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Turkey Idioms

November 17, 2018

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we have some turkey-related idioms that are sure to make you laugh!

Cold Turkey

Stop something immediately.

Some people quit smoking by smoking less and less each day until eventually, they do not smoke any cigarettes at all. Not me. I quit cold turkey. 

Have you ever quit anything? How did you do it? Did you do it cold turkey?


Go Cold Turkey

To stop something immediately.

This idiom is similar to the above idiom, but the addition of the verb “go” means that you can use it without the verbs “stop” or “quit”, like in the first idiom.

To quit smoking, I went cold turkey.

My New Year’s Resolution is to go cold turkey on coffee. 


Talk Turkey

To talk business; to talk honestly and opening instead of saving one’s feelings or true opinions.

Let’s be honest, this new project is not working. Let’s talk turkey about what we can do to change things.


To Gobble Something Up

To eat something quickly.

The sound that turkeys make is often called a “gobble.” When you “gobble something up,” you eat it very quickly.

I gobbled up that pie. It was so delicious!


We would like to wish each of our students a Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey photo from

Featured Grammar Learning Materials Lessons

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

December 1, 2017

Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs in English

Do you know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Understanding the difference will improve your English speech and writing.

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

Types of Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs use an object. The object can be a noun, a phrase, or a pronoun.

Transitive verb with a noun

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. A transitive verb works with the noun.

  • I see the car.
  • I love ice cream.
  • He wants hot chocolate.
  • Have you tried eggnog?

Transitive verb with a phrase

A phrase is a group of words. These words work together as a unit to mean something. There are many types of phrases. Transitive verbs can be used with phrases.

  • I see why you wanted to live in this neighborhood.
  • I love taking long walks by the sea.
  • He wants less now that he’s older.
  • Have you tried talking to your roommate about his dog barking?

Transitive verb with a pronoun

A pronoun is used in place of a noun (usually because we already referred to the noun).

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her.


Examples of Common Transitive Verbs

Here are some common transitive verbs in English.

  • Buy
  • Cost  
  • Give
  • Leave
  • Lend
  • Make
  • Offer
  • Pass
  • Sell
  • Show
  • Take
  • Wish

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs do not work with an object.

  • What time does your plane arrive?
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax.
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran.


Examples of Common Intransitive Verbs

Here are some common intransitive verbs in English.

  • Act
  • Come
  • Cry
  • Die
  • Do
  • Go
  • Grow
  • Laugh
  • Respond
  • Smile

Verbs that are Transitive or Intransitive

Some verbs can be both transitive or intransitive, depending on their use. Within the context of the sentence, you can see if the verb is transitive or intransitive.

  • Studying abroad will change you in wonderful ways. (transitive) 
  • This neighborhood has really changed! (intransitive) 
  • Can you close the door, please? (transitive) 
  • When did this cafe close? (intransitive) 
  • Please write an email to Jim and thank him for dinner. (transitive) 
  • When did you learn to write? (intransitive) 


Why is this important?

Knowing if a verb is transitive or intransitive will help you properly use each verb: using a transitive verb without an object will of course be a major grammar mistake!

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see. (incorrect)
  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her. (correct)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax myself. (incorrect)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax. (correct)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran myself. (incorrect)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran. (correct)


Cambridge Exams Learning Materials Listening Practice

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

November 26, 2017

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Students preparing for the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) Exam often have difficulty preparing for the Listening Module. How can you actively improve your listening skills for this part of the exam? Follow these tips for Part 3 of the CAE Listening test.

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

CAE Listening Part 3 Overview

  • There are 4 parts to the CAE Listening Module. (To improve Parts 1, 2, and 3, read the articles listed at the end of this page.)
  • Part 3 includes interviews and discussions between two or more speakers.
  • The recording is often an interview or a discussion.
  • The recording is 3–4 minutes in length.
  • Part 3 tests the ability to listen to longer interviews and discussions, then show an understanding of the speakers’ attitudes and opinions.
  • The test focuses on agreement, gist, feeling, purpose, function, and detail.
  • A series of six 4-option multiple-choice questions focuses on the attitude and opinions of speakers.
  • Questions follow the order that information is presented in the recording.

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Tips for CAE Listening Part 3

  • This is the longest part of the Listening test. To practice, make sure to listen to longer interviews and conversations.
  • When listening to conversations and interviews, try to follow the flow of the conversation. Recognize when conversations move from one topic to another, or when a person’s opinion changes.
  • For multiple-choice tasks, focus more on the question and not the possible answers. Try to answer the question based on listening and not based on the options.
  • Remember that multiple-choice questions use synonyms or language that paraphrases and reports ideas from the text.
  • Questions often focus on attitudes or opinions of speakers. Make sure you understand  reporting verbs (such as agrees, regrets, admits, resents, claims).
  • Also be sure to understand words that are used to describe attitudes and feelings (such as disappointed, frustrated, unexpected).
  • Also identify words that are used to report opinions, such as insists, suggests, denies), and degrees of certainty (e.g. doubtful, convinced).

