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if only

Dear experts, The expression IF ONLY is usually used to express a strong desire or hope that was not fulfilled: If only I knew at the time that she would be famous one day! How can we define the meaning of this word combination in the following context: This may mean going on a trip, even IF ONLY for a day or two, or an extended vacation of several weeks. Thank you, YuriRead More...
In your second sentence, "if only" is not an expression. The sentence is, basically: This may mean going on a trip, EVEN IF (or "even though") (it is) only for a day or two... "Even if" introduces the clause of concession, "Even if it is only for a day or two..." The clause in your sentence is reduced to a phrase, with "only" then modifying the adverbial "for a day or two. RachelRead More...

'can' in negative sentences

I don't know if the following is correct or not: 'What cannot the animal do?' Should it be 'What can the animal not do?' Or are both sentences correct? HenryRead More...
There's a slight difference in force between "what can't the animal do" and "what is it that the animal can't do?" "What can't the animal do?" is open-ended. There may or may not be something the animal can't do. The answer could be "It can't [do X or Y]" or it could be "There's nothing it can't do." "What is it that the animal can't do?" presupposes that there is something the animal can't do, and the asker wants to know what that is. Questions 1, 2, and 3 are all native-sounding, but they...Read More...

should and the subjunctive: meaning?

My 5 related questions about 'should' and the subjunctive are based on the following 6 sentences. 1a If he needs any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1b If he need any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1c If he should need any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1d If he should need any help, he could always phone me at the office. 1e He ran away lest he should be seen. 1f If anyone treated me like that, I should complain to the manager. Q1 According to LDCE and...Read More...
I'll take the questions, one by one. First, the sentences: 1a If he needs any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1b If he need any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1c If he should need any help, he can always phone me at the office. 1d If he should need any help, he could always phone me at the office. 1e He ran away lest he should be seen. 1f If anyone treated me like that, I should complain to the manager. Q1 According to LDCE and OALD, 'should' in 1c indicates...Read More...

It's been the ruin of many a poor girl

Does "Many a + singular noun" sound archaic for casual use? "Many a + singular noun" is singular regarding the verb agreement and choice of pronoun but it denotes plural entity. I am curious about the background of this peculiar usage of many. Are there similar cases in English? (i.e. "adjective a + singular noun" denotes plural) Thank you. KenRead More...
Yes, "many a" is not frequent, and not in casual use. It is a bit literary or poetic, if not exactly archaic. Here are some examples from Google, You can see that they come from literary sources. "¢ Amazon.com: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Books Amazon.com: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Books by Aldous Huxley. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ tg/detail/-/1566630185?v=glance – "¢ Many a strange bedfellow Many a strange bedfellow. by William Bowles "¢ Friday, 5 August 2005. The...Read More...

giving the eye

Dear experts, The phrase GIVE SOMEONE THE EYE is said to mean: 'look at a person with an open display of romantic interest': He was standing with his friends over by the bar, and kept giving me the eye. May it not also mean 'give someone the wink'? Academy award winning star Adrian Brody was walking past and I could have sworn he gave me the eye. What may GIVE SOMEONE THE EYEROLL mean: She hesitated for a second, then gave me the eyeroll again, "alright, whatever." She pretty much downed the...Read More...
"Give someone the eye" means what you describe: to look at a person with an open [more or less] display of romantic interest. The same phrase in British English is "give someone the glad eye." It is different from "give someone the wink." _______ "Give someone the wink" means to wink at someone to share a secret. Both the person who winks and the person s/he winks at know what the wink means: "¢ "Behind all his work was the personality of the man. He was a great human being- great in...Read More...

have a look of?

Is it correct to say: 'Have a look OF the worksheet?' Or should the preposition be 'at'?Read More...
"Have a look at" – meaning have a glance at -- appears in 12,000,000 Google examples, like these: "¢ Dreamweaver: Have a look at this page! ok im stucked agan =( trying to build a simple html page using dreamweaver, and as usual facing problem =\ just have a look at this page first ... http://www.experts-exchange.com/Web/ WebDevSoftware/DreamWeaver/Q_21633623.html – "¢ "This is a HTML mail, please have a look at the Attachment" | Gallery However, since I upgraded to 1.5.1 all my email...Read More...

conjunction "when"

