Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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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 a 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

I have an issue with the use of the past perfect tense with “until” (and sometimes “before”). Can you please tell me which of these sentences is correct and why?

She hadn’t realized that she was addicted to nicotine until she smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: Before she smoked that many cigarettes, she didn’t have that knowledge about herself - not realizing/knowing was earlier.) 

or

She didn’t realize that she was addicted to nicotine until she had smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: First she smoked that many cigarettes, and then she realized.)

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I cringe whenever I hear the way Brits say: ‘the company ‘are’ or ‘the school board ‘are’ voted in by the parents. What is really frightening to me is that Americans are starting to use the same construction. My research tells me that Brits treat collective nouns as plural, while in the USA we consider them singular. ‘School Board’ is singular. ‘School Boards’ is plural.

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We are all aware of the "different from/to/than" debate, and I have no wish to resurrect that discussion. However, I have lately noticed that there are a few other instances of what might be termed “erroneous use of prepositions.” It almost seems that there is a drive to make “to” the de facto default preposition. Consider the following:

  1. “separate to” vs “separate from”
  2. “deal to” vs “deal with”
  3. “think to” vs “think of”

I have also heard “bored of” rather than “bored with.” There are probably many more examples. One has to wonder what has happened to the teaching of English Grammar in the modern era.

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I was taught that one should never use double negatives. But I was also taught that if you do, it can have the opposite meaning.

Example: The box does not contain nothing.

means: The box contains something.

So I heard the President’s speech. Note that he was not the first person to say it because I have also heard several newsmen use a similar expression. When I heard it, it sounded wrong.  But I could NOT put my finger on why it sounded wrong. Then suddenly it occurred to me, a double negative!

So here is what I heard...

“Putin badly miscalculated.” or

“He badly miscalculated.”

Since bad is the negative of good and the prefix “mis” makes calculated negative, isn’t this a double negative? I know what they mean. Shouldn’t this sentence be written like so?

“He severely miscalculated.”

Since severe is neither negative nor positive. It just indicates the degree of something.

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I wrote, “I have two sons, Bill and Ben.”

An editor said that the comma should be a colon. That opinion is backed up by various style guides which say a list (and presumably “Bill and Ben” is a list) should be preceded by a colon. I still feel that a colon is unnecessary, though I probably would use a colon if I had five sons not two. Would I use a colon with three sons? I’m not sure.

Had I written, “I have two sons, Bill and Ben, both in their twenties” there would surely be no question of a colon being required. It seems odd to me that omitting the final phrase, “both in their twenties” forces the first comma to become a colon.

I would be interested in others’ views.

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I was reading an old novel, British English written around 1850. I came across the phrase “I saw signs of elephant in the forest”. This intrigued me as the word "elephant" implies anything from a single to multiple animals. The word "signs" seems to have taken on the role of plurality for the noun. I was asked a similar question by my partner who is editing a book in which the phrase “I saw fairy dancing in the woods,” not meaning a single fairy but many fairies dancing. Can anyone expand my knowledge on the use of a singular noun being used as a non-collective plural noun?

 

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I am a bit confused about whether or not I should use “the” before “most” in the following sentence. I have searched on the internet but I have before more confused about the issue so please help me in this regard. I will add this sentence to my formal writing.

The sentence:

"What fascinates me the most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries”

or

"What fascinates me most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries”

Which one is correct and why?

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Hi everybody! Few days ago my mate attended to a job competition for a job in the technical office of Rome. Among the many legal questions there were also some English questions. The one I am asking your help for is:

“Let ……. come in.”

the possible answers proposed are:

- his

- him

- he

I am sure that all of you are thinking that the only right option to chose is “him”, that’s it.

Initially it was confirmed “his” with correct answer and after few days was corrected with “him”.

The english questions/phrases put in these competitions are generally extracted form bigger pieces, books.. and my partner didn’t answer because he says that in a certain contests it can be also right “Let his come in”, for example:

Michele is waiting for the vet to visit his cat. When the vet wants to visit Michele’s cat can say to his secretary:

<< Let his come in >> instead of << Let his cat come in>>.

What do you think? Is it possible consider both the options “his” and “him” correct?
Have you read some examples in books or articles in which you have found the phrase “Let his come in” ?


It can help my partner to obtain the job because he got a score of 20.8 and he had to get 21 to obtain the job! So it is very important the help of all of you.

Thanks !!!!!!!!!

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Sells or Sold? 

