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.

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.

idiom: on the mend

on the mend

Today, I’d like to write about the expression “on the mend”. We use it when we want to talk about someone or something which is recovering from something bad. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

I was very sick last week, but I’m on the mend now.

A: I heard Jack had to have an operation! Is he ok?

B: We were very worried for a while, but fortunately he’s on the mend now.

My sister’s boyfriend broke up with her and totally broke her heart! She’s a strong woman though. I’m sure she’ll be on the mend soon.

The economy was in deep trouble, but there are signs now that it’s on the mend.

So, as you can see from my examples, we usually use this expression to talk about people recovering from a physical or emotional problem such as an illness, an injury or a broken heart.

However, as you can see in my last example, we can also use it to talk about the economy when it recovers from a recession. This is a less common way to use it, but we sometimes hear this in the news media.

the difference between words: power and strength


This will be my last blog entry for 2014. I’ve decided to go back to this blog’s most popular topic: the difference between words. This time I want to write about the difference between the nouns “power” and “strength”.

The word “power” refers to the capacity of a group, person or machine to do something. This word can refer to a mechanical situation (a machine) or something political or social (a group or person). For example:

This car doesn’t have enough power to pull that trailer.

I think there’s enough power left in this battery to play my music for another two hours.

My sister has the power to persuade anyone to do anything.

It seems like most politicians these days only run for office to gain power.

The word “strength” refers to a person’s physical capability to do something. In other words, we’re talking about their ability to use their muscles to do something. For example:

I don’t have enough strength in my upper body to lift that desk.

In order to increase your strength you should work out at the gym more often.

We can also use the word “strength” to talk about an advantage that a certain person or group has that makes it more likely for them to be successful. For example:

I have many strengths, but my biggest strength is my ability to communicate with other people.

The strength of that baseball team comes from their ability to work together as a team.

The word “strength” has a direct opposite which is the word “weakness*. However, “power” does not have a direct opposite. If we want to express its opposite, we would just say “lack of power”.

As I mentioned, these words are nouns. However, we often use the adjective forms which are “powerful” and “strong”. In regular conversation in English, it’s often more natural to use the adjective forms as it sounds more casual. Using nouns forms very often can make the sentences sound technical and formal.

I hope everyone has had a great 2014, and I wish you all Happy New Year! All the best to you in 2015!

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.

grammatical expression: to get on someone’s nerves


Today I’d like to write about the expression “get on someone’s nerves”. We use it when we want to talk about something or someone that really irritates another person. Here are some ways to use it in sentences.

I hate the sound of whistling. It really gets on my nerves.

Jeff is constantly bragging about winning the bowling competition and he’s really getting on my nerves.

Kids, please go outside and play your drums there. I think you’re getting on your mother’s nerves.

A: What kind of things get on your nerves?

B: People who spit on the street really get on my nerves.

We almost always use this expression in the simple present tense or the present continuous tense.

We often use it to talk about things that irritate ourselves such as in the first, second and fourth examples.

Please be careful not to confuse the word “nerves” with “nervous”. The word “nervous” has a different meaning. We use that adjective to describe a situation in which a person feels a little scared before doing something.

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