Tuesday 27 December 2011

Broken legs in Andorra, aka To Hell with Cholesterol!

Broken legs in Andorra? Yeah, that's Cockney rhyming slang for broken eggs with chistorra, and yeah, I've just invented that, the slang, I mean. :-)

Cheese-toh-what? Well, that's a type of sausage that hails from Navarre, in the north of Spain. Wikipedia tells the story better than I can, although my images are better. And the Spanish will tell you I haven't got a grandmother. :-)

Broken eggs is a literal translation of "huevos rotos"; the recipe being "Huevos rotos con patatas y chistorra". The recipe I'm publishing here wasn't copied from anywhere else; I've sampled (or stuffed my face with, depending on who's saying it) the dish in restaurants several times, and it doesn't look too complicated. The advantage of doing it yourself is that you can do it the way you like! This post is dedicated especially to Phil Wade, a sucker for fry-ups!


Measurements are approximate (I use my eyes more than the scales) and are given for 1 abundant portion (with leftover for supper); multiply accordingly by the number of portions you want to prepare for.

600g potatoes
50g chistorra
3 eggs
oil for frying and 1 tablespoon of olive oil
sea salt

1.   Prepare all the ingredients. Slice the chistorra thinly. Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into long pieces (chip-shaped). Soak them in water. Drain them before frying.

2.  Place the sliced chistorra on the frying pan without any oil. Heat it over a small to medium flame and watch the fat ooze out! Lovely! Tip: Occasionally, scoop the excess oil and pour it into your deep-fryer. I like the sausage really well done, i.e. melt as much fat away as possible.

3.  Heat abundant oil in a deep frying pan, or a deep-fryer, if you have one. When it's hot enough (when you see steam floating up), put the potatoes in. Watch your hands! Occasionally, turn them over. You'd want the chips to be done, but not too done, or they'll be too dry.

4.  At the same time, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (if you can afford it) over a small frying pan. Heat it on a lowish flame (on my glass ceramic induction hob, I do it on mark 4). Break the eggs into the pan gently, avoiding breaking the yolks. You want them sunny-side up, and you want them slightly under-cooked. The heat of the chips will cook them further.

5.  What you're aiming for is for the three ingredients to be ready in about the same time. Practice makes perfect! When they're done, place the chips onto a deep bowl. A mini-wok is great. Sprinkle a little (only a little) sea salt over the chips. Add the chistorra. Tip the eggs over this mix, oil and all.

6.  With two forks, start breaking the egg yolks roughly, and toss the mixture. Serve immediately, straight from the bowl with some warm sliced baguette, if you wish.

7.  However, if you're one of the finer creatures on this earth, or your guests are, you can dish it onto a plate, like this.

Enjoy! The photos are available from ELTPics, or with a reasonable fee, you can have the higher resolution versions to adorn your greasy café! ;-)

Thursday 22 December 2011

Best 7 of 11 stitched up

Just as you thought it was safe to store away all your PCs for the festive break, along comes yet another tool to help enrich your browsing experience. Will it? Or will it stay stitched up? Take a look at a quick Stich.It of the best 7 of 2011 of this blog. If you disagree, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday 19 December 2011

Two For The Price Of None

Where were you last Saturday 17th December 2011 from about 09:00 until 15:00 GMT? Seriously, if you were not doing anything you couldn't postpone such as looking after the sick or the young, or earning your daily bread, and you're a so-called educator, unless you are already a top-notch guru, I really don't understand why you weren't present at one, if not both, of the two free webinars held that day. Did you miss my post on The Lonely Teacher Blues? Oh, all right, include being in the "wrong" time zone as a good excuse, too, although there were a few dedicated attendees from the other side of the ocean, such as Ecuador and Brazil, where even the birds and the roosters were still asleep.

This is apart from the omnipresent Shelly Terrell, who was moderating the iTDi webinar in spite of it starting at 4am, her time! She has trouble saying 'no' at the best of times, but I guess it would have been even more difficult to refuse the chance of moderating such great thinkers and motivators as Luke Meddings, Chuck Sandy, Marcos Benevides, Scott Thornbury, John F. Fanselow, and Steven Herder, who was also co-moderator.

