September 17, 2015  •  Anna Zumwalt

If anyone else were...

Dear Sirs, I read your post on “I was/ I were”.  I found it very helpful, resuscitating memories of English classes. I’m still not sure if I should use “was” or “were” in this sentence, below.  “And if anyone else were to peek, they would see the bear cubs looking fast asleep, dreaming of all the things they loved.” The “anyone else” might be peeking and might not be peeking. We don’t know. “were” sounds better to my ear, but my MS Word has it underlined in green. Who is correct? Me or the machine?

August 9, 2015  •  Hope Mclaughlin

waiting on

Is it really correct to say such  a thing as, “We are waiting on your mother,” when referring to the anticipation of the arrival of someone’s mother?  It would seem to me that it would be more appropriate, if not more comfortable (at least for the lady), to “wait for your mother.” One can wait on the corner, and one can wait on a table (if that is his profession), but does one really want to wait on his dinner?  It seems to me that the preposition “from”  has been replaced by “on” when used in conjunction with the word “wait.” It makes me cringe! Lately, I’ve heard it so often, I must look like a victim of St. Vitus Dance!

August 7, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

How does one debate a person?

I noticed in reports of the recent GOP debate a number of instances where the phrase “Person A debated Person B.” was used rather than “Person A debated with Person B.” Is this common in USA?

July 31, 2015  •  Robert Hermann

“escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”?

Is it escaped prison or escaped from prison?

July 29, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

Why do we have “formal” English?

Is this not just perpetuating the English caste system?  Why are words like “a lot of”, ” a bit of”, “get” considered lower-class words and “a great deal/number of” and similar cumbersome periphrases considered “better” ?

July 29, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

When is the “-wise” suffix okay?

For instance: “We need to do everything we can prevention-wise.” Other similar words: taxwise, money-wise, property-wise, food-wise I realise there has been resistance to indiscriminate usage; the question is really about what constitutes “indiscriminate”? Secondly, why the prejudice against what is a productive and concise suffix, when the alternative phrases are cumbersome and pretentious.

July 22, 2015  •  steve3

have a knowledge of

How do we justify “a” with a non-count noun such as “ have a knowledge of Latin...” ?

July 22, 2015  •  Benedict

Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian

Can anyone tell me why the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian is pronounced differently?  I’m English/British and I and from England/Britain. Surely it should either be Can-a-da & Can-a-dian or Can-ay-da & Can-ay-dian... My guess is it has something to do with the French influence, but I would love to know for sure. Here in the UK our language has been heavily influenced over the years, including by the French and it has always interested where these things start or change.

July 21, 2015  •  Leonid Kutuzov

English can do perfectly well without “Tenses”

In my opinion,  the greatest pain in the English language is the so-called Tenses. Generation after generation, grammarians and linguists have been trying to use the term for describing how English Verb System works writing more and more wise books on the subject, without any visible results. Millions of ESL/EFL learners find Tenses to be hopelessly tangled, confusing and totally incomprehensible. So do a great number of ESL/EFL teachers. And it is no wonder, because describing English grammar as having only past and present is like trying to describe a car as having three wheels.  I think  that English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” because it is a meaningless and therefore useless term.

July 15, 2015  •  Hairy Scot

Unusual use of “infringed”?

From my local medical centre’s web page:- “The carpark at xxxxxx Health & Wellness Centre is now limited to 180 minutes. Cars parked longer than this and not displaying an exemption permit will be infringed with a $65 parking fine. This is intended to keep the carpark free for patients and customers of the building only. Unauthorised parkers leaving their vehicles in our carpark all day will be infringed.”

July 3, 2015  •  jayles the unwoven

“I’ve lived many years in Kentucky.”

“I’ve lived many years in Kentucky.” How comfortable are you with this grammar in writing? Would you prefer “I’ve lived in Kentucky for many years” ? Is this just an Americanism? How widespread is this pattern?

June 11, 2015  •  Skeeter Lewis

The 1900s

A change that has happened in my lifetime is the use of ‘1800s’, ‘1900s’ and so on. When I was young they referred to the first decade of the century. They would be followed by the ‘1910s’, ‘1920s’ et al. Now they’re used to mean the whole century. I’m not whinging - just noting the changes that happen with the years.

May 28, 2015  •  Anne Daarbech

“In the long term”

A colleague of mine claimed that you can say “In the long term” instead of “In the long run”. Is that correct?

April 28, 2015  •  Pamela

Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence?

Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence? A college will provide help for students who are struggling in homework; the resources are: study skills that help students to be on top of coursework, counselors will give advices dealing with the workload, and the option to drop a class early.

April 13, 2015  •  Dudefulla

Keep from catching it

Does this “The flu is going around. In order to keep from catching it, you should gargle and wash your hands regularly” Make sense? I’ve never heard. “In order to keep from catching it.” used in a sentence before.

April 4, 2015  •  Manetfan

Is “painstaking” pronounced the same in Britain as here, as “pain-staking”?

I was in empty space in an elevator one day when it occurred to me that it’s actually “pains-taking”, the taking of pains to do something thoroughly. I’d never thought about it before. But it’s too hard to pronounce “painz-taking”, because the “z” sound must be voiced; whereas the unvoiced “s” combines easily with the “t” to make “-staking”, so that’s what we say. That’s my theory, but BrE might be different. Is it?

March 29, 2015  •  Jennifer Sidwell

How important is it to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in writing these days?

For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.” As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

March 11, 2015  •  Anton Ivanov

being used

Could you please explain the difference in the following sentences? 1. The instruments used are very reliable. 2. The instruments being used are very reliable. Are participle 2 “used” and passive participle 1 “being used” interchangeable in this context?

March 7, 2015  •  Warsaw Will

Opposition to “pretty”

I seem to be pretty fond of the adverb ‘pretty’ used as a modifier, so was rather surprised when one of my young Polish students told me that his teacher at school had said that this use was ‘OK with his mates’ (his words), but inappropriate in the classroom. Looking around I see that this is not an isolated objection, although people didn’t seem to complain about it much before 1900. Why has this word, much used by eighteenth and nineteenth century writers, writers of prescriptive grammar included, attracted this opposition in more recent times?

February 23, 2015  •  dwishiren

Why do sports teams take a definite article?

The New York Yankees The Utah Jazz The Orlando Magic

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Recently Discussed

If anyone else were...  —October 4, 2015, 11:06pm

Pronunciation: aunt  —September 28, 2015, 10:14am

“all but” - I hate that expression!  —September 25, 2015, 2:41pm

Why do we have “formal” English?   —September 24, 2015, 2:17pm

waiting on  —September 24, 2015, 2:07pm

“This Wednesday” vs. “Next Wednesday”  —September 24, 2015, 1:59pm

“escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”?   —September 24, 2015, 1:53pm

How does one debate a person?  —September 24, 2015, 1:48pm

The 1900s  —September 24, 2015, 9:23am

“This is she” vs. “This is her”  —September 24, 2015, 9:20am