Warsaw Will

Joined: December 3, 2010

Number of comments posted: 1272

Number of votes received: 473

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: He and I, me and him  •  September 17, 2013, 11:03am  •  0 vote

@jayles - I'm confused. When you were just plain jayles, you registered on rss readers as jayles the unwise. And now that you've 'come out' as jayles the unwise, my rss reader is callin you 'jayles th

Re: He and I, me and him  •  September 16, 2013, 3:42pm  •  0 vote

@Over50guy - It's always easier to throw out personal insults than put forward a constructive argument, but we're used to something a bit better on this forum. There are a few regulars here who I ofte

Re: “Over-simplistic”  •  September 16, 2013, 7:28am  •  0 vote

Correction - unambiguously

Re: “Over-simplistic”  •  September 16, 2013, 7:24am  •  0 vote

@providencejim - Glad you liked the Stephen Fry video. I hope that what came across is that it is possible to love and enjoy using language without worrying unduly what other people do or say. You mak

Re: He and I, me and him  •  September 16, 2013, 6:19am  •  0 vote

@Over50guy - except that people don't do it consistently with 'I' and "me". Those of us who are happy to say informally "Me and Dave are off to the pub", will almost always say "David and I are going

Re: Past vs. past perfect  •  September 14, 2013, 1:42pm  •  1 vote

Addendum - there's also one type of construction when we can even use past perfect for something that didn't happen *after* the main event - 'And having told him what she thought of him, she left the

Re: Past vs. past perfect  •  September 14, 2013, 1:15pm  •  1 vote

Well we've got three tenses (or forms if you prefer): past perfect - 'hadn't rung' and '(hadn't) banged' past simple - 'was' past continuous - 'was leaning out' The first thing to sort out is

Re: The Term “Foreigner”  •  September 14, 2013, 8:01am  •  0 vote

Correction - in the first paragraph it should read 'the teaching of English to people living in an English-speaking country whose first language isn't English' without a comma. And me a teacher, too!

Re: The Term “Foreigner”  •  September 14, 2013, 7:59am  •  0 vote

@speedwell2 - just on a technical note, ESL (English as a Second Language) usually refers to the teaching of English to people living in an English-speaking country, whose first language isn't English

Re: “Over-simplistic”  •  September 14, 2013, 3:38am  •  0 vote

@providencejim - well, 'each to his ane (own)' as we say in Scotland. For me, whether something is natural idiomatic English weighs in more strongly than logical analysis. No doubt lots of our favouri

Re: “Over-simplistic”  •  September 13, 2013, 8:03pm  •  0 vote

Addendum - Looking at those examples again, I think 'simplistic' on its own sounds fine before a noun - 'a simplistic solution', but seems to be lacking something when used in predicative position aft

Re: “Over-simplistic”  •  September 13, 2013, 7:55pm  •  0 vote

Personally, I have no problem with 'over-simplistic'. Sure, simplistic already means that something has been oversimplified, but it doesn’t really tell us to what degree, so I don’t see why we shouldn

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  September 12, 2013, 3:06pm  •  0 vote

@Cirsium - I'm surprised at your two groups of linguists. Linguists usually observe language use rather than lay down the law about it. And in any case I would say that anyone saying words with forei

Re: “my” vs. “mine” in multiple owner possessive  •  September 12, 2013, 2:28pm  •  0 vote

@ArjSaj - I take your point about Romeo and Juliet's love where we only need one possessive noun when two people have joint possession of something, but I don't think it works for pronouns. Would you

Re: Substantial vs. substantive  •  September 12, 2013, 2:13pm  •  0 vote

@jayles -I'm sure you're right in a more specialist sense, but I think Noel's got it as a more general use, and that's the one dictionaries give: having a firm basis in reality and so important, me

Re: How many “ands” in a row  •  September 8, 2013, 8:15am  •  0 vote

Firstly, this sounds like spoken English to me rather than written language, and I think Cristina knew perfectly well what the questioner meant and was simply having a bit of a joke. And in any case t

