Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Principle Is…

Would you proudly say that your principle is Mr. Brown? The problem is, in spoken English, “principle” and “principal” are homophones – they are pronounced the same way. So when it comes to spelling it out, students (and even adults) get confused. Here are the differences.

  • principle (n.) the basic rule that controls or tells how something happens or works, the fundamentals
  • principal (n.)the head of a school or college, the leader of a group
  • principal (adj.)the first in rank, importance, the foremost


  1. My principals in life have made me a better person. (X)
    My principles in life have made me a better person. (√)
  2. The principals of accounting is taught only to foundation students. (X)
    The principles of accounting is taught only to foundation students. (√)
  3. The principle of Ethan Elementary has transformed the school into a well-respected one. (X)
    The principal of Ethan Elementary has transformed the school into a well-respected one. (√)
  4. We urgently need to replace our principle violinist who is ill, or else the concert could not go on. (X)
    We urgently need to replace our principal violinist who is ill, or else the concert could not go on. (√)
  5. Only the principle credit card holder is authorized to request for the account balance. (X)
    Only the principal credit card holder is authorized to request for the account balance. (√)

So the school principal is teaching his students the principles of economics. 😛 (Thanks, Rose for the input.)


What's the Word?

Picture this: You’re talking to a friend, and you want to describe something but the word just doesn’t seem to form in your mind. You end up describing it in a very long phrase, or you’d say something like: “I don’t know what word to use but it’s ….” – well, don’t get me wrong. It’s alright to use a phrase, but it’s more colourful to be able to substitute those long phrases with just one word that tells all.

Today’s post aims to provide you with descriptive words to describe personalities. Refer to the table below. The ones in blue are negative personalities. Take note that the list is non-exhaustive:

The personality (of a person)

The word to use

very attractive


easy to love because they’re attractive or small


able to be believed or trusted


attractive, confident and carefully dressed


behaving politely and in a controlled way


careful and using a lot of effort


careful not to cause embarrassment by keeping a secret


famous, respected, important


have lots of ideas, energetic, forceful


very energetic


not supporting any sides in an argument; neutral


have a calm appearance or characteristics, and not easily excited


determined in character, actions or ideas


morally correct


intentionally choosing one thing (or person) and not the others


have a clear understanding and good judgment


stay the same for a long time, not changing quickly


(a woman) attractively very energetic, lively and enthusiastic


using rude and offensive words to hurt others


feels unpleasantly proud, better than others, and knows more than anyone else


wishing to fight or argue


completely unable to think well because of mental illness


giving unclear answers to avoid answering questions honestly


very difficult to please


tries to be funny with a serious subject


extremely unpleasant or unacceptable


easily shocked or upset by things that are unacceptable


unpleasant and likely to argue a lot


likely to change suddenly and unexpectedly


So, now that you know these words, in future, instead of saying:

  • This person can be trusted.
  • The referee doesn’t take sides.
  • That politician is so proud that he believes he’s the only one who is right and knows everything.
  • Some of my students are rude and argue a lot.

just say:

  • This person is credible.
  • The referee is impartial.
  • That politician is so arrogant.
  • Some of my students are truculent.

"save" vs. "safe"

This is an interesting one. We know what we’re saying, yet when we write, we get both words mixed up. In fact, there shouldn’t be a confusion because the words are not even homophones. They are pronounced a little differently. One is spelt with a “v” and the other with an “f “.

  • save (v.)to keep (there are other meanings as well)
  • safe (adj.)not in danger, protected


  • I had to safe myself because the fire could not be extinguished. (X)
    I had to save myself because the fire could not be extinguished. (√)
  • They are now save from the horrible weather. (X)
    They are now safe from the horrible weather. (√)

Now that you know the difference, make sure you save your money in a safe place. Make sure you know how to spell the word correctly. Often what you speak is not what you write. Isn’t English interesting? 😛

Bags Everywhere

Everywhere you go, you’ll see people carry bags. Small bags, big bags and medium-sized bags; old bags and new bags; leather bags and imitation leather ones. Do you know that there are so many types of bags, each with its own name?

I Treat You

I was walking down the stairs after buying lunch from the cafe when I heard two students chatting on their way up. One of them said:

  • “I treat you because every time you treat me.”

I perfectly understood what they meant. It’s just the Malaysian way of saying that you’ll give someone a treat. However, the word “treat” is quite incorrectly used in that sentence.

