Let's enjoy English!

Acceptable Behaviours in England #4

manners THURS 1

Proper Eating Manners

We all eat continental-style - with a fork in the left hand and a knife in the right (unless you're left-handed, of course ;-). Here are some pointers to our eating habits...

Table Manners
* Use cutlery to eat your meals.
* Keep your mouth closed when chewing.
* Finish one mouthful before starting the next.
* Never put your knife in your mouth, or lick your plate.
* Do not speak with your mouth full.
* Unless there is an imminent threat of the theft of your meal, take your time and enjoy it! You are not just filling up a hole. Overly bulging hamster-cheeks is rude and not attractive.
* Finish your mouthful before taking a drink.
* Never spit food out.
* Make time for family meals, the "family" is the building block of society, so eating together is fundamental.
* Break your bread into small pieces with your fingers and butter it one piece at a time, your butter knife will normally be on (or next to) your side plate. (The only time you should butter a piece of bread without breaking it is your toast at breakfast, as it will normally have been cut in half for you.)
* Do not scrape your plate with your cutlery.
* Never scoop food up with your fork - the tines should always point downwards.
* When only a little soup is remaining, tilt the bowl away from you to enable you to finish it - move your soup spoon from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock and spoon-up the soup.
* Ask “May I get down please” if you’d like to leave the table early.

See more about the English Eating Etiquette here

Drop-in tomorrow for more great tips ...

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Acceptable Behaviours in England #3

manners WED

Things to remember when visiting people in their homes

When being entertained at someone's home it is nice to take a gift for the host and hostess. A bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers or some chocolates are all acceptable.

Similar to Japan, British people place considerable value on punctuality. If you agree to meet friends at three o'clock, you can bet that they'll be there at three. Since Britons are very time-conscious, the pace of life may seem very rushed. In Britain, people make great effort to arrive on time. It is often considered impolite to arrive even a few minutes late. If you are unable to keep an appointment, it is expected that you call the person you are meeting.

You should arrive:
* At the exact time specified – for dinner, lunch, or appointments with professors, doctors, and other professionals.
* Any time during the hours specified for teas, receptions, and cocktail parties.
* A few minutes early: for public meetings, plays, concerts, movies, sporting events, classes, church services, and weddings.

If you are invited to someone's house for dinner at half past seven, they will expect you to be there on the dot. An invitation might state "7.30 for 8", in which case you should arrive no later than 7.50. However, if an invitation says "sharp", you must arrive in plenty of time.

Drop in anytime” and “come see me soon” are idioms often used in social settings but seldom meant to be taken literally. It is wise to telephone before visiting someone at home. If you receive a written invitation to an event that says “RSVP”, you should respond to let the person who sent the invitation know whether or not you plan to attend.

Never accept an invitation unless you really plan to go. You may refuse by saying, “Thank you for inviting me, but I will not be able to come.” If after accepting, you are unable to attend, be sure to tell those expecting you as far in advance as possible that you will not be there.

Although it is not necessarily expected that you give a gift to your host, it is considered polite to do so, especially if you have been invited for a meal. Flowers, chocolates or a small gift are all appropriate. A thank-you note or telephone call after the visit is also considered polite and is an appropriate means to express your appreciation for the invitation.

Everyday dress is appropriate for most visits to peoples' homes. You may want to dress more formally when attending a holiday dinner or cultural event, such as a concert or theatre performance.

Introduction and Greeting
It is proper to shake hands with everyone to whom you are introduced, both men and women. An appropriate response to an introduction (as mentioned before) is "Pleased to meet you". If you want to introduce yourself to someone, extend you hand for a handshake and say "Hello, I am....". Hugging is only for friends.

When you accept a dinner invitation, tell your host if you have any dietary restrictions. He or she will want to plan a meal that you can enjoy. The evening meal is the main meal of the day in most parts of Britain.

Food may be served in one of several ways: "family style", by passing the serving plates from one to another around the dining table; "buffet style", with guests serving themselves at the buffet; and "serving style", with the host filling each plate and passing it to each person. Guests usually wait until everyone at their table has been served before they begin to eat.

Food is eaten with a knife and fork (Never by hands or just a knife! And never with your elbows on the table!!), manners THURS 2
and dessert with a spoon and fork.

Sending a thank you note is also considered appropriate.

Have a nice dinner and I will see you tomorrow ...

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Acceptable Behaviours in England #2

manners TUES

Terms of Endearment / Names we may call you

You may be called by many different 'affectionate' names, according to which part of the country you are in. For example, you may be called dear, dearie, flower, love, duckie, mate, guv, son, ma'am, madam, miss, sir, or even treacle, according to your sex and age, and where you are.

Don’t be too concerned that people are trying to ‘pick you up’ for example, as more often than not they are just trying to be warm and friendly.

Cheers and see you tomorrow duckie ...

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Acceptable Behaviours in England #1

manners MON

ETIQUETTE ~ Yes, the English are often said to be reserved in their manners, dress and speech. We are famous for our politeness, self-discipline and especially for our sense of humour. Basic politeness (please, thank you, excuse me) is always expected.


How to greet someone ~
English people are quite reserved when greeting one another. A greeting can be a bright 'Hello' 'Hi' or a simple 'Good morning', when you arrive are at work, at school or out meeting people.

How to Greet someone in Britain:
The Handshake
A handshake is the most common form of greeting among the English and British people and is customary when you are introduced to somebody new.

The Kiss
It is only when you meet friends, whom you haven't seen for a long time, that you would kiss the cheek of the opposite sex. In Britain one kiss is generally enough - not like two in France.

Formal greetings
The usual formal greeting is a 'How do you do?' and a firm handshake, but with a lighter touch between men and women.

How do you do?’ is a greeting not a question and the correct response is to repeat ‘How do you do?' You say this when shaking hands with someone:

First person "How do you do?"
Second person "How do you do?"

