Friday, December 30, 2011

House or home? Types of dwellings

The difference between these two nouns is not always clear.
A house is a type of building where someone lives. It is intended to be used by just one family and it may have more than one floor.
Home is the place where someone lives and feels that they belong to. Your home can be a house, an apartment or a farm, but if you live there, that’s your home.
However, you can also find the term home with the meaning of “building” when you think of it as a property that can be bought or sold. They are building a lot of new homes next to the railway station.
You can also use the term home when you mean your town or country. After living abroad for many years, I long to go back home to Spain.
Image credit
A dwelling is any place (house, flat, …) where a person lives. It refers to the actual building. The development will consist of 60 dwellings and a number of offices and commercial premises.
Abode is a formal word to say dwelling. Welcome to my humble abode.

Homework and housework are also different. The former means the school tasks that you have to do at home, while the latter means the work that you do to take care of your home, such as cleaning, washing, etc. Please, note that both these words are uncountable. The children were doing their homework on the dining table while their parents were doing the housework.

Other related words are:

  • Homesick: you feel homesick when you are away from home and really miss your family and friends. Exchange students usually feel homesick.
  • Homeless: people are homeless if they don’t have a home.
  • House-proud: someone is house-proud if they spend a lot of time making the house look clean and attractive.  Her husband does the cleaning, washing and shopping. He’s very house-proud.


  • At home. If you feel at home with something, you feel quite comfortable with it. He feels at home with his new job.
  • To set up home is to start to live in a house. After living for several years in new York, he has decided to set up home in Toronto.
  • If drinks are on the house you do not have to pay for them, as they are provided free by the owner of the bar. Let’s go to that new pub, the first drink is on the house tonight.
  • If two people get on / along like a house on fire, they become friends very quickly.
  • If you work from home, you do not work in an office. Today, more and more people are working from home thanks to the internet.

Note that the preposition to is not used before home. I’m going home. When there is no idea of movement, at is used in British English, while Americans don’t use any preposition at all.
He usually stays at home at the weekend. <British>
He usually stays home on the weekend. <American>

In the following presentation you can see different types of dwelling, especially those that you can find in Great Britain.

Now you can do the following crossword to check what you have learnt.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa Claus: a universal symbol of Christmas

The idea of Christmas is intimately connected to the image of a chubby old man dressed in red and wearing black boots and belt and a white beard. This man, called Santa Claus, St Nick, or just Santa, is the personification of Christmas. It seems that you can’t have one without the other. But in fact, while Christmas has been celebrated for many centuries, Santa Claus, as he is known today, is only about 200 years old.
Image  credit
Before Santa was “born”, people in England believed in a man called Father Christmas who used to dress in green and go from home to home, feasting with families, but he did not use to bring gifts to children and he certainly would not go down a chimney!

The origin of Santa Claus can be found in the Greek bishop St Nicholas of Myra (Turkey), who was a very generous man that used to help people in need. His cult has spread in Europe from the 4th century to our days, and he was made patron saint of Amsterdam. It was precisely the Dutch immigrants in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam) who brought to America the belief in a gift-bringer called Sinterklaas.
Image credit
The American writer Washington Irving wrote about him in “A History of New York”, written under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbrocker. He described Sinterklaas as an old man in dark robes that arrived on a flying horse to give presents to children. But it was in the famous poem “A visit from St Nicholas”, written by Clement Clark Moore when we first see Santa going down chimneys and travelling in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Moore even gave names to the reindeer! This famous poem is traditionally told to children on Christmas Eve.
You can hear it in this nice video:

Inspired by Moore’s story, the illustrator Thomas Nast drew many cartoons depicting Santa as we know him today, and he added some new ideas such as his workshop in the North Pole, his helpers, the elves, and the lists of good and bad children.
Image credit
But it was undoubtedly the Coca-Cola advertisements in the 30´s that contributed to the image of a human-sized Santa (rather than an elf) that we have today, when the three personages have merged and mingled to form one single character.
Image credit
Call him Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, people all over the world will always think of a chubby, cheerful old man dressed in red and wearing a white beard that goes down chimneys to give presents to children, and flies away in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

Is Santa Claus one of the symbols of globalisation?

This is a nice quizz about Santa, by the BBC.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wear, dress or put on?

Some students get confused with these three verbs. Dress and put on are quite similar, but the former is intransitive and the latter always takes an object.
Dress is an intransitive verb, that is, it doesn’t have an object:
She always dresses in dark colours.
Put on is always used with a direct object: You put clothes on: She put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.
Note that you cannot use put on in the first example, nor dress in the second one.
*She always puts on in dark colours.
*She dressed a pair of...
On the other hand, wear is a transitive verb. You wear clothes, shoes, jewelry... on your body, but before that, you had to put those clothes, shoes or jewelry on you.

Please, note that you carry an umbrella, a stick or a bag.

Have a look at this presentation for further explanations.
Wear, put on and dress
View more presentations from Inma Dominguez.
Other verbs related to clothes are:
  • Take off is the opposite of put on.
  • Try on. You try clothes on to see if they look good on you.
  • Fit. If something fits you it’s just the right size for you.
  • Suit. If something suits you, it looks good on you or rather it makes you look nice.
Try this jacket on, I think blue suits you. Oh, no, take it off, it doesn’t fit you: it’s too small!

  • Don is the same as put on but just more formal.  Lorenz donned a kaffiyeh, an Arab headdress of folded cloth that's held on by a cord.

  • If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you make your feelings or opinions obvious to other people. You have to play it cool with a girl like her; you mustn’t wear your heart on your sleeve.
  • To be dressed to the nines means to wear very fashionable or expensive clothes. He was dressed to the nines in a black Dolce & Gabbana suit.
  • If someone is dressed to kill, he or she is wearing strikingly attractive clothing. She  was dressed to kill in a low top, short skirt and leather boots.
Now you can check what you have learnt by doing this test:

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