the events that have become newsworthy but also often offers some analysis and/or personal opinion. This job is usually reserved for senior journalists at a particular newspaper or magazine. Well Suharno, I do hope this has been a useful answer to your question! Explanation of a joke

Lisa from Taiwan asks: Why is it funny? What does the last sentence mean? 'Taking his seat in his chambers, the judge faced the opposing lawyers. "So," he said, "I have been presented, by both of you, with a bribe." Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably. "You, attorney Leon, gave me $15,000. And you, attorney Campos, gave me $10,000." The judge reached into his pocket and pulled out a check. He handed it to Leon. "Now then, I'm returning $5,000, and we're going to decide this case solely on its merits."' To decide a case 'solely on it merits' means that only the intrinsic rights and wrongs of the arguments will be considered. In a court of law one would expect all cases to be decided solely on their merits.


It is funny because that is no longer possible in this case as the judge has already pocketed bribes of $10,000 from both the defense and prosecution counsels. He argues that his judgement will be unbiased now that the amount of bribe from defense and prosecution is equal, but would you expect to get a fair trial in a court of law from a judge who was open to bribery? kinds / types / sorts / varieties (of music) I have always had problems using the words kind and type. Is there any difference and can you give me some examples of usage? kinds of / sorts of / types of / varieties of Kinds, sorts, types and even varieties can all be used interchangeably, (although varieties may be used more in more scientific sorts of contexts, e.g. varieties of tomato) The first three are very common and can be used in singular and plural forms. Compare the following and note that all the examples today are taken from a global music theme: What kind(s) / type(s) / sort(s) / varieties of music do you like most? ~ I like all kinds / sorts / types: hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, rap and classical. Global Music ­ or World Music as it is known in Britain ­ is the synthesis of different kinds of music from around the world, often using traditional instruments in an original way. If you want to know what type of instrument a morinhoor is, how to find music from Yakutia or how to buy an organo pinareno from Cuba, Global Music websites can help you various / different / many / all - kinds / types / sorts varieties These nouns collocate readily with different, various and many as well as with all: There are various kinds / types / sorts / varieties of jazz, originating with ragtime, blues and swing of the 20s and 30s and then the later varieties of hard bop, soft bop, funky, third stream and free styles of the 50s and 60s. sort of (a) / kind of (a) / type of (a) Sort of / kind of / type of are usually followed by an uncountable noun or a singular countable noun with no article, but a / an is sometimes retained in an informal style: What sort of (a) / kind of (a) / type of (a) dance is that? Well, it's a sort of jig or reel, danced to very fast time. I don't know exactly what it is because there are several types of jigs ­ single jigs, double jigs, slip jigs and hop jigs. Note that when the indefinite article is retained, it sometimes has a derogatory meaning:


What kind of a DVD player is that? You don't seriously expect me to listen to electronic music with no surround sound, do you? sort of / kind of Sort of and kind of, but not type of, are used in another important way in informal spoken English when we want to demonstrate to the listener that we are not speaking very precisely but simply indicating a general idea. They are used to modify many different parts of speech including adjectives, verbs and clauses, see below: Why don't you like this kind of music? ~ Well, it's sort of loud and tuneless. They may also be used as fillers, i.e. to fill a gap in the conversation and to give the speaker more time to think: How would you describe your singing voice on this track? Well, I... I kinda howl like a wolf, and then ...kinda...kinda...squeal like a pig, but it seems to work, sort of. Uses of the word 'lack' Would you please tell me all the uses of the word lack (in different forms) and make a sentence for each of its uses? Is the sentence 'Many children are in lack of sleep' correct? If it is wrong, what should it be? I'm not too happy with 'in lack of', Wong, which doesn't sound quite right to me. Lack of is fine where lack is used as a noun, so you can say, for example: · · 'The lack of amenities in the hotel surprised all of us.' 'There was a general lack of enthusiasm among the trainees.'

Lack may also be used as a verb: · · 'They lacked the courage necessary to cross the fast-flowing river.' 'When she came to start making the cake, she discovered that she lacked half the basic ingredients.'

Large / Big What is the difference in use and meaning between the words 'large' and 'big'? Rachel Wicaksono answers: Well, this is a big question Iryna, so I'll do my best to answer it clearly and briefly! First I'll talk about form: 'Large' and 'big' are both regular adjectives... Their comparative forms are 'larger' and 'bigger',


Their superlative forms are 'largest' and 'biggest'. 'Big' is a very common word in both written and spoken English; in fact, it's in the top 1,000 most frequently used words. 'Large', on the other hand, is a less frequently used word and doesn't even make it into the top 3,000 most frequently used words in English. Now, onto the question of meaning... The general meaning of both 'large' and 'big' is: 'of more than average size/amount/weight/height' etc. For example: 'Iryna has got a well-paid job and can afford to live in a house' - OR... 'Iryna lives in a large house'. In these examples, both 'big' and 'large' mean that Iryna's house is of more than average size. Although 'big' and 'large' both mean the same in these examples, 'large' sounds a little more formal. Neither 'large' nor 'big' can be used with uncountable nouns. This means, we can say: 'The house has a (big or large) garden' - because 'garden' is countable. However, we can't use 'big' or 'larg' with 'traffic', because 'traffic' is uncountable. With uncountable nouns, you can use 'a lot of' - for example: 'There's a lot of traffic on the road next to the house.' So, although 'large' and 'big' are often interchangeable, sometimes they are not. So next, I'll try and give you some examples of when this is the case... 'Big' can mean 'important', for example: 'Buying a house is a very big decision'. It can also be used in informal situations to mean 'older', for example: 'He's my big brother'... as well as 'successful' or 'powerful', for example: 'York is a big tourist destination'. Also in informal situations, we can use 'big' to mean 'doing something to a large degree', for example: 'She earns a lot of money, but she's also a big spender' - OR... 'I'm a big fan of yours'. 'Big' is used in a lot of fixed phrases, and because these phrases are fixed, to change 'big 'to 'large' would sound wrong. Examples of fixed phrases using 'big' include: 'It's no big deal' - it's not really important. 'I have big ideas for this house' - impressive plans for the future. 'She's a big mouth' - a person who can't be trusted to keep a secret. 'He's too big for his boots' - too proud of himself. There are also some fixed phrases using 'large'. Examples include: 'The prisoners are at large' - they have escaped and may cause harm. 'She's larger than life' - more exciting or amusing than most people.


Finally, quantity words.... 'large', more often than 'big', is used with the following quantity words: 'a large amount', 'on a large scale', 'a large number of', 'a large quantity of', 'a large proportion', 'to a large extent', 'a large percentage of', 'a large part of', 'a large volume' and 'a large area'. So......a very big - or large - question, Iryna! I hope this has helped a little!

Take (and last)

Gisela from the Czech Republic writes: I'm not sure about the difference in use between take and last. Which is better in these examples: How long does the film last? How long does the film take? Take or last? Both take and last are used to talk about the amount of time needed for something. We tend to use take when we are more in control of the experience and last when we have little or no control over it. Take suggests more active involvement and last implies a more passive experience. Thus we are more likely to say: · How long does the film last? ~ It's a long one. It lasts (for) over three hours

Compare also the following examples of greater and lesser control of the action using take and last: · · · It takes half an hour to prepare lunch and an hour to prepare supper usually. Dinner lasts for / takes at least ninety minutes when Henry's at home there's so much to talk about. The five-set match lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours before the champion went through to the next round 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2. "I didn't expect it to take so long, but it took me twenty minutes to settle down in the opening set," he said afterwards.

Note that when we use preparatory it as subject and when it is followed by a personal pronoun, me, you, her, him, or them, we have to use take, not last: · It will take you all day to tidy your room - it's in such a mess.



It only takes me five minutes to put my make-up on now. It used to take me ninety minutes before I got married.

Like get, take is a very common multi-purpose verb and is used in many different ways. Here are a few of the commonest: take (opposite of give) · · · · I offered him four tickets for Romeo and Juliet, but he only took two. The burglars have taken all my jewels. There's nothing left. I'll take a copy of the agreement, if you don't mind. Then I won't forget anything. I'm going to take ten minutes now to explain to you how this works.

take (opposite of bring) meaning 'carry' They are opposites in the sense that when we use bring we are describing movements to where the speaker or listener is located, and when we use take we are describing movements away from the speaker/listener. Compare the following: · · · · She took me to the hospital because I was feeling decidedly ill. Take an umbrella with you. It's going to rain. My secretary always brings me my mail first of all and then she takes the children to school. I took my calculator to school every day until the maths teacher said: "You needn't bring them any more. We have enough now for everybody."

take (= have) · · · · · I'm going to take a shower now. ~ Why don't you take a bath? It'll be more relaxing. Let's take a break now. You've been driving for two hours and you need to take a rest. I'm going to take a holiday as soon as my boss gets back from leave. We took a long walk along the seashore every evening before dinner. Take a good look at this and make sure it's in perfect working order before you decide to buy it.

In all of these expressions with take + noun to describe common actions, we can use either have or take. Have is more characteristic of British English whereas Americans would be more inclined to use take.


lazy and idle A question from Anne McConnell in England: Why aren't lazy and idle exact synonyms? Karen Adams answers: Well we have two words here that mean very similar things. Lazy which we know means someone who doesn't really word very hard, but also one with a very similar meaning, idle. That's idle ­ i.d.l.e. Both words can actually be used to describe someone who doesn't work very hard, for example "John is really lazy." or "John is really idle." Both mean that John's doesn't really work as much as he should do. However, there are some very subtle differences between the two words which means we can't use them completely interchangeably. For example, "lazy" will always have a negative connotation; it will give us a very negative idea of the person it's being used to describe. So lazy is always seen as a very bad thing. However, idle can be used in other contexts, still to mean something or someone doesn't work, but without the negative judgement. So for example, if you press print on your computer, you may see a sign which says "Printer idle." This means that the printer, at the moment, isn't doing anything. Similarly, sometimes factories must close, because there isn't enough work, an so at that point, the factory is idle. Also, the work force, the people are idle. So when we use idle in this way we are not giving a negative comment on the people or the thing, we are just saying they're not working. It's very very important to think about the adjectives you use in particular because very many of them can carry different connotations. For example: cheap and inexpensive. Both mean that something doesn't cost a lot of money. However, in British English, we often use the adjective cheap to describe something that's not of very good quality. So it can sometimes have a negative connotation. Similarly, you may find two adjectives that mean similar things, but one adjective can be used with a wider range of nouns. So for example wealthy and rich. We can talk about wealthy people or rich people. Both mean people with lots of money. However, we can also talk about rich food, rich furnishings, meaning very good quality. So here, rich has a slightly different meaning. It's important to remember that it's difficult to find words that are exact synonyms, which can be used interchangeably, in all contexts. So when you learn some new synonyms, it's important to learn not just what they share, but also what the difference is between them. Remember, when we say someone is lazy, we mean they don't work very hard, but we can't say the printer is lazy, we can only say the printer is idle.


Learning and using synonyms People use synonyms to avoid repeating the same word. For example: This hotel is so expensive. It's very pricey. What is the difference in meaning between expensive and pricey? When should I use synonyms? expensive / pricey Synonyms are words with the same or sometimes slightly different meanings. Alternatives are sometimes used in the same context with little or no difference as in your example, Yeon-Ju, except that pricey is a bit more informal than expensive. Virtually anything that costs a lot of money may be considered expensive or pricey. keen / eager I am always keen / eager to introduce synonyms in this way in the examples of use that I quote on the learnit pages. In this example, keen and eager are very close in meaning and may be used interchangeably. Finding alternatives with the same or similar meaning is undoubtedly a good way of expanding your vocabulary and use of English, Yeon-Ju, but we have to be careful. disgusting / appalling These synonyms are quite close in meaning, but not as close as in the previous pairs. Compare the following: The food they served at John and Paula's wedding reception was disgusting. The food they served at John and Paula's wedding reception was appalling. The service at this hotel is disgusting. The service at this hotel is appalling. Both adjectives are possible in both contexts, but disgusting is perhaps more appropriate to the first context as it suggests that the food was highly unpleasant to the taste. Appalling is perhaps more appropriate to the second context as it suggests that the service was generally unpleasant, shocking, offensive and unacceptable. pretty / good-looking / beautiful These three synonyms, indicating someone or something that is pleasing in appearance, are also quite close in meaning, but use is restricted:


It was a beautiful summer's day. She was wearing a pretty polka-dot bikini. With his jet-black hair and high cheekbones he appeared unusually good-looking. A summer's day cannot be pretty or good-looking. A bikini is not substantial enough to be called beautiful (whereas an attractive wedding dress we would describe as beautiful). Only people, of either sex, can be described as good-looking and men are not usually thought of as pretty or beautiful. Collocation What we learn from this is that words sometimes occur together, or collocate with each other, in fairly fixed ways. verb + adverb Certain verbs tend to be used with certain adverbs. If you think hard / carefully about it, you'll realise that I'm right. (Not: If you think strongly / powerfully / precisely....) If I remember correctly / rightly, you were not there at the time. (Not: If I remember exactly / precisely / truly...) If you truly / really love me, you'll turn down that job in Norway. (Not: If you purely / justly / rightly / precisely love me....) adjective + noun Certain nouns tend to occur with certain adjectives: It came as a complete surprise to me when she married him (Not: It came as a comprehensive / full / entire surprise to me...) He carried out a full / comprehensive market survey before launching the product. (Not: He carried out a complete / all-embracing market survey...) (And not: ...before discharging / dispatching / propelling the product.) verb + noun Certain Verbs and nouns habitually occur together. If you eat chocolate before a meal, it will spoil / ruin your appetite. (Not: will damage / harm / suppress your appetite.) The government has recently conducted / carried out a survey on the causes of obesity in children. (Not: The government has fulfilled / administered / run a survey...)


I can't change my eating habits so I shall continue to eat junk food. (Not: I can't alter / amend / modify my eating habits...) learning and using synonyms When you are learning new words it is always a good idea to learn them in the contexts in which they are used and the typical collocations that go with them. 'lend' or 'borrow' How can I use the word owe when I lend someone some money. Do I say: 'I owe you 20 dollars' or do I say: 'You owe me 20 dollars?' The importance of my question is how do I use this word in both ways such as when I borrow some money from someone and also when I lend someone some money?

If you borrow something from somebody, you take it with their permission and promise to return it in due course, at the end of a limited period usually. If you borrow £5,000 from the bank, you will owe them £5,000, plus interest on the period of time you have borrowed if for. Consider the following: · · · 'I borrowed five pounds from my brother and forgot to pay it back.' 'I always buy the books I want to read, although I agree it would be cheaper to borrow them from the library.' 'Many of his ideas are borrowed from other sources.'

If you lend somebody something, or lend something to somebody, then you give them something of yours for a limited period of time. If you lend someone some money, they will owe you the money. Consider the following: · · · 'She lent her sister her car for the weekend.' (NB: verb + indirect object + direct object) 'If you lend your coat to Philip, you'll never see it again.' (NB: verb + direct object + indirect object) 'If you can lend me a hand with these reports, we might finish them by suppertime.'

In the sentence, `work hard lest you should fail in your examination' can 'lest' be used without the support of the word 'should'? Yes, it can. First, what does lest mean and when do we use it? Lest is a very rare word and quite old fashioned.


Most people in Britain know it, because we see it written very often in the same place - on war memorials, on statues, which have been put up so that we remember people who died in wars; and what's very often written on these statues is `lest we forget'! Now, what lest means is `so that we don't' or `so that you don't'. It's a warning. It's introducing a danger to be avoided. And Shazad's example: `work hard lest you should fail your examination' lest introduces the danger of things to be avoided: if you don't work hard, you will fail your examination. Here are further examples: We often use it after a command, `work hard lest you fail your exam' and `dress up warmly (wear warm clothes) lest you catch cold'. We can use it without a command, we might talk about something we did in the past, so we might say `I worked really hard, lest I failed my exam'. Written What we do need to remember though is that it is a very, very formal and oldfashioned word and if you use it when you're talking, you're going to sound rather strange. It's a word which we see written - it's not a word that is used in conversation. Remember it, because you will see it written; but only use it if you really want to impress somebody in a very, very formal situation. Can lest be used without the support of the word should? Yes. And it normally is used without should. In Shazad's example, 'lest you should fail your examination', that use of should of course has a completely different meaning from the usual meaning of should. We usually think of should in terms of an obligation: something you have to do. And here, it doesn't mean that - here, the meaning introduces a conditional that suggests that this is a possibility, but not a strong possibility. It is not necessary. We usually do leave it out. The interesting thing is, that when we do leave it out, the word that is left there is an infinitive - which means, that if we're using `he', we don't say `he must work hard, lest he fails the examination'; we say `he must work hard, lest he fail the examination'. And that's a curious and interesting little bit of English. let or leave I am 22 years old and have been learning English for 6 months. I would like to know the difference between let and leave. Please explain with examples. I shall be very grateful to you. We use both let and leave in different ways and for different purposes. They cannot be used interchangeably. let + infinitive


A very common usage of let is in the phrase let us or let's when we are making a suggestion involving others. We say this instead of Why don't we...? or I suggest we... which is quite formal. It is often used with shall we? as a question tag. Compare the following: · · · Let's just have a cold salad for supper this evening, shall we? And let's go for a run before we eat! OK. Let's do that! Let's forget I ever said that, shall we? I didn't mean to offend you.

