Thursday, November 1, 2007

Turn Off The Lights!

I often hear people say, "I put on the light" or "I put on the electric fan." We do not use the expression "put on" to mean to "turn something on."

One of the meanings of the verb "put" is to place something in a definite place or location. Hence, we "put the plates on the dining table" and we "put the pots and pans in the pantry." We also "put on clothes" like, "I just need to put on my socks." When we're hitting light switches or electric fan switches, we're not "putting on" lights or fans or any appliance. Instead, when we want lights or fans, we say, "We turn on the lights and fans when we get home."

When we use the verb "turn," one of the things we mean is to "start a process." When we're talking about appliances, we need to switch them on to start the process that will make them work. So, when we "turn on the lights," we're starting the electrical process that makes lights work. We also say "turn off the lights" when we want to stop the process.

We do say "put out," though, when we're irritated with someone or something: "I was put out because they arrived so late!" We can also say "put on" when we're saying that someone is teasing us or giving us false information: "You say aliens exist in the Philippines? You're putting me on!"

Want to save energy? Turn off the lights when you don't need them or you might put out the environmentalists out there!

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