Kitty Corner

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Are you good at giving directions? Can you accurately explain how to find locations in English? Here are some important verbs and prepositions when giving directions:

turn left
turn right
go straight ahead
go past
at the corner of
next to
on the left
on the right

Rather easy, right? You can help a lost person by giving clear directions, or maybe some kind stranger will help you one day. (How are your comprehension skills?)

One location word that is a little bit unusual, but very helpful, is kitty-corner. It has other forms too, like kitty-cornered, cater-cornered, cater-corner or catty-cornered, and they all describe the same thing: two things that are located across from each other on opposite corners; to be situated diagonally opposite.

For example: The office building is kitty-corner from the movie theater.

Did you think this post was about kittens? ;) 

How many words make you fluent in a language?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Have you ever wondered about how many words you need to know to reach fluency? Perhaps these numbers will motivate you.

From Helen Doron's Early English for Children "How many words to be fluent in English" (…):

You can get by in most basic situations with about 500-1000 words, but fluency also has to do with how well you use what you know. Both quantity AND quality are important. Good pronunciation and proper grammar count for a lot, so a good basis in English language learning will carry you far.

A large vocabulary is important to be able to really enjoy a language. But how many words do you actually need to know?

- 'Crawl' level: 400-500 words, about 150 phrases. You can make yourself somewhat understood and understand slow speech.
- Mini level: 800-1000 words and 300 phrases. Now you can speak relatively well and unstrained, and can read newspapers and books with the aid of a dictionary.
- Midi level: 1500-2000 words and more than 300 phrases. What you need for day to day conversations. During the course of one day you need approximately this amount of vocabulary, and you can take part in serious discussions and understand what is being said at normal speed.
- 3000-4000 words: Sufficient for reading newspapers and magazines fluently.
- 8000 words: All you ever need. More words are not necessary in order to communicate freely and read all types of literature.

Make a splash!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The word splash is associated with water. Rain splashes on my windshield, children splash each other in the swimming pool, you splash water on your face, etc.

To splash is to move water around energetically, causing it to fly around noisily. You get many things wet by splashing.

There is also an English expression (a dry way of splashing), which is to make a splash. When you make a splash, you do or say something to attract a great deal of attention. It’s an informal way to talk about getting noticed or making an impression.

  • The unknown painter made a splash in the artistic community with his abstract designs.
  • Lorenzo’s original presentation made a splash with our most important client.
  • The Beatles made a big splash during their first visit to the U.S. in 1964.

Making a splash always involves excitement so I hope someone makes a splash in your life soon!

Dear John letters

Monday, August 8, 2016

There is a famous quote that says, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," which means that separation intensifies love. Unfortunately this isn’t true for everyone because of the Dear John letter. 

A Dear John letter is a letter (or maybe an email nowadays) from a woman to a man (or vice versa), breaking off (terminating) a romantic relationship. Dear John letters are typically sent to servicemen or soldiers overseas by a wife or girlfriend, usually because they have found someone else. Rather cruel, isn’t it?

A romantic letter might contain affectionate language, such as Dearest John, Darling, or Dear Johnny, but if a serviceman received a letter beginning with an abrupt Dear John, the receiver would instantly know its purpose. Bad news.

Why John? It’s not sure how the name John was used. It was a popular name during World War ll (when Dear John letters started becoming a fact of life). Another reason may be that John is a name commonly used  when referring to any unidentified man (like John Doe).

These days you don't have to be in the service to receive a Dear John letter. Perhaps nowadays people end relationships with texts, which are just as heartless. Do you do something similar in your country to end a personal relationship? I hope you practice something more compassionate than sending a Dear John (or Dear Jane) letter.

American culture: dog bakeries

Monday, July 18, 2016

When you’re a sucker for something, you’re particularly attracted to or you like a specified thing. It’s informal English, for example:

  • Marco is a sucker for barbecued ribs.
  • Matteo is a sucker for Ray-Ban sunglasses.
  • I don't know why Debbie never takes a vacation. She’s a sucker for punishment, I guess.

For me, I’m a sucker for bakeries. I love the smell of freshly baked bread or simply looking in pastry shop windows. Most of all, I love eating pastries.

Americans often look for opportunities: If they like something, they feel others might like it too, including their pets. With this attitude, the dog bakery was born.

Do dogs have a weakness for bakeries? They must, because canine pastry shops have sprung up (grown) in cities all across the US. They have very funny names too, like Doggie Bistro, Petlicious Dog Bakery, The Barkery, and more.

Pet owners care more about the quality of food they feed their animals because often store-bought treats have a high amount of sugar, preservatives, and chemicals. Dog-friendly ingredients are typically natural or organic products, such as peanut butter, oats, whole wheat flour, or carob (no chocolate for dogs), so this is the main reason for the popular dog bakery trend.

In addition, there are some very attractive choices to treat your pet. Think doggie donuts, birthday bones, doggie cannoli, or puppy peanut butter cups. Who can resist?

Get your feet wet

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting wet is a great way to stay cool during the summer and you’re lucky if you live near the beach, a lake, or a swimming pool.

Since this blog is all about improving English, our focus is only on getting our feet wet, an idiom.

When you get your feet wet, you’re experiencing something for the first time and are slowing becoming used to the situation. The expression suggests the image of a swimmer slowly getting into the water rather than jumping in. Here are some examples:

- Christian has never played basketball so he practiced dribbling the ball just to get his feet wet.
- To prepare for her first public speech, Lisa rehearsed in front of her family to get her feet wet.
- Greg was excited to get his feet wet behind the wheel at his first driving lesson.

Are you getting your feet wet in some new activity? If so, please leave a comment. I would love to hear about it :)

Regular activities in the past with “used to”, “use to”, and “would”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

When you look back at your childhood or reflect on your life, do you ever think about activities that you did often in the past but don’t do any more now?

In English, the expressions use to and used to help you convey those activities that were regularly done in the past. When the statement is positive, the expression is used to.

- Bob used to go to the cinema every Saturday.
- Lucy used to be so excited about her birthday.
- Sheryl’s favorite color used to be purple.
- Brad used to ride his motorcyle without a helmet.

When the sentence is negative, we eliminate the “d” to make use to.

- I didn’t use to like eating vegetables; now I love them.
- Kim’s hair didn’t use to be blonde.
- Angelina didn’t use to laugh so much. She’s much more fun now.
- Bill didn’t use to like smart phones until he bought an iPhone.

Note that both used and use are followed by an infinitive.

Would also expresses repetition in the past. In this case there is no infinitive that follows, only the root verb.

- Nancy would always eat her dessert first.
- My dad would often sing at home.
- Otis would always arrive ten minutes late for everything.
- Lola would often go running to elminiate stress.

Now it's time to get nostalgic :)