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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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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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“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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Problem with capitalizing and pluralizing official titles. For example:

He is a State Governor (or a state governor; a State governor; a state Governor: a governor of a state; Governor of a State?) in Nigeria. 

She is a deputy registrar (or is it a Deputy Registrar?) in my university. Many Deputy Registrars (or is it deputy registrars?) attended the conference.

Some university Registrars (or is it university registrars) have criticized the policy. 

Many Presidents (or is it presidents) came in person. Others were represented by their Vice Presidents (vice presidents?)

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Is it correct to say “she is in my same school”?

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Dear Sirs, I read your post on “I was/ I were”.  I found it very helpful, resuscitating memories of English classes. I’m still not sure if I should use “was” or “were” in this sentence, below. 

“And if anyone else were to peek, they would see the bear cubs looking fast asleep, dreaming of all the things they loved.”

The “anyone else” might be peeking and might not be peeking. We don’t know. “were” sounds better to my ear, but my MS Word has it underlined in green. Who is correct? Me or the machine?

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Now, I’ve been rolling this question over for few weeks now. I personally believe whom in the cases, but on we go. After writing most of this, I think [1] should be who now.

The infinitive phrase/clause normally takes the objective case as its “subject”.

“I wanted to meet him.”

Thus, the corresponding interrogative:

“Whom did he want to meet?”

But what happens if you take this construction and use it with a copular verb?

[1] “Who/whom am I to judge.” (?)

[2] “I am who/whom to be.” (?)

Which may correspond to the declarative sentences (U=unacceptable; A=acceptable):

[1a] “I am he to judge.”

[1b] “I am him to judge”

[2a] “I am he to be.”

[2b] “I am him to be.”

[2c] “I am to be he.” (U)

[2d] “I am to be him.”(A)

It is possible to expand them into relative clauses:

[1a'] “I am the person who can judge them.”(A)

[1b'] “I am the person whom can judge.” (U)

[2a'] “I am the person (who) you should be.” (U)

[2b'] “I am the person (whom) you should be.” (A)

The construction has two verb constructions (one copular and the other infinitive) vying for dominance. So thoughts? These conundrums are fascinating and, due to my obsessive-compulsiveness, frustrating. </p>

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Latest Comments

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:02pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:01pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

LEGO does not refer to the bricks, but to the brand. Therefore, it is incorrect to say LEGOs, as you would be referring to multiple LEGO companies. The only correct way to refer to them is "LEGO bricks."

The name "LEGO" is not derived from English language, and therefore it cannot be stated that the very English method of adding an 's' for a plural is definitively correct. In this case I would suggest LEGO pieces (as the company itself requests), especially now that the LEGO brand has diversified into films, video games, and even cake tins. It is worth noting, however, that throughout most of the world the plural of LEGO has always been simply LEGO.

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 20, 2018, 10:18pm

On google books "neither are to blame" shows up just nineteen times, whereas "neither is to blame" has over five thousand results.

https://www.google.com/search?biw=1432&bih=...

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 19, 2018, 4:54am

" neither were significant predictors of the outcome measures"
"they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; "
"neither were most of their members prepared to take part as citizens."
"Things are either what they appear to be: or they neither are, nor appear to be"
"And if the fountains are not gods, neither are the rivers,"
"Neither are we truly portraying what Christ's disciple means. "

Both are possible, depending on the context:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=n...

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22neither%20we...

Neither is or neither are

  • Edinrin
  • February 17, 2018, 10:42am

'Neither are' is correct
For example: neither are to blame for the damage done.

well, actually, grammar rules themselves don't exist. there has never been any set rules, because the "rules" depend on how a majority decides to speak, and they change as the years go by. "ain't" used to be considered grammatically correct and was used by rich English folk, but when "commoners" started using it, they decided it wasn't proper English. this fact won't change how society treats grammar (like it's friggin LAW), but I feel like we should all be more lax and just use whatever feels right to us. I mean, soon, "I did good on my test" will be considered proper grammar.

On Tomorrow

It’s a church thing. I’m willing to bet that the people heard saying “on tomorrow” are heavily influenced by the church. Church folk are the people I’ve ever heard say it.

There is a male coworker that when ever he speaks to the females in our office always starts with "Heyyy name, how's it going?" Is it just me, i feel it is so disrespectful and annoying. What are your thoughts?