Why it’s a bad idea to translate the prepositions

One of the most common mistakes I see students make is in the use of prepositions. Do you find prepositions to be difficult? Many times the answer is, yes. Part of this may be because of the way that you were taught prepositions but it may also be because of how you think about these particular types of words. My aim in this series of article is to help you understand what may be the core of why you may be having trouble with English prepositions.


Let’s start by asking a few questions. Are you translating prepositions from your native language?Do you have trouble sometimes using the correct preposition to describe the place of an object? Do you have trouble using prepositions to express time? And finally do you have trouble using the correct preposition when it comes to using phrasal verbs? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading.


Translating prepositions from Spanish or any other language.

Let’s begin by defining the word preposition so that we understand exactly what it is that we are getting into.

Preposition– a word that describes the relationship between two or more objects or ideas.

By this definition we can safely say that these words are abstract ideas, meaning that we have to visualise in our heads the position of the objects relative to each other. This makes it nearly impossible to accurately translate unless the other language has a word that means exactly the same thing. Let’s take the words above, over, about and on as an example. If we translate each word with it’s possible translations we run into a bit of a problem.

As you can see in the figure, for each of those English prepositions we have one or more Spanish prepositions that repeats for each one! This is what can make prepositions so confusing sometimes. On top of that, there can be multiple prepositions to describe one position, such as below, under, beneath and underneath. And as if that weren’t enough, think about how many prepositions there are in your language. In the Spanish language there are 23 prepositions. Now compare that to the 94 one-word prepositions plus the 56 complex prepositions in English. It is a daunting thing to think about, but by no means is it impossible. The good news is that you don’t need to memorise every single one, and some of the important ones will be looked at in the next few articles.


Hopefully this post has helped you understand why it isn’t a good idea to translate the prepositions to your native language, but rather, you should learn to visualise the idea of the word.

For homework, look at the picture and see if you can identify correctly what word should be used for the positions of the items.

· table

· lamp

· lights

· chairs

· place mats

· bench

· flowers

· plants


In the next article we will discuss what the correct word would be to express the position of each item on the list and what we visualise in our heads when we say it.




Tips for passing the FCE exam

Many student’s at Let’s Talk English Center in Valencia ask what tips they can use to pass the FCE exam and these are some I always recommend.

Listening – when doing the listening exam, audio’s always play twice, the first time it plays just listen and try to take in the theme, content and context, make notes if you can. Then when the second recording starts, fill in the answers required. Many students become too preoccupied on writing in their answer that they miss lots of details and therefore choose incorrect answers.

Speaking – take your time, don’t rush your answer, it is better to speak slower, clearer and make fewer mistakes than use all of the time whilst also making a lot of errors. Listen to your partner during the discussion part 3 of the exam and take inspiration from their answers, they may remind you of some vocabulary you forgot or give you an idea of something else to mention.

FCE Speaking Test example

Writing – check, check and check again! So many students make grammar mistakes simply because they write while rushing and don’t read back their work properly. These grammar mistakes are easy ones that students would easily recognize in other people’s work and in grammar activities. Be careful with synonyms, although synonyms technically mean a similar/the same thing, in English we don’t usually use these interchangeably, some are more appropriate in certain contexts than others.

Reading – During the UoE part, sometimes it helps to use your common sense, think about what answer would most likely fit due to the context. In part 4 it’s important to think about the tense and personal pronouns that have been used in the first sentence as this you will usually need to replicate in the second. During the Reading part try to read slowly and carefully as even one word misread could change the context. First read the article and try to only focus on understanding what its about, imagine you’re Reading an article about something you enjoy and want to know more about. The second time you read the article is when you should search for the answers.


How to make B2 writing into C2 level

My students often ask me how to improve their writing level.  Writing is a process and the more a student writes the more they improve. Nevertheless, there are several helpful hints to improve sentence structure.  I have found that many students studying for C2 often just insert advanced vocabulary words into their writing without giving thought to style or logic.

