Hold onto your hats!
Hello, Ha and everyone reading! What’s up?
Ha, I’m very sorry that Panther inflicted homework on you after a busy day. What can I say? He likes everyone to do just what he says. So thanks for having a stab at it, and also for writing a couple of sentences using the present continuous tense. I’ll spill the beans now and give you the meaning of those phrases about cats.
1) to let the cat out of the bag – this means to tell a secret, usually unintentionally, e.g.
John’s going to ask Sally to marry him tonight. Oops! I’ve let the cat out of the bag! Don’t tell anyone!
2) Has the cat got your tongue? – You say this if you want someone to say something, but they are keeping silent, e.g.
What do you want for dinner? Eh? What do you want? Say something! Has the cat got your tongue?
3) to be the cat’s whiskers – to be better than everyone else, e.g.
I’ve got a gold medal for running, I can cook, I’m handsome and I’m rich. I’m the cat’s whiskers.
4) look like the cat who’s got the cream – to be very pleased with yourself about something you’ve said or done. If you say this about someone, you’re probably being slightly critical, e.g.
Lily was grinning from ear to ear because she’d won on the lottery, passed her driving test and got a new boyfriend. She looked like the cat who’d got the cream.
5) pussyfoot (it) around – to be cautious about doing or saying something, e.g.
I didn’t want to upset her feelings so I didn’t ask about her exam. I pussyfooted around instead.
Ha, your challenge, should you choose to accept, is to try to use one of these phrases in your next blog, OK? ;->
While we’re on the subject of homework, I must make a special mention of Benka, who wrote a little story to explain the meaning of those phrases, and Ahmed, who went above and beyond the call of duty by finding a whole load of extra sayings that had cats in them. Great stuff! Panther is very impressed.
Paulraj wrote to say that he was surprised that public transport is not so efficient in the UK. I’m afraid it’s true! I think part of the problem is that our infrastructure is so ancient. For example, the London Underground was built in the 1860s, and our national rail network was built even before that, by the Victorians. Now we have the problem of maintaining or replacing these old systems. Building new ones from scratch would be too expensive, so we just have to patch up what is there, and that’s why our rail system is very inefficient. Certainly, newer rail infrastructures wipe the floor with the UK system. For example, the TGV in France has a top speed of 320mph, the shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan has a top speed of 233mph and the maglev train in Shanghai has a top speed of 260mph. The fastest train in the UK has a top speed of …125mph. Hold onto your hats!
Sometimes being one of the first to do something (i.e. build railways) doesn’t always work out for the best!
OK, now let’s talk grammar. A couple of you have been asking about If- clauses. Let me see if I can explain a bit about them. Really, you could write a whole book about If clauses, but I’m going to focus on just one use today.
Clauses that come after if usually talk about uncertain events or situations, e.g.
Ask Peter if he wants to come to the cinema with us.
(we don’t know whether Peter wants to)
If I have time, I’ll go to the shops after work.
(we don’t know whether the speaker will have time)
You can use the same tense after ‘if’ as you would with other conjunctions. However, if you want to talk about unlikely, imaginary or untrue situations, you have to use special tenses. For the present tense, we use this construction:
Past tense in the if- clause (even though the meaning is present) + would + infinitive:
If I knew her telephone number, I’d call her.
If I had a million pounds, I would go on a trip around the world.
What would you all do if you had a million pounds?
Until next time,
What’s up – What’s happening? How are you? (informal)
inflict – to cause something unpleasant to happen
have a stab at something – to try
to spill the beans – to reveal information
go above and beyond the call of duty – do more than is required
Great stuff! – excellent!
ancient – very old
from scratch – from the beginning
patch up – repair, in a way that probably won’t last very long
wipe the floor with someone – to beat very easily
Hold onto your hats – you can say this if something exciting or thrilling is happening. Here I’m using it ironically.
Answers to your comments
Mr Tran Minh Bon – many thanks for your comment and I’m glad you plucked up the courage to write! I noticed you use some new vocabulary to describe weather in your comment – well done!
Wisarut – Good luck with your presentation. I would say talk very slowly, very clearly, and have some notes on cards that you can refer to. It’s not really necessary to memorize every single word. Try to make eye contact with the audience. And good luck!
Qinping – you can say ‘who cooks food in your house’ or ‘who cooks food at home’ (meaning ‘your home’). Hmm, in London, you could go for a ride on the London Eye, go on a boat down the river Thames and visit the Tate Gallery. Have fun!
Lauren – Welcome, and thanks for your comment! I look forward to reading more from you.
Ana Paula – Your story about your sister made me laugh out loud. So funny! Thanks for the laughs. The poor girl – don’t worry, I won’t let the cat out of the bag by telling her you wrote about her.
Kyar Nyo – I can rephrase that sentence as: ‘7 million people live in London, and 60 million people live in the UK’. In the second example you give, you need to read back to the sentence before. This is what ‘Not because our roads are so good’ is referring to.
Ruth – ‘cost-effective’ means that you get the most profit or service in exchange for your money.
Mellisa – Have you tried pilates or yoga? I find it’s great for backache.
Fulvio – I think most people are far too lazy to use bicycles!
Jai – Thank you for your kind comment. I’m glad you’re reading!
Sanja – Panther hasn’t yet found a girl who is pretty or clever enough for him.
Benka – ‘who’d got the cream’ is short for ‘who had got the cream’.
Muhammad – Panther says he thinks it’s disgusting that humans don’t wash their whiskers after they eat.
Sarah – Hmm, if you only have a short period of time to brush up your English, your best bet would probably be to live in an English-speaking country. If that’s not possible, are there any language-exchange or language-immersion programmes near to you?
Sherzod – Yes, I’ve heard of Tajikistan, though I’m afraid I don’t know much about it. Maybe you can write and tell me more? No, there are no real regulations about owning pets in the UK. There are some so-called ‘dangerous dogs’ that were bred for fighting that you’re not allowed to keep, but that’s about it.
Harry – please could you give me an example of the sentence containing ‘rather’ that you find confusing? You see, there are several different ways to use ‘rather’ and it would help me to know which one you’re talking about. Thanks!
Paulraj – ‘pay extra’ (no ‘an’) is a phrase that means ‘pay more’.
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