Imagine you`re in your runabout `68 E-type jaguar on the way to a pop concert with a friend. Things are running a little late so you decide to take a short cut but have to stop for a lorry which is blocking the road.
Your conversation (for the purposes of this exercise) may go like this:
1)Friend: If we`d left earlier, we`d be there by now.
2)You: Well if I`d known about this damn lorry, I wouldn`t have taken this route.
3)Friend: You know how it is, when we try a new route we always end up late.
4)You: Of course, if we had GPS, we wouldn`t be stuck behind this lorry now.
5) Bugger it, let`s go to the pub instead.
Sentence 1) mixes the third and second conditional forms. The `if clause` (if + subject + past perfect) is in the third conditional and expresses a situation which is contrary to reality in the past i.e. they didn`t leave earlier for the concert. The `subordinate clause` (subject + would/n`t + short infinitive) is in the second conditional and expresses the result of the `if` clause i.e. a situation which is contrary to reality in the present i.e. they aren`t at the concert now.
Sentence 2) is entirely third conditional, the `if clause` (if + subject + past perfect) expressing an unreal past situation which in turn results in an unreal past effect in the `subordinate clause` (subject + would/n`t + past perfect) i.e. you didn`t know about the lorry so you didn`t take an alternative route.
Sentence 3) is zero conditional in form with verbs in both the `if` and `subordinate` clauses in the present tense. This conditional form is used to talk about things we perceive to be true in general e.g. when the summer sun dips low over the fields the swifts begin their audacious display, making those archaic red arrows look like so many laughable and idiotic toys.
Sentence 4) is a second conditional sentence, expressing a situation contrary to reality in the present and future. The fact of the situation is that they don`t possess GPS and consequently are stuck behind the lorry. In terms of form, the `if` clause uses the simple past and the `subordinate` clause uses would + short infinitive.
Sentence 5) The pragmatic solution.
I am pleased to provide Skype-based conversation lessons for upper-intermediate and advanced level students. I place an emphasis on improving your fluency by means of the discussion and analysis of news stories, business or medical articles, video clips and other on-line media .
So how does it work? Questions and discussion points relating to a specific article, video clip, etc, are sent to you prior to each lesson. This helps to structure the lessons and deepen your engagement with them.
But conversation alone, though an aid to fluency, is not sufficient to achieve the Holy Grail that is English proficiency so lessons also focus on vocabulary, idiomatic phrases, collocations, phrasal verbs, pronunciation, word/sentence stress and intonation (among other things), according to your needs.
As a native English teacher, I hope I will be able to answer any questions and stimulate your interest with regard to English cultural life and customs.
If you think you may be interested or have any queries I would be happy to help you.
mobile: (Hungary) 0630 279 6803
‘Happiness is less a matter of pursuit than an appreciation of what you already have.’
Canada geese on the river Otter estuary, Devon, England
Just a quick blog this time to help you with your intonation. Read and listen to the following polite requests. Each request (examples 1 to 7) is recorded three times – the first time with ‘flat’ intonation, the second and third with ‘ordinary’ intonation. Notice how the ‘ordinary’ intonation in each request makes the speaker sound both friendlier and more interesting than the duller sounding ‘flat’ intonation. Try to copy the ‘ordinary’ intonation and rhythm of each example. Good luck!
1) Would you mind opening the window? It’s rather hot in here.
2) Could I sit here, please?
3) I wonder if you could help me out tomorrow morning? I’m moving house.
4) Would you like to see a movie tonight? Avatar is showing at The Odeon.
5) How about going to the beach this weekend? It’s going to be 35 degrees on Saturday.
6) It would be really helpful if you could stay on tonight – as you know, we have to finish the accounts audit.
7) Can you pass me the newspaper, please? I’m afraid I’ve hurt my back.
Copyright (c) Maurice Taylor www.taylorenglish.wordpress.com
Farmer Hugo Baskerville sets out to tend his ponies
If you have ever had an unfathomable urge to visit an inhospitable wilderness replete with treacherous bogs, changeable and often extreme weather conditions; then the moorland of Dartmoor, Devon, is the perfect place for you. For more than a hundred years the Baskerville family – despite such harsh conditions – have succeeded in breeding prize-winning ponies there. Listen to an interview with Hugo Baskerville in which he talks about the weather conditions he has to deal with as a moorland farmer.
