Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Join Us!

Hi everyone! My internet connection was down so I wasn't able to post sooner. At least, we got it back online without having to call our provider. Anyway, here's today's post:

Last Sunday, I attended an enjoyable children's party at McDonald's. As many of these parties go, there were several games for the kids and adults to play hosted by McDo staff. I kept hearing the host saying "join with us."

I've been thinking about this error and I think it has nothing to do with being incorrect but more to do with clutter, in other words, there's a word which is not necessary. That word is with. I've posted about with before and I've pointed out that it's a preposition used to talk about "being in the company of someone else." We often say, after all, something like "I watched a movie with friends."

When the McDo host said "join with us," she literally meant to ask the party guests to be accompany her in the games so with is not really incorrect. However, we never say "join with us" or "join with me" or join with anything or anyone. The reason lies in the word join which already means "to bring (or put) together." In this light, there is no need to put with as it's meaning is similar to the meaning of the word join.

So, join me in enjoying the English language!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Grew Up In

Lately, I'm noticing confusion between "grew up in" and "came from." Sometimes, I hear students say "I grew from the province" or "I came up in province." I think this is what happens when people are not too sure about the expression they're trying to use and they wind up kind of putting everything they know together in one wrong statement. Here are the correct ways to say it:

"I grew up in the province."
"I came from the province."

The first statement is used when a person is talking about where he/she grew up. In other words, where he/she spent his/her childhood, adolescent life, and probably early adulthood. The second statement is used to say that the person is in the city after having left the province. This can be used to say that he/she has lived in the province for most of his/her life (as in, grew up in) or it can be used to say that he/she has just come from the province (perhaps on a business trip).

Our internet connection was down for a couple of days. This always seems to happen after a storm.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Downloaded from the Internet

My goodness, time does fly! I can't believe almost a week has passed since my last post. I always have this feeling that I post on Wednesdays and Sundays (or something like that) but I wind up thinking it's just Wednesday when in reality, it's Sunday (or something like that). It's either I'm getting older and my memory is not what it used to be or it's because I'm doing so much that I forget which day is which. It's probably a combination of both. Lately, I've been feeling that one day is quickly running into the next that I miss the summers of my childhood when I felt like the days were much too long. Oh well!

It's a wild, wet day here in Manila! The storm hit us bad and we're marooned with nothing but the Internet to keep us company. Here's a post for a rainy day:

Students often say "I downloaded it in the Internet." I think people use the preposition in because they consider the Internet a place to hang out, read stuff, and download stuff. In a way, this is true as the Internet is already considered some kind of place where people go--a virtual place so to speak. However, when it comes to downloading and prepositions, the correct one to use is from: "I downloaded this from the Internet." In this case, we're downloading things from a source. The preposition from, after all, is used to indicate where something originated. So, next time you're downloading, think of the source where all this downloadable fun stuff is from.

Enjoy the rainy weekend. Don't get wet now!

Monday, June 16, 2008


I really hate the way Filipinos use the word "wherein." I've heard it misused so many times that I generally think Pinoys resort to using it when they don't know what other word to use. Often, this word is used as a cohesive device when it's not supposed to be used in that manner.

Here are some examples I collected today:

"I studied nursing wherein I like to take care of the sick."
"I spend time with my family wherein we like to watch movies."
"Children need to learn good values wherein they need to behave well."
"I'm working wherein I need to earn money."

Honestly, what is going on here? It seems that "wherein" shows up no matter what the sentence is all about!

To address this problem, let's look at definitions: "wherein" means "in what way" or "in what respect." So, a correct way of using the word would be "Wherein was I wrong?" Another is the old-fashioned "wherein lies the truth?" The second definition is about location: "The province wherein they live." In no way does the word mean "and," "because," "therefore" or any other cohesive device that people substitute it for.

Here are the corrections for the sentences above:

"I studied nursing because I like to take care of the sick."
"My family and I spend time together by watching movies."
"Children need to learn good values so they behave well."
"I'm working because I need the money."

Please, minimize the use of "wherein!" In the first place, it's a rather old-fashioned word. Just say "Where was I wrong?" or "The province where they live."

"No" to wherein!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Neighbors and Neighborhoods

I heard this error today: "my neighborhoods are my friends." As much as this error surprised me, I've heard it before. I actually think that there are people there who confuse "neighbor" and "neighborhood."

It's really just a question of definitions: your neighbor is the person who lives near you while your neighborhood is the community you live in. There's a big difference between the two words but they do sound similar, which is why I think people mistake the two.

Someone named Jon left a message for me sometime ago! I'm sorry, Jon, I did not notice your comment sooner. As to contacting me, I did not put a link with my email here because I was afraid people would send me junk mail or worse. Most people who want me to respond to anything just leave me comments here. However, Jon, you say you found my blog through the DBTI mailing list which my husband, Chris, is part of. Do you mind giving me your handle on the mailing list? I will email you once I know.

Thank you for reading, everyone!

