Prepositions And Esl English Grammar Language Tips Ep 468

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Commonly Confused Verbs and Prepositions ESL English Grammar

Learning English grammar in a simple and fun way. Today we are helping ESL students learn proper English grammar without getting too technical. We use plain everyday English language, and walk you through lots of examples and all you need to do is listen.

English is a wonderful language, but it’s not always easy to learn. There are countless grammar rules to remember and before you know it, people are using words like prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, and pronouns, and it all sounds complicated.

Trying to learn all the rules up front will be overwhelming for most ESL students. It’s best to just focus on what you need. So the obvious question is what English grammar do you need to learn first? Well, the fastest way of working this out is to just listen to everyday English being spoken, like today’s podcast.

In today’s English grammar podcast, we focus on some common English verb and preposition combinations that have different meanings based on context. Using simple everyday English, we give you an opportunity to learn English grammar through listening.

If is a very big preposition.
⭐ John Major, Retired UK Prime Minister

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Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

You Might Say3
An Uncountable Noun3
A Lot Of2
If You’Re Being2
You Might Wear2
On Your Face2
Put On Your2
My Make Up2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Prepositions And ESL English Grammar Language Tips

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you’re asking ‘How can I learn English by myself?’ - Adept English will take you a long way towards that goal of learning English! If you don’t believe me – give this podcast a try!

A particular problem in learning English

One of the difficulties learning English is that there are groups of small, common words, which appear together and which have meanings which are not obvious. How about we look at a confusing expression or a small group of words just like that today? Let’s tackle this characteristic which makes English language learning particularly difficult.

What about the expression ‘make up’? MAKE UP. So this can be used as an uncountable noun, a countable noun or as a phrasal verb. And even as a phrasal verb, it’s got multiple meanings. So ‘make up’ – obviously this comes from the verb ‘to make’ and the preposition ‘up’, both very common words. But you can use these two, little words to mean a lot of different things.

‘Make up’ meaning ‘cosmetics’

OK, so let’s deal with ‘make up’ as an uncountable noun first of all. Your ‘make up’ is what you might wear on your face. It is an uncountable noun, so we talk about make up as though it’s a substance. Make up comes in little bottles, tubes and pencils. So ‘make up’ includes your mascara, that’s MASCARA for your eyelashes, your eyeliner, EYELINER – which often comes in pencil form. Eyeliner is a compound word – you draw a line near your eyes with it.

You might wear lipstick, that’s LIPSTICK on your lips and you may also wear ‘foundation’, that’s FOUNDATION like the ‘foundations of a building’. But when we’re talking make up, ‘foundation’ is the coloured cream that you put on your face, on your skin to cover up your blemishes, the parts where your skin isn’t perfect. So that’s what we mean when we use ‘make up’ as a noun. You might say ‘She wears a lot of make up’ or ‘My make up was stolen from my bag!’.

Synonyms for make up? That’s SYNONYM. Well, if you’re being formal, you might say ‘cosmetics’, COSMETICS – that’s what shops would call make up. But if you’re being really familiar and bit slang, you might say ‘slap’ – ‘Put some slap on!’. That’s very familiar, so be careful how you use that last one – you’d have to know the person well to say that!

So when ‘to make up’ is used as a phrasal verb, perhaps strangely you can’t use it to mean ‘to put on your make up’. We would actually just say ‘I put on my make up’. You might talk about someone being ‘made up’ though – meaning she’s got her make up on. ‘When she’s made up, her skin looks perfect!’


‘Make-up’ meaning your character

If you come across ‘make-up’ and it’s got a hyphen in the middle (look at the transcript. if you’re not sure)….if ‘make-up’ has a hyphen, it’s being used as a noun and it means ‘how I’m made up’, my character, my nature if you like – ‘my make-up’.

You could say ‘It’s part of my make-up that I worry all the time’. Or ‘Being good at maths is part of my make-up’. Here ‘make-up’ means the way that someone or something is composed. It means their personality, their characteristics. You might talk about the make-up of a group, like ‘the make-up of the population’ on a university campus.

So here ‘the make-up’ would mean the ages, how many women, how many men, how many foreign students, how many mature students. What’s the population ‘made-up’ of? Who is it composed of? So that’s ‘the make-up’ of a particular groups or of a person. And you can use ‘to make up’ as a phrasal verb, with this kind of meaning, ‘to compose’.

You might ‘make up’ a picnic lunch or a pharmacist might ‘make up’ a prescription – that’s your tablets, your medication, all in a bag.

‘Breaking up and making up’

So more meanings of ‘to make up’ as a phrasal verb? Well, ‘to make up’ can be used when someone has had an argument, a disagreement. Two people have had a quarrel, that’s QUARREL. They’ve argued, they’ve ‘fallen out’. So if they start to speak again and things become friendly again, we might say ‘Oh, they’ve made up’.


