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Natural English: the use of ‘do’ for emphasis

Image Hi everyone and sorry for not posting anything for almost a month!

I finally have a bit of time to write about a language point that seems to puzzle students quite a lot: the use of the verb ‘do’ for emphasis.

Students mostly know ‘do’ as an auxiliary verb or in expressions like ‘to do the housework’ meaning to perform an action and I’ve already talked about another use of ‘do’ here. But what does it mean when people say “I do like it here!“?

I DO LIKE IT HERE!

The use of do in the above sentence is a way to add extra emphasis to a statement. It’s like saying ‘I really like it here!‘.

Let’s have a look at some features of this particular use of ‘do’:

  1. form: do is followed by a bare infinitive (without ‘to’): I do love London; she does love London.
  2. it can’t be used with negative statements: I do don’t like London.
  3. it can be used to talk about the past (but only to replace a past simple): She did teach me a lot (and I’m talking about my primary school teacher) >> she really taught me a lot; I did enjoy the party! >> I really enjoyed the party
  4. it’s never used with the verb ‘to be’: she does be beautiful.

Here are more examples:

I did tell you!

Meaning: I’m sure I told you!
A sense of reproach can be felt here: maybe you warned the person you’re talking to about the consequences of doing something (and this person didn’t really listen to you!) or you might just want to emphasize that you told this person about something even though they can’t remember it now.

I do remember talking to him

Meaning: I have a very clear memory of talking to him!

I did work a lot this week

Meaning: I worked my arse off this week! 🙂

As you can see from the examples above, ‘do’ is used instead of ‘really’, ‘very’ or ‘I’m sure’.

So I do hope that this use of do won’t puzzle you anymore and I do apologise for not writing anything for so long!
Talk soon,
Deb 🙂

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Natural English: the suffix -ish

lovely-package-the-ish-watch2-ish‘ is definitively my favourite English suffix. I know what you’re thinking: ‘she must be a real grammar geek to have a favourite suffix’. You’re not wrong, I am indeed passionate about grammar 🙂

Anyway, I think that if you start getting into the habit of using ‘ish’ every now and then, your English will sound more natural. Here are some situations where you could use this suffix:

1- ish and numbers

What time shall we meet?

Seven-ish.

Used with numbers, -ish means ‘around‘. So not quite seven but around seven. The same is true when you talk about someone’s age: I think she’s fortyish but I’m not sure.

This is a good one if you don’t want to commit yourself too much and if you show up 20 minutes late, you could always say: ‘I said seven-ish not seven sharp!‘ and if you don’t want to say an exact time you can go for ‘I’ll be home soonish‘.

2- ish and adjectives

What does she look like?

She’s blondish.

Used with adjectives, -ish means ‘fairly’ or ‘slightly’. So she’s not super blond but she still falls into the category of blond. The same happens with colours: What colour is your dress? Bluish.

2- ish and nouns

What’s he like?

He’s childish and boring.

Meaning that he behaves like a child. So if someone has got a girlish face, their face looks like that of a young girl.

Bear in mind that in a formal context the use of the suffix ‘ish’ could sound too colloquial.

Talk soon!
Deb 🙂

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Useful English: how to ask for directions

Fotolia_51071376_XS-300x199Whether you’ve just moved to London or are here only for few days, you’ve probably found yourself lost in the city at least once. And there it comes: your chance to practise your English! So stop checking on Google Maps and be brave, ask a passer-by for directions 🙂

How to do it? Here’s some useful language:

DIRECT QUESTIONS

Let’s start easy:

Excuse-me…
…where is Victoria Station?
…is there a bank nearby?

‘nearby’ means ‘near here’.

…how can I get to Trafalgar Square?

Remember that get is followed by the preposition ‘to’ and not ‘at’: how can I get at to Trafalgar Square?

INDIRECT QUESTIONS

Indirect questions usually sound more ‘polite’:

do you know where the station is?  
When asking indirect questions, remember that you need to invert the subject and the verb only once: do you know where  is the station is?

could you tell me where the station is?  

do you know how I can get to the station?

do you know where I should get off? (useful when you’re on the bus / tube)

do you know whether/if there is an ATM nearby?

do you know the way to the National Gallery?