Here are some helpful hints.  Obviously before doing this exercise students will need to review the following concepts:

  • How to do inversion.
  • The passive tense.
  • Adverbs of degree.
  • Figurative Language (metaphor/simile/personification).
  • Key vocabulary for the exercise.

Have them begin by working from a simple sentence structure to a complex. 

Begin with a simple sentence:
I eat cherries.

Add an adverb to the verb:
I slowly eat cherries.

Add a color/adjective to the noun:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries.

Add a clause:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries that I got from the tree.

Improve the language in the clause following the steps above:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries that I got painstakingly from the auburn maple tree in the park.

Check to see if you can improve vocabulary (verbs/nouns) to make it more complex:
I slowly savour blood-red cherries that I snatched from the auburn maple tree nestled in the park.

Invert the sentence/ improve the tense:
Blood-red cherries snatched from the auburn tree nestled in the park were slowly savoured by me.

…and Voila!  B2 becomes C2


Verbs followed by to + verb/v-ing

To + Verb

We express purpose and explain why an action was done.

We are eating out tonight to celebrate my birthday.

Men give women roses to impress them.

After ‘it is + adj’

It is polite to compliment people.

It is a pleasure to meet you.

After certain state verbs

  • Agree
  • Appear
  • Choose
  • Decide
  • Expect
  • Hope
  • Learn
  • Manage
  • Offer
  • Promise
  • Refuse
  • Seem
  • Tend
  • Threaten
  • Want
  • Plan
  • Need
  • Would like

*after most modal verbs, we do not use ‘to’



When we use the verb as the subject or object of the sentence (gerunds).

Learning a second language is important for students.

Jennifer says listening to podcasts in a foreign language is helpful.

After prepositions

I’m not happy about working late on Saturday.

Lisa is scared of walking home alone at night.

After certain state verbs

  • Admit
  • Avoid
  • Bother
  • Deny
  • Dislike
  • Enjoy
  • Finish
  • Get (a)round to
  • Imagine
  • Insist on
  • Keep (on)
  • Mind
  • Miss
  • Suggest


Sometimes we can use both forms after certain verbs and not change the meaning of the sentence.  These include the following state verbs:

  • Begin
  • Start
  • Like
  • Love
  • Prefer
  • Continue

Peter likes to cook.                        Peter likes cooking.

Lanie always begins to read at bedtime.                              Lanie always begins reading at bedtime.



Other verbs that can take both forms, however, do change the meaning of the sentence.  The most common ones are below.

  • Stop
  • Try
  • Remember
  • Forget
  • Go on
  • Regret


I went on watching the same documentary.

I was watching a documentary, paused it, then returned to finish watching it.

                Seguí viendo lo mismo documentario.

I went on to watch another documentary.

I finished one documentary and began to watch another.

                Seguí viendo otro documentario.


He tried changing his diet, but he always quit after the first week.

He experimented with new foods.

Probó a cambiar su dieta, pero siempre vuelve después la primera semana.

He tried to change his diet, but he always quit after the first week.

He made an effort to change his eating habits.

Intentó a cambiar su dieta, pero siempre la deja después la primera semana.


I forgot to talk to her about it.

I did not talk to her because I did not remember.

                Me olvidé a hablar con ella.

I’ll never forget talking to her about it.

I will always have a memory of talking to her.

                Nunca olvidaré a hablar con ella.


I regret to tell you that we have not won the lottery today.

I am sorry to tell you…

                Lo siento, pero no has ganado.

I regret telling you that we have not won the lottery today.

I wish I had not told you…

                Lamento decirte…


Debbie stopped talking to the neighbors last week.

Debbie is not speaking to the anymore as of last week.

                Debbie dejó de hablar a los vecinos.

Debbie stopped to talk to the neighbors last week.

Debbie saw the neighbors and spoke to them.

                Debbie paró para hablar con los vecinos.


