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September 2007

Sunday, 02 September 2007

Just a quickie

Hi everyone – just a quick post today to reply to some of your comments. Hope everyone is well and having a lovely weekend! We have had a very Louie-friendly couple of days. Yesterday we went to a playgroup in the morning where there were lots of exciting toys to play with and new children to meet. Then in the afternoon we went to our friends’ daughter’s 4th birthday party. They had a bouncy castle and lots of yummy food and cake. Louie stuffed his face :-) Finally this afternoon we’re off to another birthday party for our friends’ one year old. Babies everywhere! Louie is over the moon!

And now for some replies to your comments...

Antonio: I’m glad to hear you’re feeling more confident about speaking to people. I think the key is just practice practice practice – and also try not to worry too much about making mistakes :-)

Ana Paula: Yes! You’re so right about reading – it really is one of the best ways to improve your language skills. I’ve also read ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’. I really enjoyed it. I recently finished a book called ‘Eat Pray Love’. It’s quite good, perhaps you might like it… I also love the sea and really miss it here in Delhi. I love going to the beach, even in the winter.

Paulraj: Yes I agree, the terrorist attacks that we are experiencing all around the world aren’t much fun at all. I was interested to hear about the scheme of donating irons to pressing wallahs – sounds good and much better than free TVs.

Sanja: well done for answering the ‘even’ questions!

Pilar: I also quite like ironing but it’s difficult to find the time and so much easier to take them down the road! I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of ironing when we move back to the UK with a family of four :-)

Hyoshil: Of course I will excuse your mistake! The weather doesn’t bother me much more than normal, even though I’m pregnant. I’m glad it will be winter when the baby is born though – I can’t imagine being nine months pregnant and also having to cope with the heat! I think they’re called bank holidays because all the banks are officially shut! I suppose there might be another reason as well though… not sure.

Adriana: that’s the problem with learning ‘coursebook English’ as opposed to the English that really is spoken on the street! We teach you to be much too polite compared to other people! :-) I’m looking forward to your blogs!

Mellisa: I hope you saw my answer to your question about the crocodile and alligator phrases. As for the abbreviations, they’re really more common in spoken language than in written as they are quite informal. Try and look at the context and that should help you to guess the meaning if you’re not sure.

Myen: hmm… I’m not sure what you mean about making those parts of the sentence the subject. Can you explain what you mean again?

Wisarut: you’re absolutely right about different types of English being needed for different situations – it starts to get very complicated, doesn’t it!

Mady: welcome to the blog and thanks for your comments. Have a look at the home page of the learningenglish website and try each of the different areas to see what is best for you. You can do lots of different things depending on which skills you want to develop. I recommend looking at The Flatmates as that includes reading and listening as well as grammar and vocabulary. Everything on the website is very useful!

Kay: I think you can change the example you gave ‘hate not to do something’ to ‘hate not doing something’ – I think that works better. So for example, ‘I hate not getting home on time’ or something like that. For the second one ‘Need not to know’ it would sound better to say ‘don’t need to know’, I think!

More in a couple of days!


Might as well put in the definitions from last time…

Thought-provoking: causing you to think about or consider something
Half-asleep: not asleep but not quite fully awake either!
Chore: a task or something you have to do, usually related to housework. Usually used when you don’t like what you have to do but you have no choice.
The time of your life: you use this expression to describe the best thing you have ever done. ‘I had the time of my life at university’
Craving: a very strong desire for something, often food. Very common when you are pregnant! Some people have cravings for very strange things, like toothpaste!
Dressing: a kind of sauce that is made for a salad. Often includes oil and vinegar but not always.
Finely: in very small pieces
Mushy: soft, without any hard or firm bits

and just three little phrases for today…

To stuff your face
To be over the moon
To cope with something

Tuesday, 04 September 2007


Hello again… well I thought I’d write a little post while I wait to hear from Adriana. I realised that while Yumi was ahead of me in time zones, Adriana you are quite far behind so there’s bound to be a bit of a gap as we change over.

I’m sorry not to have seen any of your recent comments, my dear readers :-) they must all be mixed up with lots of spam… either that or everyone’s disappeared! :-)

Today I’m on holiday from work – hurrah! It’s Janamashtami which is Krishna’s birthday. If you’d like to find out more about how and why this day is celebrated you can have a look here.

I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of religions in India and the energy with which religious holidays are celebrated. This time of year there are quite a few important dates from the four major religions – Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity. Last Tuesday we had another Hindu holiday – Raksha Bandhan (I hope I’ve spelled that correctly). On this day, girls traditionally buy pieces of decorative thread to tie around their brothers wrist. In return, their brothers promise to protect them forever and they also give them gifts! It’s a great day to be a girl, as long as you have a brother! Actually, it doesn’t seem to matter too much if you don’t because you can include your male cousins as brothers and it’s quite rare for someone not to have any brothers or male cousins. In fact, lots of people refer to their cousins as brothers and sisters, rather than cousins. I think this is a result of the tradition of living in joint families which we’ve discussed before.

From the Hindu calendar, I think my favourite holiday is Dussehra. This day celebrates the triumph of good over evil, as it marks the occasion when the God Rama defeated the demon Ravana who had kidnapped his wife – Sita. This event is marked by the destruction of huge great big effigies of Ravana which involves lots of fireworks and LOTS of noise! Neighbourhoods all over Delhi have their own Ravanas which are ceremoniously blown up in the evening, accompanied by cheers from the crowds that gather.

Dussehra is closely followed by Diwali which celebrates the return of Rama to his kingdom following the rescue of Sita from Ravana’s clutches. Even more fireworks for this festival – it all gets a bit noisy for me! Both of these events come from the epic tale of the Ramayana. I really love the story – I first came across it when I was about ten because we did a play of it at school – I was a mermaid and had to sing a solo! Dussehra and Diwali are about a week or so apart and normally fall in October/November. Adriana and our readers – I wonder what your favourite holidays are?

Well I’m off to yoga now – it’s my first class since I’ve been pregnant. I used to do lots of yoga in England but haven’t done any since I moved to Delhi! That’s a bit ironic isn’t it! A friend of a friend is a yoga teacher and is also pregnant so the plan is to go to her house once a week. I need to get fit and ready for the birth! I’ll let you know how it goes.

All the best,


Vocabulary definitions from the last post…

To stuff your face: to eat A LOT – NB. This is very informal (some people think it’s a bit rude to say this!)
To be over the moon: to be extremely happy
To cope with something: to be able to do something even though it is very difficult or perhaps unpleasant.

… and some more!

To be bound to be
To defeat
To mark
To come across

Wednesday, 05 September 2007

Welcome, Adriana!

Dear Adriana and all our readers,

Hello! Thanks for your marvellous first post and your fabulous quiz! It was pretty tricky though – I doubt I would have done very well if it weren’t for the highlighted answers! :-)

I haven’t been to Brazil but my cousin went to Rio a few years ago and absolutely loved it. She was there for Carnival and had a riot of a time. She had been learning Portuguese for some time so was happy to be able to practice it with real people (rather than other English students in her class)! It’s nice to hear about a place other than Rio or Sao Paulo though – like you said, it’s quite rare to get any news of other places in Brazil.

Hey! I didn’t know bloggers had a reputation for being self-centred and selfish! Self-indulgent perhaps, but selfish?! I hope not! Although I have to admit that my husband is busy in the kitchen making us dinner while I am hunched over the computer writing all sorts of nonsense :-) I suppose some would say that that is rather selfish…

Okay – lets have a closer look at your use of the lovely English language, Adriana, and see if we can diagnose some areas to work on. First of all I have to say that your writing is very fluent indeed – remember, everybody, that there are two key parts to writing and indeed to speaking: accuracy and fluency. It’s important to develop both of these. Accuracy refers obviously to use of grammar and vocabulary, whereas fluency refers to your ability to put across and express your ideas clearly. You score very high on both of these counts Adriana and you have used some lovely phrases and vocabulary. I think that must mean that you read a lot, am I right? Ha ha I feel like a doctor (or perhaps one of those magicians who seems to know everything about you!).

Okay, now there are a couple of things that I’d like to highlight…

1) Capital letters

Hmm… these seem to be a bit absent from your posts, particularly in your most recent one. Remember: capital letters are used for people’s names, names of countries/cities/continents, nationalities, days of the week, and the names of institutions, including hotels and schools.

Here is your task: have a look at your most recent post ‘In the town where I was born’. I’d like you to try and identify seven mistakes you have made with the use of capital letters. I know this might seem a bit basic, but once you’ve done this task I guarantee you’ll make fewer mistakes with using capitals in the future! Sometimes it’s important to go back to basics…

2) Collocations with the verb ‘make’

This is a very common area for errors because different languages combine verbs and nouns in different ways. In your last post you have made three mistakes with the verb ‘to make’ (although the first two are almost identical so actually we can call it just two errors if you like :-)

a) I am thinking of inviting you all to come and make a tour in my city and what do you think of making a virtual tour?

b) It’s hard to make an ‘Ola!’ at the stadium

In both these cases, the problem is that the verb ‘make’ just doesn’t go with these phrases and so sounds a bit odd. For (a) I’d suggest saying ‘do a tour of my city’ (note the change of preposition there as well) and ‘doing a virtual tour’. For (b) I think it might be better to say ‘shout an Ola! at the stadium’ or something like that.

The verbs ‘make’ and ‘do’ are very often confused, especially by speakers of European-origin languages because they are frequently used differently in these. For homework, as well as thinking about those capital letters above, I was wondering if all of you could come up with five phrases for the verb ‘make’ and five for the verb ‘do’ – for example: make a sandwich and do your homework. You don’t have to write complete sentences, just give me five nice phrases for each verb and we’ll have a look at them. If you want to check your answers, have a look in the dictionary under ‘make’ and ‘do’ – good dictionaries should suggest some phrases that go with common verbs like these.

3) Vocabulary

You have a great range of vocabulary. There were a couple of words you used that need a bit of explanation though – ‘close-mouthed’ and that people ‘speak singing’ – I think I know what you mean but the expressions sound a bit funny in English. Can you think of another way to say these things?

All right, well I hope the homework isn’t too taxing - I’m sure it’s not. A nice gentle start, Adriana! Next time I think we’ll have a look at some past tenses…

Take care everyone,


Vocabulary definitions from yesterday – I’ve stolen Adriana’s and added comments in (brackets) where necessary!:

To be bound to be- (To be very) likely to be
Decorative- (Pretty or attractive, not always with a specific use)
A triumph- (a) victory
To defeat- To make someone fail (or give in)
To mark- (to celebrate)
An effigy- (A 3D representation of something – can be a) statue (or can be made out of material or paper)
Clutches- (grasp, within someone’s possession)
Epic- (Usually refers to a very long story which often) has historical (roots)
To come across- (to discover something, usually by chance)
Ironic- (this is a word people always find difficult to define! Adriana’s description is correct) “Funny 'cause India is the land of Yoga” (but it means a bit more than that. It suggests that something is unexpected given the situation. You would expect that I would be doing more yoga here, because it’s the land of yoga, but actually I did more in England, so it’s ironic)

New words/phrases from today:

A riot of a time
To put across

Friday, 07 September 2007

A spelling test!

Hello all! Thanks for your lovely and informative posts Adriana, although I was sorry to hear about all the suicides in your town :-( I’m not sure whether suicide is illegal in the UK or not but I think it is… it’s kind of strange for it to be illegal seeing as they can’t really punish you if it happens. Anyway, I was also sorry to hear about your little bird. It made me think that an alternative title for your post could have been ‘Independence and death’ seeing as he must have been flying freely when the eagle got him.

