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Some time ago, in one of my classes, a student was sharing a story about his daily routine in the office and he was doing a great job at that. At one point, he made the following statement: “I use the stapler every time.” To which I responded by correcting him and telling him that […]
It is common to hear things such as “I cut my hair / I washed my car / I repaired my car”. Brazilians might understand what you mean, but probably a native speaker of English would be surprised. Let me tell you why: we only say these things when we actually did them. So, did […]
When you’re really late for school, do you take a quick shower or a fast shower? Well… Is there a difference? Yes, there is. Maybe not in terms of meaning, but in terms of collocation. Collocation happens when two or more words and phrases together sound more correct to the people who have spoken the […]
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison There are many ways in which you can keep your brain fit. – challenge yourself. Try out new experiences and provide your brain with new information and stimuli. – switch up the things you normally do – try to use your left […]
Imagine you call a friend and he can’t answer you at the moment. Then, he texts you: CMB L8R Would you understand his message? We are always in a hurry and abbreviations are here to help writing, specially in casual conversation contexts. They are easy to type and, most importantly, they save time. However, they […]
Idioms are expressions that are natural to a native speaker of a language and they are typically metaphorical. They make our point clear and they are an economical way of getting the point across. Also, idioms are very widely used in spoken English by native speakers and because of that it is very important to […]
Quando a gente começa a aprender inglês, às vezes vêm aqueles sentimentos conflitantes – de animação e de frustração. De animação por que subitamente você começa a se comunicar em outra língua; onde antes não havia nada, agora há muito. De repente você começa a reconhecer palavras, entende uma fala aqui e ali nos filmes, […]
There are some verbs in English that can easily confuse students. LIE and LAY are examples of that. Do you know the difference between them? First of all, let’s analyze the verb LIE, which has two different meanings. The first one means “not to tell the truth” and it’s a regular verb (lie-lied-lied). Check the example: […]
When I first think of the word “over”, I remember Brazilian fashion experts talking about an outfit that is a little too extravagant. An American teenager might use the word to say that they are “done” with something, that they can’t take it anymore – “I’m so over high school!” But the most interesting thing about […]
Novice English learners usually try to relate the meaning of new words to their equivalent in Portuguese, but sometimes the definition of some words are confusing even in their own native language. Connotation and denotation are examples of such problem. They are similar words used to describe related topics. Connotation is the meaning of a word which depends […]
Do you know anyone who is just ‘adorkable’? The word has just been included in the Collins English Dictionary. A combination of “adorable” and “dork”, this word is a good example of the rise of the portmanteau. Portmanteau is “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog)” (according […]
Did you know that the word person has two different plural forms? The most common plural form is people, but did you know that persons is also correct? Persons; however, is a very formal word, more frequently used in legal contexts. Take a look at this example, taken from English Grammar Today, Cambridge: Any person or persons found in possession […]
Many students confuse when to use the words travel and trip. Here’s a quick explanation that is valid for most situations: TRAVEL is a verb (action) – to move or go from one place to another TRIP is a noun – a journey in which you go somewhere, […]
How making use of nouns as verbs is a reality.
