Frases fijas y transformando el inglés informal al formal


Fixed phrases in English are very important, especially in writing but they are often formal or semi formal and can’t be used in all writing tasks. Do not confuse fixed phrases with phrasal verbs, many websites state that they are the same – they are not. Phrasal verbs are usually informal and are totally different to a fixed phrase.

Examples of fixed phrases include:

look forward to hearing from
– in summary/conclusion
– in my opinion
– to whom it may concern etc

But be careful… Consider the following sentences…

Fixed phrase – It is the aim of this report

1. Typical student usage
It is the aim of this report to see problems with computers in our school for students.

This sentence has a small error (incorrect verb – see) and the rest of the sentence after the fixed phrase is too informal (personal pronoun – our). In other words the register is not consistent.

2. Correct usage
It is the aim of this report to examine current IT issues, and challenges, at school.

The register is now consistent, semi formal. Also, look at how simple it is. There are only 2 prepositions, and 1 conjunction. It is redundant to put for students – who else goes to school?

The student’s example is spoken, informal and unsuitable because the fixed phrase is semi formal but the remainder of the sentence is not..

Look at this sentence, a typical informal example from a student
We will look at problems teachers experience.

Let’s make it formal…
1. Make passive.
Problems experienced by teachers will be looked at by us.

Make impersonal.
Problems experienced by teachers will be looked at.

3. Change vocabulary.
Issues, experienced by teaching staff, will be examined.

Perfect!

Now do that with every sentence in your formal report, essay, article or proposal.

Cómo escribir una crítica en inglés

como escribo una revista en inglés

Review Subject : Favourite TV show.
Audience : general public
Register : relaxed semi formal
Vocabulary : television, humour, horror etc., feelings, adjectives, nouns, fixed phrases.
Key Points: this changes depending on the Review Subject. For example there is no point talking about the score (music) in my example using The Simpsons.

Paragraph 1 – Grab the reader’s attention and introduce the Subject. Use a rhetorical question to engage your audience.

Have you ever sat at work counting the minutes until you can go home to watch your favourite TV show? This is my Tuesday and Thursday ritual, a quick goodbye to work colleagues followed by a mad dash home and thirty minutes of top notch entertainment and escapism. So what is it that has me flouting (Google it) the speeding laws? Quite possibly the funniest programme on TV right now – the Simpsons.

Paragraph 2
A review always contains some factual information or background. It shows you know your subject.

Created by Matt Groenig the Simpsons offers up a feast of slapstick comedy as it portrays the ups and downs of a typical dysfunctional American family. What makes this zany American sitcom different is the fact that it’s an animation – yes, a cartoon.

paragraph 3 – give more detail about one or two characters and highlight the script or acting etc.

The superbly crafted script is packed with one liners and and squeezes every single last drop of comedy gold from each word. The matriarch Marge steals the show….

paragraph 4 – Opinion
Say you like it and why others should see it.

I can’t praise this show highly enough – it truly is a “must see” for anyone who enjoys superb comedy.

Remember
• Vocabulary is your best friend.
• Use nouns and fixed phrases, also compound nouns/adjectives, example : overnight success, page-turner.
•Use simple structures but make them complex using vocabulary, adverbs, adjectives etc.

It takes time to write well in another language. Some people find it hard to write well in their native language.

Cómo escribir informalmente en inglés

How to write a great informal email or message.

We often talk about semi formal and formal writing but seldom informal. So here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when writing an informal email, message or text

Do use idiomatic language, example raining cats and dogs
Do use colloquial vocabulary for objects, places, feelings.
Do use everyday adverbs, linkers etc, example but, also
Do use present tenses to keep your writing direct.
Do use past simple and past perfect to sequence a timeline of actions.
Do use paragraphs.
Do use contractions.
Do begin with Hi, and end with Bye!

Don’t use slang words, example innit, gunna. Though words like yeh, hi, nah are fine.
Don’t write overly long sentences with lots of commas.

Cómo escribir una propuesta en inglés

Vive la diferencia

The difference between a report and a proposal is in function rather than presentation. This is often referred to with a single sentence in class books, but it is very important and deserves more space.

Function

Report

The function of a report is to evaluate a current situation, including its pros and cons, and to formulate a recommendation or summary.

