I'm starting Golden Week with housework.

This is how my Golden Week begins: housework. Look at that: dishes from dinner last night, breakfast this morning, and lunch earlier today. What a mess!

Here are some definitions from Edict:

家事 (かじ) (n) housework; domestic chores; (P);
家事労働 (かじろうどう) (n) housework;

I suppose I could also say that I'm taking care of my chores first so that I can have fun later.

Still, if I say that, it sounds like I'm a kid and my parents have given me this assignment. It's not really true; I do particularly like having a clean apartment.

What I can't say is:
× I'm doing my house chores.

There are a few people who say that, but "housework" is SO much more common. Please use it instead.

OK. I've got to get busy doing the dishes. I want to cook something for dinner, but I can't until the sink is empty. Everybody enjoy the break!

Don't use "let's" if you are giving someone a suggestion.

I read stuff like this about an event:
  • × Let's check it.
I know the author is trying to sound casual and cool while suggesting that I attend. It's just that the English is all wrong. What the author wants to say is:
  • ○ Check it out!
"Let's" means "let us". That means the person you are talking to AND you. If you don't intend to do it together at the same time, don't use "let's".

Usually the true meaning is an imperative sentences. Most Japanese avoid imperative sentences in English because they rarely use them in Japanese. They never say 「それを見!」 They might say 「 御覧ください」or 「それを見って」with friends (any advice from you kind readers about the Japanese I've just written would be appreciated. Email me!).

In English, though, there's lots of ways that are direct but not impolite. You will hear people say:
  • "Take a look!" or, more politely, "Please take a look."
  • Look at that!
Depending on the tone of the speaker, they may be perfectly OK.

Compare these two:
  • I know a nice restaurant in Ginza. Let's go when you have time. <- I want to eat with you.
  • I know a nice restaurant in Ginza. Here's their card. Go check it out if you have time. <- We won't go together.
Don't hesitate to ask me if you have a question. <- imperative

Let's talk about this again if it's not clear to you. <- We'll discuss it together.


describe と explain の違いは何ですか?

Have you ever been asked to describe something or explain a situation? What is the difference between describe and explain? Well, let me see if I can explain it simply.

When you describe something you say or write what someone or something is like. See the following examples.

Can you describe your character? I'm shy and reserved.
It is not easy to describe Picasso's paintings.

I went to the space ALC site and found the following examples.
How can I describe it?
It's not easy to describe my feelings.

When you explain something you give a good reason for your actions or make something clear or easy to understand. For example,

先生、What is the difference between 安全 and 安心? Can you explain it to me please?

Here are some sample sentences from the ALC website.
Can you explain?
Explain what's going on.

I hope I have explained the differences well enough.
See you in class!

It's not just Japanese who make spelling mistakes.

The dictionary suggests the spelling "azalea". This is the correct spelling. However, while I was looking for it, I found 1,170,000 cases of "azalia", 53,300 cases of "azelea", and 72,400 cases of "azelia". I wish English had more consistent spelling rules. I'm sure you do, too.

Is this the right Japanese?

躑躅 (つつじ) (n) azalea;

They're beautiful, aren't they?

More on remembering...

When I was writing the post on "remember" versus "recall", I was trying so hard to remember a song with the phrase "do you remember". Fortunately, one of today's students has a better memory than mine. She is listening to this song every day! It's Maurice White with Earth, Wind, and Fire. The song is called "September". It may not be September now, but this is still a great song:


A model who doesn't travel is in trouble. If your pronunciation is wrong, you might be in trouble, too.

Sometimes loan words (外来語) can cause problems with pronunciation. Because Japanese lacks sounds that exist in English, words like "model" and "travel" are hard to represent accurately.

As a result many people pronounce "travel" like "trah-vell", with the second syllable sounding like "well". However, the "-vel" part should sound like "vul", as in "vulture", "vuluminous", "vuluptuous". The first syllable should sound close to "trap" or "transport". The same goes for "model", which many pronounce like "mow-dell", with the second syllable sounding like the computer company Dell. Instead, it should be "mah-dull", with "mah" like "mop" and the second syllable being "dull", as in "not bright".

