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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

Inch vs. Inches

  • Ringo
  • June 26, 2019, 7:00pm

1/8 inch, 3/8 inches. Singular vs plural is not a matter of measure but rather the number of units being referenced. In the matter of fractions, while both are less than one (1) inch, 1/8 is one of eight parts, therefore, a singular "inch" should be used, whereas anything more than one of eight (i.e. two, three, four... of eight) is plural and thus "inches" is appropriate. 2/8 inches = 1/4 inch. In similar manner for decimals, 0.1 inch, 0.2 inches, 0.11 inches.

Couldn’t Care Less

This is an old Southern saying. The PROPER use of the saying is "I could care less". Here in the south we pride ourselves on being courteous, and this saying is just a polite way to say "I don't care". If you say "I couldn't care less" you might as well just say "I don't care" because you obviously don't have any manners.

and so...

I know this thread is sort of dead, but I came across it while researching the expression "and so it goes." I just wanted to throw this out there because I noticed no one mentioned it; is "so" being used as a conjunction here? Because I love the phrase "and so it goes," however, I think it may be technically incorrect to use two conjunctions b2b like this. Can anyone grammatically wiser than myself attest to this?

I travel. I'm sitting at a restaurant right now, and was just asked this question, for the hundredth time. When I pulled it up on Google, got this site, and was delighted. The most remarkable thing for me is the rapidity with which this question about how your food is tasting was adopted throughout the entire restaurant industry, across nearly every chain, and even into local diners such as the one where I'm sitting now.
My theory is that one guy who makes a living as a consultant decided it was a good idea for servers to be more specific. And voila! it was suddenly a standard.
I want to meet that one guy. Or woman. And I want to try and figure out how he got his notion penetrated across the entire country, within a matter of months. Or at least, that's how it seemed to me a few years back when this suddenly started.
(Then I want to get him to have servers stop asking me if I'm "still working" on my meal. But perhaps not complained belongs in another chain...)

"Had she been alive today, she would have wanted you to become a doctor."

How do you write 7.7% in written words?

It's called a mouse, I suppose because it reminds us of one. It looks similar to one, but, it is only a nickname. Actually, it is a computer input device so it could just as well be called a 'cid'. The plural of computer mouse can be either mice or mouses because it is only a nickname and therefore the plural is undefined. I prefer mouses. My nickname is Butch and if in the company of another nicknamed Butch I would prefer Butchs' to the alternative.

The ubuquitous "reach out" has become annoying to the max. Why can't one use the appropriate term for an action: call, contact, distribute, request, write, direct, ask, tell ..... Oh, wait, that would involve wasting a few seconds in reviewing and selectng the proper word!

"She would want you to become a doctor if she were alive today".

No Woman No Cry

  • gdt
  • June 13, 2019, 5:25pm

It's a song of romantic and kindred love about a man reminiscing about the time he left his home, his close friends and his girlfriend to find work elsewhere. He reflects about his close friendships, despite their poverty (he lives in a poor ghetto, namely the "government yards in Trenchtown"). His imminent departure makes his girlfriend cry; and the man comforts her ("little sister don't shed no tear; no woman, no cry" meaning "please don't cry").

The song is from Bob Marley's real life. He assigned the lyrics copyright to his friend so that he could continue to "cook corn meal porridge" for the poor residents.

The song has a political implication, due to its frankness about poverty and its celebration of people's strength in that situation. That's the point of comparing "hypocrits" to the "good people".

The meaning of the repetition of "no woman, no cry" isn't apparent from reading the lyrics. If you listen to the song you'll hear it start as a request (as in "please don't cry") and end as a statement of women's strength (as in "you are so strong you never cry"). Note that the woman is the strong person here: she is being left behind in the ghetto, presumably to keep their home whilst he sends her his earnings.

The multilayered meanings, the subtle messages despite the simple lyrics, the subtle but simple-sounding playing -- all are reasons why this song is still so loved, despite being over 40 years old.