So, if you weren't there, and have no valid excuse, I repeat, I really don't understand you. However, there just might exist the possibility for you to redeem yourself, and learn something in the process - take a look here for a link to the recording of what you missed.

Right after the iTDi, which stands for the International Teacher Development Institute, came the first ever online version of Teach Meet. A total of 27 teachers (including a significant number of iTDi associates) from all around the globe spoke for about 3 minutes each, sharing their ideas, their projects, and their passion, with those present. Again, I don't understand how you could let such an opportunity pass you by. But, since these educators are so generous and selfless, visit the site for the chance of seeing the recording.

For a taste of what happened that day, watch this super summary compiled by Bart Verswijvel.

My presentation was basically a potpourri of ideas for using Wordle in the classroom, quite difficult to do in 3 minutes, but the bicycle arrived unscathed...I think. The tutorial on how to do what I did, and parts of the slides I used, can be found here. In any case, especially for Marijana Smolcec, I'm sharing the full presentation here.

There is sound, so turn your speakers on! Unfortunately, there is a slight problem - the world isn't perfect, is it? The version you see below is from Author Stream - you can simply press play, and the presentation starts with my voice-over plus you get to see the animations. However, the synchronization is not as it ought to be and some layering effect is lost.

The version below the Author Stream's is on Slideshare - there's no play option, no animations, no sound, but you get to see the background effect as it was meant to be seen! :-)

Were you there? What did you learn from the two webinars? Weren't you there? Why not?


Sunday 11 December 2011

How to overcome the Lonely Teacher Blues

Image by @ij64 on ELTPics;

Teaching is, often, a lonely job. If you're lucky, you get to talk about your problems, exchange ideas, or periodically receive some level of motivation in the staff room. Most of the time, however, you get thrown in the deep end, with only a marker and the coursebook to clutch.

Some seek to fight this problem by attending conferences, and others do courses, but these tend to be costly, and teaching is not noted for a generous pay scale. So, unless some form of backing is available, most of us can't do either of those.

However, the situation has improved tremendously in the past decade or so. As Barbara Sakamoto said in my interview with her, "Get online!" There's a bewildering amount of information and resources available on the Internet, so much so that one can easily get lost. If you're reading this, you're probably among those who are already fairly knowledgeable about the world of blogging, Twitter, and webinars. It is our duty, then, to enlighten the uninitiated.

If you want to know which blogs to read, a good place to start is my recommended blogs list. This list is, naturally, constantly updated. Twitter is an incredible world, but I'd probably need a few hours to explain its ins and outs - why don't you get your school to call me and I could give a talk? ;-) Alternatively, read the articles which I've scooped here.

If you're interested in personal professional development, follow my scoops here, and if you're in need of some motivation, why don't you check out some of the teachers here.

As for webinars... these are getting more and more popular, and it's easy to see why. Most of them are FREE, and you can attend them from the comforts of your own home. Don't you know what webinars are? They are basically online conferences. To attend them, you are sometimes required to register. You will be given a url (the address of a web page) to go to. When you enter this page, you'll be asked to download a small Java file. Follow the instructions from there and before you could get comfortable, you'd be 'apparated' (to borrow a word from J K Rowlings) to the conference room!

Talking of webinars, next Saturday, 17th December is a very special day. Two free webinars are taking place, practically one after another; here's a terrific chance to experience first hand what many other teachers around the world are doing!

iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) will be running, very shortly, online courses, designed by teachers, for teachers. Their free webinar has already attracted 300 teachers from 57 countries, but they are still accepting people for their waiting list, so don't wait any longer. It's free, isn't it? The webinar is titled "What is a teacher?" For the full line-up of internationally-acclaimed presenters, schedule and registration, go to:  http://itdi.pro/webinar.html
It runs from 09:00 to 13:00 UTC.

