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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

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.

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Latest Posts : Expression

Does “hate with passion” sound wrong to you? Should it be “hate with a passion” instead?

One of the visitors to Pain in the English emailed us and asked if “hate with passion” is grammatically correct or not.

Here are some other similar phrases we can consider:

Sing with passion
Sing with a passion

Sing with feeling
Sing with a feeling

Say it with feeling
Say it with a feeling

When we analyze these expressions, we begin to feel that the article “a” adds some sense of specificity, like:

Sing with a passion befitting Pagliaccio!
Sing with a feeling of remorse!
Say it with a feeling of malaise!

Without the article, the word “passion” and “feeling” both remain abstract concepts.

What do you think?

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I cringe when I read (a million times a week), “I am so sorry,” “I am so happy”...

It feels like there is part of the statement missing, like “I am so happy I could cry,” or “I am so sorry, I don’t  know what to say.” Is “so anything” a legitimate phrase on its own? Or am I right in thinking it needs more?

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I run. I ran. I had ran. I had run.

I went. I had went. I had gone.

There appear to be localized aberrations where people insist on saying “had ran” even though they know “had run” is proper. They seem to be victims of conforming to local language.

This group of people seems to me to come from a region. I grew up in California, and I never saw this. I started seeing it in Colorado. It was a little more common in Kansas. It was very common in GA. It always showed up in people who had moved west from eastern locations like MA, KY, DE, VA, WV, NC. 

What is it that I am trying to say here? Peer pressure overrides language correctness? Is there a better way to refer to this?

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Isn’t “agree the terms” simply bad form? The following is taken from today’s online Guardian in a quote from Theresa May: . . . the prime minister said she believed it was “necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union”. Then as the article continues, the same usage appears in the Guardian’s own words: “The EU institutions and 27 remaining member states, however, have long said they were determined the divorce settlement, such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons on the continent and the size of Britain’s exit bill, must first be agreed before substantive talks on a future relationship could begin.”

Agree to the terms, yes; but agree the terms?

Be agreed upon, yes; but settlement be agreed before?

I have not run across this usage in US English, so is it something happening in British writing/speech?

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Consider the following sentence: “Last year, the rent was $500, but now it’s risen to $1,000. The rent is two times higher than it used to be.”

To me, this sentence is misleading, since “two times higher” would mean starting with a value of $500 and duplicating it, twice (in other words, $500 + $500 x 2 = $1,500). It seems the correct sentence should read:

“The rent is two times as high as used to be.”

Are both forms acceptable? Unfortunately, it seems that the more confusing form (”two times higher”) has become more common.

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Whilst I appreciate that it is increasingly less common to write or receive a letter these days - and that traditional usage has been Dear Sir/Madam->Yours truly/faithfully or Dear Mr Smith ->Yours sincerely - the few letters rarely follow these “rules”.

I have had (1) Dear Mr Smith without any closure from the UK Pensions Service, (2) Dear Mr Smith->Yours sincerely from the local power board, and (3) Hi Mr Smith->Until next time from my bank. Personally I have never used ‘Yours faithfully’ (which smacks of subservience) since the turn of the century, even when applying for a job. I do still use “Sincerely” in a few emails (particularly when making a complaint). 

For the life of me, I cannot see why bygone formalities are still required for examinations such as the International English Language Test. 

As to emails, it seems more difficult to be formal. Mostly I use “Hi + first name” and end with “Cheers”. 

My question is what are  other people in English-speaking countries experiencing? Is stuff like “Yours faithfully” “Yours truly” now passé? If so is there any reason to teach them?

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This sentence:

“By securing a permanent US commitment to the defence of all its members from 1949 onwards, Nato changed the calculus confronting potential aggressors.”

appeared in this Daily Telegraph article.

I think I grasp what the author is getting at, but it does seem a most unusual and perhaps incorrect use of “calculus.”

Or am I behind the times once again?

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The definitions of “go figure” that I found in various dictionaries do not match what I thought it meant. Is it just me?

Here are what I found:

“said to express the speaker’s belief that something is amazing or incredible.”

“used when you ​tell someone a ​fact and you then ​want to say that the ​fact is ​surprising, ​strange or ​stupid”

“Expresses perplexity, puzzlement, or surprise (as if telling somebody to try to make sense of the situation).”

I thought “go figure” meant the same as “duh!” or “just my luck”. That is, it’s obvious after the fact. It implies “I should have known.”

Let’s take some of the examples that appear in these dictionaries:

“The car wouldn’t start yesterday no matter what I did, but today it works just fine. Go figure.”

My interpretation of this is that, given how unlucky he is in general, in retrospect, it’s obvious that this happened to him again. It’s just part of being unlucky in general.

“She says she wants to have a conversation, but when I try, she does all the talking. Go figure.”