1) Place the weather words/expressions he mentions into three categories:
a) hot/dry weather
b) cold/wet weather
c) mild weather
2) According to the interview are these statements about Dartmoor’s weather conditions TRUE or FALSE?
a) Hugo Baskerville’s ponies have never died in winter
b) This year, there was more rain in February than usual
c) It is unsafe to walk on Dartmoor in winter unless you wear appropriate clothing
d) The ponies do not need extra water in June
e) Mr Baskerville enjoys winter more than summer on the moor
3) In Hugh Baskerville’s opinion, which is:
a) the coldest month of the year?
b) the hottest month – over the last few years
c) his favourite season?
unfathomable – impossible to understand
urge – wish, desire
moorland – open land overgrown by grasses, heather, etc
inhospitable – unfriendly
treacherous – dangerous
replete – well filled, abundant
harsh – of the weather: difficult to bear
drizzle – fine, misty rain
torrential downpour – heavy rain falling in a short burst
bog – wet, spongy ground
cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey – extremely cold
sweltering – unpleasantly hot
scorching – of heat: so hot it makes things dry up
close – hot and stuffy weather
dehydration – state of losing water or body fluids
drought – a long period with no rainfall
shrivel up – become small and wrinkled, due to heat
clement – pleasantly mild weather
overcast – cloudy
gear – equipment, clothing
trough – feeding container for cattle, horses, etc
top up – fill a container when its level drops below the recommended level
fodder – farm animal feed
perish – die
a gonna – deceased (informal)
1 a) sweltering, heat wave, scorching, fire, drought, shrivel up, dehydration, close
b) snow, cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey, chilly, Jack Frost, rain, drizzle, torrential downpour
c) clement, cooler, overcast
2 a) true b) true c) true d) false e) he enjoys neither winter nor summer
3 a) February b) September c) Spring
Copyright (c) 2010 Maurice Taylor www.taylorenglish.wordpress.com
You’re going to hear a dialogue in which Steve and Mike talk about something – but what? Before you read the dialogue/listen to the audio:
1 a) Have a look at these words taken from the dialogue:
Mickey Mouse ears, shorts, competitors, sponsors.
Can you predict the situation in the dialogue? ( i.e. what are Steve and Mike doing?)
b) Read the first two sentences of the dialogue. What are Steve and Mike discussing?
1 Steve’s appearance, 2 football, 3 Mickey Mouse.
2 Before you read the dialogue, try matching the following words (1 to 6) from the dialogue with their meanings (a to f).
2 knackered (informal)
3 wuss (informal)
4 after all
5 that’s the spirit!
6 tough break
a) cowardly or weak person
b) bad luck/misfortune
c) extremely tired
d) the right (i.e. brave) attitude
e) very silly
f) in spite of what’s been said
3 Now read the dialogue and listen to the audio. It contains ten expressions with GO ( in bold in the dialogue). Can you match them with their meanings below? e.g. 1) go with means h) suit or match
1 go with
2 it goes without saying
3 go on
4 go to great lengths
5 have a go
6 go back on your word
7 make a go of it
8 on the go
9 go off
10 as far as it goes
b break a promise
c try an activity to see if you like it
e up to a point, but no further
f make a big effort
h suit or match
i do your best, even though you may fail
j it’s obvious
Steve: Hey Mike, do you think my giant Mickey Mouse ears go with my pink shorts?
Mike: Well, it goes without saying you look absolutely ridiculous, but hey, we’re here to enjoy ourselves, not as serious competitors or anything like that.
Steve: True, but it feels pretty serious to me – I’m knackered already. I’m not sure I can go on for much longer.
Mike: Oh come on, don’t be such a wuss! We’ve both gone to great lengths to get to the big event – practising every weekend for the last six months, and well you know it. Besides, you were the one who suggested we should have a go this year, so you can’t go back on your word now.
Steve: Yeah, you’re right. After all, we’ve already completed ten miles – only sixteen miles three hundred and eighty-five yards to go!
Mike: That’s the spirit! We have to make a go of it if only for our sponsors – they’re depending on us to raise loads of money. Remember, it’s all in a good cause.
