Temas concretos de Gramática: verbos frasales, modales, voz pasiva, etc...


Campos léxicos, sinónimos, antónimos, homónimos, falsos amigos, lenguaje tabú y un largo etcétera

Historias y humor

Pequeño cajón desastre para mis historias, anécdotas en mis clases, recuerdos...

Mis libros

Aquí podéis ver un pequeño resumen de mis libros más importantes

Charlas y conferencias

Las más significativas a lo largo de mi vida académica. Y las próximas


Oh, to be in England now that April's there

Mañana empieza el mes de abril, tiempo ideal para visitar Inglaterra, como nos recuerdan estos preciosos versos de Robert Browning (1812-1889):

Oh, to be in England, 
Now that April’s there, 
And whoever wakes in England 
Sees, some morning, unaware, 
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf 
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, 
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England - now! 
And after April, when May follows, 
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows - 
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge 
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover 
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray’s edge - 
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, 
Lest you should think he never could recapture 
The first fine careless rapture! 
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew, 
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew 
The buttercups, the little children’s dower, 
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Vocabulary Help

unaware - desprevenido
bough - rama
brushwood sheaf - gavilla de maleza
elm-tree - álamo
bole - (liter tronco
in tiny leaf - en hojas pequeñitas
chaffinch - pinzón
orchard - huerto 
whitethroat - curruca
swallow - golondrina
hark! - ¡escucha!
blossomed pear-tree - peral en flor
hedge - seto
to lean - inclinarse
to scatter - esparcirse
clover - trébol
blossom - flores
dewdrops - gotas de rocío
spray's edge - borde la rociada
thrush - zorzal
lest you should think - para que no puedas pensar
recapture - recordar
rapture - éxtasis
hoary - emblanquecido
all will be gay - todo se alegrará
whe noontide wakes anew - cuando la mañana vuelva a despertar
buttercup - ranúnculos/botones de oro
children's dower - pequeña flor, parecida a los botones de oro
gaudy - de color chillón, llamativo
melon-flower - flor del melón


Idioms: hand/mano

Algunos modismos ingleses con 'hand' tienen un equivalente en español, con la palabra 'mano'; en otros, sin embargo, no aparece tal palabra en la traducción; así, por ejemplo, para 'to give/lend sb a hand', tenemos 'echar una mano' en español, pero traducimos 'the situation is well in hand' por 'la situación está bajo control'.
Vamos a tocar hoy algunos modismos con 'hand', en cuyos equivalentes en español no aparece la palabra 'mano' y, a la inversa, es decir algunos modismos españoles con 'mano', con equivalentes en inglés en los que no sale 'hand':

(Si os interesa este tema, os recomiendo mi Diccionario Bilingüe de Modismos) 

Ejercicio 1

Tomando como base las siguientes expresiones inglesas con 'hand':

a.- to be/get out of hand - estar fuera de control
b.- hand in glove with sb - en estrecha colaboración con alguien
c.- to earn/make money hand over fist - ganar dinero a espuertas
d.- to play right into sb's hands - hacerle el juego a alguien
e.- to be an old hand at sth - ser perro viejo en algo
f.- to get/gain/have the upper hand - tener la sartén por el mango

busca los modismos relevantes para completar los siguientes minidiálogos:

1.- "Whose vote do you think will tip the balance in the next elections?" "I think the liberals will ...................
2.- "It was only a joke". "Yes, but what began as a joke has..........."
3.- "Are the police being helped by the army?" "Yes, the police are acting ................trying to find the terrorists."
4.- "Is their new LP a big hit?" "Yes, they're making money ........... with it."

Ejercicio 2

Tomando como base las siguientes expresiones españolas con 'mano':

a.- Estar 'mano sobre man' - to be idle
b.- Dar de mano - to knock off (work)
c.- Echar mano de los ahorros - to dig/dip into your savings
d.- Estar con una mano delante y otra detrás - to be broke
e.- Tener las manos muy largas (para robar) - to be light-fingered
f.- Ser mano de santo - to work wonders

Busca los modismos relevantes para completar los siguientes minidiálogos:

1.- "What time do you stop work?" "I 5:00 p.m"
2.- "Do you think we'll have to use part of the money we had saved for our holiday, to pay for the electricity bill" "Yes, I'm afraid we'll have ..............."
3.- "Can you lend me the money?" "Sorry, I happen to.............too."
4.- "Why are you sacking him?; isn't he good at his work?" "Yes, he is, but the trouble with him is that he's a bit  ..................."


