Security and control elements

The electric current comes from the power station through the public grid, gets to the supply point and then into the house through the connection point.

Once into the house, we can see the meter, which is usually found on the ground floor of the building. It measures the electrical energy consumed by the household in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

From the meter, three wires get into the house. They have colour codes which are used to distinguish phase (line), neutral and ground (earth) wires. Line wires are black, brown or grey. Neutral wires are blue, and the ground wires are yellow and green.

The interior electrical network is made up of the consumer unit, electrical supply circuits, ground connection and electrical receivers.

Located near the entrance of the house, there is the consumer unit (also called distribution board or breaker panel), which is a set of elements used to ensure the safety, protection and control of the interior electrical system. It contains the following elements:

  • Main electrical circuit breaker MSB (ICPM): General circuit breaker for the interior electrical system. It protects against excessive currents and short circuits, and prevents power consumption from exceeding that which has been contracted.
  • Automatic Main Switch AMS (IGA). It protects an installation against high intensities and shortcuts.
  • Residual-current device RCD (ID). It detects leaks of current in the system, protecting users from possible electrical discharges.
  • Miniature Circuit Breaker MCB (PIA): protect all of the circuits from excessive currents and short circuits. There are as many miniature circuit breakers as there are circuits in the electrical system.

The most common electric circuits at home are:

  • Single point light: lamps that can be turned on with a single switch.
  • Commuted point light: lamps that can be turned on from two or more points.
  • Grounded or ungrounded electrical outlets.

Safety regulations

The electrical installation of a house is done according to different safety regulations. The International Standard series governing electrical installations is IEC 60364. The European equivalent is CENELEC HD384. There are national equivalents in all European countries (AREI/RGIE - B,VDE100 - D, REBT – ES, NF C 15-100 - F, CEI 64-8 - I, NN 1010 - NL, BS 7671 - UK). There are, however, significant differences between national and international standards’ implementation. In Spain, the execution of the electric installations are subject to the Electro Technical Regulation on Low Voltage (REBT) that includes the technical instructions (ITC).

The IP Code, International Protection Marking, IEC standard 60529, sometimes interpreted as Ingress Protection Marking, classifies and rates the degree of protection provided against intrusion (body parts such as hands and fingers), dust, accidental contact, and water by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures. It is published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).


Jordi and Bill are on their way to commission an electrical installation in a new home. Jordi wants to introduce Bill to all the devices in the home, such as switches, sockets, meters and light fittings. He also wants to instruct him about the standard wiring and safety procedures. They ring the bell and Mr White opens the door.

Jordi: Hello, we’re electric technicians. We’re here for your electrical connection.

Mr White: Oh! You’re welcome. Come in.

Jordi: Can you show us where the consumer unit is?

Mr White: Do you mean the circuit breaker panel?

Jordi: Certainly. We need to check if your wiring complies with the regulations before we can go ahead with the installation of the electrical meter and the connection to the grid.

Bill: Jordi, do I bring the toolbox from the van?

Jordi: Ok. We will start the testing as soon as you are back.

Bill: Where do we start the testing?

Jordi: First of all we have to check the circuit breaker ratings for the kitchen, bathroom, the socket in the general house and the lighting points.

Bill: Do I note down the Ampers of each of them?

Jordi: Yes. Now, we’ll go ahead to install the electrical meter.

Bill: What do we need for the installation? And where do we mount the meter?

Jordi: It’s easy. There is already an existing conduit pipe, so we just need to run a wire from the circuit breaker to where we’ll mount the meter.


  • Power station: central elèctrica
  • Public grid: la xarxa elèctrica pública
  • Supply point: escomesa
  • Meter: comptador
  • Phase: fase (cable)
  • Ground wire: cable de connexió a terra
  • Electrical network: xarxa elèctrica
  • Consumer unit: Quadre general de control i protecció
  • Main electrical circuit breaker: Interruptor de control de potència màxima (ICPM)
  • Short circuit: curtcircuit
  • Automatic Main Switch: Interruptor general automàtic (IGA)
  • Residual-current device: diferencial
  • Miniature Circuit Breaker: petits interruptors automàtics (PIA)
  • Single point light: punt de llum
  • Grounded electrical outlet: presa de corrent amb connexió a terra
  • Safety regulations: normativa de seguretat
  • REBT (Reglament Electrotècnic de Baixa Tensió): Electro Technical Regulation on Low Voltage.
  • Commission: donar d’alta (un servei)
  • Device: dispositiu
  • Light fitting: làmpada
  • Wiring: cablejat
  • Complies with the regulations: compleix amb la normativa
  • Go ahead: procedir, tirar endavant (amb una feina)
  • The grid: la xarxa
  • Toolbox: caixa d’eines
  • As soon as: tan aviat com
  • Conduit pipe: conducte


