It's time to put away the only Christmas decoration in the house: this small folding paper Christmas tree. I'm glad that Christmas has come to an end, because I'm not a fan of Christmas music that is played too loud everywhere, other than Vince Guaraldi:

  • put away【句動】片付ける、しまう、しまい込む、収納する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I'm sorry not to have written any posts in December until today. I wonder if I can do better next year.

Like a lot of you must be doing, I'm trying to clean up the house.
  • clean up【句動】きれいに掃除[清掃]する、片付ける、浄化する、後片付けをする、部屋をきれいにする、きちんと整理する、きちんと身支度をする、身なりを整える、着替えをする、体を洗う (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
There are lots of things to throw away. The windows should be cleaned. The bathroom and toilet should be scrubbed with extra effort, and all of the nooks and crannies should be dusted or vacuumed.
  • throw away【句動】~を投げ捨てる (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • scrub 洗う、磨く (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • nooks and crannies 隅々
  • dust【句動】~のほこりを払う、~のちりを払う (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • vacuum【他動】~を電気掃除機で掃除する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I think getting rid of a lot of things over the course of the year will make cleaning this year easier. It's nice to have more space, as well.
  • get rid of〔好ましくない物を〕取り除く、駆除する、一掃する、処分する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
It seems to really be true that sprucing up your living space can do the same to your thinking. It's refreshing!
  • spruce up【句動】こぎれいにする、めかす、身なりを整える、美化する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
After I have done some cleaning, I'll be back to wrap up our posts for 2012. I hope your cleaning up goes smoothly! I hope you will consider sprucing up your English next year at our school, too.



This is what I've really got to learn to cook. It's vegetarian char siu, which is Cantonese-style BBQ pork. This is a vegetarian one, so it's made with gluten and spices. The black parts, rather than being burnt meat, are a kind of fermented black bean sauce. I ate this in Hong Kong. It was so delicious, and I keep thinking about it and how to make it.
  • fermented【形】発酵した (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
There are vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo, but...
× the cost is cheaper in Hong Kong.
○ the [food is/restaurants are] cheaper in Hong Kong.
○ the cost is lower in Hong Kong.
The vegetarian food in Hong Kong is generally more delicious, too.

"Cheaper" means "lower in price". "Cost" is a synonym for "price". That means that the incorrect sentence above means:
  • The price is lower in price in Hong Kong. ← strange!
"Cost" or "price" is a number, so you should use "lower" or "higher". Use "cheap" for products.

If you happen to know a good recipe or tips for cooking char sui at home, please let me know, especially if you know how to cook the vegetarian version. The cost of making it at home is certainly lower than flying to Hong Kong to eat it again. If you know a way to get cheaper tickets to Hong Kong, though, I'd like to hear that, too!


「claim」と「complain」の違い, part 2

This was a really successful dish. I was already eating it when I realized I should take a picture of it so that I could show it to you. It's pan-fried mung beans with chopped lotus root, carrot, rosemary, and oregano.
  • mung bean 緑豆
  • lotus root レンコン
○ You might claim that it looks awful, but it really was yummy. ← you think it doesn't look delicious, but some people might not believe you

○ You might complain that it looks awful, but it really was yummy. ← you are expressing your dissatisfaction with the photo
  • dissatisfaction【名】不満、不平、不満の種 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Notice that "claim" and "complain" can both be used above, but that the meanings are different.   The common mistake, though, is to use "claim" when you mean to use "complain".

× Rather than claim about learning unfamiliar English words, just use them as often as possible to learn them naturally.
 Rather than complain about learning unfamiliar English words, just use them as often as possible to learn them naturally.

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about the difference between "claim" and "complain". You can read the definitions of the two words there:
It doesn't look so appetizing, especially since it's in the middle of being eaten, but I promise that it was great. Next time I'll take more care with the presentation.
  • appetizing【形】食欲をそそる、人の気をそそる (definition from Eijiro on the Web)



One of the restaurants I ate at on my trip was Pure Veggie House.


This dish is lotus seeds wrapped in strips of winter melon arranged on a bed of broccoli.
  • lotus【名】《植物》ハス、蓮 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • winter melon《植物》冬瓜 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
You might say it looks like an alien brain, but actually it had a very mild and pleasant flavor.

It was a vegetarian restaurant, and the menu was overwhelming. There were too many dishes to choose from.
In other words, there were so many dishes that I couldn't choose. At least, it was really difficult to choose. I will have to go again to try different dishes.

I'm too busy in Tokyo to travel as much as I'd like, but every time I go abroad I feel it's refreshing to get a change of perspective. There are so many places that I'd like to visit that I can't see them all in one year. Maybe not even in five years is enough.
  • change of perspective《a ~》観点の変化[を変えること](definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Maybe you feel the same about traveling. If so, English is a really useful skill. It's too useful not to work on improving it now. If you aren't doing so already, I hope you'll start coming to a class to improve your English.



I just returned from a trip. I departed from Tokyo Station on the Narita Express. While I was waiting on the train, I noticed this sign. It says:
× The following Narita Express trains are in a short set of 6 cars. They don't stop about here. Please wait near the pillar No. 16 ~ No. 27.
○ The following Narita Express trains are in a short set of six cars. They don't stop in this area. Please wait between pillars 16-27.
  • pillar【名】〔建物などの細い〕柱、支柱、装飾柱 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Probably the writer wanted to say "around here". However, "around here" sounds a bit too casual for a public sign.

