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.