Jose Carillo's Forum


The Use and Misuse section is open to all Forum members for discussing anything related to English grammar and usage. It invites and encourages questions and in-depth discussions about any aspect of English, from vocabulary and syntax to sentence structure and idiomatic expressions. It is, of course, also the perfect place for relating interesting experiences or encounters with English use and misuse at work, in school, or in the mass media.

70 English idiomatic expressions sometimes bungled by Pinoys
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

MBA professor Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. in the Philippines sent in the collection below of 70 English expressions sometimes bungled by Filipino speakers. See if you know the correct expression for each of them, then check it against the list of the proper expressions that I have provided at the bottom.—Joe Carillo

"There's a total brownout."
(This one was said by Karen Davila [of the ABS-CBN TV network]. As she kept on saying it, I felt compelled to call the station. Luckily, I was able to get through. Within minutes she was saying "total blackout"—but in an embarrassed tone.)     

"Noynoy won by a landscape."

"The defeat of Mar was heart-rendering to Korina."

"The government will exchange hands at noon of June 30."

"Ben, eat your hat out!"

"Give me the load down on that deal."

"The rocket launch was aboard when it rained."

"The flight was rough because we passed thunder and storm."  

"All in a sudden..."

"C'mon! Let's get it on with it!"

"When it rains, it's four."

"Thanks God!"

"He is the splitting image of his father."

"He is cheap of the old black."

"She is getting into my nerves!"

"He ramshackled my files."

"The idea crossed at the back of my mind."

"This is our rooster of clients..."

"The more the manyer."

"It's a no-win-win situation."

"Anulled and void."

"Mute and academic."

"C'mon let's join us!"

"If worse comes to shove."

"Are you joking my leg?"

"It's not my problem anymore, it's yours anymore."

"Well well well. Look do we have here!"

"Let's give them a big hand of applause."

"Been there, been that."

"Forget it about."

"Give him the benefit of the daw."

"It's a blessing in the sky."

"Where'd you came from?"

"Did you brought the tickets?"

"Take things first at a time."

"On one thing condition."

"You're barking at the wrong dog."

"You want to have your cake and bake it too."

"First and for most. "

"I'm only human nature."

"The sky's the langit."

"That's what I'm talking about it."

"Time is of the elements."

"He is the elements."

"Please feel in the family way." 

"The feeling is actual."

"For all intense and purposes."

"The traffic jam was orange juice."

"Sorry, we can't serve you banana split, our bananas ran away."

"That is outside of this world."

"What is the next that comnes after?"

"Whatever you say so."

"Base-to-base casis."

"My answers have been prayered."

"Please let me alone by myself."

"You can't teach old tricks to new dogs."

"It's as good as the new one."

"I can't take it anymore of this!"

"Are you sure ka na ba?"

"I couldn't care a damn!"

"What's your next class before this?"

"Nothing in this world is permanent except change."

"I'm sorry, my boss just passed by away."

"Taal Volcano is beginning to erect."

"Hello, can you hang yourself for a while, I am on the line ..."

" Let us not talk of spilled milk under the bridge.".

"Hello McDo, how much is a kidney meal?"

"Sorry, I am under the bad weather this morning."

"He is under the hot collar this morning."

"Ben and Joe, let's call it tonight."


Below are those bungled idiomatic expressions above properly expressed, to the best of my lights.—Joe Carillo

"There's a total blackout."

"Noynoy won by a landslide."

"The defeat of Mar was heart-rending to Korina."

"The government will change hands at noon of June 30."

"Ben, eat your heart out!"

"Give me the lowdown on that deal."

"The rocket launch was aborted when it rained."

"The flight was rough because we passed a thunderstorm."  

"All of a sudden..."

"C'mon! Let's get on with it!"

"When it rains, it pours."

"Thank God!"

"He is the spitting image of his father."

"He is a chip of the old block."

"She is getting on my nerves!"

"He ransacked my files."

"The idea crossed my mind."
(A related expression: "The idea was at the back of my mind.")

"This is our roster of clients..."

"The more the merrier."

"It's a no-win situation."
(A converse expression: "It’s a win-win situation.”)

"Null and void."

"Moot and academic."

"C'mon join us!"

"If push comes to shove."

"Are you pulling my leg?"

"It's not my problem anymore, it's yours now."

"Well well well. Look what we have here!"

"Let's give them a big round of applause."
(Alternatively: "Let's give them a big hand.")

"Been there, done that."

"Forget it."

"Give him the benefit of a doubt."

"It's a blessing from the sky."

"Where'd you come from?"

"Did you bring the tickets?"

"Take things one at a time."

"On one condition."
(Alternatively: “Just one thing.”)

"You're barking at the wrong tree."

"You want to have your cake and eat it too."

"First and foremost."

"I'm only human."
(Alternatively: "It’s human nature.")

"The sky's the limit."

"That's what I'm talking about."

"Time is of the essence."

"He is in his elements."

"Please feel like a member of the family." 

"The feeling is mutual."

"For all intents and purposes."

"The traffic jam was horrendous."

