Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Optimism Bias

We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella. But both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being.
Click here to read on

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Here is the newest word of the month.
Do you ever "beat around the bush"?
Do you avoid giving a direct answer to a question asked of you?

Do you prevaricate when answering a question?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Onomatopoeia: Sounds of Words

Many words in English reflect the actual sounds they refer to. An obvious example is the "clip-clop" of a horse's hooves. Less obvious are the words in the sentence:
The old man in the canal was coughing and spluttering.
Why? Because he was drowning.
A list of similar words follows. Say the word, and perform the action!

Give short spoken answers. Why/When might someone...?

01. sneeze
02. sniff
03. hiccup
04. snore
05. wheeze
06. snort
07. retch
08. belch
09. puff
10. gasp
11. gargle
12. grunt

Answer guide
1. if you have a cold 2. if your nose is running 3. if you eat too quickly 4. if you sleep on your back with your mouth open 5. if you cannot breathe 6. if you don’t like something 7. if you are sick (vomiting) 8. if you drink too quickly 9. after you have run to catch a bus, putting out a candle 10. if you are surprised, if you have difficulty breathing 11. if you wash your mouth out 12. if you are hit in the stomach, if you are a weight-lifter

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Madam/Sir?

That is the question!
It is actually a bit of a controversy.
After some in depth research I shall in the future recommend:
Dear Sir or Madam
....being the American I am.

Read this conversation/argument string:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Business English Terminology

-for German Speakers

Click Here for exercises


as agreed - wie vereinbart

as far as I'm concerned - was mich betrifft

as far as the payment is concerned - soweit es die Bezahlung betrifft

as listed below - wie unten aufgelistet

as per agreement - vertragsgemäß

as per your offer - wie in Ihrem Angebot

as requested - wunschgemäß

as soon as possible - so bald wie möglich

at your earliest convenience - umgehend, sobald es Ihnen möglich ist

at your expense - zu Ihren Kosten

awaiting your reply - in der Erwartung Ihrer Antwort

circular letter - Rundschreiben, Serienbrief

must correspond to the sample - muss dem Muster entsprechen

covering letter - das Begleitschreiben, das Anschreiben

enclosure / attachment - die Beilage

following your instructions - Ihren Anweisungen folgend

half-price - halber Preis

is still open - ist noch offen

letter of complaint - der Beschwerdebrief

on arrival of the goods - bei Ankunft der Ware

on condition that - unter der Bedingung, dass

on request - auf Anfrage

on short notice - kurzfristig

payable in advance - im Voraus bezahlbar, im Voraus zahlbar

please send us - bitte senden Sie uns

please let us have your shipping instructions - bitten um Versandanweisung

provided that - vorausgesetzt, dass; unter der Bedingung, dass

sender address - Anschrift des Absenders

short-term - kurzzeitig, kurzfristig

the following items - folgende Ware

to act on behalf of another person - in fremdem Namen handeln

to agree with - der gleichen Ansicht sein wie

to be confident of - zuversichtlich sein

to be in financial difficulty - finanziell in Schwierigkeiten sein

to be interested in - sich interessieren

to be late - sich verspäten

to be prepared to do sth. - zu etw. bereit sein

to come to a decision - eine Entscheidung treffen

to come to an agreement - sich einigen

to correspond with something - mit etw. übereinstimmen

to fix an appointment - einen Termin vereinbaren

to reach an agreement - eine Vereinbarung treffen

under separate cover - mit getrennter Post

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sentence Patterns

Parts of speech are put together to create sentence patterns in English. All of my elementary students know what I mean with a label S V O by now - subject verb object.

Basically, the eight parts of speech are as follows:

Noun (subject or object)
Pronoun (subject or object)

Six Sentence Patterns

Sentence Patterns #1 - Noun / Verb

The most basic sentence pattern is a noun followed by a verb. It's important to remember that only verbs that do not require objects are used in this sentence pattern.


People work.
Frank eats.

This basic sentence pattern can be modified by adding a noun phrase, possessive adjective, as well as other elements. This is true for all the sentence patterns that follow.


People work. -> Our employees work.
Frank eats. -> My dog Frank eats.

Sentence Patterns #2 - Noun / Verb / Noun

The next sentence pattern builds on the first pattern and is used with nouns that can take objects.


John plays softball.
The boys are watching TV.

Sentence Patterns #3 - Noun / Verb / Adverb

The next sentence pattern builds on the first pattern by using an adverb to describe how an action is done.


Thomas drives quickly.
Anna doesn't sleep deeply.

Sentence Patterns #4 - Noun / Linking Verb / Noun

This sentence pattern uses linking verbs to link one noun to another. Linking verbs are also known as equating verbs - verbs which equate one thing with another such as 'be', 'become', 'seem', etc.


Jack is a student.
This seed will become an apple.

Sentence Patterns #5 - Noun / Linking Verb / Adjective

This sentence pattern is similar to sentence pattern #4, but uses linking verbs to link one noun to its description using an adjective.


My computer is slow!
Her parents seem unhappy.

Sentence Patterns #6 - Noun / Verb / Noun / Noun

Sentence pattern #6 is used with verbs that take both direct and indirect objects.


I bought Katherine a gift.
Jennifer showed Peter her car.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Uncountable nouns are substances, concepts etc that we cannot divide into separate elements. We cannot "count" them. For example, we cannot count "milk". We can count "bottles of milk" or "litres of milk", but we cannot count "milk" itself. Here are some more uncountable nouns:
•music, art, love, happiness
•advice, information, news
•furniture, luggage
•rice, sugar, butter, water
•electricity, gas, power
•money, currency

We usually treat uncountable nouns as singular. We use a singular verb. For example:
•This news is very important.
•Your luggage looks heavy.

We do not usually use the indefinite article a/an with uncountable nouns. We cannot say "an information" or "a music". But we can say a something of:
•a piece of news
•a bottle of water
•a grain of rice

We can use some and any with uncountable nouns:
•I've got some money.
•Have you got any rice?

We can use a little and much with uncountable nouns:
•I've got a little money.
•I haven't got much rice.

Uncountable nouns are also called "mass nouns".

Here are some more examples of countable and uncountable nouns:



When you learn a new word, it's a good idea to learn whether it's countable or uncountable.


Countable Nouns

Countable nouns are easy to recognize. They are things that we can count. For example: "pen". We can count pens. We can have one, two, three or more pens. Here are some more countable nouns:
•dog, cat, animal, man, person
•bottle, box, litre
•coin, note, dollar
•cup, plate, fork
•table, chair, suitcase, bag

Countable nouns can be singular or plural:
•My dog is playing.
•My dogs are hungry.

We can use the indefinite article a/an with countable nouns:
•A dog is an animal.

When a countable noun is singular, we must use a word like a/the/my/this with it:
•I want an orange. (not I want orange.)
•Where is my bottle? (not Where is bottle?)

When a countable noun is plural, we can use it alone:
•I like oranges.
•Bottles can break.

We can use some and any with countable nouns:
•I've got some dollars.
•Have you got any pens?

We can use a few and many with countable nouns:
•I've got a few dollars.
•I haven't got many pens.

"People" is countable. "People" is the plural of "person". We can count people: •There is one person here.
•There are three people here.