Fri, 14 December 2012
Now that the Christmas vacation is coming up, we will probably play some board(1) games in the evenings. We have so many of them! There is a big collection of them, stuffed(2) into a closet in the lounge. Monopoly, Axis and Allies, and Scrabble are three of the more well known ones. My favorite is probably Monopoly; I love games that lead you along a path to a destination, with question cards, and unexpected(3) opportunities or problems along the way. I was actually playing a similar game this morning on the computer, except it wasn't(4) about buying streets or buildings. It was an information game created by a company that deals with retirement. I'm not close to retiring, in fact, I'm probably still about twenty years away from it(5). But the reason I was playing the game, was to try a win the 1st place prize of $50,000. I probably don't stand a chance of(6) winning, but you know, the game turned out to be very interesting. You had to spin a wheel, walk up to 5 steps along the path, and then answer questions, or read and watch informational video clips. The whole point is to get educated about retirement, health, finances, and volunteering. It was an interesting, casual(7) way to learn a lot about retiring. What I realized is that I don't know very much about retiring. One of the aims of this organization is to get retired people involved in the community, to keep them socially healthy. The game, with its spinner and pathway, is a great teaching tool for any subject.
1. A 'board game' is a game played on a board (ha! ha!). And by a 'board' I mean either a piece of strong cardboard with a picture on it which can be square or rectangular, or it can be wooden. The board serves as a table on which the other pieces are put. A board can also be a useful table-like structure, like an ironing board or a bread board. The word sounds exactly like 'bored' which has different meanings. It can mean that you are not entertained at all, or that you have drilled a hole. Let's look at some examples:
a. Where is the game board for Monopoly? I have the pieces and the houses but not the board.
b. I need to buy a new ironing board, because mine is broken.
c. I'm so bored; I don't know what to do.
d. The insects bored holes in the wooden door, so it had to be replaced.
2. 'To stuff' is a verb that I've covered before in a previous podcast, but it is very common, especially in England. It basically means to fill until very full. It can be used figuratively, and is also a noun. It also can be used in an insult, or a way of dismissing something.
a. He built the chair, and then stuffed the seat cushion so it was very soft and comfortable.
b. We ate too much and felt completely stuffed.
c. My attic is full of stuff!
d. I was so angry that I told him to get stuffed!
e. We can't go into work because the office is flooded. Stuff it! (forget it!)
3. 'Unexpected opportunities' is quite a mouthful; however, it's a great phrase, and will impress people if you use it correctly, so let's practice the pronunciation.
Un-ex-pected opp-or-tun-ities un-ex-pected opp-or-tun-ities un-ex-pected opp-or-tun-ities
4. The use of 'except' is a tool that is similar to saying 'similar but different'. A sentence is written or said, but then 'except' is put in half way, and then a contradiction is added.
a. I bought a coat just like yours, except it was red.
b. We also went to Mexico for a vacation, except we went in the winter not in the summer.
c. They'll come to visit again, except next time, they'll stay longer.
5. To be 'away from' in time means that you are not yet ready for something chronologically or in some other way.
a. He's a few years away from retiring, but he's thinking about it.
b. They are dating, but she is a long way away from getting married (marriage).
c. He's just started High School, so he's four years away from graduating.
6. 'To stand a chance' means to have a chance; both are interchangeable.
a. They stand a good chance of winning the race. They have a good chance of winning the race.
b. That boxer doesn't stand a chance of winning. That boxer doesn't have a chance of winning.
7. 'Casual' is relaxed, comfortable, and not formal.
a. It's just a casual dinner party, nothing formal.
b. When we go for walks we wear just casual clothes.
Mon, 3 December 2012
In a recent interview with Howard G. Buffet, farmer, philanthropist, and son of billionaire Warren Buffet, he commented on the relatively unknown problem of hunger in the U.S. Studies show that one in five children don't always know where their next meal will come from.
Interviewer:You've supported global(1) hunger relief for years; what made you turn your attention(2) to America?
Howard Buffet :Before, I never understood how difficult things were in this country, and how they were getting worse. In America, hunger is hidden; people are ashamed of it.The number of people who are living on the edge(3) has exploded. If you're choosing between medicine and food, or paying the electric bill and food, those are tough(4) choices, and they happen everyday. But there's no reason why we can't put hunger out of business(5) in this country. Farmers produce more food today than we did five years ago. People are hungry not because there aren't enough farmers or food, but because they can't afford it(6). There's also an estimated $3 billion worth of food(7) wasted because farmers either can't get the labor to harvest it or it doesn't look perfect enough for the store shelves(8). There are some great programs that collect produce that isn't acceptable for the supermarket and get it into the food banks. That's next on my list - making that system work better(9).
1. 'Global' is self explanatory. The word 'world' can also be substituted.
a. The global economy is in recession.
b. That piece of news will go global. *Here we wouldn't substitute with 'world'.
c. Global wheat prices will go up because of droughts.
2. 'To turn one's attention to...' is to focus on. You can imagine someone turning his head to look at something.
a. He finished fixing the broken pipe, then turned his attention to mopping the floor.
b. When I finish my essay, I will turn my attention to my art project.
3. 'To be on the edge' or 'to live on the edge' can mean a couple of things. The first could mean that you are at risk (in danger, eg. in poverty, likely to get ill). It can also mean that you are very stressed or close to having mental health problems. The second phrase implies that you either enjoy living a risky life, or that you are poor.
a. I sky dive in the morning, and cave dive in the afternoon; I like living on the edge.
b. That neighborhood lives on the edge (of society); most of the residents are hungry.
c. If he gets any more pressure from work, I'm afraid it'll push him to the edge.
4. 'Tough' is one of those miserable spellings in English that I'm afraid you just have to memorize. It's actual meaning is strong, durable, or hard to chew, but it's used often as the word 'difficult'.
a. That apple pie was as tough as an old boot!
b. Having a knee operation was a tough decision to make; but I can now walk without pain.
c. That truck is so tough; it can handle heavy loads and bad weather conditions.
5. 'To put something out of business' can be used figuratively meaning to stop something.
a. Good education will put ignorance out of business.
b. That chain store put the smaller shops out of business.
6. The format of this sentence is important to understand and use: '.....not because, .......but because....'. This is good practice.
a. The students do well in his class not because he's friendly, but because he explains things well.
b. He should be respected not because he's rich, but because he is generous.
c. The film was a success not because it was good, but because it was popular.
7. '....worth of ....'
a. There are 5 million pounds worth of gold coins in the chest.
b. There are $150 worth of lottery tickets in her bag.
c. There were $10,000,000 worth of investments in the project.
8. 'Store shelves' here means the shelves that are in the shops and supermarkets. Remember 'shelves' is the plural of 'shelf'. Words with similar singulars and plurals are:
Self, selves; elf, elves; half, halves;wife, wives.
9. More examples of this sentence are:
a. That's next on my list, - getting (to get) into shape.
b. That's what we need to do next, - employ more staff for each store.
c. That's his plan, - going (to go) to Germany and finding (to find) a job.
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Thu, 29 November 2012
Recently, when I went back to England, I indulged in(1) something that I don't often get to indulge in; fruit cake. It might not seem very important, in fact, it might seem like a joke, depending on where you come from. Here in the U.S, for some reason, fruit cake is a joke. People joke about receiving a fruit cake at Christmas, and then trying to find a secret way of disposing of (2) it: put it in someone's mailbox, disguise it as a pet, or leave it in a basket outside a hospital......I've even heard of a book called 'One hundred and one ways to get rid of(3) a fruit cake.' Well, this is all a new experience for me. I love fruit cake. But, then again, there's fruit cake and there's fruit cake(4). Maybe the problem is that people here have never had a decent one. In England fruit cake is on the essential list when it comes to(5) baked goods. The recipe originates in Roman times, and was changed a little in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, it is made with wheat, and loaded with(6) dried fruit, nuts, and brandy. It's just the thing(7), after a long walk, with a slice of quality cheese and a cup of tea. And that is how I ate it in Yorkshire with my sister. We had been for a long walk through a forest and fields, to a panoramic (8)viewpoint. Then we walked back to a cafe that is actually a converted farmhouse. It was a warm, rock building, with wooden tables, views of the fields, and the smells of a bakery.
1. 'To indulge in' often means to eat or drink something that is quite special, though it can also be used as 'to experience' with some non-eating activities. You can miss out the word 'in' if the object is not mentioned. 'To indulge oneself' is used as 'to treat oneself'.
a. We indulged in the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had.
b. They over-indulged at the New Year's party, and felt ill the next day.
c. I indulged myself in the spa with a manicure, pedicure, and a facial.
2. 'To dispose of' is the same as 'to throw away' or 'to get rid of'.
a. Dispose of old batteries responsibly: take them to a recycling center.
b. He disposed of the evidence; he threw it in the sea.
c. The waste disposal is in the sink (machine that liquefies food waste).
3. 'To get rid of' is an English expression that is very common:
a. Could you just get rid of that old pair of shoes?
b. What did you do with the car? Answer: I got rid of it.
c. What should we do with the corrupt politicians? Answer: Get rid of them!
