Category Archives: Common mistakes

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

Thanks for…

When you’ve just finished a speech or presentation, what do you say to the audience? “Thank you for your listening,” right? Wrong! It’s a very common mistake in Taiwan.

 

If you want to thank people for something they did, or for their attitude, you can use these two patterns:

1. Thanks / Thank you + for + Ving

  • Thanks for listening.
  • Thank you for helping me.
  • Thanks for being such a good friend.
  • No, I don’t need any help, but thanks for asking.

2. Thanks / Thank you + for your + N

  • Thank you for your time.
  • Thank you for your attention.
  • Thanks for your patience.
  • Thank you for your assistance.

If you want to thank people for giving you something, you can use this pattern:

3. Thanks / Thank you + for the + N

  • Thanks for the information. It was very helpful.
  • Thank you for the flowers.
  • Thanks for the meal.
  • Thank you for the generous gift.

NOTE: Sometimes the same word can be used as a gerund (Ving) or a noun (N). For example, “understanding” and “warning” are often used as nouns.

  • Thanks for understanding how i feel. (Ving)
  • Thank you for your understanding. (N)
  • Thanks for warning us about the scam. (Ving)
  • Thanks for the warning. (N)

Any questions? Post a comment. Thanks for reading!

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