Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Talking to Kate, I realized she was a pain in the neck because she was only speaking about politics. (to be annoying)

We're organizing a hen party for Luiza this weekend. She'll love it!
(a party for women, happening only before getting married)

Mary is not a trustworthy person, she always lets the cat out of the bag. (reveal a secret)

Could you give me a hand? I can't use this computer. (help)

I had the answer to that question as it was on the tip of my tongue. (I knew the answer for sure)

I have butterflies in my stomach. (I am very nervous)

When my mother saw what I had been doing, I got egg on my face. (to be made to look stupid)

The show was so crowded that people were shoulder to shoulder from the beginning to the end! (in close proximity; side by side)

John said he was about to get on stage, so I said to him: "Break a leg!" (good luck)

You cannot hand that report to your boss. It is a dog's dinner. (messy, not properly done)

The main step is to be young at heart. ( still feel young)


The lion's share - The biggest part of something.

My lips are sealed - Something you say to let someone know that you will not tell anyone else what they have just told you.

Back the wrong horse - To support a person or thing that fails.
Ex: It was only after we'd invested all the money that we discovered we'd been backing the wrong horse.

Be pleased to see the back - To be pleased when someone leaves or when something ends because you did not like them.
Ex: She was an absolute pain when she stayed at us and we were both really pleased to see the back of her.

Be as busy as a bee - To be very busy or very active.

A slap on the wrist - A warning or punisment that is not severe.

Cost an arm and a leg - To be very expensive.
Ex: These opera tickets costs us an arm and a leg.

Pay through the nose - To pay too much for something.
Ex: If you want a decent wine, you have to pay through the nose for it.

Keep the wolf from the door - To have enough money to be able to eat and live.
Ex: Forty percent of the country's population receive part-time wages that barely keep the wolf from the door.

Fight like cat and dog - to argue violently all the time .

When pigs flies - something that you say which means you think there is no chance at all of something happening .

Keep someone's head - Remain calm, in control.

Your heart bleeds - if your heart bleeds for someone who is in trouble, you feel sadness and sympathy for them.
Ex: My heart bleeds for the poor children caught up in the fighting.

A bird-brain - a stupid person.
Ex: He's just a bird-brain - he can't get anything right.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Idioms with animals

Have ants in your pants
- to not be able to keep still because you are very excited or worried about something:
She's got ants on her pants because she's going to a party tonight.

Be busy as a bee- be very busy or very active.
She's as busy as a bee,always going to meeting and organizing parties.

Have butterflies (in stomach)- to feel very nervous,ussually about sometinhg you are going to do.
She has butterflies in her stomach as she walked out onto the stage.

Monkey see, monkey do- silly or unintelligent people tend to copy each other's actions.
Our one-year-old is saying bad words now. I told my husband, "Monkey see, monkey do!"

Monday, 9 November 2009


He said he'd never marry, but he had a change of heart when he met her.(He changed his mind how he felt about it)

In the blink of an eye, he was gone!(extremely quickly)

His parents footed the bill for his course's fees.(to pay an amount of money for sth)

From the top of my head, all I can think of is my next holiday.(the first thing that comes to one's head)

I have a gut feeling this is going nowhere.(I can sense it)

She asked me how I was with a twinkle in her eye.(having a cheerful expression)

Phillipe had decided to stay on as a student, but now he has other/bigger fish to fry.(to have sth else better or more important to do)

I am in the doghouse - I broke Sara's favourite vase this morning.( someone is annoyed with you and shows their disapproval)

Never look a gift horse in the mouth! (be ungrateful for what you are given)

I've been working like a dog. (to work a lot)

Now that the relationship is over, he is as free as a bird.(to be absolutely free)

I think I will wait in here till the cows come home.(for a long time)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Idioms with animals

dog days – the hottest days of the year. The dog days of the summer have arrived.

an old bat an unpleasant old woman. She's an old bat!

as busy as a bee If you are as busy as a bee, you are very busy indeed.

like a fish out of water If you are placed in a situation that is completely new to you and confuses you, you are like a fish out of water. On my first day at that s chool, I felt like a fish out of water.


