Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! Welcome back to Ask Alisha, the weekly series where you ask me questions and I answer them, maybe!
Let’s get to your first question this week.
First question this week comes from Zakaria Flifla.
Hi, Zakaria!
Zakaria says…
“Hi, Alisha! Could you please tell me why we sometimes use the verb ‘do’ before another verb? Thank you.”
Yeah, sure. I’ve talked about this before in the series, but we use “do” before another verb when we want to emphasize the opposite of something.
So, let’s take look at a few pairs of sentences to see how this works.
“Sorry, I don’t have time to help you right now.”
“But you do have time, you’re just looking at Facebook!”
“I don’t know anything about today’s meeting, just that they’re making a big announcement.”
“A-ha! So you do know something!”
Okay. So, in both of these example sentences, we have a person A and a person B. Person A says something to the effect of I don’t know something or I can’t do something or I don’t have time to help you as with person A, in both of these examples. And then person B notices something about person A or about the things that person A said and they emphasized, no, that’s not true and they do this by including “do” before the verb.
So in the first example situation, the person, person A in this situation said, “I don’t have time to help you right now,” but person B said, “You do have time.” So, you’ll often hear “do” emphasized before the verb that follows to show that’s not true, so that emphasis in the speaker’s voice means that’s not true or the opposite of that is true. And the reason is that person B presumably or we think sees person A looking at Facebook.
The same thing happens in the second situation. Person A says, “I don’t know anything about the meeting, just that there’s gonna be a big announcement.” And so person B understands, wait, “So you do know something about the meeting.” Again, “do” precedes or comes before the verb “know” there. So, speaker B is emphasizing that the speaker, that speaker A, rather, actually does know something. So, we’re using “do” before the verb as emphasis in this way. So, I hope that this helps you. Thanks very much for an interesting question.
All right. Let’s move on to our next question.
Next question comes from Emma.
Hi, Emma!
Emma says…
“Hi, Alisha! I would like to know if there are differences between ‘awhile,’ ‘for a while,’ and ‘in a while.’ If there is, can you explain? Thanks so much!”
Sure. “Awhile” means a period of time. So we use “for a while” and “in a while” quite differently.
“For a while” is used when we’re talking about a duration of time. We’re using it to talk about the length of time that something happened, so duration is really the key here.
Let’s take a look at a few example sentences.
“I stayed in the restaurant for a while after I finished eating.”
“I’m gonna take a walk around the neighborhood for a while.”
“I traveled around Europe for a while when I was in my twenties.”
Okay. So, let’s compare this then to “in a while.” When we use “in a while,” we’re talking about an upcoming activity, so this is not something that’s going to happen now, but it’s going to happen soon. So, if it’s helpful, you can think about replacing soon for, “in a while” in the sentence. It has the same meaning.
Let’s look at some examples of this.
“I’m going to leave the office in a while.”
“We’re gonna go to the coffee shop in a while, you want anything?”
So, a question that maybe some of you have is, what’s the difference between these two sentences, sentences like these, like “I’m going to walk around the neighborhood for a while” and “I’m going to walk around the neighborhood in a while.” So they seem very similar, but the “for a while” sentence would be said by somebody who is probably leaving now, like they are leaving their house now and they just want to report to someone their upcoming activity. They’re going out of the house to walk around the neighborhood for a period of time. That’s the duration of the activity.
On the other hand, the “in a while” sentence is like they’re sharing their upcoming plan with someone possibly to invite them, like, “I’m gonna walk around the neighborhood in a while. Do you wanna come?”
So, these are the small differences that our preposition choices can make, especially with an expression like “awhile.” So, I hope that this helps you. Thanks very much for the question.
Okay. Let’s move on to our next question.
Next question is from Seungwan.
Hi, Seungwan!
Seungwan says…
“Hi, Alisha! What does ‘literally’ mean? Do people use it the wrong way?”
Yeah, okay. “Literally” means the ordinary or the simple meaning of a word. It can also mean like “truly,” “exactly,” and so on. So, it is used for emphasis, yes, but it’s also used incorrectly a lot.
First, let’s take a look at the correct way to use “literally.”
For example:
“We raised literally hundreds of dollars at the fundraiser.”
“He got his hands dirty, literally, helping out at the farm for a TV show.”
Okay. So these two example sentences show correct usage of the word “literally.” In the first example, it’s “literally hundreds.” So, the speaker wants to emphasize that exactly, really, truly, hundreds of dollars were raised in a fundraiser. The reason that we use “literally” here is because we want to express that this is not an exaggeration. So, an exaggeration means something that sounds like it’s better or bigger than it actually is. So, the speaker wants to communicate it was truly hundreds of dollars. They used “literally” to do that.
In the second example sentence about someone getting his hands dirty, the speaker wants to communicate tha actually, the TV host, in this case, truly did physically, literally, get his hands dirty in the process of making a TV show.