'How are you?' is a question and the most common and polite response is "I am fine thank you and you?":

First person "How are you?"
Second person "I am fine thank you and you?"
Nice to meet you –> Nice to meet you, too. (Often said whilst shaking hands)

Delighted to meet you –> Delighted to meet you, too.
Pleased to meet you –> Pleased to meet you, too.
Glad to meet you -> Glad to meet you, too.

Informal greetings
Hi or hello
Morning / Afternoon / Evening (We add the word 'Good' in more formal situations).
How're you? - Fine thanks. And you?
Thank you / thanks / cheers

We sometimes say 'cheers' instead of thank you. (You may also hear 'cheers' said instead of 'good bye', what we are really saying is 'thanks and bye'.

Thank you, and I will see you tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #7 - do you know these?

idiom last

Here is the last of my looong list of British Idioms ~ read them and have fun using them, like true Brits ...

Over-egg the pudding
If you over-egg the pudding, you spoil something by trying to improve it excessively. It is also used nowadays with the meaning of making something look bigger or more important than it really is. ('Over-egg' alone is often used in this sense.)

Pin money
If you work for pin money, you work not because you need to but because it gives you money for extra little luxuries and treats.

Pink pound
In the UK, the pink pound is an idiom for the economic power of gay people.

Pull your finger out!
If someone tells you to do this, they want you to hurry up. ('Get your finger out' is also used.)

Quart into a pint pot
If you try to put or get a quart into a pint pot, you try to put too much in a small space. (1 quart = 2 pints)

Queer fish
A strange person is a queer fish.

Quids in
If somebody is quids in, they stand to make a lot of money from something. (Quid is slang for pound.)

Rake over old coals
If you go back to old problems and try to bring them back, making trouble for someone, you are raking over old coals.

Rearrange the deck-chairs on the Titanic
If people are rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic, they are making small changes that will have no effect as the project, company, etc., is in very serious trouble.

Right royal
A right royal night out would be an extremely exciting, memorable and fun one.

See you anon
If somebody says this when leaving, they expect to see you again soon.

Send someone to Coventry
If you send someone to Coventry, you refuse to talk to them or co-operate with them.

Shy bairns get nowt
An idiom primarily used by those from the North East of England, used to emphasise the fact that children who fail to ask for something (usually from an older person) probably won't succeed in obtaining it. (bairn = child, nowt = nothing)

Slip through the cracks
If something slips through the cracks, it isn't noticed or avoids detection.

Sound as a pound
if something is as sound as a pound, it is very good or reliable.

Spanner in the works
If someone puts or throws a spanner in the works, they ruin a plan. In American English, 'wrench' is used instead of 'spanner'.

Spend a penny
This is a euphemistic idiom meaning to go to the toilet.

Sticky end
If someone comes to a sticky end, they die in an unpleasant way. ('Meet a sticky end' is also used.)

Sticky wicket
If you are on a sticky wicket, you are in a difficult situation.

Stiff upper lip
If you keep your emotions to yourself and don't let others know how you feel when something bad happens, you keep a stiff upper lip.

Take the Mickey
If you take the Mickey, you tease someone. ('Take the Mick' is also used.)

Take up the reins
If you take up the reins, you assume control of something- an organisation, company, country, etc.('Take over the reins' is also used.)

Tally ho!
This is an exclamation used for encouragement before doing something difficult or dangerous.

Tears before bedtime
This idiom is used when something seems certain to go wrong or cause trouble.

Ten a penny
If something is ten a penny, it is very common. ("Two a penny" is also used.)

Thick as mince
If someone is as thick as mince, they are very stupid indeed.

Thin blue line
The thin blue line is a term for the police, suggesting that they stand between an ordered society and potential chaos. (Police uniforms are blue.)

Three sheets in the wind
Someone who is three sheets in the wind is very drunk. ('Three sheets to the wind' is also used.  'Seven sheets' is an alternative number used.)

Throw a spanner in the works
If you throw a spanner in the works, you cause a problem that stops or slows progress on something that was going well.

Up sticks
If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went to work abroad.

Up the spout
If something has gone up the spout, it has gone wrong or been ruined.

Up the stick
If a woman is up the stick, she's pregnant.

A woman politician given an unimportant government position so that the government can pretend it takes women seriously is a wallflower.

Watering hole
A watering hole is a pub.

Who wears the trousers?
The person who wears the trousers in a relationship is the dominant person who controls things.

Wood for the trees
If someone can't see the wood for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.

Wouldn't touch it with a barge-pole
If you wouldn't touch something with a barge-pole, you would not consider being involved under any circumstances. (In American English, people say they wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole)

Yeoman's service
To do yeoman's service is to serve in an exemplary manner. (Exemplary means the best of its kind.)

Look forward to tomorrow’s start of the “****” theme-week ... (it's a surprise ;-)

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #6 - do you know these?

idiom Saturday

Actually not for 'Pete' but for YOUR sake ~> learn and use these:

Off your chump
If someone is off their chump, they are crazy or irrational.

Off your rocker
Someone who is off their rocker is crazy.

On Carey Street
If someone is on Carey Street, they are heavily in debt or have gone bankrupt.

On the blink
Is a machine is on the blink, it isn't working properly or is out of order.

On the blower
If someone is on the blower, they are on the phone.

On the cards
If something is in the cards, it is almost certain to happen.

On the dole
Someone receiving financial assistance when unemployed is on the dole.

On the fiddle
Someone who is stealing money from work is on the fiddle, especially if they are doing it by fraud.

On the game
A person who is on the game works as a prostitute.

On the knock
If you buy something on the knock, you pay for it in instalments.

On the knocker
If someone is on the knocker, they are going from house to house trying to buy or sell things or get support.

On the never-never
If you buy something on the never-never, you buy it on long-term credit.

On the nod
Someone who's on the nod is either asleep or falling asleep, especially when the shouldn't or are are in a position unusual for sleep, like sitting or standing.

On the take
Someone who is stealing from work is on the take.

