Submitted by jillwu  •  November 13, 2004

Conditionals

Is it appropriate to say, “If it were possible for tides to cause earthquakes, scientific evidence would have been found long ago.” or is “If it had been possible for tides to cause earthquakes, scientific evidence would have been found long ago.” more appropriate?

Submitted by misterqueue  •  October 29, 2004

In or At and the nature of relativism

On my way to work every morning I happen to pass a particular billboard expounding the services of a mortgage maid (or whatever the technical term happens to be... loan officer possibly?) On this billboard is a sad attempt at wit wherein the LO has her son standing next to her profile wearing what is presumably his Karate uniform.

Above them both, a caption reads “‘My mom is a black belt at mortgage!’”

My contention, beyond the obvious missing s from mortgage, is that “in” should replace “at”, so that it instead reads, “My mom is a black belt in mortgages!”

I realize if we somehow verbed the word mortgage (and yes, I realize verb itself isn’t a verb), we could use at in a classically technical sense. Consider “I am proficient at mortgaging” as an example. However, the idea of the classification “black belt” makes this null and void as far as I see it. Since we’re speaking of a particular class within an imagined range of expertise at a subject, then “in” becomes the default modifier regardless of a verb or noun ending.

To put it more concisely, since “black belt” is a particular class of status to the relative noun, then there is really no way to use “at” as the correct preposition.

Do I get the black belt IN grammar or am I clearly far too obsessed with this particular imagined injustice to be a well-developed individual.

Thank you in advance,

-Q

Submitted by dominic  •  October 29, 2004

couple vs couple of

For example: “a couple of things” vs “a couple things”

I know “a couple of things” is grammatically correct, but I also often hear couple used without the “of”, and by educated people.

Now I’m confused. Isn’t “couple things” wrong?

Submitted by goossun  •  October 1, 2004

Mixing

What would you folk say to me if I-in a serious context-mix the two words, promoter and protector to make the word “promotector?” Would you still let me come over here? :-) Would it be better if I use a slash like “promo/tector” or just promotector will do? Or shall I just go get a life? How about “promo-protector?”

Submitted by ramalingamchelliah  •  September 29, 2004

Right Question For this Answer (about count/rank/order)

I would like to know the Question to ask for which we get a reply like...

“Manmohan Singh is the Fouteenth Prime Minister of India.”

I want the rank which Manmohan has.....

(Not a question like “Who is the Fourteenth Prime minister of India?”) I need Fourteen as the anser when inquired about Manmohan Singh.

I appreciate your help...

Submitted by bob  •  September 23, 2004

“Ten Items or Less (Fewer?)”

Alright, my pet peeve is the confusion behind the use of the words “less” and “fewer”.

My thought is “fewer” relates to units while “less” relates to a quality or state of being. Basically, “If you can count them, use the word ‘fewer’ and if you can’t, it’s ‘less’”.

“Fewer cars on the road results in less traffic. This means less stress which, in turn, will result in fewer headaches.”

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

But I constantly see in the print media and hear on the radio or TV people reporting, “...this will mean less jobs for workers ...”.

I recently saw a full-page ad for a Ford hybrid fuel/electric SUV which touted “...less trips to the gas pump” and (interestingly enough, in the same paragraph) “fewer repairs”. Hey! Elements of Style, anyone?

Now that my point of ire is established, the real question is that of my Subject line, the ubiquitous sign at the supermarket. Which is correct? Rather than tell what I’ve heard, I’ll just let this go on the table for all to consider.

Submitted by marta  •  August 31, 2004

you ‘had better not’ read it...

Why does ‘not’ in ‘you’d better not go there’ stands separately after ‘had better’ phrase but forms ‘hadn’t’ in the question:’Hadn’t you better go now?’ I see no logic here...

Submitted by jeudi  •  August 22, 2004

A Somewhat Intricate Sentence

I wrote:

“And up back to his room upstairs would go little bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic, as handy as it might come considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother’s lessons on “accords grammaticaux” , “concordance des temps” and other neatly logical delicacies.”

It’s been suggested that I should write:

“And up back up to his room upstairs would go the the little bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic, as handy as it might come considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother’s lessons on “accords grammaticaux” , “concordance des temps” and other neatly logical delicacies.”

