August 2, 2013  •  Missy Sosler

If ... were/was

Which is correct; If the current owner WERE allowed to have an auto body shop of if the current owner WAS allowed to have an auto body shop? I am questioning whether Owner should be with WERE or Owner should be with WAS?

July 15, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“There can be only one” or “there can only be one”?

Aside from being accurate in quoting from Highlander I had never really given much thought to the construction of this phrase, but I recently overheard a discussion in which one of the protagonists was adamant that there is a subtle difference in meaning between the two versions. His reasoning was beyond me and I will not repeat it here for fear of tainting your views, however it did pique my curiosity.

July 5, 2013  •  Jasper

Chary

This word has been driving me crazy. Figuratively speaking, I have been having an argument with my Word program about whether the adjective can act attributively or not. The sentence I had was something like this: “The chary receptionist refused to permit the man into the offices upstairs.” To begin, my Word program underlines chary with the green squiggle and states adjective [mis]use. I ran it through another grammar checker and it came back as commonly confused words. After a little research, I found that that word was wary. I consulted several dictionaries: My Concise Oxford English Dictionary: chary- cautiously or suspiciously reluctant. The dictionary program on my computer: chary- cautiously or suspiciously reluctant to do something. Wiktionary: chary- Cautious; wary; shy The first two dictionaries, specifically my computer’s, noted the phrase “chary of”. I then proceeded to see if there was an entry in my Webster’s Usage Dictionary. Luckily it was there, but all that it revealed to me was chary being molded into “chary+preposition”. Receiving no help, I tracked down another site that stated that the difference between wary and chary is “very slight”. However, I returned and checked wiktionary’s quotes and found two of Shakespeare using it in the way that I did but with the word’s superlative form: “The chariest maid is prodigal enough If she unmasks her beauty to the moon.” My first more germane question is are chary and wary interchangeable? Or does chary simple live in the restricted phrase “chary + preposition”. This leads to my second question. Do certain adjectives only live within certain, restricted phrases?

July 2, 2013  •  roland_butter

have gone to

I’d like to ask your opinion on the following sentence: “I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.” A student recently asked me whether or not this sentence was grammatically correct. I said that it sounded correct to me, but I couldn’t answer with confidence. I understand that, if we are talking about our experiences and completed trips, we use (the past participle) ‘been’ instead of ‘gone’. (For example, ‘I have been to California.’) But what about ‘go’ in the sense of ‘to attend’? For example: A: What school do you go to? B: I go to X High School. I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old. I understand we could phrase it a different way, for example: “I have been at X High School since I was fifteen.” or “I have been going to X High School since I was fifteen.” But I am specifically interested in the use of ‘have gone’ here. (Not least because there are situations when ‘been at’ might be inappropriate. For example, the below sentence sounds wrong to me: “I have been at cookery classes since I was a child.” I think here I would prefer to say: “I have gone to cookery classes since I was a child.”) I’ve been thinking about this type of sentence for far too long today, and now I have no idea at all whether it’s correct or not. I tried searching the internet for the answer, but couldn’t find any posts discussing this usage of ‘to go’. I’d very much appreciate your opinions on this matter. Thank-you in advance!

July 1, 2013  •  jayles

Five eggs is too many

A: What are you cooking? B: An omelette. A: How many eggs are you putting in ? B: Five. A: Five eggs is too much. Or “Five eggs is too many” Or “Five eggs are too many” (which sounds weird to me)

June 27, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

When is a bridge not an overbridge?

Here in Kiwiland the word “overbridge” is used when the majority of English speakers would use the word “bridge”. Not sure of the source or the reason for this, and I’ve yet to see an “underbridge”.

June 24, 2013  •  Patrick James McKee

I’ve vs I’ve got

“I’ve (You’ve) to go swimming” vs. “I’ve (You’ve) got to go swimming”  and “I’ve (You’ve”) the Frisbee”   vs.  “I’ve (You’ve) got the Frisbee”  vs.  “I have the Frisbee” They could all be correct or not, but the ones I believe are wrong, at least the ones that  sound wrong, are when there is a contraction used without “Got”. Anyone know a definite answer to which is correct grammatically, and if it is grammatically correct, whether it is correct common usage.