She got so embarrassed when she noticed tah she had let the cat out fo the bag .(To say or tell something that you were not supposed to.)


As John hurt her feelings, Kelly's giving him the cold shoulder.(She is ignoring him.)

His youngest son was the apple of his eye.(The person who someone loves most and is very proud of.)

My stepfather and I, we just don't see eye to eye.(We don't agree.)

They are set to meet head to head in next week's final.(When two groups of people face each other directly to decide the result of a disagreement or competition.)

Waiting in line is a pain in the neck. (Somebody or something that bugs you, annoys or bothers you.)

Regarding the students' results, the weight is all on my shoulders.( To have full responsibility for something.)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

False Friends

Actual (not "atual" which means current; present) - to really exist.

Ingenious (not "ingênuo" which means naive) - good at solving problems, inventive, creative.

Recipient (not "recipiente" which means container) - a person who receives something.
E.g.: This latest cut in government spending will affect income support recipients and their families.

Push (not "puxar" which means pull) - to press upon or against (a thing) with force in order to move it away.

Resume (not "resumir" which means summarize) - an activity resumes when it starts again after a pause.
E.g.: Normal services will be resumed in the spring.

Improve (not "improvisar" which means improvise) - to make something better.

Misery (not "miséria" which means poverty) - great unhappiness.

Intimacy (not "intimação" which means subpoena) - a close friendship or sexual relationship with someone.

Fake (not "faca" which means knife) - not genuine.

Pasta (not "pasta" which means briefcase) - food made from flour, eggs and water, hard when dry and soft when cooked.

Lend (not "lenda" which means legend) - to give something to somebody or allow somebody to use something temporarily.

Legend (not "legenda", which means subtitle) - a story from the past that may or may not be true.

Comprehensive (not "compreensivo" which means understanding) - that includes everything or nearly everything.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

False Friends

pretend (not "pretender", which means to intend) - to behave as if something is true when in fact you know it isn't, in order to deceive people or for fun; E.g.: Let's pretend we are on the moon.

sensible (not "sensível", which means sensitive) - reasonable, practical, and showing good judgment; E.g.: Moving house seemed like the sensible thing to do.

(not "atualmente", which means currently) - in fact or in truth;

comprehensive (not "compreensivo", which means understanding) - covering completely or broadly;

genial (not "genial", which means brilliant; terrific;) - favorable to growth or comfort; E.g.: The sunshine today is genial.

disillusion (not "desilusão", which means disillusionment) - (verb) to free from illusion;

compromise (not "compromisso", which means commitment; appointment;) - an agreement in an argument in which the people involved reduce their demands or change their opinion in order to agree;

gratuity (not the quality of being free of charge) - tip, an amount of money given to someone;

propaganda (not advertisement) - false information spread in order to influence people's opinions;

relapse (not "relapso") - "recaída, recidiva, de volta a tempos ruins".

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

False Cognates

Moisture: not "mistura"(mixture). It means wetness, humidity - the state of being damp.

Motel: not "motel". It means a roadside hotel for drivers, usually having direct access from each room or chalet to a parking space.

Procurement; not "procuração" (power of attorney; proxy). It means the process of buying supplies or equipment for a government department or company.

Amass: not "amassar" ( to dent). It means to collect a lot of sth such as money or information over a period of time.

Casualty: not "casualidade" ( by chance/accident). It means victim.

Bulls and Bears: not "touros e ursos" . In the Financial world it means the optmistics and the pessimistics.

Bar: (Legal) not "bar". The profession of being a Barrister (a lawyer who has the right to speak in a higher court of law)

Deception: not "decepção" (disappointment); used when people hide the truth, especially to get an advantage.

Retribution; not "retribuição" (reward, acknowledgement, gratitude); deserved and severe punishment.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Idioms ( or idiomatic expressions) are typical of the natural way in which someone speaks or writes.
Check out the idioms below which contain either parts of the body or animals.

