We use grateful and thankful to express our thanks for something. Even if the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between them. So, what is the difference between grateful and thankful?
Grateful is used to express our gratitude when somebody is kind to us or helps us in a way that will have a long-time effect.
Many thanks for helping us move into our new flat. We are so grateful. I am particularly grateful to my supervisor for her support and encouragement.
You can feel grateful when you are in a third-world country and realise that at home you have access to fresh air and clean water.
You can use grateful when you make a request in a formal letter:
I would be grateful if you would send me your latest brochure.
Thankful is used when you feel relieved that something dangerous or unpleasant did not happen.
We had a burglary last week. I’m so thankful that my computer was not stolen. My brother had a nasty car accident. We are all thankful that he was not seriously injured.
You are also thankful when somebody has done something and the situation would have been much worse if they had not done anything.
To sum up, if you are grateful, you express gratitude to somebody for something they have done or given and if you are thankful, you feel relief or happiness over something.
The corresponding nouns are gratitude and thankfulness.
We may have more than one adjective in front of a noun.
A big black Italian car
In English there is a fixed order of adjectives.
1. Opinion 2. Size 3. Physical quality 4. Shape 5. Age 6. Colour 7. Origin/nationality 8. Material 9. Type 10. Purpose
You would not write *an old nice little lady – a nice little old lady sounds much better (for the use of the asterisk see the comment at the end of this text).
Native English speakers automatically put adjectives in this fixed order, but non-native users of English usually don’t know the rule.
We should remember, of course, that we seldom use a long row of adjectives before a noun – usually only one or two, and then they are often combined with and or but: It was a dark and rainy night. They stayed at a cheap but comfortable hotel.
Why do we say big bad wolf? Bad is an opinion and should come before big (size). But there is another rule that says that vowels follow the order i–a–o. Think of words such as riff-raff, zig-zag, tip-top, flip-flop or hip-hop. Therefore, we say big bad wolf and not *bad big wolf.
In an earlier blog post we looked at compounds and and noted that some are written with one or two hyphens. Here are a few examples:
Brother-in-law (your sister’s husband or your wife’s or husband’s brother) Runner-up (one who finishes in second place) Cul-de-sac (a street that is closed at one end) Editor-in-chief (the manager of an editorial staff)
How should you write the plural form of such compounds? The answer is fairly logical: add the plural -s to the main part of the compound, the significant part.
Brothers-in-law Runners-up Editors-in-chief
Cul-de-sac has two plural forms: culs-de-sac or cul-de-sacs
When we write the genitive form, the -s comes at the end when we talk about people:
My brother-in-law’s new car The editor-in-chief’s wife
However, you can also write
The wife of the editor-in-chief
When we talk about things, we use the genitive form with of:
Two years later he remarried. The votes had to be recounted. After the installation you have to restart your computer. All components are reusable.
Since re here means again, you must avoid writing He remarried again or The votes had to be recounted again (that would mean that he married at least three times or that the votes were counted three times). You can read more about unnecessary words here.
Re can also mean a change in the position or state of something:
relocate = locate in a new place rearrange = arrange in a different way
Some words with re have two versions, one with a hyphen and one without, and there is a difference in meaning.
get back health, ability,
change or improve something
subdue, not allow feelings,
etc., to be expressed
make a new copy of a recording
dislike or be annoyed at
someone or something
as in 'He re-sent the parcel'
arrange for something to be
kept for your future use
Use a hyphen if re means again and if omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.
You can read more about using a hyphen here and about the difference between a hyphen and a dash here.
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.
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