Cute verbs

baby-cuddle-120517I owe the idea of this blog post to my eighteen-month-old son: he was a bit restless yesterday afternoon so, to calm him down, I thought we’d have a bit of playtime on the bed. I started tickling him and he started giggling..

So here’s a list of ‘cute’ actions that people do when they want to show affection:

to tickle someone

This is what you do when you want to make people laugh. People’s armpits are usually ticklish.

He was feeling miserable so I started tickling him and he couldn’t help laughing.

to snuggle

This is when you get close to someone and you’re all comfy and warm.

They were snuggling on the sofa after a long day.

to cuddle someone

This is when you hold someone in your arms to make them feel loved.

The mum cuddled her baby to stop his crying.

to stroke someone’s hair

This is when you gently touch someone. It is a repetitive movement that people often perform on their pets.

She stroke her daughter’s hair and thought what a wonderful woman she now was.

to pinch someone’s face

This is what you do with your thumb and first finger by taking a bit of someone’s skin (however, it can also be done to hurt someone).

He started to playfully pinch her face to tease her.

to tuck someone in

This is an action you perform on someone who is in bed and it’s when you make sure their covers are properly put under the mattress so the person will feel warm and cosy.

As a kid I looked forward to my dad tucking me in before falling asleep.

to blow raspberries on someone

This is when you press your lips against someone’s body and blow air on their skin.

He was blowing raspberries on her tummy to make her giggle.

Hope you’ve learnt a few new ‘cute’ verbs!

Take care,








Teaching vocabulary using scales (lesson plan)

scales-2I’ve recently been offered a place on a DELTA course and I’m currently getting ready for it by reading a few of books on ELT methodology etc

Every now and then, I feel I want to try out some of the ideas I come across in these books. The following lesson plan was designed after reading Working with Words by R. Gairns and S. Redman.

I delivered this lesson to a mixed ability class (most students were intermediate with the exception of one advanced and one upper-intermediate student), it went down quite well and my students said they enjoyed it!

Duration: 90 minutes;

Objective: learn new vocabulary using scales (this should help with retention);

Topic: eating and drinking;

Task 1

I told students a story which included some of the vocabulary I wanted to teach. This is just the beginning of the story:

The other day I was a bit peckish so I went into the kitchen but the only food I could find was bread. It wasn’t what I wanted to nibble on, I find plain bread to be a bit bland, I wanted something tasty

I read the story twice. The second time I wrote the words below on the board:

peckish, to nibble on, plain, bland, tasty, rich, mild, generous, starving, to sip, to neck, to binge on, tiny, mild.

I told students to listen to the story and, after listening, look up the words on the board  in a dictionary to find out what they meant. I suggested using the online Macmillan dictionary and told students to focus on the topic eating and drinking when choosing which meaning to focus on.

Task 2

In pairs,students have to write a short story using as many new words as they can.

Each pair gets to read their story to the rest of the class.

At this stage, I did not correct students’ mistakes.

Task 3

Students are given a handout with scales (like the one in the picture) that they have to complete with the words they have just learnt. To help them do this task, I gave them the following sentences to look at:

  1. I haven’t eaten anything all day, I’m starving!
  2. I’m not that hungry but I’m a bit peckish, I’d like to nibble on something (for example, crisps or nuts).
  3. He was reading a book while sipping wine.
  4. He got drunk after necking three shots of rom.
  5. I thought the meat was a bit bland, it needed more flavour.
  6. I often have plain rice when I don’t feel well.
  7. I’m so full, that dish was very rich!
  8. That restaurant is great! They give such generous portions.

Check with the whole class that students have place the words correctly on the scales.

Task 4

I took from students the handout with the examples and gave them the same handout but with gaps. Students have to fill in the gaps:

  1. I haven’t eaten anything all day, I’m___________!
  2. I’m not that hungry but I’m a bit ________, I’d like ___________ something (for example, crisps or nuts).
  3. He was reading a book while __________ wine.
  4. He got drunk after _________ three shots of rum.
  5. I thought the meat was a bit __________, it needed more flavour.
  6. I often have _______ rice when I don’t feel well.
  7. I’m so full, that dish was very__________!
  8. That restaurant is great! They give such ___________ portions.

Class check.

Task 5

In pairs, students go over the story they wrote at the beginning of the class to see whether they’ve made any mistakes.

Students might need some support at this stage. For instance, I pointed out that ‘to neck’ is transitive (as one pair had used it in an intransitive way) and I showed on the interactive whiteboard where this information can be found on the online Macmillan dictionary. This is an excellent chance to teach students how to best use a dictionary and what kind of information they should pay attention to when recording new vocabulary.

Task 6

Students work in pairs and ask and answer the questions below:

  1. When you feel peckish, what do you like to nibble on?
  2. When was the last time you felt starving, what did you binge on?
  3. How many shots of rum can you neck before you pass out*?
  4. How big are the portions in your favourite restaurant?
  5. Do you ever eat plain food?