You can say "about here", such as:
  • It was about here that I took the photo. ← said when standing in a place which is roughly the correct place
We usually don't use "not" with "about here" when saying that the approximate position is not correct.
  • approximate【形】おおよその、概算の、近似の (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
However, you might hear something like this:
  • The article is not about here. It's about another place.  "about" means "regarding", not "roughly"
The other mistake the Tokyo Station staff have made is using "the". In this case, "pillar" is a title, like "Mount" or "Mr.". In such cases, we don't use "the" in front.

I'm about finished with this post. There's lots to catch up on from being out of town. I'll write again about this time next week, if not before! I'm not sure what I will write about, though. Maybe I'll look for some mistakes around here.



On the north side of Hashimoto Station, there's a store selling beauty supplies called T-House, and they are in desperate need of help with their English. They have a giant sign on the building which barely makes any sense:
In Order To Twinkle You More Beautifully,Such A New Salesclerk
Who Can Propose Has Your Coming To The Store
The Place Which Leads You ToThe Beauty Of Following Step
It's hard to decide what to point out in this text. First, let's try to guess what they mean. Maybe they want to say:
To make you twinkle beautifully like a star, our clerks can suggest the best things for you and lead you on the steps towards beauty. Come to our store: Pro Shop T-House!
Some of the mistakes they have made include:
  1. using title case for a sentence. Don't Capitalize Each Word In A Sentence Unless It Is A Title!!!
  2. ignoring proper spacing after punctuation. Put a space after periods and commas.
  3. meaning mistakes. You can't twinkle me, since "twinkle" is usually used without an object.
There are others, but the funniest is probably the "new salesclerk who can propose". It sounds like one of the staff will propose marriage to me if I go in. While that might make for an interesting experience, it's a little too heavy for my tastes. Some light flirting might be fun, but a marriage proposal is too much.
  • propose (without an object) - to propose marriage. propose to ~にプロポーズ[求婚]する、~に結婚を申し込む (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • flirt with 面白半分に(人)の気を引く、(人)にお上手[お世辞]を言う、(人)に面白半分に手を出す、(人)を誘惑する[もてあそぶ]、(人)といちゃつく[イチャイチャする・ベタベタする](definition from Eijiro on the Web)


「パーカー」は英語で何、part 2

I'm surprised that this post from 2010 about パーカー is still really popular. A lot of people find this post using Google.
Just to recap, we don't use "parka" to mean the same thing as Japanese do; we say "hooded sweatshirt" or "hoodie" for short.
  • to recap 要点をまとめると (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
For us, a parka is a kind of longer jacket, often for rain or very cold weather.
In the first picture above, those aren't hoodies or parkas either. They are hooded windbreakers. That's what all of these things have in common: hoods.
  • hood 【1名】〔コートの首の回りにつける〕フード、頭巾 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • windbreaker《衣服》ウインド・ブレーカー、風よけ用ジャンパー (definition from Eijiro on the Web) <- my note, "jumper" sounds like a kind of dress for women or children to my American ears, though it's a pullover sweater in the UK
I think it's not quite cool enough to start wearing hoodies here, but maybe a lot of people are thinking about it. As for us here, we are just wearing our hooded windbreakers, which feels just right for the temperature at the moment.



I was reading a blog post the other day in which the writer was talking about:
× a student studying at his collage
○ a student studying at his college
"College" is pronounced like KAH-lij (カリジ without the "i" at the end) in American English, while "collage" is pronounce like koh-LAHJ (コラージ without the "i" at the end). Be careful about the difference in stress.
  • collage 【名】《美術》コラージュ◆さまざまな素材を同一画面に組み合わせる芸術的手法。【他動】《美術》~のコラージュを作る
In the dictionary, I found "collage" is コラージュ, which is closer to the French pronunciation. The dictionary has カレッジ for college, but I think if you say that, the pronunciation will sound strange, too. Say it without ッ.

The photo above is a collage I just made for this post. I studied art in college, but I'm not sure that this collage is any good. Anyway, it's full of mistakes I've found in public. Can you remember the correct English for these?



I sometimes find people confused about the difference in pronunciation between "walk" and "work".

"Work" sounds like "perk", "lurk", and "jerk". Your mouth is open about as much as when you say "え", but the sound is not "eh", but "er", like in "bird". You need a strong "r" sound, which means curling your tongue. There's more about "r" sounds in this blog post.
"Walk" sounds like "talk". The "a" is like "ah" (あ).

I have been working on this lucky bamboo plant for a while. We took some cuttings from the plant, and now they are growing quite well, as you can see in the photo above.

I've also been working on some spider plants.
  • spider plant オリヅルラン (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
You can see a very healthy one when you walk out of the elevator in our building. Come by and pay us a visit sometime!



A tiny bit of nostalgia for my youth led to me making BBQ sandwiches. These sandwiches are full of mock BBQ chicken, made from strips of fried tofu and homemade Texas-style barbecue sauce.
  • nostalgia 【名】懐旧、懐古の情、ノスタルジア・郷愁、望郷の念 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
× Somehow I won't to eat BBQ sauce these days.
○ Somehow I want to eat BBQ sauce these days.

I think it's because of the really good BBQ tempe that I had at this vegetarian restaurant in NYC back when I visited in March:


× I want live in NYC again, I think...
 I won't live in NYC again, I think...

... but that is a great restaurant!

In the sentences above, people who are listening sometimes get confused between the two. That's dangerous, because the meanings are very different. However, it should be simple to tell which is being used. There are two reasons.

The first is the difference in pronunciation:
want ~ taunt, flaunt, font. This is an "ah" sound in American English.
won't ~ This is an "oh" sound in American English.

The second difference is in grammar. "Won't" is an auxiliary verb, so it's never followed by "to". "Want" is a regular verb, so when a verb comes after it, you have to use "to" first.