Imagine this as step 1 of a project.

A typical example.
The staff cafeteria in your company has become unpopular. Produce a report outlining any current issues and recommending relevant solutions.

Click here for more help with a report.

Proposal

A proposal’s function is evaluate a future project, with reference to a current or previous situation.

Imagine this as step 2 in a project.

Example
You recently compiled a report on current problems with your staff cafeteria and made certain recommendations. Produce a detailed proposal for how these recommendations can be put into practice.

Form

A report and a proposal look very similar, typically 4-5 paragraphs, with headings and sub headings. They can also both use bullet points, though I would not use a numbered list in a proposal,

Examples of headings..
It is the aim of this report to investigate… Report
It is the purpose of this proposal to examine… Proposal
Current situation… Report
Background… Proposal
Etc.

Style and language

Usually semi formal or formal. Language, grammar and vocabulary, should be appropriate. Click here for help.

Cómo escribir un artículo en inglés

How to write a fantastic article in English

In B2, C1 and C2 you may be given the option of writing an article, typically between 280-380 words depending on level. It can be aimed at a general audience, as well as young people or academic readers and often from your own experience. So how can you be sure your article merits a pass grade in the exam? By following some simple rules.

Style

Before planning your article think about the following questions, and answers.

1. Who is the target reader and what is the appropriate register?
Young readers – relaxed semi-formal.
General public – semi formal.
Institutions – formal

2. What do you need to include in the article?
This will depend on the topic and task but should include specific vocabulary related to the topic.

Typical Topics include…
Environmental issues – volunteering as a conservationist, for example.
Lifestyle choices – living on the road, etc.
The economy – spending trends, etc.
Arts and entertainment – the cult of film noir, etc.
Society – working with homeless people, etc.

3. How will you make it interesting?
Be sure to use the following to a greater or lesser degree depending on the register –
– precise descriptive vocabulary, the sounds an animal might make for example.
– interesting verb phrases – cross my mind, get involved in, etc.
– neutral phrasal verbs – hand out, come across, etc.
– collocations – member of the public, on loan, dog tired etc.
– advanced adjectives and adverbs – sluggishly, haggard, misty etc.


As well as…
a. non defining relative clauses to add extra information
b. passive structures
c. simple and continuous tenses for relaxed semi formal/semi formal
d. perfect tenses, impersonal passives and inversions for formal

4. What style of language will you use?
This will depend on the task but is generally either,
– anecdotal – your own experience
– objective – a more factual account

Example texts

Look at the two texts below which are part of an answer to the following task.

Task
You recently spent two weeks working as a volunteer on an organic farm as part of a project to familiarise young people from the city with country life. You have been asked to write an article for an environmental newsletter describing your duties and experience.

Text A
As I staggered outside sleepily at 6 a.m the sun was already up and the grass was sparkling with early morning dew. The cows were munching the grass and the sheep were roaming peacefully over a distant hillside. Other than that there was just peace and quiet. No traffic, no horns blaring, no people rushing to work. Yes my job was about to start but for now I had 5 minutes to enjoy the sounds and smells of the natural surroundings.

Comment
The target reader is young people and this type of highly descriptive, narrative style captures the imagination and should encourage them to read further. It also contrasts the difference between the lives they know in the city with the countryside and so offers an immediate connection in the first lines of the article. It uses very simple structures, no complex grammar, but uses a rich array of specific and non specific vocabulary.

Text B
I had decided to take part in a volunteer scheme for young people from the city to live and work on a farm for two weeks in the summer. Farm life had always attracted me and I also belonged to an environmental organisation so I had an interest in the growing of organic vegetables and in keeping livestock. So it was with lots of enthusiasm that we set off for the farm one day early in July. Little did I know what delights awaited me!

Comment
This is much more formal with past perfect and complex structures which together with its use of higher level nouns (livestock, for example) immediately puts it into semi formal territory. The use of semi formal structures and vocabulary limits the flow of the text, and other than factual information the reader is left with no idea of what an early morning in the countryside might be like.

My opinion
Text A is a fantastic example of a writer communicating well with their audience, young adults who have never experienced the countryside or life without the noise and din of the city. It’s narrative style suits the audience and the newsletter format perfectly.

