Working prepositions

All these prepositions are from photos of signs and notice around Stratford upon Avon

Prepositions are little words but they can have a big impact on the meaning of what you say. Sometimes using the correct preposition can make the difference between successful communication and confusion.

There are some rules for using prepositions. For example, we use at when we give a clock time: We’re meeting at 2 o’clock. And we use in to describe the location of something: My phone is in my bag.

However, it’s usually better to learn prepositions as part of a collocation or word partnership. For example, we use in in partnership with the adjective interested: I’m interested in musical theatre.

How do you find the correct preposition? You can probably guess our answer: look in a learner’s dictionary.

Here’s the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary entry for interested. Notice the bold words in the first example sentence.

Or, this is what the Macmillan English Dictionary says about interested. Again, interested in is in bold.

Now you have opened these two learner’s dictionaries, try this exercise. Each of the sentences use the verb work in partnership with one of the prepositions in the box. If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess, look in a dictionary.

on as in in in for with at

1. They work ____ a large pharmaceutical firm in Switzerland.
2. She works ____ a software developer.
3. For the last three months, we’ve been working ____ a project in Canada.
4. It’s a multinational company. I work ____ people from all over the world.
5. When he graduates, he hopes to work ____ the film industry.
6. Do you work ____ London?
No, I work ____ Head Office in Edinburgh.
7. Before she moved to Sales, she worked ____ the Production Department.

The correct answers are at the bottom of this page. After you check them, think about the word partnerships in the exercise that you didn’t know. Are they useful to you? If they are, you need to learn them. Modify the sentences from the exercise and make them about you and your job. Think of situations in your life in which you could use those sentences.

Here are a few more learner’s dictionaries:

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Collins Dictionary

 


Answers

1. They work for a large pharmaceutical firm in Switzerland.
2. She works as a software developer.
3. For the last three months, we’ve been working on a project in Canada.
4. It’s a multinational company. I work with people from all over the world.
5. When he graduates, he hopes to work in the film industry.
6. Do you work in London?
No, I work at Head Office in Edinburgh.
7. Before she moved to Sales, she worked in the Production Department.

 

by Barney


If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you want to learn English for work and business? Send us a message.

 

Trade – vocabulary mind map

A good way to collect and organise vocabulary is using mind maps.

Mind maps allow you to group together related vocabulary. This could be vocabulary for a topic or a situation. You can do it on paper or use a website or app. Here’s an example using the vocabulary from our most recent Word making the headlines article about trade.

Click on the image to investigate the mind map more closely. Or view it on the Popplet website. The black boxes have collocations using trade. The orange boxes have examples sentences using those collocations.

Trade vocabulary mind-map

This mind map was made using Popplet. You can create and share Popplet mind maps using their website or iTunes app.

There are lots of mind map apps for Android and Apple.

By Barney

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.

 

Words making the headlines – gig economy

DeliverooWhen the business and finance sections of British newspapers are not expressing concerns about Brexit, they’re discussing the gig economy.

So, what is the gig economy? Let’s start by looking at the meaning of gig. For about 100 years, a gig was a single performance by a musician or group of musicians. For example,

Did you get tickets for the Ed Sheeran gig at the O2 Arena?

We’re playing a gig at the Rose and Crown* tomorrow. Tell your friends.

In the last few years, the word gig has been adopted by freelance workers. They used it to describe a single job for a client.

I’ve got a 2-week gig consulting in Dubai for IST Engineering.

So, a gig is a single event or piece of work. The gig economy refers to companies who employ and pay people on the basis of individual jobs.The most famous examples are the taxi firm Uber and the food delivery company Deliveroo.

Why is the phrase gig economy in the headlines?

This is because of the controversy about the status of people who work for companies like Uber and Deliveroo. At the moment, the people who drive the taxis or deliver the food are classified as freelancers or independent contractors.  The companies say that these people benefit from the flexibility of this arrangement. They can work as much or as little as they want.

The workers see the situation differently. Many of them rely on these companies for most of their income but they only get paid when the companies give them a gig. When the workers divide the amount of money they earn by the number of hours they’re available for work, they say that they earn less than the minimum wage.

It’s not only the money. An employee with a traditional contract has legal benefits. For example,

Paid holidays – This is when you’re guaranteed holiday time while still receiving your salary.

Sick leave – This is when you continue to receive your salary for a period of time while you’re unable to work because of your health.

