Divulging and disclosing (The language of giving information)

For English learners who would like to vary their spoken and written language, have a look at this wonderful post from the online Cambridge Dictionary. Why use ‘said’ and ‘told’ all the time when you can be so much more creative!

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog


by Kate Woodford

We tell each other things all the time, whether it’s our news, some important information or just interesting facts. This week we’re focusing on the language that we use to describe giving information.

Starting with a really useful phrasal verb, if you pass on a message or a piece of news that someone has told you, you tell it to someone else:

Remember to pass on my message to Ted.

No one passed the news on to me.

The verb relay means the same: He heard the announcement and immediately relayed the news to his colleagues.

Sometimes we pass on information to lots of people. The verb spread is often used for this. It frequently comes before the nouns gossip andrumour:

I hope you’re not spreading gossip, Alice!

He’d apparently been spreading rumours about her around the school.

Spread’ is also used…

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, IELTS, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Easy Listening – Practical and Social English #8

If you would like to improve your English speaking and listening, watch this video from New English File Elementary.  It features speakers from England and The United States. The conversations are written under the video. Listen carefully and repeat what you hear:

Conversation 1: Checking out

Receptionist: Good morning, sir.
Mark: Good morning. Can I have my bill, please? I’m checking out.
R: Which room is it?
M: Room 425.
R: Did you have anything from the minibar last night?
M: Yes, a mineral water.
R: Here you are. How would you like to pay?
M: American Express.
R: Thank you. OK. Can you sign here, please? Thank you. Would you like me to call a taxi for you?
M: No, thanks.
R: Do you need any help with your luggage?
M: No, I’m fine, thanks.
R: Have a good trip, Mr Ryder.
M: Thank you.
R: Goodbye.
M: Goodbye.


Conversation 2: Social English

M: Hello?
A: Hi Mark, it’s Allie. I’m really sorry but the traffic this morning is terrible. I’m going to be very late.
M: OK.
A: I think the best thing is for you to take a taxi to the station and then get the train to the airport.
M: No problem. I’ll call a taxi. Well, thanks for everything …
A: No listen. I’ll meet you at the airport. We can say goodbye there.
M: All right. Where can we meet?
A: At the information desk.
M: OK. See you there.
A: Bye.
M: Excuse me, change of plan. Could you call me a taxi, please? To the station. 

Hello. Sorry, I can’t take your call. Please leave a message after the tone.

M: Hi Allie, this is Mark. Where are you? I’m at the information desk. My flight leaves in forty minutes.
A: Mark! Mark! Sorry, I’m late!
M: Don’t worry. I’m just happy you got here.
A: Come on. You’re going to miss your flight.
M: Wait a minute. Are you going to come to the conference in California? Am I going to see you again?
A: The plane’s going to leave without you.
M: Allie?
A: I asked my boss this morning and he said yes. I can go!
M: Great! Oh! I don’t have your phone number.
A: Don’t worry. I’ll e-mail it to you tomorrow.

This is the final call for all passengers on flight BA 287 to San Francisco. Please proceed immediately to Gate 12.

M: Goodbye Allie and thanks for everything.
A: Goodbye Mark. Have a safe trip!
M: See you in California. Bye.


This is the last in the series of Easy Listening – Practical and Social English by New English File Elementary.

Click here for Easy Listening – Practical and Social English #1


Posted in Beginner (Level 1), Elementary (Level 2), Listening, Speaking & Pronunciation, Videos | Leave a comment

A Song with Present Simple Tense

Present Simple Tense is often used for describing habits, repeated actions, routines, opinions & feelings, and facts. Have you heard the song Creep by the band Radiohead? Most of the lyrics are in Present Simple Tense. 


Thom Yorke, Radiohead

Click on the picture above for the video. 

You can read the lyrics below. The tenses are colour-coded: 

Present Simple – pink      Present Continuous – blue      Past Simple – green

Song – CREEP by Radiohead

When you were here before,                      
Couldn’t look you in the eye.
You’re just like an angel.
Your skin makes me cry.
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world.
I wish I was special.
You’re so very special,

But I’m a creep; I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

I don’t care if it hurts.
I want to have control.
I want a perfect body.
I want a perfect soul.
I want you to notice                  When I’m not around                                 
You’re so very special.              I wish I was special,

But I’m a creep; I’mweirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

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English Inversion #2: Question Tags


Melania Trump … Wikipedia

How do you say something or make a statement in your language? What is the word order: which word do you say first, second, third, etc? Here are two examples of common English word order:  

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia. 

