October 15, 2011  •  sigurd

Semicolon between sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction

Is separating two coordinating-conjunction-linked sentences, the former having a comma(s), with a semicolon instead of a comma logically justified? In GrammarBook.com’s Semicolons category, Rule 5. reads: Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence. Examples: When I finish here, I will be glad to help you; and that is a promise I will keep. If she can, she will attempt that feat; and if her husband is able, he will be there to see her.

October 10, 2011  •  Greg Allen

attorneys general vs. attorney generals

Why is the term “attorneys general” correct? It used to be “attorney generals” ... There are multiple attorney generals. If I was describing a group of Army generals, I wouldn’t say “Armies General” ... would I?

October 8, 2011  •  AnWulf

What can I do besides...

“What can I do besides complaining” sounds wrong to me but I can’t say why ... I think it should be complain. “What can I do besides complain?” “What can I do but complain?” However, “Besides complaining, what can I do?” sounds ok. Any thoughts? Or am I completely off base here?

October 7, 2011  •  Astartes

Prepositions at the end of a clause

I have an ear for when people use bad grammar, especially the use of prepositions at the end of a clause. I was recently watching a show, however, and a character said “Toys are meant to be played with.” What is the correct wording of this phrase? It is killing me.

October 5, 2011  •  Perfect Pedant

“Under urgency”

“Under urgency”? I recently came across this phrase for the first time in my life. The context was:- “Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment Act into law under urgency last night” Can’t really put my finger on why, and I can’t at the moment come up with an alternative, but it just doesn’t sound right. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

October 5, 2011  •  Perfect Pedant

“hone in” vs. “home in”

Why does sports media persist in the use of the phrase “hone in” instead of “home in”. Traditionally, a missile homes in (not hones in) on a target. Hone means “to sharpen.” The verb home means “to move toward a goal” or “to be guided to a target.”

October 3, 2011  •  sigurd

whensoever vs. whenever

Are “whensoever” and “whenever” really the same?  In some of the dictionaries I checked, “whensoever” is defined “whenever”; but I disagree. For instance, I think “The students may leave whenever they so choose” can be written “[...] whensoever they choose” because “so” is already part of “whensoever”.

September 30, 2011  •  sigurd

Semicolon and omission of repetitive words

If a semicolon is used to contrast two sentences, we can omit repetitive words by using a comma, as in:  “To err is human; to forgive, divine” and “The cat was orange; the dog, brown.” However, if no semicolon is used, can we still do the same? For example: “You’re our son, Heracles, and we, your family.”

September 25, 2011  •  Brus

“If I was” vs. “If I were”

“If I was the Prime Minister. ...” said Ed Miliband, British Labour party leader, today, Sunday 24th September 2011. Is this not how to phrase it if it remains a possibility that he was once Prime Minister, or if he is not sure if he was, or is reluctant to admit it?  “If I were the Prime Minister, ...”, using the subjunctive mood of the verb, would suggest that he is not Prime minister but is about to tell us what he would do if he were the PM. If the subjunctive is now defunct in UK Labour politics, as I suspect, how did he continue to tell us what he would have done, if he were the PM, without using the subjunctive? “if I was the PM, I ~~~~~ ???” It cannot be done.

September 22, 2011  •  Max_Elliott

Just because..., (it) doesn’t mean...

I never know whether to use “it” in the following sentence: “Just because ___, (it) doesn’t mean ____.” In other words, would you say, “Just because I was mean to you, it doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR “Just because I was mean to you, doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR “Just because I was mean to you, that doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” I hear people using the second variation all the time, but it seems that the third is preferable. Thoughts?

September 20, 2011  •  sigurd

Specifying time duration without “for”

Can “box turtles can live for 80 years” be written “box turtles can live 80 years”? What about “I ran 13 minutes” instead of “I ran for 13 minutes”? Are the foregoing examples still proper English?

