Thursday, 21 December 2017

The prefix 'En

The prefix 'en' means 'into or in', which gives rise to several derivative words, but the curious thing is that if the prefix is attached to a word that starts with b, m and p, the consonant n in this prefix is replaced by the consonant 'm'!
Some examples are given below:

  • enslave - make into slaves
  • endanger - put into danger
  • enable - make somebody able to do a task
  • encourage - give courage to a person
  • enfeeble - make a person weak
  • enrol/enroll - put someone on the rolls 
  • encircle - to surround
  • environs- surroundings
  • embrace - give a hug
  • empower - give some the power 
  • embitter - make someone's nature bitter
  • employer - person who puts another in a job
and so on!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Knuckle Down

Believe it or not, this phrase has its origin in that childhood game of marbles
This is how you place your hand when you were about to shoot a marble at another one. The idiom means getting on to the job and doing it.
You can see the knuckles touching the ground, which is where the phrase came from. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Peculiar Plurals

Now, in general, we know that to make the plural form of a noun we add either an 's' or an 'es' to the singular. But we have some rather special nouns that don't follow this rule:
Singular                   Plural
man                          men
child                        children
woman                    women
ox                            oxen
mouse                      mice
louse                        lice
goose                       geese
tooth                        teeth
foot                          feet
cod                           cod
trout                         trout
salmon                     salmon
sheep                       sheep
deer                         deer
oasis                        oases
radius                      radii
bacterium                bacteria
antenna                   antennae
focus                       foci
syllabus                   syllabi  or syllabuses
terminus                  termini  or terminuses
alumnus                  alumni

This is not a complete list, but it lists some of the more common plurals that are a bit strange

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


So, have you been properly introduced to a Participle?
It is a word that is partly a verb and partly an adjective. That's the simplest definition. 

If you want a complicated one here it is - "A participle is that form of a Verb that partakes of the nature both of a Verb and of an adjective".
There are 3 kinds of participles:-
Present Participles:-
We met a girl carrying a bunch of flowers.
Loudly banging on the door, the policeman asked to be let in.
The gazelle, realising that the cheetah was spent, trotted off to safety.
Past Participles:-
Terror-stricken, he fled the cave.
Driven by ambition, he toiled day and night to achieve his aim.
We saw a convoy of military trucks drive by, laden with ammunition.

Perfect Participles:-
This represents an action completed sometime in the past. 
Having eaten, we took a short nap. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The case of the confusing carbuncle

The word carbuncle is a really strange word! It is strange, not because it has 2 meanings , several words in English have 2 meanings- but it is strange in the complete diversity of meanings of the word!!
One meaning is - a bright red gem, in particular a garnet cut en cabochon.
The other is - a multiple boil or severe abscess on the skin - ew!

So be careful how you use the word, you might sound very wierd if the context does not make the meaning crystal clear !!!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Parenthetical Expressions

These are expressions, bounded by commas, which give clarity to a sentence. 
A example is :
" Yoghurt, on the other hand, is a fine substitute for ice-cream".

Some other common parenthetical expressions are :
after all
by the way
for example
in my opinion
of course
on the contrary
on balance
to tell you the truth
in fact
honestly speaking
bluntly speaking
in short
Yes, we have all heard them and used them; this is their proper name!

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Not talking about the LOCH NESS monster๐Ÿ˜€ 

The suffix 'ness' indicates 'a state of' when it forms a word, for example:
'weightlessness' derived from the adjective 'weightless'
'happiness' derived from the adjective 'happy'
'sadness' derived from the adjective 'sad'
'firmness' derived from the adjective 'firm'
'calmness' derived from the adjective 'calm'
and so on.
The first example in this list is an example of suffixes used in tandem, the first suffix is 'less' and the second is 'ness'.
There are several words like this:
'Listlessness' derived from 'listless'
'Restlessness' derived from 'restless'
'Carelessness' derived from 'careless', etc.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Check this out!

These are the different ways in which prepositions are used  with the verb 'check':
1) to check on - to observe or follow someone or something.
2) to check with - to confirm with someone if some fact is correct                                  or not.
3) to check into - to use the booking you may have made in a hotel                               or motel. 
4) to check out of - to leave a hotel/ motel after completing your                                     stay and after making the necessary payment.
5) to check up - to confirm if factual or not.
6) to check in - to go to an airport and collect your boarding card                              for a flight. 

Friday, 17 November 2017


These are words that are spelt the same , sound the same , but have different meanings. Some of them are given below:-
1) Pole - a straight rod, often placed erect in the ground
    Pole - an native inhabitant of Poland.
2) bear - a large furry and fierce animal that loves honey and fish,
    bear - the ability to accept, tolerate, carry a load,
3) can - a tin /aluminium container, 
    can - the ability to do something. 
4) stall - to delay something 
    stall - a kiosk at a fair
The Dictionary is full of them! Send us a few at to get a free Skype lesson of 30 minutes on conversational English! Offer valid till 30/11/2017.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Do you know what is an Irish beauty?