To express the past, there are several verb tenses in English. Two of these tenses are the past simple and the past continuous. The basic difference between these two tenses is that the past simple is used to express finished actions whereas the past continuous is used to express actions that were taking place at a specific moment in the past.

On the other hand, the prepositions of time are those that introduce a prepositional phrase of time. In other words, the prepositions of time tell us when an action happens.

The past simple and the past continuous

Here are the forms and uses of the past simple and the past continuous tenses.

The past simple

When we need to use the past simple form of a verb, we must know whether the verb is regular or irregular.

  • In regular verbs, the affirmative form of the past simple adds the ending -ed to the infinitive (work > worked).
  • In irregular verbs, the affirmative form of the past simple is a different word from the infinitive (go > went).

See annex ‘List of irregular verbs’ to see the most common irregular verbs in English.

There are no rules to know which verbs are regular and which are irregular. We must know the most common irregular verbs.

These are the forms of the past simple of a regular verb (work):

Taula: Conjugation of the past simple (regular verb: work)
Affirmative Negative
Long form
Short form
I worked did not work didn’t work Did I work…?
You worked did not work didn’t work Did you work…?
He/She/It worked did not work didn’t work Did he work…?
We worked did not work didn’t work Did we work…?
You worked did not work didn’t work Did you work…?
They worked did not work didn’t work Did they work…?

Here are the forms of an irregular verb (go):

Taula: Conjugation of the past simple (irregular verb: go)
Affirmative Negative
Long form
Short form
I went did not go didn’t go Did I go…?
You went did not go didn’t go Did you go…?
He/She/It went did not go didn’t go Did he go…?
We went did not go didn’t go Did we go…?
You went did not go didn’t go Did you go…?
They went did not go didn’t go Did they go…?

The past simple is used:

1) To express finished actions or states in the past:

  • I worked in a factory 20 years ago (Cat. Fa 20 anys vaig treballar a una fàbrica).
  • Did you watch the film on TV last night? (Cat. Vas veure la pel·lícula de la tele ahir a la nit?).
  • Mr Green didn’t come in his office yesterday. (Cat. Ahir Mr Green no va venir al seu despatx).
  • Marcia met her husband at a party when they were both 15 (Cat. La Marcia va conèixer el seu marit a una festa quan tots dos tenien 15 anys).
  • It was very hot last summer, do you remember? (L’estiu passat va fer molta calor, te’n recordes?).
  • We felt happy when he left (Cat. Ens vam alegrar quan ell va marxar).

The past continuous

Here are the forms of the past continuous:

Taula: Conjugation of the past continuous (work)
Affirmative Negative
Long form
Short form
I was working was not working wasn’t working was I working…?
you were working were not working weren’t working were you working…?
he/she/it was working was not working wasn’t working was he working…?
we were working were not working weren’t working were we working…?
you were working were not working weren’t working were you working…?
they were working were not working weren’t working were they working…?


  • As in the present continuous, the past continuous is composed of two elements: the auxiliary verb be (conjugated in the past) + the gerund.
  • In the past continuous, we only conjugate the verb be. For this reason, there is no difference between regular and irregular verbs (for example: I was working, I was going).
  • The verb be is an irregular verb (be > was/were).

We can translate the past continuous into Catalan and Spanish in two ways: I was working (Cat. estava treballant/treballava; Sp. estaba trabajando/trabajaba).

We use the past continuous:

1) To express actions that were taking place at a specific moment in the past. At that moment, the action was not fisnished yet.

