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 on: Today at 01:20:35 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Question asked by Aryan Khazin‎ in the Forum's Facebook Gateway (June 24, 2017):
Hello there, can someone tell me? What is the difference between the theses sentences "How true was it?" and "How true is it?"? Which one is a statement and which a question? Thanks in advance!

My reply to Aryan Khazin:

The first sentence, "How true was it?" is clearly a time-based question where the speaker recognizes that the parameters of the question may have changed in the interim, such that its truth isn't permanent and immutable, as in the statement that "Candidate X was not yet 100%" ready to campaign when he was nominated as the lead candidate for the country's top elective position." Such questions are not suitable thesis material because the answer is time-sensitive, making the job of defending it very difficult if not outright untenable.

In contrast, the second sentence, "How true is it?", is a question where the thesis postulates an unchanging or immutable answer over a considerably long period of time, as in the thesis statement that "The Earth revolves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit." This is the kind of thesis statement that lends itself to viable proof and defense, and so it is the kind that's more likely to be accepted in academe for a masteral or a doctoral dissertation.

Rejoinder by Aryan Khazin:

Thank you so much! It was really helpful!

 on: June 23, 2017, 09:48:40 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo

To My Facebook Friends and Fans,

For quick access to the Forum’s featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories, simply click their indicated web links below:

(8 postings, latest down to earlier postings):

1. “The preposition as connective for motion and direction” (June 23, 2017)

2. “Redux: So now as it was then, this is the world in 854 words” (June 21, 2017)]

3. “The virtue of elliptical constructions” (June 20, 2017)

4. “All About the Storied Life of Our National Hero” (June 19,2017)

5. “The relative weight of main clauses and subordinate clauses” (July 19, 2017)

6. “When a novel gets published, expect some bruised egos” (June 18, 2017)

7. “Looking More Closely at Our Dictionaries” (June 17, 2017)

8. “A highly principled but infuriatingly stubborn politician fighting tyranny” (June 16, 2017)


1. Two magnificent performances of “The Prayer,” spaced 10 years apart
     (Originally posted January 22, 2017)

2. “The Lovely Clichés Worth Keeping”
     (Originally posted circa 2002   Reposted December 16, 2016)


3. Conversations (4): “The real score about Valentine’s Day”
    (Originally posted February 10, 2010   Reposted February 1, 2014)

4. “Did Rizal ever speak and write in English?”
    (Originally posted January 28, 2010, latest update December 30, 2016)

5. “Conversations (2): A serious bad-grammar syndrome”
   (Reposted January 18, 2017)

6. “Anatomy of media stories that Filipina women have the world’s smallest breasts”
    (Posted July 11, 2016)

7. “Lost in Translation” - 1 and 2
    (Posted December 30, 2016)

8. “Indignities in American minor”
    (Posted October 27, 2016)

Click this link to earlier Playdate features!

Visit the Jose Carillo Forum Homepage!

 on: June 22, 2017, 07:49:17 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Continuing our discussions of prepositions as connectives, let’s now review them as connectives for motion and direction.

The prepositions of motion “to,” “toward,” “in,” “into,” and “onto”: They connect the verbs of movement to their object destination.


“To” indicates movement toward a specific destination: “They took me to the polling precinct.” (Here, “polling precinct” is the specific destination.)

“Toward” indicates movement in a general direction that may not reach a specific destination: “Helen drove toward the polling precinct.” (Here, we only know that Helen drove in the direction of that polling precinct; we don’t know if she ever got there.)

“Into” indicates movement into an enclosed space: “He was the first voter to go into the polling booth.”

But “in” should be used when the preposition is the last word of the sentence, or when it occurs right before an adverb of time (“this morning,” “today,” “tomorrow”), manner (“quickly,” “hurriedly”), or frequency (“once,” “twice”): Examples: “He was the first to go in.” “He was the first to go in this morning.” “He went in twice.”
“Into” can be used as the last word in an information question: “What sort of predicament have you gotten yourself into?”

But use “in” when that question is rendered in this form: “What sort of predicament are you in?”   

“Onto,” when used with verbs of motion, can generally be replaced by “on”: “The boys jumped on [instead of “onto”] the bed.

The prepositions of direction “to,” “onto,” and “into”: The preposition “to” is the basic preposition of direction; “onto” and “into” are compounds when “to” is added to the prepositions of location “on” and “in.”


“To” indicates an orientation toward a goal: For a physical goal, such as a destination, “to” indicates a movement in the direction of that goal: “The voters will troop to the polls today.” (Here, the physical goal is “the polls.”)

