#IHSummer – July 2015 @ IH Santa Clara

Two International House Santa Clara students from our July 2015 Summer Courses directed this video depicting their IH Summer experience.  It features students from both our English and Portuguese courses and the IH Santa Clara team.

The video has been entered for the International House Summer Blockbuster competition.  You can vote for this entry and take a look at what other IH schools have been up to this summer by following these steps:

1) Go to https://www.facebook.com/internationalhouselanguages/app_403834839671843 or http://woobox.com/xs5qpb for mobile devices
2) Click ‘vote’
3) Find the IH Santa Clara video and vote.

Thanks for your votes!

Video made with iMovie.


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Collocation challenge 28/4/15 – verb + against

Today’s collocation challenge explores verbs which appear with the preposition against.

Start by making complete sentences from columns A, B, C and D.  Use the grammatical and vocabulary clues in columns A, B and D to help you do this (e.g. tenses, pronouns, related words etc.)

Then, think about the verbs and phrases in columns B and C and try to work out their meaning from the context of the whole sentence.  If you need to check them, look them up in an online dictionary.

Next, cover column B.  Test whether you can remember the verb which goes into each sentence.

After that, cover all the columns except column A.  Can you reconstruct the whole sentence?

Finally, write your own example sentences with the verbs you think are useful to learn and try to use the verbs in your next class or writing assignment.

verb + against

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Collocation challenge 24/4/15: Binomial challenge 1

The building work will take more or less a month to complete.

Her presentation was short and sweet – it only lasted about 10 minutes but she got in everything she needed to include.

I’ve booked a holiday in the countryside this summer.  I’m really looking forward to enjoying the peace and quiet and getting away from the city.

Sooner or later they’ll realise what a silly mistake they’ve made. 

The underlined pairs of words above are examples of binomials – words which often appear together joined by a conjunction (e.g. and) or a preposition in a fixed order (e.g. it’s always more or less not less or more).

Today’s collocation challenge includes a test of some of these pairs.

The challenge:  choose a pair of words from the image to complete sentences  1-10.  We’ll publish the answers in a few days in the comments section.

1)  I won’t explain everything that happened in the meeting but the __________ of it is that we’ve successfully negotiated an extension of the contract.

2)  Having grown up in the countryside it was quite hard to get used to the __________ of city life when I first moved here.

3)  The closure of the train station has left many commuters who relied on the train for getting to work __________.

4)  It’s __________ with him – he either plays brilliantly or he seems completely useless!

5)  It was __________.  If I didn’t tell her how I felt now, I knew I never would.  I took a deep breath and…

6)  Working to tight deadlines is __________ of my job.

7)  He expects his mum to be at his __________ 24/7.

8)  People came from __________ to see the exhibition.

9)  Local residents have been fighting __________ to prevent the closure of the station in their village.

10)  Considering its age the car is in pretty good condition – just a few scratches, you know, a little __________ around the bodywork.

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Observing the (word) eclipse

We were out this morning trying to catch a glimpse of the eclipse and that got us thinking about how the word can be used.

Eclipse is both a noun and a verb in English.  In addition to its astronomical meaning it can be used to talk about making something seem less important, not as good or boring in comparison to something else…

Did you catch a glimpse of the eclipse today?

Did you catch a glimpse of the eclipse today?

“The economy will be the main issue in the next election.” – “All other issues will be eclipsed by the economic situation in the next election.”

“Bale played well but Ronaldo played even better.” – “Bale’s good performance was eclipsed by Ronaldo’s brilliance.”

“Joana’s working hard to improve her English because she wants to make a good impression at the job interview” – “Joana doesn’t want to be eclipsed by the other candidates at the job interview so she’s working hard to improve her English.”

Extra language notes

Notice how eclipse is often used in the passive voice (but we can also say:  “Joana wants to eclipse all the other candidates at the interview with her excellent English.”)

Other words with similar meanings are also related to the sun…

to outshine:  “Joana outshone the rest of the candidates and impressed the interviewers with her excellent level of English.”

to overshadow:  “Although the other candidates for the job were well-qualified, they were overshadowed by Joana’s brilliant CV and excellent language skills.”

A useful grammar pattern:  not (+ want) + to be + verb / not + wanting to + verb

In one of the examples above we saw “Joana does not want to be eclipsed by the other candidates…”

This is a useful pattern to use with verbs like eclipseoutshineovershadow and other verbs with out or over + verb

  • outdo (do better than)
  • outperform (perform better than)
  • outbid (offer to pay more for something than someone else e.g. at an auction)
  • outmaneuver (get an advantage over a competitor (e.g. in a battle or business negotiation)
  • overdo something (do too much)
  • overspend (spend too much)

Notice how some of these relate to competition…

  • Not wanting to be eclipsed by the other candidates, Joana worked hard to practise her English before the job interview.
  • We don’t want the launch of our new product to be outshone / overshadowed by anything our competitors might be doing.  Can we check that they aren’t planning anything big that month?
  • Messi scored an amazing goal just before half-time.  Not to be outdone, Ronaldo equalised with a brilliant goal two minutes into the second half.
  • Not wanting to be outbid for the painting, she raised her offer again.

