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English as a Second Language

Viewing entries tagged with 'language'

22May2015

HAVE a hand vs. GIVE a hand

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If you HAVE A HAND IN something, it means you are participating in or involved with something.

If you GIVE someone A HAND, you are helping them do something. Let’s use the party in the picture to show the difference. Let's pretend that Stacy's best friend threw her a surprise birthday party and that she planned it with Stacy's sisters. 

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18May2015

Run Over

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Phrasal Verb: RUN OVER

The phrasal verb 'run over' has a few different meanings. Let's take a look at how we use them.

1. To hit something with a vehicle. "This time of year, you have to be careful not to RUN OVER all the squirrels that are in the streets."

2. To knock someone down. "I know I'm not a fast runner, but the other guys didn't have to RUN me OVER once the race began!"

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6May2015

High Stakes

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This adjective phrase is used to describe a situation where there is a great deal to be won…or lost. For instance, a HIGH STAKES poker game is one where the players are betting a whole lot of money. There is great risk, but there is also a chance for a greater reward.

We might use these words in a slightly different way to convey the same meaning. Pretend, for example, that I am meeting my girlfriend’s father for the first time at dinner tonight. I love my girlfriend and hope to marry her someday, and I’ve been told that she will never marry anyone her father does not like.

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17Apr2015

Can vs. May

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More often than not, "can" and "may" are used interchangeably in speaking and writing. So today, let's look at how they should be used.

"Can" is used to express someone's ability to do something.

He can cook spaghetti for dinner tonight. (He is able to cook spaghetti.)

"May" is used to express possibility or permission.

He may cook spaghetti for dinner tonight. (It is possible he will cook spaghetti./He has permission to cook spaghetti.)

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17Apr2015

Work Out

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There are several meanings to this phrasal verb.

1. To solve (or resolve) a problem or problems. “Megan and Kevin are always fighting. I hope they can WORK OUT their differences.”

2. To exercise. “Mike WORKS OUT at the gym on the second floor of his building every day.”

3. To formulate or develop. “My teacher and I WORKED OUT a plan that would help me improve my writing.”

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14Apr2015

It's vs Its

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This is a common grammar mistake that even native English speakers will make when writing. When do we use "its" and when do we use "it's"?

ITS shows possession for the pronoun 'it'
IT'S is the contraction for 'it is' or 'it has'

"The college has its graduation ceremony at 10:00am." In this sentence, possession is shown. So there is no apostrophe in 'its.'

"It's raining cats and dogs outside." In this sentence, 'it's' could be replaced with 'it is,' so we need to use an apostrophe.

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13Apr2015

Cut to the chase

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Cut it to the chaseWhen we use this expression, we are usually telling someone else to hurry up and get to the point. We may also use it about ourselves to express that we are going to tell you the most important thing, first.

Example: Let’s say that there was a fire in my office - a big fire. There three fire trucks as well as news cameras reporting on the situation. I got out of the building, as did everyone else. When I call my wife, I might begin the conversation like this: “Hi, honey. There was a big fire at my office today, but let me CUT TO THE CHASE. Everyone is fine.” Then, I’ll proceed to tell her some of the details.

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10Apr2015

Lose vs Loose

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These two words can often be confusing, especially in writing. So let's clarify the difference this morning.

LOSE is a verb. The word rhymes with whose. It means that you misplace or fail to keep something, or you do not win. For example, if you go on a diet, you will LOSE weight.

LOOSE is an adjective. The word rhymes with goose. It means that something is not tight. For example, if you go on a diet, you will probably notice your clothes becoming LOOSE.

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9Apr2015

April showers bring May flowers

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The literal meaning of this phrase is just as it seems: the rain showers we receive in the month of April will help beautiful flowers to bloom in the month of May.

However, there is another meaning behind this phrase. Think about a difficult time you had in your life. Did that difficult time produce anything good? I'm sure it did. Usually, something good or beautiful (May flowers) will come from the difficult moments (April showers) we have in life.

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims!! It's an old joke kids like to tell!

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26Dec2012

What is the meaning of..?

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Many students arriving in US have difficulties understanding the meaning of phrases that do not fit logically into standard translations of their languages. So, if someone says, “Yes, I hear you” after listening to your problem, is it good or bad? Or what does it mean if someone says, “Let’s call it a night?” Today we are opening a new section of our blog called “What is the meaning of…?” Let us know what you think and propose the topics you are interested in. So, let’s start…

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