Describing people – appearance

Hair, face, skin and complexion He used to have black hair but it’s gone grey,almost white. What sort of person would you like to go out with? Blonde, fair, dark or ginger-haired / red-haired? She has such beautiful auburn hair. [red-brown] Fair and dark can be used for hair, complexion or skin. Height and build…

Containers and contents

A There are a number of special words in English which are used to describe different kinds of containers. Look at the following pictures. Here is some additional information about each of these types of containers.

Around the home I

Rooms The living room or lounge (= where you sit, relax, talk and watch TV); the dining room- the kitchen; the bedroom(s); and the bathroom(s). ’ Some people also have a study (= room with a desk where you work), a utility room (= a room usually next to the kitchen, where you have a…

Verbs + -ing form or infinitive

Verb + -ing form Some verbs are followed by an -ing form if the next word is a verb: enjoy finish imagine (don’t) mind can’t stand (= hate) feel like (= want/desire infml) give up (= stop doing something for the last time) avoid (If you avoid something, you keep away from it; if you…

The six senses

Our basic five senses are sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. What is sometimes referred to as a ‘sixth sense’ is a power to be aware of things independently of the five physical senses, a kind of supernatural sense. The five basic verbs referring to the senses are modified by an adjective rather than an…

Go Uses and expressions

Come vs. go Go usually expresses a movement away from the position the speaker is in now; come expresses a movement towards the speaker. Imagine you are at school. The time is 9.30 a.m. I had to go to Jimmy’s to pick up some books; then I went to the post office before I came…

Expressions With come and go

Here are some phrasal verbs based on come. – Did the meeting you were planning ever come off? [take place] – I don’t think his jokes ever quite come off. [succeed] – When do the exam results come out? [be published, made public] – The mark on the carpet won’t come out. [be removed] –…

Number, quantity, degree and intensity

Number and quantity Number is used for countable nouns, amount for uncountables. Scale of adjectives useful for expressing number and quantity: – Add just a tiny amount of chilli pepper, or else it may get too hot. – A considerable number of people failed to get tickets, [formal] – Vast amounts of money have been…

Clothes

At this level you probably already know most of the everyday words for clothes. Here are some items of clothing or parts of them which are perhaps less familiar. Notice that most items of clothing covering the legs are plural words only and, if you wish count them, you need to say, e.g. ‘Six pairs…

Words and gender

In this unit we look at the problems of using words in a way that is not offensive to either gender. In English, a lot of words are marked as masculine or feminine by suffixes, but many other words have ‘female’ or ‘male’ associations and should be used carefully. Suffixes marking gender -er(-or)/-ess: traditionally used…

Towns

Look at this description of Cork, one of Ireland’s main towns. Underline any words or phrases that might be useful for describing your own or any other town. Cork city is the major metropolis of the south; indeed with a population of about 135,000 it is the second largest city in the Republic. The main…

Words that only occur in the plural

Tools, instruments, pieces of equipment  Some of these are always plural. Things we wear Some other useful words When I move to London, I’ll have to find lodgings, [e.g. a room] When will the goods be delivered? [articles/items] The architect inspected the foundations before declaring that the premises were safe. The military authorities have established…

Compound adjectives

Formation and pronunciation A compound adjective is formed from two different words, and occasionally three. They are usually written with a hyphen (e.g. good-looking, well-known), and the stress is usually the same on both parts of the compound. Describing people Many compound adjectives describe a person’s appearance, character, and situation. This is William. He isn’t…

New words in English

No language stands still. New words and expressions are always being created, usually because something new is invented or sometimes just for fun. No government committee decides whether a new word is acceptable or not; if it is used frequently, and in a variety of contexts, it will find its way into the dictionary. Here…

Discourse markers

Discourse markers are small words and phrases whose job it is to organise, comment on or in some way frame what we are saying or writing. A common everyday example is the use of well in speech: – A: So you live in Boston? B: Well, near Boston. Well here shows that the speaker is…

