Archive for April, 2010

adjective: articulate

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The adjective “articulate” is used to describe a person who can express themselves very well, usually in their native language. These people usually have a large vocabulary and can use it very well when they are speaking. Examples of people who SHOULD be articulate (but who often are not) are politicians, lawyers and university professors. Here are some examples of how to use this adjective:

Many people consider President Obama to be the most articulate president of the United States in recent years.

Lawyers on TV dramas are always very articulate during the courtrooms scenes. I wonder if real lawyers are just as articulate.

My English literature professor at university was such an articulate speaker! He could always explain the details of the novels we were studying in such an impressive way!

As I mentioned, the word “articulate” is usually used for people who are speaking their native language. When we are talking about people who can express themselves well in a foreign language, we usually use the adjective “fluent”.

Also, you should be aware about the pronunciation of this word. Because the word ends in -ate and is an adjective, the pronunciation is /ar TIK kyu lit/.  It is NOT /ar TIK kyu late/. Please remember that all adjectives ending in -ate have the pronunciation of /it/.

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the difference between words: but, though, although

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Today I’d like to write about some words that mean the same thing: “but”, “though” and “although”. The difference between them is not the meaning but the grammar. So this is how we use them:

I ate dinner an hour ago, but I’m still hungry.

I ate dinner an hour ago. I’m still hungry though.

Although I ate dinner an hour ago, I’m still hungry.

My friend has studied Spanish for two years, but he can’t speak very well.

My friend has studied Spanish for two years. He can’t speak very well though.

Although my friend has studied Spanish for two years, he can’t speak very well.

So as you can see from these examples, we use “but” in the middle of the sentence. We use “though” at the end of a second sentence, and we use “although” at the beginning of the sentence and put a comma in the middle. There’s no difference in the meaning, but the word “although” is the most formal, the word “but” is the most casual, and the word “though” is in the middle.

inseparable phrasal verb: get back to

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Today, I have another phrasal verb for you: “get back to”. This one is used to say that a person will contact another person at another time either to return their phone call or to give them some information. For example:

I’m sorry. Mr. Johnson isn’t here right now, but I’ll have him get back to you as soon as possible.

I’m really sorry, but I don’t have that information for you. I’ll find out and get back to you this afternoon.

I’m not sure if we can come to your party this weekend. I’ll check with my wife and get back to you tomorrow.

A: How much are the AB-40 computers?

B: I’m so sorry, but I don’t know the price. Is it ok if I get back to you with the price later today?

This phrasal verb is often used in business situations, but it can be used in free time situations sometimes, especially with invitations, as in the third example.

grammatical word: way

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Today I’d like to go over another word that we often use in casual conversations: “way”. It is used to emphasize something. For example:

I live way out in Iruma, so my friends don’t often come to visit me there.

This box is way too heavy for me. I’ll carry a lighter one.

The book we had to read for English class was way too long. I couldn’t finish reading it.

Tokyo is way bigger than my hometown. The population of my hometown is only 650,000 people.

In the first example, the words “way out in” indicate that the location is very far away. Also, this word is often used with comparatives and superlatives and has the same meaning as “much” in these cases. Therefore we could say, “Tokyo is much bigger than my hometown” or “This box is much too heavy for me”, but that sounds much more formal. The word “way” is always used in casual conversations.

idiom: to be a different story

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The idiom I’d like to write about today is “to be a different story”. It is used to talk about when one situation is completely different from another situation. For example:

My father is so unfair. He never lets me borrow the car, but if my brother needs it, then that’s a different story. He lets my brother do anything he wants.

In many countries in the world people get angry if someone is late, but in Latin countries, it’s a different story. My friend from Brazil tells me people there don’t mind if someone is late.

Before the recession, I didn’t worry about money, but now it’s a different story. Now I’m very concerned about saving money.

We could substitute the word “situation” for the word “story” and people would understand, but it wouldn’t sound natural; “to be a different story” is a very natural and useful expression in English. I hope you’ll be able to use it now.   🙂

adjective: reliable

Reliable

Today’s adjective is “reliable”, and it is used in three different ways:

1. to talk about people who do what they say they are going to do. For example:

Brenda said she’d write the report for the client, but she still hasn’t done it yet. She’s really not reliable.