4. 'There's fruit cake and there's fruit cake.' Why did I make this repetition? What does it mean? It means that there is good fruit cake, or real fruit cake, and there is also bad, or not real fruit cake. You can use this repetition about anything. Sometimes the word 'then' is used in the middle of the comparison to emphasize the contrast in quality. If you really want to contrast one with the other, you can also add an adjective in front of the second object.
a. My mother doesn't like hamburgers. But, you know, there are hamburgers and (then) there are hamburgers.
b. That shop says that it sells antiques. Well, there are antiques and then there are antiques.
c. There are tires and then there are quality tires.
5. 'When it comes to...' is similar in sense to 'on the subject of' or 'while we're talking about...'
a. It's always best to double check your plans when it comes to traveling.
b. When it comes to baked goods, we should always use quality ingredients.
c. When it comes to the house, I think we spent too much money.
6. 'To be loaded with' or 'to load with' is, again, a very English sounding, common expression that can be used for more or less anything.
a. They loaded my plate with chips; there were far too many.
b. His car is loaded with all kinds of junk.
c. This cereal is loaded with iron.
7. 'It's just the thing' is an odd expression that means 'it's the perfect thing'.
a. Ah! A hot bath is just the thing when you're cold.
b. Some discipline is just the thing for lazy people.
c. My muscles ached after work, so I took an aspirin, and it was just the thing.
8. 'Panoramic' is a difficult word to say, so let's practice it.
a. Pan -o-ramic, pan-o-ramic, pan-o-ramic.
b. That photo is panoramic; you can see the whole view.
c. My camera has a panoramic setting.
Remember you can join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish. If you need my app. you can find it in iTunes under A Cup Of English. And feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Wed, 21 November 2012
When I travel I feel really alive. There is something about getting away from my daily routine that helps me see things from a different perspective. I find it exciting, refreshing, and inspiring(1). Even when I travel to familiar places, such as England, I'm open to learn, and I thoroughly(2) enjoy observing. Another thing that I love about traveling, is the unpredictability(3) of it. Sometimes the unexpected happens. Recently, I went back to England for a couple of weeks to visit my family. While I was there, I visited the historic town of York with my sister. I have been to this rural city many times, but I never get tired of going there. I think, for me, it is just about(4) a perfect place. First of all, it's beautiful. It's cathedral, fourteenth century buildings, and Roman wall, are both perfectly preserved, and fully used(5). It's very clean, very green, and also prosperous. It's a university town, so it has a culture of learning, and it is also very arty. By arty, I mean that there are many places in York where art of all kinds can be experienced. You even find it in the streets. Now, I expected to see(6) buskers on the streets: people playing an instrument, or singing for money. But, as my sister and I walked into the heart of the city, we had a little surprise. Standing at the side of the pavement, dressed completely in white, hard, plastic, and carrying a long, black gun, was a Storm Trooper, a Star Wars Storm Trooper. We were delighted. We had never seen one in person (7) before. He was standing around, displaying his costume for money. I asked if I could take a photo of him, and he suggested that my sister take one of both of us. He handed me the gun, and we posed for a "Hands up!"(8) photo. He told me that he had bought this genuine costume in the '80's for quite a lot of money, and now he was having fun making money by wearing it. Brilliant! It's a good idea. Perhaps our politicians can get out their old costumes, dress up, and make some money to help with the financial crisis. Disney costumes would be the best for them. Anyway, I was thrilled to be with a Storm Trooper,especially considering that I was the one with the gun, and the force.
1. 'Exciting, refreshing, and inspiring'. A list of adjectives like this is a great way to make yourself sound natural when you speak English. It's worth choosing and practicing a few adjectives that you feel comfortable with, so that you can throw them into conversation. Here are a few examples of lists of adjectives:
a. The situation was difficult, uncomfortable, and negative.
b. My teacher is encouraging, knowledgeable, and positive.
c. The project was long, ambitious, and expensive.
2. 'Thoroughly' is a very English sounding word. It means 'fully' or 'totally', but there are specific occasions when we use it.
a. We thoroughly enjoyed the play. (You will hear it most often with the verb 'to enjoy'. It sounds most natural when it is in front of the verb. Note: if you hated the play, you would probably say, "We completely/ absolutely hated the play", you wouldn't use 'thoroughly' with 'hated'.
b. Wash the pot thoroughly before using. (it is often used with 'to wash' in instructions).
3. 'Unpredictability' is a difficult word to say. It's meaning is 'the not knowing, and the changeability' of a situation. Let's practice the pronunciation:
4. 'Just about' is a highly useful phrase used in front of adjectives, 'the' + adjective, and before or after verbs. It's meaning is 'almost completely'. Used by itself (as a response) it means 'more or less'.
a. It was just about the worst party I've ever been to.
b. She is just about the best singer in the whole competition.
c. He ran just about the whole mile. He just about ran the whole mile.
d. We painted just about the whole building. We just about painted the whole building.
e. Did you understand the lecture? Answer: Yes, just about / more or less.