September 14, 2011  •  sigurd

While/among/amid vs whilst/amongst/amidst

While/among/amid vs whilst/amongst/amidst  Which of the foregoing variants is older?

September 7, 2011  •  kellyjohnj

“This Wednesday” vs. “Next Wednesday”

Why do we say “this Wednesday” when we are talking about next week? Shouldn’t we agree that “this” modifies an assumed week and that the week in question is the current (Sun or Mon thru Sat or Sun) one? If it’s Friday today, we could say “this coming Wed” or “next Wednesday” but not “this Wednesday,” because if we did that, then “next Wednesday” would either mean Wednesday of the week after next, strictly speaking, or given ambiguity could mean the very same day as was indicated by “this Wednesday.”

September 4, 2011  •  Brus

What happened to who, whom and whose?

Has the English relative pronoun ‘who/whom/whose’ been banned while I was not looking? It seems to have been replaced by the ugly use of the word ‘that’. On the rare occasions when it can be spotted in printed prose in, for example, a newspaper, ‘who’ is used for ‘whom’ and it is all very disappointing. I write as a disillusioned and pedantic old schoolmaster (retired) whose 12 year old pupils had no problem learning how to deal with ‘who’ and ‘whom’ and ‘to whom’. I blame the Americans for this desecration of our language.

September 2, 2011  •  hero

Oblige to mean “force”

LDOCE says that “No one can oblige you to stay in a job that you hate.” is not correct. Do you think that this sentence is acceptabale?

August 26, 2011  •  Jamie Fritz

“for long”

Why is it that the phrase “for long” can only be used in a negative sentence? For example: I didn’t see her for long. » I saw her for long. I wasn’t there for long. » I was there for long. It’s the case in other phrases using the word long when referring to time: I won’t be long. » I’ll be long. It seems strange to me that only one is acceptable, yet it would have the same meaning in both sets of sentences, were the positive use acceptable.

August 21, 2011  •  Dyske

LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?

On this page (#18), the writer says, rather authoritatively, that “LEGOs” (plural of LEGO) is wrong because “LEGO” is a company name (a proper noun). I disagree. Firstly, there is no grammatical rule that says a proper noun cannot be used to refer to a countable object. “Mac” is a proper noun. It’s a name of a product but it is also used to refer to the individual Macintosh machines, i.e., “Macs”. Think of car companies, like Honda, BMW, and Porsche. When we refer to their cars, we say, “Hondas”, “BMWs”, and “Porsches”. BMW’s own site uses the plural form: “Today’s BMWs are equipped with...” And, Porsche’s own site says, “Barely any two Porsches are identical.” So, I would say “LEGOs” is perfectly fine if you are referring to the pieces of LEGO. It is however wrong to say “LEGOs”, if you are referring to the brand/company.  And, this should be a sparate issue from how the company officially uses the term for their marketing and communication. They could have their own policies but that does not make “LEGOs” grammatically incorrect. The correct use of a word is not determined by the person who coined it. What do you think?

August 20, 2011  •  lanora

“think of” vs. “think to”

My husband is from the UK. I am from the USA. We have a grammar question. I will post two questions which demonstrate the question of the use of the word ‘to’ instead of ‘of’ in a sentence. What do you think of my new car? What do you think to my new car? I have wagered that the use of ‘to’ is grammatically incorrect in the second example sentence. I believe it may be in ‘usage’, but it is not correct. Does anyone have any knowledge to share on this matter?

August 19, 2011  •  Nancy Resnitzky

Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators

Is writing “the August 1 card” correct, or should it be “the August 1st card”? I know July 23rd, 2011 is incorrect but when it comes to the “st”, I’m a confused Canadian. Can you help?

August 11, 2011  •  Carolyn Lunn

“My writing books” or “Me writing books”?

Which is correct :  My writing books proves I am an entrepreneur.  Me writing books proves I am an entrepreneur.  ME or MY ? Both sentences are awkward, yes, but which sentence is grammatically correct?

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