7 Idioms connected with Thanksgiving


Photo: Wikipedia

You may have noticed that Thanksgiving in the United States is this Thursday.

As I write this, many Americans are on holiday or are about to leave. It is a huge celebration in the States.

I would say that it is, in fact, more important than Christmas.


Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada but on the second Monday in October, whilst it is always held on the fourth Thursday in November in the US.

As my sister and her family live in the States and are now US citizens, I thought I’d join in the celebrations and write about this very North American tradition in my blog. I’d also like to introduce you to some idioms connected with the symbols of Thanksgiving.

BLOG_Thanksgiving2_pumpkinThanksgiving or the act of “giving thanks” is not unique to the North Americans. For centuries, communities throughout the world have given thanks to their gods for all sorts of reasons. One of the most important reasons has often been to give thanks for a good harvest, especially after a particularly difficult period. People would celebrate their good fortune by preparing a feast, blessing the food and merrymaking. For more information about the history of Thanksgiving, take a look at this.

When I think of Thanksgiving, the following images come to mind: family reunions, holidays, huge family feasts, turkeys, pumpkin pie, corn bread, stuffing, cranberry sauce and those spectacular parades you see on television like this one in New York.

Taking three symbols of Thanksgiving – turkey, stuffing and blessing, let’s take a look at 7 idioms that are commonly used in English.

1. To be stuffed – To be full and can’t eat anymore.
The meal was absolutely delicious. I’m afraid I can’t eat one morsel more. I’m stuffed.

2. To go cold turkey – to suddenly stop a bad habit and suffer from it at the beginning. (This is often used when talking about a drug addict who suddenly stops taking drugs.)
Many people who attempt to quit smoking do so by going cold turkey rather than by gradually cutting down.”

3. To count your blessings – to be grateful for the good things in your life
We have a lovely home, healthy children and each other – we should count our blessings.

4. A stuffed shirt – a person who behaves in a very formal way and expects to be treated as someone very important
The stuffed shirts in this company don’t realise that they need new blood if we are to survive the crisis.

Thanksgiving vs Christmas

5.  A blessing in disguise – something that at first appears to be bad or unlucky but is actually good
I was really upset when I was first made redundant but when I look back now, it was a blessing in disguise. I’ve never been happier with my current work.

6. To talk turkey (mainly American English) – to discuss a problem in a serious way with a real intention to solve it
The politicians need to stop messing around and start talking turkey.

7. To be a mixed blessing – something that has bad effects as well as advantages
Being beautiful can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you receive a lot of attention, but on the other hand, people don’t always take you seriously.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did please share it and be sure to subscribe to my blog to receive future posts.

Ciao for now


English Grammar Pill: Using the Present Tenses in Business English

Grammar OwlI have a new client staying with me on a two-week full immersion Business English course. She runs a very successful business in Italy. She needs English as she has started to forge strong relationships with some UK connections and doesn’t want to rely solely on interpreters.

During the first few days of the course, we reviewed some of her tenses and I noticed that she often uses the present simple and present continuous tenses in the wrong situations.
Whilst I don’t focus on grammar in my Business English courses (or my other courses for that matter), there are times when it is necessary to do so to avoid any misunderstandings.

For example, take a look at these two sentences:

  • We produce solar panels in China (present simple)
  • We are producing solar panels in China (present continuous)

Each sentence has a different meaning. In the first sentence, the present simple is used to show a permanent fact or a general situation. In this case, what we mean is that the company makes solar panels as a business – fact. In other words, it describes what the company does.

By contrast in the second sentence, the present continuous is used to describe a temporary or particular situation. In this case, the company is producing solar panels in China at the moment. There is a start and a finish to the event.

Here are more examples:

  • Where do you work? In London. (Permanent situation)
  • Where are you working? Paris this month, then Berlin next month. (Temporary situation)


  • We find that the price of turkeys increases substantially the nearer we get to Christmas (Habit)
  • The prices of Christmas lights are increasing. (A particular situation)

So, here’s the difference. Use the

Present Simple
Permanent situations, habits and routine and general situations

Present Continuous
Temporary situations, events in progress now and a particular situation

As I mentioned above, it’s worth using these two tenses in the correct way to avoid misunderstandings when doing business in English.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did please share it and be sure to subscribe to my blog to receive future posts.

Ciao for now


What Are You Doing at the Weekend? Let’s explore some vocabulary in English

It’s a short post today as I have a very busy weekend planned and the weekend actually starts today, Friday!!! Yippee!!!

weekend_ready for itI am very excited as one of my online clients, Alessandra is staying with us for the weekend. As I write this, she is on her way from the airport by taxi.
Alessandra is the very same client who wrote a guest post a couple of weeks ago. I have never seen her in the flesh so I am extremely excited to finally meet her.


