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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

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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.

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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

Wonderful to find that I'm not alone in being annoyed by this silly use of "reach out". Like a lot of irritating Americanisms it has landed on the shores of England and unfortunately spread like Covid19. Apparently, when I contact my bank, I've "reached out" to them, as if I'm drowning. While I'm at it, another recent aberration is the pretentious use of "myself" for the simple "me". As in, "If you have any questions, please reach out to myself". That makes myself very annoyed!

She must have been a difficult woman when she was alive becasue she is causing mayhem now that she is dead...

I like the final version. My background is science and engineering. It's been a lifelong quest to achieve the most concise grammar which is also interesting. Hence the final version gets my vote.
I note that 'species' is both singular and plural. therefore both “species of butterfly” & “species of butterflies” should be correct.

most unique

  • Edword
  • January 19, 2021, 10:37pm

Having just had an argument about this here is a slightly different slant. Suppose one box has nine identical red icecreams and one blue one and another box has nine identical blue icecreams and one red one. We could say the first box is more red than the second box, meaning it has more red elements, not that the individual elements are more red. So a team might have more individuals who are unique than another team and for convenience we could say it is 'more unique' rather than laboriously stating that it has more members who are unique. I don't see a problem with this although my friend disagrees strongly.

It depends on what you exactly mean, and perhaps on the context.

“I’m just saying”

Its an instigators tool to shaken up the social statues qou among peers, all while trying to excusing himself from any and all responsibility of its possible negative outcome... at least thats what I use it for. :) ;)

Um i have a quetion can i get something to eat or may i get something to eat?


As If vs. As Though

I'm the same speedwell who originally answered this question, heh. I was pushed by a Singaporean colleague to sort this out, and they would not accept "forget it; they're both the same these days" as an answer. They were *interested*. So I spent some more time thinking about it, and I realised I do have an unconscious preference. (Oh, and I have code switched to British rules because I now live in Ireland.)

The difference is subtle but meaningful and has to do with *plausibility*. Imagine I were a chef in a restaurant, and I asked a server how a food critic liked the dish I cooked. They might say, with their thoughts in brackets:

- "Well, she ate it as if she liked it." (I am of the opinion that she liked it, since she ate it with enthusiasm.)
- "Well, she ate it as though she liked it." (I am of the opinion that she didn't, since it seemed like it was an effort for her to eat more than the first bite of it.)

In other words, I would lean toward "as if" if the conditional was plausible or likely, and "as though" if the conditional was implausible or unlikely or imaginary. A few more examples:

- I walked down Union Street as if Aberdeen was my new home. (I'm just a tourist, but it feels like a homecoming somehow.)
- I walked down Union Street as though Aberdeen were to be my new home. (I wanted to make myself look like a potential new resident, not just a tourist, but I'm not really going to live here.) Note the subjunctive, which, while dead as a dodo, is still used with "though" and not "if", as noted by others.

- The little Italian girl smiled as if she understood what I said. (She very well might speak a little English.)
- The little Italian girl smiled as though she understood what I said. (She didn't understand, but she was being sweet and polite.)

Writer or Author

  • Forenc
  • January 3, 2021, 3:00pm

These words are used according to the situation, but I have always had problems with this, because the grammar is quite difficult. That's why, to simplify this process a bit, I started using the AcademicHelp service, a review of which I read at It was very useful for me, because it was thanks to the review that I found professional and quality help.