Monthly Archives: July 2009

"Each other" or "One another"

When you say “each other”, it means there are only two people that you’re referring to. When you say “one another“, it indicates that there are more than two.

(a) Each other:

Look at these examples:

  1. Peter and Jane never talk to each other. (√)
  2. Both of them are helping each other to do their homework. (√)
  3. Peter and Jane never talk to one another. (X)

In Example #1, the sentence means that Peter never talks to Jane, and Jane never talks to Peter. In Example #2, X is helping Y, and Y is helping X to do their homework. Example #3 is wrong because there are only two people in the sentence, so you cannot use “one another”.

(b) One another:

Look at these examples:

  1. Ahmad, Ben, Chin and Dominic are telling one another their family history. (√)
  2. Ahmad, Ben, Chin and Dominic are telling each other their family history. (X)

In the Example #1, the sentence means that Ahmad is telling Ben about his family history, Chin is doing the same with Dominic, then Dominic tells his family history to Ben and so on. They are taking turns to tell about their family history. In Example #2, the sentence is wrong because there are more than two people mentioned in the sentence. Hence, you cannot use “each other”.

Are you still confused? 😀

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"have been" or "have gone"

I often hear people use have been and have gone quite interchangeably. In fact, both are very differently used. Check this out and tell the difference:

  1. Daniel and Selina have been to London. – [They’ve visited there, so they know what it’s like.]
  2. Daniel and Selina have gone to London. – [They’re now there.]

In Example #1, the sentence shows that both Daniel and Selina know about London because they have already visited there. Therefore, they are able to tell you about life in London. In Example #2, the sentence shows that Daniel and Selina are now in London. They’re not here.

So, you cannot write sentences like these:

  1. I have gone to China before. (X)
  2. She has been to Genting Highlands for her honeymoon. (X)
  3. Andy: Where’s mom?
    Brian: Oh, she has been to the supermarket. (X)
  4. Susan: How do you know so much about America?
    Paul: Well, I’ve gone there before. (X)

Therefore, we can conclude that “have/has been” is used to indicate the experience of visiting and knowing a place, while “have/has gone” means that the person we’re talking about is there, not here.

By the way, have you been to Malacca? If not, you’re welcome 😛

Modals

Modals are special verbs, sometimes known as auxiliary verbs. A modal verb always has the same form and never has the -s, -ing or -ed suffixes. That means, modal verbs are always followed by the base form. Here’s a list of modals:

MODALS

  • can
  • could
  • must
  • should
  • ought
  • may
  • might
  • will
  • would
  • shall

Look at the following examples. You will see that modals are followed by the base word come instead of came or coming, and run instead of ran or running:

Examples:

  1. You can come in when you’re ready. (√)
    You can came in when you’re ready. (X)
  2. We should run if you want to catch the bus. (√)
    We should ran if you want to catch the bus. (X)

Functions of modal verbs in sentences

Modals

Examples

Functions

can

  • They can run fast.
  • We can’t see the road.
  • Can I stay over tonight?
  • Can you help me?

  • Ability, Possibility
  • Inability, Impossibility
  • Asking for permission
  • Request

could

  • Could I leave the room now?
  • Could you please repeat?
  • You could try again later.
  • There could be another war.
  • I thought he could, but he can’t.
  • Asking for permission.
  • Request
  • Suggestion
  • Future possibility
  • Ability in the past

may

  • May I carry your luggage?
  • If things don’t change, we may have to close our business.
  • Asking for permission
  • Future possibility

might

  • I might be at home, I’m not sure.
  • They might be praying now, so it’s better to call later.
  • Future possibility
  • Present possibility

must

  • You mustn’t smoke in campus.
  • It’s getting late. I’m afraid we must go.
  • Prohibition
  • Necessity, Obligation

ought to

  • She ought to see a doctor. She has been complaining since yesterday.
  • Saying what’s right or correct

shall

  • Shall I open the door for you?
  • Shall we leave in half an hour?
  • Offer
  • Suggestion

should

  • We should call for a meeting now; it’s urgent.
  • You should check the expiry date.
  • Recession should be over next year.
  • Saying what’s right or correct
  • Recommending action
  • Uncertain prediction

will

  • I’ll do that for you if you like.
  • I’ll get you a bike if you do well in the exam.
  • I believe it will rain this evening.
  • Offer
  • Promise
  • Certain prediction

would

  • Would you mind if I smoked?
  • Would you help us, please?
  • Would 9 A.M. be fine with you?
  • Would you like to see my house?
  • Would you prefer coffee or tea?
  • Asking for permission
  • Request
  • Making arrangements
  • Invitation
  • Preferences

Take note that modals change form in the past and future tenses. For example:

  • I can do it. – present tense
  • I could do it just now. – past tense
  • I could do it later today. – future tense

The table above gives some example sentences to illustrate this point.

