Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year!

This will be a quick post as I'm still running around due to the holidays. I was in Baguio having a blast at a vacation with my in-laws. Needless to say, there was no Internet where I was. Anyway, I just want to remind everybody that the word "gift" is pronounced with an "f" sound and not a "p" sound. It's "giFts" NOT "giPs."

Happy New Year to one and all! Thanks for reading and see you all in 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

To, Towards, and Toward

The three words in my title are all prepositions that are used when something or someone is moving in the direction of another. All three mean the same thing. I've blogged about to before but I'd like to briefly discuss toward and towards.

Both words mean the same thing: "We're moving towards Makati now" or "We're moving toward Makati now." There is no real difference between the two words; they can be used interchangeably. However, we do not omit either word. We never say, "We're moving Makati now," which completely changes the meaning of the sentence.

Towards and toward can also be used to mean something more than just movement from place to place. They can also talk about a favorable change: "The Philippines is moving towards a better economy, I hope."

Enjoy Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


As much as I hear people misusing "to," I hear them misusing the preposition "for" as well. Now, like "to," "for" has many uses but I will blog about them one at a time.

One use of "for" has something to do with time. We use it to show a certain period of time or how long something will last. So, we say,

We will wait for you for five minutes and then we will leave.
My love affair with him lasted for two years.
I was abroad for two weeks.

However, we don't use "for" before "all" or "whole." It's NOT, "It was sunny for all day." Neither do we use "for" with "forever:" "I will love you forever."

In informal English, though, "for" can be taken out: "I've been waiting an hour for her!" Or, "The intermission will last five minutes."

Christmas here in the Philippines lasts for months! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2007

To and At

I hear so many mistakes about the preposition to that I've decided to write about it a bit more. The most basic use of this is to describe movement: "I'm going to the mall." However, this can also express time, as in, "The show will be from 7.30pm to 9pm."

Now, this post is about the difference between to and at. I've recently been hearing people say, "I'm going at Megamall" which is incorrect. Although both are prepositions of place, each has a different meaning. We use to when we're talking about movement and at when we're talking about a position. Check out this sentence: "We are going to the cafe we were at yesterday." If you look at the sentence, the speaker saying that he/she is going to a the cafe he/she was in yesterday.

The same rule applies to time. To is used when there's a movement of time (7pm to 9pm) while at is used for a particular position in time ("the show is at 7pm). We never say "the show is at 7pm to 9pm." Rather, it's "the show is from 7pm to 9pm."

Where to are you all going for the holidays?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reserve a Seat

I saw a tarpaulin poster for a concert of sorts at Eastwood with a note that said something like "Reserve a seat to the theater." It's with the use of to that this entry is concerned with.

The correct expression really is "reserve a seat for the show." There's no need to use "theater" because it's assumed that whoever is watching will be in the theater. It's like saying, "reserve seats for the basketball game." If you want to use "theater," you can say, "call the theater to reserve seats for the show."

I'm watching a classical music concert with my buddy Maisa in January. We're already reserving seats for the show, I think.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Subject To The Approval Of

My aunt Myra, who graciously sends me ideas for this blog, mentioned this very typical error: "This is subject for approval." Most Pinoys seem to think that "for" is the correct preposition here when in reality, it should be "to." The full expression is actually, "subject to the approval of." We never say, "subject for approval."

It actually annoys me when I see notices with errors like this. I think, as with all errors, this started from one person who everyone decided to copy. The even more irritating thing is that since this mistake is so prevalent, a lot of people think of it as gospel truth and we wind up with a whole country of people making the mistake.

It's been a very tough last few days and now I'm sick with a cold again. Still, this promises to be a happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Accident Prone

Happy Saturday, everyone! It's been a very busy last three days and work is not over yet. I'm working overtime tomorrow on account of the coming Christmas holidays when the office usually closes so I don't expect to be able to post till around Monday or Tuesday. Here's a quick post and then I'm off to work again.

While traveling down Santolan the other day, I saw this road sign: "Accident Prone." Now, the sign was placed on a rather dangerous curve on the road, which is why it's meaning was pretty clear to me. However, this is pretty bad English! In the first place, "accident prone" is a modifier, it explains something. Like all modifiers, it's not a stand-alone expression. What it modifies has got to be clear. What the sign should have said is, "Accident Prone Area." That way, motorists will easily figure out what "accident prone" is referring to.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shake That Fruit!

The other day, I went to the Ongpin area for a foodie's day out. We had a wonderful paella lunch at the supposed oldest restaurant in Manila, Ambos Mundos, on C. Florentino street and then we walked to Ongpin for goodies (tikoy with peanuts, yum!). While walking, I saw a very cheery sign which said, "Shake DAT Fruit!

Now, the sign was very pretty and very appetizing. It belonged to a fruit stall which made fruit shakes, hence, "shake dat fruit." The store and its goods aside, I'm more concerned with the quality of the English shown here.

I don't know whether it's because of text language or because Filipinos often mistake the "d" sound for the "th" sound, but there are so many instances of "th" words" spelled with "d." How many times will you encounter "dat" instead of "that," "da" or "d" instead of "the" and "dey" instead of "they"? Indeed, these popular text-speak shortcuts worry me because I think they're helping in the degeneration of the English spoken and used here. For one, this problem wreaks havoc on spelling. Also, I think this mistake is adding to pronunciation problems. Since "th" words are often spelled with "d," many Pinoys forget how to properly pronounce the sound (see my previous post on pronouncing "th").

Please, text-speak is fine if you're sending a text message but be aware of the proper way to spell and say words. If you're a Filipino trying to get a job abroad, remember, not all people use text-speak the way we do and some people might not understand you if you pronounce words like "the" with "d."

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I had some computer problems.

S-V Agreement: Them

Subject-verb agreement is one of the most basic elements of English. It's one of the first things we learn in English class. However, as I have pointed out before, s-v agreement can be really tricky and many persist in making the most basic mistakes.

Consider the verb that goes with the pronoun, them. Now, them refers to several people, which means it requires a plural verb. Why, then, do I keep hearing my students say something like, "most of them watches TV," or "most of them is interested in nursing." Since them requires a plural verb, the correct thing to say is, "most of them watch TV" and "most of them are interested in nursing." Fact is, the expression, most of them, really refers to several people, which means a plural verb.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I Have Been

Sometimes, when I ask people what they do for a living, they say something like, "I am a nurse for three years now." If you've been reading my previous posts on perfect tenses, you will notice the error in this statement.

Let's analyze the statement further: the present tense of the verb, "am," means something that is true at this point in time or today. So if you say "I am a nurse," then it means that you're a nurse today (not tomorrow, not yesterday). Now, looking at the statement, the speaker is saying that she started being a nurse three years ago and she is still a nurse today. Since there's a progression from the past to the present, the perfect tense would be more appropriate.

Here's the corrected statement: "I have been a nurse for three years now." The perfect tense (have been) shows us that something started in the past and has continued into the present.

I have been a teacher for 10 years now.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Demand A Receipt

My aunt Myra sent me a message the other day about a sign that many Philippine restaurants have: "Please demand for your receipt." I appreciate restaurants informing their consumers about the right to get a receipt but there's an English problem here.

When it comes to using the word, demand, we don't need to use "for." Some expressions using this word are "demand an apology," "demand that they return your money," "demand a raise." When it comes to receipts, we just have to say, "Upon payment, please demand a receipt."

I think the error of saying "please demand for your receipt" comes from the confusion between "demand" and "ask." When we use "ask," we add for: "Please ask for your receipt." Either way, though, we don't say, "demand your receipt" or "ask your receipt."