So, there are two reasons that we use “literally” in this way.
The first, as in with the first example sentence, is to show that something is not being exaggerated, like the number or the amount that’s described in a sentence is truly the number, so we’re not just doing it for effect. “Literally” (some amount). You may see this used.
The second use though, as we see in the second example sentence is with these expressions that have kind of double meanings. So, get one’s hands dirty or to get your hands dirty has two meanings. Yes, there’s the literal meaning which is as it’s written on the page, for your hands to physically become dirty, but there’s also another meaning to this phrase, which is “to do the work yourself,” to actually do work. So, to get your hands dirty can have two meanings. The speaker, using literally in the second example sentence means they want to emphasize that real true meaning of getting your hands dirty, like physically having dirt on your hands.
So, these are the two reasons that we use “literally” for emphasis; to make sure that we’re not accidentally exaggerating, and two, to make it clear that we mean the actual simple meaning of an expression.
So, again, to return to your second question, “literally” is misused all the time. Native speakers want to use it for emphasis, but they use it incorrectly.
So, let’s take a look at two examples that are great examples of misuse of the word “literally.”
“Ugh, I’m literally starving, can we go to lunch?”
And, “There were literally millions of people at my house last night.”
Okay. So in both of these example sentences, “literally” is used incorrectly. “Literally starving” in the first sentence. So, the problem here is that the speaker is probably not actually starving. “Starving” means they are so hungry that they are actually dying. So, “literally starving” is untrue. The speaker is probably not actually starving, they just want to express that they are very hungry. The correct way to express that would just be to say, “Ugh, I’m starving!” That’s fine. You don’t need to use “literally” in this sentence, but this is something native speakers probably say all the time.
The second example sentence uses “literally” with a number, as in, “There were literally millions of people in my house last night.” So, it’s not possible for millions of people to be in someone’s house. The speaker just wants to emphasize how many people were at his or her home the previous night. So, using “literally” is unnecessary here. You could just say, “There were so many people at my house last night” or “There were millions of people at my house last night.” If you just drop “literally” from the sentence, we understand that you’re exaggerating.
So, yes, “literally” is used incorrectly all the time and it’s usually for these emphasis reasons. So, I hope that this answer helped you. It’s a very interesting question. Thanks very much for sending it along.
Okay. Let’s move on to your next question.
Next question comes from Andrew.
Hi, Andrew!
Andrew says…
“What’s the meaning of ‘ballgame’ as in YouTube comments are a whole other ballgame?”
Is this a question about something I Tweeted? That’s funny.
“Ballgame” here means situation, situation. So when we say, “a whole other ballgame,” this is actually a set phrase, “a whole other ballgame,” means or is used rather, in situations where we’re talking about one topic and then a second topic is introduced and the two are very different. So, “(Something, something) is a whole other ballgame” means that second thing has, like different rules and different standards from the first thing.
So, in the tweet that you took this expression from, I was talking about the differences between Instagram direct messages, like random messages on Instagram, and then another person commented, like joined my conversation on Twitter and said something about YouTube comments, and I responded, “Yeah, YouTube comments are a whole other ballgame.” So that means Instagram direct messages, random messages on Instagram are completely different than YouTube comments.
So, “a whole other ballgame” means it’s a whole other situation. I hope that this helps you. Thanks for the question.
Okay. Let’s move on to our next question.
Next question comes from Claudia.
Hi, Claudia!
Claudia says…
“What is the difference between ‘outcome’ and ‘results’?”
Nice question. While in many cases, they can be used in similar ways and to refer to very similar things, the difference here is in, like the process. So we use results when we’ve done, like work or research or we’re actually like actively trying to do something. We’re actually trying to achieve something or to accomplish something. So, we use this like when we’re doing mathematical equations or as I said, like when we’re doing research maybe, or we’re working together with teammates to achieve some kind of goal. That’s when we use “result.”
“Outcome” on the other hand is kind of like just the way things ended up. So, it’s like maybe there wasn’t so much work to achieve a specific goal, but at the end of a situation, this was like the thing that we ended up with.
So, let’s take a look at a few examples:
“My research results showed that the new medication was effective.”
“The test results were positive.”
“Everyone expected negative outcomes after the government’s policy change.”
“It wasn’t possible to predict these outcomes.”
So, the feeling here is that “result” is something that someone or some group of people worked to achieve, worked to get. “Outcome” is kind of like this is just the way that things are. So, yes, in some situations, you may be able to use both, like for example “research results” or maybe “research outcomes.” But again, when you use “outcomes,” it sounds like this is just the way it is, whereas, “results” sounds a little bit more like we tried. So, this is kind of the difference in feeling between these words. I hope that it helps you. Thanks for the question.
Okay. That is everything that I have for this week. Thank you, as always, for sending your questions. Thanks very much for watching this week’s episode of Ask Alisha and I will see you again next week. Bye-bye!