Tag Archives: on-line language learning

So big!

Say it isn’t So!


Say it isn't so, Wilbur comic strip This expression means, “tell me it is NOT true!” or “I hope that is not so.”

The female comic book character here must be thinking, “Say it isn’t so!,” when she learns that she has been leaning up against wet paint.

In this title, “Say it isn’t So,” so means “thus,” or “this way.”

Let’s look at a more common use of so, and the purpose of today’s blog:  the use of so as an intensive.  When paired with an adjective so magnifies, increases, or intensifies the sense of what it is describing (much like the word such). However….

There is SO much confusion between such and so…

1. Such

Let’s take a look at how to use such.

If you are describing a person, place, or thing, you will use such.  Use such with nouns and noun phrases.

For example:

Malta is not such a big country.  I don’t think that is such a good idea. That was such a great dinner.

Look at those sentences again. Notice that such is followed by “a”  in those examples. Of course if the noun doesn’t take an article then such is used without it (see A, An, or The?…THAT is the question! for article use and non-use). For example: They have such great service at that hotel.

   Tip:  don’t use such with kind.

This site explains that such is an intensifier, but “kind” cannot be intensified so it doesn’t work * http://linguapress.com/grammar/points/such.htm *.  In other words, the phrase “such kind” is NOT grammatically correct. It isn’t kind (to your teacher) to use such with kind!

To say “this type” simply use such in front of the noun.  Yenta the matchmaker from my favorite musical Fiddler on the Roof, uses such in this manner:

“From such children come other children.”

Additionally, when such is substituted for this or these, “such” carries an enhanced negative meaning.  So, “this type of clothing”  is neutral, but “such type of clothing” makes it sound disdainful. If I really disliked a certain fashion, I might say, “I would NEVER wear such type of clothing.”

Okay. That seems simple enough: we use such with nouns as an intensive, or 2. to mean this type (like Yenta).

2. So

So, let’s look at the use of so using similar sentences to the ones we just used:

Malta is not so big. I don’t think that idea is so good. That dinner was sooooo delicious!

So is used to describe adjectives.  Think of so like an adjective booster.*

Young children in the US also learn that the answer to, “How big are you?”  Is “SO BIG” accompanied by a gesture of stretching their arms as far apart as possible!

So big!
Q:  How big are you?   Child:   So big!

In the comic strip above, the young man seems like such a nice man. Although the woman asks him if he has come to alibi (which means give an excuse for why he wasn’t where he was supposed to be.  I imagine he must have stood her up* recently).  He doesn’t seem so nice in the last picture however, where he sneers that the bench was just painted.  I think she was angry in the first frame*, but she must be sooooo angry in the last panel.*


So-and-so is a term for an unnamed person.  It can be used 1. to protect someone’s identity, 2. if you have forgotten their name or  it doesn’t matter who they are,  and 3. when what you are saying could apply to anyone. For example: 1. So-and-so made a complaint ., 2. We were talking to so-and-so when the dog got loose. , 3. Art buyers can identify the work of so-and-so through a variety of tells*, including: the colors used, the angle of the brush strokes, and the composition of his/her subject matter.


Much like so-and-so, such-and-such is a term for things, non-specified activity, or stuff. Here is an example of how to use it in a sentence, “If so-and-so were born in such-and-such year, you can calculate his/her age by subtracting their birth year from this year.”  Here is one more, “At camp we spent the day doing such-and-such, but at night we all sang songs and told stories around a campfire.”

My Take On It

There is a suggested lack of a person’s or thing’s importance in the terms “so-and-so” and “such-and-such.” It is as if it is too much trouble to remember or say their name.

There is a story in the Bible of Jesus talking to a crowd of people.  He tells them,

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” 

(Matthew 10:30, and Luke 12:7).  Can you imagine caring for someone so carefully that you would always know the exact number of hairs on their head?! Well, Jesus said that God loves us that much! He would never call us “So-and-so” in fact you have probably heard the most famous verse in Bible (John 3:16)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

What an incredible way to think about such and so!  God loved us SO much that He gave up His one and only son for our sake.  That is SUCH an amazing thought.

~ Michele

Not Scary

Not scary
There is nothing scary about this.

Expressing emotions:

Are you at a loss, meaning you don’t know what to say or how to react, when it comes to using words like…

Confused or Confusing?, Excited or Exciting?, Scared, Frightened, Terrified, or Scary, Frightening, Terrifying?

