Archive for May, 2011

grammatical word: glare


Today I want to write about the word “glare”. It has two different meanings and can be used as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means to look at another person for a long time in a very angry way. For example:

Kate is dating Tina’s ex-boyfriend, so Tina was glaring at her at the party.

Why is everyone glaring at me today? Did I do something wrong?

I couldn’t stop myself from glaring at Richard at work today because he got the promotion that I wanted.

We can also use “glare” as a noun, but with a completely different meaning. The noun “glare” means an intense light that makes it difficult for a person to see. This light is often reflected from a window. For example:

I can’t see my computer screen because there’s too much glare from the window. Could you close the blind please?

If you put this sheet of film over your screen, it will cut down on any glare from the sunlight.

I always wear sunglasses outside because my eyes are sensitive to light. The glare from the sun really bothers them.

the difference between words: expect and look forward to

look forward

The other day I received a message from someone that said, “I’m expecting your reply”. This sentence could be correct in some situations, but it’s not what the person wanted to say. He should have written, “I’m looking forward to your reply.” So today, I will write about the difference between “expect” and “look forward to”.

We use “expect” when we want to say that we have information that makes us believe a certain thing will happen. We use “look forward to” when we want to say that we think a certain thing will happen and that we are very pleased about it. Therefore, “look forward to” sounds very happy and positive, but “expect” doesn’t sound emotional at all. Let me give you some examples:

I’m expecting a phone call from Mr. Kane from ABC Company. Please let me know as soon as he calls.

I expect June will bring a chocolate cake to the party because that’s what she always brings.

I expect the price of gas will go up soon because oil reserves have gone down.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the new Johnny Depp movie! It’s supposed to be really good!

I’m looking forward to meeting you in person. I’ll see you on Friday when I come to New York.

I’m really looking forward to my vacation! I’m going to Spain this year!

It’s important to note that in my example sentences above, I used the present progressive tense: “I’m looking forward to”, but it’s also possible to use the simple present tense: “I look forward to”. The difference is that when we use the simple present tense, it sounds much more formal. For example:

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your attention.

I look forward to meeting you and your business colleagues.

We look forward to doing business with you.

Therefore, we use “looking forward to” in casual conversations and writing, and we use “look forward to” in formal business conversations and writing.

Also, please note that we always use the -ing form of a verb or a noun after “to” in these sentences.

idiom: to go to someone’s head

The idiom for this week is for something to “go to someone’s head”. It is used when we want to talk about a person who becomes conceited because of some success they have had or some accomplishment they have done. For example:

Winning the bowling tournament last week has really gone to Jim’s head. Now he thinks he’s the best bowler in the world!

Don’t give Patty a compliment about the way she looks. It will just go to her head.

Richard got a promotion last year, and it really went to his head. Now he thinks he’s so much better than everyone else.

I’m happy that you were successful with this project, but I hope you won’t let it go to your head.

So, as you can see, we use the accomplishment or success as the subject in the sentence. By the way, if you don’t know what the word “conceited” means, you can check my blog for last Wednesday. I write about it in more detail there.

We can also use this expression to talk about a situation in which a person is easily and quickly affected by drinking alcohol. For example:

I haven’t eaten anything all day, so this beer is going straight to my head.

My boyfriend is a weak drinker. If you give him anything with alcohol in it, it goes straight to his head.

Beer doesn’t affect me so quickly, but wine goes straight to my head.

As you can see from my examples, we usually use the word “straight” in these sentences.

separable phrasal verb: rip off

Today is Friday, so that means it’s time for another phrasal verb. This week, I’ve chosen “rip off”. It has two meanings in English:

1. to charge someone too much money for something. For example:

My hotel in Hawaii charged me $300 for an extremely small room. They really ripped me off!

I was really ripped off at my hotel in Hawaii. (passive voice)

A: I’m paying $1500 a month for this apartment.

B: Really? For this place? I think your landlord is ripping you off.

I think you’re being ripped off by your landlord. (passive voice)

I spend over $400 for this necklace for my wife. I don’t know anything about jewelry though. I hope they didn’t rip me off.

I hope I wasn’t ripped off. (passive voice)

For this meaning, we can also use “rip off” as a noun. For example:

I can’t believe I paid $20,000 for this car! What a rip off!

I don’t like eating at that restaurant because they charge way too much. It’s such a rip off!

2. for a piece of entertainment to steal an idea from something which has already been done. For example:

Everyone thought the restaurant scene in that movie was so original, but they ripped it off from an old French movie.

That scene was ripped off from an old French movie. (passive voice)

I don’t like the author, Peter Hines. He always rips his ideas off from other writers.

A: That new song by Janet Peters is totally ripping off an old song from Madonna.

B: I don’t think she’s ripping off that song. I think she’s making a tribute to it.

For this meaning, we can also use “rip off” as a noun. For example:

The scene in the restaurant is a rip off from an old French movie.

That song is such a rip off from a Madonna song a few years ago.

So, as you can see from my examples, it’s very common to use this phrasal verb with the passive voice. Please note that we usually use the preposition “from” with the second meaning of “rip off”.

grammatical expression: at the end of the day

This week, the grammatical expression is “at the end of the day”. We use it when we want to express what we think is the ultimate truth about a certain situation. It’s like saying, “At the end of this situation, this is the truth.” For example:

I can tell you my opinion about which school to go to but, at the end of the day, you have to make your own decision.

People get so worried about having job success but, at the end of the day, love is all that matters.

A: I don’t know who to vote for?

B: Well, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really make a difference who wins; both candidates are so similar.

