Teach and Learn English

AT, IN or ON? Prepositions of TIME

ON May or IN May? AT the morning or IN the morning? ON night or AT night? I'm sure you've faced these dilemmas before. When my students say it's complicated... I tell them – it's interesting! :))) Because the most important thing is the right attitude! Brace yourselves then – here we go...







Ok, let's start with AT

  • we use it with clock time (at 9 am, at 8 o'clock, but also - at dinner time, at breakfast or at midnight, at midday)
We had breakfast at 7 am.
Tom visited us at breakfast. (= during breakfast time)
At midnight it suddenly stopped raining.

  • we use it with period of time which is a few days – at the weekend or some public holidays (at Christmas, at Easter)
Where are you going at Christmas?
What are you doing at the weekend?*

* In American and Australian English it is more common to say 'ON the weekend'

  • we use it with NIGHT when we want to say 'during any night'
I try to sleep 8 hours at night. (= every night)

  •  we use it with expressions like THE END or THE BEGINNING
We have holiday at the end of August.
At the beginning of next week we are organising a meeting for all our managers.





ON
  • is used with DAYS (whenever we talk about ONE DAY period)
I met him on Friday.
We suggested leaving on Christmas Day.
On New Year's Eve we usually stay at home.
Her birthday is on the 7th July.

  • is used with days of the week to mean 'every'
We always go to the fitness club on Saturdays. (= every Saturday)

  • is used with parts of the day when the first word is a day of the week
We met on Saturday evening.







IN
  • is used with parts of the day (in the morning, in the afternoon)
I usually have tea in the evening and coffee in the morning.

  • is used with NIGHT to mean 'during one particular night'
I didn't sleep well in the night. (= only this particular night)

  • is used with LONGER periods of time (in March, in 2008, in fall)
We went to Turkey in May.
Why don't we go to the seaside in summer?
She was born in 1998.

  • is used with expression THE MIDDLE OF
In the middle of January the temperatures dramatically dropped.

  • is used to mean 'how soon something will happen' (in a few days, in a month, in a year)
We should finish the meeting in 20 minutes.
We are moving house in a month.
I will do it in a moment.



And last but not least... There are some situatons in which we DO NOT USE ANY PREPOSITIONS:


NO PREPOSITION IS USED BEFORE:

EVERY/ ALL/ONE/NEXT/LAST
THIS/THAT
ANY TIME
YESTERDAY/TOMORROW/THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY/THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

We see each other every Monday.
Sarah is not visiting us this week, she is comming next month.
I will do it the day after tomorrow.
You can come any time you want.



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WONDER or WANDER that is the question..!

Dla wielu te dwa mieszać się nie przestają, a jednak poza wizualnym podobieństwem niewiele ich łączy. Let's investigate further then ;)





Zaczynamy nie według kolejności alfabetycznej – ale właśnie wbrew niej, ponieważ to właśnie wOnder jest słowem znacznie bardziej spopularyzowanym.



wOnder /ˈwʌndər/ to zastanawiać się, dziwić a nawet zdumiewać. Powiemy na przykład:

I wOnder why he didn't say a word to me last night. (no, może po prostu mu się nie chciało, co nie zmienia faktu, że mnie to zastanowiło tak czy siak)

I wOnder if I asked him he would tell me the truth. (rather not...)

Why are all men like that, I wOnder? (good luck as they say;)

There's no point wOndering about it. Just need to accept the things as they are.





wOnder jest główną postacią w wielu ciekawych wyrażeniach. Popatrzcie tylko:


I shouldn't wOnder oznacza 'najprawdopodobniej':

She will get the job, I shouldn't wOnder.
My sons are up to no good, I shouldn't wOnder!


It's a wOnder to po prostu 'to cud, że...':

You do not study at all! It's a wOnder you make any progress at all!
It's a wOnder Sally had fun at the party. She is usually a wet blanket.


No wOnder that to 'nic dziwnego, że...', podobnie jak Is it any wOnder czy chociażby little/small wOnder:

He studied very hard. No wOnder that he passed the exam.
They are the best team in Spain. Is it any wOnder they won?
It's little wOnder that they decided to have more kids – they are excellent parents.

A może ktoś zna, pamięta Keane?:)



Coś może czynić cuda, czyli work albo do wOnders:

This medicine works wOnders for me!  
Some people say that keeping a pet can do wOnders for people who live under a lot of stress.


A czasami cuda (same) się zdarzają, czyli wOnders never cease:

My husband got up very early today! WOnders never cease!
Although the doctors didn't believe it, he recovered completely. WOnders never cease!


