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Opening a can of worms
05-06-2017

Worms are those little animals with no legs or arms, which I remember using as bait when my father took me fishing. I would not touch them, of course! They look disgusting! When we want to talk about a situation that brings out many other problems, we say it’s like opening a can of worms. […]

Opening a can of worms

by ctjonline

Worms are those little animals with no legs or arms, which I remember using as bait when my father took me fishing. I would not touch them, of course! They look disgusting!

When we want to talk about a situation that brings out many other problems, we say it’s like opening a can of worms. Everything is fine and contained in that can, but when you open it, the worms get out and it’s very hard to put them back inside.

However, there are some positive ways to talk about worms. Bookworms can be those small insects which eat the pages of books, or, someone who reads them voraciously! As a book lover myself, I think the word is not an insult, but if you don’t like reading… You may think it is.

In fact, calling someone a “worm” is considering an insult; it’s a synonym for a person who is widely disliked. “Worm” is also what we call a computer program that invades computers or networks and causes a lot of headache. And finally, there’s the earworm, that catchy song that stays in your head for a long time and it’s impossible to stop thinking about!

So, even though worms are not bad creatures, we seem to relate them to very negative thoughts. It’s funny how we use things which makes us disgusted to talk about things which makes us uncomfortable!

Tags: idioms /


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All the time or Every time???
31-05-2017

Some time ago, in one of my classes, a student was sharing a story about his daily routine in the office and he was doing a great job at that. At one point, he made the following statement: “I use the stapler every time.” To which I responded by correcting him and telling him that […]

All the time or Every time???

by ctjonline

Some time ago, in one of my classes, a student was sharing a story about his daily routine in the office and he was doing a great job at that. At one point, he made the following statement: “I use the stapler every time.” To which I responded by correcting him and telling him that he should’ve said ‘all the time‘ instead. And I believe that some of you might be wondering the same thing he did: “Is there really a difference? When do I use one and the other?’’

Well, let’s answer these questions then!

When your intention is to say that you do something very often or frequently, then you should go with ‘all the time‘. For example:

  • I access the Internet all the time. Or…
  • Marcy is on the computer all the time.

In both cases we are talking about things that happen very often and are not conditioned to anything. You’re probably a little puzzled about this ‘not conditioned to anything’ bit!  Well, I wrote that because when you use ‘every time‘ you conditioned one thing to another. For instance:

  • My neighbor locks his car every time he parks it outside.

As you can see, locking the car is conditioned to parking it outside. In other words: if you use ‘every time‘, the person you’re talking to is going to be expecting something more, a condition. Unless, it is pretty obvious what the condition is. Imagine this:

You invite a friend to go to one of your favorite restaurants. Once you guys are there, you look over the menu, which in your case is pointless since you already know what you’re ordering. Your friend makes up his mind and you call the waiter to place your order. As you finish telling the waiter what you want, you turn to your friend and say – I order this every time. It is quite evident to your friend that ‘I come to this restaurant’ is implied.

I hope this has been useful to you. Let us know if you have any questions on this topic or if there are any other expressions that get you confused, by writing in the comments below.

See you in my next post.

Leonardo

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When furniture becomes verb
24-05-2017

You probably have been through a situation where you had to “put the cards on the table”, or, “come clean about a situation”. A table is a good place to have a meeting and discuss serious issues, too. But did you know you can use “table” as a verb? Americans say you can “table” a proposal when […]

When furniture becomes verb

by ctjonline

You probably have been through a situation where you had to “put the cards on the table”, or, “come clean about a situation”. A table is a good place to have a meeting and discuss serious issues, too. But did you know you can use “table” as a verb? Americans say you can “table” a proposal when you want to discuss it later, and postpone a decision. This may cause a lot of confusion if the negotiations involve British people, because, for them, “to table” a proposal means “to present it for negotiation at a meeting”!

There are also other pieces of furniture that can be used as verbs. You can chair a meeting, or, in other words, to preside it. You can also bench a player, or, in other words, send them to sit on a bench and not play the match.

You might try your luck when you look up names of pieces of furniture in the dictionary. You’ll be surprised with how many of them have become verbs!