Thursday, December 6, 2007

For The Benefit Of

We often hear people say "for the benefit of" when they speak of doing something for someone: "I'm doing this for the benefit of my mother," "we must call off classes for the benefit of the students," "we bought this for your benefit." Now, you may wonder why we use the word "benefit" instead of its plural, "benefits." After all, sometimes, a person can receive more than one benefit from one action.

The thing is, in the case of this expression, "benefit" is used as a collective noun. In other words, it is a singular noun but it may encompass many things--all the effects, or benefits, of doing that certain action. We never say, "for the benefits of."

Enjoy this rainy day!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

At This Point in Time

Sorry for the erratic posting. I've really been so busy and next week isn't going to be much better in terms of free time. Considering this, my blog topic for today is quite timely.

Some years ago, I remember hearing a priest say, "at this point of time." I thought it was a fluke, that he was just one guy who did not know the correct expression. Fact is, I've been hearing people say "at this point of time" more often now.

The correct expression is, "at this point in time." If you think about it, we're all surrounded by time, we're "in" time everyday of our lives! Hence, "in" is the more appropriate preposition here.

Don't waste time!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Have Free Time

While teaching an English class for adults, I heard one of my students say, "When I have a free time, I like to watch movies." I'd like to concentrate on "when I have a free time." That class was not the first time I heard this error. In fact, I hear it fairly frequently.

The correct expression does not use the article "a:" "when I have free time." As an article, "a" is used if you're talking about one thing among many: "a bag," "a watch," "a movie," "a song." In all four examples, the person is talking about a particular bag, watch, movie, or song. We know that there are many varieties of these things. Consider this dialogue:

Prixie: I think I want to watch a movie today (there are many movies, but I'm only interested in one).
Chris: Ok, what movie?
Prixie: How about "Enchanted?"
Chris: Is that supposed to be a good movie (there are many good movies, is this one of them)?

Following the proper use of the article "a," we can see that "a free time" is incorrect. Free time, after all, does not come in varieties. When we say "free time," we always mean "time to do something other than work," or "time to do something fun." Even if you spend your free time doing a variety of activities, there is still just one free time.

Enjoy your free time today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Video!!

Chris attended a lecture the other day and noted two mispronunciations of the word, video. It seems that some Filipinos, even highly-educated ones, don't know how to pronounce this word.
He said that there were speakers who pronounced the word as "beedio." This is actually the most common Pinoy way of saying the word. I think it stems from the Filipino problems with the "b" and "i" sounds, which I've blogged about before.

The second way Chris heard the word mispronounced is one I've not heard ever: one of the major speakers said "veedeio." The explanation for this I can think of is that perhaps the speaker had not been exposed to the correct pronunciation of the word, which is why he thought it was pronounced with separate "e" and "o" sounds.

Here's the correct way of saying "video."

I hope all is well with everyone and that no one got caught in the mess in Makati yesterday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Conducive for What?

I've heard people describe certain places as "conducive." Let's say they're talking about their study areas and they say, "My study area is conducive." Much as I admire the use of vocabulary, we never just describe something as "conducive."

The word conducive means "ideal for a certain situation." As such, it doesn't work as an adjective on it's own. For the word to make sense, it has to be attached to the situation it is describing. If you say, "My study area is conducive," the meaning of your sentence is unclear because you didn't say what your study area is conducive for or why your study area is conducive. The correct way of using the word would be, "My study area is conducive for working silently." Or, you can use the word to say something negative, "My study area is not conducive for work because I share it with my younger brother who always makes a lot of noise."

This rainy weather is conducive for sleep.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Farther and Further

Wow, it's been three days since my last post! Once again, I've been swamped and my job sometimes requires that I work through the weekend. The good news is, I've been collecting more topics to blog about. Here's the first one:

Yesterday, right before taking a u-turn in a really crowded road, I suggested to my husband Chris that he make the u-turn a little farther down the road as the u-turn slot we were at was so crowded. I then realized that I had to blog about the word "farther" and its difference from "further."

"Farther" and "further," despite only a difference of one vowel, mean two different things. We use "farther" when we're talking about physical distance. For example, although we can get to both Megamall and Shangri-la from Edsa, Shangri-la is farther down Edsa than Megamall if you're coming from Cubao. So, if you're close to a crowded u-turn slot, you might want to take the u-turn slot farther down the road which is less crowded.

"Further," on the other hand, has something to do with thoughts and ideas. You take an idea further if you want to discuss it some more or think of its consequences. For instance, if I want to take this blog further, I will probably consider making it more interactive with quizzes and games and all.

Maybe I should take this blog further?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Being Fond of Someone and Being In Love

A heard a student a couple of days ago saying, "I am in fond of him." This is clearly incorrect as there is no such expression as "in fond of." Instead, we say, "I am fond of him/her/that." Obviously, the mix-up comes from the expression, "I am in love with him/her/that."

Why is it that we say "fond of" and "in love with?" Honestly, I don't know. This is a question of usage or convention more than anything. I'd like to think of this question in terms of images: when we're in love, we're really into a person. We're crazy about the person we're in love with! We're into his face, hands, hobbies, fears, passions, etc. The image I get is someone who is all over another person, holding him, hugging him, kissing him. People in love almost want to absorb the person they love! This is different from when we're fond of something.

When we're fond of something or someone, we like that person or thing very strongly, like the way we like and love a best friend or a favorite toy. Still, we are not into that person or thing. For example, we may know our best friends well but we don't know them as well as we know our spouses or partners.

Hence, we fall in love with a partner and we are fond of a friend (unless you start falling in love with your friend).

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's "Nurse!"

I don't know why I keep encountering this pronunciation error. When I come in contact with Filipina nurses trying to work abroad, many of them say, "I am a nurst." I always wonder where the "t" sound is coming from as it's obvious that the word ends with an "s" and not a "t."

Anyone care to offer a theory about why this error happens?

Sometimes, I think it's the stress. Nurses have to cope with so much in order to work abroad that some mistakes are liable to be made along the way.

It's not "nurst," it's "nurse!"

I hope nurses read my blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


While reading Neil Gaiman's comic "Dream Country," I was reminded of a grammar question that I wanted answered. The question is, "what verb do we use with the word, all?" As many of you know, all is a word which means "total or complete"-- "all my copies of Gaiman's Sandman are accounted for" (I have several copies and the total number is available to me).

I did some research and I found out that whether the word takes a plural or singular verb depends on the noun that all refers to. For example, "all my books are in my library" (the noun being referred to is books, a plural noun). From sappy love songs and cards, we get the expression, "all that matters is you," where all refers to you, a singular entity.

I hope all is well with everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

S-V Agreement: A Lot Of

Sometimes, it can be messy to figure out the verb that goes with expressions like a lot of or a/the majority of. These phrases indicate a quantity without mentioning the exact number. For example, "a lot of students," "a majority of teachers." In both cases, the verb to be used is plural: "a lot of students were" and "the majority of teachers are."

I think people sometimes use the singular verb because a lot of and the majority of sound like collective nouns, hence, the possibility of using the singular. However, the verb is plural because the noun attached to the expression is plural. "Students" and "teachers" are both examples of plural nouns.

I hope a lot of people are reading me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amount Is And Amounts Are

Hi everyone! I didn't get to post yesterday as I was so tired from the Baguio trip, all I wanted to do was lie down and take it easy. I'm getting pretty busy these days but I will constantly update this blog. Anyway, here's today's post:

While checking a bunch of papers today, I came across several instances of people writing, "the amount are." I think what's causing this problem is the assumption that the word amount is a collective noun, hence, being able to take the plural and the singular. Fact is, amount is not a collective noun, which means it has a plural and a singular form. So, if you're using amount (singular), the verb is singular as well-- "the amount is." However, if you're talking about several amounts (plural), then, "the amounts are."