Re: couple vs couple of  •  September 2, 2013, 3:46pm  •  3 votes

@ElktoothChain - My idea of descriptivism is that you make your case and support it with examples, not simply insult people and talk down to them. And perhaps say something specifically relevant to th

Re: Pled versus pleaded  •  August 31, 2013, 4:18am  •  0 vote

@Rosewood11 - one small problem, 'pled' doesn't appear in the KJV, whereas 'pleaded' does, three times, two of which could be likened to the legal sense. Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  August 30, 2013, 5:00pm  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - I think it was a case of partially changing what I'd written and then changing again and not checking it properly, so oops, red face - 'it might matter to jayles and me'

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  August 30, 2013, 1:57pm  •  0 vote

@Nelson - perhaps not authoritative but this might interest you, and seems to agree with what others have said on this thread: 'The origin of “I’m just sayin’” is not clear, but most paths trace it

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 30, 2013, 1:29pm  •  1 vote

@MagicMatt - "So I'm pretty big on correcting other people's grammar when they misspeak." - And you think that's something to be proud of? You make a great play on the fact that the noun is 'though

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  August 30, 2013, 12:58pm  •  0 vote

@JJM - It doesn't matter for native speakers in the course of normal conversation or writing. But it might matter to jayles and I as EFL teachers if one of our students asked us to explain. It would a

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 29, 2013, 2:57pm  •  0 vote

@Chris B - You didn't come across as an apostrophe snob - I took it as an observation, not a complaint. I'm happy you're coming round to the idea of 'think', although I realise that for many people, '

Re: “The plants were withered” Adjective or passive?  •  August 29, 2013, 2:48pm  •  0 vote

@jayles d) adjective -plants often eventually wither of their accord; they don't need an agent. You are describing the state of the plant e) passive - the sirocco is the agent - OK, that's an event

Re: If ... were/was  •  August 28, 2013, 12:15pm  •  0 vote

@JJMBallantyne - good to see you back.

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 28, 2013, 12:13pm  •  0 vote

@Chris B - I assume your own was deliberate! Unlike errant commas, which can change the meaning (and one was rumoured to have started a war), errant apostrophes are pretty harmless. In fact, showing t

Re: Joke  •  August 26, 2013, 6:04am  •  0 vote

Sorry to rub it in for American readers, and of course Britain is very grateful for all the help you gave us, but a common description for American soldiers among their British counterparts was 'Overp

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 25, 2013, 10:20am  •  0 vote

@I'm late - sorry, you lost a bit of your name in the last one. As I'm British, just out of interest, and not trying to prove anything, I had a look at the graph for British books, where the diffe

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 25, 2013, 10:08am  •  0 vote

@I'm - of course, they're both idioms, so I don't think the verb / noun thing is that important, really. Anyway, as I said before, I'm fine with people saying 'thing', although personally I think they

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 25, 2013, 7:08am  •  0 vote

@I'm late - Doesn't exactly look as though it's dying out to me - http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=got+another+think+coming%2Cgot+another+thing+coming&year_start=1900&year_end=2008&corpus=

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 25, 2013, 7:04am  •  0 vote

@I'm late - "The old version ... uses a word which has been phased out of the language in that form" - I'll have to have a think about that.

Re: If ... were/was  •  August 24, 2013, 11:46am  •  1 vote

Well, you learn something new every day; what a fascinating insight this is. I'm almost tempted to look just to see about the buttered wife - sounds like something from 'Last Tango in Paris'.

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 24, 2013, 3:56am  •  0 vote

Oops - a wayward double negative - the second sentence should obviously read - 'But I don't understand why you think 'think' wouldn't work in your example'

Re: You’ve got another think/thing coming  •  August 24, 2013, 3:54am  •  0 vote

@Rob Schmidt - obviously a lot of people are quite happy with the 'thing' version, and that's fine. But I don't understand why you don't think 'think' wouldn't work in your example. Surely an expectat

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  August 22, 2013, 6:21pm  •  0 vote

@Brus - well, we can certainly agree on the strange nature of both contributions, and as it looks as though peace has broken out between us, have a good weekend. :) Incidentally, I hardly ever look at

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  August 22, 2013, 6:33am  •  0 vote

Sorry, went a bid mad on typos there.

