Archive for grammatical expression

grammatical expression: spic and span


It’s almost spring time and that means in many parts of the world people will soon start to do their spring cleaning. So, today,I’d like to go over an expression that we often use when talking about cleaning: spic and span.

We use this to describe the state of something that has been completely cleaned. Let me give you some examples.

I cleaned my room and now it’s spic and span.

My mother wants this kitchen spic and span by the time she gets home.

I like to have a clean house, but I don’t care if it’s spic and span.

As you can see from my example sentences, we use the verb “be” in front of this expression, so it’s usually used as an adjective.

Please note that the word “spic” is sometimes spelled “spick”.

The origin of this expression seems to come from the original meaning of the two words separately. The word “spick” referred to a spike or nail and was taken to mean something neat and trim. The word “span” seems to have come from the term “span-new” which meant new as a freshly cut wood chip. Therefore, “span” was associated with something new and unstained. I wasn’t able to find out when the two terms started to be used together to mean something which is totally clean.

grammatical expression: little did (I) know


For today, I want to go over the expression “little did I know”. We can also change the word “I” to other words such as “he”, “she”, “we”, etc. We use this when we want to talk about a person who doesn’t know an important piece of information about a situation, but they find out about it after it’s too late. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

I bought my house last year. Little did I know that the real estate market would drop so much. I wish I had waited.

We invested money in ABC Company. Little did we know they would go bankrupt. I wish we had invested in another company.

My sister really regrets marrying her husband. Little did she know when she married him that he would cheat on her all the time. She’s filing for divorce now.

My brother and his wife recently moved to a city on the coast. Little did they know there would be so many mosquitoes there in the summer. I hope they’re ok.

With this expression, the information that the person didn’t know about is always negative. The idea is that if they had known that information before, they would have made a different choice. Therefore, this is a way to express regret for a bad choice in the past.

We use “would” + verb to explain the negative situation after “little did (I) know”.

Please note that we can use the word “that” to link “little did (I) know” to the next sentence, but this is optional. If we omit it, the sentence still makes sense.

grammatical expression: to take exception to


Today, I want to go over the grammatical expression “take exception to”. We use it when we want to say that we don’t like what another person has said or done, and we feel offended by it. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

I take exception to the fact that you think I’m stupid just because I didn’t go to university.

A: You probably don’t understand modern music because you’re over 50.

B: I take exception to that!

I don’t know how to use polite forms in Japanese. I hope my coworkers in Tokyo don’t take exception to that.

Be careful what you say to Cheryl. She’s very sensitive and takes exception to many things.

We can use this expression in all types of sentences: positive, negative and questions.

We often put the words “the fact that” after this term. This is then followed by another sentence explaining the thing the person is offended by. This is the case of my first example.

It’s often used as a direct response to a statement. This is the case of my second example.

It’s not really clear why “take exception” means to be offended. Perhaps it’s because the word “exception” means that something is different. Therefore, “I take exception to that.” could be seen as meaning “I feel differently about that than other people do and am therefore offended by it.”

This term can be used in both daily conversations and business situations.

grammatical expression: in one’s sleep


I have another interesting grammatical expression for you: “in one’s sleep”. We use it when we want to talk about something that we know very well, or something that we are very skillful at. Here are some example sentences using it.

I know the way to Stephen’s house very well. I’ve been there so many times I could get there in my sleep.

Sharon has fixed this kind of computer so many times that she could do it in her sleep.

A: Do you know how to make beef stew?

B: Are you kidding? I used to make it for my mother at least twice a month. I can do it in my sleep.

I’m going to train you very well. By the time we’re finished, you’ll be able to use this machine in your sleep.

As you can see from my examples, we use words such as “can”, “could” or “be able to” with this expression.

The idea with this expression is that we know how to do something so well that we could do it automatically even in an unconscious state. Obviously, this is not true, and if we are asleep, we could not do it. However, this is a typical example of exaggeration in English. We often use exaggeration as a way to emphasize something when we’re speaking. It’s used far more often in spoken English than in written English.

grammatical expression: in a row


The entry for today is about the grammatical expression “in a row”. We use it when we want to talk about two or more things happening consecutively. In other words, they happen one after another with no breaks in between. Let me give you some example sentences using it.

Next week, I have four days off in a row! I’m so excited!

My favorite baseball team lost seven games in a row. All their fans are really disappointed!

My girlfriend has given me something really special for five birthdays in a row. I hope she gives me something nice again this year.

My family and I have gone on vacation to Hawaii for three years in a row. I really want to go somewhere different this year.

So, we use this to talk about time. We use such words as: days, weeks, months, years, etc.

We can also use it to talk about things that happen according to a regular schedule such as sports games or meetings at the office. My second sentence is an example of that.