If you are imagining a flaming redhead with green eyes, a la Scarlett O'Hara, 

you're going to be sadly disappointed!

This is what an Irish beauty is - a person with 2 black eyes, having obtained them at the wrong end of a brawl!

Friday, 10 November 2017


So what's the big deal about 'Commas'? You often hear that they are so important and can change the meaning of a sentence. 
The comma and its cousins, the Colon and the Semicolon are all about pauses in a sentence.
here's how you set the pauses :
for a comma, count up to one in your mind
for a semi-colon, count up to 2 in your mind
for a colon, count up to 3 in your mind.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Future in the Past context

Whoa, hold it there! what sort of time travel is this? None, there are times when we are talking of something that happened in the past context, but had not happened but would have happened.

Confused? Let me clarify with an example 
"I said that we would be bringing two bottles of wine, and wanted to know what kind of wines Jeremy would prefer?".

Note that this is in indirect speech, where the person is reporting about the past (the past context) about something that had not happened as yet (the future).

Another example:-
She knew that Robert would be unhappy about that.

However this is also used for typical or habitual situations :-
When October came, big celebrations would be held for the Mid Autumn Festival.
Anne was a loyal friend, she would always stand by you during hard times.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Raining cats and dogs

Of course,  this idiom means that it is raining very heavily! But how did this come about? The short answer is that nobody knows !! One guess is that it is a corruption of the Greek words 'cata doxa' , which means 'beyond belief'. Another guess is that it is from the Norse belief that cats could influence the weather and that dogs were a signal of storms.
Maybe the rain falling on the roof was so loud that it sounded as if cats and dogs were fighting on the roof!!! Who knows?
The phrase was first published in  book of poems in 1661, so it has been around for a while๐Ÿ˜€

Monday, 6 November 2017


These are sets of words used in everyday conversations but not formal or literary in their nature. An example that you may have come a cross "Come on, shake a leg" which is an invitation to a modern dance!
Some lesser known ones of Cockney origin are :
Use your loaf = Get smart, use your brains
Chew the fat = have a chat
not a dickey = not a word

In New Zealand, you will find young people saying "Wicked!" in reaction to what they really like and what they really mean is "Cool"/"Fashionable". 

Every country has its own set of colloquialisms as because English is quite a malleable language , they are too many to list completely.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Pseudo Compound Subjects

No, no, no this is not a Psychiatric patient!!
It is a grammatical term! It refers to several singular subjects that are linked by words like :
as well as
along with
in addition to,
together with.
The subjects do not lose their singular status  and the verb reflects that in a sentence that contains that.

When we say for example:
'An exquisite 17th century painting, along with several antique Ming vases, has been placed on the auction block',
note that the verb remains in the singular. 
Some more examples:
John, as well as Mary, has passed his 'O' level exams.
Peter, along with Mark, was an apostle of Christ.
In addition to Mathematics, Physics is considered a challenging subject to many young students of Science.

So heave a sigh of relief and excel in English! 

Monday, 23 October 2017


A Modifier is a word, phrase or clause that functions as an adjective or adverb to limit, qualify or clarify the meaning of another word o word group.
e.g. Anna made a chocolate cake, that was square in shape.  
They must be placed as close to the noun they are describing or you could have absurd results. 
e.g. He told her he wanted to marry her frequently
e.g. He frequently told her he wanted to marry her.

The word 'frequently' is the modifier describing the verb 'told' and it needed to be placed right next to the verb! 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Don't pick up heavy weights like groceries or children with straight legs.

So why does this instruction not want children with straight legs to be picked up? The problem is with the punctuation of the sentence!!
The correctly punctuated sentence is given below:
Don't pick up heavy weights- like groceries or children- with straight legs.

Apparently, this appeared in the Eastern Evening News. 

There is another classic experiment which was conducted by an English professor who wrote the following on the board:

A woman without her man is nothing  

and asked his students to punctuate the sentence. 

The female students punctuated as follows:

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The male students punctuated it as follows:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

The 2 sentences have exactly the opposite meanings! Punctuations are important!!!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


One of my Science teachers in School once said "both of you three, report to the Principal's office" while asking three naughty classmates to meet him at the Principal's office. 

Of course, he had the class and the culprits in splits and he just did not understand why. 

Now the word "both' is derived from 'bathir', a Norse word, which refers to an inclusion of at most 2 nouns and cannot refer to more than 2 or so we thought!

We cannot use 'both' for more than 2 nouns, but Samuel Taylor Coleridge has in fact used 'both' to refer to three things in his famous poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". 

