Posts Tagged ‘the English language’


December 9, 2017

'This is the kind of grade up with which my dad won't put.'


The lexical unit “to” as a preposition, an adverb and a particle (also as an element of set expressions like in “to and fro”) is usually learnt by foreign speakers in a few meanings, most common of which are the direction, contact (“with his forehead pressed to the window”), position (“to the right/left of…”), time relations (“from three to eight…”), etc. However, there are some interesting points of its usage which, being not so frequent, are a must with a professional linguist.

  1. The English word “to” is related to the German “zu” and may be used in the function reminding you of German verbs with detached prefixes (“trennbare Verben”): <Pull the door to! = Close the door!> <The door blew to = the door swung/clicked shut> <He put the horses to = he harnessed the horses>
  2. “TO” used as an adverb can mean a return to the state of activity of activeness: <The patient came to = The patient regained his consciousness>, <He sat down to lunch and fell to = … and started eating with great relish>
  3. In the dialect usage: <Where’s he to?—He’s to town/to home>
  4. <His hat is on the wrong side to = he has put on his hat with the back side forward>
  5. A special nautical usage “to/into the wind” = in the direction from which the wind is blowing <Keep her to! = Orient the ship against the wind> <The gale having gone over, we came to>

Less “exotic” examples are: <eight apples to the kilo>, <twenty-seven hryvnia to the dollar>, <a scale of one centimeter to 50 kilometers>, <thirty miles to the gallon>, <three to the fourth equals eighty-one= …three to the power of four…>, <the key to the door>, <a solution to the problem>, <exceptions to the rule>, <the British ambassador to Ukraine>

  1. While the both phrases “He did it FOR him” and He did it TO him” are grammatically correct, FOR implies something positive and TO something negative.
  2. Compare WITH or compare TO?

In general terms, either preposition is correct, but the choice depends partly on meaning and partly on grammar. In addition, American English generally prefers to when there is a choice, whereas in British English the two different constructions are more evenly spread.

Let’s look first at the meaning of each phrase. To compare can be defined broadly as ‘to estimate the similarity or difference between things’. For example:

Individual schools compared their facilities with those of others in the area.

It is difficult to compare our results to studies conducted in the United States.

In this meaning, either preposition can be used.

However, when compare is used to say that one thing resembles another, or to make an analogy between two different things, to is obligatory:

Her novel was compared to the work of Daniel Defoe.

He compared children to young trees, both still growing and able to be shaped.

Intransitive uses

British English prefers with when compare is used intransitively, because similarities are being evaluated:

His achievements do not compare with those of A. J. Ayer.

No other English painter can compare with Sutherland in the subtlety of his vision.

In American English, however, compare to is possible and slightly more frequent:

None of those birds compare to L.A. pigeons.

No, today’s calamities don’t compare to the Great Depression or even to the agricultural troubles of the 1980s.

Compared to…

When the past participle  compared introduces a subordinate  or phrase, the preposition is either to or with, although here usage is moving in favour of to:

This was a modest sum compared to what other people spent.

Compared to physics and astronomy, cosmology is a young science.

However, compared with the USA and Japan, Europe contains a group of separate nation states.

Comparable, comparison

Comparable is used with to or with in line with the previous information, with a marked preference in current usage for to:

We find ourselves in a situation comparable to mediaeval times.

Social mobility is, in fact, comparable with most countries in Europe.


Comparison as the noun equivalent of compare can be followed by either with or to:

Poussin’s approach bears closest comparison to Michelangelo’s.

Prices for real estate in Tbilisi cannot stand comparison with Western capitals or indeed Moscow.

The phrase in comparison to is more often used than in comparison with, but by comparison with is more frequent than by comparison to




December 4, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

"Experience is the wonderful knowledge that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."


