Kassy: The way I want to break this down is by talking about a car. So if you’re driving a car, and if you hit something going at a slow speed, your car isn’t, you know, severely damaged, but it gets a dent. It’s when the metal bends slightly forward. So when we use the expression to not make a dent in something, it means that you’re not able to do something in such a way that you can’t even scratch the surface, you can’t even get started on that project.
Something is happening to block you from doing even the most basic thing.
Andrew: Yeah, so maybe you have a big job to do, and you feel like you only accomplished 1% of that job, then in that kind of situation, you could say, “I didn’t even make a dent in it.” It’s just another way to say that you didn’t make any progress or you didn’t make any impact in the work that you’re trying to do. And, Kassy, I think this word is a good one to know, dent. It’s one of those like higher level words, it’s maybe not a word that we use every day, but I think it’s very natural.
And of course, in the right situation, it’s appropriate. I was thinking, Kassy, we could play a little game here. And that is let’s go back and forth and try and list things that you can dent, things that are dentable.
Kassy: I like this. OK.
Andrew: So, you already said car bumper. So I’m going to respond with car door, you could dent your car door. You know, if you open the door, and you hit another car, maybe you’ll get a little fold in the metal in your car door. So I’m gonna say car door.
Kassy: OK, you can dent a can, if you drop a can of soup on the floor, the lid could be dented.
Andrew: You could also dent the side of, really, any metal surface. I’m thinking that I was worried the other day that I was going to put a dent in my washing machine because I park my bicycle right beside my washing machine. And if I don’t take my bicycle out of that little spot beside my washing machine carefully, then it’s possible that I could put a dent in the side of it. So you could dent any kind of metal appliance, as well.
Kassy: Yeah, exactly. I’m pretty sure you can dent anything that is made out of a thin sheet of metal, or maybe even a thin sheet of plastic.
Andrew: Yeah, so maybe we could summarize it here, because, Kassy, I’m going to forfeit this game because I’m tapped on all of the things I can think of that you can dent. Congratulations on the victory. But maybe we could say that you could put a dent, or you could dent, any kind of soft, pliable surface where you can make an indentation, right? Indentation into it. So, anything that doesn’t break or rip, but you just get a little indentation instead of a break or hole then, then that is a dent.
So now that we really, really, really understand this word dent and we know that the full expression to not make a dent in something means to not make any progress towards finishing your work or achieving your goal, I think now we are ready to listen to a couple of example conversations. So, Kassy, let’s do example conversation #1 right now.
Kassy: Yes, let’s do it.
Friend 1: What did you do today?
Friend 2: I spent all morning cleaning my house and reorganizing my room. My back is killing me right now.
Friend 1: That sucks. But your place must look great now.
Friend 2: Not even. I didn’t even make a dent in it. I’m far from finished.
Friend 1: Well, if you need some help tomorrow, just let me know. I could stop by and help you for an hour or two.
Friend 2: Nah, I should be fine. But if I do need the help, I’ll text you.
Andrew: Let’s break this example down. So we just heard a conversation between two friends and one of the friends is reorganizing her room and cleaning her house. And she was complaining that her back is sore because she’s been working so hard all day. But unfortunately, even though she put in a lot of effort and was working really hard towards cleaning her house and reorganizing her room, she’s far from finished. She still has a long way to go.
She said that she didn’t even make a dent in cleaning her house and reorganizing her room. So that means, like, maybe she’s done 2%, 3%, just a very small percentage of the total amount of work that needs to be done.
Kassy: I can feel her pain, Andrew. I feel like anytime I clean, I’m never putting any dent in my work, it just goes on forever.
Andrew: I think a lot of people will sympathize with you here, Kassy, in that it feels like whenever you’re doing chores around the house that you never make a dent in them. You do the dishes and then like 3 hours later, you eat another meal and you have to do the dishes again. It’s just a never-ending cycle.
Kassy: Exactly. Well, shall we listen to example 2?
Andrew: Yep, let’s do it.
Friend 1: I feel so ripped off.
Friend 2: Why is that?
Friend 1: Well, last week, I spilled a glass of red wine on my sofa, and I made this huge stain. So, I bought this stain remover cleaning product that I saw advertised on TV that promised it can remove any stain from any surface.
Friend 2: Let me guess, it didn’t work very well?
Friend 1: Yeah, it didn’t even make a dent in the stain. There’s still this huge red spot on my sofa.
Friend 2: Take it back for a refund.
Friend 1: Yeah, I’m going to.
Kassy: All right, in this example conversation, two friends are talking. And one, she’s not really talking, she’s complaining. She got a big stain on her sofa, spilling a glass of red wine. And she buys this cleaning product to remove it and it is not effective at all. It doesn’t even make a dent in the stain. The stain is very much still visible.
