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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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Is it true for others that you lose all logic and sense after editing too much in one sitting? Hope I’m not alone!

I want to switch “from” to “by,” but then when I asked myself if you could really gain “by” something, I wasn’t too certain of my answer. Some reassurance or recommendations would be terrific! Thanks to all of you as always! ~s

“I gained expertise in effective communication as a project director in Ecuador and in Mexico, from negotiating in professional settings, meeting with my staff, and presenting to volunteers.”

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What does this joke mean? “Utility knickers - one Yank, and they’re off.” I’ve heard it in the movie, Enigma by Michael Apted and have no idea what that refers to. There was nothing in the context that could help either. By the way, the story takes place during the World War II (if you haven’t seen the movie.)

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“Suddenly he heard something that was not imagination.”

If I add “could hear” to this sentence instead of “heard”, how do you feel? Is it strange? I would like to ask your opinions and reasons.

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Anyone got an idea about the way this expression originated?

eg, “I am so not going there.”

Others googled: I am so NOT looking forward to that! I am so not a man. I am SO not surprised. I am so not prepare[d] for this Exams. I am so totally dead. [sic]

There’s a discussion here

Is “I am so not prepared for this meeting” functionally equivalent to “I am unprepared for this meeting.”

Perhaps it’s a matter of informal (or slang) vs formal expression.

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Why does it sound correct to say or hear “the only one I ever wanted”, but sound incorrect when saying “the one I ever wanted”? What is the secret of this little four letter word, “only”? There was a pop song out a few years back that used the latter phrase, and although it sounded so awful to my ears, I couldn’t really think of any reason that it was technically incorrect.

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I am university student, and take a seminar in a third grade. In the class, we were given assignments, which is we check on how native speakers feel or think about the following questions. So I would like to ask your opinions. Could you answer the following questions?

1. “The plane must land in a few minute.” When you read this sentence, what kind of situation do you imagine? I’d like to know the meaning of “must” in this sentence. So what kind of meaning does the “must” include?

2. In the same way, how about “He can seem so sane.”?

3. What is the difference among Look, See and Watch?

4. “He could hear the phone ringing on the other end but no one answered.” In this sentence, do you think the phone rang straight? Does “can/could + feeling verb” mean an instant or a moment situation.

Thank you very much for your time, and I’m looking forward to your opinions.

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I have a friend insistent on saying the phrase “You gotta be joking me” when I think he should be saying “You have to be kidding me”.

Does anyone know anyone else who says this and can you tell me how wrong it is?

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There’s a slang expression in English which I don’t know how to spell correctly. The phrase would be used (phoentically) like this:

“I’m gonna sic the cops on you for doing that!”

meaning “I am going to report to the police what you did, and you will presumably be punished for doing it.”

Now I’ve seen internet kids using this phrase left and right, and I have seen it consistently spelled

“SICK” --> “I’m gonna sick the cops on you!”

It’s slang, so I’ve looked, but I can’t find the answer in a dictionary anywhere. But it’s driving me nutty, because I always thought it was spelled “sic” and not “sick.”

Is there a proper answer to this question, and if so, does anyone have it?

Thanks!

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A group of us were discussing the use of “me” and “I”. Which of these sentences is correct? “My mother bought some sweets for me and my sister.” or “My mother bought some sweets for my sister and I.” thanks for your help in advance.

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Could any cooking expert explain to me what the phrase: “goulash communism” might mean?

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Latest Comments

Salutations in letters

In email to someone familiar, I open with "Hi" and sign off with "Cheers" or "Slàinte mhath". Otherwise I use "Good day" and "Regards".
In letters it's normally "Dear ......" and "Yours sincerely".
I agree that "Yours truly" and "Yours faithfully" now seem to be considered passé.

How about, "The rent has doubled.", or "The rent is now twice what it was."
Both "two times higher" and "two times as high" sound like phrases used by primary school kids.

Trust me, when you get to my age, mid 60s, you will start complaining when you hear words spoken which you have grown up with all your life, being given totally different meanings and you are supposed to calmly accept these new meanings without having a clue why they have been changed. If someone comes up to me and says hey as a greeting, then for me I am waiting for them to finish. Even when I just hear it in plays or films, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'm not writing here to say it's right or wrong just to make folk understand that it can be very unsettling for some of us.

The team has access to multiple sources

On Tomorrow

  • JBS
  • January 16, 2017, 2:22pm

This is an old world English term sometimes trapped in areas of Appalachia, like many other old German, Scottish, Irish and English phrases (or variations thereof). It's commonly used among religious African American folks in Georgia and Alabama from my experience. The reason so many comments have referenced NE Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina etc.. is the Appalachian connection.

An extension of solecism?

Actress instead of Actor

I have long found referring to both male and female thespians as "actors" extremely distasteful, as in PC gone amok. When I waited tables, I had no problem with the term "waitress." Then again, I have no problem with the term "comedienne" for a female comedian. The stewardess/steward thing which is now deemed offensive seems patently absurd to me, but well, "flight attendant" it is! However, reading all the comments with historic connotations does help me make a bit more sense of it all. Personally, I have no problem with the masculine and feminine forms of words/professions, and in fact I do buck against changing all of that, but appreciate the perspectives offered. I totally get that a female MD is not called a doctoress in English, but she would be called "la doctora" in Spanish, and a male "el doctor."

Usually a brand name or a play on words, used in advertising. Like the old pop brand, "Hi Klas" rather than "Hi Class" I want to say what that is called. Would an advertising agency know, I wonder? Or a college course in advertising maybe?

Pronunciation: aunt

I'm Mexican native American from Los Angeles California and I use Ant not aunt but I have heard my cousins say aunt before. Personally I prefer ant.

In general, the noun/verb distinction is accurate, but not completely so.

If I were a lobbyist, I might say "I advocate lower taxes."

But if the Republican Party retained me (with or without pay) as an advocate for lower taxes, I could say "I am an advocate (noun) for the Republican Party" or "I advocate (verb) for the Republican Party."