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Idiomatic Vocabulary

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This section gives some idiomatic vocabulary in English, as a blog, or list to which I regularly add. This vocabulary is also given (in more detail) in the page ‘Idiomatic Vocabulary’ (under the ‘Vocabulary’ Section). So, you have the same input twice, since both forms can be convenient.

However, if you are accessing the information here, it is very important that you go to the ‘Idiomatic Vocabulary’ Section to read the introduction – as there are rules and issues about idiomatic vocabulary which you should know.

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Cultural Insights to Australia

Hello Everyone.

In the ‘IELTS Vocabulary’ section, I mentioned seven rules to learning vocabulary. Rule 7 is by reading. And here is some light, easy, and interesting reading pieces – all about … the country shown below.

australia-62823_1280

 

Yes, Australia. My country is huge, diverse, and has a fascinating history, which all means there are many insights I can give.

So, relax, and scan through these factual, sometimes reflective, sometimes thought-provoking, but always interesting insights into my amazing country.

Andrew Guilfoyle

Idiomatic Vocabulary 2: ‘a real eye-opener’

The Phrase

To be a real eye-openerEye opener

 Its Definition

 An event or experience that is surprising,

and shows you sth. that you did not already know

Discussion

This phrase is useful because it can describe any very surprising thing or event or experience which you have encountered. Admittedly, many people lead quite conventional lives, without encountering really interesting things, but you never know. This phrase is often useful for when describing event when traveling to other countries. Because it involves so much personal reaction, this phrase is more for spoken, not written English.

Example Sentences

In IELTS Speaking

  • “Oh, when I went into Libya it was a real eye-opener. I realised what a police-state was like, and the word ‘democracy’ finally took some meaning for me.”
  • “The poverty in South America was a real eye-opener. It’s just in-your-face, everyday, and the beggars can be really aggressive.”
  • “In Manilla, I had the opportunity to sleep one night in a slum, and I’ll tell you, that experience was a real eye-opener.”

IELTS Mini-Readings, 6 of 25: What’s the worst insect of all?

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Cockroaches

Cockroaches are those insects we all hate, right? They are considered to be pests: ugly and dirty. They like warm environments. That’s why they are most common in warm countries, and inside buildings, where it is even warmer. This also helps them to hide from other insects which want to eat them. Cockroaches are also quite strong, don’t need much food, and can run quite fast, and this all means that when they are inside a building, they are very hard to remove.

We usually see cockroaches at night, which is the time they like to come out to look for food. When you go to the kitchen, you might come around one, walking over the tables and chairs, or around garbage bins, and in doing so, spreading germs. Obviously, we would rather not have them in our homes. So, how do you fight against them? One way is to keep all food and water away, close the garbage bins tightly, and always clean your floor. Another idea is to block all the holes in the walls and floor, but this is difficult in older homes.

Yet cockroaches have a few surprises. For example, they can ‘talk’ to each other. This is not real talking, but making simple noises to other cockroaches to give messages. They also like being among other cockroaches, and will share food without fighting. It seems that they can make group decisions in some way. Yet, despite this, very few people like cockroaches.

Question Time

What sort of weather do cockroaches prefer? ……………………………………………

Why are cockroaches hard to get rid of? ………………………………….……..

What is the main problem of having cockroaches walking around? …………………..

Is it easy to block all the holes in older homes? …………………………….……….

Do cockroaches fight? …………………………………………………

Word-Learning Time

Do you know the meaning of the underlined words?

Pests

Remove

Germs

Garbage

Block

Decisions      

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

IELTS Mini-Readings, 5 of 25: Who’s the most famous scientist of modern times?

Albert Einstein.jpg

Albert Einstein

Okay, you all recognise the photo above, don’t you? Yes, Albert Einstein is certainly the most famous scientists of the modern era, so let’s find out a little more about him.

Albert Einstein was born in 1879 in Germany, and died in America in 1955, at the age of 76. He is the most famous for his discovery of ‘relativity’ – which was a very new way of thinking about the physical world. When Einstein was studying at university, he began to think that the ideas of Newton [see the previous post] could not be used for all situations – such as when things moved very fast, or when gavity is particularly strong. Like Newton, Einstein had to use mathematics to explain his ideas, and this mathematics became very complicated. It said that strange things could happen at high speed, or in extreme conditions – such as the gravity of ‘black holes’. Many of these things were later proven to actually happen, and this made Einstein world famous. Thus, Einstein was one of the few scientists (alongside Newton) who changed our way of looking at things.