Here are some examples:
The amount that we must pay is not as big as I thought.
The amounts of raw materials needed for this project are varied.
Is this the correct amount of flour?
Are these amounts of flour, sugar, and chocolate chips the right ones?

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fickle and Pickle

While in the bus on the road to Baguio, we got to watch snatches of mind-numbing, inane, Philippine TV. We saw a bit of a game show and a bit of a variety show. In one of the shows, I heard the host say "pickle-minded" instead of "fickle-minded."

Now, "fickle" and "pickle" are two very different words. When you describe someone as "fickle," you're saying that he/she easily changes his/her mind. You're fickle if you go to a shoe store, pick one pair of shoes, then decide you want another pair instead. After deciding on the new pair, you change your mind again and decide to go with the first pair you chose. So, a "fickle-minded person" is someone who constantly changes his/her mind.

A "pickle" on the other hand, is a vegetable preserved in a vinegar or salt solution. It's something eaten. There is no such thing as a "pickle-minded" person. The word can also be used to describe a mess or some trouble someone is in: "He got caught cheating. He is in a pickle now."

I know that the mispronunciation stems from the "p" and "f" problem that many Pinoys have. Pinoy English speakers tend to pronounce the "f" sound for the "p" sound and vice versa. Please, if you have this problem, be conscious of it. Listen to the correct pronunciation of the words here: "fickle" and "pickle."

Actually, we don't even have to say "fickle-minded." Being fickle is a state of mind. Adding "minded" to the word just adds mental clutter.

If you're planning on working in an English-speaking country like the U.S. or Australia, learn to say "fickle" right. If not, you might find yourself in a pickle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Going Out On A Limb

I mentioned in an early post that I would write about English idiomatic expressions. I started with one on the expression, "barking up the wrong tree." Today, I would like to write about "going out on a limb."

Most idiomatic expressions work by playing with images. In the expression, "going out on a limb," the image we see is someone who is on a tree branch crawling to the end of that branch to get something. If you think about it, it's a very dangerous position for a human being to be in (who would want to crawl on a tree branch?).

Following from what the image means, we see that the expression " going out on a limb" alludes to doing something dangerous. The danger here will not likely be a physical one but more of a social or psychological one. For example, you may describe asking your boss for a pay increase as "going out on a limb." Asking for a raise is rather dangerous, if you think about it. You can get the raise or you can get fired. So, if you feel you're doing something that can be dangerous or stressful, you can say, "I'm going out on a limb."

By the way, work is taking me to Baguio this week. Be back Saturday. Take care!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Games and Sports

There seems to be some confusion regarding the difference between the word "game" and the word "sports." What is the difference between the two?

The word "game" refers to any activity that leads to amusement, entertainment, or something we do with friends to pass the time. Some samples of games are sipa, patintero, hide-and-seek, and activities like party games (charades, pinoy henyo, and relay activities) and board games (Trivial Pursuit, Carcassonne, Monopoly, etc.). Your favorite game can be something like hide-and-seek or Monopoly, or even an video game. Basketball is not one of your favorite games, it's one of your favorite sports.

The word "sport" or "sports," on the other hand, refers to a physical activity which has a specific set of rules that must be followed. Whereas a game is usually for entertainment and a little competition, a sport is highly competitive. Sports include basketball, boxing, baseball, billiards, football, and even martial arts like taekwando and karate. A game like hide-and-seek is not a sport.

I think one reason for this confusion is the use of "game" to refer to certain sports competitions. We do watch basketball games, soccer games, and track and field games. In this instance, the word "game" is used to mean an organized sporting event or meet, one which contains intense competition. Hence, we have the Olympic Games.

In general, a game is not a sport.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Coffee Or A Coffee?

I've been hearing more and more people say "Let's get a coffee" now. Before, people would just say, "Let's get coffee." Why the addition of the article a? Is the article even correctly placed?

I think people say "a coffee" now because of the many coffee shops and coffee varieties available. When the article a is used, it means that the speaker wants one variety out of many (a bag out of so many kinds, a book out of the many available, a drink out of so many varieties of drinks). So, if the person says "Let's get a coffee," he or she wants one kind of coffee out of many (cape barako? African coffee? black coffee? coffee with cream? decaf?). Or, "a coffee" could also mean the types of coffee that come out of coffee preparations and recipes (latte? mocha coffee? French vanilla? espresso? cappuccino? caramel machiatto?). Thanks to Starbucks and all these lifestyle coffee places, we can now say "a coffee."

If you want to say "Let's get coffee," it's still all right. Truth be told, the article doesn't make much of a difference anyway.

I don't drink coffee, though.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fixed Rate

Yesterday, while I was at SM Hypermart, I noticed this message on the parking ticket: "Fix Rate." Although I understood that Hypermart charges only P25 no matter how long you keep your car parked with them, I could not resist the chance to blog about "Fix Rate."

The proper form is really "Fixed Rate." I understand where the confusion comes from because "fixed" and "fix" do sound so much alike. Although both have very similar meanings, there is a slight difference between the two.

The most common meaning of the verb "fix" is "to repair" or "to make something right." So we say, "I will fix the stove" or "I asked someone to fix the car." However, where parking fees are concerned, "fix" is used to mean "to make definite" as in, to make it impossible (or very hard) to change something. If a parking area has a "fixed rate," then it means that they charge only one amount, no matter how long you stay parked. If you go to a store and try to get a discount, you might be told that they charge a "fixed price;" hence, no discounts or price changes. You might also want to say that you have a "fixed schedule" which means your time is already spoken for.

On weekends, though, you're supposed to relax and enjoy a day with no fixed schedules. Have fun!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Near My Place

I don't know why I've been hearing people say, "That restaurant is near in my place," or something like it. The correct way of saying this is "That restaurant is near my place." I wonder why some people add the preposition "in" when there's no need for it?

One explanation I can think of is there could be some kind of transliteration going on from Tagalog to English, although I don't know what. The other explanation is perhaps some kind of automatic response: people associate "in" with "my place," like, "In my place, we have a garden." Because of the association, they forget to take it out when it's not needed.

The bottom line could possibly be a problem with prepositions like "in." I've posted twice on this topic. Just remember, when it comes to places, "in" is used when something is surrounded. The sentence "The restaurant is near in my place" is definitely wrong because the restaurant is not surrounded by the speaker's home. Rather, the restaurant is near the speaker's home, which means it's close by. In this case, just say, "near my place" or "near where I live."

Have a nice day!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Family vs Families

While I was in Bacolod, I kept hearing people say, "I want to work abroad to support my families." I was not sure what these people meant by using "families." Did they have large families or did they have several families, i.e., more than one wife or husband or children from different marriages?

Since most of the people I was talking to were young women who were studying English to work as nurses abroad, I can only assume that they meant they had large families who needed financial support. Now, what is the difference between family and families?

Family is a collective noun which refers to a person's blood relatives. We all know that family is the basic unit of society composed of the mother, father, and kids. Here in the Philippines, family will include grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and all manner of blood relation. Family also connotes the responsibilities we have to take for people who are related to us. As a collective noun, though, family means several people--all your relatives or all the people you consider as part of your family. The plural is never used to talk about one family, no matter how many members it has.

When do we say families, then? We use the plural when we're referring to several families. Consider: "Most Filipino families have at least one member working as an OFW." In this sentence, we're talking about many (more than one) Filipino families. This is different from "I have a big family. Some of the members of my family are working abroad." Here, the speaker is referring to just her family, despite the fact that many people are part of it.

