Category Archives: Common mistakes

“Out” or “outside”?

Chinese speakers often say “outside” when they should really say “out.” (Both can sometimes be translated as “外面” in Chinese.)

The difference is simple. Out means (depending on context) either “not at home” or “not at one’s workplace.” Outside normally means “outdoors” — in other words, in the open air, not in any kind of house or building.

If you go to a restaurant, you’re “eating out” but probably not eating outside (although some restaurants do have tables outside). “Eating outside” could refer to a picnic, a barbecue, a sidewalk café, or something like that.

  • I don’t feel like cooking today. Let’s eat out.
  • The weather’s beautiful. Let’s eat outside.

When you “go out,” you leave your home. You might go to a store, go to the park, visit a friend, etc. When you “go outside,” you’re probably still at home but not actually inside the house.

  • He’s gone out to buy a few things.
  • He’s gone outside to mow the lawn.

Depending on context, “go out” could also mean leaving your workplace rather than your home.

  • I’m sorry, but Mr. Chen’s not in the office today. He’s gone out to visit a customer.
  • Our company has a strict no-smoking policy. If you want to smoke, please go outside.

A “night out” usually means going somewhere with your friends — for example, to a bar, to the movies, etc. — and coming home pretty late. If, on the other hand, you spend the night “outside,” you’re probably either camping or homeless!

  • They went to a bar on Saturday, and they were out all night.
  • They went camping on Saturday, so they were outside all night.

 

Want to learn more English? Next time you go out, stop by Eton and see which class is best for you!

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

Advertisements

“In an hour” or “an hour later”?

“In” to count from the present

When we are talking about something in the future and want to say how far it is from the present, we usually use the word “in” (not “later”).

The meeting starts in five minutes. We’d better hurry, or we’ll be late!
The meeting starts five minutes later. We’d better hurry, or we’ll be late!

Here are some more examples.

  • Sorry, I can’t talk right now. Can I call you back in an hour?
  • My report is due in three days, and I haven’t even started writing it yet!
  • He just started tenth grade, so in three years he’ll graduate.

In all of these examples, we are counting time from the present. “In an hour” means one hour after the present, “in three days” means three days after the present, and so on.

“Later” to count from a past or future time

If we are not counting time from the present, but from some other point in time, we normally use “after” or “later” instead of “in.”

  • William Henry Harrison became president on March 4, 1841, and died a month later.
  • He met her when he was 18, and they got married five years later.
  • It started raining at about 8:00 this morning, but it stopped an hour later.

In the examples above, “later” is being used to count from a past point in time. Harrison died one month after March 4, 1841 — in other words, on April 4, 1841. They got married five years after they met — that is, when he was 23. The rain stopped an hour after 8:00 — so it stopped at 9:00.

In the following examples, “later” is used to count from a future point in time.

  • I have a math test next Wednesday and an English test two days later. (i.e., next Friday)
  • We’ll take a short break at 3:00 and start the class again 10 minutes later. (i.e., at 3:10)
  • I finish work at 5:00, and I’ll be home 20 minutes later. (i.e., at 5:20)

“In” to say how much time is needed

There’s another common use of “in” + time expression. We can use it to say how much time is needed to do something. This could be in the past or future, or in general.

  • Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes.
  • I have some things to do tomorrow, but they won’t take much time. I should be able to finish in about an hour.
  • Puppies usually reach their adult weight in one to three years.

“Later” without a time expression

If we use “later” without a time expression, it just means “sometime in the future.” It doesn’t say exactly when. Usually the main meaning is “not now.”

  • I don’t have time to wash the dishes now. I’ll do it later.
  • I have to go now. Talk to you later.

I hope you’re finding these posts helpful. I’ll be posting another one in a few days. See you all 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

Come or go?

Chinese has words corresponding to “come” (來) and “go” (去), but the way they’re used is a little different from English. For this reason, using the English words correctly can be a challenge for Chinese speakers. Let’s go over some of the basic rules.

1. Come here. Go away!

The first and simplest rule is that we use “come” when we’re talking about “here” and “go” when we’re talking about other places — but “here” could be “here” for the speaker or “here” for the listener. Look at the example conversation below. Ann is speaking to her boss on the phone. Ann is at home, and the boss is at the office.