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Favorite

One of my students wrote about her favorite things by describing them as her "best favorite." I thought this was a very cute error because it seemed like she really wanted to show how much she loved her favorite things.

We never describe anything we love as our "best favorite." The word "favorite" refers to what a person loves most among many things that he/she loves. For example, I love books in general but some books are my favorites, in other words, I love them more than others. The word "best" can also mean something similar, which is why we have the expression "best friend." A person has many friends, but he/she might have one or two that he/she is closer too. These very close friends are considered "best friends." To put "best" and "favorite" together is repetitive.

So, if you love one thing more than another, you can describe it as your "favorite." If you want to talk about a close friend, you can refer to him/her as your "best friend."

Enjoy the week!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wrap Up Your Work

During a class activity, I heard someone say, "wrap up with your work." Often, we misuse the preposition, "with." Earlier, I blogged about "advise you with our arrival" (it should be "advise you on our arrival"). Today, I'm looking at another misuse of "we."

In the expression above, there's no need to use "with." The expression is simply "wrap up your work." I honestly don't know why but I think it's just a question of usage and clutter. Where usage is concerned, people have always just said "wrap up your work." Where clutter is concerned, "with" does not add to or detract from the meaning of the expression so there's no need for it. In this case, "with" is unnecessary so it just "clutters" the sentence.

Enjoy your week, everyone! Try to wrap up all your work before the weekend. Cheers!

Friday, May 30, 2008


I heard someone say "She is tensed" and I immediately realized where the mistake came from. We never describe a person as "tensed;" a person is always just "tense." Why is this?

I think the confusion stems from the word "tense" as a verb and "tense" as an adjective. When we describe a person's state of nervousness (which is usually the way we use the word), we use it as an adjective: "She is tense." As an adjective, we do not add "ed."

Now, when "tense" is used as a verb, we mean "to make something stiff" or "to add tension." Think of all the workout videos and their teachers who shout: "Are you ready to do the workout? Feel the stretch! Tense those arm muscles!" In this example, we are being told to add tension to our muscles. Hence, "tense" is used as an action word. If the word is being used as a verb, then you can add "ed" to indicate the past: "He tensed his muscles too much during that weight-training session."

It's Friday already so don't you get too tense now!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In, On, and Months

My old friend who calls herself "ahoy" left a question for me about the use of "in" and "on" where months are concerned. I think this will be my third post on these two little words. I'm not surprised about this as these prepositions are really very tricky. So, here goes.

If we talk about what we did (or we're going to do) during the month as a whole, we use in: "In May, we're going to the beach." Or "I went to the beach in May." I'm not sure about the logic of this but I think it has something to do with the lack of specifics. Remember, we use in when we're talking about being surrounded by something. If you don't have any specific dates or times, then it's like saying you're surrounded by (or immersed in) a general time frame.

However, on is used when we're talking about specific dates and times: "On May 14, I was in Boracay." Where specifics are concerned, you have some kind of control, just like controlling the surface of a table, for instance: "I put my papers on the table." If you're talking about a specific date or time, you have some measure of control over that date or time. Remember, on is used for two-dimensional spaces, so specifics are important.

Speaking of "in" and "on," I heard this the other day: "I'm on a car." This is strange because we're in a car but on (or in) a bus and on a plane. This just goes to show how tricky prepositions are. It's best to remember that prepositions don't always have rules that make sense. What learners (and confident users) of English have to know is what these little words mean. The rules themselves can be rather arbitrary, in other words, they don't always follow logic. Often, we use prepositions in certain ways because they've been used in those ways for generations.

Isn't English such a difficult language?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Will Think Of That

I came across this a couple of days ago: "I will think for that". I'm sure many of you will spot the mistake right away.

A word about the preposition for. I think I wrote about this a couple of posts ago. For has many meanings but it is commonly used to refer to talking about direction of all forms. For example, we use it to say "I'm taking the cake for her," "would you like to go for a hotdog?" In the case of the error above, we don't think for something (thinking is something we do, not a direction); therefore, for is the incorrect preposition to use.

To correct the error, there are two ways. The first is to use the preposition of: I will think of that. As a preposition, of also has many meanings but in this case, it means "to focus on something." When we think of something, we are focusing on it; hence, of is the preposition of choice.

The second way of correcting this is to use the preposition on: I will think on that. I've mentioned before that on describes location but it is also used to talk about the focus of a non-physical action like thought or thinking. When we say "I will think on that," we are talking about the focus of our thinking.

I notice that many Filipinos mistake for and of. That is something to think on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Pinoy Cunning Linguist

Please visit my new blog, The Pinoy Cunning Linguist. It's on I can't believe I started a new blog considering I can barely maintain this one! I just started writing tonight so it might take me a few days to get some posts up.

This promises to be fun! Check it out!

Agree With That

Lately, I've been hearing a lot of people say "I agree to that." I'm worried that this mistake will be considered correct just because so many people have been using it! I'm hoping to prevent this by writing about it.