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  August 22, 2013, 6:31am  •  0 vote

@Brus - of course we teach our students about formality, but most of us use formal language very rarely. Actually with my students, who were originally taught fairly formally, it's getting them to red

Re: Adverbs better avoided?  •  August 21, 2013, 3:45pm  •  1 vote

" I had another writer who tried to eliminate all passive usage from my work." Another piece of nonsense. Many of the people who criticise the passive mistake non-passive structures for passives, don'

Re: “I’m just saying”  •  August 21, 2013, 1:35pm  •  0 vote

@Brus - ah, it's sparring time again. I'm afraid it's a shibboleth that 'that' can't be used for people in defining (restrictive) relative clauses. What's more, it's the writers of certain American st

Re: LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?  •  August 20, 2013, 1:57pm  •  1 vote

@Capitan Typo - in the spirit of the goodwill you have so generously fostered, and in respect for curmudgeons everywhere, including me sometimes, I'll try and refrain from making valid points in the

Re: Do’s and Don’t's  •  August 9, 2013, 7:21pm  •  1 vote

@copy editor - there's a whole English-speaking world outside that of professional copy editors, or of those writing academic copy for journals that follow CMOS rules. Outside the US, even. A publishe

Re: If ... were/was  •  August 8, 2013, 6:05am  •  0 vote

@ChrisB - I'm an English teacher (TEFL) and I'd never even heard of an agent noun before today. An agent in passive constructions, yes, but not an agent noun, which I had to look up. Well, you learn s

Re: Hi all vs. Hi everybody  •  August 8, 2013, 5:35am  •  1 vote

From a British perspective, I think 'Hi everyone', but 'Dear all' sound the most natural. As for capitalisation, according to The Gregg Reference Manual, which I understand is pretty influential i

Re: Do’s and Don’t's  •  August 8, 2013, 5:18am  •  1 vote

@Chris B - Thank for the compliment. Well, you're the first person to notice the dont's, which I'm afraid is a mistake (I'd like to say misprint!) , and one which I seem to have repeated several times

Re: If ... were/was  •  August 7, 2013, 2:07pm  •  0 vote

@dave - sorry but I don't agree. I'm British and I often say things like 'If it wasn't for the such-and-such, I'd do such-and-such'. In fact, the subjunctive is used rather more in the States than in

Re: If ... were/was  •  August 7, 2013, 7:23am  •  2 votes

@jayles - I think Northern English dialect use of 'were', as in 'He were in t'pub' (He was in the pub) is a bit of a red herring here, as it has nothing to do with the subjunctive or hypothetical situ

Re: Do’s and Don’t's  •  August 6, 2013, 3:34pm  •  0 vote

Perhaps it's time to blow my own trumpet - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2011/01/dos-and-donts-of-apostrophe-use.html

Re: “further” vs. “farther”  •  August 4, 2013, 4:27am  •  0 vote

@bubbha - and a lot of American commentators will swear blind that this is set in stone, so if writing for an American audience, it's perhaps better to stick to it. But this is rather an artificial ru

Re: Try and  •  August 3, 2013, 11:05am  •  0 vote

@Chris B - it probably depends on who the people are. I'm not so sure about spelling, which is a bit more fixed, but if enough educated speakers of Standard English use a word or phrase a certain way,

Re: Try and  •  August 2, 2013, 12:52pm  •  0 vote

@DC Howard - I don't want to knock you, because I broadly agree with you as regards usage, but I'm puzzled by one or two things. If something is idiomatically acceptable, how can it be 'not strictly c

Re: why does english have capital letters?  •  July 26, 2013, 12:15pm  •  0 vote

@aragond - I'm used to grammar lectures on this forum, but for a joke? It's not meant to be proper English. It's a play on words and is totally improper English! See my previous comment.

