Monthly Archives: December 2010

Expression of the week: dia sim, dia não

“Dia sim, dia não”.

English equivalent: “every other day”.

Sample sentences:

“Experts say that you shouldn’t run every day; every other day is enough”.

“I wash my hair every other day, otherwise it gets oily”.

Notice that the expressionevery other” can be combined with other periods of time to express the meaning of “each alternate”:

Sample sentences:

“The Arts Bienal takes place in São Paulo every other year“.

“My car is quite economical: I just have to fill it up every other week“.

“My teacher is such a pain! She gives us a pop quiz every other class!”

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

I waited until today to wish you all a Merry Christmas because for me  December 25th has always been the most important day of the Holidays season… This is the day when, as a child, my sister and I would wake up to see what Santa had brought us, and then we would stuff our faces with turkey and trimmings… We don’t have a large family in Brazil, but we’d sit around the table and celebrate Christmas by enjoying being together. Those were the good old days…

So this is my message for you this Christmas: if you can be with your family, by all means, do it. If not, think of them, they will certainly be thinking of you!

May Santa bring you all you’ve asked for!

Merry Christmas, folks!

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Expression of the week: Don’t be a stranger now!

“Don’t be a stranger now!”

Portuguese equivalent: “mantenha contato!”

Sample sentences:

(At the end of a dinner with friends) “Well, it was great seeing you again!”  “Definitely! Don’t be a stranger now!

“Sweetheart, I’ll see you next year. Now, don’t be a stranger!”  “Ok, Grandma. I promise I’ll call you every week!”

PS: those of you who have played Carmen San Diego (yeah, I’m old, don’t bug me about it!) will remember this expression…

 

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Hello, again!

Oh, my, it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything! Well, 20 days to be more precise… I must apologize, but as a lot of people do at the end of the year, I was quite busy working and also having my health checked. I had my blood taken to have some tests run and I’ve had my eyes checked, too. Everything is just fine!

Have you noticed the underlined sentences above? They all refer to things I can’t do myself, but need other people to do them for me. To express that idea, we use the following structure: HAVE* + something + DONE. The verb ‘have‘ can be used in any verb tense; the ‘something‘ is what somebody will do for you instead of you doing it yourself; ‘done‘ means that you have to use the past participle of the verb (the 3rd column, remember?).

Now, can you think of other examples of things you have done for you? Let’s see…

– My husband has his hair cut every couple of weeks.

– We’ve just had our cair repaired. It’s working well now!

– We couldn’t use the classroom because the school was having it painted.

– Flight attendants must have their nails done every week.

– After rejecting the take-off, the pilots had the tires checked as a precaution.

We don’t usually have to say who has done something for us, because it’s usually obvious (who else is going to repair a car but a mechanic?). But if necessary, you may add ‘by someone‘ after the ‘have something done’ structure, just to be more specific. For example:

– My mother used to have her hair cut by my grandmother when she was a child.

* you may use the verb ‘get’ instead of ‘have’.

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Grammar: at your service

A lot of people say they don’t like grammar, or that English grammar is difficult, or that it’s boring… and they often ask me: why should I study grammar anyway?

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all languages have a grammar component, even your native language. You just don’t realize you’re using it once you leave school and don’t study it formally anymore.

Grammar (or structure) is essential for communication; it is like a code used by the speakers of a language that allows people to express their ideas precisely, in a way that is easily understood by all who use that same code.  When you accidentally change that code (when you make a grammar mistake), your message is likely to be misunderstood, or you may convey a different meaning than what you had intended.

In a nutshell, grammar allows you to be direct, or soft, or authoritative, or inquisitive, or polite, or assertive, or rude, whatever you want to be when expressing your ideas. Let’s take the example of something that happened this week in aviation.

Last Monday, there were moments of fear for the passengers of a Boeing 737 when they felt the aircraft drop several thousand feet twice during the flight. Apparently, while the captain left the cockpit for a moment to use the restroom, the co-pilot accidentally pushed the aircraft controls with his knee while adjusting his seat, causing the airplane to move in an undesirable way. Meanwhile, the captain tried to go back to the flight deck, but found the door securely locked. (read the news here and here).

 Below, some examples of what the captain may have said, using different grammar structures to express different functions. 

Could you open the door, please? (making a request)
Are you able to open the door? (asking for information)
I need you to open the door now. (expressing need)
Open the door! (giving an order)
If I were you, I would open the door! (giving advice)
If you don’t open the door now, you will be fired! (making a threat)
You should have opened the door… (expressing regret)

If the correct grammar structures hadn’t been used (modal verbs, conditionals, imperative, etc), there would be no way of expressing such different meanings!

So, consider grammar as a tool that is at your service, just to help you say what you want to say. The better you use it, the better you will communicate. And who doesn’t want to communicate well?

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