In all probability, that was poetic license, but here is the line in which he used it in Stanza 19 
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

Both means each of the two parts are wholly included in the reference.


    This is a punctuation connected with possession. 
    e.g. America's independence day is the 4th of July. 
    It is pronounced as (a-poss-tra-fee)      

    Rules for apostrophes:
    - Add an 's' after the name of the owner and singular nouns.
          That is Jack's pencil box.

    - If there are 2 owners who are named joined by 'and' put the 's after the second name.
          Spur is James and Catherine's horse.

    - Add just the apostrophe alone i.e. ' after plural names and nouns.
          The lifeguards saved the surfers' lives.

    They are also used with contractions like:-
    It's a fine day! (It is a fine day.)
    The parcel hasn't come yet.  (The parcel has not come as yet.)

    Monday, 16 October 2017

    Sample Interview Conversation and instructions for Engineers

    Walk in with your back straight and shoulders squared, with a friendly smile.
    You: Good Morning/Afternoon/ Evening!
    Interviewer: Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening! Please have a seat.
    You: Thank you!
    Interviewer: We have your application, but would like you to tell us a little bit about yourself.
    You: My name is ___________ ( Please say it, especially if your interviewer is either from another part of the country or from another country altogether, as it gives them an opportunity to learn how to pronounce your name) and I am an Engineering professional, specialising in ___________ Engineering. I am particularly interested in a career in _______________(state the career/job that you are applying for) because I am especially keen on gaining experience about ( Design/ Maintenance/ Operations, etc.) A friendly person, I am happy to work in teams and am keen to learn at first and then later contribute to the team. (Stop there, because you don't want to sound desperate)
    Interviewer: Why do you want to work with our company particularly? 
    You: I would like to work with your company as it is involved with _____________(This is where you show off all the research you have done on the company), which is an area of interest, especially for your line of products.
    Interviewer: So why should we hire you amongst all the applicants who have applied?
    You: I bring with me an attitude of humility to learn, sufficient technical knowledge as can be expected from a fresh graduate and a desire to take pride in what I do, that is to do whatever I am assigned, as best as I can.
    Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about your family.
    You: (Give them the bare essentials, accurately and in brief)
    Interviewer: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    (By now, they have seen a good bit of you and have formed their own opinions, but they want to see how you perceive yourself )
    You: My strengths are ___________ ( don't boast, they already have judged you, and will match up what you are saying with their own impressions). My weaknesses are ____________( try to keep it singular and strategic, they are not your family priests. If it is so objectionable that no one will hire you, it would be wise not to mention it. Be honest up to a point!)
    Interviewer: Are there any questions that you would like to ask?
    You: Please tell me about the work your company is doing in ______ projects and if there is any scope for me, over a period of time, to be involved in them? (This will underline your genuine interest in the company. DO NOT ASK about money and perquisites at this stage of your career, you really do not have that much bargaining power, just yet.)
    Interviewer: Are you open to postings elsewhere in the country?
    You: Yes (Unless you have serious family reasons to say no; if they ask this question, it is a signal that they are considering you and you should be happy, as a fresh graduate you are looking to learn about life in the real world, don't be timid).
    Interviewer: Thank you, we shall revert to you in ______.  


    Friday, 13 October 2017


    Is this a biological name for some insect? You could be forgiven for thinking so, but it is a figure of speech!
    It is the naming of a thing with the sound that is associated with it. For example, you could say 
    " The chair fell over onto the carpet with a thud"

    Here are some onomatopoeias that you often find in comic books! 
      Not all are so obvious, "the clickety-clack of a passenger cabin as it rolled along" may not catch your attention, but it is an onomatopoeia too! Some of them have been around for so long that we almost forget they are there! 

    Thursday, 12 October 2017


    Euphemisms could be referred to as a kinder way of describing a harsh , perhaps rude situation! A classic example is when we describe somebody as "plain" instead of "ugly". 
    The use of euphemisms indicates the communicators finesse, rather than being overly polite. 

    Some classic euphemisms are given below :-

    real meaning 
    The Aztec two step
    Bay window
    A fat persons stomach
    Chicago typewriter
    a submachine gun
    Derbyshire neck
    Economically inactive
    File thirteen
    waste paper basket
    Glasgow Kiss
    a headbutt
    Heavy of foot
    late stage of pregnancy
    Interpret pragmatically
    John Barleycorn
    Last waltz
    The walk to execution

    Tuesday, 19 September 2017

    When words have many meanings....

    There are several words in English that have more than one meaning; for example, the word 'right'. It can have the same meaning as 'correct' or it can mean the opposite of the leftward direction.
    This can have annoying consequences, as you can see from the conversation below in a taxi:
    Driver: Do I turn left at the traffic signal?
    Passenger with map: 'Right'
    The driver, thinking that the client meant him to turn to the right, did so.
    Passenger: Hey, I just agreed with you that you should turn to the left, now look what you've done!

