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.

October 25, 2011  •  Tonto

Backward vs. Backwards?

Is there a grammatical difference between saying “I walked down the street backwards” and “I walked down the street backward” (without the “s”)? Is one of them incorrect, or are they interchangeable? Does the same go for “forward(s)” and “toward(s)”?

October 15, 2011  •  sigurd

Semicolon between sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction

Is separating two coordinating-conjunction-linked sentences, the former having a comma(s), with a semicolon instead of a comma logically justified? In GrammarBook.com’s Semicolons category, Rule 5. reads: Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence. Examples: When I finish here, I will be glad to help you; and that is a promise I will keep. If she can, she will attempt that feat; and if her husband is able, he will be there to see her.

October 10, 2011  •  Greg Allen

attorneys general vs. attorney generals

Why is the term “attorneys general” correct? It used to be “attorney generals” ... There are multiple attorney generals. If I was describing a group of Army generals, I wouldn’t say “Armies General” ... would I?

October 8, 2011  •  AnWulf

What can I do besides...

“What can I do besides complaining” sounds wrong to me but I can’t say why ... I think it should be complain. “What can I do besides complain?” “What can I do but complain?” However, “Besides complaining, what can I do?” sounds ok. Any thoughts? Or am I completely off base here?

October 7, 2011  •  Astartes

Prepositions at the end of a clause

I have an ear for when people use bad grammar, especially the use of prepositions at the end of a clause. I was recently watching a show, however, and a character said “Toys are meant to be played with.” What is the correct wording of this phrase? It is killing me.

October 5, 2011  •  Perfect Pedant

“Under urgency”

“Under urgency”? I recently came across this phrase for the first time in my life. The context was:- “Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment Act into law under urgency last night” Can’t really put my finger on why, and I can’t at the moment come up with an alternative, but it just doesn’t sound right. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

October 5, 2011  •  Perfect Pedant

“hone in” vs. “home in”

Why does sports media persist in the use of the phrase “hone in” instead of “home in”. Traditionally, a missile homes in (not hones in) on a target. Hone means “to sharpen.” The verb home means “to move toward a goal” or “to be guided to a target.”

October 3, 2011  •  sigurd

whensoever vs. whenever

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”.

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