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Animal idioms

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Kim Kim | 15:47 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Hi Marina

Thanks for your latest post, and for giving us some information about higher education in Kazakhstan - and its problems. Interesting to read the comments made in response to your post. As Negee says, the UK is not exempt, and indeed higher education has been in the news recently as A level results have just been released. More students than ever have applied to go to university this year but there are not enough places and 28% of applicants are still without a place - many will have to wait another year.

So you graduated 5 years ago? Where and what did you study? I can't believe that it's 23 years since I graduated - how time flies. I did German and French at Reading University near London. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I would struggle to speak French and German now. Here is a photo of my graduation, wearing traditional academic dress of gown, hood and cap. These days, this is just worn for graduation ceremonies:

graduation.jpg

Well, after that trip down memory lane, let's now look at the language used in your last post. You used tenses perfectly to talk about past events, including used to and would. Well done.

There are still some problems with articles:

I read a rating of World's best countries that has been published by the one American magazine > I read a rating of the world's best countries that has been published by an American magazine (note that you don't need a capital letter for the 'world' - if you say 'the American magazine' it means that there is only one magazine in America!)

there was a chaos after we got independency > there was chaos after we got independency ('chaos' is an uncountable noun so you can't say 'a chaos')

institutions had a very poor financing > institutions had very poor financing (financing is uncountable too)

maybe it was just inevitable scenario for us > maybe it was just an inevitable scenario for us (you need an article with this countable noun)

And here are comments about other words or phrases used in your last post:

the majority of our population really doesn't consider the education system here to be such an excellent.

Excellent is an adjective so you can't say 'an excellent'. You need to say either:

the majority of our population really doesn't consider the education system here to be such an excellent one.
OR
the majority of our population really doesn't consider the education system here to be so excellent.

Note that you use 'such a..' with a noun, and 'so' with an adjective.

It's true fact that almost all of them didn't have any license for their activities.

Either say:

It's a true fact that almost all of them didn't have any license for their activities.
OR
It's true that almost all of them didn't have any license for their activities.

Now lots of graduates don't even be able to confirm their diploma

This sentence should be:

Now lots of graduates aren't even able to confirm their diploma

Note that you use the verb 'to be' with 'able'

Here are some comments about vocabulary:

our President set up the "Bolashak" scholarship which gets an opportunity about 1,000 talented students to study abroad > our President set up the "Bolashak" scholarship which provides an opportunity to about 1,000 talented students to study abroad

But the situation began to change in the 1998-99th

Here you could use the expression in the late nineties: But the situation began to change in the late nineties

You can use these expressions to talk about time: in the sixties; in the early seventies; in the mid eighties; in the late nineties...

But I may mistake > But I may be mistaken

carreer > career (note the spelling)

more lucky > luckier
(two syllable adjectives that end in 'y' usually change to 'ier' when making comparisons: happy > happier; lucky > luckier; smelly > smellier

I like the way you use this idiom - Just to kill two birds with one stone

I thought that today's task could involve idioms. Here are sentences using idioms which feature animals. There are gaps in each sentence. Can you guess which animal goes in the gap?

You're making a mountain out of a _______hill!
(This means: You are turning something small and unimportant into a big problem)

She eats like a _______!
(This means: She always eats a lot)

Has the _______ got your tongue?
(You say this to somebody when they are saying nothing, and you are annoyed)

You can tell me until the _______ come home - but I still won't believe you!
(This means: You can argue for a long time)

He looks like something the _______ dragged in!
(This means: He looks messy and dirty)

I forgot to send a birthday card - now I'm in the _______house.
(This means that somebody is angry with you)

We haven't seen each other for _______'s years.
(This means: We haven't seen each other for a long time)

Why not phone up about that job now? The early _______ catches the _______.
(This means you will benefit If you do something immediately and quickly)

I'm waiting for my exam results...I'm like a _______ on hot bricks!
(This means: I am nervous, and I can't relax or keep still)

I've got my interview tomorrow. I've got _______in my stomach.
This means: I am nervous about something that is going to happen)

He eats like a _______.
(This means: He never eats very much).

She was running round like a headless _______.
(This means: She was busy doing lots of things, but did not achieve very much)

They're just _______ tears.
(If you say this when somebody is crying you think that the person is not really upset)

It was so hot - people were dropping like _______.
(This means: Lots of people were falling or fainting)

What are you doing for your _______ night?
(This means: a party for the bride-to-be and her girlfriends before a wedding)

If you are interested in this, you can find more animal idioms on the BBC Learning English website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv355.shtml

OK, that's it for today. I hope you had a good weekend. Looking forward to reading your next post!