While we're talking about "travel", we should also mention "trouble". There are two common problems here. One is "b" versus "v". Remember, when you say the "b" sound, your lips should touch. With a "v" sound, your bottom lip should touch the bottom of your upper teeth. The second problem is the vowel sound in the first syllable. "Travel" has a short "a" sound, like "bat", "cap", or "dance". The vowel sound in the first syllable of "trouble" is "uh" like "truck", "bust", or "balloon".

Following this advice will help to keep you out of trouble when you travel.


豚インフルエンザ は英語で何と言うの?

豚インフルエンザ has many governments on red alert. Over 80 people have died in Mexico and scores of others in the U.S., New Zealand, France have fallen ill. Did you know that 豚インフルエンザ translated into English is the swine flu? Swine is used instead of pig, which is an interesting choice I thought because swine is an old-fashioned word describing the animal and not the first image (animal) that comes to mind when most native speakers hear this word.

Swine is often used to describe a person whom you consider to be extremely unpleasant and unkind.You filthy swine! Her ex-husband sounds like a real swine. This word has a very strong meaning and should be used only if you are absolutely furious.

You might have heard swine used in the expression to cast pearls before a swine.
It means to offer something valuable or good to someone who does not know its value.

The singular and the plural form are spelled the same way. (1 swine, 2 swine)
See my earlier deer, sheep, fish blog entry for more examples.

What's the difference between "remember" and "recall"?

Today there were a lot of interesting questions, and this was one of them. There was some confusion about these two words in Japanese and their English translations. The definitions below are from Edict.
  • 思い出す to recall; to remember; (P);
  • 憶える (1) to remember; to recollect; to memorize; to memorise;
Sometimes these two words can be used with the same meaning.
  • I can't recall what she said.
  • I can't remember what she said.
Sometimes both of them can be used, but "remember" is much more common.
  • Do you remember the good times we had? ("remember the good times", 956,000 cases in Google)
  • Do you recall the good times we had? ("recall the good times", 11,200 cases in Google)
Maybe nobody told the rock band Journey, though. I had a laugh at this tune:
In this case, I think the word "reminisce" is a good word to use.
  • reminisce about the good old days
There's a great rap track with this word, Pete Rock and CL Smooth with "They Reminisce Over You". The sax sample is great. This is widely considered one of the top 100 rap tracks of all time.
Sometimes, though, you cannot use "recall" but can use "remember" when the meaning is "to memorize" or "to keep in memory".
  • ○ Please remember this for the future.
  • × Please recall this for the future.
Recall (with the stress on the first syllable) is sometimes a noun with a different meaning, which is to ask consumers to return a product because it is defective or unsafe.
  • The company has issued a recall for the defective units for safety reasons.
I hope you'll remember this post when it comes time for you to choose between "remember" and "recall".


Did you really meet Namie Amuro?

Someone told me:
  • × I met Namie Amuro!
The intended meaning was this:
  • 安室奈美恵に会ったことがある。
Meeting someone means the two of you shook hands, exchanged business cards, had an introductory conversation, or something like that. Here's the correct version:
  • ○ I saw Namie Amuro in person on the street!
"In person" means in the physical presence of someone or something. Look at Space Alc's definition; their example sentence is almost exactly the same situation.
  • in person〔映画{えいが}やテレビではなく〕じかに、生で
  • I saw a famous actor in person at the restaurant the other day. : 先日そのレストランで有名な俳優を直に見ましたよ。
Here's another example:
  • A: Should I give him the bad news by email?
  • B: No, it would be better to tell him in person.
"On the street" could be substituted with "in a cafe", "in a convenience store", or any other place. The reason to include it in the sentence is to emphasize that when you saw her, it wasn't at one of her concerts.