It was a winding path that led me to teaching the English language, which started with an interest in the development of language. I think you can appreciate language more when you have an idea of where it comes from, what has influenced it and how it has changed over its history. There is an […]
Is it possible to improve your English skills through songs? Are songs effective language learning tools? The answer is YES! There is considerable scientific evidence that demonstrates how music can help learners improve grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Also, if you are constantly listening to music, this is going to be a win-win situation. Through songs, […]
When you feel a little unmotivated to practice English, gamification, the concept of implementing elements of games into non-game contexts, might be the answer to give a boost to your language learning. Here are two very good examples of gamified practice in free apps for Android and iOS. Duolinguo has several lessons involving English practice to improve your […]
Students taking an exam preparation course for an examination such as the TOEFL test often face difficulties when it comes to developing the speed reading skills required to perform successfully. International exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, Michigan ECPE, and others often include long passages that candidates usually have trouble with–not so much because they lack the necessary […]
After listening to many of my students mispronounce the “Th” sound in words like “Think,” “Thought,” “Through,” “Thigh,” “Thief,” and “Theft,” as if it were an “S” sound, I kept thinking about a way to improve their pronunciation and reduce the misunderstandings caused by such mispronunciation. Thinking about the “Th” sound goes beyond we, Brazilian Engish […]
Everyone loves music, everyone has a favorite song or artist. Lyrics Training is a website where you can improve you language skills in a fun and enjoyable way: by listening to your favorite songs! The website offers not only the song and its music clip, but also the lyrics with gaps to be filled in. You can choose […]
Are we humans or humane? That depends. Human is a noun that refers to people, human beings, men and women. For instance, “We are humans, not animals.” And, “Dogs can smell things humans can’t.” However, humane is an adjective similar to compassionate, merciful, which are characteristics we don’t associate to all humans. For example, “We […]
There are, obviously, many idiomatic expressions that use the word finger, but I’ll show you the ones I think are most commonly used. Here’s my Top 10 list. 01) To have a finger in every pie: this one is used to talk about someone who’s very influential because he’s involved or has influence in many different […]
In English, when you use education, you’re talking about going to school, or learning something. For example, “Education is the key to success.” We could also say “Traveling is the best education he can have.” So, the adjective educated has nothing to do with good manners, and yet we make this mistake all the time. […]
Sometimes you look at a word in English and you think you know it. Like hospice. It’s so similar to ‘hospício’, but… There’s always a ‘but’. Hospice is a special kind of hospital for terminal patients to receive support at the end of their lives. It’s not a place for the mentally ill, which is […]
A friend of mine once wrote a song that sang: “I may be alone but I’ll never be lonely.” When you’re alone, you have nobody to keep you company. The noun you associate with that is solitude. Depending on how you deal with being alone, you may be lonely, which is feeling dejected because you […]
There’s an exercise we use to show how much students can read in English that consists of asking them to underline all the words they know in a text. In the following example, a student would probably underline the entire sentence. “We had a 20-year bull market.” However, knowing bull and market doesn’t mean you […]
Then, the year is drawing to an end and you feel tired. But you still try to emphasize it and you say you’re exhausted. Yet you feel you need to say it differently, so you come across a bunch of ways to say you’re tired: tired out, burned out and dead. For example, “I thought […]
So you got a job as an accountant. Great. According to Merrian-Webster`s dictionary, an accountant is someone whose job is to keep the financial records of a business or person. But what are accountability and accountable? Accountability is similar but not the same as responsibility because it involves transparency in the process. So in Some […]
Say you overhear the following exchange: Why are you so mean? Mean? Me? What do you mean? … Yes, mean can be an adjective and a verb. Mean can be cruel, low, selfish, as in That was a mean thing to say, or The game has some really mean bad guys. It can also be […]
When we talk about wishes, it is related to something you´d like to do, have, try out. There´s a sense of regret, a nostalgic feeling. You´d like things to be different in the present. Watch this video with Kate Nash´s song Nicest Thing. What do you notice in relation to the verb tense you use […]
What’s the difference between security and safety, and argument and discussion? My students asked me these questions the other day. And it was at the beginning of class, right on the spot. I told them what it was and stole their idea for this post. Security is the state of being protected or safe from […]
Some words tend to cause confusion among students. For instance, resume, résumé and summary. Let’s start with the last one: summary is a brief statement that gives the most important information about something. Say, she was called by the police and gave them a summary of the accident.As an adjective, summary is the same as […]
In the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s classic, you read: “all in all you’re just another brick in the wall.” All in all is one example of expressions we can use to start a conclusion, be it in a paragraph or in an essay. Some other are the basic finally and in conclusion. Last but not […]
