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Discussion Forum

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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When speaking about wish statements, why is it okay to give the short answer form for an action verb (e.g. snow), but not for be + adjective (e.g. to be sunny).

For example, we say “It won’t rain tomorrow, but I wish it would.”

But, “It won’t be sunny tomorrow, but I wish it would be.”

What is the distinction we make here, or is it just an arbitrary rule that we use be?

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There are two questions associated with this. The first one is: Should it be “Not just I who think...” not “Not just me who think...”?

The second question is: Should the subject be considered singular or plural in this case? That is, should it be “Not just I who thinks...” or “Not just I who think...”? After all, if it is not just just me (or I?), there are other people, which makes it plural.

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In the sentence “It is a highly unusual form of melody, one that occurs only in this composer’s work”, what is the referent of the pronoun ‘one’? Is it ‘melody’ or the entire prepositional phrase ‘form of melody’? Or, perhaps the referent is the subject of the sentence, ‘it’? I frequently hear the rule that the referent has to be the prior proximate noun.

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We often hear sentences like:- “Your teen is more at risk while on their restricted licence” where “their” appears as a means of combining “his” and “her”. Although there may be nothing wrong in this, it does sound a bit strange.

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Is it grammatically correct to say “It had impacts on...”? If the singular form is correct (it had an impact on), I would imagine that the plural form would have to be also correct.

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Is it proper to use the word ‘Floorings’? (Plan to use it as a website name since ‘flooring’ is a noun)

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From my experience, about 95% of english speaking people (even educated people) employ this grammar (which I believe is incorrect, based on my school training in English, many moons ago, and which I hence detest and just cannot and will not adjust to !):

e.g.: “I wonder THAT this is correct”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is correct”, or:

“I wonder WHETHER this is correct”.

“I wonder THAT that is a fact”, rather than: “I wonder IF this is a fact” or:

“I wonder WHETHER OR NOT this is a fact”.

“I don’t know THAT it was cleaned much…” (from a radio personality this very evening)

IF or WHETHER must be used when there is uncertainty or doubt.

THAT should be used when there is certainty. E.g.: “I know that this is true.”

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Can “Fine.” be considered a complete sentence?

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One grammar guide teaches that if two modifiers of similar kind refers to the same noun (thing or person) only the first is preceded by an article, while the noun is in the singular (The black and white dress she had on was very becoming); but if they refer to different things the noun is in the plural, with an article preceding each modifier (The black and the white dresses were very becoming). This, as I have understood it, means that, for example, the phrase a/the political, economic, and social sphere implies that the sphere is at once economic, political, and social. But how should I understand (if the above rule really governs the structure) an example where the noun is in the plural but only the first modifier is preceded by an article as it is in a sentence you can read in the CollinsCobuild dictionary--We are doing this work in the context of reforms in the economic, social and cultural spheres. The use of the plural noun means that the three spheres are considered different things by the writer, and thus, the article the would have to stand before each adjective like here-- the economic, the social, and the cultural spheres. Via the Internet, you can find a lot of examples being much like the former structure one but almost nothing resembling the latter one. Does this mean that the rule is wrong or incomplete, or I have misunderstood something?

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For the phrase (idiom?) “to make [something] work,” what part of speech is “work” functioning as?

My initial instinct is to say verb, since the something is actively working now.

As a follow-up, why don’t we conjugate “work” or keep it in the infinitive? For instance, why are the following sentences wrong?

Jane’s boss makes the schedule works for everyone.

Jane’s boss makes the schedule to work for everyone.

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Latest Comments

eg, e.g., or eg.

Just come across this site as I was taken to task for NOT including stops in eg and wanted to definitively know what's the formal line on this.
[Waaah! EeeeK! Your website wouldn't allow me to write eg. It wanted e.g. !! A subtle ploy to MAKE me do it?]
I have not used stops in dates and abbreviations in years. I agree that it looks cleaner without; the time for old-fashioned flowery style has gone. Even official documents are no longer in this style so we do we need to be? Language, spoken and written evolves. As for saving time: does it? I don't think in this day of fast keyboards that it does but it just looks simpler – and that does it for me.

