In charge of

If you are “in charge of” something, you are the person in control, or you are the person responsible.

Today's story: Mexico train crash
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In charge of

Today’s expression is to be “in charge of.” If you’re “in charge of” something, you are the person in control, or you are the person responsible.

You can use “in charge of” with an -ing verb or with a noun. Here’s an example using an -ing verb: JR is in charge of editing the audio of this program. He is in control and responsible for editing the audio and uploading the lessons every week to PlainEnglish.com.

Here’s an example with a noun: If you ever have a party, you can put JR in charge of the music. If you want a good soundtrack, just put JR in charge of the playlist. Make him responsible for the music, the playlist. You don’t want to put me in charge of the playlist, believe me!

Do you ever go on a road trip with your spouse or a close friend? If so, you might divide the responsibilities. One person might be in charge of driving, while the other person might be in charge of navigation.

You can say that a person is in charge, or you can say that an organization is in charge. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in charge of issuing social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Drug Administration was in charge of approving vaccines and treatments. Neither of those is a person, but we say those agencies are in control of, or have responsibility for, certain things.

Here’s how you heard it in today’s lesson. In Mexico, the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, is in charge of acquiring the coronavirus vaccine. That means he (a person) has responsibility for acquiring enough doses. When Line 12 of Mexico City’s metro was built , a Mexico City government agency was in charge of its construction. A government agency supervised and had responsibility for the line’s construction. And Marcelo Ebrard was the mayor of Mexico City at the time, and the mayor is in charge of the local city government agencies. So he will be in the uncomfortable position of answering questions about how the line was built back in 2012.

We can also use the term “in charge” to say that someone has overall responsibility for a situation. If you ask the question, “Who’s in charge?” You are asking, “who has responsibility here?” For example, let’s say you work for a local health department and you walk into a restaurant for a surprise inspection. You look around and find all kinds of violations. You ask the people there, “Who’s in charge?” You want to talk to the most senior person there. You want to find the person with responsibility for the kitchen. Who’s in charge? That would be either the owner or the manager on duty.

We also sometimes say “leave someone in charge.” I went on vacation a few weeks ago and I had a few projects going on at work. I was in charge of those projects, but I was going to be away for a whole week. Believe me when I tell you, I didn’t want to be in charge of anything while I was on vacation. So I left someone else in charge. When I left someone else in charge, I told him that he had responsibility for the project while I was away. “I’m leaving you in charge,” I said. That means, I was giving him control and responsibility during my absence.

Quote of the Week

Time for a quote of the week. It’s by Walter F. Mondale. Walter Mondale was vice president of the US during the late 1970s and he died this month at the age of 95. He said, “If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused.”

I like that. You need to always be doubting yourself. There’s always more to learn. “If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused,” said Walter Mondale.

See you next time!

And that’s all for today’s Plain English. Congratulations for reaching the end of another lesson. Remember the full lesson is online at PlainEnglish.com/366.

Coming up on Thursday: have you ever worked all day, and felt like you haven’t gotten anything done? If so—and that has happened to me both in my day job and at Plain English—then the reason might just be something called “cognitive switching.” We’ll talk about what that is, and how to cut down on it, on Thursday’s program. See you then!

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Story: Mexico train crash