Archive for March, 2011

idiom: to go Dutch

I have a very short and simple entry for you today. It’s the idiom, to “go Dutch”. It is used when we are at a restaurant or bar with someone and want to talk about each person paying for their own food and drinks. For example:

When I go out with my friends, we usually go Dutch.

A: Shall we go Dutch tonight?

B: No, not this time. Tonight it’s on me.

I can’t let you pay for the whole bill, so let’s go Dutch.

I like the idea of going Dutch because it’s a very fair system.

In the second example, I used “it’s on me”. When someone says this, it means that they will pay for the entire bill.

Apparently, this expression come from the custom in the Netherlands where people usually pay separately even when dating.

intransitive phrasal verb: go around

I have a phrasal verb with three different meanings for you today: “go around”. Let me go over the various meanings for you.

1. for an illness to be passed from person to person (usually a cold or the flu). For example:

I caught a bad cold on Sunday. You’d better be careful. It’s going around these days.

My friends in Japan are wearing face masks these days because the flu is going around, and they don’t want to catch it.

2. for a rumor or piece of gossip to be circulated. For example:

There’s a rumor going around that you are planning to start your own company. Is it true?

It’s going around at the office that Peter and Meg are dating, but it’s not true.

3. to have enough of something for everyone in a group. For example:

There aren’t enough test papers to go around, so we’ll have to photocopy some more.

Do you think we’ll have enough champagne to go around, or should we open another bottle?

With the first two meanings, we always use this expression in the -ing form – “going around”. However, with the last meaning, we use the infinitive form – “to go around”. As you can see, we also often use the word “enough” in this case.

grammatical expression: you’d think…but


I have another very common and useful expression for you today. It is “you’d think…but…” It is used when we want to talk about when we have a certain expectation of a situation, but then it isn’t true in reality. For example:

This restaurant is very expensive. You’d think that it would be good, but it’s not.

Frank studies Spanish all the time. You’d think that his Spanish would improve, but it doesn’t.

I threw a surprise birthday party for my girlfriend. You’d think that she would have been happy about it, but she wasn’t.

People in Africa are very poor. You’d think that they would be very unhappy, but many people are not.

So, as you can see from the examples, we usually have a sentence at the beginning which introduces the subject, and then we use the expression to talk about how our expectation turned out to be wrong.

Also, please note that the word “you’d” is the contracted form of “you would”, NOT “you had”.

adjective: eccentric

For the adjective this week, I’d like to go over the word “eccentric”. It is used to describe a person whose behavior is a bit unusual or strange. However, if we use the word “strange”, it is always negative. But if a person is a little strange but you still like them and want to sound more positive when describing them, you can use the word “eccentric”. For example:

Lady Gaga is a very eccentric singer and songwriter who is very popular these days.

My aunt is a bit eccentric, but she’s very interesting. Most people really like her.

I just saw a really funny movie about an eccentric family who live in New York. You should see it.

A: What do you think of our new co-worker, Gerry? He seems kind of strange to me.

B: I don’t think he’s strange. He’s just a bit eccentric, that’s all.

So we can use this word to describe people we know, famous people or characters from a story. Generally, though, we don’t use it when talking to someone directly. Therefore, please don’t say to someone directly, “I think you are eccentric.” This would seem a bit rude.

grammatical word: work

Today I’d like to go over another verb which has other meanings that many people don’t know about; the verb is “work”. Of course, everyone knows the primary meaning which is to do a job. However, we can also use it when trying to arrange a time to meet someone. For example:

I’d like to get together with you at 4:00 tomorrow. Does that work for you?

I have another appointment at 2:00, so 3:00 works better for me.

I’m afraid having the meeting at 11:00 doesn’t work for me. I have another appointment then.

We can also use it to talk about the functioning of a machine. For example:

Is your cell phone working? I tried mine, but I can’t get a signal.

This computer isn’t working properly. I’d better get someone to come take a look at it.

I don’t know what happened. I was driving my car down the street when it suddenly stopped working.

Another way to use this verb is when talking about the effectiveness of something. For example:

I tried my friend’s cure for hiccups, and it worked.

I took some medicine for my headache, but it didn’t work.

The ad we placed in the newspaper is working well. We’ve gotten many new customers from it.

