Like most of my blog posts, this one was inspired by a common error I hear from Knox English students: “The population of China is higher compared to the population of Korea.” This sentence has one grammatical error and one aspect that sounds unnatural. Let’s start with the error.
There are some errors in word choice that even native speakers make, and one of the most common ones that I encounter from English speakers is confusing the words poison and venom. This mistake is so common that I’ve even seen science books getting it wrong. Fortunately, the difference is easy to understand, and by the end of this article, you’ll hopefully never make this mistake again.
One mistake I encounter time and time again is when students mix up the words menu and dish. A common sentence that students produce is “This restaurant has many menus,” but in most situations, this is not what they’re intending to say. Let’s have a look why.
Brexit and the election of Donald Trump signified huge changes in the West’s political climate, and one thing that’s guaranteed from large-scale societal shifts is new language. In recent months, two new phrases have entered the English language, but these are phrases that not everyone is happy with. If you’ve watched the BBC or CNN recently, you can’t have failed to hear the terms alternative facts and post-truth politics.
If you work in insurance, you’re certain to come across the terms adverse selection and moral hazard. These concepts describe key problems within the industry, and although they have complicated-sounding names that many native speakers don’t know the meaning of, they’re actually pretty easy to understand.
Words that transfer directly from one language to another with the exact same meaning are called loan words. Whenever a language takes a word, we refer to it as borrowing, which is a bit of a misnomer because the words are obviously never returned. English borrows loan words from many different sources, and given Russia’s size and cultural impact over the last couple of centuries, it should be no surprise that a few words have come directly from Russian. Political words are among the most commonly used, but Mother Russia – as Russians sometimes refer to their country – has loaned us words from all walks of life. Here are 15 of the most common.
Time-based prepositions can often cause problems, and the question in the title is one I often get asked. The answer is simple: on the weekend is from American English, whereas at the weekend is British English. Whatever you do, though, don’t say in the weekend. That’s wrong on either side of the Atlantic!
For many people, leaving your job can be a stressful time. Some find it difficult to say “I quit” in their mother tongue, and it becomes even harder when you need to do it in a second language. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing the way you tell your boss. Are you trying to express anger at her/him, or do you want to show that you feel guilty for leaving? For those of you struggling to find the right words to say in English, this guide will help you leave on your own terms.
Learning Latin is not as common in British schools as it used to be, but knowing some of the ancient language is essential for a lot of degrees taught in English, especially law. As an EFL student, you probably won’t encounter too much Latin, but two oft-mistaken terms you will definitely come across are i.e. and e.g.
If you’ve watched American television, you may have heard them use the phrase cookie cutter. A literal cookie cutter is – as the name suggests – a machine that cuts cookies, but this phrase is more commonly used to mean something that’s mass produced. It’s generally used in a derogatory sense, to imply that something has no distinguishing features, or no originality.
There are a lot of interesting, quirky etymologies in English, but one of my favourites is the word mortgage. It comes from old French and literally means ‘death promise,’ but why in modern English do we use it to describe the loan people get to purchase a house? Let’s first look at its two parts: mort and gage.
Leicester City shocked soccer fans around the world when they won the 2015/16 Premier League title. If you read any English-language websites, you may have seen their success described as the “greatest underdog story in sporting history.” But what is an underdog, and where does this strange word come from?
You may have heard people complaining about jet lag in the past. The way English speakers talk about it, it sounds like an illness: “I have jet lag“ or “I’m suffering from jet lag,” are the same sentence structures we use when talking about the flu or cancer. But what exactly is jet lag?
Before discussing when to use too, too many, and too much, I first need to clear up a common mistake. Too means an excessive amount, and is therefore negative. Sometimes non-native English speakers say things like, “I had a great time yesterday. I was too happy.” This sounds strange, because happy is a positive adjective, and in most circumstances, you can’t have too much happiness. In this case, “I was very happy” sounds more natural. We only use too when suggesting there is an excessively high amount of something, e.g. “My stomach hurts. I ate too much.”
The noun highlight is defined by dictionary.com as “an important, conspicuous, memorable, or enjoyable … part” of something. It is commonly used in its plural form to describe the shortened broadcast of a sports event in which key parts of a match are replayed, but highlight is also regularly used in day-to-day conversation to describe the best part of a wider event or time frame, e.g. “The highlight of my day was receiving a pay rise from my boss.” Highlight is obviously a compound word consisting of high and light, but where did it originate?
The English word perfume is used for a fragrance designed for women, but I often hear non-native English speakers say things like, “My husband is wearing a new perfume.” Be warned! If a native English speaker hears that, she or he will probably start laughing. For men, we say they are wearing cologne or after-shave.
Knox English has meant to be somewhere for you to study English, but let’s turn our attention to French for a minute. If you talk with native English speakers for long enough, you’ll eventually hear someone use the phrase carte blanche, a loan phrase from French. For example, “My boss gave me carte blanche on the project.” But what does it mean?
One new verb that recently entered the English language is to binge-watch. The Oxford Dictionary defines binge-watching as, “Watching multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession.” Although there’s no strict rule, I would say that if you watch 3 or more episodes in a row, you can probably describe it as binge-watching.
Naked, nude, bare … there are lots of ways in English to express the state of wearing no clothes, but in my opinion, the most humorous is the phrase birthday suit.
Distinguishing between proper nouns and common nouns is important in English. Every time you encounter a noun – desk, girl, Obama, apple, Apple – you need to consider whether it’s common or proper. These two categories of noun are treated differently, so it’s important to be able to tell the difference.