  • treat (v.) = give medical care
  • treat (v.) = pay for someone’s meal


  1. Let me treat you. (X) – quite incorrect
  2. Let me treat you to a nice meal. (√) take note of the word “to”
  3. Let me give you a treat. (√)

However, if you’re a doctor attending to a patient, it’s correct to say:

  • The doctor is busy treating so many patients today. (√)
  • He’s being treated for cancer. (√)
  • Dr. Wong treats his patients without drugs. (√)

Well, confusing huh? What the heck, just say: “Let’s go Dutch.” 😛

Spot the Mistakes

I was given this flyer not too long ago. There are some mistakes. Can you spot the mistakes? No prizes for guessing the right answers, sorry 😛 Using English incorrectly in advertisements may not be appealing to customers. It shows the lack of professionalism.


More leaks!

I blogged about the rainy weather the other day and showed you the difference between rainy and raining. When it rains, what we worry most is the drops of water on our head in the bedroom. Then, someone is going to say:

  • “Oh my god, the roof is leaking again.”

Is it correct to say “leaking” in that sentence? Can a roof actually leak or are we talking about the condition of the cracked tiles on the roof that causes rain water to seep through?

  • leaky (adj.) = to describe something that has a hole or a crack so that liquid could get through
  • leaking (v.) = comes from the word “leak”, which means liquid or gas that escapes from a contained area like roof, glass, pipe etc.


  1. Get the plumber, as the tap is leaky. (√)
    Get the plumber, as the tap is leaking. (X)
  2. We need to fix that leaky roof immediately. (√)
    We need to fix that leaking roof immediately. (X)

However, it is correct if you say:

  1. Get the plumber, as water is leaking out of the tap.
  2. Water is leaking from the roof, so we need to fix that immediately.

Notice the use of “out of” and “from” after the word “leaking“.  So, people, watch what you say and how you use the word “leak”. Are you leaking? 😀

A Rainy Day

How’s the weather over there? The weather has been really horrendous in this part of the world lately. It has been raining cats, dogs, elephants and lions. On a rainy day, the best thing to do is to stay home and snooze. 😛

Is there a difference between “rainy” and “raining“? Yes, there is.

  • rainy (adj.) = rains a lot
  • raining (v.) = comes from the word “rain” which means water falling from the sky in small drops

Now, check out the difference:

  1. It’s been rainy the past few days.
  2. It’s been raining the past few days.

Both sentences are acceptable. The only difference is that in Sentence #1, you’re telling people that the weather has been real bad (rains a lot). In Sentence #2, you’re merely telling them the weather (that it’s been raining).

However, it is incorrect to say:

  • The weather is raining. (X)
  • It is a rainy weather. (X)
  • It is raining. (√)
  • It is a rainy day (not rainy weather). (√)

Listen to how the weatherman announces weather conditions over the radio or on TV:

  • “It will be sunny (not sunny weather) tomorrow.”
  • “It’s cloudy (not cloudy weather) throughout the state.”
  • “It’s a wet day (not rainy weather) in the city.”
  • “Showers (not rainy weather) are expected in the afternoon.”

The Grammar Dilemma

As I was looking for some teaching materials for my grammar class, I came across the following paragraph:

“Many English learners worry too much about tense. If you stopped 100 native English speakers in the street and asked them about tense, one of them might give you an intelligent answer – if you were lucky. The other 99 would know little about terms like “past perfect” or “present continuous”. And they would know nothing about aspect, voice or mood. But they can all speak fluent English and communicate effectively. Of course, for ESL it helps to know about tenses, but don’t become obsessed with them. Be like those native speakers! Speak naturally!”


The fact is, not only students worry about tenses. Teachers too find it difficult to sustain their students’ interest in learning grammar especially when English is taught as a foreign language and second language. Native English speakers obviously need not know grammar at all as these come rather naturally – but they still learn it.

The problem is, not every one is a native English speaker. It’s hard not to be “obsessed” with grammar when you want to express something in the future but end up using the wrong tense (especially), thus causing some confusion to the person whom you’re talking to. 

Languages like Mandarin, Arabic and Malay do not have tenses to show the differences in “time”. Having tenses merely makes learning English far more complex.  It would be great if we could say:

  • I eat rice today.
  • I eat rice yesterday.
  • I eat rice tomorrow.

… and I’m talking only about tenses minus the sentence structures and exceptions to so many rules that linguists have created.

Wouldn’t Simplfied English be more fun and less taxing on the learner?