I have cooked an Indian curry as a welcome dish. I guessed that as an Italian she didn’t need more Italian food!!!! It’s a wet and cold evening so I’m hoping the spiciness of the curry will warm her. Fingers crossed she likes it.

We have a number of things planned for the weekend. While Alessandra visits a number of exhibitions in London tomorrow, I will do my niece duties and visit my uncle during the day. He is out of hospital and convalescing at home. I am going to take Buster, our dog to cheer him up. They do say that animals, especially dogs, are very therapeutic and are a tremendous help with the healing process.

Blog_Pub Crawl_wiki.openstreetmap.orgAs soon as evening approaches, we will be heading for the pub to seriously start off the weekend. We could go on a pub crawl but considering we don’t drink much, it would be a waste of money and alcohol (or booze as we call it in the UK).
We have booked a restaurant in our village and after a few drinks (glasses of wine for the ladies, a couple of pints of beer for my husband), we will go out for dinner. It’s Mediterranean cuisine for tomorrow. When I say Mediterranean I mean Greek and Turkish cuisine.

We’re planning to go to the cinema on Saturday afternoon. I think Alessandra is planning some shopping (retail therapy) in the morning in London. I have to teach first thing in the morning and I will have to dedicate the morning to the usual household chores (housework) and some planting. I bought some autumn plants today which will require to go into various pots.

We might go out to a wine bar on Saturday night, and I am thinking of cooking a Chinese meal for Alessandra. I hope she likes Chinese food.

A Chin Wag

A Chinwag

The real highlight of the weekend for me is going to be finally meeting Alessandra, catching up with her on all her news and having a real good chinwag about anything and everything.

After all, that is what a weekend with friends is all about. And if you can add good food and drink to the mixture, even better!



What have you got planned for the weekend? Whatever it is I hope it’s enjoyable and relaxing.

I hope you liked the post. If you did, 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


Key to the colours
The expressions in blue relate to weekend vocabulary and the phrases in pink are idiomatic expressions and some phrasal verbs that you can use anytime.

“Lest We Forget” – A Poppy for Each Fallen Soldier plus Some Vocabulary

Photo: Historic Royal Palaces/Richard Lea - Hair

Photo: Geoff Pugh/The Telegraph

Last year today, I published a post entitled “Why Do We Celebrate Poppy Day?”In that post I wrote about what Remembrance Day (or Poppy Day) is and why it is celebrated every year in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth countries.
I noticed that the post has been viewed regularly in the last few weeks and I thought I would update the post with what has been happening this year to commemorate this solemn occasion.

2014 represents the centenary year of the start of the First World War. Throughout this year there have been many events organised to remember the Great War. However, nothing compares to the extraordinary and breathtaking display of ceramic poppies that have been created and planted over the last few months in the moat around the Tower of London.

Photo:Historic Royal Palaces/Richard Lea-Hair

Photo:Historic Royal Palaces/Richard Lea-Hair

The installation called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” is by ceramic artist Paul Cummins. The installation began in early August and the last poppy will be planted today. In total 8,000 volunteers have planted the poppies!

888,246 ceramic poppies have been made and each one represents a British and Commonwealth soldier who died during the First World War – the fallen soldiers. The ceramic poppies were available to buy and have all been sold to members of the public. The money raised (over £15m) by the sale will go to charities.

I had hoped to visit the Tower of London to see this unique and spectacular installation, but unfortunately I’ve not had the time. Furthermore, it’s been extremely busy as thousands of people have flocked to the site over the last few weeks to catch and experience a moment of history. I shall have to make do with these fabulous and outstanding photos that I’d like to share with you here.

War Horse's Joey and Michael Morpurgo  Photo: Rex taken from The Telegraph

War Horse’s Joey and Michael Morpurgo
Photo: Rex taken from The Telegraph

For more gorgeous photos, take a look at these captured by the BBC.

The one thing that the British do extremely well is maintaining and respecting traditions. This year, however, they have surpassed themselves. The enormous success of the Tower of London poppies has proven that not only are the British extremely proud of their history and legacy but they are also deeply grateful to the fallen men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we may live in a free and democratic world.

The phrase “lest we forget” of the blog title has assumed (taken on) a deeper poignancy this centenary year. We will never forget.

I hope you liked the post. If you did, 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


Key to the colours
The expressions in blue relate to war vocabulary and the phrases in pink are expressions and some phrasal verbs that you can use anytime. For their meaning, click on the word or expression. If you click on the words in orange, they will lead you to some further information about the topic.