5. 'Fully' is another word that means 'completely', and is used after a past participle.
a. The hospital has been fully renovated.
b. The project is fully funded by donations. *Note:'fully funded' is one of the more common uses of 'fully'.
6. 'A busker' is a person who entertains on the street by playing an instrument or singing.
a. The busker was fully clothed in silver.
b. That busker is just about the best that I've ever seen.
7. 'In person' means 'live' or 'in the same place' when referring to an individual.
a. I've never seen that singer in person, but apparently she's quite beautiful.
b. I've seen pictures of the Queen, but the other day, I saw her in person.
8. "Hands up!" is usually what is said when someone is arrested. Other phrases are "Stick them up!" (meaning your hands, though this phrase is used mainly playing), or "Drop them!" if the person is carrying a gun.
a. "Drop them buddy, and hands up!"
Remember you are all invited to join my FACEBOOK page called Anna fromacupofenglish. Also, if you have questions or suggestions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I promise to email you back. If you wish to have instant downloads, you can purchase my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English.
Tue, 6 November 2012
Halloween is a time of screams and fright, horrible faces and hideous (1)costumes. It's a time when people who love to be scared can fill up on that experience(2). Those of us who don't like witches, skeletons, zombies, and Draculas hope that the day of Halloween passes quickly. Though the roots of this holiday are ancient, it has become a very modern celebration. By this, I mean that each year Halloween is updated. My almost daily(3) trips to Walmart showed me that that is very true. If you want to give your neighborhood a full Halloween night of fright, you have to jump into the world of shopping. It's no longer enough to carve out a pumpkin(4), put a candle in it, and leave it on your front door step. Your house has to undergo(5) a full theatrical production. While most houses in our town had not been decorated, there were some that should have received awards for their effort and creativity.
We took our two youngest children out to 'trick or treat', and we knew just where (6)to go to make the occasion memorable. The neighborhood up the road, ironically next to the cemetery, has one particular house that has to be visited. We weren't sure which road the house was on, but as we walked along the dark road, flashes of blue light and sounds of screaming were coming from the next street. When we got there we found a house on a steep hill, fake fog floating all around, robotic spiders and skeletons, and three humans at the top of a very long flight of stairs, but they certainly didn't look human. My children, who are usually very brave, stood still and stared. They didn't want to go up the stairs. “Come on,” I said. “I'll go first.” I took my daughter by the hand, made a joke about the silly dressed up teenagers who were trying to look like zombies, and up we went(7). My son followed right behind me. By the time we got to the house, I was actually a little scared, but I didn't admit it. The zombie teenagers were hideous, and the atmosphere was even worse. Was it worth going through this(8) just to get some candy? Well, we didn't stay to find out. Before long we were back at home, and the kids were counting out their candies. They soon forgot about the house of fright as they made their Halloween harvest disappear.
Please join me on my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Also, feel free to email me questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I promise to email you back.
Mon, 22 October 2012
My sons love anything to do with survival. I have often seen them playing in the garden, pretending(1) to be lost in a forest. They act out a story(2) of being three brothers, helping eachother to survive by building a cabin, finding water, catching fish, and making tools. Usually, in my garden, they only get as far as(3) digging a big hole in my vegetable area, and propping up(4) odd bits of(5) wood in it for the cabin walls. By the time they do that(6), they're hungry, so they come into the house to eat, and forget about any more surviving. Their half-made cabin usually falls over, and I clean up the mess. But, I understand their excitement about survival. It would be a challenge, and adventure. It would even be a little scary, but they would have eachother. It would be very different to their real lives. Thankfully, we have a big back garden. It is mainly grass, so the kids can run around and play. However, we do have a fire pit. It's a circular area that my husband built: he brought in(7) extra earth and rocks to make a slight hill. Then he planted all sorts of trees and bushes on the hill. Right inside, at ground level(8), is a flat, grassy area with rock walls all around, and a rock fire pit right in the center. Now that the plants and trees have really grown, it is like a mini forest. Robert was in a survival mood(9) the other day, and persuaded me to help him make a little fire and heat up some hot chocolate. He chose not to(10) use the fire pit, but to make his own very small fire on the hill. We found small, dry twigs, moss, and pine cones for the fire, and we put rocks all around in a circle. Robert was the chef. He mixed the water and hot chocolate powder, and tasted it a few times until it was sweet enough and hot enough. And, you know, it was an adventure. We were out in our mini forest, surrounded by trees, surviving for just a few minutes.
1. 'To pretend' is a verb which means 'to act as if'. Children do it all the time when they play, and sometimes adults do too.
a. He pretended to be Darth Vader, and his sister pretended to be Luke Skywalker.
b. She'll make a great actor one day; she's very good at pretending.