Re: Resume, resumé, or résumé?  •  July 25, 2013, 3:37pm  •  0 vote

On my keyboard (no separate numerical pad) , there is a ^ sign above the 6. So I just do - shift + 6 + e - which gives me ê. As simple as that.

Re: Resume, resumé, or résumé?  •  July 24, 2013, 5:38pm  •  1 vote

Hi Brus, I wasn't feeling particularly grumpy; I was trying to find a compromise. Here's you and b.r.whitney both insisting on your particular version being the only correct one, whereas you are both

Re: cannot vs. can not  •  July 24, 2013, 4:30pm  •  2 votes

@Abootty - I don't know where you got that one from, as 'cannot' is the most common on both sides of the Atlantic: OED (UK) - "cannot is the ordinary modern way of writing can not" AskOxford (UK)

Re: Resume, resumé, or résumé?  •  July 24, 2013, 3:50am  •  1 vote

I wonder why some of you seem to think you know better than the standard dictionaries. (In fact I wonder if some of you even bother checking a dictionary before declaring that such-and-such is the onl

Re: Pled versus pleaded  •  July 23, 2013, 5:33pm  •  1 vote

It's certainly true that the majority of one syllable -ead / -eed verbs with that particular sound take an -ed form in the past - lead, read (in sound), bleed, breed, feed etc. But there quite a f

Re: “in regards to”  •  July 22, 2013, 1:09pm  •  0 vote

Yes, "as regards something/somebody" and "in/with/regard to something/somebody" are both formal, but sometimes in business letters or reports they're difficult to avoid. Sometimes in informal spoken l

Re: “There can be only one” or “there can only be one”?  •  July 21, 2013, 5:48pm  •  2 votes

I agree that adverbs normally go after "be" when there is no auxiliary, and we wouldn't usually say "There only is one choice" (although we might if we were stressing "is"). But here we have a modal "

Re: cannot vs. can not  •  July 18, 2013, 1:37pm  •  1 vote

@nadibes - The problem for me is that your example "I was going to X, but if you don't want me to I can not" doesn't sound particularly natural to me. Wouldn't we be more likely to say "but if you don

Re: “There can be only one” or “there can only be one”?  •  July 17, 2013, 11:37am  •  4 votes

There's a slight but well-known conflict with 'only', as purist grammarians say that any adverb, including 'only', should go next to the word it modifies, whereas most linguists and usage guides seem

Re: anything vs. everything  •  July 16, 2013, 4:43pm  •  0 vote

@Felix - in this context, I'd say none.

Re: Does “Who knows” need a question mark?  •  July 15, 2013, 12:10pm  •  0 vote

Porsche is of course right that intonation doesn't necessarily go up at the end of questions, isn't he? - I'm not really asking a question with that tag - 'isn't he?', and the intonation would usually

Re: Chary  •  July 15, 2013, 11:50am  •  0 vote

A troll that has an orange traffic light warning from Web of Trust, what's more (it's a games site).

Re: Capitalization of dog breeds  •  July 14, 2013, 4:34am  •  0 vote

I don't claim to be any expert on dog breeds, but judging by what I've seen at the biggest dog-related websites,yes. Why not try a bit of Googling to check Here's the relevant page (on gundogs) at the

Re: Capitalization of dog breeds  •  July 13, 2013, 7:16pm  •  0 vote

On their website, the Kennel Club (the authority in Britain), capitalise everything - Golden Labrador, German Shepherd, Border Collie, Standard Poodle etc., as do Wikipedia, dogbreedinfo.com, dogtime.

Re: Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators  •  July 13, 2013, 6:51am  •  2 votes

Sorry to hear of your problems. All the best.