Not much to report from here I’m afraid. Despite the holiday on Tuesday this feels like it has been a very long week. Unfortunately it ain’t over yet as I’m working tomorrow too. I have to work about one Saturday every two or three months. It’s not so bad though because I get to take a day off in its place afterwards and have a nice long weekend if I'm lucky.

Okay, first of all let’s have a look at those funny old capital letters. Now you asked about the title – with these you can capitalise each of the words if you like, especially when the title is a published title (rather than something like the title to an essay that you’re writing at school). Small words like prepositions, articles and conjunctions normally aren’t capitalised, unless they are the first word in the title. On the other hand, in this context I think it is fine not to capitalise the words in the title if you don’t want to, like in the title of your next blog ‘In the town where I was born - part II’. I’m pretty sure this just comes down to a preference of style but I’m open to hearing from anyone who feels differently!

As for the rest of your answers, you got some of them. Here is the note that I wrote in the last blog:

Remember: capital letters are used for people’s names, names of countries/cities/continents, nationalities, days of the week, and the names of institutions, including hotels and schools.

One of the key words here to notice is nationalities as this seems to be the group of words that you most frequently don’t capitalise. Nationalities are always capitalised. The mistakes you made in the post I was referring to were:


You also mentioned ‘Capixabas’ and you’re absolutely right – it should also be capitalised as it’s referring to a group of people from a particular place. I notice you’ve made a few more errors with capitals in your most recent posts so try to remember to put a capital letter on all nationalities from now on, and I’ll stop bugging you about it! :-)

The phrases you gave for ‘make’ and ‘do’ are great and correct except for the last one where you’ve used a phrase I notice you’ve used a couple of times now *”I’ve done writing”. Here the error is with the auxiliary verb – what should it be instead? If you’re not sure have a look towards the end of my post called Working Dinners as we discussed using this phrase a few weeks ago.

Yes! You’re right! ‘Close-mouthed’ is a word, I looked it up in my trusty dictionary. According to the definition there it means “not willing to say much because you are trying to keep a secret”. Also, (and this might explain why I hadn’t heard it before) it says it is American English. So there you go! As for ‘speak singing’ I know exactly what you mean but I don’t think we have a phrase like that in English. I think to describe the same thing you’d have to say something like ‘have funny intonation patterns’ or I guess you could also say ‘speak in a sing-song voice’ – yes, that’s probably the closest to what you were trying to say.

Oh yes, one more thing – you explained what you meant by ‘Ola!’ – in English you can call this ‘the wave’ which is just how you described it. You could say something like ‘everybody in the stadium took part in the wave’. To go back to your original sentence, you could say ‘It’s hard to get everyone to do the wave at the stadium’.

Okay, so I have asked you one question already for homework. Now I know I said we might look at past tenses next but I just want to see a couple more examples of your writing before I go into detail about that… meanwhile I thought I’d give you a little spelling test! I’m very glad that you don’t seem to be using a spell check on your computer because this way we can see which words you have difficulty spelling and you can work on learning to spell them the right way, once and for all. Here is a little list of words that you have written that all have errors – can you and our readers try and rewrite them? It might even be helpful to employ the old-fashioned method of writing each one out ten times once you’ve spelled them correctly to help you remember!

1) Responsable
2) Extremelly
3) Papper (i.e. salt and…)
4) Maintainance
5) Benefices
6) Breainstorming
7) Devide
8) Coincidentely
9) Violense
10) Occurences
11) Arguied
12) Terribily
13) Hand-glinding
14) Para-glinding

Right, well my darling husband is again slaving away in the kitchen so I must rush now and make sure he isn’t burning anything. Ha ha only joking, he’s a great cook – I’d better go and help though before he starts thinking I’m not pulling my weight.

Take care everyone and I hope you enjoy your travels Adriana! We’ll look forward to hearing all about them.

Ta-ra for now.


Here’s the vocabulary before I go…

A riot of a time: a fabulous experience
Self-indulgent: describes something that you do that benefits (often only) yourself
Hunched: sitting or standing with a rounded back, with your head down
Nonsense: ideas or something you say that is untrue or very silly
To put across: to explain/share
Collocation:the way that some words are used or combined together e.g. “black and white” rather than “white and black”
Taxing: demanding, needing a lot of effort

and today’s words:

To bug someone
Once and for all
To employ (check context –there’s more than one meaning!)
To slave away
Must rush
To (not) pull your weight


I think it’s high time that our regular readers (including Adriana) reviewed some of the words and phrases that we’ve been learning over the last few weeks, so each blog from now on I’m going to choose five words and make a little list of them for you to test yourselves on whether you know the meaning or not. I’ll put a link in to the definitions in case you need to double check, and remember you can always check the post before to see how they were used… here we go:

1) To use your loaf
2) To get cracking
3) Tricky
4) Regardless
5) Convincing

Check your answers here!

Sunday, 09 September 2007

Life's a beach

I love the photos Adriana! Nice to see and read about your holiday. I thought it might be interesting to tell you all about a similar holiday that I went on not that long ago. I say similar because it was a trip to the beach and we stayed in a lovely house very close to the sea. I thought it might be interesting for you and all our readers to see the contrast between the two places given that the cultures of our countries (my host country) are so different. Having said that, the place we were staying was formerly a Portuguese colony – like Brazil… I wonder if any of you have figured out where I’m talking about yet… your clues so far are India, beach, Portuguese…

Yep you guessed it, the place we visited was in Goa. In the northern part of India’s smallest state. We stayed in this lovely house…

…with some friends who were visiting from England. They have a three year old son so it was nice for Louie and him to play together. Like you, Adriana, we were only there for a couple of nights – just a long weekend. It was a bit short but still lovely and relaxing. We ate lots of fish, which was a real treat as we’re a bit scared of eating fish in Delhi as it is so far from the sea. Anyway, you can see from the picture below, the beach we were staying on isn’t very developed at all.

There are loads of beaches in Goa and some of them are really very (over) developed. One evening we went out for dinner on another beach – it was a real eye-opener and a side of Goa that I hadn’t seen before. Bars, restaurants and hotels everywhere and zillions of (other) tourists. I prefer the quieter beaches myself but it was still interesting to see.

I think my favourite thing about Goa is these beautiful churches that are dotted around all over the place. Like I said in an earlier post, I’m really interested in the different religions practised in India and how they are interpreted in different parts of the country. Most of the churches in Goa are Catholic and were built by the Portuguese but many still have huge congregations – much bigger than churches in England have these days.

Goa has grown on me over the few times that I’ve been there – the first time I went I wasn’t that keen but I like it now. I’ve definitely been to nicer beaches in other parts of India though – Karnataka for example… but that’s a whole other story.

I sometimes find myself pining for the sea here in Delhi. That’s one thing that I love about England – you’re never too far from the coast. I love going to the beach, even in the winter and having a nice hot plate of chips with salt and vinegar… mmm my mouth is watering!

Well done on the homework Adriana – your first two corrections of the sentence *‘I’ve done writing’ are good: I’m done writing and I’ve finished writing but the other two corrections you have given aren’t quite right… *I’ve got my blog done and *I’ve finished my today’s blog. It would be better to say “I’ve finished my blog” or “I’ve finished today’s blog”.

As for the spelling – did you cheat and copy and paste the words ten times or did you write them out? :-) I was half-joking when I suggested you do that! Anyway, let’s see if you remember them now on ;-)

Seeing as it’s Sunday I’m not going to give you any homework today, just the vocabulary as usual and I’ll write back to some comments as well, below.

See ya Tuesday!


p.s. Adriana, you asked me what ‘ta-ra for now’ means – well it’s another way of saying goodbye. It’s more common in the north of England than in the south and it was made famous by a TV presenter who used to say it without fail at the end of every show. Ta ra!

Vocabulary definitions, as always…

Preference: the one or thing that you like the most, when given a choice
To bug someone: to annoy someone (note the difference to your definition, Adriana)
Trusty: dependable, always there for you
Once and for all: to settle something completely/finally (also check this one, Adri)
To employ: to use (in this context)
To slave away: to work very hard
Must rush: to go/leave quickly, usually for another appointment
To pull your weight: to do your share of the work. To not pull your weight means you are not doing your fair share

And new words and phrases from today

Having said that
A long weekend
An eye-opener
Dotted around
A congregation
To grow on someone
To pine

AND some old words for you to review…

A troublemaker
To tweak
To get the blues
To vouch for something

Check the usage and definitions here!

And NOW for some replies to our readers’ comments.... I’m sorry if some of you have written in but haven’t had your comments displayed on the website yet. I’m afraid I can only respond to the ones I can see! They should all come through eventually though – they're all mixed up with lots of spam emails, unfortunately. I’ll keep checking!

Filippo: Thanks for telling me about All Saints’ Day – I’ve heard of that before, I think it’s a really nice tradition… perhaps I’ll start celebrating it in my little family!

Ana Paula: glad you liked hearing about my Granny and Grampy – it’s too bad my Granny doesn’t have a computer, it would have been nice for her to read what I wrote. Maybe I’ll print it out and send it to her…

Silwal: Sorry to hear that you have had so much work to do! Ahh… now I understand what you meant by single! Don’t work too hard!

Kay: wow you ask some tricky questions! I think in the sentence ‘even more useful than something’ the phrase ‘even more’ is used a little differently than just ‘even’ on its own. It has to be followed by an adjective. Yes, you can use the present perfect with ‘even’ and you wrote it correctly – ‘have even done sth’. Here ‘even’ goes after the auxiliary and before the main verb (which is also a bare infinitive)

Jill: sorry to hear about your new manager… meetings can be interesting sometimes but not if you have too many of them, I agree. You’re absolutely right about that sentence – it should have been ‘who’, not ‘you’ – it was just a typo. Well spotted!

Reka: hello! I don’t really have light and spring steps, especially now that I am almost six months pregnant! I’m more like an elephant :-) My father (who I get my surname from) has always been a runner though – he won a lot of competitions and races when he was at university. He went for a run everyday for ten years, without missing a day! How about that?!

Adek: I’m glad you’re finding the blogs useful… feel free to ask as many questions as you like and I’ll try and answer them!

Virginia: thanks for your lovely comments! And yes, I will reply to you! Sorry if you have been waiting a while… it takes some time for the comments to be displayed on the website. Hope all is well :-)

Yvonne: yes, you’re right – listening does improve speaking in the same way that reading helps with writing. It’s especially useful to hear intonation patterns and how people say things, as well as the language they use. I don’t think you need to imitate a native speaker but just listen for phrases that you like and then try and use them yourself.

Paulraj: thanks for your nice comments and your kind wishes. By the way, where do you live in India? I think you told me once but I’ve forgotten.

Ahmed: Aha! You thought I was leaving but I’m not! I’ll be around on this website until the end of September – thanks for your kind comments though :-)

Jasmina: I’m always happy to hear from new people, welcome! You asked an interesting question – I think the English version of your name would probably be Jasmine, that’s the closest I can think of. However, these days there are people from so many different cultures and backgrounds living in England that it wouldn’t be uncommon to find a Yasmeen, a Yasmeena or even a Jasmina!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Is the present perfect?

