Archive for April, 2010

adjective: ridiculous


Today, I have another adjective for you: “ridiculous”. It is used to say a particular situation is crazy, laughable or stupid. For example:

That restaurant charges $15.00 for a cup of coffee and a small piece of cake! It’s ridiculous!

My aunt is over 50 years old but still wear mini-skirts. I think she looks ridiculous!

I didn’t like that movie. It’s about a young boy who becomes an insane killer. The story is ridiculous!

A: For our first assignment, the teacher expects us to write a 40 page essay about the environment.

B: 40 pages?! That’s ridiculous!

This is a very common word, so I hope you’ll be able to use it.¬† ūüôā

the difference between words: make, let and have


Today I’d like to go over the difference between to “make” someone do something, to “let” someone do something and to “have” someone do something. In English, to “make” someone do something means to force someone to do an action that they really don’t want to do. For example:

When I was young, my parents made me clean my room.

I don’t want to work this weekend, but my boss is making me.

My teacher made me do extra homework because I was late for class.

To “let” someone do something means to allow someone to do something that they want to do. For example:

I let my son go camping with his friends last weekend.

My boss let me go home early yesterday because I was sick.

My teacher let me hand in my essay a day late.

To “have” someone do something means to arrange for someone to do something. It is used when the lower level person CANNOT say no because they work for the higher level person. It can also be used when the request is so simple that nobody would say no. For example:

I’ll have my secretary type up this report, and then I’ll send it to you.

I’ll have Mr. Smith call you back as soon as he can.

A: We don’t have any wine.

B: It’s ok. I’ll call my husband on his cell phone and have him buy some wine before he comes home.

In each of these cases, the person¬†willingly complies with¬†the request to type up the report, to call the other person back, or to buy some wine so we use “have” instead of “make”. Please note that with all of these cases we do NOT use the preposition “to”. Therefore it is WRONG to say:

When I was young, my parents made me to clean my room.

My boss let me to go home early yesterday because I was sick.

I’ll have my secretary to type up this report, and then I’ll send it to you.

I hope this is clear to everyone.

grammatical expression: so be it


Today I have another useful expression for you: “so be it”.¬† It is usually used with the word “if” and is used to indicate that there’s nothing we can do about a certain situation, so we won’t worry about it. For example:

If Jerry doesn’t want to come with us to the party, so be it.

I don’t want my roommate to move out, but if she wants to leave, then so be it.

If Gloria wants to quit her job as my secretary, so be it. I can find someone else to replace her.

A: Peter wants to become an actor!

B: Well, so be it. There’s nothing we can do to stop him.

We can use the word “then” with “so be it” as in the second example, but it’s not necessary. Either way is fine.

separable phrasal verb: beat up

beat up face

Today, I have another phrasal verb for you: “beat up”. It¬†has two meanings:

1. to hit someone many times and cause them physical injury. For example:

On the news tonight, they showed a video of some guys beating up another man. It was horrible.

I’m so angry right now! Some teenagers beat up my friend and stole his wallet last night!

I’m worried about my son. Some kids at school beat him up yesterday.

My son was beaten up by some kids at school yesterday. (passive voice)

2. for someone to blame themselves for something (used with reflexive pronouns). For example:

My new co-worker is very upset right now because he made a mistake, but it happened on his first day of work so he shouldn’t beat himself up about it.

Peter’s death wasn’t your fault! You have to stop beating yourself up about it!

The first meaning of this phrasal verb is used in very extreme circumstances. If someone is hit only once or twice, then we can’t use it. We only use it when a person is seriously hurt because of being hit MANY times. I hope nobody needs to use this expression¬†when it comes to¬†their own lives. However, it could be useful when talking about a movie or TV show. We often see people being beaten up in movies or on TV.

idiom: to bite off more than one can chew


I think it’s time for another idiom. Today’s expression is “to bite off more than one can chew”. It is used when someone has chosen to do something that is too difficult for them to do, or when they have chosen to do too many things and can’t handle doing all of them. For example:

My sister has signed up for an advanced Spanish course, but she can’t speak Spanish so well. I think she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

Last month I volunteered to work on another project. I’ve totally bitten off more than I can chew.

A: You want to do a double major at university? Don’t you think you might be biting off more than you can chew?

B: No, I’m sure I can handle it.

This is quite a common and useful expression. I hope you find it interesting.

adjective: adequate


Today I want to write about the adjective, “adequate”. It has two meanings:

1. to be enough. This meaning is neutral in tone. For example:

Did you have adequate time to finish the test?

We don’t need to order more paper now. Our current supply is adequate.

This city doesn’t have an adequate number of doctors and nurses. If this doesn’t change, we’ll have a health care crisis.

