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About inlingua Cheltenham Blog

inlingua Cheltenham was founded in 1990 and has established an excellent reputation for its high quality teaching and fantastic range of English courses! Cheltenham provides an escape from the busy city environment and at inlingua Cheltenham you can enjoy a tranquil, relaxed environment in which to study.

Chips and Fish

Do you notice anything wrong with the title of this blog?

You should see that there is an error. It’s not the spelling, nor the words used. The problem is that the words are in the wrong order. So when you learn expressions with two or more words, you have to learn the word order, not just the meaning.

Here are some more expressions. Can you tell which are correct and which are not?

It’s a question of demand and supply.

Let’s weigh up the pros and cons.

Could you pass the pepper and salt, please?

Hot and cold water is available in all the rooms.

It was a white and black film.

He searched far and wide for her, but sadly …

We always expect some tear and wear.

You are wearing your pullover inside out.

You are wearing your pullover front to back.

He was so thin when he came out of hospital. He was just skin and bones.

(If you are not sure – they are alternately wrong and then right, starting with the wrong.)

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Tips for pronunciation


1.     Practice for at least 20 minutes a day. The sounds of English may be very different from the sounds of your language and your tongue often feels strange and unnatural in some of these positions. You need to practice so that your tongue and lips get used to these positions. The biggest mistake people make is that when they have learnt a sound for the first time they think they will be able to reproduce it perfectly after that. You need to practice these sounds so that they become second nature. Watch how native speakers move their lips and practice your lip movements in the mirror.

When you learn a new word, make sure you also learn its pronunciation. The longer you pronounce the word incorrectly the more difficult it will be to change it in the future. You will also pronounce similar words incorrectly. Most dictionaries will also tell you how a word is pronounced using IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). There are some really good online dictionaries with an audio feature, which allows you to hear the word.


2.     Try to imitate spoken English. When you watch T.V., a movie or listen to a podcast, try imitating the way the person speaks. Especially for expressions for saying hello and goodbye, asking for information, or other functional language. Stress and Intonation are very important. Pay particular attention to them.


3.     Record yourself speaking in English. It is important that you know what you sound like speaking English so that you know what you need to improve. If you listen to podcasts regularly, you could record yourself saying one of the sentences from the podcast and compare it to the original. Most mobile phones and laptops have apps for recording voice.


4.     You will learn more pronunciation, in particular the characteristics of connected fluid speech, outside the classroom than you will inside the classroom. Ask yourself why you have chosen to learn English in an English speaking country.  Your answer is probably: so I can be immersed in the language. Well learning doesn’t end when the class does. Take a walk and eavesdrop (to listen to peoples’ conversations without them knowing) on natives. Choose situations that are familiar to you, ordering coffee at a cafe for example. Listen for rhythm, stress patterns, intonation, and weak forms (a change in the sound of a word when it is unstressed and spoken in a sentence). Identify the kinds of words you hear clearly – nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., and the ones you don’t – articles, modals, pronouns, etc. This will also help to improve your vocabulary and listening.


5.     Use the Internet. There are loads of sites that will help you to improve your pronunciation. Just Google ‘ESL Pronunciation’ and you’ll see thousands of sites. ESL means English as a Second Language. English teachers often post pronunciation videos on You Tube. Check some of them out.


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A problem shared is a problem halved.

This is a popular English idiom meaning If you talk about your problems, it will make you feel better.Image

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There are many uses of the en and em dash and also many ways to form these dashes using your computer. The following explanations offer the most common uses and methods for forming these dashes.


An en dash, roughly the width of an n, is a little longer than a hyphen. It is used for periods of time when you might otherwise use to.

The years 2001–2003

An en dash is also used in place of a hyphen when combining open compounds.

North Carolina–Virginia border
a high school–college conference

Most authorities recommend using no spaces before or after en or em dashes. To form an en dash with most PCs, type the first number or word, then hold down the ALT key while typing 0150 on the numerical pad on the right side of your keyboard. Then type the second number or word.


An em dash is the width of an m. You should use the em dash extremely sparingly in formal writing. In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons and colons to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.

You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me.

Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.

I pay the bills—she has all the fun.
A semicolon would be used here in formal writing.

