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Old Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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Mind Your Language (Correction of Errors)


‘Correction of errors’ is a compulsory question in the CSS/PMS comprehension paper. Students are advised to acquire the basic knowledge of grammar especially the parts of speech. Here we shall correct certain sentences containing common errors and pitfalls that our students are generally prove to.
This is an area where the students do not perform very well. This is because of their ignorance of basic rules of grammar. Unfortunately, in our educational institutions, grammar does not receive the attention it deserves. Students are advised to acquire the basic knowledge of grammar especially the parts of speech. Grammar provides valuable information about the language and the patterns of English sentences. Students who wish to speak and write correct English should be rightly concerned with grammatically correctness. Here we shall correct certain sentences containing common errors and pitfalls that our students are generally prove to.



1. Incorrect: The child has broken his toy.
Correct: The child has broken its toy.
Reason: ‘Child’ is a common gender. Hence we cannot use Masculine or Feminine gender.

2. Incorrect: Pakistanis are very hard-working peoples.
Correct: Pakistanis are very hard-working people.
Reason: People means nation. Peoples means nations.

3. Incorrect: Do you know English alphabets?
Correct: Do you know English alphabet?
Reason: ‘Alphabet’ does not have a plural form.

4. Incorrect: I made her to cry.
Correct: I made her cry.
Reason: when ‘make’ is followed by an object and verb, we use the infinitive without “to”.

5. Incorrect: She entered into the room.
Correct: She entered the room.
Reason: When enter means ‘come/go into’, it is used without a preposition.

6. Incorrect: Where are those fifty rupees I lent you?
Correct: Where is that fifty rupees I lent you?
Reason: When we talk about ‘fifty rupees’ we consider it to be a single thing (an amount) not fifty separate things.

7. Incorrect: Scarcely had the rain ceased than the sun shone.
Correct: Scarcely had the rain ceased when the sun shone.
Reason: ‘Scarcely’ is followed by ‘when’.

8. Incorrect: He has been either educated at home or at a private school.
Correct: He has been educated either at home or at a private school.
Reason: Here ‘either-or’, is intended to oppose alternatively the phrases ‘at home’ and ‘at a private school’.

9. Incorrect: Twice three are six.
Correct: Twice three is six.
Reason: Twice three means the product of three multiplied by two. The subject is therefore, singular and ‘are’ should be ‘is’.

10. Incorrect: I am sick from yesterday.
Correct: I have been ill since yesterday.
Reason: ‘Sick’ should be ‘ill’. The present indefinite tense should be changed into the present perfect because the illness continues to the time of speaking. ‘from’ should be ‘since’.

11. Incorrect: The army was defeated and fled.
Correct: The army was defeated and made to flee.
Reason: ‘Was defeated’ is passive voice which must be followed by passive voice i.e. ‘made to flee’ or ‘put to flight’.

12. Incorrect: Neither of these four boys was present yesterday.
Correct: None of these four boys was present yesterday.
Reason: ‘Neither’ is used when we are talking of two persons. None is used when we talk of mere than two person.

13. Incorrect: This box is too much heavy for me.
Correct: This box is much too heavy for me.
Reason: ‘Too much’ is always followed by a noun e.g. too much money. ‘Much too’ is used to qualify an adjective e.g., much too hot.

14. Incorrect: If I were him, I wouldn’t do it.
Correct: If I were he, I wouldn’t do it.
Reason: The complement of the verb ‘to be’, when expressed by a pronoun, should be in the subjective case.

15. Incorrect: Between you and I, he is not dependable.
Correct: Between you and me, he is not dependable.
Reason: The object of a preposition, when it is a pronoun, should be in the objective case.

16. Incorrect: There were less than twenty boys in the class.
Correct: There were fewer than twenty boys in the class.
Reason: ‘Less’ refers to quantity only, whereas ‘fewer’ denotes number.

17. Incorrect: The two first chapters of the novel are missing.
Correct: The first two chapters of the novel are missing.
Reason: The two first is a meaningless expression; for it implies that two things may be first.

18. Incorrect: The boy was sent with a verbal message to the doctor.
Correct: The boy was sent with an oral message to the doctor.
Reason: ‘Verbal’ means ‘of or pertaining to words’. Oral means delivered by word of mouth, not written.’ Hence the opposite of written is oral i.e. not written.

19. Incorrect: Haseeb is our mutual friend.
Correct: Haseeb is our common friend.
Reason: ‘Mutual’ means (two or more person or groups) feeling the same emotion or doing the same thing to or for each other, e.g., mutual respect. It does not mean common.

20. Incorrect: What kind of a man are you?
Correct: What kind of man are you?
Reason: ‘A man’ refers to a particular person. In the given sentence ‘man’ has been used in a general sense. Hence ‘a’ should not be used.

Prof Muzaffar Bokhari (Retd)
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  #2  
Old Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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2. Mind Your Language (Correction of Errors)



1. Incorrect: No sooner he saw me, he ran away.
Correct: No sooner did he see me than he ran away.
Reason: No sooner is always followed by ‘did’ and ‘than’.

