June 10, 2009  •  chris2

Plural proper nouns ending in consonant-y

What about proper nouns as in team mascots? Our school mascot is a Grizzly. Would students be Grizzlies or Grizzlys? Since it’s a school’s mascot I’d like for it to be correct, but for the last 20 years it’s been spelled Grizzlies. I believe that spelling to be incorrect. Academic input please:o)

June 9, 2009  •  egkg

Plural of “insurance”?

I heard an ad on the radio recently for a company that performs medical procedures. At the end they said “We accept all major insurances.” That didn’t sound quite right to me, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the plural of the word “insurance”. If it were me, I would’ve said “We accept all major insurance plans.” Am I right that there is no plural form of the word? On a related note, I’ve heard, mostly on TV news shows, “damages” a lot. I know that the word exists, meaning a monetary judgement awarded by a court, but they used it when they meant “damage”. For example, “Due to the ice storm, many damages were done to homes,” or “The car suffered severe damages from the accident.” This is improper usage, correct?

June 9, 2009  •  monkey

As of

I am wondering how to use the phrase ‘as of’ correctly. I learnt from my daily email communications with native English speakers that the phrase could mean “from”, “on/at” or “by the end of”. However, the last sense was not found in Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam Webster’s online edition. That made me quite puzzled. Examples may speak louder than theories. “As of yesterday, we had finished three tasks.” Is this usage correct and does it mean the same thing as “by the end of yesterday, we had finished three tasks”? Thanks.

June 4, 2009  •  Dyske

Someone else’s

Is “someone else’s” grammatically correct? Every time I type, the spell-checker reminds me that it’s wrong. There are a lot of discussions online about “passers-by” vs. “passer-bys”. The general consensus, from what I saw, is that the former is more correct. If this is true, shouldn’t it be “someone’s else”? I personally feel that “passer-bys” is more correct, especially when you remove the hyphen (”passerbys”). It’s more consistent with other words like “blastoffs” and “playoffs”.

May 26, 2009  •  richie

“independence from” or “independence to”?

I have a feeling I’ll look at this again in a while and find the answer screamingly obvious. Do these parallel the form of “independent” exactly? As “independence of” seems really wrong, though “independent of” seems ok. I’m confused.

May 23, 2009  •  karlb

My mother wishes my child be like me.

I heard this sentence on radio or TV and while it seems correct grammatically, I believe the verb be is in the subjunctive mode, somehow it did not feel colloquial. Any comments?

May 21, 2009  •  tomolonight

Infinitive without “to”

What is an infinitive without “to”? He need not wait. or He needs not wait. Can you explain more about this?

May 15, 2009  •  Dyske

Peter thins them out

This Japanese program claims that Peter Pan regularly killed children when they grew too old. Here is the paragraph from the original book by James Matthew Barrie: All wanted blood except the boys, who liked it as a rule, but to-night were out to greet their captain. The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two. The controversial phrase here is “thins them out”. How would you interpret it?

May 14, 2009  •  Dyske

One of the most...

In one of the discussions here, Brian W. tells me that the following sentence is wrong: “This is one of the most common errors people make…” He says it should be: “One of the more common…” He explains: Proper use of ‘most’ requires the size of the set in which the subject is a member: “one of the 10 most.” Without a numeric qualifier, all but the last are potentially included in the set “one of the most.” That (unfortunately) makes it as meaningful as “up to 10… or more!” Now, is this a grammatical issue or stylistic issue? I see “one of the most” being used quite often. As a side note, in Japanese, “one of the most” would be an oxymoron because the concept of “most” implies that it is at the top of the list, that is, there is only one thing that could be “most” or “best”. I remember feeling awkward about the phrase “one of the most” when I was first learning English.

May 7, 2009  •  karlb

“It is one of his girlfriends.”

Heard this in park: Whose car is it? It is one of his girlfriends. If it were just: It is one of his girlfriend’s, or: It is one of his girlfriends’, it might be easier to interpret this sentence. As it was said, there are several degrees of uncertainty involved. Can you guess how many?

May 6, 2009  •  sunghee

Friendly - adjective and adverb?

