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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The 64 million dollar question

Hi Enrico,

Thanks for your posting. You've really given us food for thought with your jackpot question.

I think most of us would agree with you, your wife and your running chums that a nice house, a long holiday and living the life of Reilly would suit us all just fine!

I must admit I have a slightly different reaction to the question 'What would you do if you won the lottery?' but that's because I spent so many years as an English language teacher. You see there's a particular part of English grammar which most EFL teachers spend a long time teaching – it's called 'the conditional'. There are lots of different types of conditionals but the one I'm talking about here is called 'the second conditional'. We use to talk about things that are unlikely (but possible) to happen and to talk about what we would do if that unlikely thing actually happened. So from a teaching point of view, talking about wining the lottery is a perfect way to get students to practise that particular conditional.

You make the second conditional with:

If + subject + past simple, subject + would + base verb

If I won the jackpot, I would buy a big house.
If he won the lottery, he'd go on a round-the-world cruise
If we won all that money, we would invest it.

Here are some other classic EFL second conditional questions. What are your answers to these ones Enrico?

What would you do if you met someone famous?
If you ruled the world, what new laws would you introduce?
If you saw a snake / a spider/ a rat / an animal you were afraid of, what would you do?

I though we'd look at a few sayings or proverbs that you mentioned in your blog. Before we do though I should point out that when we introduce a saying or proverb we often say something like this:

As they say
As the (old) saying goes
It is said

Although I completely understood what you meant here:

Money don’t give you happiness but it calm your nerves

you could make it sound more natural in English by saying:

As the saying goes, money can't buy you happiness

We don't really have an equivalent to the second half of your saying but Callum, in the Learning English office, suggested:

As they say, money can't buy you happiness but it can make your misery comfortable

I'm not sure I really understand what your second proverb was:

Your attention by money and phisical pains are the same , you keeps care of both of them

I thought perhaps you meant:

Money is like an injury, you have to look after it.

Is that right? Let us know.

And finally, I know you've stopped blogging about running but I was thinking of you at the weekend and I dug out a couple of old marathon pictures. Here I am crossing the finishing line in Dublin

And here's me at the end of the Medoc marathon (with my medal round my neck) . That one was through the vineyards of Bordeaux and each vineyard we ran through offered us runners a small glass of wine to enjoy. When you finished the marathon you got a lovely bottle of French wine too. So the sign in this photo says 'The longest marathon in the world' – it wasn't any longer in length than any other marathon, it's just that after you drink all that wine, it seems like the longest marathon in the world! The most enjoyable for sure, but the longest too!

food for thought – serious ideas or topics for us to think about
chums - (informal) friends
living the life of Reilly – having a very easy life without any difficult things to do
suit us all just fine – be perfect for each of us
EFL – (short for) English as a foreign language
sayings (or proverbs) - well-known and wise statements, which often have a meaning that is different from the simple meanings of the words they contain
dug out - found something, after looking for it for a long time
vineyards – fields where grapes are grown to make wine


Hi Nuala, I liked the marathon pictures very much. I can't imagine how someone manages to complete a marathon. It seems too long for me. 42 km, isn't it? I guess I would never be able to run that distance. As a matter of fact I have difficulty running a sixth of that. I get tired just thinking and I admire you very much for being able to do that. And that Medoc marathon must really have been a great acomplishment. Those conditional sentences used to be my favorite when I was studying English in a school. It used to be very fun imagining answers to these kinds of questions. We could let our imagination fly. Do your students give you creative answers to these questions? Thank you for the entry Nuala. See you next time. Best wishes, Mauricio.

Hi Nuala! The money question is out of my interest. In any case, it can´t give us a new body which would have got us a pleasure from getting or obtaining things using own powers. Isn´t it so when you are crossing the finishing line? I am far from running any distance but the more it is difficult to walk for me the more I am eager to go and get my endorphin dose. Then, there is no need to run and see the whole world. We are having the big snowfal and a half an hour of hard work with the shovel to make free my car from under the snowy blanket this morning was another good point for me. However, the best feeling for me would come when I create a new good picture.

Hi Nuala, How are you doing? Again you’ve impressed me watching you finishing that marathon in Dublin, and I wish I could do it as a told you in a previous message but for me impossible, besides, what I wanted to tell you as well is that you’ve made me laugh again when I realised why that MEDOC marathon is the longest one in the world and watching you in that funny body with the bottle in your hand zigzagging the path, really funny indeed. I didn’t want to forget to congratulate you as well for your English class. Thank you very much. Well now I’d like to thanks Mauricio for your compliment about my writing in other comment, but you have to bare in mind that your English is really great, since if I am not mistaken (Er, let me guess. Hahahaha) I’ve read some of the messages you usually write to your Spanish friend Javier and the Italian one Elena. Am I right or not? Just let me know. Best Regards. Mergui

Hi Nuala! It´s nice to see you as our teacher blog again :-). I couldn´t send messages before because we´re facing terrible storms in my city. Consequently, the Net conection drops very often and we have some power cuts too. However, you all are alway in my thoughts :-). Best wishes, Ana Paula.

Good morning Nuala seeing your photo during a marathon is a great emotion. Thank you for yours advices and your hard work with my english. i don't stop to studing english. i hope to improve. good work

Waouh, I am so much impressed by your experience Nuala!!! I am French, and I don't know that the kind of "Medoc" marathon really exists. I think it is more a kind of exploit instead of a real sporting achievement.Thanks for your nice blog and your idiomatic expressions.

Hello Nuala! I’ve not being here for a while, it’s nice to come back. Your explanations about apostrophes to show that something belongs to either person or subject turned up to be very useful for me. On the other hand your explanations have met contradiction in terms immediately after they had been released! Take a look, please, at this page: Mars’ history as well as planet’s atmosphere are not gonna obey the regulations you’ve just displayed. Who is actually on the right track? Nuala O’Sullivan or Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent? See you

Dear Nuala, it's really great to find your wonderful teaching blog! You're a real ball of fire. You might not remember but one happy day I became one of the winners of the "Flatmates" competition! I received your wonderful picture (with Michal). :) Thank you again for your great efforts to make our English better! Keep up the good work!

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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