Friday idiom: a stone’s throw

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Scene 1

Salman: Excuse me, I’m looking for the nearest post office, could you help me?

Rebecca: Hi there, sure! The post office is just a stone’s throw from here. I’ll show you.

Salman: I’m sorry, I don’t know what « stone’s throw » means.

Rebecca: It means it’s very close by. Come, I’ll show you where it is.

Salman: Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you.

Scene 2

Two friends, Sam and Kruti, are walking down a country lane together. Sam looks around nostalgically.

Sam: You know, I grew up just a stone’s throw from that pond over there. This place really hasn’t changed a bit.

Kruti: I’ve heard that expression before, but I’m not sure what it means. Can you explain it to me?

Sam: Of course, it means « close ». I grew up very close to that pond over there, just over the ridge.

Kruti: Thanks a lot! Would you like to walk up to your old house to see it?

Sam: That’s a great idea. Perhaps the family living there now will let us have a quick look around.

Kruti: Okay, let’s go!

So how do you feel? Did you get a sense of the meaning? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or send me a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

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Word of the day: robust

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Here are some examples of the word robust in use:

  • I’m so happy with my new table, it’s very robust and aesthetic too!
  • I’m really looking for something more robust, I’m not sure that little car will cut it.
  • Have you seen her new sculpture? Yeah, it looks really robust. So different from all her other work!
  • I would buy the other cupboard, it’s more robust and you’ll need something sturdy with 3 kids running around.
  • Eric said his new son in law seemed like a very robust sort of man.

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Grammar Time: present perfect vs past simple

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The present perfect always has a bearing on the present. It must be relevant now. If it’s not relevant now, then you should use another tense.

For example. If you’re talking about life experiences, you often use the present perfect because you’re talking about experiences that you’ve had in your life until now. So, you’ve travelled to many different countries in your lifetime. You’ve seen lots of wonderful things. You’ve read books, you’ve been to the theatre and you’ve attended music festivals. But you’ve never been skydiving, and that’s something that you’d really like to do.

When you talk about experiences, as in the above example, you talk about things that you’ve experienced until now. You don’t mention a specific time frame. We don’t know when any of these things happened, we just know that at some point until now, they occured.

If you want to pinpoint an experience to a particular time, use the past simple. For example: I went to the theatre last week. Or, I visited Mexico during my last vacation.

Top Tip: if you talk about a specific time, use the past simple. You may use words and phrases such as: yesterday, last week, last year, in 1999, on my birthday, etc.

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Friday idiom: the ball is in your court

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You’ve done the research, you’ve given your opinion, now you need to say to your partner/competitor, etc, « the ball is in your court ». Basically: it’s time for you to make a decision.

If you’re waiting for someone else to make a decision after discussing the issue and giving your opinion, you can also say of that person: the ball is in his/her court. Meaning that you’ve given them all the tools to decide and/or you’ve given your opinion, now it’s their turn to make a choice.

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Word of the day: nap

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Oh naps, how I love them! A good old afternoon nap can really be quite wonderful! However, too long a nap will make you (read: me) groggy or cranky (make you sleepy or put you in a bad mood).

So here are some ways that people take naps:

  • Pretty much all small children take naps in the afternoon, and babies take them in the morning too!
  • Some people take power naps that are about 20 minutes long, in order to refresh and restore energy.
  • My grandfather always used to take a nap in the afternoon, my step-father does, and actually, most older men I know, nap in the afternoon. Very few women, though, I wonder why? Something to research!

So, do you take naps?

I must confess that I enjoy a good nap on the weekend sometimes, but I rarely have time for them.

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Word of the day: lobby

Améliorez votre anglais avec notre mot du jour! Pour réussir à devenir bilingue, il faut avoir la motivation mais aussi une bonne communauté d'entraide, venez apprendre avec nous !

Every building I’ve ever lived in in Canada had a lobby. Here are a few things lobbies are for:

  • It’s where the concierge can be found, if your building has one.
  • It’s where our building organised Christmas, Halloween, and other parties.
  • It’s where the elevators are located.
  • It’s where you meet people if you work in the same building or if you ask someone to meet you at your office.