Right after that, from 14:00 CET onwards, TeachMeet International start their own exciting event. This promises to be a truly dynamic affair, each presenter being given 3 minutes of "floor" time. Don't miss that either!

For those who are not able to attend either of these conferences, there is a good possibility that the recordings will be made available, but you'd need to be in touch with "us" to know where and when they are released!


Monday 28 November 2011

UG2BK - Hinglish, Chinglish & Singlish?

This is so hilarious I've just got to share it here, too. Shame it's so fast that learners may have a hard time following it. Anyway, just sit back and try to enjoy it: The History of English in 10 minutes!


Sunday 27 November 2011

#ELTBITES Challenge: We like to move it, move it

Once in a while I read something and I find myself thinking, "Now, why didn't I think of that?". Well, Richard Gresswell had such an idea. He started a blog, called it ELTBITES, and challenged us:

"Describe an activity that requires no more than the teacher, students, and possibly making use of the board, pens, and paper. Describe the activity aims and procedure concisely in no more than 200 words."

Here is my contribution, which may not be all that original.

Image from ELTPics by @yearinthelifeof
Level: any
Time: as long as interest prevails
Material: your tongue, and students who obey instructions
Aims: vocabulary, warmer, filler, exercise, fun, ...

This is a simple activity to get the students moving, but, be warned, it can be addictive. I had students wanting to do it again and again, but, perhaps, it was just an excuse for them not to do any 'school work'! ;-)

Think of the language you want your students to work with. Say, you want to revise colours and clothes:

Those of you whose bedroom is white, stand up. (Notice use of relative pronoun, imperative.)
Remain standing.
What about blue?
And black? (I once had a student who has a black bedroom! Of course, we started a mini-conversation.)

Now, if you're wearing white trainers, sit down.
If you're wearing blue jeans, stand up.

You can vary the movements:

If you don't have a belt on, take one step to the left.
If you're wearing black underwear, take two steps back. (This will raise a lot of sniggers!)

Keep it dynamic. Think of unusual stuff (if you can touch your nose with your tongue...). Get them to observe each other (those who have short curly hair...). With higher levels, think of more challenging questions (those who believe in... those who would like to...).

Basically, the limit is your imagination. Hand the activity over to your students. Get them to ask the questions, and use their own commands. Encourage them to be creative.

If you do use this activity, tell us about it!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Stand By Me, Japan

This is a good an excuse as any to listen to a good song, and, at the same time, be reminded of the suffering the great nation had to endure earlier this year.

Why not use this video as a springboard for a class discussion on natural disasters, for example?

You might like to read this post on activities using songs.


Monday 21 November 2011

How much is... or how much are...?

Words shaped by David Warr's PlantMaker

How much is a cheese sandwich and a coffee?
How much are a cheese sandwich and a coffee?

Which is correct?

This is a bit like my post on There is... or there are... Instinctively, I'd say the first sentence is the right one, but aren't we talking about more than one thing? A cheese sandwich AND a coffee?

Well, yes, but it boils down to what you are actually asking. Think about it. You are asking for the price of the two things together.

What is the price of a cheese sandwich, and what is the price of a coffee?
What is the price of a cheese sandwich and a coffee together?

Which do you mean? It's obvious now, isn't it? :-)

But then, would you say...

How much is the cds?
How much are the cds?

You'd say ask the second question, right? So, just as in there is/are, we use the verb that coincides with the nearest noun:

How much is a sandwich and two coffees?
How much are two coffees and a sandwich?

Comments are invited and appreciated. Bad Hair Day Smiley (Funny)


Saturday 12 November 2011

How to navigate around this blog?

As part of the prize package for winning Grammar.net's Grammar Blog of the Year 2011, they have designed an infographic for me - thank you, team! Since I no longer have the dynamic tree menu, I thought it a good idea to have an infographic showing how to navigate around this blog.

There is also a bigger size available for download, should any school wish to print it for their classroom or computer lab.

This infographic will also be available from the page "Finding your way around this blog".