Independent & Dependent Clauses

Independent clause

An independent clause is also called a main clause. It is a complete sentence, which means it has a subject and a verb. It expresses a complete idea or a complete though.

Example:

  • Michael gets a raise.

In the example above, “Michael” is the subject while “gets” is the verb. Do you understand the sentence? Yes, it’s perfectly clear.

Dependent clause

A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause. It is an incomplete sentence. Although some dependent clauses have a subject and a verb, the sentences do not contain a complete idea. The sentences appear to be “hanging”.

Example:

  • Because he works hard.

In the example above, do you understand the sentence?  No, because it doesn’t make sense. You know that something is missing, and the sentence is incomplete or hanging although there is a subject and a verb.

Look at this example.

  • Micheal gets a raise because he works hard.

Now, the whole sentence is meaningful by combining the independent clause with the dependent clause. The sentence could also be written like this without changing its meaning:

  • Because Michael works hard, he gets a raise.

What’s the difference? The difference is, in the second sentence, it begins with a dependent clause, and there is a comma before the independent clause is added.

Other examples:

  • You can help me clean the house since you’re here.
    Since you’re here, you can help me clean the house.
  • Tell me when the plane arrives.
    When the plane arrives, (you) tell me.
  • Peter must turn right after he crosses the road.
    After Peter crosses the road, he must turn right.

IMPORTANT: You have to be careful when you use words like unless, when, after, although, if, whenever, even if and other subordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions are used in dependent clauses, so such clauses cannot stand on their own. They need to be joined with an independent clause. Therefore, it is wrong to write the following sentences:

  1. Get me some vegetables. If you go to the grocery store. (X)
  2. I need a long rest. Because I’ve been working over 12 hours. (X)
  3. We will go out and play. Unless it rains heavily. (X)
  4. There will be trouble. Whenever that kid is in the neighbourhood. (X)

Can you correct the mistakes?

Quick Essay Writing Tips

In school when your teacher asked you to write an essay, you’d dread writing it because you don’t know how to begin and how to end it. This blog attempts to assist you in the process of writing a good essay. The focus of this blog is on essay writing for university students (which is also applicable to high school students). Here are some tips:

Tip 1

The first thing is you should read and understand the topic that is given to you. At higher levels, you’ll be given a situation or a scenario before the actual topic is revealed at the end.

Tip 2

Prepare an outline. Many students fail to do this. As a result, they will shift focus on some other irrelevant points, thus losing precious marks in the exam. An outline is meant to assist students in organising their essays so that they write within the topic.

Tip 3

If your teacher requires you to write a 5-paragraph essay, make sure that you have five paragraphs – the introduction, 3 body paragraphs and the conclusion. The introduction should begin with a general statement for the topic, more specific statement, and finally the thesis statement.

Tip 4

Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which is derived from the thesis statement. A topic sentence informs the reader what the paragraph is all about. This is then followed by between 2-3 supporting details that should include explanations and examples related to the topic sentence. You must also have a concluding sentence to mark the end of the paragraph. A concluding sentence concludes the paragraph not the essay.

Tip 5

Once you’re done with the introduction and the 3 paragraphs, you need to write a conclusion for the whole essay. A conclusion could be a summary of the points that you have made, an comment or even a suggestion. Don’t repeat word-for-word the points that you made earlier. Instead, restate (in another way) what you have discussed in your essay. This makes a good conclusion.

Tip 6

Check for grammar and spelling errors. Every mark counts. Even if the essay is merely a classroom assignment, take serious note of grammar and spelling. It will do you good.

Tip 7

Don’t be over confident. One of my students got a mere “C” grade in the exam because the points he wrote were out of focus. His language proficiency is very good, so it’s a sheer waste. He was the first to leave the exam hall in the exam with a broad smile on his face.  So the more you think you’re good, the higher the possibility of making silly mistakes.

Tip 8

Use cohesive devices in your essay. Words like however, on the contrary, as a result and so on are cohesive devices that are used to show a smooth flow of thought from one sentence to another. Without these cohesive devices, your sentences would appear to be chunky.

Sample Outline

Writing an outline is one of the pre-writing activities before you write the first draft of an essay. In this lesson, you will see an example of an outline. Take note of how an outline is prepared (there are other ways to do an outline, too):

Topic: What are the causes of dropout at tertiary level?

