English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

18 June, 2023

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.
As an adjective, ‘nice’ means ‘pleasant, attractive or enjoyable.’
They live in a nice house.
You look nice in that sari.
‘Nice’ also means ‘friendly, kind or polite.’ Sam is a nice guy.
It was nice of you to help me.
‘Nice to know’ is a spoken phrase.
It’s nice to know what’s happening. ‘Nice-looking’ means ‘attractive.’ Ben is a nice-looking young man.
‘Nice’ has become one of the overused words. Therefore, as a term of approval it is best avoided.
Nom de plume / nom de guerre
These French words can be translated into English as ‘pen name’ used by a writer who wishes to remain anonymous. The plural is ‘noms de plume.’
‘Nom de guerre’ is a name that somebody uses instead of their real name, especially someone who is fighting in a war.
The word ‘none’ means ‘not any amount of something or not of a group of people or things.’
I waited for a reply, but none came. Even an old book is better than none.
When you use ‘none of’ before a plural noun or pronoun, you can use a plural or singular verb after it.
You should use a singular verb in formal writing.
None of us cares what happens to him.
‘Nonsense’ means ‘ideas, opinions or statements that are not true or that seem very stupid.’
A: Nobody cares about me.
B: That’s absolute nonsense, Mary!
‘Nonsense poetry’ is humorous because it does not have a sensible meaning.
Non sequitur
‘Non sequitur’ is a statement which does not seem to be connected in a reasonable or sensible way with what was said before.
Sandra is a beautiful girl, so she is going to be a film star.
The second statement (she is going to be a film star) is not necessarily a consequence of the first.
Nostalgia / homesickness
‘Nostalgia’ is a feeling that a time in the past was good or the activity of remembering a good time in the past and wishing that things had not changed.
Amy looked back on her university days with a certain amount of nostalgia.
The meaning of ‘homesickness’ is confined to the longing and desire for home, family and friends.
Notable / noted
‘Notable’ means ‘important, interesting, exciting or unusual enough to be noticed or mentioned.’ All the countries signed the treaty, with one notable exception – the United States.
‘Noted’ means ‘well known or famous, especially because of some special quality or ability.’
William Faulkner is a noted author.
Not only … but also
‘Not only’ should be followed by ‘but also.’
Aparna is interested not only in her present career but also in her future prospects.
Notorious / famous
‘Notorious’ means ‘widely and publicly known for unfavourable reasons.’
A notorious computer hacker has been arrested.
‘Famous’ means ‘celebrated or well-known for favourable reasons. The Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark in France.
France is famous for its wine.
Numbers and fractions should be expressed in words, not in figures, unless they are long or complicated. ‘Thirty thousand’ may be written out but it is preferable to write 30,556 in figures. A sentence should never begin with a figure. This should always be spelt out. However, a newspaper headline can begin with a number in figures.
600 refugees missing in boat tragedy
O / oh
‘O’ is the spoken zero.
My phone number is five o four double two (50422)
‘O’ is used in praying to God or when speaking to someone in authority.
O Lord, spare my son’s life!
‘Oh’ is used when you want to get someone’s attention.
Oh look, I think that’s Sam over there.
‘Oh’ is used when you are giving an answer to a question.
A: Have you met my sister?
B: Oh yes, I know her quite well.
‘Oh’ is used to show that you are very happy, angry or disappointed.
Oh no! I’ve left my keys at home!
‘Oh’ is used to show that you are surprised.
A: They have left for Australia.
B: Oh, I didn’t know that!