How to use “send”

The word “send” is often misused by Chinese speakers who assume it is the same as the Chinese “送.” I often hear people say things like this:

  • I have to get up very early to send my children to school before I go to work.
  • I sent my mother some flowers for Mother’s Day.

Both of the sentences above are good English and could be correct in some situations, but as Taiwanese speakers use them, they are usually mistakes.

When Taiwanese speakers talk about “sending” their children to school, they generally mean giving them a ride to school in a car or on a scooter — in other words, taking them to school. If you send your children to school, it means you tell them to go to school, and they go — but you stay home.

Likewise, many of my students who tell me they “sent” their mother something for Mother’s Day are children who still live with their mothers! What they mean is that they gave her something. When you send a gift, you don’t give it in person; you have it delivered by mail.

The key thing to remember is that when you send something or someone, you don’t go with it/them. When you send your kids to school, you don’t go to the school with them. When you send your mother a present, you don’t go with it to your mother’s house.

If you send a person somewhere, it normally means you have authority over that person and can tell him or her where to go.

  • My boss is sending me to China for a two-week business trip.
  • The president has decided to send more soldiers into Syria.
  • My mother sent me to the supermarket to buy some milk.
  • If you want your children to improve their English, send them to Eton Royal English School.

If you send a thing somewhere, it normally means you have it delivered by the postal service or a shipping company. We also use “send” to talk about faxes, emails, text messages.

  • The phone company sends me a bill every month.
  • My parents send out a lot of Christmas cards every year.
  • I sent you an email, but you didn’t reply. Did you receive it?

Any questions? Send them to me by commenting below.

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

“Toast” is a false friend

A “false friend” is a word that is similar to a word in your language but doesn’t quite have the same meaning. You assume you know what it means, but in fact you may have the wrong idea. One such false friend for Chinese speakers learning English is “toast.” You probably assume it has the same meaning as the Chinese “吐司,” but it doesn’t.

As the comic strip shows, in English it isn’t “toast” until it’s been toasted in a toaster. Toast is brown and crispy. Before you toast it, when it’s still soft and white, it isn’t toast; it’s bread. If you specifically want the meaning of “吐司” rather than “麵包,” you can say “sliced bread.”

The joke in the comic strip can’t be translated into Chinese, because there’s nothing strange about putting in “吐司” having “烤吐司” come out. But in English, “bread” and “toast” are different words, so the boy assumes they’re two totally different things.

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

“Try to + V” vs. “try + Ving”

Do you ever feel confused about the difference between “try to + V” and “try + Ving”? Try reading this post and see if it helps. I’ll try to explain everything clearly.

When you try to do something, you make an effort, and you hope you will be able do it. Maybe you will be able to do it, and maybe you won’t.

  • Sorry I’m late. I’ll try to be on time in the future.
    (I hope I can be on time, but I can’t be sure; maybe I’ll be late again.)
  • I’m trying to find my keys. Have you seen them anywhere?
    (I hope I can find my keys, but I can’t be sure; maybe I won’t find them.)

When you try doing something, you just do it. Maybe it will have the effect you want, and maybe it won’t.

  • I have a headache. I’ll try taking some Panadol.
    (I’ll take some Panadol. I hope it will make me feel better, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)
  • A: I don’t understand this word.
    B: Have you tried looking it up in a dictionary?
    (You can look it up. I hope that will help you understand it, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)

Compare these pairs of examples. What’s the difference?

    • I tried to open the window, but it’s stuck.
    • I tried opening the window, but it’s still hot in here.
    • I try to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I don’t have time.
    • I’ve tried going jogging every morning, but I still haven’t lost any weight.

In the sentences with “try to,” maybe I’m not able to do the action. I wanted to open the window, but I couldn’t. I want to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I can’t.

In the sentences with “try + Ving,” I do the action, but maybe I don’t get the result I wanted. I opened the window, but it didn’t make the room any cooler. I went jogging every morning, but I didn’t lose weight.

Often we use “try to” to talk about a problem we want to solve and “try + Ving” to talk about possible ways of solving it. You can give people advice by saying “Have you tried…?” or “Why don’t you try…?” with Ving.

  • A: I’m trying to fix my computer, but I don’t know what to do.
    B: Have you tried turning it off and on again? Sometimes that works.
    A: Of course I’ve tried that, but it still doesn’t work!
    B: Why don’t you try calling technical support?

