Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Pick

So we have a World Cup winner! Or should I say two winners.

Eight picks, eight correct, eight tentacles. Paul the Oracle Octopus achieved worldwide stardom after breaking a prognostic record during the 2010 World Cup. Let's be honest, all Paul really knew or cared about was grabbing a bite to eat when he picked his meal from flag-covered boxes. His mark is impressive nonetheless, and it makes Paul a true winner.

Let's just hope our new celebrity does not end up on someone's plate in Spain or Italy, two of the countries competing to buy the Oracle Octopus.

The verb to pick is commonly used to mean the same as to choose. In my experience as a teacher of English, I have noticed that Brazilian learners tend not to, well, pick the verb to pick when they want to say "escolher" in English. I can't quite explain why this is so.

The verbs to pick and to choose are very close in meaning. Some speakers would argue that to choose is more formal in tone than to pick and that it involves more careful consideration than to pick does.

For example, a man asking a woman to marry him would probably say, "I have chosen you to be my wife, will you marry me?" This sounds more appropriate than "I have picked you to be my wife."

Conversely, it would probably sound more appropriate to say, "As a kid, I was always the last one to be picked to play soccer with my friends."

Again, this is just a general rule and different speakers are likely to have different opinions on this. It is always a good idea to pay attention to the context in which this verb is being used.

In the example of Paul the Oracle Octopus, there is a tendency to use the verb to pick when we are talking about who we think will win a competition. For example: 

  • I picked Carlos to win Big Brother right during the first week of the show because he seemed to be a very diplomatic person.
As with most structures in any language, context is king here. All you have to do is observe attentively. It's easy and fun!

additional information:

The noun form of the verb to pick is a pick, as in the sentence talking about Paul the Oracle Octopus:

  • "Eight picks, eight correct, eight tentacles."
The noun form of the verb to choose is choice, as in:

  • You have to do this now. You don't have a choice!

We can use both verbs together and have the expression to pick and choose, meaning to choose with great care or to be selective. For example:

  • I love to go to the clothes store early in the morning when it's quiet, so I can take my sweet time and pick and choose what I want to buy. 

  • In this world you have to take what life gives you, you can't pick and choose.

  • Martha is so beautiful that she can pick and choose her boyfriends.

Cick here for other meanings ot the verb to pick.

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