I won't use the same recipe for barbecue sauce next time. This one was good, but not as rich or deep as I had wanted to eat.



Two weekends ago I found that USB cables had been breeding in a box in my apartment, and that their population had really increased!
  • breed〔動物が〕子を産む、繁殖する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
× I was clearing my room at that time.
○ I was cleaning my apartment at that time.

"Clear" means to get rid of everything, so that the space is empty. If a room is dangerous, the police might tell everyone to "clear the room!" They mean for everyone to get out of the room. 

"Clean" is a better choice when you are organizing things. I did clear the box of USB cables, though. The cables for some peripherals that I'd thrown away long ago were still in this box. Almost all of them got thrown out.

The other thing is that "room" means just one room in your apartment, which is one unit in your apartment building. My building has a lot of units, and my apartment has a few rooms, including the bathroom and the kitchen.

I always want my house to be more organized, and part of that is cleaning up clutter like these USB cables. 
  • clutter【名】散乱物、がらくたの山 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
 I recommend you spend some time this weekend cleaning up clutter at your home.



The other day I arrived at the office after teaching a lesson outside in the morning. I hadn't used the restroom since leaving home, so when I got to the office, I was kind of in a hurry to go to the restroom.

I put down my bag and started walking to the restroom. Thinking ahead, I looked down at my pants, and then I realized it. My fly was down.
  • fly チャック (also "zipper")
Since I hadn't been to the restroom since leaving home, it meant my zipper had been open for a few hours. No wonder it was a little bit cooler when I was riding my bicycle! I stopped and snapped this photo before going to the restroom.
  • no wonder 驚くに値しない、~も不思議ではない、道理で~なわけだ、無理もない、~も無理はない、なるほど~なわけだ、~も当然である (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
It seems that when I was a kid in Texas, in some cases someone might lean over to you and tell you, "hey, if you don't close the barn doors, the cows are going to get out!"

If you notice someone with their fly down, I recommend that you tell them. They will probably thank you for it. I would have been grateful for someone to have mentioned it to me. In fact, all of you should check your flies now.



I was riding my bicycle up Chuo Avenue a few afternoons ago when I saw this bus. I read the side of the bus and had to stop to take a photo.
× We presents heartful trip
○ We provide heartfelt trips.
"Heartful" is not real English. It's a made-up word.
  • made-up【形】こしらえた、でっち上げた、フィクションの、架空の (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
It's true that we add the suffix "-ful" to mean "full of ~". However, "heartful" is not a commonly accepted case, unlike words like "hateful", "grateful", and "disgraceful" (like the English on this bus).

On the other hand, "heartfelt" is a real word that is relatively common.
  • heartfelt【形】〔感謝・同情・謝罪などの言葉・行動などが〕心からの (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
On top of that, this is still a weird sentence. The tour company doesn't have anything to do with whether I am traveling sincerely or not. Maybe they mean something like:
We provide you with heartfelt service on your trip.
That makes more sense. They are sincere, which makes my trip happier.

They also forgot the period at the end of the sentence. Make sure you don't do that.

This blog is just my heartfelt advice on how you can improve your English. I hope you'll come and study with us, too.



I started running a little over a month ago. Every time I put on my shoes...
× I feel like I'm in an Olympic game.
○ I feel like I'm in an Olympic event.
We say "the Olympic Games" when we are talking about the sum of all of the events. It's also important to remember that one sport might have several events, like tennis has singles and doubles, soccer has men's and women's, and so on. "Games" often have points, but not all of them do, particularly races.
× I may feel like an Olympic player when I put on my shoes, but...
 I may feel like an Olympic athlete when I put on my shoes, but...
"Players" is generally used for participants in games with points. An athlete is someone "a trained to compete in sports or exercises", according to dictionary.com.
  • athlete 【名】運動[スポーツ]選手、スポーツマン、スポーツ愛好家、競技者 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Like I was saying, the truth is far from my imagination. I watched part of the women's marathon. When I calculated their speeds and compared them with mine, it was clear that I have a lot of practice to do to get anywhere close. That gave me more admiration for the Olympians.
  • Olympian オリンピック選手 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • admiration 【名】称賛、感心、感嘆 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I suppose I should use my running shoes tonight, then.



Someone I know asked me how to use "thus", thus I am writing this post.

See? "Thus" is basically the same as "so". It sounds formal, maybe even old-fashioned.
thus【副】それ故に、従って、だから (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Last night I was up late cooking that tofu dish that I posted about the other day. I think I'm finally used to cooking it, and I can manage to cook it without the tofu sticking to the pan when I fry it. The photo above is the fried tofu before it has been simmered in spices.

Actually, "thus" has two other meanings. One means "in that way", like:
  • Cooked thus, the tofu becomes firmer.
  • thus このようにして、こんなふうに、上に述べたように (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Another relatively common usage is "thus far", which means "up to now", like:
  • Thus far, I've cooked this tofu about eight or nine times.
  • thus far ここまでは、これまで、今までのところは、今までは (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I've been practicing it, thus my skill is improving. To be honest, though, I almost never use "thus" in this way. I'd probably just say "so", thus I don't really recommend using "thus".


