From the category archives:

improve your English

  • Schwa, syllables and words in different guises – Part 1

    Posted by on April 23, 2014

    I still remember learning, in my early days at school, that there are five vowels in English: a, e, i, o and u. But I discovered later that this simple account doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, the letter y can also function as a vowel, as in the word sky. And, more […]

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  • Word roots and routes: Easter

    Posted by on April 22, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The words Easter and east are related not only to each other, but also to orient, origin and aurora. This might surprise you, but the alternation between s and r in related words is quite common – think of was vs. were, for […]

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  • Are you having hot cross buns today?

    Posted by on April 18, 2014

    Today’s Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, a Christian feast that many people from different cultures around the world celebrate every year. Easter marks the end of Lent, and for many it means spending time with family, going away on holiday, decorating eggs and eating traditional Easter dishes. Eggs are a symbol of re-birth and […]

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  • Language tip of the week: until

    Posted by on April 17, 2014

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc. This week’s language tip helps with the conjunction and preposition until: Unlike till, the word until has only one […]

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  • Language tip of the week: eat

    Posted by on April 10, 2014

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc. This week’s language tip helps with other ways of saying eat: have breakfast/lunch/dinner to eat a particular meal: Have […]

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  • Are you -ish, -ic, -ese or -ian? (Or none of these?)

    Posted by on April 09, 2014

    Most people in Spain are Spanish and speak Spanish. Most people in Italy are Italian and speak Italian. There are many countries that give their name, plus a suffix, to both a language, and an adjective for things from the country. Of course there are lots of languages without countries, and plenty of countries that […]

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  • Word roots and routes: water

    Posted by on April 07, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Not surprisingly, in view of the vital importance of the colourless, odourless liquid it refers to, water is not only a frequent word in its own right (as a noun and a verb) but also appears in a large number of compounds. The […]

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  • Language tip of the week: ability

    Posted by on April 04, 2014

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc. This week’s language tip helps with the noun ability: When ability means ‘the fact of being able to do something’, […]

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  • Language tip of the week: way

    Posted by on March 27, 2014

    In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc. This week’s language tip helps with other ways of saying way: method a way of doing something that involves […]

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  • Word roots and routes: whole

    Posted by on March 24, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The word whole has very deep roots, which can be traced back beyond the beginnings of English, and it has close cognates in other modern Germanic languages. The underlying meaning of whole is ‘undamaged’, and therefore complete or entire. […]

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