Archive for October, 2010

grammatical word: bound


Today’s grammatical word is “bound” and, even though it is technically an adjective, it doesn’t function as a typical adjective, so I’ve decided to write about it as a grammatical word. It’s not typical as an adjective because it must always be followed by a verb and then the rest of the sentence.

It is used when we are making a prediction about something in the future, and we feel quite certain that it will be true. For example:

There are bound to be a lot of pretty girls at Kelly’s party because she’s a model.

A: I was invited to have dinner at a French restaurant tonight.

B: Then you’d better take a lot of money with you. It’s bound to be quite expensive.

I don’t want to go to the dance club on Saturday night. It’s bound to be really crowded.

A: Do you think Jake will come to the dinner tonight at the seafood restaurant.

B: He’s bound to come. He really loves seafood.

My favorite basketball team hasn’t lost a single game this season, so they’re bound to win again tonight.

As you can see, the word “bound” is always followed by the infinitive (to + base form of a verb). Often, the verb is “to be”, as in the first three examples, but we can also use other verbs, as in the last two examples.

the difference between words: clever and smart


Many of my students get confused about when to use the adjectives “clever” and “smart”, so that’s what I’d like to write about today.

In English, we use the word “smart” to say someone is intelligent in a general way. It has the same meaning as “intelligent” except that that “smart” sounds a little more casual than “intelligent”.  We use the word “clever” to describe people who are able to quickly find solutions to particular problems or who can think of witty and humorous things to say. We can also use “clever” to describe the thing the clever person thinks of such as an idea, story, joke, etc. For example:

My best friend is extremely smart. He went to Harvard and got his PhD in physics.

Pauline isn’t very well educated, but she’s very smart. She reads a lot in her free time and is very knowledgeable about many things.

Jim was the only person in our class who could think of a solution to our problem. He’s very clever.

My friend is extremely witty and clever. Sometimes she makes me laugh so hard with the things she says.

The suspense movie I saw yesterday had a very clever twist ending. I was very surprised.

My husband came up with a very clever idea to make money while staying at home.

There is also another misunderstanding about the word “smart” in Japan. The Japanese language has borrowed the word “smart”, but the meaning has been changed. In Japanese, “smart” is used to talk about a person’s body which is thin, but in English, “smart” is only used to say someone is intelligent. It has nothing to do with a person’s body.

idiom: if/when push comes to shove


The idiom for this week is “when push comes to shove”. First of all, it’s important to know the meaning of the word “shove”. It is a verb which means to push someone or something very hard. It is pronounced /shuv/.

We use the idiom “when push comes to shove” when we want to talk about a situation that has become so serious that someone must take action in order to deal with it.

So, with this idiom, the word “push” represents the normal, not so serious situation, and the word “shove” represents the much more serious situation which has developed. So, if the normal situation becomes a serious situation, someone will do something about it. For example:

My friend Henry can be quite lazy, but when push comes to shove, he’ll do his work.

My parents don’t want to give money to me because I’m now an adult, but if push comes to shove, I know they’ll always lend me money.

My sister is a very busy woman, but when push comes to shove, she’ll always make time to talk to me.

My team and I can finish the project by the deadline, because if push comes to shove, we will work overtime.

So, in these examples, the normal situations are: Henry is lazy, my parents don’t lend me money, my sister is too busy to talk to me, my team doesn’t work overtime; however, if the situation becomes worse, then it changes: Henry will do his work, my parents will lend me money, my sister will make time to talk to me, my team will work overtime.

separable phrasal verb: get across (to)


Today’s phrasal verb is “get across”. It is used when we are trying to explain something to another person or other people, and we want to make them understand what we are talking about.

This phrasal verb is often followed by the preposition “to” if we use an object in the sentence. However, it’s not always necessary to include an object and, if we don’t, then “get across” will be intransitive.  For example:

This is a difficult idea. I hope I can get it across to you.

The teacher was trying to explain the meaning of the word “patient”. I understood it, but I don’t think she was able to get it across to the lower level students.

I tried to make my boss understand my idea for saving money at the company, but I don’t think I was able to get it across to him.

I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I think using some charts and pictures during your presentation will help you to get it across.

A: Do you think everyone understood what my concept for the project was?

B: Yes, I think you were able to get it across very well.

I would say that we usually say “to” when we’re trying to explain something to a specific person. However, when we’re explaining something to a larger group of people, we often drop the “to”.

So, this is the phrasal verb for this week. I hope I was able to get it across!  🙂

grammatical expression: to say the least


Today is my 200th blog entry!!!! I can’t believe it! Where did all the time go? I want to thank my readers for all your nice comments, and I hope to continue writing this blog for a long time.

Anyway, for today’s blog entry, I would like to write about another common expression: “to say the least”. It is used when we want to indicate that a certain word isn’t strong enough to describe a situation. For example:

My sister just won $100,000 in the lottery. She’s really happy, to say the least!

Thank you for giving that doll to my daughter. She loves it, to say the least!

There are many good-looking people in Italy, to say the least!

A: Well, that was a very strange movie.

B: Yeah, to say the least. I haven’t seen such a weird movie in a long time.


A: Would you say Charlie is a serious person?

B: Oh yes, to say the least. He never laughs or even smiles.

So, by using “to say the least” in these sentences, we’re saying that the words “happy”, “love”, “strange” and “serious” don’t go far enough in describing the situation. However, instead of adding “really, really, really, really” to the beginning to emphasize the word, we use “to say the least” at the end to emphasize it.

