React reply respond and return

React, reply, respond and return.


This post looks at four words that often confuse learners; react, reply, respond and return. They can be confusing because some of them can be used interchangeably although they have their own separate meaning and are not quite synonyms.



  1. To say something, do something or feel something because of something someone has said or done

Our manager didn’t react when we all said we were unhappy with his management style.

She reacted with a smile.


  1. To become ill because you had eaten something bad or done something to your body in some way.

I think that fish we had for dinner has reacted with me. I feel really sick.

My skin reacts badly to make-up.


3. In science, a substance reacts with another substance.

The hydrogen reacted with the oxygen to form water.



To answer.

Have you replied to the manager’s email?

I knocked on the door but there was no reply.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied.


The noun form of reply is ‘a reply’.

Have you had any replies?



  1. To say or do something as an answer or reaction to something that someone has done or said.

The police responded to the call within ten minutes.

I tried calling your mobile five times today but you didn’t respond. Are you ignoring me?

The school asked parents to help with Sports’ Day. Unfortunately, only a few parents responded.

He responded very badly to the news.

Her manager would not respond when she asked him for extra holiday.


  1. To improve after medical treatment.

We were really worried about her at first, but she is starting to respond to treatment. She should be much better in a few days.


The noun form of respond is a response.

I have left five messages on your phone today but I haven’t had a single response. Are you ignoring me?

We called the police and their response was very quick. They arrived within ten minutes.

When she asked her manager for extra holiday, he would not give her a response.

We asked for help building a new children’s playground and we got a huge response. We had over one hundred and fifty replies from parents.



  1. Go back.

They like to return to the same hotel every year.

I need to return to the office because I left my purse on my desk. I’ll need it to pay for the tickets.

He returned home after midnight.


  1. Send or give something back.

Library books must be returned within three weeks.

My neighbour still hasn’t returned my DVD’s. He borrowed them six months ago!


  1. React to something someone does or says by doing the same thing.

Good morning, could I speak to Phil please. It’s Sarah, from the sales department, returning his call.

He called her name and smiled at her. She looked up and, pleased to see him, she returned his smile.

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It and there Learn English Grammar

It and there


The sentences below use the pronouns SHE/HE/THEY. However, we often use it and there as pronouns. This post looks at the different uses of it and there.

My mother lives in Spain now because SHE is retired and she wanted to live in a hot country.

My dog is ten this year.  HE was born on Christmas day.

My children are taking me to my favourite Italian restaurant today and  THEY have booked a table for 8 o’clock.

In English, a clause usually needs a subject or a pronoun instead of the subject. The only time we do not use a pronoun or noun or it and there is when we use the ‘imperative’, for example;

Turn up the heating please.

Go away.

Tell me.  I need to know!

If we have no other subject, we use it or there.


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English adjectives learn English grammar

English adjectives

This blog post looks at the different types and order of English adjectives. In English we usually write adjectives before the noun.  However, sometimes, for example, in literary writings, we can put them after the noun.  We can also put adjectives after a verb. Sometimes they can be two words together, for example: well-known.  These are known as compound adjectives. 

Adjectives before the noun:

The happy, smiling man danced with his new wife.

Commas ( , ) are put between the adjectives but not before the noun.

Adjectives after the noun:

The man, happy and smiling, danced with his new wife.

The adjectives are separated with ‘and’ and commas are put before and after the adjectives.  If you take out the adjectives, the sentence is still grammatically correct.

The two sentences say the same thing but have a different effect. 

Adjectives after a verb:

The man was happy and smiling.


Adjectives are put in to a word order, for example:

The large, blue, Chinese vase was the most beautiful I had ever bought.


The Chinese, blue, large vase …. OR The blue, Chinese, large vase etc.

It can be confusing for learners.  Here is a table to show the order of adjectives:


Relates to






Lovely, friendly, ugly, unusual








Big, tiny, medium




Physical quality



Dirty, clean, smooth







Round, curvy, square







Youthful, old, young







Blue, pink, orange







Dutch, French, Russian







Metallic, wood, plastic







Four-sided, U-shaped







Cooking, writing


For my birthday I got a beautiful, small, old, blue and white Chinese, ceramic cooking pot.

