X Close


Thursday July 31, 2008

Meaning of ‘what’s up’


CAN ‘’what’s up’’ mean ‘’hello’’, “what are you doing?’’ or even ‘’how are you’’? What does it actually mean?

What does it mean when somebody says ‘’what’s up?’’ and somebody else answers ‘’nothing much’’?

Is this correct: “Me and my friends ...”

Ahmad Nafis

“What’s up?” has its origin in a well-known cartoon character, Bugs Bunny, whose trademark line is “What’s up, Doc?”.

“What’s up” is now used mainly by young people as an informal alternative to all the greetings you mentioned, i.e. ‘’Hello’’, ‘’What are you doing?’’, ‘’How are you?’’, as well as “What’s going on?”

To find out more about the origin of the phrase, see the following website:


“Nothing much” is a common answer to a question like “what’s up?” when it means that. It is similar to the Malay question and answer: “Buat apa?” “Tak de apa.” even if you are obviously busy doing something.

“Me and my friends” can be used informally, but in formal speech or writing, you should say/write “My friends and I” if the phrase is the subject of a sentence, and “my friends and me” if it is the object of a sentence. You could, for example, say the following to your class teacher:

“My friends and I would like your permission to leave the class for a while.”

“Please excuse my friends and me for being late this morning. Our school bus broke down.”

In formal English, you always put yourself last when referring to yourself and another person or other people. For example, we say “my sister, my brother and I/me”, “my parents and I/me”, etc.

No nobody's fool

1. I HEARD a song entitled Nobody’s Fool with a line that goes “I am not nobody’s fool”. I was wondering if “I am not nobody’s fool” = “I ain’t nobody’s fool”.

2. When am I supposed to use ‘’can’’ and ‘’could’’?

3. ‘’She is no fool’’, ‘’It was no easy matter’’. In these two sentences, why is “not” not used instead of “no”?

Jenny Yoong   1. Sometimes, in informal usage, a double negative like “I’m not nobody’s fool” intensifies the negative. So “I’m not nobody’s fool”= “I ain’t nobody’s fool” = “I’m certainly nobody’s fool”.

2. “Could” has several uses. It is the past tense form of “can” and is used, for instance, in reported speech, e.g. “The doctor said I was well and could go back to school the next day.”

But when used in the present tense, it can be used as a more polite word than “can” to ask permission to do something or make a request. Here are some examples of the use of “can” and “could” in the same situations:

“Can I borrow one of your novels, Molly?” (You would say this to a friend)

“Could I borrow one of your novels, please, Mrs Tan? (Said to someone older or someone you don’t know so well)

“Can you pass me the salt, please, John?” (A request to your brother, for example, at the dining table)

“Could you pass me the salt, please?” (An even more polite request to someone you don’t know so well)

There are other uses of “could”, but you’ll have to look these up in an advanced learner’s dictionary.

3. “She is no fool.” and ‘’It is was no easy matter.’’ sound more emphatic than “She is not a fool.” or “It was not an easy matter.”

“No” is used instead of “not a/an” to provide emphasis.

Nobody wants, do they?

1. WHICH of the following is correct:

a) On that morning, I saw Michael at the supermarket.

b) That morning, I saw Michael at the supermarket.

2. Is this sentence correct: “Nobody wants to do the work, do they?”  

3. When you have a friend who is waiting for you to go out together for dinner, and you want him to go first because you are going to catch up later, is it correct to say “Don’t leave on my account.”?

4. Which one is correct:

a) You have blown up your opportunity.

b) You have blown away your opportunity.

c) You have blown your opportu­nity.

5. Should we say “in noon” or “at noon”? What about “at midnight” and “in midnight”?

6. What is the correct verb to use when describing a horse that is standing on both its hind legs when it is frightened? – Isaac

  1. Both phrases are correct. Here are some examples of their use in the Internet:

On that morning her cortege left Kensington – her home since her marriage in 1981 and the place she had brought up her children, William and Harry.”


That morning I saw waves of our bombers come over and drop their bombs on the Germans.”


2. “Nobody wants to do the work, do they?” is a correct sentence. The question tag to use with nobody, no one, somebody and everybody in such a sentence is “do they?”

3. No. You should say “Don’t wait on my account.”

4. The correct expression is “c) You have blown your opportunity.”, meaning you have wasted your opportunity.

5. We say “at noon” and “at midnight”.

6. The verb is “to rear (up)”.


'There’ + ‘be’ verb

PLEASE check if the following sentence is grammatically correct: 

“There is a cathedral and a church.”

W.B. Wong


Yes, it is grammatically correct. When you begin a sentence with “There” + a “be” verb, followed by a list of nouns, the verb is singular if the first item in the list is a singular or uncountable noun.

So, “There is a cathedral and a church.” is correct. So is “There is some bread, and two apples in the refrigerator.”

But if you begin the list with a plural noun, the “be” verb, should be plural, e.g. “There are three churches and a cathedral in that city.”  

Write to: Mind Our English, The Star,
Level 3A, Menara Star,
15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: 03-7967 1317
Fax: 03-7955 4039
E-mail: english@thestar.com.my
Website: www.thestar.com.my/english


Most Viewed