January 8, 2012  •  Steven Porters

Does a lie have to have intent to deceive?

Can a lie simply be not telling the truth or must you intend of deceiving someone? Is deception or motive necessary in it? All of OED’s make reference to deception as a requirement. My Webster’s New World Dictionary also makes repeated references to deceit with one possible exception: “a false statement or action, esp. one made with intent to deceive.” I’m not sure if the especially used there is meant to negate the necessity of motive in the definition or not, considering all of the other definitions requiring it.

January 7, 2012  •  Giorgi

Use of article (a/the) when there are multiple modifiers

One grammar guide teaches that if two modifiers of similar kind refers to the same noun (thing or person) only the first is preceded by an article, while the noun is in the singular (The black and white dress she had on was very becoming); but if they refer to different things the noun is in the plural, with an article preceding each modifier (The black and the white dresses were very becoming). This, as I have understood it, means that, for example, the phrase a/the political, economic, and social sphere implies that the sphere is at once economic, political, and social. But how should I understand (if the above rule really governs the structure) an example where the noun is in the plural but only the first modifier is preceded by an article as it is in a sentence you can read in the CollinsCobuild dictionary--We are doing this work in the context of reforms in the economic, social and cultural spheres. The use of the plural noun means that the three spheres are considered different things by the writer, and thus, the article the would have to stand before each adjective like here-- the economic, the social, and the cultural spheres. Via the Internet, you can find a lot of examples being much like the former structure one but almost nothing resembling the latter one. Does this mean that the rule is wrong or incomplete, or I have misunderstood something?

December 23, 2011  •  sigurd

ye, yer, yers

Since ye is you’s plural, are yer, ye’re and yers respectively your, you’re and yours pluralized, and/or do they have other plural counterparts?

December 6, 2011  •  abbeautiful

make it work

For the phrase (idiom?) “to make [something] work,” what part of speech is “work” functioning as? My initial instinct is to say verb, since the something is actively working now. As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate “work” or keep it in the infinitive? For instance, why are the following sentences wrong? Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone. Jane’s boss makes the schedule to work for everyone.

November 29, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

Perpendicular

When did perpendicular lose its verticality? I have always understood perpendicular as being “at right angles to the plane of the horizon” ie: at right angles and vertical. OED:- 1. perpendicular, adj. and n. ...Situated or directed at right angles to the plane of the horizon; vertical.... The wall is at perpendicular to the floor but the floor is at right angles to the wall. But more and more I hear it being used as meaning at right angles regardless of the plane. I have even seen such a reference in print. Once again our good friend Jeffrey Deaver:- “I took a chair perpendicular to his.” Another example of evolution?

November 27, 2011  •  Warsaw Will

When “one of” many things is itself plural

There are all sorts of things I believed in then which I don’t believe in now, and language rules set in stone is/are (?) one of them. My feeling is that ‘is’ is OK here, since ‘language rules set in stone’ is one of a list of things I once believed in, and ‘are’ would grate with ‘one’. What do you think? NB This is purely a grammar question, not one about my beliefs, which I know some of you will strongly disagree with. There will no doubt be plenty of other occasions to cross swords over them.

November 26, 2011  •  sigurd

...ward/s and un...worthy

What type of words are respectively ‘-ward/s’-suffixable and ‘un[...]worthy’-affixable? In oxforddictionaries.com/definition/-ward, ‘-ward/s’ is a ‘suffix added to nouns of place or destination and to adverbs of direction’. In that case, are the examples ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled Jerusalemwards’, ‘Zoroastrians pray flameward’ and ‘John looked Sunward and was briefly blinded’ correct, meaning ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled towards Jerusalem’, ‘Zoroastrians pray toward flame’ and ‘John looked toward the Sun [...]’ respectively? If not, why? Also, are ‘unswimworthy’, ‘unwatchworthy’ and ‘unbuyworthy’ correct, meaning the thing mentioned is worth/deserves swimming, watching and buying respectively? Insofar as ‘un[...]worthy’ is affixed to a verb when meaning ‘worth/deserving’, is it correct? If not, why? I’m aware ‘-worthy’’s meaning can be different when affixed to a noun, so I only asked if with verbs, where the meaning is consistent (=worth/deserving), it is correct.

November 23, 2011  •  sigurd

Interchangeability of possessive “s” and “of”

Since ‘of’ is possessive, is writing ‘the Ark of the Covenant’, ‘Book of Ezekiel’, ‘Robin of Locksley’ and ‘Joan of Arc’ respectively as ‘the Covenant’s Ark’, ‘Ezekiel’s Book’, ‘Locksley’s Robin’ and ‘Arc’s Joan’ correct? If not, why?

November 22, 2011  •  SamG

“with the exception of” or “with the exceptions of”

I’ve come across the following dependent clause that has piqued my grammar interest, and I’m not sure if said clause is grammatically correct: “...with the exception of a roast beef sandwich, a protein-dense smoothie from Jamba Juice, and 500 million dollars!” In this case, should the word “exception” be plural since it’s referring to a list (and subsequently the preceding “the” should be dropped as well)?

