May 27, 2018

An important part of taking the TOEFL test is an essay based on personal experience. Sample topics for writing are listed on the TOEFL official site. I picked up one of the themes at random and wrote an essay — just “for pleasure.” Here it is:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? People should sometimes do things that they do not enjoy doing. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.


To work for one’s existence is the basis of any person’s life. In the animal world, for one, living beings are governed by their instincts, and if these instincts are satisfied, animals enjoy having their rest, or simply put, they just “stay lazy.”

Human beings, on the contrary, are characterized by creative exploration of the world they live in. “Working for something” is built in their character. If the job a person does is in tune with his natural inclinations and interests, the person enjoys his work. However, there are many examples when even the most creative work has periods of boredom, or, if we use a French word that probably expresses the highest degree if this state, the periods of “ennui.” Some of my good friends are scholars who work at the cutting edge of linguistic science, but more often than not they have to “dig the ground” doing monotonous work of fishing the proofs for their hypotheses.

What is the way out? How to combine the natural drive of man to be creative and the necessity to do routine work? In this connection I remember a story about then American President John F. Kennedy, who is known for his launching the Apollo project of moon landing. Once the President visited the NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration) headquarters and saw a janitor mopping the floor there. When John Kennedy asked if it was the janitor’s permanent job with NASA, the janitor answered, “Yes, sir, I’m helping to land man on the Moon.” So, my answer to the question “What is the way out?” is: See a bigger picture in everything you are doing, and then any job will be interesting and inspiring (283 words).



May 16, 2018

Bruce Tulloh was a former Olympic runner and European champion at 5,000 metres. He was competing for over sixty years and coaching for over forty years, and was Coaching Editor of The Runner and Runner’s World for fifteen years.

He died last month aged 82 at his home in Marlborough, Wiltshire. He had written a few books, among them Running is Easy, Running Over 40, 50, 60, 70, and also (please, appreciate the title) How to Avoid Dying (for as long as possible) – whereby the subtitle “for as long as possible” was in smaller print and was not noticed immediately  🙂  Being a passionate jogger myself, I decided to reprint  his obituary published in the Financial Times and share it through my blog. The picture shows Bruce at the end of an 80-mile walk completed in 7 days, from Marlborough to London, undertaken to celebrate his 80th birthday.


Bruce Tulloh, runner and biologist (1935-2018)

When Bruce Tulloh ended his 13-year amateur running career in 1967, it seemed his greatest achievements were behind him. His aspiration to run for Britain in the Olympics had been dashed three times: heat stroke hindered him from qualifying for the 1960 games in Rome; measles ruled out the 1964 games in Tokyo; discomfort with high altitudes thwarted Mexico, 1968.

But then, Tulloh chanced upon the existence of a Guinness world record for running across the US. The 2,876-mile journey had been set in 73 days. Smashing it, he surmised, would be “a piece of cake”.

If only. Though he would later become known as “the original Forrest Gump”, that image fails to convey the extreme difficulty of the feat. Tulloh’s attempt to log 48 miles per day – as chronicled in his book, Four Million Footsteps – broke down almost immediately.

On the first day, he experienced “violent cramps in both thighs”.  The 33-year-old realized that to “shuffle along like an old man” would be essential. Injuries mounted: his left thigh, his right ankle. After 10 days he resorted to walking with a stick, his daily distance falling to as little as 15 miles. But his limbs eventually submitted to an indomitable will. He bounced back to more than 40 miles a day and became a “running machine, if you can imagine a machine which ran on cornflakes, salads, beans and Schweppes drinks”, he wrote.

Tulloh’s range was extraordinary. In his early career, he was known for running a mile in less than four minutes. He won the 5,000 meters at the European Championship for Britain in 1962 – racing barefoot and finishing in 14 minutes flat after a blistering sprint in the final 700m. The transition to his run-walk-limp across the US was abrupt. In the end he averaged 44 miles per day – more than his weekly average at peak performance – and broke the record by more than a week in just 65 days.

His real strength lay in his mental toughness. He was the joy of running personified. “It was his whole life,” said Mike Gratton, a London Marathon winner and friend of more than 20 years. “Even as a marathon runner, I wouldn’t contemplate doing what he did.”