Remember the rule: we go to something but we agree with something. If someone's opinions echo your own, then we say "I agree with you." I think the confusion stems from the situation where two people agree to do something. An example would be: "Two teachers have agreed to share materials." In this instance, both teachers have agreed and are thus moving to applying what they agreed on. This is not the same as one person having the same opinions or ideas as another.

So, it's "I agree with that." I hope you all agree. Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Write Them Down In Five Sentences

I was walking around school the other day and I heard someone say, "Write down your answers at for least five sentences." This is yet another manifestation of the confusion between for and to (I think I've blogged about something similar before. I must check my archives! I'm forgetting what I've blogged about!). Thing is, prepositions are really quite tricky. Most of the time, the rules that govern them are just born out of usage and not much logic. The best way to deal with prepositions is to memorize how they are used which is very unpleasant, if you ask me.

For is a difficult preposition because it has so many uses. We use it to indicate ownership ("I bought that for you"), direction ("I'm heading for school in a bit"), some kind of goal ("I've been waiting for this chance"), some kind of character ("For someone who works so hard, she doesn't look stressed"). It's really quite confusing! One thing that for does not do, however, is it does not indicate boundaries. That is what in does.

In several previous posts, I've mentioned that in is used to talk about something being surrounded by something. In other words, whatever is in something is surrounded; it's bounded by something ("in school," "in the office," "in my bag"). Similarly, on non-physical levels, there are boundaries as well: someone is "in pain" (the person feels surrounded by pain), "in doubt," "in anger." In the sentence mentioned above, in is the correct preposition to use because whatever needs to be written, is bounded by five sentences. The sentences then serve as the boundary for the idea that needs to be expressed. Hence, "Write your answers in at least five sentences."

By the way, this blog is almost a year old and I'd like to start another one. It will also be an English or language related blog, I'm just not sure what I want it to contain as of yet. Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

We Will Go

Here's something I heard the other day: "we will going to." What made this error even more painful to me was that it was made by an English teacher. I don't blame the teacher in any way. Likely, no one has ever taught her the right expression. Also, the standard of education here in the Philippines is so low, especially in provincial public schools (where this teacher is from) that all I can do is applaud her efforts at self-improvement instead of making fun of her mistake.

Her error, "we will going to" is a common one. Correcting it is simple: "we will go." It's just a question of removing "going to." If you insist on keeping the progressive form of the verb, then make it "we will be going to." However, to simplify, when you want to use the future tense (will + verb), remember that the verb remains in its base form. Here are some examples: "we will use the phone," "we will buy the food," "we will drive the car."

I'm so sorry my posting has been erratic. Since taking on a class of foreign students, I've been even more swamped with work. Have a nice day!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Addicting and Addictive

Hi there! It's been a very long and stressful week. I have some new classes which have turned out to be more challenging than I expected. Still, I'm rising to the challenge!

My reader from Canada asked me to discuss the difference between the words "addicting" and "addictive". Both are used interchangeably now. Still, there is a key difference between them.

"Addicting" and "addictive" both mean "causing addiction." The key difference lies in what part of speech the words belong in. "Addicting" is a transitive verb while "addictive" is an adjective. What's the difference?

Like any verb, a transitive verb is an action word. It's a word that talks about doing or causing something. Unlike other verbs, though, a transitive verb requires an object. In other words, something receives the action. To use "addicting," we would have to say something like: "That brand of pet food is addicting to my cats." In the sentence, my cats receive the action. It's a bit had to explain transitive verbs. It's best to think of them by asking "who did what to whom?" In this case, the pet food caused an addiction in my cats.

The adjective "addictive" simply describes a substance that causes addiction. Hence, we say, "alcohol is addictive," "chocolate is addictive," "video games are addictive." When Pinoys (and people in general) use the word "addicting," they really mean "addictive."

One last word, if you search the Net, you will find a lot of links to "addicting" products. In a way, the mistake of using "addicting" as an adjective is a result of changes in English and the way people tend to accept a mistake and take it as a fact. Where these two words are concerned, use "addictive" if you're writing or using it in a more formal situation. "Addicting," as a colloquial way of using English, I think, is all right when speaking to friends and acquaintances. Still, it helps to know the correct way of using it.

My Canadian friend, thanks for the question. It was quite a challenge answering it. To my other friend Manny, thanks for your kind message. Really, sometimes I wonder whether people learn anything from me. Oh well, no point in getting paranoid!

Keep the questions coming! I love them!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why Are You

I was in class the other day and I heard one of the students say, "Why you are nervous?" Now, this is a common error. The placing of the verb "are" can be confusing.

We do know that in general, verbs are placed close to the subjects of sentences. Hence, we say "She is going to school" and "We are eating out tonight." However, where questions are concerned, the position of the verb can change. In the error that the student committed, the correct form is "Why are you nervous?"

The reason for the shift is simple. The subject, actually, is the answer to "why." In other words, the subject is not "you" but "why." Consider:

Student A: Why are you nervous?
Student B: I'm nervous because I'm presenting my report today.

