Deadline and Dateline
When we are planning timelines, it is important to set deadlines.
In this context, it is spelled as "d-e-a-d-l-i-n-e" and refers to the date or time a task needs to be completed.
On the other hand, dateline, spelled as "d-a-t-e-l-i-n-e", is a line in a newspaper article that gives the date and place of origin.
Thus, remember that these two words cannot be used interchangeably!
Disinterested or Uninterested
It has been observed that many young people these days are apathetic. Does this mean they are disinterested or uninterested in politics?
Well, in this case, they are simply “uninterested”, meaning “not interested”.
If we were to say the young people are “disinterested” towards politics, it means that they are unbiased or impartial to any political issues. For example, “As she had no stake in the new policy on housing loans, she was disinterested in the progress of its implementation.”
When delivering something, we usually say “I’ll drop the papers at your office”.
If you say this, most people would imagine the papers being dropped on the floor of your office, possibly causing a mess.
To avoid making such an impression, the word ‘off’ needs to be included. It should thus be, “I’ll drop off the papers at your office”.
And here’s another tip, encore is pronounced as ‘ahn-kohr’ not ‘an-kohr’.
E.g. and Etc.
Short forms are very useful when we take notes, are in a hurry to craft an email or have limited space in an SMS.
Here are two quick tips on how to use e.g. and etc.:
1. When using "e.g.", there is no need to add the word "for" in front of it as "e.g." already means "for example".
2. It is redundant to use "etc." at the end of a sentence that uses "e.g." as "e.g." already means to list out other similar items.
E.g. and I.e.
The abbreviations “e.g.” and “i.e.” are often used interchangeably. However, their uses are very different.
“E.g.” means “for example” whereas “i.e.” means “in essence” or “in other words”. So, if you are giving examples, you would say “he enjoys eating fruits, e.g. apples, oranges and pears”.
If you are giving further explanations, you would say “he dislikes eating fruits, i.e. he won’t eat any type because he doesn’t like eating fruits.”
Here’s an extra tip: when writing formally, it’s better to express their full meanings rather than use these abbreviations as they may be viewed as informal.
Everyday and Every Day
Using the right word is important in effective communication, even if the wrong word sounds exactly the same as the appropriate word to use.
One example is "every day", as two words, and "everyday" as one word.
"Every day" as two words, means "each day". Thus you would say "I water the plants every day."
"Everyday", as one word, is used to describe something commonplace or mundane. Thus you would say "One of my everyday tasks is to water the plants."
Extra or Surplus
“We’re lucky to be able to return the extra stock.”
Have you ever overheard this being said when you’re out shopping?
In order to be grammatically correct, the salesperson should have said “We were lucky to be able to return the surplus stock.” This is because a surplus refers to an amount that is leftover when the required amount has been met, usually an excess of production or oversupply.
If we used the word “extra”, we would be describing something being added to an existing or usual amount. For example, the salesperson could have said “I passed him an extra shirt to try on, in case the ones he took couldn’t fit.”
Feedback and Staff
Peter told me that his company has 20 "staffs". If you’re talking about the personnel in an organization, there is no plural for "staff".
Instead, he should say his company has 20 staff members.
The same goes for "feedback". I received feedback from ten people instead of feedbacks from ten people.
Feelings For or Feelings About
You’ve just met the boy or girl of your dreams! Do you say that you have “feelings for” or “feelings about” him or her?
Well, the correct phrase to use is “feelings for” because this is usually used with a message that is positive. For example, “My feelings for her are strong and true.”
If the message can either be positive or negative, we would use the phrase “feelings about”. For example, “My feelings about her are mixed.”
Fewer or Less
In the supermarket, you often see the express lane with a sign that says "five items or less".
This is wrong. If you can count the items, you should use "fewer".
It should be "five items or fewer".
"Less" is used when referring to things that cannot be counted. So do ask for "less salt" and "less sugar".
And here’s another tip, the weapon, sword is pronounced as sord, with a silent w. Not sword. Just sord.
Fill In or Fill Up
Someone approaches you at the MRT station and asks if you could help him to “fill up” a quick survey form.
Well, the better way to say it would be to “fill in”, “fill out” or “complete” the form. This is because we usually use the phrase “fill up” when we’re referring to filling an empty container with liquid. For example, you would fill up your car’s empty gas tank with petrol or fill up your glass with milk.
Flammable or Inflammable
You walk past a barrel of fluid which has a sign saying "Danger! Highly Inflammable."
Should it be "inflammable" or "flammable"?
Well, both words actually mean the same thing, which is something that catches fire easily.
To avoid confusion, maybe we should all stick to using "flammable".
And here’s another tip, when you’re not feeling well, you take med-sen, not meh-dee-sen. Just med-sen.
Flaunt or Flout
Do we say the rich man was always flaunting or flouting his wealth?
Although these two words sound very similar, they don’t have the same meaning.
When you, or the rich man, flaunt, it means that you are showing off something, be it your wealth or accomplishments. It usually also implies that you’re doing it to evoke a reaction from your intended audience.
When you flout, it means that you are openly disobeying, going against, scorning or rebelling against something, usually rules, codes or laws. For example, “The rich man flouted the traffic rules when he drove his expensive car on the wrong side of the road.”
For Sale or On Sale
“Sale” is a word that excites many Singaporeans, but do you know when to use the phrase “for sale” or “on sale”?
