Friday, October 29, 2010


The spookiest night of the year is getting nearer. Thousands of children dressed up as little devils, vampires or witches will go out to the streets to terrorize the neighbourhood: “trick or treat”, they will say and people will fill their bags with sweets and even money.
This anglo-saxon tradition is quickly spreading to other countries thanks to the influence of American films and culture. However, it is not originally an American custom. We can trace it back to the Celts.
The Celts were Indo-European tribes that spread across Northern and Western Europe from the 6th century BC onwards and still remain (or at least their language still remains) in certain areas such as Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. Following the invasion of Germanic tribes after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Celts migrated to the West where they found refuge in mountainous areas and managed to keep their language and floklore. Today, Irish and Welsh, two languages of Celtic origin are widely spoken.
Map showing the expansion of Celtic tribes in Europe.
Source: Wikipedia.
For the Celts, October 31st was the end of the summer and the beginning of the darker part of the year. They believed that on that night the spirits would come back. They welcomed the good spirits but kept away the bad ones by wearing masks and costumes and carving turnips with faces to put on window sills. They also made bonfires and slaughtered their livestock so as to have food throughout the winter.
With the arrival of Christianity, these pagan rites mingled with the festivity of All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1st, and this is where the term “Halloween” derives from: All Hallows eve or evening.
It was the Irish immigrants that took the tradition of Halloween to America and there it evolved and mixed with other cultural elements until it became the celebration we know today.
You can learn the basic Halloween vocabulary with this simple presentation.

The origins of Halloween are explained in this video. Check what you have learnt with the exercises below.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arrive in, at or to?

One of the typical mistakes my students make is using the preposition "to" with the verb "arrive".
For example: *We arrived to London.
The preposition “to” can never follow the verb “arrive”, because it is a preposition of movement and the verb is not. Instead of “to”, we can use “at” or “in”, but, when should we use one or the other? The answer is easy:
  • We use “at” when we get to a small place such as an airport, station or village.
Ex.: The children arrived at school quite late.
  • We use “in” when we get to a large place such as a country or a city.
Ex.: The Vikings arrived in Britain in the 8th century.

Sometimes it's not so easy and you can find examples like:
They arrived at Cardiff
Being Cardiff a big town, "in" should have been used, but "at" is correct because we actually mean arrive at Cardiff station or airport.
Photo: Cardiff Bay, by Ian Britton

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prepositions of place and movement

A preposition is a part of speech that links nouns, pronouns or phrases to other words in the sentence. There are three types of prepositions:
  • Time prepositions, used to show a point in time.
  • Place prepositions, used to indicate a location or position.
  • Direction prepositions, used to show movement from one place to another.
Sometimes it's difficult for a learner of foreign languages to use prepositions correctly, because they don't always translate as the same word in every context. For instance, my students get confused with words like in, into, at or on.
In the following presentation the images will help you realise the exact meaning of the preposition. In this case, only prepositions of place and movement are described.

 With this other presentation by Patricia Pérez Miguel you can practise what you have learnt, and at the same time revise your Halloween vocabulary. Try to answer the questions and have fun!

More exercises:
Prepositions of place:
Prepositions of movement:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon: a dreamer

If he hadn't been killed on December 8 1980, John Lennon would have turned 70 today.

Born in Liverpool, he was co-founder of one of the most famous bands of all times, The Beatles, for which he composed numerous songs, most of them with his friend Paul McCartney.
In a few years, the band became famous all over the world, and their singles topped the charts in many countries. But, unfortunately for their fans, The Beatles split up in 1970 and its members began solo careers.
John became a peace activist and two of his songs,“Give peace a chance”, written as a way of protest against the Vietnam war, and “Imagine”, have become peace anthems worldwide.
For five years, from 1975 till 1980, he retired from public life, devoting himself to raising his child Sean, and it was just when he had released a new single, “Just like starting over”, when he was murdered outside his home by a demented fan.
His early death, at the height of his fame, has turned him into a myth and he still lives in our hearts through his music. May these lines serve as a little homage to a great man. Long live John Lennon!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There is / there are


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