idiom: to talk someone’s ear off


For my final blog entry of 2015, I’d like to write about the idiom “talk someone’s ear off”. We use it when we want to talk about a person who is talking a lot to another person. Let me give you some ways to use it in sentences.

Don’t sit with Betty at the party. She’ll talk your ear off all night.

Peter is a very talkative person. He can talk anyone’s ear off.

I asked my teacher a simple question about my assignment, and he talked my ear off for the next hour.

My mother has changed a lot. When she was younger, she used to talk my father’s ear off, but now she’s extremely quiet. I wonder why she changed.

We usually use this expression in grammatically positive sentences.

This expression is a bit negative in tone. The feeling is that the person is talking too much, and the other person doesn’t like it so much. However, please note that it’s not extremely negative; just a little bit.

Please note that we don’t put an “s” at the end of “ear” if there is just one person who is being talked to. However, if there is more than one person who is listening, we add an “s”. For example: “The professor talked the ears off the students in his class.”

We can use this in casual business situations, but it’s not usually used in formal situations.

grammatical word: procrastinate


Today’s entry is about the verb “procrastinate”. We use it when we want to talk about postponing some action that we need to do. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

You have to go to the dentist! I know you hate going, but you can’t procrastinate any longer!

Make sure you apply for that job as soon as possible. If you procrastinate, you’ll lose your chance.

I always have to remind my husband to do things because he has a bad habit of procrastinating.

I wanted to get tickets for the Madonna concert, but I procrastinated and, by the time I called, the concert was sold out.

In English, the difference between this word and “postpone” is that “postpone” is neutral in meaning and “procrastinate” is always negative in meaning.

It is possible to use this word when talking about ourselves, but because it’s negative, it’s more commonly used to talk about other people’s bad habits of postponing things that they should do.

Please note that when we pronounce this word, we have to stress the second syllable, so it is: /pro CRAS tin nate/.

the difference between words: find and find out


Recently, one of my students was having trouble understanding the nuance between “find” and “find out” in English. So, I’ve decided to write about that today.

I think the easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to realize that we use “find” when talking about discovering something that is tangible or physical such as a person or an object. However, we use “find out” when talking about discovering or learning some kind of information. Here are some examples to help you:

I need to find an apartment downtown which is not so expensive, but it’s really hard.

I found this watch when I was cleaning the house. Is it yours?

Can you find out what Harold’s phone number is?

I just found out that my coworker got married last weekend! I’m so happy for her!

It’s important to note that both of these can be used when talking about actively looking for something or some information or passively discovering it by accident. In the case of my first sentence with “find”, the person is actively searching for a physical thing (an apartment); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers something (the watch).

In the case of my first sentence with “find out”, the person actively wants to know some information (the phone number); in the second sentence, the person accidentally discovers some information during a conversation (the marriage).

You can also think of “find out” as the first step in the process of knowing something. First, we “find out” some information, and then we “know” it for a long time, unless we happen to forget it.

I hope this is clear to anyone who has ever been confused about these words.

grammatical word: religiously


This time I’d like to write about the word “religiously”. We use it when we want to talk about a person who never misses doing something. In other words, they always do it when they’re supposed to or when they have a chance to do it. Here are some example sentences using it.

My sister brushes her teeth three times a day religiously.

My mother watches that TV show religiously. She never misses a single episode!

Recently, Tom has been going to the gym religiously five times a week, so he’s really in good shape now.

I used to read the newspaper religiously, but I don’t do that anymore. I’ve really become out of touch with what’s happening in the world.

When we use this word, it has nothing to do with being a religious person. The reason we say “religiously” to mean doing something all the time is that most religions require people to do certain things regularly and often as a way to show that their faith is strong. In the same way, people who are very passionate about something will do it regularly and often.

As you can see from my examples, we place this word at the end of a sentence or clause.

Also, please note that it can be used for all types of sentences: past, present and future.

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 word: tackle


This blog entry is about the verb “tackle”. We often use this word in business situations when we want to talk about starting to deal with a problem at work. Let me give you some examples of how to use it.

We’re having a big problem with the employees over the issue of vacation time. How do you think we should tackle this problem?

People are constantly late for work, and the boss said he would tackle the problem himself. I wonder what he’s going to do.

I’ll tackle the problem of low morale at the office if you deal with the customer complaints we’ve been getting recently.

Our sales have been going down steadily since January. If we don’t tackle this problem soon, we’ll go out of business.

It’s important to note that when we say we will tackle a problem, it means we haven’t started to deal with that problem yet. If the process has already started, then we say we’re handling the problem or dealing with the problem.

You might be interested to know that we can also use the word “tackle” when talking about American football. When a football player attacks a player from the opposite team in order to stop him from running with the football, we say he “tackles” him. So I suppose that’s why we use it when talking about problems; we are attacking a problem in order to stop it.

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.”

adjectives: temperamental

Baby Einstein

This blog entry is about the adjective “temperamental”. We use it to describe a person or a machine which is very sensitive and unpredictable. Let me give you some example sentences using it.

I heard that actress is really temperamental, so nobody wants to work with her.

My new boss is supposed to be really temperamental, so I’m really worried about working for him.

Please be aware that this photocopier can be quite temperamental. Sometimes you have to hit it to make it work.

I’m really frustrated with my car these days. It still works, but it’s become really temperamental.

When we use this word to talk about a person, as in my first two examples, they are very sensitive emotionally and their behavior cannot be predicted.

When we use this word to talk about a machine, as in my last two examples, it is very sensitive physically and whether or not it works properly cannot be predicted.

In English, both ways of using this word are equally common. In all cases, this word is considered negative.

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