A person has had experience:

  • Kepling is an old hand at carpentry. He builds very good cabinets// Ann has been repairing bicycles for years. She is an old hand at it.
  • Barb has driven to New York so many times that she knows the way like the back of her hand// Mr. Riley knows the way to the supermarket like the back of his hand, he never gets lost going there and he goes there every day.
  • Harry has been working here for a long time. He will show you round. He knows the ropes// Miss Harper knows the ropes. She is used to fixing up old houses and she paints rooms very well.
  • You do not have to worry about Frank getting lost. He can take care of himself. Frank was not born yesterday// Mrs. Harrison was not born yesterday. She is far from being naïve and she understands what life is all about.
  • Mark, an insurance salesman, never went to college, but he knows all there is to know about selling insurance. He went to the school of hard knocks// Mrs. Pierson went to the school of hard knocks. She never received a university degree, but she knows everything about the field she is working in.
  • Barry repairs cell phones. He takes a live-and-learn approach in his work. That is why he is good. Every day he knows more about repairing these devices// Ms. Cramer said, “Live and learn.” When she washed all her clothes together, the white ones came out red. She will never make the same mistake the next time.

A person has no or little experience

  • This is the first time Sue has gone skiing. She will need some help because she is wet behind the ears// Mr. Samuelson is wet behind the ears. He is a new member of the club.
  • Yesterday was only Jenny’s second time horseback riding. That is why she fell off. She is still green// Dr. Davidson is green. He has just graduated from medical school, and he has performed only a few operations.
  • Yesterday Martha started a new job. She is just getting her feet wet// Mr. Anderson is getting his feet wet. He is learning how to repair his car. He has never done it before.

experienceYour friend Bill has invited you to go camping with you to the mountains. You want to go, and although you know Bill is an experienced camper, you are a little scared because you have never camped out before. Bill is trying to reassure you:

Look, don’t worry. I am an old hand at camping. I know you are wet behind the ears, but I know the ropes. We won’t get lost. I know the trail like the back of my hand. When it comes to camping, I was not born yesterday. After you get your feet wet, you’ll love it. It’s really lots of fun.


December 3, 2017



Definition of red herring

Red herring is a fallacy argument that distracts from the original topic. Some may refer to this type of argument as a “smoke screen;”  something that draws attention away from the matter being discussed or dealt with; something that distracts attention from the real issue.

Definition of red herring for English Language Learners: something unimportant that is used to stop people from noticing or thinking about something important.

First known use of red herring: 15th century

Word History 1: A herring is a soft-finned bony fish. People who like to eat herring have long preserved them by salting and slowly smoking them. That process makes a herring turn red or dark brown – and gives them a very strong smell. Dogs love to sniff such smelly treats, a fact that makes the fish a perfect diversion for anyone trying to distract hunting dogs from the trail of their quarry. The practice of using preserved fish to confuse hunting dogs led to the use of the term red herring for anything that diverts attention from the issue at hand.

Word History 2: A red herring was originally a herring cured by smoking, a process that imparts a reddish color to its flesh. It is not known how red herring came to denote something that diverts the attention of observers or investigators, but the modern meaning may have arisen in connection with the sport of hunting. A clue to its origin is found in A Gentleman’s Recreation, a guide to hounds, hawks, horses, and other hunting matters first published in 1674 by the Englishman Nicholas Cox. This enormously popular book went through many editions, and in it Cox describes a practice that may have given rise to the modern expression red herring. If the day’s hunt has been uneventful and the huntsman’s horse has been unable to work up a good sweat, Cox recommends having a dead cat or fox, or lacking these, a red herring, dragged over the countryside for about four miles, and then setting the hounds on the scent trail thus created. As a substitute for an animal carcass, a red herring would have been readily available in any English kitchen, and its pungent, fishy-smelling flesh would have left a scent that the hounds could track easily. By riding after the hounds as they followed the scent, the huntsman could ensure that his horse has received sufficient exercise. The modern meaning of the expression red herring was perhaps inspired by practices similar to this and developed from the notion of deliberately laying an artificial trail that could distract one’s pursuers. However, the first known use of the term red herring in its modern sense, “something that distracts attention from an important issue,” occurs in the 1800s, well after the publication of Cox’s book.
RED HERRING is used in:

