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Winter cabbage

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Catherine Catherine | 14:50 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

Hi Olga

Well, I have learnt another fascinating fact about Siberia! I had no idea the temperatures could get so hot in summer. 35 degrees sounds absolutely wonderful! It doesn't get that hot very often here in London, but when it does, we Londoners make the most of it. On a sunny day, lots of people go to parks and gardens to picnic and sunbathe. Most people are sensible and they use suncream to protect their skin, but from time to time you will see someone who has overdone things and ends up with a face like a tomato!

I must say, I share your feelings about London winters. They can be very long and miserable. It doesn't snow too much, but it rains frequently, there is very little sunshine and the sky is like a big grey blanket covering the whole city. As you know, I was born and bred in the UK, but I still can't get used to these long winters...

As usual, Olga, your blog posting is beautifully written. You are very good at choosing a topic and developing, explaining and illustrating it with examples. I enjoyed reading it very much!

I'd like to suggest a couple of tweaks, though:

After 'be/get used to' (meaning be/get accustomed to) you need to use the -ing form of the verb. So your phrase You are used to feel cold should be written You are used to feeling cold.

We don't use the phrase clear true in English. Instead, you can say absolutely true, or totally true or one hundred percent true.

And those pesky prepositions! Instead of ...drives me on the wall, you need to say ...drives me up the wall. It's a super way of saying something makes you angry, frustrated, even crazy, Olga - really nice language!

And I also like your use of the phrase be like a cabbage. We don't have that expression in English, but it's easy to work out its meaning - wear lots of layers of clothing on top of one another. Very good advice for winter!

Phrases which use 'like' to compare one thing to another thing are called 'similes' in English. They are very useful for explaining your meaning. Of course, when you said 'be like a cabbage' I didn't think you meant 'be green and leafy'! In English, similes always have an idiomatic meaning, not a literal one!

Today's homework
So here is your homework for today, Olga and everyone: 1) can you find and explain the meanings of the 2 other similes I've used in my blog today? And 2) please everyone, use some similes of your own in your comments and postings.

Answers to the last homework:
Now, for people who did the parallel form homework: Well done!! As usual, everybody did very well, and Abdallah, your answer was correct before you changed it, as well as after! Marcel, your use of negatives in parallel form is super, and Marco, I liked your parallel verb forms too.

Here are some of the parallel forms I used in paragraph 2:

problems and frustrations
British humour + Russian humour
spending + standing
They think + they hate
Wonderful [..] I love spending + terrible [...]they hate spending

And Marcel spotted this one further on:

are talking + is happening

That's all from me for today. I'm looking forward to finding our more about your amazing homeland in your next blog Olga, until then,

Best wishes

Useful vocabulary

  • Fascinating - very interesting

  • overdone things - do something too much or for too long, so that there is a negative result

  • illustrating - explaining by giving an example

  • tweaks - small alterations or corrections

  • pesky - annoying, troublesome

  • literal - real


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Catherine.
    i am excited that my last answers are correct.
    the first answer :
    1 - ( like a tomato ) you mean that his face gets the red colour like a tomato
    2 - (the sky is like a big grey blanket ) you mean that the sky be covered by the clouds,the clouds be like the blanket form .
    the second answer :
    1 - i have answered today's homework like i drink water.
    2 - i am afraid that your next homework for us won't be like a dismantling of the maize .
    number one is a slang expression in Arabic, it expresses how the thing i mention is very easy, i know it doesn't exist in English.and the number 2 i created it by my brainchild.
    Thank you very much for helping us.
    best wishes from Kuwait

  • Comment number 2.

    correction for the second answer number 2 :
    2 - i am afraid that your next homework to us will be like a dismantling of the maize.

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Catherine,
    thank you again for the post and thanks Olga for provide us with this interesting text.
    Regarding your questions
    1- "... ends up with a face like a tomato" - which means that the person got so much sun without protection that she/he got a red skin due to mild sunburn.
    2- "the sky is like a big grey blanket..." - which means that the sky is completely cloudy and you can not see the blue.

    Second task:
    1- I wish to speak (English) like a parrot.( this is a Brazilian expression that means that a person speak a lot and fast)
    2- I have just seen the the moon. It is a full moon like a huge light yellow cheese.

    thank you again
    regards from Brazil

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello Catherine! My name is Adielson and I am Brazilian. I hope you are very well! So, I found 2 similes in your blog “like a tomato” and “is a big grey blanket”. Well, you have used the first expression to saying how much Londoner’s face stay red during the summer and the second expression to saying how much the sky stay dark during winter time, and because of this you can’t see the light of the sun.
    Well, here in Brazil we make use of many expressions as these similes that you showed for us. For example: “soft water in hard stone so much beat until that bore!” than is the same thing to saying that of so much we to insist we go to getting it that we want, or still “I am Brazilian and don’t desist never!” that mean the same thing. I hope you like of my similes phrases. I will try to finding more phrases here and then I will send for you.
    That’s all I have to say at the moment!

    Hugs and best wishes!


  • Comment number 5.