I thought ‘friendly’ was an adjective, but some dictionary published in Korea says it can be used as an adverb, and another dictionary says it was used as an adverb before the 16th century. Is ‘friendly’ still used as an adverb or is it used only as an adjective?

May 5, 2009  •  tom2

“study of” vs. “study on”

I am working in China helping professors and graduate students improve their journal articles. It appears ingrained in Chinese journal writing to use “study on” a subject rather than “study of.” Some individuals insist on “on” because it is widely used and accepted by some english language publications. Any comments on usage history here or other clarification? My usage history is for “of”.

May 4, 2009  •  drmc

Verb, the process of being

What is it called when a verb is no longer the process of doing, but the process of being something? Is it still simply just a verb? Sorry for the lack of example, it was troubling me late last night, if i still remembered the word, i probably wouldn’t be asking this question.

May 2, 2009  •  brie

Dashes when saying year-olds

I have a question about when to use hyphens. For example, do I have a five-year-old dog or a five year-old dog?

April 29, 2009  •  Dyske

Should the link include the quotes?

When you link something in a quote, should we include the double quotes in the link? For instance: I asked where to look, and John answered, “Wikipedia!” or I asked where to look, and John answered, “Wikipedia!” This is really a matter of style, but I’m wondering if any major sites have a style guide that specifies this.

April 27, 2009  •  Dyske

Effect vs. Affect

This is one of the most common errors people make, and I frequently come across people arguing about it. The explanations of how to use them properly are easy to find, but the conceptual difference between the two does not seem to stick in people’s mind. The confusion comes from the fact that “effect” can be used as a verb, although it’s rare. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be any confusion (i.e. “effect” = noun and “affect” = verb). To make it worse, “effect” used as a verb is pretty close in meaning to “affect”. And, if that’s not confusing enough, “affect” can also be used as a noun, and it’s also similar in meaning to “effect” as a noun. So, the only way to get the hang of using them properly is to see actual examples. While I was arguing about this with a friend of mine, I came across this quiz that tests your ability to use “effect” and “affect” properly. I’m curious how well or badly everyone does on this quiz.

April 14, 2009  •  Dyske

Why Don’t We Abolish Irregular Verbs and Nouns?

My 4-year old daughter haven’t learned about irregular verbs and nouns yet, so she often uses the regular versions like “hided”, “breaked”, “mouses”, “fishes”, etc.. Obviously kids learn the rules and try to consistently apply them instead of learning the usage of every word case by case. So, they face the same exact frustration that ESL students do, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought kids learn in a more empirical, case-by-case manner, rather than relying on logical patterns. This lead me to look up the history of irregular verbs and nouns. If native speakers of English have a hard time learning it at first, how did irregular verbs and nouns come into existence in the first place? It’s as if some sadistic English teacher invented them so that he would have more things to test his students on. I found this entry on Wikipedia about Indo-European ablaut which explains the history of it. Not being a linguist, I didn’t quite get some of the things explained there, but I understood that the irregular verbs and nouns came from different linguistic systems within which they were perfectly regular. In other words, the English language has incorporated different systems of inflection, and now we are stuck with them. But I feel that this is something that we could all agree to change, just as the whole world (except for the Americans) decided at one point to adopt the metric system. We just have to deal with the grammar Nazis cringe and squirm uncontrollably for several years until they get over it. We would have one less thing we have to study at school, and the same time and effort can be used to learn something more meaningful and useful.

April 11, 2009  •  ally

Cut on/off

Since I’ve moved to North Carolina I have heard many people say “Cut on/off” the power or lights or any electronic device, and I’m very curious as to why.

April 11, 2009  •  phil

Teams — is or are?

So I frequently write headlines such as “Manchester United are in the quarter-finals” but I always wonder if it should actually be “Manchester United is in the quarter-finals”. I think I actually use them interchangeably depending on what mood I’m in. I guess the question is whether a soccer team is a group of players (”are”) or if it’s an entity (”is”). Which is it?

April 9, 2009  •  amberb

Most-Populous vs. Most-Populated

For some reason most-populous just doesn’t sound right when used in a sentence. Most-populated makes more sense to me. Here is the sentence that it’s used in for context. “BLANK is the public health care system for the nation’s third most-populous county.” Any help on the usage of these 2 phrases would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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