Implicit or Explicit
Is it easier to understand something that is implicit or explicit?
The answer is “explicit” as it means clearly expressed or readily observable. For example, “She gave him explicit instructions to only tap on the door twice.”
If we wanted to be less direct and provide hints of our intended meaning instead, then we would be implicit. For example, “After listening to the lyrics several times, he finally figured out the implicit messages intended by the recording artiste.”
If you are walking to your car with an English speaker, and say “My car is in front”, he/she will probably be confused and ask, “in front of what?”
The phrase "in front" does not mean a short distance away. It means next to the forward part of something, someplace or someone.
Hence you should say "My car is just ahead”, or in reference to something, “My car is in front of the purple pillar”.
"In front" is also spelled separately
In or On
Is it "I stepped on a puddle" or "I stepped in a puddle"?
An easy way to choose between "on" and "in" is to remember that "in" is used when your foot goes into things. "On" is used when your foot rests upon things you step.
So in this case it should be, "I stepped in a puddle".
An example for "on" would be, "I stepped on a nail".
In Spite Of or Despite
Your friend says she doesn’t like to travel overseas in spite of her love for adventure. You disagree and say that she should have said “despite”. So who is correct?
Actually, both of you are right. “In spite of” and “despite” mean the same thing and can be interchangeably used in your sentences.
Although you can choose which word to use, take note not to merge them into one phrase as “in despite of” is incorrect.
In Time and On Time
"On time" and "in time" sound similar but they are actually different.
"In time" means with time to spare, before the last moment. They got to the train station just in time to catch the last train.
"On time" means at the planned time, neither early nor late. The movie will start on time, please do not be late!
And here’s another tip, material is pronounced as "mer-tee-real" not "mare-tee-real’. Just "mer-tee-real"
The preposition "into" is usually missing from our use of English.
For instance, "he knocked my bike" and "he knocked into my bike" have different meanings. The first statement could mean he knocked my bike with his hands, while the second statement refers to another vehicle knocking into the bike.
Another example: "someone crashed his car" and "someone crashed into his car". The first statement would mean someone else driving it crashed his car, while the second statement refers to another vehicle crashing into the car.
Tammy told me she will still go to the concert, irregardless of whether her friend is going.
The word "irregardless" doesn’t exist! Use regardless instead.
And here’s another tip, the correct way to pronounce "familiar" is fer-mee-lier.
Don’t say fare-mee-lier, say fer-mee-lier.
You might have heard your grandparents describing their childhood and saying that they lived in a kampong house “last time”.
The correct way to describe their younger days would be to say that they used to live in a kampong house as the phrase “last time” refers to the final occurrence of a situation.
For example, “The last time my grandparents lived in a kampong house was during their childhood days.”
Like or As
"Like" and "as" are usually confused with one another, due to the lack of understanding of the word’s role.
"Like" is used as a preposition telling where, when or how the noun in the sentence is doing whatever it may be doing. Most of the time "like" compares two things.
For example, "Imagine a grown woman acting like a child."
On the other hand, "as" is used as a conjunction, joining two clauses. Frequently, "as" can be replaced by "the way".
For example, "No one makes dim sum as my grandmother does". This can also be expressed as: "No one makes dim sum the way my grandmother does."
Live or Stay
“Where do you stay?” That’s a common conversation opener.
If you’re asking about someone’s long-term residence, it should be ‘Where do you live?’
‘Stay’ usually connotes something temporary, while ‘live’ connotes something more permanent.
So it’s ‘I stayed in the Grand Hotel when I was on holiday.’ and ‘I’ve lived in Bishan for ten years’.
Look Over or Overlook
As a student, I once heard my teacher telling me that he would “overlook” my assignment.
What he probably meant to say was that he would “look over” my essay.
“Look over” is a phrasal verb that means to examine something or someone quickly.
The verb “overlook” means to fail to notice or consider someone or something. For example, “He overlooked the mistakes in the accountant’s report.”
I would have been really upset if the teacher really did overlook my homework!
Do you often hear your mother or grandmother say they are “going marketing tomorrow morning”?
Actually, they can’t be “going marketing” because “marketing” is something usually done by executives, salespeople or advertisers who are promoting and selling their products or services.
The correct way to say it would be “my mother or grandmother is going to the market tomorrow morning to buy fruits and vegetables for dinner”.
May or Might
"May" and "might" is another pair of words we tend to use interchangeably.
However, they imply different meanings.
"May" implies a possibility. For example, "I may go to the office party if you go."
"Might" implies more uncertainty. For example, "I might go to the office party if all 400 employees in the company go."
Much or Many
“Many” and “much” are both modifiers: words that add details, limits or change the meaning of another word or phrase.
But when do you know which modifier to use?
The simple rule is “many” modifies things that can be counted and “much” modifies things that cannot be counted.
