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This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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Do excuse the purposeful misspelling in my name. It comes from a time where I thought doing such was what the “cool” kids did.

Anyways, I have a question, which just so happens to concern the word I used to start this sentence. I find myself using “anyways” instead of “anyway”, despite it not being “correct”. It’s more a matter of it feeling like it rolls off of the tongue better than any hard reason. If someone can offer their thoughts on its use (or misuse) I would be most appreciative.

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Is there a difference between “further” and “farther”? David Attenborough (age 86, I think) says “farther”. I have never, ever, used that word. What’s the difference, if there is one? My dictionary does not say they are synonyms, but their definitions are identical. “Nothing could be farther from my mind” sounds to me a bit over the top, like saying ‘looking glass’ when you mean ‘mirror’. Views?

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I love to read Victorian era mysteries and novels. Can you tell me the meaning of “ton” as used in that era? By context it appears to refer to members of high society. Is this accurate? What is the origin of the term? Thanks for your help.

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Is there any difference between “bad” and “poor.” I always thought that bad implied a moral tone whereas poor simply implied low quality. Has this ever been true? I now look both words up in the dictionary (AHD and Merriam-Webster) and they are synonyms of one another and carry very similar meanings. Have these two words always been essentially the same in their meaning? Or has popular usage of “bad” made them converge toward one another?

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In the third conditional, the structure uses the past perfect with the if clause (e.g. “If I had studied...” and the conditional modal + present perfect in the second clause (...I would have gotten a good grade.”)

When and why is it also acceptable to say “If I had studied, I would have a good grade,” where “have” is used as a possessive auxiliary instead of a conditional modal?

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Another oddity from my favourite source, The New Zealand Herald:

“Perhaps it’s time to deal to the ads that are just plain downers?”

It may be an undetected error or a misprint, but knowing the Herald, I’m sure the author, the proof readers, and the editors, all thought that “deal to” made perfect sense in the given context.

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Is “no end” as acceptable as “to no end”, as in “This amuses me no end.”?

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What is a correct... “A gift of John Doe” or “A gift from John Doe” when referring to a large charitable donation? I like the sound of “of” but not sure which one is right.

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Is there any defense of capitalizing after a semicolon? This reads well to me:

We do not sell tricycles; We sell velocipedes. 

Learn the difference.

Not capitalizing the first word of the second clause diminishes the perceived parallelism:

We do not sell tricycles; we sell velocipedes.

The store around the corner sells bicycles.

With a period between them, the first two clauses read like the premises of a syllogism:

We do not sell tricycles. We sell velocipedes.

Do we sell unicycles?

I will continue, of course, to pen as I please, but, in this instance, wonder if I can confidently publish as I please.

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My evening of horror transpired as follows:

While sharing a bottle of wine with my girlfriend I was stupid enough to posit why it was that I had taken such a huge interest in blues music. 

“Why, because it’s accessible to your mediocre guitar skills,” she said, “and when your skills improve you switch to real music, like classical guitar”.

“Well then, I hope, once your skills improve in belly dance you’ll switch to real dance,”  I responded, “besides it is a misnomer that blues is ‘simple music’!”

Now,  my meaning here was that blues music has been historically labeled and designated as “simple music” in order to mislead people into thinking that African-Americans, from whom the music generated, are not capable of anything complex and so somebody will say, “I love blacks because they play ‘simple music’!”

My girlfriend claims English superiority because she went to college and has been told she has a greater grasp on the language than it’s inventors, so she informed me that I had incorrectly used the word “misnomer”. According to her, what I should have said was that ‘simple music’ was a ‘misconception’ and not a ‘misnomer’. I can see the angle she is coming from and, in all honesty, I barely graduated high school, but I am sure that in this instance I am correct. My point was that blues was “misnamed” or “mislabeled” in order to mislead and not if it is actually simple music (I obviously believe that it is not and I am improving at guitar, so hopefully one day I will be able to tell).

In any case, I am currently sleeping on the couch. Is she correct or is it my “belly dance isn’t real dance” that has me on the couch?

Please help me.

Mr. On the Couch Blues

I beg you not to yell at me about any grammar mistake I may have just made. I finished the bottle of wine by myself and I really just want to be right about this one thing.

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Latest Comments

@Henry

I respect your opinion however misguided it may be.

Since you are obviously not a grammar freak, are you perhaps some other genus of freak?

The main problem here is that English has evolved from a largely synthetic language (one in which grammatical function is marked by verb form or inflections) to a largely analytical language (where word order, modals, and prepositions mark syntactical, grammatical, and semantic functions). The "irrealis were" is not even considered by modern linguists as a form of the "subjunctive" at all, and it is a relic of old English that quite simply no longer serves any grammatical purpose. The syntactical, grammatical and semantic functions that used to be marked by morphology (changes in verb form or inflections) are now marked by in other ways, so the distinction between the "irrealis were" and "was" is no longer needed. The language hasn't lost anything, it is just marking or expressing it in a different way. We don't need the "were" in most "irrelis were" constructions because the semantics of the construction is made plain by words such as "if" or "wish". It is hilarious that people attempt to work out whether they should use "were" by first working out whether the construction is counterfactual, etc. Proof that the "were" isn't what makes the semantics plain.

And "idiolect" is certainly not a neologism. It is a very common word in grammar or linguistics. And it is amusing how some people claim that "correct usage" is seen as pedantic. Not at all. Pedantic usage is what is seen as pedantic ;-)

Insisting on the "irrealis were" as "correct usage" is obviously pedantic and rather odd. It only exists in the one construction, (where a "was" is changed to a "were") and with no other verbs and in no other constructions, proof in itself that it no longer needed.

And, ironically, the "irrealis were" or "subjunctive" as so many call it is much more common in AmE than in BrE. I seems to only be in the US where it is ever taught these days and only in the US where many people, other than grammar freaks, care, or even know about it.

No Woman No Cry

"No woman No cry" contrary to social belief is about telling a woman that she shouldn't cry. The idea that we have about a man not crying if he doesn't have a woman,or the famous one "if a man doesn't have a woman he doesn't have reason to cry,because he doesn't have a woman to cause him pain(emotionally) or to stress him out".
Many people taught that's what it meant. But really and truly its only saying that women shouldn't cry because of hardships.
And also the woman in the song specifically:In the song the man is a travelling minstrel telling his woman he will come back for her.
"So dry your eyes I say, and while I'm gone
everything is going to be alright
everything is going to be alright now
no woman no cry, no woman no cry".

There ....... a book,a pen and three pencils on the tabble
A. Is
B. Are
C. Were
D. Was

When the preposition 'for' is used with the verb 'advocate' is would mean 'for the benefit of'. Therefore, the sentence 'She advocates for foster children' is grammatically correct while 'He advocates for lower taxes' is NOT grammatically correct as lower taxes is not the beneficiary.

Please note that just because a usage has become widespread, that does not make it grammatically correct. If so, the sentence 'I seen the movie' would be deemed correct.

“she” vs “her”

  • Gloria
  • February 22, 2017, 10:31pm

Just finished reading a novel. Two times the author used "her" when I thought she should have used "she". I was taught that if you continued with the sentence you could test which word is correct.
The author wrote: "No one believed in him more than her. (more than she did.) "But no one thought it more than her." (more than she thought it.)

email me at harambe@idied.com
I dunno

email me at harambe@idied.com
I dunno

Plural of Yes

  • Harambe
  • February 21, 2017, 3:39pm

Help me i dont know what to do B-)

As I answered to my friend, I found below answer is perfect for that,

"what is the position of Jawaharlal Nehru among Indian prime ministers??"

You can use this if you want.

Hope it will help you