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Joined: December 30, 2006  (email not validated)
Comments posted: 142
Votes received: 210

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Recent Comments

"Hypercorrection" it is. Or at least, was.

The hypercorrection originally came about because speakers were vaguely aware that at some point their teachers had hammered something into their heads about the use of "I" rather than "me". Uncertainty and insecurity arising from that dimly remembered hectoring led people to start using "I" by default ("'I' is better English than 'me' or something like that").

But now, I find that the use of "I" this way, i.e., as in "between you and I", is so commonplace and widespread it has almost become accepted usage.

JJM Ballantyne May 27, 2014, 8:39pm

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Just by discussing the (entirely unfounded) grammatical relationship of "less" to "fewer", we are playing into the hands of the language pedants.

JJM Ballantyne May 7, 2014, 2:35pm

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Mea culpa!

Make that "just another way" not "just an another way".

JJM Ballantyne May 5, 2014, 3:51pm

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Until the late 18th Century, "less" was simply the opposite of "more" and "fewer" (the comparative of "few") was just an another way of expressing a similar meaning to "less" but with countable nouns.

But the two co-existed; you could have "less coins" (the opposite of having "more coins") or "fewer coins". The fewer/less argument results from deliberate and relentless "schoolmastering": engineering a false relationship between two entirely different words where none previously existed.

JJM Ballantyne May 5, 2014, 3:47pm

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And now there's "dronie":

JJM Ballantyne May 3, 2014, 3:08pm

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"There is a distinct difference between emphasizing something and over-emphasizing, for example. Or working and over-working. Is there a distinct difference between simplistic and over-simplistic? No, both indicate that something is too simple an approach or explanation or solution, etc. The 'over' is redundant (like saying something is 'over over-simple')."

I sense we're no longer talking grammar here (there is nothing ungrammatical about "over-simplistic") but rather style - a highly subjective area indeed.

In my view, redundancy is an issue of style, not grammar.

JJM September 24, 2013, 10:23am

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"It's sad to see you've slipped into the same insulting mode as Over50guy"

Yes, people's interest in language generally takes one of two paths, as you know: those interested in learning how language actually works and those only interested in how they think it ought to work.

JJM September 18, 2013, 5:28am

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"@JJM - It doesn't matter for native speakers in the course of normal conversation or writing. But it might matter to jayles and I as EFL teachers if one of our students asked us to explain. It would also seem to help jayles understand why his Korean students are making certain errors.

And it might also matter to those native-speaker students, especially in the States, whose work is marked down for including the passive, simply because their teacher can't tell the difference between a passive and an adjective."

The list of examples are almost emblematic of a major fault in language training: the use of short context-free phrases to "prove" grammatical principles. The statement "The plants were withered" by itself, with no indication whether (for example) someone has just stumbled over a pot of dead vegetation or too much sun caused the withering makes the grammar wholly ambiguous. In other words: easier to say than to explain.

JJM September 18, 2013, 5:21am

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"I think sometimes people can get a bit too het up about things like tautology and redundancy."

This sort of thing is an age-old* characteristic of language. Speakers double up on words as a means of emphasis. The use of over- + noun/verb is thoroughly unremarkable: over-reaction, overdress, overwork, over-emphasize (!). Why not over-simplistic?


JJM September 18, 2013, 5:07am

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Good to be back.

JJM August 30, 2013, 11:26am

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"Five eggs is too much" is fine.

These sorts of arguments about language always remind me of that old army staff college line: "That's all very well in practice but how would it work in theory?"

JJM August 30, 2013, 11:25am

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"So I'm pretty big on correcting other people's grammar when they misspeak."

You must be real fun at parties.

JJM August 30, 2013, 9:44am

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"@I'm - of course, they're both idioms, so I don't think the verb / noun thing is that important, really."

In a nutshell.

Language logic tends to be holistic in nature; the logic of the expression is in the meaning conveyed by the idiom as a whole, not by its constituent parts.

JJM August 30, 2013, 9:42am

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"'The plants were withered' Adjective or passive?"

Let me be the devil's advocate: does it actually matter here? Does it change the meaning?

JJM August 30, 2013, 9:32am

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For what it's worth, I stopped wasting time on the differences between hyphens and dashes some years ago. I just use the hyphen ("-") for everything.

My two cents, anyway.

JJM August 30, 2013, 9:30am

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"I am questioning whether Owner should be with WERE or Owner should be with WAS?"

The answer is "yes". In other words, either one. The use of the subjunctive "were" has been giving way to "was" as someone already stated here.

JJM August 28, 2013, 7:31am

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Yes, in fact the verb form "I says/I knows/I sits" etc. is actually quite particular for those dialects that use it and is confined to situations where a personal narrative is being provided.

JJM May 9, 2013, 9:11am

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"Backwards and forwards are standard in British English, though not in American English (Webster thought 'forwards' a corruption),"

Webster was out to lunch on this one. That final s isn't just an English thing: it's a characteristic of the Germanic languages.

As Erich Honecker used to say: "Vorwärts immer, rückwärts nimmer!"

JJM May 9, 2013, 9:03am

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"So basically what you are saying is that both are grammatically sound then but 'I have to work tomorrow' is more commonly used?"

Both are grammatically correct. Although I presume "I have to work tomorrow" is more common, I couldn't say for sure.

JJM May 28, 2012, 6:32am

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If you'll permit me, I think you're a bit guilty of overanalyzing here.

First, there is a clear difference between both sentences: one begins with "tomorrow", the other ends with it. Yes, this might seem like an appallingly obvious statement but here's the rub: if a speaker meant to say "I have to work tomorrow" they would not say "tomorrow I have to work".

So the position of "tomorrow" certainly does affect the meaning of the statement. However (getting back to the issue of overanalyzing), I believe the affect is simply one of emphasis.

Your "have to" is a red herring.

JJM May 25, 2012, 8:00am

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