Pain in the English https://painintheenglish.com Forum for the gray areas of the English language Sun, 11 Dec 2016 00:16:53 +0000 daily 1 use of “prior” in space vs. time https://painintheenglish.com/case/5724 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5724 Thu, 3 Nov 2016 23:14:48 +0000 SpeakEnglandverydelicious https://painintheenglish.com/case/5724 It grates every time I hear a local radio traffic reporter say “there is an accident just prior to the Erindale Rd turn-off.” 

I believe I’m right in thinking the word ‘prior’ is more correctly used in a time context, meaning earlier than or sooner than. 

Thoughts?

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data is vs. data are https://painintheenglish.com/case/5720 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5720 Mon, 24 Oct 2016 23:37:25 +0000 hstaunch@hotmail.com https://painintheenglish.com/case/5720 I consider “data” as collective, like “sugar.” You can have a lot of sugar or a lot of data. Then “the sugar IS on the table,” or “the data IS correct.”

I do not like “the data ARE.” Never did. I worked as a technical writer and my philosophy was as I have stated. (Even though data can have one bit called datum, whereas sugar must have one grain.)

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Walking Heavens https://painintheenglish.com/case/5700 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5700 Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:19:22 +0000 Bonnie https://painintheenglish.com/case/5700 In making a plaque, I need to know the correct grammar for the following.

  1. Walking Heavens woods with her daddy.
  2. Walking Heaven’s woods with her daddy.
  3. Walking Heavens’ woods with her daddy.

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Trend of referring to a singular collective as a plural noun https://painintheenglish.com/case/5694 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5694 Mon, 12 Sep 2016 10:33:06 +0000 Stacy https://painintheenglish.com/case/5694 In American Grammar specifically, there is a somewhat new trend of referring to a singular collective as a plural noun. For example, “The band are playing at the Hall tonight.” To which I want to reply “It are?” While the British and Canadians have never understood the concept of singular collectives such as large companies or the aforementioned musical groups known by a name such as Aerosmith or Saint Motel, but why is this becoming popular in America where singular collectives have been referred to, until recently, as a singular entity? It’s on the radio, it’s on TV commercials and even in print. Are singular collectives now plural?

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people like she/he are... https://painintheenglish.com/case/5677 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5677 Sat, 13 Aug 2016 11:36:10 +0000 Bonster https://painintheenglish.com/case/5677 I just read this in a Wall Street Journal article

 ”Sandy Bleich, a technology industry recruiter, says that for years a bachelor’s degree was enough ... Now recruiters like SHE are increasingly looking for someone with hands-on experience...”

Query: is the use of SHE correct?!

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The fact of the matter is is that https://painintheenglish.com/case/5656 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5656 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 21:59:52 +0000 vgb https://painintheenglish.com/case/5656 I have searched the forum and not found any reference to this matter. More and more, I’m hearing this kind of construction: “The fact of the matter is is that we need to...” or “The biggest problem is is that we don’t have...” I’ve even heard President Obama use it. At first blush, it bothers me. There’s no need for the second “is,” and no grammatical precedent. That is to say, I don’t know what it might spill over from. Furthermore, it seems like a fairly recent arrival. What do you think? Is this something we should eschew or embrace? Has anyone else heard and taken note of this?

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“I’m just saying” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5655 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5655 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:28:13 +0000 Andrew Murray https://painintheenglish.com/case/5655 What is the origin of the phrase “I’m just saying”?

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“ask the gays” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5651 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5651 Sat, 18 Jun 2016 23:05:01 +0000 katrin1 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5651 Hi everyone, I’ve got an interesting question from my student:

Trump’s “ask the gays” statement:

- what exactly is wrong with it grammatically?

Thanks!

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Indirect Speech? https://painintheenglish.com/case/5649 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5649 Wed, 15 Jun 2016 06:59:49 +0000 Hairy Scot https://painintheenglish.com/case/5649 I was quite comfortable with the concept of direct and indirect speech that had been drummed into my head by a succession of teachers at the schools I attended in the 50s and 60s.

However the term “indirect speech”, like so many other facets of the English language, has now apparently undergone a change.

At least that is what one noted linguist would have us believe.

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“provide” vs “give” information https://painintheenglish.com/case/5646 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5646 Thu, 9 Jun 2016 21:49:48 +0000 the meedgetter https://painintheenglish.com/case/5646 As in: the pie charts give information about the water used for residential, industrial and agricultural purposes ...

To me, “give” here sounds crude, as if the writer could not come up with the right verb; whereas “provide” sounds more appropriate, albeit just a bit high official. 