Text B is dry, not as easy to read, factual and not as appealing or easy to read as Text A.

But of course this is only applicable to this specific task. A newsletter about carbon depletion for an academic journal would be totally different and text A would be completely unsuitable.

Advice

1. Understand your reader.
2. Check specific vocabulary.
3. Write a vocabulary list before your plan.
4. Write a short plan – 4/5 paragraphs.
5. Use your imagination.
6. Create a snappy or appropriate title
7. Enjoy it!

Ensayo de opinión en inglés – B2/C1

An opinion essay is often the first part of the writing in the B2/C1 Exam. Here’s some tips to help you.

How to structure your opinion essay

Para.1. Basic, simple background that reflects the title and that speaks directly to the reader using a question.

Para. 2. A few examples of current opinion and thinking about topic related issues.

Para. 3. Contrasting information to para.2.

Para. 4. Your opinion, either agreeing or disagreeing with points in paragraphs 2/3.

Para. 5. Closing sentence.

Example paragraphs from opinion essay on Global Warming

Para. 1
Glance at any newsstand, switch on the TV, or listen to the radio and it seems we are heading towards an environmental apocalypse. Stories of melting ice caps, extreme weather patterns, and even the extinction of the human species are, it seems, fodder for our politicians and the media. But how true are they?

Para. 2
Let us begin by looking at some specific examples, beginning with deforestation. It is widely reported that… 

Para. 3
A number of solutions have been tried to tackle the above problems. Furniture made from sustainable forests is commonplace within Europe, governments urge us to recycle our household waste, and cycling to work as well as car sharing is actively encouraged. But is this enough?

Para. 4
Having examined the above issues it is my opinion that….

Para. 5
With so many conflicting opinions and statistics it seems we must wait and see for ourselves if current measures will avert the impending environmental Armageddon promised by so many. But by then it might be too late for mankind.

Register and vocabulary for your essay

The above example uses a semi-formal/neutral register but as discussed in another post (here) the level of formality will depend on the intended reader of the essay. As a general rule in B2 use a semi-formal register but a more formal and impersonal style in C1.

Vocabulary plays a vital role in getting the register right and is not as simple as using as many long Latin based words as possible as this hinders the rhythm and flow of your writing and increases formality, which might not be your intention.

In general use a mixture of vocabulary if writing in a semi formal style, for example in the first sentence of the preceding paragraph I chose the word vital rather than important but then used the low level verb get in continuous as well as the verb hinder, another higher level word choice, in the same sentence. If I had used all high level words the formality would be too high, and if too many low levels words the formality would have been too low. Everything is about balance, especially in semi-formal.

Read this for more help.

Getting the grammar right in your essay

Again, this is discussed in detail here, but as a general rule (the same as with vocabulary) a balanced mix of high and low level structures will give you the best result for a semi-formal essay. If you need to write at a higher level of formality use complex structures such as inversions, impersonal passives and perfect tenses, as well as high level linkers and connectors. You can learn about these here.

If you are in doubt the internet is a wonderful source of example material, however be careful, there are many poorly written examples online so choose carefully from well known sources such as Cambridge or Pearson, or academic papers related to the subject of your essay. Don’t copy or emulate influencer’s blogs, they may be clever at marketing themselves to the public but their level of English might not be the best.

Bullet lists – inglés

How to create a bullet or numbered list in English.

There are some simple rules about bullet and numbered lists in English, and how to write them well.

You should not write a long or complex sentence after a bullet or numbered list, use between 1 – 5 words only. Brevity or is key.

The first word form following each bullet  in your list must be consistent, but depends on the preceding sentence and word form that introduces the list, and also depending on the verb pattern normally used.

Examples

Verb + object = articles
Students reported :
– a lack of space
– an inability to focus
– a clumsy login procedure

Verb + pattern (ing)
Students suggested:
– recycling more paper
– saving water
– reducing heating times

Verb + noun
Students considered the following as important:
– Freedom to experiment
– Enforcement of school policies
– Reciprocation of shared resources

Verb + pattern (infinitive)
Students expressed a desire to:
– Share resources
– Exchange information
– Practice more speaking

Escritura formal en inglés – B2, C1 y C2

Writing formal English made easy.