Breakup of couple with man and sad girlfriend outdoor. Helping ESL students with English grammar.

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Or a wife might say to her husband ‘Aren’t you going to make up with me?’ So this is quite informal language. If you were being more formal, you might use the verb ‘to reconcile’ instead. That’s RECONCILE. But ‘they kissed and made up’ means ‘they reconciled their differences’ or ‘they’ve had a reconciliation’.

This phrase ‘to make up’ is used a lot in song lyrics because it rhymes with ‘to break up’. That means ‘to end the relationship’. So this rhyme is quite useful when you’re writing a song! Neil Sedaka ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ – there’s a line in this that says ‘Don’t say that this is the end. Instead of breaking up, I wish that we were making up again’. That’s an old song!

‘Making up’ stories

What else can ‘to make up’ mean? Well, if someone is fabricating a story, especially where it’s meant to be truthful, we might say, ‘I don’t think that’s true. I think my cousin is making it up’. That would indicate that I think that my cousin isn’t telling the truth. What she’s saying didn’t really happen. Children might do this – they make up stories, which might involve all kinds of things which aren’t true or are unlikely.

If you daughter tells you that ‘a brown bear came through the kitchen door and ate all the biscuits’, then it’s probably not true, she’s probably ‘making it up’! So ‘to make up’ or especially to ‘make up stories’ – sometimes means that the person isn’t being truthful, but we also use ‘to make up’ when it’s innocent, it’s playful, someone is ‘making up stories’. A thing we might say when something strange or bizarre has happened ‘Uh! You couldn’t make it up!’.

Or we might also say someone ‘made up an excuse’. ‘The dog ate my homework’ is a familiar ‘made up’ excuse.

‘Making up the difference’

Another sense of ‘to make up’, another meaning – we use it meaning ‘to make up the difference’. We might say ‘we’re making up time’. If you’re on a flight and you take off late, the pilot may tell you that you’ll ‘make up’ the journey time. That means that you’ll still arrive at your destination on time – the pilot will ‘make up’ the time of the flight.

Or you might ‘make up’ with money. You might say to your son ‘If you save half the money for the car you want to buy, I’ll make up the difference’, meaning that you’ll pay half. You’ll pay the difference between what your son has saved and the full cost of the car. So that’s ‘to make up’ meaning ‘to make up the difference’.

‘To make up’ in compensation.

Another slightly different use of ‘to make up’ – it has the same meaning as the more formal word ‘to compensate’, COMPENSATE. You might hear the phrase ‘to make up for lost time’. This means that a person has been slow in the past, or has missed out – and now they’re really going fast to compensate. ‘My son was slow to start dating. But he’s making up for lost time now’, meaning he’s dating a lot!

If you’re a student on a course and you’ve been ill, you might be asked to ‘make up the work that you’ve missed’ – you might have to do an extra essay. Or if you’ve taken time off work to go to the dentist, you might be asked to ‘make up’ the time. A similar, but slightly different use - remember that husband and wife who’ve had an argument? Well, one might say to the other ‘I’ll make it up to you’. Whatever they’ve done that’s bad, they’ll do something nice in compensation. ‘I’ll make it up to you by cooking you a nice meal.’ Or ‘I’ll make it up to you by cleaning the kitchen’.

‘Make up your mind and choose your ice cream!’

And the last meaning I’m going to cover today? Well, this one is a set phrase. You can say ‘to make up your mind’. ‘I’ve made up my mind’ means that ‘I’ve decided’. And the sense, the feel of it when you use this phrase is that ‘I’ve decided and I’m not going to ‘change my mind’ – it’s final. ‘She made up her mind that she was going to be a gymnast’. Or ‘He made up his mind, he was going to live in Germany’.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

If you ‘make up your mind’, it’s a final decision. And if someone says to you ‘Make up your mind!’ - you might be in the ice cream parlour and you can’t decide whether it’s chocolate or strawberry – ‘Make up your mind!’ here – means ‘Hurry up and choose! Make a decision!’.

Little common words mean so much in spoken English and a reminder of the 500 Most Common Words Course

So two very common, little English words – ‘make’ and ‘up’. Put them together and there’s a whole load of different meanings. We can say a lot, using very little in English. It’s part of the reason why the Adept English Most Common Five Hundred Words Course has ‘hidden depths’.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

There’s much more English learning to this course than you might imagine for 500 words, because the little common words in English can mean a lot of things! And in spoken English, we do tend to use the little words – and save the longer words for writing down. So listen to this podcast a number of times, until you understand it all and until you remember the different meanings and it will help your English language learning.

You’ll remember the meanings for ‘make up’ or ‘to make up’, but at the same time, your brain will be doing ‘unconscious learning’ because you’ve listened to a lot of English words on repeat. Your brain is literally growing new neurons, every time you listen! What a thought!


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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