Hello, reader, The English language has plenty of silent letters, and one that is often forgotten by speakers of Portuguese is the silent l. It’s common for people who speak Portuguese to overlook that because in Portuguese silent letters are not common. Take for example the following words: Salmon, half, calm, talk, would and should […]
We, Portuguese speakers, sometimes get confused with some words that render different translations into English. Take manga, for example. It may be translated as sleeve, when referring to a part of a shirt; or mango, when it’s a fruit. Or even mock or make fun of, if you take it with a pinch of regionalism. […]
In times of political campaign, let’s see some confusable words related to politics. To start off, politics is the art or science of government or influencing governmental policy. Politics is the job of politicians. Right now, because we’re in the middle of an electoral process, they come up with plans to guide their future terms. […]
There’s a natural tendency in all of us to keep things the way they are. However, when it comes to writing, vocabulary is a valuable tool to make your piece stand out. We tend to stick to common words, such as house, and not pay attention to the several types of housing there are.Instead of […]
On my previous post, I described a list as extremely long. There are some adjectives that we can give them “super powers”, for instance, very cold. For cold is a gradable adjective, it accepts such modifications. But try saying very freezing, and you’ll be making a rather basic mistake. Why? Because you can intensify cold […]
When asked to write about any topic in English, some students start agonizing. What they dread the most is that awkward moment when they have nothing else to say, and yet they still have to write eight lines. Whenever I can, I try to help them out by asking them questions that they can use […]
Adding on to our list of confusable words, we could say remember and remind cause some trouble to students. You remember that you have to buy bread or remember to buy bread. Also, when it is followed by the infinitive, like in the example above, remember is the opposite of forget. This is because when […]
Hi, Many are the verbs in English out there that confuse the eager language learner. As a fellow blogger of mine in these pages have already introduced you to lay/lie and raise/rise, I thought I could give my contribution so that you avoid the common pitfalls every student tends to fall into. Borrow vs Lend […]
Another pair of confusable verbs is lay and lie. Lay is a transitive verb, so it’s used with a direct object. For instance, “as the kids arrive, they lay their backpacks next to the window.” Their backpacks is the object of the verb lay. Its past is laid and so is its past participle form. […]
Students usually confuse the verbs raise and rise. Raise is a transitive verb, so it needs a complement. For example, “she raised her hand to ask the teacher to go to the bathroom.” Her hand is the complement. In the sentence, “Manchester Evening News raised more than one million pounds after fire destroyed dogs’ home” (Sept 15,2014 ), more than one […]
In our last post on how to improve your English with smaller bites of English, there was a Marie Forleo video about following through, persisting and succeeding. How about an extra practice about the topic and a reminder we should persist with what we set ourselves to do? Here´s the song Follow Through by Gavin […]
First of all, choose a topic you feel like writing about and brainstorm on it. What do you know about the subject you have chosen and its relevance to your audience? Make sure your choice is related to a subject which you are familiar with. The more you know about your topic, the […]
Teachers always encourage students to watch films to practice English, learn new expressions and become aware of pronunciations nuances in the different Englishes we hear around. Videos are still a great way to practice our comprehension skills, but sometimes we just need smaller bites. Now, with Youtube at our fingertips, even when we are waiting for […]
A very common mistake in writing is the use of the verb have meaning existence. For instance, “Have a blue house on this street.” In English, the idea of existence is expressed by means of using there to be. So, the correct sentence is “There is a blue house on my street.” Also, what sometimes confuses students is the […]
When it comes to contrasting ideas in your writings, there are some ways you can go about doing it. The simplest one is “it’s rainy, but I’ll go to the club”. However, you can say exactly the same by using the following connectors: In spite of being rainy, I’ll go to the club. Despite being rainy, I’ll go […]
It’s all very well and you are famous for being the creative genius of the family. Then you come to class and wonder why it is that sometimes everybody has finished the task and you’re still thinking, organizing your ideas into a productive flow. Like everything else, too much creativity at the wrong time may […]
The other day, a student asked me what he could do to improve his speaking. I stopped and thought for sometime and said he should focus on one goal, an immediate one, so that he could measure his progress in order to be motivated to achieve further goals. Then we agreed that he should start […]
One of the best experiences for me as an English learner happened when I sat as a student in my Teacher Development Course at Thomas Jefferson in 2010/2011. Not only did I learn a lot about how teaching should be, but also, and more importantly, about how learning takes place, or not. We never think […]
Our Executive Director Lúcia Santos learned about this site to practice English through videos at a conference for educators. The “Connect With English” series is fantastic for those students who are eager and motivated to practice English. On the platform, there are videos with stories that last an average of ten minutes. After you watch […]
