Redundant words in English – time to cut them out.

Posted on 22. Jul, 2014 by in English Language

Redundant words are words that are extra, not needed, and/or repetitive. Sometimes people use redundant words to emphasize a point or to try and make what they are saying seem stronger or clearer, but usually redundant words do exactly the opposite. Redundant words often make a person look like they don’t know what they are saying, because they are simply saying the same thing twice.

Take a look at this infographic from about redundant words and intensifiers.


Image from

In this infographic a few common redundancies are highlighted:
anonymous stranger
true fact
ATM machine (ATM = automated teller machine)
PIN number (PIN = personal identification number)

But there are many other redundant word combinations in English that people use regularly. Take a look at the list below of common redundant word combinations in English. Try to avoid using these redundancies.

absolutely essential – both of these words mean the same thing, they mean ‘necessary’
advance preview – both of these words mean ‘ahead of something else’
advance warning – the word ‘warning’ implies receiving information beforehand so you don’t have to say ‘advanced’ too
best ever – the word ‘best’ is  superlative and implies something is better than all others
brief summary – summaries are, by nature, ‘small’ or ‘brief’
cease and desist – these words are synonyms and mean the same thing so both are not needed
closed fist – a fist is when a person’s hand and fingers are bent in toward the palm and held there tightly so a fist is by nature closed
disappear from sight – to disappear means to no longer be visible or to be out of sight
exact same – these words are synonyms
fall down – to fall implies downward movement; you can’t fall up :)
foreign imports – to import means to bring something from an outside place, which, by nature, means that the thing imported is ‘foreign’
frozen ice – ice is always frozen – that is what makes it ice!
HIV virus – the V in HIV stands for ‘virus’
join together – to join means to bring things together; you can’t join apart, you always have to join together, so there is no need to say ‘together’
kneel down – kneeling is to bend the legs in order to sit on the knees, you can’t kneel up
may possibly – these words both mean the same thing and imply ‘a lack of definite action or decision’
past history – there is no such thing as future history, all history is past, so there is no need to say ‘past’
re-elect for another term – the ‘re’ in re-election is similar to the word ‘again’, it implies that a person is serving a second term
sum total – these words both mean ‘the whole amount’ of something
wall mural – murals are by nature art that is painted on walls, so you don’t have to include that information when talking about a mural, it is understood

Here are some practice sentences for you with some redundancies from above and some news ones. See if you can find the redundant words and eliminate them. Remember removing the redundant word is a good thing, it won’t change the meaning of the sentence, and it will actually make the sentence better!

Check your answers below.

1. We need to join together the pieces in order to sew them.
2. Please sit down.
3. It is absolutely essential that you turn the report in by 5pm.
4. I met a man today who has the exact same name as I have.
5. I may possibly be able to attend the party, but I don’t know yet.
6. We need to look ahead to the future for the solutions to our problems.

Answers – these are the redundant words:
1. together; 2.down; 3. absolutely; 4. exact or same; 5. may or possible; 6. ahead.

When to use capital letters in English.

Posted on 17. Jul, 2014 by in English Grammar

Take a look at these rules for capitalizing words in English from


Image from

You’ll see here that for most of the rules that are presented, there are also exceptions or additions to the rules. It is good to know not only these general rules, but also how to use them in context, i.e. the exceptions and additions.

Below I have listed some more rules for when to properly use capital letters in English.  I know that learning all these rules may seem like a lot at first, but over time, following most of them will become second nature to you and you’ll only need reminders about a few of these rules. See if today you can memorize one new rule for when to use capital letters in English that you didn’t know before.

Review of the rules from the graphic above:
•    Capitalize proper nouns.
•    Capitalize acronyms or abbreviations of proper nouns.
•    Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.
•    Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name.
•    Capitalize names of geographic areas when they refer to specific regions.
•    Capitalizes days, months and holiday names, but don’t capitalize season names.

Additional capitalization rules:

Capitalize the first word of a sentence.
Example: The dog lives outside.

