Bite Sized English

Bite Sized English

Because English Is Use-It-Or-Lose-It

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What’s New?

Hi. My name is Ola, and I “inherited” this blog from Toby, the one and only – Bite Sized English creator.

So… let me introduce myself: I have been teaching and studying English for quite some years now, and I’ve discovered that it can be very complex, and it can be very simple. It all depends on the way you (as a teacher) present it.

For that purpose I’ve created Really Learn English Vocabulary and Easy English Grammar, an illustrated guide to English and these high interest/low vocabulary ESL short stories eBooks.

My purpose is to make the English language as easy and as simple as possible, for every English learner. Whether you are a beginner, an advanced student or an English teacher.

The important thing is not to remember “the rules.”

What’s important is that you will be able to understand and use English in your life.

So make yourself comfortable, look around and I hope to bring out some new material soon…

What Is a Cliche?

Today, let’s talk about the “cliche.”

The cliche is one type of figurative language in the English language.

Cliches are phrases and expressions in the English language that have been used too much.

When phrases and expressions are overused, they can become boring or annoying.

Sometimes writers use cliches for humor or to make a point. However, using too many cliches in your writing can annoy and bore your readers.

People may also be annoyed if you use too many cliches when you talk.

Note that an expression that is annoying to one person may be completely new to someone else.

Here are some common American English cliches that you should know.

Cliches for when bad things happen:

  • Every cloud has a silver lining.” (Look for the positive in a bad situation.)
  • This too shall pass.” (Things will get better in time.)
  • When it rains, it pours.” (Many bad things seem to happen at one time.)
  • Everything happens for a reason.” (Everything is the result of something else.)
  • “Smile! It’s not the end of the world.” (Don’t be so sad. Things could be worse.)

Cliches about success:

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (Keep trying until you get it right.)
  • The early bird catches the worm.” (Success comes to people who are prepared and work hard.)

Cliches that give warnings or advice:

  • Curiosity killed the cat.” (It is not good to be too curious.)
  • “Just go with the flow.” (Be flexible.)
  • It is what it is.” (You cannot change what has already happened. Accept things that you cannot change.)
  • Money doesn’t buy happiness.” (Being wealthy does not make people happy.)

Funny cliches:

  • “It’s the best thing since sliced bread.” (It is something that is very good.)
  • “I’ll kiss him when pigs fly.” (I will never kiss him.)
  • “Of course I know him. I wasn’t born yesterday.” (I am not stupid.)

Cliches about relationships:

  • “The boys are like two peas in a pod.” (They are similar. They are good friends.)
  • It takes two to tango.” (If something happens with two people, they both are responsible.)

Descriptive cliches:

  • “That was as clear as mud.” (That was hard to understand.)
  • “It happens once in a blue moon.” (It does not happen often.)
  • “She must be the blushing bride.” (She just got married.)
  • “I’m sweating like a pig.” (I’m sweating a lot.)

General cliches:

  • No news is good news.” (If there isn’t bad news, then everything is probably good. This expression is often used when you haven’t heard any news from someone.)
  • It was a dark and stormy night…” (This is a common cliche used to begin a story.)
  • I can sleep when I’m dead.” (This expression is often used by someone who works too much.)

Click here to read more about cliches.





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Figurative Language

To truly understand English, you must understand figurative language.

Figurative” is the opposite of “literal.”

Here’s an example. Take a look at the following sentence:

“Kate has a million friends.”

The literal meaning is that Kate has exactly 1,000,000 friends.

The figurative meaning is that Kate has many friends.

Do you see the difference?

Here is another example:

“Bob fired that snake.”

The literal meaning is that Bob had a snake (the animal) working for him, and he fired it.

The figurative meaning is that Bob had a very bad person working for him, and he fired that person.

Here’s one final example:

“Can you give me a hand?”

The literal meaning is I am asking for your physical hand.

The figurative meaning is that I am asking for some help.