When you connect sentence (1) and (2) with "when", there seem to be four possibilities (3)(4)(5)(6). To me (3)(4) sound natural but (5)(6) sound a little unnatural, but I can't give a good explanation. Could anyone help me? (1) She was eating dinner. (2) I got home. (3) When I got home, she was eating dinner. (4) She was eating dinner when I got home. (5) When she was eating dinner, I got home. (6) I got home when she was eating dinner. AppleRead More...
"When" and "while" can often be interchanged. "While" would also work in your sentence: Someone came to the door when/while I was eating breakfast. "While" means during the time that something is happening. "When" does, too, but it also means "at the time that something is happening." Here are definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary: while conj. 1. As long as; during the time that: It was lovely while it lasted. ... when: conj. 1. At the time that: in the spring, when the snow...Read More...

subject

In this sentence "show on these maps where Brazil is located" is Brazil or maps the subject. I think it is Brazil.Read More...
The sentence has two grammatical subjects. One is the subject of the main clause and one is the subject of the dependent clause. 1)The grammatical subject of the main clause in an imperative utterance, or command, is the understood "you," which refers to the person or persons who are addressed. 2) "Brazil" is the grammatical subject of the wh- noun clause, "where Brazil is located." "Maps" is the object of the preposition "on." MarilynRead More...

"It's time that ..."

According to L.G. Alexander's Longman English Grammar (1988, section 11.43), either 1a or 1b can be used in the following sentence. 1c is also suggested by some other grammar books (whose titles I can't quite remember): S1 It's time that he __1__ taught a lesson. 1a was 1b were 1c should be Q1 Is there any difference between these forms in acceptability? Q2 Some grammarians say that S1 means that "it's time to teach him a lesson". Others say that S1 means that one is already late in teaching...Read More...
"It's time to [do something]" means that the time has just arrived for the action. 'It's time that" + past tense means "It's past time for [the action] to have taken place." This latter form carries more urgency,since the action should have taken place but hasn't. The only form that is accepted by Quirk et al.* for the latter meaning is the past tense. They state "The were -subjunctive cannot replace the hypothetical past in constructions introduced by It's time (that) , eg: It's time I was...Read More...

Tense sequence

Which is the right choice here? I wish I knew where he __1__. Suppose they were not there when you __2__. 1a is 1b was 2a arrive 2b arrived Thank you.Read More...
There's more than one possibility with these sentences. "”I wish I knew (now) where he is (now) "”I wish I knew (now) where he was (now) "”I wish I knew (now) where he was (then) "”Suppose they were not there (then) when you arrived (then) If the event is in the future, the utterance would be Suppose they're not there when you arrive [what will you do?] MarilynRead More...

identifying with

Dear experts, Is there any difference in the way we use IDENTIFY ONESELF WITH SOMETHING and IDENTIFY WITH SOMETHING: Having no political ambitions, he has never identified himself with a political party. Jodorowsky, while a naturalized citizen of France, has never identified with any particular country or culture. Thank you, YuriRead More...
After studying many examples, I thought that "identify with" is close to "relate to," but that "identify oneself with" is to consider oneself a part of something such as a group or a religion. See what you think after looking at these examples from Google. Then read a dictionary distinction at the end. Identify oneself with: "¢ Religious identification in the US bullet, 81% of American adults identify themselves with a specific religion:.bullet, 76.5% (159 million) of Americans identify...Read More...

if you will & so to speak

peteryoung
Thanks for paying attention to this thread. The first question is: are these two expressions totally interchangable? It appears they are most often used following words or phrases considered unusually metaphorical by the person that uses them. The second question is: could it be that 'if you will' is liable to be interpreted as impolite because of the somewhat provocative 'you'? If this is true, can the expression 'you name it' be understood as implying challenging the listener to enumerate...Read More...
This is an interesting question, and one that I don't think has a clear answer. Certainly the "will" in "if you will" retains a lot of its original volitional force, and some dictionaries list it together with the full verb "will" as used in expressions like "She willed herself to stay quiet" or "Put it wherever you will." Merriam-Webster Online, at http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=if+you+will gives this definition: - if you will : if you wish to call it that...Read More...

The conjunction "because" with a comma or without a comma

Dear all, I came across a sentence that aroused my interest I was wondering whether a comma before a "because-clause" could yield any extra meanings. Take the following sentence as an example, At birthday celebrations in Japan, lobster is the traditional birthday food, because its shape is thought to resemble someone growing old and bent. If we leave out the comma before the becasue-clause, will we get the same meaning as the one without a comma? Thank you for your patience!Read More...
Usually there is no comma before a dependent clause beginning with "because." Sometimes a comma appears, though, if the dependent clause is long, or if – in speaking – there would be a pause. Your sentence could well be written without the comma before "because." It's also all right to include the comma in this case. The writer may have thought the sentence was long and needed to be broken up. _______ The Chicago Manual of Style* in its section on "Dependent Clauses" says this: "A dependent...Read More...