「every time」と「all the time」の違い

I had been concerned about our Dracaena sanderiana, aka lucky bamboo. There were no new shoots coming out of the stalk. However, today I noticed this small white shoot had appeared at the top of one of the stalks. I was relieved.
× I had been checking the stalks every time.
○ I had been checking the stalks all the time.
"Every time" means all of the occurrences of something. In the example above, exactly what is occurring is not clear. That's why we should use "all the time" instead, which can mean "very frequently" or "constantly".
  • all the time その間ずっと、四六時中、年がら年中、ひっきりなしに、のべつ幕なしに (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • every time 毎回~するたびに (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • constantly 【副】絶えず、しきりに、絶え間なく、常に、四六時中、やむことなく、いつも (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Every time I looked at the stalks, I couldn't see any shoots, so I had been worried. <- this is OK because it is clear what happens each time

It seem I'm reading about China and other countries arguing about territory in the Pacific all the time. Every time I read such an article, it makes me nervous. One of the reasons is that people are competing for energy resources. With that and the safety and waste issues with nuclear power, it would be great if countries would devote their efforts to better solar energy instead. I would be much happier knowing that every time I use electricity it was coming from a solar panel rather than something that puts us at risk all the time.



I was preparing some teaching materials today, and I came across a sentence that described today's weather pretty well.
  • It's a scorcher today. 今日は焼け付くように暑い。(example from Eijiro on the Web)
It may have been hot, but the sunset was a beautiful one. The sky went golden. I enjoyed looking at it for about five minutes until I went back inside because it was still too hot.

The three-day weekend was a scorcher, too. I went running on Sunday afternoon, not expecting it to be so hot. 45 minutes later, I was dripping wet.
  • enjoy the three-day weekend 3連休を楽しむ (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
What advice do you have for sweltering heat?
  • sweltering heat うだる[地獄の]ような暑さ (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I wish there was a better alternative, but the most practical thing I know to do right now is to sit directly under the air conditioner vent. Watch out for heat stroke!
  • heat stroke 熱射病 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)



It's been almost three years since I wrote about Family Mart's English mistakes, and they still haven't done anything about it!
× Every Life, Every Fun
○ ??? I don't know what they want to say. Maybe "fun for everyone!"...
When you read that, what do you think? As a Japanese person, does that phrase make you interested in Family Mart? Does it encourage you to spend money there? I always wonder if this is a kind of English that somehow Japanese people can understand, even if I cannot.

"Fun" is an uncountable noun if we use it like this:
  • I have fun finding English mistakes in public.
  • How much fun would it be to talk to the CEO of Family Mart about their English usage?
"Fun" is an adjective, and we can use it like this:
  • It's a fun activity to hunt down mistakes like this.
While we are talking about "fun", it's good to remember the difference between "fun" and "funny". "Fun" means "enjoyable", while "funny" means "humorous". 
  • fun 楽しい
  • funny おかしい、ユーモアのある
When I read the Family Mart sign, I think it's funny that a large successful company can make silly mistakes like this. It's also a little sad.

We have a three-day weekend coming up. I hope all of you have a lot of fun!



The sign says:
× We are Economy OPEN
○ We are conserving electricity. Please come in!
  • conserve energy 省エネをする、エネルギーを節約する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
What they want to say is:
  • It might look dark inside, but we actually are open. Don't worry! Please come in and have something to drink.
If I didn't understand a bit of Japanese, I think I would never have been able to figure out what this cafe was trying to say.
  • figure out【句動】計算して合計[答え]を出す、算定する、〔答えを〕見つけ出す、 ~であると分かる、〔原因などを〕解き明かす、解明する、理解する、把握する、考え出す、考え付く、見当がつく  (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
It's a classic case of the noise in their English being too loud, making it not worth my time to even try to understand.

Conserving electricity is getting more important than ever. While it's great that utility companies are being forced to purchase electricity from enterprises generating electricity with renewable means, it may mean that we pay higher rates. Saving electricity could save you money.
  • renewable energy 再生可能エネルギー  (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I've tried to keep the AC off to conserve, but today it was a bit too hot in the afternoon. I turned on the AC for a few hours. Now I'm back to conserving, with the windows open.

In the afternoon, we are doing the same thing as this cafe at our classroom. The lights may be off, but there's a good chance that one of us is around. Why not send us email and come by for a visit? I'll even turn on the AC for you!


「if that will help」の使い方

Someone was asking me about these patterns.
...if that will help.
...if that will make a difference.
...if that will solve the problem.
These patterns are for offering assistance. When someone has a problem, you may want to help them. You suggest that you can do something to help by using this pattern.
  • make a difference 違いが生まれる、効果がある (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
For example, someone told me that she was concerned about a business email that she had written. She wasn't sure if it was correct or not, and she worried that it might not be polite enough. I told her:
I can take a look at it if that will help.
We can reverse the patterns and put them at the beginning of a sentence by changing "that" to "it".
If it will help, ...
If it will make a difference, ...
If it will solve the problem, ...
I could have said:
If it will help, I can take a look at it.
I have another plant question for you all. We have this "lucky bamboo", which is actually an African plant unrelated to bamboo. I took some cuttings from it, and they are growing well in some soil.
  • cutting 挿し木
However, there are no new shoots from where I took the cuttings. It has already been two months, so I expected to see some signs of shoots by now. You can see where it was cut. The top of the stalk is covered by a small piece of foil.
  • cutting《植物》〔種子から発芽した〕芽 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • stalk《植物》柄、茎 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Can you give me some advice? If it will help, I can take more pictures or give you more information about the plant. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!


「midnight」と「the middle of the night」の違い

I often stay up late. Sometimes I'm working on teaching materials. Sometimes I'm correcting the writing of students. Sometimes I'm programming. It depends, but it's not uncommon for me to be awake at 2am.