Born in 1935, Tulloh grew up on the North Devon coast and was raised by his mother, Margaret, a botanist and a keen athlete. He studied botany at Southampton university, graduating in 1959, and later taught biology at Marlborough College for more than two decades.

Tulloh was modest and self-effacing with a wry sense of humor. He attributed his athletic success to a light frame that allowed him to run barefoot on the cinder track, giving him a speed advantage. The media dubbed him “Barefoot Bruce” as he set a series of British records for two, three and six miles starting in the late 1950s.

As an author, editor and coach in his later years, he maintained a fast clip. Aged 60, his half-marathon time of 76 minutes placed him in the top percentile of finishers four decades his junior. At 75 he ran the Athens marathon with his wife of 56 years, Sue. His son Clive and twin daughters Katherine and Jojo were all runners too. The five Tullohs were known to show up regularly at a weekly Fun Run in Hyde Park – and then sweep all the age categories.

When Jojo had three baby daughters, she recalled her father “handling their legs like a racehorse trainer. He was measuring their knees to their ankles… obviously assessing them,” she said, laughing. As well as his mania for running, her dad had a love of children, opera, teaching and nonsense. She remembers asking him as a child if he had a job – he was always around.

Tulloh had said he wanted to run a marathon aged 100 and, in his final days, his competitive spirit struggled to adjust to living with cancer.

“The hardest thing over the last few days is that Bruce’s body was trained to endure incredible amounts of pain.” Jojo said.

“When the hospice nurse came, she said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still walking up the stairs, that’s incredible.’ He really didn’t want to be that sick person lying there. She said, ‘Bruce, you climbed Everest, basically, now rest.’ He just couldn’t stop enduring. He kept going much, much longer than he probably should have done. Because he just didn’t want to go. And he was too good at it.”

Patrick McGee.


May 3, 2018

backpagedavidcrystalThe YouTube address is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqqlSb9uGUQ&t=1248s

This time, David Crystal speaks to members of the Belgian Full Circle Club. “Full Circle refreshes the parts that other clubs do not reach. How many do you recognize that allusion?” he asks.   Older club members remember that it was a slogan of Heineken in the 1970s – the longest-running advertising slogan in English advertising history. The original one was “Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers do not reach.” The idea was that their beer refreshes the parts of the body that other beers do not reach. In this form the slogan lasted for about 20 years . But in the 1990s it came back in a slightly different form. It started with a situational comedy. The advertising was presented in three posters: 1. A guy is looking glumly at his garden overgrown with weeds 2. The guy is pouring the lager into the lawn-mower. 3. The lawn-mower mows the lawn by itself. The former slogan was re-interpreted meaning that the Heineken beer reaches the PARTS OF THE LAWN-MOWER other beers cannot reach. The next stage: the company looked for words that could replace the word “parts.” This time, the hero of “Treasure Island” Long John Silver was presented in three posters having become quite a “restored” pirate  in the third poster after he had drunk the lager: with two (!) wooden legs, two eye-patches – not one as before, both crutches made right (in the first poster he had one crutch and that was broken), a hook for each (!) hand, and the parrot on his shoulder turned into a vulture. The slogan now was: “Heineken refreshes the PIRATES other beers do not reach.” The company, says David Crystal, went on punning on the word “part.” A little later, the parrot drank the lager. The slogan altered to “Heineken refreshes the PARROTS other beers do not reach.” Later a person who drove an aeroplane and got into trouble started drinking the lager, and the slogan was “Heineken refreshes the PILOTS other beers do not reach.” David Crystal’s favorite was the slogan when a person in the commercial remembers the lines from William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils” only after drinking the lager (“Heineken refreshes the POETS”).

David Crystal fast-forwards his reminiscences to the time, when he, with a group of Japanese teachers of English, was going out in the streets of London looking for “authentic English.” The Japanese couldn’t understand an advertising poster with the “beer that refreshes the PARROTS…” because they didn’t know the cultural background of the advertisement. In a nutshell, the story of the future of English, says Crystal, is a “Heineken story”, which means that General English will diverse culturally. The matter is that as soon as the English language arrives in a particular place, people adopt it and immediately adapt it to their own cultural needs, and when you travel around the English-speaking world, you see the Heineken problem writ large.

