The adjectival order…

Adjectives

Hello friends,

This time, I’ll stick to my profession and (teach you a lesson or two in English).

Anyone who has attended elementary school knows what adjectives are. How much elementary school information is retained, is a different matter altogether. Just so you don’t end up scratching your scalp dry – adjectives are words that describe a noun. E.g. in the phrase ‘the tall boy’ – ‘boy’ is the noun and ‘tall’ is the adjective.

Now let’s take another example – I have white 10 roses beautiful in my garden.

This sentence sounds quite odd – doesn’t it? I’d be damned if anyone says NO. indeed the sentence is wrong. The slightly informed ones may call it a ‘sentence construction error’ – and I would agree with them. There are several errors that make up a ‘sentence construction’ or a semantic error. What we are dealing with here, is a specific error. It’s the ‘order of adjective’ that’s amiss.

In any sentence where there are more adjectives than one, the writer needs to follow the order of adjectives. On second thoughts – even if there’s just one adjective – there is something worth remembering – it always precedes the noun (Only poets are excused). If you look at the first example – I wrote ‘a tall boy’ and not ‘a boy tall’. To a grammarian, the sentence looks like Article + Adjective + Noun.

Now let’s get back to the topic – adjectives follow a specific order and this is how it looks:

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

9

Quantity Quality Size Shape Age Colour Origin Material Purpose

Here are a few examples to elucidate the point:

Order

Example 1

Quantity
Quality Shiny
Size
Shape
Age New
Colour Red
Origin
Material
Purpose
Noun Ball
Final: (I gave him) A shiny new red ball.
Order Example 2
Quantity
Quality Nice
Size Big
Shape
Age
Colour Black
Origin
Material
Purpose Sports
Noun Car
Final: (Jack has) A nice big black sports car (in his garage)
Order Example 3
Quantity Two
Quality
Size
Shape
Age New
Colour
Origin Egyptian
Material Cotton
Purpose
Noun Shirts
Final: (Those are) The two new Egyptian cotton shirts (I gifted him)
Order Example 4
Quantity Three
Quality Experienced
Size
Shape
Age Old
Colour
Origin British
Material
Purpose
Noun Sailors
Final: (He was the eldest among the) three experienced old British sailors.

So, the next time you end up making a sentence with multiple adjectives – do remember the above rules and examples.

Hasta la próxima – have a nice day!!!

Commonly Confused Words

Confused

Hi friends.

While the title sounds quite prosaic at worst or repetitive at best – the content and the intended effect is still relevant. With numerous students graduating and waiting for their forthcoming interviews – this piece should be helpful to one and all. Not just students (sadly but truly) many grown-ups can use it too (read: need it too).
Let’s get straight to the point. The point is that just like any other language – English has different words for different situations – let’s just keep it that way. But do we? While the list is seemingly interminable – here are some words that are relevant in the Indian context.

Affect vs Effect:
‘Affect’ is a verb that stands for ‘have an effect on; make a difference to’
‘Effect’ is a noun that stands for ‘a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.’

Bare vs Bear:
Bear is both – an adjective, verb, determiner and an adverb.
In the adjective form it stands for the following:

  • (Of a person or part of the body) not clothed or covered
  • Without the appropriate, usual, or natural covering
  • Without the appropriate or usual contents
  • Devoid of; without
  • Unconcealed; without disguise
  • Without addition; basic and simple
  • Only just sufficient
  • Surprisingly small in number or amount

In the verb form, it stands for ‘uncover (a part of the body or other things) and exposes it to view’
It is also a determiner meaning ‘a large amount or number of’
In the adverb form, it stands for ‘very; really (used as an intensifier)’

Bear on the other hand is a noun and a verb.
It the verb form, it stands for the following:

  • (Of a person) carry
  • Support; carry the weight of
  • Endure (an ordeal or difficulty)
  • Give birth to (a child)
  • Turn and proceed in a specified direction

In the noun form, it stands for the following:

  • A large, heavy mammal that walks on the soles of its feet, having thick fur and a very short tail.
  • A large, heavy, cumbersome man
  • A person who sells shares hoping to buy them back later at a lower price

Its vs It’s:

This is a pet peeve – almost everyone I know or have met (and where I have read their writing) has made this mistake every once in a while. Here’s how to kill the confusion.

‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun. It indicates belonging or association. E.g. the dog tried to catch its own tail. He bought the vintage car since he knew its value. The baby bit its own finger.

‘It’s’ on the other hand is a contraction. The apostrophe shows the omission of a letter/letters. In this case, it refers to a reduction from IT IS to IT’S. Other examples of reductions being don’t, won’t, can’t, wouldn’t etc.

In short – if you are referring to something that belongs to someone – the correct usage is ITS (no apostrophe). If you are shortening the words IT and IS – then the correct usage is IT’S).

I know why everyone’s so confused with this … the reason is that with other words, we always use an apostrophe to denote belonging e.g. Jack’s car, Megan’s phone, Baby’s diaper.

Just consider it’s/its to be an exception – if that helps.

Principal vs Principle:

Here’s another commonly confused term – although I don’t see a reason for any kind of confusion. Let’s get this straight.

A principal is both – a noun and an adjective

In the noun form, it stands for:

  • The most important or senior person in an organization or group
  • A sum of money lent or invested, on which interest is paid
  • A person for whom another acts as an agent or representative
  • The person directly responsible for a crime
  • A main rafter supporting purlins
  • An organ stop sounding a main register of open flue pipes typically an octave above the diapason

In the adjective form, it stands for:

  • First in order of importance; main
  • Denoting an original sum invested or lent

‘Principle’, on the other hand, is a just noun that stands for:

  • A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning
  • A general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field
  • A fundamental source or basis of something

In short – for admissions and leave applications – you approach a PRINCIPAL. For discussing values/qualities – you write PRINCIPLE.

Than vs Then:

This is another one that gets my goat. Once again, I don’t see why anyone should be confused with these terms – but since there are people who need help – let’s simplify this.

‘Than’ is conjunction & preposition that stands for:

  • Introducing the second element in a comparison (he was much smaller than his son)
  • Used in expressions introducing an exception or contrast (he claims not to own anything other than his home)
  • Used in expressions indicating one thing happening immediately after another (scarcely was the work completed than it was abandoned)

Then is an adverb that stands for the following:

  • At that time; at the time in question (I lived in Cairo then)
  • After that; next; afterwards (she won the first and then the second game)
  • In that case; therefore (if you do what I tell you, then there’s nothing to worry about)

In short – use THAN for comparing and THEN to denote anything related to time.

To vs Too:

I’m sure by now many of you also agree with me on the futility of this entry – but I chose to include it after reading some really atrocious text. Let’s get this one straight too…

Too is an adverb that stands for:

  • To a higher degree than is desirable, permissible, or possible; excessively (he was driving too fast)
  • In addition; also (is he coming too?)

I’d be damned if had to explain the meaning of ‘To’ – hence I’ll leave it your imagination.

As is clear from the above content, these confusions can lead to miscommunication and thereby losing face at social meetings. The key to a better understanding of these terms is reading and more reading. The more you read, the more you understand, in addition to this, employ internet-based resources like www.grammarly.com. Websites like these are a great help while writing emails, messages, notices, social media posts, articles, blogs etc.

Till we meet again,

Goodbye to confusions and Welcome to great writing!!!

So common yet so little known…

Hello friends… feels good to come out in the sun from under the rock. I’ve been thinking of a topic to write, when I stumbled upon this one… we’ve been using these phrases since we learnt speaking… but do we know that these were Latin phrases, borrowed in English? I hear some ‘YES’es and see many blank faces. It’s OK, we’re not computers/savants to know everything. Here’s a low-down for your benefit…

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ad hoc

Transliteration: For this

Translation: improvised, made up on the spot

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alma mater

Transliteration: Nourishing mother

Translation: the university one attends/has attended

Note: The word “matriculation” is derived from “mater”. The term suggests that the students are “fed” knowledge and taken care of by the university.

