The holidays mean delicious foods, warm drinks, celebrations with friends and family . . . and shopping! There are plenty of great places to go shopping in San Francisco and San Diego, and today we will take a look at some of the best places to go shopping for Christmas gifts. But first, let’s take a look at a grammar point related to gifts: we always say that you “give” a gift to someone, right? “Give” and “gift” make a collocation (two words that go together). Other examples of collocations include take a picture, do your homework, do your dishes, and make your bed. Here are some more with the verb “give.”

We give gifts, and . . . what else?

Collocations with “give”

We give . . .

  • Advice
  • An answer
  • Birth
  • A call (a ring, a buzz)
  • A chance (to someone)
  • A choice
  • Credit (to someone when they do something well)
  • A damn (typically used in the negative, “I don’t give a damn” when you do not care about something)
  • An example
  • A headache
  • Help
  • A hug or kiss
  • An idea
  • The impression 
  • A lecture or speech or performance
  • A ride
  • Your opinion
  • Priority (to something or someone)

 The next time you give a gift, remember that there are many things we “give” in English. Now, on to the shopping . . .


Shopping in SD and SF

Most CISL students are familiar with stores like Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Forever XXI, Old Navy, and other large corporate stores. Aside from the department stores, the following list provides some of the more common types of stores that students living in the United States might not be so familiar with.

1. Large department stores

Macy’s, Nordstrom, JCPenney, Nieman Marcus: all of these stores are very large and seem to sell everything from housewares (dishes, bedding, etc.) to accessories like shoes and belts. Items in these stores are designer (they have famous brand names) and although the price is typically higher, the quality is also better with many of the things you buy. Customer service is also highly regarded in department stores: the employees are very friendly and eager to help you choose the right items, and the return policies are typically very good.

2. Boutiques

These small-scale stores often carry local designers. Prices can be very high, but the items are unique (and typically the store atmosphere is unique as well, and decorated beautifully and originally). The customer service is also very high: the stores tend to receive less traffic, so employees can spend a lot of time with you while you shop. The employees tend to know a lot about the products and are very helpful.

Vocabulary, a San Diego/Little Italy boutique on the same street as CISL’s residence hall, Vantaggio, is a great place to learn about local designers and shop for unique jewelry.


3. Second-hand (thrift) shops

There is an expression in English: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This seems to be the motto of thrift stores! You would be surprised at what you can find at thrift shops: barely-worn designer jeans, unique vintage t-shirts, and even fun costumes. The prices are incredibly low, and since new items arrive all the time, you never know what you will find. Check out Buffalo Exchange, a fun thrift store in SD and SF.

Beautiful jewelry sold at the Little Italy Mercato.


4. Artisan fairs and farmer’s markets

Farmer’s markets are not just for fruits and vegetables: many also have local artists selling clothes, jewelry, and items for your home. Christmas and holiday fairs also have many of these vendors. Visit our guide to San Francisco Farmer’s Markets to find one near you, and check out the Little Italy Mercato or Hillcrest Farmer’s Market if you are studying English in San Diego.


5. Online (Etsy)

Have you heard of Etsy? Etsy is an online community of small store owners selling handmade and vintage items. Shop from home in your pajamas and have the items shipped to you or directly to your friends and family. Most vendors are happy to include a hand-written note with your purchase.

Happy Holidays to all CISL students. We hope you enjoy shopping in San Diego and San Francisco!


Jewelry photo from the Little Italy Mercato Facebook page. All other photos from Vocabulary Boutique Facebook page