Do you remember to turn off the lights every morning?

Do you regularly turn off the lights?

                ¿Recuerdas a apagar las luces todas las mañanas?

Do you remember turning off the lights this morning?

This morning, do you recall if the lights were left on or off?

                ¿Recuerdas si has apagado las luces?




¿IELTS, TOEFL o CAE para Erasmus?

Si eres estudiante universitario, gracias a Erasmus+ tienes la posibilidad de cursar parte de tus estudios en otro país o hacer prácticas en una empresa extranjera. Si estás interesado en hacer una parte de los estudios en el fuera, lee atentamente lo que viene a continuación.

Al estudiar en el extranjero, con Erasmus+, no tienes que pagar tasas académicas o de matrícula en tu universidad de destino, tus estudios cuentan como parte integral de tu carrera y recibes una beca de la Unión Europea para cubrir parte de los gastos. Pero esas no son las únicas ventajas que te ofrece el programa. Disfrutar de una beca Erasmus es un privilegio que aporta un valor añadido a tu currículum y te ayuda a abrir tu mente, a respetar otras culturas y adquirir decenas de competencias transversales.


¿Qué requisitos debes cumplir para optar a una beca Erasmus+?

Te dejamos un breve resumen de los requisitos para obtener esta beca. Para más información, no dudes en consultar el siguiente enlace.

  • Debes tener la nacionalidad española, de la UE o de cualquier otro estado que participe en el programa Erasmus+, o bien estar en posesión del permiso de residencia legal en España.
  • Estar matriculado en una Universidad y cursando un título oficial de grado o posgrado en el curso académico en el que quieras realizar tu Erasmus+.
  • Haber superado el número de créditos mínimo exigidos por cada Universidad.
  • No haber superado el máximo de 12 meses de duración de la estancia Erasmus+ dentro del mismo ciclo formativo (grado, máster y doctorado). Se podrá disfrutar del programa Erasmus+ incluso durante dos cursos académicos siempre y cuando no se sobrepasen estos 12 meses (incluidas prácticas).
  • Nivel de idiomas. La gran parte de las Universidades está pidiendo un certificado oficial de idiomas que habrá que acreditar desde el curso 2014/2015 para recibir la ayuda económica del Ministerio de Educación. Se suele pedir un título oficial de al menos un nivel B2, como puede ser el First de Cambridge o un IELTS con puntuación de al menos 5,5.



Para muchos estudiantes obtener este certificado de nivel es complicado: falta de tiempo debido a las clases u otras actividades, falta de información relativa a las pruebas existentes, y un largo etcétera. Sin embargo, obtener un título de inglés es mucho más sencillo de lo que parece si eliges la academia adecuada. Por ello, os traemos información relativa al examen IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Esta es una prueba de reconocimiento internacional que pertenece también al ESOL de la Universidad de Cambridge, junto con el British Council y el IDP Education of Australia. Evalúa el nivel de nivel de inglés midiendo la nota en una escala del 1 al 9, que refleja el nivel general – escritura, comprensión, expresión oral y lectura – de cada persona. Uno de los puntos más positivos, y por el que tanta gente elige realizar esta prueba, es que el IELTS no se aprueba ni se suspende. Tu resultado determina tu nivel. Por ejemplo, si obtienes un 6 tu nivel sería el de un B2; mientras que un C1 está entre 7 y 8. La puntuación máxima que se puede obtener es de 9.0, lo que equivaldría a un C2.

(Imagen obtenida de la web: https://www.ielts.org/ielts-for-organisations/common-european-framework.)


Sin embargo, el motivo principal por el cual tanta gente opta por realizar el examen IELTS es el de obtener un certificado que demuestre su nivel de inglés para poder acceder a estudios universitarios en el extranjero, tanto a nivel de grado como de posgrado. En algunos casos también se pide por motivos laborales, de oposiciones o incluso para demostrar que se posee un nivel de inglés óptimo para obtener el permiso de residencia en gran parte de los países anglófonos. Tiene una validez de dos años y es una herramienta de selección de personal muy utilizada por grandes empresas. Lo idóneo es sacarse el IELTS justo antes de irse de ERASMUS, para que le certificado tenga validez.