Why don´t you have a heart to heart with him and sort out your problems? ( have an honest conversation).
I'm pleased that you got the prize in the poetry competition, but don't let it go to your head. (don´t be too proud).
We had a whale of a time at the party last night. ( we had great fun).
I quite enjoy walking in the hill, but rock-climbing is a whole different kettle of fish. ( a completely different thing).

What other idioms can you think of with parts of the body or animals ?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

False friends

Pilot - not "piloto de Fórmula 1" (driver); someone who operates the controls of an aircraft or spacecraft;
To attend - not "atender" (answer); be present at an event such as a meeting or a class;
To pretend - not "pretender" (intend); to behave as if something is true when in fact you know it is not; in order to deceive people or for fun;
Sensible - not "sensível" (sensitive); reasonable, pratical and showing good judgment;
Actually - not "atualmente" (currently); in fact; really; in reality;
College - not "colégio" (school); university
To assign - not "assinar" (sign); to choose or decide on, or give a particular job or responsability to someone.

False Friends

These are the False friends that Danuza’s FCE class gathered, and we hope these are of any help to you

Pretendnot “Pretender” (intend). Pretend is to “fingir” (fool somebody)

Eventually – This adverb means finnaly / as a consequence, and not, in Portuguese "Eventualmente” (Occasionaly).

Compass – not “Compasso” (Compasses). It is a device for finding direction and that always points to magnetic north.

Dent – not “Dente” (tooth). A small hollow mark in the surface of something, caused by pressure or by being hit.

Ex: A dent in the door of a car

Intoxication – not “Intoxicação” (poisoning). Something that can get you drunk, or really happy.

Fabric – not “Fábrica" (Factory). A cloth produced especially by knitting, weaving, or felting fibers; The texture or quality of such cloth.

College – not "Colégio” (high school). Any place for specialized education after the age of 16 where people study or train to get knowledge and/or skills; University

Customs – not “Costumes” (Traditions). A section in the airport whose job is to look inside traveller’s bags to make certain they are not taking goods in a country without paying taxes

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

False Friends

Collar- not ''cordão'';it really means ''gola de camisa''

not ''condescendente'';it means treating someone as if you are better or more important than them.''I hate he way he's so condescending to his staff''.

Actually- not ''atualmente''.It means in fact or really.''So what actually happened?''

Ordinary- not ''ordinário''.It means not different or special or unexpected in anyway;usual.''Readers of the magazine said they wanted more stories about ordinary people and fewer stories about rich and famous''.

Compromise- not ''compromisso''(commitment).It really means ''entrar em acordo''

Lunch- not ''lanche''(snack);it means ''almoço''

Pretend- not ''pretender''; it means to behave as if something is true when you know it's not:''He pretended (that) he didn't mind,but I knew that he did''

Novel- not ''novela'',it means ''romance''(livro)

Exquisite- not ''esquisito'';it means beautiful and well done

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

False Friends

inhabitable - not "inabitável" (uninhabitable); it means habitável.
ingenuous - not "ingênuo" (naive); it means engenhoso.
library - not "livraria" (bookstore); it means biblioteca.
scholar - not "escolar" (school); it means erudito.
comprehensive - not "compreensivo" (understanding); it means abrangente, amplo, extenso.
eventually - not "eventualmente" (ocasionally); it means finalmente, conseqüentemente.
injury - not "injúria" (insult); it means ferimento, lesão.
pretend - not "pretender" (to intend, to plan); it means fingir.
realize - not "realizar" (to carry out, to make come true, to accomplish); it means notar, perceber, se dar conta.
record - not "recordar" (to remember, to recall); it means gravar disco, gravação, registro.
legend - not "legenda" (subtitle); it means lenda.
genial - not "genial" (brilliant); it means afável, aprazível.
balcony - not "balcão" (counter); it means sacada.
anticipate - not "antecipar" (to bring forward, to move forward); it means prever, aguardar, ficar na expectativa.
actual - not "atual" (present, current); it means real, verdadeiro.
service - not "serviço" (job); it means atendimento.
tax - not "taxa" (fee); it means imposto.
lamp - not lâmpada (light, bulb); it means abajur.
intend - not "entender" (understand); it means pretender.
sensible - not "sensível" (sensitive); it means sensato.
novel - not "novela" (soap opera); it means romance (livro).