→  Subject + verb 

She speaks more than five languages.

→  Subject + verb 

How do you ask questions in your language? What is the word order: which part of speech do you say first, second, third, etc? Here are three examples of common English word order in questions:

♦ Was Melania Trump born in Slovenia?        →  Verb + subject 

♦ Where was Melania Trump born?                →  Question word + verb + subject 

♦ How many languages does she speak?        →  Question words + verb + subject

When we change the word order from subject + verb to verb + subject, we call this Inversion. You may be used to questions like those above, but we can also add a little question at the end of a statement.

Sometimes, when we ask questions, we are checking information or making conversation, often both. Imagine that you are meeting Melania Trump. You could say:

You were born in Slovenia, weren’t you     → subject + verb, … verb + subject


 You were born in Slovenia, weren’t you?

When we are checking information, we can make a statement and then add a Question Tag at the end. We say what we believe is true and then check that we are correct. How do you ask this in your language? Many languages, like French and Hindi, have the same tag for all statements, with the meaning isn’t that so? We have a few more tags in English. They won’t take long to learn.

Using Question Tags is a convenient way to make conversation and / or check information. Imagine that you are introduced to someone and you make a statement like, ‘You travel a lot’. What do you expect the other person to say? He or she will probably just look at you, perhaps say, ‘yes’. End of conversation.


You travel a lot, don’t you?

However, you could say, ‘You travel a lot, don’t you?’ Now you have engaged the other person in a friendly way and you can expect a response. ‘Yes, I do. It’s part of my job.’ The conversation continues. 

We use Question Tags constantly in everyday life: checking timetables, schedules, meetings, arrangements, and asking for something when we don’t want to ask a direct question:

∗ Wife: You won’t be late for the school concert, will you?
Husband: Of course not! You don’t expect me to wear a suit, do you?

∗ Ka-men: Fernandas coming to the party tonight, isn’t she?
Patricia: Yes, of course. She’s bringing the music.

∗ John: The conference starts at 8:00 am on Monday, doesn’t it?
Sarah: Yes, it does. All the sales staff are coming, aren’t they?
John: Well, they don’t have to. It’s up to them.
Sarah: You can come to the conference, can’t you? I really need your input. We’ve been working on this report for weeks. I think that we should present it together, don’t you?


You can come to the meeting can’t you?

We add Question Tags to the end of statements to turn them into questions. The statement is the easy part but there are a few things to remember about how to form the tag:  

♦ If the statement is positive, the tag is a negative contraction :

The conference starts at 8:00 am on Monday, doesn’t it?

♦ If the statement is negative, the tag is positive:

You won’t be late for the school concert, will you?

♦ The Question Tag is always an auxiliary verb with the same tense as the statement:

Do & does with Present Simple 

The conference starts at 8:00 am on Monday, doesn’t it?

You don’t expect me to wear a suit, do you?

Am, is & are with Present Simple

Im the lead actor aren’t I (Not amn’t I – simply because it sounds so bad.)

Im not a vampire, am I?

Edward isn’t a vampire, is he?

Vampires aren’t real, are they?


Fernanda is really enjoying herself, isn’t she?

Did with Past Simple

You didn’t forget to bring the beer, did you?     
Fernanda organised the party music, didn’t she?

Was & were with Past Simple

Fernanda wasn’t late, was she?

You were there, weren’t you?

Has, have & had with Perfect Tenses

You haven’t forgotten the food, have you?

Shes organised the party music, hasn’t she?

Shed been trying for months to get the venue, hadn’t she?

Am, is & are with Present Continuous

They‘re  failing the course, aren’t they?

Im not studying enough, am I?

Fernanda is really enjoying herself, isn’t she?

Was & were with Past Continuous

Fernanda was really enjoying herself, wasn’t she?

The students were singing and dancing all night, weren’t they?

Will with all Future Tenses

You won’t forget the beer, will you?

Youll be bringing the music, won’t you?

She will have finished her test by now, won’t she?

They will have been drinking for hours, won’t they?

Modals with every verb                             


Lorenzo can swim, can’t he?!

We can’t smoke here, can we?

Lorenzo can swim, can’t he?

You shouldn’t have used my computer, should you?

