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As an example, consider this sentence:

When Roger Federer plays tennis, he just "makes it look so easy".

A single word or maybe a smaller phrase that I could replace it with?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

"Roger Federer plays tennis effortlessly".

It is shorter, but "makes it looks easy" is better writing, IMHO. Brevity is not ALWAYS the soul of wit.

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Yes, but "Brevity is the soul of lingerie." (Dorothy Parker) – rajah9 Aug 9 '11 at 16:24
Brilliant! I laughed out loud...had not heard that one. – Chris B. Behrens Aug 9 '11 at 21:41

In addition to the other answers which have discussed your specific example, if you want to generalize a task is easy for someone expert at it, the popular phrases are

That was a "piece of cake" for him

That was "easy as pie" for him

and a single word,

That was a "cakewalk" for him

Examples from the link above -

"winning the tournament was a cakewalk for him"; "invading Iraq won't be a cakewalk"

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So the original sentence could be rephrased as "For Roger Federer, tennis is a cakewalk"? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 9 '11 at 16:04
@Frust: Grammatically Yes. But in reality, I would say "That match was an absolute cakewalk for Roger" and it would be correct. For Roger might not feel tennis is always a cakewalk. – JoseK Aug 9 '11 at 16:06
I guess when you say "cakewalk", it would mean that it was an easy match for Roger. But when I say "makes it look easy", what I am trying to convey here is, when Roger plays the game, it doesn't matter how tough his opponent is, but he seems to play it in an effortless manner as @Chris B. Behrens put it. – gofeddy Aug 9 '11 at 16:14

I don't think there is such a one word version of that idea in English.

To say Roger Federer plays tennis "effortlessly" is decidedly NOT the same thing as him making it look easy. In fact, the magic of some gifted athletes--this is often said of figure ice skaters--is that they make something that is, even for them, obviously difficult and full of effort look easy.

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Agreed - there is a difference between merely doing something effortlessly and doing something in a way that makes it APPEAR effortless. But it was the closest thing I could come up with that was also shorter...that's part of way I recommended not using it :). – Chris B. Behrens Aug 10 '11 at 15:04

You can use the phrase "and as always, it seems so effortless for him." In the sentence it would be "That match seemed so effortless for Roger Federer, as always."

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@Chris B. Behrens correctly identifies the intended meaning in OP's context, but the question title is at the very least ambiguous.

We can assume that when Roger Federer plays tennis, his primary concern is to win the match. He's not really interested in showing others how easy it is to become a world-class player. OP's sentence is a simple description of how he plays (or appears to play, since I'm sure in reality it's not at all easy, even for him).

On the other hand, if a skilled teacher makes it look easy he is doing something totally different, and he may in fact need to put considerable effort into successfully demystifying his subject.

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I understand the ambiguity in the question title. I guess it should be "makes it look easy" in the context of a person 'doing/working' on something rather than actually "making things seem easier to understand" for someone else. – gofeddy Aug 9 '11 at 16:08
@venividivamos: If we're going to be precise, "making things seem easier to understand" isn't really what you want a good teacher to do. You want him to really make them easier to understand, not just seem so. Unlike in Federer's case, where we don't really care how hard it really is for him - just that he doesn't seem to be struggling. – FumbleFingers Aug 9 '11 at 17:08

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