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  • Under/Below/Beneath

    Прослушав этот аудиоурок, вы узнаете когда нужно говорить «under», когда «below» или «beneath».

    (аудиоролик в конце текста)

    First of all, to make the difference between ‘under’ and ‘below’. Both of these words can mean ‘in a lower position than’, so there’s a sense in which they mean the same thing. But we use them sometimes in different circumstances, for example, if you’re talking about something being covered by something, we use ‘under’.

    So, ‘I hid the key under a rock’.

    Or, ‘ Officials said there was nothing under President Bush’s jacket’.

    You use ‘below’ when you’re talking about something that’s not physically immediately under, or not necessarily immediately under.

    So you say, ‘below the surface of the water’.

    That might be anywhere below the surface of the water, not necessarily just touching it.

    Or, ‘twenty miles below the earth’s surface’,

    definitely not immediately under it. And, by extension, we say things like,

    ‘below the poverty line’.

    We also use ‘under’ when we’re talking about ‘younger than’ or ‘less than’. So, ‘under a dozen times’, ‘under the age of ten’. Whereas we use ‘below’, if we’re visualising a kind of vertical scale. So, ‘below sea level’, ‘below average’, ‘an IQ below 80′, ‘radio waves below 22 kHz’.

    There are a number of fixed expressions, so, for example, a lot of expressions about what’s happening while something else is going on, or because of certain conditions, or controlled by something or someone. So we say, ‘under construction’, ‘under fire’, ‘under attack’, ‘under arrest’, ‘under these conditions’, ‘under scrutiny’, ‘under pressure’, ‘under the Ceausescu regime’. All of those form a kind of a family.

    So what about ‘beneath’? Well, ‘beneath’ is basically more literal, or formal, and we use it in many of the same senses. But there are lots of fixed phrases, and so what you want to do is just read a lot and note when one is used and when the other is used. I hope those will give you some general guide lines, and that you’ll enjoy keeping learning about these three fascinating words.

  • To Take Over. Английская грамматика.

    Британский подкаст о фразовом глаголе «to take over»

  • Asking Permission

    Как спросить разрешение сделать что-либо.

    This programme is about asking permission — which means asking someone if you’re allowed to do something. Listen to this first example, which shows one of the most common ways of asking permission.

    Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?

    Very simple: the phrase ‘can I’ followed by the verb. But what verb form comes after the phrase ‘can I’? Listen to these two examples of asking.

    Can he call you back later?

    Can I use your scissors?

    ‘Call’ and ‘use’ are the base form of the verbs, which is the infinitive without ‘to. Now let’s listen to a slightly different way of asking permission.

    Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

    Instead of ‘can I borrow’, we hear ‘could I…?’ Using ‘Could I…?’ instead of ‘Can I…?’ sounds slightly more formal. You might use ‘could’ if you want to be more polite. Like the word ‘can’, ‘could’ is always used with the base infinitive form of the verb.

    Could she write me a summary of the report?

    You may have spotted a phrase that came up at the end of a couple of the phrases we heard earlier.

    Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?

    Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

    Both speakers asked permission to do something ‘for a minute’. They didn’t literally mean they would spend sixty seconds using the computer or borrowing the phone charger. But it’s a way of showing that you only want to borrow something for a short time and you’re trying not to bother the other person too much.

    Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?

    Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

    We also heard the magic word ‘please’ at the end of that question. Parents often get very cross with their children if they ask permission without using the word ‘please’. But the reality is that it’s often fine not to include it. We tend to use intonation in our questions to sound polite, so we don’t always need the extra ‘please’. Listen to these examples. The first doesn’t sound very polite.

    Could I have that? (demanding) But the second…

    Could I have that? (questioning)

    Sounds more like a polite question than an aggressive demand because of the way the voice goes up.

    Could I have that? (demanding)

    Could I have that? (questioning)

    Listen to some more examples of the differences.

    Could I see you?

    Could I see you?

    The second phrase came across as a polite question, unlike the first. What about here?

    Could you give that to me?

    Could you give that to me?

    As long as you ask your question in a polite tone of voice, you need a ‘please’ — having said that, there’s never anything wrong with using ‘please’ when asking permission. Let’s look at another structure for asking permission.

    Matt, would it be OK if I took the afternoon off on Friday?

    Would it be OK if — fairly informal way of asking permission. You could also say ‘Would it be alright if…?’ What verb form follows these questions?

    Matt, would it be OK if I took the afternoon off on Friday?

