To Be Good At Something
In today’s episode I share tips on how to sound fluent in English using one special collocation. The phrase ‘to be good at something’ will make you sound more fluent in English. Listen to today’s episode to find out how to use it correctly. Enjoy :)
Hola amigos, you are listening to the English Made Simple show, this is episode 1-1-6, number one hundred and sixteen, numero ciento diez y seis.
Hey muchachos y muchachas, welcome to the English made simple show, my name is Milena from englishmadesimple.net.
And this is episode number one hundred and sixteen, I hope I got that number correctly this time. I am losing count… and with age, I am losing my marbles.
I am not really good at counting, I am not good with numbers, and I was never good in Maths.
You know what they say: there are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at Maths and those who aren’t.
That’s not what people say, that was a joke! One of my stupid and smart jokes. You might need to listen to it again to get it. So just go back and listen to it again, that would be great! haha
So amigos, I trust you had a fabulous weekend. I certainly did, had a nice weekend, went dancing on Saturday night, but kept out of trouble, didn’t get too drunk, which is always good, pretty good I say. And I hope you are good, too!
Right…In today’s show I am going to share something with you that will help you sound more natural when you speak English. I will share a collocation with you that will make you sound like a native speaker.
Yup, you will blend right in.
The collocation I wanted to share with you is: to be good at something. There is also another one that goes like this, to be good in something and another one to be good with something.
I know that a lot of my students make this mistake when they confuse the prepositions AT, IN and WITH – especially when they try to use this collocation, when they try to use with the word Good, to be good at or in or with something.
So hopefully in today’s episode, this will be all clearer for you. Hopefully, I will be able to explain it in such a manner that you can tell the difference.
But first..first things first: what is a collocation?
I have already covered this in episode #15 – fifteen, so that was about a hundred episodes ago. You will have to hop into your time machine and check out episode number 15 called “Learn English with Collocations and Speak Like a native Speaker” Wow, love that title, that was a good title for the show! Cool!
Right, so what is a collocation?
Put simply, it’s a combination of two or more words used by native speakers, and when put together the words just sound correct to the people who have been speaking the language all of their lives.
Just a quick example here, an example of a common collocation would be: ‘to make a mistake’ sounds correct, not ‘do a mistake’. We don’t say ‘do a mistake.’ We say, make a mistake. See, that’s a collocation. ‘Make a mistake’ sounds right to the native speaker.
In Spanish this is ‘cometer un error’ or ‘equivocarse’.
Check out episode number 15 for more examples. That was back in the day when I first started out with podcasting. You can tell I wasn’t really good at it. And I’m still learning. My editing skills have improved though haha It does take a lot of time and patience to become good at podcasting.
Right nobody cares Milena – as my husband would say. Nobody cares. A nadie le importa!
So when do we use to be good at something, when do we use to be good in something, and when do we say to be good with something?
By end of today’s episode I want you to practise these phrases. Practise them out loud so you get used to saying them. Sometimes we just need to train our mouths to say these words. So that later down the track it just rolls off your tongue.
Rolls off the tongue – this is an expression actually. Let me quickly tell you what it is, and I will try not to go off topic today.
In Spanish this would be: Algo como soltarla la lengua
So, according to Weon Inteligente or the online dictionary, when the words roll off the tongue it means the words are easy to say. Great, thanks Weon.
Here is my example: When I say the words ‘Weon Inteligente’ they simply roll off the tongue, it’s easier to say those two words than the words ‘Online Dictionary’. Takes a lot of effort to say this one. The last one, online dictionary. There we go, that was easy to explain.
Now, let me just dive straight into today’s topic.
Let’s start off with the simple collocation, to be good in something. Using the preposition IN.
The only time we would use the collocation to be good IN something is when we use it together with your area of expertise or field of study.
For instance, I am good in the field of science.
At the beginning of today’s episode I said something like:
I am not really good at counting, I am not good with numbers, and I was never good in Maths.
If you say I was never good in Maths (mathematics), it refers to the physical place, the maths class. I was never good in the mathematics class. This is what this collocation would imply.