Einstein eventually had to leave Germany, and he move to America, where he lived, studied, and taught, at Princeton University. Like Newton, Einstein did not have many friends. He married two times, but the marriages did not last. He had three children, but two of them died at a young age. However, unlike Newton, Einstein probably enjoyed his life. He liked music, played the violin, travelled, and worked with other scientists. Einstein let his hair grow long, and believed in fairness for everyone in the world. His face and hair style have been copied, and he is now seen as a typical ‘mad scientist’.

  

Question Time

What was Einstein’s most important discovery? …………………………………………

What could happen at high speed or extreme conditions? ……………………..………

Which country did Einstein move to? …………………………………………….……….

Did he have many friends? ……………………………….…………………….………….

Was he a happy man?  Why (not)? ……………………………………….………………

Word-Learning Time

Do you know the meaning of the underlined words?

Physical

Situation

Complicated 

Speed

Extreme

Typical          

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

IELTS Mini-Readings, 4 of 25: Who’s the most famous scientists of the old times?

Isaac Newton.png

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642 in England, and died there in 1726, at the age of 84. He is one of the most famous scientists of all time. This is because he was the first to realise many of the basic laws of the natural world. His discoveries, in this and in maths, changed people’s thinking, and it would take another 300 years before another scientist (Albert Einstein) could do this.

Before Newton, no one realised that the movement of the planets and stars was controlled by laws. People thought it was all done by God, and something which no one could understand. However, Newton realised the concept of ‘gravity’ – that is, that all solid things attract other things. This is why an apple falls to the earth. Newton used mathematics to work out the ideas behind motion, and used this maths with the planets and stars. He was able to make many predictions, and most of them were proven to be true.

Newton also built telescopes, and developed a theory of colour, and made many mathematical discoveries. For all this, he was given money and a good job by the government and, even in his lifetime, considered by everyone to be a great scientist. However, Newton was never a happy man. He never married, and he had no children, and he found it difficult to make friends. He sometimes behaved strangely, particularly in his later life. Maybe he was a lonely man, who preferred books and thinking – but we are lucky that he did this, right?

Question Time

Why is Newton so famous? ……………………………………………………..…….……

How long did it take for another scientist to become as famous? ………………….…..

What important concept did Newton realise? …………………………………….……….

What other discoveries did he make? …………………………….……………………….

Was he a happy man? Why (not)? …………………………………………………………

Word-Learning Time

Do you know the meaning of the underlined words?

Basic

Concept

Gravity          

Motion

Prediction

Lonely           

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

IELTS Mini-Readings, 3 of 25: What’s the nicest tree?

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Pine Trees

Pine trees are one of the most common trees in the northern parts of the world.  They are evergreen (meaning they never lose their sharp thin leaves), and most are very tall, with a fragrant smell. The skin of the tree (bark) is usually thick, and the branches are very regularly arranged on the tree. This all gives them a very nice appearance, and thus they are often planted in parks, gardens, and public spaces. And of course, they are famous for being used as Christmas trees.

One interest thing about pines is that they grow for a long time, sometimes up to 1000 years, or even more. In fact, the oldest living things on earth are trees. Some bristlecone pines (in the White Mountains of California) are almost 5,000 years old, and still going strong. The oldest one of these, called ‘Methuselah’, is over 4,600 years old.

The other interesting thing about pines is the cones which they produce. These cones play a role in many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere, where they are favoured by children as natural toys, or for art and craft purposes. The cones can be male (containing pollen) or female (containing seeds), even on the same tree! The seeds inside are released by birds breaking the cones open, by the wind simply blowing the seeds away, or by natural forest fires which melt parts of the cone. The cone opens up, and the seeds fall out. Wow, that is so simple, right?

Question Time

What does ‘evergreen’ mean? ……………………………………………………………

Why are they often planted in parks and gardens? ……………………………….……..

How old is ‘Methuselah’? ………………………………………………………….……….

How do children use pine cones? ………………………………………………………….

What causes parts of the pine cone to melt? ……………………………………………

Word-Learning Time

Do you know the meaning of the underlined words?

Fragrant

To arrange

Famous         

To favour

To release

To melt

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

IELTS Mini-Readings, 2 of 25: What’s the nicest part of a tree?

Autumn Leaves.jpg

Leaves

Leaves come in all shapes and sizes, but they are mostly always flat, green, and do not cover each other on a tree branch. Why? Well, being flat and well-spaced allows more sunlight to reach the leaf – and sunlight, together with that green stuff (known as chlorophyll) inside the leaf, need to mix together in a very important process known as photosynthesis.

