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Know Your English

March 3, 2017

“Sorry I’m late. But I had to go to Vikram’s place to drop something off. His mother gave me some nice and hot idlis. They were really good.”

“I’m sure they were. Several people have told me that Vikram’s mother is an excellent cook.”

“No doubt about it. Nothing like having a few nice and hot idlis in the evening. Especially, when....”

“Careful users of the language would say ‘nice hot idlis’ instead of ‘nice and hot idlis’.”

“So, is it wrong to say ‘nice and hot’?”

“If you want to use ‘nice and hot’, then you say, the idlis were nice and hot. But if ‘nice’ comes before ‘idlis’, then you say, I had nice hot idlis.”

“I see. How about this example? Ramani’s room is always nice and tidy.”

“Sounds fine. You could also say, Ramani works in a nice tidy room.”

“I know, but...Wow! Those shoes look great! But they look really expensive. How much did you pay for them? Did you end up...”

 

A lot of money

 

“Don’t worry, they were on sale. I didn’t have to break the bank to buy them.”

“Break the bank? How can you break a bank? What are you talking about?”

“When you say that you broke the bank in order to buy something, what you’re suggesting is that the item you bought was very expensive.”

“It cost you a lot of money. You spent all your money in order to...”

“Very good! That’s exactly what it means. His father advised him not to spend so much money on a car. Atman, however, broke the bank to buy a BMW.”

“So, what’s he going to do now? Live in the car?”

“You should ask him that question. At the recent IPL auction, several teams broke the bank to buy the player they wanted.”

“How about this example? The dinner cost us only Rs. 750. That’s definitely not going to break anyone’s bank.”

“That’s a good example. I decided not to buy the house. I would have had to break the bank to buy it.”

“That’s too bad. I thought you were keen on ....keen to? Which is correct? Keen on or....”

 

An eagerness

 

“In terms of grammar, both are acceptable. You can be ‘keen to’ do something. Or you can be ‘keen on’ doing it. Both mean you’re anxious or eager to do something. For example, Rahul was keen to take his children to the zoo.”

“The children, however, weren’t keen on seeing the animals in the zoo. They were keen to go to the stadium and watch Virat and his men in action.”

“That’s not surprising at all. Rahul’s kids, I’m told, are keen sportsmen. They are...”

“Keen sportsmen? Does it mean they play a lot of games?”

“In informal contexts, when you say that someone is a keen sportsman, what you mean is that he’s greatly interested in sports. He may also be someone who participates in games. Ramdas was a keen tennis player.”

“Yes, he was. Our former Principal is a keen gardener.”

“If only he had devoted as much time to being an administrator!”

“I guess he wasn’t keen on being one!”

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