Tips for writing a semi formal or formal Report in English

Articles

The most common mistake non-native speakers make when writing is with articles, and specifically the definitive article, the. Typical mistakes are with abstract nouns, for example…

The education is important. Incorrect
Education is an abstract, uncountable noun.

Education is important. Correct

Here’s a tip.
If you write a noun that finishes with…
• tion – ex. separation
• ment – ex. excitement
• ness – ex. happiness
• ism – ex. communism
• ality – ex. formality
• ity – ex. stupidity
• ogy – ex. technology


Think carefully – they are abstract!

You can use the with an abstract noun if you add a countable or more specific noun.

Example
The education system. Correct

Converting active to passive

Another simple trick is to convert active informal sentences into passive formal structures or using more formal word forms.

You told me.
I was informed

I asked for.
I requested

He gave me.
I was given

Everyone agreed.
It was the general consensus

We decided.
It was agreed.

How to transform a paragraph’s register

Transforming a basic informal paragraph into a formal paragraph is also very easy. Below is an example from a Report.

Informal
I gave students a questionnaire which they completed. I asked for their opinions and feedback on the situation at school. They responded,
• lack of space
• old software


Formal
Students were given (passive) a questionnaire to complete (infinitive of purpose). Questions were designed (passive) to solicit (infinitive of purpose / no pronouns) opinions and feedback on the current situation (colocation) at school. Responses (direct subject) were as follows: (fixed phrase/correct punctuation)
• lack of space ✓
outdated software (word choice).

Creating a professional bullet list

Creating a bullet or numbered list
There are some simple rules about bullet and numbered lists.

You should not write a sentence after a bullet or numbered list, use between 1 – 5 words only.

The first word form in your list must be consistent, but depends on the preceding sentence and word form that introduces the list, depending on the verb pattern normally used.

Examples
Students reported : (articles)
– a lack of space
– an inability to focus
– a clumsy login procedure

Students suggested: (present participle)
– recycling more paper
– saving water
– reducing heating times

Students considered the following as important: (abstract nouns)
– Freedom to experiment
– Enforcement of school policies
– Reciprocation of shared resources

Students expressed a desire to: (infinitive)
– Share resources
– Exchange information
– Practice more speaking

The double meanings of English

The hidden language of English

​A language evolves in response to the needs if it’s people and the conventions of society and the English language is no exception.

A good example of this is how and why English has so many words, phrasal verbs and expressions that have a sexual connotation. This is something students ask me about all the time, especially in C1 and C2.

For example there are many many phrasal verbs that have a sexual meaning, by simply changing the preposition or adding another we can completely alter meaning.

Consider…
Go down – to reduce
Go down on – to perform oral sex
Jack (something) in – to stop an activity
Jack off – to masturbate
Touch (something) up – to reapply makeup or paint
Touch (someone) – to touch someone in a sexual way
Get on with (someone) – have a good relationship
Get it on with (someone) – to have sex

The English obsession with sex

So why exactly does the English Language contain so many references to sex?

During the long reign of queen Victoria sex became taboo – on the surface. In reality it was a very promiscuous era with rampant prostitution. But to be acceptable in society you had to appear to be decent, wholesome, prim and proper, moral and chaste. Society wore a mask. It had less to do with religion than with social class and breeding and the need for higher classes to distance themselves from the lower classes who were believed to be morally and intellectually inferior. This mode of thinking was perpetuated and spread with fervor throughout the Colonies of the British Empire.

This continued into the 1920’s when society began to change and become more liberal, thanks in part to the First World War and the sudden sense of liberation felt at its close. Women from the higher classes who had previously been forced to wear tight fitting corsets and follow social norms, had also discovered a new sense of power and freedom after working in munitions factories and found themselves working cheek by jowl with lower class working girls. This is when the double entendre became normal and we would say one thing but actually mean another, in relation to our sexuality and behaviour. Slowly the language began to change, helped by playwrights like Noel coward.

This play on words finally grew into a huge form of entertainment in the 1970’s with people like Benny Hill and the Carry On films. British television was full of this type of comedy and in a way that wasn’t permitted on American television, which was and still is actually quite reserved, especially about sex.  An entire generation of British kids were raised on these types of programme and film, and so the sexual double entendre became as much a part of our social fabric as fish and chips or Big Ben.

