About English

The ground floor and first floor in British and American English

Let’s take a look at a small but important difference in British and American English: the naming of floors in a building. In British English the floor of a building at street level is called the ground floor. The floor above it is the first floor and the floor below is called the basement. In American English, however, the floor at street level is usually called the first floor. Go up one f... »

Homophone quiz

This is a homophone quiz for intermediate level. A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different meaning. Sometimes the words are spelled the same, such as ‘lie’ (not telling the truth) and ‘lie’ (lie on the bed). In other cases, the two homophones may be spelled differently, such as ‘nose’ (he has a big nose) and ‘knows̵... »

10 redundant words (words you can delete)

In one of his six rules for writers, George Orwell said: ‘If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.’ Shorter is better, he was saying. Using more words than necessary to express ourselves can make for bad writing and be confusing to the reader. While Orwell was referring to clarity in technical and political writing, there are many everyday sentences and phrases which als... »

OK! OK? OK: the many ways we use “OK”

In this post I will look at the many ways we can use the word OK. You might love it, you might hate it, but you have to agree that OK is universal. It is probably the most popular export that the English language has given the world and other languages. People everywhere instantly recognise and understand it. One of the reasons OK is so popular is its simplicity: OK is short and is easy to pronoun... »

Present and past participles – misleading terms?

Today a visitor to the site emailed me and asked about participles. He wanted to know what they are and how many participles there are. English has two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Here is a brief explanation of what they are and why the term participle sometimes confuses people. The present participle This is the form of the verb which ends in -ing: speaking, dr... »

Where are the English names for the days of the week from?

Learners of English learn the days of the week very early on in their studies. But how many people know where the names of all the days actually come from? Very few, I suspect. Depending on which country you are from, some of the English names for days may be similar to those in your own language—lundi, if you are French, lunes if you speak Spanish—and you might therefore know the etymology (the o... »

6 reasons why you don’t need perfect English

When a non-native speaker of English works in an English-speaking environment there are obvious disadvantages: you, as the non-native speaker, may not understanding everything; you may feel that you’re the odd one out; you may even be excluded from or not be able to participate in certain cultural or social events. In this post, however, we’re going to be positive and take a light-hear... »

Page 2 of 212