2. 'To act out' is the verb used 'to perform'. It is followed by the noun, or the scene or play that is performed. It has a second meaning as well. It can mean to behave disruptively. This second sense can be expressed as 'to act out' or 'to act up'.
a. The students acted out the play they had written; it was very good.
b. The class was really acting out/up; they weren't listening, and they were hard to control.
3. 'To get as far as' means 'to accomplish' or 'to achieve' but not enough, or not totally. It has a sense of measuring how much was done, but knowing that it the job wasn't completed. It is often preceded by 'only'.
a. He wrote for two hours, but only got as far as the middle of his essay.
b. I bought the book that you recommended, but I have only got as far as page 28.
c. We visited the art gallery, but we only saw as far as the second floor.
4. ' To prop up' is like saying 'to lean something up'. The item that is propped is not securely fixed.
a. The tree branches were propped up with wooden poles because they were so heavy with fruit.
b. I don't have time to fix the table legs; I'll prop it up now, and fix it tomorrow.
5. 'Odd bits of' is similar to the expression 'bits and pieces'.
a. My daughter found odd bits of string, and made a pretty collage.
b. My dad made a path of odd bits of broken pots.
6. 'By the time....' is similar in meaning to 'when' but it indicates that time has been spent, or has gone by before something has been achieved. It can be used with any tense.
a. By the time we arrived, the party had finished.
b. By the time you hurry up, you will have missed the train.
c. You need to stop talking because by the time you eat your soup, it will be cold!
7. When there is building or construction of some kind going on, often we use the phrase 'to bring in' when talking about equipment or machinery; we don't just say 'to bring' or 'brought'.
a. The workmen brought in a bulldozer to make the land flat. Later they brought in a crane to put the roof on the house.
b. To build our fire pit, we brought in lots of rock and soil.
8. 'Ground level' is easy to understand; it's the level of the land.
a. The restaurant is at ground level, near the reception area.
b. Let's park the car at ground level, and then take the elevator to the shopping area.
9. 'To be in a .... mood' is a useful phrase. Notice that an adjective or a noun can go before 'mood'.
a. I'm in a coffee mood; I haven't had a good coffee for ages.
b. They're in a party mood; they've finished their studies, and they want to celebrate.
c. He's in a cozy mood; it's snowing outside, and he wants to stay by the fire and read.
10. 'He chose not to use the fire pit' has an important and flexible format. You could say 'He chose to not use the fire pit'. The sentences are interchangeable. Both are more specific than 'He didn't choose to use the fire pit.' They are deliberately rejecting the fire pit. The choice is 'to not use the fire pit'.
a. I chose to not take my iPhone; I didn't want to lose it.
b. She chose not to wear her engagement ring; she didn't want anyone to know about it.
c. They chose not to drive; flying would be safer.
d. We chose to not stay in that hotel because of its bad reviews.
Remember you can email me questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I promise to email you back. Also, check out my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English. And all of you are invited to join my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish.
Wed, 17 October 2012
I have been trying to think of ways to save time recently. I even read a book once on how to save time, but that took too long. I really admire people who are efficient, can plan well, and can get lots of things done. It takes a lot of thought. My children and my husband have been telling me to get a smart phone for a long time. I don't know why, but for some reason I thought that more technology in my life would take up(1) more time. It wasn't until last Saturday that I realized that my family was right(2). It was the day that we had four baseball games. If you're not familiar with baseball, you might not understand how time consuming(3)it is. The games are two hours long, and the players have to warm up before the game for about forty five minutes. So, if you're any good at mathematics, you can calculate that we were in the park all day. I should have been prepared with books, and perhaps my iPod, but I wasn't. And in between games(4), I had to drive home to check on everyone else to make sure that my other kids were okay with their babysitter. So, I was flying around all day, but standing around (5)at the park. What could I do with my time there? If I had had a smart phone, I could have answered emails(6), sent emails, written a bit of a podcast, or even skyped with my sister. It was half way through the third game that I made the decision. I had to stop being a dinosaur. I needed to update my phone, and update myself. Wow! What a revelation! What a great step forward for mankind. Well, a couple of days later, I found myself in a very busy Verizon store. It was full of customers who were being served by very smart looking Verizon employees. They each had an iPad, and would quickly take the customers details, and just as quickly, take their credit cards. It was so efficient that it was almost scary. And before I knew it(7), I was getting in my car with my brand new iPhone. So, yesterday, while I was waiting at my daughter's tennis lesson, I read my emails. Great! Then I tried to write a podcast. That is still a bit difficult. My fingers are not used to the small keypad(8). They seem to touch the screen like heavy elephants, and I misspell words, or accidentally change programs from one second to the next. I'm sure I'll get used to it. I look forward to the day when I upload a podcast, and at the bottom it says 'sent from my iPhone'.