In the case of my first example, there is a big difference between having four days off and having four days off in a row. For example, if we have Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday off, we would say “I have four days off”. We couldn’t use the expression “in a row” because we had to work on Wednesday. However, if it’s Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we use “in a row” because there is no interruption.

grammatical expression: time and time again


This time I want to write about the grammatical expression, “time and time again”. We use it when we want to talk about a situation which happens very frequently. Here are some example sentences using it.

I’m so annoyed with Jack! He’s late time and time again when we make plans to get together.

Time and time again my sister says she’s going to break up with her boyfriend, but she never does.

Joyce comes over to borrow things time and time again. She’s really getting on my nerves.

This author uses water as a metaphor time and time again in his novels.

It’s important to note that this expression is often used to complain about something or someone. I think this is clear with my first three example sentences. However, in the case of my last example, when the person says the author uses that metaphor “time and time again”, it sounds a little negative and as if he/she doesn’t like that habit of the author. If the person wants to sound less negative, they would say something like “This author often uses water as a metaphor in his novels.”

grammatical expression: slowly but surely


This time I’m going to write about the expression “slowly but surely”. We use it when we want to talk about making gradual progress with something when trying to achieve a goal. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

I’m still not great at speaking Spanish, but I’m improving slowly but surely.

If you keep working hard, slowly but surely you’ll become successful.

This is a difficult problem to figure out but, if we work together on it, we can do it slowly but surely.

When I first moved to this city I didn’t have any friends. However, slowly but surely I was able to make friends here.

As you can see from my examples, we can use this expression to talk about situations that are happening now, in the future or in the past.

We can place the expression “slowly but surely” either at the end of the sentence or in the middle. We can even put it at the beginning of a sentence, but it’s usually placed after a word such as “however”. This is the case of my last example.

In this expression, “surely” means “definitely”. Therefore, the meaning of this expression is that something will definitely happen, but it will take a long time.

grammatical expression: a mile a minute


Today I’d like to write about the expression “a mile a minute”. We use it when we want to talk about something or someone going very fast. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

That tour guide was talking a mile a minute, so I couldn’t understand her at all.

I’m so excited right now. My heart is beating a mile a minute.

Bob and Dan were going a mile a minute on the hike, so I couldn’t keep up with them.

I don’t like to use my Spanish when I go to Mexico because when people respond to me, they usually speak a mile a minute. I have to improve my listening skills.

We usually only use this expression in grammatically positive sentences.

The feeling this expression has is usually a little negative, but sometimes it can be neutral in tone, as in my second example.

We often use this expression when we want to express the idea that a person is speaking very quickly. This is the case of my first and fourth examples.

Please note that we always use the word “mile”, but we cannot substitute the word “kilometer” for it. This would sound very strange in English.

grammatical expression: if only


For this blog entry, I’d like to write about the short expression, “if only”. We use it when we want to express a strong desire for something. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

I really hate my job! If only I could get another one.

If only I could find a girlfriend. I would be so much happier than I am now.

A: I wish Dan wouldn’t be late all the time.

B: If only! Unfortunately, that’s his nature.

If only my parents would stop pressuring me and my wife to have a baby! My life would be much less stressful!

As you can see from my examples, we often put “I could” after the term “if only”. This is the case of my first two examples.

After “if only” we can also put “would”, as in my last example. In these cases, we don’t put “I” between them; it must be another person or other people.

Sometimes, we use “if only” in a sentence by itself. In these cases, it’s used as a response to another person’s statement. This is the case of my third example.

The term “if only” is very close in meaning to “I wish”, but it’s a little bit stronger and more formal.

As I mentioned, this is used to express a strong desire for something. Please note that the desire can be either a positive thing the person wants, as in my first two examples, or it can be something negative that the person wants to stop, as in my last two examples.

grammatical expression: to serve someone right


This time, I’d like to write about the grammatical expression “serve someone right”. We use this when someone receives something bad and we think that they deserved this because they did something bad before. Let me give you some example sentences using this expression.

Tom Clark lost reelection for mayor. It serves him right because he did such a bad job as mayor before.

I didn’t get a good score on my test. I guess it serves me right because I didn’t study at all.

A: I didn’t get the promotion at work!
B: Well, it serves you right. You didn’t work very hard on your last project.

Bill’s wife just left him and she’s filing for divorce. It serves him right. He was constantly cheating on her with other women.

We usually use this to talk about other people who are not in the room. Sometimes, we use it about ourselves when we feel that we did something stupid. It’s also possible to use it directly to another person, as in my third example, but please note that this is not polite and the other person could get angry or upset if you say something like that to them. We would usually say this to someone we know very well and have a close relationship with.

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