Let’s talk about Easter – some vocabulary connected to Easter

Blog_Easter bunniesI don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to Easter this year. Here in the UK we have a long Easter weekend as Good Friday is a public holiday as well as Easter Monday.
We don’t normally go away for Easter but this year my husband and I are going on a walking holiday to the Lake District, a particularly beautiful part of Northern England. It is also known as Beatrix Potter country. We’re taking our dog, Buster so it should be good fun. With a bit of luck, Buster will not hunt down the sheep in the fields!!!

The supermarkets are full of all the delicious foods and goodies for Easter and as I was strolling around one of these supermarkets the other day marvelling at them, I thought I would share with you all the wonderful things there are to eat at Easter here in the UK. Some things are particular to the UK but others are universal.

Hot Cross Buns
Blog_hot cross bunsThese gorgeous little buns normally come out around a month before Easter (supermarkets are not very strict about respecting Lent!). If I am not mistaken, hot cross buns are typical of the UK and are always eaten at Easter. The buns are sweet and made of raisins or currants with a cross on top to symbolise the Christian cross.
In the past, they used to be sold by street vendors who would sing out:

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,
one a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns.

Hot cross buns are best eaten hot. I normally toast them and then spread butter on them. The hot buns with melted butter are heavenly especially with a delicious cup of tea. My favourite buns are cinnamon and raisin…mmm. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking of them!

Blog_Chocolate bunniesEaster Eggs and Bunnies
As soon as you walk into any supermarket, you are greeted by a range of different sized Easter bunnies all made of chocolate – dark, milk or white. I normally buy medium-sized Easter bunnies for my nephews – one each so that there are no arguments. If I am feeling particularly generous I might buy one for my husband, too!


There are of course different sized chocolate eggs available to buy. I like to have a bowl of small Easter chocolate eggs in the living room to share with friends or to keep all to myself! I especially like the little eggs that have bright, colourful wrappers. They give a welcoming, warm splash of colour to any room.

Blog_Chocolate Easter Eggs

Easter Egg Hunts are very popular with children and are organised throughout the UK. Here is just a selection around London.

Easter Lamb
Not only has lamb got religious symbolism (Lamb of God) but it is also closely linked to the symbols of spring and rejuvenation. At Easter, lamb is the traditional meat that is served in the UK.  We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy both Welsh and New Zealand lamb.

Most people will have the traditional roasted lamb. Some people prefer a shoulder of lamb whilst others would choose a leg of lamb to roast in the oven. I don’t mind either. I often make thin slits in the meat and add slivers of garlic into the slits before sprinkling rosemary leaves on the lamb and putting it into the oven.

The lamb is served with mint sauce, roast potatoes and a selection of vegetables. Delicious or “delish” (my invention)!

This Marks and Spencer Advertisement perfectly captures what Easter means to me. I defy you not to be drooling after watching this ad!



This year we will celebrate Easter Sunday at a pub in the Lake District but first we will go on a hike so that we feel justified in tucking into a huge lunch later!

What will you be doing this Easter? What do you normally do at Easter? Do let me know.

In my next post, I will share with you some idioms and phrases we have in the English Language that has some of the Easter symbols – eggs and bunnies. So, watch this space…..

I am aware that Passover is being celebrated at the same time as Easter. I don’t know much about this Jewish tradition, I’m ashamed to say, so any knowledge would be very welcome indeed. Please share.

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Ciao for now


English Grammar Pill: How to use whether or if correctly (+ quick conditionals review).

Whether or if – that is the question.

These two little words can cause a lot of confusion to both learners and fluent speakers of English in both spoken and written English. So, I thought I would clarify the misunderstanding in this post.

And to help me, I have this excellent infographic prepared by the team at Grammar.net that clearly shows how to use “whether” and “if” correctly.

However, before we get to look at the difference between “whether” and “if”, there is a brief explanation of the English conditional tenses in the infographic. I am going to go through the visual and show you how to use the tenses correctly before dealing with “whether” and “if”.

We use “if” in what we sometimes call in grammar the “if clauses” that form part of the conditional tenses. The “if” part of the sentence is the condition whilst the second part of the sentence is the result.

“If you run too fast (condition), you get out of breath (result)”

There are four conditional tenses in English – the zero, first, second and third. Most learners are familiar with the first and second. Some of my clients get confused with the third conditional and most people don’t even know about the zero! Let’s take a look at each one in turn.

[Infographic provided by Grammar.net]

Compare these sentences.

  • If sales increase (generally), we make a profit.
  • If sales increase (next quarter), well make a profit.
  • If sales increased (next quarter), we would make a profit.
  • If sales had increased (last quarter), we would have made a profit.

When we talk about things that are always or generally true, we use the zero conditional.

Structure: If/when + present tense, present tense

  • If/when you fly business class, you get more legroom.
  • If you eat too much, you get fat. 
  • When we have a lot of orders, we always employ extra staff.

