Getting Comfy – Relaxing With Phrasal Verbs

relaxingLife moves fast, and it feels like every day is shorter than the last. Sometimes, we just have to stop ourselves and relax. So pull up a chair and get comfy (comfortable) because that’s what today’s phrasal verbs are all about!

Kick back/ – to relax

  • Man, when I get to the beach,I don’t want to do anything at all. I just want to kick back, open a beer, and get a tan.

Note: Unlike other phrasal verbs that can be combined into a compound noun with a related meaning, when “kick” and “back” are put together (as kickback), it refers to money paid to a politician in exchange for a favor, i.e. a form of corruption. See the example below:

  • The mayor is accused of taking kickbacks from construction companies that received government contracts over the last three years.

Settle in/ – to become comfortable in new surroundings

  • It took me a while to settle in when I started living at my girlfriend’s apartment. I wasn’t used to sharing my room.

Hang out/ – to spend time relaxing (and/or socializing with friends)

  • We were just hanging out at my buddy’s house when the cops came out of nowhere and arrested my friend for stealing a car.

Note: This phrasal verb is, like all of the verbs in today’s blog entry, very informal. It is often used in invitations between friends who later decide on what to do. It can be combined to form the noun “hangout” which usually refers to a place where people go to “hang out.”

Chill out/ – to relax or become calm, reduce tension

  • I’m losing my mind. I am so worried about this English test that I can’t sleep! I need to chill out.

Note: This phrasal verb is often used as a command, where it’s meaning is similar to “calm down,” as in the following example:

  • Ok, everyone needs to just chill. The pizza guy is just a little bit late. I know you’re hungry but it’s not the end of the world!

Feeling relaxed now? Great! It’s the perfect time to take a look at our main phrasal verbs page and get some more practice!


Different Englishes: Baking  

bakingBesides pretty much having no idea how to work out each other’s measurements (Fahrenheit to centigrade, cups or ounces to milligrams) there is also a great deal of confusion over the difference between UK and US baked goods.

The two countries seem to have a similar style of baking and yet cannot agree on the terms. It’s as if someone was playing ‘match the word’ and they mixed them all up, because foods such as muffin and biscuit exist in both languages but mean completely different things. Fortunately for you, Different Englishes: Baking is here to help!

Key: UK vs. US word

Biscuit vs. Cookies

  • Biscuits and cookies are generally seen as the same thing described by different words. Simple, right? Wrong. Whilst this is true, in the UK we refer to American style biscuits as cookies – usually chocolate chip. In addition, a biscuit in America is a savoury food that looks like a scone (yes it gets more confusing) that can be eaten with gravy (meat sauce). Probably best to stick to it’s French origin and assume ‘a biscuit is an English cookie’.

Pancake vs Pancake

  • In the UK pancakes are made more like the French crepe, whereas in America they’re smaller and thicker and often sweeter. Brits refer to these as American Pancakes. They’re eaten in a similar way, with sweet toppings such as syrup or lemon and sugar, however in the UK they’re less likely to be eaten for breakfast.

Note: The UK has ‘pancake day’ on Shrove Tuesday, before lent, where it is tradition to eat pancakes for dinner. This is one of the culinary highlights of the year.

English muffin vs Muffin

  • An English muffin is known globally thanks to McDonald’s egg/bacon etc. McMuffins. Is it a heavy, savoury, bread-like food, whereas a regular muffin is a cake. A muffin is similar to a cupcake but larger and often contains chocolate or blueberries. This is actually the more popular style of muffin in the UK despite being the American version.

Note: A English Crumpet is often mistaken by Americans for an English muffin, much to the despair of the Brits. A crumpet is a savoury bread-like food with the consistency and appearance of a sponge. This sponge-like quality makes it the perfect vehicle for butter. They can be eaten for breakfast or Sunday tea, often with butter and jam. Whilst there is no real equivalent in America, it should not be confused with an English muffin or an American biscuit.

Fairy cake vs. Cupcake

  • Finally, a simple one! These are the same thing (give or take regional arguments) meaning that fairy cakes are the UK term for cupcakes.

Note: The word cupcake is now more widely used than fairy cakes due to the recent cupcake boom. Brits think of the cupcake as a more extravagant version of the fairy cake as they often come in exotic flavours with colourful icing/frosting.

Hungry for more? Check out our dedicated mainpage for extra practice and additonal examples!


Connotative Words: Other Ways to Say Cute

cuteWelcome to our latest rendition of the Connotative Words Series. If you’re searching for the perfect word to describe that certain someone who has caught you’re eye then you’re in luck: today we’ll help you learn other ways to say cute.

