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(for the sake of simplicity I only talk about “girlfriends” and “wives” in this post, but everything also applies to “boyfriends” and “husbands” as well)

Many ESL speakers make the mistake of using the verb “make” with girlfriend or wife. English speakers do use the verb “make” when talking about platonic (not romantic) relationships:

It is important to make friends when you move to a new school.

It is difficult to make close friends.

However, we do not use the verb “make” when talking about romantic relationships:

I want to make a girlfriend. (WRONG!)

When will you make a wife? (WRONG!)

Instead, we use the verbs “find” and “get”. (“Find” is more common.)

I need to find a girlfriend.

Where can I find a wife?

It is easy to get a girlfriend, but hard to keep one.

It is hard for some divorced men to get new wives.

“Find” is also sometimes used when talking about platonic friendships.

If you are willing to meet people, you can always find new friends.

There are many questions in English that start with “what do you do?”

What do you do for fun? (What are your hobbies?)

What do you do for exercise? (How do you exercise?)

What do you do after work?

What do you do on the weekend?

All of these questions ask about a person’s habits or routines. However, the most common “what do you do” question is:

What do you do?

This question has a special meaning: what is your job? In my last post, I called phrases like this hidden idioms – common phrases that have been shortened and have a different meaning than expected. (The full phrase is “What do you do for a living?”)

How should you answer this question?  The most common answer is to reply with your job title:

I am a professor.

I am a businessman.

I am a hairdresser.

We do NOT say “My job is a professor.”  Another way to answer the question is to describe your job duties:

I teach English at Korea Nazarene University.

I sell accounting software to local businesses.

I cut hair at a salon.

Finally, if you are unemployed, a common euphemism is: “I’m between jobs.”

The addition of -gate to a word is a reference to the Watergate scandal which led to the resignation of President Nixon. Watergate is the name of the hotel complex where 5 men tried to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Ever since this scandal, the suffix -gate has been added by the media to a keyword or topic to refer to a related scandal or controversy.

The most recent “-gate” controversy is Spygate in which the New England Patriots football team was caught videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets during their game on Sept. 9, 2007.

The main goal of this blog is to have a place for me to post all of my random English tips that come to mind. Hopefully, these things will be helpful to my students and possibly other ESL teachers or professors. They might even be amusing, though I make no promises in that regard.

For those of you keeping track at home, I’m currently a professor in the English Language and Literature department at SoonChunHyang University in Asan, Korea. If you have any questions you’d like me to address, please send me an email.  Cheers!