In this post we’ll focus on 5 pairs of phrases one needs to be extra careful with. Read on for easy explanations and ample examples.
How Are You? vs. How Are You Holding Up?
How are you? is a classic greeting you’ve known for ages. This phrase is sometimes used for asking someone about their health, but it is usually just a friendly greeting, and the speaker doesn’t expect a detailed account of your health (source). Although it is usually used when meeting someone you know, it doesn’t have to be this way at all times. Some speakers use it when meeting someone for the first time.
Luke: Jake, this is my old friend Tom.
Tom: Hi, how are you?
Jake: Nice to meet you, Jake.
How are you holding up? would be used to ask someone who is going through some kind of difficulty about how they are doing so far in the face of the difficulty and/or trouble. This sounds more empathetic and sympathetic than how are you? in this situation. Perhaps, the answer to how are you? would be too obvious, and the person going through a rough time would probably think, “Are you kidding me? How do you think I am?”.
Samantha: Lauren, I’m so sorry for your loss. How are you holding up?
Lauren: I’ve been better.
Jim: I heard your kid is in hospital. That’s terrible. How are you holding up?
Sam: I’m trying to stay strong.
Would You Care For It? vs. Would You Care About It?
Would you care for (sth.)? is used for asking politely whether someone would like something.
– Would you care for a cup of coffee?
– That would be great, thank you.
– Would you care for some champagne?
– No, thank you. I’m on duty.
To care about (sth.) is to be interested in something and feel strongly that it is important.
– Why would you care about things like that?
– Because things like environment and environmental protection are hugely important.
Hold On vs. Hold Up
Both hold up and hold on can mean stop and wait.
Hold on! / Hold up! You forgot your coat!
But you’d use hold on, not hold up, for telling someone to listen or think.
Hold on a minute. Let’s think about it again, OK?
Hold on! Don’t you think it won’t work?
Hold on, there’s a message on the screen.
First vs. In the First Place
Both first and in the first place are used for stating the most basic reason for something.
There were several reasons he couldn’t sleep. In the first place / First, Peg snored.
There are four reasons. In the first place / First, the company has to make money.
But you’d use in the first place, not first, at the end of a sentence to talk/ask about the beginning of a situation.
If you don’t like her, why invite her in the first place?
We should never have gone there in the first place.
That being said, in the first place and at first can sometimes be interchangeable.
I didn’t care much for the job in the first place / at first.
Note that you still wouldn’t use in the first place at the beginning of a sentence, while at first or first could be used there.
At first / First I didn’t care much for the job.
If you say In the first place I didn’t care much for the job, the meaning will be different – you’ll be talking about the most basic reason for something.
What’s the Problem? vs. What’s Your Problem?
You should be careful with What’s your problem? because it’s used for asking someone in a threatening way why they are behaving in a way that you do not like or approve of.
What’s your problem? Why are you talking to me like that?
What’s your problem? Are you looking for trouble?
What’s your problem? You’ve been picking on me the whole day!
You’d use What’s the problem? to ask about a specific problem.
– There’s something weird going on.
– What’s the problem?
What’s the problem with the computer? I can’t restart it.
Do you still have questions about the phrases above? Feel free to leave a comment with them. We’ll be happy to help.
Thank you for reading and till next time! 😊