Sunday, 18 October 2009


concourse - not "concurso" (contest); a large area in an airport or railway station where people can walk;

confer - not "conferir" in the sense of "checar" (check); give authority, a legal right, or an honour to somebody;

disgrace - not "desgraça" (tragedy); embarrassment, humiliation, indignity;

particular - not "particular" as in "aula particular" (private); among other meanings: someone who is particular has very clear ideas about what they like and dislike and wants everything to be exactly as they like it; (Example: Mr. Drew is known for being very particular.)

pavement - not "pavimento" (floor); the same as "sidewalk" (USA); a path with a hard surface beside a road;

sympathetic - not "simpático" (friendly); kind to someone who has a problem and willing to understand how they feel;

ultimately - not "ultimamente" (lately); after a process or activity has ended; (Example: Technological advances could ultimately lead to even more job losses.)

valour - not "valor" (value) the quality of being very brave, especially in war

These are just a few. Let´s enlarge the list!!!!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Probably the most famous binomial is rock and roll. Why is rock and roll a binomial? Because it has two terms coordinated by a conjunction. In this case, the two terms are both verbs. The terms in binomials, however, can also be two nouns, two verbs, two prepositions, two adverbs or any mix of all the above. Also a binomial can occur with any conjunction, including but and or, and not just and.
Another important thing to know about binomials (and trinomials) is that it is a fixed expression with a fixed order. In other words, it would sound strange to say "I love roll and rock." Portuguese also has binomials such as vira e mexe, altos e baixos, indas e vindas, but they are not nearly as common as they are in English.
To discover the right/best way after making mistakes : Through trial and error
In today´s world: In this day and age
Maintain obedience in society: Keep law and order
Oferta e demanda: supply and demand
The basics for living: food and shelter
Can you think of any others?
Adapted from Como dizer tudo em inglês Avançado by Ron martinez

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dialogue 1: A: What´s your name?
B: My name is John
Dialogue 2: A: What´s your name?
B: John
Which one sounds more natural to you? Dialogue 1 or dialogue 2? Of course dialogue 2 sounds more friendly, conversational and simply more natural. That´s not to say that dialogue 1 isn´t correct or even possible. (And that´s the way many students still learn.) But the linguistic phenomenon represented in dialogue 2, the omission - or ellipsis - of unnecessary information is one of the areas which are key to spoken fluency.
Match the dialogues:
1 - You´re Brazilian, right?
2 - I wasn´t hurt because
I was wearing my helmet.
3 - How do you like this table?
I made it myself
4 - Oh, I have an idea! We can get there faster
if we take the tunnel.
5 - Yes, I know what you mean. The Internet
is a source of stress sometimes, but
it also helps a lot of people.
a - Good thing.
b - Good job.
c- Good thinking.
d - Good point.
e - Good guess.
Adapted from Como dizer tudo em inglês - Avançado by Ron Martinez

Friday, 11 September 2009



1 - "abacaxi" - a hot potato; a hard/tough nut to crack

2 - "abobrinha" - baloney; nonsense; rubbish

3 - "bater na mesma tecla" - to harp on about the same thing

4 - "cara-de-pau" - cheeky

5 - "ficar" - to make out

Adapted from Break the branch? Quebrar o galho? by Jack Scholes

Sunday, 12 July 2009

On Irregular Verbs

The teacher claimed it was so plain,
I only had to use my brain.

She said the past of throw was threw,
The past of grow - of course - was grew,
So flew must be the past of fly,
And now, my boy, your turn to try.
But when I trew,
I had no clue,
If mow was mew
Like know and knew
(Or is it knowed like snow and snowed?)