So it’s important to know the difference between literal and figurative meanings.

There are different kinds of figurative language. Make sure you know and understand them properly.

What’s new?

Click here to see the latest articles and resources on Really Learn English.

Semicolon Punctuation

Let’s talk about how to use semicolon punctuation in a sentence.

A semicolon looks like a period over a comma. It looks like this ;

There are a few special ways to use semicolon punctuation.

1. Use a semicolon to connect related or similar parts of the sentence (independent clauses).

Examples:

  • Sarah is the best person for the job; she is responsible and trustworthy.
  • The tornado hit our town last night; twelve houses were destroyed.
  • My daughter is a good student; she has excellent grades in all her classes.

2. Use a semicolon to connect independent clauses with a connecting word.

Examples:

  • I need to pass this exam; therefore, I plan to study all night.
  • Sarah does not like snakes; in fact, she hates snakes!
  • I would come to your house; however, I cannot find a babysitter for my kids.

3. Use a semicolon to separate items in a series that already contain commas

Examples:

  • For the dinner I prepared spaghetti with sauce, meatballs, and mushrooms; a fresh salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions; and a chocolate cake with frosting and sprinkles.
  • When I was a child I lived in Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and Wichita, Kansas.
  • My children were born on July 11, 2000; April 9, 2006, and August 11, 2012.

Click here to learn more about semicolons:

Semicolon Rules and Examples

I or Me? Find Out Which One Is Correct!

Let’s talk about the difference between “I” and “me.”

It is sometimes difficult to know whether you should use “I” or “me” in a sentence.

“I” and “me” are both personal pronouns, but “I” is a subjective pronoun and “me” is an objective pronoun.

Let’s look at the grammar rules of each.

I = Subject of a sentence

“I” is a subjective personal pronoun. This means it is used as the subject of a sentence.

The subject of a sentence does the action.

The subjective pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, what, and who.

Examples:

  • I worked for 8 hours today.
  • I like to sing.
  • I called her on the phone.
  • I love to eat pizza.

In all of these sentences, the speaker is doing the action, so we use “I.”

Me = Object of a sentence

“Me” is an objective personal pronoun. This means it is used as the object of a sentence.

The object of a sentence receives the action. The action either happened to the object or for the object.

The objective pronouns are me, him, her, it, us, you, them, and whom

Examples:

  • She asked me to help carry boxes.
  • The rain fell on me.
  • Nick called me.
  • He mailed the letter for me.

In all of these sentences, the speaker is receiving the action, so we use “me.”

Final note

Traditional grammar rules say to use “I” as the subject and “me” as the object.

However, in modern conversations, many people use “me” when they should use “I,” and it is acceptable.

For example:

“My sister is smarter than I” is grammatically correct. But it sounds very formal.

Most people would say, “My sister is smarter than me.”

So remember:

I call you, and you call me!

You Needn’t Subscribe to this Blog

Generally, I advise my students against using the word ‘needn’t.’ It’s a bit old-fashioned sounding.

But here, it fits: you really needn’t subscribe to this blog.  I don’t have the time to keep it up the way I was and, while I loved the adventure, it won’t be updated beyond this post.  (And, at the end of the year, even that’ll be gone as the hosting expires.)

Why am I writing this?  Well, because Feedburner claims I still have over thirty subscribers and, because there’s a chance some ESL teacher somewhere will decide to carry it on.  If there is a teacher interested in taking over the blog or content, please let me know before it’s too late.

Thanks for a great time!

Connotations of Laziness

This entry is part of a series about connotations.


This entry is available as a Adobe Acrobat file for printing or use in a class.

Most teachers—and students—know that taking a few minutes ‘off’ to play a game, or just chat, can help you re-stock your energy before getting back into the ‘work’ of learning English. But, is it okay to take a few minutes off at work? Is working without stopping always the best thing to do?

