idiom: to put something on the back burner

BackBurner

Today I’d like to write about the idiom, to put something “on the back burner”. We use this expression when we want to talk about postponing doing something. The postponement happens usually because we feel the activity is less important than other things we have to do, and therefore it can be delayed. The activity can also be delayed because we feel it’s not possible to do it at the moment. Here are some example sentences using this idiom.

This new project is really important, so I have to put my current project on the back burner for a little while.

My boss wants me to put my research for the ABC project on the back burner because he wants to focus on the XYZ project.

I don’t have much money, so I’m going to put buying a car on the back burner for now.

This expression is often used in business situations, but not always. We sometimes use it to talk about personal plans, such as in my third example.

This expression comes from the idea of cooking something on a stove. In many western countries we have four elements, or burners, on our stoves. The ones closest to us when we’re cooking are the front burners and the ones farthest away are the back burners. If we’re cooking something that is more important we usually use the front burners but if something is less important, or will take longer to cook, it’s often put on the back burner of the stove.

 

 

the difference between words: study and learn

study_learn

Sometimes my students get confused about when to use “study” and when to use “learn”. Therefore, I would like to write about that in today’s blog entry.

Both words are used to convey the idea of trying to intake information in order to become more knowledgeable or intelligent. When we put them in order, however, we have to place “study” first, and then “learn” after that. Therefore, when we “study” we are reading, watching or listening to something in order to keep it in our memories. If we do this successfully, we can say that we “learned” it. Let me give you some example sentences using these words.

I have to study fifty new words for my final exam in Spanish. I hope I can learn all of them.

I studied really hard in my history class, but I couldn’t learn all of the information.

I learned a lot in my economics class because I studied every day.

As I said before, learning is successful studying. Therefore, just because you study something doesn’t mean you will learn it. But if you never study at all, then you will never learn.

In addition, it’s possible for us to learn something and then over a period of time, forget it. I’m sure all of us have had this experience when we think about our high school or university days.

We can also “learn” something in ways that don’t involve studying. All of us learn things just from living our lives and making mistakes. Some people don’t learn from their mistakes, but I hope that most of us do.

adjectives: plausible / implausible

Plausible-Stamp

For today’s blog entry, I’d like to go over the adjectives “plausible” and “implausible”. We use them when we want to talk about something which a person says that likely to be believed or not believed. We can also use them when we are trying to figure out if something is true or not. Finally, they can be used to talk about the believability of a story in a novel, movie, or TV show. Let me give you some example sentences using them.

I was late for work because I overslept, but I can’t tell my boss that. I have to think of a plausible excuse for being late.

I can’t tell my boss that I was mugged on my way to work. This is a safe city, so that would be totally implausible.

Some people don’t think it’s plausible that a meteor hitting the earth could cause the dinosaurs to die, but I think it’s totally plausible.

Some people think it’s implausible that a meteor hitting the earth could cause the dinosaurs to die, but I don’t agree.

I like action movies even though most of the time the stories are not plausible at all.

I like action movies even though most of the time the stories are completely implausible.

The word “plausible” is used positively, and the word “implausible” is used negatively, so they are the opposite of each other. However, we can also say “not plausible”, as in my fifth example sentence. The only difference between “not plausible” and “implausible” is that “implausible” is slightly more formal than the other one.

Please note that we don’t usually use words like “very” or “really” to emphasize these adjectives. Instead, it’s more common to use words such as “totally” and “completely” in order to emphasize them.

grammatical expression: little did (I) know

LittleDidIKnow

For today, I want to go over the expression “little did I know”. We can also change the word “I” to other words such as “he”, “she”, “we”, etc. We use this when we want to talk about a person who doesn’t know an important piece of information about a situation, but they find out about it after it’s too late. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

I bought my house last year. Little did I know that the real estate market would drop so much. I wish I had waited.

We invested money in ABC Company. Little did we know they would go bankrupt. I wish we had invested in another company.

My sister really regrets marrying her husband. Little did she know when she married him that he would cheat on her all the time. She’s filing for divorce now.

My brother and his wife recently moved to a city on the coast. Little did they know there would be so many mosquitoes there in the summer. I hope they’re ok.

With this expression, the information that the person didn’t know about is always negative. The idea is that if they had known that information before, they would have made a different choice. Therefore, this is a way to express regret for a bad choice in the past.

We use “would” + verb to explain the negative situation after “little did (I) know”.

Please note that we can use the word “that” to link “little did (I) know” to the next sentence, but this is optional. If we omit it, the sentence still makes sense.

the difference between words: affect and effect

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This is my first blog entry for 2016. I hope everyone had a very happy new year! Today I want to write about the difference between the two words “affect” and “effect”. They’re quite similar, especially in spelling, and even native English speakers can get confused between them sometimes. The main difference between them, apart from the spelling, is that “affect” is a verb, and “effect” is a noun.

We use the verb “affect” when we want to talk about something or something that makes a change or reaction in a certain person, place, or thing. We use the noun “effect” to talk about the change or reaction itself. Let me give you some examples.

The bad weather we’ve been having recently is really affecting our business. Our sales have gone down.

The bad weather we’ve been having recently is really having a bad effect on our business. Our sales have gone down.

The color of the walls tends to affect my mood. If the walls are green or blue, I feel more relaxed.

The color of the walls tends to have an effect on my mood. If the walls are green or blue, I feel more relaxed.

As my examples show, both of these words can be used to indicate negative or positive reactions.