This structure is also possible: WHERE / HOW+ TO – INFINITIVE:

…can you tell me how to get to the station?

…do you know where to get off

IS IT NEAR/FAR?    HOW FAR IS IT?

or do you know how far it is?

Here are some possible answers to your question:

It’s walking distance.
It’s a five-minute walk.
It’s a good five-minute walk. >> ‘a good’ here means ‘probably a bit more than 5 mins’
It’s a bit of a walk >> meaning: you can walk there but it’s a little far.
It’s pretty / quite far, you might want to take a bus there. >> ‘pretty’ and ‘quite’ here mean ‘not very far but still a bit too far to walk it’ and the expression ‘you might want’ is often used to give advice and it means ‘it would be better/good if’ or ‘you should’, here are more examples:

You might want to phone her before going there.
>> You should phone her before..

You might want to read this to get ready for your interview
>> It would be good if you read this to get..

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE BY …?

Just to make sure that the place you’re trying to reach is not farther than you think, you might want to ask how long it takes to get there:

How long does it take by bus?

It takes 10 minutes by bus. 
Rule: it takes + # minutes/hours/days etc  by + mean of transport (by car/bus/taxi/tube etc)

Notice that the structure ‘to take+someone+ time period+ to get somewhere’ is also possible:

How long does it take you to get to work? It usually takes me 30 minutes.

Hope it helps 🙂
Talk soon,
Deb

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Natural English: how to break up with someone

take_my_broken_heart1

There are things that are always difficult to do in a second language: telling jokes, arguing with someone and..breaking up with someone!

If you’re in an unhappy relationship and finally decided to dump your partner but you’re not sure how to phrase it, you might find this post useful. Below are some suggestions,  depending on your reasons for splitting up.

To break up with someone, to dump someone, to split up (intransitive) or to break up (intransitive), they all mean the same thing: to end a relationship with your partner.

If your partner has cheated on you or you’ve cheated on them:

TO CHEAT ON SOMEONE = to be unfaithful

“I know you’ve cheated on me and I will never be able to get over it, it’s better if we just split up”  >> TO GET OVER SOMETHING= to stop being upset about it

“I’ve cheated on you with this other woman I really fancy..”  (you definitively sound very cruel!) >> TO FANCY SOMEONE= to feel sexually attracted to someone.
Maybe add something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt it” >> TO MEAN TO DO something =  to be someone’s intention to do something

If you want to blame it all on yourself:

TO BLAME IT ALL ON YOURSELF= to say you’re the only one guilty (you don’t need to mean it but it can make breaking up easier sometimes)

“I don’t deserve you” >> NOT TO DESERVE SOMEONE = someone is too good for you/ you’re not good enough for someone

“You’ll be better off without me” >> TO BE BETTER OFF (intransitive)= to be in a better situation

“It’s not you, it’s me” (this is a classic!)

If you don’t see eye to eye with your partner (on important stuff)

TO SEE EYE TO EYE WITH SOMEONE = to agree on something with someone

“I want to settle down and you just want to party all the time” >> TO SETTLE DOWN (intransitive)= to get married or stay permanently in one place

or the opposite could also be true: “I don’t want to settle down yet, I don’t feel ready for it”

“I can’t put up with you anymore, it’s not working out” >> TO PUT UP WITH SOMEONE = to accept someone’s behavior even if it’s bad.  TO WORK OUT= to be successful

“I don’t think you’re the one” (an evergreen!)

If you lack a specific reason:

“I need some time for myself”

“Our relationship is just falling apart / falling to pieces” >> TO FALL APART /PIECES (intransitive)= to break, to disintegrate

I do hope you won’t have to use any of this language but should you…hope this post will help!
Talk soon,
Deb 🙂

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Natural English: how to talk about what you like/dislike

grabbing-hand-psd19419Today’s post is about expressions you can use when talking about what you like or dislike. We’re also going to look at some language that you can use when discussing your opinion about a book or movie that you’ve watched. So if you don’t want to go for “I like/don’t like”, here are some options you can choose from:

TO BE A BIG FAN OF something / someone

I’m not a big fan of meat
I’m a big fan of Wes Andersons’ movies

TO BE INTO something

I’m not into football, I’m more into rugby.
Are you into Italian cinema?

