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Are you using the correct dictionary?

5 Jul

Make sure you have the right dictionary or use the correct online dictionary for the type variety of English you’re studying.  The wrong dictionary can give misleading information.

Recently I was given a new Portuguese-English dictionary. When I looked up a few words, I became aware that it might cause some difficulties for someone learning Brazilian Portuguese. According to my new dictionary, a bicha is ‘a worm’ or ‘a queue’ in English.

 Two problems:

First, I know that the slang use of this word in Brazil that might cause the unwary learner problems.

Second, a ‘queue’ in BRITISH English is a line of people waiting, either standing or in cars.  In the US, a line of people is very rarely called a queue – it’s usually just  called a line.

Anyone who uses iTunes, Netflix, or similar sources of online entertainment knows that ‘queue’ has recently become a part of American English. It is used to mean the ordered list of music or movies that the user plans to download, listen to, or watch.

When I checked more carefully, I realized that my new dictionary was for Continental Portuguese and British English.

So, check your dictionary. If the item of clothing in this picture is called a ‘jumper,’ you are definitely not using a dictionary of AMERICAN English.


American men don’t wear jumpers. Jumpers are worn by girls and women in the US.  This is an example.

Here’s a short test of your knowledge of British and American terms for items of clothing.

Match these items of clothing:

British                                     American

1. vest                                        a. sweater vest

2. waistcoat                             b. sweater

3. tank top                               c. undershirt

4. jumper                                 d. vest

(answers: 1-c, 2-d, 3-a, 4-b)

Interested in learning more about American English and Americanisms?     Contact me.


What did she say?

19 Jun

Inglês tem muitos ditados e um monte de gíria. Aqui estão alguns exemplos.

Você sabe  o que significa cada um destes?

167. Give me a quick and dirty report for the meeting.

59. I can’t go this weekend. I have to hit the books.

163. I want to pick your brain.

177. Same here!

140. She said she was sorry but her hands were tied.

170. She made a big mistake and he was really giving her the business about it.


These expressions and many more are explained in the lessons. Contact me.

Those phrases that cause trouble

19 Jun

Every language has them, those phrases that everyone knows but foreign language learners can’t understand.  Have pity on the poor student of Portuguese. She goes shopping in Rio and the clerk says “Pois não?”  How confusing!  Even if she  knows each of the words, what is the meaning of the combination?


In English there are many two- and three-word verbs that are confusing for the same reason. For example:

stand up to someone means to oppose or confront that person


stand up for someone means to support him

Do you know these other combinations with the verb stand?

stand down

stand in

stand for

To stand for something is to tolerate [suportar] it.  “I won’t stand for any more noise in this classroom.”


 To stand for something is to respresent [simbolizar] it.   “In this movie the white hats stand for heroes.”

stand with

stand around

stand by

Do you know multi-word verbs with take?

take up

take out

take (someone) in

    To take someone in means to fool or trick [enganar] them.  “She tried to take me in with the story about needing money for her sick cat.”

take for

take down

take over

take to

You may have had problems with some of these phrases already.

They cause problems for all English learners because the meanings can’t be guessed.

In the English lessons, you’ll get to explore and practice these phrases that may have tripped you up in the past.  Contact me for more information.

9 Jun

Do you…

Want to improve your English pronunciation?  Think you understand spoken English but have difficulty expressing yourself?  Find yourself confused by expressions you hear in movies or in conversations with American friends?  Lack opportunities to practice English? Think you need to work on accent reduction?

What can be done?

Here’s one possibility:

Let’s talk over the internet.  Individualized lessons can help you become a more confident English speaker.