Warsaw Will

Joined: December 3, 2010

Number of comments posted: 1358

Number of votes received: 775

I'm a TEFL teacher working in Poland. I have a blog - Random Idea English - where I do some grammar stuff for advanced students and have the occasional rant against pedantry.

Questions Submitted

fewer / less

Natural as an adverb

tonne vs ton

Tell About

“reach out”

Recent Comments

Re: “went missing/gone missing”?  •  June 6, 2014, 7:18pm  •  0 vote

@DesertRat71 - ' "Gone missing" has a "street" ring to it and causes the person saying it to appear lacking in education. If this is the sort of thing they were taught in school it's an indictment of

Re: Meaningless Use of “key”  •  June 5, 2014, 4:22pm  •  0 vote

@HS - that puts you pretty well in line with Prof Brians at WSU (link above). But is it very far from saying "this is the key to our success" to "this is key to our success"? Yes, you could say "vita

Re: Use of multiple periods  •  June 5, 2014, 3:49pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - I get that, especially after "but", but it's a bit odd to trail off after "no problem", isn't it? No problem is usually said in quite a bright breezy way, I would have thought. However, as

Re: Use of multiple periods  •  June 4, 2014, 5:05pm  •  0 vote

@jayles the unwoven - but surely "No problem" is in itself a complete utterance. We might say "That's no problem", but we wouldn't normally follow "No problem" with anything, would we? Except, perha

Re: Modal Remoteness & Tense  •  June 4, 2014, 4:53pm  •  0 vote

That should of course read - "If he were to move his arm" means exactly the same as "If he was to move his arm", the only difference is one of formality.

Re: Modal Remoteness & Tense  •  June 4, 2014, 4:51pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - "Although my Word (not always the best basis to go by) tells me that "was" should be "were", I however cannot see how this would be an unreal conditional. First, the action hasn't taken plac

Re: Meaningless Use of “key”  •  June 4, 2014, 2:53pm  •  0 vote

A couple of links, one more or less taking the side of those who don't like 'key' as an adjective: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2007/07/key-bored.html And a fairly neutral one about adjecti

Re: Meaningless Use of “key”  •  June 3, 2014, 3:43pm  •  0 vote

Would you also object to "key witness" and "key evidence"? - this article is related but not exactly about the same thing - http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/key.html

Re: Meaningless Use of “key”  •  June 3, 2014, 3:32pm  •  0 vote

OK - the rise in its use as an adjective is pretty recent in both American English and British English, but its occurrence seems to be more common in BrE. http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?conte

Re: fewer / less  •  June 3, 2014, 3:20pm  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - I don't really see why there should be any connection between the two - I doubt that many Brits even knew of the American idiom. Far more likely is that they've decided to avoid "less

Re: Meaningless Use of “key”  •  June 3, 2014, 2:30pm  •  0 vote

1. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that gift as a verb is not uncommon in Scottish English. It is relatively formal, and is especially when something is given officially. This use in Scotland goe

Re: Modal Remoteness & Tense  •  June 3, 2014, 2:36am  •  1 vote

@Jasper - We're talking of a sort of indirect speech here, so need to think what he originally said to himself - If it was "If I move my arm it will break" (real conditional), then - He was convinced

Re: “all but” - I hate that expression!  •  June 1, 2014, 12:24pm  •  0 vote

I've written a blog post on this and similar expressions for foreign learners: http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/02/expressions-with-all-but-none-but-but.html

Re: “all but” - I hate that expression!  •  June 1, 2014, 12:05pm  •  0 vote

@Rory - On your second point, "all" is certainly synonymous with "everything" but it's anything but (except) synonymous with "anything"! Would you rather give somebody anything of yours they wanted, o

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 30, 2014, 4:13pm  •  0 vote

It's not really about 'between you and I', but there's an interesting Intelligence Squared debate on YouTube with the title of 'Between You and I the English Language is Going to the Dogs' between Joh