To which I object:

1) Don’t people sometimes talk like that:

“And up [rising intonation, short pause] back to his room [falling intonation]”

or is that an utter impossibility in english, whether written or spoken?

2) “the little bastard”

It’s possible to say: “back to his room would go little Pete” or “little Tom”, right?

Now, the story here is about a boy who’s not the son of his father, and he is the only one who doesn’t know it. And when the family members interact with him, they’re always affraid to let the big secret slip, an when they look at him, they don’t see little Pete or little Tom, but a big problem. That’s why here “bastard” is used like a personal name, because “little bastard” is the name that’s in their mind when they think about him (they actually love him very much). Is that possible? Should I uppercase “Little Bastard”?

I wonder too wether the clause between “wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic,” and ” did exactly fit ” is too long, and the reader loses track of the subject when he gets to the verb, or is it flowing smoothly enough?

Submitted by jenniferlee  •  August 11, 2004

An unit

Trying this query on Google to no avail, I was asked today whether it’s correct to say “a unit” or “an unit”. The rules of grammar I was taught at school (in England) would suggest the latter; yet the former seems, somehow, more right. Pages on Google use both freely, sometimes using both in the same document. So - which is correct?

Submitted by vindibul  •  August 4, 2004

Usage of “envy”

I have seen this construction of “envy” used before and it seems wrong to me. Examples:

“I also don’t envy you the probable consequences of this.”

“I do not envy David the frustration he’ll experience.”

These seem completely wrong to me, but were written by a very grammatically-correct person. I am therefore confused. Are the above constructions right or wrong? If they are correct, what makes them correct?

Submitted by pierre  •  July 22, 2004

My dad is work at home.

My friend sent me a message saying, “My dad is work at home.” I said that it should be “My dad is working at home” or “My dad works at home”

My friend said what he wrote was correct. He said “work at home” is an incoherent phrase. because many people do their work at home.

Is “My dad is work at home” correct?

Submitted by hsoward  •  June 24, 2004

The Use of “Endeavored”

Is “Endeavored” used correctly in the following: We endeavored on Fulton county warrant #123456 charging Jane Doe with Stalking.

Submitted by jeff  •  June 21, 2004

Would vs. Used To

What is the difference between says “I would” and “I used to” when talking about past habits. Someone suggested to me the difference is that “I used to” expresses an event that had regularly occured while “I would” expresses something that happened only occasionaly. However, this does not seem to be true in all cases. The particular sentence I was confused about is this:

When she was young, she would sing at the church. When she was young, she used to sing at the church.

In either case the frequency which she sang at the church is not specified. So what is the difference?

Submitted by bigtop  •  June 19, 2004

Exclusive plural

I’m having a very hard time figuring out how to ask which seasons a character is missing from in a television show. I started like this:

“Which seasons is he not in?” but that sounded wrong, so I tried “Which seasons are he not in?” but that also sounds wrong.

I’m having a hard time with this one for some reason.

Submitted by katherine  •  June 14, 2004

He is lost, unlike me, who knows exactly where I’m going.

This is obviously wrong, but I can’t figure out how to fix it without rewording the whole thing. Can anyone help?

Submitted by elizabeth  •  May 16, 2004

‘A while’ vs. ‘awhile’

I’ve always used ‘a while’, but I’ve heard that ‘awhile’ is also correct. What is the difference between the two? Or are they interchangable?

Submitted by jonasgalvez  •  May 16, 2004

Is “much” plural?

Which is correct?: “So much have been written” or “So much has been written”

I think the latter is the correct one.

Submitted by alicia  •  April 26, 2004

10 Head of Cattle

Why would you say “10 head of cattle” instead of “10 heads of cattle”? Don’t give me: “That’s the way cowboys say it.” I want a real reason. Isn’t it “10 heads of lettuce”, anyway?

Submitted by goossun  •  April 14, 2004

Term

What do you in grammar terminology call a word that is not compound?

Submitted by Dyske  •  March 16, 2004

Identical

“The essence of this book and that book was identical.”

“The essences of this book and that book were identical.”

If they were identical, they are one and the same, so I feel that the first is correct.

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