Comments for Pain in the English Forum for the gray areas of the English language Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:29:21 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on North or northern by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 27 Aug 2015 07:06:24 +0000 Occasionally it gets political, for example, Northern Ireland. Traditional loyalists prefer to call it Ulster, while many in the South (and republicans in the North) call it the Six Counties or the North of Ireland (as they consider it the northern part of what should be one Ireland), and those of us in Britain who prefer to remain neutral call it Northern Ireland, which seems to be accepted by everybody. Geographical names can be symbolically important.

Sometimes I think it just depends on context and tradition. I imagine somebody from Newcastle will say they're from the North of England, rather than from Northern England, while at the same time calling themselves a northerner. But a weather forecaster might well use either.

Comment on North or northern by chuckeegeo chuckeegeo Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:21:03 +0000 lumpers vs. splitters will forever quibble.

Comment on Resume, resumé, or résumé? by Justin YYC Justin YYC Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:19:28 +0000 The middle one is the only correct one for how it is pronounced. The accent gives it the 'ay' sound. We don't say 'Rayzooay' in English. They do in French, though, which is why both e's are accented in French.

For the same reason, dropping the accents makes the e silent, and it becomes the word 'resume', as in to continue or restart something. That's a completely different word with a different meaning.

Resumé is the only way to spell it that makes it correct to the way it is pronounced in English - any other way is wrong in English (though accenting both e's is correct in French, as they pronounce the word differently.)

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Fri, 21 Aug 2015 10:22:16 +0000 @Leonid Kutuzov - The only trouble is that it is a bit more complicated than past, present and future, as English (and not only English) often uses past forms to distance things, call it the unreal past, remote past or whatever. We use it this way in reported speech, hypothetical conditionals, and certain constructions such as 'I wish, I'd rather, it's time, as if' etc.

What's more, English often uses present forms with future meaning (as do certain other languages), and we can even use modal 'will' for present meaning - 'Ah, you'll be Leonid'.

So although I think we already have a perfectly good system, we are at pains to point out to students that the use of past, present and future tenses is not totally bound by their time name.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Leonid Kutuzov Leonid Kutuzov Fri, 21 Aug 2015 02:56:43 +0000 "We are able to exchange knowledge, beliefs, opinions, wishes, threats, commands, thanks, promises, declarations, feelings – only our imagination sets limits. We can laugh to express amusement, happiness, or disrespect, we can smile to express amusement, pleasure, approval, or bitter feelings, we can shriek to express anger, excitement, or fear, we can clench our fists to express determination, anger or a threat, we can raise our eyebrows to express surprise or disapproval, and so on, but our system of communication before anything else is language. ... it is a system of communication based upon words and the combination of words into sentences." "What is language?" PDF.
The number of sentences in a language is infinite. But every language has a mechanism that enables human beings to utter or understand an infinite number of sentences using a finite number of building tools.
To my way of thinking, knowing what those building tools are is of paramount importance for every learner/teacher of the language because they can help us in many ways.

How can we find them?

According to my own very simple theory:
Everybody knows that Past, Present, Future mean TIME.
TIME is an extralinguistic category. That is, it exists independently of both Life and Language. If it is really so, then the hierarchical structure of the main concepts looks like this:
TIME created LIFE and is superior to it.
To retain its superiority/= control over LIFE, TIME has three key features
placed inside LIFE. They are PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.
Being the creator of LIFE, TIME is also in charge of it.
The three key features are not only to keep control, they are to keep
everything in good order (to avert chaos)/= to help LIFE as well.
The implication is that LIFE is free to do whatever it wants to, but everything that
happens in LIFE must obligatory be PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.
The three key features are property of TIME, they are untouchable for anything
that belongs to LIFE.

LIFE created LANGUAGE and is superior to it.
Now, does it not seem logical to assume that (likewise): to retain its superiority/= control over LANGUAGE, LIFE must have some key features placed inside
LANGUAGE (to keep everything in good order to avert chaos)?

If the premise is true, we are sure to find those key features placed by LIFE inside LANGUAGE. It is also logical to expect that like Past, Present, Future are everywhere in Life, they are everywhere in LANGUAGE.

If what I am saying makes sense, we only have to answer this one question:

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:44:03 +0000 @WW agreed it is the usage which is the issue.
I sometimes wonder whether we would not be better off focussing on a decision tree (like a flowchart). For instance:
1) Active or Passive?
2) Present or Past?
3) Simple, Continuous, or Perfect?
4) Modal?

