English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

2 July, 2023

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.

Official / officious

‘Official’ means ‘approved of or done by someone in authority, especially the Government.’

The minister explained the official policy on education.

‘Official’ also means ‘relating to or done as part of an important job or position.’

The President is leaving for a two-day official tour of France.

‘Officialdom’ is the Government departments or the people who work in them, used especially when you think they are not helpful.

‘Officious’ means ‘too eager to tell people what to do – used to show disapproval.’

An officious bodyguard of the minister did not allow the journalist to ask questions.


‘OK’ is used to show that you agree with something or give permission for someone to do something.

A: Can I take the car today?

B: OK, if that’s what you prefer.

‘OK’ is also used to ask someone if they agree with you or will give you permission for you to do something.

I’ll return the book tomorrow. Is that OK?

‘OK’ is used to tell someone to stop arguing with you or criticising you.

OK, I made a mistake.

People usually ask ‘Are you OK?’

Does my suit look OK?

I’ll return the money, if that’s ok with you. However, people usually avoid ‘OK’ in writing and use formal words such as ‘acceptable’ or ‘satisfactory.’

Someone who is OK is nice or pleasant.

Old / olden

Something that is old has existed or been used for a long time.

I want to dispose of this old pair of shoes.

I am getting old.

People love to talk about their good old days.

‘An old hand’ has a lot of experience of something.

Bob is an old hand at this game. ‘An old head on young shoulder’ is a young person who seems to think and behave like an older person.

If you are from ‘the old school’ you are old fashioned and believing in old ideas and customs. ‘An old wives’ tale’ is a belief based on old ideas now considered to be untrue.

‘In the olden days’ means ‘a long time ago’

People did not travel so much in the olden days.

One another / each other

‘One another’ is the correct form to use when referring to more than two people.

They helped to perfect one another’s tactics. They often stay at one another’s houses.

‘Each other’ is the correct form to use when referring to two people.

The two young girls eyed each other suspiciously.


‘Ongoing’ meaning ‘continuing or continuing to develop’ is a colloquial term which seems to have originated in the United States. Today it has become a vogue word freely used in commercial circles.

The ongoing success of the company’s export effort is reflected in the annual report.


‘Only’ means ‘not more than a particular number.’

Lakshmi was only 16 when she went abroad.

The word ‘only’ is used to say that someone or something is not very important or serious.

Don’t get angry, it was only a joke. ‘Only’ is used to mean nothing or no one except a particular person or thing.

Only the President can solve the country’s economic problems.

You can use a phrase or clause beginning with ‘only’ first to emphasise it.

Only in Australia did I find a purpose in life. The position of the word ‘only’ in a sentence governs the entire meaning.

Only Jim was wearing a tie at the party. (Nobody else was)

He was only wearing a tie. (That’s all he was wearing!)

When you use the word ‘only’ see whether the meaning is absolutely clear and unambiguous.

On to / onto

‘On to’ or ‘onto’ is used to say that someone or something moves to a position on a surface, area or object.

We watched him walk onto the platform. Don’t jump onto a moving bus.

There has been some disagreement between those who prefer to write this as two words and those who believe that it should be one.

When it occurs as a separate adverb suggesting movement and as a preposition it must be regarded as two words, and written separately.