I remember the first time I saw a local celebrity in person when I was a kid. It was one of the weathermen from a local TV station. I was surprised by how much thinner he looked in person than on TV. It turns out that the harsh studio lights eliminate the shadows on people's faces, making them look heavier than they actually are.


Talking about Kusanagi and being drunk (not "drunker")

The media is really making a big fuss about Kusanagi being drunk. Some think he shouldn't have been arrested. Here's an article on it:


As students try to describe this incident, these words get used:
  • drunk (adj, past participle v, n)
  • drunker (comparative adj)
  • drunkard (n)
The most common mistake is to say:
  • × He was very drunker. (Drunker than what? What is he being compared to?)
  • ○ He was very drunk. (He had consumed too much alcohol.)
A drunkard (also called a drunk) is someone who is always drunk. They cannot stop drinking alcohol. We would probably call them alcoholics. The ex-finance minister Nakagawa was reported to have had alcohol problems in the past (http://newsbizarre.com/2009/02/video-shoichi-nakagawa-drunk-at-g7-news.html), so some people might call him a drunk. I haven't read similar reports about Kusanagi; we shouldn't call him a drunk. However, we can use the comparative adjective to say:
  • He was drunker than the police would allow.
  • He was drunker than he should have been.
When you're drinking, be careful not to drink too much or get too drunk. If you do, people might start calling you a drunkard.

"Both of OK" is STILL not OK.

I heard this phrase again today, so the message hasn't reached enough people. Here's the post I made earlier this month.


In addition to saying "both are OK", you can also say "both of them are OK". Both of these phrases are OK.

However, "both of OK" and "both OK" are both incorrect. Neither of them is OK. Don't use them!

Someone asked me "don't Americans always say 'both of OK'?" My answer was "NO! They don't! Only Japanese say that!" I think people are mishearing Americans who speak quickly. An American says "both are OK" quickly, and the sound of "are" becomes "of" in Japanese ears. The next time you watch an English movie or TV drama, pay close attention for this one.

Fish の複数形は、fishes じゃないの?

"Look daddy!!! Our fish had 6 baby fishes!!!" my son said to me.
I went over to the corner and peered into the soccer ball-sized fish tank and indeed there were 6 little ones. However, when we talk about fish the plural form (複数形) is fish. One fish, two fish, three fish, etc... Let's use it in a situation.

Your friend, Shuichi tells you, "I went fishing last weekend."
and you ask: "How many fish did you catch?"
Shuichi: "I caught 8 fish."

Sheep and deer follow the same rule. The singular form (単数形) and the plural from are the same.
One deer, two deer. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, zzz...


Exploring the web and investigating vocabulary for the TOEIC

A student who took the TOEIC had a question about word choice on the test. The test seemed to equate the words "explore" and "investigate". " I thought the words "explore" and "investigate" have subtle differences in nuance," she said. She's right. Take a look at these definitions from Dictionary.com.

1. to traverse or range over (a region, area, etc.) for the purpose of discovery: to explore the island.
2. to look into closely; scrutinize; examine: Let us explore the possibilities for improvement.

1. to examine, study, or inquire into systematically; search or examine into the particulars of; examine in detail.
2. to search out and examine the particulars of in an attempt to learn the facts about something hidden, unique, or complex, esp. in an attempt to find a motive , cause, or culprit: The police are investigating the murder.

Investigating is more concerned with the details of something, while exploration has a broader feeling. Following the example from explore above:
  • Let's explore the possibilities for improvement. Once we choose a few, let's investigate how our solutions could be implemented. = We'll look at a broad range of ideas first, and then we'll examine the particulars of a few of them.
She asked how the words could be applied to "the world of science". I would say you can explore the world of science, but personally I'd never say "our investigation of the world of science revealed the following information." That's because "the world of science" is too broad. An investigation is looking for a particular answer in the details of something. Google proves that most others wouldn't either. A favorite way for me to check this kind of thing is googling with quotation marks around something and seeing how many results show up.
Those 47,700 cases and the fact that the definitions for both words include "examine" point to why the authors of the TOEIC might have equated the words.