TO BE KEEN ON something

I’m not really keen on cycling
She’s very keen on French cinema

NOT TO BE ABLE TO STAND something / someone – to really dislike

I can’t stand running when it’s raining
I can’t stand George, he’s so annoying

something IS NOT someone’S THING

Running is not my thing
Cooking is not my thing

If something is not your thing, you don’t enjoy doing it and you’re not good at it.

TO BE FOND OF something /someone

She’s fond of her cousin
I’m fond of chocolate

TO NOT GET MUCH FROM something – to find something uninteresting

I don’t get much from reading contemporary fiction.
I don’t get much from my drawing lessons

And now some phrases you can use when someone asks your opinion about a book or a movie. If you didn’t think the book or movie in question was that good, you can say:

“it didn’t move me”

= it didn’t make me feel much emotionally

“it didn’t grab me”

= it didn’t manage to arouse my interest

“I didn’t think much of it”

“I never got into it”

=it never got me interested

“I thought it wasn’t worth reading / watching”

=reading / watching it was a waste of time

“I didn’t get much from it”

= I didn’t enjoy it

If you really disliked it, you should go for one of these phrases:

“I thought it was rubbish”

“I thought it was appalling”

Finally, if you really liked a book, you could say:

“That book was a real page-turner!”

=a book that you read very quickly because it’s so engaging

“It was a compelling story”

=a very engaging and fascinating story

Talk soon,

Deb

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Natural English: how to make requests when out and about

orange_squeezeOften people feel at a loss when being out and about* in London they need to ask something to the person next to them or a passer-by. Some students feel they can’t find the right words. Today’s post is about the kind of questions you might need to ask strangers when going around the city. The questions I came up with are deliberately more complex than the ones you’d usually learn at school and mostly used by British people.

‘To be out and about’ means to be out doing stuff, going to places etc

CAN I SQUEEZE IN?

Context: you’re on the bus and you’ve just seen a spare seat but someone is sitting on the aisle seat. You could ask this person ‘Sorry, can I sit there?’ or ‘Sorry, can I squeeze in?’.

The idea behind the use of the verb ‘squeeze in’ is that you know that there isn’t enough room and this person will have to move a bit to let you sit there. You want to bother them the least, so you’ll try to squeeze in.

ARE YOU DONE WITH THAT PAPER? – TO BE DONE WITH SOMETHING

If ‘you’re done with something’ you don’t need that thing anymore.

Context: you’re on the tube and see someone placing the paper they’ve just read on a seat next to them, before grabbing it you might want to ask “sorry, are you done with that paper?”.

BY ANY CHANCE

Context: you want to ask for directions / some information. For instance, you need to take money out and are looking for an ATM.
You could add to your question the expression ‘by any chance’ to show your being aware that the person you’re asking might not know the answer: “Sorry, by any chance do you know where I can find an ATM ?”.

TO KEEP AN EYE ON SOMETHING

Context: you’re at the pub and want to go to the toilet but you’re afraid someone will accidentally take your beer. You decide to ask the person next to you to keep an eye on it: “sorry, could you keep an eye on my beer while I go to the toilet?”

In this context ‘to keep an eye on something’ means to look after something, to make sure nothing bad will happen to it.

TO SAVE SOMEONE SOMETHING

Context: still at the pub, you and your mate want to go out for a smoke but don’t want to lose your seats. You could ask the people next to you “Sorry, could you save us these seats while we go for a smoke?.

In this context, ‘to save someone their seat’ means to make sure nobody will take those seats while they’re gone.

TO BORROW SOMETHING

If you borrow something, you ask the permission to use something for a period of time after which you’ll give it back.
Context: you’re outside the pub (your beer and seat are safe inside) and realise that you don’t have a lighter. You could ask someone “do you have a lighter” but how about “could I borrow your lighter?” since this is what you want to do.

