Thursday, April 30, 2009

The past tense

In my last post, the present tense was introduced. In this post, I will deal with simple past tense. This tense is used when we talk about past events. Look at the following examples:

1 I went to the new shop yesterday. [went is the past tense of go]
2 She came here a few minutes ago. [came is the past tense of come]
3 We bought a bungalow last year. [bought is the past tense of buy]
4 He was here just now. [was is the past tense of is]

Usually past tense pairs with past continuous tense or past perfect tense. Look at the examples below.

1 I had reached home before it rained. [The past tense here is rained and the past tense is had reached. In this sentence, reaching home happened before raining.]
2 She was singing when the stage gave way. [was singing is the past continuous tense here and the past tense is gave.]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The present tense

English is always an interesting language to learn, as far as I am concerned. Tenses alone pose problems to learners of English. The present tense is often used by children whenever they want to say anything. To me, it is all right as long as they are able to get across when they want to convey to others. As parents we can correct them by using the right tenses in place of the ones they uttered wrongly. AS children learn by imitation, with the passage of time they will be able to use the right tenses.

Simple present tense is used to state a fact, a habitual action and in some cases the future events. These are the examples of using present tense:
1 The sun rises in the east. [a fact]
2 I like to play badminton. [a habitual action]
3 The bus leaves in ten minutes' time. [future event as it will only happen ten minutes later.]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The furniture is still new

Some words in English are always singular in nature. Examples of them are furniture, equipment, machinery, information, and luggage. You need to add a collective noun in front of each to make it plural or do some changes. Look at the sentences below to see how this can be done.

1 The furniture here is still new.
Two pieces of the furniture were bought yesterday.

2 The machinery here is meant for printing department.
The machines were imported from Japan.

3 The equipment to the the job is complete here.
Three pieces of the equipment need polishing.

4 Information about the competition is available here.
We need some information from you to help us solve this case.

5 Luggage is to be collected here.
Two trolleys of luggage are to transported here soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thank you, Mr Tan

During the recent PC Fair held at Penang International Sports Area or PISA, I went as usual to buy something worthwhile. At the entrance to the first floor, what greeted me were a lot of navigators which prices ranged from RM499 to RM1299. Then came the service providers for wireless who offered very good package but I brushed them off to the accessories section.

After half an hour, I was upstairs to the usual booths. I stopped to buy 50 pieces of Verbatim DVD-R discs. With RM65 I could get the ones made in Japan plus 5 pieces of CDR specially manufactured for recording music. Then I scouted around for external hard disks. When i went from booth to booth, I found that the price for a 250G Hard disk cost around RM230. Finally I came to one booth which offered me RM180 for a Western Digital 250 G hard disk. Alas! I did not bring enough money to buy it and started to leave when the man (whom I later knew was Mr Tan)agreed to allow me to settel the bill partly in cash and partly via credit card. My HSBC card was then surrendered to him for processing.

I left the booth happily for having obtained a good offer without realising the man had forgotten to return me the credit card. It was three days later that one man from HSBC phoned to tell me that a Mr Tan wanted to return me the credit card. This Mr Tan had phoned HSBC to get my phone number. After talking to Mr Tan, he agreed to hand the card to me personally but then he was in Sungai Petani and he could only do it on Monday.

True to his promise, I received the card personally from Mr Tan, as promised. Thank you Mr Tan for being an honest and responsible businessman. If the card goes to other hands I don't know how much money I have to pay for other people's purchases. Once again, thank you Mr Tan.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Learning English through reading blogs

Reading blogs written in grammatically correct English will improve one's English. We learn by imitation. This is true for learning English too. If you read blogs written in good English, they will influence you and you can write good sentences. On the other hand, if you pick up slangs and grammatically wrong sentences in blogs written in bad English, your English will go down the drain. These are the criteria you can use to assess whether a blog has good English or not:

1 See whether the author knows how to use Subject-verb Agreement correctly, i.e.a singular subject is followed by a singular verb and a plural subject is followed by a plural verb.

