Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Quick English - Bystander

A bystander is someone who, by chance, is present at some event, and sees what happened.

"After the crash, the police asked the bystanders what they saw"

Learn more English online at SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The First Conditional

As you know there are four conditionals in English, the zero, the first, the second and the third, in this lesson I would like to look at first conditional.

Lets start this lesson by considering the following:

If you study this lesson you will learn how to use the first conditional, if you learn the first conditional, your English will be better, if your English is better, you will be a student of SmartLanguageSolutions.com!

The above sentences are examples of the first conditional and as you can from the sentences the first conditional is used to express a possible condition and its possible result.

Like all conditionals the first conditional has two parts, the condition and its result.

The condition is formed by If + present simple, for example:

"If it rains..."
"If you study this lesson..."
and "If I see John..."

The result is formed by Will + the base of the verb:

"...I will stay at home"
"...you will learn how to use the first conditional"
"...I will tell him"

To complete the conditional sentences:

"If it rains, I will stay at home"
"If you study this lesson, you will learn how to use the first conditional"
"It I see John, I will tell him"

It is possible to use "shall", "can" or "may" instead of "will".

"If it rains, I shall stay at home"
"It I see John, I can tell him"
"If you leave now you may catch the bus"

When we use "may" in the result we are expressing a possibility while when we use "will" we are expressing a certainty.

Remember the first conditional is used to express a possible conditional and its possible result.

Learn English online @ SmartLanguageSolutons.com

Teaching the Planet

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Zero Conditional

In this mini lesson I want to explain the zero conditional. As you know there are a total of four conditionals used in English, and they are the zero, the first, the second, and the third conditional.
Each conditional describes a situation, either real or imagined called the condition which is followed by a result of that condition.
Each of the four conditional are defined by separate grammar rules.

In this mini lesson I want to explain the easiest of all the conditionals, and the one that is not taught in most books, this lesson is about the zero conditional.

The offices of SmartLanguageSolutions.com are near to Heathrow airport in south west London, this means sometimes planes fly over the office.
If a plane flies over the SmartLanguageSolutions.com office, we hear the noise from its engines.

In this sentence we used the zero condition to explain a fact that is always true, and this is the main use of the zero conditional.

For example:
If you heat water, it boils
If you run 10 kilometres every day, you will get fit.

Grammatically the zero conditional is constructed with:

If + a condition in the present simple, + a result in the present simple

Remember the zero conditional is used to express something that is always true.

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

Preparing for the TOEFL essay.

The essay section of the TOEFL is sometimes considered to be the hardest part of the test.
However here at SmartLanguageSolutons.com we feel that with an understanding on the structure of the written exam you will find sitting the written exam a little less daunting.

For your essay you will be given a statement or situation and will be asked to take an opinion based upon the information supplied and then to write out your opinion.

It is recommended that you aim for a five paragraph essay.

Paragraph One:

In this paragraph, called your thesis statement, you state your opinion on the question provided.
You should then give three reasons in the form of headlines explaining why you have reached that opinion.

For example, the question is:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
Parents are the best teachers.

The answer could take the following form:

Yes, I agree that parents are the best teachers.
Its my opinion that being a parent makes you a natural educator, the fact that you have had a child gives a vested interest in improving your child's knowledge, and being that child's parent you have a deeper understanding of what motivates the child more than anyone else.

In the above example we can see that the author agrees with the statement and then gives three reasons why they agree.

The next step is to create three new paragraphs, which are called topic paragraphs.
Each topic paragraph should be an expansion of each reason given in your thesis statement.

Paragraph two:

You take the first of your reasons and expand on it. It is recommended that you only use one argument for your each reason.

For example:

It is my opinion all parents are natural educators. Once a parent sees their child for the first time, something basic is triggered in that parents genetic make up that unlocks a lifetime passive knowledge that the parent simply wants to impart to their child....

Paragraph three:

The same as above bur for your second reason.

Paragraph four:

The same as above but for your third reason.