Ejercicio 1:

1.- have the upper hand
2.- got out of hand
3.- hand in glove with the army
4.- hand over fist

Ejercicio 2:

1.- knock off
2.- dig/dip into our savings
3.- to be broke
4.- light-fingered


Pincelada gramatical: Colocación de proper, present, involved y above.

A efectos prácticos, conviene saber que las palabras proper, present, involved y above, pueden encontrarse colocadas delante o detrás de un sustantivo, pero el significado cambia:

a proper conduct - una conducta apropiada
the celebrations proper - las celebraciones propiamente dichas

the present members - los miembros actuales
the members present - los miembros aquí presentes

a very involved problem - un problema muy complejo
the problem involved - el problema en cuestión

the above powers - los poderes ya mencionados
the powers above - los poderes del cielo

Para la colocación de los adjetivos, podéis consultar mi Gramática Inglesa, 9 ed. actualizada, cap. 5, pp. 109-115.


Sayings with the word 'devil'.

Today we're going to have a look at idioms with 'devil'. Actually, 
the Devil may or may not exist, but lots of sayings with the word 'devil' are still around. Here are some of them:

to be a little devil - ser un diablillo (said esp of a child)
to be a lucky devil - ser un tipo con suerte
to be a poor devil - ser un pobre diablo
to miss the old devil - echar de menos (a alguien que se apreciaba, etc): I miss the old devil - lo echo de menos
be a devil! - (IBr(col) ¡atrévete!
to be between the devil and the deep blue sea - estar entre la espada y la pared
to be the/play devil’s advocate - hacer de abogado del diablo
better the devil you know (than the devil you don’t know-(ref)  mejor/más vale malo conocido (que bueno por conocer)
give the devil his due - hay reconocer los méritos, aunque sean del mismísimo diablo (de alguien que se aborrece, etc): I don’t like the new manager’s methods but, give the devil his due, sales have improved considerably since he started working in the company no me gustan los métodos del nuevo gerente, pero hay que reconocer los méritos, aunque sean  del mismísimo diablo: las ventas han mejorado considerablemente desde que empezó a trabajar en la empresa
speak/talk of the devil - (col) hablando del rey de Roma (por la puerta asoma)  
the devil looks after his own - (ref) bicho malo/mala hierba nunca muere
the devil finds work/mischief for idle hands - (ref) la ociosidad es madre de todos los vicios, cuando el diablo no tiene nada que hacer, mata moscas con el rabo
and the devil takes the hindmost - (yo a lo mío) y que cada uno se las apañe como pueda
a devil of a job/mess, etc - (antic) un trabajo/desorden, etc de mil demonios
what/who/why the devil? - (antic) ¿qué/quién/por qué diablos?
go to the devil! - (antic) ¡vete al infierno!


Historias y humor: The Famous Psychiatrist

Here's the story The Famous Psychiatrist from my book Short Stories to Hep You Increase Your Vocabulary, I hope you like it:


When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes. (Victor Hugo)