When it is used with the negative there are two alternative versions to choose from: don't let's or let's not. Both are very common. · · Let's not get too involved in their argument. It's better if they sort it out themselves. Don't let's go to Sheila's party tonight. Let's just have a quiet evening at home

Let is also commonly used to make a suggestion to oneself in the phrase let me or to a third person in the phrase let him/her/them. Note also the usage with the infinitive of there is/there are. Compare the following: · · · · · Do you like this outfit? Let me see. I like the orange dress but not with that hat. I'm going to sell my car. Do you want to buy it? I'm not sure. Let me think about it. There's still a stain on this jumper. Let me try to get it out with this stain remover. Can Joey and Phoebe stay overnight next weekend? Oh, please let them stay. Let there be no doubts in your minds that we shall win this battle.

Let = allow/permit We can see from these last examples, particularly the Joey and Phoebe example, that let also means allow or permit. These are more formal alternatives and require to before the infinitive. Compare the following: · · · · · Let me say how pleased I am to see you here this evening. Allow me to say how pleased I am to see you here this evening. Permit me to say how pleased I am to see you here this evening. I wouldn't let them stay up after nine to watch the adult film on TV. I can't let you go to France without me.


Note that with the passive voice, we have to use permit or allow: · · We didn't let him go home until he had spoken to the Headteacher. He wasn't allowed/permitted to go home until he had spoken to the Headteacher.

let me know/ let me have Finally, let is frequently used with know, where it means tell, and have, where it means send or give. Compare the following: · · · · Please let us know as soon as possible whether you are able to accept our offer. If you had let me know earlier, I would have saved it for you. Can you let me have those reports by midday on Friday, please? Let me have half an hour to think about it and then I'll let you know.

leave = go (depart/quit/abandon) As we saw with let, leave has a number of different meanings and uses. Compare the following: · · · The plane left early as everybody was on board half an hour before take-off. (= departed) Nobody leaves school at the age of sixteen now, like they used to. (= stops attending) Don't tell Maureen I'm leaving her. (= abandoning)

left = remaining Here it is almost opposite in meaning and is used as a past participle normally at the end of the clause, often with there is/are or have got: · · · I haven't got any cash left. Can you get the sandwiches? There were only two days' rations left, but they had to last for six days. Nothing was left of the castle. It had been completely destroyed.

leave = let it remain It is here that the meaning of leave comes closest to let, close but not identical. Compare the following: · · · I'll eat later. Just leave it for me in the fridge. I left my car in the car park and took the bus into the town centre. I can't make the decision. I'll leave it for you / to you to decide what to do.



I can't get the stove to work. Leave it with me / to me. I'll deal with it.

This final example combines a number of different usages of let and leave: · Let me finish off the translation for you. OK. There are only four pages left. I'll leave it for you. I have to leave now anyway!

There are even more shades of meaning of leave than we have covered. Check them out in a good dictionary. *******************************************************************

'Lie' or 'lay' on a bed What's the easy way to remember the difference between lie and lay ? lie (+ phrase of place) / lay (+ object) Perhaps the easiest way to remember the difference, Antonio, is that lay is a transitive verb which needs an object to complete its meaning and lie is an intransitive verb which functions without an object and is followed normally by a phrase of place.

First, see how the words look in the present and the past tense. Present lie lay he lies..., he is lying... she lays, she is laying Past he lay..., he was lying..., he has lain... he laid, he was laying, he has laid

Now compare the following: lay ( + object) lie ( + phrase of place) lay ( + object) lie ( + phrase of place) lay ( + object) lie ( + phrase of place) lay ( + object) She laid the baby on the bed in order to change its nappy. She was lying asleep on the sofa when her husband arrived home. Can you lay the table for me please? Lunch is ready. I told her not to lie out in the sun, but she must have lain there for at least an hour for her back was very sunburnt. I had never laid carpets before, but I was determined to have a go. When I looked out of the aircraft window, I could see that London lay beneath us. His lawyer will lay great emphasis on his state of mind when the murder was committed and claim that it was manslaughter, not


murder. lie ( + phrase of place) None of us knows what lies ahead, but you must try to take a grip on your life and decide where your future lies.

'look', 'see' and 'watch' A question from Muhammed Nadeem in Pakistan : What's the difference between the verbs 'look', 'see' and 'watch'? Karen Adams answers: 'Look', 'see' and 'watch' seem very similar, they all talk about different ways of using your eyes. However, there are two very important differences. It depends on how you intend to look or watch and how intense the looking is. When we say 'see' we are normally talking about things we can't avoid ­ so for example, "I opened the curtains and saw some birds outside." - I didn't intend to see them, it just happened. However, when we use the verb 'look', we're talking about seeing something with an intention. So, "this morning I looked at the newspaper" ­ I intended to see the newspaper. When we watch something, we intend to look at it but we're also looking at it quite intensely, usually because it's moving. So, for example, "I watched the bus go through the traffic lights." "I watched the movie." We want to see it, we're looking at it intensely and it's normally moving. When we use verbs of the senses, and this group, 'look', 'see' and 'watch' are verbs of visual sense, there's usually a difference between intention and non-intention, so, for example, "I heard the radio." - I didn't intend to, it just happened, or, "I listened to the radio" - I switched it on to find my favourite programme. Similarly, "I felt the wind on my face." - I didn't intend to feel this, it just happened, or "I touched the fabric." - I intended to feel the fabric. It's important when you find these verbs of the senses to gather them together and try to find the differences between them. Remember that when you look at words which seem to be similar it's important to find out exactly the differences between them because basically you can't really use them interchangeably. Remember, 'see' ­ you didn't really intend to, it just happened; 'look' ­ you intended to do it; and watch you intended to do it and you were looking intensely, usually because it was moving.

look forward to / agree to / object to

Adriana, learning English in Canada, writes: I have been studying English since I came to Canada, about four years now, but


because there are so many exceptions to rules, it's hard for me to apply what I've learnt. For instance, I don't understand why it's correct to say I look forward to hearing from you and not I look forward to hear from you. Jolie from Vietnam writes: In the example In no way will I agree to sharing an office with Ben, I just wonder why you can use both infinitive and V-ing form for the verb share. look forward to something = anticipate something with interest Look forward to is one of the many phrasal verbs in English in which an adverbial particle (forward) as well as a preposition (to) is combined with the stem verb to signify a particular meaning. What we are looking forward to can be exemplified as either as a noun phrase or as a verb-phrase with an -ing pattern · · · Jill says she's not looking forward to Jack's party next weekend. I very much look forward to meeting you soon. They're looking forward to joining their children in Australia

There are many such three-part verbs, e.g.: look back on = think back to put up with = tolerate come down with = fall ill with There are a number of instances where such verbs end with the preposition to, e.g.: face up to = confront get round to = do something after some delay get down to = concentrate on Note that in such instances to is not part of any infinitive phrase. It is an integral part of the verb. And whatever it is that we face up to or get round to is normally expressed as either a noun phrase or as a verb phrase with an -ing pattern: · · · I must get round to cleaning my car next weekend. And I must get down to reading Jack's article which he sent me two weeks ago I must face up to the fact that I'm never going to be promoted in this organisation.

Note that when verbs follow prepositions (any prepositions) the V-ing form is normally used, not the to-infinitive pattern: · · · I managed to finish reading Jack's article by staying up till midnight. He's talking about getting it published in National Geographic magazine. Instead of going on holiday last summer, he undertook this arduous trip up the Amazon.

agree - agree to


There is a complication in your example, Jolie, where both the -ing form and the toinifnitive pattern appear possible: · · I cannot agree to share / to sharing an office with Ben. In no way can I agree to sharing / to share an office with Ben

The complication arises because there are two different forms of pretty much the same verb, agree and agree to. If we are using the phrasal verb, agree to, the -ing pattern is more likely. If we are using the non-phrasal verb, agree, the toinfinitive pattern is imperative. Compare the following: · What have you agreed? We've agreed to tidy our rooms when we get up, to clear the dishes from the table after eating and not to go out until we've finished our homework. What have you agreed to? We've agreed to arriving punctually before the working day begins and to not leaving before five o' clock in the afternoon.


object to Note that the opposite of agree to is object to and here only the -ing pattern is possible: · What do you object to in her behaviour? I object to her going out every evening and not telling me where she is going.

A question from Pia in Poland: Could you please explain the difference between lunch, supper and dinner. Does the expression relate to the time of the day that you eat the meal, the type of food or the size of the meal?- 'lunch / supper /dinner'

Gareth Rees: Well Pia, thank you for asking a question about my favourite topic, food and meals during the day. The expressions you've chosen - lunch, supper and dinner, belong to a larger set which includes words such as breakfast, tea and brunch. I'll be talking about those later. The expressions do relate to the time of day that you eat the meal and the type of food and the size of the meal. That's why it can get confusing. First of all, breakfast. This is simplest; it's the first meal of the day in the morning. In the middle of the day, you might have lunch or dinner. Lunch sounds more informal or more typical, particularly for people who are working. In the evening, you might have dinner or supper. I think that people who have a quick lunch in the middle of the day will say they have dinner in the evening and this dinner will be a good meal.


A supper is usually a light meal and is probably had after a larger dinner has been had in the middle of the day. Confused? Well most people see a dinner as a more complete meal. A common lunch in England is a sandwich, but dinner might include soup, meat with vegetables, and then a dessert like apple pie and ice cream. So, dinner is really the main meal and people might have it in the middle of the day or in the evening. Lunch and supper are both light kinds of meal. Lunch is in the middle of the day, supper is in the evening. Now I mentioned there are some other meals. We talked about breakfast. Two more words that you could add to your list are brunch and tea. Brunch is a mixture of breakfast and lunch, as you can tell by the sound of the word: 'brunch'. And people usually have brunch as a replacement for both lunch and breakfast. Brunch is usually had at about 11 o'clock. And the final word is tea. Now of course this is a drink, like tea and coffee, but it can also be a light evening meal. I think this word is often used in families, particularly with their children. "It's tea time", "It's time for tea!" This means their small evening meal. To finish, it is of course unusual to have breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, tea and supper all in one day. But let me tell you, not impossible. And from that comment you'll understand that I have the ideal physique and dietary habits for radio and the internet and not for TV.

'make' and 'do' Davivien asks about 'make' and 'do' collocations: I would like to know the differences between the verbs to do and to make. Do you 'make an exam' or do you 'do an exam'?

do You do an exam. But there are no easy rules to follow. We always use do to describe indefinite activities, often with what, thing, anything, nothing, etc and generally speaking we also use do to talk about duties, jobs or (leisure) activities. Look at the following examples: · · · · 'What shall we do now?' 'You can do what you like. I'm going home!' 'He didn't do anything. He just sat there.' 'You expect me to do everything around the house. Well, I'm fed up!' 'I did all my homework last night so tonight I'm going to do the housework.'


· ·

'I did a lot of research and I think I did a good job on that essay. I did my best anyway.' 'I intend to do lots of walking on holiday this year, and perhaps some birdwatching too.

make We tend to use make when we are talking about constructing, creating or performing something. Study the following examples: · · · · 'I made three suggestions and left it to him to make the final decision.' 'I've made all the arrangements for the trip and I've made a great effort to get it all right.' 'I'm afraid I'm going to have to make my excuses and leave.' 'I have to make three phone calls.'

make or do? Test your knowledge of make and do now by clicking on what you think is the correct box in the examples that follow. It is not always as easy as the above examples suggest. It is often simply a matter of usage, of learning and knowing which of these two verbs collocate with which nouns. Best of luck! The first two examples are done for you.

1 2 3 4

make make make make

do do do do

the cleaning and the cooking a lasting impression (on someone) the shopping and the washing-up some serious work

check answer check answer check answer check answer


5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

make make make make make make make make make make make make

do do do do do do do do do do do do

a lot of damage (to something) an announcement or a speech an application (e.g. for a driving test) a sound or a noise one's hair or one's teeth a lot of harm rather than good business (with somebody) (somebody) a favour love, not war a mess, a profit or a fortune fun of someone or a fool of someone amends for one's behaviour

check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer check answer

Answers do the cleaning and the cooking make a lasting impression (on someone) do the shopping and the washing-up do some serious work do a lot of damage (to something) make an announcement make an application (e.g. for a driving test) make a sound or a noise do one's hair or one's teeth do a lot of harm rather than good do business (with somebody) do (somebody) a favour make love, not war make a mess, a profit or a fortune make fun of someone or a fool of someone make amends for one's behaviour

Media related jobs I'm confused about the difference between presenter, broadcaster, and announcer; and the difference between reporter and journalist. Your answer must be very helpful for me. Thanks. Hi Suharno, All these words are used to describe people who work in the media. The first three: presenter, broadcaster and announcer are all related to TV and radio: media which is delivered partly ­ or wholly ­ through sound and speech (this type of media is increasingly available on internet too).


A presenter is a person who introduces or hosts television or radio programmes. A presenter's opening words on a programme are usually something like Good evening, and welcome to[name of show] with me [name of presenter]. On tonight's show we will be... [presenter talks about the content of the programme]. The topic of the programme is not all about the presenter. The presenter is the person who introduces the programme, introduces or links sections of the programme together and says goodbye at the end. Some well-known presenters include Johnny Carson (an American TV chat show host), Trevor MacDonald (a British TV news presenter), and Karim Kouchouk (the presenter of BBCe for BBC Learning English Arabic Service). An announcer's job is similar to that of a presenter. He or she provides spoken information about news, weather, programme content, links between programmes, advertising etc. However, an announcer may have a smaller role in a programme than a presenter does: on TV programmes, an announcer may only feature as a voice whereas a presenter will be seen on the screen. Another main difference between an announcer and a presenter is that the announcer usually reads word-forword from a script, whereas a presenter may have some flexibility regarding the things they say. The word broadcaster can refer to an organisation such as the BBC (UK) or NBC (USA) which produces television and radio programmes. It can also be used to describe someone who is well-experienced in the TV and radio industry. He or she usually has multiple talents ­ scriptwriting, directing, presenting etc. and his or her programmes may be considered to be very important and well-respected. Famous British broadcasters include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Robert Winston and Sir David Frost, and Larry King in the USA. Turning to the second part of your question, Suharno: you wanted to find out about the difference between a reporter and a journalist. In fact, these jobs are very similar, and in some respects the terms are interchangeable. A journalist's work is most often seen in print ­ especially newspapers ­ but they can work for TV and radio too. A journalist gathers, writes and reports news stories, and may also edit and present news articles. A reporter is a type of journalist who gathers information about newsworthy issues. This may involve researching through several sources ­ interviews, police and public records, photographs etc. When the information is gathered, the reporter will create a report for publication or broadcast in the media. Reporters often specialise in a particular area, for example: crime, politics, health or education. Finally, Suharno, I'd like to mention one more media profession. A columnist is a writer (usually a journalist) who writes regularly (often weekly) for a newspaper or magazine. She or he chooses a topic that is in the news and writes not only about the events that have become newsworthy but also often offers some analysis and/or personal opinion. This job is usually reserved for senior journalists at a particular newspaper or magazine. Well Suharno, I do hope this has been a useful answer to your question! melt, thaw and antonyms


Keith Gama de Carvalho from Brazil writes: Could you please tell me if there are any differences between the verbs melt and thaw? I'm thinking about the second scene of the first act of Hamlet by William Shakespeare: O, that this too solid flesh would melt Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

melt When something melts, it changes from a solid to a liquid state, usually because it is heated: · · Melt 50 grams of butter in a saucepan and then add the onions and mushrooms. The snow on our grass melted quickly in the warm sunshine.

We also have the phrasal verbs melt away and melt (away) into meaning to disappear: · · At first they were enemies, but over time their differences melted away. The shoplifters just melted (away) into the Oxford Street crowds of Christmas shoppers.

thaw When something thaws it warms up slowly and changes gradually from a frozen state to a temperature above freezing point: · The snow was thawing and the streets had become slushy.

We also have the phrasal verb thaw out, which we use when referring to frozen food or if we have just come inside from very cold weather: · · If I were you, I would take it out of the freezer and leave it to thaw out overnight. Let me just stand by the radiator and thaw out a bit before I start to cook dinner.

Hamlet, in the speech you refer to, Keith, is mourning the death of his father two months earlier and is distraught about his mother's hasty re-marriage to his father's brother. For this reason he wishes that his flesh might melt into the dew.


We still use melt figuratively today when we speak of our feelings or emotions melting, e.g.: · Once on stage, his inhibitions melted and he gave a confident performance.