When we talk about English as Second Language learning and teaching, we always refer to the 4 skills: speaking, listening, writing and reading. It’s those titles you see around the lesson that sometimes make little or no sense at all. First of all, if you consider writing and speaking as result or output, you should […]
Normally, everything starts with a little crush on somebody (when you like a person and sometimes he/she doesn’t know). If you have the courage and invite the person you like to go out with you, you ask the girl/boy out. And then, anything can happen during this date, which is usually at a restaurant, or it is […]
Unlike its Portuguese equivalent, “homework” is always uncontable in English. I know that you don’t feel like it’s uncountable, considering the amount of activities your teacher may assign to you! But, seriously, the word “homework” should always be used in the singular. Look at these examples: 1) My teacher always assigns too much homework over […]
Another very common mistake among students is to say “*advices” instead of “advice“. In English, “advice” is an uncountable word, so it is always used in the singular form. But how to quantify it? You can do this: 1) Let me just give you a little piece of advice: study hard! 2) My mom has […]
When we say that a person is rich, we mean that he/she has material possessions and money. “Wealthy” means the same thing, but the word is less common than rich. So, we can say “My uncle is rich” or “My uncle is wealthy” with no change in meaning. Now, “a rich meal”, for example, implies […]
Hello, dear reader, Some time ago I posted an entry to our blog about the names of the fingers in one’s hand in English. Today I’d like to show you how the word “finger” is used idiomatically. There are, obviously, many idiomatic expressions that use the word finger, but I’ll show you the ones I think […]
Abbreviations and acronyms are commonly used in English to talk about movies
“Cleft sentences” is a very elegant term to a very simple structure in English. In fact, ‘cleft sentences‘ are a way to give emphasis to something we want to talk about, or to correct a piece of information. Examples: 1) Normal sentence, withouth ‘clefting’: I love teaching because I get to know different people every semester. […]
As you, dear reader, have realized by now, pronunciation in English is always a challenge. You never really know how a word should be pronounced unless you either check it in a dictionary or hear someone say it correctly. In English, the spelling and the pronunciation of a word are so at odds with each […]
“Until” and “till” are the same thing. They mean “up to a time; before a specific time; to the point that”. Normally, ’till’ is more common in spoken English. “Until” is common both in spoken and written English. Let’s take a look at some examples: 1) Oh, only two days until/till Justin Bieber’s show in […]
Here goes a short movie activities to help you sharpen your ears for some English during your next trip.
In the post you´ll learn how to use the auxiliary verbs “Was” and “Did” in the negative form. You´ll also see them in context to realize that they never go together in a sentence.
The word “educação” in Portuguese can refer to a person’s formal instruction, as in “educação básica; educação superior; sistema de educação”, etc. It can also refer to good manners, etiquette and social rules related to behavior. For example, ‘ele é bem educado'; ‘isto é uma questão de educação’, etc. In English, the corresponding words would […]
Adverbs have a rule, but some of them are unique, like the adverbs fast, hard and well. Learn how to use these adverbs and never get them wrong again.
Students are generally in doubt how they should use the words especially and specially. In this post, learn once and for all which word is the correct one depending on the context of the sentence.
One of the common mistakes some students make is to say things like:
*”My mom stayed angry because I didn’t clean my room.”
Some English learners struggle to use the verb tenses correctly. In this post, we will explore the use of the past participle in the present perfect and the past perfect.
If you’ve read the first two letters of the title in English, you already know that this post is about words that relate to the canine world. As a dog lover, I thought it’d be interesting to bring some canine-related words and expressions commonly used by native speakers. Let’s start with the word dog. OK, […]
Nowadays it’s very common to hear Brazilian people saying “face” to designate Facebook. However, this post has nothing to do with that “face”!
Here are some common expressions with the word “face” that might interest you.
The first time I came across this expression I was really curious as to what it could possibly mean. It appeared in the title of a movie featuring Leonardo di Caprio when he was only 19. The name of the movie is ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape‘, and Johnny Depp plays the Gilbert from the title. […]
“What’s ‘feat’? It’s in so many songs!” Have you noticed that now almost any song contains the name of a singer and then ‘feat.’ and then another name? If you haven’t, pay close attention to the top hit songs in any music chart and you’ll see. Take a look at these examples from iTunes this […]
We all know idioms are widely used in English. All types of words can be part of an idiom, and a special group is the one about fruits. Apples, pears, bananas, peaches, cherries, etc. They can all be used idiomatically. For this post, I have selected the most common so that if you ever come […]
You probably have across ain’t either while reading, listening to a song, or even watching a movie. Ain’t is not really what you could call proper English, so it should never be used for academic writing; however, it is commonly used either in American or British English. But what is ain’t exactly and how is […]
This is another very common doubt among students: when to use in time, on time and by the time.
