What’s the Difference Between “Sleep” and “Asleep”?

I’ve been feeling rather lazy this week. So it’s a good time to talk about a few confusing words in English related to sleeping.

Sleep is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means that time when you are unconscious (aren’t aware of the world around you), usually at night.

For example, we can say “I need some sleep because I am very tired.” (Notice we say “some” sleep and not “a” sleep.)

To sleep (verb) means to be in the condition or “state” of sleep. We might say, “He is sleeping” or “He sleeps at night for 8 hours.”

The past tense of sleep is slept, so we say “He slept for seven hours yesterday.”

But what about asleep? Well, asleep is neither a noun nor a verb. We do not say “I need some asleep” or “He is asleeping.”

However, there is a phrasal verb, “to fall asleep,” which means to go into the state of sleep, as in “He fell asleep after drinking a bottle of whiskey.”

Normally, asleep is used as an adjective (and less commonly, as an adverb).

For example, you can say “He was asleep by 11:00 PM last night” or “He is asleep now.”

To say that someone is asleep is the same as saying that the person is sleeping.

We also use asleep to describe a computer that has become temporarily inactive – “My computer is asleep.”

And there’s one more related use of asleep: when your leg, arm, or feet become numb (you can’t feel them), it may be because they are “asleep.”

All the talk of sleep is making me even more tired, so I better stop before I fall asleep!

~Jeff

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What does “I can’t be bothered” mean?

I can’t be bothered” means “I don’t want to make the effort (work) to do something.” For example:

Elisa is too busy watching TV and can’t be bothered to answer the phone.

“I can’t be bothered” (or, if in the past, “I couldn‘t be bothered”) can also mean “It isn’t very important to me so I don’t want to do it or think about it.”

Dan wants me to meet him for dinner tonight, but I can’t be bothered. I’m going to read a book instead.

Alex is so rude! He passed us in the hall and couldn’t be bothered to say hello.

Notice that we often follow the phrase “can’t be bothered” with the “to” form of a verb (what we call the infinitive), such as “to answer” or “to say” in the above examples.

Another meaning of “can’t be bothered” is that a person cannot or should not be disturbed or interrupted. If someone is very busy with an important meeting or phone call, we might say this person “can’t be bothered”:

Derek needs to ask his boss a question but she is in a meeting and can’t be bothered.

The verb “to bother  means to trouble someone, to cause a problem for someone (including yourself).

If you have a sad face, someone may ask you, “Is something bothering you?” meaning “Do you have a problem?”

Finally, when you tell someone, “Don’t bother!” you mean “Do not do (something)!”

For example, if you have to go somewhere, a friend may offer you a ride in his car. If the place is close by, you might say, “Oh, don’t bother! I’ll just walk.”

~Jeff

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What’s the Difference Between “Accountability” and “Responsibility”?

Learn how we use accountability and responsibility in English by watching this short video.

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Who’s the Head Honcho Here?

The term head honcho is sometimes used to describe the leader, president, or most powerful person in an organization or company.

The word head here means “top” or “best.” In some schools in England, for example, there is a “head boy” or “head girl” who is chosen to be the leader of the students, and is often one of the best students in the school.

The headquarters of a company is the main or “leading” location for that business. On a car, the headlights are in the front position.

The word honcho is an unusual one, and you will typically only find it in the expression, “head honcho,” although it can be used by itself. The word is thought by some to come from the Japanese word hancho, which was a leader of a group.

One story is that American soldiers returning from World Word II brought the word back with them and popularized it in American English.

Sadly, I am not really the head honcho of ESLPod.com (or anything else), but I did find this nameplate (see photo) at a store last weekend I may put on my desk.

~Jeff

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What Does “To Be Short For” Mean?

Here’s a 90-second video explaining the use of the common English expression to be short for.

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What Does “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” Mean?

We see in this cartoon a group of people sitting around a conference table, most of them with chef’s hats on, the tall hats sometimes worn by the main cook or “chef” in a restaurant.

The man leading (running) the meeting announces that they have “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

This cartoon is related to an old expression in English, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” To spoil something means to ruin it, to make it so bad you can’t use it. Broth is a liquid usually used in making soups.

The original expression, then, says that if you have too many cooks in a kitchen, the result will be bad food.

The more general idea is that you can’t have more than one boss, one leader, in any project. If you do have too many “leaders,” things won’t turn out well (have a good result).

~Jeff

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60-Second English: What Does “To Rule Something Out” Mean? (Video)

Learn what the popular phrasal verb “to rule something out” means in this quick video lesson.

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“To Make the Grade” versus “To Make the Cut”

Watch this short video to learn the differences between “make the grade” and “make the cut.”

