Talking about bread, pasta, potatoes and rice in English


Talking about bread, pasta, potatoes and rice in English

Talking about bread, pasta, potatoes and rice in English is easy to do in English because near all cultures eat these foods. But there is a challenge. The Chinese and the Italians don’t make pasta the same way. German bread and American bread aren’t the same. This means that when you talk about these foods, you need to be a bit more specific about how these foods are prepared.



These are the most common types of bread.


white bread, sliced bread, sliced pan, Wonder bread
rye bread
pumpkin seed bread
whole grain
naan bread
flatbreads: tortillas, durums, pita bread, lavash, Injera
bagels, biali(s)
sourdough bread
potato bread


Average people do not normally talk about a particular species of potato. Instead, they talk about the potato dish they are having. For this reason, rather than listing potato varieties, I will list potato dishes.


Potatoes dishes
baked potatoes, jacket potatoes(GB)
mashed potatoes
potato pancakes
potato farls
potato latkes
potatoes au gratin
scalloped potatoes
roasted potatoes
potatoes dauphinoise
fries: Belgian fries, steak fries, potato fries, shoestring fries, cheese fries, crazy fries, sweet potato fries, freedom fries, French fries

Pasta & Noodles

The only thing I love more than pasta, is more pasta. See below for a list of pastas and noodles.


capellini, angel hair
tortelloni, tortellini

Asian noodles

While pasta as we think of it is from Italy, pasta’s parents are from Asia. For this reason, when we think of pasta, we think of Italy, and when we think of noodles, we have to think of all of Asia. Here, I will name only a few of the hundreds and hundreds of types of Asian pasta. If you know of a noodle that isn’t on this list that should be, write me.


chow mein
lo mein
soba noodles
rice noodles
cellophane noodles/glass noodles


If you think there are many kinds of noodles, there are even more types of rice. here is a short list of types of rice.


Rice dishes and types of rice
white rice
brown rice
long grain rice
jasmine rice
wild rice
arborio rice

What about couscous, bulgar, and quinoa?

I figured you might ask that. To read up on these, check out my post on Cuisines of Cultures and Countries.

What happens now?

With the terms above, you should be able to talk about most basic types of bread, potatoes, pasta and rice dishes. Stay tuned for my next blog where I tell you how to talk about flavours, herbs, spices and cooking methods. There will also be a few quizzes.

Talking about travelling and commuting in English

Talking about travelling and commuting in English

One of the mistakes that most beginners make when learning English is that they tend to focus on the vehicle or the mode of transportation. They always say “by car” or “by plane” or “by foot“. In the most extreme of cases, they say things like, “I go travelling with my car.“, which in English sounds just as clever as, “I go travelling…with my feet“.

Of course the speakers of other languages don’t find this to be unusual. In many languages, I go travelling with my feet is a perfectly good sentence. No one laughs. In this case, English is different. In English, we can say we went by car, on we got there on foot, but if we do, it’s because we want to emphasize that there is something extreme and unusual about the way we travelled there.



The 4×4 broke down in the middle of the desert. Luckily, some of the people who lived in the desert helped us and were able to make it to the other side on foot.


We left L.A. on Monday morning and we arrived in Boston by lunchtime on Tuesday. By car?! Wow! That’s impressive!

How English speakers talk about travelling and commuting

So, if English speakers don’t say, we went by boat, by bike, by metro, by horse, what do we say?

Generally, we tend to focus on the verb. In most cases, the verb indicates which mode of transportation or vehicle we are using, so we never have to say it.



Tim: How did you get to work today?
Nigel: I drove.


In the example above, Nigel doesn’t have to say, “I drove a car.”, because most people only drive cars. If Nigel is a bus driver or a chauffer, he might have to be a bit more specific. Notice also that Nigel doesn’t have to say I drove my car. If we do drive, the car the we usually drive is a car that we own. Not always, but usually.


So, what about other forms of transportation? How do English speakers talk about them?