  • Mystery, thriller and dramatic novels
  • Political speeches
  • Children’s conversations with their parents
  • Business announcements
  • Government information releases
  • Controversial conversations

Common Red Herrings

  • In business, arguing against giving raises – “Sure, we haven’t given raises in over five years to our employees. You know, we work really hard to make a good product. We try to ensure the best customer service, too.”
  • In government, arguing for raising taxes – “We need more revenue to support the programs that we have. Children are our future. Let’s support children.”
  • In politics, defending one’s own policies regarding public safety – “I have worked hard to help eliminate criminal activity. What we need is economic growth that can only come from the hands of leadership.”
  • In conversation, in arguing against gay marriage rights – “I don’t think that there should be marriage among homosexuals. Anyway, taxes on married people are high. I think that taxes on the married are just ridiculous.”
  • In a mystery novel – Vivid descriptions are given of a masked intruder who enters the room where the murdered person is ultimately found. These descriptions lead the reader to assume that this masked intruder was the killer.
  • In business, defending lay offs – “Unfortunately we have to lay off 5% of the workforce. It’s important for us to note that the product we create is exceptionally flawless and we thank our manufacturing department for that.”
  • In government, to avoid discussing a delicate topic – “I understand you want to know what happened at the embassy. What is really important is to talk about whether the government has enough cash flow to stay open through the month.”
  • In politics, to defend one’s voting past – “While you may have concerns about my votes about the environment, I can assure you that I am an open minded individual. What we should really discuss is my record on votes that expanded educational opportunities for all children.”
  • In conversation – “I am pretty sure that evolution is not a very good explanation for human life. Anyway, I am pretty offended that anyone would suggest that I came from a monkey.”
  • In business, arguing in favor of an increase in health care contributions from employees – “We are going to be forced to increase the amount of your contribution to your health care costs by 10%. Do note that we continue to provide lunches at a standard cost in the cafeteria, and we know what a huge benefit that is for most workers!”
  • In government, defending one’s inaction in regards to increased crime –  “The crime in this city, has, in fact increased lately. However, let’s consider that the weather has changed as well. Things change over time. Sometimes they are linked, sometimes they are not, but only time will tell.”
  • In conversation – “When you start saying things to me like I need to eat healthier or get more exercise, that says to me that you think I’m fat. I like me, and I like the way I look and more people should have better self esteem.”
  • In business, arguing in favor of moving to another state – “Sure, South Carolina is quite a distance from Maryland, but it is better for our business model. And, really, who doesn’t like warmer weather? The weather will definitely be a plus.”

Recent Examples of red herring from the Web:

  • Dear Dan, How can some people see global warming as a huge crisis facing humanity while others dismiss it as a big red herring?
  • In a Ludlumesque switcheroo, the geopolitical tensions are a bit of a red herring.

Examples of red herring in a sentence:

  • The argument is a red herring. It actually has nothing to do with the issue.
  • The plot of the mystery was full of red herrings.
  • Talking about the new plants is a red herring to keep us from learning about downsizing plants.

Close to red herring is the word combination straw man (dictionary definition: an argument set up so that it can be easily refuted or defeated).

straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man.” The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the opponent’s proposition

An example often given of a straw man is US President Richard Nixon’s 1952 “Checkers speech.” When campaigning for vice president in 1952, Nixon was accused of having illegally appropriated $18,000 in campaign funds for his personal use. In a televised response, he spoke about another gift, a dog he had been given by a supporter: “It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, six years old, named it Checkers. And, you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that, regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.“ This was a straw man response; his critics had never criticized the dog as a gift or suggested he return it. This argument was successful at distracting many people from the funds, and portraying his critics as nitpicking and heartless. Nixon received an outpouring of public support and remained on the ticket. He and Eisenhower were elected by a landslide.



