Weekly Grammar Question: Changes over time!

If you’re anything like my students studying English in the U.K., at some point in your student life you’ll have been confused by the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect continuous. Well, rest assured, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean they are impossible, check out these examples below of the present perfect and present perfect continuous being used to describe change over time, and then have a look at the meaning / use underneath.   So I moved to South Korea for a year about 6 years ago, leaving all of my friends behind. My closest friend at the time was a guy named Stephen. We’d known each other for years. I’ve drawn a picture of him for you. As you can see, he didn’t really look after himself very well. He was the nicest guy you’d ever meet in your life and was an amazing friend but when it came to being fashionable or doing exercise, he was a disaster. After a year in Korea, I returned home and immediately went over to Stephen’s house to say hi to him and his family. Well, you wouldn’t believe the person who opened the door. I’ve drawn another picture for you to give you an idea of what he looked like. So, as you can imagine, I was extremely impressed. “What has happened to you?!” I said. Obviously, the surprise was clear on my face as he just smiled and said the following:   Well, I met a girl a few months ago and everything has changed for me. I’ve been shaving every morning now and moisturising twice a day so my skin has cleared up. I’ve also been exercising a lot more, I’ve taken up jogging and yoga and I’ve lost quite a lot of weight. I’ve been jogging twice a week … Read more

Words of the Week: Health

It’s pretty cold here in London and everyone’s health is at risk, it seems like everyone in the city is ill. It’s nothing serious of course, just a cold or the flu but it’s everywhere. Just this morning on the tube somebody sneezed on the back of my neck…this was not pleasant. But it got me thinking about the vocabulary a student might need to use in order to describe their cold or flu. Check out the words, idioms and phrases below for help describing your ailment. Pay careful attention to how they are used and if there’s anything you don’t understand, just click on it for a definition.   “I’m a bit under the weather.” = I’m a little bit ill. “I’m on the mend.” = I’m getting better. “My head is killing me.” = I have a terrible headache   I can’t stop sneezing                       coughing                       vomiting / throwing up     I feel dizzy            weak             nauseous             constipated             much better now   I have  a headache                a stomachache                a sore throat                a fever / a temperature               diarrhea                a blocked / runny nose   So if you’re feeling a little under the weather, get out there and use these handy words / phrases to let people know. But please try not to sneeze on anybody’s neck on the tube…that’s just disgusting. If you’d … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Be/Get used to

So, be/get used to, it’s one of those language points that people have a lot of problems with…but why? Let’s have a look at it in context. Check out this short paragraph about when I first came to London. I’ve lived in London for almost 5 years now and I have to say it’s a lot easier for me than it was when I arrived. When I first arrived there were a lot of differences between London and my city that I just couldn’t get used to. For example, when I first got her, I was standing on the left side of the escalator in the tube stations, which is a big no-no in London. People got really annoyed with me. After a week, of course, I didn’t even think about it anymore and I was used to standing on the right and walking on the left. Soon I even started getting annoyed with other people who stood on the left. That was when I knew that I’d never leave London. I imagine if I went back to Dublin now, I’d find it pretty hard to get used to the slower pace of life. Now, let’s take be/get used to apart and see what it’s made up of. Let’s focus on this sentence first:  “People got annoyed with me“. Let’s break it down. “Annoyed” is an adjective. We know this. “Get” is a verb, in this situation it means that the people are becoming annoyed. Now how about this sentence: “I couldn’t get used to it“. Again, “get” means “become”, so what kind of word is “used” here? Well it’s an Adjective of course. In this situation it means comfortable with,  familiar with or accustomed to. So what about this one?: “I was used to standing on the right”. This time we’re using … Read more

