Christmassy Idioms and Expressions

As the song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”! (If you don’t know that song, look it up and have a listen – I love it.)

In the UK, Christmas is a huge festival and most people have a few days holiday when we get together with friends and family to eat, drink and be merry!

So, to celebrate this time of year, here are some Christmas-themed idioms and expressions that you can use with your English-speaking friends…

 

1. All your Christmases coming at once

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We use this expression when something really great happens to us – at any time of year.

For example, we can say, “When I met my husband for the first time, it was like all my Christmases had come at once. He was everything I ever wanted in a man”.

Can you think of an amazing time in your life when it was like ‘all your Christmases coming at once’?

2. A white Christmas

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We use this expression when there is snow on Christmas Day.

You may think from TV and films that it always snows in the UK at Christmas time, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen snow on Christmas Day!

Of course, every year most people hope for a ‘white Christmas’ to add to the magic of the day, so fingers crossed that it will snow at Christmas time this year…!

3. Be there with bells on

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We can use this idiom at any time of year to mean that we are excited or enthusiastic about going somewhere.

For example, Person A: “Are you coming to my concert tonight?”

Person B: “Of course – I’ll be there with bells on!”

(Of course, as this is an idiom Person B will not really be wearing any bells! Just to be clear…!)

 

4. All the trimmings

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We usually use this expression to talk about our Christmas dinner – “roast turkey and all the trimmings”. In this case, the trimmings are all the extra bits of food that we eat with turkey such as roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, gravy, stuffing, etc…. I don’t know about you, but writing this is making me hungry!

Although it is most commonly used like this, we can also use ‘all the trimmings’ in other situations, for example “We got married with all the trimmings”. This means a wedding with everything included such as a champagne reception, speeches, dancing, decorations, a big 3 course meal, etc…

So would you prefer a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings or something more simple?

5. It’s like turkeys voting for Christmas

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If you read my blog last week, you’ll know that I wrote about Brexit. Well, this idiom has actually been used quite a lot in the news recently in relation to Brexit!

This idiom means voting for, or choosing something, that is bad for you or against your interest.

For example, in the North-east of England most people voted to ‘Leave’ the EU. However, it looks like if we do leave the EU the North-east of England is one of the areas which will suffer the most economically/financially.

So, we can say that people in the North-east voting to leave the EU was like turkeys voting for Christmas. If turkeys vote for Christmas, they get eaten for Christmas dinner; if people in the North-east vote for Brexit, they have less money.

6. Secret Santa

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This is an expression to mean a Christmas present that we give anonymously or secretly.

For example, in the UK when we have our work Christmas party, we choose a name out of a hat and that person is the recipient of our Secret Santa gift. We then have to go shopping to find a cheap gift (usually for £5) for that person.

They should never find out who gave them the gift!

I really enjoy Secret Santa… do you have anything like this in your country?

7. Don’t be such a Scrooge!

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A Scrooge is a person who hates spending money.

The name comes from a famous story called ‘A Christmas Carol’ which was written by Charles Dickens. In the story, the character loves his money more than people and has no friends but then changes his mind by the end of the story and realises that friends and family are more important than money.

Do you know someone who could be called a ‘Scrooge’?

 

 

8. Going cold turkey

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This idiom is not actually very Christmassy at all! It is talking about someone who is addicted to something like alcohol, smoking or drugs. When this person quits using the substance they can do it gradually – step by step – or they can do it cold turkey.

If you are a smoker for example, you could buy some nicotine patches or e-cigarettes first to help you stop smoking cigarettes. Or you could just stop smoking one day and never use anything else containing nicotine again. This is ‘going cold turkey’.

Have you, or has anyone you know, ever gone cold turkey? Were you, or were they, successful?


 

I hope you enjoyed learning about these Christmas idioms and expressions! As always, if you have any questions about any of these, feel free to send me an email at charlottesenglishlessons@gmail.com.

 


Brexit in 8 Words

If you read or listen to news from the UK to help you learn English, you may have read or heard a lot about Brexit. This week, especially, there is quite a lot about Brexit in the news.

But how much do you know about Brexit? Do you read newspaper articles in confusion and give up?!

If so, don’t worry! I will explain a few of the main words related to Brexit below to help you understand a bit better…

 

1. Brexit

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So what does the word Brexit mean?? It is made up of two words: ‘Br’ from ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’ from ‘exit’.

This word is talking about Britain’s exit from the EU.

 

2. EU

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But hang on, what is the EU? The EU is the European Union.

The EU is a bit like a members club which is made up of 28 countries (‘member states’) at the moment, including the UK.

 

3. Eurosceptic

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So why would Britain want to leave the EU? The reason is the Eurosceptics.

Well, what is a Eurosceptic? This is a person who doesn’t like, or doesn’t want to be in, the EU.  (These people are also sometimes called ‘Brexiteers’.)

