31 Oct 2014

Let's try mini sagas!

You'll probably think that writing compositions is one of the most boring parts of language learning... Sitting down in front of a blank paper not knowing what to write about or how best to do it... Even in our own language it is difficult to be a good writer!

But why don't we change the rules of the game?

Writing can also be an exciting, entertaining and funny activity! And it's even better if you do it in groups! In a previous entry (how to improve writing skills) I gave you a few ideas to give writing a different twist, and also to train your brain in generating ideas.

Today I give you another possibility... MINI SAGAS!

A mini saga is a short story consisting of exactly 50 words, not including the title. It must tell a story and have a beginning, middle and end (normally with a twist!). Here you have three examples!

(Taken from New English File Upper-Intermediate)

Apart from being very creative, mini sagas also help you to look for synonyms, expand sentences, reduce others, to obtain exactly 50 words. Playing with language that way is very useful for your English :) And you have fun at the same time!

If you are a teacher, check this lesson plan to work with mini sagas in your classrooms!

So... do you dare to write one? If you need some tips, you can check how to write a mini saga.

I hope to see some in the comments below :)


History of Halloween; pumpkin carving

pumpkin carving
Hello everyone!

Today is Halloween and I want all of you to be ready! :) To start with, do you know where the tradition comes from? Here you have a powerpoint presentation with the history of this festivity!

History of Halloween

On the presentation they also talk of the jack-o'-lantern! Originally, it was made of turnip, but now it is made with pumpkins! Have you ever tried pumpkin carving? It's not difficult! All you need is a pumpkin, a knife, a big spoon and a pen!

pumpkin carving

Watch the video below to see how to do it!

Basically, all you need to do is:
1) Remove the top of the pumpkin with the knife. 
2) Take out all the seeds with a spoon. 
3) Then draw a face on the pumpkin and cut it with a knife!
4) Finally, put a candle inside!

Click for some pumpkin carving ideas!!

So... are you going to make a pumpkin this year?? :)

29 Oct 2014

Job or work?

Hi everyone,

When we talk about jobs and professions you always have the same doubt... is it job or work??

Well, I hope this explanation helps you!

In BBC Learning English there is a section called "Ask about English". There an Italian student called Giuliana asks the same question: what's the difference between work and job? Click to listen to Gareth Rees answer; you have the transcription at the bottom of the page!


27 Oct 2014

What podcasts can I listen to?

PodcastsIn the last years podcasts have undoubtedly become one of the most common tools to practise listening, which is probably the most difficult skill to develop. Given their short duration and their wide variety of topics, you can listen to them anytime, anywhere.

In a previous entry (Listening to English at homepodcasts) I talked about what podcasts are and how you can download them using iTunesToday I give you some recommendations on what podcasts to listen to, categorised by levels.
English podcasts
English podcasts

English podcasts
English podcasts

  • Zapp! Vocabulary and pronunciation

  • Zapp! English colloquial podcast

  • Zapp! English listening podcast 

By all means, this is only a brief selection of podcasts. If you want to look for others, check the 12 English podcasts every English learner should listen to!

The police is... or are? - Singular and plural invariable nouns

Hi there!
Invariable nouns

The other day in class some of you asked me about nouns which are always singular, and nouns which are always plural. This is important for the ageement (concordancia) with the verb and pronouns.

Well, here you have a complete list of those nouns!

Nouns which are always singular (singular invariable nouns)
  • Proper nouns, e.g. Sally, Bruce, Jamie.
  • Uncountable nouns. If we want to count them, we have three options:
     1. Measures: one pound of butter; two litres of milk; three kilos of sugar...  

     2. Partitives: a piece of, a bit of, an item of... 

     3. Specific counters: a flash of lighting; a word of advice; a burst of applause...
  • Some nouns ending in -s
               1. News

               2. Subjects and sciences which finish in -ics: linguistics, politics, phonetics...

               3. Some games: billiards, draughts, darts, dominoes...

               4. Certain diseases: measles, mumps, rickets, shingles...
  • Collective nouns, which refer to groups of single entities. The verb can be either singular or plural; the decision depends on whether the speaker is thinking of the group of a whole or as a collection of individuals:
               Government, team, company, council, committee...