To really understand what this type of humour is I recommend looking for Carry On movies on YouTube, any will be packed chock full of innuendo, though perhaps Carry On Cleo will illustrate it more clearly. These films remain firm British favourites with the older generation and will hopefully continue to be so.

Suitable for kids?

This is really an irrelevant question when talking about innuendo as kids generally don’t see the connection between an innocent word, for example pear (the fruit) and a woman in a tight fitting dress with a large bossom (chest) holding the fruit, and the words ‘Nice pear’ spoken by a man – to a child it refers to the fruit, to an adult it refers to the woman’s bossom, chest or breasts. Whether this is morally acceptable in today’s world is another question and the art of innuendo is dying out..

Cómo escribir un informe de inglés – B2

Here’s some basic advice about how to write a good report in English.

First, structure it into 4 paragraphs and subheading or subtitle for each paragraph.

1. introduction – why/purpose of report.

Begin with a fixed English phrase.
Example
It is the aim/purpose/intention of this report to investigate/examine/look into the …

2. Current situation – including evidence (maybe results from a survey or assessment, using a bullet list).

Example
Students and staff were canvassed for their opinions using a questionnaire… The results were as follows,
– lack of …
– need for…
– etc…
(there are rules for how to write a good bullet list which will be the subject of a later post)

3. Proposed solution – including pro’s and con’s’.

Example
Whilst there are many advantages (see Current Situation), a potential and serious drawback is Staffing and Security within the IT Room… A possible solution would be…

4. Closing statement/Recommendation

Example
After careful and due consideration it is the opinion of the author that...

Tips
In general, once you have named the subject, for example ‘students‘ use impersonal passives to speak about them.

Example.
Students were asked to complete a questionnaire and from their opinions a number of factors were evident. 24 hour access to the IT room was thought to be the most important …..

A tip about word usage.
Remember – Short verbs in English are usually Celtic based and informal.

Examples
Get – informal
Receive – formal
Buy – informal
Purchase – formal

An easy way to know a formal form is to check a short verb in a dictionary and find a longer synonym or one that you recognise from Spanish. Generally longer words are are Latin based and more formal and so ideal for a report.

Examples
Get – obtain, acquire, receive
Write – transcribe

Vocabulary
Remember to use a variety of vocabulary and also specific vocabulary for the topic. Try to include synonyms rather than repeat a noun, verb or subject, and use abstract nouns to demonstrate concepts rather than only concrete facts. For example restitution, deconstruction, strength.

Use fixed phrases and expressions to sound natural but pay attention to prepositions.
Examples

In summary…
To sum up…
In light of…

A tip about grammar
Use the following structures to put distance/respect/formality into your writing.

Examples
passive/impersonal passive/impersonal passive infinitive
Students were asked to complete…

inversion
Had the facilities been accurately described…

Perfect tenses/Past perfect
Past forms of have had, will would, can could and should all add a subtle degree of formality to writing, so try to use them rather than short, present tense sentences which speak more directly to the reader.

Connectors
Sprinkle a handful of appropriate linkers/connectors into your report to add another layer of formality depending on the reader. Do not go overboard, or put too many.

Examples
But, although, however, in spite of + ing, despite + ing, nevertheless, while, whilst, on the one hand/on the other… etc.

Here’s a photo of the whiteboard from a B2 adult class – note the vernacular/colloquial English in the top left hand corner…tut…tut

Vocabulario y escritura inglés – Climate change essay

Here are some ideas related to the environment, that you can use in the writing or speaking part of your Cambridge English exam.

Talking about the size of the problem

crisis
Climate change is a crisis that cannot be ignored by governments.

record levels/amount
Despite the claims of some scientists, we are now producing record levels of CO2 and there is no dispute about the connection this and global warming.

disaster/disastrous
It is not an exaggeration to say that the effects of global warming are disastrous.

global
Although some areas are relatively unaffected now, climate change is a global problem.

irreversible
The major concern is that the effects of our actions on the climate will be irreversible.

long-term
The effects of our use of fossil fuels today may last for generations and it is almost certain to have long-term consequences for humanity.


