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This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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Many years ago using the prefix co- and co meant two different things. Now they are used interchangeably, but is this correct? I was taught if you used co- you were a subordinate and if you used co you were equals. An example. A co-pilot is subordinate to a pilot, however coauthors means both writers were equal in the endeavor. Once upon a time, a co-chairwas subordinate to the chair. Now co-chair and cochair are used flagrantly to mean the same thing, they are equally sharing the duties of chairperson. What are your thoughts on this?

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All of a sudden spectators are not “looking on” but “watching on”. Does that make them onwatchers?

They no longer say “welcome to” but “welcome along to”.

“Early on” has become “early doors”.

Players now “contest for” the ball.

They now “update you” with the latest scores.

To me all of that is rather more idiotic than idiomatic.       :-))

I’m sure there are many more examples that I have (thankfully) missed.

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I should probably count myself fortunate that I almost reached my allotted three score and ten without having come across this dreadful word.

But alas my belief that a mentor has a protégé has now been cruelly shattered.

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Two scenarios:

  1. You are an antipodean cricket commentator and during a broadcast you realise that your Indian co-commentator is pronouncing some words/names differently from you.
  2. You are at a social gathering and notice that everyone else pronounces words/names differently from you.

The words/names in question could be for or example:

  • Tendulkar with a soft ‘oo’ sound as opposed to your hard ‘u’ (as in dull).
  • Nepal with “paul” as opposed to your ‘pal’.
  • Debut as ‘dehbyew’ as opposed to your ‘dayboo’.

In each situation how do you react?

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I’m all for the metric system, and I’m sure a lot of British schoolchildren would be well pissed off if UKIP’s idea of restoring the imperial system ever came to fruition. But I do find sentences like this, in a item on the BBC website, rather strange and unnatural:

Mr Teller says the first question is not “How can we make a tonne of money?”

I know that tonne is our unit of measurement now, but does it have to take over our idioms as well, especially as this is probably more of an American idiom anyway (I think we Brits would be more likely to say ‘ton(ne)s of money’)?

The following idioms are all listed in British dictionaries with ‘ton’ or ‘tons’:

They came down on him like a ton of bricks.

That bag of yours weighs a ton!

I’ve got tons of work to do.

We’ve got tons of food left over from the party.

I don’t know why the BBC insist on using tonne in idioms. Perhaps they think young people won’t know what a ton is. I say keep the idiomatic ton, and leave tonne for weights. After all people don’t say they’re off to spend a new penny, do they? (Actually I’m not sure anyone says that anymore anyway!)

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Discussion on appropriate use of these two phrases came up on another forum. I believe it depends on context. Would be interested in hearing other views.

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Another oddity from my favourite source, The New Zealand Herald:

“Perhaps it’s time to deal to the ads that are just plain downers?”

It may be an undetected error or a misprint, but knowing the Herald, I’m sure the author, the proof readers, and the editors, all thought that “deal to” made perfect sense in the given context.

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I’m an English teacher in France. In this question I am seeking confirmation that the following use of “used to” is no longer in use. I’m willing to be enlightened.

“Where used you to live before you came here?”

The form that I would employ is:

“Where did you use to live before you came here?”

My source is “Pratique de l’anglais de A à Z” by Michael Swan and Françoise Houdart. In this book they say that you can use either with or without the auxiliary ‘did’. I would not have been shocked by “Where were you living before you came here?”

The book is really very useful and well organized, but occasionally I come across sentences that seem (to me) to be archaic. The version I have was published in 1983. And before any of you say it, no this is not my only source for my English lessons.

So I would be glad of your opinions.

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I have heard the president hypercorrect personal pronouns as in “he gave it to Michelle and I.” Is this common now even in the highly educated? Would this have been heard by a highly educated person 30 years ago?

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Another interesting phrase from The Independent:

“nearby to where he lives”

This journalist must be paid by the word. Wonder what was wrong with “near where he lives”?

Link to the article »

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Latest Comments

Pled versus pleaded

  • Mary G
  • December 8, 2017, 4:11pm

So, should we expect "he bled to death" to become "he bleeded to death"?

Thanks! I didn't think to look there.

Possessive with acronyms ending in S

  • jayles
  • December 4, 2017, 12:52am

@riley
"requires" and "is" are more common than "require" and "are" in published books.

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=GA...

“Anglish”

This looks very much like Cowley's work who wrote 'How we'd talk if the English won in 1066' . I think he's an excellent linguist with cutting edge ideas on the make and mode of English as it stands and would have been. I do, however, believe that 'ednew' became the modern 'anew' thus, it should be Anew/ Anewed English.

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:50pm

Fowler's Modern English Usage 3rd Ed (2004) doesn't recognise "mouse" as an acronym but as a term within a new layer of words with new meanings, called "computerese". Fowler's adopts a wait and see approach.

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:29pm

The Economist Style Guide says, with regard to plurals in general, "No rules here. The spelling ... may be decided by either practice or derivation."

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • colin1
  • December 2, 2017, 12:08pm

The Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd Ed (2010) entry for mouse reads as follows: "2 (pl. mice or mouses) a small handheld device which is moved across a mat or flat surface to move the cursor on a computer screen". The world's most trusted dictionary of English accepts both mice and mouses as correct.

“Anglish”

Hello,

Does anyone know anything about this site:

http://ednewenglish.tripod.com/index.htm

The first sentence describing it says:

"Ednew English is dedicated to an awareness and restoration primarly of native English words."

There are lists of prefixes, suffixes, verbs, and so on; but there is no information about who the author is.

There are lots of interesting words there, but I wonder if they are actually words. For example, is "Ednew" actually a word?

Thanks,

I heard today for the first time ever that it is supposed to be said "you've got another *think* coming." I always understood it as meaning, If you think this way, a negative consequence "some thing" is on its way to straighten you out. Not the thinking itself which will be redone, but the consequences of that way of thinking. I still prefer "thing", since this is what I mean when I say it. In fact, after that consequence comes I/they might rethink my/their initial position. Or it might be that the consequence is the end of it and they never change their opinion, just get that lovely bad thing as a result. Besides, "another think coming" implies that a think is a thing, when think is a verb. In no other ways do I use think as a noun. A think is coming. Incorrect. A thought is coming. Correct. To fight over this "grammar rule" when it is breaking grammar rules to even say it is silly. If anything, it would need to be..."If you think...you've got another thought coming." Just my two cents.

What about an acronym such as GAAP? it stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. If I am writing a sentence, do I treat the acronym as a plural or as a singular since the term itself is plural - i.e. principles? For instance, would I write "GAAP require" or "GAAP requires"? Thanks