In my experience of using non-English tongues, the best way is often to just copy what one has heard and hope for the best: better to say something than nothing. Not quite so true when writing but one still needs some easy-to-follow ideas when texting and emailing.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 20 Aug 2015 07:20:59 +0000 @jayles - Yes we can use other modals to talk about the future, and if you want to get linguistically technical, you can come up with various arguments why 'there is no future tense'. It's possibly an interesting intellectual discussion point, but I don't think that it helps students in the slightest. I repeat, it's not the nomenclature my students have problems with, but the use.

"will is a normal verb" - but how often do we use it as a normal verb, I wonder, compared with its use to create future tenses, or forms if you prefer. But in any case, the other auxiliaries we to create tense forms, do, have and be are also normal verbs.

"There is no future tense, because we have several forms to express the future." Well, welcome to the club. Both Spanish and French use present forms and 'going to' but this doesn't stop them having a future tense.

"Will is a modal, not a basic auxiliary, so it can't be a tense." Doesn't German have one or even two future tenses built on 'wollen', which in German is also a modal.

And the argument never seems to be extended to other future forms, such as future continuous and future perfect.

You teach academic English, so perhaps passive is more important for your students than for mine, but even to form passives you have to have a basic grasp of tenses: "His company was being investigated at the time of his arrest" is not the same as "His company was investigated at the time of his arrest". And if a student uses tenses too far away from the norm, they are going to sound strange, or worse, funny. And as a teacher, my greatest responsibility is to try and make sure that doesn't happen.

In any case, let's keep this in context. I certainly don't teach grammar, grammar, grammar, and nor do any of the course books I use. In fact I would say grammar takes up about one fifth of the average unit. In business English, perhaps even less.

Far from being a fudge, I think the 12 tense system is simply a schematic way of looking at the forms we actually use (however you want to characterise them) in a coherent and realtively simple way.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 19 Aug 2015 22:42:04 +0000 F) The Truth about "Will":
AFAIK "will" is a normal verb - "I am willing", "as God wills" etc. The reason you don't often see it with an 's' is that it is normally in optative mood, (which looks like subjunctive). In the Middle Ages, monks used 'will' to translate the future tense from Latin, French, and Spanish. If one buys into the same fudge, then one has to teach all the time and conditional clause cases which use present simple, as an exception.

Other modals - can, may, shall,must - have no 's' because they come from using an old past tense form.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:52:41 +0000 E) There is a world of difference between the needs of West European students and the needs of, say, SE Asian students. A Romance language speaker starts with a good knowledge of about ten thousand English words; a SE Asian student starts with perhaps a couple of hundred borrowed words at best. To catch up, a SE Asian student needs to learn, say, one hundred words per week for two years - an almost impossible goal. I suspect the whole EFL syllabus (and methodology) originated from dealing with Romance language speakers.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 19 Aug 2015 17:41:32 +0000 English verbs look pretty simple when compared to all those endings in French, or other inflected languages like Russian, Hungarian, or Armenian, so I've always been amazed at the amount of time and space in EFL textbooks devoted to the vagaries of English verbs and "tenses". Is there a simpler alternative and what would that be?

A) 'will' does not construct a future tense. Any modal verb can do that: eg "Can you come tomorrow?". Projecting 'will' as a 'future' auxiliary logically leads to: "I will can come tomorrow".
At present EFL students have to run thru a long checklist before uttering a single word:
- past, present, or future? Future!
- timetable, plan, already decided or evidence to hand, opinion or prediction, or using a modal ?
For most purposes this is too nuanced; we are overteaching it all.

B) Continous is an aspect: could we not just say anything can be made continuous; and then just concentrate on present continuous. "While we talked, there was an explosion" is not quite a mistake. Again we are overteaching. Far better to concentrate on forming and using the passive which is really common in business and academic writing.

C) One needs to keep a firm grip on achievable goals in EFL. Most students need English for business purposes; some need it for academic purposes or immigration. That means we need to pick out which verbal structures they need to master and which they just need to get the gist of.

D) It's pretty difficult to say anything constructive if you don't understand what the other person is saying. Much more emphasis on listening and wide vocabulary would be more beneficial. Often better if student pick up nuances of verb by hearing it in action, rather than having spaghetti-like "rules" drummed in and endless picky tests. Teaching grammar, grammar, grammar does not work - as any Korean will testify.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:24:16 +0000 I like the UCL site, but here grammar (naturally enough) is seen mainly from a linguistics point of view, so it is perhaps no surprise that they go down the two-tense avenue. And I can't actually find the word tense at all in the PDF of theirs that you link to.

