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

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.

Do You Have a Question?

Submit your question

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?

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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.

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

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.”

Read Comments

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!

Read Comments

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.

Read Comments

Latest Comments

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that the rule of thumb is to use similar moods and tenses in each part of the sentence.

If we rearrange these sentences with the the "If-statements" first, it might be easier to analyze them:

1.) If she were alive today, she would have wanted you to become a doctor.

2.) If she were alive today, she would want you to become a doctor.

Both of these rearranged sentences start by using the past subjunctive (simple-past tense): "If she were alive today...." I would expect a similar use of the past subjunctive in the second half of the sentence to match the first part. The second sentence seems to do just that: "If she [were alive] today, she [would want] you to become a doctor."

Brian Garner's "The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation" says that the past subjunctive really refers to the present or future even though it uses the past tense. This seems to fit #2 because it seems to be making a statement about the present.

If the first part of the sentence were making a statement about the past, you would have used the past-perfect subjunctive: "If she had been alive in the 1900s, she would have wanted you to become a doctor." Because the first part of the sentence uses the past-perfect subjunctive (had been alive), the second has a matching past-perfect subjunctive (would have wanted).

What do others think?

eat vs. have breakfast

Eat breakfast has another meaning, too. So to have is more neutral!

You: Hey teacher did you eat breakfast today?
Teacher: Why yes I did and it was quite delectable!
You: Lul
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Eat%20Breakfast

The closest thing that comes to mind is "[sic]". In literary works, it follows words that are intentionally misspelled, usually used when quoting another source verbatim.

On Tomorrow

  • debmcc
  • September 4, 2018, 11:07pm

I just had this conversation with my husband a few days ago. He has never heard it but I have been hearing the phrase “ on tomorrow “ frequently. I was born and raised in the Baltimore area and never heard it until about 8 years ago. It makes me cringe when I hear it. I never hear it 50 miles away on the shore.

“had ran”

"this is surprising", "it is common", "the topic", "it is very", "i", "i","i", "you", "you". Dear pedantic Ashley, you have merely proven you are superior to me in every possible way. Have you answered my question? Surely you of all people know the answer.

“had ran”

To be honest, I am surprised that this is surprising to you. I have worked and traveled around the world and it is common in every language that I have encountered, even British English. ( I do hold a US and UK passport and I speak, write and teach in both versions of English.) There should be tons of linguistic research on the topic if you just search for it, but it is a very common for phrases or incorrect verbs such as this occur in languages.

By the way, I am originally from North Carolina. I have never said had ran nor would I say it. I never heard it in North Carolina. You can't judge everyone in a state or location by what you have heard one or a few people say.

In actuality, actually

  • zmbdog
  • September 3, 2018, 5:28pm

underink's comment pretty much says it all. I think the problem for most people is just that 'actuality' is, in its own structure, kind of awkward. I was actually very surprised to find that 'actuality' is, in actuality, a legitimate word. I expected it to be a bit more iffy in that respect, much like 'ubiquitesness' or, perhaps, 'iffy'. Whether 'iffy' is a word or not, I can't say. But it feels like it shouldn't be. It seems very iffy.

This is an internally consistent theory, but does not really connect with my own personal anecdotal observations.

I have very poor hearing, and I really a great deal on context, and contextualising speech, to work out what people are saying, and that's the same whether they are native English speakers, Europeans, or Asians. I certainly haven't noticed Asians employing less contextualisation.

What I have noticed is that the recognition of English words relies a lot on stress patterns. Our unstressed vowels turn into schwas or obscure vowels so the stress pattern also affects which vowels get pronounced in their true colours. (One example: a group of European ESL students told me they had dined at "mAk-dun-ahlds" and it took several minutes before I twigged they had been to "mək-DON-əlds". A change of stress can make an English word unrecognisable.

I understand that the Japanese language is unstressed, whereas the European languages tend to be stressed, albeit not as irregularly as English. So ... I don't know, but I'm wondering, if there is a lasting difficulty for Japanese users of English, whether this might be due to the need to acquire the habit of using stress patterns?

Exact same

If 'same' means identical then do we say ' exact identical'?
I don't think so.

Or if exact means precise do we say 'precise same'?
I don't think so.

This use of exact same seems to have its origins in America.

"Went missing"

I've never liked the phrase.
It seemed to come out of nowhere (2000?) and, like some other expressions today (Awesome!), gets run into the ground.

Worse yet, 'went missing' can connote a too casual feeling, highly inappropriate when you consider the often troubling, sad circumstances in which its used. Not so bad when it's a favorite pen, but when it's people, W-M is a bad play on words.