Re: co- = subordinate vs. co = equals  •  May 30, 2014, 11:45am  •  0 vote

But there are also admittedly examples where the co-chairs obviously assisted the chair, or, as in one 1959 example from the Music Operators of America (in Billboard), the Co-chairmen assisted the Cha

Re: co- = subordinate vs. co = equals  •  May 30, 2014, 11:26am  •  0 vote

Whenever I (a Brit) see the word coworker (we prefer to use colleague or workmate) I think it's something to do with cows. Joking apart, I've never heard of this supposed difference, and that Oxford u

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 30, 2014, 10:33am  •  0 vote

@AnWulf - fair comment when it comes to vernacular dialogue. Shakespeare only used 'between you and' once, at least in the First Folio, and this was from Antonio, the educated 'hero' of the Merchant o

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 30, 2014, 10:11am  •  0 vote

Oops, something not quite parallel there - 'who haven't the slightest interest in complaining, or desire to complain, about ...'.

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 30, 2014, 6:35am  •  0 vote

@jayles - you could add 'neither of / either of' and 'none of' to your list. Both formally take a singular verb, but are often used informally with a plural verb: 'Neither of them are coming' 'Non

Re: Where used you to live?  •  May 30, 2014, 6:23am  •  1 vote

How times change! - I've just come across this, from a grammar book for British schools, 'English Observed - Common Errors in Written English', by Lancelot Oliphant, published in 1955. " 'They didn

Re: “would of” instead of “would have” or “would’ve”  •  May 30, 2014, 5:47am  •  0 vote

@Brus - for various reasons, it's possible that some native speakers don't get that much teaching in verb tenses and their construction - this comes so naturally in spoken language that it might have

Re: Are sports commentators and sports show anchors out to change the language?  •  May 30, 2014, 5:10am  •  0 vote

As I remember, the Colemanballs column, in Private Eye magazine, wasn't reserved specifically for Coleman's own slip-ups, but for any funny gaffes made by sports commentators, and rather, was named in

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 30, 2014, 4:36am  •  1 vote

@Brus - 'Why do people who do not care about the language, and think terms like "between you and I" are just fine ... why on earth do they engage with this Pain the English forum'. Personally, I s

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  May 29, 2014, 2:08am  •  0 vote

@Brus - Yes, Jeremy Hunt is often the butt of this kind of joke. Was your vicar a country vicar, by any chance? Rhetorical question.

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 28, 2014, 5:48pm  •  0 vote

@Canadaneil - in the context of the history of English, I'd suggest that the 19th century is in fact relatively recent.

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  May 28, 2014, 1:48pm  •  0 vote

@Brus - but was the pronunciation of aunt an essential part of the story (in which case I think I've missed something), or did you add that on yourself? Talking of your story, one thing I have noticed

Re: “up on top” vs. “up top”  •  May 28, 2014, 2:51am  •  0 vote

As a Brit, I'd just say fridge. But if it was a very, very tall fridge, I might just conceivably say 'up on top of'.

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 28, 2014, 2:47am  •  0 vote

Oops! Grammar fail caused by incomplete editing - please ignore the 'by' in the second sentence.

Re: “Between you and I...”  •  May 28, 2014, 2:36am  •  0 vote

There's been quite a lot of talk about the use of I in object position recently, as Obama is quite fond of doing it - "a very personal decision for Michelle and I". But the insistence on 'me' seems re

Re: Pronunciation: aunt  •  May 28, 2014, 2:20am  •  0 vote

@Brus - I'm fascinated to know who in Britain pronounces the au in aunt even approximately like the au in authentic. Or perhaps I should say pronounced, seeing it's on British Railways, which (for non

Re: fewer / less  •  May 27, 2014, 1:56pm  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - "More than, larger in amount or greater in rate, as in My new car can do better than 100 miles an hour , or The new plan will cut better than 15 percent of costs . Some authorities co

