There is a clear difference between afraid of and afraid for.
When you are afraid of, for example, snakes, you have a fear that snakes might harm you.
My little sister is afraid of spiders.
When you are afraid for someone, you fear that something bad might happen to them.
I’m afraid for you. Never go out alone late in the evening! She had always been a typical mother hen, overprotective and constantly afraid for her children.
AFRAID FOLLOWED BY A VERB
Afraid can also be used with a verb.
There is a difference in meaning between these two:
Afraid of doing something (more general) Afraid to do something (because of the potential result)
He was afraid of losing his girlfriend, but he was afraid to tell her about his fears. I’m afraid of climbing high ladders. The parcel had arrived but she was afraid to open it.
You can use the phrase I’m afraid to signal that something is impossible or untrue. If you ask to see your manager, the secretary might answer, ’I’m afraid she’s not in at the moment’. This means that the secretary knows that the manager is not there but wants to present the fact in a polite way. In some other languages the corresponding phrase indicates uncertainty, and the secretary will most likely go and check if the manager is in the office.
You can also use the phrase I’m afraid to soften disagreement or bad news:
I’m afraid you have misunderstood my intentions. You have to leave now, I’m afraid. I’m moving into my new flat on Saturday. Do you think you could give me a hand? I’m afraid not. I’ll be away on a fishing trip over the weekend.
A ballpark number A very inexact number, a rough estimate.
A bed of roses A comfortable, happy, trouble-free position or situation.
A piece of cake Something that is easy to do.
Back to square one Having to start from the beginning again because your previous attempt failed.
Bark up the wrong tree Do something in a wrong way, take a wrong approach, make the wrong choice.
Break a leg This idiom is used to wish someone good luck. It is said that actors are superstitious and that they do not want people to say ’good luck’ to them, because then the opposite might happen. The idiom probably comes from the German Hals- und Beinbruch (break your neck and legs).
Bring home the bacon Earn money for one’s family.
Call it a day Decide to stop doing something, especially when you are tired or bored.
Cost an arm and a leg Be extremely expensive.
Cry wolf Warn that there is a problem when there is none. If you do that too often, people will not believe you when there really is a problem.
Cut corners Disregard the right procedure in order to save time or money, so that the result is bad quality or even illegal.
Cut to the chase Get to the point without wasting time. The idiom is said to have come from the film world. Films often ended with a dramatic chase scene. Some screenwriters created unnecessary scenes that bored the audience. When a director said ’Cut to the chase’, it meant ’Skip the uninteresting stuff and go straight to the final scene’.
Face the music Accept responsibility or unpleasant consequences of what you have done.
Hit the sack/Hit the hay Go to bed.
Hold your horses Slow down, be patient.
In the red When you are in the red, you are in debt, you lose money. Accountants used red ink when recording business losses. The opposite expression in the black of course means ‘be solvent, have enough money’.
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings Don’t be too sure that you know what the outcome will be. The idiom refers to opera. When the soprano (and in the old days sopranos used to be pretty voluminous) has sung her final aria, we know that the whole thing is over.
Let the cat out of the bag Reveal a secret, often without intention.
Like a bull in a china shop This idiom is used about people who rush into a situation without thinking and clumsily destroy things in their way. It is also used figuratively about a person who is insensitive to other people’s feelings and says or does things that hurt them.
On the ball Be alert and able to react quickly, be competent.
Pull someone’s leg Make somebody believe something that is not true.
Put the cat among the pigeons Say or do something that worries people or makes them angry.
Red tape Rules or routines that are complicated and lead to delays or obstructions; bureaucracy.
Smell a rat Suspect that something is wrong.
Spill the beans Unintentionally reveal a secret.
Straight from the horse’s mouth Information directly from a reliable source, from someone who has personal knowledge.
Take a back seat Become less active or involved.
The elephant in the room A problem or controversial issue that everybody in a group is aware of but nobody wants to talk about because it would be uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Through thick and thin If you stay with someone through thick and thin, you do so for a long time even if there are difficulties.
An idiom is an expression that means something else than its separate words might suggest. Many idioms are peculiar to a specific language. Therefore, you should be careful when you try to translate an idiom from your own language into another.
There is a children’s game called follow the leader. One child is the leader and the others must follow and repeat what that child does.
Follow the leader has become an idiom meaning go along with, do as you are told, obey. In my native Swedish the saying is follow John. When I was young I worked as a farm helper in Wales. The farmer often took me and his family to various markets and fairs, where we could discover the latest in farm machinery, admire award-winning sheep and see fine displays of cakes and flower arrangements. The whole thing meant a lot of criss-crossing over large areas from one spectacle to another, and once when the farmer was hurrying along with the rest of us following in his footsteps, I shouted, ”Now we’re following John!” I had no idea that the English expression is different, and since the farmer’s first name was John, I thought I was really witty. I always addressed him by Mr. Wrench and never called him John. His family must have thought that I was very impolite.