Hello! Well I am feeling absolutely knackered today – I had to work on Saturday so I only had a one day weekend and it’s starting to catch up with me now :-( I’m off to yoga again today though so hopefully that might make me feel a bit more alive.

I enjoyed reading your last couple of posts, Adriana – as always. I had been wondering what job you did and now we know! I’m terrible about visiting the dentist. I went for a check up a few months ago but before then I hadn’t been for three years!!! How embarrassing. The dentist told me that I need four fillings but I decided to wait until after the baby is born because I wasn’t sure how the anaesthetic would affect the unborn baby.

Anyway, today I thought we’d have a little look at some serious grammar… yes, my friends, it’s the that horrid little tense: the present perfect. The bane of many a student and many a teacher, for that matter. Adriana – I’ve noticed that this is the tense that you seem to have the most trouble with so let’s do a bit of revision of the uses and then I’m going to set you some homework.

Okey doke – so we’ve got this tense called the present perfect. What I’d like to know is which nincompoop decided to call it perfect when it clearly isn’t because so many people have trouble understanding it! Dear oh dear, English is a funny language. So here is what we know about it:

How do we form it?

(+) Subject + have/has + third form of the verb (past participle)
(-) Subject + have/has not + third form of the verb (past participle)
(?) Have/has + subject + third form of the verb (past participle)

Everyone following me so far? Jolly good. That’s the easy bit.

Why do we use it?

Well, imagine somebody has just arrived in a new country by boat. He is standing on a cliff and looking out to sea in the direction that he just came from and thinking about his journey. You can think of why we use the present perfect in the same way – we use it to look back on our past now that we have arrived in the present!

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t use the present perfect to talk only about recent events or the recent past – imagine that the man standing on the cliff has bionic eyes and can see the whole 10000 miles around the world that he has come. It’s the same with the present perfect – you can look back at any point in your life no matter how long ago it was, as long as you are relating it to where you are now.

For example: “This volcano has erupted every year for the last ten thousand years” – I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s not the recent past!

How is it different to the past simple?

The past simple, which is usually the tense that people get it confused with, is used to talk about events that have happened in the past and are remote - that is, they aren’t connected to the present. They are events which happened and are now finished. The end.

Look at these examples:

She went to France.
She has been to France.

The first sentence is just a statement – a fact. She went to France. Great. The second sentence suggests that she might be benefiting from the experience of going to France now. She has been to France so therefore she can speak French now, for example.

Okay, let’s have a look at some sentences from your posts Adriana and see if you and our readers can figure out where the mistakes are… I’ll give you a hint – one of the sentences is completely correct and doesn’t need changing! The others each contain at least one mistake.

1) So what are the consequences of this figure? The market became highly specialized for the benefit of the population.

2) I’ve noticed you’ve brought the religion issue up today.

3) After a short trip ‘by car’ to Domingos Martins city, at the last moment, I’ve changed my plans to take a long trip ‘by bus’ to the historical cities ( Ouro Preto, Mariana and Tiradentes) in Minas Gerais state.

4) My unique option was to take the long trip ‘by bus’ to Minas Gerais. I’ve had a great time there, visiting museums and churches dotted around the cities.

5) I’ve had a look at the dictionary but I don’t think it’s the same rave here

6) Apart from the unproven theory that the Phoenicians (incidentally coming from Africa to the Brazilian coast) have had been here firstly, all we learn since our childhood is that Brazil was discovered by Portugal

7) Isn’t strange that the independence of Brazil has been declared by a prince from Portugal?

All right then, well just before I rush off to my yoga class I also wanted to point out three more little things about your posts, Adriana. One is that you used a lovely phrase which I liked a lot “there is still much to be done” – nice. You use lots of good phrases but for some reason this one jumped out at me.

Next, notice the difference between the way I write ‘Brazilians’ and you write ‘brazilians’. See what I’m getting at? YES! It’s the missing capital letter! Brazilians are important! Give them a capital letter! I will start a national campaign if necessary, that will rival the delightfully named ‘Happy little teeth’ campagain… maybe I’ll call it ‘Happy big letters’ :-)

Finally, you have used the word ‘truck’ a couple of times. For example:

A truck of kisses
Even I, rereading my posts, can find a truck of them.

I know exactly what you mean but you just need to add a bit – it should be ‘truckloads’ not just truck to sound absolutely correct.

So with truckloads of good luck for doing the homework, I bid you farewell (until my next post).


Vocabulary definitions…

Contrast: to show the similarities and differences between two or more things
Having said that: a linker, used between two statements which seem opposite, or to contradict one another but which are both true
A long weekend: usually refers to a three or four day weekend, normally because of a public holiday on the Friday or Monday
Eye-opener: something that is surprising or unusual. Often used in the phrase ‘It was a real eye-opener’
Dotted around: in various locations quite close to each other
Congregation: the group of people who regularly go to worship at a particular church
To grow on someone: when someone starts to like something more than they did before we say it is ‘growing on them’
To pine: to miss something or someone and wish that you had it or were near it
Mouth-watering: describes a type of food that is so delicious you can feel your mouth preparing to eat it

…and yet more

To follow someone (see context)

AND some old ones for review!

To traipse
To bring home the bacon

Here’s where you can check your answers!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Wedding bells

Well it’s raining buckets outside and unfortunately one of our airconditioners has decided to start leaking so the rain isn’t staying outside like it should. I knew it was going to rain today – over the last few days it’s been feeling a lot cooler and I’ve been celebrating the end of summer. Today it was much muggier again and everyone was complaining about the heat (again) but I
knew it was because it was going to start raining later. Clever, aren’t I? :-)

Now before I start going over the homework (Ana Paula you are right – the present perfect is indeed a minefield) I thought I’d write a little bit about my wedding and compare it to weddings here in India. One of our readers, Manoj, asked me about this and I thought it might be an interesting topic to discuss.

Ed and I met when we were at university in 1998. He was a friend of a friend. The first time I met him properly was at my 21st birthday party and then shortly after that we bumped into each other in the library on campus (although I later found out that he had engineered this ‘chance meeting’). Anyway, so we got on really well and started to hang out. Once we’d finished university we did a lot of travelling together (mostly around India) and then in 2004 we got married – just before we moved to Delhi.

Our wedding was quite small by English standards and teeny weeny by Indian standards! We only had close friends and family to the actual ceremony. This took place in a lovely town hall in a town in Dorset, near Ed’s mum’s farm. Neither of us are religious (although as you know, I am very interested in learning about different religions) so we decided against having the ceremony in a church. In England it’s quite common these days to have what they call ‘civil marriages’ were the wedding is performed by a person called a registrar, who works for the government, rather than a priest.

After the ceremony (which only lasted about 20 minutes!) we had a big lunch for everyone back at the farm, with lots of delicious vegetarian food and a beautiful cake. In England the cutting of the cake is one of the big traditions – the bride and groom are supposed to do the first cut together while everyone watches and cheers.

In the evening we had a big party on the farm that we lived on at the time (about 40 minutes away) for all of our friends. About 150 people came which I guess is quite a lot and we had a blast. We had fireworks and champagne and then a big breakfast in the morning that my Costa Rican friend Paula cooked for everyone – it was quite a job!

In contrast, Indian weddings tend to be huge, lavish affairs. I’m speaking mostly about Hindu weddings here as I don’t know much about Muslim or Sikh ones I’m afraid. Guest lists can reach up to 500 people or more and families tend to rent out large halls to have the weddings in. Traditionally, marriages are arranged by the families of the bride and groom who may not have met each other before the day of the wedding. However, these days, in the big cities, it’s much more common for weddings to be partially arranged. By this I mean that families still help the bride and groom to find each other but very often they will meet several times before the wedding to get to know each other a bit. Also, both the boy and girl can refuse someone if they don’t like them – they don’t have to agree to marry the first person their families choose.

Ed and I had known each other for about six years before we got married and my parents had nothing to do with us meeting. Ed did ask my parents for my hand in marriage before he asked me though. That’s the tradition in England although I think it might be becoming less common.

Anyway, here’s a photo of us cutting the cake. Do you like my dress? :-) It’s not the traditional white! It only cost me 20 pounds from a charity shop - bargain!

Now I guess we should get down to work. First of all, let’s look at Adriana’s answers to the present perfect homework I set you… it was pretty difficult, I know.

1) So what are the consequences of this figure? The market became highly specialized for the benefit of the population.

Adriana’s answer: 1- has become – CORRECT!

2) I’ve noticed you’ve brought the religion issue up today.

Adriana’s answer: 2- I think it's correct or I have to swallow the word 'today'. OOPS! Well, it’s almost right. You just need to change the first verb to ‘I noticed’ – past simple. This is because the noticing is over, you only needed to do it once in this case.

3) After a short trip ‘by car’ to Domingos Martins city, at the last moment, I’ve changed my plans to take a long trip ‘by bus’ to the historical cities ( Ouro Preto, Mariana and Tiradentes) in Minas Gerais state.

Adriana’s answer: 3- I changed my plans YES!

4) My unique option was to take the long trip ‘by bus’ to Minas Gerais. I’ve had a great time there, visiting museums and churches dotted around the cities.

Adriana’s answer: 4-My unique option would be taking the long trip...I had a great time there. ALMOST! No need to change the first verb. ‘My unique option’ sounds a bit strange… can you suggest something else?

5) I’ve had a look at the dictionary but I don’t think it’s the same rave here

Adriana’s answer: 5-I've looked at the NO! This is the correct sentence! It’s fine as it is.

6) Apart from the unproven theory that the Phoenicians (incidentally coming from Africa to the Brazilian coast) have had been here firstly, all we learn since our childhood is that Brazil was discovered by Portugal

Adriana’s answer: 6-had been here NOT QUITE! It should be ‘were here first’ and ‘all we have learnt since our childhood’

7) Isn’t strange that the independence of Brazil has been declared by a prince from Portugal?

Adriana’s answer: 7-was declared YEP! CORRECT!

Well done Adri and all our readers who got some or all of the answers right. It’s a very difficult tense so don’t get disheartened with your mistakes. Practice makes perfect! Adriana you have used it nicely a couple of times in your most recent post, well done! Just try to be aware of it when you are using it and double check with yourself that you are using it correctly.

Okay now today I’m going to give you some easier homework. I’ve noticed (you see here it is over a period of time so the present perfect is appropriate) that sometimes you make mistakes with your noun-verb agreement and use of plurals. Have a look at these sentences and see if you can correct the mistakes.

1) zillions of them doesn’t know that, because the main oponents are themselves.

2) All the money are on the politicians' pockets.

3) What we brazilian dentists do, most part of the population doesn’t know because we work silent among 4 walls.

4) Simple and poor people who has sold all their belongings believing in a new wonderful life here.

5) I started other activity

6) We made a good profit and everybody wanted our sandwich

7) One of the trainnings was at the company where I work today.

Thanks for your last two interesting posts, Adriana. I particularly enjoyed hearing about your funny conversation with your son, as well as your creative ways of getting money together to fund your studies. Very interesting!

Okay that’s plenty for today.

