Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Culture file (a Chinese game) - ti jian zi

You'll find Chinese from all age groups playing this simple game in parks and squares all over China as early as 7am. Players stand in a circle and kick the toy to each other as a form of exercise.

Young animals

We call our young 'babies', 'infants' or 'toddlers'. In the animal kingdom, adults and their young have a different name. For example, 'calf' is used to refer to a young elephant, cow, whale, rhino, camel and giraffe. Tigers, pandas, wolves, foxes, lions and bears have 'cubs'. Here are a few more:

cat - kitten
dog - puppy
duck - duckling
eagle - eaglet
goat - kid
hen, penguin, ostrich - chick
horse - foal
pig - piglet
sheep - lamb

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Student Profile - China

Words with a double consonant

What do "jelly", "different" and "funny" have in common? They are spelt with a double consonant. Here are a few more words.

accommodation, address, abbreviate
bottle, bossy, begged
committee, collect, common, carrying, comma, commit, coffee, connect
exaggerate, excellent, embarrass,
immigrate, immediate,
lesson, letter,
Mediterranean, matter, miss, married
occasion, opportunity
Professor, possible, possess, parallel, planning, pulled
success, setting, silly, supper, sunny, stress

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Pronunciation -y

The –y in these words are pronounced as I (as in ‘sit’)


Friday, 26 March 2010


A bar of soap

Products are packed in containers and when we refer to them we mention their packaging.

A box of matches
A bottle of wine
A tin of sardines
A jar of jam
A carton of milk
A packet of crisps
A can of (soft drink)
A tube of toothpaste
A tub of butter

Thursday, 25 March 2010

New words

Changes in all areas of life (e.g. society, culture, medicine, technology etc.) have introduced new words into the English language. English is a living, breathing language that changes and expands to follow new ways of communicating and experiencing life. Sometimes existing words are joined together to form new ones. Here are a few examples from the hundreds that are added yearly to dictionaries according to the field they fall under.

Cosmetic/plastic surgery
Organ transplants
Hair implants

Text messaging
OMW (on my way)
OOC (out of control)
b-day (birthday)
NBD (no big deal)

Screenager – a young person good at using computers and the internet
Cyberslaking – using the internet during working hours
Cybercelebrity – a person famous for their online appearances
e-card/e-picture/e-sig – cards, pictures and signatures sent by email

Mini-me – a person closely resembling a younger version of another (from the film Austin Powers)
Muggle – a person who lacks a particular skill or skills (from the film Harry Potter)
Threequel – the third in a series of films, books, etc.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Some objects look like a certain alphabetical letter. e.g. an A-line skirt is tight-fitting and looks like the letter A.

T-bone steak (has a T shaped bone)
T-junction (road junction shaped like the letter T)
T-shirt (a T shaped short-sleeved vest)

U-turn (a 180 degree turn)
U-bend (waste pipe shaped like a u)

V-formation (airplanes flying in the shape of a V)
V-neck (sweater, shirt or vest with a V shaped neckline)

Other words consist of a single letter in the first part which stands for a word.
A-bomb (atom)
E-mail (electronic)
X-ray (electromagnetic radiation)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Being polite (euphemisms)

Some expressions are offensive or blunt and these can be substituted with a more indirect or mild phrase called a euphemism.

You may hear terms such as ‘it fell off the back of a truck’ (the person saying this stole it!), ‘I’m between jobs’ (unemployed), and ‘I’ve been laid off’ (fired).

Someone who needs to go to the toilet may say:
Excuse me. I have to answer a call of nature.
I need to visit the Ladies Room.
Where is the nearest public convenience?
May I be excused?

Euphemisms for lying:
Jo was economical with the truth.
They fabricated the truth.
Their statement was categorically inaccurate.

There are many euphemisms for unpleasant, personal matters such as death:

Mr. Holmes has passed away/ is no longer with us/ departed/ checked out/ passed on/ kicked the bucket/ assumed room temperature / bitten the dust / cashed in his chips / bought the farm.

And obesity:

Mrs. Wilson is big boned / well figured / well fed / of ample proportions / built for comfort not speed.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Sex Equality in Vocabulary

Vocabulary has changed to become gender-fair or gender neutral, especially words with ‘man’ in them.

When speaking or writing we use he/she (or they), his/her (or their) to refer to both sexes.

Some examples:

salesman + saleswoman = salesperson
chairman + chairwoman = chairperson
businessman + businesswoman = businessperson
barman + barmaid = bartender
air steward + air stewardess = flight attendant
actor + actress = actor
waiter + waitress = waiter
landlord + landlady = house owner

cameraman= camera operator
mailman=mail carrier
mankind=humankind, humanity
manpower=personnel, staff
policeman=police officer
postman=post worker
spokesman= spokesperson
milkman=milk vendor

Friday, 5 March 2010

Silent letters

Silent letters are spelt but aren’t pronounced.

E.g. In “high” and “daughter”, the gh isn’t spoken out aloud.

Here are a few common silent letters.

B: lamb, thumb, comb, debt, plumber, climb
C: scissors, black, science, scene
D: Wednesday, handsome, bridge
G: sign, foreigner, design
H: what, when, why, which, whether, while, where, hour, ghost, white, school, spaghetti, honest, character
K: knife, know, knee, knowledge
L: calm, palm, calf, chalk, talk, walk
N: autumn, column
T: castle, watch, butcher, Christmas, often, listen
U: guest, guess, guitar, building, biscuit, tongue
W: whole, two, wrong, write, answer

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Verbs in a sentence help us understand what time is being referred to. They can be divided into present, past and future.

The Present:
Present simple e.g. She lives in London.
Present continuous e.g. She is living in London at the moment.

The Past:
Past simple e.g. She lived in London last year.
Past continuous e.g. She was living in London.
Present perfect e.g. She has lived in London before.
Past perfect e.g. She had lived in London.
Present perfect continuous e.g. She has been living in London.
Past perfect continuous e.g. She had been living in London.

The Future:
Going to e.g. She is going to live in London.
Will/shall e.g. She will live in London.
Will/shall + continuous e.g. She will be living in London.
Will/shall + perfect e.g. She will have lived in London for some time by then.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Word families and partnerships

One way to learn and remember new words is to put them together as a family.

‘Family’ (word family):- parents, in-laws, relative, sibling, ex-husband/wife, half-brother/sister, step-sister/brother, next of kin, spouse, cousin, nephew, niece, nuclear family, extended family (some words in the family)

‘School’ (word family):- teacher, homework, uniform, term, subject, timetable, break, canteen, detention, expel, an award, syllabus, marks, exams (some words in the family)

If you make a grammatical error [Yesterday I go to the supermarket], it is likely that someone will understand you whereas if a mistake has to do with vocabulary [Gong Li is a Chinese supermarket – instead of superstar], there could be some confusion!

Some pairs of words and phrases are often found together in what is called a word partnership.

e.g. a balanced diet, to tell a joke, to make a decision, to wrap a gift, to apologize for a misunderstanding.

Expecting what will follow in a word partnership makes reading and listening easier.