If the goal isn’t physical—say, an action—then “to” simply puts the verb in the infinitive form to express purpose: “The candidates from all camps made every effort to win.” (Here, “to win” is an infinitive expressing purpose.)

“Onto” indicates movement toward a surface: “The promenaders strayed onto the skating rink.” (Here, “the skating rink” is construed as a surface.)

“Into” indicates movement inside a finite, three-dimensional space or volume: “The chef dumped the vegetable mix into the wok.” (Here, “wok” is construed as a finite volume.)

We must take note, though, that when used with many verbs of motion, “on” and “in” already indicate a directional meaning. They can therefore be freely used instead of “onto” or “into”: “The promenaders strayed on [instead of “onto”] the skating rink.” “The chef dumped the vegetable mix in [instead of “into”] the wok.”

Here’s a good rule of thumb for choosing between the compound prepositions “onto” and “into” and the simple prepositions “on” and “in”: Use “onto” and “into” to indicate completion of an action, and use “on” and “in” to indicate the subject’s end-position as a result of that action.

Completion of an action: “The cat jumped onto [or “to”] the ground.” “The boy jumped into [or “to”] the hole.”

End-position of the subject: “The cat is on the ground.” “The boy is in the hole.”

The preposition “at” as a preposition of motion and preposition of direction: Use “at” to mark a verb of motion directed toward a point: “They arrived at the election precinct right before closing.” “The boxer jabbed at his opponent with a devastating left hook.”

Use “at” to indicate the direction of a specific action: “To stop it, the rescuers leaped at the runaway train.” “The poll watchers jumped at the ballot-box snatcher with fierce determination.”

We will take up the prepositions of time next week.

(Next: The preposition as another type of functional connective - 5)  June 29, 2017

This essay, 1045th  of a series, appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of The Manila Times, June 22, 2017 issue (print edition only), © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 on: June 21, 2017, 10:14:42 AM 
Started by Miss Mae - Last post by Miss Mae
I could argue no more, Sir.

Even Ludwig Von Beethoven, who lost his hearing when he was 26, had composed lots of wonderful music in the last ten years of his life and became one of the greatest composers of all time! No writer then should cease writing, her hearing gone completely or not.

 on: June 21, 2017, 09:09:43 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
The World in 854 Words

To put in context the current hostilities between ISIS-linked Muslim terrorists and Philippine government forces in Marawi City, I am once again reposting the essay below that I wrote way back in the early 2000s for my weekly column in The Manila Times. I am doing so to help make sense of the appalling religious, political, and ideological antagonisms in many parts of the world that have now also erupted in fierce, deadly warfare in southern Philippines. It is painfully clear that along with the rest of the world's peoples, we in the Philippines still need to answer this big question that has remained unanswered over the centuries: “When will humanity learn to be peaceably rational and rationally peaceable?” (June 21, 2017)

Left photo: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the coffin of a soldier killed in Marawi City during fighting with Maute group militants: May 26, 2017. (Malacanang Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Right photo: Fleeing Marawi City residents walk past a mosque towards an evacuation center after government troops continued an assault on Maute group fighters who have taken over large parts of the city in southern Philippines: May 26, 2017. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)

IF I were asked to describe the world as I see it today, I would readily give this answer: it has hardly changed since 2,200 years ago when Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and physicist, was said to have bragged that he could move the world if only he had the lever to lift it. For all his ingenuity and imagination, however, Archimedes was dead wrong on this count. He knew the power of the lever like the back of his hand, assiduously applying this knowledge to design military catapults and grappling irons; he figured out with stunning accuracy the mathematical properties of circles and spheres, including the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or what we now know as pi (3.14159265...); he began the science of hydrostatics, or the forces that govern stationary fluids, after discovering the now familiar Archimedes Principle; and he even invented the Archimedes screw, an ingenious water-raising machine still used today to irrigate fields in Egypt.

The world has now become a huge boat of refugees fleeing religious, ideological, or political persecution

But on hindsight, we know now that Archimedes obviously exceeded his mind’s grasp when he thought of lifting the world with a plank. It wouldn’t have been possible to do so even if a suitable fulcrum could be found. The world was actually (and still is) an ovaloid sphere 12,760 km in diameter, one that rotates on its axis in 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.09 seconds and that revolves around a much bigger sphere—the sun—in 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 9.6 seconds. The object Archimedes had bragged of lifting actually has a mass in tons of about 5.98 x 10 raised to the 21st power, and a volume in cubic meters of about 1.08 x 10 raised to the 21st power—figures too mind-boggling to even think about, much less to trifle with.