    I’m not feeling well today would it be alright if I did this tomorrow?

    In both these cases, the phrases are followed by the past subjunctive form of the verb. However, you could also use the present form — this sounds slightly less formal.

    Matt, would it be OK if I take the afternoon off on Friday?

    I’m not feeling well today would it be alright if I do this tomorrow?

    So ‘Would it be OK if…? and ‘Would it be alright if…?’ can be followed by the present or, for a slightly more formal effect, the past subjunctive. If you want to be even more polite, another variation on the structures we’ve just heard is ‘Would I be able to…?’ Would I be able to talk to you about something? ‘Would I be able to’ — a polite way of asking permission. Now it’s time to check you’ve understood the things we’ve looked at. Which of these requests is correct — the first or the second?

    Can she sits here?

    Can she sit here?

    The second phrase is correct — remember ‘Do you mind if…?’ is used with the base infinitive verb form. Now, which of these two questions sounds the most formal?

    Would I be able to talk to you about something?

    Is it OK if I leave early?

    The first question is more formal ‘Would I be able to…?’ sounds more distant than ‘Is it OK if I…?

    And the last question now I’m going to ask a question in two different ways. Which one is a more polite way of asking the question, the first or the second:

    Can I help you?

    Can I help you?

    Well, the second way is more polite because of my intonation.

  • Использование «can» и «be able»

    Can and be able to are both used to talk about ability. Sometimes they’re interchangeable, but sometimes they’re not. So, let’s start by looking at your examples. You’ve asked about can’t and unable to. Well, we use can’t in the present tense when we say that we don’t have the ability to do something — for example, I can’t swim.

    We could also say I am unable to swim, and the meaning would be pretty much the same. But which one do we choose? Well, for informal English, and for spoken English in particular, people tend to use can or can’t. Able to seems a bit more formal and not really appropriate for everyday situations.

    Now the past of can is could, and the past of be able to is was able to or were able to. For example, we can say:

    I could swim (or I couldn’t swim ) when I was 7 years old

    or we can say

    I was able to swim (or I was unable to swim ) when I was 7 years old

    Again, in spoken English, we’d probably use could or couldn’t to talk about past ability or lack of ability. Now the examples I’ve just given are concerned with general ability.

    I could swim when I was 5 years old

    It refers to a general ability, not an ability in a specific past incident. It’s important to understand this difference because when we talk about ability in specific past incidents, the way we use could and was able to changes. I’ll tell you a story as an example.

    When I was 10 years old, my mother and father took me on a sailing holiday, and on the last day, when the sea was very rough, I fell out of the boat! It was OK though, I was able to swim back to the boat.

    I was able to swim back to the boat.

    It’s describing an ability in a specific past event, and we would NOT normally say

    I could swim back to the boat.

    But what about the negative form? Well, on the same trip, my younger sister fell into the water too. But she wasn’t a strong swimmer, and my father had to jump into the sea and rescue her, because she couldn’t swim back to the boat. So to talk about lack of ability in a specific past event, couldn’t is OK. We could also say:

    She wasn’t able to swim back to the boat or

    She was unable to swim back to the boat.

    OK? Now I’m going to deal with future, present perfect and past perfect tenses, by telling you that can is not normally used to describe ability in these tenses. For these tenses, you have to use be able to or be unable to. Here are some examples and don’t forget that when you use unable to, it gives a more formal tone than not able to. Here’s an example in the future:

    You’ll be able to speak really good English by the end of the year. And now one in present perfect:

    We’ve been unable to complete the project within the specified budget.

    The next one is present perfect, question form:

    How long has your little boy been able to read?

    And let’s listen to a past perfect — this one’s negative:

    He was given a detention because he hadn’t been able to finish his homework.

    Now, although we’ve just said that we don’t usually use can or can’t to talk about future ability, it is possible to use can to suggest a possible future action, like this:

    I can join you at the meeting, but I can’t stay very long.

    Positive Negative structure / meaning Question
    Present I can workI am able to work I can’t workI am not able to work

    I am unable to work

    Can I work?Am I (un)able to work?
    Past I could workI was able to work I couldn’t workI was not able to work

    I was unable to work

    Could I work?Was I (un)able to work?
    Future I will / shall be able to work I won’t / shan’t be able to workI will / shall be unable to work Will / shall I be (un)able to work?
    Present perfect I have been able to work I haven’t been able to workI have been unable to work Have I been (un)able to work?
    Past perfect I had been able to work I hadn’t been able to workI had been unable to work Had I been (un)able to work?
  • «Just» or «Only»

    Аудиоурок английского об английских словах  «Just» и «Only»

    First, I ‘just’ want to say thanks for your question. Or perhaps I could say it like this — I ‘only’ want to say thanks for your question. Can you hear and understand there is a difference in meaning in those two sentences?

