Comments for Pain in the English Forum for the gray areas of the English language Sun, 29 Mar 2015 07:05:52 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on Does a lie have to have intent to deceive? by Dream Otters Dream Otters Sat, 28 Mar 2015 21:25:09 +0000 I agree, basically. A lie needs to be a deception. However, if lying to oneself is possible then how is telling others the same untruth not a lie?
After you've allowed yourself to be convinced then sharing that lie, believing in it, still would make one guilty of lying. It is because of how convinced you have become without sufficient evidence. Our assumptions make us liars.

Comment on “American” by AnWulf AnWulf Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:06:23 +0000 "The Oxford Companion to the English Language":


In modern English, North and South America are generally considered separate continents, and taken together are called the Americas in the plural, ..., without a clarifying context, singular America commonly refers in English to the United States of America.

Since the 18c, a name of the United States of America.


This seems to only be a true problem in Spanish. As someone pointed out abuv ... and my Brazilian friends confirm ... in Brazilian Portuguese, an "americano" is someone from the US. As someone esle pointed out, in other tungs suchs as German, an "Amerikaner" is from the US. I livd in Germany for a few years and never met anyone who thought of an "Amerikaner" as anyone but someone from the US.

Nonetheless, we're talking about English here. Someone from the United States of Mexico (estados unidos de Mexico) is a Mexican, someone from the United States of America is an American as well as a North American. A Mexican is also a North American (as is a Canadian), an Argentian or a Brazilian is also a South American.

The US, Canada, and Mexico are part of the North American Free Trade Association. They are all North Americans.

Central America is a region of the continent of North America.

In English, an American refers to someone from the US. Otherwise, it is North or South American to refer to someone from one of the TWO continents In English it is not one but two continents and together they are the Americas (plural).

There is no confusion in English about this. Spanish speakers want to bring their confusion about the whole thing into English and act offended. Too bad.

Comment on “How is everything tasting?” by Michael MMc Michael MMc Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:28:04 +0000 Clearly some consultants somewhere in the restaurant business came up with this and has spread it throughout the industry. I, too, find it incredibly annoying. It seems designed to limit customer statements of dissatisfaction. Even worse, some places have gone even further and trained their wait staff to ask "Is everything tasting great?" Um, yeah, sure. Such a closed question is clearly designed to NOT elicit any form of real feedback while maintaining a pretense that the wait staff is actually interested in the customers.

Comment on It is you who are/is ... by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:04:03 +0000 Although 'Is it you who are' is the gramatically 'correct' answer, I'm increasingly convinced I'd normally say 'Is it you who's ...' or use a workaround.

A similar problem with a relative clause came up in class the other day in an exercise on tenses from a book called Grammarway Advanced. There was a question where the students had to fill the gap with a suitable verb in the appropriate tense, includinng the word 'ever':

"This is one of the best books that ................ on the subject"

The students were obviously meant to pick the present perfect passive of 'write'. And my first reaction was:

"This is one of the best books that has ever been written on the subject". But then I started thinking: the relative clause refers to 'books', not one, just as the relative clause above refers to 'you', not 'it'. So maybe it should be 'have', not 'has'. It turns out this one has been bothering people for centuries. Although Fowler thought 'has' here a blunder, it's been used by many good writers. It seems that 'one' is just too strong a draw for most of us; it's that oldidea of notional agreement taking over from formal agreement.

I think it's the same with 'Is it you who are'. Formal agreement favours 'are', notional agreement favours 'is'. And in spoken English, at least, notional is often more natural and idiomatic than formal or 'correct'.

Comment on Opposition to “pretty” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 24 Mar 2015 06:50:06 +0000 @AnWulf - No, the teacher is Polish. I think the 'mates' bit was the words my student used.

@HairyScot - One of my English teachers used to give this example of the oddities of English:

' "Now, then", he said, giving me a pretty ugly look.'

'Pretty' was prety popular with British writers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially with Daniel Defoe. Johnson gives eight examples, presumably approvingly. Even Lowth, and other grammarians used it in their books.

As to meaning, I like Johnson's definition best - 'it is less than very'. I can see why you might want to avoid it in academic texts (although both Darwin and Ruskin used it), but I would have thought that the same goes for 'very', so I don't really understand those who say use 'very' instead. For me, at least, they are not the same: 'petty' is more nuanced.