 

4. Remainer

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And what is the opposite of a Eurosceptic? A Remainer.

A Remainer is someone who wants to stay in the EU.

 

5. Referendum

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Okay, so there are Eurosceptics and Remainers. They both want different things. So how can the UK decide what to do?

Well, a referendum is a vote for the residents of a country to answer a question on their country’s future.

In 2016 we had a referendum in the UK. The question was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” 51.9% said “Leave” and 48.1% said “Remain”.

So, the Eurosceptics won!

Now, people are talking about a second referendum (sometimes called a “people’s vote“). This means asking people in the UK to vote again about whether we should leave the EU or not. This might happen, but it also might not…

 

6. Politician

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Since the referendum in 2016, politicians from the UK have been talking a lot to politicians from the EU about the UK leaving the EU.

So who is a politician? You probably know this word! A politician is a person who works in politics.

 

7. MP

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Okay, maybe you know the word ‘politician’ but keep reading about MPs – who are they?

MP stands for Member of Parliament: a politician who has been elected (voted for) in an election.

All the different MPs have very different views on Brexit!

 

8. Parliament

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And what is this word Parliament?

Parliament is the group of politicians who make the laws for the country. Parliament is made up of politicians from different political parties.

At the moment, Parliament is considering the Brexit deal Theresa May (the Prime Minister) agreed with the EU.

 


So what will happen next? Keep following the news and find out! Will the UK exit the EU after all??


What do you think about Brexit? Would it be a good or a bad thing for the UK to exit the EU? Let me know what you think, or if you have any questions, by writing a reply to this blog post below, or send me an email at charlottesenglishlessons@gmail.com.

 

 

Comparatives and Superlatives

This week I am writing about a grammar point which is very useful to everyone speaking or writing in English. Comparatives and Superlatives can be confusing, but they are used a lot for describing, giving opinions, etc.

As well as being generally useful, if you are taking any exams in English like the IELTS test, then using comparatives and/or superlatives well can really help you to get a good score.

So let’s have a look…

Comparatives

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How would you describe the men in this picture?

What words do you think should be written in this space?

The man on the right is _________________ the man on the left.

 

Comparatives are used to compare two nouns.

For example:

  1. The man on the right is taller than the man on the left.
  2. Angelina Jolie is more beautiful than me.

Notice that we always use ‘than’ after the adjective when we are comparing two nouns: ‘taller than’, ‘more beautiful than’.

  1. You can use +er as in my first example: take the adjective ‘tall and add ‘er’ to make ‘taller’.
  2. Or you can use more+ as in my second example: take ‘more’ and add ‘beautiful’ to make ‘more beautiful’.

So how do we know which to use? +er or more+ ?

The rule is:

  • If the adjective is one syllable (a small word with one sound, like big, tall, old, nice, short, etc.) then most of the time we use +er (eg bigger, taller, older, nicer, shorter, etc.).
  • If the adjective is two syllables ending in y, we change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and use +er (eg happy to happier, funny to funnier, easy to easier, silly to sillier, friendly to friendlier, etc.)
  • If the adjective is two syllables not ending in y, we usually use more+ (eg boring to more boring, careful to more careful, special to more special, etc.)
  • If the adjective is three syllables or more, we use more+ (eg delicious to more delicious, exciting to more exciting, etc.)

*NOW YOU TRY:

Here are some pictures. Can you write some sentences using comparatives?

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Superlatives

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How would you describe the columns in this picture?

What words do you think should be written in this space?

Column C is ______________________ .

 

Superlatives are used to compare three or more nouns.

For example:

  1. Column C is the tallest.
  2. Angelina Jolie is the most beautiful actress.

Notice that we always use ‘the’ before the adjective when we are comparing three or more nouns: ‘the tallest, ‘the most beautiful’.

  1. You can use +est as in my first example: take the adjective tall and add ‘est’ to make tallest’.
  2. Or you can use most+ as in my second example: take ‘most’ and add ‘beautiful’ to make ‘most beautiful’.

So, again, how do we know which to use? +est or most+ ?

The rule is:

  • If the adjective is one syllable (a small word with one sound, like big, tall, old, nice, short, etc.) then most of the time we use +est (eg the biggest, the tallest, the oldest, the nicest, the shortest, etc.).
  • If the adjective is two syllables ending in y, we change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and use +est (eg happy to the happiest, funny to the funniest, easy to the easiest, silly to the silliest, friendly to the friendliest, etc.)
  • If the adjective is two syllables not ending in y, we usually use the most+ (eg boring to the most boring, careful to the most careful, special to the most special, etc.)
  • If the adjective is three syllables or more, we use the most+ (eg delicious to the most delicious, exciting to the most exciting, etc.)

