Feelings and Emotions – Advanced

Last year, I showed you a table of some basic feelings and emotions in English. Today, I have a new chart to help explore your feelings even further. It should help to develop your vocabulary, particularly as the diagram helps to grade the emotions.   Those towards the centre of the wheel are more intense, whereas those at the outside are more everyday.

As with the first table, the wheel is easy to learn because you can see each emotion and its opposite.

The Plutchik wheel is a result of psychotherapist Robert Plutchik’s research on emotions. He identified the 8 main emotions on the wheel – Joy, Trust, Anticipation, Surprise, and on the negative side, Disgust, Sadness, Fear, and Anger.

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Five False Friends

When you try to learn a new language, you quickly find ‘false friends’.

False friends are words which sound similar in both languages, but have completely different meanings. This can cause confusion, or can even make you laugh.

Everyone has stories of the mistakes they have made with false friends – it’s just a part of learning a new language.  To try to help, I’ve chosen 5 false friends which my German students find difficult.

eventual / eventuell

The English adverb eventually means that something will definitely happen, but after some time.   If I say that ‘I’ll send a card eventually’, it is certain to happen but you should not expect it to happen immediately.

On the other hand,  eventuell means maybe, perhaps or possibly.   There is no guarantee that something will happen.  As I’m sure you can see,  the eventual/eventuell false friend is important when you are making plans and commitments!


sensible / sensibel

In both German and English, sensible and sensibel are adjectives which can be used to describe people.

In English, sensible means responsible, wise or practical. For example, the sensible thing to do the night before an exam is to go to bed early.   Children also wear sensible shoes to school, which are strong, black, and flat.

On the other hand, the German sensibel can be translated as sensitive in English. To be sensitive is to feel emotions strongly. If a person is sensitive they may be easily upset.   The sensible/sensible false friend pairing is therefore important when you are describing people.


brave / brav

To be brave is to be courageous (mutig) and not easily frightened. Brav is more everyday, and means good or well behaved.  Again, this is an important distinction to make when you are describing or praising people.


 marmalade / Marmelade  & lemonade / Limonade

In both the English and German speaking worlds, we have marmalade and lemonade but however they refer to different things. In both cases, the English word describes something more specific.

If you order marmalade for breakfast in English, you’ll get an orange fruit preserve. We only make marmalade from citrus fruits, and it is usually made with oranges.   In German, there is only one word for these fruit preserves. Marmelade can be strawberry, raspberry, cherry, apricot or any other flavour.  If you want one of these other flavours for your toast in English, you need to ask for jam.

Likewise, German Limonade can often refer to different flavours of fizzy juice.   In English, lemonade is only used for a drink flavoured with lemon.


backen / bake

The English verb to bake means to cook something in an oven, usually without oil.   We bake cakes, biscuits, and lasagne, among other things. The verb backen in German can refer to the process of breading and frying something.  This false friend tripped me up a couple of times after I moved to Vienna! It’s best to double check whether you’re ordering the healthy or unhealthy option.


Bonus: fun / funny

Although not really a false friend, the distinction between fun and funny  is something which a lot of my students struggle with. Fun and funny are both adjectives, but there are important differences.

If something is fun, it is enjoyable. It makes you happy. Playing football in the garden with friends is fun.

However, if something is funny, it makes you laugh.   A joke is funny.   You make a funny face when you stick your tongue out. Funny can also mean the same as the German komisch.   It doesn’t have to be positive.  Something which smells bad or unusual, for example, can have a funny smell.


Understanding false friends is one of the tricky things about learning a new language, but I hope that this short list has made you feel a little more comfortable.  If you’d like to share one of your false friend stories, please leave me a comment below.

Remember, if you’re looking for lessons to improve your general English, I work as a private tutor in Vienna. Whether you’d like to practice your reading, writing, conversation or all three, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time


Mairi : )



image:   Scott Robinson at

Friday Idioms – The Weather

This happens to me every year – the end of February has come too quickly!