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Comment on “American” by Galvanster Galvanster Sat, 21 Mar 2015 22:01:07 +0000 Something that is widely ignored in the USA is that "America" is the name officially given to the continent in 1507 by German cartographer Martin Waldeesmüller when the first official map showing the new continent was printed. In actuality, "America" only and exclusively applied to southern America. From then on, the inhabitants of the newly discovered continent were refered to as "Americans". Much later, the central and northern hemisphere were included in the concept of America.

This is why you will most likely start a fight in Ameirca, because the terms "America" and "American" were never used to mean "USA" and "US citizen", so obvioulsy it feels like an unfair appropriation of terms that have defined millions of people for longer than the existence of the USA. The USA lives in some sort of isolated bubble from the rest of America and that is why it is widely ignored this piece of history in the USA. No country has the right to appropriate terms that define millions of people equally.

Many educated people in the USA have acknowledged this problem and have come up with proper demonyms to exclusively mean "US citizen" such as United Statesian, Usanian or Usonian. Some online dictionaries allow the use of "United Statesian" although Usanian also sounds like a good demonym because it is even more distinctive and shorter if you want one short.

Until the USA gets its proper official demonym this will to come to an end.

Comment on Opposition to “pretty” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Sat, 21 Mar 2015 18:34:39 +0000 Maybe because the meaning can be unclear - "very" or "somewhat" ?

Deeming "pretty" as informal seems to predate the wave of political correctness so I wonder wherher it was just some post-Victorian academic snobbery, in the same way as in the decade following WWII was taught at school not to use "get", which apparently was an ugly lower-class word. I would guess it was at school that I acquired (or got) the idea that "pretty" was unacceptable in formal writing. Blame the teacher(s)! Not sure where they got the idea from though.

With other words we have seen, just over one generation, "unseemly" become "inappropriate"; and words like "old", "elderly", "fat" become scarcely polite under the influence of political correctness, but the idea that "pretty" is informal seems to predate that.

Comment on Opposition to “pretty” by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Fri, 20 Mar 2015 20:46:29 +0000 I see nothing wrong in the use of pretty as an adverb, although certain combinations could be amusing:-
"She's really pretty ugly."
"That's pretty bad."

I'm sure there are more.


Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by AnWulf AnWulf Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:26:36 +0000 A small clarification … sox is plural of sock. Thus, the Boston Red Sox is indeed plural.

As for the Heat, heat is a play on words. Miami is hot but also the word 'heat' can mean 'pressure' or even 'gun'; it is noted phrases like "put the heat on" or "the heat is on".

Comment on Opposition to “pretty” by AnWulf AnWulf Fri, 20 Mar 2015 17:31:48 +0000 Is his teacher a nativ English speaker (or at least British taught by the note of "mates" insted of friends)?

There's no good reason that I can think of aside from maybe he thought his students were saying it too much and he was trying to get them to note other words.

Comment on Pronouncing “str” like “shtr” as in “shtrong” “shtrange” by notanozombie notanozombie Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:47:18 +0000 The first time i heard this,shtrong garbage, publically was michelle Obama. I have heard others, all blacks, throughout my lifetime With that way of pronouncing the word strong as shtrong. I do believe that since M. 0bama says it publically it is becomming a fad for her audience.

It is only recently that i have heard whites and others pronounce that word the wrong way.

Hey my experiences are mine and no one can tell me what I observe is not what I observe so don't even think of trying your racism B.S with me.

Comment on It is you who are/is ... by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:40:48 +0000 Judging by its use in books, the plural is the norm; this is from Thackeray, ' "It is you who are cruel," cried Pen'.

I think in informal English, however, we might well say 'It's you who's wrong'; 'are' sounds a bit stilted somehow.

My explanation would be is that this is a cleft sentence where 'It' is an introductory device, the subject of 'is', and 'who is wrong' is a specific type of restrictive relative clause modifying 'you'. The verb should therefore agree with the subject of the realtive clause, 'you', not 'it'.

Compare with a couple of more obvious plurals:
"It's the Johnsons who have just been to Cypress, not the Smiths." (Not 'has')
"It's oysters that make me feel ill, not mussels." (Not 'makes')

Comment on ta-ta & ho-ho by Actually Actually Tue, 17 Mar 2015 12:38:07 +0000 Dean Andrews was referring to an event in which he gave the name of an individual not referring to anyone specificly, but just to give the interviewer bait. Well that man took that name and ran with it, coming up with an individual who had been charged with carrying a concealed weapon in Houston I believe. Well the original guy Dean Andrews gave to get this ball rolling was fictional, so this individual who was charged for carrying a concealed weapon might have done so, but that doesn't make the original fictional individual who just happens to have the same name any more real because of this coincidence. That was my interpretation anyway. Either way "the right ta ta but the wrong ho ho" can't really get any better. Haha

Comment on It is you who are/is ... by Mick Thomson Mick Thomson Sun, 15 Mar 2015 12:22:39 +0000 still confused about this one... doesn't the word "who" relate to the word "it" ? for me to use a singular verb?