Word(s) of the Week: Giving Advice

As an English teacher, I find myself giving a lot of advice to students. This week, I have decided to look at a few different ways / phrases for giving advice. Check out the examples below. Please leave me any comments if you have any questions.   (1) Modal verbs: – You should call your mother, you haven’t talked to her in ages. (Meaning: in my opinion, this is a good idea) – You shouldn’t go outside without a coat, you’ll catch a cold. (Meaning: in my opinion, this is a bad idea) – You have to see the new Batman film, it’s amazing. (Meaning: This is very strong advice, not an obligation) (2)  Hypothetical conditionals: – If I were you, I’d give her a piece of my mind. (Form: If I were you, I’d + verb) If I were in your position, I’d call her up this second. (3)  Phrases: – That shop assistant has given you the wrong change again. you should give her a piece of my mind. (Meaning: I’m going to tell her exactly what I think about this situation) – Oh it’s not a big problem, don’t lose any sleep over it. (Meaning: Don’t worry about it. It’s not important) (4) Other ways: – Why don’t you give her a call when you get home. (Form: Why don’t you + verb) – Just give her a call. (Meaning: This is the imperative. It is quite an informal suggestion. The intonation here is quite important so that it doesn’t seem like an order) So my advice to you is to get out there and give some people some advice, even if they don’t want it. You should go and find people who you think need advising and just go for it. If I were you, I’d give … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Is the Past Perfect as simple as it seems?

I can’t count the number of times over the years that students have said something along the lines of: “Teacher teacher, I don’t understand the present and past perfect, it’s too difficult”. Now, the present perfect can be quite tricky to get your head around for a number of reasons. The main one being that there are a variety of different uses and also that while there is a version of the present perfect in many languages, it is slightly different in English, which can be confusing. The Past Perfect, however, is great! It has one use and it doesn’t really change. It’s also not as common as the Present Perfect and isn’t as big a deal. So, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all fine. Check out the examples and explanations below for more info on how we use it.   I didn’t eat a curry for two months. My wife cooked a curry. I came home from work the other day and saw the curry. I ate it very quickly and it was absolutely delicious.  what do you think of this story? Is it interesting or boring? Clearly, it’s ridiculously boring. It’s also incredibly unnatural. When we tell stories, we like to make them more interesting by changing the order of events so that the listener/reader is kept interested. We also think of pieces of information while we are speaking/writing and we add them in as we think of them. These pieces of information often happened before the actions we’ve already talked about. This is when we need the Past Perfect. We use it when we’re telling stories to describe actions or situations that happened before the story or before other actions in the story. Compare the story above with the one below. Which one do you prefer? … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Will + Going to (making predictions)

A few weeks ago we looked at the difference between will and going to for making plans but what about predictions? How can we express our thoughts about what will happen in the future? Are will and going to the same? Are they completely different? Read on to find out.   The Rules: So, the rule is pretty simple: 1) We use will for predictions based on our opinions, without any evidence to back it up. e.g. “I think we will have flying cars by the year 2025”. (In this situation, the speaker is expressing their opinion about the future but they really have no concrete facts to support it)  2) We use going to for predictions backed up by evidence. e.g. “Ooh, look at those dark clouds above, I think it’s going to rain”. (Whereas in this situation, the speaker can see that the clouds above them are quite dark and therefore they think it’s going to rain. The dark clouds are the physical evidence that supports their opinion) 2) We could also use it in the negative. e.g. “Not I don’t think it’s going to rain, those clouds aren’t rain clouds.” The Reality: However, this is English and therefore rules are made to be broken and there are exceptions and oddities throughout our wonderful language, especially when it comes to the future. Take football for example. I’m Irish, our football team is awful, absolutely terrible, shockingly bad, and it has been awful for years and years. Spain, on the other hand, have an excellent football team and have won numerous competitions with some of the best players in the world. So, if Spain and Ireland were playing each other, the logical prediction would be: “Spain is going to win!” We have years of evidence to support out prediction. But what would … Read more

Tips for learning English: Using the free Metro newspaper

  Every morning at EC Covent Garden 30+, a number of our students come to Breakfast Club where they sit down with one of our teachers and discuss the major topics in the newspapers. It is always a great success and our students are delighted that they are able to understand some of the big news stories that are happening in the U.K. and around the world. But can you do this by yourself? The quick answer is YES, yes you can. Just follow the simple steps below and you can use the Metro to help you practise your English and expand your cultural knowledge of England.   Choose an article with a picture that looks interesting. Very often headlines in the Metro contain puns (click for a dictionary definition of “pun“) which can be confusing if you don’t have the cultural knowledge to understand them. My advice is if you don’t understand the headline, ignore it and move on to the picture. Look at the picture and predict what you think the article will be about. Read the story quickly to check your predictions. Do not worry about vocabulary or grammar at this point. Just read for the general idea of the article. Underline some of the key words in the story that you don’t understand. Try to get the meaning from the context. If you’re not sure of the meaning, you can check your dictionary but try to do it by yourself first. Read the article again more slowly, focusing on the details. Go tell someone what you read and your opinion of the article. Try to use some of the key words when you’re speaking. If you use a word in conversation once, you’re more likely to use it again.   So if you’re an English language student in … Read more

