Friday, January 31, 2014

A cinch

If something is a cinch, it is a piece of cake, a walk in the park, like stealing candy from a baby, child's play, a cakewalk, a picnic, a breeze, no sweat, a snap.

1. Getting the hang of (getting used to) a smart phone is a cinch. Do you think that if someone does not have a smart phone they are missing out? Do you think they are being left behind technologically?

2. I always tell people that learning English (or any language for that matter) is a piece of cake. What attitudes do you think you need to have to be successful at learning English?

3. Climbing Mount Everest or cycling across Brazil is no walk in the park. What is the most difficult physical activity you have ever undertaken?

4. Some people think it is so difficult to play a musical instrument and that you have to be musically talented to do so. I think anything is child's play, as long as you take it one step at a time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Say vs. Tell

Say and tell mean exactly the same thing… We just use them differently grammatically. You can say (something) TO (someone), or you can tell (someone something). Besides that, it also depends on what phrase/ expression you are using. Either way the grammar stays the same.

1. All parents love this expression: "Do as I say, don't do as I do."

2. Lionel Richie really knew his grammar, as demonstrated in his song, "Say you, say me." In this case he is not relaying information... he is giving someone an instruction (Imperative), just like your English teacher.

3. Can you tell the time just by looking at the position of the sun in the sky?

4. If you are torn between telling a lie and telling the truth, keep in mind that generally "honesty is the best policy."

5. Whenever we would travel anywhere, and we asked our mom where we were going, she used to say to us, "There and back to see how far it is."

6. Do you recognize the lyrics to any of these songs: "Tell me why… ", "Say what you need to say.", "...and you can tell everybody this is your song… ", "Say my name, say my name."?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cut in (line):

If someone cuts in a line, they join a line ahead/ in front of people who arrived before them… in an unfair way. (furar fila)

1. Even though it is common in some countries and cultures, social etiquette determines that we really should not cut in line… We should join the back of the line. Do you live in a civilized city?

2. "First come, first serve" is the reason why we form lines. If someone cuts in line, they are getting served before someone who had arrived before them.

3. If someone cuts in a line that you are in, do you make comments? Do you speak to that person directly? Are you relived or pacified when someone else makes a comment and complains?

4. In England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa it is common to say "queue" instead of a line. Either way, it is still frustrating when someone cuts in front of you in a queue!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Go Ahead...

When you tell someone to go ahead, you are telling them to continue without worrying too much about something or giving it too much thought. You may be telling someone to "feel free" to take the next step.

1. If you see a product that you like online, do you just go ahead and buy it on the spot... or you give any purchase some forethought before handing over your credit card details?

2. When a group of people sit down together to have a meal, and you are not able to eat at that very moment, you could simply tell them, "Please, go ahead and start without me… "

3. If you follow any video tutorial online, and there are step-by-step instructions, you will most likely hear, "Go ahead and… " a number of times, instead of "Next… "

4. If somebody threatens you in any situation, and you know their threats are empty, you can start off by saying, "Go ahead… " to show them that you are not overly worried: 
- I'm going to Facebook and Twitter about this and let everybody know! 
- Go ahead... be my guest.

5. In the Clint Eastwood movie, "Sudden Impact", there is a standoff situation with a hostage, and Harry Callahan says to the gunman one of the most famous movie quotes ever: "Go ahead, make my day."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Was/ were going to (+ verb):

 If you were going to do or say anything, you had the intention of doing it but something happened to interrupt or stop whatever it was, or maybe you changed your mind. 

1. I was going to settle down and live in Maceio in the State of Alagoas, but after spending 5 days there, I decided to move to a bigger city… and the rest is history! 

2. I was going to go to São Sebastião market in downtown Fortaleza on Sunday morning to eat buchada, but I had to cancel that outing with some of my students because I got home from a wedding celebration the night before very late. 