When we talk about future events that will happen or has a real possibility of happening we use the first conditional.

Structure: If/when + present, future

  • If Bob comes over, we will watch the game.” (there is a good chance that Bob will come over)
  • If the product is successful in China, we will introduce it into other Asian markets” (there is a high chance that the product will be successful)
  • If I have time this afternoon, I’ll go for a run.” 

In this situation we refer to future events that are unlikely to happen or impossible. We also call this “imaginary future”. We use this tense to imagine and dream of a future that’s different to our present. 

Structure: If  + past simple, would/could/might + verb (infinitive)

  • “If I went to the moon, I would know whether it is made of cheese.” (You are not likely to go to the moon so this situation is not real)
  • “If I were a boy, I’d roll outta (out of) bed in the morning” (lyric from Beyonce’s song “If I were a boy”  Reality= I am a girl not a boy)
  • If I won the lottery, I’d buy a yacht.” ( Reality = I haven’t won the lottery)


When we talk about past events that are different from what really happened we used the third conditional. This is also known as the imaginary past. This is often used to express regret and sometimes criticism.

Structure: If + past perfect, would + have + past participle

  • If Jill had gone to the zoo, she would have taken pictures.” (Reality: Jill didn’t go to the zoo, so she didn’t take any pictures)
  • If I had known about your problem, I would have helped you.” (Reality: I didn’t know about your problem so couldn’t help)
  • If I had done an MBA, I would have had more opportunities in my career.” (Reality: I didn’t do the MBA so I’ve had few opportunities)

The above examples are about two actions in the past. If the result clause is in the present, we use would + infinitive:

  • If I had done an MBA, I would be on a higher salary now”.


These are often interchanged but actually have different uses.
Here are a couple of examples how they can be used interchangeably.

James didn’t know whether Helen would arrive on Friday”.
“James didn’t know if Helen would arrive on Friday”. 

In either sentence, Helen may or may not arrive on Friday so the meaning is the same.

However, they have different uses in the following situations.

When a result depends on a specific condition, we use “IF”.

  • “We will go for a walk if it doesn’t rain”.
  • “I’ll take Buster for a longer walk if I have time”.
  • If you finish your dinner, you can have some pudding.”

Choices or alternatives
shows choices or alternatives and generally requires an “or.” “Or not” is often used for yes/no choices. “Whether” by itself can hint at both positive and negative possibilities.

  • “Tell Rachel whether you want chicken or beef for dinner.”
  • “Whether or not you are going to the party, please call.”
  • “Let us know whether the school is open.”

So, remember:

Photo: Grammar Girl

Photo: Grammar Girl


Sources: Grammar Girl, Business Grammar Builder, Paul Emmerson (2010), Macmillan


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Learning English online is as good as learning English face to face. Here’s why.

Photo: Really Learn English

Photo: Really Learn English

Many of you will know that I teach English both online via Skype and face to face in my full-immersion intensive courses.

My online classes have increased over the last year as more and more clients appreciate the flexibility that online courses give them. 

However, people still wonder whether learning English online is as effective as learning English face to face. 


So I was delighted when Tracey Chandler approached me with a view of writing a post extolling the virtues of learning English online. In her guest post, she shares with us what she believes are the key advantages and benefits of learning online and what qualities you need as a learner to succeed in online learning.

Over to you, Tracey.

One of the largest myths surrounding English language classes online is that they’re not as good as studying English as a foreign language in the classroom. This is a myth. Online English language classes are just as good as learning English from a tutor in a classroom setting, but the way in which students learn is different and online language study isn’t right for everyone.

Timetable and scheduling
Blog_Online_schedules One of the main advantages for most people is that online English language courses can be completely organized to fit into any kind of busy schedule. Work commitments make classroom course study difficult to manage, particularly when work commitments are paired up with a family with young children to take care of.

Lots of people choose to study English online because they can schedule appointments with their tutors when they’re able to commit and they can complete the course outline at their own pace and whenever they have the time to dedicate a few hours to the task.

Classroom-based English language courses follow the timetable outlined by the institution. If the hours don’t coincide with the student’s free time, taking a course in English language learning is impossible.

It’s also a myth that via online language study students don’t get the opportunity to meet fellow students and socialise. Lots of people study, not just because they’re interested in learning or because they need a specific qualification, but because they enjoy meeting new people and interacting with others who share similar interests to themselves. The social side of study is really important to many students, particularly adult students.

Photo: Real Life English

Photo: Real Life English

However, online courses do provide the opportunity to interact with other people studying the same course. The manner in which interaction is conducted at the beginning is different to the manner in which it transcribes in a face-to-face course, but the end result can be just as fulfilling. At first, online language students might get to meet each other through Skype chats/classes or student forums/social media pages and groups.

Once those connections have been established, the same occurs as it does when students meet each other face to face. Students who want to socialise and get together away from the computer screen will make those arrangements. It’s not necessary to have a “classroom” to generate camaraderie with fellow students, or indeed with teachers.