The teacher frowned at me and said
The past of feed was - plainly - fed
Fed up, I knew then what I ned:
I took a break, and out I snoke,
She shook and quook (or quaked? or quoke?)
With raging anger out she broke:
Your ignorance you want to hide?
Tell me the past form of collide!
But how on earth should I decide
If it´s collid
(Like hide and hid),
Or else - from all that I surmose,
The past of rise was simply rose,
And that of ride was surely rode,

So collide must be collode?

Oh damm these English verbs, I thought
The whole thing absolutely stought!
Of English I have had enough,
These verbs of yours are far too tough.
Bolt upright in my chair I sat,
And said to her "that's that" - I quat.

From : The Unfolding of Language - Guy Deutscher

Thursday, 2 July 2009

COMPOUND NOUNS: Did you guess them correctly?

- Slightly ill.

-Something that makes you feel excited.

-Something that makes you lose interest in something.

-Take the red-eye - to take a journey in a plane that continues all night.

-To have a secret relationship with someone who is not your regular partner.

-A decision that is easy, and that you do not need to think about, used when you want to emphasize that it is really very easy.

-Relaxed and seeming not to be worried about anything.

-Difficult to imagine and very big, strange, or complicated.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

False Cognates

You must have realised by now that many English words that look/sound like Portuguese DO NOT mean the same in Portuguese.
A simple example is ACTUALLY, which may remind you of "ATUALMENTE" but means "NA VERDADE", as in :

Eg: He is actually a doctor, not a lawyer.

Check out the false cognates below. Do you know what they mean in Portuguese?
1- Apparel
2- Comprehensive
3- Compromise
4- Deception
5- Discussion
6- Disgrace
7- Editor
8- Education
9- Eventually
10- Exquisite

Find out under: False cognates: Translations



Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Have you heard of these compound nouns?

Eg: He's feeling a bit off-colour today.

Eg: Her smile is a real turn-on, but her bad breath is a real turn-off.

Eg: He went to L.A. on the red-eye from New York.

Eg: I think he's two-timing me.

Eg: The first question in the Math exam was a real no-brainer.

Eg: My wife is so laid-back.

Eg: Basketball players in the United States get mind-boggling sums of money.

Do you know what they mean?
Check your answers on 2 July

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Are you thinking of going to college in the US?
It´s time to test your readiness for college-level reading. In each of the following exercises, choose the word that best completes the sentence.

1-"Knowledge humanizes mankind, and reason inclines to mildness; but prejudice__________every tender disposition." (Montesquieu)
(A)eradicate (B)deprecate (C)abet (D)placate (E)pervert

2-Describing an argument as "sophistical" means that you believe it is___________-that is, misleading and false.
(A)jocular (B)specious (C)judicious (D)obsequious (E)conventional

3-Careful observation of popular culture as presented in the mass media reveals that many songs, movies, and television programs are ___________, teaching the values of society through entertainment.
(A) complicit (B)inscrutable (C)didactic (D)acerbic (E)titillating

*Selected from Word Fest by Philip Geer Check out the correct answers under: College-level reading.
College-level reading

Saturday, 13 June 2009


The other day I was in the elevator with the locksmith. We spoke in English. We stopped on the first floor and he told me. "We go down here, on the first." I understood and did as he said. "Descemos aqui, no primeiro." But I couldn´t help it and told him the correct sentence would be "We get off here on the first floor". Was I too strict? Maybe. What if I didn´t have another opportunity to correct this typical Brazilian mistake? It´s important to remember that he probably wouldn´t have been understood by someone who didn´t speak Portuguese. So there´s no "go down" to mean "descer do elevador." The same rationale applies to buses. "Descer do ônibus" is to "get off the bus" but "descer do carro " is "get out of the car." How about "subir?" We´d better look it up below:
bike (get off / get on); buses ( get off / get on); cars ( get out of / get in); horses ( get off, get down from / get on , get up on); lifts ( get out of , get off / get in); planes ( get off / get on); ships ( get off / get on)

What do you say when you´re in a hurry and want to get in the elevator? How about? "Hold it! Going up! Going down!" or even "Wait for me."