Compound adjectives

These are adjectives that contain two or more words.  They are joined together with a hyphen (-). Here are some examples of the most commonly used compound adjectives.



Describes somewhere with a lot of light.

We live on a very brightly-lit street.  I find it difficult to get to sleep at night.


Describes an area that has a high population (a lot of people living there)

Parking is always a problem in densely-populated areas of the city.


Describes someone who is very kind.

My kind-hearted boss gave 50% of his salary to charity last year.


Describes something that was planned just before it was done.

We booked a last-minute holiday to Spain last month.  We booked it on Friday and flew to Barcelona on the Sunday!


Usually describes someone who is around forty to sixty years old.

Police are looking for a tall, middle-aged man with red hair and a beard.


Describes someone who is not open to new ideas and opinions.

The manager’s narrow-minded ideas made everyone in the office unhappy.


Describes something that is not modern

He always wore old-fashioned clothes.


Describes someone who is really wants to do something or behave in a particular way, even if it is not a good idea.

He was also a strong-willed child.  He never listened to anyone.


Describes someone, usually children or animals, who behaves in a way that people think is good or correct.

I taught an extremely well-behaved class today.  The children were all very quiet and polite.

If the adjective comes after the noun, we do not need a hyphen.


It was a well-behaved class.

The class was well behaved.


He is a well-known actor.

He is well known.


Compound adjectives with numbers



There was a five-second delay.



We had a fifteen-minute wait before they opened the doors.



There was a four-hour delay between flights yesterday.



We had a two-day stopover in Bangkok when we went to Australia last year.



My boss took a three-week holiday to go and climb Mount Everest.



I had a six-month contract working for Siemens in Germany.



My five-year-old son has just started school.



They live in a twenty-storey building.


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Adjectives ending in ed and ing


The Language of Love vocabulary

The Language of Love


This post looks at the language of love and friendship.  You can learn vocabulary that helps you talk about relationships. There is a short quiz at the end.

Maria’s story

Maria started a new job ten years ago.  She met lots of new people working there.  Some of her co-workers were just casual acquaintances.  However, in the first six months, she made some good friends.  She became especially close friends with one or two.  In December last year, Tom started working with Maria and they struck up a friendship.  They had a lot of mutual friends.  For Tom and Maria it was love at first sight.  They fell madly in love.  Their relationship developed and they decided to make a commitment to one another.  Tom proposed to Maria.  Maria accepted his proposal

As their relationship grew they got married and promised to never have an affair; they would always be faithful to one another.  After a while they both left the company and moved away.  However, they still kept in touch with their friends from their old company.  Ten years later, Tom and Maria are still very happy and they say they will never split up.


Casual acquaintance


Someone you know a little I don’t really know Jo. She’s just a casual acquaintance.
Make friends


Become friends with someone Sam always found it easy to make friends.
Close friends


A very good friend We’ve been close friends for years.
Strike up a friendship


Begin being friends with someone I’ve struck up a friendship with my neighbour.
Mutual friends
Friends you and someone else both have My husband and I met through a mutual friend.
Love at first sight


To feel love when you first meet someone Do you believe in love at first sight?
Fall in love


To develop feelings of love We fell in love during our holiday in Spain.
A relationship grows/develops


A working or emotional relationship We need to develop a good relationship with our staff.
Make a commitment


Promise to do something We made a commitment to each other
To propose to someone


To ask someone to marry you She proposed to me on my birthday.
Accept a proposal


To say yes when someone asks to marry you He accepted my proposal


A sexual relationship outside of marriage He had many affairs whilst married.
Not have a sexual relationship with someone else They were both faithful during forty years of marriage.
Keep in touch/contact with someone


To continue to communicate with someone I haven’t kept in touch with any of my old school friends.
Split up


End a relationship He was broken-hearted when he split up from his wife.


The Language of Love quiz


  1. She is not really a close friend. She is a casual ______.


  1. When Sam and Joe first met, they hated each other. It certainly wasn’t _____ __ ____ _____ for them but they’ve been married twenty years now.


  1. He is really shy. He finds it very difficult to ____ new friends.


  1. When we got married, we promised we would always be ______.


  1. I still _____ __ ____ with some of my old colleagues. We message each other regularly and we meet once a year for lunch.