3. Whenever we have a change of plans we say, “I was 
going tobut then….” Tell me about something you were going to do but then had to call it off (cancel it). 

4. I was going to return to South Africa before the 2010 world cup, but after the start of the global financial crisis at the end of 2008, I decided to come to Brazil instead. The crisis changed many peoples’ plans. 

5. I was going to study to be a vet, but somehow I changed my mind and decided to study photography. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Suck it up!

 Mushy = sentimental           Nail (something) = to do or say something perfectly 

Etymology: Probably a variation of the expression "suck up your chest," meaning "compose yourself, bear your troubles, stand tall, and proceed." It’s a popular and informal way of telling someone that they have to “put up with” a situation (tolerate it) whether they like it or not. Some similar expressions: “deal with it”, “push through it”, “man up” (be a man) and “grin and bear it.” 

1. If I’m feeling under the weather I just have to suck it up and continue teaching classes. I might have to push through a headache, a cold, sleepiness, stress or a number of feelings. It’s the same with most jobs. 

2. People who work in customer service or have clients have to deal with difficult people as part of their job. Part of being professional is biting your tongue and sucking it up. Everyone appreciates someone who can remain calm even when they have to deal with angry complaining customers. 

3. When people try out (go to an audition) for talent shows such as “American Idol” or “The X Factor”, they have to listen to the judges’ final decision and suck it up no matter how scathing (severe) the criticisms: 

4. With what circumstance(s) in life do you have to suck it up because there is nothing you can do to change it right now? An irritable boss? Noisy neighbors? A critical mother-in-law? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tag questions

 There are 3 things to consider with tag questions: (1) The +/- relationship, (2) Use the same auxiliary verb OR verb “to be” in the “tag” as in the statement, (3) If there is no auxiliary in the statement, use the auxiliary “do” in the tag. 

1. – This is Frank’s pen, isn’t it? I guess I should take it back the next time I have English class. 

2. – You aren’t seriously considering telling your boss exactly what you think of him, are you!? 

3. – You (do) know how to use the present perfect tense, don’t you? If not, you can’t ignore it any longer. 

4. – We could just pretend that we know the people in the front of the line and cut in, couldn’t we? 

5. – I should always say “com licença” when I enter someone’s house in Brazil, shouldn’t I?... and I don’t need to say “excuse me” when I enter a native English speaker’s house, do I? 

6. – I mustn’t drink milk and eat mango together, right? (A Brazilian old wives' tale based on historical superstition)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A tad...

 “A tad” is the same as saying, “A little”. It is more expressive and very commonly used in natural speech. It is mostly used in a humorous, especially sarcastic way. 

1. We also use “a tad (bit)” when we make an understatement… that is when we make something seem less serious or extreme than it really is. For example: “It’s a tad bit hot in the Sahara Desert”. 

2. John D. Rockefeller was an American industrialist and philanthropist who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the oil industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy. Rockefeller strongly believed that his purpose in life was to make as much money as possible and then use it wisely to improve the condition of mankind. When asked once, "How much money is enough money?" He replied, "Just a little bit more." Don’t all of us always want just a tad bit more money?! 

3. When someone asks you whether you are lazy, forgetful or anything of that nature, and you feel that you must be honest, you can respond, “Just a tad bit”. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Get back on the horse!

 To continue trying something that you had difficulty with in the past. To try again at something that you failed, quit or stopped. Getting back on a horse that you have fallen off could be literal or figurative! 

1. When English students have difficulty and feel frustrated with their progress, some give up. Some wait for a better time to take up classes again… while others get back on the horse immediately and keep trying. 

2. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” – A great and popular expression which encourages people to get back on the horse when they fail. What have you “failed” at that you would like to try again? 

3. When you have a scary experience while learning to do something – like learning to drive, riding a horse or a maneuver in any kind of extreme sports - they say that it is important to get back on the horse as soon as possible, because the longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be (psychologically) to try again. 