Nouns which are always plural (plural invariable nouns)
  • Tools, instruments and articles of clothing which consist of two parts joined together: glasses, scissors, binoculars, spectacles, trousers, jeans, trunks, tights, shorts...
  • Nouns that refer to entities which comprise an indefinite number of parts: clothes, outskirts, stairs, surroundings, goods, remains...
  • Some proper nouns: the Netherlands or the States
  • Nouns that do not have an -s, but are plural anyway: police, people, staff, clergy, folk, cattle, poultry, livestock
Useful? :)

26 Oct 2014

Comparatives and superlatives

Hello everyone!

Today I write about comparatives and superlatives!

Here I leave you with a powerpoint presentation with the basics of how you form comparatives and superlatives in English. I hope you find it useful!

How do we choose between adjective + -er/-est or more/the most? It depends on the number of syllables!
  • Suffix -er/-est: for 1 syllable adjectives, and 2 syllable adjectives that end in -y (for example, happy, easy).
  • More / the most: for the rest of adjectives.
Here you have a few examples of the different types of comparatives:




If you need to revise a little bit, here you have an explanation in Spanish. Finally, to practise a little bit, do this exercise on comparatives and superlatives (you can select 4 levels of difficulty). And here you have a text about London and another one about Los Angeles, with a grammar exercise at the end.



Fruit and vegetables; dictation exercise on food

Hello guys!

Today I post the entry about food! Here you have some vocabulary with some basic food, drinks, vegetables and fruit!

(Taken from

If you want to practise the pronunciation of different fruits, watch this video. Listen and repeat!

Check this website for some exercises on food. There are many! Finally, you can also do a dictation exercise about food!


24 Oct 2014

Mind-blowing coincidences between Lincoln and Kennedy!

These days we've been talking about coincidences, so here I leave you with some mind-blowing similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy. You'd be surprised!!

Lincoln Kennedy

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.


Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

Both wives lost a child while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.

Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Now it gets really weird....

Both were assassinated by Southerners.

Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Now hang on to your seat!

Lincoln was shot at the theater named "Ford."

Kennedy was shot in a car called "Lincoln" made by "Ford."

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.
And here's the "kicker":

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.


Lincoln was shot in a theater and the assassin ran to a warehouse...
Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and the assassin ran to a theater...

Creepy, huh?? 

Read more curiosities like these!

So that's why it's called "bluetooth"!

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the bluetooth technology, but... have you ever wondered where the word comes from? Here comes an interesting story...!

As it turns out, the technology has nothing to do with being blue, or looking like a tooth! Quite on the contrary, its origins come from medieval Scandinavia!

King Harald Bluetooth was the Viking king of Denmark between 958 and 970. He christianised Denmark, and united parts of Denmark and Norway into one nation, much like the technology whose goal is to unify computers and cellular phones! They are all “uniters”!

Jim Kardach was an Intel engineer who felt that wireless communication needed some uniting. At the time he had been reading a book about Vikings that featured the reign of King Harald Bluetooth. As Jim himself explained: 

“Bluetooth was borrowed from the 10th-century, second king of Denmark, King Harald Bluetooth, who was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link."

The Bluetooth logo is actually the initials of Harald Bluetooth written in Scandinavian runes!

Interesting, huh?? :)

If you like reading curiosities like this, make sure you check "Some curiosities of the English language!" and "Mind-blowing coincidences between Lincoln and Kennedy!"


22 Oct 2014

"Near" or "nearby"...?

Hi there!

Today I'm going to talk about the difference between the words near and nearby. Their meaning is very similar; the difference is how they are used in the sentence.

NEAR can be a preposition or an adverb. As a preposition, it is followed by a complement:
I live near the museumThere is a supermarket near here.

As an adverb, near appears at the end of the sentence:
near nearby
The next bus stop is quite near.

She's getting nervous because her wedding is very near!

NEARBY, on the contrary, is an adjective, and it can appear before and after a noun.

There is a nearby church.
The nearby town is famous for its wine.
There is a park nearby.