On the trot
This idiom means 'consecutively'; I'd saw them three days on the trot, which means that I saw them on three consecutive days.

One over the eight
Someone who has had one over the eight is very drunk indeed. It refers to the standard eight pints that most people drink and feel is enough.

Out in the sticks
If someone lives out in the sticks, they live out in the country, a long way from any metropolitan area.

A few more tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #5 - do you know these?

idiom Friday
Be 'as keen as mustard', have some fun and use these in your conversations?

Jam tomorrow
This idiom is used when people promise good things for the future that will never come.

Jersey justice
Jersey justice is very severe justice.

Keen as mustard
If someone is very enthusiastic, they are as keen as mustard.

Keep your chin up
This expression is used to tell someone to have confidence.

Keep your wig on!
This idiom is used to tell someone to calm down.

Kick your heels
If you have to kick your heels, you are forced to wait for the result or outcome of something.

Kitchen-sink drama deals with ordinary people's lives.

Laugh to see a pudding crawl
Someone who would laugh to see a pudding crawl is easily amused and will laugh at anything.

Like a bear with a sore head
If someone's like a bear with a sore head, they complain a lot and are unhappy about something.

Like giving a donkey strawberries
If something is like giving a donkey strawberries, people fail to appreciate its value.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves
If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves, meaning that if someone takes care not to waste small amounts of money, they will accumulate capital. ('Look after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves' is an alternative form of this idiom.)

Lose your bottle
If someone loses their bottle, they lose the courage to do something.

Lose your lunch
If you lose your lunch, you vomit.

Make a good fist
If you make a good fist of something, you do it well.

Make a song and dance
If someone makes a song and dance, they make an unnecessary fuss about something unimportant.

Man on the Clapham omnibus
The man on the Clapham omnibus is the ordinary person in the street.

Money for old rope
If something's money for old rope, it's a very easy way of making money.

More front than Brighton
If you have more front than Brighton, you are very self-confident, possibly excessively so.

New man
A New man is a man who believes in complete equality of the sexes and shares domestic work equally.

Nod's as good as a wink
'A nod's as good as a wink' is a way of saying you have understood something that someone has said, even though it was not said directly.  The full phrase (sometimes used in the UK ) is 'a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse'.

Noddy work
Unimportant or very simple tasks are noddy work.

Nosy parker
A nosy parker is someone who is excessively interested in other people's lives. ('Nosey parker' is an alternative spelling.)

Not cricket
If something is not cricket, it is unfair.

Not give a monkey's
If you couldn't give a monkey's about something, you don't care at all about it.

Off on one
If someone goes off on one, they get extremely angry indeed.

More fun idioms tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #4 - do you know these?

idiom Thursday
These are all interesting ones that you can use while having a good ol' natter over a cuppa tea ...

Go pear-shaped
If things have gone wrong, they have gone pear-shaped.

Go spare
If you go spare, you lose your temper completely.

Gone for a burton
If something's gone for a burton, it has been spoiled or ruined. If a person has gone for a burton, they are either in serious trouble or have died.

Gone pear-shaped
If things have gone pear-shaped they have either gone wrong or produced an unexpected and unwanted result.

Grasp the nettle
If you grasp the nettle, you deal bravely with a problem.

Greasy pole
The greasy pole is the difficult route to the top of politics, business, etc.

Green fingers
Someone with green fingers has a talent for gardening.

Grey pound
In the UK, the grey pound is an idiom for the economic power of elderly people.

Hairy at the heel
Someone who is hairy at the heel is dangerous or untrustworthy.

Hard cheese
Hard cheese means hard luck.

Have a riot
If you have a riot, you enjoy yourself and have a good time.

Have your collar felt
If someone has their collar felt, they are arrested.

Hear something on the jungle telegraph
If you hear something on the jungle telegraph, you pick up some information or informal gossip from someone who shares some common interest.  ('Bush telegraph' is also used.)

Heath Robinson
If a machine or system is described as Heath Robinson, it is very complicated, but not practical or effective, named after a cartoonist who drew very complicated machines that performed simple tasks.

Hold the baby
If someone is responsible for something, they are holding the baby.

Hold your hands up
If you hold your hands up, you accept responsibility for something you have done wrong.

Home, James
This is a cliched way of telling the driver of a vehicle to start driving. It is supposed to be an order to a chauffeur (a privately employed driver).  The full phrase is 'Home, James, and don't spare the horses'.

I should cocoa
This idiom comes from 'I should think so', but is normally used sarcastically to mean the opposite.

If you'll pardon my French
This idiom is used as a way of apologising for swearing.

In a tick
If someone will do something in a tick, they'll do it very soon or very quickly.

In rude health
If someone's in rude health, they are very healthy and look it.

In spades
If you have something in spades, you have a lot of it.

In the clink
If someone is in the clink, they are in prison.

In the club
If a woman's in the club, she's pregnant. 'In the pudding club' is an alternative form.

It's as broad as it is long
Used to express that it is impossible to decide between two options because they're equal.

Tune-in for more tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #3 - do you know these?

idiom Wednesday
Some more good ones ~ do you know these?

Dull as ditchwater
If something is as dull as ditchwater, it is incredibly boring. A ditch is a long narrow hole or trench dug to contain water, which is normally a dark, dirty colour and stagnant (when water turns a funny colour and starts to smell bad). (In American English,'things are 'dull as dishwater'.)

Dunkirk spirit
Dunkirk spirit is when people pull together to get through a very difficult time.

Early bath
If someone has or goes for an early bath, they quit or lose their job or position earlier than expected because things have gone wrong.

Easy peasy
If something is easy peasy, it is very easy indeed. ('Easy peasy, lemon squeezy' is also used.)

Economical with the truth
If someone, especially a politician, is economical with the truth, they leave out information in order to create a false picture of a situation, without actually lying.