4. When someone hasn't been in a relationship for a long time, often their friends tell them that they need to get back on the horse and find a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Monday, January 20, 2014


Eventually is almost the same as saying finally... but not exactly. We use eventually when we want to imply that something will happen after a long wait. If you want to say that something is the last of the sequence of steps, you would use finally. Some alternatives for eventually: In the end, after some time, in the long run, one day, some day, at some point, at the end of the day. In Portuguese eventually is not the same as "eventualmente" (occasionally)... It is a false cognate. 

1. Are you one of those people who eventually gets out of bed after hitting the snooze button at least a dozen times? 

2. How do you know when it is time to let go of a dream? Some people are eventually hit with the realization that their dreams are too ambitious, especially if they are not proactive. Do you think your dreams are realistic? 

3. Do you think that corrupt politicians will eventually get caught out… or will they always "get away with murder"? 

4. After many months of cold showers, I eventually had an electric water heater installed. 

5. Have you ever procrastinated about something for so long and then eventually decided to do something about it, only to realize how simple and easy it was? 

6. When you are explaining something, do you get to the point… or do you eventually get your idea across after painstakingly going through all the details and looking at something from all angles? 

7. If you don't keep your computer or mobile device clutter-free, eventually you are going to run out of space. Do you regularly delete files, photos, videos etc. that you don't need? Do you save all of your WhatsApp conversations? 

8. Sometimes I wonder whether the leaning Tower of Pisa will eventually fall over. What things do you wonder about? 

9. In the fairytale about Rapunzel… her hair grew longer and longer until eventually people could climb the tower using her hair. How nice!

10. In the classic movie, "The Shawshank Redemption", with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, The character that Tim Robbins plays, uses a tiny pick to dig through his prison cell wall, bit by bit, until he eventually digs a tunnel to freedom. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014


There are multiple meanings for, "just". Just could mean, "only". Just could also mean, "right at a specific moment" or even, "exactly/ specifically". "Just about ", means almost. If you just did something, you did it very recently – maybe a few seconds ago (acabar de).

1. When you submit any work… or when you arrive somewhere just before the deadline, we say that you did it "just in time". You can arrive at a bus stop just in time to catch the next bus.

2. When you hear somebody say, "That's just what I wanted!", they found or received something that is exactly what they wanted. Did you get just what you wanted for your last birthday or Christmas?

3. The expression, "... just what the doctor ordered," refers to a well-deserved vacation or period of rest... or anything that helps you to destress or relax. "That skydiving trip is just what the doctor ordered!"

4. What interruptions/ distractions normally occur just as you are about to start something important or engage in any enjoyable activity?

5. How do you say, "I was just about to call you." in your own language?

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Lately is a synonym for recently. It could be in the last couple of days or
the last few weeks. (Ultimamente). It is often used in the present
perfect continuous tense.

1. Janet Jackson sings in one of her songs, "What have you done for me
lately?". What have you done for a loved one of late?

2. Have you been following international news lately? Nelson Mandela has been
all over the news. What has been in the news in your country lately?

3. "How is life treating you?": another way of asking how life has been lately.

4. There have been a lot of parties and celebrations lately, as people are
winding down the festive season.

5. Is there anything in particular that has been on your mind lately? Do you
think more about the past, the present or the future?

6. One of Rod Stewart's most famous songs is entitled, "Have I told you lately". Have you told those important people in your life that you loved them recently?

7. My laptop broke recently… So lately I have been using my iPad to do just about everything. Can you get by without the use of a computer for longer than a week?

8. Lately I have been practicing my Portuguese by reading the subtitles of programs and movies out aloud, while I mute the volume.

9. I haven't been sticking to my exercise routine lately. I have been letting it slipWhat have you been letting slip lately?

10. Has anything life-changing happened to you lately?

11. When someone says, "I feel like I have been stuck in a rut lately." It could be a stale, boring routine or even a state of mind that they cannot escape from.