I was talking with someone about it, and she said:
× Oh, you were still awake at midnight.
Well, it's true. I was awake at midnight, but I was still awake after midnight. What she had wanted to say was:
○ Oh, you were still awake in the middle of the night.
"Midnight" means 12am, the hour after 11pm. "The middle of the night" means the general time when most people are sleeping, often thought of as between 1am and 4am. The dictionary might list other meanings for "midnight", but I think most people these days think of midnight as 12am.
  • midnight 夜の12時
  • in the middle of the night 真夜中に、深夜に、夜中に、夜半に、夜更けに (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I've got an important presentation to give tomorrow, but I'm going to try to go to bed at a decent hour tonight.
  • at a decent time = at a decent hour わきまえた時間に (definition from Eijiro on the Web) (? Is this right? Someone let me know if this Japanese is correct, please.) = not too late
I don't want to be up until the middle of the night since it might make me too sleepy tomorrow. I think I'll try to sleep just after midnight tonight.

The other day I went to my friend Akimasa's performance in Roppongi. That's Akimasa in the photo above. It was a great show, and it even finished a little before midnight. Sometimes I go to hear techno DJs playing in the middle of the night, though. Maybe I can go to hear one after my presentation.


「next month」と「the next month」の違い

Last week I asked someone about their plans for the next month, and he told me:
”I have a business trip at the end of July.”
It was strange, because I wasn't asking about the end of July, I was asking about the next 30 days. He thought I had asked about "next month". Are you confused?
  • the next month = the next 30 days (today, that means until July 19) 30日以内
  • next month = the month after this month (today, that means July) 来月
It's raining terribly right now because of this typhoon. Usually, typhoons don't come until next month. There's a lot of rain today, and the humidity is going to continue for the next month because it's the middle of rainy season.

Anyway, like the woman with the pink umbrella in the photo above, I'm going to run to the station now before the typhoon gets stronger. I hope everyone gets home safely!



I had posted about Tully's funny mistake in front of the Yaesu store before:
I was pleased to see yesterday that they had fixed the spelling mistake on the sign!

It seems that they changed their operating hours, opening half an hour later than they used to. I guess they took that opportunity to fix the spelling, too.

I sometimes make spelling mistakes. Today I made a mistake with "causative", writing "causitive".
  • causative verb 使役動詞
There's really no justification for spelling mistakes, though, particularly when it's so easy to use a spell-checker. Computer grammar checkers might still have a long way to go, and sometimes people use the wrong words, like "their" instead of "there" or "sacred" instead of "scared".
  • sacred【形】〔神にささげた〕神聖な、聖なる
  • scared【形】おびえた、怖がる、怖がって
  • (definitions from Eijiro on the Web)
However, when it comes to plain spelling mistakes, like mine above, there's no excuse.

Good job, Tully's! I'm glad you fixed your sign.


「so that」の使い方

Someone was complaining to me about a leader.
× He is too old style so that he can't push people.
○ His style is so old that he can't lead people in the right direction .
The pattern above is:
  • so [adj] that [sentence]
It means that the degree of the adjective is very high, which causes some result.
You might be thinking "but Renick, I've heard 'so that' before." You are right, but "so that" has a different meaning.
  • [sentence A] so that [sentence B]
"So that" means "for the purpose of" or "in order to". The difference is the grammar. "So that" connects sentences, but notice these patterns:
  • for the purpose of [noun]
  • in order to [verb]
There's another recipe that I'm practicing these days. It's this Chinese-style cold dish that uses dried tofu and mushrooms with sweet soy sauce. It's so delicious that I want to eat it every week, but I'm not good at making it yet. I'm going to practice this weekend so that I can improve my skill.

I have written about this subject a few times before. Take a look:



Recently someone told me:
× Sorry, I can't meet you at that time because I have a schedule.
○ Sorry, I can't meet you at that time because I have another appointment.
○ Sorry, I can't meet you at that time because I have something on my schedule at that time.
Everyone has a schedule. Your schedule is your list of appointments and free time. You might have two schedules: your work schedule, and your private schedule. You can talk about your Monday schedule, meaning the set of appointments you have on Monday.

When you have to meet someone, that is an appointment. When you are seeing a doctor, that is an appointment. Both of these appointments are on your schedule.

Back in March, I visited America. I had a busy schedule. One of the appointments I had in New York City was to meet some people at a restaurant I used to frequently go to. The restaurant is called Veselka, and it serves Ukrainian food like these pierogis. Two of them were cheese pierogis, and the other two were potato, if my memory is correct. There's also a stuffed cabbage on this plate with mushroom gravy. It's a great restaurant, and you should eat there if you visit New York.


「business trip」の使い方

"Where's A-san this week?" I asked.
× "He went to a business trip," someone told me.
○ "He went on a business trip," someone told me.
Use "to" to talk about the destination.
  • He went to Osaka.
You can also say:
  • He is on a business trip at the moment.
My trip to America in March was partly a business trip. Last week, I didn't take a business trip, but I did go on a daytrip to western Tokyo. It's not like central Tokyo, where there are plenty of trains all of the time. It really pays to check the train schedule in order to catch the fastest express.
  • daytrip 日帰り旅行
Business trips can be tough, especially these days when companies are trying to cut costs. I've heard of people having to leave early in the morning and come back late at night, only to have to be in the office again the next day at the regular time. That's hard on the employees for sure. I guess that's a business trip, but your colleagues might just say:
  • She's out of the office today on business.
Some of you need to take business trips abroad. I hope that you'll join one of our English classes to help you upgrade your English for success on your trips.