Another interesting example is the “yeah, right” campaign the lecturer witnessed in New Zealand. The expression “yeah, right” is used (with the corresponding intonation) to express doubt about what has just been said. The campaign in New Zealand was directed against all sorts of fatuous information in the media, to which the only answer could be “yeah, right” (Ukrainian equivalent may be “Кажи, кажи. Ляпай язиком. Так тобі й повірив”). One of the billboards ran: “Let Paul fly you there – Yeah, right.” Paul Holmes was a well-known TV anchorman who was rich enough to buy two private aircraft and to crush each of them surviving after each crash. Not knowing who “Paul” was and having no idea of Paul’s survival record, David Crystal felt like his Japanese students in London – though he, Crystal, was a native English speaker and he was reading the billboard in English, his native language. In New Zealand bookstores, a two-volume collection of “yeah, right” cases was on sale, of which David Crystal understood only about half. The other half was culturally specific for New Zealand.

In South Africa, the word “robot” stands for “a traffic light.” Humorously, the lecturer says that when he heard the phrase “three robots ahead,” he thought, “Have they (extra-terrestials, little green men) landed?” The Dictionary of South African English contains about 10,000 words and idioms and that dictionary is one of dozens of such dictionaries in the English-speaking world. The Dictionary of Jamaican English contains 15,000 local expressions that are part of everyday life in the Caribbean.

While breakfasting in a U.S. hotel restaurant, David Crystal asked for some eggs. In turn, the waiter asked him, “How do you like your eggs?” Mr. Crystal had no idea what to say. It wasn’t a British question. “Cooked,” he stuttered. The egg-dishes were named differently depending on many ways of preparation (“sunny-side up”, etc, etc).   There were not so many recipes in the U.K. for cooking/frying eggs at that time.

On the other hand, people in England use their own culturally loaded units which may be confusing to those who don’t share the British cultural background (“Oh, jee, it was like Clapham Junction in there,” meaning “chaotic, messy.” Clapham Junction is a railway station in South London, which is one of the most complicated railway stations in the history of British Rail, with lots of platform, railway lines, etc). OR: “This watch is more Portobello Road than Bond Street” (about the poor quality of the watch).

Speaking Czech English you may be confused by the house numbering in the streets. In the Czech Republic the house number depends on when the house was built and registered, not on where it is situated. So, houses numbered 302 and 300 may be in opposite ends of the same street.

English hasn’t been the global language all the time. In the 16th century English was being given no future at all. Richard Mulcaster, the head teacher of the merchant school in London, wrote in 1582, “There is no reason for anybody in the world to know English, which has no use beyond our shores. It has no literature.” – “A bad year for such a prediction”, says David Crystal. “In 1582 Walter Raleigh was planning the first expedition across the Atlantic. In 1582, a young man from Stratford-upon-Avon arrived in London to be an actor there, but since the theatres were closed because of plague, he started writing poems.” The result? There is a variant of English called ESP (English for Shakespearean purposes) – an in-joke for English teachers. Four hundred years on, the situation has changed dramatically. With 400 million native English speakers, and about 60 countries in the world where English is an official language, and about a billion people (according to the British Council data) speaking English as a foreign language – all that makes about 2 billion English speakers. For every one native speaker there are now five non-native speakers. The center of gravity has shifted in the last 50 years from English as a native language to English as a second/foreign language. The variants of English develop with the development of the former colonies of Britain (Nigeria is one of examples), which make English THEIR English now. It is clearly seen in the vocabulary of local cuisine or in the political vocabulary.

In phonetics the shift from native patterns to non-native ones is particularly seen in the change of rhythm. Traditionally, English has a stress-timed rhythm (in speech, stressed syllables come after roughly regular intervals). This is the heart-beat of English poetry, by the way. In many other languages there’s a syllable-timed rhythm, which is now often on the “English lips” of those for whom English is their first language. And this kind of staccato rhythm is becoming the norm in many places of the English-speaking world. So, in 50-100 years the “music of English” may sound very, very different.