Andrew: So, we can visualize a red wine stain. I think most people can visualize that, it’s really, really obvious and very, very prominent, right? If you spill that on your sofa, you’re like, “Oh my god, I messed up, right?” It’s a big, big problem. So she bought this stain remover, but it didn’t make a dent. It maybe only removed like 1% of the stain and the other 99% remains. So that sounds like false advertising to me, Kassy.
Kassy: Yes. Those are the worst.
Andrew: The worst. All right. So, guys, why don’t we move on to the second key expression for today’s episode. And it’s another one about when you’re putting in effort and you’re working towards achieving a goal but you’re just getting nowhere, you’re getting no results and you’re not getting any closer towards finishing or achieving your goal. And this expression is to go round in circles, to go round in circles. Kassy, I think we could say also to go around in circles.
But to me it feels more comfortable or normal to say to go round in circles. So, guys, it’s your option, you could say to go around or you could say to go round. But both of them have essentially the same meaning. And, yeah, that is just to work hard, but make no progress. Kassy, when you hear this expression, what image pops into your mind? I wonder if we have the same visualization for this one.
Kassy: It reminds me of a merry-go-round that you can’t get off of. You just go round and round and round.
Andrew: OK, that’s interesting. For me, I think of a hamster in a running wheel. And they’re putting in a lot of effort. They’re running really fast, but they’re not moving anywhere, right? They’re just staying in the same spot.
Kassy: I like that better.
Andrew: So actually, I think that is the perfect image, because the hamster is putting in effort and trying to go forward, right? But they just don’t realize that they’re stuck in a wheel that’s just spinning round and round, and they’re not going forward at all.
Andrew: All right, guys, well, I think we should listen to some example conversations and through the conversations, you’ll get a better feeling for the meaning of this expression and how we can use it in a real-life situation. So, let’s take a listen to the first example conversation right now.
Kassy: Let’s do it.
Friend 1: How’s the apartment hunt going?
Friend 2: Not so well. I feel like I’m just going around in circles. First, I find a place that sounds good, then I make an appointment to check it out. And then there’s always something wrong with it. It smells weird, the walls are a weird colour, the rent is too high, the faucet leaks, or something like that.
Friend 1: Well, I just heard today that Jeff is planning to move out of his place. His apartment is amazing. You’ve been there, right?
Friend 2: Yeah, his place is gorgeous. I’m going to give him a call right now and see if I can possibly take over his contract. This is gonna be great.
Andrew: Let’s break this example conversation down. So in that conversation, we heard about a woman who feels like she’s just going round in circles trying to find an apartment. So that means that she’s working really hard towards trying to find a new apartment to live in, but is making no progress. So she keeps on repeating this kind of cycle where she locates and finds an apartment to check out, then she takes a look at it, and there’s a problem with that place.
So then she has to go back to the start and begin again, find another place to check out, make an appointment to see it, and then there’s a problem with it. And it’s just going around in a circle. She’s not getting any closer, even though she’s putting in the effort and time to try and find an apartment.
Kassy: Exactly. This actually just happened to me recently when I was looking for apartments in Thailand.
Andrew: I think it is pretty common, actually, in this kind of situation to go around in circles. Looking for an apartment, apartment hunting as we call it, is no fun usually.
Kassy: Well, let’s take a listen to example #2.
Andrew: Yeah, let’s do it.
Coworker 2: Did you make a decision about next quarter’s advertising strategy during the meeting today?
Coworker 1: Unfortunately, no. We debated about it for hours, but we just kept going around in circles.
Coworker 2: Doesn’t management want you to present your idea by next week?
Coworker 1: Yeah, so that’s the problem. Everyone on the team is getting pretty stressed out. And we’re going to meet again tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be able to come up with a plan then that everybody’s happy with.
Kassy: In this example conversation, two coworkers are talking about the last meeting. This meeting, they’re trying to plan some sort of advertising strategy, but it is just not going well. Everybody in the meeting is just debating back and forth, over and over, going around in circles, and they can’t make a good decision.
Andrew: Yeah, and this is a really, really common situation to use this expression in is when you’re in a meeting that’s very unproductive, right? Maybe many people have opinions or different thoughts or different feelings. And you can’t come to a consensus, you can’t agree on one final resolution or one final outcome. And then everybody feels frustrated, like, “Oh, we just wasted all this time. We spent all this time debating, and we got no result or no conclusion.”
So, yeah, that kind of situation, you could say you’re going round in circles. And it’s really, really common in this kind of meeting or debate or any situation like that.
Kassy: To summarize what we’ve covered today, we learned two expressions about not making any progress towards achieving your goal. The first expression was to not make a dent in something, which means to make very little progress towards achieving your goal. And the second expression was to go round in circles, which means to waste time and energy towards achieving a goal but making little to no progress towards completing it.
Andrew: That brings us to the end of this lesson. Talk to you next time. Bye.