I know someone who said recently:
  • This is my favorite shop!
In fact, she had said the same thing about a different shop only a few days earlier.
It's true that Americans often exaggerate, and in some ways, this pattern isn't so wrong.
  • exaggerate【自動】誇張する、大げさに言う (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
However, you should remember that "favorite" is a kind of superlative, and as such, there should only be one thing that is your favorite in a particular category. The better way to say this is:
  • This is one of my favorite shops!
  • superlative【名】《文法》最上級
This five-spice tofu is becoming one of my favorite dishes. I've been practicing cooking it a lot, and I'm getting better at it. One of the difficult steps is pan-frying the tofu. You have to be careful to keep the heat very low so that the tofu doesn't stick to the pan. It has taken some practice to get used to it, but I'm getting better each time. It helps if you use Okinawa-style tofu (島豆腐) because it's firmer. Sometimes I use the regular firm tofu from the supermarket, which is not my favorite, but if you press it well and fry it carefully, it works, too.

After you cook it, you put it in the refrigerator with the spices covering it. That way the flavor really sinks into the tofu. Mmm! I'm going to eat some tonight at dinner!



Somebody was asking me about the difference between these two. We were talking about how people deal with cold weather.
× Cold weather becomes the demand for hot water bottles.
○ Cold weather increases the demand for hot water bottles.
○ Demand for hot water bottles becomes greater in cold weather.
○ Normally low demand becomes high demand in cold weather.
  • hot water bottle 湯たんぽ (definition from Weblio)
The key point to remember is that "increase" means a number is growing, while "become" can talk about any change. We can talk about "demand" as a number, so we can use "increase".
  • increase (数量・程度などが)ふえる,増加する (definition from Weblio)
  • become〈…に〉なる (definition from Weblio)
Another example we talked about was related to North Korea. We were discussing some possibilities, and these sentences came up:
× The crisis will increase more severe. <- a "crisis" is not a number
○ The crisis will become more severe.
○ A less-serious situation becomes a severe crisis.
○ The severity of the crisis will increase. <- "severity" can be ranked on a numeric scale
  • crisis 危機,決定的段階,重大局面 (definition from Weblio)
  • severe ひどい,猛烈な (definition from Weblio)
  • severity 重症度 (definition from Weblio)
I have been practicing making this five-spice tofu for a few weeks. It is becoming better each time I make it. The number of dishes that I can make is increasing, but I think I still can't become a restaurant owner. Not yet, anyway.



I was in Kunitachi the other day and noticed this sign. It says:
× 100% New Zealand Beef, The whole day with rice.
○ serving 100% New Zealand beef with rice, all day
The main problem here is the word order.

  • word order 語順 (definition from Eijiro)

If you follow a noun with a prepositional phrase, it sometimes can sound like the prepositional phrase is describing the noun.

  • prepositional phrase 前置詞句 (definition from Eijiro)

This restaurant's phrase is hard to understand. It sounds like there are days with rice and days without rice, which would mean:

  • On days with rice, we serve 100 percent New Zealand beef all day.

That means they aren't serving the New Zealand beef on the days without rice. I'm pretty sure that isn't what they mean, but I didn't go in to check. I'm a vegetarian, so my interest in the restaurant doesn't go beyond the sign.

  • one's interest doesn't go beyond [noun] ~にしか興味を示さない

The other thing to remember is that after the verb, a common order is to put time last, after manner and place, like:

  • I'm in my classroom on the sixth floor right now. <- place = sixth floor; time = now

If I look out the window, I can see the water on the street and umbrellas in people's hands. The smartphone on my desk is kind of dirty. The fingerprints on the screen are mine, and I don't really know how to avoid smudging the screen like that. My stomach is growling in my belly on this typical Wednesday evening, so I'd better finish up this post and go eat some dinner.


「rent, lend, borrow」の違い

The other day somebody came to class and realized she had forgotten her pen. She asked me:
× Can you borrow a pen?
○ Can I borrow a pen? Can you lend me a pen?
  • borrow 借りる
  • lend 貸す
"Borrow" and "lend" have a direction. The subject of "borrow" is receiving something. The subject of "lend" is giving something.

I was talking about a book with someone. It sounded like an interesting book. The person I was talking to sensed my interest in the book and said:
× I can rent it to you.
○ I can lend it to you.
  • rent 賃借[賃貸]する
If you rent something, it means you are a business person. You are earning money by allowing someone to use something that you own. I know that the pronunciation of these two is a little similar. You have to be really careful about "r" and "l".

One student has been collecting notes from class in her notebook. She always punches holes in her paper using the rings in her binder. I had been meaning to get a hole punch, but every time I go to the 100 yen shop or office supply store, I always seem to forget what I wanted to buy.
  • hole punch 穴あけ器 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
This week, though, my memory was working well, and I remembered to get the hole punch.

If you ever visit me at my classroom, I'd be happy to lend you a pen or my hole punch. I'll even lend you a sympathetic ear.
  • lend a sympathetic ear 親身になって耳を貸す、同情して話を聞く、じっくり話を聞く (definition from Eijiro on the Web)



I haven't posted in a while because I took a trip to the US. It was interesting to visit, especially because it had been a while.
It's been a while since
~して以来ずいぶん日がたつ。/久しぶりに~する。/~するなんて久しぶりだ。/ずいぶん長い間~していなかった。/最近[ここしばらく]~していない。(definition from Eijiro on the Web)

On the way back, I was waiting for the Narita Express when I noticed this sign.
  • This is the terminal 1 of Narita Airport.
  • This is terminal 1 of Narita Airport.
  • This is Terminal 1 of Narita Airport. <- treating it as a proper noun might be best

Some people think "the" is tricky, but actually there are not so many special cases, and only a few rules. One of the rules is this:

Don't use "the" in the case of a name with a title.