Comment on being used by Anton Ivanov Anton Ivanov Fri, 13 Mar 2015 16:28:51 +0000 Many thanks

Comment on Can every letter be used as a silent letter? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Fri, 13 Mar 2015 09:11:35 +0000 @Dean. I think you're cheating a bit with almond and dinghy, and perhaps even with honour. There are still sounds there; they wouldn't sound the same if you take away the letter altogether, as with 'listen, hour' etc. The 'gh' in dinghy is a specific sound, /ŋ/, not just g and h together, otherwise it would be 'dinhy'.


and even with honour, /ˈɑːnər, the sound of British 'ou', or American 'o' is not 'u', but the schwa.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Fri, 13 Mar 2015 09:01:17 +0000 As I've said before, I know nothing about football, and so nothing about 'iPro Stadium' without going to Wikipedia myself, so I think perhaps you should start doing a little research of your own. As for foreign stadiums, just Google them and see what results you get. But if in doubt add 'the'.

Comment on being used by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Fri, 13 Mar 2015 08:50:00 +0000 These are both 'reduced relative clauses', and both are passive (present simple passive and present continuous passive):

1. The instruments (which are) used are very reliable.
2. The instruments (which are) being used are very reliable.

The meanings are very similar, the difference being the normal one between using present simple (1) and present continous (2) forms

The first one suggests you are talking about a standard process, situated in general time, which is fairly static. The second sugegsts that you are talking about a situation occurring now. For example:

'We have been operating this procedure for some time now, and the instruments used are very reliable'

'This is a new procedure, which has its risks, but a least we know that the instruments being used are very reliable.'

Comment on Can every letter be used as a silent letter? by Dean Garrett Dean Garrett Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:25:28 +0000 G dinghy

Comment on Can every letter be used as a silent letter? by Dean Garrett Dean Garrett Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:22:39 +0000 O honour and almond

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by dwishiren dwishiren Tue, 10 Mar 2015 17:10:48 +0000 Perfect. How about "iPro Stadium"?
Is this related to a sponsor or area?

By the way, what about foreign stadiums outside England ones, for example in Spain, Italia, etc? As a nonnative, I'm rather perplexed to decide whether to use or not. But a native speaker is so easy to do that. I
do want to be able to determine when to use "the" or not with foreign stadiums without going check Wikipedia. Please help me, teacher Will.

Comment on attorneys general vs. attorney generals by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Mon, 9 Mar 2015 19:08:28 +0000 @WW

See my comments in the thread on was/were.


Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Mon, 9 Mar 2015 19:05:21 +0000 Hi WW,

Point taken.
I must say that in addition to respect for your knowledge I am impressed by your patience.
Were I to once more involve myself in this discussion I might well grow tired of casting my pearls .........................

Enough said methinks. :-))

Comment on thus, therefore and hence are different by archbishop archbishop Mon, 9 Mar 2015 10:20:44 +0000 Great website! I love it! Thanks a lot!

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 9 Mar 2015 06:51:20 +0000 Wake up, HS, it's morning again :). And the subjunctive, and especially the use of 'were/was', being one of the most controversial areas of grammar, I doubt it will ever go away.

My discussion with jayles has been purely historical, and I've learnt a little about Old English along the way.

But when someone like EnglishElle calls herself a 'firm believer in descriptivism', and goes on to contradict that in everything she says, I will react, especially when she puts it down to lack of education. She might try reading a modern grammar book for a start before throwing about that sort of accusation.

Comment on attorneys general vs. attorney generals by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Mon, 9 Mar 2015 06:33:40 +0000 But, HS, one or two people saying something doesn't make it common usage. Common usage is what is generally used and/or accepted by educated speakers and writers of a given language community, not 'anything goes'. This expression is used in the plural mainly in the States, and if you check the New York Times, for example, the entries are nearly all for "attorneys general" - that *is* the common usage.