STOP PRESS: Nominations for Best Blog in the Love English Awards 2014

My dear readers,

The nominations for the Macmillan Dictionary Love English Awards 2014 have opened.


This is what Macmillan say:

“Is there a website, blog or Facebook page that you regularly read to satisfy your curiosity about English? Where do you go for your English language resources?

Here is your chance to nominate your favourite online English language hub in the Macmillan Dictionary Love English Awards 2014!”

I was extremely honoured and thrilled to have been nominated last year and to have come Runner Up in my first year as a blogger! See the badge on the right hand bar.

If my blog has helped you on your English Language journey and you feel that my blog deserves to be nominated, I’d be truly delighted if you’d nominate it for this year’s awards. No pressure, of course!!!!!

All you have to do is to click on the link below and follow the instructions.

The nominations will stay open until 15 December 2014.


Thank you so much.

Ciao for now.


3 Tips to Practise and Improve Your English – by a Learner of English

BLOG_TipsI am often asked by learners, including my clients, what is the best way to practise and consequently improve their English Language skills. My response often varies depending on who the learner is. I try to advise them taking into account their learning methods, general interests and time they have available to dedicate to their learning.

However, I feel that great advice to learners can also come from other learners and not just teachers. There isn’t only one approach to learning a language and whilst a teacher/coach can provide the tools to facilitate learning, ultimately it’s up to the learner to work out what works for them.

So I decided to ask some of my clients if they would be willing to share their experiences of learning and practising their language and what tips they would offer their fellow learners in the form of a guest post on this blog.

The first client I asked was Alessandra who seized the opportunity with great enthusiasm. I have been teaching Alessandra online for just under a year. She is a corporate lawyer based in Milan. We have a conversation class once a week. Alessandra is passionate about learning the English Language and is a joy to teach.

I have pleasure in introducing you to Alessandra.

I’ve been asked by my lovely English teacher, Shanthi to write about my learning process and what makes it ( hopefully) a success and – above all- a pleasure.

Photo: The Bright Old Oak

Photo: The Bright Old Oak

I studied English for 8 years at school – a long time ago. After graduating from university, I tried not to lose my English but it was not always easy. I didn’t have  classes or online courses until 2012 when a South African company took over the company I was working for and my boss organized a two- month English course  for all the directors of the board. On that occasion, I found out that I remembered something and could speak, but I was no longer able to listen to the radio or watch TV and really understand the language. What a disappointment!

First of all, I must say that I’m a mature student. I have a job, a family, a life to live, but about a year ago I started to feel the need to improve my English, that used to be good but not perfect. I wanted to be understood when abroad, to write an e- mail without panicking and to understand most of (not all) the contents of a newspaper. So, I set out to do 3 things which I believe is what my fellow learners should do.


1. Find a teacher

Alessandra's crazy teacher!

Alessandra’s crazy teacher!

The teacher is, in fact, essential to your learning process. He or she must understand your needs and keep your interests high and your enthusiasm alive, especially when you’re tired or discouraged.

Your teacher must know what to do or what not to do to make you feel confident and still eager to learn.




BLOG_Downton Abbey2.  Find something you like and do it in English
The second advice I want to share with my fellow students is this: find something you really like and do it in english.

I love TV dramas, biopics, TV series and entertainment shows like Graham Norton or The David Letterman Show. I started to watch them in English with Italian subtitles, then with English subtitles and, now, I watch them without subtitles!

After a while I found myself able to capture the deeper meaning of the dialogue and, as an old Italian proverb says, ‘I’ve started to understand not only the language but the culture behind it (the dialogue)’.


3. Establish a routine
BLOG_Pocket Watch
Now I have an “English” routine. Just as athletes run or swim every day not to lose their fitness, I watch English TV every evening. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Downton Abbey or The Graham Norton Show, I just feel better if I listen to or watch just a little bit of my favourite programmes.

When I feel too tired to deal with something new, I simply watch an episode or an interview I’ve already seen and liked, in order to enjoy myself without being a lazy student.


Learning English seriously  (like old age) is not for sissies, so come on, get to work and very soon you’ll find yourself captured by the new, different, amazing and fascinating world of words.


Thank you so much to Alessandra for taking the time to write this post and sharing her learning journey. 

If you would like to share your learning journey and any tips that you feel have worked or work for you with me and my readers, I would be thrilled to hear from you. Simply drop me a line here and we can work out a plan.