This would probably mean that I could never concentrate in the class, I would often get distracted in the class. And, as you know, I do like to talk a lot so calculating formulas was never my forté, my strongest skill.
So now I hope that made a little bit of sense. What you need to know here is that we seldom use this type of collocation, to be good in something.
What is this word seldom now? Good question amigos, I did explain it in the last episode #114 (one hundred and fourteen). It just means ‘not often’ – The expression is seldom used. Meaning it is not often used.
The next two collocations that I am going to share with you today are the ones that are used regularly by native speakers and these are the ones that you will have to pay special attention to.
To be good WITH something and to be good AT something.
When you want to use the phrase: To be good with something you would use it when talking about specific objects or people.
For example, I am not good with children, I don’t know how to talk with them.
I was never good at maths, so you could say that I am just not good with numbers.
I am good with money. It means I don’t like to spend money for things that I don’t need, I prefer to save money. I am good with money. Are you good with money?
Another example, if you want to volunteer at an animal shelter, you have to be good with animals.
And let me ask you this question: What does it mean when somebody is good with their hands?
It doesn’t mean that you can easily tickle people – to tickle people, hacer cosquillas, make them laugh haha It doesn’t mean that.
When someone is good with their hands it means they can build things, they can do physical work. For example, assemble IKEA furniture, redecorate their house, renovate their house, build cabinets, create crafts, using their hands, do physical work in general, really.
I think nowadays, there are less and less people who are good with their hands, everyone seems to be on computers these days, sitting at their desks (instead of building them!) The majority of people are good with computers nowadays.
While we are on the topic of physical work, people who do work around the house, or who construct and build cabinets for example, are called handymen. In Spanish handymen means carpinteros. Another word in English is carpenters. So it’s quite similar to Spanish.
There we go, I hope you learnt something new there!
Righto, now the next phrase I would like you to remember, pay special attention to the next phrase amigos…listen carefully. To be good at something.
Amigos y amigas, I really want you to practise the following collocation, this is the one that I hear most often and this is the one that is used a lot by native speakers.
Let me start off by asking you this question: what are you good at?
A simple question, what are you good AT?
GOOD AT is used when talking about activities or your special talents.
To ‘be good at something’ in Spanish would be – ser bueno para o en algo. To be good at something.
‘I am good at Maths’ would mean that I am really good with numbers, I am good at calculating formulas, and I can solve problems and stuff like that.
I am not good at solving problems, I am good at creating them haha and that’s another example.
You could say that GOOD AT is followed by a gerund (gerundio) form of the verb. If you are talking about activities such as playing, drawing, designing and similar you will have to add that –ING form of the verb. Because it’s following the preposition AT the verb is changed to ING form.
So we don’t say, I am good at play tennis. That’s not correct.
The correct way would be, I am good at playing tennis.
We add the ING bit to the verb to indicate an activity.
If I say, I am good at tennis. It means I am really skilled and I can play tennis.
I am good at tennis or I am good at playing tennis – they mean the same thing in this case. You are good at tennis!
Easy peasy japanesy!
And How to use the preposition AT to express that you are not good at something?
Well, simply say, I am not good at football. I am not good at washing dishes. I avoid it completely.
I am not good at driving. I am not good at public speaking. I am not good at singing.
Think about it amigos, what are you good at and what are you not good at?
Simply start your answer with: I am good at…. Then add an activity or mention your talents.
To wrap up today’s show amigos, when in doubt whether to use IN or AT together with the word GOOD – to be good at or in something – then always use the preposition AT. Most of the time AT is the correct one to use. Eighty percent of the time you will be needing to use the preposition AT and not IN.
This is an idiom and like most idioms they would have to be learnt and memorized.
So there we go. We’ve reached the end of today’s show.
You’ve been an awesome audience as always.
Thank you for joining me amigos y amigas, if you’ve enjoyed today’s show, please share it with your friends because Sharing is Caring… don’t be selfish. Remember all transcripts are available on my website, englishmadesimple.net. You’ve been jamming with Milena, until next time, hasta la proxima!