Friday, February 28, 2014

Come hell or high water

If you are going to do something “come hell or high water”, you are absolutely determined to do it no matter what difficulties or obstacles you face. Another way to express the same thing is, “come rain or shine”.

1. Do you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions or lifestyle changes come hell or high water, or do you sometimes give up easily?

2. What will you sacrifice sleep for so that you can finish something come rain or shine? For me I will stay up late to finish a season of my favorite TV series.

3. Do you pay all of your bills on time come hell or high water, or is it normally not that urgent?

4. If someone says, “I will ___ if it’s the last thing I do!”, it means that neither rain nor shine, hell nor high water will stop them from accomplishing their goal.

5. Most kinds of deadlines need to be met come rain or shine. What deadlines do you currently have?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The last minute

If you do something at the last minute, you are doing it just before the deadline or before the time it needs to be ready. You leave something until the last moment.

1. Were/ are you someone who left/ leaves studying for exams until the last minute? Of course, why study now when we still have tomorrow, right!?

2. Do women leave things until the last minute more commonly than men, or is it that they are only ready until the last minute?

3. I am not surprised when students send me compositions at the last minute just before coming to class, even though I will most likely not have the time to revise them until after the class.

4. When you need to cancel an event or outing with a friend (or even an English class), do you wait until the last minute to call them, or do you try to let them know ahead of time?

5. Do you sleep until the last possible minute, or do you wake up a little earlier and give yourself ample time to get ready for work… or a little bit of a leeway (flexibility) with the traffic?

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Acid Test

The “acid test” is the definitive, absolute or sure test which establishes the value or worth of something. It originally comes from the use of nitric acid to test gold.

1. What is the acid test to determine who the “best” soccer player in the world is? Is it recognition by fans around the world, the number of goals scored, world cup titles under their belt or by some other means?

2. How do you know if someone is really a true friend? Is there an acid test? Is it those people who leave comments or poke you on Facebook?

3. The Cambridge CPE exam is by far the most difficult English proficiency test. If you pass it, your English is almost as good as a Native Speaker’s. In other words it is the acid test for your level of English. Out in the real world, the acid test is whether or not you can get a job where you need to speak English all day.

4. When I want to research about movies to watch, in general, the acid test for me is the rating a movie gets on (the internet movie data base). If a movie gets at least a 7 then I consider it worth watching.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2nd Conditional

2nd conditional: generally, it is an unreal possibility or dream. We're talking hypothetically about the future. The grammar: If + past simple + would

1. Beyoncé sings: "If I were a boy, even just for a day, I'd roll out of bed in the morning, and throw on what I wanted and go..." What would you do differently if you were a member of the opposite sex?

2. If I were born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I might not/ would not be as hard-working as I am now.

3. My mother always used to tell me that money did not grow on trees. If it did, every tree would look like it does in winter… after the fall/ autumn.

4. If I were born in the Northeast of Brazil, I would probably be crazy about soccer, eat "Panelada" and listen to "Forro" music.

5. If I had more than 24 hours a day, I would take up a new hobby every week.

6. I would eat a cockroach ONLY if I were paid at least $5,000 to do so. What is your price?

7. If I had bigger biceps I would wear a tank top in public. I'm working on it!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's trending?

If something is trending on twitter, it is a topic that is being talked about the most. It could be any news or story that is popular at the moment.
A trend simply reflects what seems to be going around at any given time. It could reflect fashion, pop-culture, entertainment… or even the stock market.

1. If you would like to know what's happening right now on Twitter, there are many ways to find out: one way is to visit the profile, "What's Trending" (@WhatsTrending). If you go to, you can see what's trending in your area right now.

2. Absolutely anything that is trending at the moment will no doubt be passed around on Facebook. Popular things, whether they are funny videos or serious political stories go viral overnight.

3. Have you heard of "Zite"? It is an app that collects the best of all topics from around the Internet: from magazines, newspapers, authors, blogs and videos on any topic that is currently trending. It is available on the App Store (iOS), Google play and Amazon Appstore (for Android), as well as on the Windows Phone Store. It will curate your news content according to your interests.