"Sorry, we can't serve you banana split, we ran out of bananas."

"That is out of this world."

"What is next?"
(Alternatively: "What comes after?")

"Whatever you say."
(Alternatively: "If you say so."

"Case-to-case basis."

"My prayers have been answered."

"Please leave me alone."
Alternatively: "Please leave me by myself."

"You can't teach old dogs new tricks."

"It's as good as new."
(Alternatively: "It's like new.")

"I can't take it anymore!"

"Are you sure?"

"I don’t give a damn!"
Alternatively: "I couldn't care less!"

"What's your next class after this?"

"Nothing is permanent except change."

"Can you please hold on, my boss just passed by."

"Taal Volcano is beginning to erupt."

"Hello, can you hang up for a while, I’m on the line ..."

"Let us not cry over spilled milk." "Let us not fret over spilled milk."
(Alternatively: "It’s water under the bridge.")

"Hello, McDo, how much is the kiddy meal?"

"Sorry, I am over the weather this morning."

"He’s hot under the collar this morning."

"Ben and Joe, let's call it a night."

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Shouldn’t we use “ten items or fewer” instead of “ten items or less”?

Question from bhing, Forum member (June 10, 2010):

Shouldn’t we use ten items or fewer? This kind of phrase is commonly seen in the supermarket when you queue up in the express lane. I’m super confused about this...

My reply to bhing:

Yes, we should use the comparative “fewer” instead of “less” for countable supermarket items like bars of soap, pieces of lamb chop, bottles of ketchup, and pieces of banana or orange; and we should use the comparative “less” for uncountable items like flour, rice, salt, water, and dishwashing fluid. That’s the prevailing English grammar rule. However, it has become traditional practice for many supermarkets to write “10 items or less” instead of the grammatically correct “10 items or fewer” on the signboards for their limited checkout counters. (I suppose the thinking behind this is that the noun “item” is indefinite anyway as to whether it’s countable or uncountable, so why make a fuss with the choice of comparative?) At any rate, there seems to be no stopping the practice now, and I don’t think there’s any chance that this errant usage can be legislated out of existence. Still, it remains advisable to correctly use “fewer” and “less” all the time in our own written or spoken English; after all, the ability to discern the semantic difference between these two comparative adjectives marks a person as a truly educated English speaker.

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When should “handsomer” and “handsomest” be used?

Another question from bhing (June 10, 2010):

When should the comparative handsomer and the superlative form handsomest be used? In the American Heritage Dictionary, these forms are correct, but these seldom are they used in the Philippines.

My reply to bhing:

The adjective “handsome” actually has meanings other than just a pleasing or impressive appearance. It can also denote something marked by a moderately large size, as in “a handsome offer”; or something marked by generosity of graciousness, as in “a handsome gratuity.” In all these denotations of “handsome,” we use the comparative “handsomer” to indicate who or which between two entities has the stronger attribute of “handsomeness,” as in “The talent scout thought that Talent A was handsomer than Talent B” and “We got a handsomer offer for our beach property from the foreign buyer than from the local one.” On the other hand, we use the superlative “handsomest” to indicate who or which among three or more entities has the strongest attribute of “handsomeness,” as in “The talent scout thought that Talent A was the handsomest among his stable of 12 acting talents” and “We got the handsomest offer for our beach property from the American buyer than from the Chinese, French, Japanese, and Australian buyers.”

I’m not sure if, as you say, “handsomer” and “handsomest” are seldom used in the Philippines. If you mix with the advertising agency, modeling agency, fashion agency, or movie industry crowd, I’m sure you’ll hear that comparative and superlative being used uncountable times 24/7—no matter what the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has decreed about the usage of these two adjectives.

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Please unravel this baffling sentence construction

Request from Sky, Forum member (June 7, 2010):

Please explain the statement below and write it into plain and simple English if you can. Thanks.

“The buliding area of one school of MOE school construction project is 5541.12m2, among which the building area of single teaching building with three-story frame structure is 4716.22m2,the buliding area of single one-story gym with sphere structure roof with is 842.9m2.”

My reply to Sky:

That sentence is actually an attempt at plain and simple English, but it was apparently written by a nonnative English speaker with very rudimentary skills in English syntax and sentence construction as well as in spelling and style conventions. It’s an example of the so-called comma splice, which we will recall is a form of the fused or run-on sentence. A fused sentence is formed when two or more clauses are improperly linked or wrongly punctuated, resulting in a confusing statement.

We can easily clarify that sentence by spinning off its three improperly linked clauses into separate sentences, by correcting the spelling of “buliding” to “building,” and by restyling the measure “m2” to “square meters.” For our sentence reconstruction, we will presume that the acronym “MOE” is for “Ministry of Education” and we will use it as spelled out to give readers a better idea of the context of the sentence.

So here now is my suggested reconstruction of that fused sentence:

“In the Ministry of Education’s school construction project, each school building has an area of 5,541.12 square meters (sq m). Every teaching building has a three-story frame structure with an area of 4,716.22 sq m. The school also has a one-story gym with a spherical roof that has an area of 842.9 sq m.”

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