April 30, 2018

backpagedavidcrystalA few days ago I posted a British Council video featuring David Crystal’s views on the role of the English language in the modern world and on its development. David Crystal is a well-known linguist making his ideas popular even amongst those who have never been involved in the science of language. David Crystal’s son Ben has also co-authored several books with his father.

I. Since I have two fundamental books by David Crystal in my home library, as well as quite a number of downloads of the father and son’s writings and interviews, I think it would be interesting for professionals to have a more or less systematic presentation of how David Crystal sees the English language and its future. Here’s a précis of the video I mentioned, with some more summaries to follow later.During his meeting with Serbian students of English, David Crystal was asked about the future of English as he saw it. We can speak only about a short-time future, the scholar said. To say something about a longer perspective would be “madness-like.” Who would have predicted one thousand years ago that Latin would be spoken by hardly anybody? Yes, there are people who use Latin on certain levels, but it wouldn’t be normal education to be “fluent in Latin.” Asking about the future of language, you should ask about the future of society. A language can be global for one reason only – because of the power of the people who use it. There is no other reason for people to speak a language other than to improve their quality of life or influence others in some way. The English language became global due to:

  1. the power of the British Empire,
  2. the power of American imperialism,
  3. the power of the industrial revolution,
  4. the 19th century power of money (international banking was concentrated in the UK and the USA, which were the most productive nations at the time),
  5. the 20th century cultural and technological influence (pop songs, advertising, air-traffic control, the development of radio and television, the Internet.

English will remain a global language as long as Britain and America retain that kind of power, and also until other nations want to be like them and want to interact with them.

We can imagine another scenario when Spanish (the fastest growing language in the world) is in the forefront (for one, Spanish is becoming more and more widely used in the USA) Another scenario is that Arabic becomes global – for reasons perfectly obvious to anybody who looks at the world.


However, at the moment, there are no signs of diminution in the prestige of English. The figures are going up and up every year, with two billion people speaking English all over the world. There has never been such a number of people speaking one language before, and there is no slackening off in that progress. So, for the long-term future of English: no idea, for the short-term: no change.

II.What kind of English will there be in the future? It looks like American English will dominate all other varieties. We see this impact in British English already – for example, in spelling. What was before “encyclopaedia” (with “ae” in the middle of the word, British English) is now “encyclopedia” (“e” in the middle, which was ONLY American English before). Incidentally, American English spelling, grammar and vocabulary became “legal” after the USA gained independence from Britain in the 18th century. Noah Webster, amongst others, said, “We need American English for the American identity.” What had happened to English in America, happened later (and is happening now) to the whole English-language world. You can be American, if you like, but we, in India (400,000 speaker of English) want to have Indian English. The official status is also given to Australian English, Canadian English, South African English, and the number of such “Englishes” is growing (My observation: though it may be too early to speak about Ukrainian English, but the words like “maidan”, “Rada,” ‘titushki,” etc. are widely used to describe the events in Ukraine). Can English of the future be a sort of amalgam with bits of Australian, British, Indian English? Who knows. Every nation can put something into the melting pot of English. The channels are business meetings, international conferences, the Internet, tourism, etc. English can become a “lingua franca English,” which is culturally not identifiable with any one place because it’s a mixture of everything. Probably, that’s the way it’s going to go, says David Crystal.


March 8, 2018

IWDThis day has always been special for us. Today, my wife and I have remembered our high school we went to together. Also, those bunches of willow twigs with buds ready to burgeon which I regularly presented to her every year. In those days it was not so easy to buy willow twigs in the first days of March – particularly when crowds of burly men attacked baskets with early spring flowers sold by elderly ladies at street corners. I remembered the greeting cards on which I used to write laconic commonplace words of best wishes, and she remembered how thrilling it was for her read what I wrote.  And later, when we got married and had our children, the kids and I used to draw and paint some “special card” for our Mum on the eve of this day – to hand in the card to her (as a surprise) early next morning. As a rule, my wife would ask our daughter to write some poetry of her own and put it on the card.

