“Or so I thought”

“Or so I thought” is an expression that a speaker uses to explain that in the past they had one idea or belief they thought was true- but they were mistaken.
“I was the best runner in my school, or so I thought. But the new transfer student beat me in the 100m dash”.

We start with a belief: I am the best runner. In the second sentence we find out a new fact that contradicts that belief : another student was faster than me. The “or so I though” is the speaker’s way of saying they had a mistaken idea.
In movies or TV sometimes the character won’t fully explain the situation. This gives good dramatic effect as the audience has to think why they were wrong.
“She was the best girlfriend ever, or so I thought.” This implies that he discovered something to make him think she wasn’t a good girlfriend.
“I got home to find my roommate had drank all my beer, or so I thought.”

This could mean two things:

a) the roommate didn’t drink all the beer. Some was leftover.


b) someone else drank the beer, not the roommate.
“Everyone had forgotten my birthday, or so I thought.”

Maybe people pretended to forget the birthday and threw him a surprise party.
“Or so I thought” has other variations:

“Or at least that’s what I thought”,

“Or so I assumed”,

“Or so it seemed”.

But they all carry the same basic meaning.

Politeness in English

Since there is no official “Polite Speech” or “Casual Speech” in English it is sometimes difficult to know how to talk to your superiors (bosses, professors) or elderly people.
First of all be careful not to use their first name. If their name is John Smith or Jane Smith it is best to call them Mr. Smith or Miss/ Mrs. Smith. Or you can call them “sir” or “ma’am”. If they are a professor, as in they teach at a University and have a PhD, then you can call them “Professor Smith” or just “Professor”.
Note: Never call a teacher “Smith Teacher”, “Teacher” is not a title in English, only the name of a job. “Mr / Miss / Mrs” works best.
Secondly, try to avoid slang and casual expressions
“Hey John, what’s up?” is not very polite for an older or distinguished person.
“Hello Mr. Smith, how are you today?” is much better.
Some bosses and professors don’t like the overly polite language, as they feel it distances them from others. So they may invite you to call them by their first names.
“Hello Mr. Smith, did you have a good weekend?”
“Oh please, just call me John.”
In these situations you can use their first names after being given permission, but it is still good to avoid slang and overly casual phrases.

Vocabulary: “Awkward”

Awkward is a word that is awkward to explain. It’s usually used to describe things that aren’t smooth or comfortable.
It can mean clumsy:

“She is awkward in the kitchen, she knocks things over all the time”

It can mean that you’re not good at something:

“He played the guitar awkwardly, missing a lot of notes”.

It can mean that something is difficult to use:

“Driving an SUV on narrow streets is awkward”

“After years of using a smartphone I find old flip-phones very awkward.”

When we use it in social situations it’s a combination of all of those things: an uncomfortable, slightly difficult situation that you’re not confident about.

“When my boss found out I was dating his daughter it was very awkward.”

“I always feel awkward at parties where I don’t know anyone.”

“It was very awkward for the young mother as her child wouldn’t stop crying in the toy store.”

So generally awkward is about something being a little uncomfortable. Maybe you’re uncomfortable because you can’t do something well, something is hard to use or you feel a little embarrassed in front of others.
But an awkward situation isn’t a really bad situation, it’s only a little uncomfortable.

Basic Pronunciation “R & L”

One of the most common pronunciation problems for East Asian English learners is the “L” and “R” sound.
The “L” isn’t so tough, it is made by holding the tongue on the ridge behind the front teeth:

Then releasing with a vowel sound:
La, Ley, Lee, Lo, Lu”
The “R” sound is made by pulling the tongue far back in the throat, like you’re trying to (gulp) swallow your tongue. The tongue doesn’t touch anything in the mouth:
And from this you can make vowels:
Ra, Rey, Ree, Ro, Ru”.

Since the L sound needs your tongue at the front of your mouth, and the R sound needs your tongue at the back of your mouth it takes a lot of practice to move the tongue quickly.