Things to consider when choosing a language school for online English language lessons
There are lots of online English language courses for you to invest your time and money. It’s important to be careful and to choose an online course with an online institution which has the right kind of credentials.

  • Blog_AccreditationAccreditation: It’s really important to ensure that the institution meets all necessary requirements with regards to academic excellence. Investigate everything you can about the institution: which academic body governs its practices and what kind of qualifications its teachers must have in order to be taken on as part of the teaching staff. There are lots of highly professional institutions offering online English language courses, but there are many institutions which don’t have the kind of accreditation to ensure that the teaching and assessment will be of the highest quality.
  • Completion rate: It’s also a really good idea to find out how many students sign up to the courses every year and how many students actually manage to see the courses through to the very end. If sign-up is high, but completion is low, it might be worth finding another institution to study with. There must be a reason for the heavy drop-out and that reason could well be a lack of organized management or poor teaching quality. If institutions are unwilling to share this information with you, this should also ring alarm bells too. There’s no reason why these figures should be kept from the public domain

What kind of personal qualities does the online student need?
Studying English as a foreign language online is not the same as attending a regular class with a group of fellow students around you to keep you motivated and a teacher to harass you to keep up with assignments. Naturally, online students have fellow classmates and teachers, but they are virtual. Learning English online is not for everyone.

Blog_online_motivationIt helps greatly if you’re self-motivated. All online learners need to feel comfortable working independently and studying alone. You’ll also need to make sure that your schedule is tightly organized and you must be disciplined enough to make sure you stick to that schedule. Otherwise, you might end up studying for years, but never get anywhere due to a lack of concentration and discipline.

It’s important to have all the equipment you’ll need at home, a secure and fast access internet connection and an ease with email communication or Skype-style lessons. Without a facility for working with computers and the Internet, online English language study can be really tough to get the hang of (get used to).

Online learning, as mentioned above, isn’t for everyone, but many people find it really useful and just as effective as studying in a traditional classroom environment.

Tracey Chandler represents Language Trainers
, which provides individually-tailored language training on a one-on-one or small group basis worldwide

So there you have it.  My thanks to Tracey for this very interesting post.

What do you think? Do you learn, are you learning or have you learned English online? How is/was the experience? Would you recommend it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
For my part, I have to say that I have established a wonderful rapport with all my online clients and there is as much fun and learning during the classes as in my full immersion courses.

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Ciao for now.


How to go clothes shopping with a man in English – some vocabulary

Never go clothes shopping with a man.

Blog_set-shopping-bags-word-shopping-29218670-1I don’t know about you but whenever I have been shopping for clothes with my husband it has been an excruciating experience. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the shopping mall, he is fidgeting, checking his phone, complaining that he is hungry and thirsty and asking when we can leave. The whole experience always ends in tears, his not mine.

So I hear you ask, “why drag him clothes shopping?” The poor man doesn’t deserve this. After all, we all know the difference between how men and women shop.

Does this look familiar?

Does this look familiar?

I completely agree with you. Personally, I prefer to go clothes shopping on my own. In fact, I love that time to myself when I can walk into all the different shops that catch my eye, browse through the clothes racks, spend half an hour to forty-five minutes deciding on the colour of a pair of jeans (that’s before I  even decide to go to the fitting room to try them on!), browse through the jewellery shops dreaming of the time when my husband will finally buy me something shiny for my birthday. You get the picture, right?
I must point out that I do this sort of shopping once every six months so I don’t feel guilty wasting all that time.

Do you normally look this happy?

Do you normally look this happy?

However going back to the original question of why drag a man clothes shopping, why would anyone do it? Well, I agree but I get this behaviour when we are out shopping for HIM not me!!! What is that all about?!

This is what I have to do when we need to get some clothes for my husband.

I give him two to three days’ warning that we will be hitting the shops. Before that I list all the items he needs, for example, a new pair of work shoes, some new long-sleeved shirts, a couple of pairs of trousers, some casual tops, a couple of jumpers/sweaters. This creates the sense of urgency in his mind, especially if I have given his old clothes away to charity and he can see an empty wardrobe.

We then set off for the shopping mall. He normally gives me a “20-minute window” in which I can choose various items for him based on size (medium), colour, style and send him off to the changing rooms. He does have a say in what he wants so he will agree or disagree with me – very annoying, indeed!
Whilst he is in the fitting room, I act as his helper (slave) by running back and forth to change items for different sizes (small, large, extra large, etc) and as his style guru by giving him my opinion about how he looks.

What do you think?

What do you think?

After 20 minutes, he literally shuts down like a robot, so an emergency coffee and croissant (or bacon roll) break is urgently required to re-energise the batteries. Once he is fully charged we can return to the serious job of clothes shopping where once again, I am given a 20-minute window in which to select the next item of clothing, shoes or accessory (belts, hats or scarves). And so it goes on.