Now our children are elsewhere, far away from their parents. However, they come to us in our memories every time I greet my wife on this day. And with them, there come feelings of quiet joy, mutual respect, love, family happiness…

I go online… Spain’s women in first ‘feminine’ strike’, ‘…gender inequality and sexual discrimination …’, ‘Iran jails woman for removing headscarf in public…’ ‘… Women stand up for the right to work in Turkey…’   ‘Actress Penelope Cruz cancelled planned public events and said she would go on “domestic” strike….I got sterilized without telling my husband…

Floods of anger, intolerance, malice…

The same day, the same name of the holiday… different holidays.

After writing the above I went to a Ukrainian site. Oops! Sorry… We are becoming civilized and modern too: https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/03/8/7174011/


February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. A coquette is “a woman who likes to win the attention or admiration of men but does not have serious feelings for them”; what is the word for her male counterpart?


  1. coq au vin
  2. quahog
  3. cloque
  4. flirt

Coquette and coquet are both from French, and are diminutives for the French word for rooster.

  1. What is the meaning of curtain lecture?


  1. a lecture given by a priest to an engaged couple
  2. a lecture on the selection of proper drapes
  3. a private lecture by a wife to her husband
  4. an early form of sexual education in American public schools

These lectures were often delivered in bed, and took their name from beds of yore often being surrounded with curtains.


  1. What is the definition of lasslorn?


  1. married three times
  2. the male equivalent of a spinster
  3. forsaken by one’s sweetheart
  4. confined to a convent

This word has been in occasional use since at least the early 17th century, when Shakespeare used it in The Tempest: “To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy broom-groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, being lass-lorn.”


  1. Which word used to mean sweetheartor darling?


  1. drip
  2. bully
  3. creep
  4. philosopher

This sense of bully is currently the earliest recorded one, beginning more than a century before the word began to be used to mean “meanie.”


  1. The word “unlove” means “to cease to love.”


  1. false
  2. true

We have been falling out of love (or at least had a word for it) since the 14th century.


  1. The word dulcineameans “sweetheart” or “mistress.” Which book is it from?


  1. Lord of the Flies_
  2. Romeo and Juliet_
  3. Dante’s _Inferno_
  4. _Don Quixote de la Mancha_

Dulcinea del Toboso was the name of Don Quixote’s beloved.

  1. Which word may be defined as “a marriage with a person of inferior social position”?


  1. rum-bargain
  2. tendresse
  3. mésalliance
  4. thwartage


  1. In Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionary, which word did he define as “the comfort which one hath of his wife”?


  1. predicament
  2. levament
  3. judgment
  4. testament

This word, useful though it might be, is exceedingly rare.


  1. What is the meaning of oscular?


  1. a type of weasel which uses regurgitated flower petals in a courtship ritual
  2. the feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness
  3. of, relating to, or concerned with kissing
  4. in ancient Rome, an official who would mediate lovers quarrels

Oscular comes from the Latin osculum, which means “kiss” or “little mouth.”


  1. Which of the following words has the meaning of “of, relating to, or expressing sexual love”?


  1. amaurotic
  2. professorial
  3. amatorial
  4. philosophical

This word, now fairly obscure, is one of a number of words dealing with love that come from the Latin word amare (“to love”).


  1. Where does the word “sweetheart” come from?


  1. from an Arabic word for _betrothal_
  2. from the Old English words for _sweat_ and _innards_
  3. exactly where you’d think, from mixing _sweet_ and _heart_
  4. no one knows

Sweetheart has been functioning as a noun for more than 700 years, but in the 20th century it took on an addition sense as an adjective, meaning “arranged in private for the benefit of a few at the expense of many,” as in “a sweetheart business deal.”


Answers: 1-4, 2-3, 3-3, 4-2, 5-2, 6-4, 7-3, 8-2, 9-3, 10-3, 11-3

P.S. The original variant “coquet”, which was suggested by Merriam-Webster as the right answer to Question 1 (1-4), has been replaced by “a flirt” after a remark made by a native speaker. Thanks, Matthew!


February 7, 2018

The idea of this column is to help readers avoid errors made in speech (out of ignorance or inadvertently), and – by knowing now what is the right variant – become more confident linguistically.


