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.
Search Pain in the English
Are “whensoever” and “whenever” really the same?
In some of the dictionaries I checked, “whensoever” is defined “whenever”; but I disagree.
For instance, I think “The students may leave whenever they so choose” can be written “[...] whensoever they choose” because “so” is already part of “whensoever”.
If a semicolon is used to contrast two sentences, we can omit repetitive words by using a comma, as in:
“To err is human; to forgive, divine”
“The cat was orange; the dog, brown.”
However, if no semicolon is used, can we still do the same? For example:
“You’re our son, Heracles, and we, your family.”
“If I was the Prime Minister. ...” said Ed Miliband, British Labour party leader, today, Sunday 24th September 2011. Is this not how to phrase it if it remains a possibility that he was once Prime Minister, or if he is not sure if he was, or is reluctant to admit it?
“If I were the Prime Minister, ...”, using the subjunctive mood of the verb, would suggest that he is not Prime minister but is about to tell us what he would do if he were the PM. If the subjunctive is now defunct in UK Labour politics, as I suspect, how did he continue to tell us what he would have done, if he were the PM, without using the subjunctive? “if I was the PM, I ~~~~~ ???” It cannot be done.
I never know whether to use “it” in the following sentence: “Just because ___, (it) doesn’t mean ____.” In other words, would you say,
“Just because I was mean to you, it doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR
“Just because I was mean to you, doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR
“Just because I was mean to you, that doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.”
I hear people using the second variation all the time, but it seems that the third is preferable. Thoughts?
Why do we say “this Wednesday” when we are talking about next week? Shouldn’t we agree that “this” modifies an assumed week and that the week in question is the current (Sun or Mon thru Sat or Sun) one? If it’s Friday today, we could say “this coming Wed” or “next Wednesday” but not “this Wednesday,” because if we did that, then “next Wednesday” would either mean Wednesday of the week after next, strictly speaking, or given ambiguity could mean the very same day as was indicated by “this Wednesday.”
Has the English relative pronoun ‘who/whom/whose’ been banned while I was not looking? It seems to have been replaced by the ugly use of the word ‘that’. On the rare occasions when it can be spotted in printed prose in, for example, a newspaper, ‘who’ is used for ‘whom’ and it is all very disappointing. I write as a disillusioned and pedantic old schoolmaster (retired) whose 12 year old pupils had no problem learning how to deal with ‘who’ and ‘whom’ and ‘to whom’. I blame the Americans for this desecration of our language.