Enough to cobble dogs with
A large surplus of anything: We've got enough coffee to cobble dogs with. Possible explanations: A cobblestone is a cut stone with a curved surface. These were set together to create road surfaces, in the days before the widespread use of asphalt. The image the phrase contains is that, even after all the roads have been cobbled, there are so many cobblestones left over that things that don’t need cobbling – such as dogs – could still be cobbled. A cobbler repairs shoes, so if you have enough leather to cobble an animal with four feet or that doesn't need shoes, you have a surplus.

Fair crack of the whip
If everybody has a fair crack of the whip, they all have equal opportunities to do something.

Fall off the back of a lorry
If someone tries to sell you something that has fallen of the back of a lorry, they are trying to sell you stolen goods.

Fifth columnist
A fifth columnist is a member of a subversive organisation who tries to help an enemy invade.

Fine and dandy
If thing's are fine and dandy, then everything is going well.

Flogging a dead horse
If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, they're flogging a dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a dead horse will not make it do any more work.

Flutter the dovecotes
Something that flutters the dovecots causes alarm or excitement.

Football's a game of two halves
If something's a game of two halves, it means that it's possible for someone's fortunes or luck to change and the person who's winning could end up a loser.

For donkey's years
If people have done something, usually without much if any change, for an awfully long time, they can be said to have done it for donkey's years.

For England
A person who talks for England, talks a lot- if you do something for England, you do it a lot or to the limit.

Full Monty
If something is the Full Monty, it is the real thing, not reduced in any way.

Gardening leave
If someone is paid for a period when they are not working, either after they have given in their notice or when they are being investigated, they are on gardening leave.

Get it in the neck
If you get it in the neck, you are punished or criticised for something.

Get out of your pram
If someone gets out of their pram, they respond aggressively to an argument or problem that doesn't involve them.

Get the nod
If you get the nod to something, you get approval or permission to do it.

Give it some stick
If you give something some stick, you put a lot of effort into it.

Give someone stick
If someone gives you stick, they criticise you or punish you.

Give the nod
If you give the nod to something, you approve it or give permission to do it.

Go down like a cup of cold sick
An idea or excuse that will not be well accepted will go down like a cup of cold sick.

Go down like a lead balloon
If something goes down like a lead balloon, it fails or is extremely badly received.

Plug-in for more tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #2 - do you know these?

idiom Tuesday
Enjoy today's fun idioms ...

Buggles' turn
If it Buggles' turn, someone gets promotion through length of service rather than ability, especially in the British civil service.

By a long chalk
If you beat somebody by a long chalk, you win easily and comfortably.

Call time
If you call time on something, you decide it is time to end it.

Canary in a coal mine
A canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger.

Cat's arse and cabbage
The idiom  "cat fur and kitty britches" reminded me of this saying that my granny used when asked what was for dinner, and was her way too of saying you get what you're given! This was in Gloucestershire, UK and in the first part of the 20th century.

Champagne tastes, beer wages
A person who likes expensive things but has a low income has champagne taste and beer wages.

Cheap as chips
If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips.

Chinese whispers
When a story is told from person to person, especially if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and exaggerated. This process is called Chinese whispers.

Coals to Newcastle
Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doing something that is completely unnecessary.

Come a cropper
Someone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result in trouble is going to come a cropper.

Come up smelling of roses
If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a situation with their reputation undamaged.

Cupboard love
To show love to gain something from someone

Curate's egg
If something is a bit of a curate's egg, it is only good in parts.

Daft as a brush
Someone who is daft as a brush is rather stupid.

Damp squib
If something is expected to have a great effect or impact but doesn't, it is a damp squib.

Death warmed up
If someone looks like death warmed up, they look very ill indeed. ('death warmed over' is the American form)

Do a Devon Loch
If someone does a Devon Loch, they fail when they were very close to winning. Devon Loch was a horse that collapsed just short of the winning line of the Grand National race.

Do a Lord Lucan
If someone disappears without a trace or runs off, they do a Lord Lucan.  (Lord Lucan disappeared after a murder)

Do a runner
If people leave a restaurant without paying, they do a runner.

Do the running
The person who has to do the running has to make sure that things get done. ('Make the running' is also used.)

Do time
When someone is doing time, they are in prison.

Dog in the manger
If someone acts like a dog in the manger, they don't want other people to have or enjoy things that are useless to them.

Don't wash your dirty laundry in public
People, especially couples, who argue in front of others or involve others in their personal problems and crises, are said to be washing their dirty laundry in public; making public things that are best left private. (In American English, 'don't air your dirty laundry in public' is used.)

Double Dutch
If something is double Dutch, it is completely incomprehensible.

Drunk as a lord
Someone who is very drunk is as drunk as a lord.

Plug-in for more tomorrow ...

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COOL BRITISH ENGLISH IDIOMS #1 - do you know these?

idioms 1
This week, let's take a look at some UK English idioms ~ you should know a fair amount of them. Mix them into your daily conversation and see how much fun it will be ...

Across the pond
This idiom means on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, used to refer to the US or the UK depending on the speaker's location.

All mouth and trousers
Someone who's all mouth and trousers talks or boasts a lot but doesn't deliver. 'All mouth and no trousers' is also used, though this is a corruption of the original.

All my eye and Peggy Martin
An idiom that appears to have gone out of use but was prevalent in the English north Midlands of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire from at least the turn of the 20th century until the early 1950s or so. The idiom's meaning is literally something said or written that is unbelievable, rumour, over embellished, the result of malicious village gossip etc.

All talk and no trousers
Someone who is all talk and no trousers, talks about doing big, important things, but doesn't take any action.

An Englishman's home is his castle
This means that what happens in a person's home or  private life is their business and should not be subject to outside interference.

Argue the toss
If you argue the toss, you refuse to accept a decision and argue about it.

As the actress said to the bishop
This idiom is used to highlight a sexual reference, deliberate or accidental.

At a loose end
If you are at a loose end, you have spare time but don't know what to do with it.

At the end of your tether
If you are at the end of your tether, you are at the limit of your patience or endurance.