Antonyms of melt and thaw would be: freeze harden solidify stiffen

Study the examples below to see how these verbs may be used: · · · · · · · · If it's cold enough in January, the lake will freeze (over) and we can go skating. His assets were frozen because he was five hundred thousand pounds in debt. This glue dries very fast and hardens in less than an hour. His attitude to the company hardened when he realized that his shares were worthless. Pour the beef dripping into a bowl and when it has solidified you can spread it on toast. All the various factions solidified and promised allegiance to their leader. She was afraid. Her whole body stiffened when she heard him come through the door. They were clearly going to lose, but their resistance stiffened and they fought harder than before.

miss / missing / missed Bernadette from France writes: It is always hard for me to use the verb miss correctly. I always get confused, for instance, when I try to translate: Tu me manques. Please advise me. Thanking you in advance. miss = fail to make contact with There are a number of shades of meaning when miss means 'fail to make contact with'. Compare the following: · · · · · · · · If you're not careful you'll miss the flight and there isn't another one till next week. Is Jenny still here? ~ You've just missed her. She left five minutes ago. He scored four goals, but then he missed a penalty. The bullet just missed my head. It whizzed past my ear and embedded itself in the wall. No, you've missed the point. Bobby GAVE her the money. He didn't want it back. The railway station is right at the end of this road. You can't miss it! If you leave the queue now, you'll miss your chance of seeing this film. It was my granny's funeral last Thursday so I had to miss all my lessons last week.


miss = be sorry to be without In this sense, we can miss both people and things. This is the meaning of miss that you allude to in your sentence Tu me manques, Bernadette. Note in English we would not translate it as You are missed by me. Instead, we would say simply: I miss you! Compare the following: · · · · I miss my grandmother terribly. She was such a kind, gentle person. Will you miss me when I'm away? ~ Oh, I shall miss you all right! What do you miss most about the south of France now you're in Britain? ~ I miss my family, I miss the people, I miss the sunshine, I miss the cheese and the wine. Do you miss walking in the Pyrenees? ~ Yes, I miss that too.

missing / missed (adjs) = lost / cannot be found When missing and missed are used as adjectives, they behave like present and past participles, e.g missing pages are pages that are missing, a missed opportunity is an opportunity that has been missed. Note also that missing is often placed after the noun it qualifies, rather than in front of it. Compare the following: · · · · · · · The weather cleared. We should have climbed the mountain. It was a missed opportunity. They were unable to complete the jigsaw as several pieces were missing. Did you know there are five pages missing from this book? It goes from 32 to 43. My name was missing from the list of participants but it was clear that I had enrolled. Ten people are known to have died in the blast and a further fifteen are still missing. Did you know you've got a button missing from your blue shirt? She has been missing for over six months and has now been placed on the missing persons register.

Note that in this last example we talk about a missing person or a missing persons register, rather than missing people or a missing peoples register, to emphasize the individuality of people who have left home and it is not known whether they are alive or dead. miss in idioms Note also idiomatic usage in the following expressions: · · · · He didn't have all the advantages of a proper education and really missed out. Growing asparagus is very difficult and can be a very hit-and-miss affair. There have been several near misses between planes landing at this airport recently. He's failed his exams again and I think he has missed the boat as far as higher education is concerned.


· · ·

I think I've missed a trick here in failing to consult my accountant about tax returns. I think I'll give the book signing ceremony a miss. What about you? ~ No, I'm going. They came fourth in the league and missed promotion by only one point, but as the old saying goes: a miss is as good as a mile.

miss out on something = miss an opportunity that you would clearly benefit from hit and miss / hit or miss = sometimes very successful, sometimes not near miss = when something is nearly hit by e.g. a vehicle or a bomb miss the boat = miss an opportunity which will probably not arise again miss a trick = fail to take advantage of an opportunity give something a miss = to avoid it a miss is as good as a mile = a failure is a failure by however small an amount NB1 Miss can be used as an alternative to Ms placed in front of the name of an unmarried woman when the person concerned wishes it to be known that she is single. NB2 Miss Right or Mr Right can be used as expressions to describe a woman or man who is regarded as an ideal marriage partner: · He was looking for the perfect Miss Right and had some difficulty in finding her!


Chen Jianxin from China writes: Can you please tell me what the difference is between these four nouns: assembly, gathering, meeting and rally? How do we distinguish between them when we use them? Meeting (and meet) are the most generally and widely used from your list of four, Jianxin. Assembly (and assemble), gathering (and gather) and rally are more restricted in use. meet (verb) When two or more people meet, they come together or are brought together for some reason or they just happen to be in the same place and start talking:


· · ·

Where shall we meet this evening? ~ Let's meet under the clock at Waterloo Station. Have you met my dad? ~ No, I haven't. ~ Well, come and meet him. Dad, this is Martin. ~ Pleased to meet you, Martin. Representatives from the two countries will meet again in June to resume their talks.

meeting (noun) A meeting is any event where a smaller or larger group of people come together to discuss something or to make a decision: · · · Can I speak to Jane please? ~ No, I'm sorry she's in a meeting. ~ When will the meeting be over? Can we hold a meeting with everybody to discuss this, please? You can't make a decision without having a meeting first. Can you come to supper on Thursday? ~ I don't think so. I've got a meeting in the afternoon which is sure to go on till six or seven in the evening.

gather (verb) When people or things gather somewhere, they come together for a particular purpose. They do not meet by chance: · · · The storm clouds are gathering. It's going to rain soon. Can you see the birds gathering on that tree over there? We gathered around the camp fire and started singing folk songs.

When you gather things or pieces of information, you collect them with a particular purpose in mind: · · We went out to gather mushrooms in the woods. I need to gather as much information as I can so that I can write this report.

I gather means I understand in the sense that somebody has told me or I have read about this. As far as I can gather... is an expression meaning As far as I can find out...: · · I gather there will be no alcoholic beverages at the his party. As far as I could gather, he was trying to raise money by selling cars which had been stolen.

gathering (noun)


A gathering is a group of people who are meeting together for a particular purpose: · · There was an exclusive gathering of show-business people and footballers at Posh and Becks' Gucci and sushi garden party last Saturday. It was a friendly gathering. Everybody was in good humour and there was a lot of laughter.

assemble (verb) Assemble is very close to gather in meaning in the sense of coming together for a particular purpose. It perhaps suggests a greater sense of organisation: · They assembled / gathered in the school canteen after the exam to discuss how well they had done.

When we assemble things, we fit the different parts together to make a whole: · · He couldn't assemble the jigsaw without seeking the help of his older sister. If the police can assemble / gather enough evidence, they will arrest him for burglary.

assembly (noun) Assemblies are usually larger gatherings of people who meet regularly for a particular purpose: · · The National Assembly voted to hold the first entirely free elections for over 20 years. The assembly of musicians was impressive. Over 300 were gathered together in the Festival Hall.

In a school, the assembly is a gathering of all teachers and pupils at a specified time in the school hall for matters that affect the whole school: · The Junior School Assembly lasted for 45 minutes as there was a presentation on road safety.

You will also find assembly lines in factories where employees work on particular part of a product (e.g. a car) at a particular stage of its manufacture.

rally (verb) When people rally, they unite to support something: · He rallied his supporters in the hope that his party would win the election.


When someone or something rallies, it begins to recover from a weak position: · · The stock markets rallied and shares returned to their early morning values. After four days in bed, he rallied sufficiently to be able to sit out in an armchair.

If you rally at tennis, badminton or squash, you manage to keep the shots going with your partner for as long as possible without losing. Rally can also be used in this sense as a noun: · It was one of the longest and most exciting rallies of the entire tournament.

rally (noun) A rally is primarily a large public meeting that is held to show support for a cause or a political party. Rallies, like meetings, are held: · Over ten thousand people held a rally in the square to demonstrate their support for international human rights.

Mother tongue, honeymoon and a small amount of gold Saeed asks: Why do we say mother tongue and not mother language and why honeymoon and not honey month? Marga asks: Do you say: a small amount of gold or a little amount of gold? What is the difference? Honeymoon Honeymoon is a compound noun, meaning a holiday spent together by a couple immediately after their marriage. We also have the expression honeymoon period, meaning the beginning of a period of time when everything is pleasant in a relationship and partners don't criticise each other: They plan to go on honeymoon to Thailand for a month. The honeymoon period for this new government is now over. Honey month is an impossible combination and would not make any sense now, even though the word honeymoon was originally used to describe the first month of marriage. The reference to the moon (and therefore lunar month) is ironic: everybody knows that as soon as the moon is full, it starts to wane and dies.


Mother tongue - native language Mother tongue is another fixed collocation. You are right, Saeed, we do not say mother language. Instead, we would normally say native language, though native tongue is also possible, see below: Her mother tongue was Russian, but you would never have guessed it from her perfect pronunciation of English. You should acquire a perfect grasp of your native tongue before you start to learn a foreign language. The greater part of learning a foreign language, Saeed, is all about knowing which words naturally occur together. The examples given so far are relatively straightforward but it becomes more complicated when we look at the words which small and little naturally occur with. A small house / a little house When little and small both mean not large, with some nouns they can be used interchangeably with little or no difference in meaning: They lived in a little house in the country. They lived in a small house in the country. However, little also suggests that you feel sympathy for something, whereas small is more neutral and does not suggest this. Compare the following: He's only a little boy. He doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. ~ He may be a small child, but that doesn't excuse his behaviour! Because little invokes sympathy, it is often used with other adjectives like nice, sweet, tiny, pretty, poor. Small cannot be used in this way: This job is a nice little earner. Maximum reward for minimum effort. She's a sweet / pretty little thing. Always has a smile on her face. They live in this tiny little bed-sit in Shepherds Bush. Little = not much Little is also more complicated than small because it can also mean not much. Small can only mean not large. Compare the following: Will you have beer or wine with your meal? ~ I'd like a little wine, please. A small glass of red wine would be nice. Would you like a large or a small coffee? ~ Oh, a small coffee please. I shan't sleep tonight if I have a large one.


Abstract nouns that often follow little (meaning not much) include hope, chance, change, effect, use and point: There's little chance / hope of finding any survivors after such a massive explosion. I see little point in continuing the rescue mission. There has been little change in his condition over the last seventy two hours. The new drugs appear to have had little effect. Small amount / small number When we define small as not large we are thinking about small in size, amount or number: These shoes are too small. They really don't fit me at all. I only had a small amount of gold but enough to purchase everything I needed. A disappointingly small number of people entered the competition. Note that small also combines readily with very and few as well as with too. Few cannot be combined with little and little is not normally used with very or too: I noticed that there were a few small mistakes in your essay. The phone box was very small, but we all managed to squeeze in. I've heard the term 'Soho nail bomb attack'. What does the term nail bomb mean? I know the word bomb. What does the addition of nail do to the meaning? A nail bomb is a bomb which is filled with nails. When the bomb explodes the nails fly out and cause serious injury. On Friday 30 April 1999, a massive explosion devastated a gay pub in Soho in the heart of London. The blast tore through the Admiral Duncan pub at 6.37 p.m. when the area was crowded with people enjoying the evening sunshine at the start of a holiday weekend. Three people were killed and more than one hundred were injured, many of them very seriously. It was the third in a series of three bombings in the capital in which ethnic minorities and homosexuals had been targeted. The Soho nail bomb caused particularly horrific injuries as a consequence of the confined space in which it exploded and because of the shrapnel effect of the long nails contained within it.

Normal, Ordinary and Usual I have studied English in high school for three years but I can't tell the difference between normal,


ordinary and usual. Hi Hoa, Well, this is a good question! There are so many words in English that have similar meanings, which I know can be confusing for learners. In the examples you give, normal and ordinary do have very similar meanings, but usual has a slightly different meaning. I think it's useful here to talk about vocabulary collocation, which means words that are often used together. And when you're studying English vocabulary, it's worth spending some time just studying collocation. You can do this by looking at a good quality monolingual (English-English) dictionary, which explains collocation. You can also study collocation by reading texts (fiction or non-fiction) in English and looking carefully at the combinations of adjectives and nouns, and verbs and their objects. And it's also possible to purchase specialist vocabulary books and collocation dictionaries. But to get back to the words you asked about Hoa, I think normal and ordinary have [a] very similar meaning, which is probably: `how you expect something to be, not unusual or special'. So if we had a normal or ordinary day at work, it would mean that nothing particularly special happened. A normal or an ordinary meal in a restaurant doesn't sound very exciting, but I suppose it's better than having an awful one! There is a slight nuance in meaning, however, when we talk about normal people and ordinary people. If we mention normal people, it probably means `people who think and behave in the same way as most other people'. But the phrase ordinary people may carry a nuance in meaning about wealth and social status, meaning `people who are not particularly rich'. So we might say: These houses have been built for ordinary people to buy. ...which contains an indirect reference to wealth. I don't think we'd say: These houses have been built for normal people to buy. ... because this seems to be commenting on behaviour rather than income. Similarly, if we make a comment like His new watch is very ordinary. ... it would be a slightly rude or negative comment. And the opposite of ordinary is, of course, extraordinary, and if we described a watch as extraordinary it would mean `very special or unusual'. Now let's get back to the other word you mention, usual. This is slightly different because it implies habit or regular behaviour. For example, my usual bus would be the one I always take, at the same time, every day. My usual newspaper would be the one I always buy. You can arrange to meet someone at the usual, meaning the usual bar, café or place where you meet. In this case it would be impossible to use


normal or ordinary. Finally, regular customers in pubs often ask for their usual, meaning the drink they usually order! Well thank you for your question and I hope this has helped! no = not / not any In the sentences: Hong Kong's goal: zero accidents on the road. Hong Kong's goal: no accidents on the road. shouldn't the plural form be changed to singular? Hong Kong's goal: zero accident on the road. Hong Kong's goal: no accident on the road. Zero means no and the noun that follows it should surely be in singular form. Please answer my question. zero = not any With countable nouns, zero is always followed by plural nouns. With uncountable nouns, the singular form is used. Compare the following: Zero degrees centigrade is the same as 32 degrees fahrenheit. We are likely to see zero growth on the stock market this year. We are not likely to see any growth on the stock market this year. no = not a / not any With countable nouns, no is normally followed by plural forms. It sounds more natural and makes better sense to say: It was early December and there were no leaves on the trees. No dogs, unless they are on a lead, are allowed in the flower garden. No road accidents were reported in Chelsea throughout August. than: It was early December and there was no leaf on the trees. No dog, unless it is on a lead, is allowed in the flower garden. No road accident was reported in Chelsea throughout August. Sometimes, no may be followed by singular or plural nouns, depending on whether one is thinking of one or more than one: It was 9 a.m., yet there was no policeman on duty outside the embassy. It was 9 a.m., yet there were no policemen on duty outside the embassy. In the Premiership last Saturday, no players were sent off. In the Premiership last Saturday, no player was sent off. In the Premiership last Saturday, not a single player was sent off.


Sometimes, it is more natural to combine singular and plural use: He must lead a lonely life in that village: he has no wife and no children. (A man normally has one wife, but often has more than one child!) no = emphatic use Note that we tend to use no, rather than not a or not any when we want to emphasise a negative idea. In the lonely man example above, no is more effective than not a / not any. Compare: He must lead a lonely life: he doesn't have a wife and he doesn't have any children. With subject nouns, when no is used emphatically, not a / not any are not possible: No politician tells the truth all the time. No writer has won the Booker prize more than once. Note that singular use sounds more natural in these examples. no collocations There are a number of common nouns that normally combine with no, rather than not a or not any. Most of them are uncountable and include no amount, no time, no idea, no doubt, no reason, no need, no evidence, no problem, no way, no point, no use. Study these examples of use: No amount of washing could remove the stain from the garment. There's no time to lose. We must leave immediately. I have no idea how you solve this problem. It's quite beyond me. There was no doubt she had lied. All the evidence pointed to her guilt. I've no reason to think he won't return. He needs me as much as I need him. There's no need to cry. We can sort this out together. She complained of chest pains but the doctors found no evidence of infection. Can you help me with the ironing? ~ No problem. I'm not busy this evening. Can you help me with the cleaning? ~ No way. I have to be out by seven. There's no point in shouting. He's deaf and can't hear you. It's no use complaining. They won't bother to answer your letter. once, twice, thrice I'm a little confused because I've found the word thrice in a book. A few teachers told me there is no such word or that I cannot use it and that I should use three times instead. Can I use this word and in what circumstances? We'll take this opportunity to look at a number of complications with the expression of numbers and frequency in English.


once, twice, thrice The norm here is to say once (rather than one time) to say three times (rather than thrice) in current usage. Thrice is definitely old-fashioned, although you may still come across it in certain contexts: This vehicle travels at thrice the speed of sound. They play football thrice weekly. Better to say: This vehicle travels at three times the speed of sound. They play football three times a week and train every night. When it comes to twice, this is more often used than two times, although two times is also quite common in informal usage. Compare the following: I've visited her twice already this autumn and she's visited me once. I've visited her two times already this autumn and she's visited me once. Unemployment in the north of England is twice the national average. Teachers say they would be twice as effective if they had no administrative tasks. One time is occasionally possible as an alternative to once. Compare the following: He had only ever seen his great-aunt once before. He had only ever seen his great-aunt one time before. We go out with our colleagues for a drink once a week or once a fortnight and have a staff party once a year. You will hear the recording only once. I'm only going to say this once. Once, (not one time) can also mean at some time in the past: I once ran a fish-and-chip shop in Brighton. ~ When was that? ~ Before I bought this business. Our house in the village was once the train station. ~ When was that? ~ When the trains used to run here. Do you know the different references to these numbers? nought / zero / nil / o / love (0) half a dozen (6 or approximately 6) a dozen (12 or approximately 12) a score (20 or approximately 20) a billion (1,000,000,000 or a very large number) Note how they are used:


House prices rose by nought point two per cent last month. Visibility was almost zero at the City Airport last night because of the fog. England won their recent match against Liechtenstein by two goals to nil. My phone number is o two o, eight seven o seven, nine nine o three. Roddick was leading by two sets to love and forty love in the first game of the third set when rain stopped the match. Can you set out the arguments for and against capital punishment in half a dozen paragraphs? I bought two dozen eggs but we've only used four. ~ Why didn't you buy half a doxen? Scores of volunteers offered to help in the search for the missing child. How many zeros do I write down for a billion? Is it six or nine? Billions of dollars need to be invested to re-build this country. I've told you billions of times to lock the door before you go to bed. maximum / minimum; maximal / minimal To express the idea of the largest amount possible, we would normally use maximum as both adjective and noun. Maximal as adjective or maximally as adverb are more rarely used. Compare the following: Arsenal now head the Premiership table with maximum points from five games. The maximum sentence for armed robbery is twenty years. How long are the shifts for this type of work? ~ Four hours is the minimum and twelve hours is the maximum. How long should I sit in front of the computer screen? ~ Maximally three hours. Minimal, however, meaning very small in quantity, is much more often used as an adjective. Note the slight difference in meaning. Mimimum describes the smallest amount possible. Compare the following: He managed to pass all his exams with minimal effort. There may be one or two delays on this service but they are expected to be minimal. The minimum wage in Britain is now four pounds fifty an hour. The minimum height for a policeman used to be five foot ten. The language of love

Mojca Belak from Slovenia asks: How old can a boyfriend/girlfriend be? A friend who is 50 recently sent me an email gladly informing me that he now has a girlfriend. In Slovenian this sounds really funny. Which could be the alternatives ­ if there are any? `Partner' didn't seem to be accepted, so what DO you say for somebody who is not in his/her teens or twenties any longer and is in a relationship, but they are not married?