2 See whether he uses the tenses correctly. For factual and habitual action, the present tense should be used. As for past events, the correct tense is past tense. Past continuous tense is paired with past tense and past tense is paired with past perfect tense.

3 In a sentence, there can only be one finite verb unless the sentence is a compound or complex sentence.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How to save files to a free virtual drive

Each of us can apply for a free e-mail such as the Gmail. It provides us with 7000 MB of storage space for our e-mail. With such big capacity, we can make use of it to keep some of our files temporarily while we are formatting our hard disk or if we need disk space to save a big file and one way to do it is to move some of the files else. What better place to do put these files other than a virtual drive.

In this post, I would like to recommend one such drive. It is known as Gmail Drive. You can download it here [] .

After installing this software, you can see it appear as Gmail Drive when you click on My Computer. You can copy a file and paste it in this virtual drive. Of course you will be asked to key in your user name and password for your Gmail account. Do accordingly and your file will be transferred to your Gmail account as one of emails you receive. To get back this file, you can download it from your Gmail account or go to Gmail Drive by clicking on My Computer, then click on Gmail Drive and you will be asked for your user name and password and your saved file will appear. You can then copy, delete, or rename it.

Happy transferring files to your virtual drive now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Playing with adjectives in sentences.

An adjective is used to tell us more about a noun. For example, if we write a sentence such as 'The boy is clever.', we have no idea how he looks like, his height and other traits. This is where adjectives come in. We can modify the above sentence into the following:
1 The handsome boy is clever.
2 The tall boy is clever.
3 The kind-hearted boy is clever.
4 The friendly boy is clever.
5 The timid boy is clever.

With the addition of 'being' in front of an adjective, we can form a subject to begin a sentence. Look at the following examples:
1 Being tall is advantageous.
2 Being fat is quite clumsy.
3 Being nervous gave the thief away.
4 Being illiterate is seldom heard of nowadays.
5 Being intelligent makes him arrogant.

Certain adjectives become nouns when they are preceded by the definite article 'the'. Examples of them are as follows:
1 The poor should be helped.
2 The rich should help the needy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Using 'what' as the subject of a sentence

The use of 'what' as the subject of a sentence can add variety to the sentence structures we use in our writing. The following are some examples of how 'what' can be used as the subject of a sentence:
1 What surprised me was the man who suddenly appeared in front of me out of nowhere as I had not seen him before.
2 What you told him is not the truth.
3 What appeared to be a good day turned out to be an bad one.
4 What attracted me to buy the book was its cover.
5 What you are reading now is a post in my blog.
6 What we do every day is a routine.
7 What prompted him to scold me was my bad behaviour.
8 What happened to him is not my concern.
9 What you hope to achieve will be realised some day.
10 What to write in this blog is something I have to think of every day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

World Earth Day

Today is World Earth Day. It is a reminder to us that we have to do something to save this Earth from destruction. The culprits such as pollution, global warming, deforestation, thinning of Ozone Layer and so on push the Earth to further deterioration.

As earthlings we must co-operate to save our Earth. We can start by practising recycling so that we can reduce the amount of rubbish being dumped causing damage to the Earth. Planting more trees is another way to return clear air to the atmosphere. Using baskets instead of plastic bags while shopping is one of the ways too to refuse waste that can affect the Earth.

Above all, do what is necessary to help reduce pollution to the surroundings.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Parting is grief

There is an end to everything. We may be happily living together during a gathering such bungalow stay or a camp out but after a few days merry moment, we have part and go our ways. It is life.

The parting is usually accompanied by a feeling of sadness for having to say good-bye after the function. I had this experience when I attended the Students' Exchange Programme Camp at Penang Hill some 40 years ago. I burst into tears when we sang Au Lang Syne.

In Buddhism, such a feeling is suffering. To get rid of it, we need to practise detachment.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fun with words formed from a single word

There is a language game that my students like to play. It is forming words from a long word given. For example, if I give them a word such as 'dictionaries', they can come up with the following words:
act, action,dot,cite, tin, on, at, is, eat, ate, diction, ado, tie, ran, rise, arise, rose, sea, sit, sat, disc, date, rate, rote, doe, cries, dries, die, it, its.