I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.
Remember, a colon would be used here in formal writing.

My agreement with Fiona is clear—she teaches me French and I teach her German.
Again, a colon would work here in formal writing.

Please call my agent—Jessica Cohen—about hiring me.
Commas would work just fine here instead of the dashes.

I wish you would—oh, never mind.
This shows an abrupt change in thought and warrants an em dash.

To form an em dash on most PCs, type the first word, then hold down the ALT key while typing 0151 on the numerical pad on the right side of your keyboard. Then type the second word.


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What is an apostrophe?

The apostrophe (‘) is used in three ways:

  • To show possession (ownership of something/somebody)
  • To show plural forms
  • To show where a letter or number has been omitted

This is a easy in speech, but in writing it does prove a bit more difficult. This is especially true where the three different uses of the apostrophe overlap. The worst offenders are butchers who sell “pork chop’s” or “hamburger’s.” It’s still another reason to become a grammarian or a vegetarian.

In the meantime, here are the rules for using apostrophes.

  1. Use an apostrophe to show possession.
    • With singular nouns not ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
    • Examples: girl, girl’s manuscript; student, student’s ideas
    • With singular nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
    • Examples: Charles, Charles’s book; hostess, hostess’s menu
    • If the new word is hard to say, leave off the s. For example: James’ book, Louis’ menu. You won’t get arrested by the grammar police for using your brain.
    • With plural nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe after the s.
    • Examples: girls, girls’ manuscript; students, students’ ideas
    • With plural nouns not ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
    • Examples: women, women’s books; mice, mice’s tails
  2. Use an apostrophe to show plural forms.
    • Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a letter.
    You Could Look It Up

    Contractions are two words combined. When you contract words, add an apostrophe in the space where the letters have been taken out.

    Example: does + not = doesn’t

    • Example: Mind your p’s and q’s.
    • Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a number.
    • Example: Computers will be even more important in the late 1990’s.
    • Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a word referred to as a word.
    • Example: There are too many distracting like’s and um’s in her speech.
  3. Use an apostrophe to show where a letter or number has been omitted.
    • To show that letters have been left out of contractions.
    • Examples: can’t, won’t, I’ll
    • To show that numbers have been left out of a date.
    • Examples: the ’70s, the ’90s


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Verbs – A quick overview!

Verbs are a class of word used to show the performance of an action (do, throw, run), existence (be), possession (have), or state (know, love) of a subject. A simple way of putting this is, it shows what somebody or something is doing.

Most statements in speech and writing have a main verb. These verbs are expressed in tenses which place everything in a point in time.

Verbs have moods, which indicate the viewpoint of the verb, whether it is a fact, a command or hypothetical.

Verbs have a voice too. The voice shows if the subject of a sentence is carrying out an action, or is having an action carried out on it.

Verbs are conjugated (inflected) to reflect how they are used. There are two general areas in which conjugation occurs; for person and for tense .

Conjugation for tense is carried out on all verbs.  All conjugations start with the infinitive form of the verb.  The infinitive is simply the to form of the verb For example, to begin.  The present participle form (the -ing form), is formed by adding ing to the bare infinitive. For example, the present participle of the verb to begin is beginning. There are two other forms that the verb can take, depending on the tense type and time, the simple past form (began) and the past participle (begun).

Conjugation for person occurs when the verb changes form, depending on whether it is governed by a first, second, or third person subject.  This gives three conjugations for any verb depending on who is acting as the subject of the verb.  For example, we have: to begin, you begin , and he begins. Note that only the third conjunction really shows a difference.

While most English verbs simply do not show extensive conjugation forms for person, an exception is the verb to be.

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A Vs. An



The choice of article is actually based upon the phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written words) representation of the letter. When the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use “an”; if the first letter would make a consonant-type sound, you use “a.” However, you should follow these basic rules when deciding to use “a” or “an,” remembering that there are some exceptions to the rules.

“A” goes before words that begin with consonants.

  • a cat
  • a dog
  • a purple onion
  • a buffalo
  • a big apple

“An” goes before words that begin with vowels:

  • an apricot
  • an egg
  • an Indian
  • an orbit
  • an uprising


Use “an” before unsounded “h.” Because the “h” hasn’t any phonetic representation and has no audible sound, the sound that follows the article is a vowel; consequently, “an” is used.