Here there is a certain logic to it, but there are other language contexts where it is only common usage that makes something 'correct' , especially in vocabulary. It is because of common usage, not any written grammar rule, that most of us don't say 'thou art' any more, or that English moved away from inflected endings to the use of auxiliaries, and all the other changes that happened in English before any grammarian put pen to paper.

And what did the first grammarians use a basis for their rules - the observation of common usage.

And on the subject of compound nouns, is there any rule for deciding whether they spelt as two words, hyphenated, or joined together? None that I know of, except common usage.

As for Nick D's idea - passer-by, and brother-in-law are also nouns in their own right - but passer-bys and brother-in-laws certainly don't sound OK to me. Why? Because it's neither common usage, nor is it logical, as mshades explains (he explains a lot more than the history). Same difference with attorneys general - they are general attorneys, not some kind of general.

And what about expressions such as spoonful, cupful, bucketful and truckful. Logically you might think it should be spoonsful etc, as this commenter on a forum suggested, "The grammatically correct answer is "spoonsful", those who say otherwise are mistaken. However, those who say otherwise also have custom and usage on their side, and "spoonfuls" is perfectly acceptable. "

Some people think 'spoonfuls' is recent, but I'm not so sure. According to Ngram, that has always been the case, although 'spoonsful' got close in the first half of the 19th century. And according to another grammar book, this time from 1830, "The words spoonful, mouthful, and others of a like kind, are indivisible compound nouns, therefore must form their plural regularly", a point echoed in several books of that time. And why are they 'indivisible'? I would suggest through common usage.

So, what many people seem to think is the 'grammatically correct' version has in fact been dismissed in many grammar books. Which simply confirms me in my belief that there is only one unbiased, objective way of deciding whether to use one form or another, and that's common usage. And to be very wary when someone says 'the grammatically correct answer is ***'!

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sun, 8 Mar 2015 18:01:30 +0000 I thought this one had been put to bed some time ago.

Comment on attorneys general vs. attorney generals by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Sun, 8 Mar 2015 18:00:25 +0000 @Nick D

Of course you can use it.
However the unfortunate fact is that common usage does not always mean correct usage.


Comment on attorneys general vs. attorney generals by Nick Donnelly Nick Donnelly Sun, 8 Mar 2015 08:42:58 +0000 mshades explains the history.

However - right now 'attorney general' is a noun in and of itself. Therefore attorney generals is fine - and we don't need permission to use it - we can just use it.

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Sat, 7 Mar 2015 13:04:09 +0000 @jayles - Hi, I confess to knowing next to nothing about the use of subjunctive in early English, but looking around, the subjunctive is usually seen as a form of inflection, some of whose functions were 'taken over by' modals (MWDEU). That's not the same as saying they *are* the subjunctive. Or as one paper (The Subjunctive in Old English and Middle English - Eva Kovacs) puts it (my emphasis):

"*Instead of* the subjunctive mood modal auxiliaries can also be used. The
auxiliary found most frequently in these clauses is shal/sholde, especially in the preterite. Furthermore, may/mighte also occurs mainly in the present tense, just like wil/wolde, which is occasionally found in Late Middle English."

By the time eighteenth century grammarians had discovered the subjunctive it had largely fallen out of use, and as I've already pointed out, more has disappeared since then, such as its use with real time conditionals. What's more, as Goold Brown shows, in A Grammar Of English Grammars, these grammarians disagreed quite significantly as to its composition and use.

However, grammarians today are generally agreed that there are two inflected (or rather, uninflected) forms, present and past (although compounds are also possible - "If he were wanting to ...)", and I firmly believe to start bringing modals into it is an unnecessary complication - especially to the understanding of modals, which are complicated enough already. In these old grammar books, where may, might and should are sometimes referred to as subjunctive, I have never seen these polite forms ("Would you, could you" etc) referred to like this, and if anything they are much more like a conditional mood. But it is generally agreed, that as we don't have separate inflections for these, they don't constitute a mood.

"English does not have an inflective (morphological) conditional mood, except in as much as the modal verbs could, might, should and would may in some contexts be regarded as conditional forms of can, may, shall and will respectively. What is called the English conditional mood (or just the conditional) is formed periphrastically using the modal verb would in combination with the bare infinitive of the main verb." Wikipedia

The modal system in English is highly complex and central to the way we express modality, just as the primary auxiliaries are to the way we express time and aspect. The use of the subjunctive, on the other hand, is marginal in modern English, and in British English, apart from set phrases, is for all intents and purposes limited to this one word - 'were'. And even then its use varies according to context. It might be hanging on in there in hypothetical conditionals, but it's not nearly so strong in constructions with 'I wish' or 'I would rather', and especially not after 'imagine' and 'supposing'.