Since I don't know the exact question from the test, I can't be sure, but there's one more point to be careful about in our investigation. There is a common collocation in English like this:
Here's an example from the web:
  • "The Ministry of Defense will conduct the following field investigation for the purpose of gathering technical and specialized information necessary to conduct reviews on bases of operation for vessels and patrol aircraft as well as operational guidelines when an order for maritime security operations is issued." http://www.mod.go.jp/e/pressrele/2009/090205.html
"Field exploration" is a much less common expression, often used to describe searching for oil.
This might show some of the imperfection of the TOEIC. Still, I think it's a relatively useful way to measure your English against a relatively fixed target. No tool is perfect.


Even more on fatigue...

The other day I wrote about "fatigue":
Today two more examples came to mind:
  • vague - あい昧;
  • plague - 疫病;
There's nothing vague about the plague of fatigue in Japan; everyone is in need of the coming Golden Week holidays. You might feel that English spelling is sometimes vague with regards to pronunciation; however, with enough study you will start to see the patterns.


Japanese always say 「はい、はい、はい、今わかりました。」
  • The literal translation is "OK, OK, OK, now I understood." ×
  • 直訳 (ちょくやく) (n,vs) literal translation; (definition from Edict)
However, it's not correct! The sentence contains the word "now", right? If you are talking about now, you should use a present tense. So, instead of saying "I understood", say "I understand". In this case, don't use 現在進行形 (some verbs like this are "understand", "know", and "have").
  • 現在進行形 (げんざいしんこうけい) (n) (ling) present continuous tense; present progressive form; (definition from Edict)
Now, everyone say "oh! I understand!"

”はまってる” 英語で何て言うのですか?

Do you ever get into situations where you have no idea what a Japanese word or phrase translates to in English? In my never-ending quest to master Japanese here's a useful word I recently saw on a train advertisement that I think might come in handy in a situation.

Do you know how to say ”はまってる” in English? For example, ゲームにはまってるんだ.
はまってる in English is be hooked on (something). So the sentence above translates to I am hooked on games.

A similar expression is be into (something). My friends are into collecting stamps.

Recently, I am hooked on Starbucks chai soy lattes and dark chocolate (They make a marvelous combination!) and I am into Japanese calligraphy.
So what are you hooked on? What are you into?

We hope you are into perfecting your English skills. Keep practicing!
I will be posting more 英語で何て言うのですか? posts so come back often.


Taking a vacation over the Golden Week holidays

The Golden Week holidays are coming up. What are your plans? Are you taking a vacation somewhere, or are you going to spend the holidays in Tokyo?

As an American, I feel weird when people say "I'm taking a holiday". This is a British expression, which means several consecutive days off which are different from your usual days off. Americans usually say "I'm taking a vacation." In American English, a holiday is a special day, like Christmas, the Fourth of July, or like the coming Day of Nature (Greenery Day?) and Children's Day. If your usual days off are Saturday and Sunday, we usually just refer to them as "the weekend".

We're taking Tokyo vacations this year; traveling during Golden Week is too expensive. Besides, there's lots that I want to do here.

Tomorrow is not my day off, so I'd better go to bed so that I'm not worn out before my day off on Sunday. Take care!


Maybe one of your mistakes is "as same as" this one.

Here's another common mistake; it's a mix of two different patterns for saying two things are equivalent:
  • × "Maybe her age was as same as me."
The two patterns are:
  • as __(adj)__ as __(n)__
  • the same as __(n)__
You can say
  • She was as old as I was.
or you can say
  • She was the same age as me.
There is a little bit of a difference in meaning. "As __(adj)" says that with regards to that aspect of the noun, the two things are the same. It doesn't compare the other aspects. "The same as" sometimes means that two things are equal. Compare these two examples:
  • Japan is as big as California. (while they are different in many regards, their sizes are the same)
  • This computer is the same as that one. (the two computers are equal in every regard)
If you are using sentences as wrong as the example at the top of the page or the same as the one above, please stop :).