Please note that we use the verb “have” with “effect” and it is followed by the preposition “on”.  We can also place an adjective in front of the word “effect”. The adjectives most commonly used are “good” and “bad”. This is the case of my second example sentence. In the case of my last example, we could also say:

Blue or green walls tend  to have a good effect on my mood.

I hope that is clear to everyone. Have a great 2016 and I’ll write another blog entry next month.

 

 

 

idiom: to talk someone’s ear off

hey-girl-i-so-want-to-watch-you-drink-a-bottle-of-wine-and-talk-my-ear-off-for-hours-thumb

For my final blog entry of 2015, I’d like to write about the idiom “talk someone’s ear off”. We use it when we want to talk about a person who is talking a lot to another person. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

Don’t sit with Betty at the party. She’ll talk your ear off all night.

Peter is a very talkative person. He can talk anyone’s ear off.

I asked my teacher a simple question about my assignment, and he talked my ear off for the next hour.

My mother has changed a lot. When she was younger, she used to talk my father’s ear off, but now she’s extremely quiet. I wonder why she changed.

We usually use this expression in grammatically positive sentences.

This expression is a bit negative in tone. The feeling is that the person is talking too much, and the other person doesn’t like it so much. However, please note that it’s not extremely negative; just a little bit.

Please note that we don’t put an “s” at the end of “ear” if there is just one person who is being talked to. However, if there is more than one person who is listening, we add an “s”. For example: “The professor talked the ears off the students in his class.”

We can use this in casual business situations, but it’s not usually used in formal situations.

grammatical word: procrastinate

procrastinate

Today’s entry is about the verb “procrastinate”. We use it when we want to talk about postponing some action that we need to do. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

You have to go to the dentist! I know you hate going, but you can’t procrastinate any longer!

Make sure you apply for that job as soon as possible. If you procrastinate, you’ll lose your chance.

I always have to remind my husband to do things because he has a bad habit of procrastinating.

I wanted to get tickets for the Madonna concert, but I procrastinated and, by the time I called, the concert was sold out.

In English, the difference between this word and “postpone” is that “postpone” is neutral in meaning and “procrastinate” is always negative in meaning.

It is possible to use this word when talking about ourselves, but because it’s negative, it’s more commonly used to talk about other people’s bad habits of postponing things that they should do.

Please note that when we pronounce this word, we have to stress the second syllable, so it is: /pro CRAS tin nate/.

the difference between words: find and find out

Find-Out-Featured

Recently, one of my students was having trouble understanding the nuance between “find” and “find out” in English. So, I’ve decided to write about that today.

I think the easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to realize that we use “find” when talking about discovering something that is tangible or physical such as a person or an object. However, we use “find out” when talking about discovering or learning some kind of information. Here are some examples to help you:

I need to find an apartment downtown which is not so expensive, but it’s really hard.

I found this watch when I was cleaning the house. Is it yours?

Can you find out what Harold’s phone number is?

I just found out that my coworker got married last weekend! I’m so happy for her!

It’s important to note that both of these can be used when talking about actively looking for something or some information or passively discovering it by accident. In the case of my first sentence with “find”, the person is actively searching for a physical thing (an apartment); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers something (the watch).

In the case of my first sentence with “find out”, the person actively wants to know some information (the phone number); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers some information during a conversation (the marriage).

You can also think of “find out” as the first step in the process of knowing something. First, we “find out” some information, and then we “know” it for a long time, unless we happen to forget it.

I hope this is clear to anyone who has ever been confused about these words.

grammatical word: religiously

Running-religiously

This time I’d like to write about the word “religiously”. We use it when we want to talk about a person who never misses doing something. In other words, they always do it when they’re supposed to or when they have a chance to do it. Here are some example sentences using it.

My sister brushes her teeth three times a day religiously.

My mother watches that TV show religiously. She never misses a single episode!

Recently, Tom has been going to the gym religiously five times a week, so he’s really in good shape now.

I used to read the newspaper religiously, but I don’t do that anymore. I’ve really become out of touch with what’s happening in the world.

When we use this word, it has nothing to do with being a religious person. The reason we say “religiously” to mean doing something all the time is that most religions require people to do certain things regularly and often as a way to show that their faith is strong. In the same way, people who are very passionate about something will do it regularly and often.

As you can see from my examples, we place this word at the end of a sentence or clause.

Also, please note that it can be used for all types of sentences: past, present and future.

grammatical expression: to take exception to

annoyed+at+work

Today, I want to go over the grammatical expression “take exception to”. We use it when we want to say that we don’t like what another person has said or done, and we feel offended by it. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

I take exception to the fact that you think I’m stupid just because I didn’t go to university.

A: You probably don’t understand modern music because you’re over 50.

B: I take exception to that!

I don’t know how to use polite forms in Japanese. I hope my coworkers in Tokyo don’t take exception to that.

Be careful what you say to Cheryl. She’s very sensitive and takes exception to many things.

We can use this expression in all types of sentences: positive, negative and questions.

We often put the words “the fact that” after this term. This is then followed by another sentence explaining the thing the person is offended by. This is the case of my first example.

It’s often used as a direct response to a statement. This is the case of my second example.

It’s not really clear why “take exception” means to be offended. Perhaps it’s because the word “exception” means that something is different. Therefore, “I take exception to that.” could be seen as meaning “I feel differently about that than other people do and am therefore offended by it.”

This term can be used in both daily conversations and business situations.

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