AMONG-BETWEEN: Fanatical quibblers incorrectly maintain that among is used to compare more than two items, and between is for relations between two things only. But between describes any relation of two or more parties that is individual and distinct <negotiations between the five front-line nations>, <a discussion between two opponents and a supporter>, <between you and me, and the fly on the wall>, while among refers to a more general relationship with an unspecified number of others: <I wanted to be among the French speakers>

IMMORAL-AMORAL-UNMORAL:The adjective immoral means contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong. Amoral means (1) neither moral nor immoral, or (2) lacking moral sensibility. So while immoral and amoral might share a little common ground, there is a clear distinction: immoral things are bad, and amoral things are either neutral from a moral perspective or simply removed from moral considerations.

A third adjective, unmoral, means unrelated to moral considerations. The line between amoral and unmoral is blurry as well, but unmoral things (usually animals or objects) are even further removed from moral concerns than amoral things, which merely ignore morality. Unmoral often appears where immoral would make more sense.

Here are a couple of examples from English-language periodicals:

  • There’s little point in a morality tale that turns to be flatly amoral
  • He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral
  • During the Taliban regime, buzkashi was banned, as were most sports, because it was considered immoral
  • Cocky and arrogant, the character thinks he’s got it all under control until a smarter, richer and truly amoral villain enters the frame.
  • After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.



February 7, 2018



The essence of modern approach to foreign language teaching is expressed in the formula: HEAR it – SAY it – READ it – WRITE it. I’m going to use the key words of this methodological motto to dwell on synonyms in several of my next posts. This time, the object of analysis will be the first word – the verb HEAR.

Hear” is a Germanic word, though Webster’s Etymological Dictionary traces it to Greek and Latin roots. The related word in Latin is cavere, which means “to be on guard.”

One of the difference between “hear” and “listen” (which is, probably, the closest in this meaning) is that the component “with attention” is more strongly expressed in the meaning of “hear” than in “listen.” Hence, another synonym of the word “hear”: HEED. The focus on attentive apprehension gave a start to the development of the meaning “to gain information”: (“I heard that…”), which makes the word “hear” synonymic to LEARN, FIND OUT, etc. One of recent developments is the meaning “to entertain the idea” (used in the negative): <I wouldn’t hear of it> The latest meaning that I registered is “to feel (with)”, like in the dialogue:

Man, I’m so tired!  —  I hear you, bud. We worked out pretty hard today!

Roget’s Dictionary gives the following synonymic groups:

Catch // listen // lip-read // listen in, tune in, tune to // overhear, eavesdrop, listen at keyholes, keep one’s ears open // bug, tap // hark, hearken, list // lend an ear, give an ear, bend an ear, be all ears, give audience to, give hearing, attend to, hang on the lips of, lap up // strain one’s ears, prick up one’s ears, listen with both ears // hear it said, hear it on or through the grapevine.

I’d like to draw the readers’ attention to another colloquial synonym: “lap up” (“to hear and accept the information with enthusiasm”): <Of course, they believed it. They just lapped it up>, or <They lapped up the lies without questioning anything>. Nowadays, in the epoch of fake news, one should take any info with a pinch of salt, and not lap it up  🙂




February 6, 2018



According to statistics, the most frequent adjective in English is “good.” This Indo-European word has historical “relatives” (officially termed  “cognates”) in many other tongues, among them – in Slavonic languages. In Czech “hod” means “feast, banquet,”  in Sorbian “hody” is “Christmas.” In Ukrainian there are words «годитися»  (to be good for), «негодящий» (poor in health),  “негідник», (evil person), «негода» (bad weather). The word “good” in English developed its meanings from Proto-Germanic *godaz “fitting, suitable” (source also of Old Norse goðr, Dutch goed, Old High German guot, German gut, Gothic goþs) through the senses ”kind, benevolent”  and also “skilled, expert” (late Old English). The modern phrase “to be good AT…” had the form “to be good OF …” or “to be good TO …”in late Old English. In Early New English the meanings “well-behaved” (e.g. “a good child) and “great, long” (about time and distance, like “a good mile” or “a good three years” ) appeared.