'per se'

peteryoung
(A million thanks to Marilyn for your extremely insightful replies) The phrase 'per se' is a bit confusing for me. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to me, as in: [I]The job, per se, isn't particularly interesting, but it pays well. (The activities involved in the job are not interesting, but the job has a lot to offer) However, at other times the meaning seems to me a little elusive: "”The study of a foreign language, per se , is not necessary for admission to law school...Read More...
I've always found it helpful to think of the Latin expression "per se" as "in and of itself.". Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_se#P ...says this: Per se "By itself" or "in itself" "” i.e., without referring to anything else, intrinsically, taken without qualifications, etc.; for instance, negligence per se MarilynRead More...

confused by 'to the extent that'

peteryoung
I just cannot see what the 'logical link' is between the subordinate clause preceded by 'to the extent that' and the main clause. Every time I find a definition for 'to the extent that', it almost invariably is explained in terms of 'insofar as'. And when I try to nail down what 'insofar as' means it goes back to explain it with 'to the extent that'. It just doesn't make sense to me. Examples are: And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take...Read More...
The expression, "as/so far as I know," when it is used as a comment on what the person is saying, means that according to whatever relevant information s/he has about something"”and it may be a lot of information or just a little"”something is the case. It's a way of letting the addressee/reader know that the statement may or may not be correct, but it's what the speaker/writer believes to be true on the basis of the information s/he currently possesses. "To the extent that I know" is not...Read More...

'how' and 'why'

peteryoung
sometimes I find the word 'how' hard to pin down, as in the following example: William James wanted philosophy to be 'brought home' to living, experiencing human beings.... He had little patience for academic debates about the origin of the universe or how we know for certain that we are not dreaming. Will replacing 'how' with 'why' change the meaning of the sentence? I doubt it. After all, are not the two sentences 1) how does A know A is not dreaming? 2) why does A know A is not dreaming?Read More...
Here's an extended passage that may shed some light on the difference between "How" and "why" in the case of someone 'knowing" something. It's from a scientists' message board at http://www.scientistsolutions.com/index.php?a=topic&t=1289 The question was (slightly corrected for grammar): why does this happen that they [elephants] know of their death a short [time] before that [?] . One response was: '"Why" do they know? or "How" do they know? I suppose the "why" of it might find an...Read More...

'God saw that it was good'

peteryoung
The use of 'saw' together with 'that it was good' makes me wonder: how can one see that something is good ? After all, isn't it only objective truth, such as 'that is is red', 'that he is tall', that we see ? 'That is was good' is God's opinion, but could that be his observation? Do we have a different sense for 'see' here? Thank you very much.Read More...
I'm afraid that the Grammar Exchange doesn't have an answer for you, Peter. This question belongs to the realm of philosophy, not language per se. Scholastic philosophers in the Middle Ages in Europe spent a lot of time discussing these kind of topics, and linguistic philosophers of today still consider such questions. I would recommend a comprehensive, unabridged dictionary such as the Oxford English Dictionary as the best source for all the various shades of meaning for the verb "see." MarilynRead More...

Which is more native-sounding?

peteryoung
I find these four sentences to be almost the same in terms of the meaning being conveyed: 1) Given the conservative political climate at the time and his radical views, an academic career was not a serious option for Marx. 2) Given the conservativeness of the political climate at the time and the radicality of his views, an academic career was not a serious option for Marx. 3) Given the conservative nature of the political climate at the time and the radical nature of his ideas, an academic...Read More...
Peter wonders whether, by turning adjectives into nouns, or using 'the [[adjective] nature of [something]," these qualities may be made more salient and therefore help create more "precision" in an utterance. The answer is yes, but that's not always a desirable outcome. If you wanted to be totally explicit about the ideas in the passage, you could say "”Given that the group/s ideas were so radical , and its political struggle was so conspiratorial , it is understandable that governments...Read More...

both - and, either - or etc.

