Friday, December 11, 2009

'As far as I know' or 'As far as I'm concerned'

Sometimes when students get to know you well enough, they ask questions AFTER class that they didn't ask IN class. For example, recently after school, one of my Cambridge test prep students asked if she could use 'As far as I know' and 'As far as I'm concerned' interchangeably. Good question!

How can ESL students learn when to use these kinds of expressions correctly? They must be 'active' listeners. I mean, they must make it their business during the day to listen for these expressions in conversations, on TV, on the bus, in the supermarket or department store, or anywhere else they might happen to overhear spoken English. And how often DO these expressions occur?

My advice to the student was to think of the meaning of the verbs. 'As far as I know' expresses some uncertainty about one's knowledge, whereas the other expression has to do with something/someone that affects or 'concerns' the speaker. For example, we might say 'As far as I know, the school closes for two weeks at the end of the year,' meaning that that's the information I have, but I didn't search for or double-check it. On the other hand, I might say, 'As far as I'm concerned, the problem is solved.' In other words, 'From my view, because I'm not affected, the problem doesn't exist.'

These little expressions when used appropriately make students sound more native, but few language learners ask enough questions or listen well enough to figure out exactly how to use them. I guess the moral to this story is, when studying a foreign language, pay attention to the little stuff.

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