As regular readers will know, all through 2015, I will be dedicating the last Friday of the month to the funniest, most descriptive, and sometimes downright oddest English idioms. I won’t try to tell you where they came from, but I will explain them, show you how to use them, and give you some other fixed expressions to use in your spoken and written English.

I hope that you’ve all had the chance to use the Love Idioms we looked at in January. This month, the subject is the weather.

If you live, work or study with people from the UK, you’ll know how much we love to talk (or rather complain) about the weather. You might already have heard some of the idioms we have for heavy rain: It’s raining cats and dogs, it’s great weather for ducks, the heavens have opened, and I’ve been drowned standing are all good descriptions of summer weather in the UK.

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English Idioms

Hello everybody!

January is almost over! This month has been unseasonably warm in Vienna, but the clouds, the lack of Christmas markets, and a healthy dose of culture shock after the holidays means that I am glad that it’s almost over.

On in 2015, the end of the month means one thing. No, it’s not that I’m another few weeks closer to being able to take a holiday. The last Friday of each month is English Idioms Day.

I really like learning idioms in German, and I love to hear my students using them too. What is an idiom? It’s a fixed expression – a short phrase always using the same words.   This sounds easy enough, but with idioms the phrase means something different to what the words suggest. Idioms are always descriptive, often humorous, and should not be taken literally.

Each month I’ll present a set of idioms about a theme. The weather, cats, food, business, school – if you can think of it, there will be an English figure of speech to explore!  I’ll be explaining their meaning of each idiom, showing you how to use them in context, and giving lots of examples of other fixed expressions which are related to the same topic.

Without further ado, let’s look at our first set!

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Happy Burns Night

It’s Burns Night!

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Burns Night?

Back in November I wrote about St Andrew’s Day – Scotland’s national holiday. I talked about our traditions and shared some of my favourite Scottish words. However, winter in Scotland is long and dark, and we have an important celebration in January as well.

Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet. He is to Scotland what Shakespeare is to England. Burns was born in 1759 in Alloway, a small town in the south west of Scotland.   He was only 37 when he died, but he had written over 550 poems. January 25th is his birthday, and each year we celebrate with a special Burns Supper

A Burns Supper consists of a traditional meal, poetry, toasts and entertainment.   We traditionally eat haggis, neeps and tatties, the most famous Scottish dish. At the beginning of the meal, the haggis is carried into the room, often behind someone playing the bagpipes. Burns’ poem To a Haggis is read, and at the climax of the poem, the haggis is cut open before the meal begins. A traditional Scottish dessert is Cranachan, which is made with whipped cream, raspberries, toasted oats, honey and whisky.

There are also traditional toasts during a burns supper. Most commonly, one of the gentlemen at the table gives a toast to the lassies (women) and one of the ladies answers with a toast to the laddies (men). These toasts are funny, often rude, but also warm hearted. Naturally, we toast with plenty of good Scottish whisky.

If you still have energy after all the food, toasts and whisky, many Burns suppers today end with a traditional ceilidh dance.

Burns’ most famous poem is undoubtedly Auld Lang Syne. It is still sung around the world on New Year’s Eve. You might also have heard of Tam o’ Shanter , a long poem about a drunken man escaping from witches. There’s also To A Mouse, where the poet feels empathy for a fieldmouse he upsets while he is harvesting.   My personal favourite is the love poem A Red Red Rose.

If you’re interested in hearing some of Burns’ poems read aloud, I recommend this section of the BBC website.   Here you can read the full text for all of Burns’ most famous poems and listen to recordings by some of Scotland’s most famous actors, artists and politicians.

In celebration of St Andrews Day, I shared some of my most favourite Scottish words. In the same tradition, you can find 10 more below! They might even help you to understand the poems you hear at your first Burns’ supper.

Haggis, neeps and tatties (n.)

Haggis, neeps and tatties is out national dish. Neeps are turnips. Tatties are potatoes. Haggis is delicious. Incidentally, Tattiebogler, is the Scottish word for a scarecrow.

Mince (adj.)

Of course, mince in Scotland is ground beef or lamb just as in the rest of the UK. However, the Scots also use it as an adjective. If something is mince it’s rubbish or disappointing.