  1. I am so sorry to hear that you and Tom have _____ __. How are you feeling?  If you need to talk, give me a call.


  1. Mark met his girlfriend Lucy through a ______ friend. Someone Mark works with was at the same university as Lucy.


  1. He _____ to Lucy on her birthday and she _______ his proposal.


The Language of Love quiz answers:
  1. acquaintance
  2. love at first sight
  3. make
  4. faithful
  5. keep in touch
  6. split up
  7. mutual
  8. proposed, accepted

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash


Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

phrasal verbs that use out

This post looks at some of the phrasal verbs that use out.


back out (of something) = to say you will do something then decide you will not do it:

“Our company was going to open a new factory in Leeds but they backed out at the last minute because the owner thought it would be too expensive.”

break out = escape:

“They broke out of prison last week and the police have been looking for them ever since.”

bring out = make more noticeable:

“That dress really brings out your green eyes.”

check out = leave a hotel after paying and returning your room key:

“We need to check out straight after breakfast or we will miss our train.”

check something out = investigate, visit or look at something:

‘Have you checked out that new Italian restaurant yet.  It’s great!”

cut out = eliminate:

“He’s cut out alcohol and he’s lost a lot of weight.”

find out = discover:

“Did you ever find out why your computer stopped working?”

eat out = eat in a restaurant:

“Do you fancy eating out tonight?”

hand out = distribute:

“The teacher handed out the homework to the class.”

fill out = complete a form:

“You need to fill out all the sections on this form.”

make out = see well:

“I can’t make out what is written on this paper.  Where are my reading glasses?”

pass out = faint:

“I feel terrible.  I think I’m going to pass out from the heat in here.”

put out = inconvenience someone:

“Thank you for offering to feed the cat while I’m on holiday. Are you sure I’m not putting you out?”

stand out = be easily noticeable:

“His singing stood out during the show.  He was easily the best singer there!”

take out = withdraw money:

“I need to take some cash out of the machine on my way to the restaurant.”

work out (1) = calculate:

“We’ve worked out how much everything will cost.”

work out (2) = resolve:

“Everything worked out in the end.”

work out (3) = understand:

“He couldn’t work out why I wanted to move to the countryside.  I told him that I didn’t really like the city.”

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Learn English: Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

This post looks at the life of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.   Stevenson is most famous for writing Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde as well as many essays, poems and plays. Words with an * are explained at the end.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13th November 1850.  His father was a lighthouse engineer who wanted Robert to become an engineer also. Stevenson was an only child* and often too sick to attend* school. He frequently travelled with his family, for health reasons.  They would travel to find somewhere with a warmer climate* to help with Robert’s lung problems. In fact, Robert Louis Stevenson spent most of his life travelling and living in different places looking for the perfect climate.  He finally settled* on one of the Samoan islands a few years before his untimely* death. Stevenson’s travels helped inspire* many of his stories.

In 1867, Stevenson began an engineering degree at Edinburgh university.  However, his heart was not in engineering.  He didn’t attend most of his lectures because he spent a lot of time with his friends drinking, smoking hashish and trying to meet women. 

Eventually he gave up the engineering to become a writer.  However, to please his father, he began, and finished, a degree in law although he never practised*.

Stevenson had always been a writer.  Even before he could read he would dictate* stories to his mother and his nurse who then wrote them down*.  His first published book was ‘An Inland Voyage’ in 1878.  The book was about a journey through France and Belgium that Stevenson and a friend did in a canoe.  It was on this journey that Stevenson met a married American who was separated from her husband.  Her name was Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.  She had two children.  Stevenson fell in love.  He continued to write to Fanny even after she returned to America.  When Fanny finally divorced her husband, Stevenson moved to America to be with her.  The journey nearly killed him.  After a while his health improved and Stevenson began to earn money through writing.  However, he became ill again and his father had to send money. 

Stevenson married Fanny in the spring of 1880 and after their honeymoon* they moved with Fanny’s children to Britain.  They settled in Bournemouth, on the English south coast, and this is where Stevenson wrote some of his most famous novels; Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden Book of Verse (a collection of poetry for children).