I time them for the speed of forming 30 words such as the above.

Who says language study is no fun?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Editing audio files with Soundedit Pro

A useful software to be used for editing audio file is Soundedit Pro. I often use it to rip songs from audio CDs as it can convert cda files into mp3 files and this enables me to save disc space.

Besides I can join any two or more parts of audio files into one or cut off unwanted parts. With practice you can even cut off very small portion of the sound or music you don't want by copying part of the audio file where the unwanted part appears and play it to listen to the part you intend to get rid of.Then cut it and rejoin the part you want. Manipulation such as this can help you do a lot of alterations to music file until the intended end product is created.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pretend to sleep only to wake up later

One day, I found that one of my students looked very sleepy and could not pay attention in class when I was teaching. After giving some written work to my students I approached the boy in question. I asked him when she slept the night before. To my surprise, he told me that he slept at 4.00 a.m. and woke up at 6.00 a.m.

When I asked for the reason for sleeping late, he shyly told me that he fooled his parents so that he could play his computer games until his eyes were too heavy to carry on. Then he told me his trick. At first, he pretended to go to bed but did not sleep. His ears kept listening until he could hear the door of his parents’ room being shut. Stealthily, he came out of his room and made a beeline for his computer. He switched off the sound and started to play his favourite computer games until four in the morning.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chuan Xin Lian any one?

As I pass through grasses I tend to look at some of the species which are of medicinal value. There is one which is called Chuan Xin Lian which is very efficacious in curing sore throat. It can be grown easily. The leaves can be dried, ground and put into capsules and swallow to cure the above condition of the throat.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The different replies to 'thank you'

When you say 'thank you' to someone in English he or she will reply, "You are welcome." or "The pleasure is mine." However in Malay, if you utter 'Terima kasih" which is the equivalent of 'Thank you" in English, the reply is "Sama-sama" (literally same, same which means I thank you too). In Chinese, the reply to 'Xie Xie" which means 'thank you' too will be 'bu yong ke qi' (literally 'don't act like a guest' which has this hidden message : "We are friends, aren't we? Helping you is my duty. If you thank me, you want me to treat like a guest."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Parts of Speech for "dalam"

In Malay, some words can be grouped under two or three categories. One such word is "dalam". As an adjective it means 'deep' and as a preposition it means "in"

An example of 'dalam' being used as an adjective is:
Saya tidak berani berenang di sungai itu kerana airnya sangat dalam itu.
[I dare not swim in the river because its water is very deep.]

The following is an example in which 'dalam' is used as a preposition:
Kami terpaksa hidup dalam kemiskinan.
[We are forced to live in poverty.]

When 'dalam' is preceded by another preposition such as 'di' or 'ke', it becomes kata arah or word indicating direction. Two examples of its usage in sentences are as follows:
a) Dia menuang air ke dalam botol itu.
[He poured water into the botol.]
b) Adik masih tidur di dalam biliknya.
[My brother is still sleeping in his room.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Habits die hard

I am a practical man. It means I will usually do the things most convenient to me. When I was still a bachelor, my table would be full of books because I put whatever I had read on it and when I needed space to do some serious work only would I shift them back to my bookshelves.

Things that I often needed would be around me. Hence my room looked messy.

When I got married, my wife would be tidying up the things which I put wherever I liked.

Even now, I often find it hard to locate my things because I forget where I put them. If I had been more organised, things would have been when they should.

Mine is a case of "habits die hard".

Monday, April 13, 2009

The difference between its and it's

Some students still get confused when it comes to using 'its' and 'it's'. Hence the following sentences often appear in essays submitted by them for correction by their teachers:
1 The cat licks it's body every day. (The students think that it's body means the cat's body)
2 One of it's tyres is flat. (The students believe that it's tyres is the same as the bicycle's tyres)

The above two sentences should have been:
1 The cat licks its body every day.
2 One of its tyres is flat.