Does ‘sells’ in the sentence,”I find a pet store that sells ferrets.” stay as ‘sells’ or change to ‘sold’ if you are changing the sentence to Simple Past Tense? 

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Which of the follow is correct? 

  • CAYA stands for “come as you are.” 
  • “CAYA” stands for “come as you are.”               

I am not referring to the Nirvana song, so I assume that capitalization is not necessary when spelling out what the initialism stands for.

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Latest Comments

I agree a double negative is a positive. Acceptable exception being when being said clearly as slang or for emphasis.

You make a point I've never considered. Strictly speaking, you're correct: to "badly miscalculate" is to do so "poorly", and therefore, "not to miscalculate at all", or "not to miscalculate so severely". However, the word "badly" is used so often from a young age, I think, no one would ever criticize you for using it in place of "severely", which, as you say, is one of degree.

I agree the colon precedes a list, but a list composed of at least three items. In your example, the colon would seem to be too strong. However, I don't have a citation or formal support for my position.

In legal documents, to be extra clear, I often use a colon, and plus, I would add numbering, like this: "I have two (2) sons: (i) Bill; and (ii) Ben."

I am unaware of the "different from/to/than" debate.

In your three examples, the second is by far the one I've most commonly heard.

"Separate to" I can see, but "deal to"?

And I can see "think to" followed by a verb, whereas "think of" is often followed by a noun. Still, I more commonly use "think of".

What about regional differences - "quarter of" vs. "quarter to" (15 minutes before the hour)? I'm used to using "to" in this instance.

Bas Aarts, in his "Oxford Modern English Grammar" advocates an approach that is adaptive and that evolves, rather than a stricter or prescriptive approach. I suppose the key is to understand and to be understood.

I remember being taught some grammar by the nuns in Catholic school, but the bulk of my grammar knowledge came from my father, not from school. And the kids in my class(es) were never any good in grammar anyway, so that's a sad way to say that we didn't have far down to fall.

I agree with you and you make a good point at the end, as in the British way, you cannot distinguish whether the plural usage indicates one school board composed of multiple members or multiple boards.

I would argue for a hybrid: “She didn’t realize … until she smoked 10 cigarettes a day.” The smoking of 10 cigarettes a day is a milestone or a marker in this smoker’s process/evolution. The realization happens suddenly. Once the smoker hit this milestone/marker of smoking 10 cigarettes a day, the realization hit her. The word “until” already signals the sequence of the events, and therefore, it is not necessary to use “had”.

In addition, to me "had" serves two functions: 1. as the past perfect, and/or 2. implying the act (verb) is a lengthy(ier) process.

I accept the use of "My Walmart" to mean the Walmart closest to my home, and I also think it's prudish to object to that usage.

However, I would also point out that "My Walmart" can have at least four possible meanings:
1. that Walmart closest to my home;
2. that Walmart closest to my work (I often leave from work to go elsewhere);
3. that Walmart that I visit regularly, regardless of its proximity to my home/work; or,
4. that Walmart that I prefer, regardless of its proximity to my home/work.
(I often visit an out-of-state Walmart as I enjoy it and I visit it when I am visiting my out-of-state friends.)

I accept the use of "My Walmart" to mean the Walmart closest to me because: (i) I myself use it that way; and (ii) I often hear others use it in that way. And, I do believe it is prudish to object to this usage.

I would add one more distinction: "My Walmart" can have at least three meanings that I can think of:
(a) the Walmart closest to my home;
(b) the Walmart closest to my work - as I myself often go from work to other places; or
(c) the Walmart I visit regularly, regardless of its proximity to my home/work, as I often visit friends out-of-state and I enjoy going to the Walmart near them.

What is said in this article is true, particularly Chinese even those born in the US, they do not sound clearly in their English pronunciations even if they speak fluently. They sounded like pronouncing English words haphazardly as if they are in a hurry. I think it has something to do with the influence of their Chinese native tongue. Most of them even if born in the US have Chinese parents who still speak Chinese at home and they probably communicate using Chinese at home.

Students do have to fill out a lot of forms and many university documents are very important. Also, the difficulty may be that when filling out various forms, sometimes the student must fill in some fields himself and you need to correctly paraphrase the information so that it is unique. If you fill out documents online I managed with the help of https://papersowl.com/paraphrasing-tool you can paraphrase any information to fill out all the important forms. If you need to fill in the data right during the exams, this is of course more difficult and you had to memorize large amounts of data.

“Liquid water”?

Watching Brian Cox repeatedly use “Liquid Water” in BBC’s Universe brought me here.
Is this not a tautology?