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Singular or plural verb?

This question has been sent in by Susan McKenzie: I wonder if you could help me. 1. I don't know whether it should be "stem" or "stems." "¢ and his vibrant depictions of everyday life stem from his own recollections. Thanks.Read More...
In your sentence: " ....and his vibrant depictions of everyday life stem from his own recollections," the verb is STEM to go with "depictions." The prepositional hrase "of everyday life," which modifies "depictions," does not affect the agreement of the subject (depictions) and its verb (stem). RachelRead More...

"Do good," "do well" and "make good"

Dear Experts, So we never DO GOOD ON SOMETHING though we DO WELL on tests, exams, etc. Granted. What about DO GOOD, DO WELL and MAKE GOOD used absolutely. Will you confirm the following distinctions: do good do well make good do good – 1. be of help; be beneficial: I wonder if it will do good. I wonder if it will help the children. 2. help through charitable work, etc.: Sometimes I doubt if she will be as ready to begin doing good again. 3. (followed by Infinitive) is used to suggest acting...Read More...
Here are the major meanings of these three phrases. A few of the meanings and examples are very similar to Yuri's, but they are not always the identical ones. DO GOOD : 1. Perform acts of kindness or charity. --He vowed to abandon his evil ways and dedicate his life to doing good --Some parents think they're doing good when they give their children unlimited freedom, but they may actually be doing harm 2. (Usually with a quantifier) Be beneficial; have the desired effect --You could try...Read More...

Construction of "when" clause

Which one of the following correct? 1. A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when comes into contact with air 2. A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when it comes into contact with air Thanks.Read More...
Only the second sentence is correct: A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when IT comes into contact with air. The first sentence is not correct. The adverb clause needs a subject – IT – which is missing. RachelRead More...

Article before a singular count noun? Before a proper noun?

Dear teachers, I found in my English textbook and workbook an idea expressed with two different sentences. For example, A: What is that sound? B: It sounds like a violin / violin. A: Who does he look like? B: He looks like a Santa Clause / Santa Clause. My question is whether we need the article "a" or not in the second sentence of each pair? Thanks a lot for your reply!Read More...
The first example has a singular count noun, "violin." Because it's a singular count noun, it needs an article. Because it's not "shared" information, it needs the indefinite article "a." Therefore, the correct version is It sounds like A violin The second example is different. It has a proper noun, "Santa Claus" (not *Clause). You can think of this proper noun in two different ways. If you are thinking of the personage named "Santa Claus" in Western tradition, you will not use an article,...Read More...

"Than ever" & etc.

Hello, teachers! Could you please tell me if these expressions are acceptable and natural? 1. He is studying harder than ever. 2. He is studying harder than he [was, did, studied]. 3. He is studying harder than he [has, has been, has done, has studied]. Thank you very much. Enjoy the sunlight slanting through the trees! Best Regards.Read More...
Sentence 1 is entirely natural. The word "ever" stands for the phrase "than he has ever studied." Sentences 2 and 3 have more than one option, depending on the time period with which the present activity is being contrasted. There needs to be a time expression, either explicit or understood in the previous context of the utterance. For example: 2a. He is studying harder than he was [when you last saw him two years ago] 2b. He is studying harder than he did [in high school] It's possible, but...Read More...

"Calm down" & "calm oneself down"

Hello, teachers! Is there any difference in meaning or nuance? If there is, would you let me know, please? 1. She tried to calm down. 2. She tried to calm herself down. Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
"Calm down" has an implied reflexive pronoun ("oneself") so it doesn't need the pronoun. One usually says either "calm down." or "calm (oneself)." The two natural possibilities are therefore She tried to calm down She tried to calm herself It's also possible to say "calm (oneself) down," but that is somewhat redundant. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"It's time (that)" + which form of the verb?

