Uncountable words

Uncountable nouns are not normally used with a(n) or the plural, e.g. information, not an information, or some informations. It is a good idea to learn uncountable nouns in groups associated with the same subject or area. Here are some possible headings. Travel is also an uncountable noun, e.g. Travel broadens the mind. Day-to-day household…

Binomials

Binomials are expressions (often idiomatic) where two words are joined by a conjunction (usually ‘and’). The order of the words is usually fixed. It is best to use them only in informal situations, with one or two exceptions. – odds and ends: small, unimportant things, e.g. Let’s get the main things packed; we can do…

Expressions With set and put

Look at the examples of following phrasal verbs based on set. – You should set aside some money for a rainy day. [reserve] – He tried to set aside his dislike of his daughter’s fiance, [ignore (not think about)] – We should set off before dawn to get there on time, [begin a journey] –…

Abbreviations

Some abbreviations are read as individual letters: – WHO (W-H-O) World Health Organisation IRA Irish Republican Army – PLO Palestine Liberation Organisation UN United Nations – BBC British Broadcasting Corporation PM Prime Minister – ANC African National Congress MP Member of Parliament In the following three cases, the name of each country and the name…

Numbers and shapes

Anyone who works with any branch of science or technology needs to be able to talk about figures. Notice how the following are said in English. All scientists and technologists also need to be able to talk about shapes. Note the names of the shapes below. Two-dimensional shapes A rectangle has four right angles. A…

Addition

There are a number of ways of adding one idea to another in English. You probably already know words like and, also and too. Words for linking sentences/clauses Adding words at the end of clauses/sentences They sell chairs, tables, beds, and so on / etc. /et’setra/ It’ll go to the committee, then to the board,…

Time

Periods of time – words and typical contexts – The Ice Age The Stone Age The Middle Ages The age of the computer. [major historical/geological periods] – After the war, a new era of peace began, [long period, perhaps several decades] – The doctor said I needed a period of rest and relaxation, so I’m…

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….

Everyday problems

Things that go wrong in houses and flats Everyday minor injuries Other everyday problems – I’ve mislaid Bob’s letter. Have you seen it anywhere? [put it somewhere and can’t find it] – She spilt some coffee on the carpet. I hope it doesn’t stain, [leave a permanent mark] – I overslept this morning and was…

Like, dislike and desire

Words and expressions relating to liking I quite liked Tom when we first met. However, although lots of my friends said they found him attractive, I didn’t fancy him at all. He invited me out and I must admit that I was more tempted by his sports car than by him at first. However, I…

Prepositions: place

At, On, In Learn these rules. Opposites Some prepositions form pairs of opposites. Note: Over/above are often synonymous, so are under/below, but over and under sometimes suggest movement. When we flew over Paris we couldn’t see much because we were above the clouds. Below us was the river which ran under the bridge. Here are…

The physical world

Physical features Note: Sometimes you need the definite article ‘the’, e.g. The Atlantic Ocean, The Alps-sometimes no article is used, e.g. Mount Everest and Lake Titikaka. Compare this with your own language. Natural disasters A disaster is when something terrible happens, which often results in death, destruction and suffering.

Idioms – miscellaneous

Idioms connected with paying, buying and selling – He bought a real pig in a poke when he got that car. [buy something without examining it properly first] – We’ll probably have to pay over the odds for a hotel room during the week of the festival.[pay more than the usual rate] – He did…

Idioms connected with problematic situations

Problems and difficulties Idioms related to situations based on get – This has to be done by next week; we must get our act together before it’s too late. [organise ourselves to respond; informal] – We need a proper investigation to get to the bottom of things, [find the true explanation for the state of…

Business and finance

Banks and businesses Most businesses need to borrow money to finance (= pay for) investments (= things they need to buy in order to help the company, e.g. machines). The money they borrow from the bank is called a loan, and on this loan they have to pay interest, e.g. if you borrow £1,000 and…

Zero affixation

What is zero affixation? Many words in English can function as a noun and verb, or noun and adjective, or verb and adjective, with no change in form. The meaning is not always the same, but this unit looks at examples where the words do have the same meaning. What’s the answer? (noun) I must…

Science and technology

You are probably familiar with the traditional branches of science e.g. chemistry, physics, botany and zoology. But what about these newer fields? – genetic engineering: the study of the artificial manipulation of the make-up of living things – molecular biology: the study of the structure and function of the organic molecules associated with living organisms…

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…

Give, keep, break, catch, see

These common verbs have many different meanings (some of them in other parts of this book). This unit looks at some important meanings of these verbs, and in some cases they combine with specific nouns, e.g. give someone a ring, break the law, etc. You can learn these as expressions. Give I’ll give you a…

Prefixes

Prefixes are often used to give adjectives a negative meaning. The opposite of ‘comfortable’ is ‘uncomfortable’, the opposite of ‘convenient’ is ‘inconvenient’ and the opposite of ‘similar’ is ‘dissimilar’. Other examples are ‘unjust’, ‘inedible’, ‘disloyal’. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of knowing which prefix any adjective will use to form its opposite. When you…

Pleasant and unpleasant feelings

Happiness and unhappiness You feel: ecstatic when you are madly in love or are spiritually uplifted for some reason. content(ed) when you are peaceful and satisfied with what you have. Notice that content is not used before a noun. You can say ‘She is content’ or ‘She is contented’ but only ‘a contented person’, cheerful…

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…

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…

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…