Take It With a Grain of Salt

Similar to the verb make, which we discussed in a previous entry, the verb “take” and its many uses can be confusing to English language learners.  The title of this entry is, ‘take it with a grain of salt’, which means to not always believe that someone is telling you the whole truth.  For example, you have a friend who likes to go fishing and when they come back and tell you about their latest fishing adventure they tell you that the fish that they caught was two meters long.  Now you believe that your friend did go fishing and your friend probably also caught a fish.  But you don’t fully believe that the fish that he caught was two meters long.  You could say that you take his story with a grain of salt.  You believe most of it but think that perhaps he is exaggerating the size of the fish to get attention.

Take is an irregular verb. This means that to form the past tense you can’t just add -ed.  Instead, the past tense of take is took.  I took the book off the shelf.

The literal meaning of take is “to move or carry something from one place to the other.”  In the example above you moved the book from the shelf to somewhere else.  However, native English speakers also use take in a number of other ways.  The most common construction is take + a noun phrase.  Below are three examples:

  1. Go in a direction

One common meaning of take is to go in a different direction.  Take has this meaning when followed by noun phrases such as “a right turn” or “a left turn.” The word turn is not always added. Sometimes speakers only say “take a right” or “take a left.”

Or if you have a GPS system and are driving on the highway, you will probably hear, “take the next exit and turn left”.  This does mean that you are physically carrying the exit, but rather that you should use this exit to leave the highway.

  1. To ensure that a task is done properly

Another meaning is to make sure that an action is done correctly.  When used this way, you will hear, “take care of, take charge of, or take responsibility for”.  Specifically, these are phrases that you will hear in the workplace.

For example, your boss might ask if you are able to take care of project by Friday.  This means they are asking if you are able to finish the project properly by Friday.  Or if a colleague is going on vacation, they might say that Barbara will take charge of the project until I return.  This means that Barbara is now responsible for the project until the colleague returns to the office from their vacation.

  1. Spend time on a task

When take is used in this way is frequently combined with a measure of time, such as, minutes, hours or days.  For example, your boss assigns you are new task, they might ask “how long the project will take to finish”.  In this case they are looking for you to provide them with the amount of time that you need to complete the project.  So, you might respond that “it will take two weeks” to finish the project.

Additionally, take can also be used with other time related words.  For example, you are shopping at Edeka the day before a holiday weekend and the lines are long at the checkout.  You might think to yourself that “this line is taking forever”.  In this case you are using forever as your time reference.

There are lots more ways that the verb take is used by English speakers. Next time you hear it used, try to think about the way in which the speaker is communicating the meaning of take.

Now take a break, you deserve it.