What’s in a name?

Almost as soon as I started teaching, I realised that there were plenty of countries out there that took names a bit more seriously than we do here in England. When meeting new classes, I'd often be told things like…

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Phrase of the day: Nae bother

I have just come back from Scotland, where I was giving the keynote talk at the City of Glasgow College’s ESOL conference. I got given a present afterwards of a quaich - a small silver cup for sharing and drinking…

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Phrase of the day: When I win the lottery

Almost everyone who has learned English in class has probably had that lesson where you study second conditionals. In a second conditional, we use a past tense to describe an imagined, unlikely or impossible situation and would to describe the result…

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Phrase of the day: not bat an eyelid

One of the things that our students often comment on when they come to London is the fact that they often see things here that seem strange or that would cause upset or offence in their own country, but people…

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Phrase of the day: go with the flow

My preferred way of getting around London is by bike. I usually cycle in and out of town, and on my way home, I often go past the offices of Age UK, which is a charity that campaigns for old people and…

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Phrase of the day: making a rod for your own back

I had dinner round at a neighbour's place the other week. Our kids go to the same school, which is how we know each other, and while we were eating and drinking wine, the kids played happily upstairs. Well, actually,…

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Phrase of the day: How long is a piece of string?

As a coursebook writer, there’s one question about my work I dread more than all others. I’ll sometimes be at a conference, standing around on the publisher’s stand - the display space they have where they show all their books…

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Phrase of the day: a double-edged sword

For many years, Hugh Grant was perhaps the most famous English actor there was. He rose to fame playing . . . well, himself, really. In films such as Notting Hill, Love Actually and Four Wedddings and a Funeral, he…

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Phrase of the day: raining cats and dogs

We're joking, of course. This is really NOT our chunk of the day. Only students of English and people who haven't lived in the UK since about 1950 actually use this idiom – and it probably wasn't even used that…

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Phrase of the day: bon appetit

You probably don't need me to tell you that food culture here in England is (and yes, I am using the classic English art of understatement here!) slightly different to much of the rest of the world. We seem to…

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