More soon,


…but of course I won’t go without going over the vocabulary…

Knackered: extremely tired
Anaesthetic: a drug you can be given to take away all feeling in a particular part of your body, or you whole body if it is a ‘general’ anaesthetic
Horrid: horrible, very bad
Bane: if something is the bane of your life it is the thing which causes you the most unhappiness or trouble
Nincompoop: old-fashioned (but funny) way of saying ‘a stupid or silly person’
To follow someone (see context): to understand what someone is saying
Cliff: the edge of a country or island which drops suddenly, often into the sea
Bionic: electronic and more powerful than normal human ability - superhuman
Truckloads: a very large amount

HEAPS of new words and phrases

To rain buckets
A minefield
To bump into
To engineer (see context)
To hang out
Teeny weeny
To take place
To cheer
A blast (see context)
To ask for someone’s hand in marriage
A charity shop
To be disheartened

And some old ones for revision…

Free range
To put your finger on something

Definitions here!

Phew! What a long post!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Replies for you!

Wow! What a lot of comments to reply to! I’ve counted comments from 39 people that have appeared on the website since the last time I replied to these. I’m just going to concentrate on answering these today, I don’t think I’ll have time to write much more :-)

I am going to give you some homework though, Adriana (and our readers) – Myen asked a very nice question when she posted her answers to the present perfect sentences…

“What’s the difference in meaning between the sentences ‘She has gone to France’ and ‘She has been to France’? I know the answer… do you? Have a think about it and let me know… I’ll tell you the answer on Monday.

I’ll post the answers to the noun/verb agreement and plurals homework tomorrow, along with the vocabulary definitions. Meanwhile, here are some replies to our readers’ comments. Thanks to everyone for writing in and, as always, I hope I haven’t left anyone out!

Ana Paula: I’ve found 8 comments from you that I hadn’t been able to read before – thanks! Well done on the homework. Sorry to hear that you were disappointed with your exam results. I think with those two types of questions practice will help but also try to work through an intermediate grammar exercises book (like English in Use or something like that). That should help as well. Good luck! I’m glad you liked the sound of the book I recommended. Yes, ‘whaddya think’ is a short/slang way of saying ‘what do you think?’ – we usually use it only for speaking, not writing but rules are meant to be broken :-)

Yvonne: well done on the present perfect homework, almost all right! I hope you checked your answers with the blog. You did a good job with make and do collocations too :-)

Mauricio: when I wrote ‘many a student and many a teacher’ I was emphasizing the fact that there are lots of students and lots of teachers who find it difficult. You can use the structure in the same way although normally you’d just have one ‘many’. For example, ‘many a child finds reading boring’. Be careful though – it can sound a little bit old-fashioned. I can understand wanting to stay at home when you have a holiday! I do sometimes too. ‘Delhi’ is pronounced ‘DEL-ee’ (stress on the first syllable).

Silwal: almost all right with the present perfect sentences and vocabulary definitions – did you check your answers with the blog? I’m sorry to hear you don’t get many holidays :-( Was your visit to Jagannath the first time you had seen the sea? Don’t work too hard!

Gede: I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog and finding the grammar explanations useful. I’ve never been to Indonesia but I’d love to go. One day!

Myen: Excellent! You figured out which of the present perfect sentences was correct, great. And well done on the other sentences too. You asked an interesting question which as you can see I have given everyone for homework today :-) Watch this space!

Adek: that’s interesting that Polish doesn’t have the present perfect tense. In fact, I think there are quite a lot of languages that don’t have it, which is why so many learners find it difficult. How old are your children? I wonder whether your son will appreciate his sisters more when they are all older?

Pilar: you should definitely try and visit India one day! It is such a beautiful country with so much to offer if you can cope with the pollution and heat (in the summer!). I highly recommend it! I agree that summer holidays are probably the best… that’s a nice thing about being a teacher is that you still can have relatively long holidays, either in the summer or around Christmas.

Manoj: I guess I do have a lot of freedom in India which is one of the reasons I like living here, although it is very difficult to go anywhere without drawing some attention to myself because I can’t avoid standing out as a foreigner! Thanks for your lovely comments. I hope you enjoyed my last post about my wedding.

Heinrich: I think perhaps the Portuguese brought their architectural ideas with them to India (and Brazil?) and then adapted them to a tropical climate… I remember seeing some similar buildings in Portugal when I lived there a few years ago. ‘Alpendre’ are called ‘columns’ in English. I’m very interested in architecture and India boasts a huge variety of it. I know of Diu, which is in a state in Western India called Gujarat and I think there is also a place that is still called Damao but I’m not sure.

Virginia: I’m glad you are enjoying the blog but I’m sorry to hear you couldn’t sleep!

Wisarut: sorry to hear you are so busy at work :-( I’m afraid we don’t have any pets. My husband’s mother has three dogs though so we see them a lot when we are in England. Their names are Bean, Thicket and Shunka. I’m not sure which ‘another’ you mean… can you tell me which post it was in and I’ll try and answer your question.

Paulraj: yes, I’ve heard of ‘fenny’ but I haven’t tried it. My husband has but it said he didn’t like it so much as it was so strong! I haven’t been to Marine Beach but I have been to Varkala in Kerala which has a beautiful beach. I also loved the beaches in Karnataka.

Farzan: thanks for your comments and glad you’r enjoying the blogs. I think ‘package it up’ sounds more complete that just ‘package it’. You could just say ‘pack it’ but if you want to use ‘package’ then I think you need the ‘up’!

Suchitra: my family and I visited Nepal in June and we loved it! We only went to Kathmandu and Bhaktapur but hopefully we will go back one day and see more of the country. Practice is the best way to improve your writing skills so keep writing comments!

Yumi: lovely to hear from you! You’re very welcome for everything. Thanks to you too for being such a great blogger!

Kitty: thanks for your lovely comments, I’m glad you’re enjoying reading our blogs. I know what you mean about languages getting mixed up with each other. I used to speak French and Thai but now whenever I try and remember phrases from those languages they come all out mixed up with Hindi! Perhaps you could put a notice up in a local shop to see if anyone would like to meet for coffee once a week to do some conversation practice in English – it probably wouldn’t be too hard to find someone, and you could help each other! Well done on the homework.

Leung: I think ‘I think him a good teacher’ is an old-fashioned way of saying ‘I think he’s a good teacher’. It sounds strange these days though, unless within literature.

David from Taipei: Well done on the homework! Thanks for writing (and reading!)

Alexey: You’ve also given some nice phrases with ‘make’ and ‘do’ – well done! I’m glad you enjoy doing the homework :-)

Daphne: yes please do tell you friends about the blog! The more readers the better. ‘Do’ and ‘make’ are quite difficult for lots of students because the equivalents are used differently in other languages. You’re not alone!

Naheed: that’s okay, I’ll forgive you for calling me Yumi! :-) You’re lucky to have a sister who is a yoga teacher, that must be very handy. I’ll try and write a post about yoga one day. I hope my baby doesn’t look too much like a potato!

Gaetano: thanks for your comment, I’ll try and keep writing more about living in India. Is there anything specific you’d like to hear about? Glad you’re enjoying reading the blogs.

Marianna: that’s a good idea – I’ll try and do a post about Indian writers. I’ve read a lot of books by different Indian authors but have yet to read one by Tagore. I have a couple of his books on my bookshelf, though! Thanks for your lovely comments.

Oscar: thanks for your comment and the translation of your poem – it’s very nice! Keep writing!

Kevin: welcome to the blogs! Hope to hear more from you soon :-)

Sara: And welcome to you too! Thanks for your answers to the vocabulary – you were right about all of them. Hope to hear from you again!

Jasmina: your vocabulary definitions were spot on – well done!

Liliana: I’m glad you discovered the blogs and that you’re enjoying them. Hope to hear from you again soon!

Lucky: thanks for your comment – it was nice to hear from someone in Afghanistan. I visited Kabul for work two years ago. I was there for two weeks and found it extremely interesting. I hope that things settle down in your country soon.

Sarah: thanks for your comment. Try and use some of the phrases while you are speaking – if you practice them they will become part of your vocabulary too.

Katerina: welcome to the blogs! You can participate by writing comments on both the teacher and student blogs (like you have done) and you can also enter the competition to become a future student blogger. Keep an eye on the main learningenglish website to see when the next deadline for entries is. Your vocabulary definitions are very good – well done!

David from Peru: I’m glad you liked the photo of the Taj Mahal. You asked an interesting question. ‘Heaving’ is often used with ‘a sigh’ but you can also use it with ‘floors’ to describe a large number of people in a room or building. For example, ‘the floors were heaving with people’ or ‘there were so many people that the floors were heaving’. ‘To heave means to move up and down, so when you ‘heave a sigh’ your chest moves up and down, and when ‘the floors are heaving’ they are moving up and down with the weight of all the people!

Flavia: thanks for your comment and no need to apologise for your mistakes! We all make them! Glad you are enjoying the blogs.

Kiljun: thanks for your comment and welcome to the blogs! ‘Common thread’ means something that a lot of people understand, discuss or agree with. For example, ‘the common thread to all of these discussions was that nobody wanted him to leave’. As for your question about ‘money coming out of one’s ear’ I think you mean ‘ears’. If we say someone has money (or anything!) coming out of their ears it means they have lots and lots of it!

Siti: I’m glad you liked the potato salad recipe! Your salad sounds nice too, I”ll try it!

Judit: I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs and learning a lot! Thanks for your comment!

Tee jay: have a look at the homepage of the learning English website here then try working your way through the different sections – explore! There’s lots to see!

Robert: you’re right – I think more people get to experience having their grandparents these days as people are living longer. Louie is lucky because he has three great-grandparents!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Cricket crazy

Hello! Well your football team sounds pretty good, Adriana. I used to enjoy playing football when I was at school but I haven’t played for years. Maybe I’ll see if I can take it up again – although I might wait until after the baby is born!

Here in India people don’t seem to play football all that much. Everyone seems to be much more keen on cricket, although technically the national sport is hockey. Hockey doesn’t seem to be so popular in the North, I don’t know whether it is in the South or not – Paulraj might be able to tell us about that.

As for me, I’m afraid I’ve never understood the rules of cricket so I haven’t been able to get into it. Ed, my husband, has tried to explain the game to me quite a few times but I just don’t seem to be able to take it in. One of these days I’ll figure it out. Ed went to watch a cricket match between India and England a few months ago with some friends. It was in Jaipur which is about 5 hours drive away so they had to set off very early in the morning and didn’t get back until late at night. They had a great time though – they said the atmosphere was really good and everyone was out to have a good time. There was none of the unhealthy rivalry or racism that sometimes goes along with similar sports events in England and perhaps Brazil(?). Here are a couple of photos. You might be wondering why I’m showing you a photo of the crowd, but it’s because in the distance you can see Shah Rukh Khan – a famous Bollywood actor! He’s right in the middle of the picture wearing a white t-shirt. Ed was very excited that he saw him.

Enough about cricket - guess what! I have some exciting news… my brother and his wife had a little boy today! So now I have a new little nephew. They’ve called him ‘Max’ and he looks very sweet in his photo. Now I can’t wait until our baby comes… three months to go!

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday – I know I promised to put up the answers to the last piece of homework I set but I’m afraid I didn’t get round to it. I was too busy enjoying a nice relaxing weekend with my little family :-) So let me give you those answers you’ve been waiting for before I do anything else (I’ve also marked some other corrections using italics but don’t worry too much about these as they’re not what I asked you to look at):

Noun/verb and singular/plurals homework answers:

1) zillions of them DON’T know that, because their main opponents are themselves.

2) All the money IS in the politicians' pockets.

3) What we Brazilian dentists do, most of the population DON’T know because we work silently among 4 walls.

4) Simple and poor people who HAVE sold all their belongings believing in a new wonderful life here.

