Global communications in English

Quick tips

Is it control or check? Or perhaps monitor?

Traffic controlIt depends! Be careful to use the right word:

The government must control the rate of inflation. (= limit)
The government must closely monitor the situation. (= watch)
The government must first check the facts. (= make sure they are correct)

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

What do you mean ____ that?

what-do-you-meanInterference from Dutch leads many Dutch speakers to get the preposition wrong in the above phrase. It’s not ‘with’, but ‘by’:

What do you mean by that?
What do you mean by ‘free’?
We’ve all got to do better. And by that, I mean everybody.
Don’t get upset: I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

50% korting op Engelstalige e-books

A new face?

FaceBe careful to make phase and face sound different! The vowel in phase is longer than that in face. In addition, the -s- in phase is voiced (i.e., has a buzzing sound, like z). The -c- in face is a sharp s-sound.

You wouldn’t want anybody to think you were going to have a new face if all you were doing was starting a new phase of a project, would you?

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

Respectively always follows

OrderAlways put respectively after the items being related – not before, as in Dutch. Compare these examples:

Dutch: A, B en C behaalden respectievelijk 10, 25 en 30 punten.

English: A, B and C scored 10, 25 and 30 points respectively.

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

My or me? I hope you don’t mind ____ interrupting you

men-talkingBefore an -ing form (like talking), do you need the possessive form of the personal pronoun (my, your, his, its, our or their) or the object form (me, you, him, it, us or them)?

It depends! Both are correct. However, the possessive pronoun is more formal, and more likely to be used in writing. The object form is quite common in speech.

Similar examples are:

I hope you don’t mind my/me interrupting you.
He saw my/me joining the club as a threat.
The likelihood of his/him being there is remote.
I really appreciate your/you going to all the trouble.

Very occasionally, there may be a slight difference in meaning. For example:

They didn’t like me singing (They didn’t like the fact that I sang)
They didn’t like my singing (They didn’t like the fact that I sang OR They didn’t like the way I sang)

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

Contents or content?

wineThe list of what is contained in a book is not the Table of Content but the Table of Contents.

The singular form content can only be used to refer to something abstract or not easily dividable into parts. For example, you can talk about the political content of a song, the information content in a book, or the alcohol content of wine (e.g., 12%).

These days, content is also used to refer to the text and pictures on websites, and content marketing is using useful articles and information on a website to attract, interest and retain new customers.

Incidentally, in Table of Contents, “Table of” is often left out, and most books refer to this section of a book simply as Contents.

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

Don’t make this very common mistake: How do you call that in English?

question_markIf you can’t think of a word, ask:

What do you call that in English? or What is that called in English?

These questions ask the listener to provide you with a specific noun or noun construction. For example:

I’m looking for… Oh, what do you call that in English – you know, a book that gives the meanings of words?
A dictionary?
Yes, a dictionary. Have you got one I could borrow?

If you can’t think of how to phrase a thought, ask:

How do you say that in English?

This question asks the listener to provide you with a phrase, a sentence or a paraphrase that will help you express what you want to say. For example:

We want to… How do you say that in English?
Outperform the market?
Exactly. Outperform the market.

Don’t make the mistake that many non-native speakers of English make by asking How do you call that in English?

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

In the end or at the end?

The endThese two phrases look very similar, but it’s important not to confuse them, because their meanings are quite different.

In the end (Dutch uiteindelijk). For example:

        It all turned out all right in the end.

At the end (Dutch aan het einde). For example:

At the end of the play, he simply got up and left.

 © 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

False friends: ‘adequaat’ and ‘adequate’

Tiny but adequate cabinThey look alike, but they have subtly different connotations! Both adequaat and adequate derive from Latin ad (‘to’) plus aequatus (‘made equal’), and originally meant ‘equal to the task’. But today, the English word is often used in negative contexts, indicating that, although something may be sufficient for a particular purpose, it is hardly any more than that.

For example:

We should not undertake the trip without making adequate preparations.
Do we have an adequate supply of food?
The project failed through a lack of adequate support.
His overall performance was barely adequate.
The star’s acting was adequate, but no more than that.
The accommodation was hardly adequate by today’s standards.
The measurements will be adequate but may contain some errors.
The cabin at first seemed small, but it was perfectly adequate for our needs.

The Dutch word, however, is more commonly used in a positive way, to indicate that something is properappropriate, efficient or effective. It’s therefore important to be careful when using adequate in English: you may be making something sound worse than it is!

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

Beware of the word invaluable

Anglo-Saxon ringsDon’t misinterpret the word invaluable. It looks as though it should mean ‘not valuable’, but in fact it means ‘so valuable that its value cannot be assessed’.

The first sentence below therefore expresses a stronger appreciation of Peter’s contribution than the second one:

Peter made an invaluable contribution to our success.
Peter made a valuable contribution to our success.

To express the meaning ‘not valuable’ we say something has no value, or is worthless, valueless or of no value.

Since invaluable may be misunderstood by non-native speakers, it’s probably best to use it only when you’re sure your audience will understand it correctly.

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

© 2013 - Baxter Communications | Hilversum - NL