  • I was sleeping at eleven last night. (Cat. Ahir a les onze de la nit jo dormia/estava dormint).
  • What were you doing at this time yesterday? (Cat. Què feies/estaves fent ahir a aquesta hora?).
  • I wasn’t doing anything (Cat. No feia/estava fent res).

2) To express simultaneous actions in the past (with the connector while [Cat. mentre]).

  • While I was doing all the work, he was talking on the phone with his friend (Cat. Mentre jo estava fent tota la feina, ell estava parlant per telèfon amb el seu amic).
  • They were flying to Paris while I was waiting for them in the office (Cat. Ells estaven volant a París mentre jo els estava esperant a l’oficina).

See Unit 1 section 2 Grammar: The present simple and the preseent continuous for a list of verbs that do not take the continuous forms.

We very often use the past continuous in combination with the past simple to express an action that was taking place in the past (in past continuous) when another action took place in that moment (in the past simple). For example:

  • I met Mr White when I was going out of the building (Cat. Em vaig trobar el Sr White quan jo sortia de l’edifici).
  • We were walking down the street when the tree fell down (Cat. Estàvem caminant pel carrer quan l’arbre va caure).

Adverbs and adverbials of time generally associated to the past tenses

Some of the adverbs and time expressions that we can use with the past tenses are:

  • Yesterday (Cat. ahir)
  • The day before yesterday (Cat. abans d’ahir)
  • Last week/month/year, etc. (Cat. la setmana passada, el mes passat, l’any passat, etc.)
  • In the past (Cat. en el passat)
  • Before (Cat. abans)
  • In the old times (Cat. en els vells temps)
  • When I was younger (Cat. quan jo era més jove)
  • In that moment (Cat. En aquell moment)
  • (One year) ago (Cat. Fa [un any])
  • Then (Cat. aleshores, en aquell moment)

We generally say these adverbs and adverbials at the end of the sentence, but we can also place them at the beginning to emphasize the idea. For example:

  • We met him at the airport yesterday.
  • Yesterday we met him at the airport.

Prepositions of time (I)

The three basic prepositions of time are: in, on and at. As you can see, they have the same form as the prepositions of place. The prepositions of time indicate when something happens. They are equivalent to the Catalan ‘a’/‘en’ or the Spanish ‘en’, but in English they are used in different contexts. To use the prepositions of time correctly, we must learn the prepositional phrase (that is, the preposition + the noun).

Here are the basic uses of the prepositions of time:


1) With years, centuries and historical periods:

  • In 2010
  • In the 19th century
  • In the Middle Ages
  • In modern times
  • In the present
  • In the past
  • In the future

2) With the names of the months and seasons of the year:

  • In April
  • In September
  • In Winter
  • In Summer

3) With the parts of the day:

  • In the morning
  • In the afternoon
  • In the evening
  • In the night

4) With a period of time, to indicate when something will happen in the future:

  • In a moment
  • In five minutes
  • In one week
  • In three years


1) With the days of the week:

  • On Monday
  • On Tuesday
  • On Sunday
  • On Fridays
  • On weekdays

2) With dates and nouns denoting specific dates:

  • On 16th June
  • On 4th November, 2005
  • On the 23rd
  • On Christmas Day
  • On New Year’s Eve


1) With clock times and nouns denoting clock times:

  • At 6 o’clock
  • At a quarter past eight
  • At 2 pm
  • At midnight
  • At midday
  • At sunset
  • At dawn
  • At night

2) With names of holidays and with the noun ‘weekend’:

  • At Christmas
  • At Easter
  • At the New Year
  • At the weekend

Some differences between the prepositions of time


1) At is used to speak about holidays and weekends in general:

  • We usually stay at home at Christmas (Cat. Normalment ens quedem a casa per Nadal)

2) On is used to speak about a special day or weekend:

  • We usually stay at home on Christmas Day (Cat. Normalment ens quedem a casa el dia de Nadal)
  • The meeting took place on the last weekend of June (Cat. La reunió va tenir lloc el darrer cap de setmana de juny)


1) In is used to speak about parts of the day:

  • I work in the morning (Cat. Treballo pel matí)

2) On is used to speak about a part of the day in particular:

  • I arrived on the morning of the ninth of November (Cat. Vaig arribar el matí del nou de novembre)
  • It happened on a cold winter morning (Cat. Va passar un fred matí d’hivern)


