high vs tall

Hello. In this post I’ll be looking quickly at the difference between high and tall, two commonly confused adjectives in English. High is used of most things, especially to talk about the distance above the ground, i.e. how far something, or its top, is from the ground: a high shelf| a high mountain| The shelf’s too high, I can’t reach it.

We use tall mostly for people, trees, buildings with many floors, and a few other things which are high and narrow (they are higher than they are wide), especially when you’re thinking of the complete distance from top to bottom: a tall building| a tall tree/column/vase/fridge/bottle| a tall man.

In measurements, we use tall for people, but we often use high for things: Michael’s six feet tall| That tree is about eighty feet high/tall.

Walls are always high, not tall.

Take care

alone vs lonely

English, like all languages – though maybe to a greater extent -, is full of words with similar meanings and different usage, which can cause problems for the foreign learner. One of those common vocabulary problems I’ve seen over the years (especially at elementary and pre-intermediate level) is the use of alone and lonely. In this post I’ll be looking quickly at how we can use these words to avoid mistakes.

Alone indicates a person (or thing) is separate, i.e., there’s nobody or nothing else around. Lonely (also lonesome in American English) is about how you feel (usually unhappy) when you are alone. Compare:

Sally’s fine when she’s alone for a day or two.

But after that she starts getting really lonely/lonesome.

Alone is not normally used attributively (before a noun). Lone and solitary can be used instead; lone is literary.

There was a lone/solitary tree by the road.

Hope you found it useful.

Take care

Small words: any

Small words: prepositions, articles, auxiliaries, quantifiers, determiners. They crop up everywhere. We hardly ever make a sentence without using at least one of these. Yet, they don’t add much to an utterance. In fact, some of them mean nothing at all. We call them fillers because we can understand a sentence without them. Take this for example: Jenny is going back to school tomorrow. The words in bold are an auxiliary verb (the verb be which helps us make the Present Continuous) and a preposition, respectively. Leave them out and you’d still understand what that statement means – a girl, Jenny, is returning to school tomorrow. That’s because the other words (Jenny – a proper noun -, go back – a verb -, school – a noun – and tomorrow -an adverb -) carry the main information in that statement. Leave these words out and you wouldn’t understand anything. This means that the words in bold have a purely grammatical function.

One of these small words I’d like to look at today is any. This word is used in various ways in English, but in this post I’d like to focus on the use of any with plural nouns in yes/no questions, i.e. questions you can answer with either yes or no. Here are some examples: Have you got any children? | Are there any apples in that basket? | There aren’t any eggs in the fridge. Please note that in our mother tongue (Romanian) we don’t use a word like that with plural nouns. We simply say: Ai copii? | Sunt mere în coșul acela? | Nu sunt ouă în frigider. For this reason, if we translate from Romanian into English we might say Have you got children?, which just doesn’t sound right in English. The same is true of the other two sentences: Are there apples in that basket?There aren’t eggs in the fridge. All three sentences are wrong because I’ve left out the word any. It’s one of those common mistakes we find in our experience as English teachers, so that’s a thing to avoid from now on.

Next time you speak or write in English, use any with plural nouns in yes/no questions or in negative sentences.

Take care

A phrase a week (8)

Hello and welcome back to A phrase a week. Today I’ll be looking at two commonly confused verbs: fit and suit. Both are used in reference to clothes, shoes or other personal things, but they aren’t interchangeable. Fit means to be the right size and shape for someone or something: The dress fits perfectly.| The jacket fitted me pretty well but the trousers were too small.

Suit means that clothes or other personal things are the right style, colour etc for someone. If that’s the case, you say they suit that person: Casual clothes really don’t suit her. | A green dress won’t suit me.

In British English the usual past form of fit is fitted, but you can also use fit in more informal English: Two years ago, these knickers fit me perfectly. In American English, the usual past form is fit, but you can also use fitted.

Right. That’s all for this week then. Now I must find a jumper that suits me. Oh, yes – the brown one. Just perfect.

Take care

A joke – The three-legged chicken

A man is driving slowly down a country road when he sees a chicken run in front of his car. Nothing strange about that – but then, he notices that the chicken has three legs. „How strange” he thinks, „a three-legged chicken”. He starts to drive a bit faster – 40 kilometres an hour – but the chicken goes faster too. He drives a bit faster – 70 kilometres an hour – but the three-legged chicken just runs faster too. The man goes faster and faster but the chicken keeps running. When they are both doing over one hundred kilometres an hour, the chicken turns a corner into a farm.
Quickly, the man stops his car. The farmyard is full of three-legged chickens. There are three-legged chickens everywhere. So, he sees the farmer in the farmyard and he asks him, “Where do all of these three-legged chickens come from? This is amazing”. “I breed them” says the farmer. “There are three of us, me, my wife and our son. We all like chicken legs, so … I made a three-legged chicken, so we can all have a leg at dinner time”. “Amazing” says the man, “How’s the meat? Does it taste good?”
“Well”, says the farmer, “I don’t know. We haven’t caught one of them yet.”