You don't say the Mr. Bell (usually), nor do you say the Queen Elizabeth; you say Mr. Bell or Queen Elizabeth. In the same way, we don't say the Mount Fuji; it's Mount Fuji.

Numbered buildings, platforms, and terminals are the same.
  • The train you want is at platform 3.
  • His office is in building 5. <- one building in a complex of buildings

If the building my classroom is in were a giant space station or complex of some sort, I could say that my classroom is on level 6. However, our building is a rather small one between Shin-nihonbashi Station, Mitsukoshi-mae Station, and Kanda Station. As a result, I can just say that our classroom is on the sixth floor. Make an appointment with me and come by for a visit!



I was watching this Japanese comedy program called アメトーーク last Thursday. I think it's a pretty funny show. I have to give them some credit for improving my Japanese listening ability. That's because I watch it regularly, and now their quickly moving Japanese is getting easier for me to understand. I still don't catch 100 percent of what they say, but things like this take time.
  • give someone credit (人)を正しく評価してやる、(人)に掛け売りをする、(人)に信用で貸す (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Anyway, they had given gifts to their guests last week, and when they showed the gift (a hip bag) on the screen, I got excited! That's because the gift had this English printed on it:
× I am Japanese traveling comedian.
○ I am a traveling Japanese comedian.
  • comedian 【名】コメディアン、お笑い芸能人{げいのうじん}(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
There are two problems here. The first is the article "a". "Comedian" is a countable noun, so we need a number or an article. Since they are talking about the kind of thing ("comedian" versus "teacher"), we should choose "a". Like this:
  • Ken Kobayashi is a comedian. <- I explain his type.
  • He was not one of the comedians on アメトーーク last week. <- I am pointing out the comedians on the show, which you know about since I was talking about it.
The second problem is the order of the adjectives. The adjective that is more essential to the character of the noun goes closer to the noun. The comedian is definitely Japanese, and changing that is difficult. As a result, "Japanese" goes closer to comedian than "traveling". If the comedian stops traveling for a year, he will still be Japanese.

This problem might be tough to understand, so I think I'll talk more about it in my next post. Until then!



Some people in class the other day were asking about how to use "how". Here's the advice I gave them. "How" has at least three meanings when used in a question.
  • How do I do it? "how" = "way", どうやって..., answer with a method, as in "Do it this way."
  • How does he feel? "how" = どのよう..., answer with an adjective, as in "It feels great!"
  • How cold was it? "how" = どのくらい...[how + adj/adv]... answer with an adverb, as in "It was very cold."
The money tree is doing really badly. It was so dense back in November, but not now. How do I prevent it from dying?
  • prevent ~ from 〔主語は〕~が…するのを防ぐ[邪魔{じゃま}する]、~に…させない、~が…できないようにする、~が…にならないように予防{よぼう}する、〔主語が原因{げんいん}で〕~は…できない (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
There were five trunks. Three of them died. There are two left, and those two don't look so good. How bad do you think it is?
  • trunk〔木の〕幹 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
I wonder how the money tree feels. Maybe it's just feeling too cold. We tried changing the pot, but that didn't seem to help. How long can it survive? I hope it can make it until spring. Maybe it will start growing better once the weather is warmer.


Natural Houseは英語の使い方に注意した方が良い。

I was in Natural House on the weekend. While checking out, I noticed a sign they had over the area where they were selling fresh juice. It asks us:
× How is feeling today?
○ How are you feeling today? How do you feel today?
  • check out〔レジ係が〕合計{ごうけい}を計算{けいさん}する、精算{せいさん}をする (definition from Eijiro on the Web) 
The important grammar mistake here is the missing "you". In Japanese, it's often possible to omit the subject, but in English you can't do that in most cases.

The really funny thing is the top left corner. It says "autumn menu". We know that autumn was over a long time ago! I guess that probably they have updated the menu but simply overlooked the English in the corner.
  • overlook 見落{みお}とす(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
My advice to any company using English in their signage is that you need to pay attention to exactly what it is you are expressing!
  • signage【名】〔指示・警告の〕文字、記号{きごう}、信号{しんごう}、表記{ひょうき}、看板{かんばん}、標識{ひょうしき}(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
A grammar mistake, while embarrassing, might not interfere too much with the meaning.
  • interfere 【自動】邪魔{じゃま}をする、妨げる、遅らせる(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
On the other hand, wrong vocabulary can result in a completely wrong meaning, like in this case. That's when communication fails.

I hope that Natural House will join the rest of us. Spring will be here soon!



In class the other day someone was asking about past perfect tense.
  • past perfect 《文法》過去完了(形){かこ かんりょう(けい)}(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
My summary of how to use past perfect was this:
  1. two past events
  2. A happens before B
  3. A is important for B
You should use past perfect to describe A.

For example:
  • I was interested in ways to cook with Japanese mountain yam other than grinding it and putting it on soba. <- A  (Japanese mountain yam 山芋 )
  • I experimented with stir-frying it. <- B, the reason for this was A
  • Since I had been interested in ways to cook Japanese mountain yam other than grinding it and putting it on soba, I experimented with stir-frying it.
The sauce was made with miso, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It turned out delicious!

For more about past perfect tense, check these posts:


If you have any tips for cooking Japanese mountain yam, I'd like to hear them. Send me a comment or mail!



Sorry for the long silence on the blog since the last post. Last week was really busy, and I think I'll write about it in my next post. This week I had the worst cold I've had in a long time.

I started to come down with this cold on Sunday. The symptoms were typical. By Sunday night, I was suffering from chills and body aches.