As you can see from the examples, we usually use this expression in sentences with adjectives, but sometimes we can use it with verbs such as “like”, “love”, “hate”, etc. We can also use it when talking about the quantity of something, as in the third example about how many good-looking people there are in Italy.

adjective: gorgeous


Today,  I have a word that is commonly misunderstood in Japan: “gorgeous”. Many people, in Japan at least, think it contains the meaning of being expensive, but this is not true. In English, it means that someone or something is extremely beautiful, and that’s all. For example:

My friend’s girlfriend is gorgeous. I wish I could find a woman as beautiful as she is.

The view from the top of Mount Fuji was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

A: The hotel we stayed at in Rome was just gorgeous.

B: Oh really? Was it expensive?

A: Not too much. We were really lucky.

If we want to use a word that contains the meaning of being expensive, we can use the adjective “luxurious”. So if we say a place is luxurious, then it’s almost always going to be expensive and beautiful.

In the first example, a woman is being described as “gorgeous”, but we can also describe a man as “gorgeous”. For example:

Look at that guy over there! Isn’t he gorgeous!?

In these cases, the speaker will almost always be a young female such as a teenage girl or a woman in her 20s. Older women don’t usually describe a man as “gorgeous”. Instead, they will say he is “handsome”, “good-looking” or “attractive”.

grammatical word: fluke


Today, I would like to teach you a commonly used noun in the English language: “fluke”. It is used when we want to talk about being successful at something just from being lucky. For example:

When I was playing pool, I sank two balls in one shot, but it was just a fluke.

I made dinner for my friends last night, but I didn’t use a recipe. Usually when I do that, the food isn’t so good, but this time it turned out well. It was a total fluke.

A: How did Ryan manage to score the winning goal in the soccer game?

B: I think it was a fluke. He’s usually not such a good player.

So, as you can see, we use the word “fluke” with the verb “be” in the past tense – “was”. We often use it when talking about ourselves or other people who are not present, but it’s not polite to say directly to another person that the reason for their success was because it was a fluke. This word is usually used in casual conversations.

the difference between words: on, in, at and for + time


The prepositions “on”, “in”, “at” and “for” can be used in many ways depending on the situation. In  my blog entry today, I would like to go over the difference between these words when it comes to talking about time.

The preposition “on” is used when talking about days or dates. For example:

I have to work on Monday, so I can’t stay out late on Sunday night.

I like to go to a temple on New Year’s Day and pray for health and happiness.

My birthday is on April 14th.

The preposition “in” is used when talking about months and years. For example:

I always take a vacation in August.

My company was founded in 1982.

The preposition “at” is used when talking about time. For example:

The meeting will start at 2:30 p.m.

I’ll meet you at the restaurant at 7:00. Is that ok with you?

The preposition “for” is used when making plans or reservations for a future event. For example:

I’d like to make a reservation for October 19th please. Do you have a single room available  then?

I booked the meeting room for 3:00.

Please arrange a meeting with the design team for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The use of the word “for” is a little confusing for some people but, as I said before, it’s used to talk about a future time when making arrangements for a future event. So, today is Monday October 11th. Let’s say I call a restaurant today and make a reservation. The day of the dinner will be Friday October 15th. In this situation I would say:

I made a reservation on October 11th for October 15th.

However, we only use “for” when making reservations or arrangements. When we talk about the actual event, we use “on” again. For example:

The reservation is for October 15th.

The dinner will take place on October 15th.

I hope this is clear. I know prepositions can be very difficult, so the best way to learn them is just to memorize them within the context of a full sentence.

idiom: to rub someone the wrong way


I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of meeting someone for the first time and not liking the person because they say or do something which annoys you. In that situation, you can use today’s idiom: to “rub someone the wrong way”. This is used when talking about people that we don’t like. When giving the reason we don’t like them, we can use this expression. For example:

I don’t like my new co-worker. I don’t know why, but he just rubs me the wrong way.

There’s a new student in my class, and the others don’t like him very much. He really rubbed them the wrong way when he started asking them really personal questions.

Tracy has a very aggressive personality, and she can really rub people the wrong way. I’ve tried to explain that to her, but she doesn’t listen to me.

Ian is always talking about sex, and he can really rub some people the wrong way because of it.

So, with this expression, we can only use it about ourselves or other people, but we don’t use it when speaking directly to someone. Therefore, we DON’T say, “You rub me the wrong way.” It would be very rude to say that, and it also sounds a little unnatural.

intransitive phrasal verb: pan out


This week’s phrasal verb is “pan out”. Unlike many phrasal verbs, it has only one meaning, so today’s entry will be quite short. It is used when we talk about someone’s plans and if they ended successfully or not. For example:

I heard you were trying to get a new job. How did that pan out?

Apparently, James was planning to start his own company. I wonder if that panned out or not.

I wanted to go to Italy for my vacation, but it didn’t pan out.

We almost always use this expression as a question (How did that pan out?), or in the negative (It didn’t pan out.)

In the case of the question, we are basically asking, “Was that situation successful or not?” In the case of the negative sentence, we’re basically saying, “No, it wasn’t successful.” or “It couldn’t be done.”

However, it sounds strange in English if we say, “It panned out.” Instead, we would say something like: “It was very successful.” or “It worked out well.” or something like that.

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