Back foot
If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and forced to be defensive of your position.

Bad mouth
When you are bad mouthing, you are saying negative things about someone or something.('Bad-mouth' and 'badmouth' are also used.)

Banana skin
A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems.

Barrack-room lawyer
A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about.

Be up the spout
If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant.

Been in the wars
If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle.

Beer and skittles
People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure.

Before you can say knife
If something happens before you can say knife, it happens very quickly.

Belt and braces
Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks.

Bent as a nine bob note
A person who is as bent as a nine bob note is dishonest. The reference comes from pre-decimalisation in UK (1971), when a ten shilling (bob) note was valid currency but no such note as nine shillings existed.

Billy Wind
If the wind is so strong it is howling, one might say, "Wow- can you hear Billy Wind out there?" like Jack Frost.

Black as Newgate's knocker
If things are as black as Newgate's knocker, they are very bad. Newgate was an infamous prison in England, so its door knocker meant trouble.

Bob's your uncle
This idiom means that something will be successful: Just tell him that I gave you his name and Bob's your uncle- he'll help you.

Box clever
If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit.

Brass neck
Someone who has the brass neck to do something has no sense of shame about what they do.

Break your duck
If you break your duck, you do something for the first time.

Plug-in for more tomorrow ...

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Famous British writers #7 “Harry Potter” ~

JK Rowling

Everyone knows that J K Rowling’s books about a schoolboy wizard called Harry Potter, are best sellers all around the world. But who is “J K Rowling” ? ? ?

J K (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling was born in 1965 and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. After finishing school, she went to Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree (which included one year of being in Paris).

Then as a postgraduate she moved to London, to do research into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. It was during this time that she actually started writing the Harry Potter series on a train journey from Manchester to London King’s Cross, and over the next five years, outlined the plots for each book before writing the first novel.

Jo moved to northern Portugal for a while, where she taught English as a foreign language. Then following that, the world was introduced to Harry Potter...

The Books
Just to give you a quick-understanding of how popular her Harry Potter books are, the seventh and final book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries on July 21, 2007. With a record-breaking first print-run of 12 million copies in the USA alone, the book sold 8.3 million copies in the first 24 hours making it the fastest selling book in history. 

Her books are distributed in over 200 territories, are translated into 68 languages and have sold over 400 million copies worldwide.

Selected Honors and Awards
As one can imagine, she has won numerous amounts of awards for her incredible writing skills from all over the world; an OBE for services to children's literature in June 2000 and in 2003 received Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. In February 2009, she was inducted into France’s prestigious Legion of Honor and also given the honorary title of “knight”.  Jo also has honorary degrees from several universities, including Harvard University, USA.

For more information on J K Rowling and her books visit the Scolastic website.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s information about a few of the UK’s famous writers. Look forward to next week’s theme...

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Famous British writers #6 “The Lord of the Rings” ~


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was actually born on 3 January 1892 in South Africa! His father was promoted and so his parents moved from England to South Africa to head the office of a British bank. At age 3, with his mother and brother, he moved back to England before his father, who sadly died of rheumatic fever before leaving to join them.

This left the family without an income, so Tolkien's mother took him to live with her parents in Birmingham. Soon after in 1896, they moved again to an area near by. There he enjoyed exploring Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog and the Clent Hills, Lickey Hills and Malvern Hills, which later inspired several scenes in his books. Also his aunt Jane's farm of Bag End, the name of which was used in his books.

Not just a writer, Tolkien was also a poet, a philologist and a university professor! Due to all the great things Tolkien did, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, on 28th March 1972.

After his death in 1973, Tolkien's son Christopher published a series of works based on his father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called “Arda” and “Middle-Earth”.

With the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the "father" of modern fantasy literature, not only in the UK but all over the world!

Read more about J.R.R. Tolkien and his books here

Look forward to a very famous current-day writer tomorrow ...

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Famous British writers #5 “Pride and Prejudice" ~

Jane Austen Emma

As with numerous writers, poets and artists, the works of certain people allow them to continue to be an important part of the world, despite them no longer living. Jane Austen Emma is also high on that list of people.

Jane Austen Emma was born on December 16, 1775 in Hampshire, England. While not widely known in her own time, her novels of romance and love gained popularity after 1869, and this reputation skyrocketed even more in the 20th century. Her novels, including “Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility", are considered literary classics, bridging the gap between romance and realism.

In order to acquire (gain/get) a more formal education, Jane and her sister Cassandra were sent to boarding schools. During this time, both Jane and her sister caught typhus, with Jane nearly succumbing to the illness. After a short period of formal education cut short by financial constraints, they returned home and lived with the family from that time forward, where she continued her now very famous writings ~

Read more of her great biography here and about the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.

See you tomorrow ...

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Famous British writers #4 "Wuthering Heights" ~

Emily Bronte

Emily Jane Bronte was born in 1818 and lived a quiet life in Yorkshire (north of England). Two of her sisters unfortunately died at a young age and the remaining three girls, who all enjoyed writing poetry became romance writers.

Emily who had an extremely shy nature, taught herself German (out of books) and practised the piano. Despite that shyness, her inner-warmth showed in her love of nature and animals, and in her writing style.

Sadly she caught a severe cold at a family member’s funeral that spread to her lungs and she passed-away (died) of tuberculosis in 1948.

Her love of the moors (northern countryside) is manifest in Wuthering Heights, yet her vivid and passionate writing style occasionally bewildered and appalled readers at that time.

Have a read about Emily and an inside look at “Wuthering Heights” if you haven’t read it yet ~

More interesting stories tomorrow ...

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Famous British writers #3 "Sherlock Holmes" ~

Arhtur Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland ~ so, he was British not English.

Even though the family was actually Irish-Catholic, at the age of 9 he was sent to a Boarding school in England -> a Jesuit boarding school!

As you can imagine he was not so thrilled, as this was very different to his up-bringing. And so he had a tough time “trying” to fit-in.