El IELTS es, junto con el TOEFL, el más utilizado en el mundo para la acreditación lingüística. Te recomendamos hacer el  examen de IELTS si tienes pensado estudiar en una universidad británica, australiana, neozelandesa o de cualquier otra parte del mundo que lo acepte. Es aceptado incluso en muchas universidades americanas, que históricamente siempre han preferido el TOEFL.

British Council es la única entidad acreditada en España para la realización del examen IELTS. Existen dos modalidades: el Academic, que es el más extendido y se encuentra relacionado al ámbito educativo, y el General Training, más vinculado al ámbito laboral. Ambos constan de las cuatro partes: Reading, Writing, Listening y Speaking.


Requisitos en universidades valencianas

Las universidades de la Comunidad Valenciana han establecido un nivel de idiomas mínimo que los alumnos deberán tener para poder solicitar su participación en el Programa Erasmus.

A continuación puedes consultar los requisitos lingüísticos y las tablas de equivalencias con los diferentes títulos:

Para conocer si la institución u organismo que te interesa acepta IELTS, puedes clicar en el siguiente enlace. En el podrás encontrar las universidades que aceptan IELTS y la nota mínima.


Resumiendo, el certificado IELTS es una de las mejores opciones para irse de ERASMUS y entrar en el mundo laboral siempre que necesites el certificado dentro de los dos años siguientes, si no es así, es recomendable sacarse un certificado CAE que no tiene caducidad.




En qué consiste el writing?
Lo más importante que debes saber es que tienes que escribir 2 textos de entre 140 y 190 palabras en 1hora y 20minutos. Es muy importante que no te falten palabras pero que tampoco te sobren.

En la parte 1 tendrás que escribir un ESSAY dando tu opinión sobre un tema específico, usando como puntos a tratar dos ideas que te proporcionaran además de una a tu elección.

“Aquí tienes un ejemplo:
You have had a discussion in your English class about teaching materials for schools. Now your English teacher has asked you to write an essay.
Write an essay using all the notes and give reasons for your point of view.

Schools should spend more on computers and software than on textbooks. Do you agree?
Write about:
1) which is better for education
2) which are more enjoyable to use
3)……………………………… (your own idea)”

(source: First Trainer, Cambridge University Press)

Es muy importante que te tomes unos minutos para hacer un buen writing plan. En primer lugar, tienes que obtener ideas, escribirlas y por último ordenarlas.

Cada idea nueva que proporciones debe estar justificada, por lo que es mejor escribir sobre una en cada párrafo, siempre justificada y/o con un ejemplo. NO escribas listas interminables de ideas sin decir por qué. Recuerda usar los conectores adecuados en todo momento.

La elección del tema a tratar no es aleatoria. Debes identificar el tema (en ese caso sería educación y nuevas tecnologías), hacer una pequeña lista de palabras y usarlas en tu redacción.

Introduce el tema de una forma general e informa al lector del contenido de tu redacción. No empieces ofreciendo tu opinión directamente.  En la conclusión, resume los puntos principales y plasma tu opinión.
Es muy importante que cuides el contenido de la conclusión, ya que será lo último que lea el examinador y tiene que ser coherente con lo que has escrito. NO añadas nuevas ideas aquí.

Por último, lee cuidadosamente antes de entregar. Corrige faltas de ortografía y asegúrate de que no repites palabras, piensa en estructuras gramaticales y expresiones que hagan que tu redacción tenga el nivel adecuado.


En la parte 2 podrás elegir 1 entre 3 opciones de los siguientes formatos: article, report, letter or email (formal/informal) and a  review. En la próxima entrada te contamos en qué consiste cada uno!