4. What is currently trending in your area of interest, whether it be sports, technology, productivity, health, etc?

5. If you have no idea what's trending at the moment, Google it! Go to Google and type in, "What's trending right now?"... or, "Trending topics." Some of your top results will be for Yahoo! News, Pinterest, Twitter, The Huffington post, TechCrunch, etc.

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's beyond me

If something is beyond you, it is impossible or difficult to understand or deal with. It may also express a hint of frustration/ exasperation at the same time. Also, a concept may be difficult to grasp.

1. It is beyond me how many people are not interested in being involved in their children’s' lives. They are missing out on some of life's best moments.

2. Theoretical physics is totally beyond me. I think you need to be an academic to understand Stephen Hawking’s' articles.

3. Why Brazilians have to pay so much tax - especially import tax, is beyond me. Is there any way to justify electronics in Brazil costing at least double the price they do in the US? Are import taxes high in your country?

4. I can't for the life of me understand how someone can take another person's life, simply because they want something that the other person has. It's beyond me.

5. To contemplate the infinite past is totally mind-boggling… It is absolutely beyond me. Time always existed, and there was never a beginning. There was always existence.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Comparative & Superlative

Generally, if an adjective has one or two syllables, we add an "-er" for the comparative and an "-est" for the superlative. If there are more than two syllables, we use more/most + adjective. Of course, there are exceptions.

1. What is the most beautiful or most interesting thing you have ever seen? Is it more beautiful or more interesting than the aurora borealis?

2. Which country do you think has a more efficient education system: China or the United States?

3. Do you know any of the following statistics/ facts?: The longest river in the world, the second biggest bank robbery in history, the smallest country in the world, the oldest man or woman alive, the richest man in the world, the country with the highest per capita income in the world, the fastest man alive, the longest running comic strip.

4. Who do you think is crazier… Jim Carrey, Dennis Rodman or Charlie Sheen?

5. The "longest day" of the year is called the Summer solstice. The shortest day of the year is called the Winter solstice.

6. In your opinion, who do you think speaks a "clearer" English… Americans or the British?

7. In you experience, which is the best and the worst web browser that exists?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tighten Your Belt!

If you tighten your belt, you need to find ways to economize with your budget and spend less, because things are difficult financially - or you simply have a tighter budget for one reason or another.

1. Do you have to tighten your belt towards the end of the month, just before you receive your next paycheck? Some people have the philosophy of, “Let's eat, drink and be merry" whenever possible. So there are always times of plenty and times of little.

2. Do Brazilians tighten their belts after Christmas and New Year?... Or do they tighten their belts after Carnival?

3. Can you think of any countries that have to tighten their belts? In recent years, Germany has pushed for Greece to tighten its belt, especially since they have been giving Greece financial aid in the form of a bailout package.

4. You have often heard it said, "The more you have, the more you spend." That's why even millionaires have to sometimes tighten their belts.

5. "To spend or not to spend… That is the question." How do you know when you can splash out or when you absolutely have to tighten your belt?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Work out

If something works out, it has positive results, it is successful. A synonym for work out is “turn out”. The final result.

1. Have you ever been in a relationship that didn’t work out? For some people it is the story of their lives. Often when someone wants to break up with a boyfriend/ girlfriend, they say, “This is not working out”. Why is it that many marriages don’t work out?

2. If you are curious as to the result of absolutely anything or how something went (for plans), you can ask the question, “How did it work out/ turn out?”

3. Many of my students are highly critical about Brazil’s preparation for the World Cup next year, but I always tell them that if it worked out for South Africa, it will work out for Brazil, no problem.

4. If you want to encourage someone, you could tell them, “Don’t worry, everything will work out just fine!

5. If something doesn’t work out we can also say that it’s a “flop”, which is a word that comes from baking. If you’re baking a cake, and it doesn’t turn out well, it’s a flop. Have any of your recent plans been a flop?

Friday, February 7, 2014

You never know...

When we say this, we are imagining that something could happen, no matter how improbable. We are keeping an open mind as to possibilities.

1. It is highly unlikely that we will ever have a tsunami, earthquake or any number of natural disasters in the Northeast of Brazil, but you never know… anything could happen.

2. We need to “expect the unexpected” because you never know what could happen next. Are you flustered (afobado) when unexpected things happen, or do you roll with the punches (deal well with difficulties)?