We don't have very much choice in the matter, Mojca. `Boyfriend/girlfriend' and `partner' are the words that we normally use to describe somebody who is in a sexual relationship. Although boyfriends and girlfriends are often associated with teenager years, as in: · 'I remember my first boyfriend was a very spotty individual whose voice had only just broken.'

it is also quite common for people in their twenties, thirties, forties and even fifties to use the words 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' to describe someone that they are in a relationship with, but do not necessarily live with. Partner' is perhaps the preferred term to describe the person you are living with on a more permanent basis, but are not married to: · 'I don't think you've met my partner. This is Guy Wilkinson.'

It is unlikely that teenagers would have `partners', although people from their twenties onwards may well have. However, 'partner' can sound rather formal because partnerships, of course, are not only of a sexual nature. If you play a game against another pair of people, or dance then you would do so with a `partner'. Consider the following: · · · 'After their Wimbledon experience, it looks as if sister Serena will be Venus Williams' doubles' partner for some time to come.' 'He is such a good dancer that he has no difficulty in finding appropriate partners for all the Latin-American competitions.' 'Will you be my partner at bridge this afternoon?'

And `partners' in a firm or business are the people who share the ownership of it: · 'He was partner in a firm of lawyers.'

There are some other expressions that can be used, such as 'lover' and 'other half' but it's true to say that in English there is no one preferred term!

parts of the body M Ramesh Kumar from India writes:


Could you please give me the parts of the body from head to toe with exact pronunciation of native English speakers? Here's a chart which shows the major parts of the body: obviously not to be used for an anatomy lesson! Some words are used mainly in the medical profession - others are more popular. You can use this list for pronunciation practice, particularly the practice of vowel sounds.

1 - hair 2 - head 3 - eye 4 - ear 5 - nose 6 - lips 7 - face 8 - neck 9 - shoulder 10 - arm 11 - elbow 12 - wrist 13 - hand 14 - thumb 15 - fingers 16 - breast 17 - chest 18 - stomach/tum/ tummy 19 - abdomen 20 - bottom 21 - thigh 22 - leg 23 - knee 24 - ankle 25 - foot/feet 26 - big toe 27 - toes


Parts of the body From head to toe, But for the sake of rhyme And pronunciation practice This time they are not in order. On your head is your hair You can wear your hair long Or you can wear your hair short On your face your eyes, nose and lips are placed. And at the side are your ears to help you hear. You hear with your ears, You see with your eyes, You smell with your nose And kiss with your lips. Your lips are about one metre from your hips - shake your hips! And your nose is nearly two metres from your big toe if you grow full-size. And don't forget your eyes - they're about one metre from your thighs. And your lovely white teeth - about two metres from your dainty feet! Let's add them together: Two lips and two hips, One nose, two big toes, Two eyes and two thighs, Lots of lovely white teeth And two dainty feet That's well over thirty body parts, I suppose! Add on fingers, two thumbs, And every other toe. That's well over sixty, as far as I know! Your breast is the upper part of your chest. Between your chest and your legs is your abdomen. At the front is your tum


- short for tummy At the rear is your bum - short for bottom! Between your bum and your tum Are your thighs - roughly speaking. Joints are formed where two bones meet Your upper and lower arms are joined at your elbows Your upper and lower legs are joined at you knees Your wrists join your hands to your arms And your ankles your feet to your legs. Your bones are covered by flesh, blood and skin. And it's the skin that holds it all in. Your organs are all inside - don't let them escape. They're all very busy - fully awake. We'll touch them in order. Get as close as you can: · · · · · brain: make me think lungs: breathe in and breathe out heart: I can feel you beating stomach: I can hear you rumbling when I'm hungry bladder: I'll empty you when you're full

We sometimes say that we are only flesh and blood And made up of feelings which we cannot touch. Glossary: Tum: your tum or tummy is the part at the front of your body, just below your waist. I'm going to be doing a lot of sunbathing this summer, so I don't want my tummy to show. It can also be used to refer informally to stomach, i.e. the parts inside your body where food is digested. In this sense tummy, as an alternative to stomach, is often used by children or by adults talking to children: Jonathan's got tummy ache from eating too many unwashed strawberries. Bum: your bum is the part of your body which you sit on. It is frequently used in informal English and is slightly rude: Do you think my bum looks too big in these jeans? More neutral alternatives would be bottom or backside. Dainty feet: feet which are dainty are small, delicate and pretty.


A question from Yumi in Japan: Hi, I would like to know about the difference between 'epidemic' and 'pandemic', related to the bird flu.

Catherine Walter answers: Yumi, that's a very topical question. We hope that we won't be talking too much about pandemics in the next few months. The answer is actually very simple. 'Epidemic' is the word that we use when we're talking about a large number of people or animals in a certain place that are affected by disease or illness. 'Pandemic' is the word we use when almost all the people and animals in a certain place are affected by a disease or illness. And that's the short answer. But that little 'pan-' prefix is something that you might want to remember because we often use it to mean 'all'. So people make up new words by putting 'pan-' in front of something ? you might hear about a 'pan-Asian' conference, for example. So don't forget 'pan-', but let's hope we can forget the pandemic. Thank you.

My full name is Yaciel Edelio Tellez Toledo. I come from Cuba. I wrote to you because I am in doubt with the correct use of 'person' and 'people'. That was my question because I know that 'person' and 'people' both are nouns and I would like to know when I'm going to use 'person' or 'people'.

Karen Adams answers: Hi Yaciel and thank you for your question, there are several points to make here. The first one os to do with singular and plural nouns, I'm sure you know that most nouns in English are made plural by putting an s on the end, so for example, girl ­ girls, boy ­ boys. But some nouns have irregular plurals, for example child ­ children. And 'person' is one of those nouns that has an irregular plural. 'People' is in fact the plural form of person. So for example we talk about one person and two people. So in normal everyday speech you will hear people talking about 'many people', 'there were a lot of people at the concert', for example. However it becomes slightly more complicated because sometimes you do see the word 'persons'. For example if you're in a lift or elevator you might see the sign 'Four persons only'. And sometimes if you're listening to the news, to news reports you may hear news reports talking about persons. So for example 4 persons were injured in the accident, or police are looking for 5 persons. Persons is normally a more formal use, a more formal plural form. It gets slightly more complicated when you find the word peoples. People can be used to mean a nationality ­ all of the people of one country ­ so for example 'the people of Cuba'. And when you're talking about a group of nationalities you may find the word 'peoples', for example, 'the peoples of South America'. So that's another slightly more complicated and not so common use of the word 'peoples'.


Finally you may find the word 'person' attached to a number. For example 'a twoperson car', 'a three-person room'. This is where 'person' is being used to describe the noun. '2 ­ person' is the adjective describing 'car' and as you know we don't put an 's' on an adjective. So far example we talk about a 'two-week holiday' not a 'twoweeks holiday' or a 'three-year course' not 'a three-years course'. So hear we use 'two-person car'. So in summary, normally you find 'people' as the plural form of 'person' ­ one person, three people. Sometimes you'll find people used to describe the nationality so you'll find 'peoples' to describe different nationalities and sometimes you'll find the word 'persons' in more formal styles of writing or in signs for example. I hope that answers your question.

Problems and troubles

A Writer from Cameroon in West Africa writes: I'm having difficulty distinguishing between problems and troubles. Can you please explain to me how to use both terms correctly? Problem Problem is a countable noun and describes something that causes trouble or difficulty. We talk about having a problem or having problems with something, not about having a trouble. Compare the following: · I've got a big problem with my computer. Can you come and have a look at it? (NOT: I've got a big trouble with my computer. Can you come and have a look at it.) I can't meet him in Paris and he can't meet me in London. It's a real problem. (NOT: I can't meet him in Paris and he can't meet me in London. It's a real trouble.)


We also talk about mathematical problems and solving problems of various sorts. Trouble cannot be used in this way: · · Children with learning difficulties find mathematical problems impossible. We couldn't solve the problem of getting across London in less than two hours.


With the verb cause, we can use both trouble and problems, problem as a countable noun and trouble as an uncountable noun. Compare the following: · · The recent football hooliganism in Sunderland caused the police a lot of trouble. The current drought is causing serious problems for the farmers in this area.

No problem! - What's your problem? We also have the expressions No problem! which we use to say that we will be happy to do something or are happy for something to happen and What's your problem? which we use in a threatening way to ask someone about something we disapprove of. Compare the following: · · · Could you look after Jimmy for me for five minutes while I pop out to the shops? ~ No problem! I'll finish this off tomorrow, if you don't mind. ~ No problem. I don't like people wearing face jewellery. ~ What's your problem? It's quite harmless. I think it could cause health problems in later life. ~ Well, that's their problem!

trouble Trouble is mainly used as an uncountable noun and describes problems, worries or difficulties. Trouble can also be used as a verb. Compare the following: · · · · I'm having trouble with the printer now. Can you come and have a look at it? I'm a bit deaf and I had trouble hearing what she said as she spoke very softly. Why are you crying? What's troubling you? ~ It troubles me that I haven't heard from him for five weeks. I'm sorry to trouble you, but could you move your car forward a bit. It's blocking my drive.

In addition to cause, the verbs that the noun trouble collocate with include the following: put to, take, go to, save, get into, run into, and be in. These verbs cannot be used with problem in the same way. Compare the following: · · · I'm sorry to put you to all this trouble ~ It's no trouble at all! I'm going to take the trouble to bake my own bread, rather than buy it from the shop. If you buy a dishwasher, it will save you the trouble of washing your dishes by hand.


· · ·

We ran into trouble as soon as we reached the motorway. It was jammed all the way from Epping to Cambridge. I shall get into real / big trouble, if I lend you my brother's bike. I was in serious trouble. I had run out of water and was still ten miles from the nearest oasis.

No trouble! Note that the expression No trouble! is used in a similar way to No problem! · I'm sorry to have kept you waiting for so long ~ That's no trouble!

problem / trouble + adjs Note from the examples above that the adjectives big, real and serious collocate with both trouble and problems. Note that fundamental, insoluble and intractable collocate only with problem: · · A fundamental problem in the design of this car is the transverse engine. It was an intractable / insoluble problem. There was no way out of it.

A question from Jean-Francois from Limoges, France: I find it difficult to understand the word 'quite' in a conversation. Does it mean 'partially' or 'totally'? Please help!

Alex Gooch answers: Hello Jean-Francois, thanks for your question. You asked whether 'quite' means 'partially' or 'totally'. The simple answer is that it has both meanings. If we say: "I am quite happy"... This can mean that I'm partially, fairly, somewhat happy but not completely happy or it can mean I'm totally, entirely, completely, 100% happy. Your next question will probably be: How can we tell the difference? When somebody says: "I am quite happy"... How do we know if they mean partially happy or totally happy? Well, I'm sorry, but simply reading the sentence on the page can't help us with this. If I read the words, 'I am quite happy', I really don't know if this means'partially' happy or 'completely' happy. However, don't despair - there are some clues that can help us solve this problem. Firstly, we have some adjectives in English which include the idea of 'very'. For example: 'delighted' means 'very pleased'


'exhausted' means 'very tired' 'enormous' means 'very big', and so on. 'Quite' is often used with one of these adjectives, and in this situation, it always means 'totally'. So, if we say: "I am quite exhausted"... This means I'm absolutely, completely, 100% exhausted. If you think about this, it's logical because it's impossible to be 'somewhat very tired' - that doesn't make any sense. Secondly, we have to think about the context. Often we can clearly understand which meaning of 'quite' the speaker intends, by looking at the meaning of what he or she is saying. William's here with me... (William: Hello!) Let's imagine that William has recently been ill: Alex: Are you feeling better now? William: Yes, I'm feeling quite healthy, thank you. In fact, I feel great! Here, William probably means that he has fully recovered, and he's feeling 100% healthy. On the other hand, we could have a conversation like this: Alex: Are you feeling better now? William: Well, I'm feeling quite healthy, but I still have a terrible headache. In this case, William probably means that he feels partially healthy, but not completely healthy. Also, when these sentences are spoken, we can often get a clue from the speaker's tone of voice and intonation: If he or she speaks in a positive, definite tone of voice, going down at the end of the sentence, that probably means that he or she feels totally happy, or healthy, or whatever. However, if the speaker's tone is more uncertain, and if it rises at the end of the sentence, that probably means that he or she is partially happy or healthy, but not completely. In fact, it's quite old-fashioned to use 'quite' to mean 'totally' or 'completely' - at least in spoken English. It's still used this way sometimes in writing, especially in formal writing, so you might read that in a novel for example. But in modern conversational English, 'quite' normally means 'partially'.


A question from Alice in France: 'Raise' and 'rise' - it's difficult to use them. Will it be possible to explain these two verbs in BBC learning English? Thank you.

Amos Paran answers: Well, the basic meaning of the two verbs, 'raise' and 'rise', is almost the same moving up, from a low position to a higher position, either physically or metaphorically. The difference between them is a grammatical one. 'Raise' needs an object, and 'rise' cannot take an object. So, for example, I can say that I personally think that the government of this country needs to raise taxes (and 'taxes' is the object of the verb); another way I can say that is that I think that taxes need to rise. We are always talking about the need to raise standards (and 'standards' is the object of the verb) - another way of saying it is that standards need to rise. Hope this helps!

Relative / relation ­ relationship Denis Baizeau from France writes: I do not feel comfortable when I have to use the words relation and relationship. Could you please help me to clarify the main usages and differences of these two closely related words. Many thanks in advance. Relationships A relationship is a close friendship between two people, especially one involving romantic feelings: · They had been together for two years and Mike wanted to carry on, but Jenny felt that their relationship wasn't really going anywhere.

Relationship can be used in two other ways. It can describe two things and the way in which they are connected: · Doctors now believe that there may be some relationship / connection between autism and the MMR vaccine.

It can also describe close ties between people or groups of people and the way they feel and behave towards each other: · The Smiths placed great emphasis on close family relationships and always went on holiday together.



The relationship between the leaders of the two countries has never been closer.

Relations Relation also describes the link between people, groups or countries and the way they behave towards each other. In this sense there is very little difference between relations and relationship. For instance, we could also say: · Relations between (the leaders of) the two countries have never been closer.

Most of the differences are context specific in this sense. For example, we talk about diplomatic relations and race relations, not diplomatic relationships or race relationships: · · Diplomatic relations between the two countries were broken off over this incident and their ambassadors were sent home. The need to improve race relations in Inner London boroughs is of paramount importance.

Your relations are also members of your family: · · I invited all my friends and relations to my twenty-first birthday party. Mark Totterdale and Simon Totterdale (no relation) are both head teachers in Bristol.

Your blood relations are the people who are related to you by birth, not through marriage. If you say that they are your own flesh and blood, you are emphasizing that they are members of your own family: · He's my own flesh and blood. I can't leave him to fend for himself when he needs my help.