In the meantime, I hope you liked the post. If you did, 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 Skills: 10 Ways of Warning People

BLOG_Be carefulIn life there are times when we have to warn people about all sorts of things. We might need to warn someone to avoid taking too many risks or if they a climbing up a ladder you might warn them to be safe. We often see formal notices around us that act as warnings about dangers or warning us not to do something.

In every language there are expressions that are used to warn people. In this latest post in my English Skills series, I’d like to share 10 expressions we use to warn people. I’ve categorised the expressions under the different scenarios that we could find ourselves in.


When we want to tell someone to be careful as they leave to go somewhere we often use these expressions:

1. Take care
Take care on the roads. They are really icy” I often use this expression when I say goodbye to people.

2. Mind how you go
“It was great seeing you. Mind how you go, the traffic is terrible on the motorway.”


Photo: www.reallifeglobal.com

Photo: www.reallifeglobal.com

When there is a risk of immediate danger, we would say the following:

3. Look out!
Look out! There’s a car coming.”

4. Watch out!
Watch out! The pavement is slippery.”



If you have to move or carry heavy or fragile objects around, the people around you will want to ensure that you do it carefully and gently. They are either worried that you may fall or that you may break the object!

5. Easy does it
“Ok, you’re almost there, easy does it. That’s great. Thank you so much for helping me move the sofa.”

6. Steady
Steady! Are you sure you don’t want some help carrying your bags?”


Most people will advise you not to take risks. After all, it’s in our nature not to take too many risks unless we are risk junkies!!!!


7. Better safe than sorry
“You should pack a couple of torches and some blankets for your journey. Better safe than sorry“. (We can also say “it’s better to be safe than sorry)

8. You can’t be too careful
“I’ve locked all the doors and windows and padlocked the gate. You can’t be too careful these days.”

9. Be careful
“Are you going to walk through the park at this hour? Well, be careful. You never know who’s lurking in the park.”


The common formal expression we see on the roads and public buildings is:

BLOG_Image_Beware of the dog

10. Beware
“No entry. Beware of the guard dogs”
Beware of the dangers of drink driving”


Can you think of other expressions you use or would use to warn people? Are the above expressions similar in your native language?

If you like 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.


NB: My English Skills series is inspired by Macmillan’s wonderful Life Skills campaign that they have been running this year. There are some wonderful resources including lesson plans here for EFL teachers to use. Their skills topics and blog posts have been the backdrop for my own posts on my English Skills series.

Let’s go trick or treating – some Halloween vocabulary

Own Photo

Own Photo

Ok, folks. Halloween paraphernalia is all around us at the moment. Every shop I step into I either get attacked by spiders and their cobwebs or trip over witches’ broomsticks.

There are bright yellow pumpkins beautifully arranged in the vegetables section of supermarkets ready for parents and their children to select, buy, carry home and spend a few hours carving scary sculptures out of those poor unsuspecting pumpkins.



There are witches’ hats and cauldrons that can be bought together with skeleton and Count Dracula costumes that will be worn at fancy-dress parties around the UK. Some person who longs for the eighties (the decade not their age!) to return will probably dust down their CD of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and play it endlessly over the weekend. That’s a point, where did I put my copy?


Photo: http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/

Photo: http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/

As Friday night looms, the children, young and old, will prepare to go trick or treating around their neighbourhood. I have already bought my box of Quality Street sweets to give the children when they come knocking at our door. It’s always best to be on the safe side and give them some sweets, or else you risk having rotten eggs thrown at your window! I’m joking….you’re more likely to have graffiti sprayed on your walls!!! Now stop it, Shanthi!!!! The children are lovely and wouldn’t dream of doing such things.


The Johnson Family's garden

The Johnson Family’s garden in California

What the children do around here is nothing compared to what my nephews are preparing in the States (USA). I understand that they already have a skeleton sitting out in their porch. The pumpkins were bought at a pumpkin farm (none of that supermarket rubbish!).
I believe the carving ceremony will commence tomorrow. One nephew is going as a ghostly ghoul and the other has designed his own costume and will be trick or treating as a robot!!!!  I  just know they will have a spookily fantastic time.

What are you doing this Halloween? Going to a fancy-dress party, trick or treating or turning the lights out and pretending you’re not home?!

For more on Halloween, you might find my post on 10 idioms with a Halloween theme amusing.

If you’re after the history of Halloween, then take a look at this informative and fascinating video by the History Channel

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did 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


Key to the colours
The expressions in blue relate to Halloween vocabulary and the phrases in pink are expressions and some phrasal verbs that you can use anytime.