But all the others (EFL/ESL-based) you quote from seem to follow the same 12-form pattern, so I'm not really sure what the problem is. I doubt many of our students are looking up tenses on linguistics sites; they may well be confused about how to use them, but I don't think there's much confusion about nomenclature.

In terms of the UCL PDF it's interesting that they point out (not for the first time) that EFL students are much better catered for in grammar terms that native speakers, and I don't see why a system that seems to work for foreign learners shouldn't be used with native speakers. I'm old enough to remember being taught pluperfect and imperfect (a combination of past continuous and 'used to', presumably based on Latin). But I now much prefer the standard EFL 12-tense system.

There was a lot of fuss on the Internet a few years ago about a line from Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars :

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?

Many native speakers (and even Grammar Girl) seemed to think this was a misuse of the word 'lay'
(instead of lie). It seems largely to have been foreign learnerswho pointed out that this was a classic example of Second conditional, with the past simple of 'lie' being correctly used with 'would'.

If there's confusion about grammar out there, I'd look to native speakers, and not foreign learners, who in my exerience often have a better grasp of the basic concepts. And of tense names.

Comment on Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:11:53 +0000 Many borrowed words in English which do not end in -ation or -sion are stressed on the antepenultimate syllable: this pattern is evident in Canada -> Canadian, photograph-photographer and so on.

Comment on Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 18 Aug 2015 06:48:33 +0000 Addendum to above: there's a missing 'on' in P1, and a superfluous 'both of which' in P3. And here is a more user-friendly link (p2) -

Comment on Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 18 Aug 2015 06:43:27 +0000 In no way can I improve linguisttype's comment, but I can perhaps reinforce it a little. What linguisttype calls the 'uh' sound is often called the schwa (phonetic symbol /ə/), which is in fact the most common sound in English, and is very characteristic of English.

For example, while the French fully pronounce each syllable in the word général (/ʒeneʀal/), in the English version only the first syllable is stressed, so the others weaken into the schwa sound (or even fade away alltogether ( /ˈdʒɛn(ə)r(ə)l/ ). You can hear the two versions at Google Translate -

And it is unlikely to come from French, as the French word Canadien keeps the same short a as in Canada, both of which, as linguisttype points out, is a syllable-timed language (or what I would call an equal-stress language) where each syllable is fully pronounced. Which is why the pronunciation of French names in the media are often somewhat different to the way they are pronounced in French, the most recent obvous example being the pronunciation of Sarkosy.

I was hoping to be able to find something similar from British English, but was surprised to find very few words in fact end in "adian" with a probable maximum of 22. And in every case they seem to have the same long a (/eɪ/) pronunciation as in Canadian. And although a short a sound (/a/) is possible in Trinidadian, the long a version seems to be more common, and is the only one listed in Other examples include Orcadian, arcadian, circadian.

But there are other examples in English where stress changes; one pairing that gives foreign learners difficultes is photograph and photographer, where not only does the stress change but so does the pronunciation of the second o, from long o to short o.

So, in conclusion, I would say that the difference in pronunciation between Canada and Canadian clearly follows English rules and the pattern of English being a stress-timed language, rather than French pronunciation or patterns. We might have got the words Canada and Canadian from the French (which they in turn seem to have got tfrom the Iroquoi word for village - kanata). But in terms of pronunciation, they've in fact been anglicised.

Comment on Word in question: Conversate by Rebered Rebered Mon, 17 Aug 2015 04:24:01 +0000 I once again heard the "word" conversate used on television. For me it is like listening to a musical note being sung flat. It's close, but not quite right to the ear.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Sat, 15 Aug 2015 19:46:26 +0000 @LK Re your (1): After TEFL-ing twenty years in various countries, I often ignore the course book itself and just work intensively from the listenings provided or from a graded CD such as:

Works for me if you can get the level and content right: detective stories the best.

Your (2): there must be a new generation: I'm way past my expiry date!

BTW I always have an audio book of Dr Zhivago playing in my car : it certainly helps over time.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Leonid Kutuzov Leonid Kutuzov Sat, 15 Aug 2015 04:45:19 +0000 1. It is far from being what you call “cleaning up the terminology.”
2. I absolutely agree with everything you are saying here.
Plus a couple of interesting PDFs:
Bridging the Grammar Gap: teaching English grammar to the iPhone generation 1
University College London

The Future of English?
A guide to forecasting the popularity of the English language in the 21st century
David Graddol

There are a couple of things that make me feel a little uncomfortable, too:
1. My students (Russian speaking adults and teens) say that for them listening without understanding is much more boring than learning grammar.
2. We are sure to see a new generation of English learners, but will we see a new generation of English teachers?

