BAD: One man is able to destroy the whole world.
GOOD: One man is capable of destroying the whole world.
If someone is able to do something, they can do it and it is not unusual or surprising if they do it: 'The doctor said that after a few days I'd be able to get out of bed.' 'Will you be able to play on Saturday?'
If someone is capable of (doing) something, they do not usually do it, but it is possible for them to do it if they want to: 'I'm sure he's quite capable of getting here on time, but he can't be bothered.' 'The power station is capable of generating enough electricity for the whole region.'
BAD: There are so many places to visit in London that I'm not able to decide where to go.
GOOD: There are so many places to visit in London that I can't decide where to go.
BAD: We weren't able to stop laughing.
GOOD: We couldn't stop laughing.
See also COULD 1 (↑could)
BAD: In some countries you are not able to drink until you are 21.
GOOD: In some countries you can't drink until you are 21.
For actions that are controlled by laws or rules, use can, can't, etc, or be (not) allowed to : 'Now that they are both sixteen, they can get married.' 'The goalkeeper can touch the ball, but nobody else can.'
BAD: Technology has made them able to grow their own food.
GOOD: Technology has enabled them to grow their own food.
enable = make someone able to do something: 'This scheme is designed to enable young people to find work.'
BAD: I'm waiting a letter from my boyfriend.
GOOD: I'm expecting a letter from my boyfriend.
BAD: Anyway, I'll wait for you next weekend.
GOOD: Anyway, I'll expect you next weekend.
wait = stay somewhere until someone or something comes: 'I'll wait here until you get back.' 'It's quicker to walk than wait for a bus.'
expect = believe that someone or something is going to come: 'The train is expected to arrive in the next five minutes.' 'I can't leave the house - I'm expecting visitors.'
BAD: I stopped and waited the truck to pass.
GOOD: I stopped and waited for the truck to pass.
BAD: I'll wait you outside.
GOOD: I'll wait for you outside.
wait for sb/sth : 'I'll wait for you outside the post office.' 'What can I do while I'm waiting for the paint to dry?'
BAD: I'm waiting to see the photographs with great impatience.
GOOD: I can't wait to see the photographs.
In informal styles, to show that you are really looking forward to something, use I (just) can't wait or I can hardly wait : 'I can't wait to see you again.' 'I can hardly wait for the holidays to begin.'
BAD: It was twenty past four o'clock when the train arrived.
GOOD: It was twenty past four when the train arrived.
BAD: They finished their dinner at about 7.30 o'clock.
GOOD: They finished their dinner at about 7.30.
Do not use o'clock for times that include minutes or parts of an hour. Compare: 'It's four o'clock.' 'It's ten past four.'
BAD: By seven o'clock p.m. the child had been found.
GOOD: By seven p.m. the child had been found.
GOOD: By seven o'clock (in the evening) the child had been found.
Use EITHER o'clock OR a.m./p.m. (NOT both).
BAD: I start work at 9.00 o'clock.
GOOD: I start work at 9 o'clock.
Do not use o'clock after 6.00, 7.00 etc. Compare: '8 a.m.', '8.00', '8.00 a.m.', '8 o'clock'.
BAD: The cost of life is very high in London.
GOOD: The cost of living is very high in London.
BAD: During a recession, some people find it difficult to make a life.
GOOD: During a recession, some people find it difficult to make a living.
Phrases connected with the idea of money end with living (NOT life ): 'Salaries have not kept up with increases in the cost of living.' 'It's difficult to earn/make a living as an actress.' 'Acting is fun, but I wouldn't want to do it for a living.'
BAD: Television has taught me a lot about the American life.
GOOD: Television has taught me a lot about the American way of life.
DUBIOUS: This busy type of life allows us no time to sit down and relax.
GOOD: This busy lifestyle allows us no time to sit down and relax.
way of life = the way that a society, group or person chooses to live: 'I found the British way of life very strange at first.' 'The computer has transformed our whole way of life.'
lifestyle = way of life, especially that of a particular person: 'As a photographer, she has a very hectic lifestyle.'
BAD: The life in the countryside is quiet and relaxed.
GOOD: Life in the countryside is quiet and relaxed.
BAD: He didn't enjoy the life in the army at all.
GOOD: He didn't enjoy life in the army at all.
When life means 'the way of life that is connected with a particular type of situation, group or occupation', it is usually used without the : 'I found city life too stressful.' 'Life in New York is full of excitement.' 'What do you think of married life?'
BAD: He was the most attractive man that I had met in my life.
GOOD: He was the most attractive man that I had ever met.
When a superlative ('most attractive') is followed by a relative clause, use that ... ever ... (NOT that ... in my/her etc life) : 'It was the best holiday we'd ever had.' 'This is the worst film I've ever seen.'