If you say families, though, people might think you're part of several family units. In other words, you have more than one wife or husband or several children from different marriages. You know, the stuff soap operas are made of.

So, it's best to say, "I want to work abroad to support my family."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Based On

Hi everyone! It's been five days since my last post. Whew! I've been extremely busy. I was supposed to be free yesterday but I got called in to work so I was out all day again. Anyway, I'm back and here's my newest post:

I keep hearing people say "based from" when they want to say something like: "Based from what I was told, if I want to be a nurse abroad, I have to take several qualifying tests." I've also heard "Based from the website I read, to work in the U.S., you have to spend a lot on application fees." Now, the other parts of the sentences are all right; the problem lies in the expression, "based from."

The correct form is actually not "based from" but based on.

When we say based on, what we're referring to is drawing conclusions from information. So, let's say you want to be a nurse abroad, you might want to refer to several websites and agencies to find out how you can go about it. Once you've checked with all of these, then you can make conclusions about your own application: "Based on the information I gathered, I need to work on getting all the qualifications first before I can apply for a working visa."

Based on statistics, most Filipinos want to work abroad.

Friday, November 2, 2007


While reading through the readers' feedback of a magazine, I saw this message from a satisfied reader: "At first, I was not sold to the idea of your magazine, but I learned to enjoy it." What I want to blog about is the mistake found in the expression, sold to.

We know that the word sold is the past tense of the verb, sell. This verb means to exchange goods for money: "I sold my iPod for a good price." However, it also means to convince someone to buy into or accept an idea, item, etc.: "I sold her on the idea of celebrating her birthday in Tagaytay." It also means that the speaker is convinced by an idea: "I am sold on the idea of buying a new car." Both sentences mean that someone was convinced by something. If you want to use the verb sold in this way, the correct expression is sold on and not "sold to."

In the sentence I got from the magazine, the writer was saying that at first, she was not convinced by the idea of the magazine but that she eventually learned to appreciate it. Since this is the case, then she meant that she was sold on the idea.

Sold to, however, is correct if you want to say that an item was sold to someone: "I sold my iPod to my cousin" or "That item was sold to your neighbor." It is never used to say that someone was convinced to buy into something. Where this is concerned, we use sold on.

By the way, I will be in Bacolod this weekend. See you again either Monday or Tuesday.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Turn Off The Lights!

I often hear people say, "I put on the light" or "I put on the electric fan." We do not use the expression "put on" to mean to "turn something on."

One of the meanings of the verb "put" is to place something in a definite place or location. Hence, we "put the plates on the dining table" and we "put the pots and pans in the pantry." We also "put on clothes" like, "I just need to put on my socks." When we're hitting light switches or electric fan switches, we're not "putting on" lights or fans or any appliance. Instead, when we want lights or fans, we say, "We turn on the lights and fans when we get home."

When we use the verb "turn," one of the things we mean is to "start a process." When we're talking about appliances, we need to switch them on to start the process that will make them work. So, when we "turn on the lights," we're starting the electrical process that makes lights work. We also say "turn off the lights" when we want to stop the process.

We do say "put out," though, when we're irritated with someone or something: "I was put out because they arrived so late!" We can also say "put on" when we're saying that someone is teasing us or giving us false information: "You say aliens exist in the Philippines? You're putting me on!"

Want to save energy? Turn off the lights when you don't need them or you might put out the environmentalists out there!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From a Certain Point of View

I think there's some confusion regarding when to use "a" or "the" with the expression, "point of view." What is the difference when we say "a point of view" and "the point of view"?

A and the are articles which differ in terms of specificities: when we use a, we're thinking in general terms while when we use the, we're thinking of specifics. For example, if a person says, "Bring me a bag," he or she is asking for any bag. If he/she says, "Bring me the bag," he/she wants a specific bag.

If you say, "that's the right thing to do, from a point of view," what you mean is that there could be several points of view and you are just talking about one among many. However, if you say, "the point of view," you're talking of only one point of view, there are no others. Consider the difference here:

From the point of view of the investigators, the Glorietta blast was not caused by a bomb. (The investigators only have one point of view).
That the blast was caused by a gas leak could be true from a certain point of view. (There could be other points of view or theories regarding the blast.)

If you want to talk about a person's specific point of view about a topic or issue, you say something like, "From the point of view of my boss, we should have a vacation." We never say, "From a point of view of my boss, we should have a vacation."

Don't you think we should all study proper English? That is my point of view.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Locations, Locations

Someone described her office to me by saying that it was "locating in Ayala Avenue, Makati." This statement misuses the word, "locating."

"Locating" is one of the verb forms of the word, locate. Now, to locate something means to specify a specific place or to identify where a certain place/person/object is. So, we can say, "I am locating her now," "I can locate that item for you," "I have located your bag."

However, there is a difference between the verb locate and the adjective located. The verb means you're trying to find something; the adjective, though, means you're saying where that thing is. Look at the difference:

My office is located in Makati. (The office is in Makati.)
I am locating her now. (I am trying to find her.)

To summarize, when you're talking about finding something, use the verb. If you're talking about saying where that thing is, use the adjective. Hence, "My office is located in Ayala Avenue, Makati."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let's Eat Curry!

Last Thursday, we ate in Fish & Co in Shangri-La and the waitress was telling us about their Seafood Curry. She pronounced "curry" as "kerry" which caused some confusion for me. For a split second there, I didn't know what "seafood kerry" was.

If Pinoys don't say "kerry," they tend to say "karry." Both are wrong. The word curry, after all, is spelled with a "u;" therefore, it's pronounced "curry" with a "u" sound.

Enjoy the holiday! How about trying to cook curry?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


My students make mistakes when using the noun, stuff. This noun has many meanings but the most common way we use is when we mean things like this: "I have stuff to do," "I need to do some stuff before I can graduate," "That stuff is mine." In all three sentences, the word is referring to unspecified objects or unspecified things that have to be done. The mistake that I often hear is people saying "stuffs." Now, stuff does not need an "s" because the word itself already means more than one or several unspecified things or things to do. In other words, it's a collective noun. We never say "stuffs" no matter how many things we are referring to.

If you have stuff to do today, you had better get started!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Am Relaxed

I hear people making mistakes with the word relax. Instead of saying, "I am relaxed," they tend to say "I am relax," which is wrong.

Let's examine the word further. Relax is a verb which means "to relieve or release tension." So we say "Let's relax after a long day by going to the cinema." Or, "I relaxed by going to the spa," "Reading a book relaxes her." We can even use this word to command a person: "Relax! You're too tense!"

When we're talking about the action or the act of relaxing, we use the word as a verb. However, when we want to describe the state of being free from tension, we use the word as an adjective. In this case, the form of the word is relaxed.

The statement, "I am relax" is wrong because relax is not used as a verb. The verb in the sentence is "am." The word relax here also does not talk about an action; rather, it talks about the state of the person. Consequently, the sentence calls for the adjective form: relaxed. In the correction, "I am relaxed," the adjective form is used.

I hope this is clear. Take time to relax, everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

That and Which

Liza's question for me was about the difference between that and which. This question does not surprise me as that and which seem to have very similar uses. In fact, in many cases, they are used interchangeably.

The difference between the two is very slight. Which is used for a thing or an idea while that is used for any noun. It's more versatile; however, it is not as formal as which.

Dreams that/which come true are disturbing.
The book which/that you bought got wet.
The philosophy of Confusius, which is still unfamiliar to me, seems interesting.
The cat that we adopted is now very healthy.