10 Most Annoying Words on the Internet – an Infographic

I was searching for some inspiration early this morning for this post and lo and behold, I found this great new infographic from Grammar Net and simply had to share it with you here.

As Grammar Net says, words wander in and out of the English Language and some take hold of our daily lives to such an extent that they become over-used and extremely annoying. Here the author has chosen 10 words that are currently annoying internet users.

I’d love to know whether you agree with this list or not and if there are other words you would add to the list.

[Infographic provided by Grammar.net]

Some personal comments

SelfieThe word of 2013 is used everywhere. I must admit to being guilty of the odd selfie or two. Unlike the view here, I enjoy receiving selfies from my friends. How about you?

Literally – The overuse and misuse of this word has annoyed grammarians and linguists for a long time. I wonder whether over time the incorrect use of the word will become acceptable.

Awesome Sauce – I have never heard of this expression. If you have, I’d love to know if you agree with the view here.

LOL, ROFL, LOLOL -  ROFL means Rolling on Floor Laughing. I do agree with the author about LOLOL. What does that mean?!!! It doesn’t add to anything.

“-ageddon” or “-pocalypse” –  Yes, we do like to over-dramatise issues, don’t we? I think this often comes from journalists and we adopt the expressions. After all, drama and disasters sell more newspapers.

YOLO – I have not come across this much. You? What do you think?

#Hashtag – I agree with the author here. I am all for using them appropriately especially when referring to general topics like #grammar, #phrasalverbs, #nomakeupselfie and so on. But what is it with people who create their own personal #hashtags?

No Offence – A favourite expression used by the British. It’s a classic. You know for sure that the person who says it is about to be offensive.

CAPS LOCK – Oh yes, most definitely a no, no unless of course, you want to shout at your reader.

Are there other words that should be included in this list? Please share them in the comments box.

If you like 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.



Visiting a loved one in hospital – some hospital vocabulary

Get Rest

Pictures88.com | Get Well Soon | Forward this Picture

I ended last week in an excellent mood. I felt elated because I had just presented my first webinar and I had really enjoyed the experience. I had also had a very busy but rewarding week and was looking forward to the weekend.

I then received a call from my uncle’s partner to tell me that he had been taken ill and was in hospital. My father was very concerned for his youngest brother and asked me if I would go and visit him.

I decided to cancel my Saturday lessons and make the long trip across London to see him. I don’t know about you, but most people do not enjoy going to hospitals as visitors, let alone as patients. For me it’s those long corridors as you make your way to the wards that make me dread the place.

It’s also the sight of sick patients that makes you feel sad and makes you realise how precious our health is and how we often take our good health for granted. Most hospital wards are extremely busy especially the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E). There is always a long wait to see the doctor when you arrive at A&E. My nephew suffered a football injury yesterday and was in A&E for 5 hours before he was sent home on crutches – poor boy.

Well, there was no long wait for me when I went to visit my uncle on Saturday. I went up to his ward and after washing my hands and using the disinfectant gel, I was allowed to see him in his room. He was lying on the hospital bed fast asleep. He had an arm in a sling and the other hand had cannulas sticking out of his hands. The cannulas were for the nurses to give him antibiotics and saline intravenously. He was wearing the hospital gown which is the most fashionable garment in the world! He looked very frail and I really didn’t recognise my uncle. It was very sad and upsetting.

Whilst I chatted to my uncle’s partner, my husband went to the nurses’ station to get some more information about my uncle’s condition and to know when would we get the results of the tests they had carried out. My uncle has a serious infection and the doctors don’t know what it is and therefore, don’t know how to treat it.

My uncle slowly woke up and after what seemed a long time, he managed to focus and recognised us. We stayed with him for a couple of hours chatting about different things. As we left, my uncle looked at me with real love in his eyes and made a sign for me to approach him. I leant over him and gave him a peck (a kiss) on the cheek and told him I would come back soon.

The journey home was a sad one. I wrote an email to my immediate family telling them the latest news on the tube. I felt very sad that evening and in fact, I still do. My relationship with my uncle has, at times, been stormy over the years and there were periods when I didn’t see or want to see him. However, seeing him in the hospital bed looking so frail and vulnerable made me want to cry. I felt so sorry for him and it made me realise that no matter how annoying some family members can be at times they are always family. And the last thing I would ever wish for is for my uncle to think that he is alone without family.

I hope you don’t mind this less than cheerful post but I needed to share my thoughts with you, my readers. Thank you for reading.

I wish you all a good week.

Ciao for now


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

Key to the colours
The expressions in blue relate to health and hospital vocabulary and the phrases in pink are expressions and collocations you can use anytime.

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