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?

August 1, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

Stood down

In the antipodes it is common to use “stood down” as a synonym for suspended, eg - “The Commander of a Navy vessel has been stood down from his position following allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour on a recent port visit.”. But somehow this does not sound right. A person can stand down, ie: resign or give up a post, but I am not sure that it is correct to say a person was stood down. Why not just say “suspended”?

July 25, 2011  •  lainiewhitney

Comma before “respectively”?

When using the word respectively after listing items and corresponding relations do you use a comma before it? Example: The corresponding sewer projections for the monthly and yearly flows are 18 and 200, respectively.

July 20, 2011  •  isis

“council” vs. “board”

What is the difference between “council” and “board”?

July 16, 2011  •  Dyske

Isn’t the word “feminism” itself gender-biased?

Google’s new application called Ngram Viewer lets you see how frequently any terms or phrases appeared in books over time. The data is based on the millions of books Google digitized. As you can see below, the occurrence of the word “feminism” peaked in 1996 and has been in decline since. But, in the same period of time (from 1980 to 2008), the occurrence of the phrase “gender equality” has steadily grown. This makes intuitive sense to me. Now that the economy assumes each household to have two people earning income, in order to sustain a decent lifestyle, men need and want their wives to work. It is no longer a matter of choice. In other words, “gender equality” is just as important for men as it is for women. However, men are much less likely to identify themselves as “feminists” because the word itself implies gender bias; i.e., someone who advocates for the interests of women. The men who are interested in gender equality would not want to advocate for women or for men. The point is to eliminate gender bias as much as possible. In that sense, the word “feminism” or “feminist” does not make sense; it feels awkward and inappropriate. I believe the first graph above reflects that. Language has subtle yet powerful ways of influencing our values and behavior. This is why certain words have been deemed politically incorrect and have been replaced by new words, like “black” to “African American”. I feel that it’s time for us to retire the word “feminism” as it does not make sense for the ideal of gender equality itself to have gender bias. What do you think?

July 8, 2011  •  Ken Jr

Use of “he” for your father

This has become very aggravating for me. I have searched the internet and can find very little about this in a quick reference way. When I was growing up I was taught that when I spoke about a third person and they were present, that I should use their name or their proper reference title (such as Dad, Mom, Grandpa/Grandfather, and especially elders in general) to refer to them at the very least in the first sentence that involves them. For example as a child if I picked up the phone and my Dad was calling, after I spoke with him he would ask me to pass the phone to my Mom. Knowing full well that my father could hear what I was saying, I would say “Dad is on the phone.” to my mother, NOT “He is on the phone.” as I pass the phone to her. Even though my Mom knew that it was “Dad” whom would be on the phone should I have said “He is on the phone.”, I would never have referred to my Dad as “he” in the first sentence referring to him. I was taught that is very disrespectful. I think the tone taken in such an instance is disrespectful and exclusionary in a sense, but I’m not sure what grammatical rule applies or what it’s called. Can someone help me with this? Thank you for your help.

May 16, 2011  •  Pam Kline

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.

May 11, 2011  •  Windy Road

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.

May 3, 2011  •  Thảo

Common vs. Commonplace

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

April 24, 2011  •  sigurd

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.

April 18, 2011  •  BobH

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.

April 14, 2011  •  sigurd

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.

April 11, 2011  •  lef

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.”

April 10, 2011  •  Thảo

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.

April 8, 2011  •  michael owan

I dove my hat

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

March 22, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

“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.

March 20, 2011  •  Steph

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!

March 18, 2011  •  Dyske

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!

March 9, 2011  •  pebbles

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?

March 9, 2011  •  joham

“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?

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