Dear friends Q: Choose the correct answer. Although there are so many women in the labor force today, they are still facing many problems. For one thing, women workers do not yet receive equal treatment in the job market, ____ in the area of hiring ___ in the area of salary. 1.not - but 2. as - as 3. both - and 4. either - or 'as - as' is definitely not, cause there's nothing to compare with 'as'. There's been an arguement over this here. Some say 4 is right, others say 3 and so on... (well,...Read More...
The last choice – either...or – is correct. The verb in the sentence is negative. For the first choice, "not...but": Since the verb in the sentence is negative, if the first phrase is negative, it is not clear whether the writer means to negate the idea of receiving equal treatment or not. In other words, it could be saying that not receiving equal treatment is not true in the area of hiring, but it is true in the area of salary. Or, the writer could be saying that women workers do not...Read More...

as far as/so far as

Dear experts, I believe AS FAR AS and SO FAR AS share only one meaning in common: as far as – 1. up to a point or place mentioned: We went as far as the post office. 2. to the extent that: As far as I know... so far as – = as far as 2: So far as I know... What about the expression IN AS FAR AS? Thank you, YuriRead More...
"In as far as" is not used much. In fact, I was surprised to find the expression at all. But when I looked it up, I found it in several Google examples, all of which seem to be legal documents. I consulted a retired American lawyer, who had never heard this expression either, but who helped me define it. Here are some examples from Google. I've put the synonymous phrases in parentheses. "¢ The Software comprises the program and the user manual in English. The program shall be delivered on...Read More...

health food

Dear experts, Should we differentiate between HEALTH FOOD and HEALTHY FOOD: In recent years, Hong Kong people are increasingly concerned about their health, and using health food products had became a trend. Whether children take a pre-made lunch or purchase it at school, it should contain healthy food items. Thank you, YuriRead More...
Yes. Your sentences are correct as they are. "Health food" and "healthy food" cannot be interchanged. "Health food" is a noun compound. It is the opposite of junk food. It is a category of food which currently might include items such as sunflower seeds, organic foods, special supplements. There are whole stores and chains devoted to health foods, to say nothing of a huge number of web sites. The "health food" might or might not really be healthful, but using the label "health food" is an...Read More...

"different' + from? than? to?

I've always thought that the following phrases were correct: "similar to" "different from" "[adjective]+er than" but I hear the phrases "different than" and "different to" used so often, I'm wondering whether they're correct too. I would be very grateful if you would clarify things for me. Regards,Read More...
It's true that "different from" is usually prescribed, and if there are two of the same constructions, "different from" is considered preferable, as in this example from the Collins COBUILD*: "¢ London was different from most European capitals... " 'Different to' is common and unobjectionable in British English," according to Modern American Usage**, as in this example: "¢ The trouble is that attending to the parts is quite different to surveying the whole. "Different than" introduces a...Read More...

having someone on a/the line

Dear experts, The expression HAVE SOMEONE ON THE LINE apparently has only one meaning – have a person on the phone: I have called at all hours seven days a week and almost always have someone on the line in under two minutes. Is there an expression HAVE SOMEONE ON A LINE? Thank you, YuriRead More...
No, there isn't any expression "have [someone] on a line." There's a similar expression, "have [someone] on a/the string," meaning "to have [someone] under one's complete control or influence." Google examples: "”theBong on Nov-03-03 18:24 wrote: HMMMM, lets just say bush has no clue what hes doing, Bush senior has him on a string planing his every move. ... http://www.cheneyblog.com/htsite/ blog/content.php?page=blog_03110313 "”She probably wanted to see if she still had me on the string,...Read More...

Tense problem

For each blank below, which is the right choice? (1) Yesterday they caught a thief. He __1__ 16 years old. He __2__ a bike. (2) Yesterday they caught a thief who __1__ 16 years old and __2__ a bike. (3) Yesterday they caught a 16-year-old thief who __2__ a bike. (4) Last year they caught a thief. He __1__ 16 years old. He __2__ a bike. (5) Last year they caught a thief who __1__ 16 years old and __2__ a bike. (6) Last year they caught a 16-year-old thief who __2__ a bike. 1a is 1b was 2a has...Read More...
Some of these items have more than one correct answer and are therefore not appropriate as test items (unless provision is made for more than one correct answer). First, Sentences 1 through 3: The verb tenses in 1 through 3 can vary according to whether the person is still in custody and therefore still of present interest. If this is so, the present tense for the person's age is OK. If the person has already been released, the event is not connected to the present and therefore the person's...Read More...

comparison

1-People who come here are more than those who go to any other place. 2-People who come here are more than those who go to every other place. 3-People who come here are more than those who go to all the other places. 4-People who come here are more than those who go to all the other places put together. I think in 1 and 2 we have a one to one comparison (our place (our hotel for instance) versus each one of the other hotels, but not more than one of them at a time). It seems to me that in 4,...Read More...
The group of sentences is not idiomatic, but I'll address them anyway, and make other suggestions later. First, we have to correct them somewhat. You should use the definite article "the" with "people," since you are making the set of people specific with the postmodifying relative clause. Also, you don't say *"people are more," you would have to say "more numerous." The sentences, with these corrections, would read 1-The people who come here are more numerous than those who go to any other...Read More...
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