Articles and podcasts about cultural issues in English-speaking countries, politics in Switzerland and abroad, education, technical advances, and an infinite number of other topics can be a fascinating basis for a discussion and deliver excellent opportunities to learn new vocabulary and the latest idiomatic language. The sheer amount of information jockeying for position on the internet can be overwhelming, however, so I’ve decided to write about two of my favorites:
The Guardian is an established broadsheet* newspaper in the UK. The Long Read is a series of long articles on a range of different subjects. Some texts are also available as audio podcast episodes. Here is one of my favourite episodes:
The only way to end the class divide. The case for abolishing private schools.
People who have not lived in the UK are often unaware of the effect of having been, or not having been, to a private school on someone’s future career and life in Britain. Did you know that only 6% of the UK population go to private school, but 32% of MPs (Members of Parliament)? and 74% of Judges were privately educated? Find out how private schools shape the UK class system, promoting inequality and causing division across the board.
A shorter alternative from across the pond is The Daily. Although released as an audio podcast, there is the possibility to download a transcript a day after the audio is released. Topics are very up-to-date, so they don’t tend to age well, but they are well worth a listen.
This episode follows Valerie Gilbert a Qanon supporter before and after Biden took office. The podcast introduces the Qanon community and explains their hopes for a new order to be brought about by President Trump. Can Qanon survive Biden’s election, or is it time for the movement to cut its losses and disband?
I hope you have a chance to check out these episodes. If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to get in touch!
*a newspaper with a large format, regarded as more serious and less sensationalist than tabloids
Hi and Happy New Year 2021! Long time no see. Seeing as I have watched most of YouTube, I’ve decided to make some grammar videos using video clips. These videos shows the connection between the past and the present that is needed for the present perfect tense.
Present perfect always needs some elements of past and present. If you only have past, it’s past simple:
I went to Spain last year
If you are talking generally about the present, it’s present simple:
The moon goes around the earth.
If you are talking about right now in the present, it’s present continuous:
I’m sitting at my desk typing.
As soon as you talk about events in the past that clearly effect the present, such as a fall when the person is still on the ground,
“She’s fallen and she can’t get up” (She fell -past- and is lying on the floor -present-)
or you break something,
“I’ve broken your cup” (I broke your cup -past- the cup is still broken -present-)
you need present perfect. When the past effects the present like this you have a result in the present, so this use of present perfect is called “present perfect for result“. There are other times you need present perfect, for example when you say “how long” something has gone on for. As always with present perfect this also needs past and present elements:
I’ve lived here for 3 years. (I started living here three years ago -past- and I live here now -present)
Confusion with “for” and “since” is a very common problem for English learners. Often, even when people understand how to use each word correctly, there are slip-ups. The difference in the use of these two words is one of those things that is specific to the English language and therefore difficult to remember. Thankfully songwriters throughout the ages are experts in the subject, and there’s nothing more memorable than a good tune.
First, here’s a song sung by BB King and Katie Webster. Just listen to the chorus at 1.43 if you don’t have time for the whole song:
Let’s look at the lyrics of the chorus sung by BB King (If you’re not too chilled out after listening to that):
Since I metyou baby my whole life has changed
Since I met you baby you’ve made a new man out of me
Since I met you baby I’m as happy as a man can be.
Here’s another beautiful song. This time from Chris Delmhorst. If you don’t have time for the whole song listen to 0:13 to 0:40:
OK, stop weeping! Let’s look at some of the lyrics of this song:
Seems like to me the stars don’t shine so bright
Seems like to me the sun has lost its light
Seems like to me there’s nothing going right … since you went away
Next please! Here are the champions of the English language, The Beatles. Non Beatles fans can skip straight to 02.25
This time in the chorus at the end: I’ll never dance with another, since I saw her standing there
The word “since” is used before a word or phrase expressing a point in time in the past. For example, in the sentence “I have lived in Zurich since 2007.” 2007 is the point in time in the past. Since is another way of saying “from … until now”
Back in BB Kings song, meeting his lover for the first time is the point in time in the past. He then lists the things that are true in his life from then until now.
