10 Expressions to Improve your Spoken English

My plan is always to get my students speaking at the best level possible. As you know, one of the ways you can really impress native speakers is to use English expressions, not just the usual words you find in an English textbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are ten that you will enjoy using:

– To come clean
We want to admit to something bad we have done

‘I came clean about the test that I cheated in.’

– To fall off the face of the earth
To disappear completely

‘After that boxer retired, he fell off the face of the earth. I have not seen him again.’

– To chicken out
To not do something you planned to do because you are afraid

‘I chickened out of going skiing. I did not want to get hurt.’

– To be panned
To be criticised a lot

‘That film was terrible. It has been panned by everybody.’

– To right a wrong
To correct something that you have done wrong

‘I apologised for saying bad things because I wanted to right a wrong.’

– To be far fetched
To be unrealistic or unbelievable

‘I enjoyed that TV series but it was all about vampires. It was very far fetched.’

– To grab my attention
Something that makes me focus on it

‘He was such a good speaker that he immediately grabbed my attention.’

– To be snowed under
To be extremely busy

‘I cannot go to the wedding because I am completely snowed under with work.’

– To be as good as gold
To be very well behaved

‘That group of students are fantastic. They have been as good as gold all year.’

– To get something out of my system
To tell people something that has been annoying you

‘I had to get my feelings out of my system. She was saying some mean things and I was getting angry.’

I hope you enjoy using them!
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The Difference between ‘Do’ & ‘Make’

Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to another blog from www.studyenglishanywhere.com

Today, we are going to talk about a confusing part of the English language: When do we use ‘do’, and when do we use ‘make’?

You will be happy to know that there are some rules for this that you can follow. However, as usual with English, there are some exceptions to the rules that you have to memorise. Sorry!

 

 

 

 

Let’s start with ‘do’. When we use this word we are generally talking about obligations, work and general activities. In other words, the boring stuff!

– I am doing the housework.
– They are studying because they have to do a course at college.
– I need to do something later tonight.
– She will do her hair before she goes out.

As you can see, if it is about work, studies, looking after yourself or general actions, the right word to use is ‘do’.

What about ‘make’?
Well think of ‘make’ as the more artistic or creative verb. All the fun things or interesting things we do are with this word.
– He is making some fabulous food.
– I have made a lot of friends at school.
– They always make more money at Christmas.
– My friend is so funny; he is always making jokes.

Now for the annoying bit: The exceptions
For plans we use make, even though they are not always fun!:
– I need to make some arrangements.
– I usually make a list before I go shopping.
– You have to make a decision.

One more exception:
– I make the bed every morning.

Overall, if you remember these general rules and these exceptions then you should not ‘make’ any more mistakes with these two verbs!

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Use of ‘will’ for the Future

back_to_the_future_part_ii_textless_posterI have heard it many times, maybe you have even said it yourself; I have heard so many students tell me that they will go to the cinema this weekend or that they will start work at 9 am tomorrow morning. I always think to myself, is this is a plan? Is this an arrangement? Because if it is, they should not be using ‘will’.

The first thing we need to understand is we NEVER use ‘will’ for a future plan or a future arrangement. NEVER.

If you want to talk about a plan, try ‘going to‘: ‘ I am going to watch a film later.’

If you want to talk about an arrangement, try ‘present continuous‘: ‘I am meeting my friends at 8 pm.

 

If you want to use will, you need to do it in these situations:

  • An Instant Decision – If you make a decision right now then it is not a previous plan or arrangement. This means that you can use ‘will’. If you walk into a coffee shop, look at the menu and decide then that you want an espresso, then this is an instant decision. You can use ‘will’: ‘I will have an espresso, please.’
  • An Offer – When you want to offer some help or you want to do something for somebody else, ‘will’ is something you can use. My wife needs to go to the airport, OK. ‘I’ll take her.’ My brother is finding his homework difficult, OK. ‘I’ll help him.’
  • A Promise – A promise is something you decide at the time to say, so it is not a plan or arrangement. We can use ‘will’ here. If somebody tells you a secret, you might tell them: ‘I won’t say anything to anyone.’ 

So here you have it, the real reasons to use ‘will’ . Try to move away from just using ‘will’ for everything in the future if you can, it will make your English sound much more natural if you do.

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French words in English

france-rail-overview-1The United Kingdom has always had a strange and interesting relationship with its neighbours, France. Of course, we had been fighting each other for hundreds of years before we started to fight on the same side. The first English king was from Normandy: William I; Henry V had such a famous war with France that William Shakespeare wrote a play about it. People have moved from one country to the other all through history. What this means is that even though some English people will say they do not like France, we actually have a lot of links and influences from them. Even in the English language.

The English language is full of French words and I am going to give you some of the most popular in this blog. Be careful though, we still pronounce most of them like Englishmen!

 

 

1) Déjà vu – We use this to talk about a situation that we feel we have experienced before.

‘I have never been here before but it is strange because I am experiencing déjà vu.’

2) Façade – When we want to say that we feel somebody is being fake and they are not showing us their real feelings or personality, we will use this word.

‘I don’t like him, he is always putting up a Façade. That is not what he is really like.’

3) Encore – A famous one for music lovers. When the band has finished and we want them to play one more song, an audience will typically shout this! We are basically saying we want something one more time.

‘The best part of the concert was when The Rolling Stones sang ‘Satisfaction’ as their encore.

4) Souvenir – This does not sound English, does it? When you talk about bringing things back as a memory from a place we have visited, this is what you use.

‘ I bought a red London bus as a souvenir from my visit to England.’

5) Touché – A great expression used when somebody has responded to you with a clever answer. They have outsmarted you in some way.

