Monday, May 22, 2017

Presidential Politics: (to) COME UP


That's what everybody wants to know.

This two-word verb is very hot right now in presidential politics. It's in conversation and in the written news.

Former Trump adviser on discussing sanctions with the Russians: 'I can't definitively say' it never came up

We can visit this same topic viewing the following video:

"Good Morning, America" with George Stephanopolous

After listening to the video of the interview, do you believe the topic of sanctions ever came up? Take our poll. 


Let's look at another example from the news. Here is a sentence from a New York Times news article:

"The White House says this account is not correct. And Mr. Trump, in an interview on Thursday with NBC, described a far different dinner conversation with Mr. Comey in which the director asked to have the meeting and the question of loyalty never came up."

Reading that article, do you believe the topic of loyalty came up to Mr. Trump during that dinner?

Finally, let's visit this same word but in a different article.

"Previously, Flynn had flat out denied that the topic of sanctions came up during the phone call — answering “no” twice when directly asked about the matter — but presented with Thursday’s Post report, a spokesperson changed his tune. “While he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up,” the spokesperson said, which is odd, considering we’re talking about a conversation that happened a month and a half ago."

Keep your eyes peeled on the news.  We're likely to hear and see this two-word verb used again and again!


Friday, May 5, 2017

World News: (to) TAKE OFF

This idiom can be used in many contexts.

First, let's show it in its most common context, dealing with air flight, in an article which might interest many of you.

China’s home-grown C919 passenger jet takes off on maiden flight

Here, this intransitive verb is used with reference to air flight.

What does this event mean to the people of China? What does this mean to the rest of the world?

You also don't have to be an airplane and leave the ground in order to take off!

Runners take off in first-ever space station 5K race

Can you express that sentence in simple past tense?   

This flexible transitive verb can also be used in other contexts, often financial:

US: Existing-home sales took off in March to their highest pace in over 10 years

 In the above article, which verb can be used in place of "took off"?

Finally, Chrysler Pacifica Sales Took Off In September 2016

The people at Chrysler Pacifica are bound to be happy about that news.

Remember - this is a two-word verb and this verb is intransitive. It does NOT take an object. See the headline below:

3 Energy Stocks We Missed That Took Off

This is NOT to be confused with the verb (to) take and the preposition "off" as in "he took off his wrist watch" or "She took off her ring."

And for our final news headline: Here's the best use of this verb:

Romance took off after flight of fancy

Helping seriously-ill children take the trip of a lifetime with the Dreamflight charity became a life- changing experience for Simon and Suzanne when they met and fell in love, reveals Catherine Welford.

And I think that's a pretty good note on which to end this blog post! 


Photo, Permission Granted by U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo, AHAVA  by Robert Indiana, American, born 1928 עברית: רוברט אידניאנה, נולד ב-1928 (Talmoryair) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Presidential Politics: (to STAND) ON (an ISSUE)

Issues, issues issues.  You might not pay much attention to this two-word (verb + preposition) transitive verb but no democratic election or policy debate can occur without using this verb.

See, for example, the following headline:

First 100 days: Where President Trump stands on key issues

These words, stand on, are always together; they are not separable. They follow the pattern: 

question form:  where does (somebody) stand on (name of the issue)
statement form: where (somebody) stands on (name of issue)

Let's look at the article above. What are the issues that are explored?  Practice using this expression:

1.  Where does President Trump stand on the issue of _____?

2.  Where does President Trump stand on the issue of _____?

Choose five (5) issues that interest you. Where does President Trump stand on that issue?

Here's our next headline: 

While Obama did not intend to directly confront or take swipes at Trump on Monday, an adviser said he wanted to be forthcoming -- if asked -- about where he stands on specific policy matters, including areas where he and Trump clearly disagree, a source said. 

What one political issue did Obama briefly discuss?

But enough of other people's positions. Where do YOU stand on man of the issues facing our country and world today?  

This next headline gives you an opportunity to find out!

Quiz: Where do you stand on the issues with the candidates?

Take the quiz and find out which candidate matches your positions most closely.  Where do you stand on immigration?  Climate change? Taxes?  Take the quiz and find out which candidate most closely matches where you stand on issues that are important to you.

What did you find out?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Presidential Politics: (to) STEP DOWN (from)

Can you keep up with all the changes in the Trump administration?

Many people, myself included, are having difficulty doing this. News analysts are also having trouble.

Let's see why!

In the sentence above, we can see it as an intransitive verb. There is no object, and the verb + preposition always remain together.

Reading the news article, who was this chief digital officer? What was his role in the White House? Why did he step down?

When the sentence includes the job or responsibility of importance that the person formerly had, we use the preposition from, as in the sentence "A source familiar with Lansing’s departure said the former Hill employee stepped down from the office in mid-February. But Lansing isn't the only person who has stepped down so far.

Let's see what others we can find:

Why did Nunes, who is now under investigation himself, step down?  Who took his place?

Here's one more headline and this was very big news on TV and in the print media:

Why did Michael Flynn step down?\ o far we\x27ve seen this used in regard to political office. But the expression can be used for business positions as well. And it doesn't always refer to a scandal. Here are some examples:

Why did this headline say 'step down as" and not 'step down from..."?