OUTLINE

* Introduction

– education is important, thus many enrol in courses in tertiary education institutions
– not every one is able to sustain their studies in these institutions
– There are three possible reasons why college and university students drop out of their studies. (thesis statement)

* Body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence: …the first reason is their inability to take the pressure of studying in college or university
  • Supporting detail 1 – pressure to keep up with deadlines
  • Supporting detail 2 – pressure from their parents to do well
  • Concluding sentence

* Body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence: …students do not know what they want
  • Supporting detail 1 – register for a course to follow their friends
  • Supporting detail 2 – no proper guidance, so they go to college and university first and see how things work
  • Concluding sentence

* Body paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence: ... students face problems paying their fees
  • Supporting detail 1 – cost of studying is too high
  • Supporting detail 2 – loans are not available to all
  • Concluding sentence

*Conclusion

– though tertiary education is important, students drop out
– studying is just too much for them
– follow their friends blindly
– face difficulty in paying the fees
– these students should be sent to counsellors for advise, loans be flexible

There are other pre-writing activities like brainstorming and freewriting. You can choose whichever way you like to plan your points. From the outline above, try to write a complete 5-paragraph essay.

Paragraph

You know by now that in a 5-paragraph essay, you need to have an introduction, 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion. You also know that in each of the body paragraphs, you need to have the topic sentence, supporting details and closing sentence. There are ways to write good body paragraphs, so in this lesson, you are going to learn how to write a paragraph. After this lesson, you should be able to write all the 3 body paragraphs of your essay.

You have already learnt in the previous lesson the writing process. It gives you an idea of what it takes to write an essay. In this lesson, you will start writing a paragraph, but before that, let’s take a look at what a paragraph entails:

Tips on Writing a Good Paragraph

A good paragraph must have the following characteristics:

  • Unity
  • Coherence
  • Good opening statement / topic sentence

(a) Unity

It means that all the sentences refer to the main idea, or the topic of the paragraph. Here is bad example which you should not follow:

Description of My House

  • I live in a beautiful house with my family. We have two bedrooms and a living room. We have a garden and we have some flowers there. In weekdays I arrive home at five o’clock and I have lunch. Then I do my homework and go to bed. I had a computer but now it doesn’t work. I have a brother and a sister and I think I am very lucky to live with them. Sometimes our relatives visit us. Our flat becomes very crowded sometimes but I like it.

In the example above, how many sentences actually describe your house? Two.

  1. We have two bedrooms and a living room.
  2. We have a garden and we have some flowers there.

All other sentences are NOT RELATED to the main idea.  However, if the topic of the paragraph is changed to “My Life at Home”, then the sentences become more related.

(b) Coherence

It means that the sentences should be organized in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan of development. Here’s an example of an incoherent paragraph:

  • I live in a house in Melaka. It isn’t old or modern. It’s a normal Malaysian house. We can say it is near the sea. It takes about 10 minutes to go to the sea side on foot. We have one bedroom, one living room. We also have two other rooms, too. We use them as a dining room. Naturally, we have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a toilet. I live with my parents. In addition, our house has a little garden; my parents spend their time there to grow vegetables and fruit.

First, let’s see the order of the ideas:

  1. Where the house is ….(in Melaka)
  2. Type of the house ….(normal Malaysian house)
  3. The location …. (near the sea)
  4. The rooms in the house …. (one bedroom, one living room)
  5. The fact that he lives with his parents
  6. The garden

Thus, you notice that “I live with my parents” appears to interrupt the description of the house. It does not tell you about the house. Therefore, take that sentence out of the paragraph. Here is a BETTER version of that paragraph:

  • I live in a house in Melaka. It isn’t old or modern; it is a normal Malaysian house. It is near the sea; it takes about ten minutes to go to the seaside. In the house, there are two bedrooms, one living room and two other rooms that we use as dining rooms. Naturally, we have a kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet, and a little garden. My parents spend their time growing vegetables and fruit there.

(c) A good opening statement

Each of the body paragraph must begin with a good statement. It is inappropriate to start a paragraph by saying “One of the reasons is….” and so on. A new paragraph must contain a new topic sentence that tells the reader what the whole paragraph is about. That means each body paragraph must have a topic sentence as the first sentence of the paragraph.

Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence that contains the main idea or the central idea of the whole essay.

Why is it important to learn to write a thesis statement?

  • It informs the reader what the whole essay is about
  • It helps the writer to see what points should be included in the essay

Where do I write the thesis statement?

The thesis statement is generally written on the last line of the introductory paragraph. Nevertheless, there are occasions when the thesis statement is written in the middle, too.

How is a thesis statement written?

There are two concepts that you need to know before you write a thesis statement: topic and controlling ideas (CI). A thesis statement normally has three controlling ideas. There are two ways of writing it.

Examples:

Look at the following examples about the advantages of using handphone. Observe how the thesis statement is written. There are two ways to write a thesis statement. See how it is related to the topic The Advantages of Handphones.

  • There are three (CI)  possible advantages of using handphones (Topic).
  • Convenience (CI-1), special features (CI-2) and global connectivity (CI-3) are some of the advantages of using handphones (Topic).
                    

Three Parts of an Essay

1. INTRODUCTION

The introduction should be designed to grab the reader’s attention and give her an idea of the essay’s focus.

