The rules given in reference books, and indeed dictionaries, can sometimes be rather misleading, or represent incomplete ideas. As I teach (and study!) advanced language use, I often have to question reference guides, and have recently encountered two examples of this. To show how the dictionary does not always tell the whole truth, here are some additional considerations for this/next and the not only…but also rule. 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
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
How can we define the rules for placing a preposition in a sentence? Before a noun? After a verb? One of the additions to the second edition of Word Order in English Sentences is a guide to prepositions. Though they are often connected to other parts of a sentence, such as noun phrases, and often have specific or flexible rules, like adverbs, prepositions have some general rules that can help with understanding how they fit into a sentence, explained in detail below. Continue reading
The way we describe ages, including years or people’s ages, can sometimes seem strange if you consider that years beginning “20” are referred to as “21st Century” (and similarly, years starting “19” were the “20th Century”). There is a very logical reason for this, though: when it comes to age, and time that has passed, we assign numbers after a period of time is complete. Continue reading