Adapted from "Como não aprender Inglês" by Michael A. Jacobs

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


If there is one thing certain about English pronunciation it is that there is almost nothing certain about it. No other language in the world has more words spelled the same way and yet pronounced differently. Consider just a few:
heard - beard
road - broad
five - give
early - dearly
beau - beauty
steak - streak
ache - moustache
low - how
doll - droll
scour - four
grieve - sieve
paid - said
break - speak
(Selected from Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson).
Isn´t it amazing? My advice : if it´s a new word, don´t simply guess its pronunciation. Look it up in your dictionary or try http://www.howjsay.com/
Words such as DRAUGHT, BURY, PURCHASE and SOUTHERN may surprise you.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The English language is a dynamic phenomenon. Like your mobile phone or the grass in your back garden, it is continually changing, shrinking and growing back again, constantly acquiring new characteristics.People often think that a word is only a "proper", bona fide part of the vocabulary when it appears in a dictionary. However, some haven´t made it into the dictionary even though they´re being used.
Walking bus
If, on the way to work in the morning, you regularly come across an orderly group of walking children flanked by adults in fluorescent tabards, then you´ll have seen a walking bus. In an effort to encourage walking as a healthy and environmentally friendly option, a walking bus is a group of kids who walk to and from school supervised by two or more adults, usually with a 'driver' at the front and a 'conductor' bringing up the rear.
"....ethical initiatives ... begin before the first bell, when the walking bus sets off, gathering pupils and trotting along emission-free to the school gate." (Observer Magazine, 18 June 2006)
Selected from Brave New Words , by Kerry Maxwell

It´s O.K. to use O.K. !

Of all the new words to issue from the New World, the quintessential Americanism without any doubt was O.K. Arguably American´s single greatest gift to international discourse, O.K. is the most grammatically versatile of words, able to serve as an adjective ("Lunch was O.K"), verb ("Can you O.K. this for me?"), noun ("I need your O.K. on this"), interjection ("O.K., I hear you"), and adverb ("We did O.K.").

Selected from Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson
Have you been able to work out the meanings?
Some peeple said that. Now you write:
number 1 next to the person who forgot something
number 2 next to the person who is good at talking
number 3 next to the person who was very amused at something
number 4 next to the person who has promised to keep a secret
number 5 next to the person who became angry and excited

Sunday, 31 May 2009


" Kissing - and I mean like, yummy, smacking kissing - is the most delicious, most beautiful and passionate thing that two people can do, bar none. " - Drew Barrymore

The word like has become increasingly popular over the years. Now it is one of the most used words in all of English, particularly conversational English. It is extremely useful if you know how to use it properly.

Use 1 - Like meaning "I´m thinking about what to say" (similar to tipo in Portuguese).

Do you think you and Janet are going to get married ? don´t know...Like...I want to, but then again I´m kind of scared, you know ? Usual position: Almost anywhere.

Use 2 - Like ("be like") for reported speech or thought.

You broke up with her? Wow. How did she take it? She was like "What! After all I´ve done for you?" Usual position: After subject pronoun.

From "Como dizer tudo em Inglês Avançado" by Ron Martinez.

Do you use "like" a lot? Can you think of other uses of "like"? Apart form the ones above, there are 6 more! Check them out on 9 June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Collocations: odd one out

I'm sure all of you must have your answers written down on little pieces of paper. So these are the verbs that do not collocate or the words that don't go together.
put off A BUSINESS
Did you get them right?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Do you think you can work out these meanings?
Some peeple said that. Now you write:
number 1 next to the person who forgot something
number 2 next to the person who is good at talking
number 3 next to the person who was very amused at something
number 4 next to the person who has promised to keep a secret
number 5 next to the person who became angry and excited
Adapted from Penguin books
Answers on 2 June