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 26, 2014, 4:20pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - 'Incidentally there seems to be a rule of thumb for "number of": "a number of * " takes a plural verb "the number of * " takes a singular verb. ' I think that's more or less what I ju

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 26, 2014, 12:16pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - I agree, that's why I put the question about majority, a number of, the young couple etc on the other thread There is a school of thought that a number of X should always be used with a

Re: “It is I” vs. “It is me”  •  May 26, 2014, 11:50am  •  0 vote

@BGriffin - "sorry, but" is usually seen as a polite way of introducing the fact that you're going to disagree, like a less formal way of saying "I regret to tell you", but if you'd rather dispense wi

Re: Word in question: Conversate  •  May 25, 2014, 2:28pm  •  0 vote

@Scotsman - I'm quite happy to go along with your 'why not' idea and the general gist of your argument, but I think your notion about how dictionaries decide on what goes in and what stays out is a bi

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 25, 2014, 11:07am  •  0 vote

Well, I for one have learnt quite a lot in the course of this discussion. For one, that there is even less disagreement amongst grammarians than I thought there was. And that we Brits use plural verbs

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  May 25, 2014, 5:18am  •  2 votes

@DRae - there has already been a lot of discussion about the 'put' group of verbs before your comment. Why make something irregular when a perfectly good regular version exists? The trend in English i

Re: “It is I” vs. “It is me”  •  May 25, 2014, 5:01am  •  0 vote

@BGriffin - Sorry, but all this stuff with an unidentified 'it' makes no sense whatsoever to me and I have to rather agree with Brus' pithy comment. Somebody just doesn't go to the store with an it, t

Re: “It is I” vs. “It is me”  •  May 24, 2014, 2:23pm  •  0 vote

@BGriffin "I just have to be ____" - I didn't exactly answer your question the way you wanted because I would never say me or I there. The standard way to repeat the pronoun is with a reflexive.

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  May 23, 2014, 7:06pm  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - Thanks for that, I'd never realised that's where it came from. You can still find modern examples of it being used in the more general 'legal' sense at Google Books - "His forensi

Re: Have diphthongs gone for good?  •  May 23, 2014, 3:48am  •  0 vote

'English is the worldwide language of business' - I know because that's how I 'tout' my trade, and I have seen enough business correspondence done in exercises and real life to know that grammar is a

Re: “It is I” vs. “It is me”  •  May 23, 2014, 3:40am  •  0 vote

@BGriffin "I just have to be ____" - 'me' or 'I'? I would suggest neither, but - 'myself' "I am _____"- 'me' or I''? again neither - 'I am what/who I am' I'm afraid I don't understand your las

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 23, 2014, 3:34am  •  1 vote

@jayles - I didn't say that 'are' would top 'is', just that the difference between AmE and BrE is more marked. As I've said before - Ngram is based on books, and even BRE speakers are likely to use si

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 23, 2014, 3:31am  •  0 vote

@HS - 'A political party contains many members certainly makes more sense than a political party contain many members. Or don't you agree with that either?' Not only does the first sentence make se

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 23, 2014, 3:02am  •  0 vote

From a couple of Scottish educators: 'Rule XXIX. — Collective Nouns take a singular verb or a plural verb, as the notion of unity or of plurality is uppermost in the mind of the speaker. Thus we sa

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 23, 2014, 2:55am  •  0 vote

The teaching of collective nouns in British schools in the middle of the 20th century Sir Lancelot Oliphant was a diplomat and the author of several grammar books for British schools, including A G

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 23, 2014, 2:39am  •  0 vote

Sporting myths of our time The use of verbs with team names is down to a handful of commentators myth - it's stipulated in the BBC style guide, as it is in the Guardian Style Guide This use is

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 19, 2014, 2:28pm  •  0 vote

@HS - Just to remind you that you were the one who introduced the word proof. I would never demand proof, for the reasons I've outlined in my last comment to Jasper. I just don't get this overriding c

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 19, 2014, 2:15pm  •  0 vote

@Jasper - I wasn't suggesting that you did want 'thou' for snobbery reasons. AnWulf could probably help here, but I don't think it was simply a matter of thou being singular and you being plural. I th

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 19, 2014, 1:22pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - OK, but there isn't really a rule about this. Some British newspapers for example have no policy, some generally use plurals, others (like the Times) have a policy of using a singular verb.