The word pairs above should not be scary to English language learners. Take heart!* I will show you something that will make it easy for you to differentiate between the emotions you are feeling and what or who is causing those emotions.

Look carefully at the adjectives below.  HINT: Look at the word endings:

alarmed, annoyed, ashamed, bored, confused, delighted, disappointed, disgusted, disoriented, exasperated, excited,  frightened, frustrated, horrified, humiliated,  insulted, interested, intrigued,  offended, outraged, overwhelmed, relaxed, scared shocked, stunned,  terrifiedtired, and worried .

Do you see?  All those words expressing emotions that are being felt end in “ed.”   Try completing the sentences below with several of those words:

I am/was____, I feel/felt____, or I am/was feeling____*

*Note: Other proper nouns and pronouns can be substituted for “I” in the sentences above. For example:

It/he/she/The US government/Mrs. DeCouto was (feeling)____, They/The Russians were____.

Now, let’s look at the next group of adjectives. HINT: Look at the word endings:

alarming, annoying, boring, confusing, delightful, disappointing, disgusting, disorienting, exciting, frightening, frustrating, horrifying, humiliating, insulting, interesting, intriguing, offensive, outrageous (= maddening), overwhelming, relaxing, scary, shocking, shameful, stunning, terrifying, tiring/tiresome, and worrisome

There is some variety in the word endings above, but for the most part, these words end with “ing.”  Use the second set of words when the subject is causing the emotion.

It/he/she/Mr. Wilson is___, They/Hispanics are___, and…this one is tricky: I am ___ (when I am causing others to have an emotion)

‘ing demonstrates action

Think of it this way,  adding  ‘ing to a verb shows action. For example: As I am writing this blog, I am thinkingtyping, and occasionally  looking things up.* So when I am actively impacting the emotion of others I am _____+ing.

Look at the word pairs again:

Confused / Confusing, Excited / Exciting, Scared/ Scary, Frightened/ Frightening, Terrified/ Terrifying.

When I am exciting, then others are excited by me.  Perhaps they are reading this blog and are excited.  My readers might  exclaim, “I’m not scared of using scary or other adjectives of emotion anymore!  My Virtual English is brilliant!”  In this example I caused the excitement, so that makes me exciting and my readers were excited. Whoop! Whoop!*

Let’s look at some commonly confused words: scary/scared, frightening/frightened, and terrifying/terrified.  Remember the “ed” ending means the emotion that we feel.  I am scared when I have to do something scary like driving in an unfamiliar place in heavy traffic.  When something scary or frightening (things causing those emotions) surprises me then I might say, ” I was frightened.”  Being terrified is being so scared that normal thinking and responses are affected. Someone who is terrified thinks and behaves irrationally, fear is controlling them. (See the My Take on It section below for more about this.)

About love

I am loved. I am loving.  In this pair the emotion I am feeling and expressing can be represented by the “ing” word, loving.

Let’s look at some examples.

She is very loving.  This means that this female (it could be a person or an animal) expresses affection; she will cause you to feel loved. This use follows the pattern that we have been looking at.

I am loving this! This expression means that you are enjoying yourself, you love what you are experiencing.

To be loved means that another loves me.

When I say, “I am loved,” it means I am feeling the love being expressed by someone else (they are loving).

My Take On It  Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG

Nothing Scary About This
Colorado Mountain Scenery

Several years ago,  I went on a Department Head retreat.  All of the company’s leadership participated.  We were taken to a remote (but beautiful) place in the mountains where we were asked to find a quiet place alone where we could consider the question, “What is most important?”

I pondered the question, What matters most to people?, and came to the conclusion that “to love and be loved” is what is most important.  The Bible tells us that we have been made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).  The Bible is a story about relationships.  God gives and wants to receive love, true love, not a love out of obligation, but a love that comes from being loved.

We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Holman Christian Standard Bible 

Knowing that God Himself loves me, no matter what, is exciting and reassuring.

Now, about being terrified…knowing that the most powerful force in the universe loves you and has got your back* should put fear to rest.*   Just prior to the verse quoted above,  John writes,

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear….1 John 4:18

So, this Halloween don’t be frightened… don’t be concerned.  Remember we have a loving God who is waiting for you to love Him in return.  And that’s not scary at all!

