Submitted by Pam Kline  •  May 16, 2011

wrong, incorrect, bad

I am currently teaching English in Spain and one of my students asked me a question that has left me dumbfounded. How would someone explain the differences between:

Wrong/Right
Incorrect/Correct
Bad/Good

I know what sounds good, but I haven’t been able to find a hard and fast rule.

Submitted by Windy Road  •  May 11, 2011

Usage rules for adverbs

An article I was writing recently came back to me with this suggested edit: “commitment to proactively address the issues” was changed to “address proactively the issues.” This grates on my ear, and I’m interested in this forum’s insights. My quick research suggests that adverbs usually follow “be” verbs, but there are complicated usage rules for other than “be” verbs, and in many cases, adverbs correctly come before the verb.

Submitted by Thảo  •  May 3, 2011

Common vs. Commonplace

What is the difference between “common” and “commonplace”? In which situation can I replace “common” by “commonplace”?

Submitted by sigurd  •  April 24, 2011

Is “nevermore” a real word?

Is “nevermore” a real word? Can it be used in “ordinary” writing? I’m wondering because it seems to be the only word that means ‘never again’, and it would be nice to have a concise word.

Submitted by BobH  •  April 18, 2011

Over-use of periods

Has anybody else noticed a trend in the over-use of periods? I’ve seen it a lot in advertizing and the like. I’m not talking about an elipsys (...), I’m referring to when periods are over used, so as to fragment a sentence, or used where perhaps bulleted words/sentances should be used. Periods are also over-used in the likes of phone numbers now where hyphens were once used, thus making it look something like a computer network IP address. (Dot Com revolution maybe? ...Don’t know.) Anyway, it just looks like pop cuture gimmicks--it just looks rediculous.

Submitted by sigurd  •  April 14, 2011

The opposite of “awaken”?

Is there an English word that means ‘to fall asleep’? Since there’s a word, ‘awaken’, that denotes ‘to wake up’, I’m wondering if ‘awaken’’s antonym exists.

Submitted by lef  •  April 11, 2011

and so...

I seem to have developed a writing tick of using “and so” rather than “therefore” or “accordingly.” I like the flow of “and so,” but I have been discouraged from using it. I’m curious about what others think of “and so.”

Submitted by Thảo  •  April 10, 2011

want it that way

I need you help explain this structure to me: “prefer/want it that way”. I have heard it the first time in the song “I want it that way” of Backstreet Boys. But I think the complete sentence could be: “I want it in that way”, is it right? Is “in” left out in this sentence? Thank you in advance.

Submitted by michael owan  •  April 8, 2011

I dove my hat

What is the meaning of “I dove my hat”?

Submitted by Hairy Scot  •  March 22, 2011

“I’ve got” vs. “I have”

Is there not a redundancy in the use of “got” with “have”? Why say “I have got” or “I’ve got” when “I have” conveys the exact meaning? The same would be true of its use in the second or third person.

Submitted by Steph  •  March 20, 2011

The taller of her and...

In the sentence “Karen is the taller of her and Lin”, why is the pronoun ‘her’ used (as opposed to ‘she’)? I would have thought that, since Karen is the subject of the sentence, the appropriate pronoun would be ‘she’? This sentence comes out of the Institute of Professional Editors Accreditation Exam, so I can only assume that it is correct. Thanks to anyone who can help!

Submitted by Dyske  •  March 18, 2011

It’s Official: email not e-mail

The AP Stylebook today announced that electronic mail is now spelled without a hyphen: email. Finally. I personally haven’t used “e-mail” in about a decade. We have a thread here on this topic of how to properly spell email.

http://painintheenglish.com/case/4463

At the time, I commented that it may take another 10 years for this to settle, but it took less than a year!

Submitted by pebbles  •  March 9, 2011

Past Perfect vs. Past Tense

The following sentence is taken from Advanced English CAE: 

Within seconds Barry, who was wearing enormous rubber boots, had tied a rope to the front bumper of the car and was pulling it out with the tractor.

I’d say: 

Within seconds Barry, who was wearing enormous rubber boots, tied a rope to the front bumper of the car and pulled it out with the tractor. 

Any opinions?

Submitted by joham  •  March 9, 2011

“I recommend that you do not” vs. “I recommend you not”

I recommend that you do not take this pill.

I recommend that your wife does not take this pill.

I recommend that you not take this pill.

I recommend that your wife not take this pill.

Are all four sentences correct English? Do many native American/British English speakers use verb forms like in the first two sentences?

Submitted by sigurd  •  March 7, 2011

Rules for -ise and -ize

How does one know exactly when a word is supposed to end with -“ise” vs -“ize” in Oxford spelling?

Submitted by pje  •  February 19, 2011

to-day, to-night

I have seen to-day and to-night used in literature up to the 1920′s. When and why did this become obsolete?

Submitted by sigurd  •  February 15, 2011

i’s vs “i”s

I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

I’ve dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s.

Which of the foregoing examples is correct?

Submitted by alysondraper  •  February 10, 2011

gifting vs. giving a gift

When did we stop “giving” presents, and instead started to “gift” presents?  I was taught that “gift” was a noun and not a verb, but it appears it is now used as the preferred verb to indicate the giving of a gift.

Submitted by alysondraper  •  February 10, 2011

“graduated high school” or “graduated from high school”?

Is it really proper to say “I graduated high school,” or should it not be, “I graduated from high school?” Previously, I thought only rednecks were able to “graduate high school.”

Submitted by dbfreak  •  February 9, 2011

cannot vs. can not

The first spelling/grammatical mistake I always see, even in journals is the spelling for cannot. Cannot must be one word, just like today and tomorrow!

But, I see so many can nots!! You can still grammatically use can not in some contexts, like Can you not shake your leg when I’m in the room? You can just not shake, ok? -> You can not shake it.

As in, you can choose to not shake it rather than you being unable, incapable of shaking! But that’s not the context they use in those darn journals!

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