Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

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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. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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I was in empty space in an elevator one day when it occurred to me that it’s actually “pains-taking”, the taking of pains to do something thoroughly. I’d never thought about it before.

But it’s too hard to pronounce “painz-taking”, because the “z” sound must be voiced; whereas the unvoiced “s” combines easily with the “t” to make “-staking”, so that’s what we say. That’s my theory, but BrE might be different. Is it?

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For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.”

As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

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Could you please explain the difference in the following sentences?

1. The instruments used are very reliable.

2. The instruments being used are very reliable.

Are participle 2 “used” and passive participle 1 “being used” interchangeable in this context?

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I seem to be pretty fond of the adverb ‘pretty’ used as a modifier, so was rather surprised when one of my young Polish students told me that his teacher at school had said that this use was ‘OK with his mates’ (his words), but inappropriate in the classroom. Looking around I see that this is not an isolated objection, although people didn’t seem to complain about it much before 1900.

Why has this word, much used by eighteenth and nineteenth century writers, writers of prescriptive grammar included, attracted this opposition in more recent times?

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The New York Yankees

The Utah Jazz

The Orlando Magic

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I’m new here, and am wondering what all you experts think about the use of the word “leverage” as a verb. It seems it’s being used more often recently. Personally I feel that “leverage” is a noun, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s as “the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it”. However it seems that mainly financial and managerial types seem to like using is as a verb - “Hey, let’s leverage the unfortunate circumstances of these people that can’t pay their bonds, and get their homes for free”.

What does it mean? Although MW does give it as a verb as well, it’s interesting that investopedia.com gives it as “1 The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”, i.e. it lists the verb first. Other sources give different meanings, suggesting that the meaning of “leverage” as a verb is not very clear. I wonder what these people do when their roof leakages, or the engines of their cars failure?

Just for interest, over the years I’ve bookmarked the following in my web browser (under info / language / English):

(please excuse the language there where not appropriate :)

Oh yes, and a quote from Seth Godin’s blog (although I’m not sure who he is quoting):

“leveraging” , - comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like “leverage” is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say “leverage”, the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying.

(Seth is an American marketer, motivational speaker and author)

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Recently saw this headline in Time:- 

“Katy Perry Admits She’s Nervous to Perform at the Super Bowl”. 

To me “nervous to perform” sounds a bit strange. 

My feeling is that “nervous of performing” sounds better.

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I had always believed that saying “thanks for that” without a following noun or phrase was intended as something of a put down.

I’m not referring to its use in the form “Thanks for that information” or “Thanks for that wine you sent”, but to the situation(s) where someone had said something inane or pointless, or had told an uninteresting story or a somewhat obscure joke.

One would then say “Thanks for that” followed by the person’s name.

eg:  

Tim: “This one time, I broke a pen and then fixed it again.”

Me: “Thanks for that, Tim.”

But now the phrase seems to be in general use with no irony attached.

Instead of just saying “Thank you” some people are now saying “Thanks for that” with no further qualification.

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I read recently that there are those who feel that the word “rack” in the phrases “rack one’s brain” and “rack and ruin” should perhaps be spelled “wrack”, while others maintain that either spelling is acceptable.

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I replied to a letter from a solicitor and in return got a letter beginning “Thank you for reverting to us so promptly”. I have never seen “revert” used in this way. Is it a legal usage (in any sense)?

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Latest Comments

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:02pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:01pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

LEGO does not refer to the bricks, but to the brand. Therefore, it is incorrect to say LEGOs, as you would be referring to multiple LEGO companies. The only correct way to refer to them is "LEGO bricks."

The name "LEGO" is not derived from English language, and therefore it cannot be stated that the very English method of adding an 's' for a plural is definitively correct. In this case I would suggest LEGO pieces (as the company itself requests), especially now that the LEGO brand has diversified into films, video games, and even cake tins. It is worth noting, however, that throughout most of the world the plural of LEGO has always been simply LEGO.

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 20, 2018, 10:18pm

On google books "neither are to blame" shows up just nineteen times, whereas "neither is to blame" has over five thousand results.

https://www.google.com/search?biw=1432&bih=...

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 19, 2018, 4:54am

" neither were significant predictors of the outcome measures"
"they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; "
"neither were most of their members prepared to take part as citizens."
"Things are either what they appear to be: or they neither are, nor appear to be"
"And if the fountains are not gods, neither are the rivers,"
"Neither are we truly portraying what Christ's disciple means. "

Both are possible, depending on the context:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=n...

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22neither%20we...

Neither is or neither are

  • Edinrin
  • February 17, 2018, 10:42am

'Neither are' is correct
For example: neither are to blame for the damage done.

well, actually, grammar rules themselves don't exist. there has never been any set rules, because the "rules" depend on how a majority decides to speak, and they change as the years go by. "ain't" used to be considered grammatically correct and was used by rich English folk, but when "commoners" started using it, they decided it wasn't proper English. this fact won't change how society treats grammar (like it's friggin LAW), but I feel like we should all be more lax and just use whatever feels right to us. I mean, soon, "I did good on my test" will be considered proper grammar.

On Tomorrow

It’s a church thing. I’m willing to bet that the people heard saying “on tomorrow” are heavily influenced by the church. Church folk are the people I’ve ever heard say it.

There is a male coworker that when ever he speaks to the females in our office always starts with "Heyyy name, how's it going?" Is it just me, i feel it is so disrespectful and annoying. What are your thoughts?