Adult Speaking Class, Level 3 / IELTS: English expressions

25th August 2020

A database of common UK & USA expressions, phrases and idioms for students who want to learn more, in order to increase their command of and respect for the English language. I have provided my IELTS students with half a dozen (a dozen = 12, therefore half a dozen = 6. Having said that, a ‘baker’s dozen’ = 13 … welcome to English !) idioms, but this blog is aimed at students who are willing to go above the barest minimum.

We kick off (start) with expressions and idioms, as they are tremendous fun, then move on to collocations. How words fit together is a powerful tool in learning English … huge chunks of texts suddenly group themselves into small word blocks, enabling you to predict what will be said (especially useful in listening exercises).

Finally, we wrap up with some negotiation phrases. In the next blog, I’ll give you a chance to use these in sentences, but for now, familiarise yourself with a handful of new expressions … it could be right up your street.

Alice Sara Ott - It was a very emotional and intimate... | Facebook
Alice Sara Ott – German-Japanese pianist. I recommended her to a musician friend and he said it was right up his street.

Expressions / idioms

Ring any bells ? // do you remember //

More or less // not exactly but approximately

Get the gist // do you understand the main point ?

Right up your street // this is something you will really like

Rabbiting on // UK slang, especially in London … talking too much

Piece of cake // no problem, very easy, sure

Tongue in cheek // not being serious about something

Tongue in Cheek: Idiom Meaning - English Expression Videos - YouTube
“I think Donald Trump is the greatest US President …” Do you think President Obama would say this and be serious ?

Keep your hand in // to practise something so you don’t forget how it’s done

Bucket down / raining cats and dogs // raining very heavily

Have a go / give it a bash / give it a shot // to try something

Call it a day // to stop work and go home early

Go ahead // sure, do it

Under one roof // everything in one place

Through thick and thin // together in good times and bad times.

Through Thick and Thin (2015)

To spill the beans // to tell a secret, or to share some private information

I should cocoa // UK slang, old-fashioned = I really don’t believe it or you

kick-off // A sports expression from football – means to start

tied up / snowed under / rushed off our feet / flat out / up to my eyes // very busy

daylight robbery // much too expensive, very over-priced.

on your bike // go away !

Norman Tebbit's dad getting on his bike, looking for work until he ...

to throw a wobbly // to become angry and shout and curse

Bang up to date // totally modern and new or completed all your work on schedule

otherwise engaged // busy – a polite way of saying ‘go away’

I know where you’re coming from // I understand what you are saying and how you think

to get hold of someone // try to make contact with someone by phone, in person, email etc

speak of the Devil // to talk about something and then they appear

to be into something // to really enjoy or like something or someone

to put something over someone / to pull the pull over someone’s eyes // try to trick or cheat someone

There’ll be Hell to pay // you will be in BIG trouble !

Hell breaks loose // people will be very angry and upset

I’ll give you a bell / a shout // I will call you on the phone

Knock off / to finish work

knock it off // stop doing that !

That’s proper loud // UK slang ‘proper’ meaning very – that’s very loud

Well chuffed // extremely happy

come again ? / You what ? // UK slang for say it again, please

What do you reckon ? // What do you think of something ?

Collocations

To run a business

To conduct / carry out a survey

Can I have a word with you / a quick word

Do you have minute ?

Voting with their feet

Can I put you on hold ? / to be put on hold / Hold the line

A victory for common sense

I’m none the wiser

On the button / on the money

get the hang of it

scraping the barrel

Scraping The Barrel Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from ...

Negotiation Language

Negotiation Table Stock Photos And Images - 123RF

I fail to see the relevance

I don’t see how that applies

That’s as maybe

I don’t get/see your point / I think you are missing the point

I don’t see where you’re going with this

I beg to differ

I appreciate that

You raise an interesting point

Having said that

Interesting that you say that

I think / feel that

In my opinion

I take issue with that

I don’t know about that

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: Adverbs and expressions

26th June 2020

Using adverbs of frequency

always / frequently / often / sometimes / occasionally / never

100 % / 85 – 90 % / 75 % / 30 – 50 % /15 – 20% / 0

How often do you:

Study English ? // Visit family ? // Eat western food ? // Drink beer at work ?

