Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. Welcome back to Ask Alisha, the weekly series where you ask me questions and I answer them, maybe.
First question this week comes from Rizal Kuswandi again. Hi, again, Rizal. Rizal says, "Hi, Alisha. What is the difference between 'task,' 'duty,' 'job,' and 'assignment?' And how do we use them? Thanks. Okay. Good question. Let's start with the word "duty." "Duty" is the least commonly used of these words that you've introduced here. We use "duty" to talk about our responsibilities or our obligations. We use this word, however, for kind of specific jobs. So, people who work in, like the government, who do like civil service-related jobs, and people who are members of the military use the word "duty" to describe their responsibilities. For example, "My duty is to serve my country." "It is my duty as mayor to do the best I can for my city." We don't use the word "duty" or the plural "duties" very much except in these kinds of settings. You might see this on like a contract, or perhaps a job application or a job information form. But in general, the word "duty" is most commonly used in these kinds of environments.
Let's move on then to the word "job." So, we use the word "job" to refer generally to the type of work we do, like, "I'm a teacher." "I'm a photographer." "I am in finance." So, it's our job, our job title, or the kind of work that we do. That's our job. "I make YouTube videos as part of my job." "We're journalists, so we have busy jobs."
Okay. Finally, then, the words "task" and "assignment." These really do have quite similar meanings, but "assignment" is used more when we're students. Like, when we have homework, we often call it a "homework assignment." So, that's something we have to take home, complete, and bring back. We use "assignment" to mean like a thing that we need to do. "Assignment" is also used quite specifically in the journalism and media-related fields. So, when we receive a task, when we receive something that we need to travel for, like we travel and we interview someone, we travel to collect information, that's called an "assignment" in the journalism and media-related fields. So, in that case, "assignment" can be quite specific to a field.
In most other cases though, just talking about your to-do lists, the everyday items you need to take care of, we use the word "task" to describe that. So, in your computer or your smartphone, or maybe in a notebook somewhere, you might have a task list. So, your task list is your list of responsibilities, the small things you need to do throughout your day or throughout your week. "Task" is probably the most commonly used word from this list that you have presented here. Some examples, "I have an assignment in L.A. this month." "Where's your next assignment?" So, for other work, for most general work, they can use the word "task" to talk about those small things we need to do throughout the day.
I hope that this helps you understand the differences between these words. Thanks very much for the question.
Okay. Let's move on to your next question. Next question comes from Trang again. Hi, Trang. Trang says, "Hello, Alisha. What's the difference between 'just' and 'only?'" Good question. It does depend on how the word is used in the sentence. In some cases, "just" and "only" can be used interchangeably. We can use them in the same way. Let's compare with two sentences. "I want just one cookie." "I want only one cookie." So, here, in both of these example sentences, "just" and "only" proceed--proceed means come before, the word or the expression "one cookie." So, they're modifying one cookie. We always put "just" and "only" directly before the word or phrase that we are modifying. Please be careful. A point that many native speakers make mistakes with is they'll put it before the verb, not before the actual thing they want to modify.
So, in these example sentences, we can use the two words in the same way. They mean like one thing. That's it. We want to emphasize the one thing. In other situations, though, the two words have different functions. So, we can use "just" to talk about very recently completed actions, to talk about actions that were planned for completion, very recently, and to talk about actions that are going to happen in the very near future. For example, "I just finished my homework." "I was just about to call you." "I'm just about to leave." So, these are example sentences, which in order, are recently finished action, recently planned action that did not happen, an upcoming action in the very near future. We can use "just" to do this, but we cannot use "only" to do this.
So, this is an example of the various ways that "just" can be used. "Only" is used for that kind of emphasis feeling that we talked about in the cookie example sentence. If you want some more information on the placement of "only" and how it affects the meaning of a sentence, please check out the whiteboard video that's on the YouTube channel that details the use of the word "only" and the placement of the word "only." It's a big point for native speakers and learner's alike, I think. So, I hope that that helps you. Thanks very much for the question.