Do you like it?
The Best Grammar blog of 2011

Infographics - How to navigate around this blog

To see the full-sized version, click here
You can also see  the full-sized version here, if the above link doesn't work well for you.
If you would like to download a poster-sized (4725 x 12072 px) version for your classroom, click here.

Friday 11 November 2011

Top Tools for Learning 2011

C4LPT (Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies), run by Jane Hart, is taking votes for their annual Top 100 Tools for Learning. This is the fifth time they'll be compiling the list, and voting closes on Sunday 13th Nov. To be honest, I've never participated in their previous compilations, nor, for that matter, in any other such lists run by others. There are so many so-called tech tools for learning, that one just becomes overwhelmed, and, furthermore, it's an area that doesn't remain static. Free sites may start to charge, software disappears, but for each that dies, 5 more are born, so if you don't keep abreast of the situation, you will simply lag too far behind.

I decided to participate in this year's compilation, but I had to think long and hard for my list. My criteria may be different to that of others, though. I thought to myself, which tools are imperative to my needs? Which would cause me the worst hardship were they to be removed? Which tools do I use, day in, day out? I'm sure some of these on my list would not appear on the list of others because they're simply so taken for granted that they're no longer considered a tech tool as such!

Here are my choices, in no particular order.
  1. Gmail: I've been using this since their beta days, and it's just revolutionised the way I manage my emails. Without Gmail, I don't think I'd have subscribed to so many sites, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to archive so much mail.
  2. Twitter: At first, I didn't understand what the fuss was about. Who wants to know about who you're having coffee with or how many miles you've run? Who has time to read a constant barrage of 140-character snippets? This was until I decided to take a look at...
  3. Tweetdeck, and when I found out that there are so many people who are using it not so much for social but for professional purposes, and when I learn about hashtags and such, I became hooked. Incidentally, Tweetdeck has been bought by Twitter a few months ago.
  4. Blogger: I've seen the other platforms, and I even have two wordpress blogs, but blogger makes it to my list because of its user-friendliness and versatility. Handling widgets is a piece of cake, and even if your knowledge of HTML is null, you'll be able to get a blog up and running in no time. Wordpress, on the other hand, gets to be such a pain, sometimes. It doesn't accept iframe code, and even putting line spaces in your post becomes an art form.
  5. Google Docs: I'm using this more and more, especially for written work. I hardly use paper if I can avoid it, and how many students do you know file their compositions systematically and refer back to them? Using Google Docs, they can access their past work much more easily, they can quick search for words or expressions, and if teachers use the comments feature to provide feedback, they are there for the students to refer to as and when required.
  6. Scoop It: This is my latest 'toy'. I use it as a sort of bookmarking tool. With so much information available, it's hard to keep track of it. You know how it is - you come across something that is interesting, but you either have no time to study it or it isn't something that is of use now, but might be for later, so you want to save it. Bookmark it? Only to forget, months later, that you had it bookmarked? I was never fond of Diigo, and although I have stuff in Livebinders, I find I hardly refer to them. ScoopIt is fast and its layout makes it easier to find what I'm looking for, and, if you share your scoops, you'll help others find what they're looking for, too. The Internet is all about give and take! Have a look at some of my ScoopIts: Why Twitter for Teachers, or Grammar Exercises.
  7. PowerPoint: Relatively easy to manage, and it's improved a lot since its inception. I don't like Prezi, to be honest. Sorry!
  8. Google Search: How did we find information before Google? Can you imagine life without Google Search? A lifesaver in many occasions. The world at our fingertips, literally.
  9. Wikipedia: Encyclopaedia for the masses. Fundamental.
  10. Audacity: A basic (and, importantly, free) sound editing tool which I use quite a bit.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Modal verbs: must, have to, or have got to?

Many students have trouble understanding the difference between must and have to, and it's really hardly surprising.

Before we get into that, I'd like to say, first, that we can use have to and have got to without any difference in meaning. The difference is the same as that between have and have got: the former is more formal, the latter is more colloquial. Have is more common in US English, and have got is more common in UK speech.