The feedback I had from students at the end of the lesson was quite positive. They recognised that scales are a good way to understand and remember new vocabulary.

I also encouraged them to use scales to broaden their vocabulary and avoid overusing words like ‘very’, ‘not very’, ‘slowly’ etc like in the following examples:

starving to say very hungry

sipping to say drink slowly

What do you reckon? Could this be an interesting lesson for you to deliver? How could it be improved? Which tasks would you have done differently?

Any feedback would be much appreciated 🙂

Talk soon,







Tips on how to improve your English

1622a0fStudents often ask me what they can do to improve their English. I usually answer that making a point of reading a newspaper article a day and / or watch telly or films in English is a good starting point. However, I know that sometimes you are not always up for it and you would rather do something more fun or that interests you more. So today’s tip on how to broaden your vocabulary and improve your listening skills is …take up a hobby or sport in English and stick to it!

Watch videos

For example, I’m into knitting and sewing and I often watch YouTube videos to learn new techniques. Watching clips about your favourite hobby is an excellent way to increase the number of words you know in English. Yesterday I wanted to do some yoga and I just look up a yoga channel on YouTube and while doing my routine exercises I thought: “There is a lot of interesting vocabulary here that my students might enjoy learning” (e.g. spine, lower back, to twist, to hold a position, to bend, etc).

Sign up to a course

You could go even further and sign up to a course. Of course this works only if you live in an English-speaking country. You might meet some nice people and at least you already have something in common with them. By trying to understand what the coach or teacher is telling you to do, you’ll be working on your listening skills and you’ll keep fit!

Follow blogs

If you don’t live an in an English-speaking country then you could start following a blog about one of your hobbies. As you’re reading something that interests you, you should find this less boring than reading a newspaper article.

Join an online-community

This is a great way to practise your English while chatting about something you are passionate about! And remember: the best way to remember new words is to use them!

Start your own blog

Why not blog about your favourite pastime once you feel a bit more confident about your English? This could be a perfect way to improve your writing. Who knows, you might become a popular blogger!

So are you already doing any of this or will you in the near future?

Talk soon!:)





How to talk about what you like and dislike

like-dislike-e1364841893864-600x338Today’s post aims to help you increase the number of expressions you can use to talk about what you like and dislike. I’m going to ban the words ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ and present some alternatives that could be used instead.

This post might interest those of you who are planning to sit an oral exam where you need to show that you know more than one way to say the same thing in English. This will also prove very useful in avoiding repetitions.

Expressions similar to ‘I like’

Remember: pay attention to the prepositions used in the expressions below and remember that, when using a verb, you need to used a gerund after all these phrases (ing form). The rule is ‘always use a gerund after a preposition’.

To be keen on

She’s very keen on sports.

He’s very keen on cooking.

To be interested in

I’m interested in photography.

To be addicted to

My children are addicted to chocolate.

To be fond of

I’m fond of Mary. She’s such a good laugh!

To be crazy about

Paul is crazy about going to parties.

To be into

Mary is into French cinema.

To enjoy

I enjoy going to the cinema with you.

Expressions similar to ‘I dislike’

can’t stand

I really can’t stand Bea. She’s so selfish and vain!

can’t bear

I can’t bear the sight of meat. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 10.

not to think much of

I didn’t think much of that movie. I wish we hadn’t been to the cinema to watch it.

to be fed up with

I’m so fed up with tidying the house.

to be sick/tired of

I’m sick of potatoes. We have been eating potatoes for days now!

The idea behind these last two phrases is that you’ve had enough of (doing) something.

And what if you’ve only just started to like something? Well, in that case the phrase you want to use it ‘to grow on someone‘:

Wine is growing on me.

In this case, the subject is the thing/activity you are talking about and not yourself.

Hope you’ve learnt some good alternatives to ‘like’ and ‘dislike’.

Talk soon!




Do not translate, please!

keep-calm-we-don-t-translateI always tell students that they shouldn’t translate into their native language. I say this mostly because in their study of the English language, learners are bound to bump into a word or phrase that, for a number of reasons (cultural, grammatical etc), they won’t be able to translate. Indeed, isn’t this but one of the many interesting aspects of learning a new language?

My suggestion is, rather than give in to the temptation of a quick translation, to instead use one of the following methods:

Learn by opposite

Learning pairs of opposite words (antonyms to use a fancy term!) is a clever way to broaden your vocabulary. When learning a new word, start getting into the habit of asking yourself what the opposite is . This method works best when studying adjectives. Examples:

empty – full

loud – quiet

wet – dry

Learn by synonyms 

What I wrote about antonyms, it’s also true for synonyms (words that have a similar meaning). Here are some examples:

nice – lovely

smart – clever

sad – gloomy

DWIN_20160228_17_41_15_Proraw it

You might not be that good at drawing but I’m sure you are able to sketch a little something so that the meaning of a word will stick with you. What do you think of my drawing of the word ‘narrow’?