5) I started ANOTHER activity

6) We made a good profit and everybody wanted our SANDWICHES

7) One PART OF THE TRAINING PROGRAMME was at the company where I work today.

Well done Adriana, you got all of them except number 7 correct. Good for you. The reason why you have to write number 7 like this is because training is a verb in the noun form and so can’t be used in the plural form.

Okay, now for the answer to Myen’s question that I asked you in my last post… “What’s the difference between ‘She has gone to France’ and ‘She has been to France.’” You had a good go at this Adri but I’m afraid you haven’t come up with the right answer… The difference in meaning is this:

‘She has gone to France’ means that she has travelled to France and not returned to the place we are speaking from.

‘She has been to France’ means that she has travelled to France and come back to where we are now.

Does that make sense? Hope so :-)

All right, well your homework for today has to do with the vocabulary that I’ve been highlighting for you… you might have noticed some similarities between the different items? Yes, that’s right, they’re all phrasal verbs, otherwise known as multi-word verbs.

As well as telling me the definition for each of them (check the context as some of them have more than one meaning) I’d also like you to answer the following questions:

1) What is a phrasal verb?
2) When do we normally use them? Are they formal or informal?
3) How many different types are there?

Okay that’s it for today.

Catch ya later,

Amy xx

Phrasal verbs homework from today:

To take something up
To get into
To take something in
To set off
To get back
To go along with
To put up
To get round to
To come up with
To come back

And of course, the definitions from the last but one post ‘Wedding bells’

To rain buckets: to rain very hard/ a lot
A minefield: can be used to describe something that has lots of problems that need to be avoided
To bump into: to meet unexpectedly
To engineer (see context): to make something happen
To hang out: to spend time with someone socially
Teeny weeny: very small
To take place: to happen
To cheer: to make a noise to show your appreciation for or happiness about something. Usually goes with clapping!
A blast (see context): a really good time
Lavish: large, expensive and impressive
Partially: in part, not completely
To ask for someone’s hand in marriage: to request that someone is allowed to marry you
A charity shop: a place where you can take old clothes and other things that you don’t use any more. The shop sells them and the profits go towards a charity. Very common in the UK.
To be disheartened: to feel disappointed so that you lose hope and the energy to continue with something

And finally some words for review…

To name after
A meanie
A commemoration

Check the definitions here!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

South Indian food - yum!

Hi again! It’s great to be able to read our readers comments so quickly – they’ve been appearing much faster over the last couple of days. Thanks to everyone for writing in.

Adriana I LOVE the idea of ‘Bruno’. What a cool thing to do! Sometimes I think I should re-train as a primary school teacher so that I could do interesting projects like that one. It must have been so much fun to be involved in, and so interesting for the kids. I visited Afghanistan a couple of years ago for work, and while I was there I met a man who asked me to send his niece a postcard when I returned to Delhi. It turned out (there’s another phrasal verb!) that her class was trying to get as many postcards as they could from friends and relatives all around the world. Every time one arrived they would plot where it came from on a map and one child would have the responsibility of finding out 5 facts about that country to share with the rest of the class. I thought that sounded like a really fun thing to do as well.

So before I get into the homework I just thought I’d tell you a little bit about the restaurant I went to for lunch on Sunday. It’s tucked away in a maze of streets a few minutes drive from my house. It has a beautiful door which is made to look like it’s got stained glass windows, although in fact they’re just stickers. Anyway, this restaurant serves delicious South Indian food.

I expect that many of you are familiar with the kinds of curries that you get in North Indian cuisine. North Indian food tends to be quite heavy, with lots of spices and many dishes have a thick gravy. South Indian food is very different. My two favourite dishes are Masala Dosa and Idly. South Indian people tend to eat a lot of rice, as well, while North Indian curries are more often paired with different kinds of breads. Let me describe the three dishes I mentioned to you.

Masala dosas look very interesting. They are like big, crispy pancakes, about half a metre in diameter, folded into a kind of tube with a mixture of cooked potatoes, spices and onions in the middle. The ‘pancake’ is made from lentil and rice flour.They are served with a variety of sauces – usually a white coconut one, a green coriander one and a red one (I don’t know what it’s made from but it’s my favourite). They are also served with something called ‘Sambar’ which is like a thick, spicy soup. Sambar is served with most South Indian dishes.

Idly are small, round, steamed rice flour (I think!) cakes. These don’t have a lot of flavour on their own but are served with the same sauces as the masala dosa and of course, sambar.

Here is a photo of me eating in the restaurant I mentioned. If you look closely you can see some small metal bowls - they contain the sauces I talked about. At the front of the picture is a ‘Vada’ which is like a savoury doughnut and my hand is over a kind of dosa but it’s not as impressive as the masala dosas because it’s folded, rather than rolled into a tube. There are LOADS of different types of dosa. Ooh and I forgot to say, in India people traditionally eat with their right hand, using utensils mainly for Western and Chinese food (anything non-Indian, basically). I’m left-handed (so is Ed) so it took us a little while to be able to eat neatly with our right hands but we’re pretty good at it now :-)

By the way - I also love taking photos, Adriana. I used to take a lot more with my old SLR camera but then I bought a digital one and stopped using it so much and then we had Louie so he became the subject of nearly all our photos! India is such a great place for photography, I keep meaning to take it up again.

Okay – better get down to work. Here are the definitions of the phrasal verbs from the last post:

To take something up: to start doing something, usually a hobby or sport
To get into: to become interested in something
To take something in: to understand
To set off: to begin a journey
To get back: to return
To go along with: to accompany
To put up: to publish on a website or noticeboard
To get round to: to find the time to do something
To come up with: to think of something
To come back: to return

And now for the answers to the questions – well done to everyone who got the definitions and the answers right…

1) What is a phrasal verb?

A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of two or three parts. It is a combination of a verb and an adverb or a verb and a preposition (called the ‘particles’). In some cases there are two particles.The meaning of a phrasal verb is usually more than the individual words would suggest. For example: ‘to set off’ means to start a journey – nothing to do with the verb ‘to set’ or ‘off’ on their own. Phrasal verbs often have more than one meaning, for example ‘to take off’ can mean to remove, ‘take off your shoes’, or the action of a plane leaving the ground.

2) When do we normally use them? Are they formal or informal?

Phrasal verbs are more commonly heard in spoken language than in written language as they are considered fairly informal.

3) How many different types are there?

There are four types of phrasal verbs, divided according to whether they need an object and whether you can ‘separate’ the different parts of them. Examples of the four types are:

a) Type 1: no object and inseparable. For example “What time did you get up?” and The plane took off

b) Type 2: needs an object and inseparable. For example, “My children will look after me when I’m old” (‘Me’ is the object)

c) Type 3: needs and object and separable. For example, “I wanted to put the answers up on the blog the other day”. You can also say “I wanted to put up the answers on the blog the other day”

d) Type 4: needs and object, is inseparable and has two ‘particles’. For example ‘She has always looked up to her father’.

Okay, so guess what your homework for today is? :-) Decide on the ‘Type’ of each of the phrasal verbs in the list I gave you last time. I’ve given you the answer to one of them – ‘put up’. This is Type 3. Be careful! Remember that some phrasal verbs have different meanings, they can also have different types. ‘Take off’ can be Type 1 or Type 3. I want you to tell me the Type according to how I used the phrasal verb in the earlier post. You may want to check in a dictionary if you’re not sure.

Oh – Filippo asked for some ‘tips’ for how to learn the meaning of phrasal verbs. Well, they are a bit difficult because, as I said above, the meaning often bears little resemblance to the meaning of the verb and particle(s) they are made from. The best thing is to look at the context and see if you can work out the meaning, then have a look in the dictionary under the main verb. Good dictionaries include them. Glad to hear you have bought a good one, Adriana, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.

Okay, just before I go I’ll answer your questions that you asked, Adri. Here we go:

* Amy, could please tell me how to build this kind of sentence using "the more...the more likely"? Is it correct in my text?

Yes, you’ve used it nicely here, the greater the time wasted, the more likely to have a bone ressorption although I would change the last bit slightly from ‘to have a bone ressorption to ‘the more likely the bone will be reabsorbed’ [I think this is what you mean].

**You have used this phrase in one of your previous blogs: "Could it get any worse?" May I use it replacing the word worse for better and in a negative form?
Yep you can say ‘could it get any better’ but it’s unusual to use it in a negative form… it sounds a bit strange :-) Good try though.

All right, best be off.

More on Friday.


Today’s vocabulary:

To turn out
To be tucked away
A maze
To be paired with

And some for review!


Here are the definitions!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Friday night la la la la la la la la la

Hi there – how is everyone today? It’s Friday! Yippee! I managed to get lots of work done this week so I’m feeling happy although a bit tired. I’m very glad it’s the weekend.

Well done those of you who did the homework… you’ve all done pretty well. Adriana! You forgot to write your answers! Never mind, have a quick look now and see if you can figure it out before you read the answers below :-)

I was very interested to read about the Moqueca Capixaba – it sounds delicious and not very difficult to cook… a good combination. I also liked hearing about Brazil’s indigenous population. Be careful with how you use this word though – remember it’s an adjective so it needs a noun after it. You’ve written There were between three and five million indigenous but you need to write ‘people’ at the end otherwise it’s an incomplete sentence.

I have always been very interested in the tribal groups in India. The Hindi word for these groups is ‘Adivasi’. There are lots of different tribal groups with a big range of ethnic backgrounds. On the Andaman Islands, which are off the East Coast of India (closer to Thailand, actually) there is one tribe which has always resisted contact with outsiders. I remember watching a film about a group of European (or American?) anthropologists who approached the island and the members of the tribe threw spears and shot arrows at them until they retreated. I don’t blame them. I would like to find out more about the different tribes here – in fact, I think there is a ‘Tribal Museum’ in Delhi… maybe I’ll see if Ed wants to go there this weekend.

You used a really nice phrase in your last post, Adri – ‘a milkshake of cultures’! This isn’t a common expression but I know exactly what you mean and it sounds fine. There were a few sentences that I thought we could have a look at though…

1. Why we women have this attraction and fantasy with fireman?
2. Neither I can understand!
3. I think I would love the Indian food
4. Let’s hear a bossa nova music in the background
5. I promise giving you the recipe very soon
6. Let’s drink Amy and her baby’s health [Thank you! :-)]

Have a look at these sentences for me for homework. I’d like you to correct the mistake and tell me why it’s wrong… Each sentence has just one error in it. Good luck!

Now let’s have a quick look at the homework I set last time on phrasal verbs (part 2!).

To take something up: TYPE 3 - needs an object and separable
To get into: TYPE 2 - needs an object and inseparable
To take something in: TYPE 3 - needs an object and separable
To set off: TYPE 1 - no object and inseparable
To get back: TYPE 1
To go along with: TYPE 4 - - needs an object, is inseparable and has two ‘particles’
To put up: TYPE 3 - needs an object and separable
To get round to: TYPE 4 - needs an object, is inseparable and has two ‘particles’
To come up with: TYPE 4 - - needs an object, is inseparable and has two ‘particles’
To come back: TYPE 1 - no object and inseparable

Anyone get them all right? :-)

Okay, I’m going to love you and leave you now as once again Ed is producing a culinary masterpiece in the kitchen and my tummy is rumbling (it always is these days!)

More on the weekend,


Of course I won’t go without giving you the vocabulary definitions from the last post!

