Basic English Usage

Expressions 1

You must read the words and phrases out loud.

loop ~ a situation managed with other people

in the loop = told about, and participating in, something being accomplished. [possible origin: Some flight control systems, using feedback loops, are designed so that the pilot can be in the loop, helping to control the flight path.]

If you are on the project team, you are probably in the loop.

out of the loop = not told about and not participating, possibly being shunned

If the team members are no longer copying you on their emails, you can safely assume you are now out of the loop.

Expressions in a story:

You are part of a team that communicates every week about the design project. Because Ben knows you are in the loop, he is now emailing you to ask if he can participate. He feels like he is out of the loop, but he knows he can help.

touch ~ verbal contact

touch base = confer, usually as a respectful obligation [probable origin: For a baseball homerun to be valid, the player must touch all bases.]

It has been a while since we last talked. We really should touch base so I can learn what you have been working on.

touch on = mention

In the presentation about new training classes, you should make sure to touch on the new webpage people must use to sign up for a class.

in touch = communicating

I know you are moving to a new department, but let's stay in touch. I always enjoy talking with you.

out of touch = not able to communicate; unrealistic

My manager is unfortunately out of touch in two ways: first, he is on a safari and can't be reached; and, second, he has no idea how much time it takes to test each module of the code.

touch a nerve = upset someone

If we mention the financial audit, we might touch a nerve. The director does not like external interference, especially audits.

touch and go [Try not to use this idiom. It means different things to different people. Avoid misunderstandings by finding other words to say what you want to say.]

Expressions in a story:

You call Lee on the phone and say, "I need to touch base with you, to talk about the meeting tomorrow morning. I'm hoping to touch on the project plan for next quarter."
Lee sighs. You might have touched a nerve, there.
Lee says, "First we should get in touch with the project manager, who is still on vacation."
You agree because you remember that the manager has been out of touch for weeks.

ballpark ~ reasonable estimate or approximation

in the ballpark = close to a reasonable number [possible origin: A commentator at a baseball game looks around the stadium and announces, "We have more than 50,000 people in the ballpark!" It's a rough estimate.]

The price you quoted is in the ballpark of what we're willing to pay.

ballpark estimate = an approximation

I need to know, at least roughly, how much it will cost. Can you give us a ballpark estimate?

Expressions in a story:

You are put in charge of preparing for the project meeting. You're not sure how many chairs are needed in the conference room. You want a number that is at least in the right ballpark.
Amy stops by and you ask her, "How many chairs do you think we should have in the room?"
She shrugs and responds, "You want me to ballpark it for you?"
You nod. "Yes, thanks. What do you think is a good ballpark number?"

Lesson: Expressions 1
Module: Expressions
Course: Basic English Usage