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 19, 2014, 5:40am  •  0 vote

That last paragraph should have read: What has surprised me is that in fact the theoretical grammar, as outlined in the MWDEU and in Garner's book linked to above is pretty well identical in both B

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 19, 2014, 5:35am  •  0 vote

@jayles - Ngram is mainly based on books, and it is generally accepted that singular forms occur more often in more formal language. You could perhaps try with the British National Corpus - simply goo

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 18, 2014, 6:48am  •  0 vote

@Jason - about thee/thou/you - one of the reasons it no doubt disappeared was that it was a great source of snobbery - thou downwards but you upwards. This can still be seen in police practices in Fra

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 18, 2014, 6:37am  •  0 vote

Sorry, Bryan Garner got missed out somehow - American commentator Bryan Garner.

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 18, 2014, 6:35am  •  0 vote

@Jasper - 'Yes, but the converse is also true, just because other people like a usage and use it doesn't mean it's correct—it just means that it is popular, and popular opinion doesn't always constitu

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 18, 2014, 5:58am  •  0 vote

@jayles - that doesn't really work; you get too much noise. Click on 'police is' at the bottom of Ngram, and all the entries that show the words 'police is' are stuff like: "This view of the police

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 18, 2014, 5:39am  •  0 vote

@HS - As I've said before, it's not a matter of 'should'; all authorities give you a choice. If you are happier using singular verbs that's fine. And, like jayles, that's what I tell my students - in

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 18, 2014, 4:49am  •  0 vote

@jayles - OK, so let's take out police for a start, that's always plural. The then X of Y determiner types. So that leaves us with perhaps three main categories - 1. what are commonly referred to

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 17, 2014, 7:11pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - Thanks, 'range - yes, that was my bad example, as the accent is on the range rather than the colours. How about 'A wide range of people were invited' - 17/1 on Google, not including my own

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 17, 2014, 5:44pm  •  0 vote

@HS - 'I do not maintain that they are wrong, I merely question their opinions.' 'I'd also maintain that using a plural verb with team is incorrect.' 'You can post as many examples of misuse as yo

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 17, 2014, 3:02pm  •  0 vote

On the subject of traditional school teaching, here are two extracts from late nineteenth-century textbooks used in British schools. The first is from The English Language: Its Grammar, History, and L

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 17, 2014, 2:32pm  •  0 vote

I wonder, which do people think more natural in each of these pairs of sentences. If you reply to this, it would be useful to say what branch of English you speak: The couple on the bench opposite

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 17, 2014, 2:14pm  •  0 vote

@HS - If, as you suggest, this is a recent phenomenon (and no doubt to be blamed on television) I wonder why the Fowler brothers were writing about it in 'The King's English' in 1908, or why Sir Erne

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 17, 2014, 1:29pm  •  0 vote

@HS - Yes, I overstepped the mark, for which I apologise, but I do find this attitude that you are right and that just about everyone who has written about British English is wrong exasperating - ther

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 17, 2014, 4:06am  •  0 vote

Seeing my explanation on another thread was apparently 'difficult to follow', perhaps this, from probably the most popular self-study grammar book for foreign learners of British English, will be easi

Re: Computer mouses or computer mice?  •  May 16, 2014, 6:28pm  •  0 vote

@Brus - interesting point. Like you I'm a 'mice man' (in both your senses), but when I read the comments above, I naturally thought of mouses with a soft S, and now you've got me wondering why. At

