The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's all Greek to me!

When you just can't make heads or tails of something, you just can't understand it, you just have no idea what it's all about, basically, you just don't get it, you can say, "It's all Greek to me!". I especially love this expression, although I can actually understand some Greek, which means that I shouldn't even be able to use it!


Monday, October 23, 2006

I'd rather / I'd prefer

So it's the weekend, and you've planned an evening out with some mates (a commonly used word in BrEng for friends), and you're trying to decide what to do. It's quite common in this type of situation to state your preferences, rather than just saying "I want to do this." or "I'd like to do that.", especially when responding to others' suggestions.

So imagine somebody makes a suggestion: "Why don't we go to that Hawaiian bar in Plaza Santa Ana?" or "How about that Chinese restaurant in the car park (Am Eng: parking garage) in Plaza España?". Imagine that these don't really sound like something you feel like doing, how can you make a suggestion of your own? One good way is to talk about your preferences. To do that, you can use "I'd rather" or "I'd prefer".

Let's look at the grammar of I'd rather and I'd prefer:

I'd rather is followed by infinitive without 'to'.
For example: I'd rather go to a film.

I'd prefer is followed by infinitive with 'to'.
For example: I'd prefer to go to a film.

Usually it's not necessary to actually state the thing you don't want to do, because it's clear from the context (ie, your friend just suggested it), but for the sake of completeness, we'll give you all the grammar.

I'd rather + infinitive without 'to' + than + infinitive without 'to'.
For example: I'd rather go to a film, than go to some stupid Hawaiian bar.

I'd prefer + infinitive with 'to' + rather than + infinitive without 'to' or -ing.
For example: I'd prefer to go to a film rather than go/going to some stupid Hawaiian bar.

As you can see, the grammar with "I'd rather" is actually a little simpler, so even though it sounds less natural to a Spanish speaker, it's actually a much easier form to use.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Phrasal verbs with "check"

It's been a while since we did some phrasal verbs, so let's look at this relatively small group: phrasals with the verb "check".

Some of you will have done some travelling (AmEng traveling) this summer, possibly by plane. Well if you did, you will have checked in for your flight first thing after arriving at the airport. Where will you have done this? Why, at the check-in (desk), of course! Personally, I'm a big fan of self check-in, where you put your passport or credit card into the machine and it gives you your boarding card/pass.

When you reached your destination, you also checked in/into the hotel. When it came time to leave the hotel, you checked out and paid your bill (we hope!).

If you're like a friend of mine, before you leave you make a list of everything you need to take with you on your trip. She then lays everything out on the bed and checks the items off one by one on her list before packing them into her suitcase.

If I'm going to book a hotel before I go, I usually check out as many Web sites as I can find to get information about the options. I try to find people's opinions of the hotels I'm considering, so I'll check the different ones out on a site like to see what other folks think.

I'll usually buy one guide book of my own, but I also often go to the library and check out (AmEng) a few more books to get a good idea of what there is to do and see at my destination.

While I'm away, I usually leave the dog with a friend. During my trip I usually phone once or twice to check (up) on him (the dog, not the friend!) and make sure there are no problems.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Hunger Site

Do you know about the Hunger Site? If you go there and click on the "Help Feed the Hungry" button once a day, the site's sponsor's will donate food to people who need it. It's free to you, and you don't have to sign up for anything just click. I have it as my home page, so when I open up my browser it's just there, and I click before I search for anything. They also have related sites which you can click on as well: the Breast Cancer Site, the Child Health Site, the Literacy Site, the Rainforest Site, and the Animal Rescue Site.

Another similar site is Care2. You also click to make donations, but on this site you can create an account to keep track of how much you make a difference with your clicks.


Monday, October 2, 2006

Autumn is here

It's the beginning of October, and this means the beginning of the academic year for most of you. Classes are starting up in the academy and in companies, and everybody is making resolutions about their upcoming studies. What are yours?

I thought in honor of the recent equinox, we'd look at some autumn vocabulary. This is an edited version of the info from

Autumn or Fall is the third season, from the descending or autumnal equinox (literally 'equal night', occuring twice a year when the Sun crosses the equator and day and night are equal in length) to the winter solstice, approximately September 21 to December 21. The root of the word autumn is the Latin autumnus/auctumnus, and was first used by Chaucer c. 1374. The use of fall in North American English comes from the phrase fall of the leaf and it came into use by 1545 for this time of year when the leaves fall from the trees. The term autumn is still preferred in British English.

A common autumn phenomenon in the central, eastern, and northern United States and in Europe is Indian summer, a period of unseasonably warm and dry weather that sometimes occurs in October or November.

The names of the months September, October, November are rooted in Latin. September is from septem 'seventh month' of the early Roman calendar - now the ninth month in the Gregorian calendar. October (octo) is Latin for 'eighth month' (now tenth) and November (novem) is Latin for 'ninth month' (now eleventh in the Gregorian calendar). In Old English, September was called 'harvest month.'