We usually associate the word cute with young or small people, animals or things that are both attractive and endearing (inspiring our affection). But we can also use the word for people around our age or (especially young) adults that we find sexually appealing or whose company we enjoy very much. For example, saying “I think the new secretary is really cute.”Context makes all the difference. A similar word without this problem is adorable, meaning people and things that are easy to love because they are very attractive, often small or young. Another example is delightful, which we use for someone whose presence makes us feel pleasure, happiness or satisfaction. This is especially true for babies, animals, and very attractive people or things. Sometimes they’re so charming we that we can’t take our eyes off of them!

Be careful, though: the word cute also has a negative connotation, which is used throughout the English-speaking world. For example, in the statement “Mary is usually nice, but can get cute to have what she wants”, cute means cunning or deceiving. It refers to very clever people or manners which make others believe that certain things are true, even when they’re obviously not. Their intention is usually to persuade, trick or profit from their victims. The word cute can also mean impertinent or disrespectful, for example when we say: “Don’t play cute with me.” Similar-meaning words include clever (very smart), slick (dishonestly skillful and intelligent), and crafty (skillful in a dishonest way). The reason for all this is pretty easy to explain: Cute was originally a reduction of the word acute, an work which means an admirably quick and penetrating intelligence. Present-day style guides say this usage is old-fashioned, and suggest sharp to express mental acuity instead.

So, proceed with caution but remember to have fun with these different ways to say cute. Let us know your comments and suggestions, and make sure you check our main page for more practice with these and other Connotative Words.


Business Idioms: Idioms about Dishonesty

under the tableWe would like to think that all businesses conduct themselves in a moral and legally responsible way but, alas, we do not live in a perfect world. It is with the companies and individuals in mind that we dedicate this installment to idioms about dishonesty.

ill-gotten gains money acquired in a dishonest or illegal manner.

  • His ill-gotten gains were seized by the government when he was arrested for fraud.

Note: To seize is to another way to say “to take quick and forcible possession of.” It  is synonymous with confiscate.

to line your own pocket – to take advantage of a situation purely for your personal financial benefit.

  • He had been lining his pockets for years with company funds.

Note: Pocket is also used in another idiom related to bad business: to be in someone’s pocket. This means that someone is controlled by someone else because of bribes that they pay you (e.g., the gangster had the corrupt official in his pocket).

to cook the books – to falsify financial records.

  • They concealed millions of dollars in losses by cooking the books.

Note: The books here refer to accounting ledgers and so a related idiom is “to keep two sets of books”.

under the table – something done secretly (and usually illegally) in the business world.

  • To avoid paying taxes, they paid some of their employees under the table.

Note: If this idiom is used to qualify a noun or a noun phrase, hyphens must be used, as in “under-the-table payments.”

money laundering – to conceal the source of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.

  • They had been using other smaller companies to launder money until they were caught.

Thank you for reading Business Idioms for more of this series as well as other articles and materials please visit our homepage.


School Vocabulary About College Classes

Some things are universal and others are not. While many aspects of college courses are similar to their high school equivalents, there are some unique aspects of college coursework. Take a look at this collection of school vocabulary about college classes and you will understand why.

an easy A – a class that require little effort to make an A in

  • Everyone I knew took Wildlife Issues because it was such an easy A.

as easy as ABC – used to describe something that is basic and simple to understand

  • Quantum mechanics isn’t that hard! Once you get the hang of it, it is as easy as ABC.

Note: An alternate version of this, naturally, is as easy as 1-2-3.

a weed out class – a class that is extremely difficult and used to eliminate people from a certain discipline before they have taken many classes

  • I wanted to study Finance so I took Financial Accounting my first semester at Uni – how was I supposed to know it was a weed out class? I have never worked so hard for a C in my life!

back to basics – to start from the beginning in order to compensate for missing information

  • After Alejandra’s third failed attempt at a cake, we decided it was back to basics with her baking lessons.

get credit for something – to be officially recognized for something

  • When you are trying to survive a weed out class, getting credit for it is more important than acing it.

Note: As in the above example, in college the something is usually a course. For example “I got credit for my AP exams and started college as a sophomore.”

honor roll – the list of students with above average grades

  • I made honor roll twice times in my Junior year.

Note: Alternate names for the honor roll at the university level include Dean’s List and President’s List.

Ready to head to the top of the class? Practice with more examples by visiting our homepage.