At the end of this exhausting 2-hour trip, I normally reward myself with a glass of Prosecco no matter what time of day it is. After all, I deserve it, don’t I? Of course, my husband (hubby) also deserves a treat after all that hard work. His treat? Another year before he has to repeat this experience.

What is your experience with clothes shopping? I’d love to know from both a male and female perspective.

If you liked this post, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.

Ciao for now and happy shopping!


Learning English underwater – can it be done? Here’s how.

Blog_Kaplan UnderwaterThe other day I received an email from Kaplan International English informing me of a revolutionary course they have just launched. Intrigued, I wrote to them asking for more information and here’s what I discovered.

Kaplan are about to launch their newest English language learning programme, Kaplan Underwater English! Courses will be carried out in submersion-education facilities that are currently being built off the coasts of the USA, Australia and the UK. These facilities are built on the seabed, which will allow students to learn English whilst being completely submerged in water.

“Learning English underwater?” I hear you ask. How is that possible? Is it effective?

Studies conducted by Kaplan International’s educational research division found that the effects of muscular relaxation greatly improved a student’s ability to learn. The team discovered that submerging a student in water boosts their learning capabilities by up to 60%! These findings could revolutionise the way the world learns English forever.

Take a look at Kaplan’s video

Existing students at Kaplan Torquay (UK) have already been put through a trial run of the programme at a local swimming pool and have been surprised by the results.

Paola Castro, Underwater English student, said: “The first time I tried to speak underwater I had serious doubts about the program, but then I thought ‘wait a minute, I’m doubting about this in English! It must be working!’”

Crime and PunishmentCedric Macheprin, Underwater English student, said: “Two weeks ago I couldn’t speak a word of English but now I am able to hold complicated conversations and am already diving in to serious literature.”

Apparenty, the course has been a particular success with Cedric who is already halfway through Dostoyevsky’s classic masterpiece Crime and Punishment.


Kaplan International English is dedicated to improving its teaching methods and is already looking at other ways the quality of learning can be improved. Researchers are testing other locations that might be able to boost learning capabilities, including facilities in volcanic caverns, schools based in the Arctic Circle and a highly promising project on the surface of the moon. (I’ll believe that when I see it!)

Sturla Bjarnason, head of underwater studies, said: “Anyone that tries speaking English underwater can instantly see just how effective this program is. We are already confident that if we take students into the vacuum of space they will have a very similar experience.” 

Mmmm, not sure about that, but the courses underwater sound intriguing and I wouldn’t mind trying them out.

The Underwater English programme opens for pre-registration on April 1st. For more information on this revolutionary course, take a look at Kaplan’s website.

Would this course be something you would try out? I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.

Ciao for now


English Skills: 7 ways of saying “I don’t know”

Blog_I don't knowIn this second post dedicated to life skills in English, I’d like to focus on the different ways you can say “I don’t know” in English.

As my clients will tell you, saying “I don’t know” to me is not an option in our lessons! I will not allow my clients to rely on me to give them the answers before they have tried themselves to seek the answers.

However, in life we are at some stage going to have to use this expression, so as variety is the spice of life, using different ways to say “I don’t know” would make your conversation far more interesting and natural.

As in the first post of the series, my inspiration comes from Macmillan Dictionary blog‘s own series. I have used their explanations and amended some of the explanations. Thank you, Macmillan.

1. Dunno

This word is used informally and in spoken language, especially by teenagers who don’t want to answer their parents!

  • ‘When do you have to submit this essay?’ ‘Dunno. I can’t remember.’

2. I have no idea
/I haven’t a clue/
I haven’t the faintest idea
These expressions are used when you have no information and you cannot guess the answer to a question

  • ‘What time does the film start?’ ‘I have no idea. Why don’t you call the cinema?’
  • ‘Would you by any chance know where St James’s Street is?’ ‘I haven’t a clue. Sorry.’
  • ‘Could somebody please explain how this happened?’ ‘I haven’t the faintest idea.’

I'm sorry I haven't a clue_blog



3. How should I know?/Don’t ask me/Search me
These expressions are used when you do not know something and you feel annoyed that someone is asking you about it.

  • ‘Who left this mess on the table?’ ‘How should I know? I’ve only just come home.’
  • ‘What time did she say she was catching her train? ’ ‘Don’t ask me. I’m always the last to know.’
  • ‘Why didn’t he ask you for the keys?’ ‘Search me. I’m not a mind reader.’


4. Who knows?/It’s anyone’s guess
These are used for saying that you don’t know something because it is impossible for anyone to know it:

  • ‘Will they ever find the missing aircraft?’ ‘Who knows? The search been going on for such a long time now.’
  • ‘How the situation will develop from here is anyone’s guess.’


5. Your guess is as good as mine
This is used for saying that you know as little about something as the person who asked you about it

  • ‘Do you think we will be able to book the restaurant for Friday?’ ‘Your guess is as good as mine.’