It means something like ‘a bit before something happens’.
Relax, my dear readers. This blog is still in English. The title of this post is just to illustrate that sometimes you will come across some really odd words in English.
Have you ever heard the expression “go figure”? And what about “it figures”? Well, here’s a quick explanation of these and other expressions with the word “figure”. 1) Go figure we usually say this when we mean something like “who knows /who can explain? / I don’t believe it / it’s strange”. Examples: a) […]
Do you know what an animal sounds like in English? No, I am not suggesting that animals can talk. What I’m saying is that the sound an animal makes in English is most likely different from the sound the same animal makes in your language. Take Portuguese, for example. In Brazil, a dog says au, […]
Sometimes we have some students in our classes that have come from different English backgrounds.
How are you guys doing? Great I hope. So, going back to our topic of sports metaphors, I’m going to talk about some that are connect to another of American’s greatest passion: Baseball.
It’s well-know that in Brazil the use of English words is commonplace. In fact, any word from the English language has a chance to be used by Brazilians, no matter how hard its pronunciation might be for native speakers of Portuguese.
When writing in English, I usually have a doubt: should I say “10% is” or “10% are“. Well, it can be both. 1) singular We use the verb in the singular if the noun closest to the percentage is also singular. Examples: a) Ten percent of the population is illiterate. b) Eighty percent of the […]
These two words have the same meaning in Portuguese (sindicato), but there is a difference in usage between them in English.
At the beginning of every year, we Brazilians are overwhelmed by things to pay, right?
This is a very simple topic: when to use ‘some time‘ and ‘sometimes’. Some time means ‘one day’, ‘one occasion’ that is not very clear when it’s going to happen in the future. There in no idea of repetition involved. Examples: 1) Let’s have dinner together some time next week. 2) We could travel some time […]
Hello everybody.On my last post I talked to you about a few sport metaphors that are commonly used. Also they were quite general, referring to more than one sport activity. This time I want to address those that are related to American football. So, let’s start with my favorite one which is Monday morning quarterbacking. […]
You must now be thinking I’ve gone mad, or that this post is about body parts. Relax, I want to talk about pronunciation. English language learners often have problems to say the words ear and year correctly. They are pronounced differently. Year needs to have a /y/ sound at the beginning such as when we say the words yellow or young. Ear does […]
Learning a language can be a daunting task, but it can also be a lot of fun! On this post, I invite you to learn English and learn how to make two delicious recipes to wow your family and friends.
Just the other day I was talking to a couple of friends when I realized how many sport metaphors we use during conversation. Actually, to be more accurate we use a lot of soccer analogies. And then it dawned on me to talk about that. You see, contrary to Brazil where the world of sports […]
I bet you have never thought of that. In Portuguese we have names for the fingers of a hand (mindinho, seu vizinho, pai de todos, etc). Likewise, fingers also have specific names in English. From your thumb (the one we put up to signal OK) to your smallest finger, they are: Thumb / Index finger […]
Here we go again with some more confusable words! These words are confusing because they all mean ‘letra’ in Portuguese. Let’s take a look at each one in context. 1) Letter – it can be the letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, etc.) Ex.: He was wearing a white T-shirt with a big red […]
I am animal lover, more specifically, I am a dog lover. The fact that I have three is a clear sign that they play an important role in my life. One day, during a class, I used the personal pronoun “she” to refer to one of my dogs, and one of my students gave me an inquisitive […]
The Oscar nominations have always generated quite a buzz in the media; however, the 2014 list of nominees has caught my attention for something other than the great performances given by the actors. The name of one of the nominees is so different that frankly I didn’t even know how to try to pronounce it! I am talking about British actor, […]
It is surprising when an advanced student still hesitates when saying dates in English. We assume that dates are learnt/taught in the basic level, so it is strange to notice this difficulty in an advanced student. Here are some of the difficulties I have observed among my students: 1) Wrong pronunciation. We […]
