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United English es una escuela de inglés en Querétaro, México. Especializamos en la enseñanza de idiomas y inglés de negocios. Ofrecemos clases de inglés en nuestra escuela y en empresas. Aprender inglés con un horario flexible y maestros nativos.

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Biggest vs. Largest

Mark Arthur

In yesterday's class, Javier asked if there were any important difference in the use of the words "biggest" and "largest". I ran a search on the Corpus of Contemporary American English to compare the most frequent nouns that combine with the two words.

You can see the result in the screen shots below. Notice that according to corpus data, "biggest" is much more frequent than "largest", whereas "largest" seems to be used more frequently in formal contexts. You'll also notice that the most frequent collocations (i.e. words that they combine with) are quite different. 

noun collocations largest.PNG
noun collocations biggest.PNG

'A good fit...'

Mark Arthur

The expression, 'A good fit' between a company and a person came up in today's class. Here's a real example from a teacher looking for a teaching job at United English:



I am a native English speaker with a Bachelor’s Degree and a CELTA.  In addition to my teaching experience I have substantial business and management experience.  I have also worked for the Federal Government of Canada as an adjudicator, gaining experience in reading and writing legal decisions.  This background makes me a very good fit for a school with a focus on teaching Business English

I will be in Santiago de Queretaro from July 24th to 31st and will be relocating my family there in October. 

Please find attached my resume.


Lager and Ale, the difference

Mark Arthur

Following on from our conversation yesterday, here's a short post on the difference between lager and ale from the website

All beers, no matter how great or small, are made from a basic combination of water, maltshops, and yeast. So then what really distinguishes an ale from a lager?

The difference is yeast. Not whether or not it’s used, but the specific type. But from this relatively small variant comes a whole slew of changes and differences that make these two beers very unique.

Ales - Ales are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast that thrives at mid-range room temperatures. For this reason, ales are typically stored between 60° and 75° Fahrenheit during the fermentation stage. This type of yeast and the fermentation temperature tend to give ales a fruitier and spicier flavor than lagers. In general, ales are more robust and complex. Common styles of ale include pale ale, India pale ale, amber ale, porters, and stouts.

Lagers - By contrast, lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast that work best at cooler temperatures, between 35° and 55° Fahrenheit. Fermentation happens more slowly and the beer is more stable, so it can be stored (or “lagered”) for longer than ales. This yeast tends to have less presence in the finished beer. As compared to ales, lagers have a cleaner and crisper quality with emphasis on the hops and malt flavors. The lager family includes pilsners, bocks, and dunkels.

Is one style better than the other? Definitely not. It’s all a matter of personal taste or what we’re craving at that particular moment. Personally, we love all beers equally - just so long as they’re good!

Do you have a preference for ales or lagers?

Original post: 


How long does it take vs. How long does it last?

Mark Arthur

After our discussion yesterday about 'take' and 'last', I found this on the BBC Learning English website:. Hope it helps:


Take or last?

Both take and last are used to talk about the amount of time needed for something. We tend to use take when we are more in control of the experience and last when we have little or no control over it. Take suggests more active involvement and last implies a more passive experience. Thus we are more likely to say:

  • How long does the film last?
    ~ It's a long one. It lasts (for) over three hours

Compare also the following examples of greater and lesser control of the action using take and last:

  • It takes half an hour to prepare lunch and an hour to prepare supper usually.
  • Dinner lasts for / takes at least ninety minutes when Henry's at home - there's so much to talk about. 
  • The five-set match lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours before the champion went through to the next round 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2. "I didn't expect it to take so long, but it took metwenty minutes to settle down in the opening set," he said afterwards.

Note that when we use preparatory it as subject and when it is followed by a personal pronoun, me, you, her, him, or them, we have to use take, not last:

  • It will take you all day to tidy your room - it's in such a mess.
  • It only takes me five minutes to put my make-up on now. It used to take me ninety minutes before I got married.


Russian Meteorite

Mark Arthur

Here's a video of the news report that we watched in Friday's class.

Don't forget that meteorite is pronounced: /'mitiəˌraɪt/

And here's a list of some of the pieces of language from the class:

  • burning objects raining down
  • several blast
  • trailsof smoke
  • a massive fire ball 
  • appears out of nowhere
  • this what took place
  • what we know
  • a series of explosions
  • eye witnesses
  • molten hot debris
  • widespread panic
  • windows being blown out
  • evacuated
  • no leakes reported so far
  • radiation levels
  • falling debris
  • black smoke
  • shocking developments

Also, Javier was asking about the use the expression "out of nowhere". Here's some information from the Macmillan Dictionary:

out of/from nowhere

appearingarrivinghappeningetcquickly or unexpectedly

The car seemed to come out of nowhere.

The horse came from nowhere to win by six lengths.

Class notes, January 14th and 15th

Mark Arthur

Conscience: the ideas and feelings you have that tell you whether something you are doing is right or wrong

Each person must vote according to his or her own conscience.

