Archive for September, 2010

grammatical expression: as if

As-If

We often use the word “if” in English, and I think most people understand it well. However, by adding the word “as” to it will change its meaning. The expression “as if” is used when we want to express rejection of an idea or statement. It’s like saying that a certain idea or statement is impossible. For example:

A: You’re not really going to join the army, are you?

B: I was kidding! As if I would really do that!

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A: Did you hear the latest gossip about Paris Hilton?

B: As if I care about Paris Hilton! I have more important things to think about.

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A: John said he was going to buy a BMW!

B: I doubt that! As if he has enough money for a car like that!

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A: Is Sharon coming to your party?

B: Are you kidding? As if I’d invite her! She stole my boyfriend last year, remember?

As you can see, it’s usually used as a response to what someone else is saying, and is used to reject the other person’s idea or statement. This expression can sound a little strong when we use it, so it should only be used in casual conversations with friends and never in formal situations or with people of higher status.

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adjective: cheesy

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The adjective I have for you today is a rather young word. I would say that people only started saying it in the last 30 years or so. The word is “cheesy”, and it is used when we want to talk about some kind of entertainment which is of poor quality and makes people laugh although that is not the intention. For example:

I don’t like movies directed by Bruce Walters because the dialogue in them is really cheesy.

I’m not a fan of the singer Tom Johnson. He wears ridiculous clothes and platform shoes. Also, he sings in a really cheesy way. I can’t stand him.

People in India really enjoy Bollywood movies, but the films seem kind of cheesy to people outside of India.

I  like the old Batman TV show. It was incredibly cheesy, but it was fun.

For the most part, the word “cheesy” is negative, but it can be neutral in meaning sometimes, as in the last example. In this case, the person thought the cheesiness of the show was fun. However, even though the person thought it was fun, they would still consider the show of lower quality if they called it “cheesy”.

grammatical word: hog

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Today I have a fun word for you: “hog”. Some of you may know this word as a noun; the noun “hog” is an animal which is similar to a pig, only bigger. However, we can also use this word as a verb. The verb “hog”  is used when we want to talk about someone keeping something all for themselves and not sharing it with other people. For example:

Hey, stop hogging all the peanuts! The rest of us would like some too!

Mom! Peter is hogging all the toys! Tell him to stop it!

I hate going to karaoke with Janet because she always hogs the microphone.

When we use the word “hog” as a verb, it’s a little casual but it’s quite commonly used. We don’t usually usually use it in business situations unless we’re talking to someone in a casual way.

the difference between words: bring and take

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Last week, I went over the difference between “come” and “go”. This week’s blog entry is about “bring” and “take” which are used in similar ways to “come” and “go”. As I mentioned before, “come” is used when talking about the place where we are right now; the word “bring” is used in the same way – when talking about the place where we are right now. The word “go” is used when talking about another place; the word “take” is also used when talking about another place. For example:

I brought my dictionary to the class today. You can borrow it if you want to.

We have some extra sandwiches. You can take some home when you leave.

Sometimes we use “bring” when talking about a place where we are NOT right now. Again, in this way the words “come” and “bring” are similar. For example:

A: Can you bring some wine to my house for dinner tonight?

B: Ok, sure. I’ll bring some red wine. Is that ok?

In this case, person A uses “bring” because the other person is going to come to their home. In these cases, we always use “bring”. Person B also uses “bring” because they are speaking directly to the person whose home they are going to. However, if person B is talking to another person about this event, they will use “take”. For example:

I have to take some wine to my friend’s house for dinner tonight.

Person A will also use “bring” to talk about person B going to the place where person A is right now, even if it’s not their home. Person B will also use “bring” in this situation. For example:

A: I’m in conference room A. Can you bring me an extra copy of the report.

B: Of course, sir. I’ll bring one to you right away.

So, we use “bring” when someone is coming  to our home or when talking directly to a person about going to a certain place where the person is now, but if we are talking about another place, we use “take”. For example:

A: What kind of food shall we take on our picnic?