1) At is used to speak about any night in general:

  • I don’t like working at night (Cat. No m’agrada treballar de nit)

2) In is used to speak about one particular night:

  • I met him in the night of the tenth (Cat. El vaig conèixer la nit del dia 10)
  • I couldn’t sleep in the night because I was very nervous (Cat. No vaig poder dormir per la nit perquè estava molt nerviosa)


Speaking on the phone is a very common activity, both in a working environment and in our daily life. We may do so with customers, colleagues or friends, but in all the cases speaking on the phone requires the use of specific words and expressions. A clear pronunciation is very important when speaking on the phone, so it is a good idea to practise the expressions carefully before attempting to make a call or answering the phone. It is also necessary to have good listening skills because in a telephone conversation you cannot see the other person and therefore you will not have the help of the body language.

It is also very common to speak about dates and clock times. We may need to write dates in formal business letters or we may need to say dates and clock times in our daily conversations. In the particular case of the dates, there is a great difference between the written and the spoken forms. Clock times are mostly used in speech.

Speaking on the phone

Here are some common expressions used in telephone conversations. They are divided in categories according to their purpose and they all include an equivalent expression in Catalan.

Answering the telephone

  • Hello? (Cat. Digui?)
  • Commercial Department, hello? (Cat. Departament comercial, digui?)
  • Joan Alsina speaking (Cat. Joan Alsina, diguim?)
  • Customer service, can I help you? (Cat. Servei al client, en què el puc ajudar?)

Asking for the other person’s identification

  • Who’s calling? (Cat. Qui és?, de part de qui?, qui el truca?)
  • Where are you calling from? (Cat. D’on truca?)
  • May I have your name please (formal) (Cat. Em pot dir el seu nom si us plau?)
  • Is that Mr Peter Bramwell? (Cat. Parlo amb el Sr. Peter Bramwell?)
  • Is that the Commercial Department? (Cat. És el departament comercial?)

Identifying yourself

  • This is Joan Alsina (Cat. Sóc Joan Alsina)
  • My name’s Joan Alsina (Cat. Em dic Joan Alsina)
  • I’m calling from Zara (Cat. Truco de Zara)

Asking to speak to someone

  • Can I speak to Mr Peter Bramwell please? (Cat. Puc parlar amb el Sr. Peter Bramwell si us plau?)
  • May I speak to Mr Peter Bramwell please? (formal) (Cat. Podria parlar amb el Sr. Peter Bramwell si us plau?)
  • Is Mr Peter Bramwell there? (Cat. Està el Sr. Peter Bramwell?)
  • I’d like to speak to Mr Peter Bramwell (Cat. Voldria parlar amb el Sr. Peter Bramwell)
  • Could you put me through to Mr Peter Bramwell? (Cat. Em podria passar amb el Sr. Peter Bramwell?)

If Mr Peter Bramwell answers the phone himself, the answer could be:

  • Speaking! (Cat. El mateix, sóc jo mateix)

If someone else answers the phone, see below:

Asking the other person to wait

  • One moment please (Cat. Un moment si us plau)
  • Hold on please (Cat. No pengi si us plau)
  • Just a minute (Cat. Un minut)

Connecting with other people

  • I’ll put you through (Cat. Li passo)
  • I’l put you through to Mr Bramwell (Cat. Li passo al Sr. Bramwell)
  • I’ll put you through to his office (Cat. Li passo al seu despatx)

Explaining that the other person is not available

  • I’m afrain Mr Bramwell is not in his office right now (Cat. Em temo que el Sr. Bramwell no és al seu despatx en aquest moment)
  • Mr Bramwell is in a meeting at the moment (Cat. El Sr. Bramwell és a una reunió en aquest moment)
  • I’m afraid the line’s busy at the moment (Cat. Està comunicant)

Asking about the reason of the call

  • What does it concern? (formal) (Cat. De què es tracta)
  • What’s it about? (Cat. Sobre què és?)

