Posted by: Michael | July 19, 2009

“To Send” and “To Take”

In Bahasa Melayu, you might say:

Saya akan menghantar surat ke nenek saya.

This means “I will send a letter to my grandmother”.

However, the verb (meng)hantar is also used in the following way:

Bolehkah awak menghantar kanak-kanak ke sekolah hari ini?

The same Malay verb is used in both sentences, however, it cannot be translated the same way in the second sentence.

The second sentence correctly translated into English is:

“Can you take the children to school today?”

But hang on a minute! Isn’t ambil the Malay word for “to take”? Not in this context.

While Malay may use one word for both meanings, in English, there are two separate words (“To send” and “To take”), and the correct one must be used in the correct place.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “send” as: “cause to go or be taken to a destination.” Wiktionary defines it at “To make something (such as an object or message) go from one place to another.”

The use of “cause” and “make” in these definitions show that you are simply starting the movement of the object in its direction to its final destination. They show that you are not going with the object or the message. When you send a letter, you don’t get into the mailbox and go with it (unless you’re Mr. Bean!). So therefore, if you are driving your children to school in your car, you cannot say that you are “sending” them to school (since you are going with them). You are “taking” them to school.

However, you can say “I’ll send the kids to school in a taxi”, because that means that by calling the taxi and telling the driver the destination, you are making your children go from one place to another. You are causing them to be taken to a destination. You yourself are not taking them, so it is okay to use the word “send” in this sense.

An easy way to determine if the word “send” is correct:

Are you going with the person?

Yes – You cannot use “send”
No – You may be able to use “send”.

This is a very common mistake made by Malaysians, but it’s wrong. It is simply a literal translation of the verb (meng)hantar without understanding that each of the ways it is used has a different translation in English.

Posted by: Michael | July 18, 2009

“Photostat Machine”


Has anyone ever seen one of these before?

I don’t think so, unless you’re interested in old office equipment.

This is a Photostat Machine – the predecessor to the modern photocopier, which is found in offices all over the world.

The large part on the right at the top is a camera – a very old camera (this photostat machine dates from 1918 and cameras were much different back then). The camera was used to take a picture of the document, which was developed the same way a normal photograph was at the time. This took about two minutes. The image that was produced was a negative image, meaning that light was dark and dark was light. The negative image was then photostatted with the same procedure, and this produced a positive image.

Since the invention of the modern photocopier in the late 1940’s, the photostat machine has vanished from offices, superceded by the superior photocopier, which can produce a page in seconds, not the 5 or so minutes it took to make a photostatted image.

However, for some reason as yet unknown to me, Malaysians mistakenly refer to a modern photocopier as a “Photostat Machine”. This is wrong. The proper name for the machine is a photocopy machine or photocopier. I don’t even know if there ever were any photostat machines in Malaysia – type in “old photostat machine Malaysia” and all you get are pages about photocopiers.

The Malaysian use of the term “photostat machine” is a misnomer – a word or term that is widely used in a wrong way.

Let’s call the machine by its proper name, shall we?

Posted by: Michael | July 18, 2009


Hi! My name is Michael and I’m an English teacher living and teaching in Malaysia. I was born in New Zealand and grew up there, so I’m a native speaker of English and I’d like to help other people to speak it properly, too.

I started this blog to draw attention to many of the common errors that Malaysians (and possibly others) make when speaking English. I hope I can be of some help to you!

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