December 1, 2017


Some time ago I read about a trend in economy which is accompanied by an increasing number of contract and temp jobs when, consequently, more and more people work from home and freelance. There was a special word which stood for that trend and which, unfortunately, escaped me. To bring the word back to mind I went to a good many sites dealing with modern economy and came to know quite a number of interesting (and useful) terms and expressions, like workplace flexibility, alternative worksites, time banking, re-skilling, career customizing, etc. I found out that, in the near future, the biggest loss in jobs is expected to be in such job families as office/administration, manufacturing and production, construction, extraction, while, on the other hand, business/management, computers and mathematical areas, architecture, engineering, education and training are in for a growth in jobs. Nowadays, the in-demand skills are those of app designers, market research data miners, admission consultants and (get ready!) …millennial generational experts. Such experts give advice to companies about recruiting and developing young professionals belonging to Generation Y (the Millennials) – in particular, about how best to engage, motivate and placate this often fickle workforce.

From these new jobs I surfed further on to the Generations proper. It turned out that we, baby boomers are, actually, parents of the Millennials, and our children can also bear another name – ”echo boomers,” but they are not so numerous as we were – due to a lower birth rate in the 1970s and early 1980s comparing to the “birthquake” of the post-war years…. The preceding Generation X, which grew in the times when many families were becoming two-paycheck families, received the name “the latchkey generation” and, because of their infatuation with tendencies in the art of those days, also the “MTV (music, television, video) generation.”

I almost lost the hope to find the word I was searching for. But, all of a sudden, I came across a sentence: “…he received a 50% raise for another gig in Buffalo…” YES-S-S! Eurika! Of course, it’s “gig economy.” Now things became easier. The slang word “gig” developed its meaning from “a single professional engagement of short duration, as of jazz or rock musicians” to “any job, esp. one of short or uncertain duration.” In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are cheaper and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. It is estimated that as much as a third of the working population in the U.S.A. is already working in some sort of gig capacity – among them, take-away deliverers, couriers, taxi drivers,  accountants, marketing consultants, software developers, jobbing writers, through to adjunct and part-time professors at universities.

precarious_cartoonThe main factor in the development of contract jobs is an economic one. In many cases, employers cannot afford to hire full-time employees to do all the work they need done, so they hire part-time or temporary employees to take care of busier times or specific projects. On the side of the employee, people often find that they need to move around or take more than one position in order to afford the lifestyle they want. People also tend to change careers many times throughout their lives, so the gig economy is the reflection of this occurring on a large scale.

When I discussed this linguistic research with my daughter, a professional economist, she advised that I do not use the word combination “gig economy” in official speech. The word “gig” still carries much of its slang flavor (compare Ukrainian “халтурка”). Maybe, in 10-20 years it’ll be alright.  But now… How about the term “nomadic-job economy”? Will it be more acceptable when reduced to the acronym NJE [EnDzhEE]? Or CJE (contract-job economy)? Or TJE (temp-job economy)?

That’s another reason why I like English. You can be creative in it.


November 24, 2017



The phrase with ALL <*We all were delighted…> is wrong. The right variant is <We were ALL delighted…>.  Also correct is: <We must ALL try to find…> (not <*We ALL must try to find…>). ALL usually goes immediately after the (first) auxiliary verb. When there is no auxiliary verb, ALL is placed immediately before the main verb: <We ALL passed the exam.> However, when the main verb is BE, ALL is placed immediately after it: <The letters are ALL on your desk> The same rule about their position in relation to the auxiliary verb, the main verb and the verb BE is true for the adverbs ALMOST, ALREADY, ALWAYS, ALSO etc.: Correct variants: <I had ALMOST finished the letter, when …>, <They are ALREADY aware of this problem,> <He is ALWAYS in a bad mood,> <You should ALWAYS take care, when…>


ALONE = by yourself, not with anyone, without other people present  <He thought about getting married, but he preferred living ALONE> LONELY = sad because you are ALONE.