…and others relate to being cautious…

  • We don’t want to overdo it.  I think a 3km run is fine for our first day of training, don’t you?
  • Not wanting to overspend, we set a strict limit on the budget for the project.

For more info on eclipse and other words related to the sun and moon, check out these links:

Eclipse in English and Portuguese

Macmillan dictionary definition of eclipse (check out the link to other ways to talk about making things seem less special and important): http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/eclipse_1

Oxford Learners Dictionary Topics – The sun and the moon

Watch some of the best timelapse videos of the solar eclipse from across Europe

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When Teens 4 met Brandon

Students in our Teens 4 group welcomed a visitor from the United States to their class back in February.  College student and basketball player, Brandon, was over visiting friends and family in Portugal and kindly popped in to International House Santa Clara for a chat with our Saturday students.  In the slideshow here you can enjoy a few pictures from the visit and the excellent summaries written by our students after they had interviewed Brandon.

We’d like to thank Brandon for taking time out from his trip to come and see us.  We really hope you had a great time in Portugal.  Thanks also to our teacher, Jerome, for setting up his visit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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-ing form and infinitive – Homestudy for First MW – 11/3/15

Here are some links to short online activities (with answers) to practise verbs in the -ing and infinitive form.  You don’t have to do all of them at once or even all of them.  Work through them gradually until you think you’ve mastered* this aspect of grammar.  Make a note of any questions you have about any of the exercises and bring them to class next week for us to look at.

*to master something = learn or understand something completely

  1. Add a missing word to each sentence (from Natural English Upper-Intermediate, OUP)
  2. Gerunds (or nouns) after prepositions – choose the correct word (More 4, CUP)
  3. Choose the correct answer (multiple-choice) (from New English File Upper-Intermediate, OUP)
  4. Correct the mistake (from English Result Upper-Intermediate, OUP)
  5. Choose the 6 verbs which can go with both the infinitive and -ing (FCE Result, OUP)
  6. Choose between gerund and infinitive (with and without to) WARNING – this is a rather violent game!

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Collocation Challenge: 3/3/15 – Top 10 places and cities to visit in England (Part 7)

This is the final post in our series looking at the vocabulary for describing places that appeared in a text from a UK newspaper about the Top 10 places and cities to visit in England.

For links to the other posts, see below.

This post is going to focus on vocabulary in the section of the text about London and will look at 3 useful pieces of language for describing places.

pour + in / out

People pour in from across the world to visit, work or live.

Definition:  to come and go somewhere in large numbers

Other examples:

  • The crowd poured out of the stadium at the end of the match.
  • Donations to the charity appeal have poured in and the total raised now stands at $22 million.
  • Letters of complaint poured in following the controversial TV programme.

The verb also appears a lot in news coverage of reactions to people’s deaths:


Restaurants, bars and theatres are buzzing.

Definition:  busy / full of energy (Cambridge Dictionaries online:  buzz)

Notice the connection between places being busy and bees.  Bees are known for being industrious creatures and the noise they make is a buzz.

This connection extends into other expressions:

  • be as busy as a bee (idiom = very busy!)
  • a hive of activity / industry (idiom = a place where many people are working very hard) (hive = a structure made for bees to live in)

Emphasising variety

…the range of events on offer – from sport to food pop-ups, from music festivals to theatre – is unbeatable.

You can use the patterns here to emphasise the variety of things you can experience:

the range of + noun phrase + (on offer) is + adjective

  • The range of dishes on offer at the restaurant is impressive.
  • The variety of things to do is unbeatable.
  • The winelist is second to none.
  • The choice of places to eat is extensive.

Notice how you can add specific examples using from (noun) to (noun)

  • The range of dishes on offer – from seafood to meat, from light meals to more substantial 3 course meals – is impressive.
  • The choice of places to eat – from inexpensive bars to exclusive restaurants – is extensive.

Questions to think about:

  • What do visitors to your region pour in to see and do?
  • Are there any particular events that happen in your hometown that bring people pouring in?
  • Which areas of your hometown are buzzing in the evening?  When are they at their liveliest?
  • Can you write a sentence emphasising the variety of something on offer to visitors to your region using the pattern:  the + (range/variety/selection/choice/number) + of – from (noun) to (noun) – is + adjective.

Links to other posts in this series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

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