3. Do you participate in competitions or raffles, being very positive and thinking to yourself, “You never know, I could win!”? Personally I’m not very optimistic in such matters and prefer not to “waste” my time.

4. Bafana Bafana could beat Brazil in the 2018 World Cup – you never know!

5. I could live in Fortaleza for the rest of my life or I could immigrate to England next year- you never know.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fit in...

If someone "fits in", they feel that they belong or are comfortable in a certain group, class, neighborhood, culture, nation etc. They identify with the people in that particular group or have a lot in common with them. It also depends on how someone is accepted into a group.

1. “Birds of a feather flock together”, is a popular expression meaning that people who have similar characteristics, appearance, nationalities, speak the same language, have the same interests or professions etc., tend to gravitate towards one another in society, the workplace, or a small group… because they feel that they fit in easier or are more accepted or understood.

2. Are there any communities in Brazil where it would be difficult for an “outsider” to fit in, even if that person was Brazilian? Are there many immigrant communities here?

3. I didn't feel like I fit in in my drivers’ license theory class. Most of the other students were kids half my age…

4. Do you think it's possible to fit into a group of people when you can't speak their language?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


When you "realize" something, you "perceive" it… almost like a revelation. It could be a "Eureka" moment, where you suddenly become aware of something. This false cognate in Spanish and Portuguese would be to achieve/ reach/ accomplish in English. 

1.      Do you know the story of how Archimedes jumped out of the bathtub naked and shouted, "Eureka! Eureka!"? Do you know what he had realized at that moment?

2.      Have you ever woken up, gotten ready and started to head out the door, and then suddenly realized that it was not a work day, and that you could have stayed in bed?

3.      I didn't realize that "Nossa!" (in Portuguese) was an abbreviation for "Nossa Senhora!", the equivalent of saying, "Oh my God!" Is there anything in English that you have just realized?

4.      I don't think the people of North Korea realize that there is a world full of technology out there. They are basically living in a bubble, isolated from the rest of the world.

5.      In the book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey says that many people work hard and climb the ladder of “success” very efficiently and productively... But he goes on to say that once they reach the top of that ladder, many people realize they've been climbing the wrong ladder - that it was leaning against the wrong wall. Are you climbing the right ladder?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I can't wait...

If you can’t wait for something, you are looking forward to something in great anticipation. You are excited at the prospect of something happening. (Não vejo a hora)

1.  I can't wait to visit my country at the end of this year. It will have been 13 years away from "home" without returning. They say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder". Talk about someone or some place that you haven't seen in a long time.

2.  I don't think there's a child on the face of the planet who can't wait for their birthday or Christmas. Their expectation and excitement is so tangible... You can feel it. What are some of the things you can't wait for, the things you look forward to doing?

3.  In most first world countries young people can't wait to leave home and move into their own apartment, so that they can become more independent. What is it like with young people in your country? Do they leave home at the first chance they get?

4.  I can't wait for game of thrones season 4... but we have no choice… we have to wait another nine months. For those who really can't wait, they can go and download and read the next books in the series.

5.  I can't wait for my next vacation. Isn't it incredible that we usually spend more time anticipating a vacation than it actually lasts? We spend so much time thinking about and planning them... and when they finally arrive they are over before you know it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Unless - an indispensable conjunction

Unless is like saying, "if...not"/ "except if"/ Except on the condition that.../ Except under the circumstances that... We may be talking about an exception to the rule.

1. Tourists who come to Brazil might not be aware of safety issues, unless they come from countries where they have the same conditions, and so are used to staying on their toes.

2. I don't normally teach private classes to groups of students, unless they are married couples.

3. Come hell or high water I am going to the beach this weekend… Unless it rains!

4. It is so easy to set ultimatums: "Unless she apologizes I'm never going to speak to her again."

5. This is how you know someone may be blackmailing you: they will not give you what you want, unless you do what they want or give them what they want.

6. A year has 365 days, unless it is a leap year. Is 2014 a leap year?

7. Everybody likes to eat avocado on a sandwich, on a pizza, in a salad or as guacamole… Unless you are Brazilian. Brazilians are used to making a sort of fruit shake called a "vitamina", where they blend avocado and condensed milk to create an "Abacatada".