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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):

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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Collocation challenge 14/2/15 – Happy Valentine’s Day!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, a few collocation challenges related to the theme of love…

Valentine's 2015

Adverbs in love

The following adverbs all collocate into the pattern:

(adv) + in love

Which one do you think is the most frequent?

  • hopelessly
  • desperately
  • insanely
  • head over heels
  • madly
  • wildly
  • deeply
  • secretly
  • passionately
  • completely

Check answers in the comments box below.

Idioms with heart – romantic or not?

The following list of idioms all contain the word heart.  Decide if you think they have a connection with love and romance or not.

  • absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • have a heart of gold
  • my heart was in my mouth
  • your heart isn’t in something
  • home is where the heart is
  • let your heart rule your head
  • break somebody’s heart
  • do something out of the goodness of your heart
  • set your heart on something
  • young at heart
  • open your heart to someone
  • give your heart to someone

Check answers in the comments box below.

I ♥ word formation

Change the word in CAPITAL letters to another word from the same family to complete the phrases / sentences below.

Example:      Absence      makes the heart grow fonder.     ABSENT

  1. It was love at first sight.  The first time he met her he was completely __________ of his feet.     SWEEP
  2. She gazed into his eyes __________.     ADORE
  3. She’s been getting anonymous love letters from a secret __________.     ADMIRE
  4. It was a __________ and often stormy relationship.     PASSION
  5. They lived __________ ever after.     HAPPY

Check answers in the comments box below.

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Season’s Greetings!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful 2015. 

Christmas pic 2014IH_Santa_Clara_Christmas_2014_

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IHSC Collocation Challenge 10/12/14: 1 word into 7 sentences

Today’s collocation challenge asks you to think of ONE word which completes the gap in all SEVEN of the sentences below.  We’ll post the answer in the comments box in the next few days unless someone beats us to it!  Check back in a few days to find out the answer.

To my surprise she


me aside and asked if she could have a private word with me.

The train


slowly into the station.



her inspiration from her childhood experiences.

The exhibition


over half a million people to the gallery over a 9 month period.

The report


the conclusion that there was a clear link between levels of crime and levels of poverty in society.

I spent a lot on my daughter’s wedding but I


the line at hiring a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce to take her to the registry office!

The taxi


up outside the house.


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IHSC Collocation Challenge 2/12/14: a wide ….. of

Today’s Collocation Challenge is looking for the five most frequent nouns which fit into the gap in this phrase:

a wide ….. of

Test your ideas by playing clicking on the link to our Family Fortunes Collocation Challenge:  

Click here to play our Family Fortunes Collocation Challenge: a wide ….. of

We’ll publish the answers in the comments section later this week.

Want more?  Check out our previous collocation challenge here.

Frequency data from StringNet Navigator 3.0

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C1: Article – A Portuguese Icon: José Rodrigues dos Santos

The second in our series of articles on well-known representatives of Portugal by students in our C1:  Advanced course profiles writer José Rodrigues dos Santos.

Portugal’s Contemporary Literary Giant

Throughout its history Portugal has produced some incredible talents in the field of literature.  Featured among these are Fernando Pessoa, Luis Camões and Eça de Queiros, to name but a few.  In my opinion, the most representative person of Portugal today is José Rodrigues dos Santos, who is a bestselling author known internationally and whose writing has enriched Portuguese literature even further.

José Rodrigues dos Santos was born in Mozambique and studied in The University of Lisbon. In addition to currently presenting the news on television, he also writes acclaimed novels.  He has published a considerable number of books, all of which I highly recommend. His novels have crossed all seas and are being published in about 20 different languages.

For those of you who enjoy reading, José’s novels are brilliant, very well structured and catch the readers’ attention.  I believe that what sets him apart is his commitment and the hard work put in while researching his novels.  Most of his books are fiction but their backgrounds are based on real facts.  I recall one particular book of his that left me rather stunned.  The book is called “The Last Secret” and although I am not very a religious person it showed me how the church misled the public to believe in certain events that did not happen.  With this example I mean to show that the unveiling of the truth is one of the reasons why his books stand out.

As far as I am concerned, José presents a positive image that can encourage young people to read more and appreciate the work of others. I also believe that through his books, Portugal will be recognized even more widely than it already is.  From what I hear on television and in the streets, everyone admires José and thinks he represents our country very well.  All in all, I can think of no one better than Jose – one of my favourite writers and a Portuguese icon. Long may he continue to write!

Further reading


Link to Part 1 in this series, an article about Joana Vasconcellos.

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Vocabulary for romantic relationships

Students on our B1 Summer Course have been learning vocabulary for describing the ups and downs of romantic relationships.  Here are two texts they wrote in groups to recycle some of the phrases we’ve met on the course so far…

Group 1

I really love my Prince William.  We met when we were at university and we had friends in common.

He still means more to me than anything else in the world.  We have the same tastes, favourite sports, foods and we both love travelling around the world.

Our wedding was incredible.  Like a dream.  I wore a long wedding dress and William was in a military uniform.  I found him impossible to resist.

Now were are expecting a baby and we have a perfect relationship.

Group 2

I detest my husband John!  He’s a fat, lazy man.

He drives me mad because he doesn’t do any housework.  Nothing!  Even worse, he never pays any attention to anything I say and this gets me really frustrated.

Sometimes we have terrible rows and I just want to kill him.

The best solution for us is to get divorced as soon as possible!

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