On a wet, rainy holiday in Scotland, Stevenson entertained his bored step-son* with a picture of an island.  Stevenson began to create a story about the island, giving names to places on the island.  This was to become Treasure Island, possibly his most famous novel.

After several years in England and following the death of his father, Stevenson moved his family back to America.  He had been advised by a doctor to move somewhere with a warmer climate.  A year later, he hired a yacht and he and his family spent several years sailing on the Pacific Ocean, stopping at different islands around Hawaii and around New Zealand.  The family eventually settled on the Samoan island, Upolu.  He grew to love the Samoan people and was loved in return.  However, on 3rd December 1894, he became ill and, within a few hours, he died. He was 44. 

Stevenson’s body is buried on a hill top near his home.  During his life, the Samoans gave Stevenson a nickname*.  It was ‘Tusitala’ meaning ‘Teller of Tales’* (one who tells stories).

Vocabulary Check

An only child – someone who does not have any brothers or sisters

Attend – to go to

Inspire – to make someone feel they want to do something.

Climate – the weather conditions a place has (a warm climate, a cold climate, a harsh climate etc)

Settled – to start living in a place you are going to stay in for a long time

Untimely – earlier than expected

Practice law – to work in a particular profession – usually law or medicine

Dictate – to tell someone exactly what to write for you

Write down – to write something on a piece of paper

Honeymoon – a holiday many couples take just after getting married

Step-son – someone’s son by marriage not a blood relation

Nickname – a name friends or family call you that is not your real name

Tales – stories

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Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson – a short biography for advanced learners of English

Samuel Johnson was born on 18th September, 1709 in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield in Staffordshire, England.  He was the son of a bookseller and his childhood was spoiled* by poverty* and illness.  A brilliant man, Samuel Johnson overcame his difficulties and became the author of one of the most famous English dictionaries in the world, ‘Dictionary of the English Language.’  He was a man determined to succeed. This is his story.

Samuel Johnson The English Tower


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Adjectives ending in ed and ing

Adjectives ending in ed and ing

This post looks at adjectives ending in  ed or ing.  For example, look at the following sentences.  Can you see the difference between the two sentences?  They both contain an adjective from the verb ‘confuse’ but the endings are different.


English learners are often confused by adjectives. 

English learners often think that adjectives are confusing. 


Confused and confusing are both adjectives.  However, they are used in different situations.  This post explains when to use ‘ed’ and when to use ‘ing’.

For example:

I was bored.  The film was really boring.

Below is a list of some of the most common adjectives that can take either the ‘ed’ or ‘ing’ form.


VERB                          ‘ed’ adjective           ‘ing’ adjective


aggravate                            aggravated                         aggravating

alarm                                   alarmed                               alarming

amaze                                  amazed                                amazing

amuse                                  amused                               amusing

annoy                                  annoyed                             annoying

astonish                            astonished                        astonishing

bore                                     bored                                    boring

challenge                         challenged                          challenging

confuse                             confused                             confusing

convince                          convinced                           convincing

depress                            depressed                           depressing

disappoint                     disappointed                   disappointing

disgust                             disgusted                           disgusting

embarrass                     embarrassed                   embarrassing

encourage                     encouraged                      encouraging

excite                                excited                                exciting

exhaust                         exhausted                           exhausting

frighten                        frightened                          frightening

frustrate                       frustrated                          frustrating

interest                         interested                          interesting

please                             pleased                               pleasing

relax                                relaxed                               relaxing

satisfy                             satisfied                            satisfying

shock                              shocked                            shocking

terrify                             terrified                           terrifying

tire                                    tired                                   tiring

worry                               worried                           worrying


Adjective + ‘ed’

These describe how a person feels.

He often felt tired and depressed so he made an appointment to see the doctor.

The little boy was terrified of clowns.

I am disappointed that you can’t come to the wedding because  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever! I felt totally relaxed all week. 

I’m so frustrated with my boss. 


Adjective + ‘ing’

These describe the thing or person that makes you feel the emotion. 


He told his doctor that his work was really tiring and depressing.

The little boy thinks clowns are terrifying.

You can’t come to the wedding?  That is so disappointing .  I was looking forward to seeing you there.

It was the best holiday ever!  It was so relaxing.

My boss is so frustrating.

adjectives ending in ed and ing