Be joyful!, Michele  
Let me qualify that photo by Jette Carr

Let Me Qualify That! (Qualifying Statements)

Several months ago, I was working with a student and after I made a statement, I said, “Let me qualify that…” at which point I added more information to make the statement true.

Two ways to qualify a statement: Add information, Narrow its focus

Let’s say* that I had said, “Boys tend to be less verbal than girls.”  After saying this, I realize that I have overstated the truth.  I can qualify my statement, making it more accurate, by adding additional information.  For example,

“Boys tend to be less verbal than girls.  Let me qualify that, boys are often perceived to be less verbal than girls.”

NOTE: Just as in this example, the first statement is typically repeated and then qualified.

In this context qualify means to modify a statement by restating it  and including the specific conditions which make it true.

Additionally, we can qualify a statement by narrowing its focus.  As in: “I’d like to qualify my statement.  I’m not just pleased. I’m pleased with your ability to persevere and see this thing through.”

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary,  gives the following example “I want to qualify what I said earlier—I didn’t mean he couldn’t do the job, only that he would need supervision.”  It is being used here as a transitive verb meaning,  “to add something to a previous statement to make the meaning less strong or less general.”  Or, as I said above, narrowing its focus.

Q. Shouldn’t we use strong statements to communicate more confidence and authority?

A. No.  The opposite is true.  If you overstate the truth, you lose credibility and it weakens your argument.

Qualifying a statement with other phrases

There are other ways to qualify a sentence without having to use the phrase “let me qualify that.”  For example:

Almost   Almost all giraffes can walk within an hour of being born.  (The strong statement “All giraffes can walk within an hour of being born,” was qualified).

Let me qualify that Giraffe photo by  Anna Langova
Giraffe photo by Anna Langova

But   Giraffes eat tree leaves.  But their diet also includes twigs and fruit.  (The strong statement “Giraffes eat tree leaves,” was qualified).

Except   All the animals in the zoo slept through the noise, except the koala. (We qualified the strong statement “All the animals in the zoo slept through the noise.” )

For all intents and purposes*  The sequel, for all intents and purposes was just a rewrite of the first movie.  (The strong statement “The sequel was just a rewrite of the first movie,” was qualified).

 In a way*  In a way, he reminds me of my brother. (We qualified the  strong statement, “He reminds me of my brother.”)

♦ More or less  The  conference went more or less as planned. (The strong statement, “The conference went as planned,” was qualified).

Practically  The performer was practically naked.  (We qualified, “The performer was naked,” which would be taken as a fact.)

To some extent  To some extent my internship caused me to rethink my career plans. (We qualified the strong statement “My internship caused me to rethink my career plans.”)

♦ Up to a point  I enjoy strenuous exercise up to a point. (The strong statement, “I enjoy strenuous exercise,” has been qualified).

Even so, the most common use for qualify is to be entitled, Click To Tweet In other words, qualify is usually used to mean selected or recognized as competent or fit for a special purpose or skill.

Do you qualify?!

Can you use and identify both uses of qualify?  Take the quiz below and find out if you qualify as a master English speaker.  Let me qualify that, find out if you qualify as master user of the word qualify.

Here are some examples using qualify (from some of my followers).  Can you identify which use is 1. qualifying a statement, and which use means 2. to be recognized as able? (Answers below the My Take On It section at the bottom of this article).

  • Lori:  You must earn less than $30,000 per year to qualify for assistance.
  • Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG Michele Snider: You qualified! Let me qualify that, “You qualify as a qualifier* in the next round!”
  • Sharon:  Your bad behavior qualifies you to be put on Santa’s naughty list! Your good behavior qualifies you to be put on his good list, and on mom’s good list! Lol!*

My Take On It  Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG

Two things come to mind as I consider my Christian perspective on this subject.  First the Bible tells us,  in Matthew 5: 37

“But let your word ‘yes be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.”

I believe this is telling us to tell it like it is,* meaning say what you mean, tell the truth, and speak accurately.

The second thing, but actually the first thing that came to mind as I was writing this article, is the fact that even though we don’t feel qualified (meaning worthy, or competent) to have a relationship with God Almighty, or to represent Him or even serve Him.  He has promised to equip us and work in and through us.  So, it is God in us that qualifies us for whatever lies ahead.  (Now that is a STRONG statement that DOESN’T need to be qualified!)  The Bible supports this idea in several places:

Hebrews 13:20,21

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,

21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Let me qualify that Colorado sunrise by, MW Snider
Colorado Sunrise by, Michele W. Snider

1 Corinthians 12:27

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

and Timothy 3:16,17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Each of us is uniquely qualified for a special purpose. When we partner with God, there is no task too great, no detail too small for us to manage.

