Archive for July, 2010

separable phrasal verb: kick out


The phrasal verb for today is “kick out”, and it is used when we talk about a person being told to leave a place by someone else. For example:

The bartender at that bar kicked out my friend because he insulted him.

My friend was kicked out of that bar last night because he insulted the bartender. (passive voice)

My landlord is kicking me out of my apartment because I can’t pay the rent.

I’m being kicked out of my apartment because I can’t pay the rent. (passive voice)

My wife found out that I was having an affair, so she kicked me out.

I was kicked out by my wife because she found out I was having an affair. (passive voice)

So, a person can be kicked out of a public place (as in the example with the bartender) or a person can be kicked out of a private home (as in the examples with the landlord and the wife). When it’s a public place, the person might be allowed to come back at another time but, when it’s a private home, the person is usually never allowed to come back. So, in the example with the wife, the sentence has the sense that she will probably divorce him.

grammatical expression: let me…


When you’re a guest in someone’s house, you’ve probably heard the host say something like, “Let me take your coat.” Some people think this means that the host is asking for permission to take the coat from the person, but the meaning is a little different. When English speakers use the expression “let me…”, they are basically stating what they are going to do. However, it’s not polite to say, “I’m going to take your coat.” Therefore, we use “Let me take your coat.” in order to make it sound more polite. Here are some more examples:

Let me give you a ride to the station.

Let me get you another glass of wine.

You must be hungry. Let me get you something to eat.

Let me show you where Mr. Brown’s office is.

So, when we use “let me”, it’s always because we intend to do something nice for the other person. If the other person doesn’t want what the person intends to do for them, they can say something like:

No, thank you. I’m ok.

That’s nice of you, but I’m ok.

I appreciate that, but I’m ok.

And if they accept what the person intends to do for them, they can simply say, “Thank you.”

adjective: diligent


I was recently explaining the meaning of the adjective “diligent” to a student, so I thought it would make a good entry for my blog. The word “diligent” is similar to “hard-working”, but it’s a little different. The word “hard-working” means that someone works a lot in a general way, but “diligent” is used when talking about a specific activity that someone always does when they’re supposed to do it. For example:

I’m very diligent about brushing my teeth three times a day. I think it’s very important to take care of your teeth.

I’m not very diligent about dusting my living room. I should do it at least once a week, but sometimes I get lazy and don’t do it for a long time.

It’s very important that you be diligent about filing the invoices. If you don’t do it everyday, we can lose track of them very easily.

So, as you can see, we always use the word “about” after “diligent”, and then it is followed the -ing form of a verb.

grammatical word: can


Today, I’d like to write about another word with a second meaning that most people don’t realize: “can”. The main meaning of the word “can” is to talk about skills that we have. For example:

I can play the piano very well.

My friend can cook French food.

However, the word “can” also has the meaning of “sometimes”. For example:

It can get really cold in my hometown in the winter.

My sister can be really blunt, but she’s not blunt all the time.

Learning how to cook well can be really difficult for some people.

When we talking about actions, we use the word “sometimes”, but we use the word “can” when describing a person or a situation with adjectives. However, we can also use the word “sometimes” in these situations. For example:

It is sometimes really cold in my hometown in the winter.

My sister is sometimes very blunt, but she’s not blunt all the time.

Learning how to cook well is sometimes very difficult for some people.

So, it’s possible to use “sometimes” in these sentences, but it’s more natural to use the word “can” because the sentences are describing a situation using adjectives.

the difference between words: believe and trust


In English, there is a difference between “believe” and “trust” which confuses many people. The word “believe” means that we believe someone’s statement, but the word “trust” means that we believe a person is honest and reliable in general. For example:

Yvonne said she didn’t steal my money, and I believe her. She’s never lied to me before.

I don’t believe the promises that politicians make. They almost always break them after they get elected.

I really trust Peter. He’s always does what he says he’s going to do.

If I were you, I wouldn’t trust Rachel with your boyfriend. Apparently, she has stolen her friends’ boyfriends before.

We can also say “believe in” followed by some kind of spiritual or religious phenomenon such as “God”, “ghosts”, “reincarnation”, etc. However, in these cases, we can’t say “trust in”.

When can sometimes say “trust in” but this just a more formal way to say “trust”.


separable phrasal verb: burn up


Today’s phrasal verb “burn up” has two basic meanings:

1. for something to make a person very angry. For example:

My boss is so arrogant and rude. He really burns me up!

It really burns me up when I hear about corrupt politicians taking bribes!

2. for someone to destroy something on purpose by burning it (usually something made of paper or cloth). For example:

After I broke up with my girlfriend, I didn’t want to keep her letters to me, so I burned them up.

The corrupt politician burned up all his financial records because he didn’t want the police to find out about his illegal activities.

There is another meaning of “burn up” which is very closely related to the second meaning. It is used when we want to say something was destroyed in a fire by accident. In this case, the phrasal verb is intransitive. For example:

I’m upset because all of my old photos burned up in the fire.

grammatical expression: I bet…


Last week, one of my students asked me about the proper way to use the verb “bet”. Of course, we can use this verb in a literal way as in when we are gambling. In these cases, the word “bet” is usually followed by some amount of money. For example:

I bet twenty dollars on one hand of poker, and I lost it.