Here are some English idioms with their equivalents in Swedish and some other languages:
Carry coals to Newcastle To express that you do something that is redundant or completely pointless, you can say in English to carry coals to Newcastle. Since Newcastle is known for its coal, it’s meaningless to carry coals there. The French expression is porter de l’eau à la rivière (carry water to the river), and in Swedish it is gå över ån efter vatten (cross the stream to get water). The German idiom is Eulen nach Athen tragen (carry owls to Athens – the owl is a symbol of wisdom and there were many wise men in old Athens).
Beat around the bush To say that you avoid doing or talking about something unpleasant or difficult, there is the English idiom beat around the bush. The corresponding Swedish expression is gå som katten kring het gröt (walk like the cat around hot porridge). There is a similar expression in German, um den Brei herumreden (talk around the porridge). In French the saying is tourner autour au pot (going around the pot). The Italians say menare il can per l’aia (lead the dog to the barn).
Foot the bill If you ask someone to foot the bill, you want them to pay the costs. This is in German zur Kasse bitten (ask someone to come to the cash desk). In Swedish you have to betala kalaset (pay for the party) or stå för fiolerna (pay for the violins).
The straw that broke the camel’s back This idiom means that something small will be the final action that causes a large and unwanted reaction. The Swedish equivalent is the drop that made the cup run over. Other European languages such as German, French, Italian and Spanish also refer to a cup that runs over.
Out of the frying pan into the fire This is an expression saying that something is going from bad to worse. The Swedish saying is ur askan i elden (out of the ashes into the fire).
Kill two birds with one stone This means that you can achieve two goals with just one action. In Swedish we say slå två flugor i en smäll (hit two flies with one swat). Danish and German are other languages that refer to flies instead of birds.
Miss the boat If you are too slow to take advantage of an opportunity and it’s now too late, you miss the boat. In Swedish we say tåget har gått (the train has left).
Let the cat out of the bag Inadvertently disclose a secret. The Swedish equivalent is prata bredvid munnen (talk beside your mouth).
Cost an arm and a leg To say that something is very expensive is in Swedish kosta skjortan (cost the shirt).
IDENTICAL IDIOMS IN ENGLISH AND SWEDISH
Many idioms are almost identical in English and Swedish. The following are some examples.
Cast pearls before swine Offer something to someone who does not understand it or want to use it
No smoke without fire A rumour about someone is probably true
Play with fire Do something risky that may harm you
Hit the nail on the head Do or say something that is exactly right
Grab the bull by its horns Directly take strong action to deal with a problem
Sleep like a log Sleep very deeply without being woken by any noises
Strong as an ox Be very strong
Like father, like son Resemble a parent in appearance or behaviour
Sweep things under the carpet Hide something that is embarrassing or wrong
Put your cards on the table Be completely honest about your intentions
Eat like a horse Eat a lot of food
Throw in the towel Admit that you are defeated
You need to be careful when you use idioms. So, if you talk about a cat walking round hot porridge, a native English speaker will look very surprised.
What is the difference between farther and further?
Not a very big one, I’d say. Except in certain cases.
Both words can be used regarding distance. There are language purists who maintain that farther refers to physical distance and further to imaginative distance, but common usage does not seem to make that distinction. (If you want to stick to the distinction, it may help to remember that farther has far in it.)
The café is at the farther end of the street. I can’t walk any farther. Can you see her at the further end of the corridor? We can’t get any further – there is a tree across the road.
Further can also mean more, in addition.
We need to look further into this. Does it need further explanation? Further (= Furthermore), recent research has shown this to be true.
In examples like the above, use further and not farther.
We can find further in some common sayings:
Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ll deal with that further down the road (= later on, in the future). He can’t see further than the end of his nose. This will be in effect until further notice. They left without further ado (= immediately, without delay). Seek no further! This can be seen as a further expression of her influence on the political development. Further to our telephone conversation this morning, I am writing to confirm our order for ten ink cartridges. I have nothing further to add.
Further can also be a verb, meaning promote, develop, help.
What can we do to further her studies? He only wants to further his own interests.
In sum, if you want to write farther, do so only when it is a matter of physical distance. You will never be wrong using further.
Read about the difference between furthermore and moreoverhere.
Both brief and short are adjectives that are the opposite of long when we talk about time.
The lecturer gave a brief summary of previous research. There was a brief moment of silence.