TO FETCH SOMEONE SOMETHING

This is another way to say ‘to get something and give it to someone’.
Context: still at the pub (you’re loving the British drinking culture! You’ll never leave this pub), you want to go out and need your coat. The pub is packed and your coat is out of reach because some strangers are now sitting where you initially put your coat. You could squeeze in or just ask them to give it to you: “Sorry mate, I don’t suppose you could fetch me that coat?”

I DON’T SUPPOSE (Br)

‘I don’t suppose’ is an expression often used to make clear that you don’t want to bother the person you’re asking to do something. British people tend to assume they’re bothering everyone 🙂

TO GIVE SOMEONE A HAND

Finally, you’ve had enough of London and want to take the train back to wherever you come from. You get on the train and your backpack is so heavy that you can’t lift it (all that shopping at Primark!) and want to ask someone to help you: “Sorry could you give me a hand with this backpack?”

Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy your day out and about in London!:)

Talk soon,
Deb

p.s.= after rereading this post I’ve realised that most of what I assumed to be your day in London was spent in a pub 🙂

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Natural English: More on Phrasal Verbs!

dog_head_out_window_funnyIt looks like my recent post on phrasal verbs got quite popular among students and so I decided to write another one. It’s difficult to learn phrasal verbs because most of the time it’s just a matter of learning them by heart. This is why today’s post is about two verbs that I’m sure are part of your everyday language : ‘to go’ and ‘to come’. Here are some phrasal verbs that are often used instead of ‘go’ and ‘come’.

to head out

To head out means to leave a place and go somewhere: ex. What time do we need to head out?
To head is followed by ‘for/to‘ when you add your destination: ex.We’re heading out for London in an hour.
To say ‘I’m heading out‘ you can also use ‘I’m on my way out’. 
To head (somewhere) can also be used without ‘out’:
a: Where are you?I’ve been waiting for you for more than two hours.
b: Sorry, I’m heading there now!  BUT I’m heading to/for the pub now.

to head back

If you head back you start going back to the place where you came from: ex. It’s late, I’m going to head back home in a bit

to pop out

To pop out means to go out from a building for a short time (British): ex. I’ll pop out to the shop at the corner to buy some bread.

to pop in / to drop by

If you pop in, you go somewhere for a short time and without much planning (British): ex. I’ll pop in tomorrow for a coffee 

to come over / to come around

To come over means to go and visit someone (usually at their place): ex. You should come over at some point this week

to be off

To be off has the same meaning as ‘to leave’ a place: ex. I’m late! I’d better be off now.

To put stuff in context, here’s a chat between two neighbours who bump into each other on the stairs.

a: Hi, where are you going?
b: I’m going out, I was gonna go to the shop to buy milk, what about you?
a: I’m going to work. Do you wanna come to my flat later tonight?
b: Yeah sure, mate, I have to go to my mum’s but I’ll come after that.
a: Cool, when you come back, could you buy some beers?
b:Yeah sure. I’ll text you when I come back so you know what time I’ll arrive at your flat.
a: Okay, it was nice to bump into you, I’m leaving, I’m late for work.
b: Yeah I should go too.

Here’s the same dialogue, replacing ‘go’ and ‘come’ with the phrasal verbs above. Doesn’t it sound more chatty?

a: Hi, where are you going?
b: I’m heading out, I was gonna pop out to the shop to buy milk, what are you up to*?
a: I’m on my way to work. Do you wanna pop in later tonight?
b: Yeah sure mate, I have to drop by my mum’s but I’ll come around after that.
a: Cool, on your way back could you buy some beers?
b:Yeah sure. I’ll text you when I start heading back so you know what time I’ll come over.
a: Okay, it was nice to bump into you, I’m off, I’m late for work.
b: Yeah I should make a move too. (to make a move= to leave a place and start going somewhere)

* Sorry I couldn’t help including another phrasal verb: ‘what are you up to?’ simple means ‘what are you doing?’