I'm looking forward to seeing you all at 三越前 soon.


More on fatigue, pronunciation

It's not just fatigue that has that funny "gue" at the end of it. For a quick review from yesterday's post, remember that "fatigue" is pronounced with only two syllables, with a sound similar to "proceed" or "succeed". The "gue" isn't pronounced like ギュ, but just like "g" in English. Other words with this sound include "colleague" and "league".

Don't confuse "colleague" with "college"; these two are pronounced very differently. The "g" in college sounds like a "j", but the "g" in "colleague" doesn't. Use this word to mean "coworker". Incidentally, that's another word that is frequently mispronounced. "Co" is a prefix which means "together". Usually in English we don't stress prefixes. However, this is an exception. Most people I know say "CO-worker", not "co-WORKer".

Here's a sentence to help you remember these words:
  • My colleagues joined a baseball league to get rid of their fatigue.


How will I know? と How would I know の違いは何です?

What is the difference between how will I know and how would I know?

Use how will I know in factual situations.
For example,
How will you know Valentine's day is around the corner?
All the store shelves in Japan will be full of chocolate.

Here is another one.
How will you know you what the weather is going to be like the next day?
Check the weather forecast the night before.

Use how would I know when you are asked something unexpected or when it is something you have no idea about.

For example,
A: What currency do people use in Madagascar?
B: How would I know? I have never been there.

A: How does it feel like to be drunk?
B: How would I know? I am a teetotaler.

I searched the Net for songs titled How will I know and How would I know...
Interestingly enough I found two songs. One of them was sung by Whitney Houston. It was one of her big hits and the other was sung by Melissa Etheridge.

Check 'em out...
Here is Melissa Etheridge's song...

and here is Whitney's old hit.

How to say you are tired...

Today while I was dinner, somebody was talking about a way to get relief when you are tired.
  • × It can relieve you of your FA-tee-gyu (fatigue).
Watch out for the pronunciation of this word. It should be said like this: fu TEEG. The stress is like "complete". "Fu" is like the "uh" in "cup" or "double". It's a noun. Here's the definition from Edict:
  • 困憊 (こんぱい) (n,vs) exhaustion; fatigue;
While it's on our minds, some other ways to say you're tired:
  • worn out, be beat, be exhausted
  • I'm worn out.
  • You look beat.
  • You must be exhausted.
I hope that none of you are worn out. Get lots of rest on the weekend to eliminate your fatigue so that you can work hard and study hard next week.


Anytime you want to use "any", aren't there any rules?

Last night in class, a student was wondering if there were any rules for "any" and singular and plural nouns.

When the meaning is that "anything is OK", we usually use a singular noun after "any".
  • You can take any one you like.
  • Any place you would like to meet would be fine.
  • You shouldn't accept just any teacher.
When any is used with "not", we usually use a plural or uncountable noun after "any".
  • She didn't have any other questions.
  • We couldn't find any restaurants that looked delicious.
  • There wasn't any space left in the bag.
If you have any other questions, you can ask me anytime.


The difference between "hear" and "listen", and "see", "look at", and "watch"

The basic point is whether the subject is focusing their attention or not. With "hear", your ears are not focused on the object, but with "listen", they are.
  • I can hear the people talking in the other room. <- I'm not paying attention to it.
  • I'm listening to the people talking in the other room. <- I'm paying attention to it. I might want to know what they are saying.
Visually, there's a third distinction. Like with your ears, "see" means a lack of focus. Both "look at" and "watch" mean the eyes are focusing on something. The difference between the latter two is that "watch" is only for something that is moving or expected to move.
  • I'm trying to watch TV, but all I can see is your big head in front of it. <- The image on the screen is moving, and I'm not trying to focus on your big head.
  • I see the TV flickering across the room, but I don't want to even look at it. <- I'm aware of the TV, but I don't want to focus on it.
  • Please watch my things. <- I'm going out, and I expect that my things will move (or be moved by a thief) while I'm out, unless someone else watches them for me.
Putting them all together, you can make a story like this:
  • I was listening to music when I heard the phone ring. I looked at my phone, and I saw that it was my boss. I watched the display on the phone blink while I was thinking about whether to answer it or not.