I much prefer the concept of 'unreal past' that we teach our EFL students, which explains all these uses much more easily, the past being used here for 'distancing', and 'I/he/she were' simply seen as an exception (see quote from The Cambridge Grammar of English Grammar, above), charming and elegant as it may be for some people, and even for me sometimes. I'm not saying that the history of the subjunctive isn't interesting in its own right, but as far as modern language teaching is concerned, I don't think it's worth much more than a quick mention to explain the 'were' exception.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Sat, 7 Mar 2015 12:04:54 +0000 There are two Etihad Stadiums, one in Manchester and one in Australia. The latter rarely seems to get a 'the', the former sometimes. Officially the Manchester seems to take 'the', but more often than not (for example in Wikipedia) is mentioned without. Manchester City's own website appear to use both versions (compare the article with the map):

This is not a grammatical rule about sponsors, just that sponsored stadium names appear to usually take 'the'. It's not a matter of 'should be'. And writers are free to do what they like. Here are a couple of site searches, one for the BBC, and one for the football site 'FourFourTwo'; you'll see that both versions get used. That's life!

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Thu, 5 Mar 2015 11:57:12 +0000 @WW My thesis would be that modal verbs in English are used in much the same way as they are in German, Dutch and languages like Frisian. Thus in German the past subjunctive "must", "could", "might", "dared" is distinguishable from the past indicative: musste vs muesste and so on.

In English we do not mark the disctinction, but it is still there: German does not mark the subjuctive for "would" and "should" either, but one can use "should" in German instead of "if" in just the same way as in English.

The usage of the past subjunctive to express politeness with a present meaning is very similar too. Thus "She should come" = "Sie sollte kommen" - unmarked past subjunctive, talking about now

The point of all this is it explains how our present usage developed and provides a framework for teaching rather than just saying sometimes it's like this and sometimes it's like that.

Essentially all I'm suggesting is that modals have a real and an unreal past just like any other verb; but they also have a third meaning - the past (subj) used as a polite present. When one adds that the real past is mostly not used as a main clause, we have pretty much explained all modal verb usage in one fell swoop.

Comment on ‘S (apostrophe+S) versus OF by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 5 Mar 2015 07:54:25 +0000 @jayles - custom, I guess - the way a lot of grammar is formed. It's the same for a five dollar bill, an eight pound baby, any time we have a number being used with a noun of measurement. It's not so much because 'it's what people say' as that it would sound odd with the s.

The other form takes the s because it's replacing of, and would have the s even in the singular. It's one mile's walk from here.

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Thu, 5 Mar 2015 07:43:35 +0000 In fact that sentence "If I was the Prime Minister, I would have changed the law." does work,as a mixed-time hypothetical condition, but only if you accept that "was"can be used in hypothetical conditionals.

@jayles - I agree that there is a hidden subjunctive in things like "If I had", but I'm not so convinced by your arguments about modals. French and Spanish use similar expressions, but they are part of their conditional mood, not subjunctive. Theres'a website put together by a subjunctive fan, with a very comprehensive collection of examples, and he doesn't, as far as I can see, include expressions like this.

I'm aware Lowth talks of using the subjunctive with words like "may, might, could, would", but I haven't investigated it very far. It might be worth, however, exploring the possible link between "should" and the subjunctive - the fact that it can be inverted, and that Brits often use it instead of present subjunctive, and in expressions like "I should think so". But again, I can't remember seeing anyone fererring to this as the subjunctive.

Comment on ‘S (apostrophe+S) versus OF by Hairy Scot Hairy Scot Wed, 4 Mar 2015 16:05:46 +0000 Dunno if this is totally relevant, but I have seen and heard phrases like "an empty bottle of wine" used instead of the more (in my view) logical "empty wine bottle".

Comment on issue as problem by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Wed, 4 Mar 2015 01:06:23 +0000 My understanding is that the widespread use of "issue" to supplant "problem" stems from a desire to be more positive, particularly when broaching a topic with your boss. "Issue" has become just another management speak weasel word.

One should move on to the next level, becoming a TOP person (totally-oriented-positive) leapfrogging hurdles and challenges in one smooth single bound....