He constantly wrote to his mother about the various experiences he had in school, and then realised that he enjoyed writing, so started to write more and more ~.

He was another brilliant writer of British heritage, who wrote lots of amazing stories. Some of his most well-known characters are “Sherlock Holmes” (probably the best known), “Brigadier Gerard” and not forgetting “Professor Challenger”.

You can read more on the Official site of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ~

See you tomorrow ...

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Famous British writers #2

Charles Dickens

Another one of my favourite British writers is Charles Dickens, who began his writing career as a journalist, where all of his novels were actually first published serially in periodicals. His most famous works that we all know of include ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, and ‘David Copperfield’.

He had a very trying (tough) childhood, as his father was put in jail and he had to leave school and work, in order to help the family survive.

This ‘love’ for his family continued to show-up on his writings, and his first writing success caught the eye of Catherine Hogarth, whom he soon married. Catherine graced (gave) Charles with a large family of 10 children before they unfortunately separated in the year of 1858.

Read more about his amazing talents at DickensMuseum and his biography.

Who shall we discuss tomorrow? Hmmm, Sherlock Holmes perhaps? See you then ...

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Famous British writers #1

The playwright William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) and the novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) remain two of the most popular and widely known British writers.

Let’s start the week off with William Shakespeare...

In addition to writing 35 known plays, Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets and sometimes acted in small parts in his own plays.

His best known plays include: ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Hamlet’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Additional information on William Shakespeare can be found at the Bartleby web site and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

But did you know this ~ Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway (26) when he was . . .


only 18! Now THAT needs to be made into a ‘Romantic Movie’, don’t you think!?!

If thou art inspired, readeth more of the ‘morrow ...

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ENGLISH FOOD TRADITIONS #7 ~ the great Sunday Roast ~

Sunday roast

Every Sunday in England, thousands of British families sit down together to eat a veritable (genuine or traditional) feast of roasted meat served with roast potatoes, vegetables and other accompaniments (things you eat or drink with something else).

The Sunday Roast is a tradition with a long history ~ read on...

How it all began
In medieval times, the village serfs who served their squire for six days a week, after going to church on Sunday would often practice their archery or fighting techniques out in the fields, and the squire would reward them with mugs of ale and a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.

This tradition has survived until today, but the meat is usually put in the oven to roast before the family goes to church and so will be ready to eat when they return home.

Typical meats for roasting are joints of beef, pork, lamb or a whole chicken. (Duck, goose, gammon, turkey or game are also eaten but this is only rarely.) Roasts are often served with traditional accompaniments, these are:

* Roast Beef - served with Yorkshire pudding, and horseradish sauce or English mustard as relishes

* Roast Pork - served with crackling (the crispy skin of the pork) and sage and onion stuffing, apple sauce and English mustard as relishes

* Roast Lamb - served with sage and onion stuffing, and mint sauce as a relish

* Roast Chicken - served with pigs in blankets (small frankfurters wrapped in biscuit dough and baked or sausages wrapped in bacon), chipolata sausages and stuffing, and bread sauce or cranberry sauce or red-currant jelly as a relish

And of course, a Sunday roast should always be served with a gravy made from the meat juices. This is a great tradition of the family getting together for a lovely meal.


I hope you enjoyed this week's yummy English food ~

Don’t miss next week’s theme; “INTERESTING untold facts about England’s famous writers.”


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ENGLISH FOOD TRADITIONS #6 ~ British Beefeaters & British Cheeses ~

When you think about steak, America always seems to come to mind - with cowboys and Texan cattle millionaires. However, in the past steaks were so British that our elite troops were referred to as ‘Beefeaters’, you can still see them in their traditional uniforms at the Tower of London.


British Cheese
OK, it’s time for some good cheese ~ as I’m sure you know, cheese is made from the curdled milk of various animals: most commonly cows but often goats, sheep and even reindeer and buffalo. Rennet is often used to ‘induce’ (cause something to ‘start’) milk to coagulate, although some cheeses are curdled with acids like vinegar or lemon juice or with extracts of vegetable rennet.

Britain started producing cheese thousands of years ago. However, it was in Roman times that the cheese-making process was originally ‘honed’ (make sharper or more focused or better or efficient) and the techniques developed. In the Middle Ages, the gauntlet was passed to the monasteries that flourished following the Norman invasion. It is to these innovative monks that we are indebted for so many of the now classic types of cheese that are produced in Britain.

Actually, the tradition of making cheese in Britain nearly died out during WWII, due to rationing. Luckily though, milk became more available and so we luckily still have cheese.

The discovery and revival of old recipes and the development of new types of cheese has seen the British cheese industry flourish in recent years and diversify in a way not seen since the 17th century. Learn more about British cheeses here ->Say Cheese ;-) ->> watch the video on how cheese is made, and then click on the “Information on Cheese” tab, then “Types of Cheese” ~ an interesting read all about the types of cheeses available.

Tune-in tomorrow for the infamous “Sunday Roast” ...

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ENGLISH FOOD TRADITIONS #5 ~ Indian Cuisine in the UK

Yes, I know what you are going to say ~> "Curry" is from India ~ and that is very true!

BUT . . .

England and India have a very long history; India was a colony of England between 1858 and 1947, so a lot of their history (and food) is shared now in English traditions.

Yes, 'curry' is a noun, however it is also a verb -> meaning to flavour something with a sauce of hot-tasting spices.

Curry has been eaten here since the medieval period. Nowadays though, a night out in the pub may often be followed by a curry - this is a popular tradition in many cities. Ever since the Victorian era, Britain has been "borrowing" Indian dishes, and then creating Anglo-Indian cuisine to suit the British palate (the same with Japanese food, too).

Back then we came up with kedgeree, coronation chicken and mulligatawny soup, all traditional Anglo-Indian dishes. More recently many varieties of Indian curry of which chicken tikka masala and balti are the best known have been popularised.