Re: Team names — singular or plural  •  May 16, 2014, 5:50pm  •  0 vote

@HS - Glad we're still talking - Google hits (real results - not first page figures - 'when' versions are to make sure they're not following modals or other constructions which might skew the results)

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 13, 2014, 12:47pm  •  0 vote

@HS - Not sure what your last comment is meant to mean. Firstly, about nuances, no British speaker thinks twice about this; it comes automatically, we do this instinctively. I was simply showing h

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 12, 2014, 5:14pm  •  0 vote

@HS - The first three yes (but singular verbs would be equally correct - you have a choice), the last two, no. It's a lot subtler than just singular or plural; rather the application of logic (semanti

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 12, 2014, 4:23pm  •  0 vote

@HS - "Manchester United is a great club." - Sorry, but that's a straw man argument, because yes, of course, we are talking about the club as an entity here, and nobody has suggested that you use a p

Re: Worst Case or Worse Case  •  May 12, 2014, 3:37pm  •  0 vote

@Thoughtless - I'll leave that one to a Southerner to answer, but for some Scots it's 'yous' - 'See yous all later, then'

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 12, 2014, 3:31pm  •  0 vote

@Funslinger - my remarks apply only to British English. I realise Americans intuitively think using formal agreement, and find notional agreement hard to take. Incidentally, were in 'If I were you' is

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 11, 2014, 7:23am  •  0 vote

@HS - then I'm afraid you've got a bit out of touch with British English and have started thinking more like an American. Now there's a bombshell indeed! Virtually every grammar book we use with st

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 10, 2014, 8:00pm  •  0 vote

And relating to companies: "That this House will hear the Cause wherein the East India Company are Appellants" - House of Lords - 1691 "The preamble also observes that the East-India Company are

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 10, 2014, 7:51pm  •  0 vote

Correction - If a singular noun must take a singular verb then surely by the same token a plural noun must take a plural verb.

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 10, 2014, 7:49pm  •  1 vote

@Funslinger - before telling us 'Europeans' what is and isn't proper, or that our practice is ludicrous, you might like to check a grammar book. North Americans use formal agreement, i.e. a singular n

Re: Have diphthongs gone for good?  •  May 10, 2014, 2:09pm  •  0 vote

Some thoughts on the dreaded 'ough' words. This is one of those areas where it is very easy to make a mountain out of a molehill. Morewords.com (they list words for Scrabble (r) etc), list 290 words i

Re: LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?  •  May 10, 2014, 4:03am  •  0 vote

What about "How many weetabixes did you have for breakfast?" or "I had quite a lot of Dinkies when I was young" (Dinky cars). I think I'd say the first but probably not the second.

Re: Using country name as an adjective?  •  May 10, 2014, 3:47am  •  0 vote

Correction - I was forgetting about Ngram and capitalisation. Judging by Ngram, The Argentine was the more popular form in both Britain and North America up to around 1900. It continued to be used in

Re: Plural s-ending Possessives  •  May 9, 2014, 5:40pm  •  0 vote

Gus's book, the Angus's car, Andrus's bike shop. You'll find plenty examples of "the Angus's" in Google. The only people who have the 's regularly dropped after s are biblical figures, or figures f

Re: Using country name as an adjective?  •  May 9, 2014, 5:28pm  •  1 vote

Lets look at Argentina first. When I was young it was sometimes called The Argentine (to rhyme with the River Tyne), but according to Ngram, this was always a minority usage, especially in BrE. Its of

Re: fewer / less  •  May 9, 2014, 4:12pm  •  0 vote

Sorry, PITE split up that Ngram link for some reason, but it works if you paste it into the address bar. It occurred to me after I had written my previous comment that the reason that less often g

Re: Have diphthongs gone for good?  •  May 9, 2014, 8:38am  •  0 vote

@jayles - exactly, they are symbols with rather more information than just the sound. AnWulf casts some doubts on the historical reasons I give for the anomalies in English spelling, and the size o