If you can say "He stepped down from his position as Chairman" or "She will step down from her job as Advisor" but "She stepped down as Advisor to the President." Notice that Howard Schultz took a different position in the same company.

What position at Starbucks did he take?

These are but a few of the people who are stepping down. No wonder the news is difficult to keep up with!

If that's not enough for you, here is one more headline:

The day Paul Manafort stepped down, he received $13 million from Donald Trump's associates

Let's see who else steps down from the Trump adminstration by the time of our next blog post! Any guesses?


Wednesday, April 5, 2017


This phrase can make or sink candidates for president.

In the 1980 race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan famously asked this question:

Are You Better Off Than You Were . . .

In 2004, this was the headline:

Bush: America (is) better off with his leadership

In 2012, this was the headline:

Are you better off?

It's the single most important question in an election.

During the election of 2016, this was the headline:

Are you better off than eight years ago?

The expression to be better off  has been in the English lexicon for ages.  But it took on new life with President Reagan during his campaign for president and has been asked by candidates since then.  They want you to compare NOW with FOUR YEARS AGO, the prior presidential campaign season.

Its use is not limited to politics.

Try this headline:

Filling a prescription? You might be better off paying cash

Why, according to the article, would you be better off paying cash than using a credit or debit card?

During political elections, candidates don't ask about your happiness; they ask about money and finances. Take the CNN poll.

What did you find out?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Presidential Politics: Flip Flop

File:Havaianas Tradicional.jpg 

These are flip flops. They're called that because they're not very firm. Flip flops have been worn since at least 1500 BCE.

The word "flip flop" is used in politics because so many politicians say one thing one time and say another contradictory thing later.  Politicians have probably been flip flopping since 1500 BCE as well.

Let's look at some current headlines:

President Trump, the king of flip-flops

This headlines uses the word as a noun. 

Here we see it as a verb in the same news article:

After Trump won the electoral college vote while losing the popular vote, he flip-flopped on the unique American system of electing presidents. 

Reading the articles, what are three issues that President Trump has flip flopped on? What was the position he took before and what is the position he takes now?

When is the first time that the term "flip flop" was used in English to refer to politics and politicians?  This Wikipedia article has an interesting history of the political nature of this word.

12 Huge Presidential Campaign Flip-Flops

Of the 12 huge presidential compaign flip flops, which surprises you the most?


Presidential Politics: (to) call (something) off

This is such a common verb and underscores how important these little prepositions such as "off" are to the meaning of a word.

This two-word verb is used in active voice - "He called it off" - and in passive voice - "It was called off" - in both conversation and in reading. Let's look at today's headlines and see how this two-word verb is being used today in the news.

Kushner company, Chinese firm call off development deal

Grammar background: This verb is a transitive verb, which means the verb always takes an object. Here, the Kushner company and a Chinese firm call off WHAT? A development deal.

Let's substitute the subject pronoun "they" for Kushner's company and the Chinese firm and the object pronoun "it" for "the development deal." Be careful about word order:  THEY CALL IT OFF.

Here's the following sentence in the news article (color mine):

The Chinese conglomerate Anbang and the family of Jared Kushner have called off talks to redevelop a Manhattan office tower.

To CALL SOMETHING OFF means to cancel something that was planned. What deal did they call off? Why? What is a "conflict-of-interest"? What is the conflict-of-interest in this case?

Did you ever have a vacation planned but somebody got sick? You may have had to call off your vacation or a trip.

Sometimes it gets even nastier.  Here's another headline:

Glitzy $325,000 wedding is suddenly called off after a fight erupts during the rehearsal dinner

Read the story. Who do you think should get to keep the $125,000. engagement ring?? Answer us in our blog!!

Friday, January 20, 2017

(to) swear in; (to) be sworn in

January 20 is the day that the United States Constitution mandates that the old president complete his term, and the new president should begin his term. Not only that, but this has to occur at 12 noon. It's quite a feat of organization to ensure that this event occur exactly on that day exactly at that time, in order to be Constitutional.

The term of the new president used to begin on March 4, but the Amendment XX, adopted on Jan. 23, 1933, moved that date to January 20. 

He becomes president by taking an Oath (or Affirmation) of Office, which begins, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Here we see the verb, (to) swear.  This means he makes a solemn promise. Notice it says "I... swear.... that...." and then we read what the person swears, or pledges,  or affirms.

The two-word verb, (to) swear in, is different. It's always transitive and it's usually used in the PASSIVE VOICE.

Donald Trump Is Sworn In as President

Notice what follows this verb: as and the name of the office that he now legally and constitutionally assumes.

Try this:

Vice President Mike Pence sworn in

As is typical in journalism and advertising captions, the "be" verb is omitted. Immediately following the caption, we see the sentence,Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is sworn in as Vice President of the United States.

Then there's the NOUN FORM, a swearing-in

Donald Trump inauguration: protesters march following swearing-in


...  and also the ADJECTIVE FORM: swearing-in:


The President's Swearing-In Ceremony

If we are ever in a court case and have to testify, we are sworn in - that is, we affirm that we will be telling the truth. But to be sworn into office is a very unusual thing.

Here is a photo of William Renquist being sworn in as Justice of the United States Supreme Court:

It's pretty amazing to think that with just 35 words, a person can be sworn in and assume the title of President of the United States. We always hope that the person upholds his oath.