In reality, "it's" is the contraction for "it is".

You can make sentences such as the following.
1 It's raining now.
2 It's easy to do this job.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The apple of one's eye

"The apple of one's eye" means "one's favourite son or daughter". In Chinese, it is 'zhang shang ming zhu" or "the pearl on one's palm". As for Malay or Bahasa Melayu, it is "anak emas" or "golden child".

According to my analysis, Western people place great emphasis one fruit such as the apple which is the their favourite. It is healthy to take apples every day as the say goes "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Hence their favourite children are liken to apples.

The Chinese are very much attached to jewels and precious stones such as diamonds and pearls. There is another expression which reads "zhu kwang pao qi" or the gas of pearls surround a girl. It is used to described a lady who is heavily ornamented with pearls and other precious stones. Therefore, their beloved children are the equals of pearls.

The Malays deem gold as very precious. In fact gold is used as currency in ancient times. In the nikah ceremony, "mas kahwin" or the gold of marriage (dowry to be exact) is mentioned. Hence, their favourite children is elevated to the level of gold.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wind and solar energy.

In a world where natural resources such as petroleum are depleting, we have to find alternative fuels to run our motorised vehicles and household appliances.

I watched a documentary about harnessing the wind to provide energy for a house. One man installed a very huge windmills that turn a turbine to produce enough electricity to run his air-conditioner, fridge, stove and son. This type of energy is pollution free and environment-friendly.

Another town installed solar panels to trap the sun's light to do the same job as above. This time the whole village gets the supply of electricity. Again, solar energy is environment-friendly too.

If all of us can generate energy as above, the problems of fuel depletion and air pollution may be solved one day.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to get rid of gum pain

I often get pain in the gum during hot weather. When it happens I go to the Chinese Medical Shop to buy roots of Ginseng. It is very cheap as a small plastic packet costs a ringgit or two only. Then I pour boiling water on to it in a jug and close it with a lid. I usually add a little bit of salt for flavour.

When the ginseng root water is cool it, I will drink it a few times. Amazingly, the pain in my gum will disappear.

It works for me every without fail. Try this method should you have pain in the gum again.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning Mandarin is no easy task

Mandarin is no easy language to learn.

First, you have to master the correct pronunciation of each word. There are four tones to Chinese words. If you pronounce wrongly, the meaning is out totally and people may misunderstand you. For example, 'yi' can be shirt in the first tone, aunt in the second tone, already in the third tone and easy in the fourth tone.

Secondly, yo need to memorise how to write the strokes of each word. Although I studied the language when I was in the Primary School, lack of use of the written language makes me unable to write out the words correctly at times.

If you can master about 3000 words in Chinese, you will be able to read books and newspapers without much difficulty.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Examples should be given in plural

In English, examples should be given in plural. The following are some instances where such use is warranted.

1 Malaysia has a lot of seasonal fruit. These include durians, rambutans and langsats.

2 The furniture shop sells a variety of things such as sofas, chairs, desks, beds, mattresses and pillows.

3 I can see many items on display at the man's stalls. Examples of them are shirts, socks, neckties, singlets, handkerchiefs and gloves.

In your essay, if repeating the plural of a word seems monotonous, use the definite article for variety. Look at the following passage to show how you can break this monotony:
Computers have become part and parcel of our lives. In fact, this modern gadget has found its way into homes, offices and factories. Undeniably the computer is here to stay.

In the above passage, I use 'computers', then 'this modern gadget' followed by 'the computer' to avoid using the same words in it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hegu Xue lowers body temperature

Hegu xue is the acupuncture point for keeping the body temperature. It is useful when no medical help is immediately available and no medicine is at your disposal.

This is what I have learnt when I followed a Chinese Medicine course for a year some time ago. The acupuncture point in question lies between the thumb and the forefinger. Just bring your thumb and forefinger close to each other and the intersection point is the Hegu xue. If you press this point you will experience a numbing sensation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Translating works from Mandarin to Malay

Translation is not an easy job. I still remembered how I translated short stories from Mandarin to Malay. I did it together with another colleague, Chong Choong Yong when I was teaching in Jerantut, Pahang. We would spend hours in the evening thinking of the right words and phrases to bring across what was in the Mandarin texts into Malay.