I think in your example with a foreign teenager spending two years in England, it is mostly a matter of time and money rather than any teaching methodology.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Fri, 14 Aug 2015 21:42:27 +0000 @LK your comments reminded me of a student from Eastern Europe whose English was almost indistinguishable from a native speaker, and who never made a mistake with English verbal structures. I was indeed wondering what on earth I could teach them! It turned out they just did not know what "past perfect" was, although they understood and used it correctly whenever needed. Of course they had spent two years in England as a teenager; but what an excellent outcome!

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:50:07 +0000 1) I do not agree that cleaning up the terminology will automatically make it that much easier for students. The usage and meaning of English verbal structures is not straightforward and therein lies the rub.

2) English is taught in many diverse situations, and not necessarily with the expectation of producing fluent near-native competence with verbal structures. Factors such as motivation and opportunity are important for the outcome.
Now that we have access to the internet and English is more often being taught to young learners, methodologies are changing, with less emphasis on teaching "grammar" per se in an academic way, and more emphasis on listening to English and using it on a day-by-day basis. We may see a new generation of English learners who are far more adept at verbal usage, in much the same way as many Dutch/Swedish/Danish people are today.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Leonid Kutuzov Leonid Kutuzov Fri, 14 Aug 2015 06:30:50 +0000 Unless Warsaw Will finds a way to deny me access to his blog, I’m afraid it’s going to be for very long that I have little time left for something else.

If I had read “The twelve tense system in English - an overview” thirty
years ago, when I really felt nothing but “frustration with verbal structures in English”, I think, I wouldn’t have had to start looking for something else as an alternative to “tenses”. But I hadn’t, so I had to.

By the way, there is one more work on the tenses (US English) I like and feel attracted to:

Anyway, that English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” having been declared,
perhaps there is someone who’s expecting me to explain in more detail what I mean by that.


1. The same all well known words like Sentence, Verb, Mood, Aspect, etc., except
that “tense” is not mentioned anywhere in their definition/description/labeling.
For example, there are no things like:

“While aspect always includes tense, tense can occur without aspect (David falls
in love, David fell in love).”
“For each grammatical tense, there are subcategories called aspects. Aspect
refers to the duration of an event within a particular tense.”
We are waiting for the bus. = Present Continuous Tense

2. As a follow-up to the above, I am inclined to think that MOOD, VOICE, ASPECT,
TIME are not grammatical categories at all, which means that as such, there is
no need for EFL/ESL teachers/learners to waste their time on explaining/trying to
understand them.

If I am not going to be regarded as complete anathema right away, I will only be happy to discuss these and all the rest of the issues with you.

Comment on “all but” - I hate that expression! by Usucd Usucd Fri, 14 Aug 2015 06:10:34 +0000 Plenty of people use it incorrectly, and it certainly is annoying. They use it for effect, when it just doesn't work, because they really mean something like "well it was pretty much [this]", which breaks it's own meaning.

Someone near the top said "All but one." This is the right way of using it as a "nearly" meaning, because you are setting up a group and then eliminating almost all of it. Not a sloppy "the civilization was all but destroyed" when they mean it actually got destroyed and there is no remaining item to be "all but" about.

I sometimes use "all but" to mean "there are possibilities but definitely not this one." For instance: "In all but tiny quantities, the poison would definitely kill you." Any quantity you can imagine, that isn't tiny, fits the bill.

So it's a matter of where your focus is intended. You are either eliminating everything except for the last item, or you are separating the bulk away from the item to be eliminated.

Comment on Why do we have “formal” English? by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Thu, 13 Aug 2015 21:21:36 +0000 @WW model English : enjoy!

Comment on Why do we have “formal” English? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 13 Aug 2015 07:23:06 +0000 I can go along with K.I.S.S., but one sentence per paragraph? What would be the point then of paragraphs. Unless each idea is to be expressed in one sentence. And I fear that would sound rather staccato. I think I would prefer a more balanced and varied approach.

Contractions will become more common, certainly, (and I use them on forums such as this), but I doubt in academic language. But not using them in academic work is a convention I can easily live with, although I do warn students that not using them in informal emails can seem stiff or unfriendly.