Na pewno słyszeliście o artystach jednego przeboju... Weather Girls, Carl Douglas, Baha Men, Los Del Rio i inni. To tzw. one-hit wOnders. Ciekawe kto z Was pamięta jeszcze jakie to hity oni wylansowali ;) 

Z podobnej bajki jest wyrażenie one-day wOnder lub one-year wOnder (możemy tutaj modyfikować początek w zależności od tego o czym chcemy mówić). Chodzi o zjawiska lub wydarzenia, które są gorącym tematem tylko przez jeden dzień lub rok, etc. Potem o nich zapominamy:

The news of the musician's death was only a one-day wOnder. Next day nobody remembered about it.

Mamy też w kolejce takiego ciapę, mięczaka lub ecie-pecie albo i nawet cielę, czyli chinless wOnder. Tak przy okazji chin to broda, czyli chinless - bez brody. Kto wie, może nawet można by powiedzieć, że bez jaj ;)

 A czy ktoś kojarzy te postaci...

Tak, tak, ... Stevie wOnder!

i jedyna wOnder Woman!


Sporo tego, a takie niepozorne słowo wOnder! Co zatem z wAnder? Let's see into it...


wAnder /ˈwɒndər/ to przede wszystkim czasownik który oznacza wędrować, włóczyć się lub szwendać:

'Where's Mark?' 'I don't know. He's probably wAndering about somewhere.'
We didn't go anywhere specific – we just wAndered aimlessly in the park.

wAnder może też być użyte nieco bardziej metaforycznie, np. w znaczeniu błądzić myślami, szczególnie w połączeniu z MIND:

The moment I sat down, my mind started to wAnder.

Albo tutaj, gdzie wAnder będzie znaczyło zbaczać z tematu:

Don't wAnder off topic! We need to make some serious decisions today!
Now I have wAndered off. Let's get back to the point.




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Pytania z LIKE - Confusing questions with LIKE

As you can already see in the title of the post I have called those questions 'confusing'. That is probably the best word to describe the three questions that use verb LIKE in such a different way that the meaning of it becomes different too. I have hardly ever met a student who actually could produce the three questions correctly in the meaning and context designed for it. Let's see what the questions are...


1. What does Mark LIKE? – a question about preferences and likes/dislikes


In Polish we would say 'Co lubi Marek?' Here – verb LIKE is the main verb in the sentence.

'What does Mark like?'
'He likes potatoes and pork chops.' (no judgment ;))

'Co lubi Marek?'
'Lubi ziemniaki i kotlety schabowe.'

Of course, this question can be built in different tenses:

'What did your grandma like? Did she like gardening?'
'I wonder what will my daughter like. Will she like potatoes and pork chops when she grows up?' ;)
'Have you always liked this type of music? I don't remember you listening to such music before.'
etc.


2. What does Mark LOOK LIKE? – a question about somebody's appearance/looks


In Polish we would ask 'Jak wygląda Marek?' Verb LIKE in this question is, differently than in the above one, the object of verb LOOK. (ok, ok... the object is 'dopełnienie' ;)

'What does Mark look like?'
'He is tall and slim.'

'Jak wygląda Marek?'
'Jest wysoki i szczupły.' (pomimo, że je ziemniaki i schabowe... ;))

And as well, we can use different tenses to build this type of a question:

'What did she look like?'
'Oh, you know – she was an average-looking lady in her seventies.'
'What is the conference room going to look like in the new office? Is it going to be bigger than the old one?
What should the policy of the company look like in the future?'
etc...

3. What IS Mark LIKE? – a question about character/personality or characteristics


It would be 'Jaki jest Marek?' in Polish. Pay attention to the fact that in this question we have verb TO BE which is the main verb here. Verb LIKE is also an object here – of the verb TO BE. I find this question most confusing among students, especially when they want to ask 'Jakie to jest?' and what they usually produce is 'How is it?' which means 'Jak jest?' Well, the correct version is of course 'What is it like?' or 'What's it like?'

'What is Mark like?'
'He is nice and very sociable.'

'Jaki jest Marek?'
'Jest miły i bardzo towarzyski.'

Once again, we can use different tenses to construct such a question:

'What was it like to be a teacher 30 years ago? Was it more difficult or easier?'
'What's the test going to be like? Difficult or easy?'
'What has been the policy of the company like so far?'
'What will be the new conditions of the contract like next year?'

Hmm... I hope I made things clearer and did not confuse them more for you ;)
If you need to get some practice with the above questions, feel free to do the following exercises...

