🇬🇧 Phrasal verb practice

Which phrasal verb fits best – and do you have to change the form?

Choose from the following:

come round            go off            knock out            make up            pass on            run away (run off)          run over             take off            turn out            work out

1. I’ve … … a joke. Do you want to hear it?

2. He was … … in a rugby match. He was unconscious for a few seconds but then he … …

3. The plane … … from Heathrow on time, but there was a delay at Delhi airport.

4. The thief grabbed my bag and then … …

5. It was cloudy earlier, but it has … … nice!

6. Luckily, the bomb … … when the station was empty, so no was hurt.

7. Did you forget to … … my message yesterday?

8. I’m still shaking – I almost … … a dog this morning on the way to work.

9. My daughter has a maths problem that she just can’t … …

🇬🇧 Their, there and they’re

Their, there and they're

What are the differences between their, there and they're?

They’re really not very difficult; when you learn about their differences, there shouldn’t be too many problems.

Their is the possessive form of the pronoun they, like the more common possessive forms: my, your, his and her

 “They bought their car on eBay.”

Their is generally plural, but increasingly it is accepted in place of the singular his or her in some situations:

“Someone’s left their book on the table.”

There is an adverb which means “in, at or towards that place,” as in “He is there on holiday.” So, there is really the opposite of here. There is also used as a pronoun introducing a sentence or clause, as in “There is still a chance that we will win.”

They’re is a contraction of the words they and are, as in “They’re looking for a way to master these difficult words!”

Little tips for spelling:

  • There (like “over there”) contains the word hereHere and there go together nicely.
  • Their contains the word An heir is someone who inherits something, so (by coincidence) there is a sense of possession in this word as well.

🇬🇧 Mixed conditionals

Mixed Conditionals

If I had studied a bit harder, I would be more confident about mixed conditionals!

We are very grateful to our students and social media followers for all interactions, especially suggestions for blog topics. This post is in response to a question from one of our Instagram followers: mixed conditionals. In English there are two typesof mixed conditionals:

  1. Present result of a past condition

We use this mixed conditional when we refer to a hypothetical (unreal) past situation and its probable result in the present.


If + past perfect (condition clause) + present conditional (main clause)


  • If I had caught the earlier train, I would be at home by now
  • If she had married David, she would probably be travelling a lot more
  • If she hadn’t lost her ticket, she would be at the concert now

Note: these examples can be swapped around without any change in meaning:

  • I would be at home by now if I had caught the earlier train
  1. Past result of present condition

This mixed conditional is used to explain a hypothetical (unreal) present situation and its most likely past result.


If + simple past (condition clause) + perfect conditional (main clause)


  • If they were interested in birdwatching, this holiday home would be perfect for them
  • If she could ride, her dad would have bought her a horse
  • If I had more money, I could have helped you out

As with the examples in the first section, these phrases can be switched around without any change in meaning:

  • I could have helped you out if I had more money

Also note: if you are able to use these mixed conditionals it is a sign of high-level English use – congratulations! But remember: they are not as common as the more straightforward first-, second- and third conditionals.

🇬🇧 Question Forming

When using a question word:
Use this formula to form questions:


Question word    Auxiliary verb     Subject    Main verb [and then the rest of the sentence…]

Here are some example questions on the topic of holidays, and some model answers which include some common mistakes (corrected for you).

Where did you go on holiday?

I went in to France.

When did you go to Sweden?

I went there the last summer.

How did you get there?

I went there in by plane. = I flew there.                        I got there on foot. = I walked there.

Who did you go with?

I went with my family.

How long did you stay there?

I stayed (for) two weeks.

We decided to stay for an extra week.

What did you do at night?

Yes/No questions: The formula is almost the same:


Question word    Auxiliary verb     Subject    Main verb [and then the rest of the sentence…]

Did you have a good time?

            No, I had a terrible time!

Did it rain in Scotland?

            Yes, it rained every day!

Do your parents still live in Sicily?

             Yes, they have lived there for seventy years.

🇬🇧 The contracted ‘have’.

A third pronunciation.

I have two sisters. Do you have a dog?

The pronunciation of “have” is easy, right?

In a recent post we saw that the verb ‘have’ is pronounced as /hæf/ when it’s used as a modal verb.

“I have to finish this essay today!”

But there is a third way to pronounce “have”. Listen to these sentences.

“If I’d passed my exams, I’d’ve become a doctor.”

“If my parents had stayed in France, I’d’ve gone to a French school.”

These sentences both contain contractions: I’d’ve is how we pronounce “I would have” in natural-speed English. So, “have”can be pronounced /əv/. This pronunciation is very common in conditional sentences, but it’s not the only time you’ll hear it. Here are some more examples.

“Your documents should’ve been delivered yesterday.”

“I would’ve helped you.”

🇬🇧 Prefixes, suffixes and infixes

Inspired by Germany losing to South Korea in the World Cup:

Prefixes, suffixes and infixes

You are probably familiar with prefixes and suffixes in English.

Prefixes are letters which are added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. Prefixes often create the antonym (opposite) to the original word, or form an intensifier of it:

probable > improbable

aware > unaware

load > unload

A suffix is a letter or a group of letters attached to the end of a word which, in contrast to a prefix, changes the class of the word, but which does not usually alter the meaning. For example:

hope > hopeful

retire > retirement

create > creation

glory > glorify

So, prefixes come at the beginning of the root word and suffixes at the end. There is a third category: infixes. This is when an extra word comes in the middle of the original word. In some languages (Turkish, I believe) this is a common linguistic feature, but it is rare in English. In fact it is only ever used for comic or vulgar effect, often when watching football:

Unbelievable! > unbeflippinglievable!