To turn out: to become apparent in the end or after some time, usually unexpectedly
To be tucked away: to be hidden away from view
A maze: a complicated and confusing arrangement of streets
Cuisine: a style of cooking, normally associated with a particular country
Gravy: a thick sauce
To be paired with: two things put together or combined
Steamed: a way of cooking where food is cooked in the steam of boiling water, without touching the water
Savoury: the opposite of sweet, ‘savoury foods’ are usually salty or spicy
Inseparable: cannot be separated

Just a few words for today…

An anthropologist
To retreat
A culinary masterpiece

… and a few for review

To stick to something
To swap
To be treated like a king

Definitions for the review words here!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

A special message for Adriana!

Oops! I'm sorry! I went through your posts again after I had read them properly and didn't see the homework... I guess I didn't scroll down after the fishing photo. My apologies - how could I ever doubt that you had done it? :-) xxx

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The tiger's nest

Well it’s now the end of the weekend I had looked forward to so much :-( Back to work tomorrow and it’s another six day week… mustn’t grumble though. This weekend Louie and I made Gingerbread Men (Ed helped too) – it was the first time we’d done any cooking together and Louie seemed pretty into it so I was happy. A chef in the making! Gingerbread Men are a kind of cookie (ginger flavoured) that you make using cookie cutters shaped like people. I ordered them especially from England because I couldn’t find them in any of the kitchenware shops here. Here’s a photo to mark this milestone in Louie’s life :-)

Adriana, I enjoyed reading your post about the Covento da Penha. I was sorry to read about the crowns being stolen… I wonder what happened to them and where they are now? Reading about the Convento reminded me of a Buddhist monastery I visited a few months ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Bhutan for a week where I did some workshops with student teachers as part of my work with the British Council. Bhutan is a small country, nestled in the Himalayas, between India and China. The teacher training college I worked at is in Paro, kind of the second city – although it is tiny - and on the last weekend I was there I visited a monastery that is perched high on a cliff called ‘Taksang’ which means ‘Tiger’s nest’. As you can see from the photo, it really is like a nest as it’s balanced right on the rock. Like the walk that you described up to Convento da Penha, it’s quite a tough trek. It’s not too steep but it takes about an hour and a half. The trees on the way up are strung with prayer flags and, like you said, it feels very peaceful. Prayer flags are part of the Buddhist tradition – prayers are written onto squares of cloth and the belief is that when the wind blows, the prayers are carried off to be answered. Nice, isn’t it?

The monastery is absolutely beautiful. Amazingly, it has been rebuilt, twice I think, after burning down. The last time there was a fire was in the 90s and since then it has been restored so you’d never know it’d happened. It’s pretty incredible when you see where it is – I have no idea how they managed to get all the building materials up there. Anyway, if any of you ever get the chance to go to Bhutan, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a beautiful, magical country that is going through some very interesting changes at the moment. For example, the king has declared that the country will adopt democracy from next year to replace the absolute monarchy that is currently in place. I expect we will all be hearing much more about this little kingdom over the next few years.

Anyway, better get to work. Adriana – we really are on the same wavelength as I had planned to write back to our readers today as well! That’s the second time we’ve done that :-) But first I’ll quickly give you the answers to the homework I asked you to do… (thanks for putting it first in your blog, Adri – no way I was going to miss it this time!) Here are Adriana’s answers with my comments…

1- Why do we women have this attraction and fantasy with firemen?; CORRECT – mostly… I think I’d change the ‘with’ to ‘about’ to make it absolutely right (I know, I said there was only one error :-) You need the ‘do’ as a an auxiliary verb to make the question, and then ‘why’ tags on the front of this to show we are asking for the reason, rather than a yes/no answer.

2- Me neither (cannot understand that); Here I think it’d be better to say ‘I can’t understand it either’. Making the sentence negative in this way makes it clearer than using ‘neither’

3- I think I would love Indian food; CORRECT! No need for ‘the’ as food is used here to describe a cuisine and so is uncountable

4- Let’s hear a Bossa Nova’s song in the background; Almost… either you can say ‘a Bossa Nova song’ (no ‘s) or you could say ‘Let’s hear some Bossa Nova music in the background. This is because ‘music’ is uncountable so does go with the article ‘a’ and Bossa Nova is used like an adjective so we don’t need the possessive ‘s’. Also, if you really want to be picky, I’d change the verb ‘hear’ to ‘have’.

5- I promisse to give you the recipe very soon; CORRECT! Yep, the verb ‘promise’ (note the spelling) is followed by the infinitive form, not -ing

6- Let´s drink Amy’s and her baby’s health; Not quite… the error was actually that you need ‘to’ after drink – you drink to someone’s health… at least you do in British English, I’m wondering now whether American English doesn’t use a ‘to’. Anyway, another interesting point here is that you can write it both ways – either ‘s with both ‘Amy’ and ‘baby’ or just one with ‘baby’ and it’s implied that you are also talking about ‘Amy’s’ health. Does that make sense?

Okay, I’ll do the vocabulary definitions at the bottom as normal. Here are some replies to your comments, our dear readers :-)

Xiaoxiao: welcome to the blog! I think you’re right – this website gives lots of fabulous opportunities to find out about other cultures around the world. Glad you have joined us :-)

Paulraj: you’re absolutely right – the breathing part of yoga is probably the most important thing for pregnancy, and you have to be careful not to overdo anything. I’m not sure which place influenced our decision to live in India the most… I think the fact that there are so many different places in India made us want to come and spend more time here. I hadn’t heard about the ‘Revolutionary marriages’ but they sound interesting. Great news that India is in the final for the cricket! Even I will try and watch the match tomorrow. Thanks for all your nice and informative comments.

Koorosh: thanks for you interesting comments! It’s great to hear from an anaesthesiologist. I had been wondering about whether it was a good idea to wait to do the dental surgery or not. Thank you!

Pilar: ah yes, now I understand what you mean. This month I’m also doing two Saturdays but thankfully I don’t have to work Sundays as well. Great to hear you are getting married – congratulations!

Wisarut: hmm… that’s an interesting question. I’m not sure why wedding cakes have all those layers! However, I do know that traditionally the top layer of the cake (the smallest one) is kept and eaten at the christening of the couple’s first baby. We didn’t do that though… To try and answer your question, we use ‘another’ to stress that the next one is in addition to previous ones. For example, ‘have another piece of cake’ means that you’ve already had one. ‘Other’ is used when we want to show there is a difference between two things. For example, ‘Not that pen, the other one’. Does that help? Hope so :-) For more help on phrasal verbs, have a look here.

Silwal: yes, I agree – I oversimplified Hindu weddings a little bit because I didn’t mention the fact that there are lots of different ceremonies, not just one like we have in the UK. Well done on the homework! You also asked me the difference between the following sentences: ‘the place where I work today’ and ‘the place where I am working today’. Well, they are quite similar I think the second one suggests that it is more temporary than the first – you don’t expect to have this job for a long time.

Heinrich: hmm… another interesting (and difficult!) question :-) All of the sentences you have written are correct. I have a feeling that ‘my parents had nothing to do with OUR meeting’ is the older (and probably more correct) version of ‘my parents had nothing to do with US meeting’. Same thing for ‘MY disturbing you’ – it’s more old-fashioned than ‘ME disturbing you’. That’s all I can tell you though, unfortunately… I think the second versions of each above sound more natural these days… sorry I can’t be more helpful.

Ana Paula: I know what you mean about being shy at speaking – with every foreign language that I’ve learned I’ve never like speaking much. I think it’s because I don’t like to make mistakes. The trick is to stop caring about mistakes and start focusing on the message you are trying to communicate and then it becomes easier… Well done on all the homework! You’re very dedicated :-)

Naheed: thanks for your lovely comments and your good wishes for my new nephew. My brother STILL hasn’t sent me any photos of him! Thanks for the information you gave me about the chutneys. I have tried ‘Dhokla’ and I do like it although when it’s very cold it tastes a bit strange. You’ve done well on the homework – good for you!

Filippo: wow! I didn’t know about that ‘pre-marriage’ course that you mentioned. That sounds pretty strict! Well done on all the homework you’ve done. Yes! I love Italian food. My favourite dish at the moment is gnocchi but whenever I try and make it it’s never as light as when you get it in a restaurant :-(

Marianna: thanks for your comments, I was very interested to hear about weddings in Slovakia. You asked about the word ‘sell-out’ – yes, it can be used like a noun, as Stephen has done. You can also use ‘sold out’ for the adjective, for example ‘it was a sold out show’ or ‘the show was completely sold out’. Hope this helps!

Hyoshil: I loved what you wrote about the frogs knowing when it’s going to rain! I always call Louie my little frog, don’t know why… Yes, I had heard about the free dental treatment for pregnant women in England and I think it continues to be free until the baby is a year old. The problem is finding an NHS dentist who is willing to take on new patients! I think dental care might be free in India if you go to a government hospital but we use private ones as they tend to be more reliable. You’ve done well on the homework :-)

Chris: thanks for your lovely comment! I feel much older and fatter now :-( Especially now that I’m pregnant again!

Mauricio: Actually I forgot to say that the cake was made by my mother-in-law! Pretty good, isn’t it? I’ll tell her you were impressed :-) Sorry you had to leave your cousin’s wedding early…
Ah… you asked me about Bollywood which has given me an idea for a post… watch this space! Good work on the homework :-)

Adek: that’s interesting about weddings in Poland… as far as I know, most people have white wedding cakes in the UK, with perhaps another colour for some of the decoration. I think saying ‘a picture of myself’ instead of ‘a picture of me’ sounds a bit weird and old-fashioned… I think people used to use the reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself) in this kind of sentence before but it’s not so common any more. Thanks for your comments!

Myen: luckily the problem with our air-conditioner isn’t the machine itself, but the hole in the wall that was made when the air-conditioner was installed. It just needs to be patched up a little bit. I agree that it’s always much better to get things repaired than throw them away and by new ones. I didn’t take any particular position when I played football when I was little – I was too young! I think we rotated so sometimes I’d be midfield, other times the goalkeeper – it was just playing for fun, really. Nice to hear that your Dad cooks you curry!

Yvonne: glad you’re enjoying the blog and thanks for your comments! I wish you all the best with finding a suitable man now that you’re nearing the perfect age of 30! :-) I’m going to be 30 at the beginning of November… it’s a bit scary! Good job doing the homework. Have a look here for more on phrasal verbs, if you’re interested.

Katerina: Hello and welcome to the blog! Hmm… I think we normally say ‘breathe out smoke through your nose’. ‘Breathe’ as a verb rhymes with ‘please’, not death, like ‘breath’. As for another word for ‘major’ – I’m not sure! You could say ‘my main subject is philosophy’ but I think ‘major’ is the clearest and easiest way to say it. Hope this is useful!

Ernesto: hello! Yes, you were absolutely right about the ‘has been/gone to France’ sentences – well done!

Farrukh Mumtaz: welcome to the blogs! As well as these blogs, have a look around the BBC Learning English website – there are lots of useful activities and exercises for improving your grammar. Good luck!

Alexey: yep! Your answer to the question about ‘gone/has been to France’ was correct – well done!

Manoj: thanks for your nice comments. I think you’re right – the attitude towards marriage is quite different in India than it is elsewhere. Everyone knows that you have to work at it to be happy and keep the relationship positive, wheras in the UK people assume that because they are in love everything will be perfect. Of course this isn’t always true!