In this dialogue, the subject of the sentence is the anticipated answer to the "why" question ("because I'm presenting"). I think the rule is the same for other "w" questions. Let's continue the dialogue:

Student C: Where is your presentation going to be?
Student B: In classroom C.
Student A: What are needed for the presentation?
Student B: I'll need a laptop, LCD screen, and maybe a laser pointer.

This rule also applies to "how" questions, which is why we say "How are you?" and not "How you are."

I hope you are all doing well!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This is once again a repeat post. I wrote about the Pinoy mistake of saying "in abroad." Allow me to write about this again and talk about the dangers of literally translating one language into another.

I often hear my students saying "I want to work in abroad." At first, I didn't know where this expression was coming from. However, when I thought about it in Filipino, it made perfect sense. In Filipino, we say, "gusto ko magtrabaho sa ibang bansa." "Sa" is then literally translated into "in" which is why so many make the mistake of saying "in abroad."

I am really wondering what to do about this error. It occurs so often that sometimes, I'm not sure how to correct it as my students are so used to making the mistake. As with learning a new language, memorization is really the key. Students just have to get used to saying the proper, "I'd like to work abroad."

Now, literally translating one language into another is knows as transliteration. It doesn't work. Languages are, after all, very different from one another and although some words in one language do have equivalents in another, that is not always the case. If you insist on transliteration, you are liable to make mistakes. I mean, is there any English word for "pitik"?

Manny left me a question about my previous post. He wanted to know if certain sentences he came up with were correct (if you want to read them, check out the "comments" section of my post called "For a Total Purchase Of"). Manny, once again, thanks for the question. Both sentences are correct but I would not use either one. For something as simple as the mechanics for getting discounts, I would not use words like "accumulatively." Remember, English is not just about knowing words, it's also about knowing when to use the words. "Accumulatively" is too formal for something so casual. As for the second sentence, the expression "total spending" is correct; however, I think it's used for something larger than an individual's shopping habits; as in "the total spending of the Philippine government." Don't get me wrong, though. As I said, both sentences are correct. They're just inappropriate for that particular situation. I hope I answered your question?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

For A Total Purchase Of

Hi everyone! No, I haven't been in Boracay this whole time. I got back to Manila Friday night and immediately started work Saturday. I've been working ever since and I've been so exhausted! Today is my first kind of free day. Do you know the feeling when you sometimes need a vacation from your vacation?

When I got back, I saw a flyer from my credit card company advertising freebies if you made a "cumulative spend of" a certain amount. Here are some samples: "For a cumulative spend of P5,000 FREE P500 Nike Gift Cheque" and "For a cumulative spend of P2,000, get P300 REBATE on regular-priced items." Now, where, may I ask, is this "cumulative spend" coming from?

I was really irritated while reading the flyer. In the first place, "spend" is not a noun. It's a verb! We don't say "spend" when we talk about the total amount we spent shopping. We use "spend" when we talk about the act of using up something: "I spend P500 on my monthly cellphone bill" or "I spend some time with my mom everyday." We don't do "a cumulative spend" on anything!

I think the ad company that designed the flyer was trying to be creative and tried to use words that would make their flyer distinct from the rest. Still, that is no excuse to mangle the English language! I do work hard to teach correct English; it irks me to know that people are just taking liberties to change it without any good reason.

So, why don't we just stick to the more traditional expressions of "For a total purchase of P5,000, get a P500 gift cheque" or "For a cumulative expense of P2,000, get a discount card!"
After all, "purchase" and "expense" are nouns that mean the totality of what we spent on.

One final word, I'm not against ad companies or writers inventing words or using words in new ways. This is just part of the creative process and the growth of English. Still, I think there's a reasonable need to change the language within the parameters of what the language is now. In other words, don't break cardinal rules such as the differences between nouns and verbs.

That's all for today! Don't spend too much!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

She is Outgoing

I heard someone say, "She is outgoer." As with many errors in English, half the time, we can actually figure out the meaning of what was said. Still, the error remains. In this case, it's clear that the person wanted to say, "She is outgoing."

When we want to describe someone as being warm and friendly, we use the adjective outgoing, which literally means "someone warm and friendly." Outgoer is simply incorrect.

I'm leaving tomorrow for a vacation in Boracay with my in-laws. Yahoo! I'm finally going out-of-town for fun and not for work.

See you all when I get back!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's On Behalf Of!

Much as I don't like to repeat myself, I had to post on this topic again. The improper use of "in behalf of" is starting to irritate me.

Yesterday, Casey and I were in Megamall for some errands and we stopped by Toy Kingdom, my husband being a toy collector after all. Toy Kingdom had a voice over the PA announcing birthday celebrants who were shopping in the store. The announcer kept saying, "In behalf of Toy Kingdom, we would like to greet...." After the announcement, all the employees would clap and this rather annoying birthday jingle would play. My irritation at the music aside, I kept wincing every time I would hear "in behalf of Toy Kingdom." How many Toy Kingdom shoppers had their birthday yesterday anyway?

