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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

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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.

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Latest Posts : Grammar

1.  You don’t know how I am delighted to have you as a friend

2.  You don’t know how delighted I am to have you as a friend.

3. I hope one day I can do something for you to show you how you are lovable in my heart and mind.

4. I hope one day I can do something for you to show you how loved you are in my heart and mind.

Sentences 2 and 4 are correct; sentences 1 and 3 are not.  Please could you explain why?  Thank you.

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Is it possible to say “by the time we arrived at the cinema, the film was starting”? Or do I have to say “the film had started”? 

Both structures sound ok to me if I use another verb (sleep) instead of “start” (“by the time I got there, he was already sleeping”) so I do not know if I am using the structure right (perhaps I should use “when” and not “by the time”) or if it is the verb “start” (due to its meaning) what makes “by the time we arrived, the film was starting” sound strange. 

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I’ve read a sentence like this:

Not only did George buy the house, but he also remodeled it.

think this counts as a complex sentence, but I want to get some extra opinions.  Doesn’t “Not only did George buy the house” modify “remodeled,” thus making the first clause dependent?  In common English usage, the position of the subject “George” after “did” is fine in an interrogative sentence, but it’s not in a declarative sentence.  Does the departure from standard declarative syntax suggest that the first clause is not independent (and therefore dependent)?

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I have recently been seeing rejections of many phrases with ‘of’ in them because they are “less concise.” An example of this would be changing “All six of the men were considered dangerous” to “All six men were considered dangerous.” Recently, someone corrected a sentence I wrote and it just doesn’t sound right even though it may be concise. They changed “There are six species of snakes and four species of butterfly on the list” to “There are six snake species and four lizard species on the list.”

Bonus question: Is it “species of butterfly” or “species of butterflies”?

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In the following sentence, are both parts of the clause correct for a present unreal sentence?

“She would have wanted you to become a doctor if she were alive today”

In this sentence, shouldn’t it be this?

“She would want you to become a doctor if she...”

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What does “that” mean in the following sentences? Are there any rules which apply to the exact phrases which “that” refers to?

1. The graphs above show the rates of electricity generation of Kansas and “that” of the U.S. total in 2010. 

Q. Doesn’t “that” refer to “electricity generation”? If yes, isn’t “of” needed before “that”? 

2. The rate of electricity generation by nuclear power plants in Kansas was about the same as that of the U.S. total. 

Q. Doesn’t “that” refer to “the rate of electricity generation by nuclear power plants”? If yes, why is it “that in the U.S. total”, instead of “that of the U.S. total” to be parallel with in Kansas?

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There is a structure used by native speakers that I often read on social media, referring to people who have passed away, on the day of their anniversary. e.g. “He would have been 60 today.” Shouldn’t it be “He would be 60 today”? Meaning, if he were alive, he would be 60 today.

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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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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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“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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Does /s/ have meaning?

Yes you are right but I believe it is falling out of use. Of course this kind of thing takes a long time to change but in my office we no longer put that on electronic copies. For example if you use Microsoft Word right now and digitally sign a document, it doesn't even put a visible signature into the document. So what we do is put a signature line for the signing official to fill out their name and the date, as in the following:

Date: October 22, 2020

Signed: Joseph Conrad

I should point out that that is what you see in the original not a copy. There is some history here in terms of digital copies of documents. For a while our office was putting an actual image of the person's signature into the document. I think we were following practices in the industry at the time, about 10 years ago. This image of the signature would appear in the original as well as any digital copies or printed copies for that matter or even if we printed out the original now that I think of it. But things are evolving.


I have to observe that I am not party to the professional jargon of the world of advocacy. I must admit that anything I say here could be contradicted by the real world experience of someone in that field.

However we are all exposed to the types of phrases that might exist in a book or in the media regarding advocacy activities.

Also, consider the fact that an advocate is essentially an attorney for someone in some countries.

With the above in mind I suggest that you can advocate for your client by representing them to a third party. If you look at the word ad-vocate and take it apart it signifies speaking on behalf of someone. Of course you can give that person advice in the whole process of representing them to someone else such as where to stand how to dress what kind of expression they should have on their face etc.

And although this should not change the overall title of your work as advocacy, you can also advise your client about things you're aware of that they might not be aware of. You are counseling them but not at that moment representing them to someone else. But this too in the legal profession would I think be normal in a consultation. A lawyer not only represents their client in court in other words to that third party, or in a negotiation with an actual third party, but they will consult with the client about what they should do in general, that is not only during that negotiation or in that courtroom.

I can't speak to what constitutes a complex sentence. That is a level of grammar that is above my head. But I will say regarding the interrogative format and the fact that there is a version where you can restate it without that interrogative format, that to me the interrogative format indicates that this is an answer to an actual interrogative. In other words someone asked me the question did George buy the house. Obviously that format has the verb before the noun which is typical in English for an interrogative. I am then answering in a sort of exaggerating way or at least an emphasizing way, hey not only did he do that but he did something more, that nut.

I think you could be right in a loose sense that buying the house is a clause that modifies remodeling the house. It is not an instance of an adverb modifying a verb. Maybe some kind of grammarian's perspective of one clause modifying another. I don't know.