These elemental things obviously went beyond the ken of Archimedes’ overarching genius. It was only 1,750 years later, in fact, that the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was to make the startling, heretical thesis that Earth was not the center of the universe but simply one of the planets that orbited the bigger, stationary sun. But on this even Copernicus, who began the scientific reawakening that came to be known as the Copernican Revolution, was only partly right. The sun, it turned out centuries later, was not stationary in the heavens at all. It was rotating on its own axis in a perpetually moving spiral arm of the galaxy that we now call the Milky Way.

All of these facts about our world are now well-established certainties. Despite this accumulated knowledge, however, mankind still acts more primitively and more irrationally than its ancestors before the time of Archimedes. Humanity is still as mired as ever in superstition and religious fundamentalism. Organized religion, superstition, and nationhood have no doubt been great civilizing forces, instilling fear, awe, faith, and patriotism in man, and marshaling both the motive and creative energies for such architectural marvels as the Stonehenge in England, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the stately cathedrals in Europe, the great mosques in the Middle East and in Asia, the Borobodur temples in Cambodia, and the huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Yet these very same forces— organized religion, superstition, and nationhood—are now methodically destroying not only human lives by the thousands but even the physical, social, and cultural legacies humanity had accumulated in the interim.

Intolerance on the religious, political, or ideological plane has always plagued mankind through the centuries, of course, both long before and long after the time of Archimedes. It brought about so many of the horrible depredations on either side of the major religious or geopolitical divides, from the time of the Crusades—those armed Christian expeditions to the Holy Lands and Constantinople in the 11th century—to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. But more deeply disturbing is the fact that this intolerance and bloodshed have persisted even with the civilizing influence of the Age of Reason and Scientific Enlightenment. Today, people in many parts of the world are still murderously lunging at each other’s throats, intolerant of one another’s religious beliefs, disdainful of one another’s politics and ideology, and covetous of one another’s personal or national possessions. Humanity obviously has not learned its lessons well.

Thus, the great flowering of scientific knowledge and rational thinking that began with Archimedes and pursued with vigor by such great scientific minds as Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein—not to mention Charles Darwin—seems not to have really amounted to much. Our mindsets and dispositions as a species have remained largely primitive—there are disturbing signs, in fact, that we have deteriorated as social and reasoning animals, perhaps irreversibly. It is therefore not at all surprising that today, on a shocking improvement on Archimedes’ claim that he could lift the world with a lever, people by the thousands could think and claim that they could move the world simply on pure belief—no lever, no fulcrum, no hands or physical effort even—just belief and absolutely nothing else.

This essay first appeared in the weekly “English Plain and Simple” column of Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in the early 2000s and later formed part of his book Give Your English the Winning Edge © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read “Terrorism in the age of polarization” by Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, June 19, 2017
Read “The brothers who brought death and ruin to Marawi” by Cecil Morella, Agence France-Presse, June 18, 2017 feature story
“Was Orlando shooting terror or homophobia? Yes," June 13, 2016 feature story in

“The Starry Messenger,” January 19, 2013 editorial of The New York Times
“Pakistan horror: When the war comes to schools,” December 16, 2014 news dispatch in

US drops ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan (April 14, 2017)
43 Philippine police killed by Muslim rebels while hunting bomb makers (January 27, 2015)
Bomb explodes during pro-Ukrainian rally (February 22, 2015)
2 New York women accused of ISIS-inspired bomb plot (April 3, 2015)
147 dead, Islamist gunmen killed after attack at Kenya college (April 3, 2015)
Pope Francis laments killing of Christians (Associated Press, April 4, 2015)

Read a review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now in The New York Times Sunday Book Review (April 1, 2015)
Read Bangsamoro History: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny by Salah Jubair (pseudonym of Mohagher Iqbal)

 on: June 19, 2017, 01:11:16 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Illustrados in Madrid: Jose Rizal is in the second row, fifth from right.

On his 156th birth anniversary today, June 19, 2017, let’s revisit in earlier Forum posts ("Did Rizal ever speak and write in English?" and other stories) the life of Dr. Jose P. Rizal as multilingual Filipino and citizen of the world, great writer and poet, expatriate and multinational traveler, scholar of an astoundingly wide range of interests, quintessential lover of women, and peaceable patriot and revolutionary who kindled the spirit of the fight for independence of the future Philippine Republic.