Relatives (noun) - relative (adj) Note that we also use the term relative to describe members of your family: · · She couldn't get any of her relatives / relations to look after the children, so had to employ a childminder. The chimpanzee is native to equatorial Africa and is believed to be the closest living relative to man.

The adjective relative and the adverb relatively are used when you are comparing the quality or size of something in relation to something else: · Both cactuses were relatively small and I wanted one that was larger to fit into the pot.


· · ·

Fitness is a relative concept. You must always ask the question: fit to do what? They were discussing the relative / comparative merits of Liverpool and Leeds as places to live when I entered the room. He was able to smuggle the animals out of the country with relative / comparative ease.

Related (adj) When two or more things are related, there is some kind of connection between them. When people are related, they are members of the same family: · · · · He was arrested for theft-related offences. In the social sciences anthropology and ethnography are closely related disciplines. I had all the equipment needed for gymnastics and related activities. Aren't you two related? ~ No, we're not. ~ Oh, I thought Henry was your cousin.

Rise, arise and raise

Would you please be so kind as to explain the difference between the following verbs: rise and arise? Thank you so much.

Rise - rose - risen Generally, if something rises it moves upwards. If you rise, this is a rather formal way of saying that you get of out bed, get up or stand up: · · I needed to catch the 7.30, so I had risen early. He rose to greet me when I entered his office.

When the sun and the moon rise, they appear in the sky. If the water in a river rises, it becomes higher. If the wind rises, it blows more strongly: · · · I hope to be out in the desert on my horse as the sun rises behind the Pyramids. The water in the river had risen to a dangerous level and everyone had to be evacuated from the village. The wind rose later in the night and kept me awake as it howled through the trees.


If an amount rises, it increases. If you get an increase in your wages or salary, this is also known as a rise. (In American English, it's known as a raise.) If you rise to a higher position in your organisation, you become more successful or powerful:

· · · ·

Inflation rose by 0.5 percent last year, the lowest increase since 1992. Industrial use of oil rose by over 200 % in the 1970s whilst industrial use of coal fell by the same proportion. I got a rise of over £4000 when I was promoted to a position of greater responsibility. At the age of 32, she has risen to the top of her profession.

Arise - arose - arisen Arise is mainly used in a more abstract way. If a situation or problem or something arises, it comes into being and people become aware of it: · · · I don't think the question of compensation will arise, but if it does, just give a vague reply. I shall certainly go to Scotland next year, if the opportunity arises. A problem has arisen with the TV that I bought last week. I can't get teletext.

We can also use arise to mean to get up, get out of bed or stand up, but it is even more formal than rise in this sense. Note that when a knighthood is bestowed in Britain, the monarch touches the recipient's shoulders with a sword and then says, e.g. · Arise, Sir William!

meaning that he, William, may now (a)rise from his kneeling position as a knight of the realm. Raise - raised - raised If you raise something, you move it to a higher position. If you raise your voice, you speak more loudly. If you raise the standard of something, you improve it: · If you are in agreement with what Mr Jenkins has put to you, would you please raise your hand.


· · ·

The flag on the roof of the palace is raised whenever the queen is in residence. Amy was sitting at the back and had to raise her voice in order to be heard. We want to raise standards of literacy in British schools. Make no mistake about it: standards will rise.

Note that raise is a regular verb, whereas rise is irregular. Note also that raise is a transitive verb, in other words, it must always be used with a direct object. You always raise something. Rise, on the other hand, is an intransitive verb: it does not involve anything or anyone other than the subject. Note the following idiomatic expressions with raise: to raise the alarm = warn people of danger not to raise or lift a finger = do nothing to help to raise a smile or a laugh = say something which makes people smile or laugh to raise the roof = make a building reverberate with loud singing, shouting, clapping etc · · · · I decided to raise the alarm and alerted the rescue services when my companions had not returned by nightfall. His wife does everything around the house. He never raises / lifts a finger to help her. I thought it was a good joke, but it didn't even raise a smile, let alone a laugh. The female audience raised the roof when the boy band appeared on stage.

remind - remember / recall / recollect

Agustin from Spain writes: I have a question about verbs which appear very similar. Could you possibly explain the differences between remember, remind, recall and recollect? Thank you very much.



Remind and remember are not the same. If you remind somebody about something, you make them remember it. Thus, remind is a transitive verb, i.e. it always has an object which may be followed by to + infinitive or a that-clause. Compare the following: Remind me to send Denny an email about the change of dates. I reminded them that the dress rehearsal had been brought forward to Wednesday. I shouldn't need to remind you to wash your hands before you sit down to eat. When you say that somebody or something reminds you of something, you associate it with a memory from your past: She reminds me of The Princess Royal. They are so alike in looks and appearance. Doesn't this countryside remind you of Cornwall? It does me. I think I know which one it is, but remind me of your house number. Remember If you remember something, you recall people or events to your mind. Remember can be used transitively with an object or intransitively without an object. It is often used with to + infinitive and with when- where- or that-clauses. Compare the following: Do you remember the first time we sat under the stars, listening to Beethoven's Ninth? Do you remember when we first ate wild mushrooms? ~ Yes, I remember. I can't remember where I've put the spare set of car keys. Have you seen them? Will you remember to collect your suit from the dry-cleaners or shall I do it? She remembered that she was going clubbing that evening and cheered up. remember + infinitive or remember + verb-ing? A lot of readers ask about verbs that are followed by verb-ing forms or to + infinitive. Some, like want, decide, agree, are always followed by to + infinitive. Some, like look forward to, enjoy, finish, are always followed by verb-ing forms. I decided to turn off the computer and go home. I would finish writing the report tomorrow. Some verbs can be followed by either verb-ing forms or to + infinitive, sometimes with some difference in meaning. Remember and forget are two such verbs. Remember and forget with an infinitive always refer forward in time. Remember and forget + verb-ing forms always refer back in time. Compare the following: I don't remember talking to you about Terry's divorce. I don't even remember you asking me about that. I shall always remember flying to America on Concorde. Remember to close all the windows and lock all the doors before you leave the house. I forgot to warn him about the dangerous dog and he was bitten.


I shall never forget sharing a bottle of iced water with you beside the Pyramids in Egypt.

recall When you recall something, you remember it and tell others about it: The Prime Minister recalled his visits to France and the six meetings he had had with the French President. We often say: as far as I can recall or as I recall or I seem to recall to refer back to something that you have been talking about: I seem to recall that you were against the idea of Henry joining the Board of Directors. As far as I can recall, you were warned three times that you would lose your job if you persisted in being late. I distinctly recall warning you about this. If a company recalls a product, it asks for it to be returned because it has found to be defective: The pharmaceutical company is going to recall one of its drugs because of possibly dangerous side effects. If a player is recalled to a team, s/he is included in the team again after being left out: Many people in Ireland still hope that Roy Keane might be recalled to the Irish squad in time for the World Cup. recollect If you recollect something, you remember it and usually talk about it. There is little difference between recollect and recall in this context. We could also use remember here as the most common of the three verbs, although remember would not imply that the experience was talked about. She recollected / recalled that she had been living in Paris when Picasso and Matisse were both working there.

A question from Dahlia. I just want to know the meaning of this word: rote learning, what's the exact meaning?

Martin Parrott answers: What is 'rote learning' ? Rote learning is learning something by repeating it, over and


over and over again; saying the same thing and trying to remember how to say it; trying to say it fluently and fast. Now, it doesn't help us to understand - it helps us to remember - and often we learn a poem, or a song, or something like that by rote learning. What have you learnt by rote learning, Dahlia? Dahlia: My most studying is like rote learning. Martin: Oh, is it? Dahlia: I just keep saying it to pass my exam, without understanding, most of what I read, or study. Martin: Well, if you need to remember it for the examination, then I'm sure that's very useful. It's an interesting term, rote learning. It describes the technique for learning - but often we say "I learnt something by rote", and we use the expression "by rote". Question: If Dahlia wants to learn some useful vocabulary, that could also help her to pass the exam, but she wants to know the meaning as well, what else can you do apart from rote learning then? Martin: Reading and underlining words, and words that come up several times, looking them up and then perhaps putting them on a list, and perhaps using some rote learning. But, Dahlia, I'm interested in what you learnt by rote for your exams is this your English? Dahlia: No, it's not my English. It's something related to my studying. I'm studying economics... Martin: Yes... Dahlia: ...and there is a lot of subjects quite difficult to understand every single word. Martin: Yes? Dahlia: So, we just keep just rote learning it - you know, to pass the exam... Martin: Yeah Dahlia: ...but, erm, many words is hard to know the meaning of. Martin: That's right, and it doesn't actually help to understand it, does it? Dahlia: Yeah. Most of our books are translated from, from Russian to Arabic... Martin: Yeah? Dahlia: quite difficult sometimes to understand everything. Martin: It is. I think sometimes in learning a language rote learning can be useful. I know that I worked in China at one time, where my students astonished me by how good they were at rote learning, and I used to set lists of words for them to learn


and the next day I'd discover that they remembered them. And then as a teacher I'd just have to help them understand them. Question: In terms of learning a language, could you offer an alternative to a student at home who maybe does want to learn vocabulary and improve their vocabulary, and maybe isn't finding rote learning good. So, I mean just as a practical tip, what other ways of learning are there? Martin: I think rote learning may be useful for remembering it - to understand it, we have to see vocabulary in a context - so we need to be not necessarily reading a long book, but reading text in which those words occur. The best is when perhaps the word is used several times in different contexts, and we can understand from the context what it means. A good bilingual dictionary is such a useful tool as well.

A question from Ha in Vietnam: Could you tell me the difference between "satisfying" and "satisfactory"? Thank you.

George Pickering answers: Well Ha, thank you very much for your question about the difference between "satisfying" and "satisfactory". "Satisfactory" means that something is adequate, or acceptable. Whereas "satisfying" means that something meets your needs or requirements and has positive associations. So what would be the difference between a "satisfactory" meal and a "satisfying" one? In the first case the meal was ok, in the second case it was one that you enjoyed. So generally we prefer to have "satisfying" experiences to "satisfactory" ones.

See and watch I'd like to know the different meanings of see and watch and the typical uses of these two verbs. See / Watch Seeing is noticing something or somebody with your eyes, usually with no explicit intention or purpose behind the action. If you watch something or someone, you look at them deliberately, usually for a longer period. Watch is often used with progressive tense forms. See is not used with progressive forms, but may be used with can to suggest something in progress. Compare the following: Can you hear me at the back? Am I speaking loudly enough?


I could hear a dog barking but apart from that there was no sound. I'm surprised to hear you say such awful things about her. I thought you liked her. I could hear them talking in the next room, but I tried not to listen to what they were saying. You need to listen to the tape very carefully if you want to understand what she is saying. I didn't hear the phone ringing because I was listening to a Mahler symphony on the radio. See / Hear + that-clause We often use I hear and I see with a that-clause to indicate that we have noted something or that we understand or gather that something has happened or will happen. I hear / understand / gather that you're planning to quit your job with IBM and go freelance. Have you heard that Jenny's gone freelance? ~ No, I've heard nothing about that. I see / understand / gather that the postal workers are threatening another one-day strike in October. I can't see / understand what all the fuss is about. It's only a one-day strike. Note these further, more specific uses of see and watch: see = meet (note that in this meaning progressive forms are often possible) I'll see you outside the hospital at eleven o' clock. He's seeing the doctor about his bronchitis tomorrow. I'm sorry, but he's not well enough to see you now. She must really stop seeing him. He has a bad influence on her. see = find out (note progressive forms never possible) I'll go and see if I can help them. He went back to see if they needed any help. As we saw when he went back to help them, these guys are totally independent. see = accompany You may not be able to find your way out. I'll just see you to the door.


He's old enough to come home by himself, but can you just see him across the busy road? watch = be careful about ... We must watch the time or we shall be late. Watch that you don't spend too much money in Oxford Street. Watch your purse too. Watch out for pickpockets. watch = look after Can you just watch my bags while I go to the loo? You may also watch your weight if you decide to be careful about the things you eat or watch the world go by, if you stand or sit somewhere and watch people as they pass by. Situation / Position / Condition All three nouns are similar in meaning, but they have different nuances or shades of meaning and are used in different contexts in different ways. Condition Condition describes the physical state of something or some one. We talk about people or things being in good / bad / terrible / etc condition. Condition can also refer to a health problem: Considering its age, this house is in excellent condition. He was in a terrible condition and had drunk far too much whiskey. She has a severe heart condition and shouldn't be smoking at all.

Conditions (plural) refer to the environment in which something occurs. We talk about things happening in or under appalling / terrible conditions. We also talk about people's living or working conditions: The rescue was attempted under extremely difficult conditions and with little chance of success. The refugees were living under appalling conditions with no access to clean water. Are you happy with your working conditions? ~ Yes, they are excellent. I have no complaints.


The extremely windy conditions made it difficult for either side to play decent football. Conditions also describe things that must be true or be done before something else can happen. We talk about meeting or satisfying or imposing conditions. In order to qualify for a grant as a postgraduate student, you will need to satisfy certain conditions. The conditions imposed by the university meant that no one was likely to qualify. Terms and conditions describe the business or financial arrangements of an agreement. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully before you take out the student loan on condition that Note the expression on condition that for saying that one thing will happen only if another thing happens: You can have the day off tomorrow on condition that you agree to work on Saturday. They spoke to the police about the incident on condition that they would not be called as witnesses. Situation Situation refers to a set of conditions that are in place at a particular time and in a particular place: If the situation had been different, our marriage might have succeeded. I am particularly concerned about the situation in the south of the country where the rules of law and order appear to have broken down.

We also talk about an economic or financial situation: The financial situation is dire - the company has failed to make a profit in each of the last four years.

situation comedies / situations vacant


Note also the compound nouns situation comedies (abbreviated to sitcoms) which describe amusing television drama series revolving around a set of characters in a family or organisation and situations vacant which refers to a column or page in a newspaper where jobs are advertised: 'The Office' is regarded as one of the most original sitcoms the BBC has produced so far this century. If you just want a clerical job, look in the situations vacant column in the local newspaper.

position Position is used in a wider variety of contexts than situation or condition. First and foremost, it refers to the way or where somebody or something is placed. I was quite badly injured in the demonstration but managed to drag myself to a sitting position under a tree. This plant loves sunlight and should be placed in an open sunny position in the flower border. This is quite a detailed map showing the position of all the oil refineries. Position can also describe a general situation and in this context can sometimes be replaced by situation: The position / situation is that everyone must be interviewed about the break in by the security services. If I were in your position / situation, I wouldn't dream of sheltering an escaped convict. Position also means opinion, i.e. where you stand or are placed, on an issue: My position on fox hunting is that it is a useful way of keeping the number of foxes down. Position can also refer to a job in a company, a place in a list or where you play in a team sport such as football: Is the assistant manager position still open? ~ No, I'm sorry, it's already been filled. What is their position in the league? ~ They're in forth position at the moment, but if they win today, they'll move up to third. My best position is on the left in midfield, just in front of the back four.


A question from Lilia in Rio de Janeiro: Since I'm improving my English, I'm trying to write my reports in English. I need to know the difference between the verbs 'solve' and 'resolve'. Thank you.

Sian Harris answers: Hello Lilia, thanks for getting in touch. The simplest answer I can give you here is to say that in many contexts they are roughly synonymous - in other words similar in meaning and therefore sometimes used interchangeably, where the basic meaning is to find a solution or answer to a problem. For example, we could say either "we have solved the problems in management" or "we have resolved the problems in management". To resolve a problem, argument or difficulty means to deal with it successfully. As in the example, "The cabinet met to resolve the dispute." However, be aware that 'resolve' can be used with the infinitive with a slightly different meaning. If you resolve to do something you make a firm decision to do it. "They resolved to take action." 'Resolve' also sometimes appears as a noun meaning a determination to do something. "We must be firm in our resolve to oppose them." So Lilia, you'll find more examples in your dictionary, but in them meantime, I hope I've clarified the key differences there.

'sport' or 'game'

Martina Sotona from from The Czech Republic asks: The Olympics are over and I would like to ask why we call them the Olympic Games when they are about sports. Can you please explain in more detail the difference between sport and game?

Sports are activities which require physical effort and ability and some degree of mental skill usually. They are often organised competitively, played outdoors and with a ball, although not necessarily. Thus:


rugby netball golf

cricket tennis motor racing

football table tennis cycling

basketball squash skiing

hockey badminton running

baseball volleyball swimming

However, we talk about games when two teams or individuals meet to play against each other. (So, for this reason, they are called the Olympic Games.) Compare the following: · · · 'Do you fancy a game of golf this afternoon?' The game (or match for most ball games) between Manchester United and Liverpool had to be abandoned at half time. The pitch was waterlogged.' 'Cricket is my favourite sport. I spend all weekend every weekend either watching it or playing it in summer.'