6. Not as far as I know
We use this to say that something may be true, but you do not have enough information to know whether it is or not

  • ‘Has Clive left the company? I haven’t seen him for ages.’ ‘Not as far as I know, but I haven’t seen him recently either.’
Photo: www.businesscartoons.co.uk

Photo: www.businesscartoons.co.uk

7. It beats me
This is a rather informal expression to say that you do not know or understand something. “It” is often left out.

  • ‘Why did he do such a stupid thing?’ ‘It beats me


Please let me know if there are other expressions that I haven’t included here. I will then add them to the post.

If you found this post helpful, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.


Ciao for now.


English Grammar Pill: How to use the present perfect tenses correctly

Grammar owl_2In my last Grammar Pill post, I wrote about the English past tenses and hopefully gave you an idea of how to use the tenses correctly. The post is so far my most successful article having been viewed over 40,000 times and shared over 10,000 times on Facebook!! Thank you for sharing my post. I hadn’t appreciated how popular English tenses were with learners and teachers.

In this post, as promised I want to cover the present perfect tenses and show you how to use them correctly. As I mentioned last time, the present perfect tense is in effect a present tense that has connections with past events. This tense causes a lot of headaches to many learners as it is a tense that is not commonly used in many languages but used a lot in the English Language.

Let me remind you of the wonderful mind map my fellow teacher, Gordana Popovic created showing the past tenses.

Mind Map by Gordana Popovic

Mind Map by Gordana Popovic



The present perfect is formed with the present simple of the auxiliary verb “have” and the past participle.

Positive Sentence:  

  • I/you/we/they have (‘ve) gone
  • He/she/it has (‘s) gone

Negative Sentence:

  • I/you/we/they have not (haven’t) gone
  • He/she/it has not (hasn’t) gone

Questions and short answers:

  • Have they gone? Yes, they have.
  • Has he gone? No, he hasn’t



In general we use the tense to talk about a present situation which is connected to the past.

A present situation that started in the past
I’ve lived in the UK for 25 years”.

A series of actions that have happened in your life up to now
I’ve been to Milan many times”

A result in the present of a past event
“I think I’ve prepared this report properly. I hope I don’t have to redo it”. (in this situation the current importance of the past event is important, not when it happened)


Time Expressions used with the present perfect

Ever and Never
We use ever and never to ask and talk about our general life experience.
“Have you ever visited the Maldives?”
“I have never used this software before.” (If the answer to the question is Yes we continue to give more information about specific events using the past simple.)

Already and Yet
We use “already” in positive sentences and refers to something that has been done ahead of time
“He has already finished his homework” (he has finished it quicker than expected)

Yet is used in negative sentences and questions and suggests that something hasn’t happened or finished but will do.
“I haven’t finished the report yet. (I am late but it will be finished)

“Have you seen that film yet?” 

Haven’t you finished the houseworkyet?” (this negative question is often used when the person asking is annoyed or frustrated with the other person)

We use “just” to describe something that happened a short time ago.
“He has just gone out to the shops. He won’t be long”.

For and since
We use the two expressions to refer to periods of time. Note the difference.
” How long have you worked for Shell? 
“I have worked for Shell for 15 years” (length of time)
“I have worked for Shell since 1999.” (Start of the period)

Unfinished time
We use the present perfect for unfinished time and so we often use time expressions that include the present like the following:

this morning, today, this month, so far, up to now, recently, until now, recently, lately, over the last few years and so on

“I have been to the shops this morning
So far we have raised £2m for our charity”.
“I have been ver patient with them up to now“.
“I have had some good enquiries recently“.


Remember that the past simple describes actions in the past that are finished whilst the present perfect is used when the time period includes the present.

“I lived in Milan many years ago”
(completed. I live in London now)

I’ve lived in Milan since 2008″
(a situation that started in the past and continues in the present: I still live in Milan)


Mind Map by Engames www. engames.eu

Mind Map by Engames
www. engames.eu




Present Perfect of “be” + the -ing form of the verb

Positive and Negative:
“I’ve been (I haven’t been)
waiting here for more than an hour”
“She’s been (she hasn’t been)
working here for many years”.

Have you been waiting long?
How long have you been working for your company?


An action or situation in progress from the past up to the present
“Production at this site has been increasing steadily in the last 5 years”

Emphasises the length of time of the action
I’ve been working on this post all morning”.

Repeated actions
I’ve been calling her all morning but she’s not answering her phone”

The action may be finished or continuing, we only know from the context
“You’re late! I’ve been waiting for you for over an hour”. (the waiting is over)
I’ve been waiting for over an hour,. Where is she?” (I’m still waiting)

The typical time expressions we use with this tense include:
all day, for months, for ages, recently, over the last few months/years, for and since.


Sometimes there is no difference in meaning between these two tenses.

I’ve worked/I’ve been working here for two years”.

