Unit 17

Question 1 : What is the difference between ‘learn’ and ‘study’?
Question 2:
How do we use ‘either’ when choosing from more than two things?
Question 3: What are the differences between ‘this’ and ‘these’?

Unit 17

As you are no doubt aware, there has been terrible flooding following the worst seasonal heavy rain seen for over 80 years across the North West of Pakistan. With yet more heavy rain expected during the next few days, this terrible event has left over one and a half thousand people dead and many millions homeless. I know that I have many viewers over there in Pakistan and I would like to send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. My thoughts are with you all during this difficult time.

Hi everybody, this is Misterduncan in England, how are you today? Are you okay? I hope so! Are you happy? I hope so!

As you can see, I’m wearing my birthday suit today, well it’s not exactly my birthday suit because then I would be naked. That’s what birthday suit means, to be in the nude! Yes my birthday is coming and I have yet another purple vein on my ankle to prove it! Do you want to see my purple vein? Here it is. Look! More purple veins on Misterduncan’s ankles… it’s terrible! Oh deary me! Anyway here I am once again with another selection of your email questions and comments. So without any more daydreaming about cakes and presents, let’s have our first question for today!

What is the difference between ‘learn’ and ‘study’?

This question was sent in by Muhammad Jawad who lives in Baghdad-Irag. Generally speaking, the main difference between these two words is that one is active and the other passive. The act of studying. The act of learning. You do both. To study is an action. To learn is an action. To learn is what happens when you study. You learn from doing your studies.

Study can mean to observe or look carefully at. Learn means to gain something from an experience, for example, from reading a book, or attending a class. You can learn from these actions. If you study English, then you will learn how to speak (and use) it.

A nice email!

Please don’t eat that apple…I need it for later.

Thank you!

I have received a nice e-mail from Rita who lives in Taiwan. Rita is about to take her TOEFL test so she can study in the USA. In her email Rita expresses confusion surrounding the preparation process for this exam and the material that is available to help you get through this test.

A common problem with some students is that they over-prepare and become pulled down by the exercise books they are reading from and studying with. It is possible to over-prepare. Do not try to learn too many things at the same time. Study time should be spaced out with breaks in between. Doing too much in a short time can be just as bad ad not doing enough. Another thing I will say to you  is that from your written English, you seem to have a good grasp of the English language.

This is another common problem with upper intermediate English students. Knowing your level of English is very important. Many students tend to think that their English is poorer than it really is. Try to be realistic when judging your performance.

Being over-critical of yourself can be just as bad as being too confident. Your grammar is clearly very good. So I would suggest concentrating on your weak points.

Make a list of the things you feel that you do best and concentrate on the things you are still unsure of. After all that worrying and stress, you may find that your only real weakness is a lack of confidence, which is completely normal and can be improved with practice.

Some fruity idioms!

This is an apple and there are many phrases and idioms that contain and use this particular fruits’ name. ‘The apple of your eye’- a person you are deeply in love with. You love this person very much. He or she is the apple of your eye. ‘As American as apple pie’- something which is unmistakably a part of USA culture.
‘A rotten apple’- a bad person or a person who cannot be trusted. ‘He is a bad apple.’ ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ This very old proverb relates to keeping fit by eating well. Apples are good for you, so an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

How do we use ‘either’ when choosing from more than two things?

This very interesting question come from Andred Quezada, who lives in Chile.
When making a choice or a selection from two items, we may express no particular liking. We choose either, ‘either will do.’ If the choice involves more than that two objects then we use the word ‘any’. Any will do it. We do not mind which one we have. Do you want an orange, or an apple, or a banana? – Any will be fine, - Any will be okay. We can also use ‘all’ in certain situations. ‘Which fruit do you prefer?’ ‘All of them are okay.’ ‘I like them all.’

A brand new feature!

Now it’s time for a new feature on ‘Ask Misterduncan’. It’s the first ever, never done before, how long will it run for? Super, amazing, quite good really…


No…no…no that’s too much echo. Too much echo. Turn it down. Oh dear!
Word of the week.


This weeks word is ‘exaggerate’. This means to add something to a story that makes it sound more exciting. To make something seem better or worse than it really is. For example…the other day I went fishing and caught a huge trout!
Yes I’m exaggerating. In fact what really happened was that I went fishing the other day and caught…nothing. I have exaggerated the story.

What are the differences between ‘this’ and ‘these’?

Both of these words are used as pronouns. ‘This’ is used as a singular pronoun, while ‘these’ is used as the plural. Many students tend to confuse the two and often use the single ‘this’ to refer to many things. For example, as you all know I make many English teaching videos. I make these videos for you.

‘These’ relates to all of my work. If I were to talk about the video you are watching now, then I would say that I have made this video for you. The word ‘this’ shows that I’m talking about one thing. This box, this man, this time, this moment. If I want to talk about more than one thing, then I will use ‘these’ instead.
‘I make these videos for you’ I can also say ‘I made these videos for you’.

The word ‘these’ clearly shows that I’m talking about more than one thing. It is also worth mentioning that ‘make’ in the sentence suggests that I will continue doing the activity I’m talking about. Whereas ‘made’ relates to my past work up until this point. These boxes, these men, these items, these moments.
It is worth noting that ‘this’ can also be used as an adverb. ‘I’m not used to doing this much work.’

Before I leave you today to go off and choose my birthday cake for next Thursday, I would like to say a special pre-birthday hello to some of my new Facebook friends, including…Elisa, Moon, Abdus, Enkhsaruul, Veronica, Leandro from Brazil, but now living in the Netherlands, Tuong An in Vietnam and a warm welcome to Marcus from Germany, who is currently over here talking in the sights and sounds of England. A big hello to you all!

That is all from me for this week. I will see you all again soon for some more of your questions and comments. Keep sending your emails in to me and next week who knows? I could be saying hello to you.

This is Misterduncan in England saying thanks for watching me, answering you and of course…ta- ta for now!

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