Today’s post is about a topic everyone is interested in: money! Since money is such an important part of everyday life, it is no wonder there are several words in English that refer to it. For example, Americans usually use the informal word bucks to refer to dollars. The British, in turn, use quid to refer to pounds. Americans have […]
What’s the general term that Americans use for a carbonated drink such as Coca Cola? Is it soda, pop, or coke? What do Americans call a rubber sole shoe worn in a gym class? Sneakers, gym shoes, or tennis shoes? The answer would really depend on geographic location: all of these words are widely used […]
Here goes a brief explanation about ‘do‘ and ‘does’. In English, these two little words act as auxiliary verbs in questions and negative statements, in the simple present. In Portuguese, for us to make a question, we just need to put the question mark (?) in the end and that’s it. But in English it’s not […]
Today’s topic is ‘subject-verb agreement’ with words like ‘everybody’ and ‘nobody’. These words are followed by the verb in the singular form, like in Portuguese, right? We say “todo mundo está feliz”, and not ‘estão’. In English, it is the same way. Observe: 1) Everybody knows this. 2) Everybody wants to be happy. 3) Nobody was at the party when I arrived. 4) Nobody knows who stole John’s […]
Are you a curious person? For example, would you like to learn more about the history of beer? Or maybe you are into science and want to know about the Big Bang? Or maybe you like design and architecture and would be interested in knowing more about the history of Bauhaus? As a language teacher […]
Here is another post about agreement, which can be a bit tricky when we use certain words like ‘neither’, ‘both’, ‘half’, and so on. Let’s take a look at the most confusable ones: 1) “Neither is” or “neither are”? With the word “neither” we use a verb in the singular. Examples: a) Neither of us […]
In a partnership with the Polish embassy, Istituto Cervantes will be hosting the 5º Festival de Cinema Polonês. The festival, which has taken place since 2009, aims at showcasing Poland’s cinematography in Brazil. This year’s festival includes six feature films as well as a selection of animated short movies. 5º Festival de Cinema Polonês When: […]
I always come across sentences like “me and my friend went out yesterday”, “me and my family traveled to the USA last year” and so on. So, just for clarity, this way of phrasing is OK if you’re in an informal context, like in spoken English. But, in a formal environment, like in a composition or test, […]
Every Friday a group of language learners meets at Café do Chef in Asa Norte to sharpen their language skills. This is a nice opportunity if you are looking to put your language skills to the test. This informal encounter has been aptly named “Torre de Babel” as English is just one of the languages […]
The apostrophe ( ‘ ) is a punctuation mark and it is very used in English, as you may have already noticed. It is simply a way to show that a letter (or letters) is hidden. As it also serves to save space, it is very common in poems and lyrics of songs. Let’s take […]
Do you have a test coming up and need to study some concepts, words, or ideas? Are you traveling and need to learn some expressions to get by? Nowadays, we can use our gadgets to help us learn on the go. Organize a set of flashcard on your device and get ready to learn in […]
Have you noticed how we, Brazilians, like to omit “it”? Take a look at these common mistakes: *Rains a lot in Manaus. The correct is: “It rains a lot in Manaus.” A: “Why didn’t you like the party?” B: “*Because was boring. The correct is “Because it was boring.” A: “How was your weekend?” […]
Many words are misspelled in English, but why do English learners make these mistakes, and how to avoid them? First, many words do not follow familiar spelling rules, and they can`t be spelled phonetically. The most commonly misspelled words can trouble even experienced writers, and the best thing is to learn from the mistakes we make […]
The most celebrated day of the week is probably Friday: it is the end of the working week, when people are finally free to catch a movie, go out with their friends, or get some well-deserved rest. The popularity of this weekday gave rise to an interesting expression: TGIF, which stands for “Thank God it’s […]
A: I like Linkin’ Park a lot! B: Me too! Who has never used “me, too”? It’s quite easy for us to know what it means and to use it comfortably. But, what happens if the person says: A: I don’t like pineapple at all. Do you say “me too”? No…actually you have to […]
The usage of “so” and “neither” is not that hard, but it’s a bit tricky because we need to know the auxiliaries well and it involves inversion of words. Let’s take a look at each example – I guess it’s easier to understand this way. Examples with “so”: 1) A: I think U2 is still […]