    Dear Catherine
    This is Cybele from China, nice to meet you. it's my first time to come here, you're so kind and nice, i love your article very much, it helped me very much.
    my English is poor, but after i'll come to here to learn English everyday.

    my first answer:
    ...ends up with a face like a tomato
    the sky is like a big grey blanket
    a couple of tweaks

    Thank you
    Best wishes

  • Comment number 6.

    I think tow following sentences are the answer

    Ends up with a face like a tomato!
    The sky is like a big grey blanket

    I heard "like an Adam's child" often in my childhood from my parents or teachers and it means like a good boy or girl, for example "Play like an Adam's child", "Walk like an Adam's child"

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Catherine,
    Here it's my task:

    1. "...ends up with a face like a tomato"- it means someone got the red colour like a tomato because he spent too much time sunbathing.

    2."the sky is like a big grey blanket covering the whole city"- you meant that the sky is completely cloudy.

    Dear Catherine, some people say that physically I am like my sister, but this is not completely true because we are not twins and there are many differences, for instance, she is taller than me and she loves Mathematics.

    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello Catherine,
    here in the Czech republic, we have currently the sky like a big grey blanket too, and I don't like it. I prefer sunny weather, the blue sky with only small little clouds like a sheep. But when the Sun shines too much, I also have my face like a tomato soon, because I have very fair type of a skin - almost as pale as a sheet.
    Have a nice day,

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Catherine!

    It's Sunday evening and it's time for today's homework.
    I spotted two similes in your blog.

    1. with a face like a tomato
    My explanation: If you have a face like a tomato your facial color is turned red, for example caused by embarrassment. It's a fact that (ripe) tomatoes are red as well. In that way this simile works.

    2. the sky is like a big grey blanket
    My explanation: The November is the most rainy and cloudy month of the year. Often the whole sky is covered with clouds and you can't see a single sun-ray. Well, on a cold November day for me there's nothing better than reading a fascinating book. Often I snuggle myself up in a blanket so that I wouldn't feel cold and maybe you would not see me. Therefore, a blankets purpose is to cover other things. And there's the sense in this simile.

    However, in Germany "similes" are so called "Metaphern".
    My favorite English similes are the two following ones.

    - It's like a drop in the ocean.
    = a thing is too unimportant or too inconsiderable to change or influence something else

    - It's raining cats and dogs.
    = it is raining heavily

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


  • Comment number 10.

    1st part:
    a face like a tomato: it happens when we stay too much time under the sun in summer or also in winter, but at the mountain, and we doesn't use a protection for our skin ad it becames red (and also hot)

    the sky is like a big grey blanket covering the whole city: When there isn't the sun for many days and the sky is of a totally equal color: gray.

    2nd part:
    If Olga use "like a cabbage" to describe a dress made of some layers of clothing on top of another we, in Italy , describe the same situation with "dress like a onion ". But we refer this paralellism to the spring dress when the temperature raise up a lot from morning to noon. In this occasion You take away one or more of the clothes You dress (like the onion's layer and remaining at least with a t-shirt :)) to don't suffer for the hot noon temperature.
    Thank You, another time, teacher Catherine for You suggestion and also for this enjoyable homeworks.


  • Comment number 11.

    Super comments everyone... onions, cabbages, tomatoes... we have a vegetable theme here :-))

    Check out this funny video from The Teacher to learn some more vegetable idioms:


    Catherine :-)

  • Comment number 12.

    Hello Catherine,

    I hope you're doing well and had a relaxing weekend.

    How great to see you teaching, teaching in this wonderful blog. I know you're an expert in grammar. I still have got some vivid memories about your explanations of How To series back in 2007.

    I just don't know how my English would be without this fantastic, great website of the BBC LE. As always, your good job is very much appreciated.

    And putting on my student's hat, here is the homework: 1)Having been visiting this wonderful site since 2007 my English isn't as good as it should be. 2) Unfortunately, Somalia, which is where I am from is still as terrible as we all hear on the BBC Radio, TV. 3) My nephew, Hassan is as good as gold. 4) I will be with you guys as soon as possible. 5) It's as good as it gets.

    Wish you the best of luck, Catherine,


  • Comment number 13.

    Catherine, thank you very much for your link! I love idioms:)I'll do my home work on my main blog.See you soon!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi there,

    It's Abdisamad again here. Just wanted to correct about Catherine's grammar explanations were on Grammar Challenge series, not on How to series.

    Best wishes,


  • Comment number 15.

    Catherine,I just wanted to mention, that you have magical voice:) thank you and William for a funny way of studying English with Grammar Challenge. give my regards to William and all your colleagues. You all are really nice, thanks!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hello dear Catherine,

    I like using similies both in spoken as well as written language. Here are the two similies I've spotted in this blog:

    1- 'red like a tomato': Which means, if we spend too much time under the blazing then the skin turns red which makes it look like a tomato.

    2-'the sky is like a big grey blanket': This means here that the sky is so covered with clouds that it prevents the sunlight to come.

    A simile I often use to tease my sister is 'you smell like a fish'.

    I have always been saying this and will say it again that BBC LE has best teachers.



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