I stumble over it more and more often, using tumblr. As a non-native speaker it's really annoying. Because we wade into the deep waters of english internet communications to strengthen our language skills. But while I understand that nobody outside of English class speaks Oxford English, I noticed that nowadays it is pretty unlikely to keep your English on an acceptable level for job applications using the internet. Most English and American tumblr bloggers, Goodreads reviewers and Facebook users seem to be worse in writing English than I am. And even though my college ranked me as 'native speaker level' I simply do not understand what they are trying to tell me. While I can communicate with French, Russian and Indian citizens (and mostly Brits as well) in English, especially writing with Americans becomes more and more difficult. Even though I read novels in English and watch most TV shows in original version as well.
So while all those little quirks might seem like natural language evolution to those who use them, they are making it harder to communicate. In a time when English is spoken (or at least written) by almost everyone on the planet and the internet brings us all together, those people segregate themselves again.

Newfoundland Expression

I cook a batch of salt beef 2-3 times a year and make enough to have leftover peas pudding and corned beef hash. The latter is a mix of the leftover meat and vegetables mashed up and fried for breakfast with eggs and bacon, nothing in world like it. ummm. The leftover peas pudding is great cold or hot and good for lunches (nasty side effect though if you get my drift, LOL).
But back to my intended response, the comments on what beef to use.
The salt beef used in "Corned Beef N Garbage" was indeed, salted beef in watery brine, this was a preservative in days gone by. I do not know the cut of the beef but it was low quality and fatty, hence the need to cook it for such a long period. As a boy in St. John's Nfld I remember just about every corner store would have a big wooden barrel full of brine and salt beef. The brine kept it preserved. The store used a big hook to pick out pieces and often the customer would say, not that one, too fatty, etc. There were always complaints about quality LOL. The purchased piece of meat would be weighed and wrapped in paper.
Fast forward to today. You can get salt beef in a few supermarkets but in small pails (4-10 lb sizes). Up until a few years ago most of what I saw in supermarkets was made by Maple Leaf foods but lately there are other brand names, i.e Best Meats.
Yesterday I made a batch of Corned Beef and Cabbage, oops, a Jiggs dinner, and will have leftover corned beef hash for breakfast tomorrow, yeah!!.
What you buy today. I purchased a 4 lb pail ($16.95 cnd), labeled “cured navel beef packed in brine” after cutting off the major fat it yielded less than 2 lbs of fatty raw meat and some with bone in so the meal is no longer an affordable staple meal. This does not seem to be a negative to the brand, it is just what you get these days when you purchase it. I have yet to find a place to buy the salted meat without paying for the brine. Another note, as a boy, the fat was never removed, we burned it off in work and play. Also note the commercial purchased pails now say “keep refrigerated” so I guess the brine is no longer a reliable preservative.
Alternatives. The meat flavor from the salted brine cannot be beat so if you can afford it that is the best way to go. But if you want to increase the meat proportion and keep the cost down a little try adding some pre-packaged “Corn beef brisket”. I say adding because making the meal with just “Corned beef brisket” is good but produces a different meal, not the typical corned beef and cabbage flavour.
This time, I also purchased 2 lbs brisket at $5.4 lb cnd and it yielded no bone and very little fat. I mixed the 2 lbs of brisket with the 2 lbs salt beef from the pail and got a good result. Caveat; wash the brisket really well to get the spices off as much as possible. I like to wash the salt beef but I do not soak it anymore as it is not as salty as it used to be. But that depends on your affinity for salt in your food and the proportion of meat to other vegetables. I use a lot of vegetables to have left overs for corn beef hash. I also cook the meat longer than most suggested 4-5 hours (with peas pudding) adding the vegetables and cabbage at the end.

Pronunciation: aunt

I'm 55 and from Long Island. Ive pronounced it like "ant" my whole life and I refuse to change. And while we're on the subject, i can't stand when people pronounce "anna" as "on a". I mean the two sounds for the letter a is long a as in "acorn" and short a as in "accurate"

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • Jelal
  • March 11, 2018, 8:40pm

Hello all,

I have just read through 12 years of comments lol. It has thoroughly entertained me.

I studied Computer Science at Uni and the lecturer advised the students that the correct term was "mouses". It could have been his own opinion though.

I wish you all the best and thank you for the lovely read.

Surprise!!!! Both are wrong you can't say she or me for the first person. The answer is " Yes that's me".

Writing out percentages correctly

  • jayles
  • March 4, 2018, 12:08am

Four and seventy-three thousandths per cent ??? (4.073%)

i am stuck on a legal document: how to express "four whole seventy-three thousand percent"

Now mine and my sons glasses are going to cost me a little over $400

Neither is or neither are

  • Gerald
  • February 27, 2018, 2:24pm

What if you were to recast it as "neither one"? I think "is" sounds more natural there.