I met you = at a point in time in the past
My life has changed, I’m a new man, I’m really happy = have been true from that time and is still true now
In Chris Delmhorst’s song:
You went away = at a point of time in the past
The sun has lost its light, the bird has forgotten his song, the stars don’t shine so bright = These things have happened from then until now.
In The Beatles song:
I saw her standing there = at a point of time in the past
I’ll never dance with another = has been true from that time until now and will be true for ever and ever (gotta love The Beatles)
So, you use “since” before a point of time in the past. But what about “for”?
Let’s ask Sam Smith. Skip to 1:29 if you wish to avoid the dramatics at the beginning.
Apart from accusing us of calling him crazy and calling him baby, he sings:
For months on end I’ve had my doubts I have loved you for many years
The last word is going to go to Phil Collins. Don’t tell me you don’t know this one! Skip to 0.36 if you don’t have time for the whole song.
Phil sings: I’ve been waiting for this moment for all of my life
As these songs show, the word “for” is used before a length of time.
“Months on end”, “many years” and “all of my life”
“I have lived in Zurich since 2007″ and “I have lived in Zurich for 13 years” mean the same (In 2020), but “since” is used before a point in time and “for” before a length of time.
And finally ….there are also songs that show you how not to do it. For example this one, that has been covered many many times.
If you weren’t too busy worrying about their hair catching fire to listen to the song, you might have noticed the hook: “Since you’ve been gone”.
Can anyone spot a problem here? The word “since” is before “you’ve been gone”. While our other examples always used the past simple, to express a point of time in the past, “I met her”, “You went away” “I saw you”, this song uses present perfect “You’ve been gone“. The present perfect, “have/has been” plus the past participle (gone), is not used to describe a point in the past that is finished. It’s used to describe something that started in the past and is still true now, so you shouldn’t use it after “since”. It should really be “since you went away” like in Kris Delmhorst’s song or “since you left“
But I suppose that’s rock-and-roll for ya!
Please leave any comments are suggestions below. Have a good week!
Hi English enthusiasts! I’ve decided to start a blog correcting errors that I hear from students and other speakers of English as a foreign language day after day here in Switzerland. I hope you will join me on this journey into the foul swamps of split infinitives and false friends.
Let’s start with that old blooper:
“by” and “until”
So, you’re at work. Your boss comes in,
“I need the sales report. Have you finished it yet? I need it at four!”
You say: “It’s nearly finished, I’ll give it to you ***** four o’clock.”
What’s missing, “by” or “until”?
If you answer is “until”, we need to talk.
Let’s go to another situation. You’re in the pub with Dave. You’re talking about your bucket lists*
You say: “I’d love to go bungee jumping!”
Your friend Dave says: “I want to go bungee jumping until I’m 50.”
Jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping and jumping……The WHOLE time up to your 50th birthday! Bouncing and eating, bouncing and sleeping. That doesn’t sound healthy!
No Dave, the word you need is “before”.
“I want to go bungee jumping before I’m 50,” means that you want to experience this thing one time.
At least I hope this is what you wanted to say…
So, back to the office
When you say “It’s nearly finished, I’ll give it to you until four o’clock.” It means you will spend the entire time up to four o’clock “giving it” to your Boss. I don’t know, maybe it’s got A LOT of pages…
No! Giving doesn’t take that long! If you use “until”, you mean that you will be doing the activity from right now when you are speaking up to the time, date, day etc. that you mention.
The right answer is, “I’ll give it to you before four o’clock.” You’ll finish it, and then you’ll give it to your boss ONCE some time before four.
TIPP: For this reason, verbs describing short activities such as: “to give”, “to start”, “to stop” “to enter” etc. are seldom used with the word until.
Here are some more examples. Are they correct or incorrect? (Answers at the end)
1. I’m going to study until I get my degree.
2. I’m going to do the proficiency exam until I go back to Switzerland.
3. I’m playing tennis until four o’clock.
4. I’ll finish my tennis game until four o’clock
5. I’m going to make an appointment with my dentist until Christmas.
6. I have to renew my passport until 2030
7. I have until this Friday to apply for the job
Please leave a like or comment if you’re part of the blogging community. I’m also on the lookout for new topics, so if there’s anything you’d like me to try to clear up for you, please let me know. Let’s bash out those bloopers!
Are you having one of those days? Here are some great idioms to express how you feel.
