© Simon Q, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. Source

Rowing eight competing at the Torpids in Oxford.

About this picture …

An eight-man crew of oarsmen competing at the early Spring boat race at Oxford called Torpids. It is held on the Isis (the name of the Thames before it is joined by the Thame) which is too narrow for side-by-side racing, so the challenge is for the rear boat bump into the lead boat. The same format is employed at Eights Week in May. The photographer suggests the crew shown here may be University College but a closer look at the cox’s jacket and the blades suggests that the crew hails from Worcester College.

Worksheet No. 4

These Worksheets are based on textbooks written by NL Clay (1905-1991) and used in English schools from the 1920s to the 1960s. They focus on vocabulary, sentence structure, and clear speaking. They are best studied in pairs or small groups, because that allows you to pool ideas and encourages you to speak; but you may of course share your sentences with me.


For each group of words, compose a single sentence that uses at least one of them. They are generated randomly from a list of very common English words.

I. Case. Special. Suddenly.

II. Training. Rate. Say.

III. Shoot. Culture. About.

See more Spinners.


Show by means of sentences that these similar-sounding words have quite different meanings.

IFair, fare. IIHeal, heel. IIIHoard, horde. IVMoan, mown. VTee, tea. VIWood, would.

See more Homophones.


Write a sentence picturing each of these nouns, naming occupants or contents, and using a suitable verb of motion.

If you’re stuck for ideas, remember to ask yourself What, Who, Where, When, How and Why.

For example: Boat.

With the cox still barking out encouragement, the jubilant crew swept their boat over the finish line.

IAmbulance. IISleigh (or toboggan, dogsled etc.). IIIWheelbarrow.

Useful words (in A to Z order)

Body. Bump. Career. Compost. Crawl. Crew. Dash. Dog. Glide. Hurtle. Ice. Mail. Paramedic. Patient. Plant pot. Reindeer. Rush. Slide. Snow. Soil. Speed. Sweep. Team. Trot. Trundle.

See more Transports of Delight.


Express each of the following phrases in one word. Do not be satisfied with the first word you think of; try to think of several, and choose the one that fits best.

IA dubious but currently circulating story or report. IIA handful of picked flowers. IIIA light meal of several dishes laid out for self-service. IVA present of money given on the understanding that it will be repaid. VA shaft sunk into the ground to collect water. VIA team member who is allowed to take the place of one his team mates during the game. VIIAn agreed period of time away from work or study. VIIIPossessing hands that are able to perform skilled tasks quickly.

Suggested words (in A to Z order)

Bouquet. Buffet. Collation. Dextrous. Holiday. Leave. Loan. Nimble-fingered. Nosegay. Posy. Rumour. Sabbatical. Substitute. Well.


Rewrite each sentence below, avoiding all the words in italics. (You may find words like who, what and how useful.)

For example:

His courage amazed me.

→ I was amazed by how brave he was.

IThe surprise was his speed. III can’t remember his name. IIII do hope that you can prove his innocence. IVI forget his words but I remember the gist. VShe asked the reason for my visit. VIYou would never guess her age.

Useful words

About. Astonish. Call. Come. Do. Fast. Guilty. Old. Say.


Turn these notes into a short passage of continuous prose.

Year is 1925. Diphtheria outbreak, Nome, Alaska. Five children dead, thirty infected. Nome’s antitoxin five years old. Keeps for six months. Needed fresh. Weather very bad. Minus 30°C. No planes could fly. No ships could sail. Nearest railway 674 miles. Someone suggested dogsleds to railway. Gunnar Kaasen and twenty dog teams brought 300,000 units antitoxin. Arrived 5.30 am on Monday 2nd February, 1925. Serum expected to last only six days in cold. Made it with half a day to spare.

See The Serum Run.


Read each group of words out clearly:

IFeel, fail. IIHappy, happen. IIIHeaven, haven. IVMake, mac. VMust, mast, messed. VISpell, spill. VIIWealth, health. VIIIWork, walk.

See more Pronunciation Pairs.

Read this short passage out aloud, clearly and without haste.

An honest man feels that he must pay Heaven for every hour of happiness with a good spell of hard, unselfish work to make others happy. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

The Revd Mr James Mavor Morell, in Candida (1898) by George Bernard Shaw.