Monday, January 30

Do you know “LOOK FORWARD TO”?

First of all, “look forward to” is not the same as “look for.”

These two expressions are completely different.

As you know, “look for” means “to search.” For example,

1.       I am looking for a pair of jeans.

2.       We looked for an apartment.

3.       They should start looking for a job.

On the other hand, “look forward to” means to feel excited about something. For example,

1.       I am looking forward to my birthday/ Christmas

2.       We are looking forward to the concert.

3.       She always looks forward to breakfast.

As you can learn from our examples, “look forward to” is used this way:

Look forward to + Something

-          Or  -

Look forward to + Noun

This is why, contrary to popular belief, the following examples are wrong:

1.       I look forward to join you. X

2.       He is looking forward to come here. X

3.       Are you looking forward to see her? X

Why? Why are these examples wrong?

Well, because the word “To” inside “look forward to” is actually not an Infinitive. Instead, “To” is a Preposition in this case.

So, like I said, you have to use “look forward to” this way:

Look forward to + Noun

Or, with a Verb, you have to do it this way:

Look forward to + V+ing

The style “Look forward to + Base Verb” is simply wrong.

Finally, the correct way for the examples above are:

1.       I look forward to joining you. (=Ok)

2.       He is looking forward to coming here. (=Ok)

3.       Are you looking forward to seeing her? (=Ok)

I know that “look forward to + Base Verb” sounds natural and it’s very easy to use. That’s why many non-native speakers are tempted to use it this way. Especially at the moment of speaking.

But this is a common example of bad English.

So, the next time you have a job interview, you should say: “I look forward to working for this company.” And, if you have an online friend, you should say: “I look forward to meeting you in person.


Friday, January 27


image courtesy of stock.xchng 

Our topic for today is a poem called “Invictus.” The title is a Latin word which means “Undefeated.”

This poem was written in 1875 by British poet William Ernest Henley.

He was immortalized especially by this single poem.

William Ernest Henley grew up poor. And when he was 17 years old, he had been suffering from tuberculosis to the bone. It had affected his foot and the doctors said they’d have to cut off his leg right below the knee, to save his life.

It was a very painful operation. While recovering in the hospital, Henley wrote the words of his famous poem “Invictus.”

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

These words describe a frightening world that’s covered in complete darkness (“from pole to pole”) – like a kind of Hell or Underworld. “Whatever gods” suggests a lack or lessening of faith in divine guidance. But you can still feel that the speaker of the poem is slowly coming out of the darkness that he describes.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

In this part, the abstract concepts i.e. “circumstance” and “chance” come alive and directly oppress the speaker. For instance, "bludgeonings" means blows or strikes, with a stick or club. Yet the speaker remains unbroken.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

Here, all the words “wrath,” “tears,” “Horror” and “menace” bring suffering to the speaker. Death is also mentioned here as “the Horror of the shade.” And yet, the speaker remains incredibly brave.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

This last part has allusions to the Christian faith - “strait gate,” “punishments,” “scroll,” etc. So the speaker is talking about all the trials assigned to him by God. But in the end, the speaker triumphs. Because of his strong, inspiring words:

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

A lot of people thank William Ernest Henley for creating a great piece of poetry like “Invictus.” In fact, a lot of people through time have drawn strength and faith from his words.

One of the many people who have used the power in Henley’s words is Nelson Mandela.

image courtesy of stock.xchng 

Nelson Mandela is the first black President of the then new democratic government of South Africa. He is also a Nobel Peace Prize awardee.

Mandela was affectionately known by the people by the name “Madiba,” which loosely translates to “Father of the Nation.”

But before Mandela became President, he was imprisoned in Robben Island prison because he protested against apartheid. “Apartheid” means separation. The laws in South Africa from the 1950s until early 1990s favored white supremacy and oppressed the non-white communities.

Nelson Mandela was kept in Robben Island prison together with real criminals for 27 years. He stayed in a tiny cell of 5 square meters. He had to do hard labor in a quarry at day, then sleep on a thin straw mat on the stone floor at night.

For 27 years.

Through all that time, Mandela found strength from the words of William Ernest Henley in his poem “Invictus.”

Here is a video of the Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman reenacting Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment:

When he finally became President, Nelson Mandela was a wise and benevolent leader. He brought peace and reconciliation to his divided nation. He was a shining beacon of light to all the leaders the world over. Most of all, he didn’t bear any hatred against the people responsible for his imprisonment.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article <a href="">"Invictus"</a>, which is released under the <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0</a>.

Thursday, January 26

Prefer and Would Rather: Are They the Same?

Before we start with our topic, let’s try to answer this short exercise:

Question: What is the meaning of the contraction “ ’d ” ?

1.  You’d better go.

2.  She’d rather die.

3.  I’d seen it.

4.  I’d call her.





And the answers are… Ta-daaaa! 

1.  Had better

2.  Would rather

3.  Had seen

4.  Would call

Note: The combinations “Would better” and “Had rather” are wrong and impossible in English. Only “Had better” and “Would rather” are correct.

Now, let’s move on to our topic for today…


In everyday life, we often have to express our opinion and compare two things or two choices. 

And as you might know, the two most common expressions we use in these situations are: “prefer” and “would rather.”

Now, the question is: Are they just the same?

  • First, about their structure (or how to make sentences):


1.  Prefer Noun to Noun

2.  Prefer V+ing to V+ing

3.  Prefer to V rather than base

On the other hand...

Would rather

   1.   Would rather base than base

        Would rather to V  X

        Would rather Noun  X

  • Now, about their meaning:

If you think they are the same, I’m sorry to tell you that they are not.

Prefer” is not the same as “Would rather” because “Prefer” has a general meaning while “Would rather” has a specific meaning.

If you don’t know the difference between “specific” and “general,” you can have a review of Click: Like and Would Like: The Very Wide Gap

This topic also talks about specific and general.


Is it important to remember that “Prefer” has a general meaning while “Would rather” has a specific meaning?


For example, imagine this situation:

You are in a Chinese restaurant with your friend…

Friend: So, what would you like to eat?

You: Hmm. I’d rather have dumplings. ü

You: Hmm. I prefer dumplings. X

Note: You can also say " I'd prefer..." 

-      But –

Your friend: What’s your favorite food?

You: I prefer Italian. ü

You: I’d rather have Italian. X


As you can see, “prefer” is actually similar to “like.” They're both used to talk about your taste, your style, your favorite -- not right now but in general.

On the other hand, “would rather” is similar to “would like.” They're both used to express what we want right now or at an exact point in the future.

This is why “prefer” and “would rather” aren't the same.

If you really want to make them the same, like what I mentioned earlier, you should say: “would prefer.”

In short,

Prefer Would rather

Would prefer = Would rather


Finally, please be careful about the second and last structure of “Would rather” :

Would Rather

1.  Would rather base than base

2.  Would rather S + V (past) 

In this case, the Verb is in the past and it looks like the action is already finished, but it’s not.

For example,

I’d rather she went home.= now, not past )

I’d rather he didn’t buy that shirt.= now, not past 

If you'd like to listen to a discussion of the same topic, please go to your Cool Elf podcasts on iTunes to get the audio file. 

If you don't have iTunes, you can also download the audio file here: 

Keep on learning !

Any Questions?

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