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

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



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May 14, 2009

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Latest Comments

No Woman No Cry

  • May 18, 2009, 11:36am

The lyrics of the song make it absolutely clear that the idea in Bob Marley’s mind is that "No, woman; no cry" is an imperative:

In this great future, you can't forget your past;
So dry your tears, I say.

No, woman, no cry;
No, woman, no cry.
here, little darlin’,
don’t shed no tears:
No, woman; no cry.

One of the most...

  • May 18, 2009, 11:29am

I believe an English teasher would lower a student's grade on a paper if it had an abiguity such as "I read the book on the chair." It "incorrect" in a domain other than syntax, or misusing words ("lay" in place of "lie")

A sentence is defined as a complete thought. The implication is that a sentence conveys a complete thought. "I read the book on the chair" doesn't actually convey a complete thought, due to its ambiguity. So, in my understanding, it is in fact incorrect, just not incorrect syntactically. It is incorrect at a higher level, at the level of making sense.

One of the most--again, to me--is oncorrect because it fails to convey any meaning other than the meaning inferred by the listener. But the purpose of communicating is to make your point, not to say something that allows the listener to come to a conclusion through guesswork.

One of the most, as I said before, being ultimate rather than comparative, implies membership in a set. But the size of the set is not established, leaving the phrase devoid of the minimum clarity I believe is ought to have.

"More" is, by its nature (so to speak), comparative. This allows it to serve acceptably in the phrase "one of the more," though it is true that the size of the set is still undefined.

Just my opinion, from the standpoint of logic -- as I understand it.

Peter thins them out

  • May 18, 2009, 11:20am

This would be a idiom, to me. It is a phrase that does not have specific syntactical meaning, but only has the meaning it has as a complete phrase. The same would be true of phrases such as "grosses me out," "turn it on," an so forth.

You could make the case, I suppose, that "turn it on" derives from "Turn the switch to the 'on' position." In the same way, "thin them out" might derive from the idea, "thin the flock by taking some out."

Nonetheless, that actual phrase has no meaning except as a complete phrase.

There is a shorter version, “thin out.” It is the same, though: "Bob, thin out the flock before you quit for the day."

(I have no authority on this, aside from understanding English well.)

One of the most...

  • May 15, 2009, 7:46pm

OK, let me ask you: In the case of "One of the most," let's say the goup is 100 in size.

So we say, "One of the tallest." The tallest is indicative of a sub group. But how big is it?if you were a member of this 100, and there were 5 shorter than you, are you one of the tallest? Is "the tallest" a group of 95? Would 50 need to be shorter than you?

Now I know that the same questions can be asked with respect to "taller," but shorter is a comparative word, whereas shortest is one with a much more ultimate connotation.

My point in what I have been saying is that logic alone is enough to establish the case I am making, no authority need be cited.

You clearly disagree, but the case against my assertion does not persuade me.

’S been fun though.

One of the most...

  • May 15, 2009, 4:21pm

How do we determine what the rules are?

Much of language is philosophy/mathematics. The things we say have pretty specific mental structures associated with them. We hve concepts like "sentence fragment" because a senetence fragment violates the rules of the minimum number of elements (and their types) necessary to convey that which a sentence is to convey—a complete thought.

So some of the rules are determined by analyzing whether the task the utterance was to convey was in fact conveyed.

Some areas of language are personal language choices. Some are not.

But it seems to me that asking questions like the quote at the top is implying that the paradigm that legitimately applies to some areas automatically applies to all areas. Of course, that is an application of reductionism, a logical fallacy.

Part of the relevant evidence has to be usage.

This is true in some cases, but not in all. That means that it is relevant evidence in the areas where it is relevant, but it is not relevant evidence in areas where it is not relevant.

Let me set an analysis. Opinion in some cases is relevant evidence. It is virtually the most important evidence in a demographics study or a survey. But opinion carries exactly zero weight as evidence in the question of whether it is true or not that 2 + 2 = 5.

And, as I said before, usage pressure changes language rules very slowly, though admitedly it does exert functional pressure.

These writers are generally regarded as some of the best (that would be “better writers” ;-] ) writers in English. They presumably knew what they were doing. If this phrase is incorrect, why do so many good writers use it? If our theory of grammar forbids this phrase, how useful a theory is it?