Answers to the quiz:  All the quiz examples used the word qualify in the most common sense (use #2: to be entitled, competent, or chosen by virtue of skill or lottery), except for the second sentence!  Obviously, “Let me qualify that….” qualifies as use #1.  If you still have questions about the different uses of qualify, click on the hyperlink to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary above.  

Blessings,   Michele



Shoot! is an exclamation meaning “dang it!” or for people who swear, “damn it.”  I  said, “shoot!” because I have neglected my blog for awhile. I have been busy teaching and developing a course for SkimaTalk called Misused and Misunderstood Words.

But today, I saw a Facebook post of my son-in-law working a cattle chute (pronounced like shoot).  The men put the cattle in the chute, which is a type of pen or cage that prevents the animal from moving, so they could be given their shots.

Chris shoot

It occurred to me that there are a gazillion* uses for the words shoot and shot.  And I thought it might be fun to share them with you.  I’ve included an example for each meaning.

A big shot  Someone important, “You don’t have to be a big shot to be treated like one at our store.”

A cheap shot This expression uses the fourth meaning of shot (below).  It means an insult that is highly personal, or that is given at a time or manner where the person being attacked can’t respond.   “That comment about her age was a cheap shot.”

A shot  • 1. An attempt or try, “I’ve never done that sort of thing before, but I’ll give it a shot.”

• 2. The sound a gun makes, “I heard three shots then the sound of tires peeling out.” 

• 3. A serving of strong alcohol, often served in a shot glass, ranging from 1.25-1.5 ounces (40-44 mL),  “A shot of whiskey is said to aid digestion.” (See more about this in My Take On It below)

4.  An insult or criticism, “The politician took a shot at her opponents, calling their ideas primitive.”

•5. An injection, “The nurse gave us our shots today.” 

A Shot of a Deer
Shot of a Deer, by M. W. Snider

•6. A photograph, “I got a great shot of the deer.”

7. An unobstructed view (especially through the scope of a gun), “I’ve got a shot (of the deer)!

•8. Someone who shoots a gun, “I’m not a very good shot.”

•9. In sports: a hit or kick of a ball, The shot ricocheted off the sideboard and into the goal.

•10. A pellet in a BB gun, or shotgun, The shotgun shells are loaded with lead shot.

Buckshot. Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co., Inc.
  • A shot in the arm  This expression uses the fifth meaning of shot (above). It means a boost, or something that makes you feel better. “That extra funding was a real shot in arm for our project.”

    Army Medicine photo posted on Flickr, Sept 7, 2012
    Army Medicine, Flickr, Sept 7, 2012

A shot in the dark  This expression uses the first meaning of “a shot.” It means a blind attempt*, an attempt which is likely to fail, or a wild guess. “I asked the neighbors to let us know if they spot* our runaway lizard.  I figured it was a shot in the dark.”

 A shoot A photography session (this includes video, motion picture, and still photography), “The models arrived at the shoot.”

Call the shots To give orders/to be in charge, “While the boss is on vacation, Mr. Howard will be calling the shots.”

Shot  To move quickly (like something being shot out of a gun), “The pain shot through my hand.”

Shoot!  In addition to the exclamation of frustration described at the top of this post, Shoot! also means go ahead, Q.* Can I ask you a question?, A. Shoot!

Shoot something off  To quickly send something somewhere (see the related “shoot something to someone” below), “I need to shoot an email off before we leave.”

Shoot the breeze Casual conversation about a variety of topics, “We sat on the bench and shot the breeze for about an hour.”

Shoot your mouth off  To talk about something that you shouldn’t share (especially about someone else), “I would tell the kids more about our plans if I weren’t afraid they would shoot their mouths off.”

To shoot something to someone This means to send someone something quickly, “I shot them a text letting them know we would meet them at seven.”

Straight-shooter  An honest person who “tells it like it is”,* “I’m looking for a politician who is a straight shooter.” 

My Take On It

Because this blog is committed to presenting a Christian perspective, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my thoughts about drinking.   There are Christian churches that forbid the consumption of alcohol, while others are silent, or even serve wine at Communion.*

Paul writes in his first letter to the church in Corinth, chapter six

12 “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything.