His name was Charles D. and he was famous. People talked and talked about the miraculous results he got, and his methods were beginning to be copied by some Harley Street specialists. Only very well-off people could afford to pay his fees, and they had to book at least six months in advance for treatment. Charles had truly made it in life, but the secret of his success couldn’t have been more simple: he just knew how to listen; in fact, he was the perfect listener. He was very honest and straightforward with his would-be patients and they knew what to expect when they came to his surgery: they bought an hour of his time and during those sixty minutes he was there to listen to whatever they wanted to say about themselves or about the world. And most of them did talk about themselves and the problems that were worrying them. And he listened to them attentively, interested, concerned, without ever asking personal questions, passing judgment, or even giving an opinion. And it worked: people knew very well why they were in his surgery and the high price they were paying for it, but they soon forgot about it, and as they kept talking, they got to see themselves as they really were, and they began to feel better, to relax.
Charles never pretended to be a confessor, a friend, a comrade, or anything like that. He was just a listener, the ideal listener. For him, his patients were people who needed medical help, true, but first and foremost they were human beings in search of their real identity, and they had to find it by themselves, the only way he could help them being listening to them for an hour a week. And during that hour they could say whatever they pleased. There were no constraints: they could speak, shout, whisper, cry, laugh, they could use foul language if they liked, curse if they wanted. He just listened and showed understanding. Not that he was always silent,  he occasionally made casual remarks, asked them if they felt like a cup of tea or coffee, or a drink, and sometimes he went as far as asking them if they liked the pictures in his surgery, especially the Matisse he was obviously so proud of.
Sylvia, his 7 to 8 patient this evening, knew all this about the eminent psychiatrist whom a close friend had advised her to see, but she had hesitated to come to his surgery. She wasn’t sure if it had been a good choice. Her doubts had nothing to do with his qualifications for she knew she would be in the best professional hands; nor were there any money problems: she was the editor of a well-known women’s magazine, and she was wealthy enough to afford any whim, but still...It was the first time she had required the services of a psychiatrist, so that she was a bit nervous when she entered the surgery at seven sharp. And the first thing that struck her was the surgery itself, if it could be called a surgery, for it looked like an elegant living room in an elegant country house rather than a doctor’s consulting room. Comfortable armchairs, a sofa with plenty of soft feather cushions, a well-stocked bar, a hi-fi set, a glass-topped low round table with lots of trendy magazines, shelves filled with books, tasteful ornaments and family photographs – the personal touch -, good pictures on the walls – gosh, a Matisse! One felt immediately at ease in this atmosphere; and that was indeed the idea. That’s where Charles D’s originality lay. During their weekly session – and that was one of his golden rules: never more than one visit a week – patients were at liberty to do as they pleased: they could sit, stand, pace the room, lie on the sofa, even do push-ups on the carpeted floor if the fancy took them.
As she looked at the handsome middle-aged doctor in his mid-forties, his temples going grey already, she immediately realized that the rumours she had heard about his frivolity were entirely groundless. Word had got around that he chatted up some of his rich, beautiful patients, but it was obvious at once, just by looking at this discreet, reserved man, with that worldly half-smile on his lips, that if any of his classy clients had ever had designs on him and made advances to him, she would have promptly met with a barrier of ice. And those accusations of orgies being held in the surgery, simply ridiculous: people had evidently been misled by the group therapy sessions he sometimes organized...
Sylvia, a slim green-eyed blonde, going on for forty, but still extremely attractive, had dressed with special care for this first visit, and she knew she was looking really smart in her light grey tailored suit with handbag and shoes to match – not that she was out to seduce the doctor. Or was she? She lit a cigarette and started to tell him right away about her problems: she was quite worried, she felt off balance, had lost control of her own life, and she was beginning to fear for her peace of mind. She didn’t tell him much the first day, but she did tell him that her marriage was going to the dogs, that her husband had lost all interest in her, that he never looked at her, seldom listened to her, didn’t seem to notice her. She told him that much only, but she already felt relieved. She was beginning to think that it had been a good idea to come to this doctor...
On her second visit – there was no limit to the number of sessions Charles’s patients took, and it was the patients themselves who decided when they were cured – she was more explicit: she told him about the other man, Albert. He was her husband’s lawyer and intimate friend, so it was really no trouble at all for her to meet him as often as she liked. Albert had always flirted with her innocently enough, but recently since her marriage wasn’t working any longer, he had been more and more daring. They often played tennis together, and at that party two months ago he had made some overt passes at her. She had been flattered and faintly amused, but apart from that...Not that she would have any problems deceiving her husband if she wanted to. He was so busy, he lived in a world of his own, and she had all the freedom she wanted. The main obstacle to overcome was she, herself, her way of life, her education. Like most women of her age, she had been brought up to be a faithful wife and a loving mother, and adultery really went against the grain...The doctor listened to her, attentive, polite, concerned as he sipped his Scotch, and she could see why he was so fashionable, so popular with the members of the gentler sex. He sat there next to her, so close and yet, so distant...
Then the following week, on her third visit, she told him that it had happened. She was happy, she had found herself at last. It was great to feel desired as a woman again. She was cured, there would be no more visits...She had not thought it possible, but this afternoon at Albert’s office it had happened. Not everything, of course, just a few kisses and some hand holding – to think that not so long ago her husband and she used to hold hands in the cinema like a couple of teenage lovers -, but she had given him a date. He had been so insistent that she had finally promised to go to his apartment the next evening, not knowing at the time whether she would keep her word or not; but now she had made up her mind, now she was sure she would go. She would tell her husband that she was having dinner with some school friends of hers she had not seen for ages, and she would spend the evening and part of the night with Albert, in his bed, in his arms...”For goodness’ sake, Sylvia, spare me the details, I’m not made of stone”, the doctor interrupted her flow of words. She could not believe her ears: the man of iron had softened, the statue of ice had melted at last...and as she picked up her gloves and handbag to leave, she looked with playful eyes at her husband, who was no longer smiling, and she knew her choice of psychiatrist had been the right one...
7.1 reading comprehension questions