Most of the time, the difference between must and have to (when they are used in the positive) is so subtle as to make it rather pedantic.

Consider this:

I've got to go to the supermarket tomorrow.
I must go to the supermarket tomorrow.

The general explanation is that have (got) to implies a third party obligation and must implies a personal obligation.

Therefore the first sentence suggests that someone else wants me to go to the supermarket while the second sentence suggests that I personally want to. Regardless of which is used, it doesn't prevent the listener from understanding the essence of what is being communicated: the action of going to the supermarket.

What is important to note, however, is that when an adverb of frequecy is present, we generally prefer to use have (got) to.

I always have to eat breakfast.
I've always got to eat breakfast.
I must always eat breakfast.

On the other hand, in negative usage, the difference is significant.

When we want to say that something is not allowed, we use mustn't, but to say that it is not necessary, we use don't have to or haven't got to.

You mustn't smoke in here. (Smoking is prohibited)
You don't have to come in early tomorrow. (You can if you want, but it isn't necessary)

Rather than spending too much time trying to explain the subtle differences between must and have to when used positively it is far more important to help them understand the frequent errors they make with must. Here are two very common examples.

You must to wait here.
He doesn't must come tomorrow. (He mustn't/doesn't have to come tomorrow)

Remember that the modal verbs must, can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, and should are never followed by 'to' nor are they preceded by an auxiliary such as 'do'.

Note that these verbs do require a 'to':

have (got) to
ought to
need to (need functions as a normal verb in this case, although need also exists as a modal verb)

I've got to publish this article before the end of this week.
They ought to give you the contract - you're the best person for the job!
I need to have my hair cut.
Note the difference: You needn't come and get me; I'll make my own way.

For some practice, you can try Grammar Secrets.

Fertilised by Plant Maker


Sunday 6 November 2011

SpiderScribe mindmapper now allows embedding and exporting

Followers of this blog would have seen me using a few websites to produce mind maps for various purposes. For a list of free mind mappers I've used, see the useful resources page.

To see examples of the mind maps in action, see Cokey Monkey, Ideas on a silver platter, and How to create an interactive mind map.

Lately, my favourite has been Spiderscribe in spite its having certain weaknesses; however, I'm pleased to announce that they have now allowed embedding, and exporting to either jpg or png format.

Below are examples of a png image, and an embedded map. These maps were used to demonstrate collocations of the word 'holiday', first seen on The Dogme Diaries, my reflective blog.

Mind maps for ELT CLIL Collocations

To navigate around the mind map, simply click on it and drag as you wish.


Saturday 29 October 2011

There is or there are?

The rule is quite clear...or is it? We generally use 'there is' or 'there are' to talk about the existence (or not) of something, and the general rule is that we use 'are' with plural subjects.

There is a girl from Greenland in our class.
Can you believe that there aren't any messages for me on Facebook?
There are supposed to be five of us. Who's missing?

However, in informal speech, we often use there is with plural nouns:

There's some children coming to play trick or treat tonight; have we got anything to give them?

In fact, to my ears, saying 'there are some children coming' actually sounds odd, even though it's grammatically correct!
So, could we say 'there is going to be some changes around here'? I'd say, informally, yes.

Are there any grammarians among us to refute what I've just said?

But, there's worse.

What do we do when there are multiple subjects?

There is a Korean girl, a Danish man, and an American Indian in my class.
There are a Korean girl, a Danish man, and an American Indian in my class.

Which would you use?

I know which one I would use. Using there are sounds positively awkward to my ears.

However, I would say:

There are two Korean girls, a Danish man, and an American Indian in my class.


The reason is because ellipsis is present in these case. What we really want to say is:

There is a Korean girl, there is a Danish man, and there is an American Indian ...

In other words, we use the verb that coincides with the first subject... in speaking anyway. The reason is, perhaps, we hear the words 'There are a Korean girl', and we wince because we haven't heard what is to come later. However, in writing, when we see the plural verb, we skim across, and we see that there are more subjects, so the brain accepts it.

