If I were a wolf, would you hunt me to my lair – terror and delight flung in my wake? I often wonder if it’s just a ploy, to make sport of life and joy. 

So I kindly ask you, “Let me be.”



Language point: unreal present

If I were a wolf, would you hunt me to my lair?

Main clause:  If + subject + were + noun.

Subordinate clause: would + subject + base infinitive + object.

We use this structure to propose a hypothetical present or future scenario.

If you were a king, would you be kind and just?

Perhaps, but you know what they say about power:)



Time to catch up – and other phrases

Time is short, let’s just get started. It could all work out fine. But no, I put it off, bury my head in the sand. Oh, those raven-haired sirens of sloth!  And if I fall behind, can I ever catch up? Meanwhile as I wait and wait, something wicked comes.

In this scenario, convention says wait for creativity to strike and act upon it. But do so and you will be waiting until your bones are bleached in the sun. Much better to act, yes, to act. Motivation and engagement will meld in the heat of action.

Now, to work!


Put off + gerund – delay doing something.

He put off meeting the girl because he no longer liked her.

Bury your head in the sand (like an ostrich).

To avoid facing your problems.

As her debts mounted, so she buried her head in the sand.

Fall behind (someone or something) – when you cannot maintain a level set by others.

He had been ill. This is why he fell behind his classmates and his test results were so poor.

Catch up (with someone or something).

To come from behind and reach the same level as someone who is ahead of you.

With intensive physical training he was able to catch up with his team mates. By the end of the spring, he was as fit as them.




The Cobb, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England



Ildiko IELTS 10th June p200 - 201 advanced language practice 051

Who but the most callous could pass by unmoved by the sight of a poor stranded crab, pincers click-clacking “Help me, the tide’s going out sans moi!” Certainly not my darling little one.

Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast, is about seven miles from my hometown, Axminster.
A picturesque seaside resort, bustling in summer, comatose in winter, it is renowned for its dinosaur fossils – you`ll have to look for `em, mind! – and the Victorian paleontologist Mary Anning.

A feature of the town is The Cobb (backdrop to the momentous Crab Incident), a curving stone jetty nestling a small marina replete with fishing boats. Having its share of fame in recent years, it featured in the film The French Lieutenant`s Woman and in an adaptation of Jane Austen`s Persuasion, in which the heroine slips and falls from the wall. But unlike Humpty Dumpty she survives, as does the dreary novel.

Categories: Dialogues with audio

New English course for children and young adults

I am pleased to introduce a new course I am starting for children and young adults
(8-16 years). I use two main course books:
Crossing Cultures by Janet Borsby and Ruth Swan http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/8, a lively book based on facts about English-speaking countries for pre-intermediate and intermediate level students.
Go! By Steve Elsworth and Jim Rose http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/0, a fun and creative book for beginner to pre-intermediate level students. I also use supplementary/web-based materials to consolidate student’s learning. Of course, I am also more than happy to go ‘off book’ and engage with a child`s interests, whatever those may be. As a parent myself, I realise how important it is for children to learn while they have the greatest capacity to do so. For this course, I charge 6.000 HUF for 90 minutes for one child, 7.000 HUF total for two children and 7.800 HUF total for three students. For a 60 minute lesson, my rates are 4.000 HUF for one student, 5.400 HUF total for two students and 6.000 HUF total for three students. I kindly ask for 24 hours notice of cancellation. You can contact me on 0630 279 6803 or email: applegates.languages@googlemail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you,
Maurice Taylor

Conditionals – mixing `em up

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.

wish / if only – form, function and meaning (present and past usage)



We use wish/if only + simple past to say that we would like a present situation to be different:

I wish Henry was/were smarter

If only it wasn`t so hot today

In the above examples the verb be is a ‘state’ verb’ (such as know, love, understand, have, etc). Because of this it is not possible to say

I wish Henry would be smarter 

However, both forms wish/if only + would + infinitive and wish/if only + past simple are possible when an `action verb’ (do, go, take, move, play, etc) is used:

a) I wish/If only you would do the washing up more often

b) I wish/If only you did the washing up more often

But notice how the difference in form affects the meaning. In a) the speaker is critical of the person he/she is addressing and is hopeful that the addressee will change their behaviour. In b) the form results in a more resigned tone: the speaker does not realistically expect the addressee to start doing the washing up more often.

Also note that the first person singular or plural pronoun cannot follow wish/if only and directly preceed would + infinitiveSo it is not possible to say

I wish I/we would go to the cinema this weekend

Here, the correct form is I wish I/we could go to the cinema this weekend 




We use wish/if only + past perfect (action or state verb) to say we regret a past situation:

If only I had studied harder at school

I wish I had known her when she was young

The same meaning can be conveyed with the past simple tense:

I wish I knew her when she was young

But be careful to use a past time expression e.g. when she was young  otherwise the meaning can be ambiguous:

I wish I knew her (but I don`t presently)

I wish I knew her (in the past)


Sunday walk

Yesterday afternoon was a pleasant one, at least for this time of year in Budapest.  So I put on my coat and gloves and went for a stroll around the IX district. The sun did its level best to warm me, flashing intermittently from between the looming tower blocks that stand guard like so many sentinels. Some of the things I noticed were dappled sunlight through leaves, babies sped along by reluctant dads, strange tree seeds hanging down like burnt banana skins, elderly ladies arm in arm getting flustered by sundry domestic indignations, rampant bicycle hockey in the park, fathers thrashing their kids at table tennis (for a change), an enticing cafe tucked up a side street. As I was taking in all this cheering stuff I had a brain wave of sorts: Why don`t I do this same kind of thing only in the city centre ideally with someone who could tell me the significance of this building, that statue or square, give me their take on `life in Hungary`, debate the current political situation (leading to an altercation involving a hefty piece of two by four), or debate who would be odds on for the mantle of `The Hungarian Robert Frost`. Or you might simply want to talk about your family or the weather – though I have heard that this last topic is not so popular as in England . I do not know much about the Hungarian language but I would be pleased to improve on the smattering of words that I do know. Of course, a city walk would give you  a great opportunity to practise your English and, if you were so taken, even learn something about England`s heady history and culture. This ambulant  conversation, banal chatter `Deary me, how did I get roped into this?` or whatever you want to call it, would likely happen on Sundays in reasonably clement conditions (i.e. above zero).  If you think this sounds interesting, or simply a means to get you out of the house with or without your dog in tow, then you can find my email and mobile number in the contacts section.