Archive for August, 2011

the difference between words: overwork and work overtime


Today I’d like to go over another common misunderstanding that many of my students have: the difference between “overwork” and “overtime”. When someone works longer than their regular scheduled hours, we say that they “work overtime”. However, when someone is working too hard or too much, we saying they are “overworking”. Therefore, the word “overtime” is a noun, and the word “overwork” is a verb. Here are some examples of how to use them in sentences.

I have to work a lot of overtime right now because my company is in the middle of a huge project.

My boss asked me to work overtime tonight, so I won’t be able to have dinner with you. I’m sorry.

Ben looks so tired these days. He’s really overworking right now. He needs to take a break.

My husband has been overworking himself trying to get his business off the ground.

The term “work overtime” is neutral in meaning, but the word “overwork” is always considered negative because it means to work too much. Whenever we use “too”, the situation is always considered bad.

Please note that in my last example I used “overworking himself”. It’s very common to use words  like “myself”, “yourself”, “himself”, “ourselves”, etc. after the verb “overwork”. In these cases, it means that it’s the person’s choice to work extremely hard, but that it’s too much.

separable phrasal verb: put out


Today, I’d like to go over the phrasal verb “put out”. It has several meanings in English, so I’ll go over them for you now:

1. to extinguish something (usually a fire or a cigarette). For example:

Please put out the campfire before you go to bed. We don’t want to cause a forest fire.

The campfire has to be put out before you go to bed. (passive voice)

I told the man that his cigarette was bothering me, but he refused to put it out.

2. to publish something (usually a magazine or newspaper). For example:

This publisher is putting out a brand new magazine for women. They think it will be very popular.

A brand new magazine for women is being put out by this publisher. (passive voice)

The billionaire puts out several newspapers all over the country.

3. to cause an inconvenience for someone. For example:

My colleague was late for our appointment, so he really put me out.

My co-worker forgot to bring the materials for the presentation, so she put out the whole group.

4. to annoy someone. For example:

My girlfriend really put me out when she told me she didn’t like the present I gave her.

I was really put out when my girlfriend said she didn’t like the present I gave her. (passive voice)

It really puts me out when I hear people making racist comments!

5. to place something outside (often a pet). For example:

It’s time to go to bed. Can you put the cat out for the night?

The cat needs to be put out for the night. (passive voice)

Tonight we won’t put the dog out because it’s too cold.

6. to make an effort to do something (used with “an effort”). For example:

I notice that you’ve really been putting out an effort to improve sales. I appreciate your hard work.

My son has really been putting out an effort to improve his grades at school. I’m really proud of him!

The first five meanings are separable, but the last meaning is inseparable. With the meanings which are separable, please pay attention to what type of noun or pronoun is used. Some of the meanings talk about things and some of them talk about people.

the difference between words: slow and late


A while ago, I wrote about the difference between “fast” and “early” so, in today’s blog entry, I’d like to go over the difference between “slow” and “late”. I wrote in my earlier entry that “fast” is about the speed of something or someone and “early” is about the time something or someone arrives. In the same way, “slow” is also about speed, and “late” is about the time something or someone arrives. For example:

I’m sorry for being so slow to finish this report. I’ll get it to you as soon as I can.

The traffic was so slow on the highway yesterday! Under normal circumstances, it would have taken us two hours to get home, but yesterday it took six hours!

I’m going to hand in my report late. I’m really sorry about that.

The teacher was late for my class. That’s really strange because she’s usually right on time.

So, my first and third examples are both talking about the writing of a report. I use “slow” with the first example because I’m focusing on how quickly the person is working. I use “late” in the third example because I’m focusing on when the report itself will be given to the boss; in other words, when it will arrive on the boss’ desk.

So, we use “slow” when something or someone takes a long time to do something, and we use “late” when something or someone arrives after the scheduled time.

idiom: cold turkey

Today, I’d like to teach you another strange but interesting idiom. It’s the expression “cold turkey”, and we use it when we want to talk about quitting a bad habit suddenly instead of slowly trying to stop doing it. For example:

My friend quit smoking cold turkey. I don’t know how she could do that. She must have a lot of self control.

My father had to stop drinking cold turkey. His doctor told him if he drank any more alcohol, it would seriously harm his health.

A: How did you quit gambling?

B: I did it cold turkey. It wasn’t easy at first, but it got better after a while.

So, as you can see, we use this idiom in connection with the verbs “quit” or “stop”. I had to look up why we use “cold turkey” to talk about quitting something suddenly and there are no clear explanations, but one theory is that when someone quits using drugs or alcohol suddenly, their skin starts to look white with goosebumps on it. This is similar to the way turkey meat looks before it is cooked; in other words, when it is cold. I don’t know if this explanation is the true one, but it’s interesting.

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