The first month of 2020 (twenty-twenty) has just finished! It’s been a busy month, but with 11 more months to go, the year is still new enough to wish everyone a Happy New Year – one full of joy, travels, and discovery …
Speaking of discover, English has several verbs to describe ways to experience new sights, new places, new knowledge.
Discover is a Latin-based word and has a fairly specific use in English:
We “discover” things when they are not expected: We say that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America – that is, he did not expect to find it.
Discover also applies to when something is revealed for the first time: Benjamin Franklin is said to have “discovered” electricity because his experiment with the kite and key proved to the world for the first time that lightning was a form of electricity.
On a personal level, we can “discover” new things about ourselves – things we did not expect to realize or maybe admit.
A Common Mistake with “Discover”:
In English, we do not usually say that we are going to “discover” a new place when we travel.
NO: “I want to discover North America!” (It’s already been discovered)
YES: “I want to discover a new way to get to North America from the North Pole!” (a first time)
YES: “I discovered that I prefer taking a cruise ship to North America. (Didn’t expect to)
Let’s say I’m on vacation with my family: we get to our airBnB, drop off our stuff, and get ready to head out the door. Are we going to “discover” this new place? In many languages, “discover” includes the sense of “getting to know” a place. But not in English.
Instead, we would probably say, “Let’s go explore;” or “Let’s walk around; or “Let’s go check out that beach!”
Still, it is possible to “discover” a lovely café, a special shop, or an outdoor market – i.e, someplace that you did not expect to find.
The following are some other verbs to express “discover” in English; these verbs are forms of discovery but in a different way or on a lesser scale than discovering a new land or scientific breakthrough.
The irregular verb Find (found, found) can be used for describing something you did not expect to uncover or locate: “Cool! I just found $20 in my pocket!” or “I’ve been looking for my friend everywhere and finally found him:
This phrasal verb is mainly used when we are seeking information
as in: “Can you find out what time the restaurant opens?”
Or you can use “find out” … to check out or verify something, as in:
“Let’s find out what’s on the other side of the bridge.”
When you arrive in a new place, it is natural to want to “explore” it – that is, to go walking or hiking to admire buildings or nature, architecture or beaches, or generally trying to learn about the new place.
Wherever you live or travel, it’s always fun to simply “walk around” – meaning to walk somewhere with no particular goal, but just for pleasure. You might see something new — but even if you do not, it will probably still be a fun walk:
“We spent the afternoon walking around the city and discovered a wonderful little café.
The most difficult form of discovery is probably learning from experience. This is because it usually involves an awkward or challenging moment that makes you want to change your ways so it won’t happen again.
The following is a true story told to me by a French student. The woman had gone with a friend to a coffee shop in New York and ordered a croissant from the waitress. Here’s what happened next:
What The Student Thought She Said:
“Could you heat the croissant?”
What the Waitress Heard:
“Could you HIT the croissant?”
What The Student Thought She Said, Again:
“Could you heat the croissant?”
What the Waitress Thought She Meant, the second time:
“You want ME to eat the croissant?!”