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a.m. (ante meridiem)

Transliteration: Before noon

Translation: the period from midnight to noon

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A.D. (Anno Domini)

Transliteration: In the year of the lord

Translation: a year counted from the traditional date birth of Jesus Christ

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Bona fide

Transliteration: In good faith

Translation: genuine; real

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CV (Curriculum vitae)

Transliteration: Course of life

Translation: A résumé

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etc. (Et cetera)

Transliteration: And the rest

Translation: and others/and so on/and more

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E.g. (Exempli gratia)

Transliteration: For the sake of example, for example

exit

Exit

Transliteration: He/she leaves

Note: used e.g. in theatrical stage directions

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i.e. (Id est)

Transliteration: That is (to say), abbreviated as ‘i.e.’ – sometimes “in this case,” depending on the context.

Note: It is not equivalent to “e.g.”, in any context

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Magnum opus

Transliteration: Great work

Translation: someone’s masterpiece

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Modus operandi (M. O.)

Transliteration: Way of working

Translation: a criminal’s methods

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N.B. (nota bene)

Transliteration: Note it well

Translation: please note, important note

Per annum

Transliteration: Per year

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Per caput/per capita

Transliteration: Per head

Translation: per person

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Per se

Transliteration: By itself/in itself

Translation: without referring to anything else, intrinsically, taken without qualifications, etc.; for instance, negligence per se

day-and-time

Post meridiem (p.m.)

Transliteration: After noon

Translation: in the period from noon to midnight

Post mortem

Transliteration: After death

2

P.S. (Post scriptum)

Transliteration: Post script

Translation: used to mark additions to a letter, after the signature

Pro rata

Transliteration: For the rate

Translation: per hour/per day/per month

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Requiescat in pace (R.I.P.)

Transliteration: May he rest in peace

Translation: a benediction for the dead. Often inscribed on tombstones or other grave markers.

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Versus (vs.)

Transliteration: Against

These were some of the most commonly used phrases. There are others too – however owing to the fact that we seldom use those in our routine lives – I chose to omit them from this blog. Let me know if interested, I could share some more of them. Bonne nuit!!!

Mind your language…

Hello, folks… long time, no see. How are you? I hope all you lovely people are doing fine. Just remembered – ‘How are you’ is a greeting – not a question. Don’t start with your rave and rant when someone asks you this question. There are several such things I’m sure some of you still don’t have a clue about. I’ll help. Hence the title.

Since times immemorial, man has been evolving and so are his means of communication – language being one of the most important means.

The man has always been interested in learning new languages – but does that guarantee good communication? Maybe. Maybe not. Choice of words combined with the right pronunciation, emphasis, and occasion (timing) can work wonders in the world of communication. Too bad – most of us are good with only one or two of these concepts. Timing is a concept that only a few of us are even remotely able to relate to – let alone ‘use’. The result – bad communication!

So, let’s break this down… but wait – the disclaimer first… I’m not a Linguist/psycho-analyst or anything remotely similar to that. So, you can’t drag me to court if this doesn’t work (LOL).

The way I look at it, communication begins with an idea. It could be extempore, well-planned, sudden… anything… just an idea. We then assign it a word form and using a choice language we let it out our pie holes. There are several things that get processed at the same time employing different ‘algorithms’. For instance, we see what language should we use to reply? What would be a good choice of words? Should we really say it? Is it a good time to say it? How would this person react to it (few people have such considerations)? So, on and so forth.

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Transliteration – this is a poorly-managed (sometimes UNWANTED) skill that we employ at times. Let me simplify: ‘Ελληνική Δημοκρατία’ transliterates to ‘Ellēnikḗ Dēmokratía’ but translates to ‘Hellenic Republic (Greece)’. We as Indians have this weird habit of transliterating (as opposed to translating) words and phrases. We don’t just do this with English, we do it with Indian languages too – hence we give meaning to the phrase ‘lost is translation’ while we are actually losing it in transliteration.

