Phrase of the day: To let down (Part II)

August 30, 2009

to let down


In the last post, I mentioned that the more obvious definition of “to let down” is to bring something down.  

The less obvious meaning is the more abstract meaning of to disappoint.  It is a transitive verb requiring both a subject and object.  The noun form is letdown.

The movie was a letdown. (Equivalent meaning: The movie was a disappointment.) 


To talk about who has been disappointed, the object must be inserted between let down. If the object is a personal pronoun, it will be in the objective case.  

The movie let me down. (Equivalent meaning: The movie disappointed me.)


Besides the progressive form, the verb let down does not inflect for tense or change for subject-verb agreement. 

His son was afraid of letting him down. (Equivalent meaning: His son was afraid of disappointing him.)

The movie let him down.

The two movies let him down.


To talk about a habitual disappointment, just add “has/have/had” in front:

 He has let me down every time. (Equivalent meaning: He has disappointed me every time.)

They have let me down every time. (Equivalent meaning: They have disappointed me every time.)


You could use let down to talk about the future also:

 I hope you could attend the conference with me this Saturday.  You won’t/will not let me down, right? (Equivalent meaning: You will not disappoint me, right?)

 At this point, you might ask why English speakers use to let down instead of to disappoint or letdown instead of disappointment.  Like all phrasal verbs, to let down is used in informal settings.  Learning how to use it properly will make your speech more personable.  Being able to comprehend it will allow you to communicate with native speakers, who use them all the time!  Besides, letdown only has two syllables while disappointment has four!

“I Hope You Dance”

August 5, 2009



By Lee Ann Womack

Music and lyrics by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers

From the album I Hope You Dance

 The song may be found here.


This song is considered of the genre Country/Pop and is narrated by a mother who is singing to her children.  Only some of the more difficult phrases are mentioned below. Enjoy!

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder”

Normally, sense is used to describe someone’s five senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, sight).  Here, it is being replaced by ‘wonder’ as the narrator sees wonderment as important as any of the five senses.  The narrator hopes her children will continue to be curious about the world. 

“I hope you get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger”

The narrator used eating as an analogy to life.  There are two contrasting phrases- ‘get your fill to eat’ and ‘keep that hunger’.  ‘To get your fill to eat’ means ‘to be fulfilled’, whether it pertains to eating or to accomplishing a task.  ‘To keep a hunger’ means to always want more, whether it’s food or life.  

“God forbid love ever leave you empty handed”

‘God forbid’ may be replaced by ‘heaven forbid’, both of which means hoping that something will not occur (e.g. “God forbid that an earthquake will happen”, which means that it is hoped that an earthquake will not happen).  ‘Empty handed’ means not holding anything in the hands. Therefore, this line means that it is hoped that you will never be without love. 

“Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance”

Having faith in yourself is trusting yourself.  Giving something a fighting chance means allowing for it.  In this context, it means trusting and believing in yourself.  One should always have confidence in one’s actions. 

“…to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.”

‘To sit it out’ means to refrain from participating in, usually an activity, like a game or dance (i.e. “to sit out a dance” means to not participate in a dance).  The narrator is saying that she hopes that you will dance instead of not.  In Western culture, dancing is believed to be an enjoyable activity, often a social one, and can relieve stress.  Friends meet to go dancing at clubs often. 

“Never settle for the path of least resistance”

‘Settle’ means to be satisfied while ‘resistance’ is something that gives a struggle.  Thus, ‘a path of least resistance’ means a life’s path where there are no struggles or challenges.  The narrator is urging her children to challenge themselves constantly and not be satisfied with an easy life. 

“Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter”

‘Hell-bent heart’ means a firm and stubborn determination and faith.  When someone is ‘bitter’, he or she is upset.  Thus, while the narrator hopes that her children will have confidence in themselves, as mentioned above, she also hopes that they will not dwell on an issue but to move on and stay happy.     

“When you come close to selling out, reconsider”

To ‘sell out’ means to give up or betray oneself.  It is a phrasal verb which has a special meaning that is not present when the two individual words are used separately and considered as slang.  (More to say about phrasal verbs in a later entry.)  Here, the narrator is advising one not to give up easily but urges one to ‘reconsider’ or think about it again if one desires to do so. 

In conclusion, the whole song talks about the love and hope that a parent has for his or her children.  The message behind the song is to motivate, teach, and advise its listeners. Not only could the message be given to children by their parents, any listener would be a bit more optimistic after hearing it.  If you have a loved one who is encountering some challenges in life, no matter whether it’s not doing well on a big test, having relationship problems, or losing a loved one, try passing this song on to them. Hopefully it’ll cheer them up!  Tell them to dance all their troubles away!