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

To practice for CAE Listening Part 3, try the following things:

  • Watch the news in English. Use subtitles if you need to.
  • Listen to podcasts. Need ideas? Try our list of Podcasts for Academic English.
  • Focus on longer interviews. Search for your favorite English-speaking celebrity on YouTube and watch their interviews for practice.

Further practice

For more listening practice, visit the following articles:

Converse International School of Languages has provided quality English language training in San Diego and San Francisco since 1972. CISL has also provided Cambridge FCE and CAE test preparation instruction for more than 25 years (and is an official Cambridge Testing Centre). To learn more about Cambridge FCE and CAE preparation classes in California’s San Diego and San Francisco, contact CISL. 

Featured Learning Materials

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

October 14, 2017

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking EnglishAre you shy, nervous, or embarrassed to speak English? Even in a warm and welcoming environment (such as the CISL classroom), students can still have difficulty feeling comfortable speaking English. Do not worry: we have some tips to help students speak up in class in order to overcome their fear of speaking English. With these tips and a little practice, you will feel confident communicating in English in no time!

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #1: Ask questions

Asking a question is a great way to participate in the class. You can ask questions for clarification, for more information, or simply to get the opinions of your classmates and teacher. All questions open dialogue and allow you to be an important part of the class conversation. (Plus, asking questions allows you to learn how to form questions in different tenses!)

Tip #2: Be a good listener

There is no such thing as a one-sided conversation. To speak in class, it’s a good idea to listen first. Then you can build on the conversation by agreeing or disagreeing (or adding information).

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #3: Identify your exact fears or worries

Ask yourself exactly why you are so afraid to speak English. Is it because of your accent? Is it because you lack the vocabulary? Is it because you can’t correctly form a sentence with the proper word order? The only way to overcome your fear is to first identify it.

Tip #4: Remind yourself that shame is irrational

Once you’ve identified your fear (or fears), realize that your fear is irrational: all fear is! When you are in the English classroom, the goal is to improve your English. And remember: everyone in the class shares this goal! Absolutely everything that you do will help you improve, so consider each conversation to be a learning opportunity.

Tip #5: Relax (and have fun)

The easiest way to improve your English skills is to enjoy the language (both learning it and speaking it). Develop a positive relationship with English and you will enjoy every step of the learning process. (Yes, even grammar!)

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

What are your tips for improving your English skills and overcoming the fear of speaking up in the classroom? Share with us on Facebook!

Since 1972, CISL has provided students with quality English instruction in the small classroom setting (never more than 8 students per class)! Learn more about CISL’s San Francisco and San Diego locations (and its many programs, including Executive English, Cambridge CAE and FCE, and Career English) by visiting the CISL website

Cambridge Exams Featured Idioms and expressions Learning Materials

Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

June 7, 2017

During the Cambridge CAE or FCE Speaking Module, examiners look for your ability to use advanced vocabulary, including phrasal verbs, as naturally as possible. Learn these phrasal verbs for the Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module and your score will improve drastically!

Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE

Before learning the phrasal verbs, you must know what the focus is for each of the parts of the Speaking Module. Once you understand the tasks, you can learn phrasal verbs which are directly related to the types of speech you will use in each section (such as language for talking about the future, comparing and contrasting, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.).

Note: The CAE and FCE Speaking Exams are very similar, but there are a few differences (these are noted below). You can use the same phrasal verbs for each exam, regardless of the differences in the test format.

Part 1

For Part 1 of both FCE and CAE, you may be asked about things like your home town, your interests, your studies, your career(s), etc. When speaking about yourself, try to use the following phrasal verbs.

Bring (someone) up

Definition: to look after a child until it is an adult. (Note: this is often used in the Passive Voice.)

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You will probably be asked about your childhood and where you are from.

Example: I was brought up in a very large family: I have four brothers and sisters.

Get along with

Definition: to have a good relationship with someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can use this phrasal verb to speak about the relationships you have with family, friends, roommates, classmates, etc.

Example: I get along very well with my roommates here in San Francisco, so my stay here has been very enjoyable.

Grow up

Definition: to become an adult.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can apply this phrasal verb when talking about your childhood and early years.

Example: I grew up in a small town but for the last five years I’ve lived in Zurich.

Look forward to

Definition: to be excited for something in the future.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is common phrasal verb to talk about exciting future plans.