One of my earliest posts was on this topic. When we are representing someone else, we say "on behalf of". "In behalf of" is used when we're doing something for the benefit of someone else. Hence, it's "On behalf of Toy Kingdom" (the person over the PA is representing everyone in Toy Kingdom) and "We collected goods in behalf of the flood victims" (the speaker collected charity for the benefit of the flood victims).

Now, I do know that English is a living and evolving language. In fact, "on behalf of" and "in behalf of" are often interchanged now. Still, I think it's important to know how to use English correctly just the same.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

At A Young Age

A student of mine was talking to me about her daughter. She said, "In her young age, my daughter already likes computers." She was a wonderful lady but I had to gently correct her by saying, "At a young age, most kids today are interested in computers."

Honestly, this error is really very slight. There's no real reason why we say "at a young age" instead of "in her young age." It's just a question of idioms and the way English has been used all these years. This, though, is my own explanation of why we say "at a young age:"

Remember my early posts on the preposition at? I pointed out that it is used to indicate a specific point in time and space as opposed to in, which is used to talk about being surrounded by time and space. When we talk about a person's age, we're talking about his/her location at a specific point in time; hence, we use at.

Here is something quite confusing though. When we're talking about an elderly person, we say, "in his/her old age." The way I see it, we say "in her old age" because old age is really more a state of being rather than a point in time. When kids are young, I don't think they're in any state of being yet. After all, they haven't carved their identities yet and life for them is just starting. We can use in to talk about old age because age does surround us, so we're literally "in" being old. Also, as I grow older, I realize that my literal age doesn't matter as much as my emotional age or my age in terms of how wise I've become. So, as we get older, age and everything it means starts surrounding us.

Someone who introduced him/herself as a "fan from Canada" left me two comments which made me feel so good. Whoever you are, I'm glad to be able to meet you. You found me through "Remembrance of Things Gone Awry"? That's a great blog run by Toto Gonzalez, who is an uncle of my husband. You're right about "brought/bring" and "take." The problem seems to be a feature of Philippine English. I actually just found out about it myself. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good At That Activity

I've been hearing people say, "good with that activity." I understand the sentiment, but I have to correct the expression.

It's not "good with that activity" but "good at that activity." We use this expression when we're talking about a person's skill level when it comes to performing a task. For example, my husband Casey is good at writing while I am good at teaching. We can also use this sarcastically: "She is good at lying."

Tatz left a comment asking me whether I do seminars. Yes, Tatz, I do. You can contact me here but please let me know how I can contact you.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mail and E-mail

Hello everyone! As you can all see, I took a long break for the Easter holidays. I had a fantastic time! I hope I'm now over a horrid sinusitis problem and ready to work and blog.

On this Easter Monday, I'd like to discuss something mundane but very important: the mail. We've all mailed something at one time or another and I'm sure there is not a person who does get excited upon receiving something from the mail. Today, though, things have changed as the internet is now often used to send messages whereas the post was the method of choice in the past.

I wanted to blog about mail because I've heard people say "I will mail a letter to post" and "I will mail to the internet." In both instances, of course, the person is talking about how the letter will be sent, although the expressions used are wrong.

When we're talking about sending something through the mail, we can say any of the following: "I will send this via post," "I will mail this letter, "I will send this letter through the mail." We do not say "I will mail a letter to post." The letter is not going to the post. Rather, we are sending it using the postal service; hence, we say, "I will send this letter through post" or "I will send this via post." Or, we can simply say, "I will mail this letter." In this case, "mail" is used as a verb to describe the action of using the postal service.

Now, when speaking of sending letters through the Internet, we are definitely not mailing anything (to mail something, as I've said, means to use the post office). We cannot mail things through the Internet. Rather, we just send things through the Net. The correct expression, then, is "I will send this letter through the Internet." Or, to simplify things further, we can just say, "I will e-mail my friend (or relative/boss/etc.)." E-mail, after all, is what we call letters send through the Internet.

Happy Easter, one and all!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vegetable Omelette

I was in Bacolod over the weekend and since I was so busy, I didn't have time to eat out. I had to content myself with awful hotel food! While going over the hotel menu looking for something decent to eat, I saw an entry for "vegetables omelette."

People might wonder, "what's wrong with vegetables omelette?" After all, an omelette of this sort has more than one vegetable in it, doesn't this mean that the plural form has to be used? Unfortunately, no. We say vegetable omelette because the word vegetable is used as an adjective. It describes what kind of omelette it is, rather than say how many vegetables are in the dish. This is also the reason why we say vegetable soup and fruit and vegetable dealer.

Eat your vegetables, everyone!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fifty of Them

While waiting for the MRT at the Shaw station today, I noticed a tarpaulin poster about the ill effects of smoking and what they do to the smoker's body. One of the captions on the poster read something like "A cigarette has many chemicals. Fifty of it causes illnesses." I don't remember the exact words but I do remember the error: it instead of them and causes instead of cause.