Writers are lauded by the emotion they can evoke, the complexity of their plots, ad infinitim. They are not considered expert writers on the basis of their understanding of syntax and language theory. Some really good writers have a horrible grasp of these things.

I am sure you can find examples of highly renown authors who misuse lay/lie/laid, further/farther, compose/comprise, assure/ensure/insure, aggravate/irritate/antagonize, alright (a nonstandard abbreviation)/all right, preventive/preventative, can not/cannot, bad/badly, continual/continuous, would have/had, tortuous/torturous, sit/set, parameter/perimeter (as in “outside the parameters”, and on and on.

I also know that sometimes authors choose constructions they know full well violate grammar rules because they are more effective at construction the picture they are painting, "poetic license." For instance, I am sure you will be able to find occurences in the writings of the authors you cited of using split infinitives; I do this myself for effect often. I realize full well when I do that I am doing so, but I do so anyway to make my point. That does not make split infinitives acceptable examples of proper grammar—they violate the rules.

Sometimes, saying "One of the more..." instead of "One of the most..." can insert a hint of properness that harms the flow of the narrative. It is still a syntax violation.

So, I grant you, it is a commonly used construction. Yet I assert that it is a violation of grammar. The two situations can co-exist.

One of the most...

  • May 15, 2009, 2:19pm

Saying a specific quality (comprehensibility) is not relevant is really not the same as asserting a universal (nothing is relevant).

For example, if a lot of people say, "I am going to go lay down," it has no bearing on the fact that they have used an objective verb where a subjective verb is required, syntactically.

It appears to me that the theme of this site is "what are the rules?" The rules are not changed when a statement that violates the rules is comprehensible...

Comprehensibilty is suitable for contemplation of some things, but not in the contemplation of accurate syntax. Accurate syntax is virtually set in stone. (I say virtually, because it does shift over time, but the shift is so slow that the experience for individual people is that of being actually set in stone.)

Comprehensilility is a valuable goal, if that standard has been eluding you (the generic "you..."). I'm not opposed to it in any way. I only maintain that it is not a measure of proper syntax.

Teams — is or are?

  • May 15, 2009, 12:36pm

"...this is a bogus distinction drawn by (mostly) British scholars in the 19th century who were intent on creating a grammar for English so complex that they alone could speak it — and most of it had no history in the language."

This might indeed be a valid historical observation, but that does not obviate whether there is a correct way (and an incorrect one) in this case.

I would state it this way: A team's name is essentially the name of a set. A plural name for a team causes the name to be more of a contemplation of the members of the set.

A set is a single thing, and so should be treated as a singular noun. A team name that contemplates the members of the set is more akin to a similar contemplation, such as "men," "kids" and "blondes." When you speak of the men in the room, you are describing a set, but you are contemplating the individuals in that set. So that would take a plural verb.

So, the musicians ARE happy, and Led Zepplin IS coming.

One of the most...

  • May 15, 2009, 12:13pm

I gotta go with Brian W.!

It is true, it is comprehensible.
But so is "I'm going to go lay down." (Should be "lie")
So is "I haven't done nothin'." (Double negatives invert the intended meaning.)
So is "My house is comprised of rooms." ("Comprise" is not a synonym of "compose".)
So is "I seen him yesterday." ("I saw..." or "I had seen...")
So is "Him and me went there." (Saying "Him went there," and "Me went there." Should be "He and I went there."

I'm not trying to scold anyone--please don't take it that way.

I AM however trying to make the point as strongly as possible that comprehensibility is not remotely associated with assessing the accuracy of syntax or word meaning.

I am listening to this thread with interest, however...

It would seem to me that, since the original question is one trying to ascertain ownership, the provided answer must be a person.

"One of his girlfriend's" is more of a quality of the car that hasn't been asked—this is one of many she owns. But that does not designate a person The question asked only contemplates the one car. This answer more answers the question "What is so special about this car?"

One of his girlfriends would answer "Who is she to him?" or "Who is this, then?"

The answer, "one of his girlfriends’ " is the meaning, because that is the only answer that actually answers the question that was asked. It is the only answer that names a person (though which person is not very firmly nailed down, to be sure...).

Effect vs. Affect

  • May 14, 2009, 5:18pm

Proper use of "most" requires the size of the set in which the subject is a member: "one of the 10 most."
Without a numeric qualifier, all but the last are potentially included in the set "one of the most."

That (unfortunately) makes it as meaningful as "up to 10... or more!"