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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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“Under urgency”? I recently came across this phrase for the first time in my life. The context was:- “Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment Act into law under urgency last night” Can’t really put my finger on why, and I can’t at the moment come up with an alternative, but it just doesn’t sound right. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Why does sports media persist in the use of the phrase “hone in” instead of “home in”. Traditionally, a missile homes in (not hones in) on a target. Hone means “to sharpen.” The verb home means “to move toward a goal” or “to be guided to a target.”

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Are “whensoever” and “whenever” really the same? 

In some of the dictionaries I checked, “whensoever” is defined “whenever”; but I disagree.

For instance, I think “The students may leave whenever they so choose” can be written “[...] whensoever they choose” because “so” is already part of “whensoever”.

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Why do we say “this Wednesday” when we are talking about next week? Shouldn’t we agree that “this” modifies an assumed week and that the week in question is the current (Sun or Mon thru Sat or Sun) one? If it’s Friday today, we could say “this coming Wed” or “next Wednesday” but not “this Wednesday,” because if we did that, then “next Wednesday” would either mean Wednesday of the week after next, strictly speaking, or given ambiguity could mean the very same day as was indicated by “this Wednesday.”

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Has the English relative pronoun ‘who/whom/whose’ been banned while I was not looking? It seems to have been replaced by the ugly use of the word ‘that’. On the rare occasions when it can be spotted in printed prose in, for example, a newspaper, ‘who’ is used for ‘whom’ and it is all very disappointing. I write as a disillusioned and pedantic old schoolmaster (retired) whose 12 year old pupils had no problem learning how to deal with ‘who’ and ‘whom’ and ‘to whom’. I blame the Americans for this desecration of our language.

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LDOCE says that “No one can oblige you to stay in a job that you hate.” is not correct. Do you think that this sentence is acceptabale?

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Why is it that the phrase “for long” can only be used in a negative sentence? For example:

  • I didn’t see her for long. » I saw her for long.
  • I wasn’t there for long. » I was there for long.

It’s the case in other phrases using the word long when referring to time:

  • I won’t be long. » I’ll be long.

It seems strange to me that only one is acceptable, yet it would have the same meaning in both sets of sentences, were the positive use acceptable.

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My husband is from the UK. I am from the USA. We have a grammar question. I will post two questions which demonstrate the question of the use of the word ‘to’ instead of ‘of’ in a sentence.

What do you think of my new car?

What do you think to my new car?

I have wagered that the use of ‘to’ is grammatically incorrect in the second example sentence. I believe it may be in ‘usage’, but it is not correct. Does anyone have any knowledge to share on this matter?

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Is writing “the August 1 card” correct, or should it be “the August 1st card”? I know July 23rd, 2011 is incorrect but when it comes to the “st”, I’m a confused Canadian. Can you help?

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In the antipodes it is common to use “stood down” as a synonym for suspended, eg - “The Commander of a Navy vessel has been stood down from his position following allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour on a recent port visit.”. But somehow this does not sound right. A person can stand down, ie: resign or give up a post, but I am not sure that it is correct to say a person was stood down. Why not just say “suspended”?

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Latest Comments

Littler

No you cannot use littler at all. The correct grammar is smaller. As for the comment in regards to your brother, the correct grammar would be my younger brother instead of smaller if you choose. Hope that helps.

If the word OUT in Canada is pronounced OAT (as in Quaker Oats) and the word ABOUT is pronounced A BOAT (the thing that floats) I assume other OU words and OW words have the same sound: clout, doubt, gout, lout, shout, tout and also bound, downed, found, hound, mound, pound, round, sound, wound, count, mount and I am not sure what else. The way Canadians pronounce the words HOUSE and MOUSE rhyme with DOSE. I have this question: does the word BOW (as in bowing one's head) sound the same in Canada as the BOW that shoots arrows or tying a ribbon in a BOW?

What Rhymes?

My son is in the entertainment field/ hip hop being most of it / editing & stuff. But Did u know ~ that Eminem read the dictionary Every Single Day before he made it ~ so tha he could not only find words that rhymed ~ But☝????Words that Rhymed and made total sense in the Rap? And he uses some lOng Ass words!!! I just found that interesting and wanted to share ~ ????????

What Rhymes?

☝????I beg to differ with you @poetess ~ Silver rhymes w/ Bewilder ????

Double Words

How do I locate the "comments" that come back to me? Pain in the English told me that I had three comments, but when I go to your site, there are none. Thanks.

Double Words

I hear people both in person and on television using the alleged word "I's." Is there such a word. For example, people might say, "John, Joe's, and I's baseball ticket got lost in the subway." To me, that is just wrong and there is not such word as I's. Am I right?

Double Words

Thanks so much for your response. However, I was very serious about double words. I find the use of them to be lazy and an avoidance to one's vocabulary-building. The people that I hear using double words are not saying them jokingly or for humor. In other words, instead of asking "Were you elated?", they say, "Were you happy, or were you happy-happy?" I dislike such lazy speech and hope that it does not become acceptable. Besides, it is often quite confusing, such as, "Was he at the gym, or at the gym-gym?" Someone said that to me and I don't know what he or she meant, nor did I feel that I should have to check for clarification. Thanks for your input.

Double Words

  • Vickie
  • April 10, 2018, 11:32pm

I would imagine these are all mainly humorous.

Were you happy-happy, or were you just "happy" because you're expected to say so out of politeness?

Was it fixed-fixed, or was it just hardcoded or duct-taped to work for that one use case/scenario?

He’s in his office-office -- this could easily apply to my boss, who is a workaholic. Everywhere is his office, and then we have our real corporate office.

I can't say I see any need for saying "Do you know how to type type", unless most people they have encountered only know how to type with one finger and you're looking for someone who knows how to use all 10.

I am soooo fed up with being "reached out to" instead of being "contacted."
It is so false when an email arrives with phrases like "You reached out to us" or "I reached out to you."
First I received such phrases in emails from USA but now New Zealand seems to have cottoned-on to it too! It drives me batty!!

you all

  • asanga
  • April 3, 2018, 7:58am

Does the word "You" actually require a different plural form? If you think of the practical usage of it, to address a group or an audience "You" is just sufficient, isn't it? Because, if you want to call one or a few specific people of that audience, you would rather use his/her name or a phrase such as "you, sir/madam". Otherwise, it naturally addresses the entire audience/group when you just use "You". If you think of the natural cognitive impulse that a common person (without being region specific) would get when his group being called with "You all"; it is more like issuing a command (not that polite) isn't it?