How do I write an effective introduction?

An introduction must be interesting. A dull introduction will not encourage a reader to continue reading. There are four ways to write an introduction. Choose one that suits the topic of the essay:

(a) General to Specific Information

You should begin writing from a general point of view and then specific. For example, if the topic is “Travelling is beneficial”, you could start by saying how people spend their holidays and elaborate in a sentence or two. After that, be more specific and say the travelling is popular among holiday-makers. Then only write the thesis statement to inform the reader that you’re going to write about the benefits of travelling.

Example of an introductory paragraph:
(Topic: The Benefits of Travelling)

  • We look forward to holidays. It is the time when we can enjoy ourselves with our friends and families. Some of us just go to the nearby beach  for picnics while others stay home and spend time doing things together. On the other hand, the more wealthy ones travel abroad. Why do they spend so much money going to another country? There are three possible benefits of travelling.

(b) Anecdote

An anecdote is a story that illustrates a point. Be sure your anecdote is short, to the point, and relevant to your topic. This can be a very effective opener for your essay, but use it carefully.

(c) Question

You could also begin an introduction by asking a question, for example, “Do you travel?” – then you go on writing in  a few more sentences before you write the thesis statement. By asking a question, you are stimulating the mind of the reader to want to read further.

(d) Quotation

You could include a quotation in your introduction to grab the attention of your reader. For example, you could say: “According to Francis Bacon, reading makes a man”. However, the quotation must be real, not something which you made up yourself. The quotation could be inserted anywhere in the introduction.

What’s the length of the introductory paragraph?

There is no specific length for the introduction. As long as you don’t write half a page, it’s alright. REMEMBER: The introduction that you write must always relate to the essay topic.

2. BODY PARAGRAPH

In a 5-paragraph essay, you should have 3 body paragraphs. A body paragraph contains three important parts:

  • topic sentences
  • supporting details
  • closing sentence

(a) The Topic Sentence:

This one-sentence statement is the main point or main idea of the paragraph. It is the topic of the paragraph. Each paragraph must have a topic sentence, which is normally written at the beginning of the paragraph.

Example:

  • One of the advantages of using a handphone is convenience.

In the above example, the topic sentence tells you that you have to write about the convenience of using a handphone in the paragraph. Any additional statements after this sentence will also relate to convenience of using a handphone. That means, in this paragraph, do not write about the price or handphone features.

(b) The Supporting Details:

The topic sentence must be followed by sentences to help support it. These other sentences are called supporting details. When you write supporting details, make sure that they are related to the topic sentence. You may include examples, illustrations and explanations in your supporting details. A good paragraph should have between 2-3 supporting details.

(c) The Closing Sentence:

This is also called the concluding sentence. It is a good practice to have a sentence to summarise what has been discussed. Use your own words to restate what has been mentioned in the paragraph.

3. CONCLUSION

The conclusion brings closure to the reader, summing up your points or providing a final perspective on your topic.

End with a summary and a final comment

All the conclusion needs is three or four strong sentences which do not need to follow any set formula. Simply review the main points (being careful not to restate them exactly) or briefly describe your feelings about the topic.

End with a recommendation

Since the topic is on the benefits of travelling, you could end your essay by encouraging readers to travel either locally or abroad. Then you restate the benefits of travelling.

Ask one or more questions

It is also possible to ask questions in the conclusion. However, not every topic uses questions. Normally, asking questions is suitable for argumentative essays.

Example of a conclusion:
(Topic: Animal Rights)

  • In conclusion, animals should also be given their rights. If you have a pet at home, would you just allow someone to shoot it? Would you let your pet die of starvation? You would definitely protect your pet because your pet deserves to live, and deserves to be treated well. That is why animals also have rights.

Three Stages of Writing Process

STAGE 1: PRE-WRITING ACTIVITIES

These are the activities that you need to do before you start writing. They are important as they help you to plan your ideas well. Pre-writing activities help you identify the topic of interest and gets the thesis statement. You may choose any one of the following activities:

    • brainstorming
    • diagramming
    • scratch outline
    • free writing

STAGE 2: WHILE-WRITING ACTIVITIES

Once you’ve an outline of what you want to write, then you can begin Stage 2 which is drafting the essay. Take note that when you write an essay, one draft is not enough. You may need to write up to three drafts in order to perfect it. Here’s what you need to do at this stage:

    • start writing
    • write the thesis statement
    • write the main ideas for each paragraph
    • write the supporting details for each paragraph
    • write the conclusion

STAGE 3: POST-WRITING ACTIVITIES

These are activities that you need to do after completing the draft. It ensures that you check the essay and edit them before you hand in your essay.

  • revising
    • go through the whole essay and change if necessary
  • editing
    • check the flow of ideas, grammar, spelling, punctuation