Nearby can also appear "alone", but it is still an adjective: the shop is nearby/very expensive. Or an adverb! I live nearby (= I live near here)

Finally, here I post a video of a teacher explaining all this (remember that you can activate the subtitles!):


Love at first sight!


I hope you're having a nice day! :) Today we're going to talk about love and relationshipsDo you know any expressions? Below you have many! (Remember that "sb" means someone/somebody).

Read the expressions and check a dictionary (for example, if there is any word you don't know. Be very careful with the pronunciation of engaged; listen to it in the dictionary and repeat :)

Now, imagine a "normal" relationship. In what order would things happen?

I would suggest something like this...!
You meet someone for the first time. It was love at first sight! Then you go on a date. You like each other a lot and so you start going out together. After some time, you fall in love, but then you can have arguments and you finally break up... :( However, you get back together again, and you get engaged! You get married and you are happy ever after!
Is your story similar to mine? Please, share it with us in a comment below! :)

Finally, here you have a listening about a girl going on her first date. Click here and listen to it twice; try to answer the questions and then check the transcription. You also have the explanation of some new vocabulary!


20 Oct 2014

Emphatic structures (1): Cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences

Cleft sentence
Hi there!

Today we are going to be concerned with emphatic structures. English offers many different ways to give prominence to specific parts of the sentence and we'll explore all of them little by little.

In this entry we are going to focus on cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences, which allow us to emphasize different parts of the sentence by dividing it into two parts (these two parts will be marked with a double slash // )

Cleft sentences are formed with it is/it was + emphasized element + relative clause. Different parts of the sentence can be emphasised in this way:

1.     Dave lent me his car last week.
a.     It was Dave  // who/that lent me his car last week.
b.     It was his car  //  that/which Dave lent me last week.
c.     It was last week  //  that/when Dave lent me his car.

We can also find examples with because:
It was because he was angry  // that he didn't come to the cinema.
Pseudo-cleft sentences are introduced by what and the emphasis is postponed to the end (in cleft-sentences the emphasis is at the beginning):
Dave lent me his car last night --> What Dave lent me last night  //  was his car. 
I love rainy days --> What I love  //  are rainy days. 
You need a rest --> What you need  //  is a rest.
We can also emphasise events using the auxiliaries do/did:
Peter forgot his keys at the cinema --> What Peter did  //  was (to) forget his keys at the cinema.
We are destroying our planet --> What we are doing   //  is (to) destroy our planet.
Last but not least, we can also start a sentence with all to mean "the only thing".
I only need you --> All I need  //  is you

If you need more information, click on the following links on cleft sentences and pseudo-cleft sentences.

Finally, download the following document if you want some practise! (The answers are at the end of the document).


17 Oct 2014

Urban legends

Hi there!
Urban legends
Today we are going to talk about urban legends, which are a form of modern folklore made up of stories whose truth is doubtful, but which nonetheless spread like wildfire!

In the document below you have several urban legends taken from (this website is ideal if you want to check if a spreading rumour is true or not!!). Take some time to think whether you believe these stories, and then check clicking on the link at the bottom of the page!

Once you read that, take some time to watch this video about the 25 most popular urban legends still being told!

Are there any urban legends famous in your area? Please share them in a comment! :)

15 Oct 2014

The Scottish referendum

The last 18th of September took place the Scottish referendum/opinion poll to decide whether Scotland should continue being part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country. The image below, taken from the Scottish National Party's (SNP) website, tries to provide evidence as to how Scotland could manage away from the United Kingdom:
Scottish referendum

(On the issue of how Scotland and England became united, visit this entry)

Below I post a video of the very same day 18th September, with everybody getting ready for the referendum to start. Scroll down for the listening activity (answers at the end of the document).


13 Oct 2014

How did Scotland and England become united?

United Kingdom
Today, and after the Scottish referendum a few weeks ago, I'd like to write a little bit about British history. More concretely, I wanted to go back in time and analyze when and how Scotland and England became originally united.

Everything goes back to the 16th century... Queen Elizabeth accessed to the throne of England in 1558, becoming the fifth, and eventually the last, monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Not having married, she did not have any descendants. She was profoundly conscious of the importance of this issue and, fearing what would become of England after her death, she asked his nephew James to become her heir.