In today’s installment of the connotation dictionary, Î want to talk about how you can describe working—or not working—with different connotations. After all, what’s the difference between:

  • An industrious worker,
  • A conscientious worker
  • Screwing around, and
  • Blowing off steam?

I know that you want to know all about these things, so feel free to download (as a PDF) and use the second part of the connotation dictionary: ‘people at work.’

The Connotation Dictionary: ‘Problems’ at Work

This entry is part of a series about connotations.


This entry is available as a Adobe Acrobat file for printing or use in a class.

After talking about what a connotation is, it’s hard to learn to use a connotation. After all, speaking English masterfully means using the language not just to convey meanings, but to convey feelings.

How can you learn these feelings?

I’ll get into general answers in a bit (that’s a code for: I have some ideas, but none of them are really good), but there’s something I’ve started doing for my students and that I want to share here: my connotation dictionary.  (Downloadable as a PDF)

Today, we’re going to discuss problems.

We all have problems at work, but what are the other words you can use? What feelings do they convey? Is there a difference if you say that. . .

  • I have a problem at work.
  • The situation at work is difficult now.
  • We face a few challenges at work.

These are all things you can read and learn about in the first installment of the connotation dictionary: ‘work problems.’

Note: I know that there are a few English teachers who read my blog. I’d be thrilled if you gave me some feedback on this. How do you convey connotations? Is a resource like this useful? What do you think of the ‘story format?’

Connotations

This entry is a part of the series about hidden meanings. I’ll be adding more as time allows.


This entry is available as a Adobe Acrobat file for printing or use in a class. This entry includes a listening exercise. You can dowload the MP3 or play it using the button below. (MP3)



I said in the last post that the connotation of the word is the ‘second meaning’ of a word. A connotation will say if a word is positive, or negative. It will include the feelings of approval—meaning you think something is good—and disapproval. (That means the opposite, of course.)

Let me try it with a more poetic example: if you think of a conversation as paper, and think of the words meaning as what you write on the paper. . . the connotation will be the color you write the word in, and if you write it in bold, italics, or UPPERCASE. And these things, we know, can change the meaning of the word.

In the recording today, I’ll talk about connotations more exactly, and I’ll use a few examples. And, in the coming posts, I’ll try to include a few more concrete examples.
More »

Hidden Meanings

This is the first in a series of posts on this topics. Look to learn more about:
  • Connotation
  • Implication
  • Insinuation

There are a lot of words in English. A lot of them have almost the same meaning, or meanings that are related. But, often, picking one word over the other can weaken the meaning of your sentence and—in the worst case—even hurt feelings.

Consider a few questions:

  • Would you rather be faced with a challenge or a problem?
  • Would you rather that someone called you a ‘natural leader’ or a ‘skilled leader?’
  • If someone takes five minutes to make a decision, would you call them ‘deliberate’ or ‘indecisive?’

Our problem—I’m sorry, I mean our challenge—is that these word pairs have very similar meanings, but can result in misunderstanding if you don’t choose the right one.

What’s the difference? The difference is the connotation of the words. We’ll talk more, soon, about the meaning of connotation, but for now it helps to say this: the connotation of a word is its ‘second meaning.’ Often, we use the words ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ to describe this: a challenge is a positive thing, a problem is a negative thing. But it can be more than that.

Why does it matter? If you’re speaking to a native—or fluent—speaker who is aware of the connotation of the words you use, it’s very possible that misunderstandings can happen when you say in English what you’d normally say in your native language.

In the next days and weeks (I don’t know how fast I can prepare stuff) I want to talk about this idea. We’re going to start with some vocabulary to describe this, we’re going to cover specific examples, and we’re going to talk about how you can find out connotations on your own. (After all, every word has some kind of connotation.)

Normally, I’ve organized my lessons at Bite Sized English into different levels: from pretty simple to native level. The lessons we work on for this topic will be all ‘native level.’ You’ll need pretty good English to really make use of them. (Though, it never hurts to learn the extra vocabulary.)

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