However, it is more common to use “bet” in the expression “I bet…”. We follow this with a sentence containing a piece of information that we feel very confident about being true, but which we don’t know for certain. This assertion that something is probably true is usually based on some information that we have received through our observation or through logical thinking. For example:

I bet you got really good grades in school.

I bet Sandra Bullock is a nice person in real life.

I bet the mayor is going to be re-elected.

A: My sister just won the lottery. She’s so happy!

B: I bet she is.

So, I use “I bet” in these situations because: I feel confident that you got good grades in school because I’ve observed that you’re an intelligent person; I feel confident that Sandra Bullock is a nice person because she seems nice in interviews on TV; I feel confident that the mayor will be re-elected because I know he’s still popular; I feel confident that my friend’s sister is happy about winning the lottery because it’s logical that anyone would be happy in that situation.

This is a very common expression, so I hope you’ll be confident about using it now.

adjective: wishy-washy


The adjective I have for you today is “wishy-washy”. It is used when we want to talk about a person who is often changing their mind about things or who can’t make definite decisions. Therefore, if you call someone wishy-washy, it’s a negative thing to say about them. For example:

I don’t like Oscar because he’s so wishy-washy. He just agrees with other people’s opinions, but he doesn’t seem to have any opinions of his own.

Many of today’s politicians are so wishy-washy. They start certain programs, but they change to other projects without finishing what they started.

A: I think Rachel is so wishy-washy. What do you think of her?

B: I wouldn’t say she’s wishy-washy. She just doesn’t have a lot of self-confidence.

When we use this word, it sounds a little bit casual. Also, because it’s quite negative, we would never call another person wishy-washy directly to their face. It would be extremely rude!

grammatical word: count


Today I’d like to go over another common verb which has more than one meaning. When people think of the verb “count” they imagine counting numbers. However, this verb has other meanings which many people don’t realize.

1. to consider something or someone to be a certain way. For example:

I count Victor as one of my best friends in the world.

Many people count brussel sprouts as being one of the worst vegetables in the world.

2. for something to be considered part of a general rule or category. For example:

I think it’s wrong to kill but, in my opinion, killing insects doesn’t count.

A: You said every man had to wear a tie at the office, but that man over there isn’t wearing one.

B: Well, he doesn’t count. He’s the boss.

3. to be considered valid. For example:

The other soccer team scored a goal, but it didn’t count because the ball went in after the whistle was blown.

A: I’ll teach you how to play this game. Then we’ll play three games to see who the best player is.

B: Ok, but the first game doesn’t count because I’m still learning how to play.

4. for something or someone to matter or be important. For example:

Lately at my office, I feel like my opinions don’t count with my boss. He doesn’t seem to appreciate anything I say.

In an election, I think every vote counts.

Among these definitions, the first one is a little bit formal. If you want to sound slightly less formal, you can use the word “consider” instead. The other three definitions are quite commonly used, especially the second and third ones. As you can see, with these definitions, the verb “count” is often used in the negative.

the difference between words: so far and until now


There is a common misunderstanding among my students between the expressions “so far” and “until now” because these two expressions are very similar in their language. So I would like to clear up this misunderstanding in my blog today.

The expression “so far” is used when we’re in the middle of a particular situation. In other words, the situation has started, but it is NOT over yet. We use “so far” when talking about the sitatuion from the beginning of that situation until the present moment. The future is something the person doesn’t know about because it hasn’t happened yet. Here is a timeline to help you understand:


—————so far—————->/—————unknown—————/

For example, if the situation is the weekend, the start is Friday night and the end is Sunday night. Let’s say that now it is Saturday night. A conversation would be like this:

A: How is your weekend so far?

B: It’s really good so far.

If it is Sunday night, the conversation would be like this:

A: How was your weekend?

B: It  was really good.

Now let’s say the sitation is a work project. The start is the beginning of the project and the end is when you finish the project. Right now you have completed 40% of the project. At that point, a conversation might be like this:

A: What have you done so far with your project?

B: So far, I’ve completed writing the report and making a list of potential customers.

Let’s say the situation is a presentation that you’re doing, and you’re in the middle of the presentation. At that point you would ask:

Does anyone have any questions so far?

If you’ve finished the presentation, you would ask:

Does anyone have any questions?

So, that is “so far”. The expression “until now” is a little different because it is used to indicate that the situation has changed. For example, look at the following two sentences:

I’m happy with my new job so far.

I was happy with my new job until now.

The first sentence means that that person continues to be happy with the job but doesn’t know about the future. The second sentence means that something has happened and that he or she is no longer happy with the job; the situation has changed. Here are some more examples using “until now”:

We didn’t have any problems with the project until now. (Now we have a problem.)

I really enjoyed that TV show until now. (Now I don’t enjoy the show anymore.)

My neighbors were really loud at night until now. (Now they are quiet.)

Please take note that when we use “until now”, we use the past tense, but we DON’T use the past tense with “so far”.

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