Games are also activities involving skill, knowledge or chance in which you try to win against an opponent or solve puzzles. Thus, we have 'word games', 'card games', 'computer games' and games like chess, backgammon, dominoes, darts, snooker, mahjong and Monopoly. For games like these, not so much, if any, physical ability or skill is needed.

seem, appear and look Are there any significant structural or semantic differences between seem, appear and look in the sense of to give the impression of being or doing something? look, seem and appear Look, seem and appear are all copular verbs and can be used in a similar way to indicate the impression you get from something or somebody. Copula verbs join adjectives (or noun compounds) to subjects: She looks unhappy. He seems angry. They appear (to be) contented. Note that adjectives, not adverbs, are used after copular verbs. We do not say: She looked angrily He seems cleverly.


We have to say: She looked angry. He seems clever. Of course, when look is not used as a copular verb, but as a transitive verb with an object, an adverb will describe how someone looks: She looked angrily at the intruder. look / seem - as if / like After look and seem, but not normally after appear, we can use an as if / like construction: It looks as if it's going to rain again. It looks like we're going home without a suntan. It seems as if they're no longer in love. It seems like she'll never agree to a divorce. seem / appear to + infinitive After seem and appear we often use a to + infinitive construction ( or a perfect infinitive construction for past events). We cannot use look in this way. Compare the following: They appear to have run away from home. They cannot be traced. I seem to have lost my way. Can you help me? It seems to be some kind of jellyfish. Do not go near it. They appear not to be at home. Nobody's answering. They do not appear to be at home. No one's answering. We can also use a that-clause after It seems?... and It appears..., but not after look. It looks... has to be followed by an as if / like clause: It seems that I may have made a mistake in believing you did this. It appears that you may be quite innocent of any crime. It looks as if / like you won't go to prison after all. appear / seem - differences in meaning


You can use seem to talk about more objective facts or impressions and about more subjective and emotional impressions. We do not usually use appear to refer to emotions and subjective impressions. Compare the following: impressions / emotions It seems a shame that we can't take Kevin on holiday with us. It doesn't seem like a good idea to leave him here by himself. It seems ridiculous that he has to stay here to look after the cat. more objective facts and impressions They have the same surname, but they don't appear / seem to be related. She's not getting any better. It seems / appears that she's not been taking the medication. non-copular use of appear and look Note that seem is used only as a copular verb, but both appear and look have other meanings and uses: appear = (begin to) be seen She has appeared in five Broadway musicals since 2000. Cracks have suddenly appeared in the walls in our lounge. Digital radios for less than £50 began to appear in the shops before the end of last year. look = direct your eyes / search I've looked everywhere for my passport, but I can't find it. I've looked through all the drawers and through all my files. He didn't see me because he was looking the other way. Note that look is used in a wide range of phrasal verbs: Could you look after the children this afternoon while I go shopping? Could you look at my essay before I hand it in? I'm looking for size 36 in light blue. Do you have it?


It's been a hard year. I'm looking forward to a holiday now. I've written a letter of complaint and they've promised to look into the matter. Look out for me at the concert. I'll probably be there by ten o' clock. Don't you want to look round the school before enrolling your children? He's a wonderful role model for other players to look up to. If you don't know the meaning of these phrasal verbs, look them up in a dictionary.

Krista Soenen from Belgium asks: I'm a student attending an English course in Gent, Belgium. Recently we had a discussion about the correct use and the difference between the following words: Is there any difference in use? Solicitor lawyer attorney barrister counsellor These legal terms all belong to the same family of words, but are quite different in use. Solicitors are lawyers who give legal advice to clients and prepare legal documents and cases. Solicitors often specialise in different areas: there are, for example, family law solicitors and company law solicitors. They do not usually, to my knowledge, appear in court. The following would be an example of usage: · 'When my husband left me, I was advised to put the matter into the hands of a solicitor.'

Attorney is American English word for a British English lawyer. The D.A. or District Attorney is a lawyer in the U.S. who works for the state and prosecutes people on behalf of it. There are also, of course, defense attorneys in America who act on behalf of their clients. Consider the following: · 'Nobody wanted the position of district attorney ­ it was poorly paid in comparison with that of defense attorney.'

(Note that in British English defence is spelt `defence' and not `defense'.)


A lawyer, then, in British English, is a person who is qualified to advise people about the law and represent them in court. We talk about lawyers for the prosecution and lawyers for the defence. Study the following: · 'The defence court case cost £560,000 in lawyers' fees alone.'

A barrister in British English is a lawyer who operates in the higher courts of law in Britain and speaks on behalf of either the prosecution or the defence: · 'He was regarded as an eloquent and persuasive barrister and was much in demand for a period of over twenty years.'

We also speak about the prosecution counsel or the defence counsel when referring to the team of lawyers who are operating on behalf of either the state or a client: · 'The counsel for the defence argued that the case should never have been brought to court as it relied only on circumstantial evidence.'

However, please note that we do not use the term counsellor in the legal sense at all! A counsellor can be any person whose job it is to give advice, care and support to those who need it. Consider the following: · 'This hospital employs 15 counsellors whose job it is to deal with patients suffering from severe depression.'

A question from Arif Kizilay from Turkey: I have a question - can you please answer it for me? What's the difference between as such, and such as? Thank you. 'Such as' and 'as such'

Alex Gooch answers: Hi Arif - thanks for your question. These two phrases, as such and such as, look similar, but in fact their meanings are very different. As such has two meanings. The first is quite difficult to explain, so let's look at an example. I could say, I'm an English teacher, and because I'm an English teacher I hate to see grammar mistakes.


Another way to say this, with the same meaning, is like this: I'm an English teacher, and as an English teacher I hate to see grammar mistakes. However, in this sentence I'm saying the words 'an English teacher' twice. An easier way to say it is like this: I'm an English teacher, and as such I hate to see grammar mistakes. In this example, we use the word such to represent the words 'an English teacher', the second time it appears. Here are some similar examples. You could say: She's an athlete, and as such she has to train very hard. The film was a romance, and as such it had the usual happy ending. We can also use as such to mean something like 'exactly' in a sentence like this: The shop doesn't sell books as such, but it does sell magazines and newspapers. Magazines and newspapers are similar to books, but they are not exactly books. Or: He isn't American as such, but he's spent most of his life there. Spending most of your life in America is similar to being American, but it isn't exactly the same as being American. Such as is much easier; it has the same meaning as 'like' or 'for example' (but not exactly the same grammar, so be careful there!). We use it in sentences like this: There are lots of things to see in London, such as the Tower of London, the London Eye and St. Paul's Cathedral. Or: Many countries in Europe, such as France and Germany, use Euros.

suppose and supposed to

Sanmati Pragya from India writes: Hi! I'm an Indian citizen living in America. Here people use suppose and supposed to a lot of the time in conversation. Can you please tell me in which sense and where they should be used?


Suppose and supposed to are used very frequently in British English too. We shall see that suppose has a number of different meanings and uses and that supposed to is different again from suppose. suppose = think/believe/imagine/expect In this sense, suppose is often used in requests with negative structures when we hope the answer will be positive: · · · I don't suppose you could lend me your dinner jacket, could you? ~ Sure! When do you need it? I suppose it's too late to see the doctor now, isn't it? ~ Hold on. Let me see if I can fit you in. I don't suppose I could see the doctor now, could I?~ I can fit you in at 11.30. Can you wait till then?

It is also used in short answers with the same meaning of think/believe/imagine/expect. Note that two forms of the negative are possible here: · · · Will Jeremy be at Peter's this evening? ~ I don't think/suppose/imagine/expect so. Will you try to see Jennifer when you get back? ~ I think/suppose/imagine/ expect not. Would you be prepared to stay on for an extra week? ~ I suppose/expect/guess so.

Note that suppose here describes a mental or emotional state, and it is not normally used in the continuous form. Suppose/supposing = what if...? Suppose or supposing can also be used in a quite different way instead of What if...? to introduce suggestions or to express fears. Compare the following and note that the verb that follows suppose or supposing can be in either present of past tense form: · · · We haven't got strawberry jam for the filling, so suppose / supposing we use(d) raspberry jam, would that be all right? Suppose / Supposing I come / came next Thursday rather than Wednesday, will / would that be all right? Will these shoes will be OK for tennis? ~ I don't think so. Suppose / Supposing the court is wet and you slip(ped)?

be supposed to + infinitive = should Supposed to in this sense means that something should be done because it is the law, the rule or the custom. However, in practice it is often not done: · I'm supposed to tidy my room before I go to bed at night, but I always tidy it when I get up in the morning instead.


· ·

In Germany you're not supposed to walk on the grass in the parks, but in England you can. I'm supposed to return these books by Friday, but I'm not sure whether I can.

In the past tense, it is used to mean that something was planned or intended to happen, but did not happen. Note that in these examples, we can use should have as an alternative to was supposed to: · · · · I was supposed to go to Cuba for a conference last year but then I got ill and couldn't go. Wasn't Tom supposed to be here for lunch? I wonder what's happened to him! I should have gone to Cuba for a conference last year but then I got ill and couldn't go. Shouldn't Tom have been here for lunch? I wonder what's happened to him!

supposed to be = generally believed to be Finally, we can use supposed to be in this sense: · · This stuff's supposed to be good for stomach cramps. Why don't you try it? The castle was supposed to be haunted, but I had a good night's sleep there nevertheless!

When you are practising these examples in speech, note that the final d in supposed to is not pronounced. It is pronounced as 'suppose to', but should always be written in its correct form grammatically as supposed to.

synonyms for: I (don't) understand

Stefan Babec from the Slovak Republic writes: Could you please explain to me the expression in this sentence: ...they do not cotton to the idea that... cotton to / cotton on to To cotton to means to like, to admire or to become attached to. The allusion is to a thread of cotton which very easily attaches itself to clothing for example. It is an expression which is not used very much any more in contemporary British English.


Much more common is the colloquial expression to cotton on to which means to catch on or to grasp a line of thought: · · They didn't know much English and it was surprising how quickly they cottoned on / caught on to what I was saying. He still hasn't cottoned on to the fact that I'm not in the least bit interested in him.

The allusion is the same as before: cotton fibres or threads which become attached to clothing. lose the thread /pick up the thread(s) Other expressions which use the idea of cotton threads are to lose the thread of something and the opposite to pick up the thread(s). To lose the thread means to lose one's train of thought because of some sort of interruption or digression. To pick up the thread(s) means to resume one's line of argument or to get back into the way of things: · · · I haven't done this sort of work for over five years so it will take me a while to pick up the threads. I'm going back to John and we're going to try to pick up the threads of our marriage. Sorry, I've lost the thread of what you were saying. Could you go back over that last bit again?

I don't understand English, and particularly British English, appears to be incredibly rich with informal expressions for I don't understand. Here are a selection of the most common. Can any of you answer these difficult questions? If someone is described as 'sagacious', what does it mean they are? · · · I don't know I've (got) no idea I haven't (got) a clue

Which British king is supposed to have imprisoned his nephews in the Tower of London? · · I haven't (got) the faintest I haven't (got) the foggiest



I've got no notion

Notion is another word for idea. Originally, we would have said: · I haven't got the faintest / foggiest / slightest idea.

But now, it is sufficient to say: · I haven't got the faintest / foggiest.

Who made the first telescope in the world? · · · You've got me there. You've stumped me there. I'm a bit stymied there.

The expression 'You've stumped me' or 'I'm stumped' derives from the game of cricket, where if the batsman is stumped, he is out and his innings is over. We can also use get in this question to mean 'Do you understand?': · Do you get what I'm saying?

Or if you don't understand something you can say: · I don't get it.

In the Bible, which is the second book of the Old Testament? · · · Sorry, that's beyond me. That's beyond my ken. Sorry, my mind's gone blank.

If something is beyond your ken, you do not have sufficient knowledge to be able to understand it. Ken is much used in informal Scottish English as both a verb and a noun for know and knowledge. But if your mind goes blank, this suggests that you do know the answer which might even be on the tip of your tongue, but it is not immediately available. In music, what is the sixth note in the tonic sol-fa scale? · · · I'm not with you. Come again. Search me.

These last two synonyms for I don't understand are more colloquial and not quite in the same politeness register as the earlier alternatives. However, they are quite acceptable in discourse among friends. The idea of the last one is that if you did a body search on me, you would not find the answer to the questions you have asked.


If you do know the answers to all these questions, please write to our Message Board and tell us. A score of 100% would suggest that you might be a suitable candidate for a TV quiz game!

I do understand! Finally, let's finish on a more positive note with some synonyms for I do understand! We don't seem to have as many of these! · · · · · I'm afraid I can't agree to you borrowing £500 from your sister. I completely understand! That's absolutely clear! You're quite right! Of course!

Absolutely is currently one of our most favoured adverbs when expressing strong agreement with something: · · Are you going to Jim's party on Friday? ~ Absolutely! Do you really want to wear that? ~ Yes, absolutely!

slang, idiomatic expressions and euphemisms slang Slang consists of very informal expressions or words which normally feature in speech rather than writing and are used by people who know each other well or who have the same jobs, backgrounds or interests. They often relate to sex, drink, drugs, relationships, social groups, etc. They are often fairly strong in emotive terms and may sometimes be found offensive to people outside the group. Have a look at some of the slang expressions on our Talk Lingo pages. Here are some more expressions: · · · · It may be big bucks to you, but it's chickenfeed to me. So, who came to this knees-up, then? My ex was absolutely bonkers. We'll have to get some booze in for tonight.

Big bucks denotes a large amount of money (bucks are dollars), chickenfeed is small change. Knees-up = party, my ex = former boyfriend or girlfriend. Absolutely bonkers is very crazy or unpredictable. Booze is alcohol, just as a boozer is a pub or someone who drinks a lot of alcohol. If you are exposed to slang expressions in your learning of English, it is important for you to understand their meaning and the emotive force behind them. It may be less appropriate for you to use them if you are not part of that group. In fact, it may sound strange and inappropriate if you do so. Also slang changes very quickly.


idiomatic expressions Idiomatic expressions are combinations or collocations of words which cannot be translated word for word. Thus: · I could eat a horse.

is an idiomatic way of saying: · I'm very hungry.

Idiomatic expressions are extremely common and are found in all kinds of English, both formal and particularly informal. But do not make a special effort to learn them. There are too many. You will learn the most common naturally through the learning material that you are using. And it is much better to be accurate when using non-idiomatic English than inappropriate when using an idiom. For example, it is better to say: · than: · It's raining cats and dogs out there. It's raining very hard out there.

which has gone out of fashion. As a learner, it may be difficult for you to know what idioms are in fashion and which are not. idiomatic expressions with 'out' Good dictionaries will usually list idiomatic usage of words after the literal meanings are given. Thus after the literal definitions of out, you may find the following idiomatic usages listed and illustrated: · · I was so tired I went out like a light. I've never seen such behaviour: he was completely out of order.

These two are in current use. (As a rule of thumb, if you come across idiomatic expressions more than once in your study of contemporary English, they are probably current.) To go out like a light is to fall asleep or unconscious instantly. The allusion is to falling asleep immediately like switiching off a light. If someone is out of order, they have acted in bad taste or their behaviour is unacceptable. Note that the primary meaning of out of order relates to machines that are not working or are not in good order: · · Go and put this out-of-order notice on the photocopier. It's not working again. He was totally out-of-order. I can't believe he was so rude to her.


euphemisms A euphemism is a polite word or expression that people use when they are talking about something which they or other people may find unpleasant, upsetting or embarrassing. When we use euphemisms we are protecting ourselves from the reality of what is said. There are many euphemisms that refer to sex, bodily functions, war, death, etc. Euphemisms are often good examples of idiomatic language use: · · · · · · He passed away (i.e. died) after a long illness (i.e. cancer). I decided to come out (i.e. admit to being homosexual). I didn't want to be outed (i.e. allow others to let it be known that I am homosexual). It's no good. I can't hold it in. I shall have to spend a penny (i.e. urinate). We keep the adult (i.e pornographic) magazines on the top shelf and the adult videos under the counter. You know that we're in the middle of a rightsizing exercise (i.e. compulsory redundancy programme). We have no alternative but to let you go (i.e. sack you). Many of the outlying villages suffered collateral damage (i.e. civilian deaths).

Spend a penny derives from the days when there were door locks on the outside of cubicles in public lavatories which could only be opened by inserting one old penny into the lock. This was not just the pre-euro era. It was the pre-decimal era. The expression is still in frequent use today. Collateral damage is unintended damage and civilian casualities and deaths caused by the dropping of bombs in the course of a military operation. The term is of US origin and was first used to describe deaths in the Vietnam War, then in the Gulf War, then in the action (euphemism!) in Serbia at the end of the 1990s and most recently in Afghanistan.

Izmaelov from Denmark writes: Hi Roger! Are you familiar with the words switch and change? I guess you are, but me and my friends have had some pretty hot discussions about the meaning and different usage of these two words... change - verb and noun If there is a change or if something changes, it becomes different in some way or it is replaced by something of a similar kind - and it in this respect that the meaning is most similar to switch. However, in all of these examples that follow, only change is possible or normal. We cannot easily replace change with switch. · Going out to work every day is quite a change from university life, I must admit.