The choice of tense often depends on where our focus is.

Focus on result = present perfect tense
I’ve written the report. Here it is”. (result)

Focus on the action in progress and effort = present perfect continuous tense
I’ve been writing this report all morning. I’m exhausted.” (note my effort)

If we give details on how much or how many we don’t use the continuos form.
I’ve written four reports this week”.
I’ve done a lot of consultancy work for the company in the last year”.


As I mentioned in my last Grammar pill post, to really get a better understanding of how to use these tenses correctly you need to see them in context. Reading in English is one of the best ways for you to really get a feel of how the tenses are used and in what context. I cannot stress enough how important it is to see the language in context.
So read as much as you can. It doesn’t matter what you read as long as you do.

And that’s it! I hope you found this post helpful.

More resources:

If you would like more information on the present perfect tense, take a look at these recent posts by my fellow trainers:

If you like learning your grammar with music and rap then this fabulous video by the one and only Fluency MC (aka Jason R Levine) will make your day.

If you like to learn grammar through games, then take a look at this post by Engames. They create some fantastic mind maps, too (see above).

If you are a teacher and would like a lesson plan, this recent post from Lizzie Pinard is great.

If you like to learn your English tenses through pop songs, check this video out by JJEnglish

If you found this post helpful, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.

Ciao for now


Source: Business Grammar Builder, Paul Emmerson (2010) Macmillan

How to talk about beauty and make up in English – some useful vocabulary

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness

This proverb gained a lot of meaning for me last week when something quite amazing happened in the landscape of social media. You may have heard of the #nomakeupselfie campaign that went viral last week here in the UK in support of Cancer Research UK to raise awareness of breast cancer.

It all started with a group of women who decided to take a selfie of themselves with no make up on and post it on either Facebook,Twitter or Instagram. They then nominated and challenged their friends to do the same and at the same time donated £3 via text to Breast Cancer Research. It was so popular that within days the charity received well over £2m in donations!!!! The charity was overwhelmed by the generosity and the popularity of the #nomakeupselfie campaign especially as they hadn’t even started it!

As an ex-breast cancer sufferer myself, I thought I’d join in this campaign and post my selfie and make my donation. Mmmm, what do you think? Best to ‘slap on’ some make up?!

my #nomakeupselfie

my #nomakeupselfie

On a serious note though, I started thinking more about the idea of beauty and make up and how much time and money we women spend on making ourselves beautiful and how important our appearance is to us. This blog is not the place to discuss what constitutes beauty but it certainly is the place to share with you the vocabulary of beauty and make up in the English Language. After all, if beauty and how we look is very important to us then learners of English need to know how to talk about it.

When I say beauty I mean the beauty regimen that we women follow on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I cannot speak for all women so I thought I would share with you the beauty regimen that I follow and the make up I use. Please feel free to share any beauty secrets you have with me. All tips will be gratefully accepted!

My Beauty Regimen

Beauty-Regimen-For-WomenEvery morning: In my bathroom cabinet you will find facial cleanser to cleanse my skin every morning and night together with a facial toner. In the mornings, I wash my face using the cleanser and rinse it off with a flannel or face cloth. I then wipe my face with the toner using a cotton pad. I use a day moisturiser with SPF30. Sometimes, if I am not too lazy, I will use an eye cream and apply small dots around the eye area and gently rub the cream in. Any help to smooth out those wrinkles are always welcome!! My face is now ready to have make up applied to it. More of that later.

Blog_beauty productsEvery night: I use baby oil to remove my eye make up at night. I used to buy eye make-up remover but found that baby oil is just as good and cheaper. I dab my cotton pad in the oil and gently wipe my eyes. I then apply my facial cleanser using my fingers, massage my face and rinse off all the day’s dirt and make-up using my flannel. I love the wonderful clean feeling I get after I’ve washed my face. I feel like I’ve washed off all the stresses of the day. After I have wiped my face with the toner, I apply my night cream which will nourish and repair my skin overnight and once again if I can be bothered, I will apply the eye cream. Then it’s bed time!

Every week: I try to remember to do this every week for I know that I should exfoliate my skin once a week with a good facial scrub. Exfoliation is very good to remove dead skin and to rejuvenate our complexion. There are different products that you can use. I personally prefer using a product with granules. As the granules rub against my skin I feel the dirt coming off!
When I have the time and there is a good radio programme on I might use a facial mask. The mask allows for deep cleansing of the skin. I apply it with my fingers, leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse it off thoroughly. It’s very important to apply the mask on already cleansed skin.


Photo: Zazou

Photo: Zazou

Occasionally: When I worked in Finance I would have a facial once a month at my beauty salon. The facial is a wonderful way of thoroughly cleansing your skin. I used to love my monthly sessions as it was a real luxury to lie for an hour and a half while someone pampered you.
Since becoming an EFL trainer, I have a facial once a year if that! Ahhh, life is tough, I know…….