The problem here in one of pronoun referencing. The subject of the sentence is "50 chemicals," which is a plural subject. A plural subject needs a plural pronoun; after all, the pronoun refers to the subject. If the subject is plural, the pronoun should be plural.

The second mistake is the use of the singular verb (causes) when the plural verb should have been used. This mistake stems from the wrong use of it. If the pronoun had been plural, then the correct verb would have probably followed.

Here's the corrected caption: "A cigarette has many chemicals. Fifty of them cause illnesses."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Graduated From College

Ah, college! What a wonderful time! Sitting in the cafeteria with friends, joining all sorts of school activities, making friends, cutting class, and for some of us, even learning something important. Who would not enjoy such a time? I'm sure many talk about their college days and graduation as well. However, when we talk about graduation, we do not say, "I graduated in college." Rather, we say, "I graduated from college."

It surprised me to realize that this problem with in and from is actually quite a common one. I think the problem lies in a confusion between coming from something and currently attending that something. If the person is going through college education at the moment of speaking, then, he/she says, "I am in college." At this point, the speaker is attending college. If the person wants to talk about graduation, he/she must say, "I graduated from college" because he/she has finished college. When you finish college, you leave that school and that stage of your life; therefore, from is the preposition to use.

Remember, we use in when we're surrounded by something and from when we've left that something.

Friday, February 29, 2008

If I Have The Chance

One of my students said, "Ma'am, if I have a chance to go abroad, I want to go to the States to earn money for my family." I appreciate the sentiment but I've got to correct the grammar.

If you want to talk about one chance to do anything, say, "if I have the chance." In a previous post, I explained the difference between the and a. We use a when we're talking about one thing among many. For example, "Let's go to a restaurant in Greenhills tonight." In this case, the speaker is talking about any one restaurant in Greenhills, a place with many restaurants. The, on the other hand, is used when we're talking about one particular thing "Let's go to the restaurant beside the bookstore in Greenhills." Here, the speaker is talking about one restaurant beside the bookstore. If you noticed, the first example talks about a non-specific restaurant. In the second, the restaurant is specified.

Where chances are concerned, we say "the chance" because we're talking about one particular chance to do something--"if I have the chance to go abroad." Granted, people might have more than one chance to do something--"this is a chance to find love"-- but if you're talking about the one chance, use the.

I hope this wasn't confusing?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Advise You On

While on the plane to Cebu, the pilot announced "Our expected flight time is 1 hour 30 minutes but hopefully, we will arrive sooner. I will advise you with our arrival time."

The pilot made a small but noticeable error. In this case, with is not the preposition to use. Rather, on is what should be used: "I will advise you on our arrival time." With is not the correct preposition because it refers to being in the company of someone (I am with my friends) or being in possession of something (I had my bag with me). The pilot who was speaking did not possess the arrival time; hence, on is the preposition to use.

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday yesterday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Birds Of A Feather

Yesterday, I was talking to a student who said, "the same feather flock together." It was a silly mistake but I had to give her credit for trying to integrate an idiom into what she was saying.

The correct idiom is "birds of a feather flock together." No, we're not talking about birds here; however, the meaning of this idiom is taken from the way birds behave. Think about a flock of birds flying overhead: a flock (a group of birds) will only have one kind of bird. If we're lucky, we can catch a flock of sparrows, a flock of swallows, a flock of seagulls. We don't see a flock composed of all three kinds of birds. The expression "birds of a feather" means a group of the same birds (they have the same feathers!).

The idiom "birds of a feather flock together" talks about a group of people who are similar in whatever respect. So a football-obsessed teenager will hang-out with other football obsessed
teen-aged friends. Their age and love for football make them like "birds of a feather." In human terms, people who like the same things and act the same way stick together.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Elaborate On

I'm in Manila as of the moment but I'm leaving for Cebu in a few hours. Since I'm rushing, this will be a quick post.

One of the students I met in Baguio kept saying, "Ma'am, could you please elaborate the question?" I had to correct her right away. The expression is elaborate on. We always say, "Could you please elaborate on the question?"

I'm not sure why the preposition on is necessary. It's just the way it is! If you want to use another expression when you want to say something similar, just say "could you please explain further?"

Have a nice weekend!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bring and Take

There's a small confusion about the difference between bring and take. Both are verbs used to talk about moving an object from one place to the other. The difference between them is very slight but useful to know. Check out this dialogue:

"Can you bring the cake?"
"Yes, I can take it to the party."
"Would you mind bringing other items?"
"Sorry, I can only take the cake with me."

Did you catch the difference? Bring is used if you're talking to someone and asking him/her to move the object from one place to another. Take, on the other hand, is used if you are talking about actually moving the object from one place to another.

This is really a very small difference and one that is based on usage rather than meaning. Still, it's best to know these things.

Manny, as to the question you left me, I agree. You can add "for" if the word request is used that way.

I'll be in Baguio for work till Friday. Hopefully, I'll be able to post when I get back as I'm leaving for Cebu on Saturday. Have a good week, everyone!