If you want to remember to people’s names better, you should try the technique in this book. I tried it, and it works well for me.

the difference between words: ago and back

One of my readers asked me what the difference was between “ago” and “back”, so that’s what I’ll write about today.

We use “ago” to talk about something that happened a certain amount of time before the present moment. For example:

I went to high school just over 20 years ago.

The meeting started five minutes ago.

The last time I went to the movies was six months ago.

We use “back” to talk about a certain period in the past. For example:

Back in the 19th century, people used to ride in carriages instead of cars.

Back in the 1980s, leg warmers were very popular.

Back in my childhood, I used to play a lot of video games. I don’t do that anymore though.

When I was young, we didn’t have computers. We had to write everything on a typewriter back then.

Some people also use “back” in the same way as “ago”. For example:

I worked for ABC Company about ten years back.

I went to France on vacation six years back.

It’s important to note that this way of using “back” is NOT common and that the majority of people will use “ago” instead. Also, people usually only use this with the word “years”. Frankly, I do not recommend anyone to use “back” in this way, but you might hear it sometimes in an American movie.

idiom: you name it


The idiom for this week is “you name it”, and it is used when we are listing many things. Instead of continuing to add more things to the list, we simply say “you name it”. So it has the meaning of: anything you can think of could be added to this list. For example:

I can do everything with my iPhone: surf the Internet, send emails, play games, take pictures, you name it.

There are many kinds of restaurants in the downtown area: Korean, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, you name it.

They sell everything at this store: clothes, food, furniture, stationery, you name it.

My friend has traveled all over the world. He’s been to France, Brazil, Australia, China, you name it.

So, as you can see, we always put this expression at the end of the sentence in which we are listing examples of something.

intransitive phrasal verb: stand out

The phrasal verb this week is “stand out”, and it is used in three similar but slightly different ways:

1. for someone to be better than other people in a noticeable way. For example:

There were a lot of great actors in the cast, but I think Tricia really stood out.

I went to a ballet last night. All the dancers were good, but the ballerinas from Russia really stood out.

2. for something to be more noticeable than other things. For example:

I love the painting of the windmill. It really stands out in the art collection.

I bought this necklace because it really stood out in the store display case. The design is so original.

3. for someone to be noticeable (sometimes used with “in a crowd”). For example:

Brenda loves to wear bright colors. She always stands out in a crowd.

I’m sure you’ll be able to find Karl easily at the station in Tokyo.  He’s a very big guy, so he tends to stand out in Asia.

This phrasal verb is intransitive which means that it doesn’t take an object.

grammatical expression: in your face

Today’s grammatical expression is “in your face” and it is used when we want to talk about someone or something which is intended to be very strong and clear with a certain message. For example:

My friend is very in your face with his opinions.

The moral at the end of the story was too in your face for my taste.

A successful advertising campaign should be very in your face.

Pauline is not subtle when she wants something. She’s very in your face about it.

Grammatically, this expression is used like an adjective, so the verb “be” comes in front of it.

Also, when we use this expression, we always use the word “your”; we don’t use “my”, “his”, “our”, etc. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the sentence is.

adjective: cozy

If you have a small apartment like many people do in Japan, this week’s adjective is a useful one for you: “cozy”. We use it when we want to talk about a place which is very small but which is also very comfortable and has a warm atmosphere. For example:

My apartment is very small, but it’s really cozy. I like it a lot!

I know a cozy little cafe we can go to. It’s just down this street.

I want to go somewhere cozy with my wife to celebrate our anniversary.

In these cases, the place must always be small. A large place can never be described as “cozy”. Also, if a place is small but not comfortable, it cannot be called “cozy”.

We can also use it to describe a situation in which we feel warm and comfortable. For example:

It’s so warm and cozy in my bed in the mornings. It’s really hard for me to get up.

We have a fireplace in my house. In the winters, we like to sit in front of a cozy fire and listen to music.

Sometimes, we use this word sarcastically. That means we mean the opposite of what we say. For example:

The train was packed with people last night. It was so cozy!

In this case, the person uses “cozy” in a sarcastic way. Because the train was packed with people and it WASN’T comfortable, they use the word “cozy”. When we are speaking in a sarcastic way, our voices go down to indicate that we’re being sarcastic.

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