“You should never walk alone”, Speaking CAE Part 3 and 4

In other words, to rely on your partner would certainly be a useful piece of advice when facing the last 2 parts of the Cambridge CAE Speaking Exam.
Apart from testing your grammatical and lexical resource, pronunciation and discourse management (coherence and development of your ideas); examiners expect candidates to prove that are able to exchange information, take turns and do not monopolise the dialogue in order to get a good score in the interactive communication criteria.

CAE Speaking Part 3

The examiner will ask you two questions/tasks.

Task 1: Now I´d like you to talk about something together for about 2 minutes. ( 3 minutes for groups of three).
Here are some different ways in which people communicate and a question for you to discuss. First you have some time to look at the task. (15 seconds), talk about the advantages and disadvantages of communicating in these different ways.  Thank you. (When the time is over no matter if the task have been accomplished successfully or not).

Task 2: Now you have about a minute (2 minutes for groups of three) to decide which two ways of communicating are the least effective. ( In this part there is no need to reach an agreement.However, some attempt at negotiating/persuasion or reasoned argument should be aimed for).

Needless to say that it is vital to be aware of the timing. Realising that it´s not necessary to talk about all the written stimuli individually and trying to combine some of them focusing on comparisons or differences could be a strategic approach at this point. Unfortunately giving feedback and extending your partner’s answer is often forgotten so we must stress that students who echo their partner´s answer before moving to the next prompt and use synonyms rather than repeating have more chances of success…

For instance:
• Paraphrase the question and use” crucial”, “essential”, “vital”… if your partner said something was “very important”
• Refer back to what your partner mentioned before “As X argued before…”, “I´d go along with you there…”, or” I´d agreed with you until certain extent…”
• Echo and develop giving extended answers
• Combine some of the prompts, so that you are able to talk about 2 or 3 of them more in depth analysing similarities, differences, preferences, and so on could be extremely helpful when you are running out of time.

CAE Speaking Part 4

The examiner asks questions which are aimed to broaden the topic explored in Part 3. These questions become increasingly more abstract and complex. There are two possibilities; either asking a question to both candidates, or directing the question to one of the examinees. In both cases, it is expected to offer their views and to discuss the question together. Therefore once again the key factor is to encourage and support each other.
All in all students shouldn´t be afraid of asking, trying to persuade their partner, exploring possibilities, speculating, interrupting politely or just simply state that you haven´t formed an opinion about that yet.


Cambridge PET Exam Day and Speaking Tips

On test day basic rules



  • Look at the date, time, and location of the exam and the travel time to arrive.
  • Arrive early.
  • Bring your identification card.
  • Relax!


  • Bring your phone or anything electronic inside the exam room.
  • Speak to other candidates in the exam room.
  • Bring food or drinks.

What to expect:

  • Your identification will be checked.
  • Be given a mark sheet – do not fold it.
  • Follow any instructions that you are given.
  • You can practice speaking (quietly) to other candidates while in the waiting area.
  • In the room, there will be the interlocker, the assessor, and the other candidate(s).
  • You will be given an equal amount of time to speak.
  • If the interlocker interrupts you, don’t worry!  This means you have spoken for the entire section.


Speaking Part Tips



  • Listen carefully to the instructions and questions.
  • Speak loud and clear to be understood well.
  • Be sure to use every opportunity to speak.
  • Start the discussion with your partner and always respond to what they say.


  • Memorize your answers.
  • Interrupt your partner when they are speaking.
  • Have long pauses between speaking.
  • Never be scared or nervous to ask for the interlocker or your partner to repeat themselves.

There are 4 parts to the speaking paper.  Although it may seem strange, it is recommended that you practice before the exam by recording yourself completing an entire speaking paper and then listening to the recording.  You will be surprised at how well you did, and you will hear some of the errors you make.

Part 1

Questions about your past, present, and future will be asked.  Always answer in full sentences, not a few words.

