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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

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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

It doesn't matter what the explanation is, it's WRONG.
ABC radio news has a reader named Brian Clark that does this incessantly. Just this week he read a story about something that was 'shtrongly shtruck down' and I wanted to punch him in the face.
Seriously - a professional news reader ON THE AIR doing this. Much hate.

Realize or realise?

I just looked into this topic. I thought I missed something since it's been many many moons that I've attended college. More and more often I would see words like realize organize omitting 'z' for a 's' I HATE IT, it's even happening on my TV when I use closed captioning. But I guess it's something I'm going to have to get used to it. Internet and social media are global. I think it must be confusing for youth in America, words that are not listed in our dictionary, being spelled that way?

If I were to write,....."He would be twenty today." Would that mean that today would have been his twentieth birthday or would that mean that, were he still alive, he would be twenty years old at this time?
Thank you.

Whom are you?

When I was younger, I used to say things like:
"It's me!"
"Whom are you?"
"It's her!"
"Whom is it?"

Simply because that's the way people talk in everyday life, and I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about grammar.

When I got into my twenties, I learned that—according to the rules of grammar—"to be" takes no object. Yet I still didn't change the way I spoke, because it seemed horribly pretentious and detached from real life.

However, now that I'm older, I feel differently about this. I'm starting to appreciate correct speech and correct grammar more, because I find it more dignified, more polite, and I just like the sound of it more.

Therefore I have found myself saying things like:
"It is I!"
"Who are you?"
"Is is her!"
"Who is it?"

As for the popular opinion that "whom" is archaic: I don't agree and, frankly, I don't care. I find "whom" completely natural to use in everyday speech. On the other hand, to me, sentences like: "My friends, all of who I love." just sound like terrible English, and totally jarring.

Proper usage of “as such”

I hate to bust your bubble, but your grammar is absolutely horrible. The fact that you say that you are a lawyer does not help the matter one iota. Let me be the bearer of bad tidings for a brief moment.
1) "This is a modern and incorrect utilization, although regrettably and progressively basic." First, there is no need for the comma in before your transition word "although" since the second part of your sentence is a subordinate clause. Second, the terms "regrettably progressively" are two adverbs that require a comma in between them.
2) Semicolons, and other punctuation, NEVER occurs in American English after the quotation mark unless you are writing English in the UK (i.e., "in itself"; should read "in itself;"). Again, paragraph two has the same mistake ("as such";).
3) The use of the word "reciprocal" is incorrect every time that you use it. I think you mean synonyms.
4) In paragraph three, you need commas ("By method, for instance,) because the clause contains information that is unnecessary.
5) In paragraph three the word "right" should read "correct" since right is a direction.
6) In paragraph three, again, there is no need for a comma before the conjunction "and" since the second part of the sentence is another subordinate clause.
7) In paragraph three, the word "just" is not the appropriate adverb since the word "just," in your context, does not denote time, manner, place, or degree.
8) Paragraph four is simply incorrect and should read: "I am a lawyer, and, as such, I am formally qualified to express opinions about legal matters." The mistake lies in the fact that the phrase "as such" is unnecessary. Refer to number four.
9) Paragraph 5 is incorrect for the same reasons as numbers eight and four.

Now that our grammar lesson is complete, allow me to address the usage of the phrase "as such." As such has multiple meanings, all of which can be used to avoid ambiguity but must be used in the correct context along with the correct meaning.
1) You may use as such with a negative to indicate that a word or expression is not a very accurate description of the actual situation.
2) You may use as such after a noun to indicate that you are considering that thing on its own, separately from other things or factors.
3) Here is the literal definition of the phrase:
as being what is indicated or suggested
in itself
4) The only other time the phrase "as such" can be used is at the beginning of a sentence to denote subsequent or consequent behavior of a person, place, or thing. That being said, this usage is still incorrect; however, we tend to look past this rule for the sake of legal language as well as other technical writing, such as medical.

Arto7, if you must deliberately-err in situations whereby your 'erroneous-act[s]' might've dire conequentials, then strive to err on the side of safety and reason.

In re "résumé" that could affect your employment application, just think:

a- IF you use "resume" to describe your curriculum vitae, your chosen word conveys 2-different meanings that strictly-business-specific communications might unlikely tolerate. Double-entendre words, phrases and sentences would lead to obvious misunderstanding.

b- However, the usage of the word "résumé" is specific to one and only meaning - that even in the hands of puristic-anglophile can be immediaetely-understood even if the said-anglophile might smirk at the word. You might be denied the job you've applied for on the prejudicial-basis of being perceived as a francophile - which if so. . .can give you legal grounds for appeal[s].

Well, I think part of the issue is cultural context, but a couple of the other issues additionally boil down to pronounciation as well along with the fact that many English speakers originate from European countries where they’re familiar with the accents of people from more Germanic and Latin-based linguistic backgrounds. With English being a Germanic language in origin with a large vocabulary of Latin-based loanwords, it makes sense that people from these similar types of cultural/linguistic backgrounds would have an easier time communicating while using the same language.

Furthermore, I’ve heard of a similar phenomenon occurring between readers of Japanese Kanji and Chinese Genji where a certain level of meaning can be shared/understood from similar characters used between both cultural groups. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think it is possible that a similar type of phenomenon is occurring in that instance as well.

B.A. recipient in English here.

Well, like you said in your post, it really depends on the context. For big data-driven project, I would say that is a big project that is data-driven. However, I would refer to a big-data driven project as a project driven by big data. You’re right though; the context really does matter, and the phrasing is also quite ambiguous.

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

  • arto7
  • February 6, 2019, 8:38pm

Interesting page. Clarified acute vs grave. However, I am thrown by the idea of not using the accent. With the acute accent mark I know it is the "hire me" document. Without it I first read resume, as in continue. Sure, context clarifies but my brain still sees resume.

I first started noticing the "shtr" mispronunciation in the early Eighties. Since then, more and more people have adopted this silly peccadillo to the point where it's almost become the preferred pronunciation.

When I point it out to people, almost all say they don't hear it, and many seem to think I'm just imagining the whole thing.

Not five minutes ago on a TV commercial, the (professional) spokesperson pronounced "history" as "hishtry," which even breaks the "str" rule.

As a person who takes pride in correctly pronouncing words, it "frushtrates" me to hear people butcher the language.

What can be done? As Lizzie Borden's father said, don't axe me. All I can do is continue to point it out and hope others will do the same.