  • A: I’ve been trying to improve my English, but I’m not making any progress. Do you have any ideas?
    B: Well, have you tried taking a class at a language school?
    A: Yes, I’ve tried taking classes, but it didn’t help much. My teacher’s pronunciation was pretty bad!
    B: Maybe you should try studying with a native speaker, then.
    A: I’ve tried doing that, too, but my American teacher couldn’t explain grammar. I’ve tried to find a foreign teacher who understands grammar, but it’s just impossible!
    B: I think you should try signing up for a class at Eton Royal English School. You’ll find just what you need.
    A: Really? Okay, I’ll try that!

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

On top of the world

This is the first in a series of posts about prepositions of location — demonstrated by our cats! (because everyone loves cute cat pictures, right?)

This is Mojo, the nicest of our seven cats, and in this picture he’s on top of the world — literally!

a cat sitting on a globe box

On top of the world is an idiom that means “extremely happy” — and, yes, Mojo’s always a very happy cat. I said literally, though, which means I’m not using the phrase as an idiom. Literally means that each word has its original meaning. It’s not an idiom, metaphor, or exaggeration. There’s a globe of the world, and Mojo is actually sitting on top of it.

I’m sure all of you know the classic Carpenters song “Top Of The World.” The meaning of the song is very simple: I’m extremely happy because you love me.

(By the way, the Carpenters sing “I’m on the top of the world” because it fits the music better, but usually we don’t say “the top.”)

1. Contrasting on top of, on, and at the top of

On top of is very similar to on, but the meaning is more specific. On means “resting on or connected to the surface of….” It could be the top, side, or bottom surface. We can also use on to talk about marks on a surface, or about the clothes a person is wearing. Look at these examples.

  • Mojo is on the box.
  • There’s a light switch on the wall.
  • There’s a picture of a globe on the box.
  • Mojo has stripes on his body.
  • Mojo’s collar is very stylish. It looks good on him!
  • There’s a bell on his collar.

On top of means, more specifically, “resting on the top surface of….” In the six examples above, only the first one could use on top of.

If you mean “on or in the top part of…,” you should use the phrase at the top of.

  • Please write your name at the top of the test paper.
  • His office is at the top of a 12-story building.

2. Special uses of on top of

In addition to the literal meaning, on top of can mean “in addition to.”

  • On top of going to college full-time, he also works at a local restaurant.
  • I got a nice bonus last month on top of my regular salary.

It can also mean that you are in control of a situation, or that your information is up to date.

  • We’re having a few technical difficulties, but don’t worry. Our staff are on top of the situation and should have everything running properly soon.
  • Doctors need to read medical journals to stay on top of the latest research.

English can be complicated sometimes, but I hope these posts are helping you keep on top of it. What preposition will we talk about next? Well, it all depends on what my cats decide to do!

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

Using “welcome”

Welcome to “William’s English Tips”! “Welcome” is a word that a lot of Chinese speakers make mistakes with, so I’m going to explain how to use it correctly. If anything is not clear, you’re welcome to leave a comment. Questions and feedback are always welcome.

1. Welcome to + N

When someone has arrived in a place, joined a group, or showed up for an event, you can say something like this.

  • Welcome to our corporate headquarters. Would you like a quick tour of our production facility?
  • Welcome to T.G.I. Friday’s. Do you have a reservation?
  • Welcome to Taiwan! I hope you enjoy your stay in our country.
  • Congratulations on getting hired. Welcome to the team!
  • Welcome to Eton. You’ll learn a ton!

welcome

Notice that “to” is followed by a noun, not a verb. You can’t say “Welcome to study here” or “Welcome to visit our company.” (This is a very common mistake in Taiwan.)

Note that you can only say (for example) “Welcome to my home” to someone who has already arrived at your home. You can’t use that sentence to invite someone to your home.

2. You’re welcome to + V

We use “You’re welcome to” + a verb to say that it’s okay to do something. The meaning is similar to “Feel free to…” or “I don’t mind if you….”

  • Food is not allowed in the classroom, but you’re welcome to bring a water bottle.
  • Mr. Smith won’t be back for two hours. You’re welcome to wait for him, or you can come back later.

3. N + is/are welcome

If we say that something is welcome (or that we welcome something), it means we are happy to receive it.

  • Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcome. (= but we welcome donations)
  • Questions and comments are welcome. Just raise your hand.
  • Visitors are welcome during business hours.

4. You’re welcome

As I’m sure you already know, “You’re welcome” is a common response to “Thank you.” You can also say the following.

  • No problem.
  • Don’t mention it.
  • It’s nothing.
  • Not at all.
  • Any time.