1. 'To take up' is used when referring to time or space.
a. That sofa takes up too much space; there's no room for anything else!
b. My dog takes up so much of my time! He demands that I play with him every five minutes!
c. Our Friday office meetings take up too much time.
2. This sentence format is worth practicing.
a. It wasn't until I arrived at work, that I remembered (that) I had left my front door open.
b. It wasn't until sixth grade that we started to learn Spanish.
c. It wasn't until two months later that he apologized.
3. 'Time consuming' literally means 'eating time'. It is used as an adjective.
a. Gardening can be very time consuming, though it is also very beneficial.
b. Setting up parental controls on computers is very time consuming.
4. 'In between' is an efficient use of words. Instead of saying, for example, 'After the first practice, and before the second practice....' we just use 'In between practices'.
a. In between lectures, the students have a coffee.
b. In between meetings, I took a nap.
5. 'Around' is one of those multi-purpose words in English that you just have to get used to. 'To stand' is just the physical act of standing; it could be brief, or go on for a long time. It also seems deliberate. BUT, if you say 'to stand around', it means that you don't have anything else to do, or that you don't know what else to do.
a. We were standing around waiting for the game to begin; it was so boring.
b. She just sits around all day. I wish she would find something to do.
c. He's always racing around. Is he really that busy, or is he hyper?
6. This type of sentence with the past subjunctive is not that difficult; we basically use the pluperfect tense. Let's practice:
a. If they had needed money, I would have given it to them.
b. If he had studied every night, he would have got a better grade.
c. If we had known you were in town, we would have visited you.
7. 'Before ... knew it' is a very native sounding phrase, also used in the present (for a future sense).
a. Before you know it, you will arrive.
b. Before they know it, they'll be married.
c. Before he knew it, he had graduated.
d. Before we knew it, a storm had come, and we were lost at sea.
8. 'A keypad' is the part of a computer or device where you type. It is also numerical.
a. One of the letters is missing from my keypad.
b. The door lock has a keypad. You have to put in the correct code to open the door.
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Thu, 11 October 2012
"Practice makes perfect" is a saying that I've heard ever since (1)I was a little girl. To become good at something, you must practice. We all know that. Those of us who are naturally disciplined are quite happy with that saying. Those of us who are not find it annoying. Academics, hobbies, sports, and languages all require loads of (2)practice. Tonnes of practice(3). Here, a recent fashion has appeared that needs a lot of practice. It is the hobby of playing with a Kendama. A Kendama is a Japanese, wooden toy that has three cups of different sizes, a spike, and a ball attached by a string. Children of all ages are begging(4) their parents to buy them. They play with them individually or in groups before and after school. And of course, they compete. The idea, is to flip (5)the ball up so it can land in one of the cups, on the spike, or even balance between the spike and a cup. There are, apparently, 101 tricks that you can master with practice. It's refreshing (6)to see children using a wooden toy, for a change. I'm so used (7)to seeing them with digital, plastic toys that have screens and internet connections, that it is quite surprising to see them play with something that is non electronic, and quite basic. All the creativity comes from themselves, not the toy. We have two, so far, in our house. "Mum, I know a kid who has 32 of them," said my son Cass, as he flipped up the ball of his Kendama with skill. "Why on earth does he want so many?" I asked. The conclusion was that this boy likes collecting, and has too much money. So, the competitions have started at my house. I haven't got involved(8) yet, and I'm not sure if I will, because my children are already way ahead (9)of me. There are formal competitions in Japan, where the skill level is extremely high. I'm expecting to see a lot of practicing here, and I'm quite happy for the kids to do so, as long as it's away from the television and other breakable(10) objects. So, for a while, instead of watching something on a screen, we can have live entertainment in our living room, and see who is the latest Kendama king or queen.
1. 'Ever since' is used on a daily basis in many situations in English.
a. Ever since he crashed the car, he hasn't wanted to drive.
b. He got promoted, and ever since (then) hasn't spoken to us.
c. Ever since he had the operation, he has had more energy and has been able to work.
2. 'Loads of...' is an informal way of saying 'lots of'.
a. There were loads of people at the school meeting.
b. I couldn't believe how much spaghetti she ate, loads of the stuff!
c. You'll need loads of practice to be able to play that piece of music.
3. 'Tonnes of..' is more or less the same as 'loads of', but with a sense of even more.
a. Did you say that he owns four hotels? Well, he must have tonnes of money!
b. I have tonnes of bills to pay today.
4. 'To beg' is often used figuratively instead of 'to ask for'
a. My daughter begged me to buy her a Hello Kitty jacket, even though she already has one.
b. I hope I get a raise, but I'm not going to beg for one.