Tags: vocabulary /


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Have something done
19-09-2016

It is common to hear things such as “I cut my hair / I washed my car / I repaired my car”. Brazilians might understand what you mean, but probably a native speaker of English would be surprised. Let me tell you why: we only say these things when we actually did them. So, did […]

Have something done

by ctjonline

It is common to hear things such as “I cut my hair / I washed my car / I repaired my car”. Brazilians might understand what you mean, but probably a native speaker of English would be surprised. Let me tell you why: we only say these things when we actually did them. So, did you cut your own hair? Did you wash your own car? Did you repair it by yourself? If so, it is totally appropriate! (And  by the way, congratulations, you are a very skillful person!) Because of our busy life, we usually do not have the time or the skills needed to do all the things that we need to do. This is the reason why we end up using the service industry. How do we say things then? We say that we had the service done and that’s it! We use the verb ‘to have‘/’to get‘ (in whatever verb tense you want to say) + object + past participle. Check some examples:

I had my hair cut

I got my car washed

I had my car repaired

I had my teeth checked

I had my suit cleaned

So, try to keep this in mind next time you talk about something you did or had done for you. Did you already know about this? Or was it surprising? Tell us about it, leave a comment!

Tags: Brazilian Speakers of English / english grammar / englishpractice / englishtip /


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Knock, knock. Who’s there?
15-09-2016

You may have heard one of these jokes in movies or series, they are a “call and response” type of joke. It starts when one person pretends to knock on a door and the other person (supposedly inside the fictional place) has to ask “who is there?” and the fun of it consists in having […]

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

by ctjonline

You may have heard one of these jokes in movies or series, they are a “call and response” type of joke. It starts when one person pretends to knock on a door and the other person (supposedly inside the fictional place) has to ask “who is there?” and the fun of it consists in having answers that suggest two or more meanings, with similar sounding words or multiple meaning words (also known as pun). It is an exercise of pronunciation for those learning the language because sometimes we pronounce something in a certain way and in order to understand the joke we need to try different ways until the sentence makes sense. Not to mention when there is a cultural aspect included, like a song, for instance. Check the examples below:

1. Knock, knock

   Who’s there?

   Shelby

  Shelby who?

  Shelby coming round the mountain when she comes

2. Knock, knock
   Who’s there?
   Iva.
   Iva who?
   I’ve a sore hand from knocking!

3. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Dozen.
Dozen who?
Dozen anybody want to let me in?

4. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Harry.
Harry who?
Harry up, it’s cold out here!

5. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Adore.
Adore who?
Adore is between us. Open up!

6. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Lettuce.
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in it’s cold out here.

7. Knock, knock

   Who’s there?

   A broken pencil

   A broken pencil who?

   Nevermind, it is pointless

8. Knock, knock

   Who’s there?

   Cows go

   Cows go who?

   No, silly. Cows go moo!

9. Knock, knock

   Who’s there?

   To

   To who?

   To whom.

10. Knock, knock

     Who’s there?

     Nanna

     Nanna who?

     Nanna your business

11. Knock, knock

     Who’s there?

     Etch

     Etch who?

     Bless you

Which is the funniest in your opinion? Next time you meet your colleagues try to tell some them some jokes and have fun with the language!

Tags: english / englishpractice / pronunciation / thomastogo / vocabulary / words /


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Tongue twisters
12-09-2016

Tongue twisters are challenging phrases that contain many hard to pronounce syllables or alternation of similar but distinct phonemes. They can be a used as a kind of word game because the speakers usually cannot articulate properly the words in a fast and clear manner, causing confusion and good laughs. They are also a good […]

Tongue twisters

by ctjonline

Tongue twisters are challenging phrases that contain many hard to pronounce syllables or alternation of similar but distinct phonemes. They can be a used as a kind of word game because the speakers usually cannot articulate properly the words in a fast and clear manner, causing confusion and good laughs. They are also a good opportunity for pronunciation practice. Take a look at some of them:

If a dog chews shoes, whose shoes does he choose?

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I’m sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.

Betty Botter bought some butter
But she said the butter’s bitter
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter
But a bit of better butter will make my batter better
So ‘twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter

Three levels for tongue twisters about “witches”:

Basic

Three witches watch three Swatch watches. Which witch watch which Swatch watch?

Intermediate

Three switched witches watch three Swatch watch switches. Which switched witch watch which Swatch watch switch?

Advanced

Three Swedish switched witches watch three Swiss Swatch watch switches. Which Swedish switched witch watch which Swiss Swatch watch switch?

Dr. Seuss liked to play with words and his books contain lots of rhymes and tongue twisters. Here is a part from his book “Fox in socks”:

New socks. Two socks. Whose socks? Sue’s socks. Who sews whose socks? Sue sews Sue’s socks. Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir? You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir. That’s not easy, Mr. Fox, sir.

So, which one is your favorite? Which ones are easy and which ones you could not say even trying many times? Let us know on the comments!

Tags: culture / english / fun / practice / pronunciation / vocabulary / words /


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When in Rome (part 2)
04-08-2016

Latin is widely used in legal jargon all over the world. It’s not different in the USA. Some of the expressions have gone into mainstream culture. Latin expressions can be used to refer to academic life — when talking about former students, or Alumni; or the University you went to, your Alma Mater. It is […]

When in Rome (part 2)

by ctjonline

Latin is widely used in legal jargon all over the world. It’s not different in the USA. Some of the expressions have gone into mainstream culture.