Firstly, we must understand language structures between the two languages. Secondly, we have to think of the cultures of both races, that is the Chinese and the Malays. Through tedious and hard work we were able to produce six pieces of translated works. All of these were published in Nanyang Siang Pau and we shared the honorarium equally. I did my own translation alone too. All together ten pieces of translated works were compiled into a book and displayed as an exhibit during Methodist Boys' School's centenary celebrations.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wrong comparison

Mistakes are often made by students when they construct sentences involving comparison. The following are a few examples of such mistakes:

1 My book is better than you. [wrong]
My book is better than yours. [correct]
[In the first sentence, you are comparing a book to a person which is wrong whereas in the second sentence, my book is compared to your book (yours refers to your book)]

2 The facilities in town are better than the country side. [wrong]
The facilities in town are better than those in the country side. [correct]
[In the first sentence, facilities are compared to country side which is is wrong. However, in the second sentence, the comparison is correct because facilities in town are compared to facilities in the country side (those refers to facilities).]

3 The shirt I bought is cheaper than you. [wrong]
The shirt I bought is cheaper than yours. [correct]
[In the first sentence, shirt is compared to you, a person. Hence it is wrong. On the other hand, shirt is compared to shirt (yours refers to shirt) in the second sentence.]

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Motorcyclists in Penang

Not many people are familiar with the way Penang motorcyclists ride their bikes. If you are here, you will get the fright of your life seeing them wheezing in out of the cars just to be in front of them. When I am behind the wheels driving in Penang, I have to look at the right and left mirror as well as rear mirror before turning left or right because out of nowhere a motorcyclist can be on your left or right.

Habits die hard. These riders are so daring and reckless and Penang motorists are used to giving way to them that they take for granted that other drivers have to let them have their way. Of course there are also very careful motorcyclists who follow the traffic rules and ride safely. These are the ones that need our thumb-ups and not the reckless ones.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A smile begets a smile

A smile begets a smile is really true. It is almost my daily routine to go for a morning walk at Bukit Dumbar Garden. It has more and more walkers now.

I can recognise most of them as I walk past them. This morning I met one man who had not been here before. I just smiled to him and he returned a smile. See what I mean in the first sentence of this post.

Usually it is courteous to smile back at the one who smiles at you. Most Caucasians I have met thus far never fail to smile back to me when I smile to them.

There is a saying "Smile and the world smile with you. Weep and you weep alone." I agree with the first part but not the second. When someone is sad, we should console him instead of leaving him alone to brood over what has saddened him.

Keep smiling.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The use of "to" as infinitive and preposition

In English "to" can be used as a preposition or as a infinitive. As an infinitive, the verb that follows it is in the present tense. For example, in the sentence, "I want to buy a book." "to" acts as an infinitive.

As a preposition, "o" followed by a noun, pronoun or ing-verb. Some examples are as follows:

1 We have to resort to force (a noun) to drive the dog away.
2 I look forward to hearing from you soon.
3 They resorted to using a make-shift shed for the stage show.
4 This is the key to my room.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playing with oobleck

I was attracted by a plastic tray of whitish dough brought by my students. They were playing with it. They poked their fingers hard at the surface and there seemed to be a force counteracting them and their fingers did not go through. I tried to poke it with my forefinger and surprisingly, my finger seemed to meet an impenetrable surface. This phenomena really surprised me. Later, the students told me that it was called 'oobleck'.

Oobleck can be produced by fixing two parts of cornflour with one part of water. It seems that if you subject the tray of oobleck to strong vibration, it will part in the middle with a circular hollow in the middle. They tried it with their mobile phone vibrating but with no success. Then a student used her finger to move oobleck in a circular motion very fast and I could see the hollow that appeared in the middle.