Ann: Hi, boss. It’s me, Ann. I’m really sorry, but I can’t come to the office this morning. A repairman is coming to fix my air conditioner at 10:00, and I have to be here when he comes.

Boss: But Mr. Chen is coming this morning! He’s an important customer, so I want you to be here. Can’t you ask the repairman to come in the afternoon?

Ann: I already asked him, but he can’t. He has to go to Taichung in the afternoon. Maybe I can go to Mr. Chen’s company this afternoon and talk to him there.

Boss: Yes, that should be okay.

Notice that both Ann and her boss use “come” when they talk about Ann’s home (“here” for Ann) and the office (“here” for the boss). When they talk about other places (Taichung and Mr. Chen’s company), they use “go.”

2. Come with me/you

We also use “come” to talk about accompanying the speaker or the listener somewhere.

  • I’m going to the park. Do you want to come with me?
  • Where are you going? Can I come, too?

3. Go = leave, come = arrive

If you mention a specific time with “go,” it should be the time you leave. If you mention a specific time with “come,” it should be the time you arrive.

  • I usually go to work at 7:45 and arrive at 8:00.
  • I leave work at 5:00 this evening, so I’ll probably come home at about 5:15.

4. Bring / take

The difference between “bring” and “take ” is similar to the difference between “come” and “go.” You bring things when you come, and you take things when go.

  • When you come to class next week, please remember to bring a pencil.
  • When you go home, don’t forget to take your pencil.
  • When my dad comes home from a business trip, he always brings gifts for us.
  • When I go out, I always take my cell phone.

If you’d like to learn more about English grammar and usage, just come to Eton You’ll learn a ton!

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

 

 

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

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

Using “enough” correctly

What’s the difference between these two examples?

  1. John doesn’t have enough education.
  2. John’s education isn’t enough.

“Enough” can be used in two quite different ways, but unfortunately grammar books never explain the difference. Let’s see if I can clear it up.

1. Enough + N

In example 1, the word “enough” is right before the noun it modifies: “enough education.” We’re talking about how much education John needs to have. He has some education, but he doesn’t have enough. He needs more education. Here’s a longer example, with context.

  • We’re not going to hire John because he doesn’t have enough education. He only has a bachelor’s degree, but we want someone with a master’s degree for this job.

2. N + be-verb + enough

In example 2, “enough” and the noun (“education”) are not together. They are connected with a be-verb (“isn’t”). We’re talking about all the things John needs to have. He has a good education, but education isn’t enough. He needs something else besides just education. Here’s a longer example with context.

  • John has a PhD from Harvard, but we’re not going to hire him. He has a great education, but education isn’t enough for this job. We need someone with at least five years of experience, but John doesn’t have any experience at all. Also, we’d like someone whose social skills are better than John’s.

More examples

Here are some more pairs of examples to show the difference between “enough + N” and “N + b-verb + enough.”

  • There are 25 people here, but we only have 20 bottles of water. We don’t have enough water.
  • We have plenty of water, but water isn’t enough. We should order some tea and coffee, too.

The first example above means that we need more water. The second example means that we need something else besides just water.

  • My doctor says I don’t get enough vitamins. He gave me some vitamin pills to take every day.
  • I take vitamin pills every day, but my doctor says vitamins aren’t enough. He says I need to get more protein, too, and I also need to exercise more often.

In the first example above, I need more vitamins. In the second example, I need something else besides just vitamins.

  • We don’t have enough conference calls with this customer. We need to arrange calls more often.
  • Conference calls aren’t enough. Sometimes it’s necessary to meet in person.

Okay, I think you get the idea now.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

There’s an old (1992) song by Patty Smyth and Don Henley called “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” (“Ain’t” is an informal word that can mean “isn’t,” “aren’t,” or “am not.”)

Chinese speakers might easily misunderstand what the song is about. They think “love just [isn’t] enough” means “We don’t have enough love” or “We don’t love each other enough.”

Actually, the song is about two people who love each other very much — maybe too much — but love isn’t enough. They love each other, but there’s some other reason they can’t be together. Maybe it’s a problem about money or about their families or something like that. They don’t need more love; they already have plenty of love. They need something else besides just love.

But there’s a danger in loving somebody too much,
And it’s sad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.
There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.

I think that’s enough explanation — but sometimes explanation isn’t enough. Maybe you should just listen to the song!

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