*NOW YOU TRY:

Here are some pictures. Can you write some sentences using superlatives?

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Of course this is English and there are always exceptions to every rule, but I hope that this basic explanation helps you to understand a little bit better.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at charlottesenglishlessons@gmail.com.

Have a lovely week!

 

 

10 Very British Words

Are you interested in British English? If so, then you’re in luck!

This week I’ve had a request for some typically British words to help you communicate with people from my home, the little island of Britain.

So if you would like to understand us Brits a bit better, here are ten words to help you…

[Just remember that these are all informal English words, so don’t use any of these in an essay or business email!]

 

1. Gutted

This is an adjective that means “disappointed”.

For example, “I’m gutted I failed my exam.”

 

2. Hoover

This is a verb or noun that means “vacuum” or “vacuum cleaner”.

For example, “I’m just doing the hoovering”.

 

3. Dodgy

This is an adjective that means “suspicious” or “not to be trusted”.

For example, “Don’t get your phone out near that man; he looks a bit dodgy”.

 

4. Loo

This is a noun that means “toilet”

For example, “Hang on a sec; I’m just going to the loo”.

 

5. DIY

This is an abbreviation that means “do it yourself”, which we use for home improvements.

For example, “I need a hand putting this wardrobe together. Are you any good at DIY?”

 

6. Knackered

This is an adjective that means “tired”.

For example, “I’m going to bed; I’m knackered”.

 

7. Chuffed

This is an adjective that means “pleased with myself” or “proud”.

For example, “I got the job! I’m pretty chuffed.”

 

8. Shambles

This is a noun that means something like “mess”. We use this if something goes badly.

For example, “This meeting was a shambles. Everyone was talking over each other and we didn’t decide anything.”

 

9. Cheeky

This is an adjective to describe a person who is naughty or rude but in a charming way.

For example, “He is such a cheeky monkey; he always asks my age!”

 

10. Faff

This is a verb that means “mess around” or “waste time”. It can also be used as a noun that means “effort”.

For example, “Stop faffing around and come and help me!” or “I can’t be bothered to help; it’s too much of a faff.”


*Now you try: Write me an email using at least one of these words at charlottesenglishlessons@gmail.com . I will write back and tell you if you used the word(s) correctly!

How to Write a Cracking Email in English

Would you like your emails in English to be ‘cracking’? Do you even know what the adjective ‘cracking‘ means? It is an informal word that means ‘great’ or ‘excellent‘. One of my students suggested this week’s blog title and I thought it was a good one, as I’m sure we would all like our emails to be cracking.

 

The most important thing to remember when writing an email in English is that we have two different styles – formal emails (for professional or academic situations) and informal emails (for personal situations, such as writing to friends). In today’s blog, I will give you a few phrases to use in each style, so read on…

 

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1. How to start an email

FORMAL EMAILS

If you know the person’s name:
Dear [Name],

If you don’t know the person’s name:
Dear Sir/Madam,
To Whom it May Concern,

 

INFORMAL EMAILS

Hi [Name],
Hey [Name],
OR
No greeting – you can go straight into the main body.

 

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2. What to write in the main body

FORMAL

If you are replying to an email:
Thank you for your email.
Thank you for letting me know.
If you are writing to someone for the first time:
I am writing to you regarding…

INFORMAL

If you are replying to an email:
Great to hear from you! or Lovely to hear from you!
If you are writing to someone for the first time:
How are you? or How are you doing? or I hope you’re well.

Then write whatever you need to write.

 

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3. How to end an email

FORMAL

Kind regards,
Many thanks,
Best wishes,
Thanks,

INFORMAL

Love,
Take care,
OR
No sign off – just write your name

I also always put kisses after my name when writing to friends, but that depends on you. Most girls/women I know write kisses after their names, and most boys/men don’t, but if you would like to then do it!

My sign off is always:
Charlotte XX
with two big kisses, but many people change the number and size of their kisses depending on who they are writing to.

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4. Some final comments


1. One thing to remember when writing emails in professional or academic situations is never to use emojis or chat words like “lol”. Fun for your friends, but not appreciated by your boss or tutor!

2. In British English, we tend to be very polite so writing in “please” and “thank you” and phrases like “I look forward to hearing from you” or “I really appreciate you taking the time to write to me” are very welcome.

3. As with any writing in English, remember your paragraphs. Divide your main body into paragraphs and have one paragraph for one idea.

4. Remember to write an appropriate subject in the subject box – something short such as “Job Application” or “Essay Query”.


NOW YOU TRY: If you would like to practise writing an email, choose formal or informal style and then write an email to me at charlottesenglishlessons@gmail.com . I will then write back to you with some feedback!


If you have anything you would like me to write about in next week’s blog, please send me an email to let me know. Good luck with your email writing!