And it seems obvious to me, that when you want to express more complex ideas, more complex language is going to be needed.

That doesn't mean it has to be old-fashioned, or long-winded. For example, alhough they use some academic language, historians are often excellent writers, partly because they are writing for a more general audience than other disciplines. Or read someone like Steven Pinker, author of 'The Language Instinct' and , more recently, 'The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century'. Academic subject material, yes, contractions, nary a one (I imagine), but clear, easy to read, even a pleasure to read.

Apropos of nothing, I read an article recently suggested banning the word 'amid', because it is ony ever used in print. Well, I like 'amid', and I have noticed that we have quite a lot of words and expressions that tend to be only used in writing (or prepared speech), and this can add to the pleasure of the reader. From an article from the Guardian I've been doing with a student today:

"Out of home advertising has melded itself inextricably into our environment"
"All this sounds rather bucolic, but Grenoblians ... seemed underwhelmed"

Probably not exactly conversational language, but hardly over-fromal. Paragraphs are short, but multi-sentence. (Incidentally, I wonder if the Internet has something to do with it? - Long paragraphs are a pain to read on a computer screen!)

In fact, I think newspapers like the Guardian, The Economist and the NYT get it just about right: neither overformal nor overfamiliar. Perhaps instead of talking about formal and informal, we should talk rather more of 'prepared' and 'spontaneous'. If we wrote exactly as we spoke, I doubt the writing would amount to much, or be much of a pleasure to read.

Comment on “graduated high school” or “graduated from high school”? by jrh0 jrh0 Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:39:04 +0000 According to the Google Ngram Viewer, "graduate from high school" appears 7 times as often as "graduate high school" in 2008, the most recent year for which results are available. "Graduate high school" is gaining (trending?) but has a long way to go. I have not heard ordinary people using this phrase, only news sources. Are they collaborating to show their power? I say "Never yield!"

Comment on A quote within a quote within a quote by Tim Perry Tim Perry Wed, 12 Aug 2015 14:39:16 +0000 'He said "She was like "'He sounded like ""MRAWWWHHH.""'""'

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Wed, 12 Aug 2015 10:28:30 +0000 I'm an EFL teacher, and to a large extent British EFL course books stick with the same time/aspect combinations, present simple etc. I'm not too worried whether we call these tenses or forms, as long as we all sing from the same hymn sheet. Which is why I was rather taken aback with that advanced course book suddenly introducing the idea of two tenses.

I've also written a piece on what I call 'The twelve tense system', which I hope shows why I think it's a system that makes some sense, and that it's useful to compare aspects across the time lines: to see, for example, that past perfect, present perfect and future perfect have certain usage features in common, and are not just a buch of separate tenses to be taken in isolation, or simply compared with other aspects in their own time frame (i.e. past perfect vs. past simple vs. past continous).

And I'm glad to see Maeve Maddox also talks of twelve tenses, and makes a similar distinctiion between the needs of linguists and those of teachers. Incidentalluy, I'm all for native speakers being taught the same system.

Comment on Why do we have “formal” English? by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 12 Aug 2015 06:48:34 +0000 Sometimes I think that all the things I today forbid in formal writing will some day be considered perfectly acceptable by the generations to come. "Pretty" will be rehabilitated, contractions everywhere, and one-sentence-per-paragraph the norm. Formal English is sometimes just the older generation resisting change.
I have the honour to remain etc...

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 12 Aug 2015 06:29:53 +0000 @LK Many English teachers would agree with much of what you say. In practice though, course books often dictate the terminology and syllabus used.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Leonid Kutuzov Leonid Kutuzov Tue, 11 Aug 2015 04:18:20 +0000 Of course languages are not designed, but terminologies are.
The terminology in “the use of verbal structures in English has indeed evolved into something arguably too finely nuanced or just plain quirky.” Now, was it not a case of intelligent design?
I think Warsaw Will’s “A Brief History of Tense” (Simply great! Many thanks for this piece of work!) provides more than sufficiently convincing proof of that.
Or, if we need more:
“How many tenses are there in English? This is a simple question, to which, however, almost every linguist gives a different answer.“
“…2500 years of research have not led to any precise or universally acknowledged definition of the category 'tense'…”

It is clear that nothing is clear to anyone, and hasn’t been for 2500 (!!!) years.
Just think: How does a foreign teacher/learner feel about and what is he/she supposed to do with all this?