Paragraph Five:

This is your concluding statement.
In this you will restate your thesis statement and clearly summarize what you have stated in your three topic sentences.

For example:
I wish to end this essay by restating that it is my opinion that parents are natural educators for the reasons set out above.
Parents simply have no choice in being an educator...

Sounds simple!
Well it is, but you should take help from a tutor to learn how to construct and interlink your ideas, because a simple list of ideas is not sufficient to pass the exam.

The good news is that you can find a full list of TOEFL essay topics on the study material page on our website!

We would recommend that long before you take the TOEFL exam you read all the essay topics and perhaps prepare an essay for each one.

However you should also take some TOEFL essay lessons with one of our native speaking professional English teachers who will help change your lists to fully essays!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

In this mini English lesson I want to explain the English Idiom "put your money where your mouth is".

The first thing to note is that this idiom is not offensive and is safe to use.

The origin of this idiom is not very clear, however there are two theories and both of them are related to gambling.

The first theory states the phrase has its origin in the pubs of Ireland where people used to play gambling games while they drank, and the second theory says that the phrase has its origin in the world of poker playing.

However, in modern parlance the phrase is used in many different situations to tell someone that if they truly believe in what they are saying, then they should do more than just talk about it.

For example:
Speaker 1: "I am so upset at the plight of all the poor people living in the city"
Speaker 2: "You have been saying that for so long, why don't you put your money where your mouth is, and go and work for a charity"

In this exchange, the first speaker expresses their opinion that they are upset about the bad conditions in which some poor people the city are living.
The second speaker suggests that the first speaker has been talking about this situation for such a long time that the first speaker should really take some action rather than just taking.

To put your money where your mouth is, an English idiomatic expression used to encourage people to do more than just talk about a problem.

Learn English online with native speaking professional teachers at SmartLanguageSolutions.Com

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Cougar is not only a cat!

In this mini English lesson I would like to talk about the phrase Cougar.

A few days ago I was driving through London and I noticed billboard for a new American TV show.
The name of the show is Cougar Town, and I thought it might be a good idea explain what is the meaning of Cougar in this context.

If you look up the standard dictionary you will find that Cougar is a wild American Mountain Lion.

However in the urban dictionary and in the title of show Cougar, is used to describe a woman who is over 40 years old who likes to date younger men, normally a man who is 32 years old or younger.

In return a man who dates a Cougar can be called either a cub or a toy boy.

The urban dictionary also tells us that an older man who dates a younger woman is normally called a Sugar Daddy, while a younger woman who dates an older man could be called either a sugar baby or a Chihuahua.

We at Smart Language Solutions, would not recommend you use any of these terms in your writing or speaking as they may be considered offensive, however we would ask you to be aware of the them so you can recognise them when you see or hear them used by others.

Learn English interactively online @ SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Friday, 19 March 2010

Urban Slang - muppet

In the late 1950's puppet master Jim Henson created some puppet characters and called them the Muppets.
Since the 1950's the Muppets have been entertaining children and adults alike with their silly antics.

However in Brittan, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, the word muppet has become a mild term of abuse.

When using muppet as a mild term of abuse the first thing to notice is the difference in spelling, the puppets created by Jim Henson and now owed by the Disney Corporation are spelt with a capital "M", as in The Muppets, and when we call someone a muppet we spell it with a lowercase "m".

When you call someone a muppet (lower case) you are suggesting that they stupid or silly.

For example: "John its six o'clock, you were supposed to be here an hour ago, you muppet!"

Calling someone a muppet should not cause them offensive, and has even been used in street advertising, however as a learner of English, remember if you are going to call someone a muppet, be sure that they have a good sense of humour.

Learn English correctly @ the online language school, SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Business English - Churn Rate

In business English there are many phrases that you simple just don't find in normal everyday English.
In this lesson I would like to explain the phrase, churn rate.

As more an more people work in the service sector, the higher the chance that they will come across the phrase, churn rate.

This phrase is used to describe situations related to customers and employees.

When we use churn rate in connection to customers, we are describing the percentage of contracted customers who leave a company over a given period of time.