B: Let’s take some potato salad and ham sandwiches. I love them!

I hope everyone will now be able to use “bring” and “take” more easily.  🙂

idiom: to get/have something down pat

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The idiom for this week is to get or have something “down pat”. It is used when we want to talk about repeating something until we know it perfectly or practicing something until we have a very high skill level at it. For example:

I have to memorize this speech until I have it down pat.

I heard that if you want to get an A in Mr. Tanaka’s Japanese class, you have to get the grammar down pat.

I practiced this song on the piano all last week, so I think I have it down pat now.

My daughter’s dance teacher said she couldn’t perform in the dance show unless she gets the dance routine down pat.

I hope you find this expression interesting. If you want to improve your English, my advice (as always) is to memorize sentences until you have them down pat. Then you can change the small details in order to create new sentences. Good luck!  🙂

separable phrasal verb: make up

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The phrasal verb for this week is “make up”, and it has several different meanings. Let me go over them for you:

1. to invent a story or an excuse. For example:

We had to write an essay about our families. I didn’t want to write about my real family, so I just made it up.

A: I don’t want to go to Rick’s party, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

B: Then just make up an excuse.

2. to put on cosmetics. For example:

Jane made herself up for the party, but she usually doesn’t wear make up.

3. to compensate for a difference (usually with money). For example:

The CD costs $20.00. If you give me $5.00, I’ll make up the difference.

4. to clean and organize a hotel room. For example:

I’m going out now. Can you please have the maid make up my room?

The room will be made up by the maid. (passive voice)

5. to repeat an exam because of being absent for the first one. For example:

I missed the final exam because I slept late, but my professor said I could make it up on Tuesday.

The exam can be made up on Tuesday for people who missed it. (passive voice)

6. to constitute something – (inseparable). For example:

Asian people make up about 50% of the population of Vancouver.

About 50% of Vancouver’s population is made up of Asian people. (passive voice)

7. to reconcile after an argument (for friendships, family members and romantic relationships) – (inseparable). For example:

My girlfriend and I had a big fight on Saturday night, but we’ve made up with each other since then.

Why are you so angry with your brother? I wish you two would just make up. I’m tired of listening to you argue all the time.

As I mentioned above, the last two meanings for “make up” are inseparable. As a reminder, this means that the object of the sentence, whether it’s a noun or a pronoun, must come after the word “up” in the phrasal verb. In the case of the last meaning, to reconcile with someone, please note that we have to use the preposition “with” if we use an object in the sentence. If we don’t use “with”, as in the last sentence, it becomes intransitive, which means that the sentence has no object at all.

grammatical expression: if you don’t mind my asking

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Many of my students ask questions in English which are very direct and about things that are very personal to some people. These questions are often about things such as money, age or weight. They can also be about personal relationships. Some people are comfortable talking about these things, and some people are not. If you want or need to ask a person about these things, it can seem very rude. One way to soften the question is to add “if you don’t mind my asking” at the beginning. For example:

If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?

If you don’t mind my asking, how much rent do you pay for your apartment?

If you don’t mind my asking, how much money do you earn?

If you don’t mind my asking, how much do you weigh?

If you don’t mind my asking, are you satisfied with your marriage?

As you can probably imagine, many people would be shocked by such questions, but they seem less direct if you add “if you don’t mind my asking” at the beginning. Now, the person who is being asked can respond in a positive way. For example:

No, I don’t mind. I’m 47 years old.

I don’t mind telling you. I pay $950 a month for my place.

The person who is being asked can also respond in a more negative way:

Well actually, I’d rather not talk about that.

That’s none of your business!

In these examples, the first one is very polite, but the second one shows the person is angry and shocked about the question.

Of course, it’s best to avoid asking such personal questions but, if you have to, this expression can help you make it sound much softer.

adjective: controversial

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Today’s adjective is one which you’ve probably heard a lot if you watch the news in English: “controversial”. It is used when we want to talk about a public debate about something or someone in which the two sides have very different opinions. For example:

Bill Parker’s new book about religion is very controversial. Many people love it, but religious groups are extremely upset about some of his statements in the book.