The thing is, that and which are usually not used to refer to people. When we have a person or people in mind, we use who:

The student who cheated is not in the dean's office.
The girls who went to the party all had trendy dresses on.

Liza, I hope I managed to answer your question! If it's still not too clear, ask away.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In And On Again

In the mail, I received an advertisement from a catering company. The ad wanted to inform me of their Christmas food packages and prices. The also said that "If you want your order(s) arranged in your platter(s) pls send in advance."

If you studied my previous post regarding in and on, you will notice the error in the use of in. Here's something from that post:

On refers to a surface: "The cat jumped on the counter," "She placed her phone on the sofa."
In refers to being surrounded: "That was in my bag," "She is in the theater."

The advertisement I received wanted to say that the catering company can arrange food using the platters or plates of the client. A plate or a platter is a relatively flat surface; therefore, we use on: "If you want your order(s) arranged on your platter(s)."

If we're talking about a bowl, though, we use in as the sides of a bowl surround the food: "The fruit is in the salad bowl."

Of course, the sentence from the advertisement I received has other problems. Here's the fully corrected sentence: "If you want your order(s) arranged on your platter(s), please send them in advance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Since When?

One of the ladies running for the position of baranggay kagawad in my community sent us a flyer with a little error I can blog about. Her flyer said, "I am your neighbor since 1966." This sentence contains a small error which is often neglected now, which is the verb that is attached to the word since.

My neighbor who sent the flyer wanted to say that she had been living in my community from 1966 to the present. Now, one of the meanings of the word since is "from the past, or a certain point in the past, to the present." In other words, it's an expression we can use to talk about the movement of time from one point up to today. If you want to use since in this way, you use the perfect from of the verb: "I have been your neighbor since 1966."

Why do we use the perfect tense here? One of the things that the perfect tense of the verb shows is an action that was completed in the past which is moving on to the present. The word since does something similar. If you say "I have been your neighbor since 1966," you're saying that you started living in a place in 1966 and you're still living here.

Ever since I was a child, I have always loved reading. That has led me to my love for the English language.

Liza left a question for me. Thanks, Liza, give me a few days to answer it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

S-V Agreement: Is and Are where Subjects are Concerned

Hello everyone! I'm back from a fruitful Cebu trip. Here's today's post and thanks for reading while I was gone.

The basic subject-verb agreement rule of the singular subject taking the singular verb and the plural subject taking the plural verb becomes difficult when the sentence seems to have more than one subject. Consider these examples:

"Prixie is cooking."
"Prixie, Justine, and Maisa are cooking."
"Prixie, along with Justine and Maisa, is cooking."

What's the difference between the three sentences? In the first sentence, the subject is singular (only one person is cooking); hence, the singular verb, is. In the second, there are three people cooking, so we use the plural verb, are. The last sentence, though, contains one subject, with two others seemingly inserted in the sentence. In this case, the verb is singular because the subject is singular. The two other names are not the subject of the sentence, they just help to further explain the subject (the one cooking is helped by two others).

When deciding whether to use the plural or the singular, know your subject!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

S-V Agreement: Everyone and Every

I'm flying to Cebu tomorrow and will be back late Sunday night. I may not be able to post while I'm there so my next entry might be on Monday. Have a good weekend!

As I've been saying in my previous posts on subject-verb agreement, the only way to get around this confusing area of English is to memorize the rules. Here is a post on another s-v agreement rule: when using the words every, everyone, and everything, the verb that follows is singular. Consider these examples: "Every student has to take the test," "Everyone is joining the field trip," "Everything is a mess right now."

I understand why the use of the singular is confusing where these words are concerned. These words, after all, talk about more than one person or thing. When we say everyone, we are talking about more than one person. In this instance, unfortunately, English is not very helpful at explaining the reason for the rule. I just think we use the singular because we are referring to the individual persons or things that are referred to by everyone or everything.

If this confuses you, remember the title of the well-reviewed book, Everything IS Illuminated.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Know Whom To Trust Now!

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I was not able to post this entry yesterday. I was facilitating a workshop all day and I got home so late. When I get busy, it's hard to find the time to post an entry.

My aunt, Tita Myra Chan-Cruz, sent me an SMS message the other day detailing a glaring English error she was told about. This error occurred in a half-page ad in a major newspaper. The ad was Kris Aquino's latest endorsement for some body-improvement center. No offense to Kris Aquino, but the error still has to be addressed. The ad read, "I know who to trust now!" In this case, it's not "who to trust" but "whom to trust."

The difference between who and whom is one that is often neglected now. The reason is whom has lately been considered rather formal in tone, which is why it is rarely used. Simply put, the difference lies in how the word is used in a sentence. If the subject is the person, then we use who; if the person is the object, then we use whom. In the ad mentioned, the person is the object of the sentence; therefore, whom is appropriate (the subject of the sentence is Kris Aquino, who is talking, the "I" in the sentence). Who is used in sentences such as these: "Who drank the last bottle of wine?" and "Who are you going to the movies with?" In both cases, who is the subject of the sentence (the person who drank the wine, the person who is going to the movies).

The lesson in all this? Don't always believe the English in newspapers. If you want to learn English via reading, it's best to read very good books.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Complain and Complaint

While calling to complain about errors in my phone bill, I realized that the difference (and the corresponding usage) of complain and complaint can be confusing for people. The two words, after all, mean similar things and in all cases, also carry the same bad feelings. What's the difference between the two?

Complain is a verb which means "to express grief, anger, or disappointment about something or someone." It also means "to make an accusation." So, I call to complain about the mistakes in my bill (I'm disappointed about these mistakes and I'm also accusing the company of mismanaging my account). As a verb, complain can be in the past tense: "I complained to the manager already."

Complaint, though, is a noun. As a noun, it's a name for the grievance, the disappointment, or the problem being discussed. It is then used to refer to the issue a person is complaining about. So, "My complaint is about the bills I've been receiving for a service that I don't use."

Here's the rule: if you're talking about the act of discussing a disappointment, use complain. If you're talking about the particular thing causing the disappointment, use complaint. Check out this exchange:

Prixie: I'd like to file a complaint about the mistakes in my bill.
Customer Service Guy: Ok, ma'am, I will prepare a customer service file for you.
Prixie: I've complained about this before. You haven't done anything about it!
Customer Service Guy: I'm sorry ma'am, let me work on this complaint as soon as possible.
Prixie: You better! I don't want to have to complain again!

I hope I've made the difference between the two words clear. Remember, it's never wise to complain too much, unless the issue you're facing is really hurtful. Have a nice complaint-free day!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pronunciation: Current

I called the biggest phone company here in the country to speak to a customer service employee regarding my bill and I heard a pronunciation mistake while listening to the PABX recording (press 1 for dsl, press 2 for billing, press 3 to speak to a customer service representative). The word in question is "current."

The recording I heard used a woman who pronounced it as "kerrent" and the error was noticeable enough that for a split second, I didn't know what she was saying. This word is also often mispronounced as "karrent."

When pronouncing the word, remember that it's spelled with a "u;" therefore, it takes the "u" vowel sound and not any other. Listen to the correct pronunciation of "current" here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How Do I Get There?

Sometimes, in response to the question, "how do I get to your place?" I hear people saying "There's different access to our place." Now, this response is confusing because it misuses the word, "access."

I think the confusion lies in the various ways we use the word, access. One way of using the word is as a noun. As such, it's a name for getting to or entering or leaving a certain place. So, you can say, "You can access our town via the South Expressway."

