Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three years old!

This blog is now three years old, and to celebrate it we are going to watch a presentation with the "cartoons of the week" for this year. Most of them have been taken from So much pun, others from Time, and others from two great blogs I've discovered recently:  Wrong hands and Liz Climo's blog.

Most of the cartoons that I use for my blog are puns. A pun is a play on words in which two words that sound alike or two different meanings of the same word are deliberately confused, resulting in a funny joke.

Let's have a look at a few cartoons:
In this cartoon we have two different meanings of the word fan: a machine that creates a current of air and a person who is an enthusiastic follower of another person. What makes it funny is the fact that we can see the machine act like the follower. Now let's see another example:
In this one we can see two words that are homophones, that is, they sound alike: weight and wait, and two different senses of the word lift (a polysemic word): to raise something or an elevator.

In the following image there are two meanings of the word tablet, even though it's not even mentioned: a pill (medication) and a portable computer. Isn't it ingenious?
Fancy seeing more cartoons? Here is the presentation that I mentioned before:

And finally, I want to thank all the followers and visitors of this blog, as well as my students, who give me the inspiration for writing it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Used to, would and be used to

It's important not to get confused with these three expressions:
Used to + infinitive
Used to is a modal verb that shows a habit in the past. It shares some characteristics with other modal verbs:
  • It does not have an infinitive form and, instead of being preceded by to, it is followed by it.
  • It has only one form for all the persons: I used to smoke / He used to smoke.
  • It cannot be used in all tenses: *I use to smoke (not possible). Used to is always in the past. In order to express a habit in the present, the present simple tense is used together with adverbs of frequency (usually or generally): He usually smokes twenty cigarettes a day.
  • It is always followed by another verb: We used to study hard when we were at university.
  • It doesn't need an auxiliary verb for questions and negative sentences. Used he to smoke? He used not to smoke, but now he does. However, that form is considered very formal and it is more common to use the auxiliary did in these cases: Did he use to smoke? He didn't use to smoke, but now he does. Please, notice that after the auxiliary verb did, it drops the final d.

He used to smoke
Image: Homer's first smoke, by Kevron
The verb used to followed by a verb in the infinitive can express:
  • A habit in the past.  I used to smoke, but now I don't smoke at all.
  • A repeated past action. In this case, would can also be used: When I was a child, my mum used to / would tell me fairy tales every night before going to bed.
  • A state which no longer exists: I used to have a motorbike, but I sold it.
Be used to + gerund / noun
It means that something is familiar and you are accustomed to it. It can be used in all tenses, as the main verb is to be and used is an adjective not a verb. Please, notice that this structure is followed by a noun: I am used to the traffic because I live in a big city. or a gerund (-ing): He has lived in Britain for a long time, so he is used to driving on the left.

Get / become used to + gerund / noun
It expresses the process of something becoming familiar to us. It can also be used in all tenses for the same reason. You will get used to cooking in your microwave soon. I have become used to doing all my work on the computer.
Driving on the left

In these three structures, used to is pronounced [juːst to] and shouldn't be confused with the verb use [juːz], meaning "employ", "utilize", or its participle used [juːzd].
These exercises will help you check what you have learnt:

Need more exercises?:
Complete the sentences.
Mix and match
Used to or would

Now you can watch this video of a song titled "Somebody that I used to know" by Gotye.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bonfire night: the story of Guy Fawkes

On the evening of November 5th, thousands of bonfires are lit and fireworks exploded all over Britain. Many groups of children make their guy or dummy, which is an effigy of Guy Fawkes, they take it to the bonfire and burn it there to the merriment of all and sundry. Previously, the children have taken their dummy from house to house asking for “a penny for the guy”, and that money is later spent in fireworks.
Children asking for a penny for the guy
Image credits
But who is this Guy Fawkes that is burnt in effigy every year? Well, he certainly isn’t famous for being a nice person. In fact, he was a traitor who tried to blow the Houses of Parliament and kill the king. But, fortunately for the king, the plot was found out and those responsible for it were executed. Then, as an act of remembrance, it was ordered that every year the 5th of November should be an official day for celebration, and British people still celebrate it to this day.
Guy Fawkes
Image credits
However, safety regulations regarding fireworks and the lighting of bonfires in public places, has made it quite different from what it used to be some decades ago. Now bonfires are only allowed in certain open spaces and children cannot handle fireworks as they are much too dangerous for them. Older people feel that the festivity is not what it used to be any more, but for young children it’s still a possibility of having a good time out, watching the firework display and  feeling the heat of the flames in a cold autumn evening.
Guy burning on top of a bonfire
Image credits
In the following presentation by the Parliament’s Education Service we have an account of the gunpowder plot.

Now you can watch this video and answer the questions to see how much you have learnt about the story of Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.

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