"Made of" or "made from": what is the difference?

This question came up the other day in class, what is the difference between made of and made from. If something keeps its form, we use made of and if the form is changed we use made from.

For example:
Tables are usually made of wood.
We can still see the wood.
Here is another example:
Omochi is made of rice.

On the contrary,
Sake is made from rice.
The rice used in sake is no no longer rice, it has changed into sake.

So made of is used if the material of which the thing is made can still be seen and made from if the material can no longer be seen.


Further adventures with my iPhone

This evening, I stopped by Don K. and bought two replacement cables for my iPhone: one for my bag and one to leave at my desk at school. The English label is funny:
  • "Music Data for iPhone3G iPod"
It sounds like the package includes something like a catalog of music, not a cable for connecting an iPhone to a computer. What's funnier is that the katakana clearly reads:
  • データケーブル
Why didn't they simply write that Japanese English on it? "Data cable" is perfect English. Maybe they were afraid, since so much Japanese English is quasi-English. Here's a case where it would have been perfect, and much better than "Music Data".

I hope that the wise readers of our blog will be able to provide their companies with better English than those working for that company. If you keep reading our blog, I expect you will be able to.

Hang in there!

I called my mom today to wish her a happy birthday. While chatting, we wanted to encourage each other to try to overcome the difficulties we face in our lives. One way to do so is persisting in our efforts, so we both said "hang in there." This phrase implies that person you are talking to is in a difficult place, and using this phrase is a way to boost their morale. Imagine being "out on a limb" of a tree, nearly falling off. If you hang on to the limb, you won't fall to the ground.

Here are some definitions from Space Alc:
  • hang in there
    持ちこたえる、あきらめないで頑張り通す、ふんばる、くじけない、へこたれない、ねばる、しっかりする、(その場に)踏みとどまる◆命令形(Hang in there!)で使われることが多い。◆【類】hang tough
    You hang in there. : へこたれちゃ駄目{だめ}。/しっかりしろ。
  • left out on a limb
    be ~》置き去りにされる、孤立{こりつ}する
From time to time, you might feel overwhelmed by life, your job, or even your English studies. Don't give up, though. Hang in there!


正しい英語 very huge???

I heard this in one of my classes today. "Her house is very huge."

It is okay to say very big and it is also okay to say very, very big. However huge is an extreme adjective and it means "very big" If you want to make huge sound stronger, you should say absolutely huge. Absolute is used to intensify extreme adjectives. Here are some other extreme adjectives: exhausted, fascinating, freezing, tiny. Can you think of any other extreme adjectives?


Supermarkets and department stores, personal computers and rehabilitation

Today it seems I talked with many people about words from other languages or "loan words"(日本語の中の外来語). When you buy groceries, you usually go to a supermarket (スーパー). It's interesting, because Japanese translate the sound, but Chinese translate the meaning. Instead of スーパー, they say 超吸市場 ("super" and "market"). "Supermarket" might seem like a mouthful at four syllables, so many Americans just say:
  • I'm going to the store. Want anything?
Department store in Chinese is 百貨公司, "100 product company", but in Japanese, just the first few sounds are taken -- "デパート". However, if you just say "department" in English, people will think you mean a section in a company or institute, not a place to buy some nice new clothes or with a supermarket in the basement. Here are some definitions from Edict:
  • 科 (か) (n,n-suf) (1) department; section; (2) (taxonomical) family; (P);
  • 課 (か) (n,n-suf) (1) lesson; (2) section (in an organization); division; department; (ctr) (3) counter for lessons and chapters (of a book); (P);
  • 部局 (ぶきょく) (n) department; bureau; section; part; (P);
  • × I bought it at a department.
  • ○ I bought it at a department store.
Another English word that seems to get shortened in Japanese is "personal computer", which becomes "パソコン", but can be even shorter in English as "PC". Yet another is "rehabilitation", which becomes "リハビリ"; in English, though, it can get down to two syllables: "rehab". One of our students is in rehab now; get well soon!

