English on the Internet - English Magazine


March 14, 2000

Greetings my Czech (and Slovak) friends,

I've recently received a number of requests from people who want to make their English less formal. So, in this week's article, I will introduce you to a few descriptive phrases that can be used to "add colour" to your English.

Firstly, let me introduce the expression "I'm afraid that....". This expression has nothing to do with fear! It is instead expressing a mild regret that some condition has not been met. For example: "I'm afraid that I have never been to the Czech Republic" does not mean that I am afraid of to doing so, it is simply a slightly apologetic way of saying that I have not been there yet. In a similar manner, "I'm afraid that I cannot drive a car" means only, in a slightly apologetic of regretful way, that I cannot drive. Etc. The expression can also be used in the future tense: "I'm afraid that I will have to cancel the order", "I'm afraid that you won't be able to do that", etc.

Now for something a little more interesting. In English, there are many little expressions that can be used to "bring alive" your sentences. Some of these little expressions fall into the following predictable pattern: "as (quality) as (object)". These are comparisons like "John is as tall as Peter". For example, the sentence "He is deaf." is not very interesting. I can use a well know little expression to make the sentence more interesting without changing the meaning: "He is as deaf as a post!". In a similar manner, "He was drunk." becomes "He was as drunk as a lord!". "He is blind." becomes "He is as blind as a bat!". Here are some others:

"...as quick as lightning"
"...as light as a feather"
"...as slippery as an eel"
"...as thick as two short planks"
"...as thick as thieves"
"...as hard as nails"
= fast
= not heavy
= hard to capture
= an idiot
= fraternal / brotherly (an insult)
= tough

Obviously, these are just the well known ones. You can make your own expressions along these lines, provided that the object you use matches the quality you are trying to express.

If you have a suggestion for an article, then feel free to contact me at this email address: dareid@btinternet.com

by Duncan - Great Britain, enjoys writing to penpals from all over the world

© March 2000 English on the Internet www.aj.cz