In reality, the number one problem of the English tenses lies in the terminology we use trying to describe/explain what tenses are, what they mean and what they do.
“The focus of linguistics is not English, but all the languages of the world.” (“How Many Tenses in English?” by Maeve Maddox,
“As far as I'm concerned, this is just EFL writers being trendy, like the fashion for calling Phrasal verbs Multiword verbs. It doesn't help the students one jot, unless they're going to go on to study linguistics at an English-speaking university…
The needs of linguistics and language teaching are very different: linguistics is mainly to do with analysis, not teaching.”
Like the authors of the articles, I am strongly of the opinion that for teaching, we should only use simple/major grammatical terms letting the rest of them go to the labyrinths of linguistics. The problems will disappear all by themselves.

Comment on Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian by dialecty dialecty Mon, 10 Aug 2015 13:40:46 +0000 Benedict,

This is a great question. The reason has to do with stress placement. In the word CANADA, the second 'a' does not carry primary stress. Stress is on the first syllable in Canadian English. An unstressed vowel in English turns into an 'uh' sound. So, you get CA-nuh-duh. In contrast, in the word CANADIAN, the second 'a' carries the primary stress in the word, so it is fully pronounced, cuh-NAY-di-un. It is different from the French, but that's only because French is syllable-timed instead of stress-timed and so does not follow the same patterns of vowel reduction. I hope this helped!

Comment on How does one debate a person? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 05:26:01 +0000 But even in the US 'with' is more common, and the with-less version is relatively recent:

Comment on “escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 05:16:32 +0000 @jayles - good point. The first page of a site search of The Guardian for "escaped prison" shows mainly the idea of escaping a prison sentence.

"However, they escaped prison after part of the sentence was suspended "
"Anthony Delaney left court yesterday clutching a bag full of belongings. He had escaped prison, but reaped the wrath of the judge at Lewes"

There are a couple with the 'from' meaning, one from North America, and one from a film review.

Comment on When is the “-wise” suffix okay? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 05:07:51 +0000 As soon as we use the word 'indiscriminate' we are in the area of subjectivity, and the use of the word itself suggests a certain attitude. Me, I prefer 'the creative use of suffixes', which of course also suggests a certain attitude.

And as HS rightly says, register has a lot to do with it. These expressions usually sound better in an informal register. By the way, the only '-age' example I can think of is 'signage' - which I would suggest is not usually used as a plural, but indeed as a collective term, and more (the whole system). Are there others?

As for suffixes themselves, they have been a long-accepted way of creating new words: in HS's short comment I can see at least three.

Perhaps it's all a matter of time: there is often resistance to new words, which with time may begin to sound more familiar.

Comment on have a knowledge of by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 04:52:01 +0000 I found this on a WordReference forum:

"Besides bringing out a certain aspect of the notion denoted by the noun the indefinite article also has a stylistic effect making a description more vivid. Therefore the use of the indefinite article with abstract nouns is characteristic of the belles lettres style:

He was filled with a loathing he had never known.
He scanned her face: it expressed a dramatic eagerness.
Looking back upon that luncheon now it is invested for me with a curious glamour."

Learning to use articles by L. Barmina

I don't think this is so rare really. Other (perhasp less literary) examples from a couple of other websites:

There was a certain coldness in her attitude towards me.
I feel a certain reluctance to tell her the news.
Some children suffer from a fear of the dark.

Incidentally, 'a knowledge of' seems to have been much more common in the past, according to Ngram peaking arund the middle of the 19th century. As for justification, would 'he has knowledge of Latin' sound any better. Not for me it wouldn't (but I would be much more likely to say 'he knows some Latin' or 'his knowledge of Latin is quite extensive' or some such - the phrase as put sounds somewhat old-fashioned to me). What's more, the use of that indefinite article often goes hand-in-hand with an adjective, for example, 'a thorough knowledge of', where the article would, I think, be necessary. Other adjectives used like this include 'certain, good' etc.

Comment on Why do we have “formal” English? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 04:28:53 +0000 No doubt most languages have differences between their written and spoken forms. This partly goes with the medium. Written language tends to be more 'careful' and we have a body of precedents to go by. Spoken language, meanwhile, is more spontaneous, friendlier perhaps. And remember it goes both ways: formal language often sounds inappropriate in an informal context. So most of us don't use 'much' and 'many' in positive statements in smonepoken language. We rarely say things like 'I have many ideas' or 'Much time and money has been wasted' in normal spoken language.