My interpretation for this is that she is already known to the speaker as a talkative person, but since she claims to want a conversation, the speaker gave her another chance, but again, all she does is talk not listen. Duh! The speaker should have known. It should not be a surprise to the speaker.

“The paint was really good, so they stopped making it - go figure, right?”

Again, what is implied here is not something surprising or unexpected; it’s the exact opposite. The speaker is being sarcastic. Because consumers have no appreciation for good products, they all fail, and bad products like Microsoft Windows thrive. “Duh! I should have known that they would stop making it.”

When people are genuinely surprised and puzzled about something, and they want someone to go figure it out. I generally hear people say, “figure that one out.” I find this very different from “go figure”. The latter has a sense of irony or sarcasm that the former does not have. It almost means the opposite. That is, “forget it, don’t even bother trying to figure it out because it’s just my luck,” or “don’t bother figuring it out because people are just stupid.”

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Is it really correct to say such  a thing as, “We are waiting on your mother,” when referring to the anticipation of the arrival of someone’s mother?  It would seem to me that it would be more appropriate, if not more comfortable (at least for the lady), to “wait for your mother.”

One can wait on the corner, and one can wait on a table (if that is his profession), but does one really want to wait on his dinner? 

It seems to me that the preposition “from”  has been replaced by “on” when used in conjunction with the word “wait.”

It makes me cringe! Lately, I’ve heard it so often, I must look like a victim of St. Vitus Dance!

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Does this
“The flu is going around. In order to keep from catching it, you should gargle and wash your hands regularly”
Make sense? I’ve never heard. “In order to keep from catching it.” used in a sentence before.

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Latest Comments

No Woman No Cry

I always thought it meant, ‘if he doesn’t have a woman, he won’t cry,’ as in, having his or a woman causes him pain and tears, not having one spares him the pain that comes to him in a relationship...

Pronunciation: aunt

  • Aly Cat
  • December 11, 2018, 2:31pm

I am from Jackson, Michigan (US) and pronounce it "awnt/ont/ahnt." I do as such because of the 'u' (aunt). In Ann Arbor, most pronounce it the same way but in Jackson, it is most pronounced "ant." I see both as acceptable. English is confusing and crazy, that's the point of this website. Both are correct, "awnt" tends to be more formal. Use whichever you want and understand that others can say it differently.

On Tomorrow

I’m originally from Southern California and moved to South Carolina in 1981. I’ve heard “on tomorrow”, “on yesterday”, and “I’m not for sure”, “on accident” and most recently “this yesterday” ???? These errors in grammar continue to vex. I wonder what Ann Landers would have suggested as a polite way of correcting people in a spirit of educating them.

Really happy or real happy

Ops...sorry, the first is an adjective, the second is an adverb* If we accept the first (real) as adverb too, it becomes a great confusion. Shall we let confused people continue confusing us, the learners? :)

Really happy or real happy

I cannot believe that I read all this. Real is real, really is really "really" : ) Over. As we know the first is an adverb, the second is an adjective! Why to confuse them and the learners? What do we achieve if we do it? Huh?

me vs. myself

@Warsaw Will - Me, not “we” was the intended correction for the object pronoun. Man, I wish there was an edit function here, or if there is, I wish I could find it. How embarrassing. - Maekong Mike

Pronunciation: aunt

  • December 5, 2018, 9:54pm

Texas, Florida, Illinois, California:

We pronounced it like aint growing up in Dallas, and got laughed at for sounding too country. Now I pronounce it ant, and refuse to pronounce it as awnt because that sounds pompous, like Madonna talking with that fake English accent - we know she's from Michigan.

Also, I pronounce the word either and neither as eee-ther / nee-ther, and not eye-ther / nye-ther because... same reason I'm not British. Words aren't always necessarily pronounced the way they are spelled. If you feel like they should be, then start pronouncing 'do' like 'so' and not like 'too', and by all means pronounce two like it's spelled. Pronounce laugh loff, and see how people laugh at you the way they did when I used to say "Aint Shirley".

Pronunciation: aunt

  • December 5, 2018, 9:45pm

Texas / Illinois / Califonia
It's prononced ant. Not ont. Similarly, either is pronounced eee-ther, and not eye-ther, unless you want to be like Madonna and pretend you have an English accent. Go ahead and pronounce the word laugh as loff and notice how you get loffed at.

me vs. myself

Warsaw will. We is a subject pronoun:
We love prunes.

Questions in Bulleted Lists

List bullets are appropriate. It is acceptable to remove the colon (:) and use the question mark at the end, or leave the colon and not use the question mark. If using the question mark, it acceptable to list the items themselves as sub-bullets. A question mark at the end of the list is inappropriate in this case.

The case where it is appropriate is when you create a list something like this:

When using flour, would you use:

(bullet) Bread,
(bullet) Cake, or
bullet) Cookies?