    Friday, 15 September 2017

    Home sweet home!

    What is the word for :
    1) The home of Eskimo?
    2) The home of Native American?
    3) A second home on the beach for New Zealanders?
    4) A home for Nuns?
    5) A home for Priests?
    6) A room in the forests for hunters?
    7) An independent home on a plot of land?
    8) A tall home for thousands of families that has tens of storeys?
    9) A home for bears?
    10) A home for your dog?

    Send in your answers to for a reward for the first correct answer to all the questions before 22nd September 2017.

    Wednesday, 6 September 2017

    Spot the mistakes

    1. Secretary required; previous experience required but not necessary.
    2.He is wearing the same jacket is what he wore last Saturday.
    3. I could not speak English; neither could Jane nor William.
    4.For sale-piano belonging to an older gentleman with beautifully carved legs.
    5.Both Kelly and Bright were invited, but neither have accepted.
    6.The children were provided with the same wonderful spectacles when we went to the zoo.
    7. He was paid a wonderful compliment by the individuals who thronged around him.
    8.Due to illness, she was unable to go to the pictures.
    9.Despite of repeated warnings Mr Bell went to work.
    10.Hurry, you and me must go at once.
    11.Who did you meet?
    12.Please can I go?
    13.The children enjoyed the pantomime immensely.
    14. A wonderful prospect lays before the youth of today.
    15. The latter of your ideas seems the best.
    16.Is Shakespeare and some office contemporaries were very great men.
    17.The choir-buoys what in pares down the isle.
    18.Nobody knows who wrote Grey's 'elegy'.
    19. Sir John Falstaff is the funniest character in Sheridan 'She stoops to conquer'.
    20. Johnson's"Life of Boswell"gives a perfect picture of the 18th-century. 
    Send your emails to
    The first all correct answer before 20th September 2017 will get a reward.

    Tuesday, 29 August 2017

    Primary v/s Modal/Universal Auxiliary verbs

    My sisters studied in a convent called the "Auxilium Convent" a Catholic School. I never knew what the meaning of the name of the School was until recently. It is a Latin word that means "to aid" or "a tribute to". In essence, it means to help
    The same applies to Verbs. Auxiliary verbs whether Primary or Modal ( also referred to by some as Universal) are helping verbs. Okay, so what do they help to do? 

    Let's start with Primary Auxiliary verbs:
    This is what they do:-
    -they help to form tenses e.g. Kate is solving some equations.
    -they help to form negatives e.g. Sally has not done her homework.
    -they help form questions e.g. Did you get the job done?
    -they help add emphasis e.g. Tom did enjoy the camp!
    They can be any action verb.

    Now let's go to the Modal/Linking/Universal  Auxiliary verbs.
    Some of the common Modal Auxiliary verbs are 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might','must', 'ought', 'shall', 'should','will','would' and as you can see they are used with ordinary verbs to convey such things as 
    -the future
    -right and wrong 
    Some examples are:
    Peter and I shall visit you tomorrow.
    Anne will hate that play.
    Would he stoop so low?
    You should not break the queue.
    He could not reach on time.
    You may arrive in time.
    Carl might be anxious.
    She must do the right thing.

    Wednesday, 23 August 2017

    Participial phrases

    Participial phrases are groups of related words that include a participle and as a group function as an adjective. 

    Some examples are:

    Allowing enough time, Jane started practising her badminton several weeks before the University tournament.

    Beaten by the brilliant attack, the enemy fled in disarray!

    The words in colour are participial or participle phrases.

    Wednesday, 19 July 2017

    Preposition Collocations

    Continuing with an earlier blog on collocations of prepositions, here are some verbs and the prepositions that go with them

    Verb                  Preposition            Example
    Affix                 to                           Photographs must be affixed to the space marked on the form.
    Band                 against                   The schoolboys banded up against the intruder & overpowered                                                               him.
    Bequeath          to                           The Duke bequeathed his property to his wife.

    Fawn                on(upon)                The toadies fawned upon the rich student.

    Gossip              about                     The elderly man did not like to gossip about others.

    These are a few to start with; do try and make sentences that are similar and send them in as comments!๐Ÿ˜€

    Tuesday, 18 July 2017

    in Mint condition- a refreshing idiom

    'In mint condition' is an idiom which derives from the state of freshly minted coins. We all know that after a while, coins that are in use, lose the sharpness of the images that are impressed upon them by the Mint that produces them.
    Hoever, when some one sees something, - a car , a cell phone , a camera which is well maintained, it is said to be 'in mint condition' which is supposed to represent a coin that is freshly produced from the Government Mint! Peppermint has nothing to do with it!๐Ÿ˜€

    Thursday, 13 July 2017

    Corbetts' Garhwal- A hero's tale!