David from Peru: that’s a good idea about putting parts of the debates on the website… I’ll have to leave that one up to Paul though :-) I agree that it’s very important to listen to lots of difference accents, given how international English is now.

Ela: ‘Leniwe pierogi’ sound pretty yummy! Well done on the phrasal verbs homework. Thanks for your comment!

Tran: you’re more than welcome! Glad you are finding it useful :-)

Gaetano: oh dear, perhaps I should do a post about an exercise routine for people to do after they eat too much because I’m making everyone feel hungry :-) Mmmmm… cornettos are delicious – you’re making ME feel hungry now!

Okay everyone, hope I haven’t missed anyone out. Here’s the vocabulary. See ya later!


Definitions from the last blog

An anthropologist: a person who studies cultures and groups of people
To retreat: to return back to where you came from
A culinary masterpiece: a delicious food creation!

Vocabulary from today…

To grumble
Cookie cutters
A milestone
To nestle
To perch
To restore
To be on the same wavelength

And a few for review

A movement (related to politics)
To put someone off
To convey

Answers here!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Indian literature

Wow! What a post Adriana, my heart really went out to you when I was reading your story about the OET exam. If I were you I would be really angry with the people who organise the exam – it sounds to me like it was a complete fiasco. How did you do on the test in the end? Is there another exam specifically just for dentists? I have this vague memory of there being one, but I can’t remember what it’s called. I’m sure you know about it if there is one. Do you still have plans to go and work overseas? I'd love to hear about them...

Okay now before I go any further I have to quickly respond to an urgent request from Hyoshil, who has asked if I know any fruits or vegetables beginning with Q, V or X. She said she’ll tell us why later on – I’m intrigued! Well I can think of a fruit for Q and V but not for X, I’m afraid – and the one for V is cheating a little bit. They are: Quince (which is a very sour fruit that looks a bit like a small apple) and Victoria Plum (which is obviously a kind of plum). Hope this helps, I’ll keep trying to think of some others and if any of our readers have any suggestions please write in and let us know – I’m sure Hyoshil will be very grateful (despite being quite secretive!).

Right – let’s get down to business. Now Adriana, I’ve noticed that you sometimes make mistakes with conditional sentences so I thought I’d ask you a few questions about these. Have a look at these sentences:

a) If I know the exam is cancelled, I won’t go.
b) If I knew the exam was cancelled, I wouldn’t go.
c) If I had known the exam was cancelled, I wouldn’t have gone.

Here are my questions:

1) When is each sentence talking about? Past, present or future?
2) Which of these sentences would best fit your situation, the first time you flew to Brasilia for the exam?
3) What is the form for each of the sentences? E.g. If + subject + etc.

I’ll look forward to seeing everyone’s answers :-)

Now, Marianna from Slovakia asked me about Indian writers in one of her comments so I thought that would make a nice subject for a post… I’ve read LOTS of books by Indian writers writing in English – in fact, for the last three or four years I don’t think I’ve read anything that didn’t have some connection to India in some way (although some of the books were by non-Indian writers). You could say I’d become slightly obsessed. I’ve branched out now and have started reading books about different places. For example, I just finished a lovely book called The Saffron Kitchen about a British-Iranian family and the mother’s return to Iran to find her roots. It was very nice but I’ve finished it now so will have to find something else. I’ve got my eye on a book called The Kabul Beauty School which is all about an American lady who set up a beauty school in yep you guessed it, Kabul in Afghanistan. But I digress

There are heaps of Indian writers writing in English. Some of them live in India, but many of them seem to write from their homes in Europe or America. I must admit, I haven’t ready many of the ‘classics’, for example the literature written by Rabindranath Tagore. He is possibily India’s most famous and celebrated poet and writer, originally from Calcutta and writing around the turn of the 20th century.

One of my all-time favourite books has to be A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. This isn’t a quick read though – it’s more than 1300 pages long! It’s a beautiful and moving story about a family’s search for a suitable marriage partner for their daughter and discusses many social issues that are prevalent in India… religion, caste, etc. It is one of the few books I have read where I was still wondering what the characters were up to weeks after I had finished reading the book.

Another one which I highly recommend is A Fine Balance. This isn’t a book for the faint-hearted though. It’s the story of two men and how their lives unfold over a number of years. It starts off fairly happy but then things just seem to keep going wrong. It’s another unforgettable book.

If you’re interested in reading Indian literature or books about India then as well as the ones above I’d recommend any of these books…

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
The Goddess in the Stone by Norman Lewis
Travels on my Elephant by Mark Shand
In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

There you go! That should keep you going!

All right, time for bed I think (yawn).

Until next time,


Last post’s definitions…

To grumble: to complain
Cookie cutters: metal or plastic shapes used to cut out biscuits
Milestone: a very important event during the development of something, often a person
Monastery: a place where monks live
To nestle: to be in a comfortable position, up close against something else
To perch: to sit on the edge of something
To restore: to bring something back to its original state
To be on the same wavelength: to think the same things as someone

New vocab from today…

My heart went out to you
A fiasco
To branch out
To digress
An all-time favourite
To be up to something

And some oldies for review…

To ply
To rain cats and dogs
To have a laugh
To be blown away

Check them here!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Interview with a Bollywood star!

Hi everyone! I’m in a bit of a mad rush today as I’ve just got home from work at 7.45pm and I have some friends coming for dinner at 8.00 – agh! Luckily we’ve decided to order a take-away so I don’t have to worry about cooking but I do need to get changed and make sure all of Louie’s toys are put away.

Fortunately I have written most of my post today (well, as you’ll see, I didn’t write it all but you know what I mean). I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to wait until tomorrow for the answers to the last post’s homework… sorry! Hope you don’t mind too much.

Meanwhile… I thought you’d be interested in hearing a bit about Bollywood. I mentioned it before and one of our readers, I think it was Mauricio, asked what it was. Well, Bollywood is the Indian version of Hollywood, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of. The ‘B’ is for Bombay, where the movie industry is based. Actually, there are other cities that are famous for their movies in India, but I think Bombay produces the most internationally famous films. Anyway, we are very lucky because one of my colleagues, Steven Baker, moonlights as an extra in Bollywood films. He very kindly agreed to do a little interview with me and here are his answers… read them carefully because I’m going to give you some homework based on what he says!

Amy: So how many films have been in? Which one was the most fun to work on, and why?

Steven: I have worked on 15 films so far, but plan to do many more. I would say that Salaam-e-Ishq was perhaps the most fun to work on. Probably because it was the first film that I was cast in, and I really love the song that we were shooting. Also, it was the first day of the shoot, so there was a very nice traditional Hindu ceremony before the first shot was taken, and an incredible atmosphere on the set.

Amy: Which Bollywood actors and actresses have you met?

Steven: I have been lucky enough to work alongside most of the big name stars of Indian cinema: both Amitabh and Abishek Bachchan, Salman Khan, John Abraham, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Shahid Kapur, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and many more. I have met Shah Rukh Khan, but so far have not had the chance to act with him.

Amy: You also write about Bollywood, don't you... how do you feel about the industry in general?

Steven: I see Bollywood as an exciting and vibrant artform. Writing about Bollywood is a way of sharing my passion on Hindi film to a wider audience. My writing is published globally from the US to the UK, and from Australia to the Middle East.

Amy: What would you say the main differences between Bollywood and Hollywood are?

Steven: I guess the most striking difference is that part way through a Bollywood film, the characters will suddenly break into a song and dance routine. When you first start watching Indian cinema it may seem a little unusual. But after watching as many as I have, on the rare occasion that I see a Hollywood film, I am surprised when I get to the end of the movie and see that this has not happened.

Amy: And the similarities?

Steven: There are many similarities between Bollywood and Hollywood. A lot of it is to do with Indian cinema remaking hits from the west. In recent years, for example, Bollywood has produced remakes of films like The Usual Suspects, Love Actually, There's Something about Mary.

Amy: What do you think is the future of Bollywood?

Steven: Bollywood and India are both rapidly growing markets. Just as I feel very excited to see how successful Indian cinema is becoming globally, I also feel very privileged to be living in India at such an exciting time.

Amy: Which movie would you recommend to someone who's never seen a
Bollywood film before, and wants to get a taste of what it's like?

Steven: That's a very interesting question. Can I cheat and give you two answers? One would be the 1975 classic Sholay; the highest grossing film of all time in India. My other choice would be Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, which was released last year. I would suggest watching this film as it has all the ingredients of a Bollywood film: a great love story, wonderful songs, and a fantastic cast. It is the biggest Bollywood hit ever in the UK. Oh, and I was also in it.

So there you go! Some insider knowledge about the Bollywood film industry. Hope you found it interesting.

Okay – now here’s the tricky bit. I know it’s a bit mean of me to give you homework when I haven’t give you the answers to the last bit, but it’s our final week together so I want to make the most of it and my guests have already arrived so I really have to run!

Here’s what I’d like you to do, Adriana and all our readers… Tell me three things that Steven said in his interview. Each sentence needs to start with ‘Steven said’. Now, think about this carefully. What we are practicing is what’s called ‘reported speech’. How do the verbs change when you are reporting something someone has said? Have a think about it and write three sentences for me. We can discuss it in a couple of days.

Okay everyone – better go and get some drinks sorted out. Answers to the conditionals homework tomorrow, I promise! And the vocabulary definitions too!

Until then,


Today’s vocabulary:

To moonlight
An extra
To be cast in a film
To break into song
To remake
The highest grossing film

Friday, 28 September 2007

Catching up...

Hi everyone,

You’ve been busy Adriana! Lots of interesting posts to read, thanks! :-) I meant to add the photo of Steven yesterday but didn’t have it on my computer at home so I put it in today… Well I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t think you should start writing just about grammar! I’ve really enjoyed reading all your posts and I feel like I know a lot more about Brazil now. One of my students at the moment is Brazilian and I feel like I can relate to her a lot more – it’s great! Thanks for the recipe for Torta Capixaba – even as a vegetarian it made my mouth water! How much does this recipe make though? 24 eggs?!!!! It must be huge! I’m looking forward to your special post on Saturday…

Okay, now the purpose of today’s post is really just to go over the homework I set on Tuesday (and the vocabulary), but before I do I just wanted to share something with everyone. In case you haven’t read through all the comments, Ana Paula suggested a great website where you can listen to interviews with authors, including some of the ones I mentioned in my post about Indian literature. It looks fab – I suggest you have a look if you’re interested in books and reading. Thanks Ana Paula!

Here we go – the conditionals homework. I Asked you three questions about the conditional sentences.

1) When is each sentence talking about? Past, present or future? 

2) Which of these sentences would best fit your situation, the first time you flew to Brasilia for the exam? 

3) What is the form for each of the sentences?

Let’s have a look at Adriana’s answers.

a) If I know the exam is cancelled, I won’t go. 
The if clause is in the present and the main clause in the future

Yes, that’s correct, but the sentence is talking about the future – we don’t know whether the exam will be cancelled, but if it is, I won’t go. The form for this one is: if + subject + present simple/subject + will/not + bare infinitive. This is called the first conditional, as many of our readers have correctly identified.

b) If I knew the exam was cancelled, I wouldn’t go. 
If clause in past simple and the main clause in conditional tense

Yes again – good, and the sentence is talking about the present. If, at the moment, I knew the exam was cancelled, I wouldn’t go (in the future). The form here is: if + subject + past simple/subject + would/not + bare infinitive

c) If I had known the exam was cancelled, I wouldn’t have gone. 
If clause in perfect clause and the main clause in conditional perfect tense.

