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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In my opinion, there is a slight difference between ‘motive and motivation’. Motivation is what makes a person determined to do or achieve something wrong or right. Motivation is like the power you need to do something. Whereas motive is the reason that makes you want to do something also wrong or right. For example, if you decide to buy two loaves of white bread for a week anyhow, there should be a motive to that. In other words, motive is whatever reason we have for doing something. Whereas motivation is what makes us pursue those reasons themselves. For grammar sake, these words can sometimes be used interchangeably. ‘And therefore their differences lie in their context, not in their connotation.
Isn’t “agree the terms” simply bad form? The following is taken from today’s online Guardian in a quote from Theresa May: . . . the prime minister said she believed it was “necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union”. Then as the article continues, the same usage appears in the Guardian’s own words: “The EU institutions and 27 remaining member states, however, have long said they were determined the divorce settlement, such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons on the continent and the size of Britain’s exit bill, must first be agreed before substantive talks on a future relationship could begin.”
Agree to the terms, yes; but agree the terms?
Be agreed upon, yes; but settlement be agreed before?
I have not run across this usage in US English, so is it something happening in British writing/speech?
There is a structure used by native speakers that I often read on social media, referring to people who have passed away, on the day of their anniversary. e.g. “He would have been 60 today.” Shouldn’t it be “He would be 60 today”? Meaning, if he were alive, he would be 60 today.
Consider the following sentence: “Last year, the rent was $500, but now it’s risen to $1,000. The rent is two times higher than it used to be.”
To me, this sentence is misleading, since “two times higher” would mean starting with a value of $500 and duplicating it, twice (in other words, $500 + $500 x 2 = $1,500). It seems the correct sentence should read:
“The rent is two times as high as used to be.”
Are both forms acceptable? Unfortunately, it seems that the more confusing form (”two times higher”) has become more common.
Whilst I appreciate that it is increasingly less common to write or receive a letter these days - and that traditional usage has been Dear Sir/Madam->Yours truly/faithfully or Dear Mr Smith ->Yours sincerely - the few letters rarely follow these “rules”.
I have had (1) Dear Mr Smith without any closure from the UK Pensions Service, (2) Dear Mr Smith->Yours sincerely from the local power board, and (3) Hi Mr Smith->Until next time from my bank. Personally I have never used ‘Yours faithfully’ (which smacks of subservience) since the turn of the century, even when applying for a job. I do still use “Sincerely” in a few emails (particularly when making a complaint).
For the life of me, I cannot see why bygone formalities are still required for examinations such as the International English Language Test.
As to emails, it seems more difficult to be formal. Mostly I use “Hi + first name” and end with “Cheers”.
My question is what are other people in English-speaking countries experiencing? Is stuff like “Yours faithfully” “Yours truly” now passé? If so is there any reason to teach them?
It grates every time I hear a local radio traffic reporter say “there is an accident just prior to the Erindale Rd turn-off.”
I believe I’m right in thinking the word ‘prior’ is more correctly used in a time context, meaning earlier than or sooner than.
I consider “data” as collective, like “sugar.” You can have a lot of sugar or a lot of data. Then “the sugar IS on the table,” or “the data IS correct.”
I do not like “the data ARE.” Never did. I worked as a technical writer and my philosophy was as I have stated. (Even though data can have one bit called datum, whereas sugar must have one grain.)
In American Grammar specifically, there is a somewhat new trend of referring to a singular collective as a plural noun. For example, “The band are playing at the Hall tonight.” To which I want to reply “It are?” While the British and Canadians have never understood the concept of singular collectives such as large companies or the aforementioned musical groups known by a name such as Aerosmith or Saint Motel, but why is this becoming popular in America where singular collectives have been referred to, until recently, as a singular entity? It’s on the radio, it’s on TV commercials and even in print. Are singular collectives now plural?