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
Has the English relative pronoun ‘who/whom/whose’ been banned while I was not looking? It seems to have been replaced by the ugly use of the word ‘that’. On the rare occasions when it can be spotted in printed prose in, for example, a newspaper, ‘who’ is used for ‘whom’ and it is all very disappointing. I write as a disillusioned and pedantic old schoolmaster (retired) whose 12 year old pupils had no problem learning how to deal with ‘who’ and ‘whom’ and ‘to whom’. I blame the Americans for this desecration of our language.
Why is it that the phrase “for long” can only be used in a negative sentence? For example:
- I didn’t see her for long. » I saw her for long.
- I wasn’t there for long. » I was there for long.
It’s the case in other phrases using the word long when referring to time:
- I won’t be long. » I’ll be long.
It seems strange to me that only one is acceptable, yet it would have the same meaning in both sets of sentences, were the positive use acceptable.
My husband is from the UK. I am from the USA. We have a grammar question. I will post two questions which demonstrate the question of the use of the word ‘to’ instead of ‘of’ in a sentence.
What do you think of my new car?
What do you think to my new car?
I have wagered that the use of ‘to’ is grammatically incorrect in the second example sentence. I believe it may be in ‘usage’, but it is not correct. Does anyone have any knowledge to share on this matter?
Is writing “the August 1 card” correct, or should it be “the August 1st card”? I know July 23rd, 2011 is incorrect but when it comes to the “st”, I’m a confused Canadian. Can you help?
In the antipodes it is common to use “stood down” as a synonym for suspended, eg - “The Commander of a Navy vessel has been stood down from his position following allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour on a recent port visit.”. But somehow this does not sound right. A person can stand down, ie: resign or give up a post, but I am not sure that it is correct to say a person was stood down. Why not just say “suspended”?
This has become very aggravating for me. I have searched the internet and can find very little about this in a quick reference way. When I was growing up I was taught that when I spoke about a third person and they were present, that I should use their name or their proper reference title (such as Dad, Mom, Grandpa/Grandfather, and especially elders in general) to refer to them at the very least in the first sentence that involves them.
For example as a child if I picked up the phone and my Dad was calling, after I spoke with him he would ask me to pass the phone to my Mom. Knowing full well that my father could hear what I was saying, I would say “Dad is on the phone.” to my mother, NOT “He is on the phone.” as I pass the phone to her. Even though my Mom knew that it was “Dad” whom would be on the phone should I have said “He is on the phone.”, I would never have referred to my Dad as “he” in the first sentence referring to him. I was taught that is very disrespectful. I think the tone taken in such an instance is disrespectful and exclusionary in a sense, but I’m not sure what grammatical rule applies or what it’s called. Can someone help me with this? Thank you for your help.
I am currently teaching English in Spain and one of my students asked me a question that has left me dumbfounded. How would someone explain the differences between:
I know what sounds good, but I haven’t been able to find a hard and fast rule.