By the time

I think there is a period of some minutes where you can say the film was starting. The thing is, you are probably trying to convey that you are in the unenvious position of rushing to your seat so as not to cause others inconvenience. You're a bit late to the theater in other words. Or you might express yourself in this way because you are rushing to be seated and situated so that you don't miss the very beginning and the overall ambiance of the movie. I don't think we have to get some timer out and firmly state that you can only say was starting within 20 seconds of some almost arbitrary point at the beginning of a film. As we all know so many films of yesteryear and of contemporary film have a lot of fluff at the beginning. There is pomp and circumstance. Planes flying around towers in RKO films. And nowadays there are about 20 different production companies that have to be acknowledged.

I would reserve the use of the phrase had started only if actual scenes in the movie had begun and you might have missed some of them. Say for example you come into the theater and you see what might be an establishing shot for a scene and might be in fact the very first shot of the film, but since it's already on the screen you can't even tell if it's the start or if you might have missed something before it. That is what I would think you meant if you told me the film had started. You came into the theater and saw a scene and maybe even people speaking.

About "Respective"

I hope you're not confusing respective with the similar word respectively. When we say respectively we are talking about associating a set of traits with a set of nouns. So I can say I gave two and $10 to Sally and Jesse respectively.

I was confused by your definition. It might help if you gave an example. I tried but couldn't really come up with one myself. I was trying to imagine plural and singular nouns but that really didn't help me.

About "Respective"

Yes the_poetye, I agree it is good usage. To the person posting this question I would argue that this paragraph you present is perfect. The use of the term respective here arises because of the interruption in the sentence where each office is identified. If those regional offices were not identified, then the paragraph could have simply said something like there are three regional offices and each is responsible for the following duties. When you introduce that sort of parenthetical you want to say respective because the term sort of implies looking back and in this case we are in fact looking back at the parenthetical remark.

In fact if we leave the word respective out of the paragraph we run the risk of someone imagining some possible overlap with the specific duties that are listed at the end of the paragraph.

1. I think you should use the phrase how I am delighted to mean an ongoing situation. So if I say, you don't know how I am delighted to have you as a friend, you are really talking about an ongoing feeling of delight that you have. It's like everyday you wake up and think wow that friendship just delights the heck out of me. It would seem a little bit much to say this and might not be received as a genuine sentiment by the average English speaker.

2. I think this phrase, you don't know how delighted I am to have you as a friend, is a nice thing to say to someone that you don't hang around a lot but that you feel close to. It will seem genuine in that context because you're expressing that feeling of friendship that you have at that moment. This is in contrast to the first example above.

3. To say how you are lovable in my heart is a very odd way to phrase a feeling and I would agree with others who say it's not accurate. You mean to say how loved the person is in your heart. If they are simply lovable you are not saying that you love them. You are saying they have qualities that someone who knows them will love them.

4. I like this sentiment and would only suggest that you don't say heart and mind. We generally don't think about loving someone in our mind. One improvement I might suggest is to add the filler word soul. There really is no difference between the heart and the soul, but it sounds so sweet if you say, I love you in my heart and soul.

Good luck with it!

I posted this question about a year ago and since there are now 23 comments and my birthday is on the 23rd I thought I should chime in. Thanks to everybody for commenting. I just read through all of them. I have come to a couple conclusions and thought I'd share them.

First when we talk about this or next we are elevating from a structure of days in one week to days in a series of weeks. That is, if I'm only talking about days I can say on Wednesday. I think it's safe to say that on Wednesday means Wednesday of the week I am currently in. It doesn't matter if Wednesday has passed or not. However inside this structure of consecutive weeks we have to contend with the weekend. So if I say on the weekend that I'm going to the movies on Wednesday it obviously means of the coming week. I hope I would be speaking clearly if I said the same thing on a given Wednesday through possibly Monday. As someone pointed out if you get too close to that movie night it becomes ridiculous to speak in terms of weeks and you have to just say tomorrow or yesterday.

For disclosure I am a non-southern American. While I enjoy the grammatical efficiency of such southernisms as y'all and Wednesday week, I cannot bring myself to use them. I'd feel like a poser.

For the person who suggested we think of polls in a paddock I would like to suggest refining the analogy so that each poll of the seven in one paddock is somehow differentiated from all the others. Then restate the result. I don't think it would be the same as when all poles are identical. A further problem with the analogy of course since I was just talking about weekends is we don't have any special language introduced about the polls that are close to the border between the two paddocks.

I find myself rarely saying this Wednesday or next Wednesday. Since I posted this question I have tried to pay attention to my own usage. I tend to say Wednesday of next week. If I say this Wednesday I might be more inclined to add a little and say Wednesday of this week.

I think I have an idea of how people in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would deal with this issue. How do people in India deal with this?

Absolute rubbish

"Next" means "next", always. When we say, "This Wednesday", it is short for "Wednesday this week". "Wednesday next week" can be shortened to "Wednesday next", but not "Next Wednesday" as that means, literally, the next Wednesday, chronologically.