Part 2

You and your partner will be given a situation and various photographs.  You will discuss the situation and the photographs and come to an agreement at the end.  Always keep the conversation going, be active in the discussion!

Part 3

Here, you and your partner will each be given a photograph.  They will be different but have the same theme.  Speak for as long as possible.  It is good if the interlocker stops you!  Be sure to describe the picture, refer to different features of the picture, and speculate.

Part 4

Again, you will speak with your partner.  Generally, part 4 is an extension of the given theme in part 3.   Speak with your partner!  This is important.  The interlocker wants to see and hear that you can maintain a conversation in English.  Giving opinions and personal experiences is a must.

Topics for the PET exam include:

Family & Friends


Free time activities

Travel & Holidays

Television & Films


Daily Life and Health









Consejos para la parte 2 del Speaking de CAE

Speaking Part 2 (the dreaded pictures) is often one of the most difficult sections of the Cambridge CAE exam for students to pass. However, with proper training and practice, this section is easily mastered.

To begin with, CAE exam topics normally revolve around similar categories:

  • Science and technology
  • Climate and environment
  • Work and professional fields
  • Relationships
  • Hobbies and sports
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Health
  • Moods and emotions
  1. Students should begin by learning vocabulary, phrasal verbs, set expressions, collocations, adverbs and adjectives related to each of the categories.  It is useful to brainstorm using random pictures as prompts.
  2. Secondly, Part 2 asks the candidate to answer two questions related to the pictures.  These questions normally require an answer regarding on skill sets, emotions  (i.e. adjectives and adverbs)  

    Some examples of typical questions are:
    What do you think the people are feeling?
    What skill is being taught?
    What are their personalities like?
  3. Students should learn to compare and contrast elements using the correct discourse markers/ modifiers and linkers.  (regarding, nevertheless, on the other hand, in contrast to, etc…..)
  4. Students should remember that this is a very quick exercise with lots of required detail.  They should NOT spend time describing all of the objects in the photo (as in FCE/ PET).  They must the task and answer the questions in 2-3 minding the time.

Say, tell, speak, or talk

Verb Definition and use Example



Ø  Utter words to share information

Ø  To express in words


Most often used without a personal object.  If PO is used, ‘to’ is necessary.


Used with direct and indirect speech.


Tina said she might come to class this afternoon.


Carlos said, “Hi” to a stranger in the street.


I say to my best friend how much I appreciate her.




Ø  Communicate information to someone

Ø  To instruct or inform


After tell we usually say WHO is told (tell someone something).


Tell someone TO DO something.


Not used before objects.


Do not normally use it after tell to refer to a fact.


Repeat something to someone.


Use with lies, stories, the truth.


Used with direct and indirect speech.



Jenny told her that she should study more.


Ilana will tell her mom about the car accident.


The actor was told that he needed to cry harder in the scene.


I cannot believe that he would tell lies to his wife.



Mary told them “Goodbye.”


I will tell you it tomorrow.


Peter told a bad word.



To / With / About / Of

Ø  Have a conversation

Ø  Communicate, answer or address

Ø  Say something in order to express information or feelings


One-way communication.


For exchanges in formal or serious situations.


Used to refer to languages or knowledge.


More emphasis is place on the other person involved in the conversation.

How many different languages can you speak?


Everyone spoke about the wonderful performance the next day.


Maybe you should speak to your boss about a pay raise.


To be in a good relationship, one should speak with their partner openly.



To / With / About

Ø  Speak to give information or express feelings or ideas

Ø  Communicate by spoken words

Ø  Have the power of speech

Ø  Gossip


More common word to refer to informal communication and conversational exchanges.


More emphasis is placed on the topic of the spoken exchange.

We need to talk about setting a budget for the month.


If Wilma talks to me tomorrow, I will tell you.


Good parents talk with their children daily.




Discussion between two or more participants



One-sided conversation



General discussion



Describe something definite that you know or have experienced

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