We had a short discussion. It happened a short time ago.
Short can also be the opposite of tall as well as the opposite of long when we talk about distance.
The boy was short and chubby. The bus stop is just a short distance from our house.
Brief is sometimes used as a verb meaning inform and as a noun meaning shortinformation, summary.
The press secretary briefed us about the decision. Our boss gave us a first brief of the negotiations.
Brief can also mean instructions about duties, responsibilities, etc.
Part of the architect’s brief was to design a building that would comply with local environmental regulations.
A briefing is a meeting in which detailed information or instructions are given.
Debriefing has two meanings: A detailed report given by an agent or a soldier after a mission has been carried out or a meeting held after a traumatic event (such as a natural disaster, a hijacking, etc.) to let victims deal with their trauma.
Briefs is another word for underwear, while shorts are trousers (usually for sport or relaxing) that reach only to the thighs or the knees. Shorts can also refer to underwear for men.
Before this text gets too long, I had better remind myself to be brief or to keep it short.
My next blog post takes a look at briefly and shortly, two words with very different meanings.
These two words usually indicate direction in relation to the speaker or the listener.
Take implies moving something from where the speaker or listener is. Bring implies moving something to where the speaker or listener is.
Can you take my dress to the dry cleaner’s? You can bring it back when you come next week. Should I take some flowers to Mary’s party? Don’t take your car to work today. There’s an awful traffic jam in the centre. Bring the salt, please! Wait a second! I’ll bring you your towel.
In the last sentence we look at the situation from the listener’s point of view. In other words, we have changed the perspective as in the following examples:
I took your briefcase home with me by mistake. Thanks for your kind invitation. I’ll be happy to come. Shall I bring some wine?
To sum up, think of movement to or from a position. You can compare with come and go. You come here and you go there. Bring it here and take it there.
That said, you may find that either take or bring is used when the direction is unclear or unimportant. It can also depend on whether you put the emphasis on here or there, if you think about where you are now or already imagine yourself at another location.
When you say ”Should I take some flowers to Mary’s party?”, you are still at home. When you say, ”Shall I bring some wine?”, you are already imagining yourself at the party.
The two phrases with respect to and in respect of both mean regarding, concerning. While both are used in British English, in respect of is seldom used in American English.
With respect to your enquiry we can deliver the items by Friday. The two novels are very different in respect of the development of their respective characters.
Both these expressions are used in formal writing. When we speak, we have other ways of expressing regarding, as you can see here.
To a non-native English writer, the use of prepositions in English is often confusing. In the phrases we are looking at here, we cannot change the prepositions and say, for example *in respect to (for the use of the asterisk see the comment at the end of this text).
To have respect for someone is to show consideration or respect towards a person or admire someone for their qualities, ideas, actions, etc.
She has great respect for her grandfather’s long experience. I have no respect for people who keep interrupting others.
To indicate that you are not at all concerned about something you can say I couldn’t care less.
I couldn’t care less if my old car broke down. I’ve been planning to buy a new one for some time now.
If his girlfriend left him, he couldn’t care less. He has found out that she is not his type.
So the phrase I couldn’t care less means that you don’t care at all.
Therefore it seems strange to hearI could care less, which has grown in use, particularly in American English.
He was so tired that he could care less if the roof fell down on him.
To me this indicates that he actually has some concern left, so the statement is actually illogical; it implies that he still cares, that he still has worries. As a copyeditor I recommend that you stick to the original version with couldn’t.
As we have seen in another blog post, the -ing form, the present continuous, indicates that something is going on just for the moment.
I’m writing an email on the balcony (momentarily). He writes articles for monthly magazines (a regular activity).
He is living in France (temporarily). I live in Sweden (Sweden is my home country).
To say that someone is only temporarily in a place, the verb stay is often used.
He is staying at a small hotel in Lyon.
Non-native speakers of English whose mother tongue only has the present simple sometimes tend to overuse the present continuous when they speak English, since they believe that to be the common form. Even if they intend to convey a permanent state, they may say or write sentences such as the following (for the use of the asterisk read at the end of this text):
*I’m travelling to work by bus every morning all year round. (Since this is what happens regularly you should say I travel to work by bus every morning.)
*He is designing cars. (This is his permanent job, hence the correct sentence would be He designs cars.)
*They are playing golf every weekend. (This is a habit, so it should be They play golf every weekend.)
*That book is costing nine dollars. (That is a fixed price, so the correct version is That book costs nine dollars.)
*They are making washing machines. (Unless this is a temporary production and they normally make refrigerators, we must write They make washing machines.)
You should think twice before using the -ing form in English!
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