I think we should get a bigger apartment. I know it’s more expensive but, at the end of the day, being comfortable is more important than money.

People often use this expression when they want to make broad statements about how they feel about a situation.

As you can see from some of my examples, we often make a statement such as “I know it’s more expensive” or “People get so worried about having job success”. After that, we put the word “but” followed by “at the end of the day”. Finally, we say what we feel is the ultimate truth of the situation.

adjective: conceited

The adjective for this week is “conceited”. It’s a word we use to describe people who are too proud of themselves because of being good-looking or because of some accomplishment. This word is always negative. For example:

Karen is very pretty, but she’s so conceited about it! She thinks she’s so much better than other people!

Ever since Dan got that big promotion he’s become so conceited! I don’t like him anymore.

I really like Meryl Streep. She’s considered one of the best actresses of all time, but she doesn’t seem conceited about it.

My daughter is dating a conceited jerk right now. I hope it doesn’t become serious.

If you’re not sure, the word “jerk” in the last example means a person, usually a man, who is rude and unkind. In my third example about Meryl Streep, I said “she doesn’t seem conceited”. In this case, I used the word “seem” because I don’t know her personally; I only know her from watching interviews on TV. If I know her personally and I know it’s true, then I would say “she isn’t conceited”.

grammatical word: get (part 3)

Young Male Optometrist Holding An Ophthalmoscope

Today I would like to finish my series of blog entries on the word “get”. Here are some other ways in which we use this word:

17. for a certain aspect of a situation to really annoy someone. For example:

I don’t care that Bill didn’t invite me to his party, but what gets me is that he invited my girlfriend!

My neighbor’s son broke my window, but I’m not so angry about that. The thing that gets me is that they didn’t apologize to me.

18. to start an action. For example:

Let’s get going. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be late.

I want to get started on this project as soon as possible.

19. to have the opportunity to do something

I was in Paris last month, but I didn’t get to go to the Louvre because I was so busy.

I hope you’ll get to go shopping at Harrods when you’re in London.

20. for someone to hire a person to do something for them. For example:

My car isn’t working now, so I’m going to get it fixed.

I got my eyes tested at the eye doctor the other day, and he said I need glasses.

21. for someone to have a negative action done to them. For example:

My friend got his car stolen last week.

I got my pocket knife confiscated at the airport by security.

So, these are the main meanings for the word “get”. It is also used in many phrasal verbs. I will eventually write about those in my Friday blog.

the difference between words: fired and laid off

Many of my students are confused about the meaning of being “fired” and being “laid off”, so I would like to explain the difference today. In both cases, a person loses their job, but when we say they were “fired”, it means they probably made a big mistake and their boss was angry. When we say they were “laid off”, it means that the company didn’t have enough money to pay their salary. For example:

My co-worker was fired yesterday because she was always arriving late for work.

My boss was really angry at me for forgetting to bring the documents to the meeting. I think I’m going to be fired!

Several people at our company were laid off last year because of the recession.

I was laid off when my company merged with ABC Company. They said they didn’t need so many workers after that.

So, being “fired” is very negative because it’s usually the person’s own fault, but being “laid off” is not as negative because it’s not the person’s fault.

Please note that all of the examples above are in the passive voice. Here are some examples of active voice:

The boss fired my co-worker yesterday because she was always arriving late for work.

I think my boss is going to fire me!

My company laid off several people last year because of the recession.

My company laid me off after they merged with ABC Company.

idiom: to cross that bridge when (we) come to it

I found myself using today’s idiom in a conversation last week. It is to “cross that bridge when we come to it”. It is used to talk about a difficult situation or problem that will happen in the future, but it hasn’t happened yet; we don’t want to think about how to solve that problem yet because it’s still in the future. So in this idiom the “bridge” represents the problem and “crossing” it represents solving it. Therefore this idiom means we will think about how to solve that problem when it happens, but not now. For example:

A: I have to move  in September, but I don’t know where I can find a good place to live.

B: Well, you should cross that bridge when you come to it. There’s no point in worrying about it now.


A: Our parents are healthy now, but what are we going to do when they get older and start to become weak?

B: Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m sure that won’t happen for many years.


A: We have so much to do this week. We have to finish the report and plan the presentation. Also, next week we have to plan a meeting to discuss the budget. Where are we going to have that meeting?

B: Let’s just cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we need to concentrate on our tasks for this week.

Right now, I’m still in high school. I don’t know where to go to university, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I can’t worry about it yet.

So, as you can see from my examples, the word “we” can be changed depending on who is speaking. We always use this expression to talk about the future, but we can’t use it talk about the past. Therefore, it sounds strange to say, “I crossed that bridge when I came to it.”

inseparable phrasal verb: pick on

Today’s phrasal verb is “pick on”, and it is used when we want to talk about one person bullying or teasing another person. For example:

When I was in junior high school, the other kids picked on me a lot. It was terrible.

I got picked on a lot when I was in junior high school. (passive voice)

A bully is picking on my son at his school! I’m so angry about it!

We shouldn’t tease Jenny about her new boyfriend. She hates it when we pick on her like that.

A: Look at Bob’s haircut! He looks so silly!

B: Stop picking on him! I don’t think his hair looks so bad.

If we use “pick on” to mean “bully”, as in the first three examples, it’s very serious. To bully someone means to physically or emotionally cause harm to another person. It is a very serious problem for many children and teenagers. However, if we use “pick on” to mean tease, as in the last two examples, it’s less serious than bullying; it’s usually meant as a joke.

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