I wouldn’t have if I had my own, would I?

You could have asked me, couldn’t you?

Dogs must be trained, mustn’t they?

Everybody, Somebody, Nobody

Everybody is coming to the party, aren’t they?*

Somebody knows the address, don’t they?*

**Nobody has forgotten the date, have they?*

*Everybody, somebody and nobody are all singular subjects and usually take singular verbs. However, in English we don’t have a neutral singular pronoun, so in Question Tags, we use they with a plural verb.

**Nobody is negative (no + body) so it takes a positive tag. Statements with these negatives also use positive tags: no, nothing and neither.

Nothing could be done to save the house, could it?

Neither of us knew about the insurance, did we?

I have no choice, do I?

♦  The subject in all Question Tags is a pronoun:

Lorenzo can swim, can’t he?

Dogs must be trained, mustn’t they?

♦ Note that the positive tag is not a contraction. The negative tag is always a contraction, unless you want to sound formal. If you do, you will need to change the word order:

We are now going to review our legal obligations, are we not?

Im the boss, am I not? 

Surely, they can help us, can they not?

* For practice exercises, click here.

* To learn more about Inversion, click here.

樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂 樂

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Leave a comment

The life and soul of the party (How we behave at social events)

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

Tara Moore/DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

How do your friends behave at social events? Is one of them the life and soul of the party, chatting, laughing and dancing with everyone? Or perhaps you know a party pooper, someone who spoils other people’s enjoyment by refusing to join in and have fun. This week we’re looking at language that relates to spending time with other people socially.

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Reading, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary | Tagged , | Leave a comment

English Idioms in Pictures #8

Click on the picture below to find out the meaning of the idiom HAVING A WHALE OF A TIME. Once on the site, you can click on Follow at the bottom of the page to receive more pictures and explanations of idioms FREE.


whale of a time

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary | Tagged , | 1 Comment

It’s Christmas Time!!

It’s time for Christmas Carols! Carols is the name we give to Christmas songs, especially religious Christmas songs. https://unsplash.com/photos/Iiu-ZlpdwSI

For many people, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For others, it is simply a festive time to spend with family and friends. For many Christians, it is a combination of both. 

I am featuring two of my favourite Christmas carols this year. Firstly, Oh! Holy Night, sung by one of my favourite singers, Josh Groban.  Click on the picture on the right for a lovely video to watch as you listen. Click here for a video with lyrics.
Oh! Holy Night is a very old carol (1847) so the word order may seem a little strange.

Secondly, I have chosen a cover of the Mariah Carey carol, All I Want for Christmas is You. The version I like best is the one sung by the young girl in the movie Love Actually. Click on the picture of the amorous couple below to listen to and watch the video from the movie. For those of you who are keen on revising grammar, I provide details of the lyrics below the picture. Until my next post … 

 I wish you a Very Merry Christmas 
 a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year! 

 Every sentence in this song is a Simple, Compound, or Complex sentence. They are colour-coded as follows:

Simple Sentences       Compound Sentences       Complex Sentences

Dependent Clauses – underlined

Song: All I Want for Christmas Is You from the film  Love Actually

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Posted in Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

147 Words to Use instead of “Very”

GrammarCheck.net header image

How often do you use the word “Very” to add emphasis to an ordinary word?

How about trying out some dynamic new words? (Don’t you think that “dynamic” is preferable to “better”?)

Once again, GrammarCheck.net  have created an easy-to-use, helpful Infographic to boost your English. Keep in mind that the recommended words are not the only possibilities, and that some in the “very … ”  group are examples of incorrect usage; for example, “very complete” and “very raining”.

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary, Writing | Tagged | 2 Comments

Reflexive Pronouns ∼ Easier than You Think!

Do you think that Reflexive Pronouns are confusing? If so, read on. The good news is that they are limited in number and limited in use. We only use Reflexive Pronouns to reflect back on someone or something, just like a mirror.


The monkey can see its reflection.

Look at the monkey in the picture. 

1. The monkey is looking at itself.   

 2. It is looking  at itself.

3. Itself is looking at itself.  

4. The monkey is looking at the monkey.

Reflexive Pronouns cannot be subjects in a sentence because …

First, a different word is the subject, and second, the Reflexive Pronoun refers (or reflects back) to the subject. So, sentence #3 is incorrect.

Sentence #4 seems to refer to two monkeys, so the meaning is incorrect. 

