Archive for December, 2010

separable phrasal verb: rope into

This will be my final blog entry for 2010! It’s hard to believe this year has gone by so quickly! I’m going to finish with a phrasal verb because it’s Friday. The one I want to write about is “rope into”. It is used when we want to talk about a person using their influence to have another person do something they don’t really want to do. For example:

I didn’t really want to perform in the show, but Jerry roped me into it. He said they were desperate to find someone.

I was roped into performing in the show. (passive voice)

I can’t believe Susan is working on her day off. Her boss must have roped her into it.

A: How did you get roped into doing all this work by yourself?

B: My wife is sick and no one else had time to help, so that’s how I got roped into it. (passive voice)

You can try to remember this expression by imagining the person using a rope to tie the other person’s hands together and leading them away to do the thing they don’t want to do.

I wish all of my readers a very happy New Year, and I hope I will be able to continue to help you with English in 2011!

grammatical expression: …is more like it

The expression for today, “… is more like it”, has two completely different meanings. This first one is used when we are correcting someone about some information they have just given. For example:

A: And then we had to walk for about five kilometres.

B: Five? I don’t think so. Ten kilometres is more like it.


A: I think it will cost you about $1500 a month to rent an apartment downtown.

B: I think that’s too low of an estimate. $2000 a month is more like it.


A: My friend is quite pretty.

B: Quite pretty? No way! I would say very beautiful is more like it!

We often use this expression when talking about numbers like prices, statistics, etc. However, we can also use it when describing people or things, as in the last example.

The second way to use this expression is when we are in a situation we are not satisfied with. If it is then corrected to our satisfaction, we often say “That’s more like it!” We always use the word “that” as the subject.

For example, imagine you were in a very loud bar and don’t like it. You then move to another bar which is much quieter:

A: That’s more like it. Now we can talk easily.

B: Yes, I agree. This place is much better.

Now imagine you’re in a restaurant and you’ve ordered a steak well done. When it comes it has been cooked medium. You send it back to the kitchen to be cooked more. When it comes back, it is now cooked well done:

A: That’s more like it. Thank you for taking it back to the kitchen.

B: I’m very sorry about the mistake, sir.

So, in these situations, “more like it” means “better” or “more the way I like it”. Please be careful not to say this directly to another person who has made a mistake about something because it could sound very rude.

adjective: fishy

Today’s adjective has two meanings. One of them is very obvious, and the other is a little more surprising. The word is “fishy”.

The first meaning is for something or some place to smell like fish. This is usually considered bad even if we like fish. For example:

Last time I went to the fish market that fishy smell stayed in my clothes for a whole day.

My friend’s apartment smells really fishy right now. She must have been cooking it recently.

I like eating salmon because it doesn’t have a strong fishy smell.

The second meaning for “fishy” is that a certain person or situation is suspicious. For example:

 I didn’t go into business with that company because they seemed really fishy to me.

There’s something fishy about that guy. I don’t trust him.

There’s something fishy going on! Jack and Bill both asked me how I’m doing, but they never talk to me! What’s going on?

Just as a side note, you might be interested to know that the word “fish” does NOT take an “s” in its plural form. Therefore, we do NOT say “fishes”; instead we would say “I have five fish.” Two other animals that follow this same rule: sheep and deer. For example:

I saw two sheep at the zoo.

There are many deer in Nara, Japan.

Please don’t ask why “fish”, “sheep” and “deer” don’t take an “s”; it’s just one of those strange things in English we have to remember.

grammatical word: dread

I have a useful and interesting word for you today; it’s the verb “dread”.

The meaning is the opposite of “look forward to”. So when we say we are looking forward to something, it means that we are excited and interested about something we are going to do in the future. Therefore, when we say we are dreading something, it means that the activity is one which we have to do but really don’t want to do. For example:

I have a dental appointment tomorrow, and I’m really dreading it! I hate going to the dentist!

My mother-in-law is coming for a visit during the holiday. I always dread her visits because she doesn’t like me.

My annual work performance evaluation is next week. I’m really dreading it because my boss always gives me extra work to do afterwards.

I was dreading my blind date last night, but it wasn’t so bad. We actually liked each other and have another date next week.

This word is always used for negative situations. However, if we say “I was dreading…but…” (as in the last example) it means that we were expecting the situation to be bad, but it was surprisingly good.

If you’re not sure, a blind date is a date with a person you’ve never met before; the date is arranged by another person. In Western culture, people often dread blind dates because they don’t know what the other person’s personality or appearance is like.

the difference between words: happy and glad

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Over the holiday I’ve been trying to think of more entries I can write for “the difference between words” category. The one I thought of for today is the difference between “happy” and “glad”. I had to think about this one very hard, but I finally realized the difference between these two words.