For example, we would say “There are many dogs in the park” because we can count the number of dogs. If we can’t count the items, we would use “much”. For example, “There is too much information for me to digest now.”
Much or Many
We sometimes tend to use these two words interchangeably but while they both show an amount of something, they are used in two different situations.
Use “much” with uncountable nouns. Uncountable nouns are things or concepts that we can’t divide into individual elements. For example, we would say “much oxygen”, “much sleep” and “much sand”.
When referring to countable nouns, use “many”. These are things that we can count. For example, “many students” and “many bottles of water”.
Nauseous or Nauseated
After a long road trip along winding roads, have you ever commented that you feel “nauseous”?
This is probably one of the most common mistakes we unknowingly make because of its widespread use.
The correct way to express it is to say, “I feel nauseated.” This is because you were made ill by something.
To say you are “nauseous”, means you have the ability to make someone or something else nauseated. I believe none of us wants to have this ability!
A friend said to you, “Neither of the girls brought their toys.”
Words like "everybody", "anyone", "each", "neither" and "nobody" are singular and take singular pronouns.
So it should be “neither of the girls brought her book.”
And here’s another tip, Wednesday is pronounced as wens-day, instead of wed-ners-day.
Off Your Phone
The movie is starting and your friend nudges you and says: “Off your phone, please." He then says that he wishes they would “off the lights” too.
"Off" is not an action word. The correct phrase should be "turn off your phone" and "switch off the lights".
And here’s another tip, when you go for a trip, you should plan your i-tee-ner-rare-ry, its i-tee-ner-rare-ry, not i-tee-ner-ry.
On or In Hindsight
The phrase "on hindsight" and "in hindsight" are both used in our daily conversations and writing. So, which is the correct one?
The correct phrase is "in hindsight". As a guideline, when expressing a view, a thought or opinion about something, the preposition "in" is often used.
Examples of this would be, "in plain view", "in my opinion", "in retrospect", "in this matter", "keep it in mind", and of course, "in hindsight".
Mother said, “Brother and sister should take care of one another.”
You use "each other" when referring to two people doing the same thing. So, it should be "brother and sister should take care of each other."
When referring to more than two people, use one another.
And here’s one more tip. When you do something for your team, you kuhn-trib-yoot, not con-tri-boot.
"Let’s have the steak today. They’re having a one-for-one special."
The correct way to say it should be "two for the price of one" or "buy one, get one free".
Think about it, when you say one-for-one, it isn’t very clear that you get another item when you buy one.
And here’s another tip, even a four letter word like a-w-r-y, can be tricky.
It’s pronounced as a-rai, not aw-ry. Don’t let your pronunciation go a-rai.
Parameter or Perimeter
At one glance, the word “parameter” and “perimeter” may look and even sound alike. However, there are differences in their meanings and pronunciations.
“Parameter”, pronounced with a short “a” sound, refers to a limit or boundary, something like an OB marker that your boss sets for you at work.
On the other hand, “perimeter”, pronounced with a short “i” sound followed by a short and controlled “e” sound, refers to a continuous line that forms the border of a space. So if you decided to adopt a healthy lifestyle for 2015, you would be jogging the perimeter of your neighbourhood park every evening.
Photography and Film
Your friend whips out his DSLR camera and asks you along for a foto-graphy trip.
It’s photo but photographer (fer-tor-gre-pher) and photography (fer-tor-gre-fi).
You agree to go but you say you prefer the old school flerm cameras.
It’s film, pronounced film not flerm.
Purposely or Purposefully
Although they sound similar, the words purposely and purposefully are used to describe different scenarios.
We use “purposely” when describing something that is done deliberately or on purpose. For example, “He purposely set a difficult test so that he could gauge the standard of his students.”
“Purposefully” is often used to describe the action or demeanour of someone who is determined or resolute. For example, “Set on asking his boss for a raise, he purposefully walked into the boss’s office to make the request.”
Put to Sleep or Put to Bed
Your friend has to leave the dinner party early because she has to “put her children to sleep”.
The right phrase should be to “put her children to bed” as to put someone to sleep means to either bore someone, or cause someone or an animal to sleep through medical intervention.
That’s quite different from the intended meaning and it would be rather awkward being misunderstood in this situation!
Redundancies ATM and PIN
Do you often hear complaints that the queue for the “ATM Machine” is very long? Or that someone is always forgetting his or her “PIN Number”?
We may not realise it, but we are actually saying the words “machine” and “number” twice respectively.
This is because “ATM” stands for “Automatic Teller Machine” and the abbreviation for “PIN” stands for “Personal Identification Number”.
So the next time you’re stuck in the queue, you only need to say “I’m waiting in a long queue to use the ATM but I’m glad I remember my PIN!”