Category Archives: Word Power

“patient” vs. “patience”

I was in the elevator this morning when I heard someone say this, pertaining to the slowness of the elevator:

  • You must have patient.” (X)

Well, the thing is, he was not in the hospital when he said that. He was merely telling his friend to “be calm and wait”.

  • patient (n.) – a person who is receiving medical care in a hospital or clinic
  • patient (adj.) – be calm and without complaining
  • patience (n.)  – the quality of being patient

Since the above speech refers to a person’s “quality” because of the word “have”, a noun must be used instead.

  • You must have patience.” (√)

Compare with this:

  • You must be patient.” (√)

In general, you could say that a noun is used after “has/have”:


  • … has intelligence
  • … has beauty



"pick" vs. "pluck"

Do you plant fruit trees at home? Well, not that it matters in this post. When the fruits are about to ripen, Malaysians would almost always say: “We’re able to pluck the mangoes in a few days.” That’s incorrect.

That’s right. The word that we have been using so often have been wrongly used. It should be: “We’re able to pick the mangoes in a few days.”

What’s the difference then? Both mean “to remove”; however, they’re used in different contexts. There are other meanings as well, but we’ll focus on only one in this post:

  • pluck (v.)* – to pull something with a sudden movement in order to remove it
  • pick (v.) – to remove or separate something small with your fingers

Here are some other examples:

  1. We’re going to the orchard to pick apples.
  2. Don’t pick your nose; it’s impolite.
  3. You cannot use tweezers to pluck feathers.
  4. Thomas plucks his eyebrows to make him look better.

For teeth, the correct word to use is “extract (pull)”. So, please don’t tell your dentist not to pluck your teeth.

Follow Me

We sometimes need to get a ride from a friend to get to work or to do some shopping. A very common way of saying it is: “I’ll follow you to the mall.” – though many of us understand this statement perfectly, it is incorrect.

  • follow me – you’re behind me; I’m in front
  • come with me – you and I go (somewhere) together

In terms of distance, “follow me” is much further. You could be miles apart, yet you’re still following. Do you remember DIGI’s advertisement jingle? It says “I will follow you” – this is correct. It will “cling” to you no matter how far apart you are.

When you use “come with me”, the distance between you and your friend is just a few inches or feet (but not miles). Therefore, if you want to hop into your friend’s car, you say “I’ll come with you.”

See the difference here:

  • You’ll come with you in my car.
  • You’ll follow me in your car.

So when you say “I’ll follow you“, it merely means you’re driving your own car and you’ll be trailing your friend.

“I’ll follow you since you’ll be driving alone.” – means that there are two cars, and you’ll be driving behind the first car. It doesn’t mean you’re the passenger. 🙂


"bienniel" vs. "biannual"

Here is another pair of words that looks the same but each has its own meaning. 😛

  • bienniel – once every two years
  • biannual – twice a year

If you want to say that your organisation conducts financial reports twice a year, then you’ll say: “…biannual financial report

On the other hand, if you report only once every two years, then you say: “… bienniel financial report” – err, is there anything to hide? 🙂 Why not report annually?


“We can’t afford to have a biannual event, so let’s just have a bienniel one.”

Compulsory Invitation

My previous post on voluntary donation reminds me of another quite similar incident. Often I get mails to invite staff members to attend some kind of function. The catch is, the e-mails sometimes end with this phrase: “Attendance is compulsory.”

Look, first and foremost, it is an invitation, which means no one is obligated to attend if they don’t want to. Therefore, why the compulsion? If it is mandatory for every one to attend a function, just leave out the word “invite“.

Would you want to go to a wedding if the card reads:

You’re cordially invited to attend a wedding reception…. Your attendance is compulsory.” 😛

Donation: Voluntary?

donationI was walking along the street on Wesak Day, and I found this message: “Donations are voluntary” written on a box (pic.), and that started me to think – are donations not meant to be “voluntary” i.e. given from the bottom of our hearts? 