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


As David Wilkins observed many years ago, "Without grammar little can be conveyed; without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed." The single most important task facing language learners is acquiring a sufficiently large vocabulary. We now recognise that much of our 'vocabulary' consists of prefabricated chunks of different kinds. The single most important kind of chunk is collocation. Self-evidently, then, teaching collocation should be a top priority in every language course.
One verb in each line does not collocate with the noun. Cross out the one which does not fit.
1 - accept, act on, disregard, follow, ignore, make, solicit, take
2 - come up with, do, expect, get, require, supply
3 - build up, close down, set up, put off, take over, wind up
4 - deal with, do, examine, ignore, reject, respond to
Adapted from "Teaching Collocation" by Michael Lewis

Check the answers on 27 May


As mentioned below all the words listed had been misspelled. I wonder if anybody bothered to check the right spelling of those words. They are sure very tricky words to spell. Let´s look at the right way to spell them: (the right one in red)

supercede -supersede - conceed - concede - procede - proceed - idiosyncracy - idiosyncrasy concensus - consensus - accomodate - accommodate - impressario - impresario - rhythym - rhythm - opthalmologist - ophthalmologist - diptheria - diphtheria - anamoly - anomaly - afficianado - aficionado - caesarian - caesarean - grafitti - graffiti

How was that? Did you get everything right?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Just as a quick test, see if you can tell which of the following words are mispelled.
supercede - conceed - procede - idiosyncracy - concensus - accomodate - impressario - rhythym - opthalmologist - diptheria - anamoly - afficianado - caesarian - grafitti
In fact, they all are. So was misspelled at the end of the preceeding paragraph. So was preceding just there. I am sorry. I´ll stop. But I trust you get the point that English can be a maddeningly difficult language to spell correctly.
From Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Do you sometimes have trouble spelling in English? Do you use any strategies to help you spell better? Share your thoughts and tips with us.

Do you ever forget things?

"We must go back, I forgot my cell phone in your car". In English or in Portuguese we almost always use the verbs "forget and "esquecer" the same way. We forget things or people or we forget to do something. However, in English, it´s not possible to say a sentence like this one: "Temos de voltar. Esqueci meu telefone celular no seu carro". Simply because in English we don´t forget things somewhere. We just say "I forgot my cell phone". If we want to mention the place, we have to use the verb "leave". "I left my cell phone in your car" So the first sentence is wrong. It should have been:"We must go back, I left my cell phone in your car".
Adapted from Como não aprender Inglês by Michael A. Jacobs
Do you always pay attention to that?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The importance of vocabulary 2

Continuing on the topic of the importance of vocabulary, we can see some more examples of tricky words.

COMMEMORATE - Only very important people and dates are "commemorated" in English. For example, a statue can commemorate a person, or a celebration can be held to celebrate the independence of a country. Otherwise, in English, it's simply "celebrate".
EX: The statue was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the writer's birthday.

RENOVATE - The word renovar in Portuguese simply means "to make new again", but renovate in English is mostly used to talk about making an old house or building look new again.
EX: They had trouble renovating the ancient temple.

ENCHANTED - When someone is encantado in Portuguese, it usually means that they are very pleased, but in English when someone or something is enchanted it or they are under a spell or haunted by spirits.
Ex: They say the forest is enchanted.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


"Quem me dera!" "Você deve estar brincando"
"I´m sure your boss will give you a pay rise." "As if."
"Pode apostar!", "Garantido!"
"Are going to the party tonight?" "You betcha!"
"Sem chance!"; "Nem pensar!"
"Do you think she´ll let you go?" "Fat chance!"
"Meu Deus!"
''Good Lord! What happened?"
"Dá um tempo!"
"Oh, give it a rest! I´m sick of listening to this!''
"Azar o seu!"
"I know you don´t agree with me. Tough luck! I really don´t care."

