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Internet vocabulary – Interactive exercise

One of the most popular recent blog posts here has been the Internet vocabulary mind map.

People from all over the world have read the blog post and downloaded the mind map.

In response, we decided to create an interactive learning module using some of the vocabulary from the mind map.


Internet vocabulary interactive exercise

Louise and Simon helped Barney to test the module. In the process, they learned a lot more about the names of elements of a webpage and what those elements are used for.

So, if you need to learn the different between check boxes and radio buttons and to drag & drop and to hover, click on the red button below and try the interactive learning module.


We are creating more and more interactive materials for our blog and to support our language courses. If there is a particular area of language you think we should focus on, please use the comment box below or contact us with your ideas.


Naval-inspired idioms

Cutty Sark - Greenwich, London
Cutty Sark is a clipper ship, used to transport tea from China to Britain. She is on display in Greenwich, London.

During a recent trip with Linda to Greenwich in London (famous for Greenwich Mean Time, the Naval Academy and Royal Observatory), Joy discovered some interesting idioms connected to ships and the sea.

Exercise 1

First , can you match the idiom with its origin?

1) First-rate

2) All at sea

3) No room to swing a cat

4) To push the boat out

5) Show your true colours


a) Helping a seaman push a boat into the water was an act of generosity or kindness.

b) Naval ships sometimes used foreign flags to disguise their identity at sea. Just before a battle, ships would show their own flag (also known as colours).

c) A ship which carried at least 100 guns and was the largest and most powerful type of ship of the Navy.

d) Relates to the practice of whipping with a cat-o’-nine-tails (a kind of whip with several ‘tails’).

e) Early navigators could easily become lost when out of sight of land as it was hard to work out their exact position.



1 c  2 e  3 d  4 a  5 b


Royal Naval College - Greenwich, London
Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London

Exercise 2

Today, these idioms are no longer associated with ships and the sea.

Read these sentences and choose the correct modern meaning for the idiom.

1) Congratulations! You’ve done a first rate job setting up the new order system.

a) useful
b) high quality
c) quick

2) When I first started here, I felt all at sea, but everyone was so friendly I soon settled in.

a) confused
b) excited
c) unhappy

3) She’s just bought a flat in London, but considering it cost £250,000 there’s no room to swing a cat!

a) it’s luxurious
b) it’s very small
c) it’s expensive

4) Don’t worry about the cost – you only get married once – let’s push the boat out!

a) have a party on a boat
b) invite a lot of people
c) spend a lot of money

5) Although I’d met him before, it was only when we started working together that he showed his true colours.

a) saw his real personality
b) saw he was a nice person
c) saw he didn’t like me



1 b  2 a  3 b  4 c  5 a


Ship in a bottle in Greenwich, London
Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. On display outside the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

If you’ve never been to Greenwich, it’s definitely worth a visit – we met up with one of our ‘old’ students from Switzerland there. The National Maritime Museum has many fascinating exhibits, including Nelson’s uniform from the Battle of Trafalgar, with the hole made by the bullet that killed him!

If you have vistied Greenwich, we would love to hear about your experience. Leave a reply below.

Do you want to learn English idioms? Send us a message.



Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings.

The words but are easy to say but it’s important to know the spellings and meanings og the most common English homophones. Even native-speakers of English sometimes make mistakes in there their writing.

Test yourself with our interactive homophone quiz.


Homophones interactive quiz

Did you find this useful? We’re always interested to get feedback or suggestions so feel free to use the comment box below and send us a message.


Do you need to develop your spoken and written English? Contact us to talk about doing a  course.


Describing a product

WD external hard drive
How would you describe this product?

Does your company manufacture products? Do you have to talk to customers about those products?

How do you describe a product?

One way is to start with the questions that customer might ask about the product.

Watch our video. We ask and answer questions about a common piece of computer equipment. At the end we put the answers together to create a short, clear description of that product.

Now test yourself

Here’s information about another product. See if you can make a question for each piece of information and then write down the answers to create the product description. The answers are at the bottom of this page.


Steam iron

Product type steam iron
Dimensions 275mm x 117mm x 150mm, 550gms
 For use with silk, nylon, wool, cotton, linen
 Country of origin China
 Price €30



These are some suggested answers.

What’s this? It’s a steam iron.
What do you use it for? You use it to iron or press clothes.
How big is it? It’s 275mm long, 117mm wide and 150mm tall.
What does it weigh? It weighs 550 grams.
What materials can you use with it? You can use it with silk, nylon, wool, cotton and linen.
What’s it made of? It’s made of metal and plastic.
Where was it made? It was made in China.
How much does it cost? It costs €30.


How well did you do? Did you make any other questions and answers? Use the comment box and share them with us.

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


Lose your job – vocabulary mind map

Last week’s Words making the headlines looked at the vocabulary of losing your job.

This week we have a vocabulary mind map on the same topic. It’s divided into three reasons for losing your job. Those are then split into verbs (blue boxes) and nouns (pink boxes) with an example sentence to illustrate each one.

You can see the mind map on the Popplet website or download an image file.


lose your job - vocabulary mind map

We also have mind maps of Internet vocabulary and vocabulary for talking about trade.

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk how we can help.


Words making the headlines – lose your job

You receive a P45 document from the tax office in the UK when you leave your job

This week the Bank of England forecast that 75,000 people working in the banking sector in the UK could lose their jobs. This is because many financial services companies are making plans to leave London to avoid the impact of Brexit.

Lose your job is just one of the many ways of saying that a company has stopped employing you. If a company decides they don’t need you any more, they make you redundant, lay you off or let you go.

Grammar is important here. If we focus on the actions of the company, we use the active voice:

“The bank made 2,500 people redundant when it closed its High Street branches.”

If we focus on the person affected, we use the passive voice:

“I was laid off by the insurance company at the start of the year.”

We use a different set of words if you lose your job because of something you did. For example, if you broke the company rules or broke the law. The formal word is dismiss. However, there are lots of slang terms: fire, sack, get the sack, get given your marching orders.1

So, the company report might say:

“Barry Johnson was dismissed for stealing from the Production Department.”

But Barry would probably say:

“I was fired for nicking2 stuff from work.”

Nobody likes to be made redundant and we all hope we’ll never get the sack. However, there’s one day many of us will welcome. That’s the day when we reach the age that we can retire and don’t have to go to work anymore.

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


In the US they also say terminate. However, in the UK this word makes us think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film so we associate it with something much worse than losing your job.

To nick is a British slang term which means to steal something.

Find more Words making the headlines.

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

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


Using email templates

Every day, all around the world, business people write hundreds of millions of emails.

However, there is a limited number of different types of business emails. This means that many of the emails you send are very similar. For example, they are emails requesting information, asking for and confirming payment, arranging and confirming meetings and so on. They contain the same standard email phrases. It’s just the specific details that vary.

One way to save time and make your emails more accurate is to use emails templates. A template has the structure of a common email. All you need to do is change the details to fit the specific situation.

Watch the video to see some examples of using email templates.

The emails in the video use standard business email phrases. Download this pdf for more information about those phrases.


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

Do you need to write emails in English? Contact us to talk about doing a writing course.