The decision must be a matter of individual conscience.

guilty conscienc(=a bad feeling because you have done something wrong)It's hard to imagine how people live with a guilty conscience.

clear conscience (=the knowledge that you have done nothing wrong)We want to leave with a clear conscience,knowing we did the job right.

struggle/wrestle with your conscienceAfter a night of wrestling with his consciencehe decided to go to the police.

ease someone's consciencePeople give a few dollars to charity in order to ease their consciences.


conscious ofnoticingthatsomethingexistsorishappeningandrealizingthatitisimportant

Teachers are increasingly conscious of the importance of the Internet.

He was suddenly conscious of everyone looking at him.

conscious (that)We are conscious that some people may not wish to work at night.

Conscientious: working hard and careful to dot hings well

He made a conscientious effort to get the work finished.

He made a conscientious decision to buy his daughter a computer

Global English

Some interesting info here on American and Non-American varieties of English  - Seems Pedro's point was a valid one!

Defence vs. Defense

Defence and defense are different spellings of the same word. Defense is preferred in American English, and defence is preferred in all other main varieties of English, including Australian, British, and Canadian English. The spelling distinction extends to most derivatives of defence/defense, includingdefences/defenses and defenceless/defenseless. But the words defensive, defensiveness, and defensivelyhave an everywhere.

Though defense is now the American spelling, it is not American in origin. The OED and Google Books reveal examples of the spelling from as long ago as the 1300s, many centuries before the United States existed. That spelling continued to appear a fraction of the time through the 19th century, when it was taken up by American writers. Today, to the chagrin of those who dislike American English, the spelling is gaining ground throughout the English-speaking world.

Article: Mexico's economy slows as global downturn bites

Mark Arthur

Here's the article that you read in class on Tuesday 27:

Mexico's economy slows as global downturn bites

Related Topics


MEXICO CITY | Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:47pm GMT

(Reuters) - Mexico's economic growth slowed in the third quarter to its lowest in 1-1/2 years and signs that domestic demand is weakening towards the end of the year back expectations that the central bank will leave interest rates steady.

Official data on Friday showed the economy grew 0.5 percent in the third quarter over the previous quarter, just below estimates in a Reuters poll.

Stronger manufacturing activity was dragged down by a slump in farming and a dip in services growth in September, allowing for seasonal factors.

But despite a deepening slowdown in Latin America's No. 2 economy , Mexico is still headed for an annual growth rate of nearly 4 percent this year, analysts said, more than double the expectation for regional rival Brazil .

Third-quarter economic growth compared with a year earlier was healthy at 3.3 percent even though it eased from an upwardly revised year-on-year 4.4 percent rate in the second quarter.

Surprisingly strong U.S. demand for Mexican made cars and televisions, as well as a recent breakthrough in Mexico's long-divided Congress on economic reforms, could help the economy maintain output despite a downturn in the global environment.

"If the manufacturing sector continues to hold its own, I don't think we're looking at a major slowdown," said UBS economist Rafael De La Fuente.

The data showed Mexico's agricultural sector contracted 0.55 percent, compared with the second quarter, while industry accelerated to grow by 0.71 percent. Growth in services, which makes up 65 percent of the economy, was the strongest of the three sectors at 0.73 percent but the pace slowed.

The total third-quarter expansion, the weakest since the first quarter of 2011, followed a downwardly revised expansion in the second quarter of 0.81 percent, the national statistics agency said.

The central bank has been eyeing deepening risks to growth from a global slowdown and policymakers have held benchmark interest rates steady at 4.5 percent despite a spike in inflation to a 2-1/2 year high.

Cooling consumer prices in October supports policymakers' insistence that the jump is temporary and analysts said Friday's data backed bets on steady borrowing costs ahead.

A separate report showed economic activity was flat in September, with a slight 0.02 percent contraction from the prior month as a sharp slump in farmingoutput and a contraction of 0.33 percent in services weighed.

The services sector includes retailers such as food franchise operator Alsea (ALSEA.MX ) and top chain Wal-Mart de Mexico (WALMEXV.MX ), which reported a 0.9 percent slump in sales in October from a year earlier.

"This is showing that the real economy started to decelerate more or less significantly since the third quarter, and this validates the central bank's decision to not hike rates," said Deutsche Bank economist Fernando Losada in New York.

Annual expansion in the monthly index was 1.32 percent, below forecasts.


Early fourth-quarter data have not been too negative: Mexican manufacturing sentiment rose in October while auto production hit a new record. Autoparts maker Nemak expects sales volumes to hold up in the fourth quarter and grow in 2013.

"We're confident that volume will be higher <in 2013>" Salvador Ramos, chief financial officer at Alfa (ALFAA.MX ) subsidiary Nemak, told analysts in a call last month after posting a 20 percent rise in third quarter sales volumes over 2011.

Mexican lawmakers this week approved a labor reform bill after 15 years of gridlock over major economic reforms. President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto has promised to push for tax and energy reforms after he takes office in December.

The trio of structural reforms could help raise Mexico's potential for growth, and Mexican businessmen at an annual conference earlier this week said such reforms could encourage more investment and help Mexico expand even if growth remains weak in the United States and Europe.

"For the first time the crisis is in the developed economies, and this gives us opportunities," Carlos Slim Domit, son of billionaire Carlos Slim and president of the board at conglomerate Grupo Carso (GCARSOA1.MX ) said at the meeting.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Michael O'Boyle and Krista Hughes; Editing by W Simon, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernard Orr)