But two other things are needed for the process to work: water and carbon dioxide. The water comes from the ground, and the carbon dioxide from the air. With all these products inside the leaf, the sunlight is changed into energy for the tree. This energy is stored by making a sugar – glucose – and other organic products – for example, more leaves, fruits, and vegetables. This is what we eat. And we eat animals which eat the leaves – meaning that leaves are the basis of the ‘food chain’. In other words, trees, plants, and bushes create all of the organic materials which are needed for life on Earth.

Another very nice result of photosynthesis is that oxygen, which we all breathe, is released. This is, obviously, very important, since photosynthesis keeps up the oxygen levels in the world. And because there are so many leaves, it adds up to a lot of oxygen, and a lot of sunlight changed into energy. If all the energy created by leaves were measured, it would be over three times the power used by people on this earth. Wow, leaves are important, right?

One final thing: in the autumn, many trees decide to shed their leaves as a defence against the oncoming winter. In the process of dropping these leaves, they slowly change colour from green to red/yellow/grey/brown, resulting in beautiful autumn scenes, such as the one in the picture above.

Question Time

Why are leaves usually flat? ……………………………………………………………

What is the green stuff inside leaves called? ………………………………….……..

What is the name of the sugar which leaves make? ……………………….……….

What else do leaves make which is important? …………………………….……….

How much energy do leaves make? …………………………………………………

Word-Learning Time

Do you know the meaning of the underlined words?

Flat

Branch

Carbon dioxide        

Organic

Oxygen

Released 

To shed       

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

IELTS Mini-Readings, 1 of 25: Introduction

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Hi everyone.

Well, it’s been a while since I have put a post – but that’s because I have been working on a new set of posts, getting them all ready, and it has been quite a big project – 25 posts in all. In this first post, I’ll just explain it.

Many students have been asking me to teach vocabulary, and I usually say that one of the best ways to learn words is through reading. But then the students say that they are too busy, and IELTS readings are too long, hard, and not that interesting.

Hmmmm. Yes, it’s a busy world, and people often don’t have time. So, I thought, why don’t I provide a series of ‘mini-IELTS readings’ on interesting topics – that is, shorter, lighter, more interesting, and something you can easily read on a mobile phone

Hmmmm, but what sort of readings? Well, science-based readings are often used as source material for the real IELTS Reading Test, so why don’t I base all these ‘mini-readings’ on this general theme: science, but written in a more general way, for the average person, and average learner of English!

So, this is the idea. Each of the next 24 posts will contain …

1    a small piece of writing based on science, or scientific analyses of the world (with six selected words underlined).

2    five questions (‘Question Time’) to test how well you have understood the text.

3    a list of those six words (from 1) (‘Word-Learning Time’).

The texts will start from easier (Pre-Intermediate level), and then slowly get harder, ending with Intermediate level – so it should be good for the average learner.

So, this is the beginning of the road [see the picture above]. The readings all begin with the next post.

Idiomatic Vocabulary 1: “not my cup of tea”

The Phrase

  Not [somebody’s] cup of teacup of tea

Its Definition

An adjectival phrase meaning “I don’t like it”.

Discussion

This phrase is useful because in the IELTS test you are often asked about your likes and dislikes, and even if not asked, we often give these feelings anyway.

Examiner:          Do people in your culture like outdoor sport?

Speaker:             Some do, but it’s certainly not my cup of tea.

 

Watch Out

  1. This phrase is always used in the negative, when saying that you do NOT like something.

Examiner:          Do people in your culture like indoor sport?

Speaker:             Well, it’s certainly my cup of tea.

A better answer here is ….

 Speaker:            Well, I certainly do, but I’m not sure …..[continue the answer].

 

  1. This phrase is probably too long [Remember Rule 2], and thus too informal to be used in IELTS writing.

 

Other Example Sentences

In IELTS Speaking

  • “People go to bars and drink, but that’s definitely not my cup of tea.”
  • “My ambition has always been to climb Mount Everest, but I know that would definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea.”

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (25 of 25): “All I get is chickenfeed!”

chicken.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here’s an example.

To be chicken feed

[Referring to salary or payments]

To be a very small or insignificant amount

This term is useful for IELTS because most of us are working, or have worked, and often done so for very little money, and can often use this term to complain about it.