The phrase we should we looking out for is “on sale” because this means that an item is being sold at a reduced price. For example, “I am waiting for that pretty blouse to go on sale.”
If we’re looking to buy a house or a car, regardless of a discount, we would look out for the phrase “for sale” because this means that the item is now available for purchase. For example, “That new condominium next to the MRT station is now open for sale.”
We hope you score some good deals during the Great Singapore Sale!
Former and Latter
Rather than repeating ourselves, it’s sometimes easier to use the terms “former” and “latter”.
But how should you use these terms correctly?
Let’s say your colleague asks if you prefer to drink coffee or tea.
If you prefer drinking coffee, you would say you prefer “the former”.
If you rather have tea, you would say you prefer “the latter”.
Remember, use these terms only when distinguishing between two choices.
Fragrance or Aroma
Your friend brings a bottle of wine to your house warming party and says that he likes the fragrance of the wine.
Well, the correct way to describe the wine would be to say that he enjoys the aroma of the wine as we usually use the word “aroma” to describe food and drink while “fragrance” usually describes perfumes and flowers.
Another phrase you could use would be the “bouquet of the wine”, an expression used by wine experts when referring to wines that are mature.
Further and Farther
While both words refer to distances, farther and further are used in different situations.
Use “farther” when referring to physical distances. For example, “Jane kept asking her mother how much farther it was before they reached Kuala Lumpur.” Here, Jane is whining about how far Kuala Lumpur is from Singapore.
On the other hand, use “further” when talking about metaphorical or figurative distances. Jane’s mother would probably reply, “The journey would probably be a lot shorter if you stopped complaining further.” In this case, Jane’s mother used “further” because she was referring to the extent of Jane’s constant complaining throughout the journey.
Remember, when you’re talking about a “far” distance, use the word “FARther”. Everything else would be “further”.
Further and Farther
Someone might ask if Bedok or Tampines is further from Paya Lebar.
Further or farther might sound similar, but they are used in different ways.
When referring to physical distance, you should use farther. For example, ‘She ran farther than you’.
Use ‘further’ for figurative description. For example, ‘Danny is going to further his studies’.
Gone or Went
Although both words indicate movement, “gone” and “went” have their own grammatical usage.
“Went” is the past tense of the verb “going”. Use this when the action has already taken place. For example, “I went to New Zealand for a holiday last year.”
On the other hand, “gone” is the past participle of going. For example, “I should have gone to New York instead.”
Here’s an extra tip on using the word “gone”: It must always be preceded by an auxiliary verb such as has, have, had, is, am, are, was, were and be.
That’s a long list of verbs to remember but you’ll be a whiz if you keep practising!
Good or Well
It’s all well and good. Or is it?
"Well" and "good" have similar meanings, but are they interchangeable?
The answer is no, because while both have similar meanings, the role of each word is different.
"Good" is an adjective that modifies nouns. An example would be, "His ideas are good" while "well" is an adverb that modifies verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. An example would be, "It was a well-defined idea".
This is a common complaint heard in the office. “My computer hanged!” or “My computer always hangs!”
Actually, the word ‘hanged’ refers exclusively to execution on a gallows. All other meanings of the word hang use ‘hung’ as their past tense form.
The next time your computer is not responding, you should say “My computer froze” or “My computer crashed” or simply, “My computer is not responding”.
High or Tall
Overheard on the MRT, “BMT is tougher than I thought. The wall was too tall for me to get over!”
We often use the words “tall” and “high” interchangeably, but there are subtle differences in their meanings.
In the case of the NS man’s comment, it would be more appropriate to say the wall was too high because the word “high” expresses elevation and is used to describe objects or living things that have a fixed reference point, and raised up from that point. In this case, the wall is fixed to the ground.
On the other hand, the word “tall” expresses height and is used to compare the height of a living or non-living thing with the height of other things. For example, the NS man could say “My commander is so tall, he towers over everyone in the platoon.”
Hope or Wish
Some dictionaries may have the same meaning for both of these words but there are some subtle differences and connotations between these two words.
Use “hope” when you believe there is some likelihood that something will happen. For example, “I hope the rain will stop soon.”
Conversely, use “wish” when you think there’s little chance that it will happen. For example, “I wish our players were good enough to win the world cup.”
I eat finish already
“Have you eat finish your dinner?”
“Yes mom, I eat finish already.”
This is quite a common conversation between a parent and child. However, both the question and response are not in standard English.
Here’s how the conversation would sound in grammatically correct English:
“Have you finished eating your dinner?”
“Yes mom, I have already finished eating my dinner.”
If you’ve been saying it the wrong way, try to consciously correct yourself and your child so that both of you will be learning and improving together.
I or Me
Is it "Sally and me" or "Sally and I" are watching a play?
An easy way to choose between "I" or "me" is to see if the sentence is grammatically correct without the other noun.
Try it. Take away "Sally" and say "Me is watching a play." Then say "I am watching a play." "I" is right, it is "Sally and I are watching a play."
I want some more
“You want some more rice?”
“Yar, I want some more because I very hungry.”
As Singaporeans, we love to eat and this is a conversation we often hear. However, this conversation is not in Standard English.
Here’s how the conversation would sound when spoken in grammatically correct English:
“Would you like more rice?”
“Yes please, I would like more because I am very hungry.”
Try saying it the right way the next time you’re in a similar situation. The more you consciously make the effort to say it right, the more fluent you will be in future conversations.