Capitalize words derived from proper nouns.
Example: Next semester I have to take English, math, and science.
 (The word ‘English’ is capitalized because it comes from the proper noun ‘England,’ but math and science are not capitalized because they don’t come from proper nouns).

Capitalize the names of specific courses in school.
Example: Next semester I have to take Advanced English, Algebra I, and a biology class.

Capitalize a person’s title when it follows their name on an address or a signature line.
John Baker, President & CEO

 Ms. Gabriele, Blogger

Capitalize the first word of a salutation or greeting that is made in writing and the first word of the closing or signature line.
ear Ms. Mohamed:
y dearest mother:
ery truly yours,

Capitalize title words when they are used to directly address a person.
 Will you tell me what is wrong with me, Doctor?
(But don’t capitalize doctor in: The doctor told me what is wrong.)

Capitalize at least the first and last words of a book title and most other words within a title. Do not capitalize little words in book titles such as: a, an, the, but, as, if, and, or, nor, but always capitalize forms of the verb ‘to be’: Is, Are, and Be in book titles.
What Color Is Your Parachute?
A Tale of Two Cities

There are signs everywhere in English!

Posted on 15. Jul, 2014 by in Culture, English Vocabulary


There is song in English with a chorus that goes like this:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
, Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, 
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

This song is very fitting because today’s post is about signs in English, signs that you will see on the road while driving or when walking down a street. Many of these signs are self explanatory, because the symbols or pictures used are obvious, to get a message across to everyone, even if they can’t read. However, let’s take a closer look at the signs in the picture below, so you can fully understand what they mean in case you come across one of them in America.

Image from for print and play.


Starting with the top row, on the left side, we have a:
stop sign – When you see this sign you will have to come to a complete stop in your car or bike before you continue moving forward.
yield sign – This sign indicates that you need to slow down, but you may not have to come to a full stop.
crosswalk – This is a sign that indicates people have the right of way to cross the street, so cars have to stop when they see a person waiting next to one of these signs.
turning – This sign indicates that the road is turning ahead, so be careful.
hill – This sign indicates you are about to approach a hill.
Pitch it! – If you are looking for the nearest garbage or trash can, keep an eye out for this sign, it will often indicate a public garbage can is nearby.

Second row:
speed limit – When driving in the United States you will have to watch out for speed limit signs as the speed limit changes frequently depending on where you are driving; the number on this sign indicates the maximum miles per hour you can drive in that area.
do not enter – This sign indicates you are not allowed to enter a road at that point. dead end – This means that a road is ending and there will be no other roads ahead to turn on.
Buckle up! – There are often signs on roads in the United States reminding people that wearing seat belts is mandatory (seat belts laws differ depending on what state you are in, but all US states have seatbelt laws).
construction – This sign indicates there is construction happening in the area and that you should slow down and be careful.
one way – This sign indicates which direction traffic is flowing when cars are only allowed to drive in one direction.

Third row:
no u-turns – This sign indicates that u-turns are not allowed at the intersection where the sign is posted.
deer – If you see this sign you need to watch out for wildlife.
be alert for bears – This is another sign that is used to indicate to drivers (and pedestrians) that they should be alert for wildlife in the area.
playground – This is the sign used to alert drivers that there is a playground nearby, so it is a good idea to slow down and watch for children.
parking – The letter P is often used to stand in for the word ‘parking’ on signs where parking is allowed or prohibited.
hurricane evacuation route – This sign indicates what direction to drive in case of an emergency; similar signs may say ‘snow emergency route’ or ‘emergency evacuation route.’

Now, remember that song I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Well, here is your chance to hear it and also see some of the signs discussed above as well as some other funny/silly signs, which are real. The lyrics to this whole song by the Five Man Electric Band, are below too. Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.” 
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why.
 He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do.”
 So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,
 Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.
 Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight.
 So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, “Hey! What gives you
the right?”
 “To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”
 “If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner.”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, 
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.
 Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read? 
You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat. 
You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat
. You ain’t supposed to be here.
 The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside
. Ugh!

And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray.”
 But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a 
penny to pay.
 So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign 
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, 
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind 
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Sign, 
Sign, sign.