A: I hate horror films
B: But you love the film ‘Scream’
A: Ah, Touché

6) Coup-de-Grâce – This is all about the final piece of something that finishes it or destroys it completely. We want to acknowledge that this was the final bit and many times the worst.

‘ The food was terrible but the Coup-de-Grâce was the chocolate desert. It was awful.’

7) Brunette – We don’t just use brown when we talk about hair colour. We also borrow this from our French friends. It usually means dark hair colour.

‘She used to be blonde but she dyed her hair and is now a brunette.’

8) Bourgeois – One of my favourites. when we want to talk about something or somebody that is typical of the middle class or higher, we will use this word.

‘If you go to Mayfair in London, it is full of bourgeois restaurants and shops.’

9) Petite – We use this usually to talk about women. When we talk about a small, thin woman we usually use this expression.

‘ She is only 5’1. Very petite with brown eyes and brunette hair.’

10) En route – the final one for you today. When we are en route we are literally on our way to somewhere. We would use it when talking about travelling.

A: Where is Michael?
B: I called him 10 minutes ago. He is en route and should be here soon.

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Exception to the Rule

tearhair

 

Do you know what drives people crazy about English grammar? It is not the rules. Yes there are a lot of them, but if you learn them then you can use them all the the time and there is no problem, right? Wrong! The rules are there and should be followed, but the most annoying thing about English is there is almost always an exception to the rule. There is always a word, a piece of pronunciation, a grammar point that does not follow the rules. It can be difficult, so below I have given three of the most popular exceptions to the rules of the English language:

 

 

 

  1. We do not use ‘do’ in a positive sentence. We learn that we use ‘do’ in a question and a negative sentence but not in the positive. Well, this is true except when you want to emphasise your point. ‘I do like the seaside.’ Here we are saying we REALLY like the seaside. ‘Do’ is used to express how much we like it.
  2.  When spelling a word, the rule is ‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C’ . Examples would be ‘receipt’, ‘receive’, ‘believe’, ‘friend’ etc. These are great and it is a nice rule to remember. But what about ‘weird’, ‘Science’, ‘their’ and ‘foreign’.
  3. Comparatives end in ‘er’, superlatives end in ‘est’. Not all I am afraid: worse, worst, less, least, more, etc. Some comparatives do not follow the rules in other ways: ‘fun’ become ‘more fun’, not ‘funner’, ‘far’ becomes ‘further/farther’.

I hope you can get used to these exceptions.

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Too much/many vs A lot of/Lots of

Insulted waitress

Many times in my teaching life, I have heard students confuse these two expressions. They may look very similar but they have very different meanings. It can change the tone of the conversation completely as one of them has a negative meaning.

When we use ‘a lot of/lots of’, we are only talking about the amount. We have no opinion about if this is a good thing or not.

‘There are a lot of fast food restaurants in London.’  I am just stating a fact here, I do not have an opinion one way or the other. I am basically neutral. But what if I change it to ‘too’?

‘There are too many fast food restaurants in London.’ In this one you have my opinion. I am telling you I think the amount of fast food restaurants is more than we need or should have. I think it would be better if London had fewer. You can imagine, if you say ‘too’ at the wrong time, it can be very uncomfortable and people might get annoyed.

‘There is a lot of spice in your food.’

‘There is too much spice in your food.’

The person who made this food would not be happy if you told them the second sentence!

So remember, choose ‘too’ carefully. Sometimes, our mistakes in grammar can upset people or cause offence.

Watch what you say!

The Importance of Articles

aanthe

Articles (A/An/The) is a subject that English learners find difficult, no matter what level they are. In fact, I have taught many high level English learners who do not have a good understanding of articles. Many people think that it is OK not to use them properly, because people will always understand you anyway. This is quite true: I will understand what you mean 95% of the time if you use articles or not. However, if you give up on articles, they will give up on you! You can never be fluent without them. They all have a reason and a time to use them.
This is my advice: It does not matter what level you are, how comfortable you are at English. if you struggle with articles, go back to the beginning. open that Pre-Intermediate(A2) or Intermediate (B1) book and start practising. Remember, plurals can never have A/An, singular nouns cannot use the zero article. Only uncountable nouns and plurals can do that. Even if it is very painful and frustrating, you have to go ‘back to basics’ with articles. Only then can you really say you understand the use of English.
Please have a look at the website for more help and a video lesson and exercises on ‘Articles’ are available for members.
Have a great day!

How to understand Native English Speakers

As480-cabs-london a teacher, I can tell you that a lot of problems students have with the English language come with listening. You can learn as much as you like from a textbook or from exam study but this will not help you when you are out in the real world in London, New York or Sydney. People simply do not speak in the same way as your IELTS listening exam or a listening exercise from your textbook. It can be very upsetting for somebody who has worked very hard and learned for a long time at school or in college in their own country, only to not understand a single word of what the flight attendant said on the plane over to an English speaking nation, or when the taxi driver asks them where they want to go! So how can we improve this?
Well, this is my first tip to try to get used to how native speakers speak:
1. Do not expect to hear the short words. Native speakers love to leave out or barely pronounce prepositions and other short
words. ‘for’, ‘and’ , ‘but’ and words like this are never pronounced fully in conversation. The native speaker expects the other person to know this word so he does not think he needs to pronounce it. It is common for him to attach it to the next word. E.g ‘for a while’ becomes ‘fura while’. Have a listen to native speakers on television or on the internet with subtitles and notice how they pronounce the words. The next step is to repeat it yourself. Finally, listen again without the subtitles and write down what you hear.
Note: This only works if the speaker continues talking. If it is the end of the sentence he will pronounce the word fully.
I hope this will help you, I will be back soon with another tip on this subject.

 

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