Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Less Is More

To prescriptive grammarians, 10 units or less would be wrong, since units is countable and would accordingly require fewer. The notice should therefore read 10 units or fewer.
However, this conundrum could be avoided altogether if we simply phrase it Up to 10 units/items.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Negative Dual

In Standard English, both is not normally used in the negative, so the above extract (Straits Times web, 16 September 2009) would read: neither man was dressed and both were foaming.

The so-called ‘negative dual’, as exemplified by the ST extract, is, however, common in Singapore English.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The use of molest as a noun is usual in Singapore; as it is found regularly in the Straits Times (this example from the web edition, 16 September 2009), one might consider it Standard Singapore English usage.

In other standard Englishes (e.g. British), however, molest can only be a verb. The noun is molestation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How It Looks/What It Looks Like

The above is from an article about a Singapore mail-order bride agency and its success in attracting overseas customers, owing to its use of English and the web (New Paper on Sunday, 13 September 2009).

Singapore English is often said to be economical and to the point, but this is not always so — how the girls look like has a superfluous like. The standard English expressions would be how the girls look or what the girls look like.

This distinction is obvious in the following excerpts, taken from the same article in the online version of the UK-based CAR Magazine:

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Here is another error that is exceedingly common in the pages of the Straits Times (7 September 2009). Reporting on the launch of this year’s Speak Good English Movement, the newspaper asks young people for their views on whether ‘youths’ are the right target for the campaign.

This use of youths to mean ‘young people’ in general is non-standard. As we can see from the following entry from the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, the word youths as a [C] or countable noun (i.e. singular or plural) can refer only to males, especially teenaged ones involved in violent or criminal activities. However, the Straits Times clearly refers to young people both male and female, engaged in nothing more objectionable than Facebook, Twitter and blogs.