Law in action: visiting a real criminal court by Ayan Ali

Our Advanced class were studying crime and law in their coursebook in October. To bring the topic to life, they met and interviewed a real magistrate, went to see real cases in court and became judges themselves in a virtual case online. First, the class learned vocabulary related to crime and law. Then they tried being a judge by following a ‘manslaughter’ case online using actors (this is different to ‘murder’ because there is no intention to kill). They experienced listening to evidence on both sides and debated how long the prison sentence should be. It is interactive and you can try it yourself on the government’s ‘You be the Judge’website: http://ybtj.justice.gov.uk/. To prepare for their court visit, the class interviewed a magistrate to learn about the criminal justice system which they said was “really interesting” and gave them “a lot of new information”. All criminal cases first appear before a panel of three magistrates who either hear the case there or refer it on to a higher court. Magistrates come from all walks of life so you don’t need to be a lawyer because you get special training.     The class sat in the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates’ Court which is open to everyone. It is a court in central London and there have been big cases involving famous people that you can read about here: http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/CityOfWestminsterMagistrates’Court. The class saw extradition and drug possession cases. Here’s how some students felt about visiting a court as part of their General English Course at EC Covent Garden: “It was a nice challenge to hear crime vocabulary in context and it was fun too.” Isabela “It was good to get out of the classroom and do something different. Hearing a case is an experience which you can’t have in Germany.” … Read more

Tips for learning English: vocabulary cards by Ayan Ali

When you’re studying English, you learn so many new words inside and outside the classroom, but what can you do to remember them? The key is to review and use the word many times and one good way is to use vocabulary cards. The advantage is that you can arrange the cards in different ways. It’s a good idea to take a photo of the different arrangements on your phone so you can study when you have a few minutes free e.g. when travelling by train. Little and often is a good approach! Below are some adjectives to describe people’s personalities from an upper intermediate class at EC Covent Garden 30+. Look at the cards in the picture. Can you guess how they have been arranged? (check below for the answer!)     Answer: they put the positive adjectives on the left and the negative adjectives on the right with two neutral words in the middle (reserved and eccentric). We call this the ‘connotation’ of a word. Maybe you disagree with their choices?   What other ways can you arrange personality adjectives? In opposites e.g. mature and immature. In groups with a similar meaning e.g. annoyed, upset, angry and furious. If you like, you can line them up in a row showing stronger/extreme words at the end (e.g. furious).   Vocabulary cards are creative and you can include lots of information on them. You could show the pronunciation by highlighting the stressed syllable in your style e.g. mature/maTURE/mature or write the sound in phonemics /məˈtʃʊə/. Click here to see the phonemic chart and hear the sounds. You can write the translation in your language on the back and test yourself by trying to remember the English word before checking the other side. What other information can you write on the … Read more

Understanding English money

A lot of our students have trouble figuring out the coins and notes in Britain. Check out the helpful language below and then try some of the questions at the bottom. The answers are at the bottom of the blog so you can check and see if you were right.   2 pounds                                                1 pound                                                 50p 20p                                          10p                                             2p                                         a penny   A few extra points: In British English, a pound can also be called a quid. In American English, a dollar is also known as a buck. For example £3 could be called 3 quid. N.B. quid is uncountable but pound is countable. A five pound note can be called five quid or a fiver. A ten pound note can be called ten quid or a tenner. A twenty pound note can be called twenty quid but NOT a twentier.   Practice Questions: 1) How much are the following coins worth?   2) And these?   3) What would you call the following? a) a tenner          b) Five bucks      c) a fiver               d) five quids   4) What would you call the following? a) a twentier      b) 20p                   c) 20 … Read more