Almost all of these are wrong.

Which of these sentences is correct?
  1. Almost Japanese make this mistake.
  2. Almost these sentences are wrong.
  3. Almost people forget that "almost" is an adverb.
  4. I hear this mistake almost every day.
  5. This word is almost used correctly.
While the meaning of all of these sentences is true, the only one which is grammatically correct is number 4. Please remember that "almost" is an adverb. That means it can modify another adverb or an adjective, but it cannot be used to directly modify a noun. Here are the correct versions:
  1. Almost all Japanese make this mistake.
  2. Almost all of these sentences are wrong.
  3. Almost all people forget that "almost" is an adverb.
  4. I hear this mistake almost every day.
  5. This word is almost never used correctly.


You must hope that the economy is going to get better, but do you really expect it to?

There's a lot of confusion about hope and expect. "Hope" is only for something the subject views as positive. "Expect" can be for positive or negative things.
  • I hope he's on time, but I expect him to be late.
The confusion probably comes from thinking in Japanese about English; Edict shows this definition:
  • 期待 (きたい) (n,vs) expectation; anticipation; hope; (P):
However, Space Alc also shows this as one of the meanings:
  • expect【自動】予期する
So you can say something like this:

Safety city????

A lot of students make this mistake. Don't say safety city. It is not correct.
Instead you should say "Tokyo is a safe city." Safe is an adjective and it tells us about the noun.


The next episode at the Apple store

Earlier this afternoon, I returned to the Apple store. In polite Japanese, the staff directed me to the second floor. There, I found out that I needed to make a reservation in order to speak to the staff about my warranty. The earliest I could get an appointment was one hour later. That was too long for me, so they assisted me to make a reservation for Sunday. I'll cancel that reservation, though. It's easier to just buy a 600 yen replacement at Don K. than waste more time at the Apple store.

However, that makes me even angrier at the guy from last night. He must have known I could make an appointment, but he didn't say ANYTHING about it. What an inconsiderate jerk!

Here's how the conversation should have gone:

him: How can I help you?
me: The cable of my iPhone is broken, but I just bought it in December.
him: Wow! I'm really sorry about that. Could I take a look at it?
me: Sure. Here it is.
him: Oh, you're right. It shouldn't be like this. I'm really sorry it didn't hold up. I'm also really sorry, but we've just closed.
me: Oh? That's too bad.
him: Yeah, but here's what we can do. It's usually busy, so we can make an appointment now for your visit. That way you won't have to wait. When do you think you can come back?
me: Is tomorrow OK?
him: Sure. What time is convenient for you?
me: How about noon?
him. No problem. Now, let's go over to this computer and enter your reservation.
(we enter the reservation)
him: You are all set. Thanks for your understanding. I'll be looking for you again tomorrow. Sorry again about the cable.
me: Thank you for your help!


When talking about changed plans, don't use "would".

Today someone wanted to tell me that though they had made plans for this afternoon, those plans had changed. They decided not to go where they had planned to go. She said:

× I would go there, but I didn't.
○ I was going to go there, but I didn't.

"Would" is frequently used to describe hypothetical situations, not past situations. You can use "would have" to indicate the past. In that case:
  • I would have gone there if I hadn't changed my plans.
However, I think in this case "was going to" is the best choice.

Use "would" to talk about past habits, though:
  • When I was a college student, I would drink beer for breakfast.