Some absurdities hurled at me almost everyday ad nauseam (in so-called English-speaking environs) include:

  • How’s (as opposed to How’re) you?
  • What you saying (as opposed to ‘What are you saying’)?
  • I said that only (as opposed to ‘That’s what I said’).
  • I didn’t knew it (as opposed to ‘I didn’t know it’).
  • He be’s there (as opposed to ‘He stays/lives there’)
  • Today morning (as opposed to ‘this morning’)
  • Any which ways (as opposed to simply ‘any way’)

More info on common mistakes can be gleaned from the following websites:

50 Common Grammar Mistakes in English

14 Common Grammatical Mistakes in English – And How to Avoid Them

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This can be easily avoided. I say ‘easily’ since I went to a good school, was taught by a good teacher and most importantly… I paid attention to my English teacher in school. It’s sad to see how people (think they can) communicate these days. I have worked for BPOs and a KPO since 2005 and find it appalling to hear the kind of English spoken by people who were hired since they were ‘supposed to be fluent’ in spoken and written English. Reality – their written and spoken English sucks at so many different levels that it aptly qualifies being called appalling, mortifying, embarrassing etc. The disheartening part is they still believe they CAN speak English. And oh, this is not confined to just English. I know Mallus who speak poor Malayalam, Hindi/Marathi-speakers speaking Hindi/Marathi without a clue about tenses, gender, voice etc. I wonder what they did when their respective teachers taught them in their school days. Those are the days when the foundation for many such things is laid – these kids wasted that time/opportunity with gay abandon.

Enough said about the problem – now for some solution to the problem. Here’s what we can (presumably) do to improve our communication/language skills.

SPEAK:

Confidently speak as often as possible to as many people as possible! Don’t be shy – make mistakes! The more you practice the better and more confident you become in your pronunciation and vocab. Remember, speaking is a skill like learning a musical instrument – the only way you can get good is to actually DO it!

TECHNOLOGY:

A smartphone can be a powerful tool for learning languages. Record yourself speaking then listen back to see how your English (or any other language for that matter) sounds to other people. Make the most of all your favorite productivity apps to organize your practice time and make a note of all the new words you learn. Some noteworthy apps are DuoLingo, Ginger Keyboard, Memrise, etc.

HEAR:

Listen to news broadcasts and songs – pay attention to the pronunciation. You can also learn new words and expressions this way. The more you listen, the more you learn! Try copying what you hear to practice your pronunciation and learn which words in a sentence are stressed.

ROL (Read out loud):

Read a newspaper or a magazine out loud – just one paragraph or two at a time – that’s it. Perhaps, find a script for your favorite TV show and enact it! This way you get to practice pronunciation because you only need to concentrate on ensuring you language sounds great and don’t need to worry about sentence structure or grammar (for now).

NEW WORD OF THE DAY:

Choose a word you would like to work on and use practice it in different sentences. Use the word until you have learned it and keep using it regularly.

MOVIES:

Watch movies in English or the language of your choice and pay attention to new vocabulary and pronunciation. Imitate/impersonate the actors and have fun.

BEFRIEND (Send your ego on a vacation):

Befriend speakers who are good with their communication. Mentally exchange notes. Talk about things that you have learned and exchange ideas.

DEBATE:

Debate all the topics that interest you with friends in the choice language. Try to use as much vocabulary as you can to get your point across and listen to the other arguments carefully so you can argue against them effectively.

USE A DICTIONARY (Send your ego on a vacation):

Admit it (secretly if not openly) – we all need to user this magic book. Online/digital dictionaries have audio examples too so you can check your pronunciation. There are several great dictionary apps that you can take everywhere with you on your smartphone. Make sure not to become too reliant on these tools, though. Have a go at saying the words first then check afterward to see if you were right!

So, with all these helpful tips to choose from, which one are you going to try first? Trust me, if you had paid more attention to your teachers in your school days – you wouldn’t have to put with such babble on blog sites. But they, better late than never.

Bye. Ciao. Adios – hasta mañana.