1. Think about your best friend, brother or sister or somebody close to you. Having them on mind answer the following questions about them:

  • What is he/she like?
  • What does he/she like?
  • What does he/she like doing in their free time?
  • What does he/she look like?
Now think about your place of work or home and answer these questions:
  • What is your office/home/house/apartment like? 
  • What does your office/home/house/apartment look like?
  • What do you like about your office/home/house/apartment?
2. Put the words in the right order to build questions:

  • is/What/like/it/?
  • new/like/is/boss/What/your/?
  • your/was/What/after/your/ex-wife/like/relation/with/divorce/the/?
  • going/What/again/living/be/to/it/is/like/own/my/on/?
  • you/child/reading/a/like/were/What/when/did/you/?
  • new/in/the/on/to/the/office/Does/manager/us/like/be/time/?
  • to/the/all/Do/you/told/do/what/time/like/be/to/?
  • contract/What/the/does/like/look/?
  • did/office/renovation/like/before/look/the/What/the/?
  • like/hair/treatment/after/my/Will/hair/the/yours/look/?

3. Translate the following questions into English:

  • Jaka jest dziś pogoda?
  • Lubisz swojego nauczyciela od angielskiego?
  • Co twój pies lubi jeść?
  • Jak będzie wyglądał ten dom kiedy oni się wyprowadzą?
  • Chciałem zapytać jak będzie dalej wyglądała nasza współpraca?
  • Zastanawiałem się jaki będzie odbiór mojej prezentacji.
Key
2. 
What is it like?
What is your new boss like?
What was your relation with your ex-wife like after the divorce?
What is it going to be like living on my own again?
What did you like reading when you were a child?
Does the new manager like us to be on time in the office?
Do you like to be told what to do all the time?
What does the contract look like?
What did this office look like before the renovation?
Will my hair look like yours after the treatment?
3.
What's the weather like today?
Do you like your English teacher?
What does your dog like eating/to eat?
What will this house look like when they move out/have moved out?
I wanted to ask what our cooperation will/is going to look like next?
I was wondering what the reception of my presentation would be like?

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Formal and Semi-formal Emails - How to write an email in English? Dos & Don'ts

In majority of offices it is now an every day chore – to write emails in English, to compose them, to answer them, to deal with different problems connected with written communication in English. Today I'll try to show you a few characteristic features of formal and semi-formal emails, give a few dos and some don'ts on the topic ;)



First let's take a look at the structure of an email:


SALUTATION


This is how you open your email, greet the recipient of your email. There are a few standard ways of greeting the recipient in a more formal way, eg.:

Dear Sir/Madam, 
(this salutation is especially used when we want to be very formal and in situations when we do not really know who the recipient is exactly, we do not know if it is a woman or a man, etc.) However, this salutation has also been criticised recenly, mainly due to the fact that we live in the era of the internet, which means that you can almost always check who your recipient is, if it's a woman or a man, what their position/title is, etc. Some people even claim to delete such emails from the start when they see Dear Sir/Madam, in the opening lines, but it is a bit of a radical approach. Instead, what is advised in such situations when we are not sure about the sex of the recipient, is to open the email in such a way:

Dear Customer Service Staff,
Dear Claims Professional,

So, we would use the job title instead, which will not be offensive in any way.

Dear (name), 
(eg.: Dear Mr Brown,)

In a more informal, semi-formal emails you could also greet the recipient by using his/her first name. It is quite common in offices when you correspond with somebody you know by name but they are not really close to you:

Dear Mark,
Dear Sue,

We often correspond not only with one person but with a whole group of recipients and then the most common salutations are probably these:

Dear Colleagues,
Greatings Colleagues,
Dear All,

The above forms are comparable with a small difference which may be important in some office situations. Namely, not all your recipients may be your colleagues and then Dear All is better. Remember also that colleagues in English doesn't mean friends. I found that for some students this word sounded a bit inappropriate in an office environment basically because of the fact that they associated it with Polish koledzy which sometimes really sounds more informal. Another thing worth remembering about colleagues is that it is, so to say, unisex. It applies equally to men as well as women. You do not have to worry about being or sounding a bit offensive then.

A salutation which is controversial these days is of course Dear Sirs, . I avoid teaching it at all, however, it turns out that many students ask about it. The problem is that it sounds and it is offensive and can be even sexist – just imagine what it sounds like when one of the recipients you address this way is a woman (!). It is definitly to be avoided these days.

If you have some more time to dig in this topic of salutations, especially the controversial ones, I recommend reading the following:

and

OPENING (LINES)


These are the few sentences you open your mail with. Basically, you need to remember to be clear about stating why you are writing. This is also the place for a reference to the email you got earlier, etc. 
Some typical or standard beginnings of sentences would be as follows:

Following our phone conversation/last meeting/etc.
With reference to your last email/your question about/our last conversation/etc.
Regarding our...
I am writing to...
I am contacting you from/to...
etc.

