October 31, 2012  •  Magician Bob

“who she was” vs. “what she was”

I have a question to ask of you. A professor of English Usage said the next expression is incorrect: (a) She is not what she was ten years ago. He insisted that this sentence should be corrected like: (b) She is not who she was ten years ago. In my opinion, both sentences are correct but there is some difference between them: (a) implies that she changed her habit or attitude, or lost her physical strength etc., but (b) implies that she became ill and lost her physical ability etc. Do you agree with my opinion? I examined the following examples: who he was (1) ‘I believe he was a massive influence on the pitch when we played against them. He was United’s football brain, he was highly motivated and he was a quality player. At 34 he is not what he was in central midfield aged 28. But he is still a top Premier League player and a loss for United.’ — The Independent (London, England), November 19, 2005 (2) Mr Wolff added: “Murdoch is an 80-year-old man. He obviously is not what he was five years ago. He is in the midst of an enormous legal situation and lawyers have taken over. He is under an emotional strain as great as any in his life. This is incredibly painful for him.” — The Evening Standard (London, England), February 17, 2012 what he was (1) All this is understandable. Arenas is returning from an interminable rehabilitation process. He is not who he was. And getting back to who he was will not be easy on him or his teammates, not when he has the ball in his hands so much of the time. — The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 23, 2009  (2) Parkinson’s disease has kidnapped my wife. It is in the process of killing her. I hug and kiss what is left of her, hang photographs of the old, strong Milly throughout the house, and talk to her. We hold hands. We make love. But she is not who she was. She cannot walk, and now she can barely speak. She is being carried into an abyss, and I am helpless to rescue her. — Morton Kondracke, Saving Milly: Love, Politics, and Parkinson’s Disease (2001) p. xix I am looking forward to your comment on this!!!

October 27, 2012  •  Skeeter Lewis

Medicine or Medication?

When I first heard the lyrics, “Wake up to reality, use your mentality” I thought that Cole Porter was joking. You don’t use your mentality. You use your mind. Here’s a list: Medicine » Medication Document » Documentation Reason » Rationality Mind » Mentality Transport » Transportation The list is seemingly endless when one starts looking. My point is that ‘document’, for example, is an official piece of paper. ‘Documentation’ is the furnishing or provision of that piece of paper. ‘Medication’ is the application of medicine.There are those who think it is classy to say “I took the medication” Oh dear me, no. Words have meanings. Americans tend to believe that the British dislike of ‘transportation’ to mean ‘a bus’ is based on our guilty consciences about shipping convicts to Australia. Actually no, that was a pretty good policy. Where better to send them? ‘Transportation’ was the policy, not the ships. No doubt there are, legitimately, grey areas but...no, I take it back. I’m not weakening. So there we are, fellow-pedants. The battle-lines are drawn. May I finally say how pleasant it is to find this forum, the only place I know of where one can sound of on such subjects without being told to take an aspirin and lie down in a darkened room.

October 24, 2012  •  abbeautiful

wish it would...

When speaking about wish statements, why is it okay to give the short answer form for an action verb (e.g. snow), but not for be + adjective (e.g. to be sunny). For example, we say “It won’t rain tomorrow, but I wish it would.” But, “It won’t be sunny tomorrow, but I wish it would be.” What is the distinction we make here, or is it just an arbitrary rule that we use be?

August 31, 2012  •  Dyske

Not just me who thinks... or Not just me who think... or Not just I who think... or Not just I who thinks...

There are two questions associated with this. The first one is: Should it be “Not just I who think...” not “Not just me who think...”? The second question is: Should the subject be considered singular or plural in this case? That is, should it be “Not just I who thinks...” or “Not just I who think...”? After all, if it is not just just me (or I?), there are other people, which makes it plural.

June 29, 2012  •  rmberwin

Referent of “one”

In the sentence “It is a highly unusual form of melody, one that occurs only in this composer’s work”, what is the referent of the pronoun ‘one’? Is it ‘melody’ or the entire prepositional phrase ‘form of melody’? Or, perhaps the referent is the subject of the sentence, ‘it’? I frequently hear the rule that the referent has to be the prior proximate noun.

June 10, 2012  •  Hairy Scot

Use of “their” as a genderless singular?

We often hear sentences like:- “Your teen is more at risk while on their restricted licence” where “their” appears as a means of combining “his” and “her”. Although there may be nothing wrong in this, it does sound a bit strange.

April 19, 2012  •  Dyske

It had impacts on...

Is it grammatically correct to say “It had impacts on...”? If the singular form is correct (it had an impact on), I would imagine that the plural form would have to be also correct.

February 6, 2012  •  KM


Is it proper to use the word ‘Floorings’? (Plan to use it as a website name since ‘flooring’ is a noun)

January 24, 2012  •  Banjo

that vs. if and whether

From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar (which I believe is incorrect, based on my school training in English, many moons ago, and which I hence detest and just cannot and will not adjust to !): e.g.: “I wonder THAT this is correct”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is correct”, or: “I wonder WHETHER this is correct”. “I wonder THAT that is a fact”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is a fact” or: “I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact”. “I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening) IF or WHETHER must be used when there is uncertainty or doubt. THAT should be used when there is certainty. E.g.: “I know that this is true.”

January 23, 2012  •  Carolyn Burt

“Fine” as a complete sentence

Can “Fine.” be considered a complete sentence?