In fact chicken tikka masala is now considered one of Britain's most popular dishes, you can even buy chicken tikka masala flavoured crisps.

Check-in tomorrow for some more scrumptious stories ...

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ENGLISH FOOD TRADITIONS #4 ~ “Bangers and Mash” & “Bubble and Squeak”

You might see “Bangers and Mash” on offer in a pub or cafe. Simply put, bangers are sausages, and mash is potato that's been boiled and then mashed up (usually with butter).

The sausages used in bangers and mash can be made of pork or beef (may be with some apple or tomato seasoning); often a Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausage is used. The dish is usually served with a rich onion gravy.

Different places say that the term "bangers" has its origin back in the early 1920s, however most believe it was during World War II when food was rationed, as the skin was thin and they actually exploded (went ‘bang’) if cooked too fast -> a little scary during war-times, don’t you think!?!


Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and squeak (sometimes just called “bubble”) is a traditional English dish made with the shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a Sunday roast dinner (you’ll have to wait until Sunday to read about this).

The chief ingredients are potato (of course) and cabbage, but carrots, peas, brussels sprouts and other vegetables can be added. It is usually served with cold meat (also from the Sunday roast leftovers), and pickles, but you can eat it on its own. Traditionally the meat was added to the bubble and squeak itself, although nowadays the vegetarian-version is more common.

The cold chopped vegetables (and cold chopped meat if used) are fried in a pan together with mashed potato until the mixture is well-cooked and browned.

There are various theories as to the origin of its name, one of them being that it is a description of the action and sound made during the cooking process.

‘Tis something to put together with your leftovers, and tastes pretty good, too!

See you tomorrow ...

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Fish and chips is the traditional take-away food of England ~ loooooong before McDonalds we had the Fish and Chip shop.

Fresh cod is the most common fish for our traditional fish and chips, other types of fish used include haddock, huss, and plaice.

The fresh fish is dipped in flour and then dipped in batter, and then deep fried. It is then served with chips (fresh not frozen), and usually you will be asked if you want salt and vinegar added. Sometimes people will order curry sauce (yellow sauce that tastes nothing like real curry), mushy peas (or regular peas) or pickled eggs (yes pickled).


Traditionally, fish and chips were served up wrapped in old newspaper. Nowadays (thanks to Hygiene Laws) they are wrapped in greaseproof paper and sometimes paper that has been specially printed to look like newspaper. You often get a small wooden or plastic fork to eat them with too, although it is quite ok to use your fingers.

DIG IN ...

See you tomorrow ~

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ENGLISH FOOD TRADITIONS #2 ~ The Great British Breakfast!


OK ~ there are two meanings to the term “great” ->

1) Great ~ this breakfast is usually BIG ~ lots to eat, so meaning “great” in size.
2) Great ~ the other meaning relating to how ‘wellknown’ and ‘famous’ the good-old English Breakfast is.

Even Shakespeare mentions it:

"And then to breakfast, with what appetite you have."

So let me reiterate this; The great British breakfast is famous (or notorious) throughout the world!

This is a very FULL breakfast, so make sure you have a very “empty” stomache when you start to munch down all the goodness.

Yes, for those who don’t have much time (or who aren’t very hungry) in the morning, there is always a bowl of cornflakes or other cereal and a cuppa tea or coffee, in order to get you on your way ~ otherwise, induldge yourself and enjoy this feast ...

The typical English breakfast was a 19th century invention, when the majority of English people adopted the copious meal of porridge, fish, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, that has appeared on English breakfast tables for hundreds of years.

Look what I found -> the annual consumption in the UK is 450,000 tonnes of bacon, 5,000 tonnes of sausages and millions of eggs, so you can see that the GREAT British Breakfast is very much alive and well.

So what does the great British breakfast consist of you may ask?

Toast with jam or marmalade, baked-beans, pastries, orange juice, coffee or tea, a choice of cereals, porridge, stewed fruit or half a grapefruit, sausages, a choice of eggs, bacon, black pudding, grilled mushrooms, tomato and of course, a daily newspaper (not for consumption ;-).

Some versions include fish; smoked haddock kedgeree, poached haddock or smoked salmon. There may even be grilled sirloin steak or some welsh rarebit, too.

Whatever you have, it is definitely a GREAT ‘brekkies’ (slang for ‘breakfast’) that will fill your tummy until waaaaaaay after lunchtime!

Enjoy some more ‘grub’ (slang for ‘food’) tomorrow ...

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OK ~ this week I am going to talk about yummy English food traditions ‘cultural traditions’ I will do another time.

The days of grey meat and boring ‘fare’ have all long-gone. Some of the best and most famous chefs in the world are from England -> SO THERE!

Many, many types of food originate from England, and the ‘Humble Sandwich’ - yes that's ours too!

Where would the British be without the cheese sandwich? The origin of the sandwich is as British as it could be. The name refers to the Fourth Earl of Sandwich who lived from 1718 to 1792. The British have always been keen on betting and gambling, but the Earl of Sandwich overdid it even by our standards.
During his gambling days, taking meals was considered by him as ‘highly unwelcome interruptions’. He therefore invented a kind of meal not requiring him to exchange the gambling table for the dining table: legend goes that he ordered a waiter to bring him roast-beef between two slices of bread.
The Earl was able to continue his gambling while eating his snack; and from that incident, we have inherited that quick-food product that we now know as the sandwich. He apparently had the meat put on slices of bread so he wouldn’t get his fingers greasy while he was playing cards. It’s strange that the name of this fiend should have gone down in history connected to such an innocent article of diet.

The sandwich, which is most popular with world-wide eaters, also functions as a noun or a verb and usually prefers to have its name pronounced as SAND wich.

Besides the more obvious occupation of being something edible between two or more slices of bread, metaphorically speaking, it also likes to squeeze in between two other people, places, things, materials, etc. For example, he is willing to sandwich in an appointment between two other meetings or her car was sandwiched between two other cars in the parking lot.