I’ve worked with Todd many times, and he’s a very reliable person. I think you should hire him.

2. to talk about machines that usually work very well and don’t break down. For example:

I want to buy a Mac computer because they’re supposed to be more reliable.

I want to buy a new car. I’m going to be driving a lot, so I need something that is very reliable.

3. to talk about information which is accurate. For example:

I hope the information in this article is reliable. I need to use it when I write my report.

You shouldn’t do research using the Internet because often the information online isn’t reliable.

When we want to say something or someone is not reliable, we can use the word “unreliable”. We can use both “not reliable” and “unreliable” but, generally speaking, it’s a little more casual to use “not” and then the adjective.

the difference between words: even though and even if

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Some of my students have asked me what the difference is between “even though” and “even if”, so I’d like to write about that today. The grammatical expression “even though” can be used with various verb tenses and has the same meaning as the word “although”. For example:

Even though I was invited to the party, I didn’t go.

I will work overtime this weekend even though I don’t want to.

Even though my friend isn’t good at singing, he always sings a lot at karaoke.

However, “even if” is usually used to talk about what you will do at a future time despite something which might go against your plan. For example:

Even if my ex-girlfriend is at the party, I’m going to go.

I won’t work overtime this weekend even if my boss asks me to.

Even if my company offers me a promotion, I won’t take it.

Please note that “even if” is usually used with a future situation and that the situation on which the decision is based is only a possiblity. Therefore, with the examples above, it’s only POSSIBLE the ex-girlfriend will be at the party, that the boss will ask the person to work overtime and that the company will offer the person a promotion. These things MIGHT happen, but they’re not certain.

grammatical expression: no wonder

NoWonder

I have another useful expression for you today: “no wonder”. It is used when we want to express the idea that something is not surprising considering the circumstances. For example:

A: I’m so hungry right now. I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning.

B: Well, no wonder you’re hungry!

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A: My sister is really upset right now. She just found out that she has cancer.

B: No wonder she’s upset! I hope she’ll be ok.

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A: My friend is a great piano player. He’s been studying the piano since he was five years old.

B: Well, no wonder he can play so well.

As you can see from these examples, “no wonder” is usually used as a response to someone else’s statement that gives them more information about the circumstances. This is a very commonly used expression in English, so I hope you’ll be able to use it.

separable phrasal verb: fix up

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Today’s phrasal verb is “fix up” and it has four different meanings.

1. to provide something for someone. For example:

A: I really need to borrow something to wear for my date. I have nothing to wear.

B: Don’t worry. I’ll fix you up.

2. to arrange a blind date for someone. For example:

I didn’t have a date for the party, so my friend fixed me up with his sister.

I was fixed up by my friend with his sister. (passive voice)

3. to renovate something (usually a house). For example:

I bought an old house, and it’s not in very good condition, so I have to fix it up.

This house will have to be fixed up. (passive voice)

4. to decorate a place. For example:

You should see Sally’s new apartment. She’s fixed it up really nicely.

The apartment was fixed up really nicely by Sally. (passive voice)

The phrasal verb “set up” has the same meaning as the second definition of  “fix up” so you can also say, “My friend set me up with his sister”.

There’s an interesting word we use to describe an old house that needs to be renovated (definition 3): We call it a “fixer-upper”. For example:

I bought a house really cheaply, but it’s a real fixer-upper. It’s going to cost me quite a bit of money to renovate it.

idiom: to miss the boat

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Today’s idiom is “to miss the boat”. It is used to talk about a time when someone has missed a good opportunity. For example:

My friend said I should invest in that stock, but I didn’t. Then, it went up to ten times its original value. I really missed the boat on that one.

You should apply for this job. It’s a great opportunity! You don’t want to miss the boat, do you?

My brother could have made a lot of money if he had invested in that company right away. Unfortunately, he waited too long and missed the boat.

As you can see, this idiom is usually used in business situations, especially about investing in something and having the opportunity to make money.

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