Comment on issue as problem by providencejim providencejim Tue, 3 Mar 2015 17:23:45 +0000 I am afraid that in the States "issue" has indeed almost fully replaced "problem," at least in informal English.

I mean, when you take your car to your local service station for an oil change and the manager asks, "Any issues we should look at?", you know some kind of watershed moment has arrived. (Yes, this happened to me recently.)

This issue (I use the term appropriately here, I think) surfaced a good seven years ago online, at

Have to say I am in agreement with the original poster and the commenters there, and I'm relieved to see posters here expressing some concern about conflating the two terms.

Now Warsaw Will, I definitely have a problem with that last example from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary: my goodness, surely the advice to "call this number" would pertain to a problem, not an issue, don't you think? (Unless the number is for, say, an agency that collects topics for group discussion or something. But absent a context I expect such advice is much more likely to involve something like a plumbing emergency.)

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Tue, 3 Mar 2015 14:05:58 +0000 Actually the subjunctive is around quite a bit even though it is unmarked. Modal verbs have a 'real' past tense in reported speech:
"She said she would do it"
Modal verbs also use the past subjunctive with present meaning for politeness:
"Could I come in?"
They also use past subjunctive to indicate unreal/hypothetical ideas:
"I would be surprised if ...."
In a main clause only, to distinguish an unreal past idea from real, we usually add a perfect infinitive to the past subjuctive of the modal:
"I would have been surprised if ..."
The point here is that when the use of past subjunctive for politeness developed in the early Middle Ages, we lost the ability to clearly use it to refer to the past. The usage of "had" in the main clause of a past conditional sentence is a throwback (which BTW mirrors modern German):
"Haette ich das gewusst, haette ich es Ihnen erzaehlt"
"Had I known, had I told you"

Comment on ‘S (apostrophe+S) versus OF by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Tue, 3 Mar 2015 13:46:03 +0000 @WW but why not "a ten-days' tour", "a four-hours' trip" ?
Anything beyond "because that's not what people say" ?

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by dwishiren dwishiren Tue, 3 Mar 2015 09:50:26 +0000 Thanks, Will. I've checked them out at Wikipedia. But I've a bit of problem about "the Etihad Stadium" (Manchester City). That uses "the" as "Etihad" is its sponsor. However, I saw the BBC, this stadium doesn't use "the".

CSKA Moscow's late equaliseragainst Roma in Russia earlier in the evening ensured even a defeat by Bayern at Etihad Stadium would not end City's hopes of reaching the last 16.

It should be "at the Etihad Stadium", right? Then, why does the writer not use "the" there? Any reason?

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 3 Mar 2015 06:58:48 +0000 @ElleEnglish re: "If I was the Prime Minister, I would have changed the law."

"I would have changed the law" is still hypothetical, but with past reference, so you need "had" in the "if" clause - "If I had been prime minister, I would have changed the law"

The only way I can think of when "If I was"can be used with past reference is using 'real past ', for example when it refers to a repeated event in the past - "If I was in London, I always stayed at the Ritz." Or, in an example similar to the 'cad' one above - "If I was rude (earlier on), I apologise" (as opposed to "If I were rude, I would apologise")

" If the subjunctive disappeared altogether, it would make for extremely confusing communication at times." - So why aren't we confused with every other verb and four persons of 'be'?

I'm not 'uneducated', in fact I know quite a lot about grammar. But I also know I have a choice.

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 3 Mar 2015 06:23:23 +0000 uninverted, narrowness

Comment on “If I was” vs. “If I were” by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 3 Mar 2015 06:21:52 +0000 Yes, jayles, you're right, there are a couple of times when we don't have that freedom, and one of them is when we use inversion in conditionals. But in the univerted version of the expression you used 'was' would be OK, at least according to Oxford Dictionaries Online:

" if it wasn’t/weren’t for…
used to say that somebody/something stopped somebody/something from happening If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be alive today."

Inversion seems to lock you into the subjunctive. For example, we can't abbreviate 'not' here either - an asterisk means it's ungrammatical, i.e. not acceptable to the majority of speakers:

If he were/was arriving later, I could go and fetch him.
Were he coming later, I could go and fetch him.
*Was he coming later, I could go and fetch him.

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.
Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.
*Hadn't I seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.