It’s wrong to say <*A child learns a lot by doing this ALONE.” Correct: <A child learns a lot by doing this ON HIS OR HER OWN, i.e. without anyone’s help or supervision, independently>


The pronoun “it” is NOT used as a preparatory subject before ALLOW. Wrong: <*It is not allowed to talk in the library> Correct: <People are not allowed to talk in the library> or <Talking in the library is not allowed>


Sometimes I come across native speakers who use the word ALSO in negative clauses, which is not recommended by the official grammar. As for the place of ALSO in the sentence, it can – according to the BBC Learning English – go in lots of places, including the beginning of the sentence when it is separated with a comma, e.g.:

Also, I think that you should consider quitting your job.
also think that you should consider quitting your job.
I think that you also should consider quitting your job.
I think that you should also consider quitting your job.
I think that you should consider also quitting your job.
I think that you should consider quitting your job also.

Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern Usage says that in talk, where the informal stringing of afterthoughts is legitimate, there is no objection to ALSO. But it is the writer’s ordinary duty to settle up with his afterthoughts  before he writes his sentence, and consequently, the unassisted ALSO that is proper to the afterthought gives a slovenly air to its sentence <Remember your passport and money. Also the tickets>


In British English ALTERNATE means 1) “happening in turn, first one, than the other” <alternate periods of sun and rain> 2) “every second (day, week, etc.)” <Our local football team plays at home on alternate Sundays> ALTERNATIVE = (of two or more things) that may be used, had, done, etc., instead of another. In American English ALTERNATE can also be used with the same meaning as ALTERNATIVE. Thus, the two following sentences mean the same: American English: <We decided to make ALTERNATE arrangements in case the hotel was fully booked> British English: <We decided to make ALTERNATIVE arrangements in case the hotel was fully booked>  Please, notice the usage of the verb ALTERNATE (with the  difference in pronunciation between the adjective [ôl′tər-nit ] and the verb  [ôl′tər-nāt′, ăl′-]): <The students alternated at the computer>


The word means “at all times, every time,” which is why it’s wrong to say <*While he was writing the letter, he always scratched his chin>. The correct version is: < While he was writing the letter, he kept scratching his chin, i.e. scratched his chin repeatedly>


November 22, 2017


THINK The synonymic field with the headword “THINK” having the meaning: “to use one’s power of conception or judgment in regard to any matter or subject which concerns or interests one, is rather extensive.

COGITATE. To “think” is the general term when it goes about mental activity for the sake of forming ideas or reaching conclusions. However, this word does not stress the character of thinking, as the word COGITATE does. COGITATE suggest the atmosphere of profound thinking, of which some result is expected <still COGITATING and looking for an explanation… – Dickens>  <Mrs. Berry had not COGITATED long ere she pronounced distinctly and without a shadow of dubiosity: “My opinion is…” – Meredith>

REFLECT  implies a turning of one’s thoughts back to something that exists, has occurred or needs reexamining. It implies quiet, unhurried, and serious consideration or study <…stood REFLECTING on the circumstances of the preceding hours – Hardy> <All the important things in his life , [he] sometimes REFLECTED, had been determined by chance – Cather> <began to study its organization, REFLECT on its psychology…and ponder the results – Shirer>

REASON is mainly about consecutive logical thought, beginning with a postulate, a premise, or evidence and proceeding to a conclusion or judgment <no man as near death as I was feeling, could, I REASONED, be absorbed by such trifles – Lucas>

SPECULATE is similar to REASON but stresses the uncertainty of argumentation or the incompleteness of the data and therefore usually imputes a hypothetical or theoretical character to the conclusion reached <the two women SPECULATED with deep anxiety on whether or not little Pamela had died of exposure – Cheever><…philosophers have SPECULATED on the question of God for thousands of years>

DELIBERATE suggests slow and careful reasoning and fair consideration of various aspects in an attempt to reach a conclusion often on a matter of public interest <the future relations of the two countries could not be DELIBERATED on with a hope of settlement – Froude>