Talking about modes of transportation

These are the most common types of transport.


Mode of transport What people say Logic
by foot (to) walk, run we can only do these things with our feet
by taxi, train, bus, ferry, metro, and the elevator(the lift (GB)) (to) take (took) It’s public transportation. We “take” public transport. * special: You can also say that you catch (caught) any kind of public transport and if you fail to catch an intended public transport vehicle, you can say that you missed it, e.g. “I missed the train.”
bicycle, motorcycle, *bike, quad, jetski, waterski, snow mobile, horse (to) ride (rode) These modes of transportation all require the same bodily position – with one leg on each side of the vehicle. Operating a vehicle this way is called riding as in horseback-riding.
by boat (not a canoe, kayak or row-boat) (to)sail Originally all boats had sails so this is the verb we still use today. But we use it for all boats, not just the ones with sails. Even giant aircraft carriers or oil tankers
plane, airplane(US)/aeroplane(GB), helicopter, space shuttle, space ship (to) fly (flew) Planes fly, so when we use a plane for transportation, we say, we “fly”.
by car, tank, or any other vehicle with wheels that YOU are operating. (to)drive (drove) The logic is that you are controlling the power and the direction of the horses in front of you. The strength of engines is measured in horsepower. Managing the horses in this way is called driving. Although this is an ancient way of thinking, this is why we say we drive a car.
by small boats: canoe, kayak, row-boat (to) canoe, kayak, row these vehicles are so unique, they get their own verb.
by skateboard, hoverboard (to) skateboard, hoverboard, ride (rode) these vehicles also have their own verbs, or you can use the verb ride although you don’t have to operate them in the same way you operate a bicycle.
by surfboard (to) surf If you can travel by surfboard. Wow!

And now?

With the terms above, you should be able to talk about most basic types of transport and you can also sound more natural. So remember to use I traveled/travelled by + (vehicle), less than 10% of the time, and try not to use it in the first sentence that you use in order to talk about a particular mode of transportation unless you are saying that there was something really special about it.


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Talking about fruit & veg in English

talking about fruit and veg in english

Talking about fruit & veg

Talking about fruit and veg can differ a lot from country to country. Is a tomatoe a vegetable or a fruit? Is a Niçoise salad a vegetarian dish? It’s a good question for debate. I won’t settle the debate, but I will list a bunch of fruit and veg you can use to describe the fruit and veg itself or a dish that uses the fruit or vegetable.


Pronunciation: One important thing – for beginners


How many parts (syllables) does the word “vegetable” have? If you said 3, you’re right! Many English learners pronounce the word with 4 syllables. The last part of the word should not sound like the word “table”. Instead, it is pronounced, /ˈvedʒtəbl/ or VEDGE T’BL.


What about the people who only eat vegetables or choose not to eat meat or animal products? They are called:

  • vegetarian:
  • a person who doesn’t eat meat

  • vegan:
  • a person who doesn’t eat meat + doesn’t eggs, cheese, honey or other animal products


Green vegetables

Here are the names of some green veggies.


lettuce (US), salad (GB)
bell peppers
pickles (US) – pickled cucumbers
gherkins (GB) – pickled cucumbers
pickle (GB) – pickled vegetables
brussel sprouts
courgette (GB), zucchini (US)
green beans

Colorful vegetables

Here are the names of the most common non-green veggies.


tomatoes (technically, this is a fruit)
aubergines(GB), eggplants(US)
red & yellow bell peppers
olives (green, black)
corn (US), maiz (GB)


What about fruit?

Talking about fruit may not be as controversial as talking about vegetables. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because the sweetness of fruit makes it less political. One of the most interesting things about fruit is that what a person considers normal in their country may be exotic in another. In the United States, cranberries aren’t so special, but many of us have never seen physalis or sandorn berries which are common in other countries. Below is a list of the most common fruits.