· · · · · · · · ·

I can't go straight from work. I shall have to come home and change first. (i.e. change clothes) There's no direct (train) service to Oxford after 10 p.m. You'll have to change at Reading. I was away for the whole weekend so I packed two changes of underwear. I hardly recognised her - she had changed so much. (i.e. changed in appearance) I'm the father of three children but I still don't know how to change a nappy. Could you change the light bulb for me please? ~ OK. But I'll change the oil in your car first. Can anybody change this £50 note? (i.e. give me the same amount of money in smaller coins or notes) I had no loose change (i.e. smaller coins) so I had to pay with a £10 note. You must wait till the (traffic) lights change (i.e. from red to green) before you cross the road.

We also talk about: changing the subject - starting to talk about something else to avoid embarrassment changing your mind - deciding to do something else, usually the opposite changing your tune - a more informal expression for saying or doing something else having a change of heart - reversing your opinions or attitudes a sea change - a complete change in someone's attitudes or behaviour things which change hands - things which pass from one owner to another · Did you know that Brenda's sex-change operation hasn't been successful? ~ Do you mind if we change the subject? ~ Of course we can, but you should know that she's going ahead with her plan to change her name from Brenda to Brendan. I can't afford to take everybody to this football match. ~ You've changed your tune, haven't you? You were going to get a season ticket three weeks ago! He suddenly became responsible for his actions. This sea change in his behaviour surprised his parents.

· ·

switch - verb and noun A switch is a device for making and breaking the connection in an electrical circuit in e.g. a light, radio, TV or heater. We switch these things on and off. We also turn them on and off. We can turn them down or up, but we cannot switch them down or up: · You call that music? It's a terrible row! Either turn it down or switch it off.

If you switch to something different, you change suddenly to a different task or activity from what you were doing before. We can use switch or change in all these examples, but switch is more dramatic:


· · · ·

Would you mind switching / changing places with me so that I can sit next to my child? I had to switch / change planes in New York. There was no direct service to Miami. I was going nowhere so I decided to switch / change jobs. I think you would create more space if you switched / changed / moved the furniture around.

Because of its dramatic quality, switch is frequently used in newspaper headlines. These three examples all appeared in the Independent daily newspaper on 28 or 29 January. See if you can work out the meaning. The answers are below: · · · Abel Xavair set to switch to Liverpool. Switch to euro uncovers Ireland's excessive prices. Gang switched signals to help refugees.

Abel Xaviar, the Portuguese defender, is ready (= set) to move from Everton across town to Liverpool football club. The changeover or switch from the Irish punt to the euro has revealed the high cost of certain goods. A criminal group of men (= gang) changed or switched train signals from green to red so that trains would stop to allow refugees to climb on board. Finally, note these more informal and idiomatic usages of switch and turn: to switch off - to stop paying attention to be switched on - to be well-informed or up-to-date about contemporary issues to turn someone on - to excite them, to stimulate their interest, especially when you find somebody attractive Whatever turns you on! - a stock/fixed response to a description of unusual practice · · · · · His description of his working day was so boring that I just switched off. He is really switched on when it comes to fashion. He knows all about the Italian fashion houses. I thought you liked me, but I don't really turn you on, do I? Oh no - it's a film about philosophy. What a turn-off! And then I became really interested in the triassic, jurassic and cretaceous periods. ~ Whatever turns you on!

Travel/journey/trip/expedition/safari/ cruise/voyage

Haidar Mirhadi from Iran writes: What is the difference between these words all concerning travel:


travel/journey/trip/expedition/safari/ cruise/voyage? Thank you. It's the right time of year to talk about travel as the holiday season is now beginning in most countries north of the equator. travel/travelling (nouns) Travel is the general term to describe going from one place to another. We can talk about someone's travels to refer to the journeys he makes: · His travels abroad provided lots of background material for novels he wrote.

Travelling is also a general term which refers to the activity of travel: · · Travelling by boat between the islands is less tiring than travelling by road. I don't do as much travelling as I used to now that I'm retired.

Travel often crops up as part of compound nouns. Compare the following: · Make sure you keep all your travel documents safely. You can obtain your travel tickets from the travel agents in the High Street if you don't want to order them over the Internet. Some of you may suffer from travel sickness. Air travel may well give you a bumpy ride. If you don't have a credit or debit card, make sure you take plenty of traveller's cheques with you.

We often use travel as a verb: · I love to travel during the summer holidays. This year I plan to travel all around the Iberian Peninsula.

journey (noun) A journey is one single piece of travel. You make journeys when you travel from one place to another. (Note that the plural is spelt journeys, not journies): · · · · · The journey from London to Newcastle by train can now be completed in under three hours. We can talk about journeys taking or lasting a long time: How long did your journey take? ~ Oh, it lasted for ever. We stopped at every small station. We occasionally use journey as a verb as an alternative to travel, although it may sound a bit formal or poetic: We journeyed /travelled between the pyramids in Mexico on horseback.

trip (noun)


A trip usually involves more than one single journey. We talk about day trips, round trips and business trips. We make journeys usually, but we go on trips: · · · · I went on a day trip to France. We left at 6.30 in the morning and returned before midnight the same day. The round-trip ticket enabled me to visit all the major tourist destinations in India. Where's Laurie? ~ He won't be in this week. He's gone on a business trip to Malaysia and Singapore. The trip went well. It was an old car, but we didn't break down in four weeks of travelling

expedition (noun) An expedition is an organised trip whose purpose is usually scientific exploration of the environment. You go on expeditions, just as you go on trips. · · · Numerous expeditions to The Antarctic have ended in disaster. Are you going to join the expedition up the Amazon this year, like the one Tom went on last year? Less dangerous and less adventurous are shopping expeditions when you are hunting down particular goods or bargains and fishing expeditions when you go in search of fish which are not easy to locate or catch.

safari (noun) A safari is a trip or expedition to observe wild animals in their natural habitat in Africa, usually. You go on safari to safari parks. In days gone by, you might have worn your light cotton safari suit for this purpose: · His one ambition in life was to go on safari to Kenya to photograph lions and tigers.

cruise (noun and verb) A cruise is a holiday during which you travel on a ship or boat and visit a number of places en route. When we cruise, this is exactly what we do: · · They cruised all around the Mediterranean for eight weeks last summer and stopped off at a number of uninhabited islands. My parents have seen nothing of the world so are saving up to go on a world cruise when they retire. They are hoping to take a trip on the cruise liner, the QE2, in 2004.

voyage (noun)


A voyage is a long journey, not necessarily for pleasure, on a ship. We don't talk about voyages very much in the present time, but historically they were very significant: · His second voyage (1493 - 96) led to the discovery of several Caribbean islands. On his third voyage (1498 - 1500) he discovered the South American mainland. (Christopher Columbus, the great explorer)

take care / take a look: verb + noun collocations with take Maria asks: Please can you give me some information about collocations, especially about verb + noun collocations with take? Thanks a lot. collocation Collocations are words that habitually or typically occur together. There are verb + adverb collocations like wave frantically (not wave hecticly). There are adjective + noun collocations like regular exercise (not steady exercise). There are adverb + adjective collocations like completely or wholly satisfied (not utterly satisfied). And there are verb + noun or verb + object collocations like follow someone's example (not pursue someone's example). take Take is one of the most commonly used verbs in the English language whose basic meaning is to move something or somebody from one place to another, e.g: I took him to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing. Take plenty of warm sweaters. It will be cold in Scotland. There are a large number of take + noun collocations of which I include a selection of the most common below. Note how much of the original meaning of take is retained in these examples. The first five are relatively easy to understand: take a walk / a bus / a train take a minute / a while / ten minutes take exercise take an interest in take a photo


I'm not ready yet. Why don't you take a walk round the park? It's essential for your health to take regular exercise. I took 300 photographs when I was on holiday in Patagonia. Since Sharapova won Wimbledon my son has taken an interest in tennis. Aren't you finished yet? ~ No, it will take me a while, I'm afraid The middle five are a bit more difficult so an explanation of the meaning is given after each example: take steps / measures / action take advice take offence take cover take pity If you take my advice, you'll stop seeing him. We should take steps to ensure that no more money is lost on this venture. There's no need to take offence. I was only joking! They were firing over our heads, so we had to take cover. She took pity on the stray dog and be became a family pet. take steps, measures, etc: perform an action in order to achieve something take advice: follow someone's guidance (on how best to achieve something) take offence: feel upset because of something someone has said or done take cover: hide of shelter from e.g bad weather or gunfire take pity: show sympathy for someone because they are in a bad situation. The final five are most difficult as they are idioms whose original meaning has been lost (but which is explained in the notes below): take the mickey out of someone take the axe to something take a raincheck take heart


take one's breath away Stop taking the mickey. I'm fed up with being the butt of your jokes. Can you manage Friday? ~ I'll have to take a raincheck on that, I'm afraid. The way she played Lady Macbeth was so compelling it took my breath away. Try to take heart from the fact that he's no longer in pain. The company took the axe to senior management and abolished five posts. take the mickey out of someone: to tease. Mickey represents Mickey Bliss, Cockney rhyming slang for piss. The expression then is a euphemism for take the piss. take the axe to something: make drastic cuts, particularly in workforce take a raincheck: politely decline an offer whilst implying that you may take it up later. A rainckeck was originally a voucher used in the US entitling one to see another baseball game if the original one was rained off. take heart: take courage In former times, moral courage was supposed to come from the heart and physical courage from the stomach. take one's breath away: be so surprised by something that it makes you hold your breath Ones that we have not worked on include: take a seat take a bath / shower take care take a look take milk / sugar in tea / coffee take a break take somebody's word for something take your temperature take a risk take the credit take responsibility take the weight off ones feet


take a dim view of something take ones hat off to someone take a page out of someone's book take a leak take stock that takes the biscuit! Check them out in a good dictionary, if the meaning is not clear. Start with the most commonly used ones which I have listed first.

Teacher/trainer/instructor/lecturer etc. Would you please tell me the different usage of the terms: teacher, trainer, instructor, lecturer, professor? Thank you in advance. Teacher Teacher is the general term for someone whose job it is to teach: I'd like to go into teaching and get a job as a teacher in an inner city primary or secondary school. Teaching assistants can only ever support the classroom teacher; they can never replace him.

Tutor We sometimes use the word tutor instead of teacher to describe somebody who gives personal or private lessons: My son wasn't making much progress in school, so I hired a maths tutor to give him private lessons after school. If you are enrolled as a student in a British university, you will have a personal tutor who provides you with close support throughout your studies and with whom you will have tutorials to discuss aspects of the subject being studied: There are just six students in my tutorial group and we had a very interesting tutorial on global warming and climate change last week. On all quality distance learning schemes, face-to-face support from trained tutors is essential.


Lecturer A lecturer is someone who gives a lecture or formal presentation, particularly at a college or university Dr Gradgrind is our lecturer on the Victorian novel and the course will be taught through a series of lectures and seminars.

Note that a seminar at a college or university is a class for a small group of students to discuss the subject with the lecturer.

Professor In the UK, professor is a university teacher of the highest rank in a subject area: Professor Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, is one of the most formidable intellects ever to theorise on the origins of the universe.

The first step in an academic carrier is usually lecturer, then senior lecturer, then reader, then eventually perhaps professor. Note that in the US, a professor is a full-time teacher at university. A teacher at secondary school or high school or junior college is never a professor.

Instructor In British English, an instructor teaches you on how to learn or improve in a particular skill or sport: If you want to learn how to drive, you will need a driving instructor. If you want to learn how to fly, you will require a flying instructor. If you intend to ski this winter on the higher slopes, you'll need a ski instructor.

In the US, an instructor is a university teacher below the rank of assistant professor.



A coach is someone who trains individual sports players or a team. The examples below are taken from tennis and football: Tim Henman, Britain's No 1, has a new coach, Paul Anacone, who worked with Pete Sampras for six years. Paul Bracewell, national coach with the England youth teams for the past two years, has resigned.

Trainer A trainer can be someone who trains people for a particular job or profession or who trains someone in certain varieties of sport. In-service teacher trainers are in very great demand here as there is no pre-service training for teachers. If you can get Kevin as your personal fitness trainer, you'll work on a wide range of strategies and techniques.

'tell', 'say', and 'speak' A question from Dmitrij in Latvia: Hello! I am learning English by myself (excluding BBC Learning English!) My question was... what is the difference between 'tell', 'say', and 'speak'? Thank you!

Catherine Walter answers: Hello Dmitrij. It's not surprising that you find these confusing because as far as meaning goes these three words mean more or less the same thing. It's more a question of how we use them, of patterns of use. So let me try to tell you about those. With 'tell' we usually say who is told. You could say there is a personal object, so: 'Can you tell me what's happened?' We say, 'me'. With 'say' we don't usually say who is told. So you might say 'please say each word clearly and distinctly'. And if we do say who is told, we use the word 'to', so: 'He said goodbye to me as if we would never see one another again'. Now... There's another limit on the usage of 'tell'. We only use 'tell' to mean instruct or inform. 'I told him to wait for me on the platform'... that's an instruction. "My father used to tell me wonderful stories" - informing me. 'Say' can be used for any kind of talking. So here are three sentences where you could not use 'tell': She said 'Where have you been?' So I said what a good idea.


Maureen said 'What's the matter?' We use 'tell' without a personal object in a few expressions, that are kind of fixed expressions like tell the truth, tell the time and tell the difference. And we use 'say' before words like a word, a name, or a sentence. An example would be: 'Don't say a word.' That's 'tell' and 'say'. You also asked about 'speak'. We use 'speak' to mean 'talk formally', and when we do use 'speak', we use the word 'to' if there's a personal object. So you could say, 'I spoke to him severely' or 'She spoke to our teachers' association last year'. And of course we use it when we're talking about people's language ability: 'Do you speak English?' And you do, and I hope this will help you be happier with the way you speak it.

A question from Amir Gilani: Hi. Can you tell me what 'is anything to go by' in the text below means? 'And if the experience of earlier Asian economic miracles like Japan and South Korea is anything to go by, China should carry on growing at this hectic pace for another twenty or thirty years.'

Sarah Bradshaw answers: Well Amir, 'is anything to go by' means 'in our experience' or 'in the experience of the person writing' or 'in the experience of the person speaking'. Another example of 'is anything to go by' could be: you're standing on a station platform, you're looking at your watch, the train is late, you go up to a guard and say: 'When is the next train to London?' And the guard might say, 'Well, if previous trains are anything to go by, it will be half an hour late', meaning that his previous experience of the trains running late is about thirty minutes. Another example would be if, perhaps, we invited a well-known pop star onto our programme, Britney Spears, for example and we said, 'If we had Britney Spears on the programme, do you think we would get lots more listeners' letters asking us questions?' And our producer might say, 'Well, if last week's programme with Phil Collins is anything to go by, yes we would.' So in his experience in something similar is anything to go by. So it begins with if: 'if x is anything to go by then... something else.' So remember how to construct that: it's 'if' and 'is anything to go by', 'then', and then the concluding sentence.

To / For A question from Paulo from Brazil:


Hi Samantha, my name is Paulo. I like to study English and my question is about the use of the prepositions to and for in some special cases. As I wrote to you, I know that I must say Happy birthday to you and That's a gift for you. But I just don't know the reason I can say, for example, That's a gift for you. I would like some guidelines to help me with this matter. Thank you Samantha. ... and a similar question from Renato from Brazil: I am always confused when to use to or for. For example, should I say an efficient method to solve my problem or an efficient method for solving my problem? Why, according to one American, does it sound natural to hear Let's go out for lunch? Shouldn't to be used with go when followed by a verb? Please enlighten me on this topic. Yours sincerely, Renato

Hi Paulo and thanks for your question. And, as well as answering your question, I'm going to answer a similar one at the same time from Renato. And the use of preposition is a topic that worries many of my students ­ I know because I'm often asked for advice about which preposition to use where, especially around the time that assignments are due in! I do think that prepositions are one of the most difficult areas of English to master, because there are so many prepositions and so many different combinations of verb and preposition that have to be memorised individually. But let's begin with your first example Paulo, when we say Happy Birthday. And when we use Happy Birthday we're using a set expression or a greeting like Happy Christmas, Happy New Year or Congratulations, and if you wanted to follow this expression with a pronoun, you would have to use the preposition to with it - Happy Christmas to you!, Happy Birthday to you! ­ although it might be more common simply to use the greeting without a pronoun in speech. In your second example Paulo, for is followed by a pronoun, you, and functions as a preposition showing the intended recipient: The parcel is for Jenny. The flowers are for mother. Here is a gift for you. So now to answer Renato's question. In the examples you give, Renato, I'd say that the first example, with the infinitive verb, is the better choice. You've only given me part of the sentence ­ an efficient method to solve my problem ­ but the phrase suggests an outcome or the solution to a problem. Let's put this into a complete sentence by adding a verb: I discovered an efficient method to solve my problem.


In this case, the second verb always appears in the infinitive form because these are all examples of the infinitive showing purpose: I watched television all day to relieve my boredom. I made her a chocolate cake to make her feel better. He went into town to order his new computer. In each of the examples above, there is an outcome or an intention which is reported by the to clause, similar to the one in your own example, Renato. Finally, to look at the last example, if I said Shall we go out to eat lunch? the verb go out would be followed by a verb, wouldn't it? However, in your own example, Renato ­ Let's go out for lunch ­ the verb is followed by a noun (lunch), so we have to use the preposition for in this expression! Well Paulo, thanks for your question and I hope that both the answers will be useful to you.