Latin expressions can be used to refer to academic life — when talking about former students, or Alumni; or the University you went to, your Alma Mater. It is very common for Lawyers to do some work “pro bono”, as in, to defend a cause with no expectation of pay. In popular culture, it is used to say you would do something for free. The US Navy’s famous motto, which is tattooed on many US Marines around the world, “Semper fi” comes from the Latin “Semper fidelis”, or “always faithful”.  If you have good faith, you can be called a “bonafide” person, even if you choose to use an “alias” (a name different from your official one).

As you can see, Latin has a big place in American society. Some expressions have become so widely used, people may even forget they came from Ancient Rome. See more of them here.

 

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The die is cast
01-08-2016

Suetonious warned Julius Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon, “The die is cast!” (alea iacta est!). The word “die” in this case means dice. These powerful events gave way to many expressions about dramatic decisions and facts that cannot be changed. There are other ways to say that, and some are very funny, like “The cat’s […]

The die is cast

by ctjonline

Suetonious warned Julius Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon, “The die is cast!” (alea iacta est!). The word “die” in this case means dice. These powerful events gave way to many expressions about dramatic decisions and facts that cannot be changed.

There are other ways to say that, and some are very funny, like “The cat’s out of the bag“, or, to reveal secrets, and “You can’t unring the bell“, meaning it is difficult to forget some information once you know it, specifically regarding members of the jury in trials. When the situation gets out of control, on the other hand, you can say you’ve “opened a can of worms“. When it is uncertain, but possibly is going to turn out badly, it’s “touch-and-go“. And finally, when we say “can’t put the genie back in the bottle“, we mean that we can’t try to revert a situation when it has been made public.

When you hear these expressions in movies or TV shows, particularly the ones about politics and crime, you’ll know what they mean!

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When in Rome (part 1)
28-07-2016

America loves Ancient Rome. You can see them in their country symbols — the eagle — and in the architecture of the nation’s capital. But there are other examples of the connections between Rome and the USA. One of my favorite examples comes from the expression “to cross the Delaware”. By Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 […]

When in Rome (part 1)

by ctjonline

America loves Ancient Rome. You can see them in their country symbols — the eagle — and in the architecture of the nation’s capital. But there are other examples of the connections between Rome and the USA. One of my favorite examples comes from the expression “to cross the Delaware”.

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpg
By Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) – Washington Crossing the Delaware – Google Art Project

 

 

In this painting, you can see General Washington during the War of Independence crossing the frozen waters of the Delaware river. Even though it doesn’t show a victory in battle, it has become a very strong portrait of a national hero. Why was this scene chosen and not a battlefield? The crossing of the river was only the start of a military campaign that meant to surprise the Hessians in New Jersey, after the Americans had been defeated there. It was a gamble, and even though they were victorious, it wasn’t a significant achievement. However, there is something about “crossing a river” that means a lot to the imagination of the military.

The expression “to cross the Delaware” comes up now and again in political campaigns, but a more famous river crossing is probably “to cross the Rubicon”. Julius Caesar did it in 49 BC, and it was the first step to the regime change in Rome. In fact, “to cross the Rubicon” nowadays refers to drastic, deliberate, irrevocable decisions that show commitment to a course of action. Crossing the Rubicon was an act of defiance that changed the world, and we can see why the American Revolution took a page from Julius Caesar’s book.

 

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Has the cat got your tongue?
23-05-2016

After writing about “dog days”, I started thinking, are there “cat days”? Well, there aren’t, but there are many expressions involving “cats”. We have some which are similar to the ones we have in Portuguese, for example: “all cats are gray by night”, or “has the cat got your tongue?”. Others are just a little […]

Has the cat got your tongue?

by ctjonline

After writing about “dog days”, I started thinking, are there “cat days”? Well, there aren’t, but there are many expressions involving “cats”.

We have some which are similar to the ones we have in Portuguese, for example: “all cats are gray by night”, or “has the cat got your tongue?”. Others are just a little bit different: in English, cats have nine lives!

To say something is great, you can say it’s “the cat’s meow” or “the cat’s pajamas” – although these are probably a little out of fashion. Still, “a cat” can be another word for “dude, guy”, and it usually describes someone “cool”. Moreover, someone ostentatiously rich can be called  “fat cat”.

Some classic ones are “when the cat’s away, the mice will play” – when the authority figure is away, people will act as they please; “look what the cat dragged in” to show surprise at someone who has arrived.

Are you curious about the number of expressions related to “cat”? Be careful, “curiosity killed the cat!”

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