Archive for June, 2010

separable phrasal verb: pick up (part one)

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Many phrasal verbs in the English language have more than one meaning. However, the expression “pick up” has the most number of meanings. I want to spend the next three blog entries going over all of the various meanings. So today I will go over six meanings of this phrasal verb.

1. for someone to put something in their hand and lift it (usually from the ground). For example:

I saw a fifty dollar bill on the ground this morning, so I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

2. to go somewhere and get something from a store (which has often been paid for already). For example:

I picked up your shirts at the dry cleaners earlier. I put them on your bed.

3. to get someone in a car. For example:

Can you pick me up at the station at 9:00 tonight?

I was picked up at the station by my father. (passive voice)

4. to continue a discussion after a break. For example:

It’s time to eat now, so let’s pick this up again after lunch.

5. to buy something. For example:

I picked up a really nice set of golf clubs on sale at the shopping mall.

6. to get an illness like a cold or the flu. For example:

My husband picked up a cold while we were on vacation.

A cold was picked up by several people travelling on the same bus. (passive voice)

Tomorrow I will continue with another six meanings of this expression.

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grammatical expression: be that as it may

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Hi there everyone! I’m now  back from my vacation, so I’ll be going back to my regular schedule of writing five or six blog enties a week. For today’s entry, I’d like to go over the expression: “be that as it may”. This expression is used when we want to say that even though something is true, we don’t care about that or that it doesn’t matter to the present situation. For example:

A: I want to pay for your lunch today. You paid for mine yesterday.

B: Be that as it may, I’m still going to buy you lunch because it’s your birthday.

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A: Why is Martin getting the promotion? He’s only been here for six months!

B: Be that as it may, he’s still the best person for this job.

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A: You’re going to go on another vacation? You just had one about two months ago.

B: Be that as it may, I’m going on another one. I’m really stressed out right now.

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A: You want us to work overtime again this weekend?! That’s not fair. We worked overtime last weekend!

B: Be that as it may, we need to get this project finished by Monday.

As you can see, this expression is usually used as a response to someone’s statement. By using this expression, we are saying that the statement is true, but it doesn’t matter. This expression is a little formal, so it is often used in business situations. If you use it in regular conversations, you will sound very educated!  🙂

grammatical word: hardly

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I’m still on vacation now, so I’ve been unable to write my blog for the last few days, but I have a new entry for you finally today. I’d like to write about the word “hardly”. This word has two meanings.

1. It is used to talk about something that we can do, but that we almost can’t do. For example:

It’s so dark that I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.

The man’s accent was really thick, so I could hardly understand him.

2. We can also use it to talk about things that we don’t do very much. For example:

My brother hardly works at all. He’s a very lazy person.

I’ve hardly lost any weight even though I’ve been exercising a lot.

It’s important to note that the adverbial form of “hard” is NOT “hardly”. Therefore, we DON’T say:

My brother works hardly.

Instead, we must say:

My brother works hard.

Sometimes there is a joke question that English speakers ask each other:

Are you working hard or hardly working?

If we work hard, it means we work very much, but if we hardly work, it means we don’t work much at all.

adjective: furious

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Today’s adjective is “furious”. It is used when we want to say someone is very, very angry about something. For example:

I was furious when I found out that my brother had borrowed my car without asking me.

All the employees are furious about that paycut. Many of them are saying they want to quit their jobs.

My father was furious about his boss making him work overtime on the weekend of his birthday.

The preposition “about” must be used after “furious” if it is followed by a noun or by -ing. Also, the word “furious” is very strong in meaning, so it is unnatural to say “very furious”. Sometimes people will say “really furious”, but usually people will use the adjective by itself.

idiom: to be a no brainer

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Recently one of my students asked me the meaning of the idiom: “to be a no brainer”. It is used when we want to say something is so easy that we don’t have to think about it and that the answer is obvious. For example:

A: Did you accept the job offer from ABC Company?

B: They offered me a high salary and really good benefits, so it was a no brainer. Of course, I accepted it.

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A: Which car did you buy – the Toyota or the BMW?

B: It was a no brainer. The Toyota was much cheaper and I don’t have much money right now.

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A: Who do you think is the best actor in the movies right now?