Hello, A student of mine asked me about the answer to the following question: He is already on the wrong side of forty. It's about time he _____ himself a wife and settled down. My instinct tells me that the answer to this question should be "found" and not "find." However, I can't give any good explanation why the past tense would be needed here. Is "find" possible? I keep saying it over and over to myself and now I can't decide if it sounds correct or incorrect, and I'm a native speaker!Read More...
"It's time (that)" and "it's about time (that)" introduce a kind of conditional clause, a present contrary-to-fact situation. It's similar to saying "I wish (that)" + the conditional. Past verb forms are used to express a present time, although they may also refer to the future: "¢ It's time you cleaned this carpet, don't you think? "¢ It's time that we had a talk. I have something important to say. "¢ It's about time he found a wife and settled down. These examples appear on Google: "¢ It's...Read More...

"Pull out"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Would you say that the use of PULL OUT in such contexts as 'pull out an idea', 'pull out an answer' is colloquial rather than neutral in style?Read More...
Several dictionaries that the Grammar Exchange has consulted do not list this particular meaning of "pull out." However, the Longman Phrasal Verbs Dictionary does give this meaning as one of seven: " especially AmE: To separate particular facts of ideas from others that you do not need, so that you can think about them or use them on their own: I'd like you to read through the report before our next meeting and pull out any points that you want us to look at. Similar to "extract." Perhaps an...Read More...

Order of phrases

This question was sent in to the Grammar Exchange by Lina : Dear teachers: Would you help me with the order of the phrases? Which is the right order? 1) That park is twenty minutes by bus from my house. 2) That park is twenty minutes from my house by bus. Is there any rule or just a custom? Yours truly, LinaRead More...
Yes, exactly. The information about who did the kidnapping is the more important information. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"Do good" and "Do well"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Is it OK to use DO GOOD ON SOMETHING to mean DO WELL ON SOMETHING in the following contexts: I'll be sure to work hard and do good on this. I hope that I do good on all of my tests and paper...Read More...
The standard adverb is "do well." You do well on your exams, you do well in your studies, you do well at school or at work. The use of "do good" to mean the same thing is not even colloquial, it's nonstandard. There is an expression, "do good," which means "perform actions that benefit others." In this expression, the word "good" is a noun, not an adverb. You sometimes hear the rather cynical expression "to do well by doing good," meaning "to profit economically as a result of engaging in...Read More...

"Cut loose"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Would you agree with the following differentiation in meaning of the expressions: cut loose from something cut loose with something cut loose from something - get away from smth.; break ties with smth.: When these farm boys get to town, they really cut loose from convention. cut loose with something - (sl.) speak or act without restraint: cut loose with a string of curses; cut loose with a loud cheer.Read More...
The distinctions between these two colloquial expressions are somewhat more complex. The phrasal-prepositional verb "cut loose FROM" means "cut or sever ties with." Although I can't find a source that says so, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "cut loose WITH" is a phrasal-prepositional verb meaning "to emit or produce (sound or movement) without restraint." (I'm also going to say that there's a different verb, "cut loose," which will be described below.) Here are a few examples...Read More...

Using "and" and "to"

I would like to find out the difference between the following sentences: 1- To go to see. 2- To go and see. Thank you for helping me. CyrusRead More...
"Go and" + verb is an informal alternative to the standard "go to" + verb. It's very similar to "try and" instead of "try to." There is a difference in usage between the two verbs, however. "Try and" can be used only with the base form of the following verb (" Please try AND MAKE a little less noise" but not *He tried AND MADE me believe he was serious about dating me"). The correct form is "He tried TO MAKE me believe he was serious...." "Go and" can be used with a following verb in the...Read More...

" Is broke" or "Is broken"

Please advise which one is correct. 1-The key is broke. 2-The key is broken. Thank you, CyrusRead More...
"The key is broken" is correct. The accepted past participle for "break" is "broken." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language gives these definitions for "broke": broke (brōk) v. Past tense of break. Nonstandard. A past participle of break. adj. Informal. Bankrupt. Lacking funds: "Following the election, the Democrats were demoralized, discredited, and broke" (Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr.). Rachel _______ *The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth...Read More...