Lobbies don’t seem so be very popular in France, but for anyone visiting or moving to North America, be ready for them!

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Grammar Time: present perfect (4)

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Although I know the present perfect can be tricky, there are some ways to simplify your life and to remember when to use it.

For example: use the present perfect with for and since when you talk about a length of time, or how long.

For is used to talk about a period of time.

  • I have been in France for 13 years.
  • Mary has been working for hours on her project.
  • Ida and Jack have been together for a month.

Since is used to talk about the start of a period of time, a point in time from which something began.

  • They’ve been in France since 2008.
  • We’ve been married since May.
  • Alice has been studying for her test since last Friday.

Sometimes, you want to say how long ago something happened, in this case, you must always use the past simple: I moved to France 13 years ago.

You cannot use the present perfect with ago.

Here are some more examples:

  • My grandmother died 11 years ago.
  • Ali and Gem opened their business a year ago.
  • We ordered our food 20 minutes ago.

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Friday idiom: of your rocker

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So this is a funny wee idiom.

How do you use it?

Imagine you’re watching your friend do something totally crazy, you can comment on the madness by saying to your fellow onlooker (the person who is watching with you): she’s off her rocker!

It tends to be a stand alone phrase, meaning that you don’t really use it within a long sentence. It’s more of a short expression you’d use to comment on someone’s action.

Let’s have another example:

You and your friend are at the mall and she sees a guy she has a crush on (that she likes). She decides to make a grand gesture and take control of the announcer’s microphone to declare her love for the guy. You can tell her, « Oh my goodness, you’re off your rocker. »

This idiom is generally used for funny situations rather than serious ones; you shouldn’t use it to speak of someone who has real mental health problems.

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Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 4, or « Bringing up bébé »

I recently read a parenting novel (book?) entitled Bringing up bébé, by Pamela Druckerman, otherwise known as, French children don’t throw food. I had read that this book was funny, but it barely cracked a smile from me. It led me to ask myself, have I become French? The answer, however, is no. Although I’m sure I’ve absorbed some aspects of French culture, I’m sure I haven’t simply « become French », as my mom sometimes says.

image from WSJ.com

What bothered me about the book was what was said about anglophone parenting in general. The author seems to say that anglophone parents let their children walk all over them, that they don’t give their kids any autonomy, and that they generally only live for their offspring. I found this to be absurd and wonder if it’s true. Now I’d almost like go conduct my own research into the topic! Almost, not quite though.

Let me explain. As I embark on my entrepreneurial adventure, I need to be OK with my 4 year old son taking care of himself. I simply can’t entertain him all day. Besides, what good would it do him? A person can’t possibly become autonomous if he or she has never had the chance to try it. A child will never learn to play on his or her own if they’ve never been given the opportunity. Today, my kid regularly plays on his own, even when we’re available to play with him. He invents stories for his toys, kind of like the little boy in Toy Story and finds all sorts of creative ways to alleviate his boredom. I’m not so sure that would have happened had we hovered over him, constantly trying to keep his attention.

At the risk of being called a terrible mother, I’ve generally found it quite boring to play with my son all day, particularly when he was very small. There are only so many peekabu games that I can handle. So, of course we played, we read and we went out; but he also had to learn, from the youngest age, that his parents need their own time. How did we do this? It was quite simply really. As young as a year old, when I noticed he was into an activity, I left him at it. I didn’t interrupt him. He would be playing with rocks or sticks or some other object, and sometimes he’d do it for 30 to 40 minutes. Gradually, this would happen more and more often.

This has come in particularly useful while working from home. Our son can play by himself an entire morning. He does, of course, ask questions or make comments every once in a while, but unless I have a class planned, I don’t need to put him in front of the TV or occupy him any other way, he knows how to « entertain » himself.

What are your thoughts? Have you read this book? Have you had experiences similar to mine? I’d be curious to find out!

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