PONDER has the implication of weighing and suggests consideration of a problem from all angles in order that nothing important will escape one. In this respect the word. The difference between PONDER on the one hand, and WEIGH and CONSIDER on the other, is that the last two words imply fixing the mind on something in order to increase one’s knowledge or understanding of it or to solve a problem involved in it. PONDER does not contain that element of “increasing.” <the great master was wont…to…spend the day PONDERING the subjects of his brush by the side of running streams – Binyon>

MEDITATE adds to PONDER the idea of focusing one’s thought for the purpose of understanding the thing in all its aspects.

MUSE comes close to MEDITATE in implying focused attention  but it suggests a less intellectual aim; often it implies absorption and a languid turning over of a topic, as if in a dream, a fancy, or a remembrance <let him read a certain passage of full poesy  or distilled prose , and let him wander with it , and MUSE upon it … and dream upon it – Keats> <still a pleasant mystery; enough to muse over on a dull afternoon – Davis>

RUMINATE implies a going over the same problem (object of meditation) again and again. But it does not carry as strong a suggestion of WEIGHING as PONDER, or concentrated attention as MEDITATE, or of absorption as MUSE, and it more often implies such processes as REASONING and SPECULATION <I sit at home and RUMINATE on qualities of certain little books like this one,… which I can read again and again – L.P.Smith> <forty years on RUMINATING on life, of glimpsing it in its simplest forms through microscopes – Kaempffert>

CONSIDER is an applying of one’s mind but sometimes it also carries such a restricting implication as that of a definite point of view <in the last paragraphs we have considered science as a steadily advancing army of ascertained facts – Inge> or as that of thinking over <the publishers told him they would CONSIDER his book> < marriage is an action too freely practiced and too seldom adequately CONSIDERED>

CONTEMPLATE implies, like MEDITATE, the focusing of one’s attention upon a thing and a close dwelling upon it; the term, however, does not always carry a clear implication of the purpose or result. When the object on which the mind rests is a plan, a project, or an imaginative conception, CONTEMPLATE usually suggests its formulation in detail or its enjoyment as envisioned <Herbert bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had CONTEMPLATED for weeks with a thrill of pleasure – Hardy> When the object contemplated lies outside the mind, the term suggests an attempt to increase one’s knowledge and comprehension of it through minute scrutiny and meditation <while science CONTEMPLATES a world of facts without values, religion CONTEMPLATES values apart from facts – Inge> <…nature is beautiful only to the mind which is prepared to apprehend her beauty , to CONTEMPLATE her for her own sake…– Alexander>

WEIGH implies evaluation of something and especially of one thing in respect to another, it suggests an attempt to get at the truth by balancing <to WEIGH evidence> <observations are not to be numbered, they are to be WEIGHED – Ellis>

EXCOGITATE implies the application of one’s mind to something so that one may find the solution of the problem involved  <EXCOGITATE a plan whereby poverty may be relieved without unduly burdening the taxpayers><Scientist must stop to observe and start to EXCOGITATE>

MULL. I didn’t find in dictionaries any special features that distinguish the word MULL (OVER) from the words RUMINATE, PONDER, CONSIDER. It looks like the word is more colloquial than these three, and more recent in origin (the first quarter of the 19th century). Here are some contemporary examples from the Web: < A group of friends gathers to MULL over what to do with a day off><Clearly, the attorney has already begun to MULL his options> <Residents MULL it over in daily conversations: whose apartment was robbed last night?>


November 20, 2017



The knowledge of a very common pronoun “I” (first person, singular) can enlarge the linguistic competence of an English learner.

First of all, the pronoun has two synonyms – me and myself. However, they should be carefully used, since sometimes they are not accepted as the standard replacement of  I. While “It’s me” doesn’t arouse much antagonism any longer, John and myself is still not accepted by language purists. On the other hand, when used for emphasis, myself/himself, etc. is quite acceptable <I myself was certain of the facts>.

