Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings!

To everyone, a very happy Christmas and New Year 2008.

Lessons start again on 8 January. So level 4BTTH 19 will be meeting that evening.

Have a very good time!


Friday, December 21, 2007

"Some" or "Any" in questions

Dear all,

Giacomo of Level Four has this question:

1. Have you some pans in your house?
2. Have you any pans in your house?

What's the difference?


Both are legitimate questions but there is a slight difference in meaning.

2. Have you any pans in your house?
This is a straight open question in which the questioner is simply asking for information.

1. Have you some pans in your house?
This question is probably part of a longer conversation. For example, the speaker might be saying, "Let's organise dinner at your place. We can cook "spaghetti alla carbonara". But before I forget, we'll need at least two pans. Have you some pans in your house?"

The questioner is hoping that the answer will be "yes". So no. 2 is part of an established context.

Tip: go to the
Virtual Language Centre Concordancer and find all instances of "some" in a question. What do they have in common? Is there a rule you can extrapolate?

A couple of examples from the VLC:

"Should the Privileges and Members' Interests Committees have some outsiders on them?"
"some" in the sense of "a few".

"What is Stuart Hall on, and can we all have some?"

"some" of whatever magic potion Stuart Hall (a footballer) is "on", in other words taking.

One of the rules is that if you use "some" in a question you are concentrating on a small, specific number or quantity. With "any" it's completely open. Consider this:

"Would somebody like to come with me?" (just one person)

"Would anybody like to come with me"? (could be more than one.)

I hope this helps.

Please do leave your comment - especially now that it is much easier.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For level 4: Animals and Ecology

Here's something for everybody but especially level 4 with whom we have studied Chimpanzees: a blog by Mr Lopes, a student from Portugal:

It's a general ecology blog. Have a look and leave a comment.

I am glad to see that people are using the new Comments window.

Can anyone answer Giacomo's latest questions?

More soon,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Comment Box

Hello everybody. I'd like to draw your attention to a new feature of this Blog: the message board at the top of the right-hand column.

For some time I have been concerned that not many people have been leaving comments (though honourable mentions go to those who have.) I guess many people are put off by having to search for the Comments link at the end of a posting (article), especially if they want to leave a comment that is not directly connected to the posting.

So I have added a general Comments box to the Blog. It's easy to use: just type your name and e-mail address or URL in the windows provided, then type your message and click the "Tag" button.

NB: your e-mail address is OPTIONAL, and in any case your e-mail address will NOT appear on the message board. But please do write your name - first name only if you prefer - and class code, so that I recognise you. Thanks.

Many thanks to Colin Hoy of the British Council Syria for this idea.

Another small change: I have separated the two Word Search/Concordancer sites from the "Learning and Practising English" list. This should make them easier to find and use.

Enjoy! and more very soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Each", "Every" or are both words possible?

Here are 10 sentences (I have removed a duplicate sentence) taken from a British National Corpus search. Say in a comment whether the missing word in each sentence should be each or every - or are both possible?

1. April 1990, married couples have been taxed independently, and _______ spouse is responsible for paying tax on his/her own income. If

2. found responsible and brought to justice. PRISONER LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN _______ of the people whose story follows is a prisoner of conscience.

3. from Birmingham. She talks incessantly and seems over-enthusiastic about nearly _______ aspect of life --; prattling on without caring much about the kind

4. now available to members of the public at a price of 50p _______ . Last year ACET educators saw 24,500 pupils in face to face

5. the forms in which it was internalised or repressed., Not _______ reader of his book can have come to it believing the chauvinistic

6. the woman he lives with and loves. It isn't _______ comic genius who would undertake to send his talent into such painful

7. These early groups were called "Threes Groups" because _______ adopted three prisoners, one from the East, one from the

8. use the covenant form attached to this leaflet you can make _______ annual payment at any time, or by any instalments, you

9. vitally important role to play. Until the numbers of deaths _______ month has risen to equal or exceed the number of new diagnoses

10. Well, drove all the way up. Must have stopped _______ ten yards between junctions seventeen and eighteen. Not a trace of

This exercise was designed for Level 4 classes, but I recommend it to Level 3 as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Searching for words: The British National Corpus

Here is another tool to help you see how English words are really used. Go to the British National Corpus at Brigham Young University's special Web site. It is more technical than the Virtual Language Center, but it is very good at displaying occurrences of words and their collocates, that is, the words that frequently occur near a word. It also searches a much larger body of text.

It's also very flexible. Here's an example: the word "house". Type it into the window at the top-left-hand corner.

You might want to distinguish between the various "parts of speech" of "house". Can it only be a noun, as in somewhere you live, or can it also be an adjective or a verb?

Ensure that you set the POS (part of speech) option to "YES".

Click "Search" - the button in the bottom-left-hand corner of the window.
You'll then see a list of occurrences of "house", categorised by part of speech:

HOUSE (NN1) means "house" as a singular common noun.

HOUSE (VV1) means "house" as the infinitive form of a verb.
Here's an explanation of those POS (parts-of-speech) codes.

Click on the word "house" to see examples found in the corpus.

But look carefully at all the examples shown when you choose HOUSE (VV1)! Not all of them are verbs. Which examples are not verbs, and if they are not verbs, what are they?

You might like to see the example in its expanded context. Just click on the reference nuimber immediately to the left of the example:

And here's what you see:

Try out this web site - and let us all know in a comment. In the next posting, I'll give you some suggestions on what to search for, based on grammar and vocabulary in recent lessons.
Kind regards,