He had been King of Scotland since 1567 and so his acceptance and later accession to the throne of England after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603 inevitably brought about the union of the Scottish and the English monarchies under one and the same crown.

This Anglo-Scottish unity marked a decisive point in history: bearing in mind the multitude of attempts and the innumerable bloody battles to incorporate Scotland into England, this union was a veritable achievement without the shadow of a doubt. Still, and however significant this event was, the truth is that it faced serious opposition on the part of the English, for they did not want a Scottish –and, what is more, Catholic– King.

At this point we should highlight that King James was not “only” the King of England and Scotland. From the times of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), the King of England had also been the King of Ireland. Still, it is worth noting that the complete conquest of the island did not take place till 1603, curiously enough the very same year of King James’s accession to the throne of England.

Proceeding like this, he managed to unify the whole of the British Isles under his crown, a deed he was immensely proud of. Being King of England, Scotland and Ireland, it did not take long for him to be proclaimed “King of Great Britain” (1604).


8 Oct 2014

Vocabulary "in town"; giving directions

Good afternoon!

Last week we talked about monuments and we learnt some vocabulary related with places in a town. Here you have some of them:

In town

Then we worked with a map and we learnt how to give directions.

Giving directions

Can you remember other expressions? Revise them and their pronunciation with this exercise about giving directions. I'm sure you'll like it!

Then do your own dialogue here!
Giving directions


7 Oct 2014

Can you use the word "indeed"? Indeed I can!

B2, C1

In yesterday’s class we discussed the possible uses and meanings of the word indeed, which can be a bit tricky to translate. Some of you suggested it was synonymous with “in fact”, although in some cases it can also mean something like “certainly”, “very” or it can even be used to express surprise - “you’re telling me!” (¡no me digas!).

To start with, the word indeed originates from the Latin phrase in dede, which meant “in truth”. This meaning can clearly be seen in all of the following four uses:
  • When it is used after very + an adjective/adverb, it has a clearly emphatic meaning: 
Thank you very much indeed.
I was very happy indeed to hear about your results!
  • It can be used to emphasize a positive statement or answer:
That is indeed the person I was talking about.
They are indeed braver than most people.
‘Was he very upset?’ ‘Indeed he was!’
‘Do you agree?’ ‘Yes, indeed.’
  • At the beginning of a sentence, it is used to complete or add information to a statement. In other words, indeed provides emphasis or indicates that the sentence is evidence/an example of what was said previously.
Yes, I passed the exam. Indeed, I got the highest mark in the whole class.

You don’t have to thank me. Indeed, I am delighted to help.

The economic crisis has a negative influence on how much we spend. Indeed, foreign investments have never been as low.
  • As an interjection, indeed indicates surprise or sarcastic doubt. In this use, indeed is often the only word in the sentence.
"He thinks she'll marry him??" "Indeed!" (¡Vaya si lo piensa!)

I hope you now have a clearer idea of how to use the word indeed! If you still have any questions or doubts, or simply want to say how useful you found this entry, feel free to post a comment below!


6 Oct 2014

School reopens after Oklahoma tornado

Hi everyone!

These days in class we've been talking about cities that had dramatically changed in the last decades.

Today I post a video from the Reuters agency on the tornado that devastated Oklahoma last August 2013. I believe it is a good example of how a city can recover after a natural disaster of this scale.

Below you have the video and the "pdf" with the listening activity (please, find the answers at the end of the document, as usual).


1 Oct 2014

"Be going to" for predictions

Hello everyone!

How is the weekend? :)

Today we're going to learn how to talk about our plans and predictions for the future with the expression be going to + infinitive. We use be going to when we are sure that something is going to happen, and we have present evidence: 
My sister is going to have a baby.I don't feel well. I'm going to be sick.Look at those clouds! It's going to rain!
Have a look at this complete explanation from BBC Learning English:

Predictions with be going to.pdf by AnaBueno_LearnEnglish

Remember that the verb be changes according to the person:

Finally, here you have some links to practise all this :)