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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My question is about the verb “to sift”. I know that I can sift flour, cocoa powder and all sorts of solid cooking ingredients. My question is: Can I sift liquids? Let’s say I make some homemade orange juice and want to take the pulp out of it. Do I sift my juice? If I don’t, what do I do to it? Help me! : )
Is the dialect expression “He was sat ...” in place of “He was sitting ...”, which is quite common in the UK, also found in US English? When I first arrived in England I was astonished to hear a teacher tell his class to “stay sat” when they had done whatever it was they were doing. Now it is like an epidemic, heard on the radio and television too, used by people speaking otherwise standard English. US dialect is very rich and diverting, but I wonder if this one features?
I am hoping you can help me settle a debate at work. One colleague suggests that using the term ‘literally’ in spoken conversation is incorrect, and that you should use something more appropriate, such as ‘actually’.
I would argue that if I were to mention that I had just bumped into John at the lift, this would typically mean that I had met him at the lift. However, if I were to say that I had literally just bumped into John at the lift, it would imply that I had in actual fact bumped into him.
I would also argue that when speaking with someone if I wanted to explicitly state a fact, for example, ‘literally, all the houses on my road have a red door’, I would use the term ‘literally’ to mean that every door, without exception, was red.
Please could you help settle this debate?
Yet another antipodean oddity?
Found these examples of an unusual use of “trespassed” in a New Zealand newspaper:-
“It is up to the landowner to have them trespassed,”
“The next day she received a letter from her bosses telling her she had been trespassed and not to return.”
“....had been banned from rugby in the Bay of Plenty for five years and had been trespassed by the rugby club. ”
“The notice asked the dozens of residents to cease camping in the area by 8pm tonight, or be trespassed from the area in the “wider interest of the community”.
“Homeless Hamiltonians are expecting to be trespassed when the Rugby World Cup starts - but the evicted men say they will still give a warm welcome to tourists. ”
From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar (which I believe is incorrect, based on my school training in English, many moons ago, and which I hence detest and just cannot and will not adjust to !):
e.g.: “I wonder THAT this is correct”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is correct”, or:
“I wonder WHETHER this is correct”.
“I wonder THAT that is a fact”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is a fact” or:
“I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact”.
“I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening)
IF or WHETHER must be used when there is uncertainty or doubt.
THAT should be used when there is certainty. E.g.: “I know that this is true.”