Maternity and Paternity leave – This is when you receive your salary while you’re away from work after you have a baby (maternity leave) or your partner has had a baby (paternity leave).

Gig economy workers don’t receive these benefits because they are classified as independent contractors. They argue that covering the costs of these things pushes their calculated hourly-rate even lower while the company they work for has higher profits because they don’t have pay for these benefits.

The British government has just published a long report on the future of work in the UK. One section of the report is about the gig economy.

What makes so many people nervous is that many of the companies that benefit from the gig economy are the technology companies that are changing the world in so many ways. What about your job? Do you think you’ll have to become a gig worker in the future?

*Rose and Crown is a very common pub name in the UK.

 

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.


Practise your listening. Click on play to hear Barney reading this text.

Computer vocabulary

How well do you know English computer vocabulary? Here’s a little test. Each of these pictures represents a word or short phrase connected to using computers.

The answers are at the bottom of the page.

Part 1

Can you identify the words and short phrases?

1. 5.

 

2. 6.

 

3. 7.

 

4.

Part 2

Now use the words from Part 1 to complete these sentences.

  1. This is a shared computer. Don’t forget to _________ after you’ve finished checking your email.
  2. It’s important to _________ and install the latest security updates every month.
  3. Your _________ should contain at least one number and one capital letter.
  4. The information you want is near the bottom of the page. You need to _________ to find it.
  5. I’ve forgotten my username so I can’t _________ to my account.
  6. Have you ever tried to _________ a video to YouTube? It’s really easy.
  7. Just type what you want to find into the search box and press _________ on your keyboard.

 

Answers

Check your answers. How many did you get right?

Part 1

  1. log on
  2. upload
  3. enter
  4. password
  5. scroll down
  6. log off
  7. download

Part 2

  1. This is a shared computer. Don’t forget to log off after you’ve finished checking your email.
  2. It’s important to download and install the latest security updates every month.
  3. Your password should contain at least one number and one capital letter.
  4. The information you want is near the bottom of the page. You need to scroll down to find it.
  5. I’ve forgotten my username so I can’t log on to my account.
  6. Have you ever tried to upload a video to YouTube? It’s really easy.
  7. Just type what you want to find into the search box and press enter on your keyboard.

by Barney

 

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Do you want to learn English for work and business? Send us a message.

 

Making contact – social language

Airport conversation

Social conversation is important to help get to know people and to build relationships.

Part 1

Listen

Listen to this conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences? That sounds great, thanks.
Have you been before? I’m a technical manager for IWB.
What do you do? No, I haven’t.
Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch? No, I came last year when it was in Budapest.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi, I’m Julie. Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences?

B: No, I came last year when it was in Budapest. I’m Susan by the way. Have you been before?

A: No, I haven’t. I’ve just started working in medical technology.

B: What do you do?

A: I’m a technical manager for IWB. I’m responsible for technical support in Eastern Europe. What about you?

B: Oh, I’m with BTC. I was in technical support, but I’ve moved into project management.

A: Maybe you could suggest a couple of useful sessions for me?

B: Yeah, sure. Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch?

A: That sounds great, thanks.

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There are three parts:

  • I’m with BTC. = this says what the present situation is
  • I was in technical support, = this says what the past situation was
  • but I’ve moved into project management. = this says what has changed

Now, use this structure to write a sentence about you that says;

  • what your present situation is
  • what your past situation was
  • what has changed.

 

Part 2

Listen

Listen to this second conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Did you have a good flight? Paul hasn’t.
When was that? He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months.
Has everyone else arrived for the meeting? Not too bad.
How long has he lived there? It was last year.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi Brian. Did you have a good flight?

B: Not too bad, Peter. At least it was on time.

A: That’s good. I’ve had problems with RiteFlite in the past.

B: Oh? When was that?

A: It was last year, on a trip to Buenos Aires.

B: Really? I’ve always wanted to go there.

A: Well, we had a fantastic time apart from the flight.

B: Anyway, has everyone else arrived for the meeting?

A: Paul hasn’t. He called 20 minutes ago to say his train was delayed! It’s typical, isn’t it? The person who lives closest is the one who’s late!

B: Oh really? I thought he lived in Norwich.

A: Not any more. He’s moved to Richmond.

B: Ah. How long has he lived there

A: He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months. He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work!

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There’s a question about an unfinished time:

  • How long has he lived there?