BAD: It was one of the happiest days in my life.
GOOD: It was one of the happiest days of my life.
superlative ('happiest') + noun + of your life (NOT in ): 'She refers to her childhood as the most carefree time of her life.'
Compare: 'One of the most important things in life is good health.'
BAD: On Saturday nights there is usually life music at the club.
GOOD: On Saturday nights there is usually live music at the club.
live = heard or seen while it is actually being played or performed: 'Tonight's live concert comes from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.'
BAD: Switzerland produces goods with a very high quality.
GOOD: Switzerland produces goods of a very high quality.
of (a) high/low/poor quality (NOT with ): 'Japanese electrical products tend to be of much higher quality.'
BAD: If I would live in the countryside, I would be much healthier.
GOOD: If I lived in the countryside, I would be much healthier.
When you are talking about the present or the future and you imagine something that is untrue or unlikely, use the past tense ('lived') in the if clause (NOT would ): 'If I knew her address, I'd send her a postcard.' 'If I won a lot of money, I'd buy a new car.'
BAD: If you would have caught the earlier train, we could have travelled together.
GOOD: If you had caught the earlier train, we could have travelled together.
When you are talking about the past and you imagine something that is impossible, use the past perfect tense ('had caught') in the if clause (NOT would have ): 'If he hadn't got on the plane, he would still be alive.'
BAD: If you would have any more questions, I'll do my best to answer them.
GOOD: If you should have any more questions, I'll do my best to answer them.
When you are talking about the present or the future and you imagine something that is possible but unlikely, use if ... should (NOT if ... would ): 'If anyone should need me, I'll be back in half an hour.'
BAD: I turned on the radio but there was no noise.
GOOD: I turned on the radio but there was no sound.
BAD: He was woken up by the noise of broken glass.
GOOD: He was woken up by the sound of broken glass.
noise = (1) loud unpleasant sounds heard as a single mass: 'The noise of the traffic gave me a headache.' 'People were making such a lot of noise that I couldn't hear what she was saying.' (2) a sound that is unpleasant and/or without meaning: 'The radio suddenly started making a funny noise.' 'What was that noise?'
sound = something that is heard or received by the ear, especially something that you recognize or can give a meaning to: 'I've always loved the sound of a classical guitar.' 'I could hear the sound of someone crying in the next room.'
BAD: I was woken up by a big noise outside the room.
GOOD: I was woken up by a loud noise outside the room.
loud noise (NOT big ): 'Habitual exposure to loud noises can damage the ear.'
BAD: The restaurant was full and there was a loud noise.
GOOD: The restaurant was full and there was a lot of noise.
BAD: You can talk as long as you don't make a loud noise.
GOOD: You can talk as long as you don't make a lot of noise.
A loud noise (countable) describes what you hear when, for example, somebody slams a door or drops a plate. To refer to continuous noise made during an activity, use noise as an uncountable noun: 'They don't know the difference between music and noise.'
BAD: Our English teacher is called Mr John.
GOOD: Our English teacher is called Mr (John) Smith.
Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms (+ first name) + surname: 'Mrs Waters', 'Mr Clive Upton'
BAD: Dear Mr,
GOOD: Dear Sir,
BAD: Dear Mr/Mrs,
GOOD: Dear Sir/Madam,
When you are writing a formal letter and you know the surname of the addressee, begin Dear Mr Smith, Dear Mrs Jones, Dear Ms Simpson etc. When you do not know the person's surname, begin Dear Sir, Dear Madam or Dear Sir/Madam .
BAD: Dear Mr Alan Jones,
GOOD: Dear Mr Jones,
Dear is followed by Mr/Mrs/Ms + surname only (NOT first name + surname): 'Dear Mrs Jackson'
BAD: The accident happened at ten years ago.
GOOD: The accident happened ten years ago.
BAD: I came to England in two years ago.
GOOD: I came to England two years ago.
BAD: He went to Sydney before five years ago.
GOOD: He went to Sydney five years ago.
BAD: I started learning English since two years ago.
GOOD: I started learning English two years ago.
BAD: I'm writing in reply to your letter that I've received two days ago.
GOOD: I'm writing in reply to your letter that I received two days ago.
With references to past time such as yesterday, last week, a year ago , use a past tense (NOT the present perfect): 'I came to England exactly six months ago.' (NOT 'have come')
BAD: The train left at exactly 3 o'clock. Just five minutes ago I had been stuck in a traffic jam.
GOOD: The train left at exactly 3 o'clock. Just five minutes before I had been stuck in a traffic jam.
See note at BEFORE 1 (↑before)
BAD: I wonder if you would be so kind to send me further details and an application form.