For example: "I work in the call centre of a mobile phone company and the churn rate of our customers is really big"

In this example the speaker is telling us that the mobile phone company they work for has a large percentage of customers leaving the company at the end of their contract.

When we use churn rate in connection to employees, then we are describing the high turnover rate of employees in a company.

For example: "When I worked in the fast food restaurant, there was a high rate of employee churn"

In this example the speaker is describing their time working in a fast food restaurant, and how they noticed that most employees did not stay long in the job.

Learn English correctly @ the online language school, SmartLanguageSolutions.com

To make a horlicks.

The health care company GalxoSmithKiine, make a malt milk drink called Horlicks, which is marketed in the UK, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Jamaica.

Traditionally in the UK Horlicks is taken at night just before going to sleep, in the same way as British people take coco or hot chocolate.

However in the English language Horlicks can also be used to describe a minor disaster or shambles, it is normally combined with the verb "To Make"

For example, "Oh my, did you see the football game last night, our team made a horlicks of the defence!"

In this example the speaker is suggesting that the team the speaker supports had a disastrous game, especially in defence.

Using horlicks in this manner is not considered offensive, and was in fact used in 2003 by the UK's then Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, to describe the way a document for public release had been badly prepared.

Learn English correctly @ the online language school, SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

If you pay peanuts.

In this blog I would like to explain the phrase

"If you pay peanuts you get monkeys."

The phrase is attributed to the Anglo French businessman James Goldsmith, and it is used to describe the quality of service offered by people in business.

It is a negative phrase and is used to describe the situation where the speaker feels that if an employer pays low wages then the staff working for them will be bad.

For example:

Speaker A: "Every time I call that company I can't get the service I want"

Speaker B: "Well if you pay peanuts you get monkeys"

In this example the first speaker is describing a situation where they feel that the service they are getting from the company is very bad, the second speakers is expressing their feeling that because the company pays their staff so little money, this is the reason for the bad service.

The phrase can also used to describe the situation where a person who pays too little for a service should not expect the quality of the service
to be any good.

For Example:

Speaker A: "Juan is trying to learn English online and pays only $1 for an hour's one to one lesson, but I have to say his English is getting worse"

Speaker B: ""Well maybe someone should teach Juan the expression, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys"

In this example the first speaker is saying that they are shocked at how bad Juan's English is.

The second speaker, suggests that because Juan pays so little money for his lessons, his teacher is not a professional.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
Remember you can learn online from professional native speaking English teachers

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

To call time

The other day I was teaching a class and while reading an article we came across the following phrase:

"To call time"

It was a phrase that no student had hear of before, so I felt it would be a good idea to explain it to you here in this blog.

The phrase "to call time" has its history in English and Irish bars/pub.
By law English and Irish bars/pubs must close by a certain time in the evening. When the closing time comes the bar person must shout "TIME" so that everyone in the bar knows it is time to close the bar.
The act of shouting "TIME" to tell everyone that it is now time to close the bar is know as, "to call time".

However the phrase, to call time, is now used in English to describe the moment when someone decides that something has come to an end.

For example:

"John Smith, the footballer, has called time on his career"

This means that John Smith has decided to finish playing football.


"Ladies and gentlemen, I must call time on this meeting"

This means that the speaker, perhaps the chairman of the meeting, has decided that it is time to finish the meeting.

To call time = to end or to finish.

Learn more English online with Smart Language Solutions, find out more at www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Packed in like Sardines

The other night I was teaching a client in Moscow and he asked me to explain the phrase, "packed in like sardines" which he had heard was a good way to describe rush hour on the Moscow Metro, however he was a little unsure if it was an offensive phrase or not.

The phrase is not offensive and in fact comes from the business of food processing.
Sardines, as you know are a type of fish, and we normally buy our sardines in small tins. When we open a tin of sardines, its normal that there are a lot fish in the tin and there no free space.

Therefore the phrase packed in like sardines is used to describe a situation where people are in an area or space with little room to move.

So it is not offensive and in fact a very good way to describe the Moscow Metro during rush hour.