A good way to practice moving the tongue is with minimal pairs. Two words that almost sound the same with one sound that is different:
Rock / Lock, Lan/ Ran, Lay / Ray, Room / Loom”
Lash/ Rash, Long / Wrong, Glass / Grass, Lead / Read”
The next step is trying words that have L and R sounds very close to each other:
Real. R L. Real. Real. Real.”
Leery. L R. Leery. Leery. Leery.”
And now let’s try one of the most difficult words: Girl. Girl, has two sounds at the end R and L. But many people make the mistake of trying to make one sound that is a mix of the two: “Girㄹ”

So properly it’s:
“Girl. R L. Girl. Girl. Girl

Vocabulary: Benefit, Revenue, Profit

When talking about money the words “benefit”, “revenue” and “profit” are three different things.
Generally a benefit is a result or effect that is good or helpful:

“Exercising has lots of benefits.”
“This job has lots of benefits” (vacation time, health insurance, working hours etc)

A “financial benefit” would be any condition that is good because of money:
“Retiring in Thailand has some financial benefits”

Revenue is the amount of money made by a company or organization.

“Samsung lost 6 million in revenue last year”.

“McDonalds makes most of its revenue from French fries”.

This is just all the money that comes in, not including other expenses like paying employees or buying supplies. Revenue is money coming in. For companies we use ‘revenue’ for people we usually say ‘income’.
Profit is similar to revenue, but it is the money that is left after paying all expenses. “I bought a concert ticket for $100 and sold it for $150, I made $50 profit.” “Starbucks makes at least 80% profit on all items they sell.” Profit is definitely a benefit.
But some companies, like Amazon, have 50 billion dollars in yearly revenue but less than 1 billion in profit. Rather than keeping the extra money they constantly reinvest it back into research and expansions.
So benefit is anything good, revenue is

money coming in, and profit is extra money that is made.

“How are you?”


Many English learners have trouble reacting to the common English greeting “How are you?”. But before you answer the question you have to think about what the question really is.
Western and especially American culture is very individualistic. Everyone lives in the same society but value their individual thoughts and feelings very much. But no one wants to be selfish and always think about themselves. So when they ask “How are you?” it is a polite way to show that they are acknowledging you and think that your feelings are important to them.
So we usually answer “Fine / OK / Not bad / Can’t complain” something that is slightly neutral but generally good. We appreciate that someone asked us about our feelings but we don’t want to bother that person with the problems of our person.
If you say “Not so good / Horrible / Don’t even ask” this could burden the other person with your problems. This is fine with close friends and family, but could make you look weak or needy in front of coworkers or strangers.
If you say “Great / Awesome / Best day of my life” again it is fine with close friends but in other situations you don’t want to brag about your good mood. Maybe the other person isn’t happy.
So we usually answer something like: “Fine. Thanks. How about you?”
Fine (I’m generally good and not in a mood or situation that you have to worry about.)
Thank you (I appreciate you being concerned over my feelings.)
How about you? (I am also concerned about your feelings.)


Articles “a/an” and “the” are what is called basic grammar – but basic doesn’t mean easy.

English is a very exact language and that means that all nouns need a ‘determiner’ in front of them. Articles are a type of determiner. They give us information about the noun.
“The” is called the definite article. It comes before words the listener/ reader already knows. “Hey honey, the cat is on the sofa” could be a husband talking to his wife about their pet.
“A/an” is the indefinite article, it is used to describe any member of a group. “Hey honey, a cat is on the sofa” would be the husband telling the wife that one random cat out of all the cats in the world is on the sofa. This could be a problem, no one wants a random cat on their sofa.
Nouns can quickly change from indefinite to definite.
Sentence 1: A man walked into the restaurant.” indefinite: we only know that he is one of the many men in the world. His identity is unknown or unimportant.
Sentence 2: “Then the man sat down.” definite: we are talking about the man introduced in the previous sentence. We still don’t know who he is, but we know he is the same man as before.
If it was Sentence 1: A man walked into the restaurant.” then Sentence 2: “Then a man sat down.” We would be saying one man in the world walked into a restaurant and one of the men in the world sat down. There is nothing indicating they are the same.