Besides standing for a person who describes oneself as a speaker or writer, the pronoun “I” has the meaning of a distinct and personal individuality. Examples: <there is but one “I”> < the other I> <In some cultures the We precedes the I>. The pronoun can also mean “an excessively egotistic person”: <just a big I>

Used as a letter (lower-cased or upper-cased), I can be a Roman numeral representing what is generally known as the figure/number  “1” – often in combination with other Roman figures to represent a number: IX, XVII, xxxii, etc.

The shape of the capital letter I with two short horizontal sticks respectively on top and at the bottom is the basis of the meaning “in the form of the capital I”: <an I-beam>.

There are quite a number of words that use the capital I as their shortening. I’ll mention only one that is often used by teachers who may assess a student’s written work as “I” (= incomplete).

Being the ninth letter of the English alphabet, the letter may be used to designate a phenomenon which is the ninth in order or class. Cf.: an I-class product – similar to A-class, B-class, … H-Class, etc.

To wrap up my short insight into one of the most frequently used English words, here are a few phrases that cannot function without the pronoun “I”.

  1. I couldn’t ask you to do that = That is a very kind offer, but I wouldn’t dare ask you to do that (this is NOT a refusal of the offer): Sally: Look, if you want, I’ll drive you to the airport. Mary: Oh, Sally, I couldn’t ask you to do that.
  2. I could(n’t) care less = I don’t care! (please, note that the meaning remains the same, no matter whether “could” or “couldn’t” is used): So, you are late. I couldn’t care less!= So, you are late. I could care less!
  3. I could have bitten my tongue off! – meaning: you profoundly and immediately regret having said something.
  4. I couldn’t agree (with you) more! = I completely agree with you <I couldn’t agree with you more about the need to hire extra staff>
  5. I could (just) spit = I’m very angry about what has happened <Did you hear the way he was blatantly lying to us? I could just spit!>
  6. I could murder (some kind of food) = I’m so hungry that I could (or would like to) devour (some kind of food) <I’m famished after the hike. I could murder a hamburger right now> OR: <I could murder a coffee>
  7. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you (in text messages, the phrase may be presented as an abbreviation ICTYBTIHTKY) – said in answer to a question that one does not want to answer. The equivalent of “don’t ask.”
  8. I don’t mean maybe! = I’m not kidding! <You get over here right now (=come here immediately), and I don’t mean maybe!>
  9. (I) don’t mind if I do = An affirmative response to an offer <A: Would you like a cold drink of water? – B: Don’t mind if I do>


November 19, 2017

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder




1. an established standard of decency, honesty, etc
2. abidance by this standard
  1. The football coach threw Dan a curve. He assured Dan he would be picked for the team, but in the end he told him he wasn’t good enough ANOTHER SITUATION: “What a surprise! Amy really threw me a curve. All along she said that she liked me, and then suddenly she said she wanted to break up. I feel terrible!” (mislead or deceive someone; surprise someone in an unpleasant way).
  2. When Peter smashed his car, the insurance company gave him a fair shake. They gave him enough money to repair his car (honest treatment).
  3. In the divorce settlement, Margaret got burned. Her ex-husband got everything and she got nothing (to be severely wronged).
  4. Chris got away with murder. She knew her parents would not like it, but she stayed out all night at a party. When she got home, her parents didn’t say anything to her (do something very bad without being punished).
  5. When Ruth broke Kathy’s favorite bowl, Kathy raked her over the coals. She yelled and yelled at Ruth, told her she was clumsy and said that she should never touch anything of hers again (criticize sharply).
  6. When Jean cooked dinner for Nancy, she burned the food. Nancy refused to eat it. To add insult to injury, she told Jean she was not a good cook, and probably never would be (hurt someone’s feelings after doing that person harm; make bad trouble worse)
  7. When Terry failed the English test, Kelly told him he was stupid and would never learn to speak English. Kelly’s comment was a hit below the belt (be an unfair or cowardly act; do something that is against the rules of sportsmanship or justice).
  8. Erickson, the store manager, gave Larry the ax. One day Larry came to work, and with no warning, he was fired (abruptly finish a relationship; fire an employee without warning).
  9. Linda and her friends decided to go to the movies. Linda wanted to see one movie, and everyone else wanted to see another. Linda was a good sport, and went to the movie her friends wanted to see (be someone who has a good sense of fair play).