The government’s decision to stop all immigration has been very controversial. Many people have protested the decision.

The Cove is a very controversial movie in Japan. Some people want to have it shown in Japanese movie theaters while others are very much against that.

When we use this word to describe things like books and movies, the difference of opinion has to be very emotional and strong. If  people simply disagree about a movie’s or book’s quality, we don’t say it’s controversial in those cases.

grammatical word: that

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In English, we often use the word “that” to express the extent of something; it’s often used to express our feelings about something. The sentences we use that are like this are often negative. Let me give you some examples:

The movie I saw last night wasn’t that good. I was really disappointed!

Mary didn’t sing that well last night at the concert. She’s usually a good singer. I hope there’s nothing wrong with her.

These days, I’m not feeling well, and I can’t eat that much.

In these cases, the word “that” is similar to “so”. For example:

The movie I saw last night wasn’t so good.

Mary didn’t sing so well at the concert.

I can’t eat so much.

We can also use “that” when comparing our feelings about something with another person’s feelings about the same situation. We can also use it to correct someone’s mistake. For example:

A: I really loved the novel, A Song for Me. I thought it was amazing.

B: Well, I liked it, but I didn’t think it was that good.

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A: You’re about 60 years old now, right?

B: No, I’m not that old. I’m only 53.

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A: I heard you’re a great guitar player. Maybe you should play professionally.

B: Well, I’m good, but I’m not that good.

In these examples, the word “that” must be stressed strongly for the sentence to make sense. For exampe:

I didn’t think it was THAT good.

I’m not THAT old.

I’m good, but I’m not THAT good.

We can also use “that” in positive sentences in order to emphasize the extent of something in a positive way. For example:

I saw the movie, Inception last night and I loved it! I’m going to see it again today; it was that good!

The new video game from ABC Electronics is sold out at every store in the city; it’s that popular!

Vicky hates her ex-boyfriend! If someone even mentions his name, she gets angry; she hates him that much!

Once again, in these sentences the word “that” must be stressed or the sentence will not make sense. For example:

It was THAT good!

It’s THAT popular!

She hates him THAT much!

So when we use “that” in positive sentences in this way, there must be another sentence at the beginning to explain the situation. If we don’t do this, the sentence with “that” won’t make any sense.

the difference between words: come and go

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Many of my students get confused between when to use “come” and when to use “go”, so today I’d like to try to help people understand this. Generally speaking, we use “come” when talking about the place where we are RIGHT NOW, and we use “go” when talking about another place. For example:

I went to work yesterday even though it was a Sunday. (I’m not at work now.)

I came to this class because I want to learn how to play the piano. (Right now, I’m at the piano class.)

I think that part is quite simple and easy to understand by most people. However, sometimes we use “come” when talking about a place where we are NOT right now. Please study the following example:

A: Can you come to my house for dinner tonight?

B: Ok, sure. That would be great. I can come to your house at 7:00 tonight.

In this case, person A uses “come” because they are inviting someone to spend time with them at their home. In these cases, we always use “come”. Person B also uses “come” because they are speaking directly to the person whose home they will spend time at. However, if person B is talking to another person about this event, they will use “go”. For example:

A: Do you want to see a movie with me tonight?

B: I’m sorry, but I can’t. I have to go to my friend’s house for dinner at 7:00 tonight.

Person A will also use “come” to talk about person B going to the place where person A is right now, even if it’s not their home. Person B will also use “come” in this situation. For example:

A: I’m at the restaurant now. What time can you come here?

B: I can come there at 8:00.

So, we use “come” when inviting someone to our home or when talking directly to a person about going to a certain place, but if we invite them to another place, we use “go”. For example:

A: Would you like to go to the park with me this weekend?

B: Sounds great. What time do you want to go?

A: Let’s go at around 2:00 on Sunday.

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