November 19, 2011  •  sigurd

Had he breakfast this morning?

Is ‘Had he breakfast this morning?’ correct English? Since ‘You have no idea where they live’’s and ‘You have nothing better to do’’s respective inquisitive forms—‘Have you no idea where they live?’ and ‘Have you nothing better to do?’, their past tense forms being ‘Had you no idea where they live?’ and ‘Had you nothing better to do?’—are correct, following the same logic, isn’t ‘He had breakfast this morning’’s inquisitive form, ‘Had he breakfast this morning?’, likewise correct? Please read the full question. I’m looking for a logically (hopefully) justified answer. The more informative the answer is, the better.

November 19, 2011  •  Mitsy

“by the time”

A question about time expressions with the past perfect tense: I realise “by the time” is a time expression used with the past perfect but in this sentence: “By the time he arrived at school, the lesson had finished” , why is “by the time” next to the verb in the past tense (arrived) as if it is refering to that verb rather than to the one in the past perfect (had finished)?

November 10, 2011  •  Cheshire

God only knew

Do we change tenses on common expressions when writing fiction? “God only knew” sounds bizarre, but I find it difficult to let “knows” persist when writing...

November 10, 2011  •  sigurd

Correct way to omit words?

In English, I know it’s perfectly correct/proper/formal to, for lack of a better word, ‘‘shorten’’ phrases and sentences in a certain way in some cases as in ‘Be that true, ...’ (= ‘If that is true, ...’), ‘if need be’ (= ‘if it is necessary’), ‘come what may’ (‘regardless of what may come/happen’) etc. So, I’m wondering if similar rules apply to ‘Why be anonymous?’, ‘Why so excited/angry/etc?’ and ‘Why the question?’ as well as to ‘Haven’t you anything better to do?’ and ‘Have you any idea [...]?’, which I also hear a lot from seemingly formal English-speakers. Are they correct English?

November 9, 2011  •  Ophelia

eg, e.g., or eg.

I’ve done some research about the use of “for example” in its shortened form, but have been left more confused than ever. Is it eg, e.g., or eg.? It comes from the Latin “exempli gratia”, so I would have thought it correct to place a period after the e and after the g in place of the missing letters. Yet, in official documents all over the place I see one or two periods, or none at all. I have in front of me an official document from the New South Wales government, The Board of Studies English K-6 Syllabus. Throughout this document each example is preceded by “eg”, no dots at all. Same with other Board of Studies documents, however other Education Department documents do have e.g. Personally I think that e.g. is more correct, but seeing no dots at all in an official document on teaching English to primary school students, had me wondering whether the convention in this case has changed, or whether it might simply be a matter of choice with no one way being either right or wrong. Which is correct, or doesn’t it matter?

November 5, 2011  •  cathyem

“enamored with” and “enamored by”

I did a search and came up with nothing relating to the use of “enamored”. I am seeing, more and more often, “enamored with” and “enamored by” when I was taught that it is correctly “enamored of”. I just opened the latest issue of Cook’s Country magazine and this quote jumped out at me: “[...]Americans became enamored with international cooking.” Is this correct? Am I just a purist who needs to lighten up?

November 5, 2011  •  Hairy Scot

“would of” instead of “would have” or “would’ve”

The phrase “would of” seems to be coming more and more common. I have heard it used in a number of films and have also seen it used in print when the author is depicting direct speech. However, I was amazed to see it used outside of the direct speech context in a novel I am currently reading. I appreciate that “would’ve” could be heard as “would of” but the increasing use of this phrase is damning testimony to the malaise that afflicts our language.

November 1, 2011  •  John Colbourne

always wanted to be

J.K .Rowling always wanted to be an author. J.K. Rowling had always wanted to be an author. J.K. Rowling has always wanted to be an author. I assume “has always wanted” is incorrect because she became an author. Please, which one is proper?

October 29, 2011  •  Margaret A Giordano

“8 inches is” or “8 inches are”

Is it “8 inches is” or “8 inches are”?

October 28, 2011  •  Thomas guzzi

Terms of Endearment from the 20s and 30s

I am playing rooster in a production of Annie and I need some terms of endearment that were used in the 20s and 30s. I use the term “blondie” but the woman I say it to isn’t blonde. How about “sweet cheeks”? Any help?

October 25, 2011  •  Rob

“American”

Is it actually correct to use “American” when referring to residents of the United States? I was traveling in Peru last summer and to my surprise realized for the first time that people down in South America consider themselves to be “Americans” too. After all, South America is as “America” as North America, right? So to be clear, for a technical publication I’m working on, what’s the best way to refer to residents of the US? Is “American” still acceptable? The study I’m quoting uses “US residents,” but there are times when that phrase becomes unwieldy.

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