This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
Search Pain in the English
I watched some movies over the weekend, and by doing so some questions arose regarding the use of who and whom.
In the movie “Prometheus” one of the main characters is describing the reason of traveling to a planet so far away from earth, and a suporting character says: “We are here because of a map you two kids found in a cave?” - “Not a map, an invitation” - “From who?”
Now, I think the guy is asking for the object. Is he not? Also, I understand that whom must be used after a preposition. Then shouldn’t it be “from whom”?
In the movie “X-Men: First Class” two CIA agents are conversing and the following dialogue takes place: “A war is about to begin.” - “I know. But a war with who?” Same as the other one: Shouldn’t “whom” be used here? “with” is also a preposition, and he is also asking for the object.
Sequence of tenses requires us to use, for example, past tense if the verb in the introductory clause is in the past tense. For example:
All the members of the survey team said: “You have a beautiful library!”
All the members of the survey team happily acknowledged that we had a beautiful library.
This holds true if the quote is a universal truth, quite obviously. But, what if the physical situation talked about in the quotation still holds true? For Example:
Sarah: Yes this is she.
Sarah: Oh really!
Sarah: Well, your ring awoke us.
Sarah: No, I have no laundry outside.
Sarah: Thanks, Bye!
Jeff: Who was it?
Sarah: it was Betty.
Jeff: What did she say?
Sarah: She said that it was raining / it is raining. (Now, here the logical sequence does not follow the grammatical sequence,)
The survey team said about Plymouth High School, “They have a beautiful library.” (in March 2012)
Subsequently talking to the principal of Plymouth school, Saba told her that the committee commented that (you had a beautiful library / you have a beautiful library). (May 2012, and the situation still holds true).
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!!!
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.
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?
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.
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.