Now let's go have a bite ~

More tomorrow ...

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Achieve your English learning goals

You have been thinking about it for a long time, and have now decided that you want to improve your English ~ GREAT ~ you will look back at this day and say “I AM SOOO GLAD I DID MAKE THAT EXTRA EFFORT!” cause it paid off.

So, the question is where do you begin?

Learning English can be overwhelming, especially if you don't have any specific learning goals in mind. Here are some tips that will help get you off to the right start, and stay on track as you go...

Why are you learning English?
Everyone has their own reasons to learn English. What are yours? Think about the English skills you already have and the ones you want.

* Do you work as an accountant? Then learn English accounting terms.
* Are you planning on traveling to London? Include some London slang in your plan!
* Do you give or going-to-give presentations at work? Then learn more ‘Business English’ and voice-training to help you look and sound more professional!

Be specific!

Determining your motivation will help you focus your studies more effectively in the areas that you want to improve the most. (If you are unsure on what or how, then let me know and I will give you some FREE counselling and suggestions.)

Define the skills you find difficult
If the reason you are studying is only "to improve my English", it is time to be more specific!
Identify which of the four language skills are most important one for you to learn (speaking, listening, reading and writing), or which one you find most difficult.

Concentrating on different skills helps you stay focused. For example, if you want to speak to native English speakers with confidence, then focus on your speaking skills. This is an example of a long-term goal -> a specific skill that you would like to master over time.

One day at a time
You also need to have short-term goals –> specific goals you want to accomplish by the end of the day or the week.
For example, if you learned a new English idiom, your goal for the day would be to use that idiom in a conversation. Or, if you are interested in a certain topic, learning 10 related vocabulary words would be a good goal.

Keep a record
You should keep a journal to record your goals. Write down your short-term goal at the beginning of each day. At the end of the day, note any difficulties that you came across when trying to achieve that goal.

Meeting goals you have set for yourself can increase your confidence and help you see your progress...!

Know HOW and WHEN you learn best?
Knowing “HOW” and “WHEN” you learn best and using those methods to study is one step towards achieving your goals quickly.

Make sure you study at the time of day and in a way that is fun and effective for you.

If you concentrate better first thing in the morning, then wake up 30 minutes early and do it then. If after dinner is best for you, then clear the table and focus on your study-points after you have eaten.

If English was boring, nobody would want to study or speak it. So make things interesting and fun, and let’s achieve your goals ~

See you tomorrow for next week’s theme -> “ENGLISH TRADITIONS” ...

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Using the Thesaurus to Help You with English

Typically, you will use a thesaurus to find a synonyma word or phrase with the same or similar meaning as another word or phrase.

A typical thesaurus entry for 'big' for example, might look like this: 

Big (adjective): ample, bulky, burly, colossal, considerable, copious, enormous, extensive, fat, gigantic, hefty, huge, hulking, humongous, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monster, prodigious, roomy, sizable, spacious, substantial, super colossal, thundering, tremendous, vast, voluminous…

As you can see, the main issue is not a shortage of synonyms but a fitting synonym; one that won’t change the meaning of your sentence too much: 

Example: 'You have a big dog.' compared to 'You have a fat dog.'

So how do you know which word to use? 

It is always a good idea to try using the synonym in a different sentence: 

'You have a big dog'… 'You have a fat dog'… 'You have a fat house'? No! 

Another example: 

Nice (adjective): admirable, amiable, approved, attractive, becoming, charming, commendable, considerate, cordial, courteous, decorous, delightful, ducky, fair, favorable, fine and dandy, friendly, genial, gentle, good, gracious, helpful, ingratiating, inviting, kind, kindly, lovely…

Example: 'These flowers smell nice.' compared to 'These flowers smell courteous.' 

Another sentence: 'People are courteous when they are polite'…'These flowers smell courteous'? No! 

So as you can see, the trick is not finding a synonym but using the correct synonym for the context in which you are speaking. 

Also, use the benefits of speaking to a native English speaker, as you will know by the look on their face or the questioning sound in their voice that perhaps a 'fat house' or 'courteous smelling flowers' are not suitable synonyms to use!

Have a delightful weekend, and see you tomorrow ...

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Funny Things English Learners Say

Sometimes English can be a complicated language. We have many words that have similar meanings, yet words with similar meanings can change the meaning of a sentence entirely...

"I used to say I am wet when I meant to say I am sweating". -> Yes, when you sweat you do become wet, but you don’t say 'I am wet' because it doesn’t convey the same meaning.

Mixing up "confusing", "well" and "good":
"My English is not very well". This implies that one’s English is ill or sick ~> a language cannot be sick. For this sentence you would need to use "good" and not "well", i.e. "My English is not very good". 

Other fun mistake-examples and their correct version:
* The microphone didn’t work and the network wasn’t very well. --> The microphone didn’t work well and neither did the network.

* Teacher Mary is very nice and fill with patience. Like to help students. Thank you! --> Mary is very nice and has lots of patience. She likes to help the students. Thank you.

* Very thanks to Mary --> Many thanks to Mary.

* Teacher speaks faster. --> The teacher speaks very fast.

* You teach me very easily and understandable. --> It is very easy to understand the way you teach.

* Good exchanges with Mary teaching method. I could improve new expressions and English attitude. --> I learnt a lot of new expressions and Mary’s good teaching method helped me change my way of thinking about English.

* I like the teacher very much, because she always listen our speaking very carefully and give the corrections to us. --> I like the teacher very much, because she always listens carefully when we are talking and corrects any mistakes we may make.

* It is my first time join this talking class because of weak voice, others can’t hear my voice. --> It is my first time to join this conversation class. I have a weak voice, so sometimes people may not be able to hear me very well.

Learning another language is not always an easy thing. Everyone makes mistakes at times ~ I do too, and I am from England. The best thing to do is laugh at your mistakes, learn from them and make the learning process fun.

TGIF -> woohoooooooo ~

More tomorrow ...

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