Fruit & fruits

Note: Fruit can be singular or plural. If we talk about “fruit” as in “I like fruit.”, it means, I like fruit in general. If I say, “I like fruits.”, it may mean, I like 2 fruits (e.g. bananas and oranges), but I might not like the rest.

Here are the names of some of the most common fruits.


honeydew melons

What happens now?

With the terms above, you should be able to talk about most basic fruits and vegetables. Stay tuned for my next blog where I tell you how to talk about starches, flavours and cooking methods. There will also be a few quizzes.

Talking about meat and seafood in English

Talking about food in English

Talking about food in English is similar to talking about food in your own language. But first, we have to ask an important question.


Who are you talking to?


A waiter in England or the United States? Your host who has invited you to stay with them in Ireland or Australia? The bride at a wedding? The pizza delivery guy?

As you can see, it’s important to know what we want to say. Sometimes we want to:

  • Compliment the chef
  • Ask questions about the food
  • Describe a meat or fish dish from our country to someone who doesn’t know it


In this post, we will only talk about the way to describe meat and seafood. Since food is an interesting topic for many people you may have to describe food from your country.
We’ll start with meat. Feel free to skip ahead, if you want to focus on fish and seafood.

Meat and seafood

In some countries only land animals are considered meat while birds and sea life are not. In English, generally birds (sometimes called “fowl” or “poultry” and food from the sea (“seafood”) are all considered meat are generally considered meat unless the speaker wants to be very technical.


Also – In many countries, the name of the animal is also the name of the food. In English, this is true for chicken and fish, but we usually use different names for the animal once it is prepare for consumption.


Take a look at the table below.


Animal Food
cow beef
young cow veal
sheep lamb
old sheep mutton
deer venison
pig pork
young pig suckling pig
wild pig boar
rabbit rabbit
goat goat
chicken(male, female) chicken
turkey turkey
duck duck
goose goose

Seafood: fish

For seafood (= fish and shellfish) we just call the food by the same name as the animal.

Here are some of the foods we eat from the sea.


Type of fish
dorada, seabream

Seafood: shellfish

Here are the names of the most common shellfish.


shrimp(like prawns but smaller)
langostines (like big prawns)
razor clams
crayflish (like tiny lobsters)

What happens now?

With the terms above, you should be able to basically descibe most basic meats. Stay tuned for my next blog where I tell yu how to talk about fruit and veg, starches, and cooking methods. There will also be a few quizzes.

Present perfect – a tutorial

Present perfect

Why use the present perfect?

We use the present perfect to talk about recently completed actions or states.  So why not just use the past simple? It’s usually because the recently completed action is connected to something we’re going to continue to talk about.


Emma: “Oh no! I’ve left my iPhone on the train.”

You and Emma will probably continue to talk about this.

When do we use the present perfect?

We use the present perfect whenever we want to talk about something that started in the past and has continued until now. The word now can be a bit difficult to understand. What does it really mean?


It basically means the time that we are living in at the moment.  In this way, “now” is both big and small because it can mean this….. minute, hour, part of day, week, month, year or lifetime. This is why the two following sentences are both correct.


“Have you had a coffee today?” and “Have you ever been to India?”


Let’s test this.


2-Question Quiz

It’s  3:30 in the afternoon. Which of these sentences is correct?

  1. “Have you had breakfast this morning?”
  2. “Have you had breakfast today?”
  3. Both


The answer is b. As it is no longer the morning, you cannot use the present perfect with a time that has been completed.

OK, let’s try another one. In the two statements below, which two pairs of great-grandfathers is still living?

  1. “I never met my great-grandfathers.”
  2. “I have never met my great-grandfathers.”


If you chose b, you’re correct.  It’s the only sentence that lets us know that the possibility of meeting both sets of great-grandfathers still exists.

Tricky? I know. Sometimes the time is a connected to the real time, and sometimes it’s connected to the situation. The important thing to remember is that either:

  1. whatever it is that you are talking about in terms of time or the situation isn’t finished yet, or
  2. the action, event or situation has been completed recently and you are going to continue to talk about it right now

Let’s test your understanding.