Example: I am nervous for the Cambridge Exam, but I am also looking forward to using all of the things I’ve practiced and learned.

Take up

Definition: to begin a hobby or activity.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: In Part 1, you are often asked about your hobbies.

Example: In my free time, I really enjoy photography. I took it up when I was travelling through Southeast Asia and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Give up

Definition: to quit doing something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might be asked to talk about your childhood or past; ‘give up” is often used to discuss activities you don’t do anymore.

Example: Well, in my free time I usually enjoy skiing, but I gave that up when I moved here since I am not so close to the mountains anymore.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 2

FCE: The interlocutor gives you TWO photographs and asks you to talk about them for 1 minute. The interlocutor then asks your partner a question about your photographs and your partner responds briefly (up to 30 seconds).

Then the interlocutor gives your partner two different photographs. Your partner talks about these photographs for 1 minute. This time the interlocutor asks you a question about your partner’s photographs and you respond briefly (up to 30 seconds).

CAE: The test is the same, but you are given THREE photos (not two) and you are asked to speak about two of them.

When speaking about the photos, you will use language of speculation. For speculation, the following phrasal verbs are useful.

End up

Definition: to finally be in a place or situation.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You have to speculate a lot when looking at these photos, so this phrasal verb is a great one to use when guessing how the person came to be in the situation in the photo (or what will happen to them after).

Example: The family in this photo looks very unhappy at her office job; perhaps she dreamed of a life working at something other than a desk job and she’s sad that she ended up in such a dull environment.

Make out

Definition: to be able to see something that’s not quite clear.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might not be able to see the full details of the photo; this is a great phrasal verb to describe what you think you see.

Example: I can’t quite make it out but I think that the group is holding a trophy, so perhaps they’ve won a competition or game . . .

Make (something) up

Definition: to invent a story.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You are asked to speculate about the people in the photos and their lives, so this is a useful expression!

Example: I would guess that this person is very happy: she has her two beautiful children and a lovely house . . . perhaps she’s a stay-at-home-mom and is appreciative that she can spend time with her children . . . I’m making this all up, of course, but it’s what I would guess.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 3

FCE: (4 minutes) This part is divided into two parts and the interlocutor asks you and your partner to talk together in both. In the first part, you are given five written prompts and asked to discuss a question. For example, you might be asked to discuss things ways to improve the environment in your city.

After 2 minutes, the interlocutor will give you one more minute to make a decision together which is related to what you have been discussing.

CAE: You and your partner are given written prompts. You must speak together for about 2 minutes (3 minutes for groups of three) about these prompts. After the discussion time, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have 1 minute to talk together and make the decision (2 minutes for groups of three).


Part 4

In Part 4, you and your partner will answer follow-up questions related to the topic of Part 3. These phrasal verbs are useful when conversing.

Bring (something) up

Definition: to start a conversation about something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a great phrasal verb to use when responding to a comment that your partner made (or a question that the interlocutor brought up). It shows interaction with what another person has said, which is something they look for in this section of the exam.

Example: You brought up ______; I agree that . . .

Come up with

Definition: to suggest or think of an idea or plan.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Come up with” allows you to present an idea or respond to a question or statement.

Example: What other ideas can we come up with?

Cut (someone) off

Definition: to interrupt someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: If you accidentally cut your partner off when he or she is speaking, this is an excellent phrasal verb to use.

Example: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off: what were you saying?

Follow up

Definition: a further action connected to something that happened before.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: Following up on something your partner said is a great way to return to something you discussed previously (and add further commentary).

Example: Just to follow up on what you said earlier, I think . . .

Get back to

Definition: to return to something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Get back to” is useful when trying to return to a conversation you had previously: it’s very helpful when the conversation seems to have gotten off track and you’d like to refocus.

Example: Getting back to what we were saying earlier about . . .

Go ahead

Definition: to start to do something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You know that awkward moment when you and your partner both hesitate and each wants to speak? Use go ahead to give your partner the green light!

Example: You can go ahead and start if you’d like . . .

Warm up to

Definition: to begin liking something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: When you’re not certain about an idea, but then decide this is a good idea, you can use this phrasal verb.

Example: I’m warming up to the idea that . . .

Work something out

Definition: to agree to something after a discussion.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You and your partner must agree to something in Part 3: use this phrasal verb to announce to the interlocutor that you’ve come to an agreement.

Example: I think we’ve worked it out. We have agreed that . . .

Did you know that CISL is an official Cambridge Testing Centre? CISL CAE and FCE students have the advantage of taking their exam at CISL, which makes them much more comfortable! Hear from our students why our small class sizes and intensive, speaking-based curriculum are excellent for improving your Cambridge score.