The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and Autumnal Haikus

The 31st of October is Halloween and children all over the US and the UK will be out getting dressed up as ghosts, vampires or skeletons and running around their neighbourhoods knocking on doors and shouting 'Trick or Treat'. If the neighbours have any sense they will fill the children's buckets with sweets (candy - AmE), or wake up to find that they homes have been covered in egg!

Although dressing up and going trick or treating is the traditional way to celebrate Halloween, we at the BLC Blogger have thought of a cleaner and less troublesome way to mark the occasion...

...Have you ever heard of a Haiku? A Haiku is a Japenese style of poem which usually consists of three lines which have a 5, 7, 5 syllable pattern. Haikus usually contain a reference to a season of the year or to the natural world and therefore Halloween and Autumn provide lots of scope for a haiku.

Can you write a Haiku for our blog? If you are feeling creative post an entry in the comments box! If you need some inspiration, or if you just fancy reading some autumnal haikus, check out this web page.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

A or An ?

Many students, even those with a pretty high level of English, wrongly believe that they should use 'an' before a noun / compound noun beginning with a vowel and 'a' before a noun beginning with a consonant. However, this is just not the case. Observe:

(i) a university
(ii) a euro coin
(iii) an heirloom
(iv) an MOT test
(vi) a one-way street

The actual rule for choosing the correct indefinite article is based on the sound of the first letter and not on whether it is a vowel or a consonant. In the words 'university' and 'euro' the beginning sound is the consonant sound 'y' and in 'one-way street' the beginning sound is a 'w' and therefore these words are preceded by 'a'. 'MOT' and 'heirloom' both begin with an 'e' vowel sound and so take 'an' as the indefinite article.

So what should you put before these words? Feel free to post your answers in the comments box!

a. umbrella
b. envelope
c. hour
d. european city
e. helicopter
f. unicorn
g. honest gentleman
h. FBI agent
i. hotel
j. egg

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