Thursday, March 25, 2010

COMMON MISTAKES - Plural Noncountables

When learning a foreign language, there is probably only one rule that never fails. What works in your native language, doesn’t necessarily work in another language.

Look at the following examples. What's wrong with the words in bold?

1) Waiter, I would like two sandwiches and two waters.

2) I’m receiving different informations from my team.

Naturally, in romance languages like Spanish, words like water and information can be singular and plural. However in English, the situation is a little different.

The reason is that they are noncoutables (or non-count nouns). Noncountables refer to things that are generic like water or plastic; as well as abstract ideas such as peace and love.

So what are some examples of these generic and abstract things known as noncountables?

Generic materials: wood, cloth, plastic, wool, steel, glass, leather, porcelain, hair

Generic activities: reading, boating, smoking, dancing, soccer

Generic substances: ice, dust, air, oxygen, water, milk, wine, beer, sugar, rice, meat, cheese, flour

Other generics: luggage, equipment, furniture, experience, applause, photography, traffic, harm, publicity, homework, advice, heat, cold, humidity, sunshine, electricity, biology, history, mathematics, economics, poetry

Abstract concepts: information, peace, anger, courage, violence, safety, justice, work, friendship, love, freedom, good, evil, time

But here is the million dollar question. Can any of these words ever be plural?

Sure, some of them can, but not when they are in the generic or abstract sense. In other words, they can be plural when they refer to something specific in plural quantities.

1) The best wines in Argentina are from Mendoza. (doesn’t refer to wine as a generic substance, but to specific wines of a specific region)
2) The works of Pablo Picasso are magnificent. (specific pieces of art)
3) Tell us about your experiences as an English User. (specific moments in your life)
4) Remember the times you went to the library this week (specific occasions)

But what about those cases like information that cannot be expressed as plural? For those, we can add a countable + of to describe a plural situation.

This means we can talk about:

1) Pieces of/ types of / tons of / a lot of information, equipment, luggage
2) Cups of coffee, tea, juice
2) Bottles of / glasses of wine, water, milk

In conclusion, in English - before you make something PLURAL - you just need to ask yourself if whatever you're talking about is of the generic / abstract type or if its use is more specific.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Day is Here...

VIDEO: Courtesy of:

Saint Patrick's Day is a yearly holiday celebrated on March 17th. It is named after Saint Patrick who lived in the 5th Century. He is the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland.

However, he was originally born in Wales under the name of Maywyn. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by mauraders (pirates) and taken as a slave to Ireland.

But he would eventually undergo a religious awakening, changing his name to Patrick and dedicating his life to Christianity. Founding churches and schools, his work would eventually lead to Ireland becoming a Christian country.

Originally, St. Patrick's Day began as a purely Christian holiday. But in the early 1600s, it became an official feast day. And gradually, it has become a more secular celebration of Ireland's culture, legends and traditions.

In fact, it is a public holiday on the island of Ireland; including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish community internationally, especially in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and Montserrat, among others.

Vocabulary associated with St. Patrick's Day and Irish culture:

leprechaun: A mischievous elf in Irish folklore who enjoys playing tricks on people

clover: A sweet-smelling plant with three leaves on each stem that symbolizes Irish culture

limerick: A funny poem written with five lines. The first two lines and the last line all rhyme. The third and the fourth lines rhyme.

St Paddy’s Day is here
Everybody is drinking beer
A sea of Green, White and Gold
Blowing in the cold,
And now it’s over, back next year

by Dean Murphy

Thursday, March 11, 2010

APOSTROPHE MONSTERS get very Possessive!

Here's a cartoon sketch for English Users young and old.

It provides further use of apostrophe S for Possessive Case. It is from the new version of award-winning American children's television show THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.

And as the show's sketch's character's dialogue demonstrates, you may use the apostrophe S repeatedly when there is repeated possession.

THE ELECTRIC COMPANY is a classic of American Pop Culture. Its original show ran back in the 1970s and made a stars out of many up and coming talents. One of the was a young comedian with a PhD in Education by name of Bill Cosby.

PLS English Users salutes Sesame Workshop & PBS - producers of the show - for officially uploading their content to an Official YouTube Channel, enabling other sites to publish and make their content known in a legal manner.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Secret has been revealed... at the OSCARS

As many followers of this blog are from Argentina, we just wanted to share the great news...

On March 7th, 2010, Argentine film EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (translated as "The Secret in their Eyes") received the OSCAR for best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards Ceremony in Hollywood, California.

This is the second time in history that Argentina has been blessed with an Oscar. The film - directed by veteran Argentine Director Juan José Campanella - revolves around a man who is trying to solve a brutal murder committed 30 years ago.

We recommend this Interview with the Director from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, as well as this review from the Hollywood magazine VARIETY.

And last but not least, you have the trailer with English subtitles. Remember you must activate the subtitles at the bottom right-hand of the screen (CC button).


Friday, March 5, 2010

DO vs MAKE: "Make a choice and just do it!"

One of the most challenging things to learn in English as a Second Language (ESL) is when to use DO and when to use MAKE.

The truth is that there really aren’t fixed rules about this. But fortunately, there are clear patterns to follow. Here they are:


Used when referring to work, an action, an activity, a task or a desired result in a generic way. They key point here is that all this DOING does not (usually) produce a
physical object.

the work

do your homework
do your job
do a crossword puzzle
do the shopping
do the laundry
do the washing
do the washing up
do anything
do everything
do nothing
do badly
do business
do the dishes
do a favour
do good
do harm
do time - (to go to prison)
do well
do your best
do your hair
do your nails
do your worst
do it - (that's right... Nike didn't invent the phrase, but they made it famous)


Used when referring to constructing, building or creating something physical or tangible.

make a cake
make a house

make food
make coffee
make breakfast / lunch / dinner
make a dress
make a work of art

Also used for a number of standard expressions that follow no particular pattern. You just need to learn them.

make amends
make arrangements
make believe - (to pretend)
make a choice
make a comment
make a decision
make a difference
make an effort
make an enquiry
make an excuse
make a fool of yourself
make a fortune
make friends
make a fuss
make a journey
make love
make a mess
make a mistake
make money
make a move
make a noise
make a phone call
make a plan
make a point
make a profit
make a promise
make a remark
make a sound
make a speech
make a suggestion
make time
make a visit
make your bed - (to prepare the bed for sleeping in)