Relative Clauses 1

Relative Clauses” are also known as “adjective clauses” because they give more descriptions/ information about a noun.

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“This is my friend” is a basic sentence, without much information.

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“This is my friend who I met at the concert.” This gives us more information about the friend.

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“This is my friend that gave me his old bike.” This is another example that gives us more information about the friend.


When we talk about people we can introduce our relative clause with “who” or “that” (relative pronoun). With people it is more common to use “who

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“This is my favorite pen

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“This is my favorite pen which my dad gave to me.

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“This is my favorite pen that I use everyday.”

When we are giving more information about objects we can use “which” or “that”.

All of these relative clauses could be expanded into two sentences

“This is my favorite pen that I use everyday.”

Has the same meaning as: “This is my favorite pen. I use it everyday.”

 

Order of Adjectives

 

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“A cute, tiny, traditional, long, pink, Japanese silk kimono.”

When there are multiple adjectives that apply to the same noun we use this order

First: Amount (many, some, a few, 10, 3 …)

Second: Opinion/quality (beautiful, scary, boring, fine…)

Third: Size (big, small, tiny, immense…)

Fourth: Age (old, young, seven-year old, ancient….)

Fifth: Shape (round, thin, blocky, square…)

Sixth: Color

Seventh: Origin /Nationality

Eighth: Material (steel, wooden, stone…)

Or course it’s rare to use all of them in a sentence, like the initial examples about the kimono.

adjectives

A cute, tiny, traditional, long, pink, Japanese silk kimono.”

It’s better to focus on just a few:

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Many tired small old Asian monks” (quantity, quality, size, age, origin)

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A big round wooden table.” (quantity, size, shape, material)

It’s not a big deal if you get the order wrong. If you say “a wooden, round, big table” the listener can understand completely, it just doesn’t seem to flow as well. Always remember to put amount first though.

Look at, See and Watch


Look at”, “See” and “Watch” are all very similar verbs, but we use them differently.


See” is very passive. It just means to notice something with your vision. It doesn’t require any effort.
“I saw Tom at the party, but I didn’t say hello.”

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“It is so dark I can’t see anything”

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Look at” is active and involves some effort. You are seeing + concentrating for a reason, and paying attention.
Look at that beautiful sunset.”

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“Stop looking at my chest.”

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Watch” is where you look at some action that is happening (usually something is moving or changing) for a period of time.
“I watch TV every night.”

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“I watched the ballerina spin.”

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Exceptions (advanced)

Sometimes people will say

“I watched a movie” or “I saw a movie”
“Do you want to watch a musical?” or “Do you want to see a musical?”

In these cases “watch” and “see” are both okay.
That is because the nouns “movie” and “musical” are always moving actions that happen.
If you see it, you watch it.

But TV is different.
“I watched TV” = “I watched a TV show” = the event

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I watch TV in bed.

“I saw a TV” – “I saw a television set” = the thing

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I saw a TV in the room.

Dealing with Nosy people

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I had a request from a blog reader for how to deal with people that are nosy but nice.

It is common in English for people to ask personal questions, but sometimes people take it too far.

Either they start to ask things that are too personal, try to involve themselves in your private matters, or they try to help you with things that you don’t need help with (like taking your phone to fix some settings, or trying to solve your personal problems).

Now even though I’m a native English speaker and an English teacher that doesn’t mean I have the solution to this problem. You will deal with difficult people in any language. But I can share some phrases.

 

So if another person is doing something too nosy and meddlesome like:

“Oh did someone send you a strange message? Give me your phone and I’ll deal with this!”

 

this is how you could reply

 


Casual:

(these are good if it is a minor problem, or if you are close to the person)

“It’s okay I got this”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do it myself”


Polite, but firm:

(these are good if the person is trying to be nice and you don’t want to hurt their feelings)

“I appreciate you trying to help, but I’d prefer to handle this myself.”

“That’s nice of you, but this is a private matter for me.”


Confrontational

(these could lead to an argument, try to avoid this language unless you want a fight. )

“Mind your business.”

“This doesn’t concern you.”

“Please stop meddling in my life”

 

I don’t know if these phrases will be useful. Some people are just hard to deal with regardless of language.

Listening “Blind Spots”

Listening is a tough skill to master.

Some of my students worry that they can’t understand everything they hear.