Different Englishes: Babies

babiesWhen it comes to babies it seems to be a whole different language. That is where Different Englishes: Babies comes in. While I mostly learnt the American English terms from watching the The Rugrats when I was little, the recent obsession with the Royal Family and Downton Abbey has turned things on their head. Here is your guide to “adult” baby language.

Key: UK vs. US word

onesieBaby Grow vs. Onesie

  • This is the all-in-one outfit that babies wear. A piece of clothing that covers them from head to toe and can include a hood to keep them cosy.

Note: unfortunately we have become very familiar with the US term ‘onesie’ in the UK as adult onesies have become more popular. Often themed like animals and worn by students or for being lazy at home, however some people have gone so far as to wear them to the supermarket, as you can imagine looking like overgrown babies.

snapbuttonPoppers vs. Snaps OR Buttons

  • The metal buttons that pop/snap together when pressed, and open by pulling them apart rather than undoing them like normal buttons.

 strollerBuggy OR Pushchair vs. Stroller

  • The vehicle that babies sit in to be pushed around from place to place – hence ‘pushchair’.

pramPram vs. Stroller

  • While the US term remains the same, however in the UK a pram refers to an old fashioned pushchair that the baby can lay in, rather than sit, to be pushed around. Used particularly for young babies.

cribCot vs. Crib

  • The bed, often wooden, that babies sleep in. It typically has a bed area with high sides all around so the baby cannot fall.

Note: In the US a cot is used to refer to a roll-away guest bed.

pacifierDummy vs. Pacifier

  • The plastic and rubber object that babies suck, often given to them by parents to stop them crying.

Milk teeth vs. Baby teeth

  • The teeth that babies grow before they lose them for their adult teeth.

diaperNappy vs. Diaper

  • The material or paper that is wrapped around a baby’s bottom/behind (another UK/US difference!) so that he or she can go to the toilet without making a mess.

 Whinge vs. Whine

  • The noises and words used when a baby or child complains about something.

Don’t forget, there is always more practice at our English Language Differences page.


Idioms in Depth: English Mouse Idioms

mouseRodents may not be the most popular creatures in the real world but they are definite VIPs in the world of common English expressions. Be they mice or rats (and lets be honest, there’s not much of a difference between the two), as the following examples prove, there are a lot of common English mouse idioms.

As quiet as a mouse – very quiet or introverted

  • Don’t worry, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse when I leave tomorrow. You won’t hear a thing.

To play cat and mouse with someone – to tease or manipulate someone

* Oh that Judy can be such a monster. She pretends to love Raymond but really she’s just playing cat and mouse with his heart.

Note: This idiom relates to the idea that cats like to play with their food (and thereby draw out the suffering).

To rat out (someone) – to betray (someone)

  • You can’t trust him! He would rat out his own mother!

Rat race – an expression used to describe a hectic lifestyle or situation

  • After years of the rat race on Wall Street my brother retired to a quiet farm upstate.

Note: This idiom is meant to suggest the frantic pace that is characteristic of rats in a maze,

To smell a rat – to be suspicious of, or otherwise sense that, something is wrong

  • I knew you couldn’t be trusted! I smelled a rat from the very beginning.

Note: This expression is very similar in meaning “to smell fishy” as both are related to their negative smell.

When the cat’s away, the mice will play – an expression used to describe a situation where unsupervised people cause problems

  • Of course they caused problems while you were out of town – when the cat’s away the mice will play.

If you have any doubts about these or any other English idioms, be sure to scurry over to our idioms main page!


Speak English Like an Australian: Australian Camping Vocabulary

campingCamping is a great way to explore the Australian outback, countryside and white sandy beaches. This entry on Australian Camping Vocabulary will give you a brief guide of the typical Aussie phrases and terms you might here along your camping adventures.

Woopwoop
Slang phrase for a ‘long way away,’ a ‘very remote place,’ or the ‘middle of nowhere.’

  • I’m going for a drive out woopwoop.

Swag
A swag is a roll out canvas bed for sleeping. Generally they are made out of canvas and are water and insect proof.

Note: Nowadays, most people travel with swags rather than hike with a swag because modern day tents and sleeping bags are much lighter.

Tinnie
Slang term for a small aluminium boat. If you are camping in Australia, you may notice tinnies on the rooftops of 4WDs that are travelling around Australia. These small boats are used in rivers, dams and ocean, particularly for fishing.

Dunny
Australian slang term for toilet. Usually a dunny refers to a toilet that is outdoors, but it can also refer to any type of toilet.