The first thing you should know about these two words is that “happy” indicates a stronger feeling than “glad”.

In addition, generally speaking, we use the word “happy” when talking about something that personally gives us joy. We use the word “glad” when we want to say that another person’s good fortune makes us feel good. For example:

I got a high score on my test! I’m so happy!

I’m really happy because my boyfriend finally asked me to marry him!

I’m so glad you had a good time at my party last night.

I’m really glad that your husband is doing well at his job.

However, we can also use “glad” to talk about a situation that affects us directly, but the feeling is less strong than if we say “happy”. For example:

I’m really glad the weather is good for our barbeque today.

I’m glad that you will be able to come to my party.

We can also use “happy” when talking about things that only affect other people but, in these cases, we usually have a close relationship with them because the word “happy” is quite strong. For example:

I’m so happy that your father is going to recover from his illness! Say hello to him for me.

I’m really happy for my friend Bill! He just got a big promotion at work! He really deserves it!

idiom: to have a ball

I don’t have much time to write my blog today, so I’ll write a short but useful one. I’m going to Disney Sea with friends today, and it reminded me of today’s expression. It’s to “have a ball”. This is used when we want to say we have a lot of fun when doing something. For example:

I went to Disneyland with my family yesterday, and we had a ball!

I’m sure you’ll have a ball when you go to Mexico! It’s a really fun place!

My son is having a ball at kindergarten! He can’t wait to get there every morning!

So we use this expression in positive sentences, but we DON’T use it in questions or in negative sentences.

I hope everyone will have a ball during the holiday!

inseparable phrasal verb: pig out


Today I have an expression which is good for the holidays: “pig out”. It is used to talk about eating a lot of food. For example:

My friend and I pigged out on spaghetti at an Italian restaurant last night.

My family and I always pig out on Christmas Day. My mom makes so much food.

Don’t pig out when you go to the buffet! The last time you did that you had a stomachache.

When we talk about the particular food we eat a lot of, we use the preposition “on” between “pig out” and the food, as in the first example.

grammatical expression: a slew of

Today’s expression comes straight from the news. Just before I logged on to my blog site, I was reading an article about president Obama, and in it they used today’s expression: “a slew of”. This basically has the same meaning as “a lot of”. For example:

I have a slew of DVDs in my apartment that I haven’t watched yet.

President Obama has had a slew of victories in his first two years in office.

There has been a slew of complaints about our new product. People really aren’t happy with it.

My son has a slew of old toys that he needs to get rid of. Do you know anyone with a young child we can give them to?

There is a slight difference between “a lot of” and “a slew of”. First of all, “a slew of” is less commonly used than “a lot of”. Therefore, when we say it, it sounds stronger than “a lot of”. Secondly, we can use “a lot of” with both countable and uncountable nouns. However, we usually use “a slew of” with countable nouns only. As you can see from my examples, all of the nouns are countable.

adjective: obnoxious

I have a nice short entry for you today. The adjective for this week is “obnoxious”, and it can be used to describe a very annoying person whose behavior is extremely offensive or irritating. For example:

A: Frank was so obnoxious at the party last night. He kept yelling in people’s ears and spilling drinks on them.

B: He must have been drunk. He’s always obnoxious like that when he gets drunk.

There were some really obnoxious kids sitting next to us at the restaurant last night. They were running around and screaming the whole time. I hate kids like that!

I hate Carla. She really looks down on me because I didn’t go to university. The other day, she tried to embarrass me by asking me questions she knew I wouldn’t know the answers to. She’s so obnoxious!

This word is quite strong and is usually only used about people. If you want to use a softer word, you can say “annoying”.

grammatical word: right

The word for today is one which is used very often in conversations: “right”. It is used when we want to emphasize a location or time. For example:

The fitting rooms are right over there.

The bank is right next to the post office.

My favorite restaurant is right down this street.

The boss wants to see you right away.

We have to leave right now if we don’t want to be late.

The movie will begin right at 9:00.

So in the first three examples, the word “right” does NOT mean that the place is located on the right side. Instead, we use the word “right” to mean “directly” or “just”. We could also use the word “just” in these situations. For example:

The fitting rooms are just over there.

The bank is just next to the post office.

My favorite restaurant is just down this street.

In the fourth example, I use the expression “right away”. It is similar to “right now” but has a slightly different feeling. We say “right now” to mean at this exact moment, but we say “right away” to mean as soon as possible so now is the best time. We often use “right away” to talk about when we want something to begin, and we often use “right now” to talk about what is happening at a certain moment. For example:

I want to start the ABC project right away.

I’m working on the XYZ project right now.

Finally, in the last example, I used “right” when talking about a certain time. So “right at 9:00” means precisely at 9:00, not 8:59 and not 9:01, but exactly when it becomes 9:00.

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