Example: The weather’s a bit mince today.

Foosty (adj.)

Something foosty is stale, perhaps mouldy. Foosty air is not fresh.

Example: While we were away the fruit all went foosty.

Braw (adj.)

In contrast to the words above, if something is braw, it’s excellent! Applies especially to food and the weather.

Example: That soup was right braw.

Clarted (adj.)

Clartet means dirty or covered in mud (clart (n.)).   This happened to me a lot as a child.

Example: The kids were playing in the puddles and they’ve come back absolutely clarted.

Gubbed: (adj.) (Gubbing (n.), Gub (vb.)

To lose or be beaten, especially at Sport.

Example:   5:1? My team got fair gubbed on Saturday.

Schoogle (vb.) Schoogly (adj.)

Wobbly or unstable. The Glasgow Subway train (the oldest in the UK!) is so wobbly that riding it is known as going for a schoogle

Example: Don’t lean to hard on the schoogly table.

Sleekit (adj.)

You might recognise sleek in this word – an English adjective for quiet, smooth or elegant – sleek as a fox is a common simile.   Sleekit in Scots carries much the same meaning.

Example: ‘Wee sleekit, cowrin’ tim’rous beastie’ is the first line of Burn’s poem To a Mouse.  He is using the word to describe the frightened fieldmouse he has uncovered.

Shoofty (n.)

A shoofty is a quick, and often surreptitious glance at something

Example: Take a quick shoofty through the curtains and you’ll see their new car.

GordonDour (adj.)

BosieA word to describe some Scotsmen – severe, stern, serious or gloomy.

Example: See Gordon Brown, right.

 Bosie (n.)

Bosie is a great Scottish word for a great big hug!

Example: I haven’t seen you in months! Come here and give us a bosie.


I hope you’ll get the chance to celebrate Burns night in some way. Remember that as well knowing Scots, I am a native English speaker and experienced language teacher working in Vienna. If you’re interested in private tutoring to improve your standard English, I’d love to hear from you.

Lang may yer lum reek!



Mairi : )

My Favourite Scottish Words

Until September, I lived in Scotland.  I was born in Aberdeen (Scotland’s third largest city) and went to University in St Andrews. Now we’ve been gone for a whole three months, and today is St Andrews Day – our national holiday!

I haven’t been able to find a good Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) dance in Vienna, and I think it’s too late to try importing my own haggis for dinner tonight. Needless to say I’m feeling a little bit homesick.

You’ve probably heard Scottish actors (or actors pretending to be Scottish) on TV or in films, but if you actually travelled to Scotland (particularly for the festivities today) you would hear a much wider range of accents. In fact, there are so many different variations of language in Scotland that some people call it a language in it’s own right.

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For, Ago, and Since

Today I’m going to look at three small words used to talk about the past. A lot of my students make mistakes when using for, ago and since when they talk about past events and actions. I think this is partly because the German ‘seit’ and English ‘since’ are false friends – they sound similar, but are not used in exactly the same way.

Let’s start by looking at three different answers to a question I hear all the time. ‘How long have you lived here?’

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English for the Hospitality Industry – Part 1

English for Hotel Staff

Before I became an English teacher, I spent five years working in the hospitality industry. I’ve done every job from housekeeping to washing dishes, waitressing to reception work, and I’ve also worked in marketing for hotels and restaurants.

Many of my students want to learn English to work in hospitality. Today I’m here to help with my first post on English for the Hospitality Industry.

Imagine you’ve just been given a job as a hotel receptionist. Today is your first day. We’ll take a tour of the hotel and meet the staff.

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How are you today?

Talking About Feelings in English

When you meet somebody for the first time, what are some of the first questions you ask?

‘What’s your name?’  ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How are you today?’

Today we’ll look at some responses to that last question, as we talk about the different words associated with feelings and emotions in English.  A lot of the British people you meet will probably answer ‘I’m fine’ if you ask them, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be so brief! It’s always good to have more choices.

Here is a table with 10 potential answers to the questions ‘how are you?’ or ‘how are you feeling?’ I’ve divided the table into positive and negative feelings to show the opposites.

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