  • come down with a cold 風邪{かぜ}で倒れる[ダウンする](definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • symptom 症状
  • chills 悪寒 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • body aches 体の痛み (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

When I woke up on Monday morning, I felt like death warmed up.

  • feel like death warmed up ひどく疲れている、ひどく具合が悪い (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

Still, somehow by late Monday evening I had recovered a lot, I thought, so Tuesday I went ahead with teaching.

  • go ahead with 〔計画{けいかく}・仕事{しごと}などを〕進める、推進{すいしん}する、強行{きょうこう}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

That might have been a mistake. I got a runny nose, and I couldn't stop sneezing. When I got home, I found out that I was running a fever. I started coughing. I really hope I didn't pass my cold to my student on Tuesday evening.

  • runny nose 鼻水の垂れている鼻
  • sneeze くしゃみをする
  • run a fever 熱を出す
  • cough 咳をする
  • (definitions from Eijiro on the Web)

Wednesday I finally went to the doctor to get some medicine, which seemed to help with my fever. I was still coughing, though, and the runny nose turned to a stuffed-up nose. The staff at the clinic told me they had seen many patients with colds. This is one trend that I don't want to take part in, though.

  • have a stuffed-up nose 鼻が詰まっている (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • take part in ~に参加{さんか}[出場{しゅつじょう}]する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

Finally today I feel back to about 75% of my usual self, with a normal body temperature and no runny nose.

  • body temperature 体温 (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

If you are one of those people suffering from a cold, I hope you get well soon!

  • Get well soon. 早く元気になってくださいね。/お大事に。◆【場面】見舞いなどで病人の早期回復を願う。(definition from Eijiro on the Web)



This question came up in class this week, particularly because we ran across the word "allege".

  • run across ~に偶然会う (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • allege【他動】〔~が事実だと〕断言{だんげん}する、主張{しゅちょう}する; 《法律》〔証拠がないか提示される前に~を〕申し立てる、陳述{ちんじゅつ}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)

For example, America and Israel allege Iran is making nuclear weapons.

So someone said:
× America doubts Iran is doing that. <- America thinks Iran is not making nuclear weapons.
○ America suspects Iran is doing that. <- America thinks Iran is making nuclear weapons.
We talked about this difference about one year ago:
After this difference was clear, the next question was "what's the difference between 'suspect' and 'allege'?"

"Suspect" means that you think something is true, but "allege" means that you say what you think. First America suspects Iran is making nuclear weapons, then they allege Iran is making nuclear weapons.

America alleges that, but Iran denies it. Either way, I hope that war will not break out.

  • deny 【他動】〔~が事実{じじつ}でないとして〕否定{ひてい}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
  • If a war broke out, it would be like hell on earth. 戦争が起こったら、生き地獄を見ることになるだろう。(definition from Eijiro on the Web)

There have to be better ways to solve these problems than fighting.

Last year's radish cakes (大根モチ) (the ones in the post above) didn't turn out great, but this year my skill has increased a lot. Look at this beautiful radish cake! I doubt that I could work in a real Chinese restaurant yet, but I suspect you would think this radish cake is delicious if you tried it. You might allege that I am boasting, though.

  • boast 自慢{じまん}する、誇る、鼻にかける、豪語{ごうご}する (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Here's the recipe. You can try making it yourself:



People find our blog looking for all kinds of things.

For example, somebody found our blog while searching for "スキルアップ 英語で". The answer is "improve one's skills", as in "my Japanese reading ability is still really weak. I need to improve my skill at Chinese characters."

Here's the top five English-related search terms that brought people to our blog.

5. because of 使い方
4. look look like 違い
3. パーカー 英語
2. as to as for 違い
1. パプリカ 英語

For "because of", we wrote this blog post: http://upgradeenglish.blogspot.com/2010/08/becausebecause-of.html

The difference between "look" and "look like" was explained here: http://upgradeenglish.blogspot.com/2010/05/looklook-like.html

Like I wrote the other day, the post explaining that パーカー in English is "hoodie" is here: http://upgradeenglish.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-post_20.html

Distinguishing between "as to" and "as for" was done in this post: http://upgradeenglish.blogspot.com/2009/10/as-toas-for.html

Finally, I talked about peppers (パプリカ) in this post: http://upgradeenglish.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-post_12.html

The other day, some people commented about the photo I had posted of my self. They said that I looked like a strange gnome.

  • gnome【2名】〔大地{だいち}の精の〕ノーム◆地中に住むとされる伝説上の小人で、伝統的に色鮮やかな、先のとがった丸い帽子をかぶり、ひげを生やした老人の姿で描かれる。ゴブリン(goblin)と異なり、おとなしくまた自然を慈しむとされる。(definition from Eijiro on the Web)

Since they thought I looked strange, they suggested that I put a better picture of myself. Because of that, one student took this picture of me in my hoodie. After taking the picture, she said "you look normal". Maybe you think I still look strange to be wearing the hood indoors!

Did you notice those popular key word searches above? As for peppers, I haven't cooked with them recently. However, because of this post, I have now realized it has been a while since I've eaten green peppers. I think I'll cook such a dish soon. 



Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a pleasant break. I didn't finish reporting about the popular posts from last year before the break, so I want to finish up that before talking about new things.

Among the posts from last year, this one was the third-most viewed: 「久しぶり」は英語で何?

Coming in second place was the post titled "忍耐は美徳である。Patience is a virtue."
  • come in __ place = _位[番]になる◆_には序数が入る。(definition from Eijiro on the Web)
The most popular post was about "the week before last".

Next time, I'll write about what people were searching for in 2011 when they found our posts.