My Make Up
Now for the make-up. I don’t use a lot of make up. It is certainly a lot less than when I was younger. I remember that I used to “cake on” the make-up when I was a teenager. It was a must to experiment with every colour. When I look back at some photos now, I scare myself.

Face: I used to wear foundation but not anymore. Now I use a bronzer to give myself that suntanned look. I use a big make-up brush to apply the bronzer all over my face, neck and decollete. Some women also use a concealer or primer to hide spots and flaws or blemishes of the skin.


Check out these false eyelashes!

Check out these false eyelashes!

Eyes: After that I apply a light eye shadow with a small brush on my eyelids. I am not very good with eye shadow so I avoid it. I use a pencil eyeliner (rather than a liquid eyeliner) and apply it below my eye. Sometimes I will apply it above the eye but only if I want to create a dramatic effect (which is rare). I then use mascara.

There are so many types of mascara ranging from volumising, lash defining, waterproof, lengthening and curling to name but a few. If you want more information about the types of mascare, take a look here. I use a lengthening and curling mascara.I don’t have long eyelashes so I need all the help I can get with mascara. Some women use eyelash curlers to enhance their eyelashes. I’ve never used them.

I’ve noticed a lot of young girls using false eyelashes instead of mascara. Some of them are so long that I wonder whether they can see anything out of them!

Blog_LipsLips: Finally I deal with the lips. I like to use a lipliner to give my lips definition. I know that the older I get the more definition my lips need! I use a lipliner rather than a lip pencil. After that, I will apply lipstick or lipgloss depending on what mood I am in. I like to use neutral shades of colour. I like lipgloss in the summer and lipstick in the winter. I sometimes have to use a lip balm to protect my lips from the cold as they can get chapped. A lot of lipsticks have a protective lip balm in them.

When I worked in the Financial Services industry I spent a fortune on beauty products. Ever since becoming an EFL trainer though, my budget has shrunk and I am more sensible with how I spend my money and truly believe that you can maintain an effective beauty regimen on a sensible budget. What do you think?

I have to say that whilst I don’t agree with the obsession that surrounds the beauty industry, I always feel better when I apply a little make up and when my skin is glowing with health. Exercise is a great way of getting good-looking skin. Sweat is an excellent way to cleanse your skin. The way I sweat during exercise must surely mean that I have the most fantastic skin in the world!!!

How much time and money do you spend on skincare and makeup? Does it make you feel good when you apply some makeup? What is your beauty regimen?

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Ciao for now



English with a Twist is 1 today!

Blog_Happy First Anniversary


I can’t believe that this time last year I posted my first ever blog post on this site! Where has the time gone? And what a year it has been.

When I decided to start this blog I never thought that a year down the line I would have:

  • written 96 posts
  • gained 1,441 subscribers (plus 122 on Networked Blog)
  • well over 600,000 views on my blog (with one post alone achieving over 41,000 views and over 10,000 shares on Facebook!)
  • been chosen as runner up for the Macmillan Love English Award for Best Blog about the English Language
  • enjoyed (and loved) blogging as much as I do.

Through this blog, I’ve met some wonderful people who have been generous enough to read and comment on my blog posts. I have met some lovely new clients who I consider friends. I have been introduced to some amazing fellow teachers who have taught and inspired me and continue to do so.

Through this blog, I’ve discovered a creative side to me that I didn’t realise I had. I found out how much I love writing and sharing my love of the English Language and English literature. The discipline of writing has made me appreciate far more the language and allowed me to analyse more deeply the way I teach and to make adjustments where necessary.

I am having the time of my life and it’s all thanks to your encouragement, your readership and enthusiasm for my posts. I love the comments I receive from you. Please keep them coming. Thank you all so much for sharing my posts and spreading the word. This blog wouldn’t be the success it is without YOU.

And if you’d like me to address any particular aspects of the English Language and literature or anything else associated with the English Language culture, you only have to drop me a line and I will see what I can do.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all your support and I am looking forward to continuing this journey with you for many more years to come.

Cheers, everyone.


10 English Words with the most multiple meanings – Part 2

In my last post, I shared with you the first five English words with the most definitions in the dictionary.

As I mentioned in that post, the English Language has many words that have multiple meanings and this can often confuse the language learner. My previous post dealt with the words run, take, break, turn and set.

Today I shall share the next five words as shown in the following infographic that was compiled by Kaplan International together with Dictionary.com. You can view this infographic here on the Kaplan website.

