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Newsletter About the English Language
Issue No. 1 – Aug. 02, 2006

This week’s question comes from Akiko:

I was reading a book of business English and it says that "good question" means a really complicated question. Doesn't "good question" mean "interesting question"?

Answer: It can mean both. It can means "That's a good question. Even I would like to know the answer." In that case it is used when the person can't answer the question or when the person is going to have to explain a lot to answer the question. It can also be used to mean "interesting question" or "you've noticed an important point". In that case it's probably used by a teacher to mean that it's a question that many people have and it will be helpful or interesting to others as well.

Have a question for Kathy? Click here to e-mail your question to Kathy!


The verb “to save” is a commonly used word, but it is used in many different phrases. We save money, time, files, or even a person’s life! Here are some examples of some of the most common uses.

1. To save = to keep from danger or harm; keep healthy or keep from dying.

ex: When the boy fell in the river, a fisherman jumped in and saved him.
ex: During the fire she wasn't able to save the family photos.
ex: Doctors were unable to save the boy. He died in the emergency room.
ex: God save the Queen!

2. To save = to keep for future use, keep in storage.

ex: I save all of the comic books I read.
ex: She saved all of the love letters he wrote to her before they got maried.

ex: He finally saved enough money to buy his first car.

3. To save = to avoid using.

ex: You can save money if you make your own lunch.
ex: We're all looking for ways to save gas now that it's over four dollars a gallon.
ex: I save time by cooking enough for two meals at once and freezing the leftovers.

4. To save = to guard against, protect from.

ex: I cover all of my textbooks to save wear and tear.
ex: He bought a new van for the company to save taxes.
ex: I can save a lot of trouble if I just do the work myself.


This week I'd like to feature a common mistake that native speakers and non-natives often make. I often hear sentences like these:

X– If I would have known, I would have told you.
X– If you would have called me, I would have picked you up at the station.

Can you see the mistake? The sentence pattern above is NEVER correct in English. The correct sentences are below:

O– If I had known, I would have told you.
O– If you had called me, I would have picked you up at the station.

Remember that when you're talking about something different from what really happened, this is the pattern you need:

O– If had done, would/could/might have done.

Here are some more examples:

What really happened:
He didn't study and he failed the test.
ex: If he had studied, he would have passed the test.

What really happened:
I forgot to set my alarm, I woke up late and I was late for work.
ex: If I had set my alarm, I wouldn't have been late for work.

What really happened:
I didn't put money in the parking meter and I got a parking ticket.
ex: If I had put money in the meter, I wouldn't have gotten a parking ticket.

What really happened:
She entered the contest and she won!
ex: If she hadn't entered the contest, she wouldn't have won.

What really happened:
I was sleepwalking and when I woke up I was standing at the top of the stairs.
ex: If I hadn't woken up, I could have fallen down the stairs.

I realize this is a hard one for most students. And like I said, many native speakers make mistakes when using this pattern, too. But I hope my examples above help make things a little clearer for all of you!


What are onomatopoetic words? They are words that imitate the sounds associated with the nouns or actions they refer to, for example, “meow” is the sound a cat makes. This week’s examples are sounds associated with the body. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. gurgle = A bubbling sound. It is also used as a verb meaning to make that sound.

ex: I drank a lot of water very fast and it made my stomach gurgle.
ex: The baby made a strange gurgling sound and then spit out the food.

2. crack = A sharp, explosive noise, like the sound a whip makes. It is also used as a verb meaning to make that noise.

ex: I crack my knuckles when I'm nervous. My mom says it will cause arthritis.
ex: I heard a crack of thunder and then it started raining very hard.

3. bang = A sudden loud noise, like the sound of a gun firing or the sound of
a door closing suddenly. It is also used as a verb meaning "to hit".

ex: I banged my knee on the chair and now I have a big bruise.
ex: I heard a loud bang that sounded like a bomb had gone off nearby.

4. hiccup = a spasm like a little cough. It's also used as a verb.

ex: I have the hiccups and I can't stop them! I tried drinking a big glass of water,
but it didn't help.
ex: He hiccups a lot when he drinks. I don't know why, but he does!

5. gargle = The sound you make with mouthwash in the back of your throat. It's also used as a verb.

ex: After I brush my teeth, I always gargle with mouthwash.
ex: My mom told me that gargling with salt water helps a sore throat.

Click below to listen to the examples above.