    An excerpt from one of my favourite books, written by my hero Shikari, Jim Corbett.

    The village, as I have told you, is situated on a ridge, and is surrounded by forests. Two women had already been killed by the man-eater while cutting grass in these forests, and for several months the cattle had been kept alive on leaves cut from the trees surrounding the village. Each day the men had to go further afield to get their requirements, and on this particular day the party of twenty-one, after crossing the cultivated land, v went for a quarter of a mile down a very steep rocky hill to the head of the valley which runs east for eight miles, through dense forest, to where it meets the Ramganga river opposite the Dhikala Forest Bungalow. At the head of the valley, the ground is more or less flat and overgrown with big trees.

    Here the men separated, each climbing into a tree of his choice, and after cutting the quantity of leaves required they tied them into bundles with rope brought for the purpose, and returned to the village in twos and threes. Either when the party of men were coming down the hill, talking at the tops of their voices to keep up their courage and scare away the man-eater, or when they were on the trees shouting to each other, the tiger, who was lying up in a dense patch of cover half a mile down the valley, heard them.

    Leaving the cover, in which it had four days previously killed and eaten a sambur hind, the tiger crossed a stream and by way of a cattle track that runs the entire length of the valley hurried up in the direction of the men. (The speed at which a tiger has travelled over any ground on which he has left signs of his passage can be easily determined from the relative position of his fore and hind pug marks.)

    The lad of my story had selected a Bauhinea tree from which to cut leaves for his cattle. This tree was about twenty yards above the cattle track, and the upper branches were leaning out over a small ravine in which there were two rocks. From a bend in the cattle track the tiger saw the lad on the tree, and after lying down and watching him for some time it left the track and concealed itself behind a fallen silk cotton tree some thirty yards from the ravine. When the lad had cut all the leaves he needed he descended from the tree and collected them in a heap, preparatory to tying them into a bundle. While doing this on the open flat ground he was comparatively safe, but unfortunately, he had noticed that two of the branches he had cut had fallen into the ravine between the two big rocks, and he sealed his fate by stepping down into the ravine to recover them.

    As soon as he was out of sight the tiger left the shelter of the fallen tree and crept forward to the edge of the ravine, and as the lad was stooping down to pick up the branches, it sprang on him and killed him. Whether the killing took place while the other men were still on the trees, or after they had left, it was not possible for me to determine.

    The father of the lad returned to the village at sunset and was greeted with the very gratifying news that his son had been accepted in the army, and that he had returned from Lansdowne on short leave. Asking where the lad was, he was told that he had gone out earlier in the day to get fodder, and surprise was expressed that the father had not found him at home. After bedding down the bullocks the father went from house to house to find his son. All the men who had been out that day were questioned in turn, and all had the same tale to tell—that they had separated at the head of the valley, and no one could remember having seen the lad after that.

    Crossing the terraced cultivated land the father went to the edge of the steep hill, and called, and called again, to his son, but received no answer. Night was by now setting in. The man returned to his home and lit a small smoke-dimmed lantern, and as he passed through the village he horrified his neighbours by telling them, in reply to their questions, that he was going to look for his son. He was asked if he had forgotten the man-eater and answered that it was because of the man-eater that he was so anxious to find his son, for it was possible he had fallen off a tree and injured himself and, for fear of attracting the man-eater, had not answered his call.

    He did not ask anyone to accompany him, and no one offered to do so, and for the whole of that night he searched up and down that valley in which no one had dared to set foot since the advent of the man-eater. Four times during the night —as I saw from his foot-prints—when going along the cattle track he had passed within ten feet of where the tiger was lying eating his son.

    Weary and heartsick he climbed a little way up the rocky hill as light was coming, and sat down for a rest. From this raised position he could see into the ravine. At sunrise, he saw a glint of blood on the two big rocks, and hurrying down to the spot he found all that the tiger had left of his son. These remains he collected and took back to his home, and when a suitable shroud had been procured, his friends helped him to carry the remains to the burning ghat on the banks of the Mandal river.I do not think it would be correct to assume that acts such as these are performed by individuals who lack imagination and who therefore do not realize the grave risks they run.

    The people of our hills, in addition to being very sensitive to their environments, are very superstitious, and every hill-top, valley, and gorge is credited with possessing a spirit in one form or another, all of the evil and malignant kind most to be feared during the hours of darkness. A man brought up in these surroundings, and menaced for over a year by a man-eater, who, unarmed and alone, from sunset to sunrise, could walk through dense forests which his imagination peopled with evil spirits, and in which he had every reason to believe a man-eater was lurking, was in my opinion possessed of a quality and a degree of courage that is given to few.

