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.