Subjects formed with multiple nouns connected by of can mean consisting of, or taken from, for example ‘piece of cake’, but can also mean belonging to, or with the purpose of, such as ‘father of the bride’. ‘Bird of prey’ can be confusing, though, because it seems to have the opposite meaning – bird of prey may sound like it belongs to prey, but actually it is a predator. So how do these different examples work? Continue reading
Christmas is just around the corner, which leaves it to me to say seasons greetings, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year! I’ve covered some interesting topics for the season on this site in the past, so here’s a breakdown of different ways you can develop your English this holiday – whether you celebrate it or not: Continue reading
Here’s another confusing pair of words. Deceit and deception are both nouns, both loosely used to describe the act of deceiving. The act of deceiving being the act of concealing the truth or otherwise being misleading or false. In many situations the words can be used interchangeably – grammatically speaking it is rare that you will find a sentence where both words do not fit in the same sentence without the same general meaning. However, the sentences may offer different connotations. Continue reading
I received a series of questions from a reader with no return email. So if you’re reading this, Carl, I’ll answer your questions in the blog. Starting with this – what is the difference between complex and complicated? A plan, for example, can be both complex and complicated. There is a simple answer and a complicated (or complex!) answer. So let’s start with the simple: complex involves many parts/components, while complicated refers to the level difficulty. What does this mean in practice? Continue reading
It’s that fun time of year where the English speaking world prepares for Halloween – with scary stories, films and costumes. Which means it’s also the time of year to practice our Halloween vocabulary – words which cover a range of frightening topics, emotions and mythical creatures! Build your vocab with my nasty nouns and abysmal adjectives, then see if you can complete the exercise below.
Mixed Halloween Vocabulary Exercise
Match the following descriptions with the words below.
- Something that is not from this world.
- The practice of magic or sorcery.
- An ugly, giant creature.
- A very old person who wants to suck your blood.
- Dead people who refuse to stay dead.
- A box to bury dead bodies in.
- Illumination from the moon.
- A characterisation of Death.
- A carved pumpkin that we put a candle in.
- The worst kind of dream.
- The remains of a person without flesh or muscles.
- A home where you find ghosts (or worse!).
- A magical person with wings.
- An enchantment, poems or other words that create magic.
- A person who changes into a wolf.
- a. fairy
- b. witchcraft
- c. werewolf
- d. moonlight
- e. spell
- f. zombies
- g. haunted house
- h. skeleton
- i. coffin
- j. jack’o’lantern
- k. the grim reaper
- l. nightmare
- m. ogre
- n. supernatural
- o. vampire
Answers to the Exercise
- n – supernatural
- b – witchcraft
- m – ogre
- o – vampire
- f – zombies
- i – coffin
- d – moonlight
- k – the grim reaper
- j – jack’o’lantern
- l – nightmare
- h – skeleton
- g – haunted house
- a – fairy
- e – spell
- c – werewolf
I recently had an email from a reader writing for his fantasy story website that raised an interesting point; the writer had a statement saying someone needed to check “how many guards are there” and was told that “how many guards there are” was the correct form. The writer thought both were correct, so asked what the difference was. It is true, from a neutral perspective both “how many there are” or “how many are there” can be correct, but they have different uses. Here’s why: Continue reading
Below is a reading exercise that is both informative and challenging. There are mixed mistakes included in this text; find these mistakes to test your understanding of English (while also learning about kelp!). The text, which gives a brief introduction to kelp forests, contains some advanced vocabulary, so some of the more complicated words (highlighted in the text in bold) are explained below. Continue reading
Insure, ensure and assure are easily confused words as they both look and sound similar – and have rather closely connected meanings. They do have distinct differences, however. Consider the following example sentences:
- We would like to insure our boat for £10,000.
- I will ensure that the boat is taken care of.
- I assure you the boat will be taken care of.
So how are these sentences different? Continue reading
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the differences between the words plain and plane; it’s one of many articles I have on this site exploring confusing, or easily misunderstood, words and phrases. With so much content on this site, I thought it was time I created a quick, simple list of such articles so you can quickly learn the differences. I’ve placed example sentences beneath each heading so you can get an idea of what you’ll learn. Continue reading
Plain and plane are easily confused in English – they are homophones, so you may write one when meaning the other. They have a number of distinct definitions where their meanings are completely different – but one meaning where their meanings are very similar, referring to flat empty space, where it can be hard to remember which word is correct. Continue reading