Prepositions: During / For / Until / By


We use during to talk about something that happens at one point within a period of time or to talk about an event that continues throughout a whole period of time. Compare the following:

  • I sometimes wake up during the night and then I can’t go back to sleep again.
    I cried during the performance. It was such a sad play.
  • During the school holiday period in the summer all the campsites are full.
  • During wars food is often rationed.

When we are referring to a whole period of time, we sometimes use throughout as an alternative to during for emphasis:

  • Sugar and cheese continued to be rationed throughout the post war period.
  • These hotels are usually fully booked throughout the summer season.

We sometimes use in as an alternative to during to talk about something that happens within a particular period of time:

  • I sometimes wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep again.
  • In my fours years as head of this company I have only taken a holiday once.

If the activity continues for a period of time, we sometimes useover instead of during to describe the specified period:

  • Over the last few days, weather conditions have been steadily improving and a rescue now seems possible
  • I don’t intend to do very much over the summer – just relax!


For tells us how long something continues or lasts:

  • I was ill for three days during my holiday and couldn’t go out at all.
  • I’ll pop in and see you for a few minutes at some point during the afternoon.
  • I’ve been working for this company for twenty five years.

Take care not to confuse for with since. Since is also used to measure the duration of an activity, but it describes the starting point up to a given time and is most often associated with present perfect and past perfect tenses:

  • I’ve been working for the BBC for a long time – since 1978.
  • We haven’t seen much of him for ages, not since his marriage to Julie last summer.

Note from the above examples that for is used with a wider variety of tenses than since.



We use until or till to indicate that something continues up to a particular point in time and then stops:

  • Don’t bother saving me any supper – I won’t be home till late.
  • We had to stay in the exam room until the end of the exam. We couldn’t leave early even if we had finished.
  • I had no umbrella so waited until the downpour was over before I left the shop.
  • We don’t need to be at the stadium until the first race is over so we don’t need to leave home till eleven o’ clock.


We use by to indicate that something will be achieved before a particular time or at that particular time at the latest. Note the contrast between by and until in the final example below:

  • We have to be at the stadium by midday, so we should leave home by eleven fifteen.
  • She had learnt to play the piano by the age of nine. By that age she could play almost any tune you asked her to.
  • She learnt to play the piano until she was nine years old. Then suddenly and without warning, she quit.





Have a look at these timeline images (infographics) and consider how you can use the above prepositions to describe events, developments, periods displayed within the graphics.

Clicking on each image will open a large version of the graphic which you can download or print.


A History of Communication A History of Toys
ThinkingPhones_Infographic the-history-of-toys

Vocabulary: Useful Essay Phrases

Useful Phrases for Writing Argumentative Essays

To list arguments in the main body:

In the first place, First of all, To start with, To begin with, Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Finally, In addition (to this), Furthermore, Moreover, Besides, last but not least

Presenting arguments for:

The main/first/most important advantage of …, One major advantage of …, A further advantage …, One/Another/An additional advantage of …, One point of view in favour of …, It is often suggested/believed/argued that …, Some/Many people suggest/feel/argue that …, Some/Many people are in favour of/are convinced that …,

Presenting arguments against:

One major disadvantage of …, The main/most important disadvantage/drawback of …, One/Another/An additional disadvantage of …, One point/argument against …, Some/Many people are against …,

Presenting examples, causes and results:

for example/instance, such as, like, in particular,therefore, for this reason, because, as, since, as a result,

To add more points to the same topic:

what is more, furthermore, also, in addition to, besides, apart from this/that, not to mention the fact that, etc.

To make contrasting points:

on the other hand, however, despite/in spite of (the fact), while, nevertheless, even though, although, it can be argued that, one can argue that, etc.

To conclude:

to conclude/sum up, all in all, all things considered, in conclusion, on the whole, taking everything into account, taking all this into account/consideration, above all, as was previously stated, etc.


opinionUseful Phrases for Writing Opinion Essays

To list points: In the first place, first of all, to start with, in the first place, etc.

To add more points: what is more, another major reason, also, furthermore, moreover, in addition to, besides, apart from this, not to mention the fact that, etc.

To introduce conflicting viewpoints: It is argued that, people argue that, opponents of this view say, there are people who oppose, etc.

To express opinion: I believe, In my opinion, I think, In my view, I strongly believe, etc.

Vocabulary: Verbs (Tell / Say / Talk / Speak)


TELL always has an object (indirect / direct or both), but SAY often does not (and it can never have an indirect object, without a direct object). If you use both types of object, their order is important – when the indirect object comes last you must use to.

  • He tells the story (direct object)
  • He tells me (indirect object)
  • He tells me the story (indirect object is first)
  • He tells the story to me (indirect object is last)
  • She says “hi”
  • She says “hi” to me.
  • She says me “hi” is completely incorrect. You cannot put the indirect object (me) before the thing that is said. There are no exceptions to this.