2. Incorrect: The committee comprises of five members.
Correct: The committee comprises five members.
Reason: The verb ‘comprise’ is not followed by a preposition in the active voice “Of” is used in the Passive Voice (The committee is comprised of five members).

3. Incorrect: I do not want to part from you.
Correct: I do not want to part with you.
Reason: ‘With’ is used to show separation.

4. Incorrect: I shall return after four days.
Correct: I shall return in four days.
Reason: When we mean ‘at the end of’ in future, we use ‘in’.

5. Incorrect: Talking is not allowed in the library.
Correct: Talking in the library is not allowed.
Reason: The subject of the verb “is not allowed” is not ‘talking’. It is talking in the library.


6. Incorrect: Smoking is injurious for health.
Correct: Smoking is in injurious to health.
Reason: Wrong use of the preposition.

7. Incorrect: Though old, he is hail and hearty.
Correct: Though old, he is hale and hearty.
Reason: Wrong spelling.

8. Incorrect: But not for you, I would have failed.
Correct: But for you, I would have failed.
Reason: When we mean ‘Had you not been there’, we say ‘But for you’.

9. Incorrect: It is a very repeated story.
Correct: It is a much repeated story.
Reason: When Past Participle (i.e. the third form of the verb) is used as an Adjective, it is preceded by ‘much’.

10. Incorrect: I have worked very hard all the month long.
Correct: I have worked very hard all the month over.
Reason: ‘All the month long’ is not idiomatic.

11. Incorrect: I don’t know why has he not come.
Correct: I don’t know why he has not come.
Reason: In the indirect form of speech, an interrogative sentence in changed into an affirmative sentence by using the helping verb (has) after the subject (he).

12. Incorrect: Such boys who have not done their home-work should stand up.
Correct: Such boys as have not done their home-work should stand up.
Reason: ‘Such’ is followed by ‘as’ not ‘who’.

13. Incorrect: I have met him last month.
Correct: I met him last month.
Reason: When definite time is given. We use the Past Indefinite Tense’ not Present Perfect.

14. Incorrect: This is not a house worth-living.
Correct: This is not a house worth living in.
Reason: The verb ‘live’ has to be followed by the preposition “in”.

15. Incorrect: One must keep one’s words.
Correct: One must keep one’s word.
Reason: The correct idiom is: ‘to keep one’s word’.


16. Incorrect: Although he is my friend yet I don’t trust him.
Correct: Although he is my friend, I don’t trust him.
Reason: ‘Although’ is not followed by “yet”.

17. Incorrect: This woman has five off-springs.
Correct: This woman has five off-spring.
Reason: ‘Off-spring’ in the plural form remains ‘off-spring’.

18. Incorrect: My head pains
Correct: My head aches.
Reason: ‘Pains’ in this sense is unidiomatic.



19. Incorrect: He is very keen to go abroad.
Correct: He is very keen on going abroad.
Reason: ‘Keen’ is always followed by preposition ‘or’ which, in turn, is followed by ‘ing’ form of the verb.

20. Incorrect: We have ordered for many books.
Correct: We have ordered many books.
Reason: No preposition is used after ‘order’.

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  #3  
Old Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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What Can We Get From Get?



1. GET ABOUT: to go to a lot of different places as part of your way of life.(same as get around) I can't get about as much as I used to.

2. GET ACROSS: to make people understand something.
He sometimes has trouble getting his meaning across in English.

3. GET AHEAD: to be more successful or progress more quickly than other people.
The best way to get ahead is through hard work.

4. GET ALONG: if people get along, they like each other and are friendly to each other.
• Ikram and his sister don't get along.
• I get along well with most of my colleagues.

5. GET AROUND: to go or travel to different places.
• At the age of 85, she still gets around quite well.
If news gets around, a lot of people hear it.
• It didn't take long for news to his resignation to get around.

6. GET AROUND SOMETHING: to find a way of dealing with a problem or avoiding it.
• There are ways of getting around the tax rules.
• You can't get around the fact that smoking kills.

7 GET ROUND TO: to do something after you have intended to do it for some time.
I meant to call you, but somehow I never got round to it.

8 GET AT: to manage to reach or touch something.
I keep the sweets up here where the children can't get at them.

9 GET AT SOMETHING: to discover the true facts about something.
This was an attempt to stop journalists getting at the truth.

10 GET AWAY: to escape from a person or place.
• A police officer grabbed him, but he got away.
• The dog got away from me in the park.

11 GET AWAY FROM: to stop having a particular idea or belief that is old fashioned or not helpful.
We want to get away from the idea that in a divorce one partner has to be blamed.
12 GET AWAY WITH: to manage to do something bad without being punished or criticised for it.
They repeatedly broken the law and got away with it.

13 GET BACK: to return to a place.
• It's late, I ought to get back.
• Dad always got back home in time for tea.

14 GET SOMETHING BACK: to make something return to the state or condition it was in before.
It won't take long for us get things back the way they were.

15 GET BACK AT: to do something to hurt or upset someone after he has hurt or upset you.
She was trying to get back at her for humiliating her.

16 GET BACK TO: to phone, write or speak to someone at a later time because you were busy or could not answer his question earlier.
Can you get back to me regarding this matter by the end of the day?

17 GET BEHIND: if you get behind with work or payments, you have not done as much work or made as many payments as you should have.
Don't get behind with your college dues.

18 GET BY: to have just enough of something such as money or knowledge so that you can do what you need to do.
• My arithmetic isn't very good but I get by.
• I couldn’t possibly get by on Rs. 15000 a month.

19 GET DOWN: to make someone feel sad or lose hope.
Doing the same thing every day can get you down.

20 GET DOWN TO: to start doing something seriously or with a lot of effort.
After lunch, we got down to discussing the issue of unemployment.

21 GET IN: to arrive at home or at work.
• You got in very late last night.
• He never gets in before 9:30.

22 GET INTO: to start enjoying something or become enthusiastic about it.
You feel shy when you start your speech, but then you get into it.

23 GET IN WITH: to begin to be involved with a particular person or group.
He used to be a loyal husband before he got in with his lady secretary.

24 GET OFF: used for telling someone to stop touching someone or something.
Get off – you are hurting my back.

25 GET SOMETHING OFF: to have a particular period of time as a holiday.
• I'll try to come, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get that week off.
• Do you get much time off at Eid?

26 GET ON: to continue doing something, especially with more effort or more quickly that before.
Can we please get on, because there are a lot of things still to discuss.

27 GET NO TO SOMETHING: to start talking about a subject.
Let us get on to the next item on our agenda.

28 GET ON WITH SOMETHING: to give your time to something and make progress with it.
The sooner we finish the speeches, the sooner we can get on with the celebration.

29 GET OUT: used for telling someone to leave.
Get out of my house.

30 GET OVER: to start to feel happy or well again after something bad has happened to you.
It can take weeks to get over an illness like that.

31 GET THROUGH: to manage to deal with a difficult solution or stay alive until it is over.
The refugees will need help to get through the winter.

32 GET TO: to annoy or upset someone.
After a while his teasing started to get to me.

33 GET TO DOING SOMETHING: to start doing something.
He got to thinking that it was all his fault.

34 GET TOGETHER: to meet in order to do something or to spend time together.
The whole family usually get together at Eid.

35 GET UP: to get out of bed after sleeping.
He never gets up before nine.

36 GET UP TO: to do something, especially you should not do.
The children get up to all sorts of mischief when I am not here.


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Old Thursday, August 16, 2012
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The use of preposition




Indeed, prepositions are the spice of a good writing and it is very difficult to master the art of using them. There are many nouns, adjectives, verbs and participles in English which take particular and appropriate prepositions after them. In a few instances more than one preposition may be admissible. Thus we can speak of a river as abounding in fish or with fish, or a person may be careless of, or careless about the consequences of his actions.

As a general rule, however, only one preposition can follow a particular word used in a particular sense. It is wrong to say, “I am ashamed for your conduct” or “in respect of these matters” instead of “in respect of these matters” though “I have a great respect for your opinion” is quite correct.
The same preposition should not be used with two words unless it is appropriate to each of them. Thus it is wrong to say “It is different and inferior to the other” because different and inferior require different prepositions. We should say: “It is different from and inferior to the other;” or better “It is different from the other and inferior to it”.

The use of inappropriate prepositions is a fertile source of errors with students. The following list is therefore given to enable them to learn the use of appropriate prepositions with words.





1. ACQUAINTED WITH: having knowledge of:
I am not in a position to give any decision since I am not acquainted with all the facts of the case.

2. ACQUIESCE IN: to agree silently, passively:
Do not just acquiesce in any proposal brought forward; accept it only if you find it reasonable.

3. APTITUDE FOR: talent for:
Do not undertake any assignment unless you have aptitude for it.

4. AVERSE TO: to have a dislike for:
I am averse to hypocrisy more than anything else.

5. ATONE FOR: to make amends for:
He atoned for his neglect of his parents.

6. BROOD OVER: to think constantly of:
It is no use brooding over past failures.

7. BANISH FROM: to expel:
He was banished from the kingdom for having plotted against the crown prince.

8. BESTOW ON: to give:
The Dada Sahib Phalke Award was bestowed on him for his contribution to the development of Hindi cinema.

9. BENEATH: in a lower position:
She married beneath her.

10. CELEBRATED FOR: famous for:
Amritsar is celebrated for its Golden Temple.

11. CLAMOUR FOR: to make a loud demand for:
The workers are clamouring for higher wages.

12. CONGENIAL TO: suitable to one’s disposition:
The atmosphere in this office is not congenial to me.

13. CONSISTENT WITH: in harmony with, in agreement with:
Such an action is not consistent with his character.

14. COMMENCE ON: to begin on:
Our examination will commence on next Monday.

15. COMMIT TO: to promise:
The government is committed to providing safe drinking water in every village.

16. COMMENSURATE WITH: proportionate to:

17. COMPATIBLE WITH: consistent with, in agreement with:
His actions are hardly compatible with the tall moral claims he makes.

18. CONDUCIVE TO: helpful in the production of:

19. CONFIDE IN: to share with a person one’s secrets:
One can confide in only one’s chosen and well-tried friends.

20. DESTINED TO: preordained for, marked beforehand for:
He felt that he was destined to lead the nation.

21. DEDUCE FROM: to draw a conclusion from:
No definite result can be deduced from these facts.

22. DISSUADE FROM: to advise to refrain from:
I dissuaded him from taking up the job of a clerk in a government office.

23. GRAPPLE WITH: to contend with; to fight with:
We should courageously grapple with the difficulties of life.

24. INDISPENSABLE TO: necessary for:
You might be a very suitable candidate for the job, but do not think that you are indispensable to me.

25. INDIGNANT WITH: angry with, at (something):
I was indignant with my friend at his refusal to lend me his books.

26. INFER FROM: deduce from:
Nothing definite can be inferred from the statements made by the witness.

27. IMMATERIAL TO: unimportant:
It is immaterial to me whether my work earns applause or censure.

28. INHERENT IN: abiding in:
Selfishness is inherent in man.

29. JEER AT: to laugh at:
The agitating workers jeered at the managing director when he came to talk to them.

30. OBLIVIOUS OF: without knowing about:
He went on driving the car oblivious of the danger that awaited him.

31. OVERWHELMED WITH: overpowered with:
He was overwhelmed with sorrow at his failure.

32. PREJUDICE AGAINST: some person or something:
A judge should not be prejudiced against the culprit from the beginning.

33. MARVEL AT: to wonder at:
I marvelled at the harmony of colours in his painting.

34. LAMENT FOR: expression of grief for:
The poem appears to be a lament for lost opportunities.

35. MENACE TO: threat to, danger to:
The smoke emitted by old vehicles is a great menace to public health.

36. SCOFF AT: to make fun of:
It is undesirable to scoff at other religions.

37. SUCCUMB TO: to give way to, to die:
The soldier succumbed to his injuries before he could be taken to the hospital.

38. STOOP TO: to bend to:
I never thought he would stoop to such meanness.

39. SURRENDER TO: to yield to:
A man of courage never surrenders to external pressures.

40. TRIFLE WITH: to be frivolous with, to make light of:
We should never trifle with the sentiments of others.

41. VERSED IN: experienced in, good at:
His wife is accomplished and well-versed in household affairs.

42. WANTING IN: deficient in:
You are wanting in firmness; that is why you are so often exploited.

43. VIE WITH: to compete with:
The hawkers vied with one another in making a loud noise.

44. YEARN FOR: to long for:
Man has always yearned for eternal happiness.

45. YIELD TO: to surrender to:
A man of spiritual strength will never yield to hardships.




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Old Thursday, August 16, 2012
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Words Taking more than one Preposition



A large number of words are always followed by a fixed preposition. Examples: insist on; prevent from; fond of. But certain words take several prepositions according to the changing meanings of the word.

Here is a select list of such words.


1. Accompany:
A. By (for living beings).
The Prime Minister was accompanied by the members of his cabinet.
B. With (things).
His lecture was accompanied with subtle analysis of concepts.
2. Accountable:
A. To (an authority or a person).
All of us are accountable to God.
B. For (action).
We are accountable to God for our deeds and misdeeds.
3. Angry:
A. At (a thing).
Bilal is angry at Arslan's bad conduct.
B. With (a person)
He is angry with my brother.
C. For (for a cause).
He is angry with me for my carelessness.
4. Annoyed:
A. With (a person).
He is annoyed with his younger brother
B. At (something).
He is annoyed with his friend at his laziness.
5. Answerable:
A. To (a person).
The servant is answerable to the master.
B. For (something).
We are answerable to our parents for our conduct.
6. Appeal:
A. To (person).
He appealed to the judge for his release from jail.
B. For (thing).
He appealed for his release from the prison.
7. Arrive:
A. At (some town or a small place).
He arrived at the railway station.
B. In (big city or place).
He arrived in Pakistan in 1947.
8. Attend:
A. To (duties, lessons, work).
I attend to my duties sincerely.
B. On (service).
There are two nurses to attend on this patient.
9. Authority:
A. On (subject).
Naseer is an authority on modern physics.
B. Over (legal or moral).
The District Magistrate has authority over the committee.
10. Blind:
A. Of (physically).
He is blind of one eye.
B. To (mentally).
Many parents are blind to the faults of their children.
11. Communicate:
A. With (to make correspondence).
He communicates with us regularly.
B. To (to convey).
He communicated his opinion to me.
12. Compare:
A. With (similar things).
Shakespeare is compared with Virgil.
B. To (dissimilar things).
Life is compared to a battle.
13. Compete:
A. With (person).
I cannot compete with this young man.
B. For (a thing).
They competed for a prize.
14. Complain:
A. To (person).
He complained to the Magistrate against Najam.
B. About (a thing or person).
He complained to the Magistrate about his conduct.
15. Confer:
A. On (to give).
The president conferred the title of Nishan-e-Pakistan on him.
B. With (a person).
I shall confer with him about important topics.
16. Die:
A. Of (a disease).
He died of cholera.
B. From (a cause).
He died from a fall.
17. Differ:
A. With (person).
I differ with you.
B. From (things).
These two cities differ from each other.
18. Disqualified:
A. From (action).
He was disqualified from taking the exam.
B. For (post or thing).
He was disqualified for the post of Police Inspector.
19. Entrust:
A. With (in case of person).
I cannot entrust him with my money.
B. To (in case of thing).
I cannot entrust my property to my uncle.
20. Familiar:
A. With (things, subjects).
I am not familiar with the culture of these people.
B. To (a person).
His face looks familiar to me.
21. Fight:
A. With (person).
We fought with the English.
B. For (thing).
We fought with the English for freedom.
22. Grateful:
A. To (person).
I am grateful to you.
B. For (thing).
I am grateful to Majeed for his help.
23. Heir:
A. Of (descendant).
A son is usually the heir of his father.
B. To (thing).
He was an heir to a big fortune.
24. Indebted:
A. To (someone or something).
I am deeply indebted to him for his help.
B. For (thing).
I am indebted to my friend for his support.
25. Indignant:
A. With (person).
He was indignant with his friends.
B. At (thing).
The teacher was indignant at his carelessness.
26. Live:
A. On (to exist).
A man lives on food.
B. By (to depend on, to believe in).
The people of this area live by hunting.
27. Part:
A. From (persons).
He is parted from his French wife.
B. With (things).
He cannot part with his money.
28. Responsible:
A. To (person).
He was responsible to the boss.
B. For (thing).
We are responsible to God for our actions.
29. Taste:
A. Of (experience).
Now you will have a taste of new work.
B. For (interest).
I have no taste for painting.
30. Tired:
A. Of (mentally).
I am tired of poverty.
B. With (physically).
I am tired with working for five hours continuously.

Prof Muzaffar Bokhari (Retd)
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Acquaintance with English words would make composition easy and impressive.


We should learn the words not as dead specimens in a dictionary, but as living units of thoughts and feeling in a book. This is undoubtedly the best method.



The question of vocabulary has tremendous importance for the students. If their stock of English words is not rich, they will be faced with insuperable difficulties at every step when they attempt to express themselves in English. An extensive acquaintance with English words would make composition easy, fluent, and impressive and even a pleasant exercise.

About vocabulary the student may well ask what to know and how to know? As for ‘what to know’ there are many words, big and solemn words which we may do well without. There are also many technical terms which we need not learn. A knowledge of the archaic words may help one to understand parts of Chaucer, Spenser or Shakespeare, but for ordinary purposes we need not worry about this. There is only one principle about our choice of vocabulary. We should learn the words which are in common use: words which are expressive and well-known not out of the way, nor technical. There are many words which do not have the sanction of traditional literary use, yet they are living and racy. We should try to learn them too. But we need not descend to slang. We should draw the line at that. A cigarette need not be a ‘gasper’ to us nor should a man become a ‘chapie’.

Then how to acquire a good vocabulary. Opinion in this respect would differ. There was a time when a school master would confidently recommend the study of an English dictionary as the best method. Those days are past. The study of words should not be such a dull and dead thing. That method would be the best, which would combine the maximum of profit with the maximum of pleasure. We should learn the words not as dead specimens in a dictionary, but as living units of thoughts and feeling in a book. This is undoubtedly the best method. Good and interesting books which have been written in English, should be intensively studied, and this is the only way of learning new words in the case of most of the students. We would recommend the study of good books written by the well-known masters of English. The student should read carefully, underlining the unfamiliar words and phrases. A good method is that of jotting down the freshly learnt words and phrases in one’s own writing. The students should make it a point to use the new words as frequently as they can. This will fix those words in their memory permanently.

But a large stock of words would not carry us far unless we know how to use them correctly. As Anatole France said, “The finest words in the world are only vain sounds, if you cannot comprehend them.” There are many men who use learned words because they love high sounding words, though they do not understand the meaning. We must not be led away from clear and direct expression by the attraction of big words. If we do so, the result will be disastrous. Bishop Horone does not exaggerate when he says, “Among the sources of those innumerable calamities which from age to age have overwhelmed mankind, the abuse of words may be reckoned as one of the principal.”
The correct use of words
The correct use of words is then the main thing. It will not come for the asking. As we have already said, we must get to know thoroughly the words we are going to use. We should watch them for they are worth watching ---- in the works of famous masters. We would form an intimate acquaintance with them by persistent efforts. Many of them are simple enough and are easily understood. But others will not yield their secret easily. Some acquire rare and fresh meanings in the writings of powerful authors. It would be our duty to know all these meanings of a word that we are going to use.


When and how to use a dictionary

The student is advised to use a dictionary. It should be an ELT (English language teaching) dictionary, e.g. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner’s Dictionary or Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. All these dictionaries are equally good. An ELT dictionary is the one which tells not only the meanings of words but also demonstrates the use of words by using them in sentences. The student should not consult the dictionary to look up words which he comes across for the first time. Following the reading method to learn a language, he should continue reading good and relevant material. In this process, he will come across absolutely new words. He should not become curious about the meanings of these words. He should look at those words carefully and proceed. At the same time, he will find words which are quite familiar. The student has a vague understanding of their sense without knowing their exact meanings. This is the time to look up those words in the dictionary. He is advised to write down on his notebook all the sentences written in the dictionary showing different uses of those words. He should revise these sentences from time to time. This is the most beneficial and natural method of increasing one’s vocabulary.

Prof Muzaffar Bokhari (Retd)
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Idioms-the ornaments of language



The importance of idioms cannot be over-emphasised. The students preparing for PMS/PCS/CSS exams are advised to master sufficient number of idioms. Idioms have been defined as the peculiar meanings of words and peculiar turns of expression which from long usage have become established in the English language. It is needless to add that every language has its idioms. Whereas the vocabulary of a language can be easily mastered, it is hard to master its idioms. A long acquaintance is needed for this the students should, therefore, revise the idioms regularly. Here we are giving some very important and expressive idioms for the benefit of students.



1. ANIMAL SPIRITS means natural buoyancy and vivacity of healthy youth. This young man is full of animal spirits.

2. ARMED NEUTRALITY. It is the neutrality of a nation which is ready to fight any of the two powers that are at war if there is a provocation. England has often been in a state of armed neutrality against the contending European powers.

3. BACKSTAIRS INFLUENCE means secret and improper influence. He was not qualified for the post, but he got it through backstairs influence.

4. ONE’S BETTER SELF is the higher part of one’s native which stands for conscience and judgment. My better self was all for my joining hands with the patriots.

5. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. It means indirect evidence. When a crime is committed, though there may not be any actual eye-witness, by putting together many indirect pieces of evidence, we may come to know who is guilty. These pieces of evidence are called circumstantial evidence.

6. A CLOSE SHAVE is colloquially used for a narrow miss or escape. The car brushed past me; it was a close shave indeed.



7. AN OILY TONGUE is a smooth flattering tongue. Beware of the oily tongue of your new friend; that man is dangerous.

8. AN OPEN MIND is a mind not yet made up about a particular thing. I am ready to listen to what you have to say about this matter for I have an open mind about it.

9. PLAIN SAILING means advancing smoothly without any obstacles or difficulties. After his departure, all was plain sailing in the meeting; no one stood up to oppose any resolution and it was carried unanimously.

10. A RED LETTER DAY is an auspicious fortunate day. In the old Greek calendars, the holy days or saints’ days were marked with red letters. Twenty-third of March is a red letter day in the history of Pakistan.

11. A SHOOTING PAIN is a quick sharp pain. I had a shooting pain in my leg-joint. The doctor said it was rheumatism.

12. A SIDE ISSUE is a question concerning the one at issue, but not directly concerning it. Communalism is only a side-issue; why give it such an importance?

13. POINT BLANK means direct. His point blank refusal was thought to be very tactless.

14. CASTING VOTE. The vote of the chairman of a meeting when there is a tie (i.e. when the votes for and against a question are equal) and which decides the matter, is known as casting vote. The Speaker’s casting vote went in favour of the government.



15. COLD COMFORT is comfort which pains or irritates rather than console. It is cold comfort to me to hear that many a man has lost his child like me.

16. THE IRON AGE is a bad age, when there is no fellow-feeling between men, when everyone cares for his own gains only. A hard, materialistic age. The people have become so selfish that one feels one is living in the iron age.

17. A KNOWING LOOK is a significant look suggesting the persons knowledge of the matter at issue. He gave me a knowing look and I kept quiet.

18. A LEADING QUESTION is one so put to a witness as to suggest to him the anser he should give. Counsels often put leading questions to the witnesses.

19. A LINE DAYS’ WONDER is an unexpected occurrence which creates a good deal of popular interest for a short time and is soon forgotten. The Japanese dancers were a nine days’ wonder in Lahore.

20. SMALL TALK means trivial conversation, gossip. They spent the whole afternoon in small talk in the drawing room.

21. A SWAN SONG. It was believed that the swan would sing sweetly before dying. A persons swan song is the last time that he does something for which he is famous, for example the last time that an actor gives a performance in the theatre. It was said that his speech that day would be his swan song.

22. A WILD GOOSE CHASE is a wild venture which has no clear goal or hope of success. He spent many years of his life to find gold in the Himalayas. It proved to be a wild goose chase.

23. HAMMER AND TONGS. It is a colloquial adverbial phrase meaning vigorously or violently. He set about it, hammer and tongs, and was rewarded with success.

24. A MOOT-POINT is a point or question still open to discussion. It is a moot-point whether the Indian civilization is older than the Chinese civilization or not.

25. THE POWERS THAT BE denotes those persons who are in authority. Generally the government of a country is referred to as the powers that be. It is now up to the powers that he to decide whether the elections should be postponed or not.

Prof Muzaffar Bokhari (Retd)
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Old Friday, August 17, 2012
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Phrasal Verbs



1. Account for: To explain.
He couldn't account for his behaviour.

2. Adhere to: To continue to behave according to a particular rule, agreement or belief.
It's important for staff to adhere strictly to rules.

3. Allude to: To refer in an indirect way.
The minister alluded to the problems of unemployment.

4. Apprise of: To tell or inform about something.
I write to apprise you of the latest situation.

5. Aspire to: To desire and work towards achieving something important.
Some people aspire to greatness; others have greatness thrust upon them.

6. Bank on: To depend on something happening to someone doing something.
We are all banking on good weather for the match.

7. Barge in: To rudely interrupt one's conversation or what one is doing.
The children keep barging in when I'm talking on the phone.

8. Bask in: To enjoy the feeling of sunshine on the body.
The seals were basking in the afternoon sun.

9. Block out: To stop light passing.
This heavy curtain is blocking out the light.

10. Blurt out: To say something suddenly and without thinking, usually because one is nervous or excited.
Naseer blurted out the news before we could stop him.

11. Bog down: To become too involved in thinking about or dealing with one particular thing.
Don't let yourself get bogged down in minor details.

12. Boil down to: To be the main point or cause.
What it boils down to is that no one is willing to take on that kind of responsibility.

13. Border on: To be very close to reaching on extreme feeling.
Her actions bordered on stupidity.

14. Bottle up: To deliberately not show a strong emotion.
It is far better to cry than to bottle up your feelings.

15. Bounce back: To feel better again after a lot of problems.
In spite of the difficulties we always managed to bounce back.

16. Brighten up: To become more cheerful.
She visibly brightened up at the mention of a holiday.

17. Build on or upon: To develop something further or use it as an advantage.
We must build on previous experience and not make the same mistakes again.

18. Build up: To make something increase gradually in size, strength or amount.
Money is urgently needed to help build up supply of medicines.

19. Butter up: To flatter or praise as a way of persuading someone to do something.
She thinks money will be no problem if she butters up her father a bit.

20. Carve out: To make or create something by one's own efforts, often in difficult circumstances.
After his retirement, he carved out a new career for himself as a journalist.


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Animals in the Service of Language

There are a large number of striking and expressive words and phrases in English derived from the names of animals. Below we have given a list of such words and phrases. Students should try to master these as they would constitute a valuable addition to their vocabulary.


1. Comparisons. In comparisons the names of animals often occur. Note the following:
As blind as a bat. As blind as a mole. As sly as a fox. As bold as a lion. As gay as a lark. As busy as a bee. As hungry as a wolf. As fas as a hare. As fat as a pig. As fierce as a tiger. As fleet as a deer. As gaudy as a butterfly. As gentle as a lamb. As graceful as a swan. As gruff as a bear. As harmless a dove. As hoarse as a raven. As mute as a fish. As patient as an ox. As playful as a butterfly. As poor as a church mouce. As proud as a peacock. As silly as a sheep. As slippery as an eel. As stupid as a donkey. As tender as a chicken. As tricky as a monkey. As ugly as a toad.

2. Idiomatic use of animal names
A bear is a bad-tempered person. A cat is a spiteful woman. A drone is an idler who lives on others. A goose is a silly person. A gull is a fool. A lamb is an innocent, harmless person. A monkey is one who always imitates. A phoenix is a person of unique excellence. A viper is a mischievous or malignant person. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is a dangerous person.

3. Verbs
Some animal names are often used as verbs in an idiomatic sense.
To ape = to imitate in a ridiculous or ineffective manner. To dog a person’s steps = to shadow him. To gawk = to stare at in a foolish manner. To gull = cheat. To monkey with = to meddle with, or to play mischievous tricks with. To play the rat (in politics) = to desert one’s party in difficulties as rats desert a doomed house or a ship. To wolf = to devour greedily.

4. Compound words

We have some compound words formed out of animal names and other words.
Crocodile-tears = hypocritical weeping. Dog-cheap = very cheap. Dog-third = very tired. Hose-play = boisterous play. Horse-laugh = loud, course laugh. Hen pecked = a husband who is domineered over by his wife. Ox-eye = large human eye. Pig-headed = stupid Pigeon – breast = deformed human chest.

5. Idiomatic phrases and proverbs

Many idiomatic phrases and proverbs contain animal names.
To work like a leaver. To drink like a fish. To puff like a grampus. To chatter like a magpic. To send away with a flea in one’s ear. To cry wolf. To nurse the adder in one’s bosom. As the crow flies. To make a bee line for. A bird’s eye view. A wild goose chase. Calf-love. The lion’s share. Nine lives of a cat. As honest as Cooper’s cow
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Let’s Play with Play



1- PLAY A TRICK
Someone has played a trick on him.
(i.e. deceived him or gave him a surprise.)

2- PLAY THE INNOCENT
The accused tried to play the innocent in the court.
(i.e. tried to pretend to be innocent.)

3- PLAY DEAF
I complained about his son but he played deaf.
(i.e. pretended not to hear anything.)

4- PLAY AT
What the hell is he playing at?
(i.e. shows anger because you think he is doing something stupid or wrong.)

5- PLAY A ROLE
The UN would play a major role in monitoring a ceasefire.
(i.e. UN would he involved in it and have an effect on it.)

6- PLAY BALL
The association has threatened to withdraw its support if the banks refuse to play ball
(i.e. if the banks are unwilling to do what they are required to do.)

7- PLAY ONE'S CARDS RIGHT
You can be the next captain of the team if you play your cards right.
(i.e. if you act skilfully and use the advantages that you have.)

8- PLAY FAIR
The government is not playing fair, said the opposition leader.
(i.e. not behaving in a responsible and honest way.)

9- PLAY SECOND FIDDLE TO
She did not want to play second fiddle to the secretary.
(i.e. did not want that her position be less important.)

10- PLAY WITH FIRE
Those who are agitating for higher wages are playing with fire.
(i.e. doing something dangerous.)

11- PLAY THE FOOL
They used to play the fool together calling each other silly names and giggling.
(i.e. they behaved in a playful, childish and polish way.)

12- PLAY TO THE GALLERY
I must tell you that in my opinion you are now playing to the gallery.
(i.e. trying to impress people.)

13- PLAY INTO SOMEONE'S HANDS
You are playing into the hands of your insincere friends.
(i.e. doing what they want you to do.)

14- PLAY HAVOC WITH
Our corrupt rulers have played havoc with democracy.
(i.e. have damaged it.)

15- PLAY HOST TO
The Prime Minister will play host to the French president.
(i.e. will act as host to him.)

16- PLAY SAFE
If you want to play safe, reduce the intake of salt.
(i.e. if you do not want to take any risk.)

17- PLAY FOR TIME
The president's decision is being seen as an attempt to play for time.
(i.e. he is trying to mark time.)

18- PLAY TRAUNT
He often plays truant from school.
(i.e. stays away from school without permission.)

19- PLAY THE SYSTEM
Accountants know how to play the tax system.
(i.e. can use the rules cleverly to gain advantages.)

20- PLAY FAST AND LOOSE WITH SOMETHING
Rulers play fast and loose with people's money.
(i.e. careless about what they do, not obeying the law.)

21- PLAY AROUND WITH
Will you stop playing around with the mobile phone?
(i.e. stop fiddling with it.)

22- PLAY ALONG
She felt she had to play along or risk losing her job.
(i.e. to pretend to agree to do what one wants in order to get an advantage.)

23- PLAY SOMETHING DOWN
The white house spokesman sought to play down the importance of the event.
(i.e. tried to lessen the importance of.)

24- PLAY OFF
The top two teams will play off at Sharja for the World Cup.
(i.e. play the last game in a sports competition.)

25- PLAY BACK
I played the tape back.
(i.e. listened to the sounds or watched the pictures after recording them.)



26- PLAY DOWN
Both America and Pakistan are playing the matter down.
(i.e. trying to make people believe that it is not particularly important.)

27- PLAY ON
They are playing on the fact that people don't like corrupt rulers.
(i.e. using the fact to gain an advantage)

28- PLAY OUT
The measures taken by the government were played out against a background of rising prices.
(i.e. the measures were taken in a way that seems to have been planned or thought about before.)

29- PLAY ONESELF OUT
The captain of our cricket team has played himself out.
(i.e. has become weak and no longer useful or important.)

30- PLAY UP
The media played up the prospectus for a settlement.
(i.e. emphasized it and tried to make people believe that it is important.)

31- PLAY UP TO
Politicians often play up to popular opinion.
(i.e. they behave very politely in order to get some advantage.)

32- PLAY ALONG WITH
I decided to play along with her idea.
(i.e. pretended that I agreed with her.)

33- PLAY DEAD
I decided it was safer to play dead.
(i.e. to pretend to be dead.)

34- PLAY OFF AGAINST
She played her two rivals off against each other and got the job herself.
(i.e. put them in competition with each other and got an advantage for herself .)

35-MAKE A PLAY FOR SOMETHING
She was making a play for the sales manager's job.
(i.e. trying to become sales manager.)

36-MAKE GREAT PLAY FOR SOMETHING
He made great play of the fact that his uncle was a minister.
(i.e. emphasized the importance of the particular fact.)

37- A PLAY ON WORDS
Humorists often play on words.
(i.e. make humorous use of words that can have two different meanings.)
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