    The first means I want to thank you, and the ‘just’ that I slipped in there doesn’t really add any meaning. It does give my sentence a polite and informal tone though. The second sentence using ‘only’ means I want to thank you but I don’t want to say anything else after that. ‘Just’ and ‘only’ are adverbs that point to or emphasise one part of the clause. In the example you gave me, Edgar, the same meaning is implied in both sentences:

    I came just to speak with you for a couple of minutes.

    I came only to speak with you for a couple of minutes.

    But I’d like to point out that your sentences sound very formal and literary. On the one hand, ‘just’ and ‘only’ can ‘float around’ in a sentence and take more than one position. But on the other, the normal position in spoken English is between the subject and verb. They sound much better like this:

    I just came to speak with you for a couple of minutes.

    I only came to speak with you for a couple of minutes.

    In many cases you’ll come across in spoken English, ‘just’ is used as a softener. I’d better give you an example to explain what I mean by ‘softener’:

    Can I just ask you a question?

    What I’m saying here is ‘I want to ask you a question but I don’t want to inconvenience you and it’ll only take a short time’.

    Whereas directly saying ‘Can I ask you a question?‘ doesn’t have this tone.

    So, we often use ‘just’ to add a polite tone, the word doesn’t specifically carry much meaning in itself. There are other situations when we use ‘just’ but we can’t use ‘only’ in its place, for example,

    if I say ‘he was just here’ — I’m trying to tell you he was here a few minutes ago.

    So although I’ve told you about some differences, there are lots of times when they are synonymous. Basically, anytime you can use ‘only’, you can usually use ‘just’ to mean the same thing. But you’ve got to remember that the range of uses and meanings for ‘just’ are quite wide.


  • «Big» or «Large»

    В каком случае правильно говорить «big», а в каком «large»?

    Well, this is a big question Iryna, so I’ll do my best to answer it clearly and briefly!

    First I’ll talk about form: ‘Large’ and ‘big’ are both regular adjectives… their comparative forms are ‘larger’ and ‘bigger’; their superlative forms are ‘largest’ and ‘biggest’. ‘Big’ is a very common word in both written and spoken English; in fact, it’s in the top 1,000 most frequently used words.

    ‘Large’, on the other hand, is a less frequently used word and doesn’t even make it into the top 3,000 most frequently used words in English. Now, onto the question of meaning… The general meaning of both ‘large’ and ‘big’ is: ‘of more than average size/amount/weight/height’ etc. For example:

    ‘Iryna has got a well-paid job and can afford to live in a house’OR…  ‘Iryna lives in a large house’.

    In these examples, both ‘big’ and ‘large’ mean that Iryna’s house is of more than average size. Although ‘big’ and ‘large’ both mean the same in these examples, ‘large’ sounds a little more formal.  Neither ‘large’ nor ‘big’ can be used with uncountable nouns.  This means, we can say:

    ‘The house has a (big or large) garden’ — because ‘garden’ is countable. However, we can’t use ‘big’ or ‘larg’ with ‘traffic’, because ‘traffic’ is uncountable.  With uncountable nouns, you can use ‘a lot of’ — for example:

    ‘There’s a lot of traffic on the road next to the house.’

    So, although ‘large’ and ‘big’ are often interchangeable, sometimes they are not.  So next, I’ll try and give you some examples of when this is the case… ‘Big’ can mean ‘important’, for example:

    ‘Buying a house is a very big decision’.

    It can also be used in informal situations to mean ‘older’, for example:

    ‘He’s my big brother’… as well as ‘successful’ or ‘powerful’, for example: ‘York is a big tourist destination’.

    Also in informal situations, we can use ‘big’ to mean ‘doing something to a large degree’, for example: 

    ‘She earns a lot of money, but she’s also a big spender’ — OR… ‘I’m a big fan of yours’. ‘Big’ is used in a lot of fixed phrases, and because these phrases are fixed, to change ‘big ‘to ‘large’ would sound wrong. Examples of fixed phrases using ‘big’ include:

    ‘It’s no big deal’ — it’s not really important.
    ‘I have big ideas for this house’ — impressive plans for the future.
    ‘She’s a big mouth’ — a person who can’t be trusted to keep a secret.
    ‘He’s too big for his boots’ — too proud of himself.

