Today’s expression is “walk by.” This is an interesting one. So you know the word “walk,” right. “Walk by” means to pass something while walking. When we use “walk by,” we always need an object. “Walk by (something).” There’s always something that you pass; there’s something you approach and you continue walking without stopping.
The other day, I walked by the Damen Avenue Brown Line station here in Chicago and I noticed that a longtime restaurant near the station is closing. What’s going on here? I was walking. I didn’t really stop. On my walk, I passed the Damen Avenue station. And when I passed the station, while I was walking, I noticed that a longtime restaurant near the station is going to close soon.
So I walked by the station and I walked by the restaurant. I walked on the street, but I didn’t stop for any length of time.
The Art Institute of Chicago has two famous lion sculptures by the entrance. They’ve been there since 1894. But the pedestrians who walked by the Art Institute in July would have missed the lions: they had been removed for cleaning. The pedestrians who walked on South Michigan Avenue and who passed the Art Institute would have missed the lions; they were not there.
I want you to notice the difference between “walk by” and “walk to.” If you “walk to” a museum, you start at your hotel, you walk, you get to the museum, and you stop. The museum is your destination. If you walk to a park, the park is your destination. But if you walk by a park, you’re walking somewhere else, but there’s a park on your way. You see it as you continue going.
Earlier today, you heard that electric cars don’t make as much noise as cars with internal combustion engines. That’s a problem for all pedestrians. But it’s a bigger problem for anyone whose sight is impaired. And it’s a problem for anyone who is distracted by a smartphone screen on the street.
And I challenged you to go to a city streetcorner, the next time you’re in a busy area, go to a streetcorner and look at the people walking by. Look at the people who walk by that busy streetcorner—the people who are on their way from one place to another. And notice how many of the people walking by have their noses in a smartphone screen. Whether they know it or not, they’re putting extra reliance on their ears to detect nearby traffic.
You can say, “walk right by” in two scenarios. First, if it’s surprising that a person continued walking. Here’s something that sometimes happens in the winter. The sidewalks are icy and someone falls down. Then, other pedestrians walk right by! They don’t stop to help the person up. They walk right by. We say “walk right by” if it’s surprising that a person doesn’t stop.
Second, you can say, “walk right by” if you make a special effort not to stop. If you walk around a big city in the United States for long enough—especially on the weekends—you’ll probably see canvassers. These are people who want you to sign a petition or join a mailing list. They often get paid by the number of signatures they collect, so they try to use every possible tactic to get you to stop and sign their clipboard.
I always walk right by. I don’t stop, not for any reason. Even if I might sympathize with their cause, I walk right by. These people have a right to be there; that’s fine. But I think it’s annoying and borderline harassment. I walk right by.
Quote of the Week
Last Thursday, I told you about the painting I liked at the art museum in Kansas City. So today, I picked a quote by the artist of that painting, Camille Pissarro. Here’s the quote: “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” That translation has a little bit of antiquated English, but here’s what it means: You’re lucky if you can see beautiful things in ordinary places. You’re lucky if you see beauty in ordinary places, because most people don’t.
I like that. So here’s that quote again from the French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
See you next time!
That’s it for today, lesson number 498. I can’t believe it; we are getting so close to 500. So here’s how this is going to work. Thursday’s lesson, number 499, will be all about Chicago, the city JR and I live in. Many of you have clamored for a travel lesson about Chicago, and on Thursday I will make your wish come true.
And then for lesson 500, JR and I will both tell you what we like best about Chicago, our favorite things, our favorite places. We will live stream that lesson from my home office on September 3; that’s this Saturday, five days away! It will be at 9:00 a.m. New York time.
And since we’ll be doing it live on Instagram and Facebook, there will be pictures. So if you watch the live stream, you’ll see some pictures about the things we’re talking about. Yes, the audio will come out at the normal time, but to get the full experience, you’ll want to join us live on Facebook and Instagram on September 3.
So like I said, it’s at 9:00 a.m. New York time, 10 a.m. in Brazil, 3 p.m. Central European Time, 9 p.m. in Taiwan and Hong Kong, 10 p.m. in Tokyo. Got that? All the times are at PlainEnglish.com/500, so you don’t forget!