"Every morning I take the Metro to work, it is always full and there is no room to move because everyone is packed in like sardines."

Packed in Like sardines = No space to move

Learn more English online- SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Using Will to express a future decision

In this mini English blog, I want to discuss one of the uses of Will to express the future.

As we previously discussed in other blogs there are a number of different ways of expressing the future.

Using Will is one ways to express the future and Will has a number of different uses, however in this blog I want to focus only on Will as used to express decisions.

When we are speaking about an action in the future, and we make decision about this future action while we are speaking we must use will.

For example:

"I don't know if I should go to the cinema or not...hhmm...OK I will go with you."

In this sentence the speaker is unsure about a future trip to the cinema, however while they are speaking they make up their mind to go to the cinema, so they must use Will to express this decision, because will is used to express a decision made at the moment of speaking.

Will is used to express a decision made at the moment of speaking.

There you have it another use of will for expressing the future!

If you want to learn more English go to our website www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com and book a free trial lesson.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Friday, 26 February 2010

English Lesson - Bailout or Bail Out

In this mini English lesson I want to look at the phrase bailout, which when used as a noun is one word and when used as an intransitive verb is two words.

Bailout - noun


Bail Out - intransitive verb

If you have been following the business news in English over the last few months you will have heard the phrase bailout used as a noun.

Bailout - used as a noun

For example:

" The bank happily took the bailout given to them by the government, but they still are paying themselves big bonuses."

In business English we use the phrase bailout to describe the act of giving money to a bank or company who is danger of financial failure.

When we spit bail out into two different words we are using it as an intransitive verb.

Bail Out - when used as an intransitive verb, has three distinct:

1) To describe the act of parachuting from an aircraft

"I bailed out of the plane with my parachute at 20,000 feet and it took me 4 minutes to land"

2) To describe the act of leaving a harmful or difficult situation

"We bailed out of the bar when the two men started fighting"

In American English when we use bail out to describe the act of leaving a harmful or difficult situation bail out can be shortened to balled.

"I bailed on maths class because I didn't have me homework done."

And 3) to describe the act of removing water from a boat

"It was a nice day so we rented a row boat to go out on the lake, unfortunately the boat was leaking and we had to use our shoes to bail out the water"

So there you have it Bailout or Bail Out, now you know!

If you would like to learn more English go to our website www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Using Will to express the future

When talking about the future we can use the verbs will, going to and the present continuous used with a future time point.

In this mini English lesson from www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com I am going to talk about using will to express the future.

Will has three different and distinct future uses in English, however in this mini lesson I will focus only one of the three uses.

In English Will is used to express promises and offers.

To use will as a promise:
"If you let watch TV now, I promise I will do the washing up tomorrow."

To use will as an offer:
"Oh sit down I will do the washing up for you."

As mentioned will has two other uses in English and you will find those uses explained in other blogs from www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Of course learning English is a two way interactive process, and the best place to learn online with live interactive English teachers is at www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Phrasal verb Bring About

In this mini English Lesson I want to explain the phrasal verb, "bring about", which can also be expressed as "bring around", or "bring round".

When you hear a native speaker using the phrasal verb bring about, they are usually using the phrase to express a situation where someone or something caused someone or something to adopt an opinion or take a certain course of action.

For example:

"The merger of the two companies brought about many changes."

In this sentence the speaker is saying that when the two companies joined together, the result was that there were many changes to the running of the companies.


"The amount of customer complaints brought the airline around to a new business model."

In this sentence the speaker is expressing the change in the company after listening to customer complaints.

To learn more English online, log onto www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The English Idiomatic Expression: "Clear the Air"

In this English lesson from www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com I am going to look at the idiomatic expression "Clear the Air".

In English when you hear someone using the expression Clear the Air, it means to ensure certainty, or in other words to remove doubt or confusion.

"I read the contract, but I didn't understand it, however after speaking to my friend he was able to clear the air regarding some the big words and strange legal terms in the contract."

