Back from the big smoke
Hello Naheed, and everyone reading!
The first thing I need to do is say a big ‘well done!’ for the homework. First, ‘well done!’ to Raffles – she managed to concentrate on something for longer than one minute in order to tell you what to do! And secondly, ‘well done!’ to Naheed and everyone who explained the meaning of those idioms correctly. You all did fantastically well. I think I have to give a special mention to Manas, who managed to explain the idioms using examples about my pets – no mean feat – and to James, who explained the origins of the phrase every cloud has a silver lining. I can see that next time I’m going to have to make the homework tougher!
Just in case any of you are still wondering about the meaning of these idioms, here they are:
1) There’s no smoke without fire – this means that if there is a rumour about someone, even if you do not know the truth, that rumour is probably true. You usually hear this when the rumour is a bad rumour, rather than a good one, e.g.
People are saying that John was able to move to a bigger house because he was involved in a bank robbery. The police haven’t been able to prove anything, but I say there’s no smoke without fire.
2) Every cloud has a silver lining – this means that even in a really bad situation, you can always find something good, e.g.
I fell sick and had to go into hospital. I couldn’t get out of bed for six months. But, every cloud has a silver lining – I fell in love with my doctor and we got married last month.
3) You could have knocked me down with a feather! You can use this idiom to say you are really surprised or shocked about something, e.g.
Tony never really seemed interested in school or studies, so you could have knocked me down with a feather when he told me he wanted to go to university.
4) There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This means that you never get something for free. Even if something seems free, you’ll be paying for it in a different way, e.g.
The government has announced it’s going to reduce the tax on petrol. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch – from next month, road tax will increase.
5) Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile – this means that if you allow someone to take advantage of you this time, next time they’ll be even worse, e.g.
Yesterday, little Tommy refused to eat his peas. His Mum said nothing. So today, he said he wouldn’t eat any vegetables at all. If you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Over the weekend, Naheed has been showing us what a talented artist she is and has been making my tummy rumble with descriptions of tea and snacks. I love the sound of the ginger tea, Naheed. I’m a tea addict too (a tea-aholic?). In fact at the end of last year, my doctor told me I was drinking too much tea and it was making my blood pressure low. Oops! I had to cut back. My favourite is Earl Grey tea with milk. If someone comes to visit you at your home in the UK, you would automatically offer them tea, often with some biscuits. Also, if someone is upset or worried about something, most people’s immediate reaction in the UK is: ‘I’ll put the kettle on'. Tea and biscuits have the power to make everything better, it seems. Is it dinnertime yet? I’m hungry!
Naheed, in the last two sentences of your latest blog you got the articles perfect – brilliant! To give you a little extra practice (then I promise I’ll shut up about articles), I’ve given you some options to choose from in the last couple of paragraphs of my blog today (look for the numbers 1 to 5). I want you to decide whether to use an indefinite article or a definite article – or maybe no article at all. Another change you’ll notice in today’s blog is that I’m answering all your questions and comments at the end, after the vocabulary section. I hope this makes it easier for you to find the answers you’re looking for.
So, we know from the homework set by Raffles that you’re all pretty amazing at idioms. Another idiom you may have heard is ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’. This basically means that most British people think their home is very important, and they have the right to do whatever they like inside their own home.
This idea of having your own home and doing what you like inside it brings me onto my trip to the big smoke (London) at 1) a/the weekend. I’m afraid I didn’t go shopping, sight-seeing or for a trip on 2) a/the London Eye. No, nothing quite so exciting, I’m afraid! I went to 3) a/the home exhibition. You see, most people in the UK aspire to own their own home. At the moment, I am renting a house with my other half, Richard. A lot of people in the UK think that if you rent, you line someone else’s pockets. Why pay money to rent somewhere, when you could pay money to buy your own home? The problem is that 4) a/the property in the UK is extremely expensive – the average house now costs more than £200,000. That’s a lot of money! So an alternative is to find a plot of land somewhere and build your own home – that’s what Richard and I are thinking of doing, and that’s why we went to the exhibition in London, to find out more about how to do this. It seems our biggest challenge will be to find a plot of land at all, since space is very tight on this cramped island.
It’s not always been this way in the UK. In the early 1900s, only 10 per cent of people owned their own homes. (5) An/The everyone rented, and you often had generations of families – grandchildren, children, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents – all living under one roof. Now, people often leave home at 18 or in their early twenties, and live on their own or with friends. You can’t deny that this means we have greater freedom and independence, but I wonder what this means for the future of our family units?
I’d be really interested to know when (and if) you all leave your parental homes, and whether people prefer to rent or buy their homes in your countries.
OK, Naheed’s made me thirsty. I’m off for a cuppa now.
In this context, something that is tougher is more difficult.
If someone takes advantage of you, they exploit you in an unfair way.
My tummy rumbles when I am hungry.
Oops! – The usual interjection you use when you’ve done something wrong.
cut back means to reduce.
put the kettle on – this means you’re going to heat up some water to make tea. It’s a comforting phrase to hear.
When I shut up about articles, it means I’ll stop talking/writing about them.
If you aspire to do something, you dream of doing it.
When you rent, you pay money to someone who owns a house/flat, so that you can live there.
Other half – you can use this term to talk about your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. Richard and I aren’t married, so he’s my boyfriend, but ‘boyfriend’ seems like a bit of a teenage word to me, so I prefer ‘other half’.
If you line someone else’s pockets, you give them money.
A plot of land is a piece of land.
If space is very tight, there’s not much room.
cramped means overcrowded.
independence means you have the chance to do what you want to do.
a unit is a group.
A cuppa – short for ‘a cup of tea’.
Answers to your comments
Wisarut: I can speak only a little bit of Cantonese, or a siu siu. I have tried cooking phad thai in the past, but I can never make it as well as the phad thai you buy in a restaurant.
Melissa: The second sentence is the most accurate:
Knowing I failed in the entrance exam, I couldn’t help but cry.
James: Your examples of sentences using articles are perfect!
Tomo: Yes, Scratchy is quite naughty. She likes little rabbits best as they are easiest to catch. Raffles is indeed a girl. There is a famous hotel in Singapore called Raffles, and Raffles comes from Singapore, so that’s where the name comes from.
Darsha: It’s quite important to use grammar correctly, as this will help people understand what you want to say. However, I agree that making yourself understood is more important than being grammatically perfect.
Ana Paula: Yes, Raffles is a German Shepherd, but she’s not very brave. That’s why Scratchy can smack her and tell her what to do.
Kailarai: I will try to answer your question about auxiliary verbs in one of my next blogs – I hope you don’t mind being a little bit patient.
Omar: living with an English family would certainly improve your English. I wonder if there are any English teaching colleges in the UAE that have ties with colleges in England? You could ask them for assistance.
David: Maybe, “Aaah!” would be a little bit cute and “Aaaaaaaaah!” would be really cute?!
Rocio: You’re right, Raffles could also have said: “It’s Raffles here.”
Pary: It’s a shame your friends don’t understand those idioms, but it’s great that you can share them with them – so you are becoming a teacher too, now?
Paul: It’s difficult for a perfectionist to learn a foreign language, because it’s almost impossible not to make mistakes! I think you just have to allow yourself to make mistakes and accept that, even if you make a mistake, you will learn from it.
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