Don't use the phrase "we're done" with your customers.

Today I heard perfect English, and I'm really angry about it. That's because it was perfectly rude English from a shop clerk.

As you probably know, I bought an iPhone in December. Now the cable which connects it with a computer is coming apart. The rubber sleeve around the wire has split, and the wires inside are visible. After class, I thought I could stop by the Apple shop in Ginza and see what could be done about it. I arrived exactly at 9 pm, which is their closing time. At Bic Camera, if I walk in the door at closing time, I can still get service. I thought it would be the same at the Apple store. I was wrong.

In perfect pronunciation, perfect intonation, and perfect grammar, the first word from the clerk (who appeared to be a young Japanese male) were "What do you want?" I was doubly surprised with the rudeness of his question and his perfect English. "The cable for my iPhone is broken," were my first words. I was then cut off with the question "do you want to buy a new one?" "No," I said. "I want Apple to replace it." "You've gotta come back tomorrow. We're DONE," he spat at me. "Your service sucks!" I said and I left the store, really really angry. I felt I had returned to New York City, and it was not a pleasant feeling.

You may recognize the phrase "we're done"; we studied this exactly one year ago in Mastery 49. Now I realize that I left out something very important in that lesson: never use this phrase with customers. This phrase means the speaker is completely finished, with no chance of returning to the issue. The nuance in this situation is "we will not help you, especially not now, and maybe not EVER."

Here's what Alc has to say about it:
  • I'm done with you. あなたとはもう絶交[終わり]です。
I think they should have replaced my cable tonight, but here's how the conversation should have gone if they had insisted on turning me away:

him: How can I help you?
me: The cable of my iPhone is broken, but I just bought it in December.
him: Wow! I'm really sorry about that. Could I take a look at it?
me: Sure. Here it is.
him: Oh, you're right. It shouldn't be like this. I'm really sorry it didn't hold up. I'm also really sorry, but we've just closed.
me: Oh? That's too bad.
him: Yeah, but here's what you can do. When it's convenient for you, please come back and bring it to the service counter on the third floor. Here's my card. Please let me know if you have any trouble getting a replacement, and I'll do my best to help you. I'm really sorry that we can't take care of it tonight, but we do have a strict policy about our store hours.
me: Oh, ok. I see. I'll be back tomorrow, then.
him: Thanks for your understanding. I hope to see you tomorrow. Sorry again about the cable.

I will go back tomorrow to speak to the manager. Maybe I'll tell them "I'm done with Apple."


An amendment: it is OK to tell your customer "we're done with your order" (meaning it is complete).


"Both of ok" is not ok!

I often hear this phrase. Please don't use it. Instead, say "both are ok" or "either is ok".

The English you see on signs will surprise you.

This is a perfect example of why people need to study English. First, take a look at this:


That shop is in my neighborhood. The name of this shop is the combination of two English words:
  • poop
  • dick
A quick look at Alc gives us these definitions:
  • poop【4名】〈米俗〉〔落ちている犬などの〕ふん、うんち
  • dick【名】〈俗〉男性器、ペニス、ちんちん、陰茎◆【語源】《語源説-1》男性名Richardの愛称であるDickprick(何かを突くための棒=ペニス)と似た発音だから。《語源説-2》昔の言葉であるderrickが縮まってdickになった。
Can you believe that there are even TWO of these shops? As a native English speaker, I feel the owner has to be joking with me. Before you choose English words to name something important, please ASK me or someone else.

How to use "patrol"

We were having a discussion today about this article:


Somebody said "The Self Defense Force can patrol pirates". The mistake is that the verb "patrol" should be used with a place, like this:
  • Police patrol rich neighborhoods often.
  • Police don't patrol my neighborhood often enough, so it's not safe.
  • It seems my boss is always patrolling our office, so I can't relax.
So, to correct the sentence above:
  • The Self Defense Force can patrol the coast to catch pirates.