Listen to the origin of English (and many other languages)

Listening: the origin of English (PIE)
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1) 

Studies suggest that the origin or roots of English, German, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and about 400 other languages come from what is called ‘Proto-Indo-European’ or ‘PIE’. Listen to what it might have sounded like here:

Continue reading

Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year

Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year
Intermediate to advanced level (B2-A2)

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is ‘post-truth’. You can see it used in the phrases ‘post-truth politics’ and ‘post-truth world’. It refers to situations where public opinion is shaped less by ‘objective truth’ than by beliefs and opinions.  Continue reading

Reading: Who goes to Oxford University?

Reading: Who goes to Oxford University?
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

This year just over 40% of undergraduate places at Oxford University went to UK students who attended independent schools. In 2005, the figure was 48% and in 1995 it was almost 52%, and if you go back to 1961, it was a little over 65%. Continue reading

Grammar: The subjunctive

Grammar: the subjunctive. Where and what is it?
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

Every language has developed over time. Modern English is simpler than older versions but contains some features from the past. With ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’, the verb form might occasionally surprise you. Continue reading

Advanced vocabulary: 23 words and phrases

Advanced vocabulary: higher-level words and phrases 
Intermediate to advanced level (B2-C2)

Here are 23 advanced words and expressions that have come up in my higher-level 1-1 and Skype lessons over the last couple of months. Do you know them? Continue reading

Adverbs for Cambridge English Advanced and IELTS interviews

Exam tips: the Cambridge English Advanced and IELTS interview
Upper intermediate to advanced levels (B2-C1)

You only have a short time to show how good your English is in the Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) or IELTS interview. How can you do it? Continue reading

Grammar: Perfect ‘tense’ – advanced points

Grammar: perfect ‘tense’ – advanced points
Upper intermediate to advanced level (B2-C2)

Hopefully, you will already be familiar with common perfect constructions such as: ‘Have you ever been to Moscow?’, ‘I’ve already bought a ticket.’ or ‘He said he hadn’t seen it.’. However, for higher level English you need to become familiar with some other points. Continue reading

Listening: A wide range of science podcasts

Listening: a wide range of science podcasts
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1/C2)

If you are interested in science, technology or medicine, you can stream or download a very large number of podcasts from the Naked Scientists, a team of scientists, doctors and communicators based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). Science podcasts

Continue reading

Vocabulary: Mention – a great verb to know

Vocabulary: Mention – a great verb to know
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

The verb ‘mention’ is one of the verbs we can use to talk about what someone has said or is going to say. It’s really useful because using ‘tell’ or ‘say’ is not always appropriate. Let’s look at some examples: Continue reading

Grammar: Using the past perfect

Grammar: using the past perfect – some examples of when you should
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Many learners are a little confused about when they should use the past perfect in English (had taken, had told, had imagined etc). There are several reasons for this. Continue reading

Speaking: Checking you have understood correctly

Speaking: Expressions to check you have understood something correctly
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Even native speakers need to check that they have understood what they heard or read. To do this, you can use a range of expressions. Continue reading

Updated Cambridge English First and Advanced exams

Updated FCE and CAE for 2015
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Cambridge English have made some changes to their First and Advanced exams. The biggest change is that now there will only be 4 papers instead of 5 because the Reading and Use of English are being put together in the same paper. Continue reading

Vocabulary: Approximate numbers

Vocabulary: approximate numbers
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

When we communicate, we often want to use words or expressions that are approximate. This is common when we have to talk about numbers. This might be because we don’t know the exact numbers or amounts or because we don’t want to give them. Here are some of these words and expressions: Continue reading

Pronunciation: The ə sound in British English

Pronunciation: the ə sound
Elementary to advanced level (A2-C1)

The ə sound is everywhere in English. It’s almost impossible to speak British English for more than a few seconds and not use ə! It is not a letter but many vowels can be pronounced /ə/. Continue reading

Vocabulary: Adjective, verb and noun combinations

Vocabulary: adjective, verb and noun collocations and website
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

Many English words are commonly used with certain other words and these become like mini-expressions. For example, if someone has a serious problem or is in serious difficulty, you can say ‘He is in deep trouble‘. However you can’t say ‘he is in heavy trouble‘. Only some combinations are used. Your language probably has similar combinations or collocations. Continue reading

Grammar: List of irregular verbs

Grammar: a list of irregular verbs in groups
All levels

Most irregular verbs are used a lot in English so they are important verbs to learn. In this list they are grouped, for example, by spelling or pronunciation. This should make them easier to remember. Continue reading

Vocabulary: Shakespeare’s 450th birthday

ShakespeareVocabulary and culture: 10 useful expressions from Shakespeare
Advanced level (C1-C2)

This week we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (historians disagree about the exact day) with 10 Shakespearean sayings or sayings that Shakespeare made better known. Continue reading

Pronunciation: English sounds

Pronunciation: English sounds
All levels

If you want to hear the individual sounds of English, you can use Adrian Underhill’s interactive phonemic chart. Just click on the symbol to hear the sound and an example word. There is also a great free app  Continue reading

Pronunciation: Hesitating to sound natural (2)

Pronunciation and speaking: hesitating
Lower intermediate to advanced level English (B1-C1) 

Speaking continuously is quite difficult, even for native speakers. Almost all speakers of English need to pause frequently. Hesitating gives you more time to think and choose the right words. Continue reading

Speaking and writing: Giving a presentation

Speaking and writing: giving a presentation
Intermediate to higher level (B1-C1) 

Have you ever listened to a presentation and thought: ‘Why are they just reading what’s on the slide?’? Not only can this quickly send the listener to sleep but it’s also a waste of a great opportunity. Here are some tips for giving a presentation: Continue reading

Speaking and grammar: How to make an offer

Speaking: making an offer
Intermediate to higher level (B1-C2)

You can make an offer in English in many different ways. Here are some examples:

  • ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ or more informally just ‘Like a cup of tea?’
  • ‘Do you fancy a cup of tea?’ or just ‘Fancy a cup of tea?’
  • ‘Do you want a cup of tea’ or just ‘Want a cup of tea?

Continue reading

Reading: Margaret Thatcher

Very advanced level (C2)

Yesterday Margaret Thatcher died. Some people were sad but others celebrated her death by opening bottles of Champagne and dancing in the street. However most would probably agree that she was one of the most formidable politicians of the 20th century who changed the economic and political face of Britain. Continue reading