Reflexive Pronouns:

Singular:  ♦ myself    ♦ yourself    ♦ himself    ♦ herself    ♦ itself     ♦ oneself   

Plural:  ♦♦ ourselves    ♦♦ yourselves    ♦♦ themselves


Mi Pham is really enjoying himself. In fact, all the children are enjoying themselves.

A: “Would you like to try some of this delicious bread?  made it myself.”

B: “Really? You made it yourself?  Of course I’d love to try some!”                                                                                          ∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼


“Try  some   of   our   new https://unsplash.com/photos/0VLn5nrp6hERosé. We sell most of the wine we produce but of course we keep quite a bit for ourselves!

Do you like the wine label? Louise designed it  herself.

Help yourselves to whatever you feel like! As you can see, there is plenty of luscious food and wine, most of it produced by us here on the farm.”


∗ Can you see the subject in the sentence?

Help yourselves to whatever you feel like! 

No? You can’t see the subject?! Don’t all sentences have to include a subject?!

Yes, that’s right. English Sentences must include a subject and a verb. The only time that you don’t see the subject is in Imperative sentences where it is implied. The subject is always You and the sentence starts with the verb:

(You) Help yourselves to whatever you feel like!

(You) Enjoy yourself at the party.

(You) Take care of yourself.


The Reflexive Pronoun myself is often used incorrectly as a subject.

For example:

The top chef and myself made a Christmas cake. X

The top chef and I made a Christmas cake. 

We made a Christmas cake. 

 Remember that Reflexive Pronouns cannot be subjects in a sentence. Also, the top chef and myself are two different people, so myself does not refer to anyone. Reflexive pronouns are like a mirror reflection. They reflect back on someone or something. Reflexive Pronouns cannot be used alone!

The Reflexive Pronouns myself and yourself are also often used incorrectly as an object. 

For example:

The chef made the cake for myselfX

The chef made the cake for me. 

I‘ve done all this work for yourself. X

I‘ve done all this work for you. √

If you would like more information, you can contact myself anytime. X

If you would like more information, you can contact me anytime. 

If I need more information, how can I contact yourself? X

If I need more information, how can I contact you? 

It would be worthwhile for both yourself and your husband to inspect the apartmentX

It would be worthwhile for both you and your husband to inspect the apartment. 

Other Reflexive Pronouns are sometimes used incorrectly; however, myself causes the most problems! This is because native speakers get confused with ‘I’ and ‘me’. For more information, click here.

However, Reflexive Pronouns can be used  correctly as an object. Look at the difference between correct and incorrect usage:

For example:

1. I should look after myself better. 


She is not cooking mussels for herself.

2. I should look after me betterX

3. Did you hurt yourself

4. Did you hurt youX

5. Madonna loves herself

6. Madonna loves herX

7. We can look after our children ourselves

8. We can look after our children usX

9. The mother is cooking mussels for the family, but not for herself. She doesn’t like mussels. 

10. The mother is cooking mussels for the family, but not for sheX

11. Does one ever truly know oneself? (formal / non-specific) 

12. Does one ever truly know oneX


For more information, examples and practice exercises, click herehere, here, and here.

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Tagged , | 1 Comment

English Pronunciation: 20 VOWEL-SOUNDS IN 20 Minutes


New Zealand fur seal,  “All my words are vowel sounds!!”   Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash.com

Back by popular demand is a lesson I did four years ago. Follow my instructions, practise regularly, and your pronunciation will improve. The practice is necessary as you are training your mouth to make new, different movements. It is physical practice like learning to surf or drive a car.

The students who were in my class (from Asia, Europe and South America) were all able to produce the 20 Vowel Sounds during the lesson. However, if they didn’t practise after the lesson, they would have forgotten most of it because the practice also retrains your brain. It is important for this new information to be stored in your long-term memory and this can only happen with repetition and revision.

When you watch television, repeat phrases or words you hear. This is an easy, convenient way to practise and check your progress. Press PAUSE and repeat difficult sounds until you are satisfied with your pronunciation.

Are you ready? In just 20 minutes you will learn the 20 English Vowel Sounds.

For a clear picture of the English File Phonetic Chart, click here and for practice exercises, click here.

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Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Beginner (Level 1), Elementary (Level 2), Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Pronunciation Videos, Speaking & Pronunciation, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Videos | Tagged | Leave a comment