I mean, since when has donation become compulsory? Perhaps we are confused with the word “tithe“. To Muslims, they have to pay tithes – a sum of money paid to help those in need. Even some Christian sects require their congregation to give a small sum of their annual income as tax to the church, and this amount will be used for charity or to fund certain religious events.


  • tithe is compulsory, and is given on a regular basis
  • donation is not compulsory, and any amount is acceptable

What if you see this: “Please donate a minimum amount of $5.” – I believe you have 😛

"of course" vs. "off course"

I was reading an online newspaper this morning when I came across an error which could easily pass as a non-error:

  • And off course i follow one of the guys who created this micro blogging Jack Dorsey.

In the sentence above, the phrase “off course” is wrong.

  • of course – without any doubt, certainly
  • off course – away from the intended direction


  1. Of course (certainly) you can go out and play,” mom told us.
  2. The concert begins at eight but you can’t enter without a ticket, of course.
  3. Due to the stormy weather, the plane went off course and crashed into the ocean.
  4. He was a young, bright student, but he went off course and joined a triad later in his early twenties.

Businessmen succeed because they’re persistent, and of course, once they become greedy, they will probably go off course and get themselves into trouble.

Oxymoron (edited)

The word “oxymoron” has nothing to do with stupid people that use Oxy-5 to get rid of their acne. No offense intended. Oxymoron is a figure of speech, and which could be an inadvertent error, too. 🙂

Look at this sentence:

  1. To apply for this job, you need the original copy of your exam transcripts.
  2. You don’t have to bring the unnecessary essentials to the workshop.

Can you spot the error?


  1. To apply for this job, you need the original exam transcripts. (√)
    To apply for this job, you need a copy of your exam transcripts. (√)
  2. You don’t have to bring the unnecessary to the workshop. (√)

Therefore, oxymorons are contradictory words or terms. How could a copy of a document be original, for instance? 😀

If you’d like to know more about oxymorons, click here.

Oxymorons are allowed in literary works. So, it’s perfectly alright to say:

  • sweet sorrows
  • deafening silence

p/s:  Thanks to a blogger for pointing out some issues in the first version.

"Wonder" vs. "wander"

I wonder why your mind wanders when there’s so much to be done. Despite the minimal difference in spelling, the meaning is very different.

  • wonder (v.) – a question that you ask because you wish to know something
  • wander (v.) – to walk around without a purpose

(a) wonder

If you ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I ready?
    Will I be a responsible husband?
    Can I earn enough to support my family?

… it shows that you’re wondering if you could make a good husband to provide for your family.


  1. Have you ever wondered why it hurts to be divorced?
  2. I wonder if I’d ever change to be a better person.
  3. Every one is wondering about the events that led to our marital problems.

(b) wander

When you wander, you don’t think; you just walk aimlessly and without knowing where you’re going. If your mind wanders, it means your mind is not thinking of anything specific or important. When you daydream, your mind wanders.


  1. My mind was wandering at the meeting just now; it was just too boring.
  2. Kids who wander without their parents are likely to be victims of kidnappers.
  3. When I’m alone, my mind wanders and I start recalling the past.

Here’s a song and the lyrics for the word “wander“, and a link to the music.  If you’ve been camping when you were a kid, you might be familiar with the song.  Enjoy! 🙂

The Happy Wanderer (Click here for the music)

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”

I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev’ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o’er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky!

Let Me Have It

A couple of minutes ago, a student asked me:

  • “Teacher, can I have a chair?”

Err…what? She wanted to borrow the visitor’s chair that was in front of me. I said “Yes, sure.”

Of course, I knew what she wanted, but it is inappropriate to substitute  “borrow” or “lend” with “have“.

Have” in the sentence that the student made means “eat“. 😀

Therefore, she’s actually saying:

  • “Teacher, can I eat a chair?” (X) instead of,
  • “Teacher, could I borrow a chair?”

Let’s see these examples:

  • “I’d like to have some rice today.”
  • “Can I have you for dinner today?” 😛

What do you think?