a.- Why had Charles D. become so famous?
b.- Describe his surgery.
c.- Was the doctor’s reputation as a libertine justified?
d.- What was Sylvia like?
e.- What do you think had been Sylvia’s purpose in going to Charles D’s surgery?
f.- What did she tell the doctor on her first visit?
g.- And on her third?
h.- Give your own ending to the story.
i.- Are you for or against divorce? Why/why not? Discuss.


Phrasal verbs with take; exercises at three levels.

Complete the phrasal verbs with the appropriate particle, and translate into Spanish:

elementary level

1.- I'm afraid your plane has just taken ......

2.- The little one takes ...... me - he loves animals.

3.- He took the afternoon ......

4.- He has taken ...... drinking.

5.- That table takes ...... too much room.

6.- That's a lot of money; I'm afraid you've been taken ......

7.- Myrna took ...... judo when she was 10.

8.- You can take ...... four books at a time.

intermediate level

1.- They took ...... each other at once.

2.- The police took the room ...... looking for drugs.

3.- The Olympiad takes ...... next Sunday.

4.- He was taken ...... by her quick reaction.

5.- The rebels took ...... the embassy.

6.- Spanish economy is beginning to take ......

7.- If the shirt doesn't fit, you can take it ......

8.- We had a good laugh watching him take ...... the Prime Minister.

advanced level

1.- The flu takes it ...... of you.

2.- She earns some money by taking ...... some sewing.

3.- You're too old; employers prefer to take ...... younger people.

4.- When you take ...... insurance, read the small print.

5.- My husband is in the garage taking the car engine ......

6.- The rebels have taken ...... the mountains.

7.- The skirt's too long; we'll take it ...... a bit.

8.- I can see you're quite taken ...... my niece.


elementary level

1.- off - me temo que su avión acaba de despegar.
2.- after - el pequeño ha salido a mí - le encantan los animales.
3.- off - se tomó la tarde libre.
4.- to - se ha dado a la bebida.
5.- up - esa mesa ocupa demasiado espacio/sitio.
6.- in - eso es mucho dinero; me temo que te han engañado.
7.- up - Myrna empezó clases de yudo cuando tenía 10 años.
8.- out - puedes sacar cuatro libros de una vez.

intermediate level

1.- to - se gustaron inmediatamente/enseguida.
2.- apart - la policía revolvió la habitación buscando drogas.
3.- off - la Olimpiada empieza el domingo que viene.
4.- aback - le sorprendió su rápida reacción.
5.- over - los rebeldes se apoderaron de la embajada.
6.- off - la economía española está empezando a despegar.
7.- back - si la camisa no te está bien, puedes devolverla.
8.- off - nos reímos de buena gana viéndole imitar al primer ministro.

advanced level

1.- out - la gripe te deja hecho polvo.
2.- in - gana/saca algo de dinero cogiendo costura para hacer en casa.
3.- on - eres demasiado mayor; los empresarios prefieren contratar gente más joven.
4.- out - cuando te hagas un seguro, léete/lee la letra pequeña.
5.- apart - mi marido está en el garaje desmontando el motor del coche.
6.- to - los rebeldes se han echado al monte.
7.- up - la falda es demasiado larga; le meteremos/la acortaremos un poco.
8.- with - veo que te gusta bastante mi sobrina.

Source: Diccionario Pedagógico Bilingüe, online version (under construction).