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3 Rules for Email (and Why You Should Follow Them)

The Wall Street Journal recently ran (published) an article on how you can use your email better. They cite (talk about; mention) a lot of recent scientific studies on using email.

Let’s talk about three of them, and learn some useful English along the way (as we do it).

1. “Don’t answer too quickly – or after hours.”

Some people think they should answer emails as soon as they arrive in their inboxes. But studies say that this actually makes people “less productive, more stressed, . . . and more reactive.”

What do those three terms mean?

To be productive means to get things done efficiently, using the least amount of time. Answering email immediately makes people LESS productive – they get less done.

This may be due to (because of) the brain being unable to switch (change) easily back and forth between tasks (things to do). Each time we change our focus (what we’re thinking about), there is a cost (negative impact) to our concentration (ability to work on one thing with focus).

To be stressed means to feel under pressure, to be anxious over the amount of work you have or some negative situation you’re experiencing.

Reactive means you are simply doing the things that other people want you to do. You are letting other people control your agenda (your tasks; what you want to get done). The opposite of reactive is proactive.

Some researchers also suggest not answering emails after hours. After hours means after your normal workday has ended (at night, on weekends). The reason has to do in part with the need for you to “take a break” from your work in order to be able to focus properly during the day.

Answering emails after hours also means that the people you are responding to may answer you back. Now you have to respond back to them again – it never ends!

2. Send email in the morning, early in the week.

Take a look at your inbox. Regardless (No matter) what software you use, it is very likely that the most recent emails are on the top of your inbox. You see those first.

If you want people to pay attention to your email quickly, then, you want to send it to them close to the time they are checking their email. That way, your email will be near the top of their list of emails.

And when do most people check their email? That’s right: between 8AM and noon (12PM).

That’s why mornings are best for email.

People are also more likely to respond to emails sent early in the week – that is, Monday and Tuesday. We all feel like we should “get things done” when the workweek (usually Monday through Friday) begins.

Monday morning is a good time to send someone an email, then.

3. Use ALL CAPS and emoticons/emojis ( 🙂 ) wisely.

All caps means all capital or “large” letters, LIKE THIS. Some people say you should never use all caps, because it conveys (communicates) anger or shouting.

But sometimes it’s okay to use all caps, especially when you are trying to emphasize something that people might misread or misunderstand.

For example, I might tell you in an email that you should NOT spend time trying to memorize vocabulary words. Many people waste their time this way, so I put the “not” in all caps to make sure they notice it.

(I like to bold words for emphasis also in emails.)

Emoticons or emojis are new additions to our written communication. They are of course things like 🙂 or 🙁 or small pictures.

Should you use emojis with friends?

Yes, according to (say) some researchers, who think that people feel more emotionally connected and positive when emails (or text messages) contain emojis.

Should you use emojis at work or with strangers (people you do not know)?

No. Some studies have found that using emojis in a business email, or with people you don’t know, can cause the person reading your email to think you are, well, perhaps not very competent (good at your job) or intelligent.

It’s too informal and therefore considered inappropriate (not correct for the situation).

Okay, I’m writing this in the morning, so I have to go check my email!

~Jeff

 

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What Do “To Throw Shade” and “To Dis” Mean?

My mother used to tell us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Not many of our public officials or politicians follow (take; accept) this advice. Not a week goes by (there is no week that passes) without someone publicly saying bad or negative things about someone else.

An informal term that I’ve heard recently for saying bad things about another person is to throw shade.

The word “shade” normally refers to the dark, cool area that appears when something gets between an object and direct sunlight. (Take a look at Cultural English 64 for an explanation of the difference between “shade” and “shadow”).

But more recently, “shade” has come to be used informally to mean “criticism,” saying or doing something to show your disapproval.

You may “throw shade” because you think something has faults (bad or unattractive parts), or because someone has made a mistake. We use the preposition “at” when we are mentioning a specific person: “He was throwing shade at his girlfriend last night.”

To throw shade, then, means to criticize someone or to put them down. (A piece of criticism is called a “put-down.”) It can be something you say, but it might also be something that you do, like an eye roll (moving your eyes in a circle, usually to show that you don’t believe someone or don’t approve of them).

Another term that is also informal and more widely used is to dis (sometimes spelled “diss”). To dis also means to criticize or to show disrespect. It can mean strong criticism or mild (not strong) insults.

Note we do not use a preposition after “dis”: “He was dissing his family.”

If you’re not happy with your job, you might dis your boss: “My boss is a jerk. He’s rude and incompetent (not having the skills he needs to do his job).”

When my brothers and I get together, we might joke around by dissing each other, making mildly insulting comments about each other. Friends sometimes do this as well  – at least, men do this to other men – but it is always done in a joking way.

I still think what my mother said is the best advice. But throwing shade and dissing other people makes for better television and sells more newspapers.

~Jeff

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