January 7, 2012  •  Giorgi

Use of article (a/the) when there are multiple modifiers

One grammar guide teaches that if two modifiers of similar kind refers to the same noun (thing or person) only the first is preceded by an article, while the noun is in the singular (The black and white dress she had on was very becoming); but if they refer to different things the noun is in the plural, with an article preceding each modifier (The black and the white dresses were very becoming). This, as I have understood it, means that, for example, the phrase a/the political, economic, and social sphere implies that the sphere is at once economic, political, and social. But how should I understand (if the above rule really governs the structure) an example where the noun is in the plural but only the first modifier is preceded by an article as it is in a sentence you can read in the CollinsCobuild dictionary--We are doing this work in the context of reforms in the economic, social and cultural spheres. The use of the plural noun means that the three spheres are considered different things by the writer, and thus, the article the would have to stand before each adjective like here-- the economic, the social, and the cultural spheres. Via the Internet, you can find a lot of examples being much like the former structure one but almost nothing resembling the latter one. Does this mean that the rule is wrong or incomplete, or I have misunderstood something?

December 6, 2011  •  abbeautiful

make it work

For the phrase (idiom?) “to make [something] work,” what part of speech is “work” functioning as? My initial instinct is to say verb, since the something is actively working now. As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate “work” or keep it in the infinitive? For instance, why are the following sentences wrong? Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone. Jane’s boss makes the schedule to work for everyone.

November 27, 2011  •  Warsaw Will

When “one of” many things is itself plural

There are all sorts of things I believed in then which I don’t believe in now, and language rules set in stone is/are (?) one of them. My feeling is that ‘is’ is OK here, since ‘language rules set in stone’ is one of a list of things I once believed in, and ‘are’ would grate with ‘one’. What do you think? NB This is purely a grammar question, not one about my beliefs, which I know some of you will strongly disagree with. There will no doubt be plenty of other occasions to cross swords over them.

November 26, 2011  •  sigurd

...ward/s and un...worthy

What type of words are respectively ‘-ward/s’-suffixable and ‘un[...]worthy’-affixable? In oxforddictionaries.com/definition/-ward, ‘-ward/s’ is a ‘suffix added to nouns of place or destination and to adverbs of direction’. In that case, are the examples ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled Jerusalemwards’, ‘Zoroastrians pray flameward’ and ‘John looked Sunward and was briefly blinded’ correct, meaning ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled towards Jerusalem’, ‘Zoroastrians pray toward flame’ and ‘John looked toward the Sun [...]’ respectively? If not, why? Also, are ‘unswimworthy’, ‘unwatchworthy’ and ‘unbuyworthy’ correct, meaning the thing mentioned is worth/deserves swimming, watching and buying respectively? Insofar as ‘un[...]worthy’ is affixed to a verb when meaning ‘worth/deserving’, is it correct? If not, why? I’m aware ‘-worthy’’s meaning can be different when affixed to a noun, so I only asked if with verbs, where the meaning is consistent (=worth/deserving), it is correct.

November 23, 2011  •  sigurd

Interchangeability of possessive “s” and “of”

Since ‘of’ is possessive, is writing ‘the Ark of the Covenant’, ‘Book of Ezekiel’, ‘Robin of Locksley’ and ‘Joan of Arc’ respectively as ‘the Covenant’s Ark’, ‘Ezekiel’s Book’, ‘Locksley’s Robin’ and ‘Arc’s Joan’ correct? If not, why?

November 19, 2011  •  sigurd

Had he breakfast this morning?

Is ‘Had he breakfast this morning?’ correct English? Since ‘You have no idea where they live’’s and ‘You have nothing better to do’’s respective inquisitive forms—‘Have you no idea where they live?’ and ‘Have you nothing better to do?’, their past tense forms being ‘Had you no idea where they live?’ and ‘Had you nothing better to do?’—are correct, following the same logic, isn’t ‘He had breakfast this morning’’s inquisitive form, ‘Had he breakfast this morning?’, likewise correct? Please read the full question. I’m looking for a logically (hopefully) justified answer. The more informative the answer is, the better.

November 19, 2011  •  Mitsy

“by the time”

A question about time expressions with the past perfect tense: I realise “by the time” is a time expression used with the past perfect but in this sentence: “By the time he arrived at school, the lesson had finished” , why is “by the time” next to the verb in the past tense (arrived) as if it is refering to that verb rather than to the one in the past perfect (had finished)?

November 10, 2011  •  sigurd

Correct way to omit words?

In English, I know it’s perfectly correct/proper/formal to, for lack of a better word, ‘‘shorten’’ phrases and sentences in a certain way in some cases as in ‘Be that true, ...’ (= ‘If that is true, ...’), ‘if need be’ (= ‘if it is necessary’), ‘come what may’ (‘regardless of what may come/happen’) etc. So, I’m wondering if similar rules apply to ‘Why be anonymous?’, ‘Why so excited/angry/etc?’ and ‘Why the question?’ as well as to ‘Haven’t you anything better to do?’ and ‘Have you any idea [...]?’, which I also hear a lot from seemingly formal English-speakers. Are they correct English?

November 5, 2011  •  cathyem

“enamored with” and “enamored by”

I did a search and came up with nothing relating to the use of “enamored”. I am seeing, more and more often, “enamored with” and “enamored by” when I was taught that it is correctly “enamored of”. I just opened the latest issue of Cook’s Country magazine and this quote jumped out at me: “[...]Americans became enamored with international cooking.” Is this correct? Am I just a purist who needs to lighten up?

November 1, 2011  •  John Colbourne

always wanted to be

J.K .Rowling always wanted to be an author. J.K. Rowling had always wanted to be an author. J.K. Rowling has always wanted to be an author. I assume “has always wanted” is incorrect because she became an author. Please, which one is proper?

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