I think the problem with the sentence I mentioned is that the speaker was talking about several ways of getting to his/her place. In this regard, the proper expression is "different ways of accessing our place." Here, access becomes a verb which means "to get to a certain place."

Here is the proper sentence now, "There are different ways to access our place. You can take a car, a bus, or the train."

Then again, we use access to mean getting to a website as well. It's nice to know that my readers can all access my blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Using "The" With Place Names

My sister Patricia, who is studying in Poland right now, left a question for me the other day. She wanted to know why we refer to our country as the Philippines and not simply Philippines. It's funny how a question as simple as this can make you think about something you've taken as a fact. So, why do we say the Philippines?

I did some research and I found two answers to this question. The first is that some place names (names of countries, regions, mountains, rivers, etc.) use the depending on the grammatical pattern of the name. Hence, Philippines uses the because it is a plural name. After all, our country is composed of several islands and our country's name shows this. In this sense, we are similar to the U.S.A. They're the United States of America (there are several states in one country).

The second answer is that using the for place names is a question of convention rather than the rule. In other words, we use the for certain place names because we're used to doing so. Consider the expression the Bronx. The place name "Bronx" is not a plural name but convention dictates that we say the Bronx instead of just Bronx.

The English language has many cases of convention rather than rules dictating how or why we say things in a certain way. Unfortunately (and this is what complicates the learning of English), the only way to get around this is to be aware of these conventions. Check a grammar book! Check a dictionary! Or, you can ask me!

Thanks for the question, Pat! It's nice to know I have a reader in Poland, even if she is my sister.

A Mature Person

Hello! I didn't get to post yesterday as I was busy all day. Real life, after all, can sometimes get in the way of Internet life. Anyway, here's today's post.

We often describe people as mature. When a person is mature, we mean that he/she has grown up well and has a very stable outlook on life. However, we never describe a person as matured. Therefore, we say, "She is mature" and we never say, "She is matured (although people misuse it this way)." What's the difference between mature and matured?

The mistake lies in a quirk in the English language, which is multiple meanings for one word. Also, mature is both an adjective (a word to describe) and a verb (an action word). When it is used to describe, we never change its form but when it is used as an action word, then we can add -ed.

To clarify, check out these two examples:

"She is mature for her age."
"She matured very well."

In the first sentence, mature is used as an adjective. It is describing the person being talked about ("she"). In this sense, the person described is acting like an adult, despite being so young ("mature for her age). In the second sentence, mature is used as a verb. As a verb, it means "to grow up" or "to reach the age when something is full grown." As a verb, it's about the process of growing up; therefore, the past tense form can be used. The sentence, "She matured really well" is about someone who is already full grown (hence, the past tense, she grew up in the past).

So, if you want to describe someone, use mature.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Using "Ok" to Link Sentences and Ideas

Last summer, I visited Bohol for the first time. I toured all the important spots, saw the chocolate hills, watched fireflies by moonlight, and visited the Bohol Bee Farm. One of our tour guides, though, kept using the word, ok. She said things like, "Ok, here's the man-made forest, ok. Ok, there are animals here. Ok." Every time she would respond to a question, she would begin with "Ok" and end her response with "ok" as well. She was not only misusing the word, she was also overusing it.

I think that our tour guide kept using ok because she needed it to connect her ideas. In the English language, there are many words that can be used to connect ideas. These are known as cohesive devices or linking words. Some examples of these are but, however, moreover, therefore, and. All these words mean slightly different things but all serve to connect ideas and sentences together.

Here's an example of the excessive use of ok:

"Bees suck nectar from various plants; ok, a particular honey may have a different flavor from another variety. Ok, the flavors of honey are determined by where the bees get the nectar, one variety of honey may have a different taste from another. Ok, all varieties of honey have the same nutritive value. Ok, they are all good for you."

Here is the corrected version using proper cohesive devices:

"Bees suck nectar from various plants; therefore, a particular honey may have a different flavor from another variety. Since the flavors of honey are determined by where the bees get the nectar, one variety of honey may have a different taste from another. However, all varieties of honey have the same nutritive value. Moreover, they are all good for you."

What, then, do we use ok for? Ok simply means that everything is all right (it can also be spelled okay). So, we use it to respond to a question if we mean "yes" or "everything is fine." Here's a sample dialogue:

Mama: "Do you think you did well in the test?"
Prixie: "Yes, Ma, I think I did ok."
Mama: Great. Go and eat dinner now."
Prixie: "Ok."

As seen in the sample dialogue, ok is used to give a positive response. I have not heard of a situation where it is proper to use ok as a linking word. The English language has many linking words, so it's best to use them, ok?

Monday, October 8, 2007


Often, I see cases of my students making mistakes with the plural form of the collective noun, equipment. I see them writing "equipments," which is wrong. As a collective noun, the word equipment means anywhere from one item to several, like laboratory equipment or medical equipment (both mean more than one piece of equipment). In general, we do not add "s" to collective nouns when we mean the plural. Therefore, equipment is both plural and singular. If you want a clear distinction between the singular and plural, you can say piece of equipment to mean one item.

Here's an example:

Prixie: What equipment do you think should I buy for a home office?
Kat: I think you should start with computer equipment.
Pat: A computer is a good piece of equipment to start with.
Prixie: Apart from a computer, what other equipment should I buy?
Pat: A fax machine.
Kat: Maybe a scanner?
Prixie: You're right, I could use all that equipment.

To conclude, remember, we never add "s" to equipment. Don't lose the electronic equipment (cellphones, iPods, laptops) you carry around!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Here It Is

Sometimes, when I ask for something, the person giving me the item says, "Here is it," which is incorrect. The error lies in interchanging the positions of "is" and "it." Since the subject of the sentence is represented by the pronoun "it," it should be placed before the verb "is." So, the correct form is "Here it is."

Consider this dialogue:

Prixie: "Can I have this blouse in my size, please?"
Saleslady: "Here it is."

Have a nice Sunday!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Pronunciation: Confirm

While going home on the MRT, my husband and I heard the word confirm pronounced as "confeerm." I'd like to blog about this because it is a very common pronunciation error.

The pronunciation error lies in the use of the long "e" sound. I've mentioned before that some Pinoys confuse the long "e" sound with the short "i" sound, which leads to errors such as this one.

When saying the word confirm, the correct way to do so is to use the short "i" sound, so the "f," "i," "r," and "m" sounds kind of roll into each other. Listen to the correct pronunciation of confirm.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, pronunciation errors can be corrected one word at a time.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Using Can and Could

Can and could are, like will and would, modal verbs (check out my post, "I Will Miss You, Pavarotti!" for more on these verbs). Just to remind you, modal verbs are auxiliary (helping) verbs that, when combined with the main verb of a sentence, add a mood or a tense to the verb. For example, "You can sing, right?" The modal is can and combined with the verb sing, communicates a mood which shows the ability of the person being referred to. Can and could, after all, are both modal verbs that communicate ability. So, we say, "She can play the piano," "Could you play the piano," "She could dance when she was a child."

Looking at the three examples, we can see the differences between can and could. Although both communicate ability, there are two differences between them. The first is, could is more polite, so it's best to use it when you're asking someone to do something for you: "Could you turn on the radio, please?" Although can is usable ("Can you turn on the radio, please"), could carries a more polite tone (it is necessary to be polite when asking someone to do something for you). The second difference is could is used as the past tense of can. Consider: "Today, she can only dance the flamenco, but when she was a child, she could also dance ballet."

I hope you all can do good work today!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Forget the Verb!

Sorry for the very late post! I was out all day.

