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Tautological Phrases

Tautologies (las tautologías) are to be avoided because they demonstrate unthinking minds (las mentes irreflexivas)., and show that you do not understand the meaning of the words. Let’s examine some of the common errors: It was an “awful tragedy”. Where is the mistake? A tragedy is by definition “awful”. Or are there “nice” tragedies? No. […]

A deadlock

A “deadlock” (punto muerto, impasse) is a position where people cannot proceed (avanzar) with something or cannot make decisions because of disagreement. Some examples: The negotiations ended in deadlock (…terminaron en un punto de muerto). So, the situation is a deadlock (una situación de bloqueo). Mr. Sánchez’s stubborness (la terquedad de…) deadlocked the coalition talks. […]

Put a sock in it

“Sock” (calcetín, media) you may know. Here the interest is in expressions (dichos) that use the word “sock”. Reflect over these: The First certificate class “should pull up its socks” (…debiera poner empeño o debería esforzarse). This means that the class should work harder and make a bigger effort in order to improve. Mr. Podemos […]

In a quandary?

Have you ever “been in a quandary”? Probably.  To be “in a quandary” (estar en un dilema) is to be in a difficult situation (apuro) or “to have a dilemma”. Look at these examples: Mr. Sánchez is in a quandary about the riots in Barcelona. This means he has a dilemma about what to do. […]

Are you a good egg?

“Egg” (huevo) you will know. Here the emphasis is on idioms (modismos) that use egg. Examine these: Mr. Johnson, the British Prime Minister, is an “egg head” (una persona con una inteligencia superior). It means that he is very clever. Is Mr. Johnson a “good egg”? In this context a good egg is a good […]

To wriggle out

“Wriggle” (retorcerse o avanzar serpenteando) is a verb and it means to move sinuously (sinuosamente) like a worm (gusano) or snake. A person who wriggles is a “wriggler” (perillón). Examine these: Mr. Sanchez  wriggled in his seat (…se movía inquieto en su asiento). Mr. Podemos wriggled his toes (…movió los dedos de los pies). Stop […]

Rabbit

“Rabbit” (conejo) you may know. Rabbits live in a burrow (conejera) and many rabbits live in a “rabbit warren” (madriguera de conejos).  You can also say that a place is a “rabbit warren”, meaning that there are a lot of narrow streets where you could easily get lost. Rabbit is also a verb, “to rabbit […]

Is Brexit of great import?

“To import” (importar) something is a verb that you may know. “Imports” (artículos importados) is the plural noun. The opposite is “to export” and “exports” are the goods. An example: Mr. Morales imports (importa) luxury goods. He is an importer (importador) of Rolls Royce cars. There are also compund nouns using “import”: import duty (derechos […]

To debar someone

“Debar” is a (regular) verb and the context is normally negative. To debar someone is to exclude (excluir), prohibit (prohibir a alguien de algo), or deny (negar) someone the option to do something. A person can be “debarred” from doing something. The preposition “with” follows the verb as a collocation. Some examples: Mr. Morales has […]

Thin

“Thin” you may know (delgado, flaco, estrecho, afilado). Here our focus is on the idioms (modismos) that use “thin”. Consider these: He is as thin as a rake. A rake is a “rastrillo” and rake is a verb (rastrillar). It is also a noun with a different meaning, , meaning a dissolute (calavera) person. However, […]