Improvisation exercise (criticism)

In today’s post, I’d like to look at different ways to express criticism.

There is a plethora of verbs and expressions in English to express the idea of criticism.

Activity 1

I’ve created a word search for you. Your task is to look for 10 words that mean ‘criticise’ or ‘rebuke’. If you get stuck, you can click on the yellow ‘show word’ button.

Click on the image to begin.

Activity 2

This is a word matching game. The idea is to click on the words that belong to the same group.

Inevitably, there is an element of subjectivity here, but I’ve created four groups for you:

  • neutral register words or phrases meaning ‘criticise’
  • expressions meaning ‘criticise heavily’ (high register
  • expressions meaning ‘scold’
  • lower register expressions meaning ‘criticise’
Click on the image to begin.

Vocabulary mining

To find useful expressions in this area, all you need to do is look for articles in the press about a controversial new policy or decision by the government. Here are a few paragraphs taken from press articles.

“The speed of the plans, even with confirmed daily UK cases above 108,000 on Wednesday, and nearly 19,000 Covid patients in hospital, has brought speculation that a main motivation has been to provide a politically embattled Johnson with some good news for his mutinous MPs.”

“Downing Street has come out in strong support of the embattled Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, after a backlash to the government’s decision to extend her time in office.”

“Allegra Stratton arrives at a moment when the government is besieged by restive backbenchers sceptical about Covid restrictions, and facing fierce criticism over the way they are being communicated.”

The embattled Financial Services Authority last night promised a “root and branch” review into its handling of the Northern Rock crisis as it emerged that the Bank of England had provided a £3bn emergency line of credit to help the Newcastle-based bank over the past week.

After coming under criticism earlier in the week, pressure on the Bank eased yesterday following the explanation provided for its actions by governor Mervyn King.

The Treasury and the Bank closed ranks behind Sir John Gieve, the deputy governor responsible for financial stability and a non-executive board member of the FSA.”

Improvisation exercise

Here’s a fun improvisation exercise for you. You will need to pick some kind of controversy based on current affairs. Choose a person or organisation being criticised, and the person or organisation doing the criticising.

Pick a personChoose a verb: ‘is being…’by whom?This person/organisation is…Pick an adjectiveThe result is that this person is…
e.g. the Prime Ministeradmonished
your choice!finding fault with
taking to task
coming down hard on
severely criticising
on the back foot
under fire
in trouble
OR (lower register)
OR (lower register)in a pickle
up the creek without a paddle

Now create a sentence or paragraph along this model:

The Prime Minister has been slammed by his backbenchers for his latest proposal to remove all coronavirus restrictions. MPs have come down hard on Boris Johnson. The embattled Prime MInister is now floundering, and is hard pressed to come up with a justification given the lack of scientific backing for the proposal.

Make it as elaborate as you like!

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