The best way to avoid these situations is to use the plural subject first! In the case of multiple singular subjects, I'd tend to avoid ellipsis, and repeat:

There is a Korean girl...there is a Danish man...and, there is even an Indian American ...!

Any comments from the experts?


Friday 28 October 2011

Practice or Practise?

Practice or Practise? Both sound the same: /ˈpræktɪs/, but one is a noun and the other is a verb. The Americans don't make it better by spelling both the same way: practice.

The way I remember it is very simple. Noun comes before Verb in our alphabet, and similarly, C comes before S; therefore, the N corresponds to the C, and the V corresponds to the S; in other words, practice is the noun, and practise is the verb!


Either...or... + singular or plural verb?

First of all, I'd like to point out that in British pronunciation, both
/ˈaɪðə(r)/ and /ˈiːðə(r)/ are acceptable. The US tend to use the latter version.

Either usually means 'one or the other':

Either you choose me, or her. You can't have both!

The reason why a lot of people have doubts over whether  either...or... carries a singular or plural verb is very simple - both are acceptable! The same goes for neither ...or...

Having said that, however, a singular verb is more common, and is certainly preferred in formal usage.

Which restaurant shall we go to? 
Either Fuji or The Golden Lotus is fine. I like the sushi in Fuji, but I prefer the duck in the Golden Lotus.

Do either of you know how to get there?

Can you believe that neither my father nor my mother drive?

I wasted my journey. Neither James nor Melanie was in.


    Or buy from Amazon.com

Thursday 27 October 2011

Used to + infinitive or -ing?

There are two forms of 'used to'.

When we talk about past habits and states, especially when they are no longer true, used to is followed by a verb in the infinitive form and 
always refers to the past.

When we want to convey the meaning of 'accustomed to', used to  is followed by a verb in the -ing form; this version exists in all the tenses: present, past and future. In addition it has to be preceded by the verb 'be', 'become' or 'get'.

Past habits and states

I used to have long hair, but no-one believes me!
She used to be so shy, but just look at her now!
Didn't they use to play for Barcelona football club?
My wife never used to like technological gadgets, but now she can't live without them.

Accustomed to

I am used to staying on my own now but I used to be terrified.
After all these years, Jason still hasn't got used to driving on the right.
Don't worry, you'll soon become used to everyone stopping you on the streets to say hello.
It took her a long while, but she eventually became used to eating with chopsticks.

It is worth pointing out here that the 'to' in this 'used to' is a preposition. One way of knowing if it's a preposition is to substitute what comes after it with a noun. If it sounds good, it's correct!

I am used to spicy food. (I am used to eating spicy food)
Jill hasn't got used to her Mac yet; she still misses her old PC.

For the difference between 'would' and 'used to' see:


Tuesday 18 October 2011

Grammar Blog of the Year Deadline Extended

Best grammar blog 2011

It has been such a frantic weekend that Grammar.net decided to extend the deadline by 3 days, after disqualifying the 'top' two blogs. The official deadline now is Thursday, 20th October, 23:59 PST (Pacific Standard Time), and the winner will be announced on Friday 21st October.

So, I don't have to say it - we're currently leading, so keep it there! Oh, please do be careful - it's one vote per person, although it's still unclear how they are going to control that. Thanks to EVERYONE who has voted and who has been keeping the campaign going on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere in the cyber world! 

Thank you!

Saturday 15 October 2011

Compound Adjectives: To Hyphenate or not?

What are compound adjectives?

These are adjectives which are made up of more than one word, and there are many possible combinations.

  • adjective + noun: last-minute, shoulder-length
  • noun + adjective: lead-free, goal-hungry
Very often, a -d or -ed is added to a noun to make it a past-participle construction.
  • adjective + past participle: loud-mouthed, red-haired
  • adjective/noun/adverb + present participle: evil-looking, awe-inspiring, never-ending
  • number + noun: twenty-dollar, ten-kilometre
Whether these adjectives should be hyphenated or not is a difficult decision. The best advice would be to consult a good dictionary.