Interestingly, some writers also used to replace the 'would have' part with 'had'. When this happened together with inversion, Priestley called it the double conjunctive (his word for subjunctive) and thought it had 'a peculiar elegance':

'He had (= would have) formed one of the shining characters of his age, had not the extreme narowness of his genius, in everything but war, diminished the lustre of his merits.' David Hume, History

The other exception would be the fixed phrase 'If I were you'. This would sound very odd with 'was'.

For more on inversion in conditionals, see:

Comment on ‘S (apostrophe+S) versus OF by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 3 Mar 2015 05:52:20 +0000 The last one is easy enough - in 'It's a four-hour walk' the time expression is adjectival, whereas in 'It's four hours' walk' were saying it's a walk of four hours, hence the apostrophe. But many people are dropping the apostrophe in plural quantities, which is understandable.

As for the rest, I don't think you can draw up hard and fast rules. Custom has led to some being used more one way, others another. It's a bit like compound nouns: together, hyphend or separate? There is no rule, that I know of.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by Warsaw Will Warsaw Will Tue, 3 Mar 2015 05:44:24 +0000 OK. First, there is no 100% rule when it comes to the use or not of 'the' in place names; there are always exceptions. So I was careful to use the word 'usually'. And I should say that all the stadiums I mentioned are in Britain. It may be different in other English-speaking countries.

1. The Brittania Stadium - No, Brittania is not a part of England, but the old Latin name for the island of Britain. But in this case, the stadium owes its name to its sponsor, the Britannia Co-operative Bank.

2. The Hawthorns, the Valley: these both take their names from natural features. Apparently the site of the present West Brom ground used to be covered in hawthorn bushes, hence the name.

3. Old Trafford is an area of Manchester, Anfield is an area of Liverpool. Villa Park seems to have been called after the team that play there; 'park' is sometimes used to mean football pitch, especially, I think in Scotland. Also, parks themselves tend to have names without 'the': Central Park in NYC, in London: Hyde Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, Kensington Gardens. Regent's Park is usually referred to without 'the', but its official title is The Regent's Park, being called after Prinnie, the Prince Regent, later George IV.

You really need to check these out on an individual basis (like I did, at Wikipedia). But I think what I said before stands as a general principle.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by dwishiren dwishiren Tue, 3 Mar 2015 01:46:47 +0000 1. How about "the Britannia Stadium"? "Britannia" is an area in England, right? Why have to use "the"? I think this is just like Wembley Stadium.

2. The Hawthorns (West Brom), the Valley. These uses "the". Are they both part of a sponsor or the name of a person?

3.Old Trafford (Machester), Anfield (Liverpool), Villa Park,, etc. Are all of these stadiums of the names of the town or a place? They don't take "the".

Oh yes, I want you to add this use of "the" or not use in your blog.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by dwishiren dwishiren Tue, 3 Mar 2015 01:04:05 +0000 Thanks alot, Will. What a great explanation. Well, let me try to sum up your explanation so that this can be the rules of the use of "the" for stadiums. First, if it is related to the name of the town or place, geografical areas, then "the" is not used. Second, when a descriptive word of the name of a person comes first, then "the" is used. Third, if it is part of sponsors, then "the" is used. Well, are my summaries right, Teacher Will? I'm afraid to be wrong. But If I'm, please give me the clear rule.

Comment on Why do sports teams take a definite article? by dwishiren dwishiren Tue, 3 Mar 2015 01:03:27 +0000 Thanks alot, Will. What a great explanation. Well, let me try to sum up your explanation so that this can be the rules of the use of "the" for stadiums. First, if it is related to the name of the town or place, geografical areas, then "the" is not used. Second, when a descriptive word of the name of a person comes first, then "the" is used. Third, if it is part of sponsors, then "the" is used. Well, are my summaries right, Teacher Will? I'm afraid to be wrong. But If I'm, please give me the clear rule.

Comment on ‘S (apostrophe+S) versus OF by jayles the unwoven jayles the unwoven Mon, 2 Mar 2015 21:21:14 +0000 One would need to distinguish between "non-semantic" vs "idioms & collocations" vs "meaningful but seldom used" ; thus:
"a glass of wine" is partitive; "a wine's glass" hard to construe;
"the car's door" might be okay, esp in "the car's passenger door jammed"
"at the door of death" - unusual but grammatically okay
"cow milk" is not wrong but usually "cows' milk" cf "goats' milk"
and so forth.

Another issue:
"ten days' travel", "four hours' walk" but "a ten-day tour", "a four-hour trip"