The answer has two parts:

  • He’s only been there for 3 or 4 month. = an unfinished time = the time he’s lived in Richmond
  • He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work! = a finished time = the time he moved

Here are two questions with the same structure:

  • How long have you lived here?
  • How long have you worked there?

Write answers about you.


Answers

Part 1

Julie and Susan don’t know each other. They are meeting for the first time.

They are at a conference.

Part 2

Peter and Brian know each other. They are colleagues.

They are at an airport.

 

By Louise and Barney

Do you know the rules of making small talk? Watch our video.

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need practise social language in English? Send us a message.

 

‘Growing’ your business

A crop of tomatoesStrawberry plants bearing fruit

Did you know, when we talk about business, we use a lot of idioms connected with gardening and growing?

How many garden and growing idioms can you find in these short conversations? Can you guess what they mean?

Listen to each conversation then try the exercise. The transcripts and answers are at the bottom of the page.

Listen

How many garden and growing idioms do you hear?

Money for advertising

The new contract

The interviews

Office closure


Exercise

Can you match the idioms to their meanings?

IDIOM MEANING
1 plough money into a  to produce a result (especially after a long period of hard work)
2 perennial problem b  to separate out (a smaller group from a larger group / people who are less suitable from those who are more suitable)
3 bear fruit c  to go into a different direction/ business area
4 dig out d  to put (a lot of) time/money into a project
5 a crop of e  to result from
6 weed out f  to find something you have not used or seen for a long time
7 stem from g a group of people who achieve something or become known for something at the same time (eg graduates)
8 branch out  h  something which always exists, never seems to change

Transcripts and answers

WeedsCrop of applesa spade

Money for advertising

A: How was the meeting?

B: Well, the Board want to plough more money into advertising, but I think we should be spending it on getting the products right first!

A: Hmm, I know what you mean. It’s a perennial problem:  increase advertising without having any new products or develop new products but lack the budget to promote them!

 

The new contract

A:  Did you hear we got the Strathco contract?

B: That’s great – all that hard work has finally borne fruit.

A: Yes, I’ll have to go back and dig out the research I did right at the beginning  of the process – over a year ago!

 

The interviews

A: Have you finished all the interviews?

B: Yes, just did the last few this morning – there’s a really strong crop of graduates this year, so we’ve got lots of good candidates.

A: That’s good to hear –how many are we taking?

B: Only 10, so I’ve now got the difficult job of weeding out the less suitable ones.

 

Office closure

A: Have you heard they’re closing the Leicester office?

B: Yes – their results have been pretty bad for the last couple of years, haven’t they?

A: Yeah, I think it all stems from relying on one or two big clients and when they lost those contracts….

B: You’re right – we should make sure that doesn’t happen here.

A: Yes but we could also branch out into other areas of business …….

 

Answers

1d 2h 3a 4f 5g 6b 7e 8c

 

By Joy

 

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Words making the headlines – tax

The last word making the headlines was election and when there’s an election on, there’s one topic that is sure to be discussed. That topic, of course, is tax – should we be paying more or less and what should our governments spend the money on?

Everybody knows what tax is but be careful with the pronunciation of the plural form. Taxes/tæk.sɪz/ has a short /ɪ/ vowel sound in the second syllable. If you make this sound too long, people could think you are saying taxis /tæk.siːz/. That would be very confusing!

taxes/tæk.sɪz/
taxis /tæk.siːz/

Here’s a story from the website of the Guardian newspaper about the election promises of one of the major British political parties, the Labour Party. The story is about income tax, the tax that we pay on the money we earn from our jobs.

Other types of tax are:

Corporation tax – the tax that companies pay on their profits

Value Added Tax (VAT) or Sales tax – the tax on goods and services we buy every day.

The article also talks about tax revenue. This is the total amount of money the government collects from taxpayers: you and me.

The Labour party also promises to deal with tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is when people and companies use loopholes in the law to avoid paying some or all of their tax. Don’t confuse this with tax evasion which is when you just don’t pay your tax. Tax evasion is against the law and you can go to prison if the authorities catch you.

Here in Britain, the Labour Party says it will raise taxes by increasing the tax rate for the richest people. In the USA, President Trump wants to cut taxes, especially for business.

Paying tax is something we all have to do whether we like it or not. However, everybody seems to like talking about tax. In fact, Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said,

‘There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.’

See how many of these words you can use next time a conversation in English turns to the subject of tax.

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.

Listen to Barney reading this text.

By Barney