Friday, May 30, 2008

“As” or “like”?

A fortnight ago a student asked me, “When do you say ‘as’ and when do you say ‘like’?”

As often in English, it is not easy for the teacher to answer the question. Very often, it is easiest to give examples.


“He is not as tall as his father.”
“The Peugeot is nearly as fast as the Mercedes.”
“She is now just as tall as her mother.”

We use “as” when making equal, or modified equal, comparisons.

Describing resemblances:

“She looks like her father.” Like is used here as a preposition. We don’t say, “She looks as her father.”

Describing jobs or roles (as in the theatre):
We often use “as”:

Arthur Fellig worked as a news photographer for many years. (Not like a press photographer.)
Mr Smith acted as United Nations representative to Malawi until last year.

Introducing examples – for instance, examples of behaviour:

Use as with a verb phrase:

“Don’t eat all the chocolates, as you did last week!”

However, many people now use like in colloquial English, although it is considered wrong in literary English.

Example: "“Don’t eat all the chocolates, like you did last week!”

Use like with a noun phrase, not as.

"She enjoys jazz music, especially performers like John Coltrane or Fats Waller."

Asking about quality:

What's the weather like in Rome at this time of year?

The answer is "Sunny and cool", not "The weather is like sunny and cool." (but see colloquial uses of "like", where people often say, "The weather is, like, sunny." Here "like" is used as a pause in speech, perhaps to give the speaker time to think.)

Quick Test with “as”: identify “as” in these examples: (1) in the role of; (2) comparisons (3) introducing an example:

a) He has served as a border patrolman…
b) "La Dolce Vita" seems as harmless
as a Gray Line tour of North Beach at night.
c) He collected big fees
as a "labor consultant"..
d) Criticism is
as old as literary art.

Quick test with “like”: (1) resemblance; (2) example:

a) A young woman who looked
like Alix, with her two children.
b) Bertha Szold was more
like Meg, the eldest March girl.
c) Thus ideas like "grace", "salvation", and "providence" cluster together in traditional Christianity.
d) Built upon seven hills, Istanbul, like Rome, is one of the most ancient cities in the world.

(Examples taken from the “Lextutor” concordancer.)

Useful web sites:
Cambridge Dictionary
Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Web Concordancer:

These sites are also listed in the right-hand column of this Blog.

I hope this has helped. Please leave your comments on the Tag Board.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NEW! A Calendar for Tests and Last Lessons

Dear All,

First time ever on this Blog: a calendar to show you when the tests and last lessons are for our classes.

You can view this calendar in various ways: just click on the tabs at the top. The easiest view is "Agenda", in which you can see the complete programme at a glance.

Let me know if anything is unclear!

Kind regards,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Listening and Video


First of all, many thanks to Silvia and Alessia for their kind observations on the Tag Board. This is the way to create an online community of learners among us. Whether you are a current student, an ex-student or a casual visitor, you're most welcome to this Blog.

Did you manage to watch Miss Marple on RAI Edu this week? (See the previous posting.) I watched it on Wednesady evening from 22.30 to 23.20. Just fifty minutes of your time, and an excellent opportunity to practise your video comprehension skills. Check the schedules to see what is on this week. If you missed it you can see it tonight and on Sunday at 22.30.

Now for the latest opportunities to practise listening to the radio. Check out "Learning English" on the BBC World Service, and this week's "Words In The News": the first UK aid plane lands in Burma.

Next, try "6 Minute English". Are you as intelligent as you think? Studies show that men are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence than women. And what does the Latin verb "intelligere" mean? There's also a fine portrait of the British actor Ricky Gervais of "The Office" series.

Listen and watch, and as always, post your reactions to the Tag Board.

More soon!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your TV

There is no shortage of opportunity to listen to and watch people speaking on Web sites such as the BBC. But how about something a little nearer home?

Nearer home is that excellent Italian TV channel, RAI Edu. Check out the famous Agatha Christie thriller series, 'Miss Marple'.

Set in 1950s Britain, this is a charming series with plenty of surprises as unlikely detective Jane Marple tracks down and identifies all manner of ruthless criminals, mostly murderers.

The series is in English with subtitles in English. This week you can see "A Caribbean Mystery". It goes out on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 14.30, 22.30 and 06.30 (!)

You can find further information and schedules. And here is an overview of the RAI Edu site.

Please do leave your comments on the Tag Board.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Elementary Grammar; Intermediate Listening Practice

For Level One:

We are approaching the end of the course! :-(
So, if you have not already been there, I advise you to visit the website for New English File Elementary.

Here, you will be able to practise grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, Practical English error correction, and much more.

When you do an exercise, please do not forget to leave a message on the Tagboard at the top of the right-hand column of this Blog.

For Levels Four and Five

This week on the BBC Learning English site there is a piece on the use of Lie Detectors. Listen to the radio programme and read the words.

Also on this site: Arm Idioms. It follows last week's Foot Idioms.

After doing any of these exercises, share your reactions with everybody by leaving a comment on the Tag Board.

More soon!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More on researching into English

For Level Four - but also for anyone interested.

Want to see what expressions are associated with the word "time"? (See in our book, page 28, #3 Build Your Vocabulary, Expressions with time.)
1. Fire up the British National Corpus.

2. Tell it to search for the word "time" in any form - "time", "times", "timing" etc.

3. Tell it to display any associated nouns up to two words either side of the keyword "time". See illustration below.

WORDS: [time] in square brackets tells the computer to search for any form of the word "time".

CONTEXT: [n*] tells the site to search for nouns two words to the left and two words to the right of "time".

Now we click "SEARCH" to get the results:

There is no room to display the full width of the results window. But you get the idea. Click on any of the words displayed to see how they relate to "time".
Or, check one or more of the words and then click on CONTEXT. Then you can compare them together.
Now try searching again, but this time, in the CONTEXT window, type [aj*] to find adjectives associated with time.
But remember. This kind of exercise is no substitute for regular reading!
Please, after trying out the experiments above, do leave your comments on the Tag Board.
See you next lesson!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Researching into How English Is Used

Dear advanced level students.... A reminder from last lesson with level 5, and for anyone else interested.

Want to know what prepositions can follow "interested"? Fascinated by the adjectives that can describe rain? Is "different" followed by "to" or "from" - or are there other possibilities? Have you any more questions?

Look no further than
The British National Corpus, accessed through the Brigham Young University's interface. Although it isn't always easy to use, it is an invaluable tool for advanced learners.

Here are sample searches to answer the questions above. Type the search criteria into the window labelled SEARCH STRING - WORD(S). For prepositions that can follow "interested", try this:

1. Under DISPLAY, click "Compare Words". Then click "List".

2. In the WORDS window, type interested.

3. In the CONTEXT window, type [prp]. This is the search code for prepositions.

4. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 0 (zero) and the second to 1. This limits the search to prepositions that come one word to the right of our search word.

5. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

Now click SEARCH to get your results. What's the most common preposition after "interested"? What is the second commonest.

Now try the same thing for "different". What do you find?

For the adjectives that can describe "rain" (as discussed in our last lesson), we do the following:

1. In the WORDS window, type rain.

2. In the CONTEXT window, type [aj*]. This is the search code for adjectives.

3. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 1 and the second to 0 (zero). This limits the search to adjectives that come one word to the left of our search word.

4. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

5. Now click SEARCH to see all the adjectives that commonly describe "rain".

Do the same for "work". Any surprises? What about "play"?

You can modify the searches described above for your own queries. In the next few postings I'll give you further information on how to conduct searches.

As always please post your reactions on the "Tag Board".