< Grammar and New Year’s Resolutions
By Alice Bryant
28 December 2023

The New Year comes on different dates for different cultures. And most of the Western world celebrates it on January 1st.

One thing many cultures have in common is the idea of New Year's resolutions. A New Year's resolution is a personal goal to change unwanted behavior, make a life improvement, or try something new.

In the United States, popular New Year's resolutions often include losing weight, improving your finances, volunteering for an organization, or spending less time on social media.

Everyday Grammar: Grammar and New Year's Resolutions
Everyday Grammar: Grammar and New Year's Resolutions

On today's Everyday Grammar, we will show you how to talk about resolutions in English.

Asking a question

First, let's learn how to ask people about their resolutions.

Listen to a short conversation:

Hey there, Faith. Happy New Year! Great to see you.

Hi, Greg. Happy New Year to you too! How was yours?

It was crazy! We went to New York and watched the ball drop in Times Square. It was really crowded and loud – but still really fun.

Sweet! Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

Faith asked Greg about resolutions simply by saying, "Do you have any New Year's resolutions?"

You can also say, "What are your New Year's resolutions?" to ask about more than one or "What is your New Year's resolution?" to ask about one.

Now, let's find out how to answer the question.

Using phrasal verbs

When we make statements about our resolutions, we often use phrasal verbs.

We can use the phrasal verb "take up" to say that we will start a new activity as a hobby.

Listen to Faith and Greg continue their conversation:

Sweet! Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

Yes, I do. I plan to take up kickboxing starting next week. I'm excited to finally do it rather than just talk about it! How about you?

Another phrasal verb for resolutions is "give up," which is to stop doing or using something. We can use this verb to talk about ending bad habits or changing behavior for a time.

Let's hear Faith respond using the verb "give up":

How about you?

I am giving up sugar for the month of January. Then, for the rest of the year, I'm avoiding soft drinks.

Wow! I wish I could join you but the kickboxing class starts soon. I'll probably want some sweets after class!

Another phrasal verb, "cut out," has the same basic meaning as "give up." For example, Faith could say, "I am cutting out sugar for the month of January."

But in many situations, we do not need phrasal verbs to talk about resolutions, as you will soon see.

Using future forms

Next, let's talk about verb tenses and forms. Greg talked about his new kickboxing activity using the verb "plan" followed by the infinitive verb form and Faith talked about giving up sugar using the present continuous verb tense, also called "BE + ing."

We can also use the simple future tenses: one with "will" and the other with "going to." These tenses are especially useful when the New Year has not come yet.

Imagine it's the last week of the year and a few people are talking to each other about resolutions: Here are some things you might hear:

In 2024, I'm going to visit my friends every month.

By the end of March, I will stop eating sweets.

In the new year, I'm going to practice kickboxing every week.

When we use simple future tenses to talk about resolutions, we're expressing that we are making a promise to or plan for ourselves. The noun "resolution" comes from the verb "resolve," which means to make a serious decision to do something.

Infinitives and gerunds

You may have noticed that the statements so far today did not actually use the word "resolution." That is because the subject was already known by the listeners. But it is still perfectly normal to start your statements with, "My New Year's resolution is..." or "My New Year's resolutions are..." An infinitive verb or a gerund must come after these phrases. Here is an example:

My New Year's resolution is to call my sister on video every week.

The infinitive verb here is "to call."

You can also use a gerund, like this:

My New Year's resolution is calling my sister on video every week.

Well, that's all for today's program. Tell us about your New Year's resolutions in the comments below. Or email us at learningenglish@voanews.com.

Happy New Year!

I'm Jill Robbins.

Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English.


Words in This Story

conversation – n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people


phrasal verb – n. a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a preposition or an adverb, or both

habit – n. something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way

tense – n. a form of a verb that is used to show when an action happened

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