Re: Have diphthongs gone for good?  •  May 9, 2014, 8:38am  •  0 vote

@jayles - exactly, they are symbols with rather more information than just the sound. AnWulf casts some doubts on the historical reasons I give for the anomalies in English spelling, and the size o

Re: Have diphthongs gone for good?  •  May 8, 2014, 4:22pm  •  1 vote

@AnWulf - good rant, but it just ain't going to happen, so on my blog I've started to try and work out just how the spelling system works; I prefer to work with what we've got rather then change the w

Re: “graduated high school” or “graduated from high school”?  •  May 7, 2014, 5:10pm  •  0 vote

@providencejim - Hi again. If we can ignore that 'in the real world bit'; that's just one of HS's little foibles. But in essence HS is right, there are a couple of differences between North American a

Re: fewer / less  •  May 7, 2014, 4:27pm  •  0 vote

And this raises a supplementary question. Does awarding 'bad grammar awards' really encourage people to get interested in grammar, or simply perpetuate the idea that grammar is about not making 'mista

Re: fewer / less  •  May 6, 2014, 2:14pm  •  0 vote

HS - I would probably agree with you about 'in more elegant speech', but I'm not particularly concerned about being elegant in my speech, unless I'm in a formal situation (which is virtually never).

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 6, 2014, 1:28pm  •  1 vote

@HS - I think that could qualify as a double whammy.

Re: The use of “hey” in place of “hello”.  •  May 6, 2014, 1:25pm  •  0 vote

I wonder what the etymology of 'Okay Idiots' as a salutation is. In fact, 'hey' as an interjection goes back rather further than that, to 1200, apparently. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allow

Re: Couldn’t Care Less  •  May 5, 2014, 1:56pm  •  0 vote

As a Brit I really shouldn't get involved in this very American question. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have the vague memory from American movies that 'I could care less' is stressed differently fr

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  May 3, 2014, 7:58am  •  2 votes

@joy - as some of our sillier rules (for example not using split infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition) have resulted from grammarians trying to align English with Latin, I would say no.

Re: Everybody vs. Everyone  •  May 3, 2014, 6:20am  •  1 vote

@Blue piano man - there certainly seems to be a bias towards using 'everyone' when talking about people present, and 'everybody' might possibly be used more to talk about people in general, but this d

Re: Alternate Prepositions?  •  May 3, 2014, 5:40am  •  0 vote

I think you were probably right about the rise since the sixties, but this was after a drop since 1880, which is easier to see when you take 'different from' out of the graph. The use of 'different to

Re: Alternate Prepositions?  •  May 1, 2014, 6:10am  •  0 vote

@HS - OK, so that apparently makes me affected and part of a contrary bunch who want to be different, even though as far as I know I've been using 'different to' since childhood, and wasn't even aware

Re: “enamored with” and “enamored by”  •  April 30, 2014, 6:29pm  •  0 vote

@jayles - I would agree that 'Did you forget already' is more likely to be found in spoken language, but that doesn't necessarily make it a sign of being less educated. For example, try doing an N

Re: “This is she” vs. “This is her”  •  April 30, 2014, 5:50pm  •  0 vote

OK, as I really can't get my head around when anyone would say either 'This is she' or 'This is her', how about this - which pair sound more natural? That's her over there. This will be him coming

Re: Alternate Prepositions?  •  April 30, 2014, 5:36pm  •  0 vote

I'd never heard of either of these before, but I don't really see why it should be down to any ulterior motive. Perhaps it's a dialectical thing that has come out into the open (my preferred option).

Re: “dis” vs “un”  •  April 29, 2014, 3:36pm  •  0 vote

I really don't think there's any difference per se between un- and dis-, although with certain words they may have taken on separate meanings. Relatively few words take a dis- prefix, and most of thos

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