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Tuesday the 31st of October, 2006
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HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2006

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Good morning everybody. Happy Halloween!

Today's special Daily Vitamin includes:

1) An expression with a Halloween-related word (skeleton).
2) A brief history of Halloween and some informative Internet links with more information.

1. TODAY'S HALLOWEEN EXPRESSION

To have a skeleton in your cupboard (United States-To have a skeleton in your closet).

Meaning: A skeleton in the cupboard is an embarrassing secret about your past that you don't want anyone to know about.

Example 1:
If you want to be a successful politician you can't have too many skeletons in your cupboard.

Example 2:
After just 6 months of marriage, Lisa and Bob got a divorce. Apparently, Bob had quite a few skeletons in his cupboard.

2. THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
Halloween (also spelled Hallowe'en, especially in UK English) is generally considered to be a typical 'U.S. Holiday.' However, its origins are European.

There is lots of disagreement as to the exact origin of Halloween, but most believe that the modern celebration of Halloween is a VERY distant descendant of the ancient Celtic fire festival called Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in'). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts (pronounced 'Kelts') lived more than 2,000 years ago in what is now Great Britain, Ireland, and France. Their new year began on November 1.

Here are some websites that you can visit for more information about the history of Halloween:

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween (in English)

2) http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween (in Spanish)

For more websites, simply type 'Halloween' in the Google Search Engine and you will get millions of options.

Enjoy your day off. Tomorrow we will not be sending the Daily Vitamin.

Please post any questions about today's Daily Vitamin in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website. If you have any questions about how to use the Daily Vitamin Plus! section or would like to receive a Daily Vitamin Plus! manual, please contact us.

I'll see you on Thursday.



Monday the 30th of October, 2006
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ELECTIONS IN ENGLISH

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Good morning. I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

For those of you that receive the Daily Vitamin and live in Spain, you may know that this week there are parliamentary elections in Catalonia, where Ziggurat is based. Therefore, today we are going to review a few words related to elections.

Today's 1st word is: Politician

It means: someone who has a job in politics, especially in the government.

Today's 2nd word is: Politics

It means: the ideas and activities involved in getting power in a nation or in a particular area; the profession of begin a politician.

There is often confusion between these words. Josep Piqué, Artur Mas, Carod Rovira, etc. are politicians, and they practice politics.

Example 1:
Even if you don't like his politics, you must admit that he is an excellent politician. He generally gets his ideas passed in Parliament.  

Today's 3rd word is: (Political) Party

It means: an organised group of people who have similar ideas about the way a country should be governed. They work together to try to convince people to vote for them in elections.

Example 2:
He used to belong to the Communist party, but now he belongs to a more conservative party.

The word party, of course, can refer to a celebration or social event where people get together to have fun, usually eating, drinking, dancing, playing games, etc. It is the same word, but in politics it has a very different meaning.

I hope those of you who live in Catalonia will vote on Wednesday, even if it's only to cast a blank vote (votar en blanco).

Please post any questions about today's Daily Vitamin in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website.

Have a great day!



Friday the 27th of October, 2006
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REVISION OF MODAL VERBS-7 --> SHOULD

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Good morning.

As we have seen over the last several days, there is a lot to say about modal verbs, and we have only just begun! However, today will be the last day that we will dedicate to this very important topic. Today we will look at should.

We use the modal verb should when we want to indicate that something is a good thing or a bad thing to do. We often use it together with the word think.

1) I think you should accept the job.

1.1) You should accept the job.

Should is not as strong as must or have to.

2) You have to accept the job. (obligation)

So, we use should to talk about what is the right or wrong thing to do in a certain situation.

3) When you're in a library you shouldn't speak loudly.

4) If you would like to be rich, you should read the book "Rich Dad Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki.

As you can see, should can be used to give advice. In example 3 we are indicating a social or societal norm, but in example 4 we are really giving advice, which is one of the most common uses of should.

If you have any questions about today's Daily Vitamin, you should post them in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website.

Have a great weekend.



Thursday the 26th of October, 2006
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REVISION OF MODAL VERBS-6 --> CAN, COULD, BE ABLE TO

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Good morning.

What is the difference between the following sentences?

1) I can speak English.
2) I am able to speak English.

There really is no difference in meaning, but the modal verb can for ability is more usual; so sentence (1) is more common.

However, can, like other modal verbs, doesn't have different forms. Therefore, we often use the "periphrastic" modal verb be able to to express ability in other verb tenses.

3) I haven't been able to practise my English this week because I have been ill. (present perfect)
4) I won't be able to practise my English tomorrow because I have to work. (future)

Etc.

Remember that the past of can is sometimes represented by could.

5) I couldn't understand you when you were speaking to me.

We also have the option of using be able to.

6) I wasn't able to understand you when you were speaking to me.

Could as the past of can for ability is especially common with verbs like see, hear, feel, etc. or to talk about general ability in the past.

7) I couldn't speak English when I was young.

Now we come to the confusing part. In the past many times it is not possible to use could as the modal verb for ability in the past and we must use be able to.

It is necessary to use be able to when the ability being expressed means "manage" (lograr) or overcome a difficulty (supererar una dificultad).

8) Although it was difficult, yesterday I was able to finish the article I was writing.

In example 8 I was able to overcome a difficulty and finish my writing assignment. In this case, could would not work (**Yesterday I could finish the article...**) since could in the past is for general ability (When I was 5 years old I "could" write.)

The negative couldn't is possible in all situations: general ability and overcoming difficulties.

9) Yesterday I couldn't finish the article I was writing. (overcome)

10) When I was 4 years old, I couldn't write. (general ability)

Please post any questions about today's Daily Vitamin in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website. If you have any questions about how to use the Daily Vitamin Plus! section or would like to receive a Daily Vitamin Plus! manual, please contact us.

Have a good day!



Wednesday the 25th of October, 2006
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REVISION OF MODAL VERBS-5 --> CAN and COULD

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Good morning.

Today we look at Can and Could, two modal verbs that add either Ability or Permission to the main verb.

Example 1 (Ability):
I can speak English.

Example 2 (Ability in the past):
I could speak English when I was ten years old.

Example 3 (Permission):
Can I take holidays in September?

In Example 1, the speaker has the ability to speak English. Example 2 is the same, but in the past. In Example 3 the speaker asks for permission to go on holiday in September.

Many years ago, we only used the modal verb may for permission and can was reserved for ability:

Example 4 (permission):
Teacher! May I please go to the toilet?

However, today very few native speakers make this distinction, except in formal situations. When I was a child, one of my primary-school teachers always tried to correct us when we used can for permission.

Matthew: Teacher! Can I go to the toilet?
Teacher: I don't know, can you?

In her answer she was sarcastically saying, "I don't know...do you have the ability to?" since in her vocabulary, can only added ability to the main verb go, and not permission.

Tomorrow we will look at the difference between can, could, and be able to for ability.

If you have any questions about can and could, Please post them in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website. 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.