While driving home one day, I saw this sign on EDSA: "Provincial Buses Prohibited on Yellow Lane." This sign shows poor grammar because it omits the verb "are" and the article "the." The proper grammar for this is "Provincial buses are prohibited on the yellow lane. I would like to concentrate on the verb "are" in this post (see my previous post on "the").

"Are" is the plural version of the verb "be." Sadly, the verb "be" is often omitted, although I don't know why. "Be" is a simple verb meaning "to exist." The buses meant by the sign exist; therefore, the verb must be included. Think about it this way: you do not say, "The buses fast." Instead, you say, "The buses are fast."

I understand that signs can take short cuts with the English language but it's always best to be conscious of correct English.

I hope you are well.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I Want Pour of That! What?!

My post today is about the problem Filipinos have with the "p" and "f" sounds. This infamous problem is prevalent but not impossible to correct. I think the confusion between the "p" and "f" sounds can be corrected one (or two) words at a time. Today, I want to look at the pronunciation of the word "pour" as compared to the word "four."

My title is confusing because the word "four" is pronounced with a "p" sound. Now, "pour" is a completely different word from "four." While the latter is a number, "pour" means to make liquid flow out of a container. The two words are very different and confusing their pronunciation can dramatically alter what you are trying to say.

Listen to the proper way of pronouncing "pour" and "four."

If you're having trouble with the "p" and "f" sounds, try to memorize which sound goes with what word.

Take care!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Past Participle

While driving to Makati the other day, I heard a caller over the radio say, "No, I hadn't drove to Baguio yet." The moment I heard the sentence, I knew I would have to blog about it right away.

The error in the sentence is a common but very tricky one. It lies in the use of the past participle. The past participle is a verb form which indicates a completed action. The most common past participles end in -ed like played or finished. Sometimes, they end in -en, like written or broken. Normally the participle is not the main verb of a sentence. For example, "I had finished writing my application letter." Or, "She had written to her parents last month." Here are others: "The children had played that game already," "That glass was broken two days ago."

In all four examples, past actions are being described. The verbs indicating the past tense, though, are had and was. The past participle is used because the actions being discussed had already been completed: the letters were written, the children had played the game.

The past participle is used in what we call the past perfect tense. This is a verb tense that talks about actions started and completed sometime in the past. So, the application letter was started in the past and was completed in the past. The glass was broken in the past.

As to the sentence I heard over the radio, it should have been, "I hadn't driven to Baguio yet." Driven is the past participle form of the verb drive. The caller over the radio was saying he had yet to experience driving to Baguio. The action, driving to Baguio, belongs to the speaker's past. In this case, it's an action that could have started in the past but was never completed in the past. Hence, the need for the past participle.

Now, in the English language, participles and perfect tenses are very confusing. In the first place, you have to be aware of the participle form of the verb. Where this is concerned, check the dictionary.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Talk To Me

As much as some people omit the word with, I've heard instances of people omitting the preposition, to. Here's a sample: "I talked my husband about this."

Like other prepositions in the English language, to has many meanings. The most basic one is to denote a movement toward a certain direction: "We're going to Megamall." Another is it can be used to indicate a relationship. The sentence above should have been, "I talked to my husband about this." If you think about it, the direction the speaker is going toward is her husband (her husband is receiving the action). Also, there's a relationship being shown, between the speaker and her husband.

I enjoy talking to all of you through this blog! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Focus on Pronunciation: Particular

Here's another English word that Filipinos seem to have trouble with: particular. I hear this word often pronounced as "parteekular," which is wrong. I really don't know why this word is wrongly pronounced with a weak "t" and long "e" sound. It might have something to do with the long "e" sound and the short "i" sound that Pinoys also mix up.

Listen to the proper way of pronouncing particular. Notice that the "i" sound is short and the "t" sound is strong.

Now, many English speakers all over the world tend to pronounce certain words differently (think of the differences in British, American, and Australian pronunciation). This is really because we have different accents. Often, the words are still clear and understood. The thing is, there's nothing wrong with knowing the standard English pronunciation of the word.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

I haven't posted anything on English idioms so I decided to start today with the expression "barking up the wrong tree."

Idioms are essentially phrases that use figurative language to communicate a point. They are used to make a point more powerful. Also, they are used to communicate an otherwise complex idea in a few words. They often use imagery.

Let's look at the idiom, "barking up the wrong tree." Consider a dog chasing a cat through a forest. The cat shimmies up a tree quickly. The dog sees this. Upon reaching the top of the tree, the cat jumps onto a branch of another tree. The dog, since he's on the ground, does not see the cat jumping to the next tree. The poor doggie, then, keeps barking up the original tree not knowing that kitty has moved to another tree and is now safe from him. Doggie is still barking up the wrong tree.

In human terms, imagine you're trying to fix a problem with one solution. But, no matter what you do, the problem persists. Unknown to you, the solution is something completely different. If you're experiencing something like this, then, you're barking up the wrong tree. Like the dog who was looking for the cat in the wrong tree, you're trying to solve a problem with the wrong solution.

Instead of describing the situation (which will take some time), you can just say, "I was barking up the wrong tree."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

With or Without You

I heard this error the other day: "My children walk each other." The meaning of the sentence is clear enough but there is an important word missing. That word is with.

The preposition with has several uses but in the case of the sentence above, it is needed to show the connection between the children walking. The sentence therefore should have been "My children walk with each other." Here, with is needed so show that the children are together when they walk.

Without is the opposite of with. If the speaker wanted to say that her children walk separately, then she can say, "My daughter walks to school without her brother on Mondays."

Then again, to simplify the original sentence, you can just say, "My children walk together."

Enjoy your day with your friends and family!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Focus on Pronunciation: Favorite

I'm mostly well now so I'm back to posting regularly. Today, I decided to work on a pronunciation post regarding the word favorite.

I've been hearing people pronounce this word as "peyborit," which is wrong. I think the mistake lies in the way Filipinos confuse the "f," "p," "b," and "v" sounds. So, instead of using the "f" sound on the word favorite, they use the "p." The "v" sound is likewise replaced by the "b" sound.

Here is the proper way of pronouncing the word favorite. Notice that in the proper pronunciation, the "f" and "v" sounds are clear. Also, the "i" sound isn't too sharp.

The English language can be rather forgiving about pronunciation issues but do try to pronounce words properly. If you don't pronounce right, you may be severely misunderstood.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Satisfy Your Cravings

On the way home from work today, I saw this sign: "Satisfy your creamy chocolatey crave" and because of the glaring mistake, I had to blog about it right away.

The mistake is in the word crave. The sign, which was on the tarpaulin banner of a sweets stand, obviously wanted to say that the product the store was selling was creamy and chocolatey enough to satisfy anyone's chocolate desires. However, to use the word crave in this manner is incorrect.

The confusion probably lies in the definition of the word crave. The word crave is a verb which means to desire something intensely--i.e., "I crave for ice cream when I'm stressed." Since it's a verb, it cannot be used as a noun, which is what the sign requires. The noun form is craving, a word which means a feeling of intense desire for something. The sign should have then read, "satisfy your creamy chocolatey craving."

Now, the verb to crave can also take the -ing form: "I'm craving for ice cream right now." Do not confuse the noun with the verb form. If you're using the word as a verb, remember, you must be talking about an action. In the sentence "I'm craving for ice cream," the action is the desire or the want for ice cream that the speaker is feeling. If you're using the noun, you are giving a name for an intense desire (chocolatey craving, intense desire for chocolate).

I hope this was clear. I wasn't supposed to post today as I'm still sick but I just had to write something in response to that sign. It's only 7pm but I feel so bad, I'm already craving sleep.