Friday, February 8, 2008


My, how time flies! In my mind, my last blog post was two days ago. When I opened my blog today, I realized the last time I posted was Monday and now it's Friday! Where did the week go? Do you get that feeling sometimes too?

Today, I'd like to discuss the word, request. I was at the supermarket the other day and I heard this announcement: "Requesting for customer service personnel please." I don't know the reason for the announcement, I was just struck by the phrase, requesting for. I felt there was an error somewhere.

More often than not, we see or hear people saying request for or requesting for. I checked this out and there is an error. Ideally, the word request is not used with for. Hence, we say "I'd like to request assistance" or "I'm requesting that they meet me early."

There are many instances though of people on the Internet using request for or requesting for. I think this is a case of usage overrunning the rule. Technically, I don't think this is a serious error. It's a case of more words than necessary being used. Still, it does not make for efficient English use.

As to the supermarket example above, here's a revision "Calling on customer service personnel, please."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Open and Closed

When we go to stores and restaurants, we're always conscious of the difference between the "open" and "closed" signs. The meanings are obvious so I won't blog about them. Instead, I'd like to look at the grammar of these two words when describing the state of a shop or restaurant.

We always say a place is "open" like we always say a place is "closed." We never say shop is "opened" or a shop is "close." Why is this?

Although "open" is normally used as a verb--an action word ("I will open the store," "She opened the store yesterday"), in the case of describing whether a shop can take customers, it becomes an adjective. "Open," then, is the word which describes the state of a shop--"The shop is open (ready to take customers)."

Now, "closed" can also be a verb ("I closed the store," "I will close the store") and an adjective--"The store is closed today." In this case, the store is not able to take in customers. We never say "The store is close." If that is done, the meaning of the statement changes (close means nearby, as in "The store is close to our house).

So, the store is open today but closed tomorrow.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Government's Responsibility

While checking papers the other day, I came across this error: "it's the government's responsibility in giving health care." Although I agree with the sentiment, I don't agree with the grammar.

The correct form is "it's the government's responsibility to give health care." Remember, "to" is a preposition which talks about moving in a certain direction. In this case, the direction is the government's health care plan.

Do you agree that governments should provide health care?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Looking Forward To

We all have something to look forward to, don't we? Daily, I look forward to the end of the day when work has ended and I can go home. I look forward to puttering around the kitchen and spending quiet time with my husband, Chris, or Casey, as I call him. There's also my evening meal and cup of tea to look forward to.

What do you look forward to?

If you've noticed, I've been saying "look forward to" and not "look forward for." I've been hearing people say, "look forward for," which is incorrect. Remember, to is a preposition of direction: if you use it, you're moving toward something. If you look forward to something, you're moving in the direction of that thing.

It's Monday today and I hope you all have something to look forward to this week.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Everyone likes congratulating someone over something. Unfortunately, sometimes, people don't know the preposition that comes after the word. I've heard people say, "congratulations for," which is incorrect.

The correct preposition is "congratulations on." "For" is a preposition used to indicate the receiver of an action, as in, "I went out for a drink" (the drink receives the action of going out) and "I made lunch for the kids" (the kids receive the action). "Congratulations" is not an action; therefore, we say "congratulations on."

I'm not entirely sure why we say "congratulations on." I suspect it's partly because "on" can indicate a state ("it's on fire"). When you congratulate someone, you're referring to a favorable state which the person is in: "congratulations on winning the game," "congratulations on finishing your degree," "congratulations on completing the project." We also say, "I would like to congratulate you on passing that test."

That's all for now, folks!

Monday, January 21, 2008

To and At again

Hello everyone! I was in Davao the last few days so I was not able to post. It was an interesting trip as it was my first time to see the place, although I didn't really do any sight-seeing. Due to the amount of work to do, I was confined to the hotel most of time. Still, Davao looked very impressive.

While waiting for my flight back at the Davao airport, I heard this announcement: "7.30am flight to Manila now boarding. Estimated arrival to Manila, 9.30am." I don't remember the exact words that were used. I am certain, though, that I heard "estimated arrival to Manila" and realized that I could blog about it today.

The mistake lies in the use of the preposition, to. The correct one to use is at. Do you remember my previous posts on these prepositions? At refers to a specific point in time or space. To means movement in the direction of a specific time or space. I can understand where the confusion lies, the plane is, after all, moving to Manila from Davao. However, the announcement that was made was not about the movement of the plane (it was not "Davao to Manila flight, estimated arrival time, 9.30am"). Rather, it was about the specific point in space that the plane was going toward. Hence, we should say, "Estimated arrival at Manila, 9.30am."

That's all for now, folks! Have a good week ahead.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


We were browsing the sporting goods store in Bonifacio High Street when I heard one of the salespeople describe a really expensive pair of shoes as "water proof and britabol." I was clueless as to what "britabol" was. My first thought was it had something to do with the Brita water filter, although what a water filter has to do with a shoe is beyond me.

I eventually realized that what the salesperson was trying to say was that the shoe was "water proof and breathable." In this case, his mispronunciation could have very well cost him as a sale! I will not buy a "britabol" shoe (what the hell is that?) but I will get a "breathable" one.