The examples shown are of the different verb and noun meanings and verb phrases for each word. I must point out that I have not shown you all the different meanings but just a few to give you a flavour of the multiple meanings.

words with multiple meaningsKaplan International Colleges

1. GO


  • I go to the gym every day ◆ I go to work by car ◆ Are you ready to go to lunch? (move or travel from one place to another)
  • How are things going at work? ◆ I think the interview went well  (to happen in  a particular way)
  • go blind/deaf/grey/baldLouise went completely blind before she diedgo wild/crazyI knew they would go crazy when they found out ◆ go bad/sour/rotten - The bananas have gone bad(change to another condition state, usually a worse one)
  • This week’s gone so fast. I can’t believe it’s already Friday (when time passes)


Noun and Noun Phrases

  • Why don’t you have a go at writing this email ◆ I thought I’d give skiing a go this winter (an attempt to do something)
  • Don’t eat the whole thing in one go.
  • It’s all go this morning. We haven’t stopped once!(British spoken - used to say that something is full of activity)
  • I’ve decided that I’m going to make a go of this business (informal - to do something successfully)

Verb Phrases

  • As history books go, this is rather good (when you consider what things of the same type are like)
  • David will go far in life (to be successful in what you do)
  • She has decided to go it alone  (to do something without depending on anyone for help)
  • This time you have gone too far (to behave in a way that is unreasonable)




  • I play tennis every Saturday (take part in sport/game)
  • The orchestra played beautifully tonight   The tape was played in court (to make music/sound)
  • She played the part of Blanche Dubois in the Streetcar named Desire ( to have a part in a play or film)

Noun and Noun Phrases

  • Have you seen the latest play at the theatre?
  • When the new policy comes into play, fewer people will have control (start to happen or have an effect)
  • I love that line. It has such a wonderful play on words (clever or funny use of a word that has two different meanings)

Verb Phrases

  • If you play your cards right, he might offer you the job (informal – if you behave in a certain way, you might be successful in getting what you want)
  • “I just have to make a phone call,” she said playing for time (to deliberately delay something so that you have more time to think about what to do)
  • They are probably fine raw, but it’s best to play it safe and cook them (avoid taking risks)


 3. CUT


  • You will need a sharp knife to cut the bread
  • Be careful you don’t cut your finger using that knife
  • The Government needs to cut interest rates to stimulate the economy (reduce/lower) 
  • The accident cut (cut off) the oxygen to her brain All lines of communication have been cut  (cutt off)( stop something moving or working)
  • A lot of the violent scenes were cut (cut out) from the film (make something shorter or remove)


  • She has a very deep cut in her finger and it is bleeding profusely
  • There have been some deep cuts in the sales budget 
  • She always chooses the best cut of beef to serve at her restaurant (piece of meat)

Verb Phrases

  • Independence in a relationship cuts both ways (it has both good and bad aspects)
  • They had to cut corners in order to complete the order (not to do a job as throughly as you should)
  • Her agent cut a deal giving her 20% of the profits (make a business deal)
  • We had to cut our holiday short because of the problems at work – (to reduce the time)


4. UP

UP can be used in the following ways:

  • Adverb: Their voices could be heard up in our room  Jean looked up at him  I stood up
  • Preposition: He climbed up the stairs I set off up the road
  • Adjective: the up escalator
  • after the verb ‘to be: He was up early this morning Food prices are up  I knew something was up

Verb Phrases

  • We paid a lot of money for the hotel, but it wasn’t up to much (British spoken – not very good)
  • It’s not like Sarah to be late. Something must be up. (Spoken – something bad is happening or there is something wrong)
  • We’ve really been up against it this year, trying to meet all our production deadlines (in a difficult situation)
  • He was up and about again two days after his operation (out of bed for example after an illness)
  • After a month of no internet, the system is up and running. (working effectively)
  • I don’t know whether I will have the time to do this for you. I am up to my neck/ears/eyes in work.
  • What’s up? You’re very quiet today. (Spoken- used for asking what is wrong) 


5. HAND 


  • It was a large farm with over 20 hired hands  (someone who works on a farm or does physical work)
  • Could you give me a hand to move this table? Would you like a hand with the washing up?  (help someone)
  • Let’s give the children a big hand for the wonderful show (to clap your hands to show you enjoyed a performance)

Noun Phrases

  • I couldn’t lay my hands on a copy of the book (to manage to obtain something)
  • Economic stability go hand in hand with job creation (to exist together)
  • I can’t agree to this because my hands are tied. (cannot do what you want because of rules or laws)
  • She really has her hands full with the children (to be busy)
  • The company is now in the hands of the receiver (to be responsible for it)


Verb and Phrasal Verbs

  • Gerry handed me the document at the meeting. She handed me the phone (give something you’re holding in your hand to someone)
  • Jane handed the letter back to Doug (give back)
  • You need to hand in your completed reports by the end of today. He has handed in his notice/resignation(to give something to a person in authority)
  • I am going to now hand out a copy of the sales report ( to give something to a group) ◆ The office will not hand out employees’ telephone numbers (give information or advice)
  • I’m now going to hand you over to James who will explain the new product launch (to stop speaking and pass over to someone else She handed the keys over to Stella  They formally handed over power to the new government last week (to give power  or control to someone else)


The above examples are just a few that I have selected here. Please do share with me any other meanings you know and use.

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Ciao for now


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