June 4, 2013  •  Margee

“my bad”

Where or how did the term “my bad” originate? I hear it more frequently all the time and it really annoys me. Bad is an adjective, not a noun or verb.

May 25, 2013  •  Warsaw Will

“reach out”

I’m not usually a peever, but I do make an exception for business buzzwords. A recent survey in Britain found that many office workers felt ‘management-speak’  to be ‘a pointless irritation’. Up to now my least favourite has been ‘going forward’, an expression Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times campaigned against when it first appeared, but to no avail: everyone uses it now, from Obama to Beckham. But the one that I’m increasingly noticing is ‘reach out’.  Apart from its physical meanings, my dictionary gives this meaning for ‘reach out’: reach out to somebody - to show somebody that you are interested in them and/or want to help them - “The church needs to find new ways of reaching out to young people.” Which is fine. But increasingly it seems to be being used simply to mean ‘contact’, especially on tech sites, for no good reason that I can see other than trendiness. Some examples: ‘If you would like any other suggestions or need help with transitioning your current Google Reader RSS feeds, please reach out to a Library’ ‘Wired has also reached out to Google for additional comment.’ ‘If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.’ I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and these expressions are harmless, but they do niggle a bit. Any comments? Or anyone for Buzzword Bingo?

May 24, 2013  •  J. Alexandre

Same difference

This phrase has aggravated me since the first time I heard it. Those who use it justify it as being akin to, “...same thing!” which has never sat right me. In my opinion, something is either the same or it is different. By this token, “Same difference!” sounds like a junk phrase that sounds correct but is, in fact, meaningless. It grates for me as much as “irregardless”.  Am I incorrect? Is there any validity to this phrase, outside of modern colloquialism?

May 22, 2013  •  Warsaw Will

Fit as a butcher’s dog

Has anybody come across the idiom “Fit as a butcher’s dog”, and if so, is it mainly confined to the North of England? Eric Partridge suggests it originates from Lancashire, but it seems to be used in Yorkshire as well. Also, is it usually used only with the meaning of physically fit, or is its use extending to the other (British) meaning of fit - sexually attractive?

May 9, 2013  •  Linda Nagy

A quote within a quote within a quote

How do you handle a quote within a quote within a quote in an MLA citation?

May 4, 2013  •  fbf

When did we start pluralizing prepositions?

How can backwards be a word if backward is as well? Forwards and forward? Beside and besides? I can’t turn a light switch ons, can I? Go outs the door? Nouns can be plural, and verbs have tense, but prepositions?  When did we start pluralizing those?

April 14, 2013  •  Erin

When “that” is necessary

“She said she...” or “She said that she...” All my life I have received great feedback about my grammar, but these past few years I find myself over thinking it—all the time. It actually causes me to create mistakes where there previously weren’t any. Bizarre?  One such thing that I have thought too much about is the necessity of “that” in phrases like the above. When would you say it’s necessary? Always? Never? Sometimes? Explain! Thanks!

April 1, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

“Harsh but true” vs “harsh but fair”

Discussion on appropriate use of these two phrases came up on another forum. I believe it depends on context. Would be interested in hearing other views.

March 31, 2013  •  Ion-Sturm

Adverbs better avoided?

Are adverbs something to be avoided like the plague or an inevitable mutation of the English language that we just have to deal with? I’ve heard it said that they’re the mark of a writer who lacks the vocabulary to use powerful words (for example, “He walked slowly” does not carry the weight of “He plodded” or “He trudged”) and the skill to vary their sentence structure. I’ve seen them used in published in professional work, from George R. R. Martin to J.K. Rowling, so it’s not something authors shy away from and, for the most part, the public accepts it without question.

March 31, 2013  •  Ion-Sturm

Anyways

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.

March 29, 2013  •  Brus

“further” vs. “farther”

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?

March 25, 2013  •  Madeline Miele

“ton” in the Victorian era

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.

March 23, 2013  •  Steven Porters

Difference between “bad” and “poor”

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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