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 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!

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

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..