This phrase is not too long (Rule 2), but is quite dependent on an individual attitude (breaking Rule 3), so it cannot be used in IELTS Writing.

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

“I worked in England, in a restaurant, but it was basically just chicken feed, which was particularly annoying given the cost of living there.”

“My wife met some rich people last year, and they earn so much it’s unbelievable, making what I earn look like chicken feed.”

“I tried picking fruit once, in Australia, but it was a shamelessly exploitative system, giving me just chicken feed for grueling nine-hour shifts in the orchard. I gave up after three hours, somewhat disgusted with the whole set-up.”

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (24 of 25): What’s your story?

storybook.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here’s an example.

To be a different story

This is a way of refering to another situation which very much changes the opinions you have given.

This is useful for IELTS because, in this complicated world with which we are constantly engaged, there are many different perspectives, and the IELTS examiner will often challenge you by mentioning these. This phrase is often introduced with the discourse marker, ‘Well’. [See my IELTS Speaking, Tip 6, p.31 bottom].

This phrase is too long (breaking Rule 2) to be able to be sed in IELTS Writing.

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

Speaker:            “I think there are advantages when you work for yourself.”

Examiner:          “What if the business goes bankrupt?”

Speaker:            “Well, that’s a different story.”

Speaker:            “I didn’t like travelling. Carrying a backpack, staying in boring youth hostels, beset by hustlers all the time.”

Examiner:          “What if you’re rich?”

Speaker:            “Well, that’s a completely different story.”

Speaker:            “I think joining the army could be really good. An outdoor life, everything provided for you, free training, and so on.”

Examiner:          “But what about when a war begins?”

Speaker:            “Well, that’s a different story altogether.”

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (23 of 25): “Damn that Murphy guy!”

Banana peel accidet.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here are some useful examples.

Murphy’s law

As Murphy’s Law states,

in accordance with Murphy’s Law,

… just like Murphy’s Law states,

to follow Murphy’s Law

These are related sayings, referring to ‘Murphy’s Law’, which states, ‘If anything can go wrong, it will.’ In other words, it predicts the tendency for things to go wrong, accidents to happen, and the unexpected to occur. 

This is useful for IELTS speaking because, in this complicated world with which we are constantly engaged, always trying to achieve personal and professional advance, we often face setbacks and problems, many of them unexpected.

These phrases are too long (breaking Rule 2) and too dependent on a single person (breaking Rule 3) to be able to be used in IELTS Writing.

  • “So, I was all prepared to go, but when I turned on the projector, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, the machines ‘popped’ and went dead on me! Great! What could I do then?”
  • “One of them needed some money, and rather naively, I lent it to him, and, as Murphy’s Law states, he was fired shortly thereafter, so [smiling wryly] naturally, I never saw the money again.” [From the IELTS Test Practice Book. P.171]
  • “The guidebook stated that Naples was a dangerous town, but you were unlikely to suffer trouble if you were careful, but the writer of that book obviously failed to take Murphy’s Law into account!”

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (22 of 25): Nature calls!

Toilets.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here’s an example.

To answer the call of nature

This is a indirect and idiomatic way to say, ‘Go to the toilet’. Incidentally, many Americans may even find ‘go to the toilet’ too direct, and prefer, ‘Go to the restroom’. Women might say, ‘I’m just going to powder my nose.’ But here I’ll go for the more scientific, ‘to answer the call of nature’.In fact, even in America, some people might say, ‘Nature calls’ when wanting to go to the toilet.

This is useful for IELTS because it is a fact of life, happening regularly to every single human being on earth. When relating stories, anecdotes, or when exemplifying generally, such a concept may need to be stated.

This phrase follows our rules for use in IELTS writing (being 1. Not too many words, and 2. able to be applied to many people), although it is very unlikely that such a subject matter will need to be explored in writing.

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

“I worked for one school where the whole floor, with some 300 people, had access to two tiny toilets. If everyone had to answer the call of nature at once, it would have been horrible.”

“I see building sites, and they always have outdoor cubicles there for when the workmen have to answer the call of nature.”

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Writing.

With over seven billion human beings on the planet, all needing to ‘answer the call of nature’, efficient sewerage systems are now crucial.

[Task One, map task] The north-eastern corner of the park has provisions for those needing to respond to ‘the call of nature’.

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (21 of 25): Here’s a more interesting story.

storybook.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here are two useful examples.

To be a different story

To be a different kettle of fish

These are two related sayings, describing a situation which is completely different to another.