Now, some might say that the mispronunciation is due to a heavy accent (see my previous posts regarding the "i" and "e" sounds and the "th" and "d" sounds) and that might indeed be true. However, I have heard very good speakers of English who make themselves clear despite their heavy non-English accents (I'm thinking of my European friends whose English is heavily accented but very understandable).

English is actually very forgiving where accents are concerned. If what you're trying to say is obvious despite the accent, you're ok. In the case of the poor salesperson, his accent made things very unclear and difficult for all concerned. Remember, an accent is not an excuse to avoid learning proper pronunciation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


It really gets to me when people describe Hollywood movies as having "high-technology." Obviously, this comes from the expression, "hi-tech," which is an adjective describing the use of new technology or the latest advancements in technology. For example, you may describe your cellular phone as "high-tech," meaning your phone uses new technology such as a TV connection, maybe.

Now, the expression "high-tech" is an adjective. It is not a noun. So, the sentence, "The movie I Am Legend is good because it possess high technology," is incorrect. Here, the expression is used as a noun (a name for the kind of technology used). There is no such noun. Also, the word "high" is not an adjective for "technology." "High-tech" is also not a shortcut for "high technology."

I understand where the mistake is coming from. "High-tech" does sound like a shortened version of a longer expression. However, this is not the case. Instead of using "high" to describe the technology used in movies or gadgets, use other adjectives such as "advanced," "cutting-edge," or even "sophisticated."

Next time you want to describe a movie with amazing special effects, say "The movie was fantastic! It used cutting-edge technology for the effects. They looked like they were created by sophisticated computers which did not exist before."

Before I end this post, Manny left a question for me regarding my previous post on the word "variety." Yes, Manny, it is correct to say "wide variety." This needs the article a, though: "There is a wide variety of options to choose from."

Let me also thank my student Qing for posting comments and questions. Qing is from China and she's been very supportive of my efforts here.

Thank you everyone for reading and don't hesitate to ask me questions!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


It's been a whirlwind of a week with all sorts of errands to run and people to see. As usual, real life got in the way of blogging. Also, I'm kinda running out of ideas so if you have anything you want me to blog about, please let me know.

I saw this sign at a digital printing shop yesterday: "choose from a different variety of ways to print your pictures." Although I commend the attempt to use good English, I noticed the redundancy immediately. The words "different" and "variety" have very similar meanings. Both, after all, mean "dissimilar." So, if you say "a different variety," you're saying the same thing twice.
It's an instance of sentence clutter--words that only lengthen the sentence but do not add to the meaning.

Remember, although it's good to have an extensive vocabulary, it's also wise to learn to use the words correctly.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Believe That

I don't know why I keep hearing so many of my students saying, "I believe on that." Although the word on has many definitions (and can be a preposition and an adjective depending on usage), it's incorrect to use it to affirm a certain belief. The correct expression, after all, is simply, "I believe that."

Here are some examples:

I believe that the government is unjust.
Do you believe that he cheated on the test?
They believe that the computers are already outdated.

We never, ever say, "believe on that" for anything!

Monday, January 7, 2008


Many seem to make errors regarding the use of the word "mention." The most common that I've heard is, "I made mention." This is another one of my pet peeves as I don't know why people have to add "made." All it does is clutter the sentence! It adds a word that is not necessary.

Instead of "I made mention," stick to the simpler (and more correct), "I mentioned that." Here are some examples:

I mentioned that I finished the work.
I mentioned that I like classical music.
I mentioned that you need to pay this amount.

Another mistake where "mention" is concerned is "I mentioned about." Once again, the correct expression is "I mentioned that."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Eats Shoots and Leaves

As a Christmas treat for myself, I bought a copy of Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I've not read the book yet but I've been told that it's a lot of fun and really handy for an English teacher like me. The book is essentially about punctuation and our misuse of it. The title alone already reveals how, with a change in punctuation particularly the comma, the meaning of a statement can change.

Let's look at it some more: if you say that an animal "eats, shoots and leaves," it means that the animal will eat, then shoot a gun, then leave. But if you say, "eats shoots and leaves," it means the animal's diet consists of shoots and leaves. Get it?

I bought this book because as a writing teacher, I often encounter punctuation mistakes and problems they can cause in the meaning of a sentence. Read up on punctuation, everyone! Better yet, ask me!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Avail Of

All my holiday obligations are finally over and I'm quite eager to get back to posting regularly. Unfortunately, we're having some construction done here and we have to move our computers (and our Internet cables) to another room and that might cause some problems for me. Anyway, today's post:

While at Pod Central in Glorietta, I picked up a flyer for Shure Earphones. The flyer said, "Avail great discount on Shure Isolating Earphones." I don't know what it is but Filipinos love using the word "avail." The problem is, the word is not used with the proper preposition which is "of." The above statement should read, "Avail of a great discount on Shure Isolating Earphones."

Anyone want to avail of my teaching services?