Negative Effects

This group of climate change vocabulary gives you language to explain what the effects are. As you read through the examples note the different language I use for effects and probability.

ill-health
It sometimes goes unnoticed that there is a clear connection between climate change and ill-health.

floods/rainstorms
One result of the rising temperatures is that floods and rainstorms are now a frequent occurrence.

the Polar ice cap
One major concern is that rising temperatures in the Arctic are causing the Polar ice cap to melt, which in turn is leading to rising sea levels.

heatwaves and droughts
Most experts agree that there is an increased risk of heatwaves and other extreme weather conditions.

the natural world
Climate change will not only have a severe impact on people, but also devastate the natural world and lead to the extinction of important species.

food shortages
We are already seeing in many parts of the world that climate change is leading to food shortages as a direct consequence of extreme weather conditions.

housing/homelessness
One side-effect of rising sea levels is that more and more people who live by the coast will become homeless.

conflicts/wars
If no action is taken on climate change, then it is likely that there will be more conflicts between nations, especially over water supplies.

cost
It has been shown that any delay in making emission cuts will increase the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%.


Causes

You may also need to discuss the causes of climate change too. You don’t need any very technical knowledge and this vocabulary should be enough. Again, note the cause language.

human activity
It is no longer possible to say that human activity does not affect weather conditions.

greenhouse gas emissions
If we are to halt climate change, we need to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

power stations
One of the leading causes of climate change is the number of dirty power stations using fossil fuels.

carbon emissions
Carbon emissions are still rising year by year and are at record levels.

illegal logging and deforestation
It should not be forgotten that illegal logging in the Amazon Basin is still a major factor in climate change.

burning fossil fuels
Individuals can make a small contribution by not burning wood and other fossil fuels.

CO2
The root cause of much global warming is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.


Possible solutions

These words and phrases show different kinds of solutions. Some show what should be done (use more renewable energy and invest money), others show how it should be done (quickly and together).

wind and solar power
An obvious solution is to deploy much more wind and solar power.

renewable energy
Wind farms and other sources of renewable energy will help to reduce Co2 emissions to an acceptable level.

international action/cooperation
International action on climate change could have a significant impact.

quick/immediate action
Any action should be immediate because this is not a problem that can be delayed.

investment
There should be greater incentives to invest in renewables and to reduce the current reliance on fossil fuels.

decommission power stations
It goes without saying that coal-fuelled power stations should be decommissioned.

protest/campaign
Individuals can help force governments to act by taking part in legal protests against the continuing use of fossil fuels.

energy efficiency and waste
A greater emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing waste would undoubtedly mean that less fuel was consumed.


Ways of taking action

Climate change is a problem – that almost everyone can agree on. When you have a problem, you need to take action. These words and phrases give you a variety of ways of saying that. Note the different structures used with these verbs.

cope
It is clear that national governments are no longer able to cope by themselves with the problem.

tackle
A global solution is necessary as only international bodies will be able to tackle climate change.

avert
Investment in renewable energy will help avert the impact of the CO2 emissions.

prevent
The only way to prevent a disaster is to reduce these emissions to zero.

act/take action
Governments should take decisive action to halt global warming.

fight/combat
A way needs to be found to make combatting global warmingthat is affordable.

sustainable and affordable
The key is to ensure that all countries around the world have the chance to adopt energy


How individuals can help

You may be asked what we as individuals can do about climate change. Here are some ideas – there are plenty of them:

lobby MPs
If enough of us lobbied our MPs and other elected representatives then they would have to bring in legislation.

participate in peaceful protests
Another possibility is to take part in marches and other peaceful protests to apply pressure on governments and raise awareness of the issue..

community projects
In some areas there are small-scale community projects to encourage local residents to install solar panels and, in some places, help pay for them.

share transport
We also have the responsibility to consider how we contribute to global warming by making unnecessary car journeys. We can always cycle to work, have a joint school run with other parents and even share a car on the daily commute to work.

diet and our carbon footprint
Reducing food wastage is perhaps the way individuals can minimise their carbon footprint and so help global warming.

energy-efficient lightbulbs
Another small way in which we can use less energy is to switch to energy efficient lightbulbs.

solar panels
There are an increasing number of solar panels on the market and these can not only reduce energy bills but also mean that less carbon fuel is consumed.

heat insulation
Likewise, it is important that people insulate their houses well so that less gas and electricity is consumed.