'used to' / 'get used to'

Supawadee from Thailand asks: I always confuse to be used to and used to, especially the meaning of them. Please kindly show me what the differences are.

When we use used to, we are talking about something which happened regularly or was true at an earlier stage in our lives but which is now over. Thus, it can only be used in the past tense. If we want to talk about present habits or states, we simply use the present simple tense. With the negative we often say never used to in preference to didn't use to or used not to - in an informal register. Study the following examples:


· · · ·

'Do you remember? There used to be fields of clover where those houses are now.' 'I never used to smoke, but now I smoke twenty a day.' 'You used to play chess with your friends, but nowadays you play chess with your computer.' 'I used to buy really expensive make-up, but that was when I was working full-time.'

To make questions, we use the normal auxiliary did. Note that used to cannot be used in question tag form. Note also the possible/probable replies to used to questions. Study the following examples: · · · 'Did you use to go ice-skating when you were young?' 'No, I never did.' 'Didn't you use to ring the school to say you were ill and then play poker with Sam?' 'I sometimes did, yeah!' 'You used to do ballet in the church hall, didn't you?' 'Yes, I did. Every Saturday between the ages of nine and twelve.'

be used to + noun or -ing get used to + noun or -ing If somebody gets or is used to something, he becomes or is fully familiar with it. It is no longer strange or awkward. It can refer to past, present or future experiences. Study the following: · · · · · 'These are very high heels, I know, but I'm sure you'll get used to (wearing) them.' 'I wasn't used to living in such a small flat and I found it really hard at first.' 'I'm used to all the noise now, but I'd always lived in the country before, you see, where it is very quiet.' 'I never got used to shaking hands with people all the time when I lived there. It's just not the custom in our country.' 'Are you getting used to the accent now? It's very different from standard English, isn't it?

In all of the above examples be or get used to can be replaced by be or become accustomed to which is very similar in meaning, if a little more formal. Read through them again using these replacement verbs. So, just to recap and confirm: · · 'When I lived in Mexico, I used to drink tequila at every opportunity.' (A regular habit then, but probably not now.) 'I found it quite a strong drink at first, but I soon got used to it.' (It quickly became quite palatable.)


verbs with adverbial particles Amin, studying English in New Zealand, writes: Many times I have heard sentences like these: · · I'll just pop into the supermarket. You can pop over to this office any time tomorrow.

I understand the meaning, but I am not sure how to use them. What are the differences between pop into and pop over? And how about pop out? Can we say pop out somewhere? I would be most grateful if you could tell me which sentences in those settings (along with prepositions) are most common.

These verbs with adverbial particles or prepositions are extremely common in informal idiomatic English and are often preferred to a single verb equivalent. Compare the following: · · I decided to lay on transport for everybody as the train drivers were on strike. I decided to provide transport for everybody as the train drivers were on strike.

Informally, we would be more likely to say and write the first of these two possibilities, whereas in more formal English we might write the second of these two: · · Alternative transport was laid on for all employees throughout the train drivers' strike. Alternative transport was provided for all employees throughout the train drivers' strike.

The problem with phrasal verbs (verb plus preposition or verb plus adverbial particle) is that the meaning of the two-word (or sometimes three-word) verb is very different from the meaning of the two parts taken separately. Lay on is not the same as lay + on: · · I lay on the bed thinking about what to do next. (lay on = was in a horizontal position on) Caroline laid on a wonderful spread of food for everyone. (laid on = provided)

Let's have a look at how pop is used with either particles or prepositions:


pop into pop over

pop in pop round

pop out pop down

pop off pop up

In all of these examples with pop, Amin, all the prepositions function as adverbial particles, not as prepositions with objects except for: · He popped into the shop.

They are all similar in meaning with the adverbial particle indicating direction, except for pop off which has a more distinctive meaning and is not quite so common. Compare the following: · · · · · · My new neighbours across the road had just moved in so I popped over to see them. I was passing by, noticed the light was on, so thought I would just pop in for a chat. I'm going to pop out to the shops for ten minutes. Don't answer the door if anyone calls. My friend, Dora, lives in the flat above me. So she often pops down if she needs anything, or I might pop up to see her if I'm feeling lonely. I hadn't seen him for years. Then he just popped up one day at the club we used to belong to. I may be 85 and I may have to use a stick to get around, but I've no intention of popping off yet.

In the first five examples above, we might define pop + particle as appearing or disappearing (popping out) briefly and casually. In the sixth example it means appearing unexpectedly. And in the final example it is a euphemism for dying. Of course, we can also use pop in its original literal sense, meaning to burst open with a short sharpish sound. · He had shaken the champagne bottle and the cork popped out before he was ready to pour.

When you are learning phrasal verbs, it is safest to assume that for each one each particle introduces a different meaning and sometimes more than one meaning! Let's compare the following pairs. Are they similar or different in meaning? drop off drop in/by drop out drop over · · pop off pop in pop out pop over

Could you give me a lift in your car and drop me off at the station? (= let me get out) The lecture was so boring that I dropped off half way through. (= fell into a light sleep)


· · · ·

Drop by any time you're passing. You don't need to phone first. (= pay a casual visit) He dropped out after a term - he just wasn't prepared to study. (= left college early) I opened the car door carelessly and my purse dropped out. (= fell out) I dropped over to see her because I knew she wasn't feeling well. (paid a casual call).

Learning phrasal verbs is probably a lifetime's work and if you want to do it well, it's probably worth getting hold of (= obtaining) or lashing out on (= spending a substantial sum of money on) a dictionary of current idiomatic English which pays attention to verbs with prepositions and particles. I emphasise the word `current' as idioms come into and go out of fashion. The reward is that if you can use them appropriately in context, they are distinguishing marks of a native-like command of English.

wedding or marriage?

Morena Diego from Italy asks: Could you please explain to me the difference between wedding and marriage? wedding / wed A wedding is a marriage ceremony which is held in church or a registry office and also includes the party or special meal which follows the ceremony. All of this usually happens on your wedding day. There are a number of other wedding compounds that are associated with wedding day: · · · · The newlyweds had told everybody that they wanted no wedding presents as they were emigrating to Australia. The predominant colour at Sophie's wedding was creamy white. Her wedding dress was this colour and the icing on the three-tier wedding cake was this colour too. Is it true that in Britain you wear your wedding ring on the third finger of your left hand? A silver wedding is celebrated after 25 years of marriage and a golden wedding after 50 years.

If you wed someone, you marry them, but wed is not used very much nowadays as a verb as it is rather old-fashioned. It can sound quite effective however, because it is unusual. Sometimes it has a poetic ring to it: · · We got wed soon after the baby was born. I shall never wed as I like to be independent.


marriage / marry / get married Marriage describes the relationship between husband and wife or the state of being married: · · · They enjoyed a long and happy marriage. Most marriages these days do not last. The bride's parents did not approve of Victoria's marriage to George.

If you marry someone, that person becomes your husband or wife and we use the verb marry in preference to wed normally. However, even more usual than marry is get married. This use of get with a past participle is a very common structure in contemporary English and is used across a range of common expressions. It has the same sort of force as reflexive verbs have in other languages. Thus in English we would say: Don't get lost! NOT Don't lose yourselves! Consider the following: · · · · · · · I married the man next door / I got married to the man next door. They didn't get dressed until two o'clock in the afternoon. I didn't bother to get washed as I knew I would be working on the farm. Remember, it's a big dark wood. Be careful not to get lost. We had known each other for fifteen years before we got engaged. I never get invited to Sarah's parties. We got married on 10 June, but by the beginning of the autumn both of us knew that the marriage would not last and that sooner or later we would have to get a divorce / get divorced.

Interestingly, although we can say they married and they divorced as an alternative to they got married and they got divorced, we cannot say: they engaged. Here, only they got engaged is possible.

A question from Sergio Gil Rejas in Peru: I would like to know what is the difference between 'wait' and 'await'. When should I use 'wait' and 'await'? Thanks a lot and congratulations for the site. Kind regards.

Amos Paran answers: Thanks for this, Sergio. There are two kinds of difference between 'wait' and 'await'. The first difference is in the grammatical structures that are associated with these two verbs. The verb 'await' must have an object - for example, 'I am awaiting your answer'. And the object of 'await' is normally inanimate, not a person, and often abstract. So you can't say, 'John was awaiting me'.


The verb 'wait' can come in different structures. Firstly, you can just use 'wait' on its own: 'We have been waiting and waiting and waiting and nobody has come to talk to us.' Another structure that is very common is to use 'wait' with another verb - for example, 'I waited in line to go into the theatre.' Very often, with 'wait', you mention the length of time that you have been waiting for example, 'I have been waiting here for at least half an hour.' Finally, speakers often mention what or who they have been waiting for - so, if a friend was really late you could say, 'I have been waiting for you for two hours!' The other difference between the two verbs, 'wait' and 'await', is the level of formality. 'Await' is more formal than 'wait' - it would be used in formal letters, for example. If you want a tip about using these two verbs, I would suggest that you should use 'wait for'; use 'await' only in cases where you are absolutely sure that you have heard good users of the language using it, and in cases where things are quite formal.

Well off, better off well-off Well-off relates mainly to money matters. If you are well-off, you may not be rich exactly, but you have enough money to live well and comfortably: By central European standards they are quite well-off They have their own flat and drive new cars. well-off for However, if you say you are well-off for something, this means that there are many of them: We're well-off for coffee shops in this town. There's one at every corner in the High Street. better-off The comparative form of this adjective is better-off which is used to talk about the varying degrees of wealth different people have: We're not as well-off as the Jones's. They're definitely better-off than we are. Just look at the way they dress! To be better-off, as you suggest, Mariano, also has another meaning of being in a better situation and is used mainly in conditional patterns as follows:


If you've got heavy bags to carry, you'd be better-off taking a taxi. It says on the sign that the motorway ahead is blocked. You'll be better-off if you leave the motorway at this junction which is coming up now. the better-off The better-off is sometimes used as a noun to describe a category of people, cf the rich / the poor: The rich and the poor live side-by-side in this part of town. The better-off should pay a higher rate of income tax, while those who are worst-off should pay no tax at all.

rather and better?

Omar studying English in Canada writes: I've just found this page which is for learning english and I find it amazing and easy to follow. I'd like to know the difference between prefer and would rather. · · I'd rather do x than do y I prefer doing x to doing y

Prefer and would rather can be used interchangeably. As you indicate, Omar, when we are talking about general preferences, prefer is followed by verb-ing, thus: · · I prefer listening to music to watching TV. I'd rather listen to music than watch TV.

'd rather However, when we are talking about specifics, would rather is used as an alternative to would prefer to followed by an infinitive. Would rather is very common in spoken English and is often abbreviated to 'd rather. It is used in this form with all personal pronouns: I'd / you'd / he'd / she'd / we'd / they'd rather... Study these examples:


· · ·

Would you like to go out for dinner tonight? ~ No, I think I'd rather eat at home / I'd prefer to eat at home. Would you rather drink beer or wine with the curry ~ I'd rather drink beer. What about you? They'd rather have the strawberries by themselves, but I'd prefer to have them with cream.

Note that would rather is followed by a bare infinitive without to, whereas prefer requires to + infinitive. Would rather (but not would prefer to) is also followed by a past tense when we want to involve other people in the action, even though it has a present or future meaning. Study the following: · · · Shall we go out for dinner tonight? ~ No, I'd rather we ate at home, if you don't mind. Shall I write to Harry and tell him that we've sold the car? ~ I'd rather you didn't. My mother would rather we caught the bus, rather than walk home after the party.

Rather than means instead of and can be used in combination with would prefer to and would rather. Study the following and note the intricacies of the verb forms: · · · Rather than lose precious sleep discussing it now, I think we should go to bed and talk about it in the morning. My mother would prefer us to email each other once a week, rather than spend half an hour on the phone every night. My mother would rather we emailed each other once a week instead of spending half an hour on the phone every night. In fact, she insists on it. So we'd better do that, I suppose.

'd better Note that 'd better, which is similar structurally to 'd rather, is used to suggest necessary action. In this case however, 'd is the abbreviated form of had, not would. Like 'd rather, 'd better is followed by the bare infinitive without to. Study the following: · · · We'd better not be late for the Ambasador's party. It would be unforgivable to arrive late. You'd better phone him and tell him that you're not going. They'd better buy me a Christmas present or I shall never forgive them.

Note that it is sometimes slightly threatening in tone, as in the last example. Had better is always more urgent than should or ought to and has the same force as I would advise you strongly to.... or We must / we mustn't....

injure/wound/hurt/harm/damage as verbs/adjectives/nouns


Agustin from Spain writes: I would be very grateful if you could explain the difference between injure, wound, hurt, harm, damage and their associated adjectives: injured, wounded, hurt, harmed and damaged. Their meanings are so close that I have difficulty differentiating them.

You are quite right, Agostin. These verbs and related nouns and adjectives are quite close in meaning and use, but there are a number of distinguishing characteristics. hurt (verb) If part of your body hurts, you feel pain there. If you hurt someone, you cause them to feel pain. Note that verbs that refer to physical feelings (hurt, ache, etc) can often be used in simple or progressive tenses with no difference in meaning: · · Have you been knocked over? Tell me where it hurts / it's hurting. ~ My arm hurts. You're hurting my arm. Ouch! Don't touch me. That hurts!

You can also hurt someone's feelings, and cause them to feel emotional pain: · · I think she's going to be hurt. I don't think she'll ever fall in love again. What hurt me most was the betrayal. How could he behave like that?

hurt (noun/adjective) · · The hurt that she felt was deep and would only be softened with the passing of time. They were suffering from shock but did not seem to be otherwise hurt.

injure (verb) In the sentence describing people suffering from shock above, hurt could be replaced by injured. If you injure somebody, you cause physical damage to part of their body usually the result of an accident or through fighting: · · A number of bombs have exploded, seriously injuring scores of people. The demonstrators injured a number of innocent people when they started throwing stones.

injured / injury (nouns) / injured (adj) · · · · The injured were taken to hospital by air-ambulance. Their injuries were thought to be serious. He was not seriously injured, though his coach took him off at half-time as a precaution. Two minutes of injury time were played at the end of the fist half.


wound (verb) If you wound somebody, you inflict physical damage on part of their body, especially a cut or a hole in their flesh caused by a gun, a knife or some other weapon, often in battle. · · There was no escape. They were mortally wounded by the enemy fire. The driver of the Red-Cross ambulance was wounded by the shrapnel.

In English, it is often a matter of knowing which adjectives collocate with which nouns and which adverbs go with which verbs. In this particular word family, the adverb-verb collocations are normally as follows: badly hurt / seriously injured / mortally wounded. You will also have noticed that with these verbs the passive voice is often used. wound (noun) / wounded (adj) · · The open wound really needed stitches and took a long time to heal. The four wounded men were taken to the field hospital in the back of the Jeep.

We also have the expressions: to rub salt into the wound, i.e. to make an unpleasant situation even worse and to lick one's wounds, i.e. to slowly recover after being defeated or made to feel ashamed or unhappy: · · I didn't want to rub salt into the wound so decided not to mention Bob's infidelity. The British team could only retire and lick their wounds after such a comprehensive defeat on Spanish soil.

damage (verb) It is things that are damaged, not people. Damage is the physical harm that is caused to an object. More abstract qualities, such as reputations and the economy can also be damaged. Compare the following: · · · · The car was so badly damaged in the accident that it was barely worth repairing. When he got home, he discovered that the vase he had bought had been damaged. If he continues drinking like that, his reputation as a defence lawyer will be damaged. High inflation was damaging the country's economy.

damage (noun) / damaged (adj) However, we can also speak of someone being brain-damaged (not brain-injured) or suffering brain damage. But this is an exception. Normally damage relates to inanimate objects: · Professional boxers sometimes suffer irreversible brain damage.



It was a huge bomb and the damage caused to the shopping precinct was quite extensive.

We also have the informal expression: What's the damage? meaning 'What is the damage to my purse or my pocket?' in other words: What do I owe you in payment for this service or these goods?: · Thanks very much for the work you have done on those curtains. What's the damage?

harm (verb) People OR things can be harmed or physically damaged: · · The bank robbers were anxious not to harm anyone. Without doubt,the burning of fossil fuels harms the environment in which we live

harm (noun) We have a number of expressions with the noun harm which are confusingly similar: will come to no harm, it will do no harm to..., there's no harm in..., no harm done: · · · · Will my dog be all right with you? ~ He'll be fine. He'll come to no harm in my garden. It will do / can do no harm to remind him to take the medication before he goes to bed. She might not agree, but there's no harm in asking her to postpone the meeting. I'm sorry to crash into you like that! Are you all right? ~ I'm fine. No harm done!

harmful / harmless (adjs) Harmful and harmless describe something that has or does not have a bad effect on something else: · · He looks quite ferocious and barks quite loudly, but he's quite harmless. The harmful effects of smoking on people's health is well-documented.



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