Many of my students worry that they can’t understand even 20% of what they hear.

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But actually that is normal.


Many people know that you have blind spots in your vision.

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If you cover your left eye and look at the cross with your right eye, then slowly move your head towards the picture, there will be a spot where the black circle disappears.

You are always missing pieces of your field of vision, but you never notice. Your brain fills in the blanks.


Listening is the same. Even in your native language you don’t always hear every word someone says to you.

 

So when you are in a difficult English listening situation ( like a TOEIC test, listening to a podcast, or talking to a native speaker) the trick is to not worry about the words you don’t understand. focus on the words you can hear, and try to figure out the context.

 

Here’s an example. Listen to the first 30 seconds of this video.

Tony (Viggo Mortensen) doesn’t speak very clearly. Dr. Shirley (Mahershala Ali) speaks better, but you still may only hear this when you listen:

 

Tony: —- place — — —-. —- horns real?

Dr. Shirley: Elephant tusks yes

Tony: — —- that? —- –  molar?

Dr. Shirley: – what?

Tony: – molar. Shark tooth. – – tigers, —

Dr. Shirley: it — – gift

Tony: – thought, -,  – —- – – —- – — office. —- —- – doctor —— – driver

Dr. Shirley: that’s all —- told you?

Tony: Yeah

 

Only hearing those words you could be frustrated. But those are enough to figure out a bit of the situation.  You can see Tony is asking questions that show they are meeting for the first time. Even if you don’t know the word “molar” you can understand it has to do with teeth. And something about a “driver” is important.

 

 

If you slowly study the full  script:

 

Tony: some place you got here. them horns real?

Dr. Shirley: Elephant tusks yes

Tony: how ‘bout that? that a molar?

Dr. Shirley: a what?

Tony: a molar. Shark tooth. Or a tigers, maybe

Dr. Shirley: it was a gift

Tony: I thought, uh,  I thought I was goin to an office. they said a doctor needed a driver

Dr. Shirley: that’s all they told you?

Tony: Yeah

You’ll see there isn’t much more content than that.

 

The secret is to listen to lots of English. Focus on the words you can hear and understand. Don’t get frustrated. Eventually your brain will start to fill in the blanks.


Need free listening content? Try a podcast in English.

https://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-shows

 

 

Toilet, Washroom, Bathroom, Restroom … etc.


One of the first vital phrases you learn in English class is usually :
“May I go to the washroom?”
If someone is traveling they will always find “Excuse me, where is the bathroom?” in their phrasebooks.
But we have so many names for that room: Washroom, Restroom, Bathroom, Lavatory, Toilet, W.C. … which one is best to use?

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In Canada we usually say “Washroom” or “Bathroom”. In other parts of North America they also use “Restroom” fairly often. To North Americans it would be strange to say “I need to use the toilet.” Some parts of America find the name “Bathroom” strange to use, since it doesn’t often have a bath in it.

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Bathroom? Where’s the bath?

When I went to Australia people commonly called that room the “Toilet”, I’ve heard that’s common in England too.
I’ve heard in Britain they call that room the W.C. (water closet) or lavatory. But those words would be strange to use in North America.

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Then there are a whole bunch of slang: “The men’s room / the ladies room”, “The loo” (Britain), “the facilities” and also some less polite slang like “The crapper” or “The pisser”.
So even native English speakers get confused with these. It seems that “Washroom” is the safest one to use overall. But if you are visiting an area find out what the locals call it.

 

Curiosity Killed the Cat

 

“I think my girlfriend might be cheating on me, I’m going to snoop around on her phone.”

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“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You know what they say: curiosity killed the cat.”


“My son burnt his hand touching the hot stove. Curiosity killed the cat.”

 


There is a proverb in English “Curiosity Killed the Cat” which warns someone that excessive investigation or experimenting will lead to a bad result.

In the first example the friend is warning that if the first guy looks in his girlfriend’s phone it will have a bad result (maybe his girlfriend will get angry).

In the second example the father is saying that his son was too curious about the stove and touched it to see what would happen, which gave a bad result.

This proverb comes from the idea of a curious cat, but that its inquisitiveness leads to its death. Try to picture a cat that is curious about the edge of a rooftop, goes to the edge to look over, and falls off the building.

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We use this proverb generally to warn people not to try something foolish or not to ask certain questions.