The stories posted in the Forum over the years are as follows:
1. Looking for Rizal in Europe, finding a “little bad boy” (June 17, 2011)
By Howie Severino, GMA News
2. José Rizal’s Loves: An Analyzed, Revised View (2013)
By Dr. Penélope V. Flores
3. Rizal Invigorated Southeast Asia’s Revolutionary Spirit
My review of John Nery's book “Revolutionary Spirit: Jose Rizal in Southeast Asia” (2011)
4. “Unhappy wife of Jose Rizal”
By Ambeth R. Ocampo, @inquirerdotnet

To read each posting, simply click the indicated link.

 on: June 19, 2017, 10:59:41 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Last week, I received e-mail from a medical doctor in Newark, New Jersey, asking this very intriguing question about the relative importance of main clauses and subordinate clauses in complex sentences:

“I am a physician who teaches ESL to students on the weekends. Many of the high school students have had questions about a lesson I taught on subordinate clauses. They were confused about the idea that the main idea goes to the main clause and the least important goes to the subordinate clause. They showed me many examples of writing in magazines, textbooks, and journals where writers had put the obvious main idea in the subordinate clause. Is this English grammar rule still applicable? Am I teaching a rule that is not applied in common usage? I would greatly appreciate your help.”
Which idea in that complex sentence is the most important?

Here’s my answer to that question:

I’m afraid it’s not correct to say that in complex sentences, the main idea invariably goes to the main clause and the less important ones to the subordinate clause. Your ESL students who questioned that rule are right. There is, in fact, no such rule. This looks to me simply a misinterpretation of the basic rule that in a complex sentence, the main clause is the independent clause that can stand by itself, and the subordinate clause is the dependent clause that can’t stand by itself. This, of course, isn’t the same as saying that the most important idea should go to the main clause or will be found in it; it’s perfectly possible for the most important idea to be the subordinate clause itself or, at least, to be part of it. Indeed, the position of the idea in a complex sentence isn’t a correct yardstick of its importance in relation to the other ideas in that sentence.
This point becomes clear when we closely examine a complex sentence like this one: “Because her husband abandoned her, the stewardess decided to leave the family home.” That sentence, of course, can also be constructed this way: “The stewardess decided to leave the family home because her husband abandoned her.” Now, which is the more important idea—the one found in the subordinate clause “because her husband abandoned her” or the one found in the main clause “the stewardess decided to leave the family home”? We really can’t say; we can’t validly make a value judgment on their relative importance. All we can say is that the main clause “the stewardess decided to leave the family home” can stand by itself and that the subordinate clause “because her husband abandoned her” can’t. This is a grammatical and structural distinction that doesn’t establish the comparative importance of the ideas involved.

In a complex sentence, the most important idea may be found
in either the main clause or independent clause

The point gets even clearer in the case of complex sentences with a relative modifying clause, like this one: “What we didn’t realize when we bought the property was that it was prone to heavy flooding.” This sentence, of course, can also be constructed this way: “That it was prone to heavy flooding was what we didn’t realize when we bought the property.” Either way, the idea in the main clause is (2010)
This essay, 720th of a series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, December 11, 2010 issue, © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

 on: June 19, 2017, 08:40:06 AM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Grammar questions raised in an e-mail by Isabel E., Forum contributor (June 18, 2017):

You used a new noun in your message: "intellection." Is it another Pinoy invention like "actuation" for "act"? Just curious.

Btw, apropos of nothing, could you explain the difference between "imbed" & "embed"?   

My reply to Isabel E.:

The noun "intellection" is not new and certainly not another Pinoy invention. Actually dating back to the year 1579, it means "an act of the intellect," "the exercise of the intellect," or "reasoning." Intellection is used in some philosophical contexts in a way similar to the modern concept of "intuition."

Regarding the difference between “imbed” and “embed,” my Merriam Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary says they are variants of one another and it defines them in exactly the same way and words: as transitive verbs, “to enclose closely in or as if in a matrix” all the way down to the last definition, “to surround closely”; and as intransitive verbs, “to become embedded,” also in exactly the same way and words.  As to why both words mean exactly the same despite having different prefixes of Latin origin (“im-” and “em-”), it’s really hard to figure out and explain. I guess it’s just a fluke of English etymology dictated by the almost similar spelling and phonetics of the two variants.

 on: June 17, 2017, 02:04:31 PM 
Started by Joe Carillo - Last post by Joe Carillo
Several years ago, when I was still managing an English-language service, I chided one of my English-language tutors for insisting on using her 1980-vintage Webster’s Desk Dictionary as reference. The day before that, I had the 11th edition of The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in compact disc loaded on the computers in our office, and had asked my staff to delete from their hard drives all old dictionaries, particularly the British-English ones—the venerable Oxford English Dictionary included. I had also asked my staff to put away all of their print copies of the British-English Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture and the Collins Cobuild English Dictionary, both of which had long ago been bought inadvertently for our use.