What HS says was certainly true in the past but I'm not so sure today. What's more, partly due to email, correspondence for one is getting less formal.

Compared with romance languages, I think English has actually less differences between formal and informal language. Both French and Italian have tenses (especially past simple) that are rarely used in spoken language. Spanish and Italian have 3rd person formal forms while French has 'vous'.

I don't mind so much when the 'caste system' refers to words rather than people. It doesn't particularly bother me using 'many' in more formal writing rather than 'lots of'; while I often use 'lots of' and 'get 'in spoken English, there are times when they don't seem to sound right in more formal language. As with much in language, isn't it simply a case of 'horses for courses'?

But then there are those words like the adverb 'pretty', which I find no problem with, but some others object to in a formal setting.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 10 Aug 2015 04:06:14 +0000 There are basically two ways of defining tense: morphological and functional. Linguists tend to use the former, and therefore see only two tenses, past and present (as the main verb itself only has these two different forms). In EFL we usually use a twelve tense system. This consists of three times: past , present, future. Each is combined with four aspects: simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous. So 'I'll have been waiting' is Future Perfect Continuous (the most exotic tense). There are also a couple of forms that don't fit into this system: 'going to' and 'used to'.

This makes more sense to me, as in English it is the auxiliary verbs, rather than morphological change., that do most of the tense work. And it also reflects closely how we use verb forms. And I rather agree with Leonid on that one.

Whether you call them tenses or forms or whatever, the terms such as 'present simple', 'past continuous', 'future perfect' are widely used, and are very useful. And as jayles says, we have to call them something. It always amuses me that those who say 'there is no future tense' often have no problem talking about 'future continuous' or 'future perfect'.

The worst thing for foreign learners, I think, is when we switch systems. One well-known brand of English language books happily talks in terms of narrative tenses (i.e. the four past tenses) and present tenses, until Advanced level, when they suddenly announce that 'there are two tenses - past and present'. Now that is confusing.

Incidentally, some time ago I wrote a blog piece 'A brief history of tense', looking at how the idea of tense has been treated from the earliest English grammar books until today. At various times grammarians have seen 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12 tenses. I've even seen one suggestion of 32 tenses (he assigns different tenses to different modals).

Comment on “escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”? by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Mon, 10 Aug 2015 00:40:08 +0000 In British English, it is commonplace to use "escaped prison" where it means "avoided a prison sentence". Examples of "escaped prison" referring to unauthorized exiting of the building are rare in British English but common enough in American

Comment on How does one debate a person? by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Mon, 10 Aug 2015 00:01:01 +0000

Comment on have a knowledge of by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Sat, 8 Aug 2015 23:29:11 +0000 Macmillan: "Knowledge is sometimes used with a, but only in the pattern a knowledge of something (or a good/deep/thorough etc knowledge of something):"

1 Kings 9:27 KJV: .. shipmen that had knowledge of the sea.." also 2 Chronicles 8:18 KJV

The usage seems to be an exception.

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sat, 8 Aug 2015 04:34:57 +0000 I get tense just thinking about it.

Comment on When is the “-wise” suffix okay? by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sat, 8 Aug 2015 04:32:59 +0000 Maybe the context has some bearing, or even the old formal/informal use argument?

One could argue that the indiscriminate addition of suffices is rather too common these days.
A prime example of this being the "-age" suffix which has led to its use to form words which some use as alternative plurals instead of collective terms.

Comment on Why do we have “formal” English? by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sat, 8 Aug 2015 04:23:42 +0000 Might be something to do with the roots of the various words or terms.
There are those who maintain that those with Latin or French roots are preferable to those with Germanic origins, and vice versa.

May also have something to do with educational standards?

Comment on “escaped prison” or “escaped from prison”? by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sat, 8 Aug 2015 04:20:09 +0000 I'd say both are correct, although my preference in this case would be "escaped from prison".
Escape without from is appropriate with words like censure, notice, punishment, comment.
It just doesn't sound right when used in that fashion with words like prison, gaol, confinement.
The "escaped prison" is, I suspect, more common in American English where there seems to be a tendency to drop prepositions and even definite and indefinite articles.
For example:-
"Graduate college" instead of "Graduate from college"
"Trump debated Bush" rather than "Trump debated with Bush"
"It happened Monday" rather than "It happened on Monday"

But I may be wrong.


Comment on “Anglish” by Zachary Justin Gray Zachary Justin Gray Sat, 8 Aug 2015 02:36:24 +0000 Let's go back to the beginning, shall we?