  • an honorable peace
  • an honest error

When “u” makes the same sound as the “y” in “you,” or “o” makes the same sound as “w” in “won,” then a is used. The word-initial “y” sound (“unicorn”) is actually a glide [j] phonetically, which has consonantal properties; consequently, it is treated as a consonant, requiring “a.”

  • a union
  • a united front
  • a unicorn
  • a used napkin
  • a U.S. ship
  • a one-legged man
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Commas. And how to use them.

1. Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

The game was over, but the crowd refused to leave.

The student explained her question, yet the instructor still didn’t seem to understand.

Yesterday was her brother’s birthday, so she took him out to dinner.

2. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.

a. Common starter words for introductory clauses that should be followed by a comma include after, although, as, because, if, since, when, while.

While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door.

Because her alarm clock was broken, she was late for class.

If you are ill, you ought to see a doctor.

When the snow stops falling, we’ll shovel the driveway.

However, don’t put a comma after the main clause when a dependent (subordinate) clause follows it (except for cases of extreme contrast).

INCORRECT: The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating.

CORRECT: She was still quite upset, although she had won the Oscar. (This comma use is correct because it is an example of extreme contrast.)

b. Common introductory phrases that should be followed by a comma include participial and infinitive phrases, absolute phrases, nonessential appositive phrases, and long prepositional phrases (over four words).

Having finished the test, he left the room.

To get a seat, you’d better come early.

After the test but before lunch, I went jogging.

The sun radiating intense heat, we sought shelter in the cafe.

c. Common introductory words that should be followed by a comma include yes, however, well.

Well, perhaps he meant no harm.

Yes, the package should arrive tomorrow morning.

However, you may not be satisfied with the results.

3. Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

Here are some clues to help you decide whether the sentence element is essential:

  • If you leave out the clause, phrase, or word, does the sentence still make sense?
  • Does the clause, phrase, or word interrupt the flow of words in the original sentence?
  • If you move the element to a different position in the sentence, does the sentence still make sense?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, then the element in question is nonessential and should be set off with commas. Here are some example sentences with nonessential elements:

Clause: That Tuesday, which happens to be my birthday, is the only day when I am available to meet.

Phrase: This restaurant has an exciting atmosphere. The food, on the other hand, is rather bland.

Word: I appreciate your hard work. In this case, however, you seem to have over-exerted yourself.

4. Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are always essential.That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

That clauses after nouns:

The book that I borrowed from you is excellent.

The apples that fell out of the basket are bruised.

That clauses following a verb expressing mental action:

She believes that she will be able to earn an A.

He is dreaming that he can fly.

I contend that it was wrong to mislead her.

They wished that warm weather would finally arrive.

Examples of other essential elements (no commas):

Students who cheat only harm themselves.

The baby wearing a yellow jumpsuit is my niece.

The candidate who had the least money lost the election.

Examples of nonessential elements (set off by commas):

Fred, who often cheats, is just harming himself.

My niece, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, is playing in the living room.

The Green party candidate, who had the least money, lost the election.

Apples, which are my favorite fruit, are the main ingredient in this recipe.

Professor Benson, grinning from ear to ear, announced that the exam would be tomorrow.

Tom, the captain of the team, was injured in the game.

It is up to you, Jane, to finish.

She was, however, too tired to make the trip.

Two hundred dollars, I think, is sufficient.

5. Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series.

The Constitution establishes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, reduce crime, and end unemployment.

The prosecutor argued that the defendant, who was at the scene of the crime, who had a strong revenge motive, and who had access to the murder weapon, was guilty of homicide.

6. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

Coordinate adjectives are adjectives with equal (“co”-ordinate) status in describing the noun; neither adjective is subordinate to the other. You can decide if two adjectives in a row are coordinate by asking the following questions:

  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written in reverse order?
  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written with and between them?

If you answer yes to these questions, then the adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a comma. Here are some examples of coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives:

He was a difficult, stubborn child. (coordinate)

They lived in a white frame house. (non-coordinate)
She often wore a gray wool shawl. (non-coordinate)
Your cousin has an easy, happy smile. (coordinate)

The 1) relentless, 2) powerful 3) summer sun beat down on them. (1-2 are coordinate; 2-3 are non-coordinate.)