These are useful for IELTS because, in a complicated world, we face a variety of situations, each different to the other, and we often compare them. In addition, to test your speaking and explore a situation more deeply, in Part Three of the IELTS Speaking Test, examiners tend to ask questions which change the situation: “What about women?”, “Is it the same for adults?”, and “Would teachers agree with that?”

This saying is too long and personal to be used in IELTS writing.

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

“I think shopping is a form a torture, but obviously, for women, it’s a different story.”

“Rock music is fairly popular among young people.” [“Is it the same in Asia?”] “Well, that’s a different story.”

“The humidity in this country is sometimes almost unbearable.” [“What about in your country?”] “Well, that’s a different kettle of fish.”

“I managed a school for five years, and had to deal with incompetence all around me. Now I run my own small classroom, and [smiling] it’s a different kettle of fish altogether”.

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Hey, I want to promote my school! // Please recommend me to anyone you know!

IELTS Writing %26; Listening, night, June 2018 Good Photo I.JPG

Hi everyone. 

January is coming, which is normally the least active time in the demand for IELTS preparation. In addition, COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be getting better – in fact, it seems to be getting worse, and this has severely affected the motivation for people for foreign study. And there are other factors (which I’d rather not mention) affecting business. The result: I need students right now.

Look at the above photo. I have shown this before, because the student next to me (Jasmine) got …

IELTS 9 for reading

IELTS 8 for speaking

IELTS 8 for listening

IELTS 6.5 for writing.

Okay, the writing score was lower, but she admitted later that she didn’t finish both writing tasks. Imagine the writing score if she HAD finished those two tasks. But, I usually add, that girl studied very hard, and took all the homework very seriously. 

So, if you know anyone interested in IELTS preparation, please let them know about me. The classes will be VERY small, and VERY personal.

Thanks for that, and I hope you had a nice Christmas, and will have a happy new year.

Teacher Andrew

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (20 of 25): “Learn it from scratch, right?”

Cat scratching.jpg

Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here are some useful examples, which all mean a similar thing.

1.  To be a sharp learning curve

2.  To do everything from scratch

3.  To revert to Plan B.

4.  To go back to the drawing board.

These are a series of related sayings, describing situations where …

1. where you have to learn very quickly.

2.  where you have to do everything from the beginning.

3.  after the first plan fails, you change to another.

4.  a plan fails, and you have to begin all over again.

This is useful for IELTS because, in a complicated world, we are all trying to learn, and have learnt much in the past, have tried and failed at various projects. Thus, this phrase can probably be useful for everyone, describing some situation in their past.

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

  • “When I started my website, it was definitely a sharp learning curve.”
  • “I was given complete responsibility for the entire school, which was certainly a sharp learning curve, and absolutely nothing was done or prepared beforehand. I had to do absolutely everything from scratch.”
  • “After three months, I realised I’d never get along with the crazy boss, so, Plan A having failed, one reverts to Plan B, right?”
  • “I designed IELTS courses for one school where I worked for years, then decided to leave and teach using my own books, so it was back to the drawing board. I spent at least three weeks working on the new syllabus.”

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .

Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (19 of 25): “Hey, don’t go overboard!”

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Every language has phrases and sentences that cannot be understood by just knowing the individual words. This is known as idiomatic language, and it is a very important part of any language, including English, and is very useful for IELTS speaking. Here’s an example.

To go overboard

This is a verb phrase meaning to do something good, but do it too much or excessively so that it becomes bad, and is useful for IELTS speaking because this situation does happen in life. People may ‘go overboard’ in politeness, actions, and public behavior.

This phrase passes our test for use in written language: it is short [Rule 2], and it can be applied widely to many people [Rule 3].

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Speaking.

  • “I’m not convinced cosmetic surgery is good. Many people go overboard, and begin looking like freaks.”
  • “Study is important, but I see three-year-old babies learning Japanese. Now, that’s just going overboard.”
  • “Some memorisation is possible when writing in IELTS, but people just go overboard, and the whole essay becomes absolutely ridiculous.”

​​​​​​​

  • “BLM might have started out as something good, but it went way overboard.”

Here are some example sentences in IELTS Writing.

  • Given the emphasis now placed on good looks in this celebrity-driven society, the current trend towards cosmetic surgery is understandable, but too many ‘go overboard’, Michael Jackson being a classic example.
  • Money is undeniably important, but those who sacrifice friends, family, and good health in the process of acquiring it, are obviously ‘going overboard’.

By the way, you can find out more about me at www.aisielts.com .