Re: Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators  •  July 13, 2013, 5:54am  •  0 vote

@Brittany - Sorry if I overreacted a bit. I probably read too much into "our (American) normal way". Some people (and I include Brits here) sometimes forget that the English-speaking world stretch

Re: Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators  •  July 12, 2013, 9:11pm  •  0 vote

Come to think of it, forgive a Brit's ignorance, but what is an "August 1(st) card" anyway? Is it something to do with horse racing?

Re: Proper use of st, nd, rd, and th — ordinal indicators  •  July 12, 2013, 9:02pm  •  1 vote

@Brittany - It's just a different logic. For me the way you don't like is "normal". I don't really see why the month has to be the focus and why putting it first should be any more logical than puttin

Re: Fora vs Forums  •  July 11, 2013, 3:00pm  •  0 vote

As someone said way back in this thread, usage is the key,and you just have to take each word separately. No one would say musea, but on the other hand, not many would say crisises either. Some go onl

Re: Table of Content vs Table of Contents  •  July 11, 2013, 8:11am  •  0 vote

@Aeomer - sorry to be a bit obtuse, but could you explain?

Re: Plural of Yes  •  July 11, 2013, 6:30am  •  0 vote

@Chris B - Good one! That took me a second or two to work out - at my school we got dressed up as soldiers twice a week and did drill, and I was getting confused with "Eyes right", but I take it you'r

Re: Plural of Yes  •  July 11, 2013, 4:56am  •  1 vote

'Yes' can be a countable noun - "I'll take that as a yes, then", so we can definitely have a plural, and don't need to resort to apostrophes (yes's). Dictionaries seem to give two possibilities - 'ye

Re: have gone to  •  July 10, 2013, 11:54am  •  1 vote

@Hairy Scot - we wouldn't normally use a present simple with 'since', so it would need to be 'I have attended X High School since I was 15', or (I think better) 'I have been attending X High School s

Re: Skilled or skilful?  •  July 9, 2013, 12:12pm  •  0 vote

@calvin mpilo - A skilful person is someone who is good at doing something, whereas a knowledgeable person is someone who knows a lot about something. Someone may be very knowledgeable about plants, f

Re: Five eggs is too many  •  July 9, 2013, 11:52am  •  1 vote

I answered in the spirit of the question, but actually, I don't really find any of the answers with "Five eggs is/are too many/much" all that natural. I think I'd be much more likely to say something

Re: have gone to  •  July 7, 2013, 3:30am  •  0 vote

@roland_butter - There are also a couple of other useful websites for finding collocations etc. I've written about the here - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/04/finding-collocations-and-l

Re: have gone to  •  July 6, 2013, 3:10pm  •  1 vote

I would say that your follow-up example is OK, "always" being an adverb of frequency, so suggesting a repeated action. And in this case, present perfect continuous would sound weird. Although I might

Re: Five eggs is too many  •  July 6, 2013, 8:55am  •  0 vote

@Skeeter Lewis - you pipped me at the post. I hadn't seen your (rather more succinct) answer when I posted.

Re: have gone to  •  July 6, 2013, 8:50am  •  1 vote

As you point out, the verb 'go' has two different past participles - "gone" and "been" - with 'have gone somewhere" meaning that the person is not "here" - "He's gone to the shops", "She's gone to Par

Re: Five eggs is too many  •  July 6, 2013, 7:50am  •  5 votes

Unlike Tim33 and Jasper, I have no problem with 'five eggs is too much' - once you've broken them into a mixing bowl, we are talking about an uncountable mass, not separate eggs. Nor do I have any

Re: Chary  •  July 6, 2013, 6:46am  •  1 vote

There are certainly some restrictions on adjective position. Some adjectives, like "elder, live (in the sense of living)" are only used attributively (before the noun), while others are only used pred

Re: “I’ve got” vs. “I have”  •  June 30, 2013, 12:32pm  •  2 votes

@Kernel Sanders - I'm afraid I have to disagree with you about these nuanced differences. In British English there is absolutely no difference in meaning between "have" and "have got" (which is why it

Re: I’ve vs I’ve got  •  June 30, 2013, 11:25am  •  0 vote

@HS - I've just come across a webpage from the Arts Department at Glasgow University where they suggest that, whereas "Have you got any?" is more common in English Standard English, "Do you have any?