He expands on this idea throughout his letter, explaining that God has blessed us with many things including, food, wine and sex.  In and of themselves* these things are neither right or wrong. It is how we use what has been given to us that matters. Click To Tweet

As Paul advises, we must be considerate of the needs and concerns of those around us.  Every good thing has been given by God and was intended to bless us.  We can misuse and abuse these good things however and the result is no longer good.

Generations of my family have struggled with alcoholism, which is a terribly misunderstood disease.  My personal solution is to avoid alcohol since I have a genetic risk but have not yet developed the disease.  And on the occasions when I do have a drink, I limit myself to one.

Blessings,    Michele  


Rest Assured, Reassure

Rest Assured I’ll Reassure You

Assured versus Reassured

I have a student who used the word “assure” instead of “reassure.” These words are similar enough that they are sometimes used as synonyms (often incorrectly).

The student was answering the question, “Why do people feel threatened by those who are different?” She said that people like to assure themselves that they are okay.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, one of the definitions of assure is, “to give confidence to.” Giving ourselves confidence makes sense.  So, the student’s answer,

People like to assure themselves that they are okay Click To Tweet

makes sense in other contexts. But, the strongest sense of the word assure is to guarantee or promise.

Reassure is closer to the student’s intended meaning. According to Webster’s again, reassure means “to make someone feel less afraid, upset, or doubtful.”  Indeed, “reassurance” means to remove doubt or fear, or provide comfort, or encouragement.  So, reassure should have been used as the answer to my question. People don’t feel threatened by others to assure, meaning “to guarantee” anything.  But we DO want to reassure ourselves that we are okay when we encounter people who are very different.  (See the “My Take On It” section for more about this)

Rest Assured I’ll Reassure You

Look at the clever title above.  The expression “rest assured” means that you can relax because I am promising you something.  In other words:

Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered.*

Reassurance, Assure Reassure
Helpful support = Reassurance

The last part of my title is a twist on the expression, “Let me assure you.”  We use this expression to guarantee that something is true or will happen. It is similar to saying “trust me.”  However,  I changed the expression from assure you to reassure you.  This changed the meaning from trust me to a promise that I will give you peace, or reassurance.  I believe in my ability to explain the use and differences of  the word assured versus reassured.

 My Take On It

Just for fun, I found some Bible verses which contain the word assure, or reassure, or variations of these words.  I did this is because another name for The Holy Spirit*  is the  Comforter (Note: Muhammad claimed to be the comforter. So, this is an area of disagreement between Christians and Muslims.)  The word reassure means to comfort, or give encouragement to so I immediately thought about the Great Comforter (this link will take you to several versions of John 14:26 with different names for the Holy Spirit including, the Advocate, the Helper, the Counselor, and the Comforter).

Holman Christian Standard Bible
“I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. John 6:47

 GOD’S WORD® Translation
When the officer had assured him that Jesus was dead, Pilate let Joseph have the corpse. Mark 15:45

New International Version
I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Ephesians 6:22

also, Common English Bible (CEB) I’ve sent him for this reason—so that you will know about us. He can reassure you.  Ephesians 6:22

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Ruth replied, “Sir, may your kindness to me continue. You have comforted me and reassured me, and I’m not even one of your own servants.” Ruth 2:13

New Living Translation
but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:10

International Standard Version
Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists. Hebrews 11:1

 To recap* assured versus reassured : Assurance =  a guarantee, a promise; Reassurance = comfort, the removal of doubt or fear
One Last Thought about Differences

I mentioned earlier that  we want to reassure ourselves that we are okay when we encounter people who are very different.  Personally, I am not completely sure why people are threatened by other’s differences.  It is something that makes our relationships interesting and exciting.  Additionally, If we believe Genesis 1:27 which says,

GOD’S WORD® Translation
So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.

Then understanding each other’s differences gives us a more complete picture of God!  Let’s look at life as a journey that we are all travelling together.  We are all looking to complete the journey successfully. That means learning our purpose and fulfilling it.  I think successful journeys require an encounter with God.  He created us for a relationship with Himself and anything short of that is unsatisfying.  But we all have different starting points on this journey, and different understandings, and different vantage points.  It’s okay!  God loves us and wants a relationship with us.  He will draw those He loves (everybody) to Himself.  And those of us that know Him and love Him get to be a part of His efforts to make Himself known.  If that ‘s not exciting, I don’t know what is!

Blessings, Michele