Habits wrap up

Good evening!  So here’s a wrap up of the habits discussion, finally!

Every week on Sunday at 2pm, Monday at 3pm, and Tuesday at 8pm we have a one-hour group discussion on a different topic.   These classes are open to any and all students, but the Sunday and Monday classes are recommended for intermediate and advanced students.  The Tuesday class is for high beginner to intermediate.  We have 2-4 students in each class. The teacher asks questions and discusses the answers with the students, and students can ask questions to each other (and the teacher, too!). You are welcome to bring a dictionary or ask the teacher if you need help. One lesson is 1500-2500 yen, depending on how many tickets you buy. If you are interested, please check out the website or contact me directly. If you are not available on the scheduled days, but would like to join, please tell me your available days and times and I will be happy to set up another class for you!  We are still looking for students interested in a Friday night and Saturday afternoon class.

So here’s what came up during the lesson!


During the discussion of habits, the topic of sleep came up.  I’ve noticed a lot of my students have trouble with the following (very similar) expressions and words:

  • Be awake & Wake up
  • Fall asleep & Sleep
  • Midnight & In the middle of the night

So I’d like to discuss the differences here.

1. Be awake vs. Wake up

I often hear English learners confuse the terms “wake” and “awake”, and will sometimes even mix them (for example “be wake” or “be wake up”).  But there is a clear distinction and a pattern here.  Remember that “be” is often used to describe the ongoing state of something.  What that means is, the expression “wake up” only refers to a single moment, the point where a person stops sleeping and consequently starts to be conscious.  “Be awake”, on the other hand, is the entire time that a person is in the state of consciousness.  In other words, it describes the period that starts when a person opens their eyes until the point where they close them again.

Here are some examples:

“I was awake at 7am.”  This means that only at 7am (not necessarily at 6:59am or 7:01am) the person was in a state of consciousness.

“I woke up at 7am.” This means that at 7am the person stopped sleeping and started being conscious, and this continued past 7am.

“When you came home I was awake.”  This means that I was conscious at the point that you arrived home (but not necessarily before or after).

“When you came home I woke up.”  This means that before you came home, I was asleep, but from the point that you came home and after, I was awake.

“I was awake for 10 hours.”  For a period of 10 hours, I was not sleeping.

“I woke up for 10 hours.”  This sounds strange!  Waking up can only happen at one a moment, a person cannot continue to wake up!

2. Fall asleep vs. Sleep

These two expressions have a very similar relationship, but it is slightly different from “be awake” and “wake up”.  In this case, “fall asleep” expresses a change from “be awake” to “sleeping”, so it only happens at one point, so “sleep” expresses the state of not being conscious, so it’s usually used with a period of time (like “for six hours”).

“I fell asleep at 10pm.”  This means that at 10pm the person stopped being awake and started being unconscious, and this continued past 10pm.

“I slept at 10pm.”  This sounds really strange.  This means that only at 10pm (not at 9:59pm or 10:01pm) the person was unconscious.  This basically means that the person only had one minute of sleep!

“When you came home I fell asleep.”  This is very unusual!  This means that the same moment you arrived home, I became unconscious!  That’s quite a coincidence!

“When you came home I slept.”  This is also very weird!  This means that the same moment you came home, I entered my bed.

So how can you express that at the point that someone arrived home, you fell asleep already?

“When you came home, I was sleeping.”  OR

“When you came home, I was asleep.”

So now we have four expressions: fall asleep, sleep, be sleeping and be asleep!  More on this in the future!  🙂

“I fell asleep for 10 hours.” This sounds strange!  Falling asleep can only happen at one a moment, a person cannot continue to fall asleep!

“I slept for 10 hours.”  For a period of 10 hours, I was unconscious.  This sounds normal.

3. Midnight vs. In the middle of the night

Fortunately, the difference between these two expressions is much simpler.

Midnight simply means exactly 12:00am (or 0:00 in Japanese).  That’s it.  When it is 12:01am, it is no longer midnight.

In the middle of the night is any time between 12:00am and the morning.

So usually when Japanese people say “midnight” they mean “in the middle of the night”.  🙂

I’d like to talk about another difference though, and this has to do with using your dictionary.  Some of my students use their dictionaries during our discussion lesson, and I think that’s often a good idea.  However, they sometimes don’t know how to tell me what they’d like to do with their dictionary.  I often hear these expressions:

1. “I want to check my dictionary.”

2. “I want to check the word in my dictionary.”

3. “I want to look at my dictionary.”

4. “I want to look up my dictionary.”

5. “I want to look at the word in my dictionary.”

6. “I want to look up the word in my dictionary.”

7. “I want to search my dictionary.”

8. “I want to search the word in my dictionary.”

I hear many other expressions, but these are probably the most common.  Some of them are correct, some are not.  Can you guess which ones are correct and which ones are incorrect?

Only #2 and #6 are correct!  Did you guess correctly?

Anyway, here are the two correct expressions:

“I want to check the word (in my dictionary).”

“I want to look up the word (in my dictionary).” OR “I want to look the word up (in my dictionary).”

However, they do not mean the same thing.

“Check” means verify – make sure something is correct – by consulting an authority (in this case, a dictionary).

“Look up” means search for, specifically in a reference book (like a dictionary).

So when would you say “I want to check” a word?  When you think you know what it means but you want to make sure it is correct.

When would you say “I want to look up” a word?  When you don’t know what it means so you want to find it in your dictionary.

So next time you are with your teacher or another native English speaker and want to use your dictionary, try remembering these two expressions and using them!

Habit Collocation

Talking about good and bad habits can be an interesting and fun conversation, but it’s not a very common one.  Although most English learners understand what a habit is, it can be a challenge to make a sentence with them.  How do you say 癖を断ち切る in English?  How about 癖を直す? Here are some of the collocations we use with habits:

  • have a habit
  • develop a habit
  • fix a habit
  • overcome a habit
  • get rid of a habit

More specifically, how can we describe the habit in detail?  Here are two patterns you can use:

  • I have a (bad) habit of Ving (O)

For example:

“I have a habit of biting my nails.”

“I have a bad habit of talking too much.”

  • One of my bad habits is Ving (O).

“One of my habits is biting my nails.

“One of my bad habits is talking too much.”

Common Mistake

I often hear Japanese people overusing “for me”.  We often use it, but not as much as I hear it, and not in the same way.  English learners often use it to express that the statement is just their opinion and not necessarily generally true.  For example:

For me it’s important to care about your family.”

So how would a native speaker express this?  Simple!

I think it’s important to care about your family.”

So try using “I think” next time you talk with a native speaker.  🙂

New Vocabulary

Have you ever wanted someone to explain something just a little more or in a little more detail?  Have you ever wanted someone to talk a little more about something?  Here is a useful word for you:


Elaborate is a verb.  It simply means to explain something in more detail.  So you can just ask someone to elaborate something!

  • Please elaborate (on…).
  • Could you elaborate (on…)?

For example:

A: I’m living in Osaka.

B: Oh, are you planning to move?

A: Planning to move?  No.

B: Oh, then you made a mistake.

A: I did?

B: Yes.

A: Sorry, could you please elaborate (on the mistake)?

B: Sure!  Sorry about that.  If you are not planning to move, you should say “I live in Osaka”, not “I’m living in Osaka.”

A: Oh!  I see.  Thank you.

That’s all!  I hope you found something useful out of all this!  If you have any further questions let me know!  See you next week. 😉


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