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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.

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There was a pen and three pencils on the table

or

There were a pen and three pencils on the table.

In this example, the singular noun must precede the plural noun. Which verb is the correct one?

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Consider a scenario where a bloodstain was discovered and analyzed. It was determined the blood came from a single source. Joe is not the source of the blood. Jack is not the source of the blood. Which of the following statements is correct and why? Joe and Jack are excluded as SOURCES of the blood. Joe and Jack are excluded as THE SOURCE of the blood.

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“His being chosen as a headmaster have surprised us.”

Is the sentence above right? Do I have to change the gerund to:

“His having been chosen as a headmaster have surprised us.”

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When one has rendered a female animal unable to bear young, one spays the animal. If it happened last week, the animal was spayed. Over and over, including in vets’ offices, I have seen references to “getting an animal spade,” and even worse, “We had our cat spaded.” I don’t know what that would be: Hit over the head with a small shovel-like object?

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I’d love to know your take on the plural form of sense of humour. Is it sense of humour or senses of humour?

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In the following sentence, would “me” or “myself” be correct and why?

Serious gardeners like my wife and me/myself always use organic fertilizer.

Since the person talking is also a gardener and has referred to himself once already in the sentence as being in the group serious gardeners (”we gardeners”), it seems as if he should use “myself” in the reflexive. Yet this sounds wrong.

Please help! The horrid trend of using “myself” in place of “me” is starting to wear me down and confuse me.

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I’m stuck on the correct use of “un-” (as in “reverse action”) and “de-”. Specifically, I want to write that a student should change an incorrectly capitalized word to the lower case. Should he “uncapitalize” it or “decapitalize” it? It’s true that the word should be uncapitalized, but since he incorrectly capitalized it in the first place, must he now decapitalize it?

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“It has a great construction” sets my teeth on edge every time a writer I work with uses the phrase in written English. Is this correct/standard usage? It sounds so wrong to me, but I can’t point to the rule it violates.

Am I simply biased against... A perfectly acceptable construction?

These sound/seem so wrong:. My t-shirt has a durable cotton construction.

That house has a great construction.

With a construction of 100% cotton, her dress...

I think you omit the indefinite article.

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When using the word prohibits... which is correct?

...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height from being erected ... or ...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height to be erected

...which prohibits any fence from being constructed... or ...which prohibits any fence to be constructed

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Apart from the fact that convention is clearly “Table of Contents”, is there a grammatical reasoning for “Table of Content” vs “Table of Contents”?

I guess it comes down to whether the noun “content” is one that can be counted, i.e. several contents, or not.

My instinct is that in fact, content is not an enumerable noun, i.e. it should be Table of Content. But does that mean that MS Word, LaTeX and all other Desktop Publishers out there are just wrong?

YD

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Latest Comments

Might could

  • jeb
  • June 26, 2016, 3:08pm

I might could say something about snobby grammarians...bless their hearts...but I won't.

As a well educated native of southern Appalachia (BA in English; PhD in Education), I can say with confidence that might could is mighty useful modal construction that conveys nuance and a sophisticated appreciation of the historical English, at least as spoken by the Scotch Irish settlers who populated these parts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_English

Indirect Speech?

Oops.
Forgive the extra line in my previous post.
A thought that died at birth.

:)

Indirect Speech?

We could call it "oblique speech", or even "roundabout speech", or we could use a derivative of euphemism, metaphor, or allegory.
I am sure there a a number of terms that could be used to avoid the inevitable confusion caused by the use of the term "indirect speech" in this context.
.
Perhaps a simpler solution would be to refer

Someone else’s

  • Don
  • June 25, 2016, 3:04pm

An adverb, such as else, cannot be made possesive. That is reserved for nouns and pronouns. Else cannot be made in a possesive form. If used, it is poor English.

“Rack” or “Wrack”?

  • OJ
  • June 23, 2016, 11:59am

Doesn't look good on proofreading site to find: "tends ton go along" (on this page)

Everybody vs. Everyone

I´d like to thank you all for this nice help ( :

Texted

we don't say look-ed --- we say looked.

therefore -- texted, as in looked

I need to write out 65.25476% for a document. Can you help

Indirect Speech?

Whilst I agree that the term "indirect speech" has almost always been used in writing to refer to "reported speech", it has on occasion been used to refer to oblique or circuitous ways of addressing a topic. For instance, in some tome on Quakerism from 1808:

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=bNQ3AAAAYAAJ...

and in Judson's Burmese-English dictionary 1893 "this speech is indirect and circuitous":

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=LSEYAAAAYAAJ...

The question for you would be if the term "indirect speech" is not to be used for these types of polite roundabout ways of addressing a topic, what other terminology could be used?

Indirect Speech?

Whilst I agree that the term "indirect speech" has almost always been used in writing to refer to "reported speech", it has on occasion been used to refer to oblique or circuitous ways of addressing a topic. For instance, in some tome on Quakerism from 1808:

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=bNQ3AAAAYAAJ...

and in Judson's Burmese-English dictionary 1893 "this speech is indirect and circuitous":

http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=LSEYAAAAYAAJ...

The question for you would be if the term "indirect speech" is not to be used for these types of polite roundabout ways of addressing a topic, what other terminology could be used?