    There are also some fixed phrases using ‘large’. Examples include:

    ‘The prisoners are at large’ — they have escaped and may cause harm. 

    ‘She’s larger than life’ — more exciting or amusing than most people.

    Finally, quantity words…. ‘large’, more often than ‘big’, is used with the following quantity words:

    ‘a large amount’, ‘on a large scale’, ‘a large number of’, ‘a large quantity of’, ‘a large proportion’, ‘to a large extent’, ‘a large percentage of’, ‘a large part of’, ‘a large volume’ and ‘a large area’. So……a very big — or large — question, Iryna! I hope this has helped a little!

  • Between or Among

    В чём разница между словами: «Between» и «Among»? Ответ узнаете из этого аудио-ролика.

    Hello Chuan!Well done! Jackie said the location was fantastic. It’s among the trees, between the mountains and the sea, and not too far from the station. Between and among are both prepositions, and they are usually followed by nouns. Let’s look at between first.

    Between is usually followed by 2 nouns, like this: …between the mountains and the sea The nouns can be single, plural or uncountable. The important thing is that between identifies them as 2 separate, individual things (or groups of things). Here are some more examples:

    Is there a connection between unemployment and crime?

    He shared the money equally between Jake and Mary.

    In fact, it is possible to use between with more than 2 things, as long as they are separate things. Listen:

    He shared the money equally between his 3 grandchildren, Paul, Callum and Nuala.

    Now among, or amongst, gives the idea of being part of a group of many, so it’s usually followed by a plural noun phrase. Jackie says her house is: …among the trees And some more examples:

    Her exam results put her among the top 10% of students in her group

    It gets very lonely, living among strangers

    Ok, let’s summarise. Between distinguishes 2 or more separate things — and is followed by countable or uncountable, single or plural nouns. Among means ‘one of many’, and usually goes with plural nouns.


    clause between noun(s) — referring to individual things
    He shared the money equally between Jake and Mary


    clause among plural nouns
    Her exam results put her among the top 10% of students in her group
  • What pisses you off?

    Английский без цензуры. Несколько ярких (хотя и не очень литературных) фраз, которые помогут Вам выразить свои чувства в случае сильного раздражения.

    Pain in the neck/rear/ass/bum(British English)/but(American English): describing anything tedious, difficult, annoying or irritating. Also used to describe people who are annoying, irritating or difficult to deal with:

    My boss is a real pain in the ass (neck/butt/rear); he’s constantly complaining about my work, but he won’t tell me how to improve it.

    Ball ache (Br. E) is used to talk about something annoying or tedious, usually that you don’t want to do.

    I love my dog, but having to walk him in all weathers is a real ball ache.

    Bitch is used to talk about something very difficult to do. Often used with intensifying adjectives such as real, total.

    My driving test was a real bitch, but I passed on my third try.

    I spilt red wine on my shirt, and it was a real bitch to get it out.

    Bitch is also used to denote something generally annoying or unpleasant:

    The Swedish summers are beautiful except for the mosquitoes; they’re a real bitch!

    Bitch is also used to denote women who are perceived as acting in an unpleasant manner. This usage often collocates with the intensifying adjective fucking.

    My ex-wife is a fucking bitch, she tells my children terrible things about me that aren’t true.

    It gets on my tits (Br. E)

    That awful song my neighbor plays totally gets on my tits. If I hear it one more time, I will scream!

    It gets on my nerves

    My office chair squeaks every time I make the slightest move; the squeaky sound is really getting on my nerves.

    It pisses me off (both)

    We have to get a cordless phone, because constantly tripping over the phone cord totally pisses me off.

    It tees me off clean variation of to piss sb off.

    It drives me crazy:

    The new guy at work is always picking his nose when he thinks nobody’s looking. It’s driving me crazy because it’s so disgusting.

    never  offensive
    sometimes offensive
    (use with caution)
    nearly always offensive
    (use with extreme caution)
    to tee sb* off
    to get on sb’s nerves
    to drive sb crazy

    to be a pain in the neck
    to be a (royal) pain

    to piss sb off
    to get on sb’s tits

    to be a pain in the rear/butt/bum/ass
    to be a bitch
    to be a ball-ache (said about things only, not people)

    None of these expressions are as offensive to most people as the REALLY taboo words (e.g., fuck, cunt), but you should definitely use the «Grandma-safe» alternatives if you are unsure.