2. to be good enough but not special in any way. This meaning is negative in tone. For example:

The service in that hotel was just adequate. I don’t think I want to stay there again.

My Spanish skills are adequate for ordering food in a restaurant and asking for directions, but I can’t have a real conversation in Spanish.

My boss told me today that my work performance is only adequate. I’m really upset right now!

This word is often used in business and more formal situations. In more casual conversations, we would use the word “enough” for the first definition, and we would use the word “ok” for the second definition.

the difference between words: should, have to and had better


Today, I would like to write about something which is confusing for many people: “should”, “have to” and “had better”. We use “should” when we want to say something is a good idea, but that there is a choice. For example:

I’m not good at playing the piano. I should practice more often.

If you have the hiccups, you should drink a glass of water.

I can’t save much money. I shouldn’t go out for dinner so much.

We use “have to” when we must do something and we¬†DON’T have a choice. For example:

I have to be at work by 9:00 am every morning.

We have to hand in our reports to the teacher on Friday.

I’m sorry, but I can’t have dinner with you on Sunday. I have to help my friend move.

The expression “had better” is commonly misunderstood. It is used when we want to say that we have a choice about doing something, but that if we don’t do it, we are going to have a problem. For example:

My test is in two days. I’d better start studying for it right away. (This means that if I don’t start studying for it right away, I’m going to fail the test.)

The boss is coming! You’d better get back to work! (This means that if you don’t get back to work, the boss will be very angry.)

My boyfriend was late the last time we had a date. He’d better not be late for our date tonight!¬†(This means that if he’s late, she’ll be very angry.)

Sometimes, “have to” can be used as a strong recommendation. For example:

If you ever go the Paris, you have to go to the Louvre museum!

A: I don’t watch “Lost”.

B: Oh really?! It’s an amazing show! You have to start watching it!

In these examples, the person has a choice about going to the Louvre museum or watching the show “Lost”, but the other person is making the recommendation very strongly.

grammatical expression: can’t wait

kitten miaows on lawn

Today, I’d like to write about a very common expression we use in English: “can’t wait”. It is used when talking about things that will happen in the future that we are very excited about. It means that we are really looking forward to a particular event in the future. For example:

I can’t wait to see the new Johnny Depp¬†movie! It’s supposed to be really good!

I can’t wait to go to Paris on my vacation! I’ve just booked my flight. I’m so excited!

My sister is almost finished her degree. She can’t wait until she finally graduates.

I can’t wait until this day is over! It has been such a bad day!

The last two examples indicate a strong desire for something to be over because the present situation is negative. Even in these cases, we use this expression because the person is excited and looking forward to the future, which they think will be positive.

separable phrasal verb: nail down


Today’s phrasal verb is “nail down”,¬† and it means to set a fixed time or a fixed plan. For example:

I’d like to nail down where we¬†will go for our honeymoon because I have to make the reservations soon.

The place where we’re going on our honeymoon has finally been nailed down. (passive voice)

When I nail down the dates for my vacation, I’ll let you know.

Have we nailed down a place to have the office party yet?

A: First, you said we’d have the meeting at 9:00, and then you said it would be at 10:00! Can we please nail it down?

B: Ok, it will be at 10:00 for sure.

This phrasal verb is often used in business situations, but it can also be used when talking about making arrangements¬†in your free time. The important thing to know is that¬†BEFORE we¬†nail something down, there are some options to choose from, but we haven’t chosen which one we want yet. AFTER we¬†have chosen¬†the one we want, we use “nail down” to express that the decision has been made.

idiom: to get/have a frog in one’s throat


The first thing I’d like to tell you today is that I have added a little more information to my previous blog entry about the difference about “each” and “every” that was published on March 24th. I hope that the new information and examples will make this clear to everyone.

As for today, I want to do another idiom: to have a frog in one’s throat. This is used when we talk about having some phlegm in our throats which makes it difficult to speak clearly. This doesn’t mean the person is sick¬†though. If you are sick and your throat hurts, then you should say, “I have a sore throat.” Let me give you some examples of how to use today’s idiom:

I often get a frog in my throat after I eat, so I usually drink water to get rid of it.

I’d better not eat anything before my presentation. I don’t want to get a frog in my throat.

A: Do you have a cold? Your voice sounds strange.

B: No, I’m not sick. I just have a frog in my throat, that’s all.

The difference between “get” and “have” when talking about health conditions is that first we “get” a condition, and then we “have” the condition. For example:

A: I have a bad cold now.

B: Oh really? When did you get it?

A: I got it the day before yesterday.

I’m not exactly sure why we say¬†we have a “frog” in our throats, but I suppose it’s maybe because we might sound like a frog when we talk with a lot of phlegm in our throats. That’s my guess anyway. Anyway, I hope you don’t often get a frog in your throat. I often do, and it’s very annoying.

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