November 18, 2017

teaching English


A true story that happened to me when I was doing my practice teaching way back in 1969.

Being a budding teacher at school, Pete was up to his eyes in work. He had a mentor  – Mr. Nosey – assigned  to him. The idea was that the mentor should give Pete all the back-up needed. The colleagues said Mr. Nosey would observe Pete’s lesson practically every day. “You’ll see if he doesn’t,” they said. Mr. Nosey did.
Pete’s lessons of English were carefully planned. He also ran a pedagogical diary to jog his memory when some special methods of teaching were to be applied. Pete took a leaf out of his mentor’s book.  The mentor said that if homework was given, it was mandatory that the teacher check it through and evaluate it. Whenever there was a failure, Pete was back to the “drawing board” – to his literature in methodology. You couldn’t conduct a good lesson if you didn’t have enough elbow room and if you didn’t have something up your sleeve (another of Mr. Nosey’s  instructions). Pete thought that Mr. Nosey’s  recommendations were far-fetched. Before every lesson Pete had a hang-up about his future ordeal and he never smiled until he had conducted it. He was rather sensitive about his methodological missteps. No sooner had he done something wrong than he could have kicked himself, as he knew, his faults were registered in Mr. Nosey’s log-book. He knew that if he protested, he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, since everything was done according to school regulations. But as long as Mr. Nosey was observing his lesson, Pete felt like a cat on hot bricks. The presence of the mentor was very off-putting.

Pete’s problem was his tempo. He always scorched along the pre-planned lesson at high speed and, and as a rule, had a good five or ten minutes before the bell, when he didn’t know what to do with the class. The same happened this time. However, Pete was in luck’s way. He recalled a short verse from his diary. “Listen, folks,” he said, “I’ll recite a poem about… love.” The class (young people, all 16-17years of age) cocked up their ears for the key-word LOVE. Pete started:

“They walked in the street together, the sky was covered with stars, // They reached the gate in silence, // He drifted down the bars… // She neither smiled, nor thanked him, Because she knew not how,//  Because he was a farmer’s boy, // And she – a farmer’s cow…”

A thunderous laughter shook the walls of the classroom and lasted long enough until the final bell went.


November 10, 2017



A typical error continuously made by Ukrainian students of English is the misusage of the words “actual/actually,” which, in English, respectively mean “real/in fact.” When a native English speaker hears the sentence “Payment backlogs are a very actual problem in Ukraine,” he won’t feel that the issue is “burning” – a semantic component contained in the Ukrainian word “”актуальний.” Even the replacements “present” or “current” recommended by dictionaries will not present a complete picture of what was going to be said. I have analyzed possible substitutes and suggest the following choices for the misused word:

…are vitally important

…are top-priority issues,

…are at the top of the agenda/list

…are exigent/challenging/relevant/currently topical/ of current concern/ pressing

 Informally, the colloquial synonym “to be on the front burner” may be used.


For the above sentence about the importance of payment backlogs in Ukraine, I would NOT use the following words recommended by some interactive dictionaries:

zeitgeisty (= reflecting the spirit of time);

time-sensitive (= a/ physically changing as time passes; b/ only relevant or applicable for a short period of time);

hot, or red-hot (= extremely popular; very active; successful)

up-to-the-minute (= extending to the present moment, as information, facts, or style: an up-to-the minute news report).

present-day (relating to the current period of time, as “present-day  technological developments”)

Naturally, these words may be used in other situations that relate to the lexical characteristics indicated in the brackets.

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