Note: When camping, you may use a ‘drop dunny,’ also called a ‘long drop,’ which is simply a toilet seat over a large hole in the ground- otherwise known as a pit toilet.

Mozzies
This is an Aussie slang term for mosquitos – avoid them if you can!

Billy
A metal pot used for cooking, boiling water or for brewing tea over a campfire.

Damper
Damper is a type of bread prepared with wheat based flour and water and cooked in the coals of an open campfire. It is also known as traditional bushmen’s bread. Many people still prepare and cook damper when camping in the outback.

Scroggin
Scroggin is a term used in Australia and New Zealand. It simply means trail mix: a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate pieces and others nibbles. Scroggin is a popular snack among hikers and bush walkers as it is high in energy.

Bush tucker
Refers to bush foods that are native to Australia and that are used by Indigenous Australians for food or for other purposes. This includes food from animals including kangaroos, emus, snakes etc., food from plants and seeds and insects including grubs.

Want to learn more about different Englishes around the world? Visit our homepage to find out more.


Get Ready for Phrasal Verbs about Preparation!

raceThis installment of our phrasal verbs series focuses on how we discuss preparations. Are you ready?

Get Ready/ – to prepare

  • We got ready to leave while my brother shoveled the snow off the driveway.

Note: This verb can be followed by the infinitive form of a verb, as in the example above, or by “for” and a noun, as in the example below, but in either case it is roughly equivalent to “prepare.”

  • I have to get ready for my presentation. It’s in an hour and I haven’t memorized my opening speech yet!

Note: This verb can be both intransitive, as in the previous examples, or it can be separated and made transitive, as in the following example:

  • I always get my bags ready the night before I go to the airport so I won’t forget anything.

Gear up for/ – to make preparations

  • We’re gearing up for our annual staff appreciation celebration. It’s a huge event that brings employees from all of the different areas together.

Note: Taken more literally, this verb can be used to express that one is “gathering the equipment necessary to accomplish something,” like in the example below:

  • Ok, everyone, let’s gear up for the morning hike. Make sure you have your canteen, walking stick, and raincoat.

Brush up on/ – to practice an old skill or refresh old knowledge

  • I’ll have to brush up on my Spanish before we go to Chile for our vacation. I haven’t spoken a word of it since high school!

Note: A very similar – albeit more informal – expression with the same meaning substitutes “bone” for “brush,” like in this example:

  • I’m boning up on my jazz scales before the show tomorrow night. I’ve been playing mostly blues for a while now.

Set … Up/ – To put things in their place

  • I have to set up the salad bar because the guy who usually does it is sick and didn’t come to work today. It’s a lot of work bringing out all of those vegetables and plates!

Note: In another context, this verb can mean “betray someone to their enemies,” like in the following example:

  • The undercover police officer setup the drug dealer with a DEA sting operation. He was arrested in possession of narcotics, cash, and weapons.

Still not feeling ready? Have no fear! Check out our phrasal verbs homepage and practice a little more!


Peru Seeks National Bilingualism

peruPeru seeks national bilingualism in English and Spanish by 2021 and President Ollanta Humala has announced some big promises to make that happen. His plan expands to public schools a bilingual education initiative originally designed for the military and allocates resources to train more than 280,000 teachers with dual-language skills. His government is focused on 2,010 communities with insufficient schooling, and intends to turn Arequipa, Peru’s second most populous city, inits flagship bilingual municipality.

To support these initiatives, Humala’s government has signed agreements with educational bodies in the UK in an effort to leverage their expertise to set up and expand Peru’s language programs. As part of the program, Peruvian teachers will be trained in the UK, and UK institutions will run ELT training schools in Peru. Moreover, the Higher Education Unit will create postgraduate scholarships to study in the UK for limited-mean students, funded by Peru’s national scholarship and student loan program. These loans will be supplemented by a wide range of grants which will promote their overseas studies and cement Peru’s status as an emerging language student sending market.

But changes like this won’t come easy or cheaply. The new University Act targets low-quality private universities ‑ referred to as ‘degree factories’ by critics ‑ to raise their certifications’ quality, but has found strong opposition and criticism. It also risks reversal if Humala’s fierce political rival and trail frontrunner, Keiko Fujimori (daughter of incarcerated former-president Alberto), wins June’s presidential runoffs and follows-through on her promise to challenge it in court.

No matter who wins, however, Peruvians are pressing for a more inclusive education system which enables greater economic equity. As a result, it would appear that things are only getting starting – both politically and educationally – in the South American nation.