Okay. Let's move along to your next question. Next question this week comes from Gerardo. Hi, Gerardo. Gerardo says, "How does the letter T sound in the words 'party' and 'started'?" Yeah. Good question. So, the T sound in words like this, it becomes quite soft. So, you'll notice in these patterns, we have a vowel, followed by our T, and then something at the end. In this case, we're looking at like "ed" or maybe "y" sounds. So, in the examples that you included, "party," it's like a D sound, and "started." So, "party" and "started." It's like a D sound. The T sound, the /t/ is not pronounced. "Party" and "started" are difficult to say in fast speech. We make the sounds much softer, like a D sound, "party" and "started."
So, three more words that follow the same pronunciation rule are "parted, blurted, and sporty." So, here, we see vowel, plus "rt," plus something else. So, we have "sporty" in the last example, and then these words that end in "ed" with "parted" and "blurted." So, you'll notice that that T sound becomes very soft like a D. So, "parted," "blurted," "sporty," "party," "started." So, this is a kind of a good guideline, I think, for when you see that "rt" and you see a vowel before it, but it's not at the end of a word. So, please note that this pronunciation rule applies when the T is not the last letter in the word. If, for example, the word is "start" or "part" or "blurt," the T sound is quite clear. But when it's not the last letter in the word, it's like "started, party, blurted," then the T sound becomes more like a D sound. So, we would not say, "Blurted, party, started." It's a little too much. It's kind of difficult to say in fast speech.
So, I hope that this helps you with the pronunciation of T sounds that follow this spelling rule. Thanks very much for the question.
Okay. Let's move on to your next question. Next question comes from John. Hi, John. John says, "Hi, Alisha. I would like to ask the difference between 'can't' and 'couldn't.' Is it possible to use both of them to say something is impossible to do at present? Which of the two is preferred? Or can I just use them interchangeably? Thanks."
In statements, we use "can't" for present tense, and "couldn't" for past tense. Examples, "I can't help you right now." "He can't come to the phone." "We couldn't finish all the food." "She couldn't find the stapler." So, "can't" is used to refer to impossible things in the present. "Couldn't" is used to refer to impossible things in the past. So, we cannot use them interchangeably. So, present tense, "can't," past tense, "couldn't."
Less commonly, there is the expression, "I couldn't." So, we use this expression when there's something kind of tempting or interesting that we're a little bit interested about, but we want to hold back a bit. So, for example, like, "Three donuts for me? I couldn't." So, it's like there's some kind of temptation or something like that, but that's a sort of set special expression, and it's not so commonly used. Another example might be like, "A promotion? But I would have to leave all my team members behind. I couldn't do that." So, it's kind of like there's a reluctant feeling to do something. So, it doesn't necessarily mean the speaker is going to choose one way or the other, but it's just this shock to her, like surprised expression that shows a decision is difficult.
So, in that case, "I couldn't" refers to a present tense feeling, like, "That's not possible. I shouldn't do that." That's the feel there. But in all other cases, as I talked about in my example sentences, we use "couldn't" for past tense impossibility. So, please use "can't" for present tense, "couldn't" for past tense. I hope that this helps answer your question. Thanks very much for sending it along.
Okay. On to our next question this week. Next question this week comes from Stanislav. Hi, Stanislav. Stanislav says, "What idiom can I use to describe past work if its results were unuseful and unnecessary and there was no practical outcome, but that wasn't clear from the start. In my native language, this is called 'work for a shelf.' It means that the results will be put on a shelf and then forgotten."
Yeah, interesting. Actually, we use "shelf" in this way too. When we say we're going to put something on a shelf after we finish it, it doesn't really mean that it was unnecessary or unuseful, but it's just kind of like you say, there's not really a practical outcome for it, like we finished this thing, it's done, I'm not going to do anything with it. I'll just put it on the shelf. We also use this as a verb. To shelf something means to put it off to the side and forget about it, like something that's finished, we don't have to deal with it anymore, we shelf that thing.
Some examples, "I shelved that vase I took a week to paint." "Don't leave that project on the shelf." So, in this case, in English, it doesn't necessarily mean that the item was bad or was not useful or whatever. It just means it's like not so important right now. So, we put it on the shelf. We don't think about it so much. We just put it somewhere where it's not in the way, sometimes literally. So, I hope that this helps answer your question. Interesting one. Thanks very much for sending it along.
Okay. That is everything that I have for this week. Thanks, as always, for sending your questions. Remember, you can send them to me at englishclass101.com/ask-alisha. Thanks very much for watching this week's episode of Ask Alisha, and I will see you again next week. Bye-bye.