  • usually used without an indirect object (person).
  • If we want to put a person after say, we use to (uncommon use)
  • She said that it was my last chance.
  • He said, ‘Good morning.’
  • And I say to all the people of this great country…


  • TELL always needs an object – direct (what is told) or indirect (who is told) or both
  • TELL only means ‘instruct’ or ‘inform’. Commonly it is used with
    • instructions
    • orders / commands
    • directions
    • stories
    • lies


There is not very much difference between SPEAK and TALK.


Talk is the more usual word to refer to conversational exchanges and informal communication.

  • When she walked into the room everybody stopped talking.


  • Speak is often used for one-way communication and for exchanges in more serious or formal situations.
  • Speak is the usual word to refer to knowledge and use of languages-
  • I’ll have to speak to that boy – he’s getting very lazy.
  • After she had finished reading the letter, nobody spoke.
  • She speaks three languages fluently.

Activities to test your understanding:

Vocabulary: Verbs (Look / Watch / See)


We start to see unintentionally when we open our eyes, It may not be deliberate, we just see without any effort.

For example:

  • Can you see my house over the cliff?
  • Bats can see very well in the dark.
  • See you tomorrow.
  • You may not see much in dim light.


Different from the action “see” we make a special effort when we try to see something. It’s an active verb.

For example:

  • Don’t look at the sun with naked eye.
  • Look at me while I am speaking.
  • He looked at his watch and told me the time.
  • Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t do anything wrong.


The verb “watch” is used when we look at something that moves or changes for a period of time. It’s a continuous action of looking and observing.

For example:

  • All day long I just watched TV yesterday.
  • I like watching the spectacular sun set every day.
  • Please be quiet, I am trying to watch the world cup series.
  • Do you like watching talk shows?


Watch a Movie vs See a Movie

We watched a movie yesterday.

This would imply we watched a movie at home (TV/DVD…)

We saw a movie yesterday.

This would imply that we did so by going to a movie theatre. We can also explicitly say that we went to the movie theatre and watched “Ice Age”.


Some exercises to test your understanding:

Vocabulary: The most difficult words to pronounce in the English language

“Worcestershire”. “Choir”. “Sixth”. For some, these words may seem relatively normal and everyday – but to others, they represent an unrivalled linguistic challenge.

For almost two weeks, users of the online social platform reddit have been submitting what they consider to be “the hardest English word to pronounce”.

After more than 5,000 submissions, the message thread has become a fount of difficult vocabulary, with users from across the world sharing their favourites and personal experiences.

There are references to popular culture, some very creative tongue-twisters – and because of reddit’s points system, a rough consensus has emerged as to which are the hardest.

Here are the top 10:

10 – Rural

9 – Otorhinolaryngologist

8 – Colonel

7 – Penguin

6 – Sixth

5 – Isthmus

4 – Anemone

3 – Squirrel

2 – Choir

1 – Worcestershire


A poem was written to expose the irregularities of English pronunciation, you can listen to it below before trying it yourself:



“The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité, written nearly 100 years ago in 1922:

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

You’ve been reading “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité, written nearly 100 years ago in 1922, designed to demonstrate the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation.

Vocabulary: Expressions for Agreeing and Disagreeing in a Debate

Stating an opinion

  • In my opinion…
  • The way I see it…
  • If you want my honest opinion….
  • According to Lisa…
  • As far as I’m concerned…
  • If you ask me…

Asking for an opinon

  • What’s your idea?
  • What are your thoughts on all of this?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Do you have anything to say about this?
  • What do you think?
  • Do you agree?
  • Wouldn’t you say?

Expressing agreement

  • I agree with you 100 percent.
  • I couldn’t agree with you more.
  • That’s so true.
  • That’s for sure.
  • (slang) Tell me about it!
  • You’re absolutely right.
  • Absolutely.
  • That’s exactly how I feel.
  • Exactly.
  • I’m afraid I agree with James.
  • I have to side with Dad on this one.
  • No doubt about it.
  • (agree with negative statement) Me neither.
  • (weak) I suppose so./I guess so.
  • You have a point there.
  • I was just going to say that.

Expressing disagreement

  • I don’t think so.
  • (strong) No way.
  • I’m afraid I disagree.
  • (strong) I totally disagree.
  • I beg to differ.
  • (strong) I’d say the exact opposite.
  • Not necessarily.
  • That’s not always true.
  • That’s not always the case.
  • No, I’m not so sure about that.


  • Can I add something here?
  • Is it okay if I jump in for a second?
  • If I might add something…
  • Can I throw my two cents in?
  • Sorry to interrupt, but…
  • (after accidentally interrupting someone) Sorry, go ahead. OR Sorry, you were saying…
  • (after being interrupted) You didn’t let me finish.

Settling an argument

  • Let’s just move on, shall we?
  • Let’s drop it.
  • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
  • (sarcastic) Whatever you say./If you say so.