Generally, if there isn't any risk of ambiguity, or the compound adjective is a common one, hyphens aren't necessary.

Consider these:

He's just gone out for an early-morning run.
He's just gone out for an early morning run.

Both mean the same.

Brad is a Chinese martial arts practitioner.
Brad is a Chinese-martial-arts practitioner.

Is Brad Chinese or isn't he? Does he practise Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian martial arts?

However, there are certain compound adjectives that are always hyphenated, unless they can be written as one word.
  • Numbers: fifty-dollar bill, one-man show, thirty-five-year-old woman, 21st-century technology
  • Present participle construction (see above): good-looking actor, deeply-boring lesson
  • Past participle construction (see above): tongue-tied child, old-aged pensioners
  • Colours: yellowish-blue skirt, light-purple top
  • Comparatives and superlatives: highest-ever inflation, lower-paid sector
These are general guidelines. When in doubt, consult a dictionary, or ask in Twitter with the hashtag #grammar. Be sure to follow me!


Friday 14 October 2011

Best Grammar Blog 2011

Best grammar blog 2011

We're getting into the final countdown, and there seems to be a strong surge in voting. A CLIL To Climb is currently lying in second place, with fans of the third-spot blog frantically voting to move it up, while the top-spot contender is also strongly defending its position. And the pig in the middle?

I'm getting a fair number of visits from the Grammar.net nomination page, but are you voting for me? ;-)

Regardless of my final position, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who has voted! I'm honoured to be up there especially taking into account the fact that this is a one-man show, sustained by little more than pure love of sharing.

Tricky Words: Affect or Effect? What are the Differences?

If one of our peers can make the mistake, then they must indeed be rather difficult to distinguish, so let's analyse them.

In the first instance, both affect and effect have their verb and their noun forms, but it's safe to mention here that affect as a verb is more common than effect the verb, and, likewise, effect as a noun is heard more often than affect as a noun.

affect, verb /əˈfekt/

If something affects someone or something else, it changes or influences them.

How will the new cutbacks affect us?
Even the threat of rain does not affect his decision to go for a run.

It is often used to talk about causing physical damages.

Northern Japan was badly affected by the enormous seaquake and tsunami.
How badly has New Zealand been affected by the recent oil spill?

We also used it to refer to strong feelings or emotions.

The kids have been deeply affected by their father's death.
There is no telling how their parents' divorce will affect them.

effect, verb /ɪˈfekt/

This is a formal verb and isn't used much. It means to achieve, to produce, to make something occur.

Seeing how badly their divorce has affected their children, they are trying to effect a reconciliation.

affect, noun /ˈæfekt/ (Notice how the pronunciation differs from that of the verb)

This is even rarer than effect as a verb, and is most often used in psychology and psychiatry to refer to feelings or emotions. We are more likely to hear affection /əˈfekʃ(ə)n/, which refers to a feeling of caring about someone or something.

effect, noun /ɪˈfekt/

This is used to refer to a result or an influence.

They are studying what effects the oil spill has on the ecosystems around the area.
Do you think technology has adverse effects on us?

For more meanings on affect and effect, consult a good dictionary.


Thursday 13 October 2011

When to use Who or Whom?

 I was rather surprised to see this tweet, and was even more surprised to see it being retweeted. 

So, when do we use 'whom'? To be honest, it is rarely used in informal spoken conversations, and you're more likely to see it in written form, but let's take a more detailed look at 'who' and 'whom'.

As a question word

Who is used without a following noun to ask about people.

Who is that boy standing over there?
Who was your favourite teacher?
Who said that?

Note that here we are using who to ask for the subject.

We also use who as an object in questions.

Who is she going out with?
Who does she love?
Who are they following?

Whom is possible here, but sounds rather stiff and formal.

With whom is she going out? (We prefer to use prepositions before whom)
Whom does she love?
Whom are they helping?

As a subject of a defining relative clause

Last night I saw the teacher who teaches us technology.

Who is the subject of the relative clause:

I saw the teacher. The teacher teaches us technology.