Offering solutions

  • Can you call back later? (Cat. Pots trucar més tard?)
  • Could you call back later? (formal) (Cat. Pot trucar més tard?)
  • Could I take a message? (Cat. Vol que li doni algun missatge?)
  • Would you like to leave a message? (Cat. Vold deixar-li algun missatge?)
  • Can I help you in anything? (Cat. El puc ajudar en alguna cosa?)
  • Ok, I’l call back later, thanks (Cat. D’acord, trucaré més tard)
  • I’ll try again, thanks (Cat. Ho tornaré a intentar, gràcies)

Leaving a message

  • Could I leave a message please? (Cat. Puc deixar un missatge si us plau?)
  • I’d like to leave a message for Mr Bramwell (Cat. Voldria deixar un missatge pel Sr. Bramwell)
  • Could you please tell Mr Bramwell that Joan Alsina called? (Cat. Li pot dir al Sr. Bramwell que l’ha trucat Joan Alsina si us plau?)
  • Please tell Mr Bramwell that… (Cat. Si us plau, digui al Sr Bramwell que…)

Explaining the reason of the call

  • I’m calling on behalf of Inés Fernández (Cat. Truco de part de la Inés Fernández)
  • I’m calling about… (Cat. Truco en relació a…)
  • I’m calling to… (Cat. Truco per a…)

Saying goodbye

  • Well, thanks for your help (Cat. Bé, gràcies per la teva ajuda)
  • I’ll call you back in a few days (Cat. Et truco d’aquí uns dies)
  • Goodbye (Cat. Adéu)
  • Bye (Cat. Adéu)

Leaving recorded messages

Sometimes we may need to leave a recorded message in an answering machine (Cat. contestador automàtic) or in a voicemail (Cat. bústia de veu). These messages must be as short as possible and they should include at least the following information:

  1. The person to whom we address the message.
  2. Our name.
  3. The message.
  4. Closing expressions.

Here are two examples ofrecorded messages:

  • Hello. This is a message for Mr Peter Bramwell. This is Joan Alsina from Zara. I’m calling about an order for 30 male shirts we made two weeks ago. We are still expecting the shirts. Could you please call me back and tell me if there’s any problem with the order? Thank you. Bye!
  • Hi. This message is for Eric Smith. I’m calling from a hospital in Barcelona. I’m sorry to inform you that your mother had an accident the other day. It’s not serious, but you should come as soon as possible. Could you please call me back at this number? Thanks, bye!

Expressing dates and clock times

There is a great difference in the way we write and say dates and clock times. In addition there is also a difference between British English and American English.


The table shows different ways of writing a date in British English and American English:

Taula: Writing dates in British and American English
British English American English
9th June, 2007 June 9th, 2007
9 June 2007 June 9, 2007
9/6/2007 6/9/2007
9/6/07 6/9/07
09/06/07 06/09/07

When writing or interpreting a written date, we must be aware of the variety of English. Notice the following:

  • For a British person, 9/6/2007 is 9th June 2007; for an American person, it is: 6th September 2007.
  • For a British person, 6/9/2007 is 6th September 2007; for an American person, it is: 9th June 2007.

See unit 1, section 3 for detailed information about the expression of numbers in English.

Independtly of the format, we must say the dates like this:

  • British English: the ninth if June two thousand and seven
  • American English: June (the) ninth two thousand and seven

When we say a date, we must use the ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.). In American English, we can eliminite the article the.

Saying the years in English

Both in British and American English, we can say the years like this:

  • 1800: eighteen hundred
  • 1906: nineteen hundred and six / nineteen oh six
  • 1998: nineteen ninety eight
  • 2000: two thousand / twenty hundred
  • 2007: two thousand and seven / twenty oh seven
  • 2018: two thousand and eighteen / twenty eighteen

Here are some time expressions with dates:

  • When did you arrive? (Cat. quan vas arribar?)
  • I arrived in June (Cat. Vaig arribar el mes de juny)
  • I arrived in 2007 (Cat. Vaig arribar l’any 2007)
  • I arrived on 9th June 2007 (Cat. Vaig arribar el 9 de juny de 2007)
  • I arrived on the 9th (Cat. Vaig arribar el dia 9)
  • What’s the date today? (Cat. A quina data estem avui?)
  • It’s 9th June (Cat. És el 9 de juny)

Notice that we use the preposition in with months and years and the preposition on with complete dates or expressions denoting dates.