The 1) relentless, 2) powerful, 3) oppressive sun beat down on them. (Both 1-2 and 2-3 are coordinate.)

7. Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift.

He was merely ignorant, not stupid.

The chimpanzee seemed reflective, almost human.

You’re one of the senator’s close friends, aren’t you?

The speaker seemed innocent, even gullible.

8. Use commas to set off phrases at the end of the sentence that refer to the beginning or middle of the sentence. Such phrases are free modifiers that can be placed anywhere in the sentence without causing confusion. (If the placement of the modifier causes confusion, then it is not “free” and must remain “bound” to the word it modifies.)


Nancy waved enthusiastically at the docking ship, laughing joyously. (correct)
INCORRECT:Lisa waved at Nancy, laughing joyously. (Who is laughing, Lisa or Nancy?)
Laughing joyously, Lisa waved at Nancy. (correct)
Lisa waved at Nancy, who was laughing joyously. (correct)


9. Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.


Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham, England.
July 22, 1959, was a momentous day in his life. Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC?
Rachel B. Lake, MD, will be the principal speaker.

(When you use just the month and the year, no comma is necessary after the month or year: “The average temperatures for July 1998 are the highest on record for that month.”)


10. Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation.

John said without emotion, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I was able,” she answered, “to complete the assignment.”

In 1848, Marx wrote, “Workers of the world, unite!”

11. Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading.

To George, Harrison had been a sort of idol.

Comma abuse

Commas in the wrong places can break a sentence into illogical segments or confuse readers with unnecessary and unexpected pauses.

12. Don’t use a comma to separate the subject from the verb.

INCORRECT: An eighteen-year old in California, is now considered an adult.

INCORRECT: The most important attribute of a ball player, is quick reflex actions.

13. Don’t put a comma between the two verbs or verb phrases in a compound predicate.

INCORRECT: We laid out our music and snacks, and began to study.

INCORRECT: I turned the corner, and ran smack into a patrol car.

14. Don’t put a comma between the two nouns, noun phrases, or noun clauses in a compound subject or compound object.

INCORRECT (compound subject): The music teacher from your high school, and the football coach from mine are married.

INCORRECT (compound object): Jeff told me that the job was still available, and that the manager wanted to interview me.

15. Don’t put a comma after the main clause when a dependent (subordinate) clause follows it (except for cases of extreme contrast).

INCORRECT: The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating.
CORRECT: She was still quite upset, although she had won the Oscar. (This comma use is correct because it is an example of extreme contrast)
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Help with Capitals


Use capital letters in the following ways:


The first words of a sentence

When he tells a joke, he sometimes forgets the punch line.

The pronoun “I”

The last time I visited Atlanta was several years ago.

Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things)

Golden Gate Bridge
Supreme Court
Livingston, Missouri
Atlantic Ocean
Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Family relationships (when used as proper names)

I sent a thank-you note to Uncle Martin but not to my other aunts.
Here is a present I bought for Mother.
Did you buy a present for your mother?

The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books

God the Father
the Virgin Mary
the Bible
the Greek gods

Exception: Do not capitalize the nonspecific use of the word “god.”

The word “polytheistic” means the worship of more than one god.

Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names

She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.
I was able to interview Miriam Moss, mayor of Littonville.

Directions that are names (North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions)

The Smiths have moved to the Southwest.
Jim’s house is two miles north of Cheltenham.

The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays (but not the seasons used generally)


Exception: Seasons are capitalized when used in a title.

The Fall 1999 semester

The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages

Costa Rica

The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote

Emerson once said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs (but not short prepositions or the articles “the,” “a,” or “an,” if they are not the first word of the title)

One of Tom’s favorite books is The Catcher in the Rye.

Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups

Green Bay Packers
Friends of the Wilderness

Periods and events (but not century numbers)

Victorian Era
Great Depression
Constitutional Convention
sixteenth century


Microsoft Word

Words and abbreviations of specific names (but not names of things that came from specific things but are now general types)

french fries
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inlingua Cheltenham dance the night away!

inlingua Cheltenham dance the night away!

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