Almost. The first part of the sentence is actually in the past perfect. This sentence is talking about the past. I didn’t know the exam was cancelled, but if I had I wouldn’t have gone (in the past). The form is: if + subject + past perfect/subject + would/not + have + past participle.

The sentence which best fits your situation, Adri, is the third one – you didn’t know the exam was cancelled before you went, otherwise you wouldn’t have gone. Well done Adriana, and all our readers who got the answers right!

Adriana, you have also asked me to say a bit about the zero conditional. This is an example:

If you press that button, the toast pops up.

We use this form to talk about things that are generally true. If it rains, you get wet. If you step on my toes, it hurts, etc. etc. The form is:

If + subject + present simple/subject + present simple

Hope that helps!

Okay – that’s enough for today. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s sentences from yesterday’s homework and we’ll look at that tomorrow. Only a couple of days to go now until we say goodbye :-(

More soon,

Amy xx

Vocabulary definitions from Tuesday’s post

My heart went out to you: I felt a lot of sympathy for you 
A fiasco: a disaster, not usually used to talk about natural disasters but rather when things go wrong unexpectedly
Intrigued: interested, wanting to know more 

To branch out: to start looking at other areas, stop focusing on one particular thing
To digress: to go off the topic, start talking about something that isn’t relevant 

An all-time favourite: most favourite thing of all

Prevalent : common

To be up to something: to be doing something 

Faint-hearted: not liking things that are difficult, or needing effort

New Teacher blogger

Thank you Amy for your fantastic blog! From next week we have a new Teacher blogger, Rachel Hunt. Welcome Rachel!
BBC Learning English team

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Fare thee well, everyone!

Hello everyone! Adriana thanks so much for the lovely picture of the dancing Shiva – there is an interesting story behind this famous statue pose, but I’ll leave it to Satya to explain it to you, if she wants to! Thank you also for the great slide show on You Tube – it was fabulous! I could remember all the posts and what you’d written about when I saw each of the photos. The one of you and your football team with the banner is excellent too! Thank you for being such a great blogger and writing such interesting posts and putting so much effort into them. You’ve been a real star – thanks again!

Well, it’s time to say goodbye… but of course not without talking about the answers to the reported speech homework I gave you!

Here’s what I asked you to do:

Tell me three things that Steven said in his interview. Each sentence needs to start with ‘Steven said’. Now, think about this carefully. What we are practicing is what’s called ‘reported speech’. How do the verbs change when you are reporting something someone has said?

Many of you wrote in with some very good answers. Let’s have a look at some of them here:

Adriana’s answers:

He said he had worked on 15 films so far, but planned to do many more. Yes, good.

Steven said he saw Bollywood as an exciting and vibrant artform. Yes, although it might be more natural here to not change the verb as he still sees Bollywood as an exciting and vibrant art form, now

Steven said there were many similarities between Bollywood and Hollywood. Yes, but same as above – you can leave the tense the way it was as it is a general truth which is still true now.

Yvonne’s answers:

Steven said that he has been working on 15 films and that he´s planning to do many more. Almost – here we need to change the verb to ‘had worked’ from ‘have worked’ or keep it in the present perfect ‘has worked’. If you put it in the continuous tense as you have here it sounds like he’s still working on them now. Your other sentences were good!

Silwal’s answers:

Amy asked Steven how many films he had been in and which one was the most fun to work on and why. Yes good! And well done for writing the whole interview out!

Ana Paula’s answers:

Steven said his writing was published globally from the US to the UK, and from Australia to the Middle East Almost – he has used a passive form ‘is published’ and it’s referring to something that is still probably happening, so I would change it to ‘has been published’ rather than ‘was published’. Your other sentences were good – well done for changing them after you noticed you’d made some mistakes!

Paulraj’s answers:

Steven said he had been lucky enough to work alongside most of the big name stars of Indian cinema Yes – good. The verb change is fine. No need for ‘name’ though – you could just write ‘big stars’. Your other sentences were also good.

Paco’s answers:

Steven said that he has worked on 15 films so far, but that he plans to do many more. This is fine – as I said above, you can either write ‘has worked’ here or change it to past perfect ‘had worked’. Your sentences were good too.

Myen’s answers:

Steven said he had met Shah Ruth Khan, but till then had not had the chance to act with him. This is okay but I would change the ‘till then’ part. Probably the best way to write this would be ‘but had not yet had the chance to act with him’

Well done everyone!

So I expect you’re wondering – what are the rules for this crazy tense changing thing called reported speech? Well, they seem to be more relaxed than they were. Technically speaking, grammar books tell you to always move each tense back one step. As Myen said, this means that present simple becomes past simple, present perfect becomes past perfect, etc. etc. BUT as you can see from my comments above, we don’t always change the tense. So when do we?

Well, the easiest way to think of this is to think of the time that the person spoke as a fixed point in time. Anything that happens at the same time or before they spoke should normally have a change in tense. Anything that they’re talking about which is still true or happens after they spoke doesn’t need to change.

For example:

He said he is going to move to Mumbai next year. There’s no need to change the tense here because the move is going to take place in the future.

He said he had thought of going to London but had decided not to Here the tense changes in both cases because both the ‘thinking’ and the ‘deciding’ happened before he spoke.

If you like, have a look back through the interview and see if you can figure out where you really need to change the verb and where you don’t have to, remembering what I’ve just said. Unfortunately I won’t be here to answer your questions about this though – so good luck! It’s a bit of a tricky area, don’t worry if you get confused at first. Keep noticing examples that are used in newspaper articles etc. – this will help you to learn how to use reported speech once and for all.

Okay everyone. Thank you for being such marvellous readers again to Adriana, for being such a brilliant blogger. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through all your comments and blogs… thank you for sharing your lives with me over the last two months. Here are some replies to your comments from the last few posts…

Suchitra: hi there, yes I agree. Sometimes people can go a bit overboard in their support for a sports team…

Myen: well done on all the homework! I’m sorry Ed and I (and Louie!) haven’t had a chance to go to the Tribal Museum… There’s something about temples and monasteries that are built on hill-tops which makes them even more special than other ones… maybe it’s the pure air around them?! None of your questions were stupid! Thanks for writing all your comments xxx

Nhung: nice to meet you! Thanks for writing your comment and well done on the homework :-)

Paulraj: yes, you’re writing is easy to understand and clear! You make a few grammar errors but not very many. Keep practicing and reading – that will help to perfect your English. Sorry I didn’t have time to look at the structure of sentences and clauses :-( Perhaps one of the other teacher bloggers will in the future. Thank you for all your thoughtful comments over the last two months. Best wishes!

Silwal: well done on all the homework – especially the interview which you so diligently wrote out in full! Very impressive! I have visited Nepal – in fact, I was there this year in June for two weeks, in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. It was great! We really loved the city and hope to return to Nepal one day to visit other parts of the country. Sorry I didn’t have time to write a post about it!

Elena: hello! Yes, I think all teachers have funny stories to tell about their students… sorry I didn’t have a chance to share some of them with you on the blog. It was lovely what you wrote about farmers and teachers, because my husband Ed is studying organic agriculture at the moment and wants to be a farmer! Thank you!

Ana Paula: hi there – no we don’t use the expression ‘a stone in my shoe’. Instead we’d say something like ‘a pain in the neck (or bum!)’. As always you’ve done very well on the homework. Thanks for writing so many lovely comments over the last two months. I hope you get a chance to read at least one of those books I mentioned, I think you’d like them :-)

Parv: thanks for your comments! I do lots of different asanas in my yoga class, just not any of the ones that involve turning upsidedown or lying on my tummy… we do some breathing practice as well, and meditation at the end which is my favourite bit! :-) Thanks for all your kind words. I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to include the gingerbread men recipe. Have a look on the internet though – I’m sure you’ll find one. Best wishes!

Hoda: thanks for your comment! I hope you’ll continue writing in with the new student and teacher.

Vinh Phu: thanks for your comment too! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blogs… all best wishes!

Yvonne: well I think a holiday in the UK would be the perfect opportunity to practice your speaking skills! There’s also quite a nice website called that might be useful – have a look! Your English is pretty good already, I suspect that you just need to work on your confidence as well as getting out there and finding people to practice speaking with. All the best!

Naheed: thanks for your comments over the last couple of months. All best wishes!

Hyoshil: thanks for your lovely comments and kind words. I think I’ll be more of a ‘supermum’ once I stop working at the end of November. Sometimes I feel like I don’t see him enough… but thank you! And thanks for explaining why you needed the vegetable and fruit names – I laughed a lot!

Manoj: nice to hear from you again. All best wishes for the future!

Simi: welcome to the blog! Yes, you can use the word ‘deteriorate’ in that way. It’s more formal than ‘become worse’ but it sounds fine the way you have used it. Hope this helps!

Antonio: lots of people don’t know anything about Bhutan… it’s always been a bit of a mystery – in fact, the country was closed to foreigners until about 20 years ago so it’s not surprising! Best wishes.

Rafique: yes it’s fine to use a dictionary, but I’d recommend trying to find the meaning from the context, or words around the new vocabulary, before you look in the dictionary. It’s a good practice to get into so that you become better at understanding new vocabulary without needing a dictionary. I think this website is a great way to practice your English. You could also try and set up a small English conversation group in your town with other people who speak English. You might not have anyone to correct you but at least you will be able to work on your fluency and confidence, which is just as important.

Vinav: I’ve never been to Leh & Ladakh but I’d love to go – it sounds beautiful. Yum, the oatmeal cookies sound good. Best wishes!

Kirsti: yes, I remember some of my friends from Norway used to have gingerbread houses around Christmas time – I always loved them. I actually brought some of the ingredients back with me from England because you can’t get them in India – brown sugar and golden syrup or treacle. I’m being careful to use them sparingly!

Filippo: good, that makes me feel better, that other people find making gnocchi difficult! One day I’ll get it right. Yes I have heard of Vandana Shiva, in fact a friend of mine from England is coming to India soon to do a course with her. I have also enjoyed reading Arundhati Roy’s essays. Thanks for all your comments over the last two months!

Paco: thanks for your comments! I hope you’ll continue to make them with the new student and teacher bloggers – don’t be shy :-) Well done on the homework!

Marianna: glad you like the post about Indian literature, and thanks for your lovely comments! All best wishes xx

Adek: hmmm… I think in that sentence I used ‘had looked forward to’ because in the past I was looking forward to it but at the time of writing I wasn’t, because the situation had changed. Does that make sense? Thanks for all your comments over the last couple of months – best wishes!

Kaleraj: Welcome to the blog! I hope you’ll continue writing comments with the new student and teacher bloggers. Best wishes.

David from Peru: thanks for your lovely goodbye and all your other comments. All best wishes for now and the future.

Farzan: good luck with your IELTS exam! Thanks for all your comments. Take care!

Look after yourselves, everyone! All best wishes to the new student and teacher bloggers, Satya and Rachel. I hope you will enjoy blogging as much as I have.

Lots of love and namaste,

xxx Amy

Final vocabulary definitions!

To moonlight: to do something on the side, not as your main job
An extra: a person in a film who usually doesn’t say anything but acts in the background of the scene
To be cast in a film: to be chosen to appear in a film
Vibrant: exciting, colourful, bright
To break into song: to begin singing, suddenly
To remake: to make something again
The highest grossing film: the film that earned the most amount of money

September 2007

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