The first words about Anglish can be rewritten thus:

Anglish is a tongue made from today's English by drawing together words of Saxon stock and leaving out those which are outlandish.

Writing all in Saxon and Norse-root words isn't such a hardship, but...

I am reading two kinds of mistake about Anglish among the people posting. The first kind stems from laziness in thinking about meaningful speech: "all you blowhards should rather leave English alone," as though by speaking it we don't all have a hand in crafting it.

The second kind stems from laziness in rewriting English by using Saxon sounds without care for meaning. "Uncleftish springballs" is dumb and bewildering. "Great fireballs" when speaking of World War II would do much better: it is Saxon, straightforward, and strong.

Moreover, this bewilderingly dumb problem is heard again and again in the high-speech, low-speech nonsense in shows like those made by that "History" network. Some of the story is told in outlandish speech, and then the same thought is straight away retold in "low" English. This is meant to stand in for giving true insight.

However, for some really good Anglish, one needs look no further than Tolkien. Taut, thriving speech is best won by wielding the mightiest words ready to hand, and Tolkien was the wizard of all writers when it came to roots English.

As his amazing work tells, Anglish doesn't have to be boring, nor does English. Nor does English hurt much from leaving out outlandish speech. I love Latin and Greek, but today they are often used to hide rather than show true meaning. Writing in an Anglish way makes thoughts sharper and writing more trustworthy.

Comment on A quote within a quote within a quote by Robert Ainslie Robert Ainslie Fri, 7 Aug 2015 22:43:44 +0000 Triple quotes are trippy

Comment on English can do perfectly well without “Tenses” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Fri, 7 Aug 2015 19:31:51 +0000 The use of verbal structures in English has indeed evolved into something argueably too finely nuanced or just plain quirky. It was not a case of intelligent design! However, we do need to give each structure some kind of label in order to talk about it when teaching.

I'm afraid frustration with verbal structures in English is the gateway to the path which leads to a much better understanding. It is a sort of Kutuzov tactic where one retreats to victory.

By the way, some forty years ago three-wheel cars were common in the North of England.

Comment on Obj of Prep + Gerund by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 5 Aug 2015 08:30:42 +0000 @WW Thanks. I do agree that possessive+gerund as subject is somewhat more palatable.

Oddly I am happy with "His smoking annoyed her." But adding in "in the house" seems to make it sound slightly ungainly to my ear.

However these days I seem to baulk at the possessive even in formal writing :
"The board objected to the developers putting forward fresh proposals at this late stage".

Hewins (Advanced Grammar in Use) agrees with the idea that "developers' " here would be more formal. I just think that forcing Latinate grammar onto English is now a thing of the past.

Comment on Obj of Prep + Gerund by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Wed, 5 Aug 2015 05:58:01 +0000 @jayles - I don't have it to hand, but I seem to remember that in the 3rd edition of Fowler, Burchfield suggests that in sentences like 'She doesn't like him/his smoking in the house', use of the object pronoun is more common than use of the possessive (at least in British English), and most course books seem to agree that the former is more normal in spoken English, while the latter is more formal.

The original question concerns an object pronoun or possessive after a preposition, but I don't think there's any real difference. Both 'doesn't like' and 'of' theoretically demand an object, and therefore a noun phrase, which I think is Jennifer2's argument. However, real language doesn't always follow theory, and in this case I would agree with you. (It should really be the other way round - theory should be based on real language).

Incidentally, although it doesn't remove the 'problem', I think I'd get rid of that preposition, and simply say 'I envy him (his) getting rich'.

Another interesting aspect is when the -ing form is the subject rather than the object, where the object form can seem just too informal for many:

His smoking in the house annoys her.
Him smoking in the house annoys her.

Comment on Obj of Prep + Gerund by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 5 Aug 2015 00:29:03 +0000 1) if one googles "stand him crying", the phrase "I can't stand him crying" comes up as not unusual, even in print, although it does not seem to come up on Ngram; whereas "stand his crying does".

2) To my ear, using possessives with gerunds now sounds somewhat stilted or forced (indeed I now tell my students not to bother)

Would appreciate any empirical data to see whether the possessive+gerund is now out-dated.

Comment on Possessive with acromyms ending in S by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:54:54 +0000 Just for the record:-

Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g. ASCII, NASA, LASER RADAR).

Initialism: An abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced separately (e.g. BBC, CIA, IBM).