MAIN BODY


The main body is the essence of your text, so you write all the information here that needs to be passed to the recipient. The number of paragraphs is up to you, but remember to keep it reasonable – it is an email which is supposed to be a shorter and briefer form of writing. On the other hand, avoid building one long paragraph, which is difficult to follow and read in general.

ENDING


This is the part where you write a sentence which will wrap up the text and signal the finish. Typically, we can find these sentences in formal emails:

If you (should) require/need any more information, please contact me/us.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me/us.
I/We look forward to ... (doing business with you/meeting you soon/hearing from you soon/et.)
Thank you very much for your interest.
etc.

SIGNING OFF


In this part you kind of say goodbye in a more formal way ;). Some standard phrases would be:

Best wishes,
Best regards,
Regards,

In a really, really formal style you could also make use of these:

Yours sincerely,
(this is traditionally written when we know the person's name and we used it in the SALUTATION, eg.: Dear Mr Brown, then we can sign off with Yours sincerely,)
Yours faithfully,
(when we started the email with: Dear Sir/Madam,)
Yours truly,
(American English)

YOUR SIGNATURE


Nothing else than your name and surname and possibly the job title.



This is it as far as the elements of a more formal email are concerned. What is also worth remembering is that the language and syntax we use when we write in a formal style is also quite specific. However, in the age of electronic communication many style guides recommend using more semi-formal style for business communication.

What grammar/language is traditionally typical of formal style?

  • longer, more complex sentences:
With reference to our last meeting of 6th January, I would like to thank you for inviting me to give a presenation at your conference organised by Business Women's Association this March.
  • indirect questions:
I would also appreciate it if you could confirm the details of our next meeting.
We would like to know if you are still interested in collaborating with us.

*Indirect questions are questions which are not asked directly. We always start them with some kind of an opening phrase like: I would like to know if..., or Could you please tell me why..., etc. What is necessary to remember here is that you need to reverse the word order from the one typical of a question (question word + auxiliary + subject + verb) to the one typical of a statement (question word/IF + subject + verb).
  • passive voice
The cause of your complaint has been investigated.
The meeting will be conducted by Marion High.
  •  formal vocabulary and rather old-fashioned expressions:
purchase, endeavour, commence, terminate, etc...
As spoken in...
Please revert to me...
Should you require any further clarification...
Please do not hesitate to...
etc.
  • lack of contractions (short forms), abbreviations, acronyms, phrasal verbs or colloquial terms:
I am (not I'm)
We have (not We've) etc.

Let's meet 
Come around for a chat 
BTW
ASAP
BR
Rgrds


Just as I have mentioned before, many style guides nowadays advise against using some more formal, old-fashioned or long-winded expressions. The same goes for expressions and salutations which might be considered offensive these days.

I have already mentioned Dear Sirs, as an example of an expression which should be avoided these days. Below you have a list of some other slippery or risky expressions/language to avoid. Of course it's not everything, but at least it can give you a hint of what not to use ;)

BE CAREFUL!

  • Do not overuse long, complex sentences! Some style guides even talk about the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple)
  • Do not overuse passive voice! Use it only when necessary and also make sure that it doesn't make your text difficult to understand.
  • Avoid Kindly, Kindly be.., Herewith etc., as it is archaic. The same goes for the expressions like: Please be informed...
  • Do not write things like: Enclosed/attached please find... The reason is simple – only use please find... when you have lost something and you want your reader to find it... (Instead use: Here is; Enclosed is; Attached is; I have attached/enclosed; The attached document shows..., etc.)
  • Forget To whom it may concern! If you still remember it... ;)
  • Do not use too informal language – acronyms or abbreviations like ASAP or gr8, lol, thx might feel too informal!
  • Maybe it's obvious, but... Avoid CapsLock! and capitalising everything – it's like shouting directly to somebody's ear...

Some useful tips to remember about:

  • KISS (mentioned above)
  • be ABC (Accurate  – check facts, include details and proofread; Brief – keep it short, use simple but not simplistic language, avoid jargon if the recipients do not know it; Clear – use plain English, natural style and avoid formality or radical informality)
  • If you are not sure about the level of formality to use – if possible follow the style of the email you have received from your correspondent.
  • I found that in many big companies there is something like 'common email practice' which tells workers what style/language or phrases are used. It is not usually written, but it 'exists' in the bowels of the offices ;) Use it!
  • make your email look clear and ordered – look above at my plan for an email and remember about spacing between paragraphs!



I used some of the tips from the following sources:
Model Business Letters, E-mails & Other Business Documents Sixth Edition, Shirley Taylor, 2004
and my own teaching experience from office environment ;)

Last but not least!
HERE YOU CAN CHECK YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF FORMAL AND SEMI-FORMAL EMAILS

Have fun!
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