5. 'To flip' describes how, with your wrist, or with your fingers, you can throw something up into the air quickly.
a. He read the note and then flipped it to me.
b. I'll flip a coin. If it lands on 'heads' I win; if it lands on 'tails' you win.
6. 'Refreshing' can be used to describe a cool drink or cool food, or it can be used to mean 'a nice change'.
a. Cold watermelon is so refreshing on a hot day!
b. His speech was refreshing; it wasn't the usual boring nonsense.
7. 'To be used to ...' is a daily expression that is worth learning. When you are familiar with something, or have had a habit of doing something, then you are 'used to it'.
a. She was used to getting up very early to milk the goats.
b. I have to give myself insulin injections, but I'm used to it.
c. We are used to the noise of the construction work; even my baby can sleep through it.
8. 'To get involved' means to take part, to become informed, or to become mixed up in something unpleasant/ dangerous. It can also mean to have a romantic relationship with someone.
a. I became involved in the movement for the rights of girls to be educated.
b. Don't get involved in their argument! They'll upset you!
c. She became involved with the main actor, but their relationship didn't last long.
9. 'To be way ahead of...' is an American phrase that is also used in England. It means to know more, or to have gained more skill than someone else.
a. He's way ahead of me when it comes to computers. He's had tonnes of practice, and I've had very little.
b. That company is way ahead of its competitors.
c. I'm way ahead of the class because I have already read the book.
10. 'Breakable' is easily understood. It refers to an object that can break.
a. All of those antiques are breakable; please don't let your dog in there!
b. The package said breakable, so the mail man carried it carefully.
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Fri, 5 October 2012
It's time you had an update(1) on the fire situation here in Wenatchee, and the rest of Washington State. Most of the month, we have had smoke in the valley. We have been told that the air quality is hazardous(2). The local shops have been selling face masks for people who need to be outdoors. I actually bought a box of them the other day, and used one for the first time in my life. The smoke was really thick that particular day, and I found myself holding my breath as I went from the car into shops and out again. "This is ridiculous!" I thought to myself. "I have a box of brand new breathing filters at home; I should be wearing one!" We have got used to the situation now. It has become normal to see people walking around with filters or face masks on. It's also normal to receive emails each day of activities being canceled. It's funny how you quickly get used to a change in lifestyle when you have no choice. And this situation, like a natural disaster, has been ruling our lives. It all started with a lightening storm. I have been in storms before, but never like that one. That day, I had actually been thinking that my life needed a bit more excitement; I was bored and uninspired. By the early evening, however, I was riding on the back of my husband's new motorbike, going up through the wheat fields, and at the same time, watching the drama of a violent lightening storm. The valley was all in shadow, and fork lightening was coming down out of thick clouds. The bolts(3) were striking all over the place, and in the wheat fields as well. I suddenly realized that my life was far too exciting, almost scary. The lightening was getting closer and closer, and I wanted to go home. Most of the fires near us have been put out, but the wind will often blow the smoke from distant fires into the valley. So we have to keep our face masks at the ready(4), and be flexible with our schedules. The 2 or 3 clear days that we have had, have been glorious. Everybody has poured out of(5) their houses into the parks for walks. The noise of children at outdoor recess has been in the air. And people like me have charged into the garden to dig, and plant, and enjoy every second of clean air. For a while, we were let out (6)of prison. If we had rain, it would be over by now. Those of you from dry climates probably understand what I'm saying. When the fires are out, there will be a big celebration, but until then, I will have a face mask in my handbag, just in case(7).
1. 'An update' is a very common word. We see it used when talking about computer programs, and also news.
a. Your photo editing program has been updated, but your anti-virus program still needs to be updated.
b. The following is an update on the situation in Syria.
2. 'Hazardous' means the same as dangerous, but it is usually associated with chemicals, gases, or building materials. 'Dangerous' can be used more broadly.
a. Old batteries are hazardous; they must be recycled properly.
b. The air quality is hazardous; the gases and poisons in the air can affect our health.
3. 'A bolt' is a metal lock that slides into place. 'To bolt down/in' is used when meaning to lock something into place with metal or chains. However, we use the word bolt with lightening, especially if it strikes the ground.
a. The bolt on the door will keep the wild animals out.
b. The bolt of lightening struck the tree, and split it in two.
4. 'At the ready' is a military expression. It means to keep something close by, so it can be quickly picked up and used. In the military this term would be used with weapons, but we use it also for everyday objects. A more everyday and less serious expression to use would be 'handy'.
a. Keep your medicine at the ready /handy in case your symptoms come back.
b. The doctor keeps his beeper at the ready / handy in case he gets called to the hospital.
