Bird of prey and other “noun of noun” constructions

bird of prey noun phrasesSubjects 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

Seasons Greetings and Christmas Language from ELB!

merry christmas seasonal englishChristmas 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

What’s the difference between deception and deceit?

difference between deception and deceitHere’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

What’s the difference between complex and complicated?

difference complex complicatedI 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

Halloween Vocabulary Exercise

halloween vocabulary exerciseIt’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.

  1. Something that is not from this world.
  2. The practice of magic or sorcery.
  3. An ugly, giant creature.
  4. A very old person who wants to suck your blood.
  5. Dead people who refuse to stay dead.
  6. A box to bury dead bodies in.
  7. Illumination from the moon.
  8. A characterisation of Death.
  9. A carved pumpkin that we put a candle in.
  10. The worst kind of dream.
  11. The remains of a person without flesh or muscles.
  12. A home where you find ghosts (or worse!).
  13. A magical person with wings.
  14. An enchantment, poems or other words that create magic.
  15. 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

  1. n – supernatural
  2. b – witchcraft
  3. m – ogre
  4. o – vampire
  5. f – zombies
  6. i – coffin
  7. d – moonlight
  8. k – the grim reaper
  9. j – jack’o’lantern
  10. l – nightmare
  11. h – skeleton
  12. g – haunted house
  13. a – fairy
  14. e – spell
  15. c – werewolf

What are Kelp Forests? – Reading Exercise

kelp forestsBelow 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

10 Easily Confused Sets of Words and Phrases Explained

easily confused words and phrasesA 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

What’s the difference between plain and plane?

difference between plain and planePlain 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

The Impact of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – in Language and Culture

christmas carol dickens languageIn 1843, Charles Dickens wrote a novella called A Christmas Carol, a story still told today. The story followed a miser (a nasty man who does not want to share his wealth) on Christmas Eve, as he is visited by three spirits that teach him about kindness and caring. Its positive message, of a bad person becoming generous, has had a big impact on Western culture around the Christmas season – including interesting contributions to the English language. Continue reading

21 alternative verbs for movement

alternative verbs to goThere are some common verbs for moving in English, such as to go and to walk. These are useful for general descriptions of movement, but like with verbs describing talking, there are many other verbs that you can use to provide more detail, variety and imagination! For instance, to say “He went to the bar.” tells a lot more when you say “He hurried to the bar.”, or even “He clambered to the bar.”

Continue reading