Selected and adapted from SLANG by Jack Scholes
Which of these do you ever make use of ? Looking forward to hearing from you. ;)

Monday, 4 May 2009


Students with good chunk-knowledge of English will effortlessly anticipate the missing words in the following phrases, for instance:

> "As a matter of ____, the woman who was burnt at the____ wasn´t a witch at____.
> "When he saw his daughter was unharmed, he breathed a sigh of ___."
> "Got to get___now. I´ve got a train to ____."

Half a century ago J. Firth famously stated that "You shall know a word by the company it keeps". Eventual recognition of the truth of this statement has led to the publication of better and better collocation dictionaries and the creation of hugely useful on-line, corpus-based collocation samples which can be used to learn about "strong collocates". (Strong collocates of a given word are words that very often co-occur with this word in a kind of chunk knwon as a "frequent collocation" - e.g., commit is a stronger collocate of crime). To give another example the following words were thrown up by the free collocation sampler on the Collins Cobuild website when we typed in a certain preposition as query word: years, all, control, take, victory, again, weekend, handed, head, shoulder, win, world, place, and, here, days, dispute, controversy, row, time, presided, concern, came, counter, turned, bent and run. Can you guess what preposition we were interested in? If so, your chunk knowledge for this preposition is at least fairly good.
*Over - e.g., over (the...) years, all over, control over, over again, over (the...)weekend... .

Selected and adapted from Teaching Chunks of English by Seth Lindstromberg and Frank Boers.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The importance of vocabulary

A common misconception about what is being an advanced student is that "advanced English is complex grammar". Students want to practice unimaginable constructions such as if you had seen how dirty he was you would have known that he would have had to have been under the car (a real example). The fact is, there are certain rules which govern things like word order and structure in English, and those rules are finite. Once you have mastered them, there´s not much more to learn, grammaticaly speaking. In fact, all of English grammar could be described in the length of a 250 page book. Not so for the other, usually neglected, area of English - lexis (vocabulary). Whereas grammar rules are limited to about a hundred or so, fluent speakers of English have thousands of lexical items to draw from as they speak. On balance, it is vocabulary that will contribute most to a learner´s level of fluency. What do you think about it?

For example, did you happen to know that....?

assassinate - Unlike Portuguese, only presidents and other very important people get
"assassinated." Otherwise, it´s murder, not "assassination."
Example: Four presidents have been assassinated in US history.

propaganda - It isn´t "advertising" as it means in Portuguese, but it is public relations material sent out by political parties or a government - and has a negative connotation.
Example: Some old cartoons have a lot of propaganda in favor of the war.

notorious - Notorious mostly means "noteworthy" or "famous" in Portuguese, but in English it only means "famous for something bad."
Example: He´s notorious for being late.


vanity - Vaidoso in Portuguese is a good thing, meaning someone who looks after him or
herself. However, in English it means someone who thinks too highly of himself. The same goes for the word vanity.
Example: Her boyfriend is so vain. Every time he passes a window he looks at his own reflection.

Adapted from "Como dizer tudo em inglês" Avançado by Ron Martinez, 2006
Do you know what punting is?

What is advanced English?

Does being advanced mean being able to pass a formal examination like the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or the the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a high score? Or does being advanced perhaps mean sounding like a native speaker? Maybe.
But I can tell you what advanced language for learners of English is not: It isn´t what native speakers usuallly consider advanced. When Americans, for example, study "advanced" vocabulary in the United States, they learn words such as firmament, errant and replete - words which for their relation to Latin origins are relatively easy to Brazilians. Or we learn "advanced" terms like callow, prevaricate and abeyance, which may not seem familiar to Brazilians, but, for that matter, aren´t very familiar to the majority of native speakers either.
Instead, what seems to be advanced to a high-level Brazilian learner of English would probably seem simple and common to most native speakers. To reiterate a term cited above, a Brazilian would know the meaning of replete with, but would most likely be unfamiliar with the terms packed with or chock full of . The former maybe useful in certain written or formal contexts, but it the latter terms which are most familiar and used by the majority of fluent speakers of English.
(Selected from "Como dizer tudo em inglês avançado" by Ron Martinez, 2006)