Steve: Right, and now I think about it, we’re always on the go with the business, so in a way this is a kind of break for us.
Mike: (wiping the sweat from his brow) Though right now, it feels like a pretty tough break, but I guess I’ll be proud as hell when it’s all over.
Steve: Talking of tough breaks, can I use your phone – I need to call my wife. I forgot to tell her I was going off for the weekend.
Mike: What! You’re crazy. Ok, just one call, but that’s as far as it goes.
Steve: Appreciated mate. So, be honest – do you really think my ears look cool?
4 Discuss with a friend:
a) What do you think is the main difference in attitude between Steve and Mike?
b) What reasons does Mike give to Steve to convince him to carry on?
c) How does Steve convince himself to continue?
d) Have you ever taken part in a marathon or charity event? What was it like? Talk to a friend about this – try using some of the expressions in the dialogue.
5 Role-play the dialogue with a friend, then compare your version with the audio. Alternatively, listen and try copying the pronunciation and intonation of particular sentences. Then try it again!
If you’ve really participated in a marathon I’d like to hear how you got on!
1 a) They’re taking part in a sponsored run b) Steve’s appearance
2 1) e 2) c 3) a 4) f 5) d 6) b
3 1) h 2) j 3) a 4) f 5) c 6) b 7) i 8) g 9) d 10) e
4 Talking points: positive v negative attitudes – looking on the bright side; time and energy spent on an activity – is it always worth it?
Copyright: Maurice Taylor www.taylorenglish.wordpress.com
Hi. Today I’d like to consider the pronunciation, intonation and meaning of a few (mostly informal) idioms that you, as a visitor, are likely to hear in the south of England. I’ll also look at the pronunciation and intonation of some contracted forms (which are common in spoken English) e.g. she could have waited for us changes to she could’ve waited for us or he is changes to he’s, etc.
Here’s a conversation I overheard a few months ago in an Exeter pub between two office employees. For convenience, I’ll call them James and Tom. You can listen to the dialogue and even try copying (aloud) the pronunciation and intonation of some of these idioms and contracted forms.
Dialogue: two blokes in a pub
James It seems Dave’s off to pastures new, then.
Tom Yeah, he’s handed in his notice already, lucky bloke.
James I thought he might’ve stayed a bit longer – now he’s going to miss the Christmas bash. Any idea why he’s leaving?
Tom Beats me, he had a good position but let’s face it, he and his lordship didn’t always get on like a house on fire.
James Blimey, you can say that again! Remember that slanging match they had over the Jenkins’ account?
Tom Yeah, that was so bonkers I nearly fell off my chair!
James (to the bar lady) Another pint here, please.
Bar lady Of course, my love.
James (pays and takes his pint) Cheers.
Tom Look James, I can put in a good word for you, if you like.
James Thanks, but no thanks. Account management just isn’t my game. I’ve got the experience – I could do it, but the thing is, at least I can have a laugh in marketing.
Tom Fair enough, but the pay’s rubbish.
James True, it could be better, but I think working in accounts would do my head in – it’s so boring.
Tom Oh, I forgot mate. Sales and marketing is the fast lane – watch out Lewis Hamilton!
James Funny. Anyway, here’s to Dave Atkins (they raise their pint glasses). Shame he can’t join us.
Tom He’s probably working through his lunch break.
James Yeah, now he’s giving us the heave-ho, suddenly he’s Mr Conscientious.
Bloke man (informal)
Off to pastures new leaving a job for another one
Hand in your notice give formal notice (in a letter) that you’re leaving your job
The Christmas bash the Christmas office party
Beats me I don’t know
His lordship the boss (humorous)
Get on like a house on fire get on very well with someone
Blimey! exclamation of surprise (humorous)
Slanging match angry and heated argument
Bonkers crazy (humorous)
My love a friendly idiom similar to ‘my dear’. Typically, a shopkeeper, bar lady, etc, would say it to a customer
Cheers thanks (of course it’s also used to toast someone or something)
Put in a good word for you when someone recommends you for a job, etc.
Do my head in annoy, upset (informal, humorous)
Give someone the heave-ho leave a job, club, etc
Bless ironic term of endearment similar to ‘dear fellow’
Copyright: Maurice Taylor www.taylorenglish.wordpress.com