Any questions? I welcome comments.

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

All hat and no cattle

“He’s all hat and no cattle.” If you say that about someone, it means he’s full of big talk but doesn’t really do anything, or he pretends to be more powerful or important than he really is. The original meaning is that he dresses like a cowboy or a rancher (the owner of a big cattle farm), with a cowboy hat, but he doesn’t actually own any cattle.

All hat and no cattle

  • The mayor is great at giving speeches, but he hasn’t really improved anything in our city. He’s all hat and no cattle.
  • A lot of job applicants have impressive resumes, but we need to interview them carefully to be sure they really have the skills we need. We don’t want to hire someone who’s all hat and no cattle.

English has a lot of idioms with the same meaning, mostly in the form “all .. and no ….” Here are a few others:

  • all show and no substance
  • all talk and no action
  • all bark and no bite
  • all sizzle and no steak (“sizzle” is the sound steak makes when it’s cooking)

A note about cattle

“Cattle” means 牛, but it is only plural. You can say “he has a lot of cattle,” but you can’t talk about “a cattle.” If you want to use a number with the word “cattle,” you normally use the word “head” as a quantifier (for example, “500 head of cattle”). In this way, English is very similar to Chinese (五百頭牛).

If you want to talk about one 牛, there are several different words you can use.

  • cow is an adult female. We get milk from cows. Sometimes “cow” is used in a general way to talk about cattle of either sex.
  • bull is an adult male. Cows are calm, slow-moving animals, but bulls are aggressive and violent, so the feeling of the two words is very different. Don’t say “cow” if you mean “bull”! For example, in Spain people like to watch bullfights, but a “cowfight” would be pretty boring.
  • steer is a castrated (閹割) bull, usually raised for meat. The beef we eat comes from steers.
  • An ox (plural oxen) is also a castrated bull, but it is used for work, not for meat. Wild cattle of both sexes are also called “oxen” sometimes.
  • calf is a baby cow or bull.

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

In mind / in one’s mind / on one’s mind

“In mind,” “in one’s mind,” and “on one’s mind” are quite similar in meaning, but there are important differences in how they’re used. Let’s see if I can clarify.

1. In mind

“Have … in mind” refers to having a specific idea, especially something specific that you want or expect.

  • You say you want to buy a new phone. Did you have a particular brand in mind?
  • A:  Do you want to do something this weekend?
    B: Maybe. What do you have in mind?
  • I don’t like the color of that jacket. I had something darker in mind.

“Keep … in mind” and “bear … in mind” mean to remember to consider something.

  • How much money do you think we’ll need for dinner? Keep in mind that there are six of us.
  • We need to keep our customers’ needs in mind when we design our products.
  • Thanks for your advice. I’ll bear it in mind.

2. In one’s mind

“In one’s mind” is used to talk about someone’s beliefs, opinions, or imagination — especially to contrast it with the real situation or with what other people think.

  • Most people think he’s very rude, but in his mind he’s just being honest.
  • I can’t believe your son is seventeen years old already! In my mind, he’s still a baby.

In the James Taylor song “Carolina In My Mind,” the singer is “going to Carolina in my mind” — which means he isn’t really going to Carolina. He’s just daydreaming about going there.

The Offspring song “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” they sing: “Friends say he’s trying too hard and he’s not quite hip, but in his own mind he’s the dopest trip.” (Translation: His friends don’t think he’s very cool, but he thinks he’s extremely cool.) His coolness is only “in his own mind.”

3. On one’s mind

If you have something “on your mind,” it means you’ve been thinking about it a lot, and maybe worrying about it.

  • Sorry I forgot to call you. I’ve had a lot on my mind these days.
  • A:  There’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a few minutes?
    Sure. What’s on your mind?

The Eagles song “Take It Easy,” the singer has a lot of things to worry about — he has “seven women” and “a world of trouble” on his mind — but he’s trying to forget them and relax.

But the classic example of this phrase is, of course, the Elvis Presley (貓王) song “Always On My Mind.”

Test yourself

See how well you understand these differences. What’s the best way to complete each sentence?

  1. I couldn’t sleep last night because I had too many things ___.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind
  2. She says she wants to go “somewhere interesting” on our vacation. I wonder what kind of place she has ___.
    A. in mind   B. in her mind   C. on her mind
  3. I don’t really care what kind of car I drive. ___, they’re all just cars.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind

Post your answers in the comments, and I’ll reveal the correct answers later.

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish