Another week

I promised to start a diary last week. Since then I have not written anything in the diary. Today I am sitting in the same room at my computer. I am looking out at the same sailing boats in the harbour. Today the sky is grey.

Three of our grandchildren came over to stay last night. It was Saturday night. We had a fine time. My oldest granddaughter played piano. All three children drew pictures. We read stories. We had a nice dinner Saturday night and a nice breakfast Sunday morning. We laughed and had a good time.

Soon my oldest son from London will phone. We will have a conversation via the Internet. We will use a web cam so we can see each other. I have two grandchildren in London. That makes five grandchildren in all.

I am writing an article on how to write better English. This will be put in our library at The Linguist. This will keep me busy today. I have highlighted some trigger words here. If these are saved in The Linguist that should create a lot of example sentences. Look at the trigger words and see the phrases that they trigger.

Written and spoken contexts

In trying to copy from the Writing correction area of The Linguist web site I ran into problems with HTML text. The result looks a little messy. I am sorry. However, this text is interesting in that it deals with the issue of grammar based learning as opposed to context based learning.

Context based learning means reading and listening to interesting input and studying meaningful words and phrases, regularly writing and reviewing one’s writing, and speaking. This will lead to better results than studying grammar, defining parts of speech, trying to remember rules, deliberately preparing for standardized tests etc.??

Writing can be particularly useful since it forces the learner to think and to review what he or she has expressed in the new language. Until the learner is quite fluent, the written and spoken language should be as similar as possible. Only at a later stage should they diverge, with the written language becoming more sophisticated and the spoken language becoming more casual. That has been my experience.

Context and learning

The following message was received at The Linguist from one of our Newsletter subscribers. I am taking the liberty of reproducing it here both in the original form and after correction in The Linguist system. I also attach my comments.

I agree with you that for learning a foering languageForget your grammar rules. You will not remember them in time to use them, or you will remember them incorrectly, or you will not even understand them in the first place. Instead you should practice writing. Note your mistakes and then become more observant when you read. When you have had enough exposure to the language, and enough practice writing, your grammar will naturally start to be correct. Then you will also speak better and with more confidence. Then you will be less nervous when speaking to a foreigner, you will enjoy it more and you will just continue to improve.

By and from

Prepositions cause a lot of trouble for learners. Only a lot of exposure to prepositions in different situations will give learners the feel for which one to use. Sometimes different contexts give different answers. An example is the following question asked by Tamaki on The Linguist Forum.

Tamaki asked on Mar 3:

My question this time is the preposition which comes after “is given”.

I believe there is a slight difference between below two sentences.

a) I was given this book by my parents.
b) I was given this book from my parents.

I think (a) sentence sounds a bit more focused on WHO gave it to you, but I’m not so sure about this.
Is there any difference, or does either of them sound odd to you?


Posts: 6
From: Vancouver
Registered: Oct 19, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 4, 2005 12:06 AM

Thank you Steve!
I searched for the sentences including “given from” on Google and here are some examples I’ve got.
(Yes, the number of hit is quite small compared to the “given by” sentences.)
Could you please clarify the idea when to use “given from”?
(Some of the sentences might not have beem written by a native English speaker, though.)

– Once again the wood was given from government reources.
– A short report was given from the World Show Committee.
– The organ was given from memorial funds in memory of Peg Reid.
– The greatest gift I’ve ever known is the love that was given from one unknown.
– What is fundamental in all of this is the support Ben was given from his school.


Posts: 59
Registered: Sep 24, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 4, 2005 7:58 AM


I would recommend that you use “given by” in all situations.

“Given from” seems to be used when the giver is not what one might call an agent or a possible agent. From your examples

– Once again the wood was given from government resources

We would probably use “given by government” but “from government resources” because resources can not act, while government can. Someone else gave and took from the resources.

A short report was given from the World Show Committee.

This should by “given by” unless a report was given by someone who took the report from the Committee or representend them so that the Committee is not the agent,

– The organ was given from memorial funds in memory of Peg Reid.

Again the agent or giver was not the funds, someone gave and took from the funds.

– The greatest gift I’ve ever known is the love that was given from one unknown.

I think this should be “by”.

– What is fundamental in all of this is the support Ben
was given from his school.

I would have said “by” or “received from his school.”

I guess when the meaning places more emphasis on the one receiving rather the one acting, there might be a tendency to use “given from”. I would avoid it.


Posts: 59
Registered: Sep 24, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 3, 2005 6:31 PM

Given by. I cannot think of a sentence with given from. You can try it on Google or in The Linguist. “I hear from my parents”, “I received from my parents”, “I was told by my parents”.

Trigger words

I want to try out this idea of trigger words as a key to learning a language. To learn a language, like English for example, you have to master the phrases. You have to be able to use phrases correctly. You have to use phrases almost instinctively.??

Why do you need phrases? Because with ready made natural phrases your language will become idiomatically correct, accurate, logical (logical according to the logic of the language), consistent and clear. Those are exactly the things you want to achieve when writing and speaking the language.

So how does one master the phrases? You have to notice them when you read and listen. How do you do that? Trigger words are key.

I have written this text quickly before going to bed. (Tonight was?? my wife’s birthday so I took her out to dinner. We came home and had the birthday cake that I bought at a French pastry shop. I had a glass of Glenlivet Scotch in a brandy snifter and snuck away to the computer to make an entry in my blog).

Having written the blog I will now go back and bold all trigger words. If learners read this text and see the bold trigger words, they should try to pick out the phrases that are triggered by these trigger words. If they are members of The Linguist they should import this text into The Linguist and then save those trigger words that they want to understand better. They should then look at the example sentences that are created in Words I am Learning. They should observe all the phrases they find in these sentences.

You cannot just read a list of phrases because you will not remember them. You have to learn to notice phrases when you read and listen to the language. You have to notice them in different contexts. You have to try to use them. Once you have used them and feel comfortable with them, then they become reliable tools that you can use in expressing yourself in another language.

Maybe this idea will not work but it is something that I want to try out. Remember the trigger words are there to trigger your awareness of phrases. If they are saved when reading texts in The Linguist they will trigger lots of example sentences. The logic of the language is learned by seeing the words work in context. Learners make many of their mistakes with easy words that they understand but cannot use properly.

For advanced learners of English

I posted this on the Linguist Forum. This may be of interest to advanced learners.

For advanced learners it is very important to use the imported content function to bring in advanced reading in areas of interest. One very useful site in this regard, especially for students, is the following.

Here you will find very high quality summaries of university courses on different subjects.

Tell the forum if you found this useful. Please recommend other good sites for importing content into The Linguist.

The imported content will interact with your Linguist word and phrase databases just like our own content. Stay with one subject for a while to really learn the technical terms and phrasing for that discipline.


Easy English Diary Feb 28

I will try to write a little bit in this diary every few days. After many days of sunshine the rain has returned to Vancouver. This February was the sunniest February in history. This was good for people in Vancouver. It was not good for skiers and people who run ski hills. Lots of sun means very little rain in the town and therefore, very little snow in the mountains.

Sunday I finally took down the Christmas lights, or at least some of them. Over Christmas we like to hang bright lights on the outside of the house and on some trees. Since Chinese New Year was in early February, that was a good excuse not to take them down. There are many Chinese people in Vancouver and they sometimes hang lights outside for their New Year. My wife’s father was Chinese and she grew up in Chinese culture so we celebrate Chinese New Year as well.

Anyway, there was no more excuse so I took them down on Sunday.

There it is. A short entry in my diary. This time I have highlighted the phrases. The next time I will highlight the “trigger” words only.