Are there other ways to use it?

Yes. We use it when we want to talk about how long an action has occurred or how long a state has existed.



“I have lived here for 5 years.”


Whenever we talk about how long we have done something, we are talking about a duration of time and whenever we talk about a duration, we use the preposition, “for”.


So can we say I have lived here for 2011?


No.  2011 is a point in time, so we have to use “since”

“I have worked here since 2011.”

What about yet and already?


If you want to talk about an action that you believe should have been completed recently, you can use yet.



  • “Has the pizza arrived yet? We ordered it 40 minutes ago.”
  • “Sorry. No, it hasn’t arrived yet.”

* Note: If you answer affirmatively, then you do not have to include the word “yet” in your answer.

  • “Have you finished yet?”
  • “Yes, I have.”


Already works in the opposite way. If you want to tell someone that an action has taken place. You combine already with the present perfect.



  • “Are you going to read that book next week?”
  • “No. I’ve already read it.”

Last question:


Are you going to start reading this tutorial now?
No! Because you’ve just finished it!




If you’ve found this tutorial informative, please share by clicking facebook or Twitter button to the right. Thanks!


For follow up exercises (PDF), click the one of the links below:

PP vs Present Simple 1
PP vs Present Simple 2



Three American dishes you need to try

As an English teacher, I love to talk about food because, well… it’s food. It’s the stuff of life! What also makes it a great topic for English lessons, is that it’s polarizing which really gets students talking. And when they do, you can get them to discuss the flavor, smell, texture, sound and look of a dish along with how it’s made and how the ingredients are sourced.  It’s a beefy topic you can milk to the max.

While not everyone has a position on food, many do. In fact, there are entire populations of people who have sworn off things like tomatoes, mushrooms, various forms of protein or anything at all that comes from the sea.  As I am from the US, whenever I talk about food, I have to defend American cuisine with Jedi-like mastery.

mickydeesPeople often parrot that American food is bad quality, disgusting food that makes people fat. Wrong! American food is the best food in the world. Who else has a restaurant that can boast, over six billion served?  Why is it that the most ubiquitous eatery in the whole of China called KFC? Have I got your goat yet? OK. I, like you, know that industrial sales profits have little to do with whether the food is good or not. And that’s why I say that it is unfair to compare the food that comes from these corporations to anything at all that you’re calling good food. If you like a tasty home-cooked healthy meal, chances are that according to Wall Street, your favourite place to eat $ucks! So, since we’re not talking about McDonalds, let’s talk about real food.

This week, I propose three great American foods (not the three best, just three of the many).

Sour Dough Bread – San Francisco

breads This bread is made the old fashioned way – allowing the natural yeast to rise in order to give it a slightly sour taste. A typical way of serving this bread up is to hollow out the center and use it as a bowl, filling it with soup (tomato soup or clam chowder). This way you eat the soup and then you eat the bowl.  Nice. No washing up.

General Tso’s Chicken – Chinatown, NYC

gentsogood“Isn’t that Chinese?” you ask. Well, it’s about as Chinese as burritos and chimichongas are Mexican. As it is a long story, I invite you to check out The Search for General Tso, a documentary which gets to the bottom of it, detailing exactly how this great plate came to be and where it comes from.  Now, back to food talk.  This dish involves crispy ever so sweet, tangy breaded chicken pieces coated with a lovely spicy red pepper sauce which is eaten with either rice or broccoli or both. It causes an explosion of flavor in the mouth and it will have you coming back for more before you even know it. Careful! You have been warned.

Pumpkin Pie – New England

pumpkinpieWhat can be said about pumpkin pie that hasn’t been said about heaven already? In its many different versions, it can be made semi-sweet, sweet, or downright melliferous.  With its blend of pumpkin, cream, cinnamon, ginger, whisky, rum, and maple syrup, pumpkin pie is one of those things that makes the world a better place.