Re: “Ten Items or Less (Fewer?)”  •  June 30, 2013, 5:32am  •  1 vote

@Paul Newcomb - Stephen Fry's paean to the wonders of the English language should be compulsory viewing for all those who think love of the language consists of criticising others for not following so

Re: Someone else’s  •  June 30, 2013, 4:23am  •  0 vote

Two more exceptions like passers-by - hangers-on and runners-up

Re: When is a bridge not an overbridge?  •  June 29, 2013, 6:57am  •  0 vote

@HS - as to common use, you maybe answered your own question there, as you say in NZ "civil engineers", (from which I assume not necessarily the general public) are fond of the term. The document

Re: Someone else’s  •  June 29, 2013, 6:03am  •  0 vote

Sorry, that should read - And where the S goes doesn't depend on the grammatical nature of the components either.

Re: Someone else’s  •  June 29, 2013, 6:01am  •  1 vote

There seem to be two completely different questions here - someone else's and passers-by. I see that my browser is red-lining the former, but I can think of no reason why - of course it's correct.

Re: I’ve vs I’ve got  •  June 28, 2013, 2:24pm  •  0 vote

@Hairy Scot - I think your reference to your own question is really more about 'have' vs 'have got', whereas this thread is mainly concerned with whether it's possible to contract 'have' when it's th

Re: When is a bridge not an overbridge?  •  June 28, 2013, 1:27pm  •  0 vote

These terms seem to be British, but I (a Brit) hadn't heard them before, and I think they're probably more technical terms.They're both in Oxford Online: overbridge - a bridge over a railway/railro

Re: “reach out”  •  June 26, 2013, 4:32pm  •  0 vote

Here's an example of the more traditional use of 'reach out', from William Dalrymple writing in today's Guardian - "The efforts of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, to reach out to India may st

Re: Fit as a butcher’s dog  •  June 26, 2013, 2:47pm  •  0 vote

@SinTax'ed Enough - I take your point about it being a simile, but I wonder if you'd have found it quite as straightforward if you hadn't read Graeme's comment first; it certainly didn't hit me that w

Re: optimiSe or optimiZe ?  •  June 26, 2013, 2:04pm  •  0 vote

@Mahesh - sure we are in the 21st century, and communication is what language is all about. But language also has a history; we're allowed to be interested in that, aren't we? :) Incidentally, The

Re: One of the most...  •  June 25, 2013, 2:20pm  •  0 vote

@Nemo - I generally agree with you (I think), but not with "everything except the least one" or your statement that - "One of the (comparative)" is always wrong. It's always "one of the (superlative).

Re: I’ve vs I’ve got  •  June 25, 2013, 1:43pm  •  1 vote

In British English, at least, the 'got' versions are more common in normal speech, where we usually contract, while the 'have' versions are more common in written language where we don't usually contr

Re: LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?  •  June 24, 2013, 2:02pm  •  0 vote

Hi Chris B - Probably only on TV comedy programmes, to be honest. But you're right, I no doubt see it a lot more than I hear it. As for LOL, perhaps if the British PM, David Cameron, had checked this

Re: Past tense of “text”  •  June 22, 2013, 11:10am  •  1 vote

@Really?? - while agreeing with your grammatical conclusions, I wonder whether it is really necessary to be quite so condescending.

Re: LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?  •  June 21, 2013, 8:18am  •  0 vote

@Capitan Typo - What is the job of a dictionary if not to tell people the meanings of words and expressions they hear or see and might not know? Like it or not, a sizeable number of speakers of Standa

Re: LEGOs — Is the Plural form of LEGO incorrect?  •  June 16, 2013, 4:48am  •  0 vote

@Captain Typo - I generally like your favourite saying, but would suggest: 1) What the brand-owner wants is neither here nor there in a language sense, only in a legal sense. You can Google with wh

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