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The Language of Gender

1 The words in the box below are gradually being replaced by other words which do not indicate if the person is male or female. What are the replacement words? (Check your ideas with the extract on p.215 from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.)

EXAMPLE: chairman chairperson
chairman air hostess headmaster policeman spokeswoman fireman saleswoman
The underlined words have incorrect endings. Replace them with the correct endings.
  1. The fliqhtperson came back and asked if I would like some more coffee.
  2. Policepeople seem to be getting younger and younger these days.
  3. David will make a very good chairofficer for the meeting, I think.
  4. I could never be a fire attendant. I would be scared to death!
  5. The spokesofficer for the company denied that there would be any further redundancies.
  6. She's not a very good headmaster. She finds it difficult to keep the children interested in her lessons.
2 Here are some words and phrases in everyday use. Check you understand what they mean. Then decide if you think they are acceptable or should be replaced with alternative expressions.
  1. What do you think the man in the street thinks about this issue?
  2. Paul is a man of his word. He'll never let you down.
  3. It's important to be your own man and not be overly influenced by the opinions of others.
  4. The audience rose and applauded as one man. The show had been a great success.
  5. The helpline is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  6. The destruction of the environment is the most serious threat facing mankind.
  7. I'm afraid I can't help you. It's every man for himself
  8. He's a real man of the people even though he holds such a position of power and influence.

3 Discuss with other students.
  1. Many women today prefer the title Ms to Miss or Mrs. Why do you think this is?
  2. In many books (see the example below) a choice is made to use he when referring to unknown individuals. Is this acceptable? Alternatives include using she or he/she or even they. What would you recommend?
EXAMPLE: At the beginning of a new course, the teacher should always attempt to make his students feel relaxed and welcome in their new class. He should introduce himself and men introduce the students to one another.

Grammar check: modifiers/intensifiers

4 Read the text below and decide if you can use one or both of the alternatives in each case.



ANDREA CONGREAVES is probably the highest-paid British woman playing a team sport. She has been an international basketball-player since the age of 18 but is unrecognised in Britain. In fact, she is a celebrity in Italy where basketball is the most popular women's sport. Sometimes this can be quite a pressure. As she comments: 'A lot is expected of foreign players. The fans (l) really/terribly adore you but it can be (2) rather/quite overwhelming.' Congreaves is (3) absolutely/extremely angry that there is no support for women's basketball in Britain.
5 Look at the modifiers/intensifiers in the box below. Using the text below decide which are typically used with gradable adjectives (e.g. interesting) and which with non-gradable adjectives (e.g. impossible). Write G or NG next to each adjective.

very absolutely rather extremely fairly terribly really completely quite pretty totally

6 Tell another student about the last time that you were:
  1. really cold
  2. quite pleased with yourself
  3. totally amazed
  4. extremely grateful
  5. pretty annoyed
  6. absolutely exhausted

Watch out - quite
What's the meaning of quite in these two sentences?
1) I think the match on Saturday is going to be quite hard.
2) I think it's quite ridiculous of you to play in a match when you are feeling so ill!

It (4) completely/really annoys me that basketball isn't recognised in this country. The media could do more and the Sports Council should give more money to the sport.' As the England women's team manager comments, 'Andrea is (5) terribly/very modest, but she is (6) extremely/really important to England. She is one of the best players in Europe.' Andrea is not (7) particularly/terribly optimistic about the future for British basketball. 'Even if we do (8) quite/ reasonably well in future major championships, I don't believe things will change. It's a shame because there are a lot of (9) extremely/totally talented players in this country who just aren't getting the support they deserve.

English in Use

7 Read the text below. Is it written by someone who:
  1. doesn't like football fans?
  2. can't understand football fans?
  3. is a completely dedicated fan?
  4. wishes he wasn't a fan?

Being a fan is not a vicarious pleasure, despite
all appearance to the contrary. Our fun is not
a (1)...-down version of the team's fun, even
though they are the ones that get to score the
goals. The (2).... we feel on occasions like this
is not a (3).... of others' good fortune, but it is
truly your own. And when there is a (4).... defeat
the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity.
The players are merely our (5) .... I am a part
of the club, just as the club is part of me; and I
say this with total (6).... that the club (7).... my
views, and treats me (8)..... on occasions.








8 Read the text again.
  1. What part of speech e.g. noun, adjective etc. should go in each space?
  2. Should the missing word be in a positive or negative form?

9 Now use the words in the box to the right of the text to form one word that fits in the same numbered space in the text. Compare your ideas with other students. Decide on your final set of correct answers. Then check in a dictionary.

10 Now try another word-formation task.


Fencing is a popular sport that demands (1) ...
and quick reflexes. It is, (2) ... , the modern
version of the (3) ... duel and the weapons that
are used are the modern (4) ... of the everyday
swords of the past. The 'foil' is the weapon
distinguished by its (5).....and hits are made
only on the trunk of the body, not the limbs or
head. The 'epee' is most like the old duelling
sword and is stiffer and more solid. It is (6) ...
with this to make hits anywhere on the body,
head or limbs. The 'sabre' is like the old cavalry
sword and has proved its (7) ... in cutting as
well as thrusting. Fencers wear masks and thick
waistcoats for (8) ... from injuries which can
occur during matches.









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