Best wishes,
Kim

Vocabulary
exempt = not included
A level = an exam taken at the end of secondary school (aged 17 or 18)
graduate = to successfully finish a degree
time flies = time passes by very quickly
struggle = have difficulties with
gown, hood, cap = a gown is a long piece of clothing worn over clothes; a hood is a piece of clothing that can cover the head; a cap is worn on the head
take a trip down memory lane = remember past times (usually happy past times)
drag = pull something across a surface
bride-to-be = a woman who is about to be married

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Kim!

    Thanks for your lesson and another interesting story! Everything you write about is really useful for me!

    Well, here are my answers:

    1.You're making a mountain out of a molehill!

    2.She eats like a horse!

    3.Has the cat got your tongue?

    4.You can tell me until the cows come home - but I still won't believe you!

    5.He looks like something the cat dragged in!

    6.I forgot to send a birthday card - now I'm in the dog-house.

    7.We haven't seen each other for donkey's years.
    (This means: We haven't seen each other for a long time)

    8.Why not phone up about that job now? The early bird catches the worm.

    9.I'm waiting for my exam results...I'm like a cat on hot bricks!

    10.I've got my interview tomorrow. I've got butterflies in my stomach.

    11.He eats like a bird.

    12.She was running round like a headless chicken.

    13.They're just crocodile tears.
    (If you say this when somebody is crying you think that the person is not really upset)

    14.It was so hot - people were dropping like flies.

    15.What are you doing for your hen night?

    Best wishes,

    Marina

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Kim,

    Nice to meet you ! My name is Natanael Santos, from Brazil (Rio de Janeiro).
    I trying to learn english a little more, in fact there is a professional necessity do improve my englisn and i really like to learn languages.

    Also, i need to training my "ear" to undertand the english from Scotland (The HQ Of the Company that i am working here, on Brazil).

    Do you have any idea to help me? Many Thanks in Advance.

    Best Regards,

    Natanael Santos - from Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello Kim
    You wrote that you like the way Marina uses this idiom - Just to kill two birds with one stone.I would say that such an idiom is politically incorrect.I think that although this idiom is very familiar and known we are free not to use it at all.What do you think about the idea that word-choice has significant “framing effects” on the perceptions, memories, and attitudes of speakers and listeners.
    All the best
    Danny

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi dear Danny!

    First of all, I must say I appreciate your point of view and your attitude to wild animals.

    Could you tell me please if there are any idioms in your native language? You see, every expression like "to kill two birds with one stone" has its own history. We have plenty of them in Russian language. In my opinion, language is a part of our heritage. We can't just erase any idioms or words from our memory. In what possible way we should do that?

    Of course it's our duty to defence the nature. But let's think about the television, for example. What do you feel when you see animals in cartoons acting like people and killing\hitting each other?

    Take care,

    Marina

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Marina - All the animal idioms are correct - well done! Danny, my comment related to Marina using the idiom correctly and naturally, I think Marina's English often sounds very natural. It is not easy to use idioms from another language well.

    Nataneal - I would recommend that you try to listen to as many Scottish speakers as you can. Perhaps you will find examples on Youtube, or you might find podcasts that you can listen to online. Good luck!

  • Comment number 6.

    Hey Marina
    I totally disagree with your statment:"In my opinion, language is a part of our heritage. We can't just erase any idioms or words from our memory."
    I would suggest you to read about the concept of "Political Correctness" (политкорректность,политкорректный ).The main idea is that language represents thought, and may even control thought.We need to change our vocabulary in order to change our attitude towards minorities or other objectives.It's a case of awareness.We don't have to use stereotypes or cliches .It is our choice it's our decision. For example in USA the word "Negro" is out!the word "Afro American "is in etc.
    I Beleive you are against birds killing or any killing so simply don't use this idiom.
    Keep your wtiting
    Danny

  • Comment number 7.

    "We need to change our vocabulary"...
    Danny, let me disagree with you and support Marina. Using this kind of "Political Correctness" will cut off my way to pleasant reading literary works for example. I really grateful to my parents for they fostered my love of reading books. Adventure stories were best for me when I was teenager. I red almost all of the most known stories written by Jack London and many works of Russian writers too. You must know how many idioms are used in such stories usually. A whole literature is built on using methods like idioms. If writers wouldn't use animals or something else that isn't responded by "Political Correctness" then our languages would be very poor. Poor language is poor thinking.

    "...language represents thought, and may even control thought..."
    ...Of course, but don't you think that only people having poor thinking may take idioms for verbatim? I'd advise such people to read more good books instead of TV watching and playing games. In this case they wouldn't even try to imagine somebody's killing and the "Political Correctness" wouldn't be needed.

    Truly yours,

    Roman.

 

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