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?