    All the more do I give him credit for his act of heroism for not being conscious that he had done anything unusual, or worthy of notice. When at my request he sat down near the man-eater to enable me to take a photograph, he looked up at me and said, in a quiet and collected voice, ' I am content now, sahib, for you have avenged my son.'

    Corbett,Jim.- Man Eaters Of Kumaon (Kindle Locations 2728-2734). Oxford University Press. 


    It's a moron on Oxygen, ain't it? It's not! It is a figure of speech, where two words of opposite meanings are right next to each other 
    e.g. The kind cruelty of surgeons knife.

    This adjective phrase wishes to capture the 'kind' intent of the surgeon in relieving pain in the long term or even saving lives, while also capturing the intense pain as one who is being operated on, assuming of course, that no options for anaesthesia were available in the circumstances.

    Can you think of any such phrases that you may have come across?  
    I have listed some for you below so you may embellish your writing:

    Open secret: refers to something that cannot be officially said but is  known to everybody
    Bitter sweet: Often used with experiences that leave you both happy and sad at once.
    Deafening silence: Used in the context where a person is expected to say something, but keeps quiet because he/she is afraid of the effect of doing so. 
    Please do visit this link for more

    Tuesday, 11 July 2017


    No, it is not an infinity that became inquisitive! It is just the basic way a verb is written when we want to discuss verbs, like so:
    to write,
    to walk,
    to fight, and so on.
    There is no tense involved. It is just a simple way of referring to a verb. It is used in sentences:-
    e.g. He wants to write about his experiences while travelling.
           She decided to walk to the theatre instead of taking a bus.

    Be careful about split infinitives, that is putting a word between 'to' and the 'verb'.
    e.g. The pup began to noisily bark at the postman.
    This is not as elegant as:-
    e.g. The pup began to bark noisily at the postman.

    No rules of Grammar are broken, but the sentence rolls off the tongue much smoother!

    Sunday, 9 July 2017

    Compound Nouns

    No, these are not nouns that are always playing in the compound! Take commonly used words like cupboard, bedroom, doughnut and shopkeeper. These words started off as two separate words. For example, prior to the 14 century, cups were kept on a sideboard and used as and when needed. Over time, these two words were fused to form the word cupboard which means 'a closed cabinet for the storage of food! 

    Likewise, the bedroom was meant to be the room that contains the bed, ( bed + room) a room where one could sleep. It was also called the bedchamber previously, probably because of the Norman invasion which brought along French words like 'Chambre' which means room in French.

    If you never knew, words also have a history of how they were formed and that is a subject called Etymology. An interesting link is, it is a free reference created by Mr Douglas Harper.  

    Friday, 7 July 2017

    Open and closed questions

    In the early '80s, when I was in University, studying for a Marketing course, I had to design a questionnaire, for the Marketing Project that was part of the course. My Professor, Mr Tarun Gupta, encouraged us to use 'open' questions, not 'closed' ones. That is when I came upon this classification.
    An 'open' question is one where the person answering is allowed to answer with no restrictions. 
    e.g. Where did you spend your summer vacations?
           Which is your favourite actor?

    A closed question is when the person answering is asked to choose from a list of choices
    e.g. Do you like hockey or tennis?
    The person answering may like neither and may yet feel forced to choose. Not an ideal situation for both the questioner and the respondent.

    In life, you get a mix of these questions. When you are just getting to know a person or doing an exploratory survey, open-ended questions may be the best way to learn about a person/persons.
    When you already have some degree of acquaintance with someone and you want to know which is his or her preference then you can use closed-ended questions.


    Wednesday, 5 July 2017

    The impact of English on Asian Cultures

    The largest Asian cultures are the Chinese and Indian cultures and because the English did not rule China, the impact was largely on Indian culture. The British studied Indian culture and over a period  slowly gained power over larger areas, adopting many words from local languages as I have stated in a previous post.

    But as they really could not  bring enough English people to stay in the colonies , they trained a class of Indian people to administer territories and collect taxes to run the same. These people were trained in English , and became exposed to many English ideas that affected their culture. 

    It was from among these that the first Indian social reformers, like Raja Rammohan Roy and others were drawn. Ideas like Democracy, Equality were unheard of in India, long used to an unequal Caste based society. The British passed laws and implemented the abolition of Sati, a disgusting practice, where widows were burnt on the funeral pyre of their husbands.

    Many of India's freedom fighters were lawyers who understood the import of British law and fought for freedoms  enshrined in it .

    Tuesday, 4 July 2017

    Saladin or Sala'uddin the Great and Richard the Lionheart

    A beautiful pen-picture of a Historic meeting between the 2 monarchs, by Sir Walter Scott in his Historical Romance "The Talisman". Sorry, but some of the words are not politically correct , but they are not mine!