I got out of the wrong side of bed this morning. In fact, I’m feeling a bitdown in the dumps. Yesterday, my boss gave me adressing down. I had forgotten to send some important files to a client and they decided to take their business elsewhere. Our other projects are going to the dogs so we’re up shit creek without a paddle. It has really knocked me for six. I guess I’ll just have to try to weather the storm there’s no usecrying over spilt milk.
Match the idiom with the definition
a) survive hard times
b) a severe telling-off /reprimand.
c) in a lot of trouble [vulgar!]
d) to become ruined / become much worse
e) a bit depressed
f) to express regret about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
For students who want to maximise their English practice or teachers looking for interestings topics for their lessons there is nothing better than a well put together Swiss news website. These are my favourite Swiss news sites in English.
This is my favourite by far. The articles, translated into 10 different languages, are well written and cover a variety of interesting topics from Switzerland and abroad. This is my go-to website when I want to find information on up-coming referendums or national events. It is also a good starting point for a discussion into differences between life in Switzerland and other countries. The Switzerland: How topage describes the Swiss school system, the political system and everything you need to know about living in Switzerland. Here is a, rather tongue in cheek, article about how to behave on Swiss trains.
This is a website purely in English. Most articles are members-only and you can buy a subscription for about 50.- CHF for one year. The articles seem to be less detailed than on Swissinfo and there is less of an international focus to the news but there are some interesting topics.
The English forum is not really a news site but it’s interesting to visit the discussion pages to have an expat’s-eye view on the country. You might find someone to practice your English with if you are a student. Maybe you could give a Switzerland newbie some advice.
ch.ch is the official Swiss government news and information website, in other words “The Swiss Authorities Online”. Really useful if you want to find out about Swiss laws and regulations in a concise and clear way. Here you can find out about how much driving over the speed limit will cost you.
The platform Ronorp gives people and businesses in Switzerland the chance to write about what matters to them. Kind of like a collective blog. The English page (unfortunately only available for Zurich) is well worth a read to find out what’s going on in the area. I would definately check out Ron’s Tips. This one has a link to walking tours of Zurich in English. Maybe we could use them on our English Walk on Saturday.
This is the first in a series of videos that aim to help people with a Swiss German accent to speak more like a native speaker. Please like and subscribe to my youtube channel if you would like more videos.
Simon Mayo has a radio show that you can write to with your confessions. He’ll read your letter out and then he and his team will decide if you are forgiven or not. There are some great stories, and it’s interesting to hear the team deciding whether to condemn the “sinners”. Have a listen. Would you forgive them? These are extracts from a radio show, so feel free to skip the bits at the beginning if they are not relevant to the story.
Confessions on Scala Radio
1. The New Car (From 1:15)
Synopsis: Jezza’s Boss had a new car. It was his pride and joy. The team went on a residential course together. One evening they went to Burford to go on a pub crawl. The Boss “Len” took his lovely new car. Driving back, Jezza Was sick all over the dashboard. He offered to pay to get it professionally cleaned. His boss had it cleaned and it seemed ok. One day, Len used the air blowers in his car and “particles” flew into the car. Len couldn’t clean it out of the ventilation system and had to sell the car.
2. The Jeans (From 1:03)
Synopsis: Emma liked REALLY tight jeans. One day she went to go an buy a new pair and was trying them on. She tried them on in the fitting room while the shop assistant gave her new ones to try on and took away the ones that didn’t fit. Without realizing it, Emma lost a pair of knickers in one of the pairs of jeans she had tried on and given back to the shop assistant. The shop assistant had put the jeans back on the shelf. They closed the shop to look for her underpants but they never found them. Someone must have bought a pair of jeans with her knickers in.
Do you forgive?
3. Chutney (1:15)
Synopsis: Louis loved Chutney. He ate it every day. His wife used to make Chutney from the pears from her father’s favorite tree. The tree fell down at about the same time as her father died and the family decided to make one last special batch of chutney together to remember him by. Louis was left at home to stir the Chutney while the others went for a walk. He was hungry and wanted to cook something so he decided to move the big pan and put it outside for a little while so there was space on the cooker. He heard the family returning and quickly put the Chutney back on the cooker. Finding two massive Slugs on top of the Chutney, he quickly put them in his pocket and stirred in the slime. He never told anyone. They made 24 jars of Chutney in memory of his father-in-law that we divided up amongst the whole family. He told his family he had gone off Chutney and hasn’t eaten it since.
