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There are often follow-up questions in the Test of Oral Proficiency where you may be asked, “What advice would you give someone who…?” or “How would you advise someone to…?” There are three main ways of giving advice in English. Let’s take the situation of someone who is very unhappy in and hates his job. What advice would you give him?


Modals of possibility

  1. He COULD go online and see if there are any upcoming competitions in his department.
  2. He MIGHT want to network with his colleagues to find out about any job openings.
  3. He MAY wish to talk to his supervisor about it.

Stronger: Modals of suggestion or necessity

  1. I think he SHOULD try to find another position as soon as possible if he’s that unhappy.
  2. He NEEDS TO get out of that situation if it’s making him miserable.
  3. He HAS TO talk to his manager to see if he can improve his work conditions.


If I were him, I would speak to the manager to see if he could change some of his tasks.

If I had his problem, I would try to change the situation as quickly as possible.

If he were that unhappy, I would advise him to go to the Public Service job site and apply for other positions.



I think it’s essential that he leave that job if he’s so unhappy.

It’s crucial that he try and improve the situation.

I would strongly recommend that he apply for other positions.

It’s imperative that he get some help from the Employee Assistance Program.


There are a surprising number of idioms in English which seem to involve horses. So, saddle up and let’s take a ride!

  1. Putting the cart before the horse. MEANING: doing things in the wrong order
  2. Hold your horses! MEANING: Wait!
  3. Get off your high horse! MEANING: Stop being so arrogant and self-righteous!
  4. Beating (or flogging) a dead horse. MEANING: continuing to do something which will be a waste of time, as the outcome will not change.
  5. I could eat a horse! MEANING: I am so hungry that I would eat anything-especially something big!
  6. A one-horse town. MEANING: Originally, it meant a town so small that there was only one horse for everybody! Nowadays, it means a very small and insignificant town.
  7. A charley-horse. MEANING: a cramp or muscle spasm in the arm or leg. A typical charley-horse often happens at night when the calf muscle goes into a very painful spasm.
  8. Horsing around. MEANING: playing and rough-housing which usually involves pushing and shoving (“horseplay”). It’s often what children and adolescents do. It can also mean (as in “Stop horsing around!”) Stop playing around, and get serious.
  9. A dark horse. MEANING: In racing terms, it referred to a horse not expected to win who suddenly pulled up from behind and won. In politics, a dark horse can be a candidate who was not expected to win but wound up getting elected.
  10. That’s a horse of a different colour. MEANING: That’s something completely different.
  11. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. MEANING: It came directly from the source.
  12. Changing horses in midstream. MEANING: making changes in the middle of  an activity that has already begun; changing an approach halfway through
  13. Backing the wrong horse: Supporting a person or effort which will not succeed
  14. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. MEANING: You can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. You can suggest, or make it easy for people to do something but, ultimately, it is their decision.
  15. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. MEANING: Don’t be ungrateful or suspicious when someone gives you something. Just accept it.

So…now you have fifteen horse idioms to use as you mosey into the corral and talk to your “podners” at work. Hee-haw!


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