Good night and don't get sick!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sorry, no new material today. I'm sick with a bad case of the flu! Will post as soon as I'm better.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

S-V Agreement: Pair Nouns

Subject-Verb agreement is tricky when it comes to what is known as the pair noun. A pair noun is a word for something that seems like one item but is actually part of a pair. The most common are scissors, pants, trousers, binoculars. These items can be tricky because the component parts are joined into a whole. So, do they take a plural verb (there are parts) or do they take a singular verb (they're parts joined into one whole).

The answer is pair nouns are plural. We don't say "My pants is old" or "Those scissors is broken." Instead, "My pants are old" and "Those scissors are broken." We can also add a pair of: "Those pairs of socks are going to be given away" (several pairs of socks).

Pair nouns can become singular, though, when you're talking about a part of the pair: "That shoe needs cleaning," "That pajama leg is stained with ink." Remember, though, when you're talking about the entire pair, use the plural.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The/A and a Person's Name

Here's another post on the proper use of articles. Normally, we omit the articles the and a when we're using a person's name. We certainly do not say "I saw the Peter yesterday," or "A Margaret, who is my best friend, was in school with me."

However, there are cases when the/a can be used with proper names. These have something to do with pointing out specific persons who many have the same names as others. Consider these:

"The Peter I know would never cheat in a test." This sentence refers to a person called Peter, perhaps in reference to other persons called Peter (who might cheat on a test). The speaker here is certain that the Peter she knows is not a cheat.

"A Margaret from the office left a message for you." Here, Margaret is one woman from the office. There could be others but this particular woman may or may not be known to the receiver of the message. It could be a specific Margaret who is in-charge of certain messages.

"You met Piolo Pascual? The Piolo Pascual?" Here, the is used to emphasize a famous person.

We can't say "I saw the Peter yesterday" because the speaker is already talking about a specific Peter (there are no other Peters). We can't say "A Margaret, who is my best friend" either because there is already a specific Margaret (the best friend).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Responding to a Loaded Gun

Here's a question that my friend Noel left for me. I thought to reproduce it in full so the context is clear to everyone.

"Great and educational blog, Prixie. Quick query: How should I respond to this - "Aren't you glad to see me?". If I respond in the affirmative, does this mean I'm not glad to see him/her? But if I respond in the negative, would I run the chance of being misunderstood? Or is the original question grammatically correct to begin with?"

Noel's question deals with another important branch of English which is logic. Although logic is not solely the property of English language learning, thinking and speaking logically are necessary for clear English communication. In this case, the error is not in grammar but in logic. In English, questions of that sort are known as loaded questions. Similar to facing a loaded gun (which is pretty sure to kill you), with a loaded question, you lose either way. Loaded questions already assume something negative to be true, which makes it very difficult for the respondent to come up with a good response. Another example is the question, "How long have you been cheating in my class?" (the questioner assumes the respondent is a cheat, giving the latter no room to defend him/herself).

Loaded questions are not generally grammatically incorrect. Instead, they're errors in logic which are also rude and hurtful. It's best not to ask them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

S-V Agreement: Some Nouns are Always Singular

Oops, since posting this, I've realized some inaccuracies. Here's the corrected version. Sorry, sorry...

Subject-verb agreement is really one of the trickiest things to learn in the English language. Fortunately or unfortunately, the rules are often bent. One other case of this is when certain plural-sounding nouns are in fact singular.

The best example of this is the noun news. It sounds plural and we know it talks about many things but it is always singular. We say, "Did you watch the news last night? It was very alarming." Or, "The news about Erap seems very good." Other nouns that follow this rule include subjects and sports like statistics, economics, politics, gymnastics, athletics as well as illnesses like measles and mumps.

This sounds simple enough, right? However, you can use the plural for statistics, politics, and economics. Consider:

"These statistics seem incorrect." (You're referring to specific separate figures, hence, the plural.)
"Statistics is a difficult subject." (You're talking about the subject, hence, the singular.)

"GMA's politics take a very pro-American stand." (You're referring to GMA's political views and not politics as a subject.)

"The economics in this country are messy." (You're referring to everything that falls under economics, like population, fluctuating currency, foreign policy, etc.)

Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite writers, says, "Some genetics are in the soul," which refers to some aspects of genetics like behavior and maybe values.

Confusing, huh? The rule for subjects like economics and politics is if you're talking about the subject, use the singular. If you're talking about specifics that fall under that subject, then you can use the plural.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

S-V Agreement: Singular, Plural and Collective Nouns

Here's a tricky subject-verb agreement point: do you use the singular or the plural when using a collective noun?

A collective noun talks about groups--collections! Some of the more common examples are family, faculty, population, team, group. You can see from these examples that each noun talks about several people in one group. In other words, it's a collection of individuals. So, since we're talking about several people in one group, do we use the plural or the singular (there are several people but only one group).

The good news is the English language is quite forgiving when it comes to this issue. The general rule is you can use either the singular or plural depending what you want to emphasize. You can say "My family is well" if you mean your family as a whole and "My family are well" if you mean all the individual members of your family.

I learned this rule because one of my British bosses once surprised me by saying "The office have called you, haven't they?" British English and American English also differ here. The British tend to go with the plural while the Americans favor the singular. These two major varieties of English don't agree on this point.

The important thing is to decide on what you want to emphasize. Once you've decided, then you'll have to stick to it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Was That?

My friend Noel from GameFrog Internet Cafe ( was reading a mangga (Japanese comic) the other day and he came across this sentence: "His father disappeared when he was very young." Noel found this sentence confusing because he said it looked like the father disappeared when the father was very young, which does not make sense.

I agreed with him and I said that the problem here is the misplaced modifier. Now, a modifier in the English language is a word/phrase that limits or modifies a noun. By this we mean that a modifier makes the noun clearer. A popular modifier is the adjective; for example, "That's a stylish handbag." "Stylish," the adjective, modifies the noun, handbag. It limits the idea of "handbag." A handbag, after all, can be anything from something ugly to something stylish. Ideally, we place modifiers close to the nouns they are limiting.

In the sentence Noel noticed, the modifier "disappeared when he was young" is placed next to "father," which makes it appear like it was the father who disappeared. This is the correction: "When he was very young, his father disappeared." In this correction, it's clearer who disappeared and when.

In the English language, modifiers are tricky so I will probably be posting more about them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vocabulary: Lugubrious

I often encounter the word lugubrious while reading novels. I always look it up in the dictionary but I often forget what it means (maybe I'm getting old!) so I decided to blog about it.

Lugubrious is a very nice word meaning "excessively sad or mournful." It can also mean "bringing out a lot of tears." You can say, "The lugubrious sounds of that organ are reminding of past love affairs." You might also say, "That movie is rather lugubrious," or "She is fond of telling lugubrious stories about her life which may be untrue."

Try using this English word next time you want to talk about something sad!

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Child, Two Childs, Three Childrens?!?!

My title shows a problem that I often encounter. I don't know why these mistakes with the words child and children occur but they do have to be corrected. I think it's just a case of being unsure about the plural form.

Child is singular and unlike other singular nouns, we do not add "s" to talk about more than one. The plural of child is children. Since children is already the plural form, we do not add "s" to it either. The English language does throw curve balls like this. It's best to just check things out in a dictionary. Remember, much of learning English is knowing the rules, even if they don't seem to make sense.

So, it's one child and two (or more) children.

Thanks to Lani who taught me how to fix my date and time problem. I feel kind of sheepish that I didn't fully study the features of Blogspot. Lani, please let me know which areas you would like me to add more examples in and if you have a question, just leave me a note!

Have a good day, everyone!