Would you mind reading this, please?

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

bowlerhatby Kate Woodford
It’s often said that native English speakers use a lot of ‘softeners’ in their language –  those words and phrases which make us sound nicer and more polite, (even if they have very little actual meaning). This week we’re taking a look at softeners and the sort of situations in which we often use them.

An obvious place to start is requesting – asking politely for things or for help. (It’s obviously a good idea to sound polite and pleasant if you want something from someone!) There are several ways to make it clear to someone that you are requesting something and not demanding it. Could I take this chair, please? sounds just a little bit nicer than Can I take this chair, please? The meaning is the same in both sentences, but with ‘could’ the speaker sounds a little less sure of the answer and…

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I’m afraid I disagree with you.

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Kate Woodford
disagree
Last week we looked at the ‘softeners’ (polite words and phrases) that people use to make requests sound nicer. This week we’re taking a look at the sort of phrases that people use when they are disagreeing with people and they don’t want to sound rude or express opinions that sound too strong.

The statement, ‘I disagree with you.’ sounds very strong in English and people often choose not to use it. However, if people do want to express strong disagreement and they use this phrase, they often ‘soften’ it slightly by first apologising:

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Not much between the ears: how to say that someone is stupid

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Liz Walter
stupid
There are many different ways of saying that someone is stupid, depending on factors such as who you are talking to, whether or not you care about offending someone, or how serious you are being.

We can describe someone who has trouble understanding things asslow or dim, but note that we almost always put words like a bit or rather in front of these words: Her husband’s a bit dim. My pupils were rather slow. A kinder way of describing a student who isn’t doing well is to use the verb struggle: My daughter struggles with maths. She’s struggling at school.

At a more advanced level, someone with a vacuousexpression has little sign of intelligence in their face, while an inaneremark is silly and has no real meaning.

In English, it is common to express critical ideas by using positive…

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Less or fewer?

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Liz Walter
less_or_fewer
Should you say ‘less apples’ or fewer apples’? This is an issue which seems to cause as many problems for people who have English as their first language as it does for learners.

This is probably because most learners will be aware of the difference between countable nouns (such as apple, dog, and child) and uncountable or mass nouns (such as rice, milk, and time), and this is useful for understanding the basic rule:

… use less for things you can’t count (uncountable/mass nouns):

I use less sugar than the recipe recommends.

            Modern cars use less fuel.

… use fewer for things you can count (countable nouns).

Fewer people use libraries nowadays.

            This process leads to fewer errors.

Most first language speakers simply don’t think of nouns in that way. The result is that many of them don’t…

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Something to look forward to: three-word phrasal verbs

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Liz Walter​
lookingforward
Most phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and a single particle, but a few have two particles. This blog looks at some of the most common ones.

You probably already know the one in the title: look forward to. One important thing to remember is that if you use another verb after it, it must be in the –ing form:

I’m really looking forward to seeing you. (= I’m pleased and excited because I am going to see you)

Here are some more common three-word phrasal verbs which are well worth learning:

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Come on – you can do it! Phrasal verbs with ‘come’.

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Liz Walter​
comeon
As part of an occasional series on the tricky subject of phrasal verbs, this blog looks at ones formed with the verb ‘come’.

If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you already know come from, as it is one of the first things you learn in class:

I come from Scotland/Spain.

You probably also know how to invite someone to enter your home, using come in:

How lovely to see you! Please come in!

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