Make it personal

The other day a student didn’t know what the meaning of the word ‘thick’ was so I asked here whether she preferred her pizza thick or thin (I used my hands to explain the difference). She then wrote in her notepad ‘I like thick pizza‘ instead of a translation into Spanish, her mother tongue. She did the same with the word ‘handsome’:

My boyfriend is handsome.

This method works well with phrases too, for example to remember ‘I wish’ I’d write:

I wish I was a writer

The idea here is to make the sentence true for you. So if you’ve always wanted to be a singer you should write ‘I wish I was a singer‘.

Write an example (always)

I can’t stress this hard enough: you need to learn words in context. There is very little point in writing down a mere list of words. Make sure you always include collocations and examples (remember to make them personal, if possible). Look at these examples:

Breakfast (n)
to have/make/prepare/skip breakfast (collocations)
I usually have eggs for breakfast (example)

To climb (v)
to go climbing; to climb a mountain / wall  (collocations)
I have never been climbing because I don’t like the mountains (example)

Now over to you, how do you get to remember new words when studying English?

Hope you’ve found these suggestions useful. If you have, please share them! 🙂


English for parenting: transitive and intransitive verbs

verbs-1Today’s post focuses on the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs when talking about newborns and parenting. To help you remember their meanings, I’m going to include some possible collocations. It’s a good habit when learning new words to always write down a few collocations, in this way your vocabulary will broaden quickly and soon you’ll find yourself using these new terms when speaking or writing.


A verb is transitive when it’s followed by an object. For example, “to raise” is transitive and indeed in the context of parenting a common collocation is “to raise children“. In this instance, the word children is the object.  “To raise” is not an intransitive verb because “someone can’t raise” but “he or she can raise something”: you can raise your hand / taxes / money / an issue etc.

In the following text I have bolded some transitive verbs related to parenting (together with some common collocations):

Babies cry to let you know that they need something: you might need to change their nappy, and so wipe their bottom etc, or you might need to feed them (they often suck their fingers when they’re hungry), they might just want you to cuddle them (= to hold them in your arms, maybe while singing a lullaby) or maybe you haven’t winded them properly. To settle your baby, especially if you notice that they are rubbing their eyes,  you might try swaddling him or her (=to wrap them very tightly in a blanket) and gently rock them in your arms until they fall asleep. Sometimes they cry just because they’re either too hot or cold, in which case you’ll need to undress them or add another layer.


And now let’s turn to intransitive verbs such as “to grow up“. Intransitive verbs are not followed by any object. Indeed we say that “someone grows up” but you can’t say that “someone grows up someone else”. Here are a few examples that should help you understand the difference between to raise and to grow up:

I grew up in London.
She lost her parents when she was two, so her grandparents raised her.
He was raised in France.
He grew up to be an important writer.

Now let’s have a look at some intransitive verbs about parenting and newborns:
When a baby fusses, fidgets or cries a lot, it might be a sign that he’s hungry. After your baby feeds, he should settle / calm down.
It’s not uncommon for babies to doze off during a feed.
You should always try to make your baby burp after a feed.
Babies tend to wriggle a lot when you change them.

Can you now guess why some of the above verbs are green? Yes, precisely because they can be either transitive or intransitive depending on their usage. Use a dictionary to check whether a verb is transitive, intransitive or both to make sure you’re using them correctly.

Hope this helps! 🙂
Talk soon,


English for parenting: newborns and baby stuff

This post is a sequel to Medical English: English for pregnancy and it’s going to be full of vocabulary related to newborns and parenting. So if you’ve just become a parent, like me, I hope you’ll find it useful and, by the way, congratulations!


Towards the end of the pregnancy, a woman goes through a period called ‘nesting‘ when she starts buying some nursery furniture: a moses basket for when the baby is really small, a cot for later on, a cot top changer for changing his or her nappies and a baby bath where to wash her little one.


In terms of clothing, a newborn will need a few bodysuits, or vests, babygrows (British English) or onesises (American English) which are the all-in-ones with legs, some hats and mittens.0610-newborn-photographer


To take your little one out, you’ll need a pram for when they’re small and need to lie down, a car seat for later on or whenever you want to take them in the car and eventually a pushchair (also called buggy). You can buy these three pieces together and it’s called travel system.

When your baby can hold his or her head up, you might consider getting a baby carrier or sling.

When going out, you’ll also need to take with you a changing bag where you’ll keep some nappies, some baby wipes and a travel changing mat.


Nursing bras and pads are essential for breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding can be painful at the beginning as it’s not always easy to latch on the baby. If you decide to bottlefeed instead of breastfeeding, you’ll also need a pump to pump out your milk, a few feeding bottles and a bottle steriliser. Unless you opt for the formula (in this case you buy the milk). In any case, it’s always handy when feeding your baby to have a muslin square within easy reach for when you’ll need to wind him or her(=to get him or her to burp) or a newborn bib.

Sorry the baby is crying and I need to go 🙂
Talk soon,