English is a crazy language to learn. One problem is that English evolved from a combination of old Germanic languages and old French. Thus some words have roots in the northern European languages and some words have roots in southern European languages. English is a fairly young language, coming into its modern form only about 700 years ago. Since that time the basic syntax and vocabulary haven’t changed, but the spelling and pronunciation have continued to evolve. Spelling was flexible until those crazy Victorians started writing rules for everything, and we’ve been stuck ever since.
However, since English is now spoken as a means of international communication in business and academics, many people are learning English as a second, third, fourth or additional language. The great thing is that they are all adding new words to the language. As a Scrabble player, I’m grateful for qi, qat, qintar and suq. I don’t care for the taste of poi, but I’m learning to love couscous.
Many of my readers are struggling with some phrases in English, because, honestly, they just don’t make sense. The only way to learn the idioms is to ask, memorize and use them a few times to get used to them. Confused? Read on.
I’d like to schedule/set/hold/make an appointment with a doctor.
Schedule, set, or make are all equivalent. We wouldn’t say “hold”. In business we can schedule, hold, or call a meeting.
Please fill up/out/in the attached form.
Fill out and fill in are the same…write the appropriate information. Fill up usually means to fill something with a liquid, like fill up your car with gas.
We don’t take no for an answer.
We insist that you say yes. The use of the double negative is for emphasis.
For legal reasons, particularly in a medical procedure, informed consent means a person agrees, but also that they have been informed of the risks and they really understand what they are agreeing to.
Although the film was good it received “a poor write-up” from the critics.
A write-up, in this case, means a review. In general a write-up means any written report.
More /most recently.
More recently means the second thing that I’m going to tell you about happened after the first thing I told you about. Most recently means the thing I’m about to tell you is more recent than either of the two or more things I already told you and there’s nothing else more recent than that.
Most of students work hard/ most students work hard.
Most of the students work hard: This refers only to a certain group of students.
Most students work hard: This refers to all students in general.
Back in October 2007…
This refers to something that happened in October 2007
Conquistador is the Spanish word for “conqueror” and we use it to refer to the Spanish army which conquered the Aztecs and Incas in South and Central America in the 1500s. It’s another example of a word from another language that has been incorporated into English.
A faceoff is either the beginning of a sporting event such as hockey when the referee tosses the puck in the air so the teams can begin playing against each other. It is also any situation where two people or teams argue, debate or have some kind of conflict.
Footballer/Londoner/ New Yorker .ER comes only at the end of the verbs to be verber or adjective.
–er at the end of a noun makes it into an adjective
Warrior, war is not a verb.
Warrior and war are nouns. The verb would be “to make war” or “to be at war.” Sometimes we talk about “warring countries”, but that is really an adjective.
Maybe or may be
May be is an expression with a verb “may” and another verb in the infinitive form “be.” “Maybe” is an adverb meaning “possibly.” If something may happen we can say “maybe it will happen” or “it may be.”
Anyone has OR have a question
It depends on the construction of the sentence.
Does anyone have a question? The main verb is “does” and “have” is in the infinitive form.
If anyone has a question, then ask. Now the main verb is “has” and must agree with “anyone” (singular.)
Someone has OR have a question
Same as above.
On my behalf OR on behalf of me
Either is correct, the first is preferable.
Write to us/ write us
Either is correct.
What for/ for what
Both are used in different constructions. They mean the same thing.
I don’t know what that is for. (This is how normal people speak.)
I don’t know for what that is used. (This is a formal way of writing and obeys the old rule of not ending a sentence in a preposition.)
“What for” is also used as a slang term for yelling at someone. I gave him what for when he dented my car. (Sounds better in voice than print).
What’s meaning of upon here; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
This is the name of a place. The place name reflects the fact that it is located at the Tyne River.
This is an insulting way to refer to a woman whose morals you don’t agree with. It implies she is sexually active outside of marriage and perhaps promiscuous. There’s a Tom Waites song lamenting “Fast women and slow horses…”
Please transfer the sum of $6000 to account#xxxxxxx under “advice to us”
…at the advice of a lawyer or authorized representative
until such time.
Until the time that some other event occurs.
A send-off is some kind of celebration of leaving. A send-off match is probably a game between two teams at the end of a tournament.
Attached is/are the registration form and the course poster
plural of feedback
Feedback is a collective noun. It has no plural.
This tongue-in-cheek documentary.
Tongue-in-cheek means satirical or made for fun, not serious.
Cast overview, first “billed” only.
The bill is the list of actors in a play. The first billed are the important actors whose names come first.
The “billed” weight
The weight charged for a product. Packaging may be an additional weight. Therefore a 100 gram package of tea contains 100 grams of tea, plus the weight of the package.
Yippee Ki Yay
An exclamation of joy from an American cowboy (old fashioned, or exaggerated.)
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