Tag Archives: dictionaries

New edition of Wordweb

I have mentioned this excellent program before. Everyone should have one, and it is free. Now, however, you have to state that you been on no more than two commercial flights in the past year! That could make life harder for some ESL students I know…


NOTE: Click on that screen shot to access Wordweb downloads.


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In praise of WordWeb

I downloaded this little beauty some years ago. My coachee Damien was so impressed when we used it in tuition a few weeks ago that he asked how he could get one and was amazed to learn it is free. Read about it. The only odd thing is the condition of use: Use of the free version is subject to license terms: it may not be used by people owning an SUV and taking more than four flights a year.


I have just downloaded the new version, which includes three additional free online features integrating it with Wikipedia and an online dictionary search. The basic program works off-line.


I’m a poor speller. Can you help?.


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What are “idioms” and how can I learn more about them?

What is an idiom?

RECOMMENDED: Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Idioms. Go to their IDIOM OF THE WEEK.

“Idioms are words, phrases, or expressions that are unusual either grammatically, as in ‘Long time, no see!’ or there is a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements, as in ‘It’s raining cats and dogs!’ Every language has idioms, and they are challenging for foreign students to learn. – English-Zone.Com

“A speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in keep tabs on.” (There are other meanings too at

“Idioms are phrases and sentences that do not mean exactly what they say. Even if you know the meaning of every word in the idiom you see or hear, you may not understand the idiom because you don’t understand the culture behind it.” – Brigham Young University site. (I had to insert some words in that to make it make sense! But the site is still good.)

What is the difference between idiom and slang?

“Idiom is yesterday’s slang and slang is tomorrow’s idiom. In other words, idiom is slang that has, through use and over time, become acceptable to use in informal language.” – Lindsay Lyons (NZ — site no longer available).

English Idioms – Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms and the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms online.

Idiomsite: find out why you say what you say (American).

English Idioms & Proverbs at Brigham Young University (American).

ESL Cafe Idiom Pages is American but easy to use.

English-Zone.Com Idioms Page – good, but not all available unless you register.

An interactive idiom quiz.

A whole page of idiom quizzes!

Australian Slang – What does it all mean?

[Update 18 September 2007.]

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Posted by on December 17, 2006 in English language, esl for students, questions asked, student help, writing


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Can you recommend a good online site on English Usage?

I still recommend advanced students look at books like R W Burchfield, The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage (3rd edition Oxford University Press 1996), but the best these days is The Cambridge Guide to English Usage ed. Pam Peters (2004). The text is not online but the site does feature an online quiz.

There are several good books on usage aimed at ESL students. Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (OUP 1995) is something of a classic. There are some sample pages on that site.

For easier explanations see this very useful book: A Student’s A to Z of Grammar, Usage and Style by Steve Moline (Melbourne, Oxford University Press 2002.) This book is very much up-to-date and tells you a lot about types of writing, problems in grammar and word-choice, media study, computing terms… Excellent from Year 7 all the way to Year 12.

Sites? Well, there are a few, and if you look at the links page under English Language you will find some.

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Posted by on December 13, 2006 in English grammar, English language, esl for students, questions asked, student help


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