We cannot use whom, nor can we remove who.

As an object of a defining relative clause

That's the teacher who I saw last night.

Who is the object of the relative clause:

That's the teacher. I saw the teacher last night.

In this case, we can use whom (more formal) instead of who, or leave it out altogether.

That's the teacher who/whom/- I saw last night.

As a subject of a non-defining relative clause

Non-defining relative clauses are more common in a formal style, especially in writing.

I saw Mrs. Potter, who teaches us technology, last night.

We cannot remove who nor can we use whom instead.

As an object of a non-defining relative clause

That's Mrs. Potter, who I saw last night.

Since non-defining clauses are more formal, and we prefer whom in formal styles, we often replace who with whom here.

That's Mrs. Potter, whom I saw last night.

In cases where a preposition is present, we prefer it before whom.

He is very angry with Paris, who he had an argument with last week.
He is very angry with Paris, with whom he had an argument last week.

Valerie, who I told you about just now, is getting married.
Valerie, about whom I told you just now, is getting married.

Here's a group from the Swinging Sixties, Juicy Lucy, performing a Bo Diddley tune, 'Who do you love?'


Wednesday 12 October 2011

How to insert an image from Flickr to your blog/website

First and foremost, if an image is protected by copyright, you won't be able to download nor use it. In my Useful Resources page, you can find several links to sites where you can obtain copyright-free images. One of the most useful sites for teachers is the ELTPICS group in Flickr, where images are photographed and uploaded by teachers.

Each week, on Twitter, teachers are invited to send their own pictures for a theme (although they can upload photos for the other sets, too).

There are several ways you can search for an image. If you enter on the above link, you'll find the latest photos which have been uploaded, and on the right of the page, you'll find the latest sets. If you wish to look at all the sets, you can click on this link. You can also search by tags.

If you want to look for a particular teacher's photos and know his user name, you can use the search box. Don't forget to select "eltpic's Photostream":

When you've found your image, it will most likely be a thumbnail. Click on this to see a larger version. If you then want to use the image, remember to mention where you got it from! Now, you'd need the html code to insert it to your blog or website.

As you can see from the image above, you'd need to click on the Share button and select 'Grab the HTML/BBCode". The HTML Code will pop up.

Select the size you want, and copy the code. If you just want the url, copy only the part which is underlined in red. You may need to copy and paste it somewhere else first, such as Notepad, before you can do it.

Friday 7 October 2011

Saxon Genitive: Steve Jobs's or Steve Jobs'?

I was surprised, to say the least, to see this on Twitter yesterday.

I immediately responded with this tweet.

The apostrophe 's to denote possession is also known as 'Saxon genitive', which originated from Anglo-Saxon, also known as Old English. The fact that English is the only language to use this form of spelling makes it difficult for learners. The purpose of this post is not, however, to explain the rules governing the use of the possessive 's. For that, I'd suggest looking at your favourite grammar book.

Here, I'd just like to touch on the spelling bit.

Singular noun not ending in '-s'

This is straightforward. We just add 's to a singular noun.

my wife's bicycle
my friend's computer
Max's mobile phone
Spain's economic crisis

Regular plural nouns

This is also straightforward. We add the apostrophe at the end.

their sons' school
her parents' business
the girls' boyfriends

Irregular plurals

These get an 's just like singular nouns.

the children's video games
women's rights
people's choice

Nouns ending with -s

Here, we can either add 's or just an apostrophe at the end. It is said that adding 's is a more common procedure. Some follow the rule of adding 's if it's a singular noun and only ' if it's a plural noun.

Charles' wife OR Charles's wife
Steve Jobs' death OR Steve Jobs's death
Doris' iPad or Doris's iPad

It is worth pointing out the pronunciation rules though. The ending '-s is pronounced just as in that of plurals.

Alice's /ˈælɪsɪz/
Jobs's /ˈdʒɑːbzɪz/
St. James's Park /seɪnt ˈdʒeɪmzɪz pɑːk /
Socrates' /ˈsɒkrətiːziz/