In this sentence, I am saying that when I first read the contract there were so many big words and legal terms in it, I did not understand the contract and found it confusing.
However a friend was able to explain the big words and legal terms and this cleared the air for me.

Clear the air, means free from doubt or confusion.

Learn more English online at www.SmartLanguageSolutions.com

Friday, 12 February 2010

Birrr Cold Feet

As you know in English we love to use idioms, and one strange idiom that is used very often is "cold feet".

Obviously there are two meanings to the expression "cold feet", one meaning, is the literal meaning, which is to describe the fact that a person actually has cold feet.
"I have been standing in the snow in my sandals, I have really cold feet"

However this is not the idiomatic meaning, idiomatically when someone says they have "cold feet" they are using it to describe fear or strong doubt.

"I wanted to ride the roller coaster, but when I got to the line I got cold feet so I didn't ride it"

This means that speaker wanted to go on a roller coaster, but became afraid and didn't ride it.

Remember, don't get cold feet when speaking English, just ask your online English teacher to help you.

Learn more English online at www.smartlanguagesolutions.com

Thursday, 11 February 2010

That's a Killer

From time to time you may hear English speakers use the word killer in a sense that has nothing to do with killing something!

Killer can be used as an adjective to describe something that is very good, excellent or even hard.

"That was a killer game of football" = It was a very good game of football.

"That was a killer exam" = It was a very hard exam.

Killer can be used as a noun, in the form of a greeting that suggests the person being greeted in a very cool person.

"Hey Killer, how are you today?"

Remember unless you are 100% sure of English and English slang, we recommend you don't use it as if used wrongly it may cause great offence.
However we do recommend that you learn slang so that when you hear it, you understand it.

Learn more English online at www.smartlanguagesolutions.com/

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

One use of the Present Simple Tense

In English grammar it is generally accepted that there are 3 uses of the present simple tense.

In this blog I only want to focus on one of them.

We use the present simple to describe our habits.
A habit is something we do regularly, something that is part of our everyday life.

They eat dinner every day at 5PM.
He drinks too much beer every Saturday.

Remember the construction of the present simple

I, we, you, they + infinitive of verb + object.
I drink coffee every day.

He, she, it + infinitive + s + object
She runs 5KM every day.

In another post I have explained the other uses of Present Simple.

Remember keep the Present Simple, simple!

For more information on learning English go to our website www.smartlanguagesolutions.com

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Have to

In English when we want to express an obligation, we combine "have" and "to" with an infinitive (first from of the verb).
For example, "I have to be in work at 9AM"

Here you can see the construction "Have" + "to"+ "be"

Remember an obligation is something that comes from "outside" such as a rule or a law we obey.

"You have to drive at 30KM in the city centre"

"Do you have to wear a uniform?"

The past tense of "have to" is "had to" + infinitive.
When we use the past tense we express and obligation that we no longer do.
"When I was a child I had to make my bed in the morning"

The future of "have to" is "will + have + to" + infinitive.
We use the future tense to express a future obligation that we don't have at the moment.
"When I get to the airport tonight I will have to show my passport"

We hope this helps you.

If you have any questions please let us know.

Why not have a free interactive lesson with us! Go to www.smartlanguagesolutions.com and book a free trial lesson with us.

Monday, 8 February 2010

A Pigs Ear!

This English lesson focus on the use of the phrase "A Pigs Ear".
This phrase has its roots in cockney rhyming slang, but is mostly used in Ireland.

When someone says they or someone else makes a pigs ear of something it means that have made a mistake, mess or a muddle of something.

"I made a pigs ear of dinner", means the dinner I made was really bad.

"He made a pigs ear of his exam", means that he made a mistake in his exam and got low marks.

We recommend that you take care when using idioms, as when used incorrectly they don't make any sense. We would also recommend you don't use either idioms or slang unless you are an advanced user of English, BUT you should learn their meanings so when you hear someone else using them you understand what they are saying.

To learn English (EFL) online from the comfort of your home or office we recommend Smart Language Solutions, the internets most professional and friendly online language school.

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