Clock times

The figure shows the basic words that we need to tell the time:

Figura Clock times

Here are some examples of clock times in English:

Taula: The clock times in English
Time In timetables Normal use
3:00 three (o’clock)
3:05 three oh five five past three
3:12 three twelve twelve minutes past three
3:15 three fifteen a quarter past three
3:30 three thirty half past three
3:40 three forty twenty to four
3:45 three forty-five a quarter to four
3:56 three fifty-six four minutes to four
4:00 four (o’clock)

Note the following:

  • We use the word o’clock (Cat. en punt) only on the hour: three o’clock.
  • For all the times between the hour and the half hour, we use the adverb past; for all the times between the half hour and the next hour, we use the adverb to.
  • We must always use the word quarter (quarter past or quarter to). It is wrong to say: fifteen past or fifteen to.
  • The half hour is expressed with half past and the previous hour.
  • With the multiples of five, we say: ten past three. With all the others, we must say the word minutes: twelve minutes past three

The figure shows the parts of the day and the times included in each one.

Figura Parts of the day

Here are some expressions related to clock times. They are placed in a sentence:

  • What time is it?, what’s the time (Cat. Quina hora és?)
  • It’s a quarter past four (Cat. És un quart de cinc/Són les quatre i quart)
  • It’s half past seven (Cat. Són dos quarts de set/Són les sis i mitja)
  • What time will you come? (Cat. A quina hora vindràs?)
  • I’ll come at ten (Cat. Vindré a les deu)
  • It’s three in the morning (Cat. Són les tres de la matinada)

With clock times we use the preposition at, but notice that we do not use it in the question. It is wrong to say: at what time…?. With parts of the day, we must use the preposition in.

Other expressions related to clock times are:

  • At noon / At midday (Cat. Al migdia)
  • At sunset / At dusk (Cat. A la posta del sol)
  • At midnight (Cat. A mitjanit)
  • At sunrise / At dusk (Cat. A la sortida del sol)

The 12-hour-system

In English, it is not common to use the 24-hour-system. Instead, they use the 12-hour-system. To distinguish between the morning and the evening, they add:

  • am (Latin: ante meridiam), meaning in the morning
  • pm (Latin: post meridiam), meaning in the afternoon or in the evening

For example, 15:00h is three pm or three in the afternoon and 03:00h is three am or three in the morning.

Writing a summary

We write a summary to explain the main ideas of a text in a few sentences.

When writing a summary, we should remember the following:

  • Only include the most important information.
  • Do not include information that is not important, as for example, details, direct speech, examples to illustrate the ideas, etc.
  • Do not express your own opinion or add information that is not in the text.

As in everything else, writing a good summary requires some practice. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • First of all, read the text to get a general idea of its contents.
  • Read the text again and underline the three or four most important ideas.
  • Without looking at the text again, write a few sentences about the text from memory. Try to use alternative words.
  • Read the text again and check your summary. Make sure that you have included all the important information and that you have not copied from the text.
  • If you think that the summary is too long, cut out the unnecessary details.

Here is some useful language that you can use in your summaries:

  • Connectors to express contrast: In spite of, despite, although, however.
  • Connectors to add information: In addition, also, too.
  • Connectors to express reason and result: This is so because, because, so, therefore.
  • Relative clauses: The film, which is about a safari, shows that… The statement that he gave in March is no longer true.

Here is an example of a summary.


The Island

In recent years, we have seen significant developments in cloning. Sheep, cows, cats and, more recently, dogs that have been cloned in the name of scientific progress. One of the potential uses of cloning is to ‘grow’ replacement organs in human clones for people who are ill. It is this subject that is portrayed in a new film released this week in the USA called ‘The Island’.

The film features Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson and it raises awareness of this highly controversial moral issue. However, in spite of excellent performances from both main actors and spectacular special effects, the film received a disappointing reaction from American audiences. It is possible that the subject is too difficult and that some audiences prefer thrillers without the moral dilemmas. The film opens in the UK next week and it will be interesting to see how the British audiences react.


The new film ‘The Island’, which deals with the controversial subject of cloning people, has not been received well in the USA. Although the acting and effects are very good, some audiences may have been disappointed by the moral message of the film.

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