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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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In one of the discussions here, Brian W. tells me that the following sentence is wrong:

“This is one of the most common errors people make…”

He says it should be: “One of the more common…”

He explains:

Proper use of ‘most’ requires the size of the set in which the subject is a member: “one of the 10 most.” Without a numeric qualifier, all but the last are potentially included in the set “one of the most.” That (unfortunately) makes it as meaningful as “up to 10… or more!”

Now, is this a grammatical issue or stylistic issue? I see “one of the most” being used quite often.

As a side note, in Japanese, “one of the most” would be an oxymoron because the concept of “most” implies that it is at the top of the list, that is, there is only one thing that could be “most” or “best”. I remember feeling awkward about the phrase “one of the most” when I was first learning English.

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What is it called when a verb is no longer the process of doing, but the process of being something? Is it still simply just a verb?

Sorry for the lack of example, it was troubling me late last night, if i still remembered the word, i probably wouldn’t be asking this question.

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This is one of the most common errors people make, and I frequently come across people arguing about it. The explanations of how to use them properly are easy to find, but the conceptual difference between the two does not seem to stick in people’s mind. The confusion comes from the fact that “effect” can be used as a verb, although it’s rare. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be any confusion (i.e. “effect” = noun and “affect” = verb). To make it worse, “effect” used as a verb is pretty close in meaning to “affect”. And, if that’s not confusing enough, “affect” can also be used as a noun, and it’s also similar in meaning to “effect” as a noun.

So, the only way to get the hang of using them properly is to see actual examples. While I was arguing about this with a friend of mine, I came across this quiz that tests your ability to use “effect” and “affect” properly. I’m curious how well or badly everyone does on this quiz.

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So I frequently write headlines such as “Manchester United are in the quarter-finals” but I always wonder if it should actually be “Manchester United is in the quarter-finals”. I think I actually use them interchangeably depending on what mood I’m in. I guess the question is whether a soccer team is a group of players (”are”) or if it’s an entity (”is”). Which is it?

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I cannot stand when people say “sleep” instead of “asleep”. For example I’ve heard, “When I got home, he was sleep on the couch”. What is this laziness of not saying ASLEEP?? I have lived in the North all of my life, and most recently moved to the south. This must be some sort of “southern dialect”, annoying to say the least....Has anyone else encountered this?

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Which would be correct? There ARE progress and improvements. There IS progress and improvements.

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This is what I’d like to have engraved on a memorial brick, but the last line doesn’t look correct with the word “it” after “known”.

I’m glad most
folks let me know
they’re religious.
By their actions,
I wouldn’t have
ever known it.

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My wife is a non-native speaker and came up with the phrase above. Rightly or wrongly - I gently suggested that I’d use OR instead of AND ie

“I didn’t sleep last night AND the night before”. --> “I didn’t sleep last night OR the night before”.

That’s based on the sound of it (I’m no expert). The second sentence sounds better to me, but makes no sense really. Why is it “OR”.

In fact I’d probably use a slightly difference sentence in written English (after multiple hacks), and don’t really care re verbal use.

But that’s not my my question. I’ve been wondering about the use of ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ in similar contexts. For example:

“I don’t like chocolate OR ice-cream” “I don’t like chocolate AND ice-cream”

“I don’t like chocolate OR vanilla ice-cream” “I don’t like chocolate AND vanilla ice-cream”.

I think there’s two issues here... the grouping of words, and the way in which OR somehow acts like AND.

The AND vs. OR bit particularly bothers me... Can somebody explain this? In math/logic they are opposite terms.

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I was wondering if Curriculum Vita is indeed the usage for a single CV. Is Curriculum Vitae not used in both the plural and singular formats?

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How do you refer to two people with the last name Valdez. Is it “the Valdezes” or “Valdez’s” are coming for dinner?

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Latest Comments

It's possible that the origin of the greeting, "hey" goes back a very long time ago, like maybe the 1600s -- to the Native American Navajo greeting, "Yata Hey"

mines

  • Obi
  • May 21, 2017, 12:53am

You may want to ask yourself why non-standard = lazy in your mind.

I'm still looking for the proper method. Everyone states something different. English can be difficult sometimes.

Who ever started the expression Reach Out ( I WILL REACH OUT to you,) sbould be shot along with everyone that uses this stupid saying. I don't reach out to anyone. I call or contact you.

Someone else’s

I was taught that it is someone's else, not someone else's.

So why does the Merriam-Webster just use this meaning of "put sth. off"? While it might not be a phrasal expression in your area, it seems to be used in parts of USA.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/put%...

The point of creating and using grammar rules is to facilitate communication - to avoid being misunderstood. For example, to say, "I do not want a hamburger" does NOT mean that I want to avoid a hamburger; it merely means that I have no desire to possess one - I do not WANT one, but I would accept one. However, to say, "I want to not have a hamburger" means that I wish to avoid hamburger possession. I am a substitute teacher, and I hear sloppy statements all the time from teachers and students alike; these speakers run the risk of being misunderstood. If I were in a spaceship and was receiving instructions from NASA, I would hope the speaker on Earth would adhere to my standards, regardless of what is common vernacular.

Can the word percent ever be written as two separate words? Do the people in the UK write it as per cent?

gifting vs. giving a gift

  • Janer
  • May 16, 2017, 9:08pm

Historic reference or not, "gifted" is yet another step on the road to the destruction of language and definitions. (Anyone consider that the Mary Levinston quote was in error?) Most concerning is that there seems to be a world-wide adoption of bad American word usage. Even BBC reporters, and many people they interview sound like Valley Girls with a British accent, and they use words such as, gifted, transitioned, etc., and everyone, it seems, is "going forward," even if they are in reverse. All nouns simply cannot become verbs. But what is the appeal of dumbed-down American English? I don't understand. I'm not suggesting that usage does not change, but I cAn't stAnd it.

I lean toward mouses for the plural. First, it grates on my nerves to refer to two or more computer mouses/mice as mice. All I can think of is real rodents. Second, a great deal of computer jargon has been invented, if you will, by computer geeks who weren't very good at English grammar or syntax--or meaning. However, the many goofy terms have become well-accepted. In keeping with that goofiness, I definitely prefer the goofiness of "mouses."