GOOD: I wonder if you would be so kind as to send me further details and an application form.
be kind enough to do sth : 'Would you be kind enough to forward the enclosed documents to Mr Tomkin's new address?'
be so kind as to do sth : 'I wonder if you'd be so kind as to inform your colleagues of the new arrangements.'
BAD: All the people he met were very kind with him.
GOOD: All the people he met were very kind to him.
kind to a person or animal (NOT with ): 'She's always been kind to people less fortunate than herself.'
BAD: There are many kind of job for people with qualifications.
GOOD: There are many kinds of job for people with qualifications.
GOOD: I enjoy all kind of sport.
GOOD: I enjoy all kinds of sport.
Kind, sort and type are countable nouns. After many, all, these and other plural meanings, use kinds/sorts/types (WITH-s ): 'These kinds of fruit do not grow in cold climates.'
BAD: Imprisonment is not a good way of reducing this kind of crimes.
GOOD: Imprisonment is not a good way of reducing this kind of crime.
GOOD: Imprisonment is not a good way of reducing these kinds of crime/s.
kind/sort/type of + singular form: 'this kind of envelope'
kinds/sorts/types of + singular or plural form: 'these kinds of envelope/s'
Note that after kinds/sorts/types of a plural form can sometimes sound awkward and careful users generally prefer a singular form.
BAD: Going swimming is more preferable to playing football.
GOOD: Going swimming is preferable to playing football.
Do not use more with an adjective which contains the sense 'more' as part of its meaning. Preferable means 'better or more suitable': 'As far as I'm concerned, anything would be preferable to spending another night here.'
BAD: For most teenagers, living in the countryside is preferable than living in a city.
GOOD: For most teenagers, living in the countryside is preferable to living in a city.
One thing is preferable to another thing (NOT than ): 'An old computer is preferable to no computer at all.'
BAD: I was just about to enter the station when someone grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me to the floor.
GOOD: I was just about to enter the station when someone grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me to the ground.
FLOOR · GROUND · GROUNDS · LAND · TERRITORY · SOIL
The floor is the surface that you walk on when you are indoors: ‘Our cat likes to sit on the floor under my desk.’ ‘It’s about time someone cleaned the kitchen floor.’
The ground is the surface that you walk on when you are outdoors: ‘The ground was covered with snow.’ ‘In the middle of the forest was a bare patch of marshy ground.’
Grounds refers to the area surrounding and belonging to a school, hospital, hotel, stately home, etc, usually enclosed by a wall or fence: ‘Parking within the hospital grounds is strictly prohibited.’
Land refers to (1) an area of ground that is owned or used by someone, or that is controlled by a particular country: ‘All the land from here to the stream belongs to the Pattersons.’‘Disagreements about land have led to many wars.’
(2) (also the land ) the part of the Earth’s surface that is not covered by water: ‘After three days at sea, I was looking forward to being on land again.’
Territory is the area that is controlled by a particular country, army or power: ‘One of the results of losing the war was that the country had to give up almost half its territory.’ ‘They had wandered by mistake into enemy territory.’
Soil is the material in which plants and trees grow: ‘This plant needs rich soil to grow well.’
BAD: The fire started at the seventh floor.
GOOD: The fire started on the seventh floor.
BAD: Room 229 was in the second floor.
GOOD: Room 229 was on the second floor.
on the ground/first/second etc floor (NOT in/at ): 'The canteen is downstairs, on the ground floor.'
BAD: We all tried to convince her to sing.
GOOD: We all tried to persuade her to sing.
convince = make someone feel completely certain that something is true: 'Somehow the party will have to convince the voters that it is capable of governing the country.' 'She failed to convince the jury of her innocence.'
persuade = make someone agree to do something (or believe that something is true): 'Her parents have persuaded her to stop seeing him.' 'Despite our efforts to persuade them, they still haven't signed the contract.'
BAD: It's not worthy taking your own car.
GOOD: It's not worth taking your own car.
BAD: The cathedral is certainly worthy to be visited.
GOOD: The cathedral is certainly worth visiting.
it's worth doing sth; sth is worth doing (NOT worthy ): 'Do you think it's worth having the engine tuned?' 'The letter isn't worth worrying about.'
BAD: We were surprised by their peculiar behaviours.
GOOD: We were surprised by their peculiar behaviour.
BAD: Such a behaviour can easily cause offence.
GOOD: Such behaviour can easily cause offence.
Behaviour is an uncountable noun.
BAD: Sometimes Juan has a very strange behaviour.
GOOD: Sometimes Juan behaves very strangely.
GOOD: Sometimes Juan's behaviour is very strange.
BAD: There are very few people having such a behaviour.
GOOD: Very few people behave in such a way.
Instead of using have + behaviour , use behaviour + be or use the verb behave + adverb: 'His behaviour is atrocious.' 'He behaves atrociously.'