In Modern English there developed such meanings as “reliable”, “able”, and  also “effective, operative” : <a good Republican/Democrat>, <Is she good for the money that you lent her? = Can she return the debt?>, <Being very tired, he was still good for a laugh>, <a driver’s license is still good>. “Good” as an intensifier is functioning in modern colloquial English: <I’ll do it when I’m good and ready>. Compare: <good and angry/ good and mad>,  <Good heavens!>. The word “goodish” (= pretty much) was formed through suffixation and “the good” (= decent people) is a result of substantivization.

The point of instability is the usage of “good” (an adjective) and “well” (an adverb) after the link verbs be, seem, appear, smell, taste, look, feel. Classical grammars categorically say that only “good” must be used after these verbs, whereas “well” should be used after all other verbs (“The dress looks good”, but “The cars run well” – not “…good”).  However, some other linguists admit that both “good” and “well” can be used in such cases with a slight difference: “good” after “look” or “feel” may refer both to SPIRITS and HEALTH. “Well” after “feel”, “look” and other linking words refers mostly to HEALTH: <You are looking well; we missed you when you were at hospital>.

As for the verb “do”, the word “good” is common after it only in informal speech <He did good on the test>. In formal speech or in edited writing the word “well” is used instead: <He did well on the test>.

Finally, here are some set expressions with “good” which I like:

  1. “Good” is good, but “better” carries it” (similar to “Best” is the enemy of “good”), 2. “To be in good with other people” (to have good relationship), 3. “All in good time” (= in due course but without haste). And also: “Good broth may be made in an old pot”. This last proverb may be applied to a situation when you use an old textbook like that of Hornby or Eckersley to learn/teach English as a Second Language. Yes, topics worked on in these manuals may be outdated and exercises not so “playful”, but the general methodology is excellent for attaining the basics.


February 6, 2018

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.



  1. If Mary joins forces with Paul, it means she works with him so that they both achieve what they want.
  2. If Dick is a loner, it means that he avoids company of others and prefers to work by himself.
  3. If Jan brainstorms with Al, it means she confers with him to solve a problem.
  4. If Randy wants to go it alone, it means he wants to do something by himself.
  5. If Dave lends Tom a hand, it means he helps him.
  6. If Karen pools her resources with others, it means she combines her strengths with them.
  7. If Kathy pitches in, it means she helps someone with something.
  8. If Ken and Gene put their heads together, it means they work as a team to solve a problem.
  9. If Larry strikes off on his own, it means he leaves others in order to do something by himself.
  10. If Barb works with Jean because two heads are better than one, it means that by working together they can achieve more than if they work separately.

Exercises for ESL teaching :

Using lists A and B, write appropriate endings of the following sentences:

  1. Is a loner/ lent a hand/ two heads are better than one /put their heads together/ to go it alone
  2. Sandy and Alice decided to study together because…………………………………….
  3. Sue saw that Ann was having trouble carrying her heavy suitcase, so she…………………..
  4. Mark does not have any friends and he spends most of his time by himself because he ………
  5. Joe often works with others, but this time he decided ……………………………………………..
  6. Neither Bob nor John could do their algebra homework alone, but they had better luck when they ………………………………………….
  7. Pitched in/ pooled their resources/ strike off on her own/ joins forces with someone/ brainstorm with each other
  8. Sally sometimes would work by herself, so no one was surprised when she said she wanted to…
  9. Ken has been working for an hour on a physics problem and he does not think he will ever find the answer unless he…………………..
  10. Steve has the money and Mary has the business experience. Together they could open a restaurant if they ……………………………
  11. Karen figured it would take three hours for her to clean up the house, but it would take only thirty minutes if her roommates…………………………
  12. Ben and Phil are sure they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they…………………..


  1. In addition to meaning “help someone,” pitch in also means “throw in.” On many trash cans across the United States, PITCH IN is written. Explain why both definitions are appropriate.
  2. United we stand; divided we fall” was said by Americans fighting for their independence from England. The Americans knew that if they didn’t cooperate with each other, they would not win the war. The expression has survived to the present day and is used in many contexts. Give your example of when this expression could be used.
  3. Are there times when you like to GO IT ALONE, that is, to do something by yourself? When are they?


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