    The riders were Georgian and Circassian slaves in the very prime of life. Their helmets and hauberks were formed of steel rings, so bright that they shone like silver; their vestures were of the gayest colours, and some of cloth of gold or silver; the sashes were twisted with silk and gold, their rich turbans were plumed and jewelled, and their sabres and poniards, of Damascene steel, were adorned with gold and gems on hilt and scabbard. This splendid array advanced to the sound of military music, and when they met the Christian body they opened their files to the right and left, and let them enter between their ranks. 

    Richard now assumed the foremost place in his troop, aware that Saladin himself was approaching. Nor was it long when, in the centre of his bodyguard, surrounded by his domestic officers and those hideous negroes who guard the Eastern harem, and whose misshapen forms were rendered yet more frightful by the richness of their attire, came the Soldan, with the look and manners of one on whose brow Nature had written, "This is a King!" 

    In his snow-white turban, vest, and wide Eastern trousers, wearing a sash of scarlet silk, without any other ornament, Saladin might have seemed the plainest dressed man in his own guard. But closer inspection discerned in his turban that inestimable gem which was called by the poets the Sea of Light; the diamond on which his signet was engraved, and which he wore in a ring, was probably worth all the jewels of the English crown; and a sapphire which terminated the hilt of his cangiar ( Khanjar= Dagger) was not of much inferior value. 

    It should be added that to protect himself from the dust, which in the vicinity of the Dead Sea resembles the finest ashes, or, perhaps, out of Oriental pride, the Soldan wore a sort of veil attached to his turban, which partly obscured the view of his noble features. He rode a milk-white Arabian, which bore him as if conscious and proud of his noble burden.

    Scott, Sir Walter. The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott (Kindle Locations 7664-7672). KaPonGZaYo. Kindle Edition. 

    Monday, 3 July 2017

    When borrowing makes you popular...!!!

    Partly because of colonialism, and partly because of the British approach to their colonies, they were exposed to words from other languages. They incorporated these words into English, or from another point of view, English borrowed words from every language of the colonies and even from countries that they never ruled.
    There are Indian words from all of the various languages of India, there are Chinese words, there are African words there are Native American words, Persian words and then words from French, Spanish, Italian, German, and even Russian all serendipitously borrowed, with nary a thought for parochial outrage! In fact, there would be a mere handful of countries from whose languages English did not borrow some words.
    Here's a list that I can come up with from the top of my head

    Hindi- Bangla -Bungalow
    Malayalam- Kattumaram -Catamaran
    Urdu - Paijamas - Pyjamas
    Marwari - Jodhpuri - Jodhpurs
    Chinese - Cha - Chai (This may have been borrowed from India)
    Vietnam/Malaysia/Singapore - Sarong - Sarong
    Tibet- Shangri-la - Shangrila 
    African ( Swahili) - Safari - Safari
    African (Afrikaans) - Apartheid- Apartheid
    Arabic - Souk - Souk 
    French - Abattoir - Abattoir 
    Spanish - Cucaracha -cockroach
    Native Australian- Wo-mur-rang -Boomerang

    The list goes on! This is partly because many of the early settlers/explorers did not rule as soon as they arrived in the colonies, they were traders and evangelists.  They studied the local culture and today some books by British authors are the authority on local cultures. I know that some studies of the culture of Kerala were so thorough that today they are quoted as references of the culture of the day! I have read some of the books on Ethiopian culture which have not yet reached that status of being a reference but may do so some day! No wonder it has become the language of the world today, everybody can recognise part of their own language in English!

    Thursday, 29 June 2017

    Quirky Idioms

    Have you ever hear of Pigs flying? 
    In English, the phrase 'when pigs fly' refers to something so impossible, that it is like pigs flying: e.g You will get my agreement  on this subject when pigs fly.

    When do your hands turn red? When you are caught red handed! Which means you are caught in the process of doing something that is forbidden! 

    Just suppose that you have been caught red handed  and are very embarrassed , and do not know what to say to the person who caught you, he/she could ask you "The cat got your tongue?"  which means " Are you unable to reply because a cat ate up your tongue?" 

    Of course, like all idioms, this is not at all likely , in case your imagination is running riot with bizarre mental images.

    Bye for now! 

    Wednesday, 28 June 2017


    What's a Gerund? Simply put, it is a present participle used as a noun. Some experts even call it a verbal noun. 
    Like a noun, it can be used as a subject.

    Smoking is bad for your health.

    It can also be used as an object.

    I love swimming.

    It can be used as a complement after a linking verb.

    Seeing is believing.

    It can be used as an adjective.

    This is the living room.

    It can also be the object of a preposition.

    Do not eat heavily before swimming.

    Tuesday, 27 June 2017

    Let's get this show on the road!

    This sentence is a classic example of and 'Idiom'. Okay, so what is an "idiom'? In simple  English, it is a group of words that are used in a particular way, or an established usage, and it means something that everyone knows because it has been used so often.