So in an English exam I would have to mark the writer down? Am I correct in my thinking?

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Small Talk—Countable or Uncountable? https://painintheenglish.com/case/5638 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5638 Fri, 27 May 2016 07:09:39 +0000 Dyske https://painintheenglish.com/case/5638 “I had a talk with so and so,” is a common phrase, so I would imagine that “I had a small talk with so and so,” is equally correct. But “small talk” appears to be treated as an uncountable noun most of the time. Is it countable or uncountable? If both, in what contexts does it become one or the other?

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“Friday’s Child” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5632 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5632 Sat, 21 May 2016 10:37:26 +0000 PhilippS. https://painintheenglish.com/case/5632 I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s “Friday’s Child” for quite some time now because I love this song so much. I tried to look up the meaning of ” Friday’s Child” but onbly found a reference to an old rhyme. Can anybody tell me the meaning of the saying “Friday’s Child” and when and why it is used? Many thanks.

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“Changed the calculus”? https://painintheenglish.com/case/5626 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5626 Sun, 8 May 2016 18:21:25 +0000 Hairy Scot https://painintheenglish.com/case/5626 This sentence:

“By securing a permanent US commitment to the defence of all its members from 1949 onwards, Nato changed the calculus confronting potential aggressors.”

appeared in this Daily Telegraph article.

I think I grasp what the author is getting at, but it does seem a most unusual and perhaps incorrect use of “calculus.”

Or am I behind the times once again?

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History of “-ish” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5617 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5617 Mon, 25 Apr 2016 11:05:58 +0000 Philip https://painintheenglish.com/case/5617 Can anyone tell me when and how the adding of “ish” to the end of words got started? Do we lack such confidence in ourselves that we need to add “ish” like a disclaimer to our own words? When has the word become not word enough?

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Why do people feel it necessary to add “of” to some phrases? https://painintheenglish.com/case/5611 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5611 Sun, 10 Apr 2016 16:26:11 +0000 Hairy Scot https://painintheenglish.com/case/5611 Why do people feel it necessary to add “of” to some phrases?

For example:

How big of a problem.
How long of a wait.
How bad of a decision.

Seems rather a waste of time.

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Complete sentence in parentheses https://painintheenglish.com/case/5609 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5609 Tue, 5 Apr 2016 14:20:42 +0000 Max_Elliott https://painintheenglish.com/case/5609 When including a complete sentence in parentheses, what are the rules? For example, someone just sent me this in an email:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester (for example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall).”

But I could just as easily see it written this way:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester. (For example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall.)”

Are both acceptable? Is one preferred? 

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Correct use the adjective “key” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5599 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5599 Fri, 18 Mar 2016 20:49:44 +0000 Maria Cristina Vignolo https://painintheenglish.com/case/5599 I would like to know if it is correct to use the adjective “key” predicatively. I was taught that this word is like the adjective “main,” which can only be used in the attributive position. I’ve seen sentences like “This is key to the success of the plan,” but I remember typing something similar and the word processor marked it immediately as wrong. I think both “key” and “main” are special, (irregular, if you want) adjectives (in fact, they have no comparative forms) and feel they should be treated accordingly. I’ve never seen something like “This book is main in our course.” We will normally say “This is the main book in our course.” Thank you for your help!

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Proper usage of “as such” https://painintheenglish.com/case/5591 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5591 Thu, 3 Mar 2016 13:55:07 +0000 BJCF https://painintheenglish.com/case/5591 Could somebody please explain the problem with “as such”? I understand the frustration with its incorrect usage as a synonym for “therefore” or “thus”, but the response thereagainst wants to banish its usage entirely. I am confident that I am using it correctly, but I am constantly being directed to remove it from my papers nevertheless. Could you explain its proper usage?

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Is the following sentence using the word “yet” correctly? https://painintheenglish.com/case/5579 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5579 Mon, 8 Feb 2016 15:20:45 +0000 Amandaa 12 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5579 “We have to go to the store yet.”

I would just remove the “yet” all together; however, I keep hearing someone use the word yet in this fashion and I am wondering if they are grammatically correct.

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Quotation marks for repeated items https://painintheenglish.com/case/5577 https://painintheenglish.com/case/5577 Thu, 4 Feb 2016 10:02:21 +0000 Sherri Hall https://painintheenglish.com/case/5577 When making a list of the very same name of something, is it proper english to use one quotation mark in place of the same name or word after writing it a couple of times down the list? I can’t seem to find anything on it.

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