So, if you find yourself going to United States any time soon.  Be sure to skip the big bright signs that are sure to ensure that whatever complaints you have about American food are validated.  Instead, seek out one of the delicious dishes mentioned above.  That’s it for now. See you next week with more talk on tasty treats.

So which dishes would you like to talk about? Leave a comment below.




For a list of adjectives which describe food, click below.

Why English speakers love the word “get”.

The word get

The “word get” is the Swiss-army knife of all verbs, for many native English speakers. It’s a catch-all that can be used in so many situations that we don’t even realize how often we use it. Unfortunately, people learning English, don’t like this word as much as native speakers. In fact, many English learners avoid it.

For them, it makes no sense to use terms like “get to, get up, get down, get through, get over, get around, get about, get away with something or get someone to do something” when they can say arrive, reduce, suffer, recuperate, go around, travel, escape, or convince – all words which have a nice and neat one-to-one equivalent meaning to a word in their own language.

What’s the problem with avoiding expressions with “get”?

As usage of phrasal verbs is ubiquitous, not embracing them could result in blind spots in their communication. In addition to that, they may never get to the point where they use the same expressions as the native speakers with whom they have to communicate.

How to get the students to embrace terms which use the word “get”?

Well, it has to do with how they learn it and perhaps more importantly, why they don’t. In terms of what can impede learning, there are three things that can go wrong.

  • The student doesn’t get it.
  • The student can’t produce it.
  • The student doesn’t accept it.

When it comes to the word “get” in phrasal verbs and colloquial expressions, the trouble tends not to be in the understanding or the repeating of the term, but rather accepting the term. A thing that often happens in the world of language teaching is that students question the validity of things a native speaker would never think to even notice. Questions like:


Why aren’t Kansas and Arkansas* pronounced in a similar way? Why do some Brits pronounce Lieutenant *as “Leftenant”? Equally, we might ask a Spanish speaker how, “agua“*, the Spanish word for “water” is masculine in singular, feminine in plural but when used as a singular, requires a feminine adjective. Who knows?

Getting students comfy with, “get”

Helping students to understand and adopt the term “get” requires a two-pronged approach. The first has to do with selling the idea. Catch-alls exist in every language. In German, the verb “fahren”(transport one’s self and/or others with the use of a vehicle) or in Spanish, “tomar”(to ingest or obtain) . If they accept that they have words which work in the same way in their language, accepting “get” may not seem like such a stretch.

What does “get” actually mean?

What meaning binds all or most terms involving the word “get”? Get means “succeeding in or obtaining a situation where you and or others are…(the other part of the verb).”

  • get up = achieve or obtain the situation where you are up standing, elevated, or awake.
  • get him up = achieve or obtain the situation where he is up standing, elevated, or awake.
  • get over something = achieve or obtain a situation where one has recovered from an ailment, injury or extreme news.
  • get by = achieve or obtain a situation where one is past a difficulty or challenge.

And so on.

Hard to get

Frequently (but not always), there is an aspect of challenge involved.

Let’s take a look at this situation:

You have to go to the airport. You speak to a cab driver/taxi driver.

“Could you drive me to the airport?”


“How long will it take?”

“30 minutes.”

“I don’t have so much time. Can you get me there in 20? (Can you achieve a situation where we arrive to that airport in 20 minutes?)”

“Sure, but it’ll cost you.”

If they can “get” the above, then it’s just a matter of practice, so be sure to throw it in whenever you can. Often, students will adopt your manner of speaking, but if it doesn’t catch on, you can either use exercises which require the student to use phrasal verbs and other terms using the word “get” or you can ask them to write about something which requires them to use the same word again and again. This will force them to seek synonyms.

Well, now it’s time to get going. Good luck, and I’m sure that getting your students to use  “get” in its various ways will be no problem once you begin to use it often.