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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

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

“This is she” vs. “This is her”

  • jim s
  • September 27, 2020, 8:04am

"I use she and I. "This is she" when answering the phone, or " this is I" or "it is I" as well. I have children of school age that I want to go to college, I want them to go far in life. I try to prevent them from using slang, especially today's slang which is just horrible, because as they grow older and go on interviews and go into the business world, I want them to sound intelligent and for them to stand out. I do not think using proper English is snobbery, but I do think it might be becoming a lost art."

Roz Oct-05-2011

The problem with this is it ISN'T correct. People are saying "this is she and she is this" are interchangeable. Lets change one parameter. You are pointing out a friend to someone you want to introduce her to. "That is she" isn't right.
I have the sneaking suspicion you would say "Would you like to go to the store with Tom and I?" is correct. It is not. "Would you like to go to the store with I"? It's called an object of the prepostion. Object. Obejective form of 1st person singular is "me"
English is Subject+Verb+Object. Not Subject+Verb+Subject.
It sounds classy and elegant to you, but it ignores the basic rules of grammar.

"Hey" is used in Scandanavian countries ( eg: Hej / Hei / Hæ ) it is an actual word - so this is likley where "hey" comes from
In the Netherlands, it is "hoi"

I know sometimes people from the US might feel like they invented English but it's not the case, sorry :-)

Street Address vs. Mailing Address

i want adress for shopping

Repetitive- use when you want to simply describe an act that is characterized by repeating or repetition.

Repetitious- use when you want to describe an act that is characterized by repeating AND MARKED BY •useless• and •tiresome• repetition.

Repetitive- use when you want to simply describe an act that is characterized by repetition or repeating.
Repetitiously- use when you want to describe an act that is characterized by repeating AND MARKED BY useless and tiresome repetition.

Heaven or heaven?

  • Witness
  • September 17, 2020, 2:46pm

Only one Heaven exists.

Two Heavens do not exist.

Two heavens may exist, if and only if each heaven is not the true Heaven.

For the reason that there is only one true Heaven, and there are not two true Heavens, the true Heaven is a proper noun.

If you believe that every proper noun should be capitalized, and if you are referring to the one true Heaven, then you must spell the English word which is spelled with the English letters h, e, a, v, e, n, in that order, as Heaven, with an uppercase H, in order to be consistent with your own beliefs.

If you do not believe that every proper noun should be capitalized, why are you asking whether or not to capitalize Heaven?

If you are not referring to the one true Heaven, what are you referring to, and why would you refer to another heaven that is not the one true Heaven? Are you trying to tell me something false? If so, you had better not tell it to me! May the Lord God, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, Yehoshua Ha-Mashiach Ben Yehovah Elohim, be with you! Amen.

I have succeeded with every letter but J. Some people submit that the J is silent in "marijuana" or "hallelujah" when, in fact, they are voiced not as the usual [d-zh] diphthong. The "ju" digraph in most -juana words is voiced as a W, while the j in hallelujah is voiced as a y. Some say V is never, ever silent, but I submit that the second V in the word "savvy" is, in fact, silent, since it is pronounced SA-vee, and not SAV-vee. Here is "my" alphabet:

a: boat
b: dumb
c: scene
d: Wednesday
e: once
*f: halfpenny is not American, but IS English (and though many people do pronounce the second f in “fifth,” it is not incorrect when pronounced “fith”)
g: gnostic
h: hour
i: business
j:
k: knowledge
l: would
m: mnemonic
n: autumn
o: phoenix
p: pneumonia
q: lacquer
r: macabre
s: island
t: ballet
u: guide
v: savvy
w: answer
x: faux
y: day
z: rendezvous

So what is the mark ' called?

So what is the mark before the v called

You're right: "...in the order in which it was received" is precisely what it should be. The phrase as it is, "in the order it was received," is grammatically the same as saying "in the manner it was done." Both phrases require an "in."

There are two options for inserting the "in" into the phrase as it stands. Because most English learners are taught to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, "in the order it was received in" sounds incorrect, although it is technically correct. Thus, the only grammatically correct option that remains is "in the order it which it was received."

(Note: I am American, so I am abiding by the American English rule of placing commas and periods inside quotation marks--a rule I dislike, I might add.)