These acts may sound like that of an Anglo-hater gone mad, but I assure you that there was rhyme and reason to them: I wanted to thoroughly bring the small company’s English usage to the American English standard. I was therefore a bit miffed that one of my staff should cavalierly resist the standardization effort, claiming that she was more comfortable using her fading but trusted Webster’s. So, not entirely in jest, I gave her an ultimatum: keep that dictionary out of sight, or I would throw it into the dustbin myself.

My reason for banning British-English dictionaries and outdated American-English dictionaries from our office was dictated not by a sudden anti-British feeling or spite for things old, but by a very pragmatic consideration: the business depended greatly on the consistency of our English grammar, form, and semantics with American English as the standard. We could ill afford even the slightest variation in the spellings, meanings, and usage of the language, in our understanding of its idioms, and in its punctuations, prepositions, and conjunctions.

It had become clear to me that our mixed used of British-English and American-English dictionaries had been responsible for not a few of our gaffes—some innocuous, some serious—like spelling the word “center” as “centre,” “check” as “cheque,” and “aluminum” as “aluminium”; thinking of corn” as “grain” instead of “maize”; using the wrong prepositions in sentences like “We live in a quiet street in the city and stay in a farm cottage at weekends” (that’s how the British say and write it, while Americans put it this way: “We live on a quiet street in the city and stay in a farm cottage on weekends”); and worse yet, using the wrong quotation marks and putting commas at the wrong places in quoted material.

A few months back, in particular, when a new editor of ours made a final copyreading pass on a long manuscript, she methodically replaced all of the double quotes with single quotes and took out all of the commas inside them and put them outside the quotes, British-style, like this: ‘This was the title of Paul Zindel’s book, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”, and I thought it rather queer.’ Before that, the sentence used American-English punctuation, like this: “This was the title of Paul Zindel’s book, ‘The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,’ and I thought it rather queer.” We were already way past our deadline, so we had to undo her well-meaning but ruinous work in white-hot haste.

Using a dictionary in the wrong English standard could, in fact, not only wreak havoc on our English but trigger needless controversies as well. Once, when a Filipino-Canadian reader of my English-usage column in The Manila Times used the word “miniscule” in a letter that I quoted in that column, the newspaper’s editor in chief told me in good-humored ridicule that I was foisting the wrong spellings of English words on readers. “‘Miniscule’,” he said, “should be spelled ‘minuscule’—with a ‘u’ and not an ‘i’.” When I stood my ground, he opened the Oxford English Dictionary for me and for all of the other editors who were present to see. To my dismay, it confirmed “minuscule” as the official spelling, making only a passing reference to “miniscule” as a variant.

Checking the online Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary later, I discovered that it was even harsher on “miniscule”: “a common spelling of ‘minuscule’ that is not correct.” To my relief, though, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language accepts the variant without comment, and I also took comfort in my electronic Merriam-Webster’s assurance that while “miniscule” continues to be widely regarded as an error, it now commonly occurs in published writing.

Most of the English dictionaries we had on hand, of course, whether using the American or British English standard, were products of great scholarship, but in that former language business of mine, there was a screaming need for only one English standard and only one English-language authority. We simply had to be scrupulously consistent and current in our English, and it just so happened that in the Philippines and in many parts of Asia, the standard for English is American English. We really had no choice then but to begin to live up to that standard by getting a good, up-to-date American English dictionary—and that, I am happy to say, was precisely what I had done. (circa 2005)

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times and subsequently appeared as Chapter 130 of his book Give Your English the Winning Edge published by the Manila Times Publishing Corp, © 2009 by Jose A. Carillo. All rights reserved.

 on: June 17, 2017, 09:23:03 AM 
Started by Miss Mae - Last post by Joe Carillo
Miss Mae, I don't think that the phrase "ear for writing" is meant to be in the auditory or physical sense. It's simply a metaphor for an acute sensibility and sensitivity to nuance, tonality, and emotion (or lack of it) in the written word. So, to be deaf or hard of hearing isn't really an insurmountable hindrance to doing well in writing. The great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote books while suffering from a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy, and Helen Keller, although rendered blind and deaf in early childhood by scarlet fever, learned to read in many languages and earned a college degree. Check them out out this feature article about "10 successful Writers Who Had Disabilities." (And by the way, Stephen Colbert, that famous American comedian and best-selling writer, is deaf in the right ear because his eardrum got severely perforated when he was still a youngster.)

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