B: That’s a no brainer for me. It’s definitely Johnny Depp!

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A: I don’t know what the capital of France is.

B: Oh come on! That’s a no brainer. It’s Paris.

This expression can be used when talking about decisions (as in the first two examples), opinions (as in the third example) or factual information (as in the fourth example).

separable phrasal verb: sew up

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Today I want to write about the phrasal verb: “sew up”. This expression has two meanings:

1. to close something by sewing it with a needle and thread. For example:

There’s a rip in your shirt. Give it to me and I’ll sew it up for you.

After a four hour operation, the doctor completed the surgery and sewed up his patient.

After four hours, the patient was sewn up by the doctor. (passive voice)

2. for someone to complete a business deal successfully. For example:

I think we can sew up this business deal in a few days. After that, we’ll all be very rich.

This business deal can be sewn up in a few days. (passive voice)

The first meaning of this phrasal verb is very logical, but most people aren’t aware of the second meaning. It is very useful expression for business people who want to talk about completing a business deal. I hope any of my readers who are business people will be able to use it now.

grammatical word: find

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Many common verbs in English have more than one meaning, and this can cause confusion among people who are learning the language. The verb “find” is one of these verbs. Most people know the first meaning of “find”, which is to locate something. However, there is another common meaning of this verb which many people don’t know about. The second meaning is similiar to “think”. However, when we use “find” instead of “think”, it means that the opinion is based on our own personal experience of the situation. For example:

I found Brad Pitt’s new action movie very exciting but too long.

I find my new boss to be extremely demanding.

Generally speaking, Korean food is too spicy for me, but I found the Korean food at the new restaurant downtown to be quite mild and delicious.

A: How did you find Italy when you were there last summer?

B: I found it very interesting. I’d love to go back there again sometime.

When we use this meaning of “find”, we can use “to be” in front of the adjective, but it’s not necessary. It’s important to note that when we use “think”, the opinion may or may not be based on our actual experience, but when we use “find”, the listener knows that it is based on our actual experience. Therefore. if we  read about a certain place or see something about it on TV, we can use “think”, but we CAN’T use “find”.

the difference between words: satisfied and pleased

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Today, I’d like to go over a pair of words which causes confusion for many of my students: “satisfied” and “pleased”. The word “satisfied” means that someone is content with something, but feels that it could be better. The word “pleased” means that someone is happy with something and probably doesn’t think it could be better. Therefore “pleased” is much more positive than “satisfied”. For example:

I’m satisfied with your work so far, but I think you can do an even better job if you try harder.

My boss told me he’s very pleased with my work on the ABC project. That made me feel really good.

I wouldn’t say I was pleased with the presentation, but I was satisfied with it.

A: I hope my dad was satisfied with the present I bought him for his birthday.

B: He told me he was more than satisfied with it. In fact, he was very pleased.

Many of my students think the word “satisfied” is very positive, so I hope this helps people to understand how to use these two words.

grammatical expression: no matter (what)

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For today, I’d like to write about another useful expression: “no matter”. It is followed by a “wh” word such as “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, or “how”. It is used when we want to say that something will happen and, even though another thing will make it difficult or inconvenient, we won’t allow it to stop the first thing from happening. For example:

I’m going to go to Europe this summer no matter what my father says.

This recipe is so easy. It will taste good no matter who cooks it.

I’ll have a wonderful time with you no matter where we go.

Please call me anytime you need help no matter when it is.

I’m going to buy the jacket I saw in the store window no matter how much it costs.

So, in these examples, the father might not want the person to go to Europe, the person might be a bad cook, the vacation place might not be so nice, the time of the call might be very late at night, and the jacket might be very expensive. However, the person is saying that these situations don’t matter.

adjective: generous

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Today I’d like to write about an adjective: “generous”. It is used to talk about people who are very giving. For example:

My sister is a very generous person. She’s always giving presents to people that she knows.

My friend and I both gave money to a charity yesterday, but she was more generous than I was. She gave $100, but I only gave $50.

We can also use this adjective to talk about an offer which is very good. For example:

The job offer I got from ABC Company is very generous. They say they will pay me $90,000 a year and give me a three week vacation every year.

My friend wants to buy my car. He gave me a generous offer for it, but I don’t want to sell it.

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