5. 'To pour/to pour into/out of' is used figuratively to describe how living and non-living things move.
a. The sheep poured out of the field as the dogs chased them.
b. The smoke poured out of the building and covered the surrounding parking lot.
6. 'To be let out' is a phrase that is easy to understand, but again, it is used figuratively a lot. It means 'to be allowed to exit'.
a. When the neighbor's dog had gone, we let the cat out.
b. They let the children out early to play because they had finished their work.
7. We have already seen a couple of examples of 'just in case', but because it is such a common expression, let's see some more.
a. Just in case the baby gets hungry in the night, I've left a bottle of milk in the fridge.
b. I'll check the route on the GPS just in case we get lost.
c. They checked in early at the airport just in case. They wanted to avoid large crowds.
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Wed, 19 September 2012
"Mum, please don't buy me any clothes. I just want to go shopping for clothes with Dad." This request was made by my almost thirteen year old, and echoed(1) by my fourteen year old. It was totally unexpected. In fact, I have never heard anything like that before(2). I've shopped for my children's clothes all of their lives, and now, suddenly, I've been told not to. Did their request hurt my feelings? Not really. I understand that my two oldest are adolescents; they have what we call a 'mental fog'(3) of hormones and changing feelings. I was the same. Perhaps they no longer like my style. Perhaps the brand names I buy are just not cool. Or perhaps they know something that I don't know about fashion. I have never really followed fashion; I just buy what I like. But fashion, for my boys, has suddenly become quite important. The reason they want to shop with their dad, is that he doesn't care about bargains, sales, or saving money. I, on the other hand, am always looking for a bargain. I shop around(4). My husband will find the nicest shop, and buy whatever(5) the boys want. That's why they now prefer dad over mum, the traitors. So, I decided to show my kids that I'm not out of touch(6), I can be fashionable, and perhaps even cool. The latest thing now, apparently, in middle school are Elites. They are a super duper(7), special, wonderful, cool-to-the-extreme(8) type of sock. Everybody wears them, well, everybody who is anybody(9) wears them. If you want to be seen as normal you have to have Elites, otherwise your life is meaningless. So, I followed the dictates of fashion, and spent far too much money on socks. And, you know, I think there is something special about them, some kind of magical power. As soon as my boys put them on, they seemed happier, more confident, and definitely cooler. They walked into school like two zebras joining the herd(10); they belonged.
1. 'Echo' can be used figuratively when someone's words agree or reflect someone else's.
a. My sister's words were echoed by her husband: I should go to the doctor immediately.
b. My grandmother's voice echoed in my daughter's laughter.
2. 'I have never heard anything like that before' is a useful sentence to practice with different verbs:
a. I have never seen anything like that before.
b. I have never eaten anything like that before.
c. We have never been anywhere like that before.
d. They have never done anything like that before.
e. She has never said anything like that before. etc etc
3. 'Mental fog' is used when talking about health issues, when a person feels forgetful or not fully awake.
a. If I don't sleep enough, I have a real mental fog.
b. Depression gives you a mental fog, but exercise and a good diet can make you mentally sharper.
4. 'To shop around' means to spend time going from one shop to another to find the best price. It is also slang for dating lots of people to gain experience.
a. I liked the car, but it was too expensive. I think I'll shop around.
b. You don't have to marry the first man you meet; shop around a little.
5. 'Whatever' is too important to not mention. It's a great word to use in many situations.
a. Buy whatever you want. Eat whatever you want. Listen to whatever he says. (The negative of this is 'don't listen to anything he says'). Do whatever you want.
6. 'To be out of touch' is to not see or respond to reality the way most others do; or to not be realistic. It is also used for being non-communicative with friends and relatives.
a. My family thinks that I am out of touch because I don't have a computer.
b. I'm so out of touch; I really need to get on Facebook and catch up with my family and friends.
7. 'Super duper' is a traditional slang; it's an extension of super and is lighthearted.
a. After dinner, we had Maria's super duper yummy apple pie.
b. I think the Honda Leaf is a super duper car.
8. '.....to-the-extreme' can be used with many different adjectives.
a. They are sporty-to-the-extreme; it's all they talk about, and all they do.
b. They are unhealthy-to-the-extreme; they smoke, drink too much, never exercise, and only eat at McDonald's.
9. 'Anybody' or 'somebody' are both used to refer to someone who has social importance. The opposite is a 'nobody'.
a. He really thinks he's somebody. He left the party because he said it was full of nobodies. I'm glad he left.
b. You must see the Oscars; anybody who is anybody will be there. (Here you can say 'everybody who is anybody will be there') also.
10. A herd is a group of animals, usually 4 legged.
a. The herd of cows ran when the thunder started.
b. The huge herd of zebras covered the plains to the horizon.