Prefixes

With the meaning‘not’ Prefixes (un-, in-, il-, ir-, and dis-) are often used to give adjectives (and some verbs and nouns) a negative meaning. Here are common examples: happy unhappy like (v) dislike (v) possible impossible legal illegal (= against the law) correct incorrect regular irregular, e.g. irregular verbs un- is used with many different…

Politics and public institutions

Look at the definitions below taken from a dictionary of politics. Make sure you understand not only the words listed but the words used in the definitions too. Types of government – republic: a state governed by representatives and, usually, a president – monarchy: a state ruled by a king or queen – democracy: government…

Miscellaneous expressions

The units which deal with phrasal verbs and other expressions present only a small number of the expressions that exist. There are many others based on both the basic verbs focused on in Units and on a whole range of other verbs. This unit looks at some other verbs, giving examples of a few of…

Collective nouns

Collective nouns are used to describe a group of the same things. People Words associated with certain animals A flock of sheep or birds, e.g. geese/pigeons; a herd of cows, deer, goats; a shoal of fish (or any particular fish, e.g. a shoal of herring/mackerel – note the use of singular here); a swarm of…

Sport

Common sports Equipment – what you hold in your hand golf – club squash/tennis/badminton – racket darts – dart archery – bow cricket/table-tennis/baseball – bat hockey – stick snooker/pool/billiards – cue canoeing – paddle rowing – oar fishing – rod/line Athletics – some field events She’s a good sprinter, [fast over short distances] He’s a…

Idioms and fixed expressions

What is an idiom? An idiom is a group of words with a meaning that is different from the individual words, and often difficult to understand from the individual words.Here are some more common idioms. The teacher told us to get a move on. (= hurry; be quick) My wife and I take it in…

Idioms and fixed expressions – general

Idioms are fixed expressions with meanings that are usually not clear or obvious. The individual words often give you no help in deciding the meaning. The expression to feel under the weather, which means ‘to feel unwell’ is a typical idiom. The words do not tell us what it means, but the context usually helps….

Jobs

The medical profession These people treat (= give medical treatment and try to solve a medical problem) and look after (= care for / take care of) others: doctor, nurse, surgeon (= a specialist doctor who works in a hospital and operates on people), dentist, and vet (= animal doctor). The word ‘vet’ is a…

Uncountable nouns and plural nouns

Uncountable nouns Uncountable nouns (e.g. information): – don’t have a plural form (information*); – are used with a singular verb (the information ate); – cannot be used with the indefinite article ‘a/an’. (I want a«-information) These uncountable nouns are often countable in other languages. Look at them carefully. He refused to give me more information…

Time and sequence

When and as soon as I’ll phone my uncle when I get home. / As soon as I get home I’ll phone my uncle. When you’ve finished you can go home. / You can go home as soon as you’ve finished. Note: The meaning is the same, but as soon as suggests it is more…

Health: illness and disease

Common problems Note: For these illnesses, you can either buy something from the chemist, or go to your doctor, who may give you a prescription (= a piece of paper with an order for some medicine) that you get from the chemist. Aches and pains Nouns: We only use ache with the following: I’ve got…

Verb patterns

Verb + object Verb + object + question word Note: A common mistake is: ‘He explained me what to do.’ After explain + question word, there is no direct object. We say: ‘He explained what to do / what I had to do.’ Verb + object + infinitive persuade = make somebody change their mind….

Food

Fruit Vegetables Salad A salad is a mixture of uncooked vegetables. The main ingredient in a salad is lettuce, but it may also contain tomato, cucumber, and other things. Animals (meat), fish and shellfish

Reason, purpose and result

Reason I went home early because/as/since I was feeling a bit tired. Note: With as or since, the reason (in this example ‘feeling tired’) is often known to the listener or reader, so it is less important. It is also common to put as/since at the beginning of the sentence: ‘As/since I was feeling tired,…

Relationships

Types of relationships Here is a scale showing closeness and distance in relationships in different contexts. * ex- can be used with or without (informally) another word: She’s my ex. (girlfriend, etc.) – Mate is a colloquial word for a good friend. It can also be used in compounds to describe a person you share…