    In this case, it means, "let's get this project started!". When you say this to your friends, it means that you want to start up something now, that you have been planning for a while, say a picnic or a vacation, etc. 

    Monday, 26 June 2017

    Affect and Effect

    There is considerable confusion in the use of these two words in English today. The word 'affect' is a verb, and it means "to influence or make a change to" something. The word 'effect' is a result of an action.
    Let me illustrate this with examples of the correct usage of the two words:

    The new tax policy will not affect you in anyway.

    The effect of Pollution will be borne by the next generation.

    Monday, 12 June 2017

    Collocations of verbs and prepositions

    Collocations of verbs and prepositions

    One of the funny quirks of the English language is to get used to which verbs are used with which prepositions. There are no rules which define these, you get used to them as you use the language more often. This is called a collocation, and it is one of many in the language.
    Take for example the preposition 'against'; it is commonly used with the following verbs:
    guard, rebel, lean, offend, war.
    So one would guard against gluttony!
    The soldiers rebelled against the Duke.
    The jury leant against the arguments of the defence lawyer.

    Similarly,  you say
    Petra is susceptible to influenza
    Petra is susceptible for influenza

    Some common collocations are shown below, this is not mine but comes from a page called, and as I make no profit from this blog, I show it below for the reader's convenience.

    Wednesday, 7 June 2017

    Who or whom ?

    Many people wonder when they must use any one of these options? The former is the subjective form of the pronoun and the latter the objective form. If you are in this quandary, a way to determine which one to use is to ask yourself the question: Can he, she or they be substituted for a pronoun in context? If the answer is yes then you must use who, for example, 
           Let's award the prize to the person who is most considerate.
           Substituting, we get
           Let's award the prize to he (or she) who is most considerate.
           The sentence still makes sense. 

           If however, you find that you have to use him, her or them, then        you must use whom, for example,
           This mess was created by whom?
           This mess was created by him/her/them! 
           Makes sense, so you've got it right!

    Sunday, 4 June 2017

    Getting your sentences right!
    In every language, there is an order in which you make a sentence. With English, you start with the subject, whatever you are talking about, then place the action word, the verb, and hey presto- you have a sentence!e.g  He sings.  Okay, if you like his voice, you can add and adverb 'beautifully'  and you get 'He sings beautifully'. Now, as an author, if you're feeling romantic, you can add an object to the sentence- 'He sings beautifully to his fiancee'. Aha! That was an addition of 3 words - 'to', 'his' and 'fiancee'! The 'fiancee' is the object of his song, 'to' is the preposition and since he is singing to the woman who is engaged to him, it is 'his' fiancee- the possessive pronoun- not somebody else's fiancee - in which case he is likely to end up with a black eye for his efforts!!๐Ÿ˜€

    Sunday, 14 May 2017

    Come on! There is no such a thing as a difficult language! There are several million people who speak English! If they can do it, so can you! Okay, so you may make so mistakes and some people may snigger! What will that do? Make you feel a bit awkward for a while and then life moves on! You live and learn!  The more you learn, the better you get, the sniggers become fewer... and suddenly they are gone! You've done it. If you need any help go to
    and join one of our easy and economic courses! 

    Friday, 10 March 2017

    The Appeal of English

    The appeal of English around the world is quite mystifying, yet there it is - the language of Technology, the language of Law, the language of Celebrity! Even if English is not the only international language used by the United Nations, it is certainly one of the prominent ones.
    Maybe it is because America speaks English, I thought, and this may be a major appeal. It turns out that assumption is correct - 231,122,908 English speakers there. Then there's the European Union with 256,876,220, enough reason to see why it is so popular.

    These are the numerical reasons why it is so appealing; but why does one choose to learn a language? Think about why you chose to learn any language other than your mother tongue. Most people learn a language to learn about a culture, and when a language spans so many cultures, albeit from a colonial past, it adds to its appeal. Local writers enrich the language, making it at once both global and local, painting pictures of their cultures, emotions and thoughts weaving it into a tapestry, rich in form and hues, as to make it easy for a person from any part of the globe to relate with.

    There are few languages that come close to English in this regard and it is probably one of the strongest reasons why this language is so entrancing! 

    Tuesday, 14 February 2017

    Language is about communication, transference of ideas and it is equally about sharing emotions. The last thing I want to do now is to irritate you with lectures about Grammar and spelling, but what I do want to do is to encourage you to take the plunge- go ahead and write about your thoughts your opinions, in English , especially if you are unfamiliar with it and I will volunteer as much as it is humanly possible for one person and a computer to mirror your compositions with a grammatically correct version in reply.
    Do you know that 'Grammarly' is a tool that you can use to do this in an automated way? The site is very good, and if you use Chrome you get a free extension. However, if you would like to add a personal touch, feel free to send an email to!