Do you forgive him?
4. The cat flap kid (1:23)
Synopsis: Emma was pregnant with her 4th Child. Her toddler was at home with her in a new house. She took George for a walk and they had a lovely time. When they got back, she realized she had locked herself out. Her car keys were also in the house and she had to pick up her other son soon, so she was frantic. She sent her son through the cat flap telling him to get the keys. He changed his mind but she pushed him through. He got in, passed them to her and got a lolly. When she told her sister, she was horrified.
Do you forgive her?
5. The Play (1:12)
Synopsis: There was a performance of Pinocchio by a GCSE drama group. The plan was that when Pinocchio changes from a puppet to a boy there would be a smoke bomb going off for dramatic effect. When it started, the play seemed to be going ok but there was a lot of giggling backstage. The smoke bomb was accidently set off early and the kids had made it far too big. The whole room was filled with smoke and the audience rushed out. The boy who was playing Geppetto said “Oh what a foggy morning”.
Do you forgive them?
The Window (1:52)
Synopsis: Dan was 14 and his friend Will was very forgetful. One weekend, they went to hang out at Wills house. Will had forgotton his key, again. Dan noticed that the bathroom window on the first floor was open, so he used a bin to climb up the wall and onto a low roof to squeeze through the window. This way, both boys managed to get into the house. As Will was always forgetting his keys, afterwards he would often come into the house this way. One day will climbed in to get his keys and then both boys went to the Fish and Chip Shop. When they came back the police were there. The neighbor had seen them climbing in and called the police, who were searching the house for clues. Will confessed and took all the blame. Wills Mum went nuts. He had to apologize to the neighbor and was grounded. Dan feels bad that it was his idea to get into the house through the window.
Do you forgive him?
Radio 2 confessions
DIY Debacle (1:09)
They had recently moved into a new house. They had a 2-year-old and she was pregnant. One afternoon they took the kids to a DIY Megastore. Dougal was potty training. Dougal used the toilet in the megastore. It was a display toilet… Soon it would be discovered. They ran away.
Do you forgive them?
Exploding brie (7:13)
He was a fighter pilot. Once there was a party in an aircraft hangar in France. People drank a lot. His navigator produced a box of bangers. They put a banger into a fish on the nearby table. It blew up. They started blowing all the fish up. When they began to run out of fish, he put one in a brie and threw it into the air. It exploded and everyone was covered in cheese.
Do you forgive them?
Brian’s Film (14:15)
Brian was in a cinema club a long time ago, where they used to show old films. The films came in sections (reels) of 20 minutes that the projectionist would tape together. One day the film seemed strange. The plot veered out in a strange direction and nothing made sense. Brian’s film club colleague pulled him out of the film to talk to him. Somebody had mixed up the reels. They were from the same film but in the wrong order. “Should they stop the film?” No one was complaining but they looked puzzled. The two film club members decided to leave it as it was. They showed the same film in the wrong order the next day too.
Do you forgive them?
The Windmills (21:14)
Grandpa took his five-year-old grandson on Holiday to the seaside. The boy loved to look at the windmills out at sea. One day when they went for a walk to the beach the windmills were hidden by fog. Grandpa told his grandson that he knew why, but only because he was a top-secret member of the Sheffield coastguard. He said that the windmills went underwater, so that the boats wouldn’t knock into them at night. The next morning the boy told his Mum what his grandfather had said about the windmills, and said that it was top secret. She believed him! She asked Grandpa and he jokingly said he hoped he wouldn’t get into trouble. Just then, by coincidence, the coastguard arrived outside. The boy and his mum immediately hid under the table. Grandpa went out, pretended to talk to the coastguards and then came back in to tell them that he was in trouble but he thought it would be OK.
The same boy is now 11 and wrote an essay for school about renewable energy. He asked his grandfather if he could write what he had told him about the windmills. He and his mother still believe that they go under the sea at night!
Do you forgive him?
I Hope you had fun with these stories! There are loads more. Have a look on youtube.