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‘Bunch’ is an interesting word. You may know that you can buy a bunch of grapes or a bunch of flowers, but did you know that one of its most common applications is for a bunch of idiots? English uses a lot of these “link” words to introduce groups and quantities of things and a word like ‘piece’ can be very useful for converting uncountable words like ‘advice’ or ‘news’ into  a more manageable piece of data.

Quantities and Amount

A piece of…, an item of… or a bit of… are all good tools to count the uncountable and if your quantities are big, use a lot of… or a load of… with all types of noun including a lot of people and a load of nonsense. To be more specific, either you can specify a kilo of oranges or a litre of OJ, or you can go for US-style approximations like a drop of water or a handful of olives. Finally, for lunch you can have a slice of anything that’s been sliced, from a slice of ham to a slice of cheesecake and a portion of ice cream, a portion of profiteroles or a portion of anything else that you need a spoon for.


Everyday products that you might need on a trip often come in specific containers. A can can either be of beer or of beans, and you can buy a bottle of most other liquids, but there’s also a carton of OJ (or of wine) to consider, or a barrel of crude oil for the markets. A pharmacist can sell you a tube of toothpaste, a bar of soap or a packet of painkillers, and even in an English supermarket, you should find a jar of olives, a bag of oranges and a box of eggs.

Fixed Phrases

Some link words like a clove of garlic or a bolt of lightning have only one or two applications and can usually be replaced by generic substitutes like a piece of…, but some are common enough to be worth memorising. You have probably received more than one word of advice during your career, but a stroke of luck is often more helpful.

My next blog will focus on how we talk about time in English. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between doing something ON Friday and doing it BY Friday, I’m on it…

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