Learning to Read English
Japanese Family Vocabulary - My Family flashcards on Tinycards

Khmer Country Food: TURKISH Doner Kebab Street Food, in Phnom Penh ...

Beer before work: Why is it so normal in Germany to drink alcohol ...

Expressions

Nanci Griffith - Once In A Very Blue Moon (1984, Vinyl) | Discogs

Nanci Griffith ‘Once in a Very Blue Moon’ record

Once in a blue moon = very occasionally, almost never

Not as much as I’d like to

Not as much as I used to 

From time to time / now and then = occasionally 

Asking questions:

How often do you … ?

Do you often … ?

How often do you use Grabbike ?

I sometimes use Grabbike OR I use Grabbike sometimes 

I + adverb + verb + noun OR I + verb + noun + adverb

Grabbike ? I use Grabbike once in a blue moon (almost never)

Tell me why you don’t use Grab:

I have my own motorbike

My wife takes me to work

I don’t trust them

I catch a bus

Cute drivers wish visitors 'don't judge low stars' for money to study

Visit family ?

I visit family once in a blue moon, because my hometown is very far away.

How often do you go dancing ?

I never go dancing because …

Study English ?

Eat western food ?

Drink beer at work ?

Do you often eat junk food ?

Become angry ?

Loose money ?

Twin Peaks - Coop's HELLO-O-O compilation - YouTube

New vocabulary:

exhausted = very tired

delighted = very happy

overwhelmed = too much of something (I was overwhelmed by the amount of work)

hazard / hazardous = danger/ dangerous

tickled pink = very happy (idiom) I’m tickled pink

fit as a fiddle = healthy

good to go ! = ready and wanting to do something.

Paris love-locks

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/witn/ep-150603

Paris Has a 'Love Lock' Problem | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

Padlocks – a sign of everlasting love

Finally – describe these street scenes:

Moscow Winter Festivals and Activities

Moscow – it’s winter and it’s snowing heavily. It must be night time because the streetlights are on. There is nobody on the street, it is deserted (empty).

London Bus and London Eye

London, on the other hand, is in summer or maybe / possibly spring. The blue sky without a cloud looks very beautiful. There is also a famous red bus, a double-decker. We can also see the London Eye.

What Happens to Hong Kong Now? - The New York Times
Hong Kong
Hyderabad (Pakistan) - City in Pakistan - Thousand Wonders
Hyderabad, Pakistan

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: Giving opinions – architecture

9th April 2020

Architecture

What do you think of these styles ? Which do you like and why ?

Use adjectives and opinion expressions

I think / I feel / It seems to me / In my opinion  /

I especially like / I especially dislike / This appeals to me

Some adjectives:

imposing / impressive / incredible / magnificent / symmetrical / dazzling / unique / minimal / functional / decorative /

Expressions:

A sense of space / playful decor / somber facade / elegant lines / spiritually enhancing / an icon of national identity

Gothic 
Renaissance
Baroque
Art Nouveau
Cubist
Modernism

Some contemporary architects and styles

Would you like to or visit any of these buildings ?

How do you react to them ?

What are they trying to say ?

Kazuyo Sejima (Japan b. 1956)

Daniel Libeskind (Poland / USA b. 1946)

The Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany.

Dubai (UAE)

Which one expresses optimism, growth and confidence ?

Which one challenges conventional structures ?

Which one uses architecture to reflect a destruction or shattering of society ?

Finally:

Here’s a great video charting the advances made in architecture over the last century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuTqWxuAazI

EVOLUTION of WORLD'S TALLEST BUILDING: Size Comparison (1901-2022 ...

Are we getting close to the Biblical Tower of Babel ?

Bruegel, Tower of Babel (video) | Khan Academy
Tower of Babel by Peter Breughal 1563

For those who are interested in the story, here is the extract from The Bible, Genesis 11

Genesis 11 New International Version (NIV)

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lordsaid, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.