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!

April 7, 2009  •  sara2

Wet vs. Whet

I know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘whet’, but my question is about the idiom “to wet/whet one’s appetite.” I’ve seen it both ways, but ‘whet’, to me, seems to be the most appropriate word. Which one is it?

March 26, 2009  •  tom

Speaking with negations

What is the reason that I often hear educated people (and so much of the old research material I’m using) speak using negations. Many people also advise this style of speech/writing. I’m referring to things like “Not dissimilar from...” or “Not unfriendly...” Why? I can understand in some situations where a thing is not binary; if it is not A that does not mean it is B. However, I have heard it used for some things that just seem utterly stupid. I mean on the level of “The TV is not off...,” it can only be one other thing can’t it? Am I missing something?

March 10, 2009  •  biz

On Tomorrow

After moving from Chicago down to northeastern Georgia, I have noticed an extremely vexing trend among many of the native Southerners. The phrase “on tomorrow,” i.e. “We will have a staff meeting on tomorrow.” The first time I heard this spoken out loud I assumed it was a mistake; when I continued to hear the words spoken from several different, well-educated, people I assumed it must be dialectal. “On yesterday” has also found itself crept into everyday conversation... Has anyone ever heard (or spoken) such a phrase? Is this a Southern thing? It just sounds unnatural to me and I do not understand why it is deemed necessary to put the preposition in front of tomorrow (and sometimes yesterday). “We will have a staff meeting tomorrow” sounds just fine to me.

March 10, 2009  •  missmass

Defining a proper noun

I’m trying to apply a consistent style to a teacher training website and am battling the Capital Letter Police on a few issues. I’ve culled capital letters for nouns such as “teacher” and “headteacher” unless we refer it as part of a job title. Now I am left with names of meetings and forms that have traditionally been capitalised, but I’m not sure they need to be. Should such things be capitalised if they are being discussed generally? Eg: “You should undertake three observed teaching sessions each year and keep a record of the feedback received on a teaching feedback form.” or “You should undertake three Observed Teaching Sessions each year and keep a record of the feedback received on a Teaching Feedback Form.” And: “Download a teaching feedback form (link to PDF).” or “Download a Teaching Feedback Form (link to PDF).” Any advice?

March 5, 2009  •  maggiefisher

Texted

How is the past tense of text PRONOUNCED? “Texted” It is said as “text-ed” in a bank’s TV commercial and sounds so inappropriate to me. Why wouldn’t it be pronounced “texted”? Does anyone know the rule on this one? Why would one say “they just text-ed me back...” sounds like ill use of the verb to me!

February 25, 2009  •  mel

Sleep / Asleep

I cannot stand when people say “sleep” instead of “asleep”. For example I’ve heard, “When I got home, he was sleep on the couch”. What is this laziness of not saying ASLEEP?? I have lived in the North all of my life, and most recently moved to the south. This must be some sort of “southern dialect”, annoying to say the least....Has anyone else encountered this?

February 22, 2009  •  greenspark

There is/are progress and improvements.

Which would be correct? There ARE progress and improvements. There IS progress and improvements.

February 18, 2009  •  catherinecanadian

quality-control or quality control

Wondering a) if “quality-control” is a verb b) if it is, should the hyphen be used or not - two instances are found on the “About” page of this website - one with, one without: “As long as we quality-control questions, we should not have to quality control comments.”

February 10, 2009  •  alekseyvaneev

Using plural in the title

I’m still undecided on how to spell correctly: “Drum Track Recording Service” or “Drum Tracks Recording Service”. I’m personally voting for the second variant, but as I’m not a native English speaker, I’m not sure.

February 7, 2009  •  victoria

“it” after the word “known”

This is what I’d like to have engraved on a memorial brick, but the last line doesn’t look correct with the word “it” after “known”. I’m glad mostfolks let me knowthey’re religious.By their actions,I wouldn’t haveever known it.

February 3, 2009  •  legal

What’s the difference between “commission” and “committee”

I was challenged by a colleague of mine with the subject question to me the other day. I turned to several resources but failed to find a satisfactory and convincing answer and PainIntheEnglish is my last hope. Can anybody help me? Thanks a lot!

February 1, 2009  •  mike2

Acronyms, Abbreviations, and BBC News

I’ve noticed in the past that the BBC News Web site seems to be rather hit-or-miss with its use of acronyms and abbreviations. One I see repeatedly is its use of “Nasa” for “NASA,” and another I noticed today is “Farc” instead of “FARC” for the Colombian guerrilla group. At the same time, UK, TV, PM, US, and even BBC are treated as I would expect. Can anyone explain this beyond “the editors are twits”? The abbreviation which prompted me to post this, though, is their habit of abbreviating “Sri Lanka” as “S Lanka.” Why would anyone think it necessary to drop those two characters? By way of introduction, my name is Mike, and I was born and raised in southern California. I’m a survivor of public schools through high school graduation in 1978. I know full well that my command of the English language is far from perfect, and I do not attempt to correct errors in others’ informal writing or speech, but journalists, authors, and others who write for public consumption I hold to a higher standard, and are therefore considered fair game. :-)

January 30, 2009  •  richardg

I didn’t sleep last night AND the night before

My wife is a non-native speaker and came up with the phrase above. Rightly or wrongly - I gently suggested that I’d use OR instead of AND ie “I didn’t sleep last night AND the night before”. --> “I didn’t sleep last night OR the night before”. That’s based on the sound of it (I’m no expert). The second sentence sounds better to me, but makes no sense really. Why is it “OR”. In fact I’d probably use a slightly difference sentence in written English (after multiple hacks), and don’t really care re verbal use. But that’s not my my question. I’ve been wondering about the use of ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ in similar contexts. For example: “I don’t like chocolate OR ice-cream” “I don’t like chocolate AND ice-cream” “I don’t like chocolate OR vanilla ice-cream” “I don’t like chocolate AND vanilla ice-cream”. I think there’s two issues here... the grouping of words, and the way in which OR somehow acts like AND. The AND vs. OR bit particularly bothers me... Can somebody explain this? In math/logic they are opposite terms.

January 27, 2009  •  euniceng

Green eyes

Could you please tell me what it means if someone calls you “green eyes”, but you don’t actually have green eyes. We’re trying to figure out if it means envy/jealousy, being temperamental, or something else?

December 21, 2008  •  shefali

Curriculum Vita or Curriculum Vitae

I was wondering if Curriculum Vita is indeed the usage for a single CV. Is Curriculum Vitae not used in both the plural and singular formats?

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