Absolutely > absobloominglutely!

Referee! > referflamingree!

There are stronger words that can be inserted here, but Samesky prefers the milder versions!

I wonder if there is an equivalent in the German language, or Korean!


Pronunciation: /æ/ and /ʌ/

Pronunciation practice: Angry or Hungry

When Argentina lost three-nil to Croatia last night, former footballer Pablo Zabaleta spoke to the BBC and said:

‘Everyone is so angry!’

Zabaleta speaks excellent English, but the presenter double-checked what he had said:


“Yes, angry.”

It is very common for learners of English to confuse words like this, that contain the sounds/æ/ (as in cap) and /ʌ/ (as in cup).

Angry – hungry

Ankle – uncle

Track – truck

If Mr Zabaleta had said that his team were hungry, that would have been a positive thing, because in sport, if you are hungry, it means you try your best to win. Unfortunately, he was angry because they were not hungry.

Oh yes, and my uncle injured his ankle yesterday. He was driving his truck around a race track

🇬🇧 2018 World Cup Special

7 football/soccer related idioms in common usage.

2018 World Cup ball and trophy


So the 2018 FIFA World Cup starts today. You might be a big football fan, and have been waiting impatiently for this day for the last three and a half years… or maybe football leaves you cold (you have no interest in it).

Either way, there are plenty of really good English expressions that originally came from football, which have made their way into regular usage. Here are a few good examples:


  1. It’s a game of two halves: a football match can change dramatically over the course of the 90 minutes. When this change happens after the half-time break, TV commentators always use this expression.
  • Well, we played terribly at first, but it’s a game of two halves and I’m delighted that we scored five goals in the last twenty minutes!
  1. We were robbed: an expression that suggests a defeat was unfair, possibly due to a bad decision by the referee.
  • Jimmy was definitely not offside! We were robbed!

You will often hear football people using incorrect grammar: “We was robbed!” Many journalists deliberately use the incorrect form for humorous effect.

  1. To move the goalposts: to change the rules or conditions of a game (or any undertaking) while it is still happening.
  • We were just about to sign the deal when they moved the goalposts and we had to pull out (quit, withdraw).
  1. To be on the ball: someone who shows good initiative, and responds well and quickly to new situations.
  • I don’t think much ofmy new boss. She’s not very on the ball.
  1. To score an own goal: to do something that harms one’s own interests – usually unintentionally.
  • Quitting my job before I’d found another one was a bit of an own goal.

If you’d like to listen to a story of the most bizarre own-goal story in the history of football: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lpymvuZn2c

  1. League of their own: superior to all others in the same category.
  • For the last ten years, Ronaldo and Messi have been in a league of their own.
  1. A game changer: an important innovation; an idea or event that significantly changes the accepted way of doing or thinking about something.
  • The use of high-speed analytics has been a game-changer in the field of digital marketing.

🇬🇧 Language learning phrases

If you are learning English, you will probably talk about which other languages you can speak: are you a beginner, or becoming fluent? Do you know a few words of any exotic languages?

Old wooden letter blocks for printing language






Here are some useful expressions, but which word is missing?

My cousin is bilingual … French and German.                                                [in / at / with]

I am not fluent … Chinese, but I am pretty good … reading it.                        [for / in / at]

I can get … in Russian.                                                                                     [up / to / by]

I went to Turkey last year and I picked … a bit of the language.                      [on / out / up]

I can’t speak a word … Hungarian.                                                                   [of / with / from]

I know enough Swahili to … a basic conversation.                                           [do / have / make]

Finally, here are three phrases to describe someone’s level of language ability. Do they all have the same meaning, or are they different?

I am a native speaker of Korean.

Korean is my mother tongue.

Korean is my first language.

🇬🇧 Royal wedding vocabulary

Not everyone is a royalist of course, but most people agreed it was a lovely wedding on the 22nd of May. What new words can we learn from the BBC article about the day? Let’s look at some of the people involved:

Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
  • Bridesmaid
  • Page boy
  • Well wishers
  • Lip-reader
  • Husband-to-be

Bridesmaid: a woman or girl who is an attendant of a bride

Pageboy: a young boy who attends the bride and groom at a wedding

Six bridesmaids and four pageboys played a major supporting role as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot. Prince George and Princess Charlotte – Prince Harry’s niece and nephew – were among the children, all aged between two and seven, under the spotlight of the world’s media at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Well-wisher: a person who desires happiness or success for another, or who expresses such a desire.

The first glimpse of the groom suggested that Prince Harry was in typical buoyant spirits, smiling and laughing as he waved to the crowds of well-wishers on his arrival.

Lip-reader: someone who can interpret speech by watching the speaker’s lip and facial movements without hearing the voice. This is especially useful in the deaf community, but also when someone’s voice cannot be heard because they are speaking quietly.

One lip reader says Ms Markle discreetly asked her new husband: “Do we kiss?”

To which the prince quietly replied: “Yeah”.

 Husband-to-be: a man who is going to be married soon; a fiancé.

During the service, the prince couldn’t seem to relax. In contrast, Ms Markle cut a much calmer figure, smiling often and looking into the eyes of her husband-to-be.