The positions of "only" & "just"

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me which is the correct word order? Someone told me only #2 is correct. However, IMHO, both are correct; moreover #1 seems more logical or more grammatical. Is my thought rubbish? 1. It's a very good sports team; it has lost only/just two games this season. 2. It's a very good sports team; it has only/just lost two games this season. Thank you very much. Enjoy drowsiness in the middle of spring. Best regards.Read More...
Your thoughts about grammar could never be rubbish! Sentence 1 is correct. "Only" and "just" should come just before the words they modify. Look at these sentences. Notice how changing the position of "only" or "just" changes the emphasis: "¢ I just don't agree with you. Sorry. (I don't agree with you – that's all there is to it. "¢ I don't just agree with you – I am strongly in favor of your point of view. (I more than agree with you.) "¢ Dan is sick. He only wants his close friends to...Read More...

"Since" vs. "from"

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me which is correct, since or from? - I have known him [since, from] his childhood. Thank you very much. Enjoy the stillness of night. All the best.Read More...
"I have known him since his childhood" is correct. With the present perfect tense, "since" indicates the beginning of the period of time that the speaker is referring to, here, "his childhood." There is a way to use "from" with "know." Here's an example of a group conversation: A: How do you know Max? B: Everybody knows Max! I know him from my history class. C: I know him from my dorm! D: I know him from Englewood, New Jersey. We went to high school together there. E: I know him from the...Read More...

"How much is" or "How much are" two dozen eggs?

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me which is the correct verb? - How much [is, are] two dozen eggs? Thank you very much. Enjoy the first green shoots of spring! Best Regards.Read More...
A Google search for "how much ARE a dozen" turns up 5 examples, while "how much IS a dozen" turns up 44 examples. I think the choice is often conditioned by the nature of the item that is being modified. If the item has usually come in a set of twelve, such as eggs, the speaker chooses the singular verb; if the number of the thing is twelve, but it's not a widely recognized grouping, e.g. "how much are a dozen of these rose bushes?" the verb is plural. By the same token, we would say "do you...Read More...

Present perfect or past tense?

Are both of them correct? I think a) is correct, but I'm not sure about b). a. Fatima has never seen snow in her entire lifetime. b. Fatima never saw snow in her entire lifetime. thanksRead More...
Yes, both sentences are correct, but in different contexts. Sentence a. is correct if Fatima still has an opportunity to see snow during her lifetime. For example, Fatima lives in a Mediterranean country where she has no opportunity to see snow. Now she is planning to go to Canada to live, and she's wondering how the snow will be. Sentence b. is correct if Fatima will not have any opportunity to see snow. She may be very old, or never planning to travel, or even dead. The past tense, not the...Read More...

Conditional sentences

Which is correct? And why? 1.a. How old would human beings live to be if all diseases in the world were completely eradicated? b. How old will human beings live to be if all diseases in the world are completely eradicated? 2. Can you imagine what the world would be like today if dinosaurs still existed? Do you think it (would be, is)possible for dinosaurs and human beings to coexist on the same planet? THANKSRead More...
The choice of verb tense forms is governed by the speaker's degree of belief in the possibility of the scenario's coming to pass. In item 1, if the speaker believes it possible that all diseases in the world will be eradicated, the if-clause will have the present tense "are eradicated" and the result clause will have "will live to be": 1b. How old WILL human beings live to be if all diseases in the world ARE completely eradicated? If, in contrast, the speaker believes it unlikely that all...Read More...

"In the winter" or "in winter"

When you talk about seasons in general, do you need a determiner "the"? It looks like "in the winter" is used when you talk about a particular year as in (1) (1) He didn't participate in the competition in the winter of 1994. And when you talk about the winter in a certain part of the country as in (2). (2) Do the kids ski a lot in the winter around here? But it looks like (2) will sound just fine without "the". Then what would you say is the difference? Apple.Read More...
You are correct in both of your statements. In 1), "winter" followed by "of" has "the" before winter. This is true not only to describe years, but with other phrases, too: the winter of our discontent (also a title of a book by Steinbeck) the winter of the big blizzard the winter of grandfather's death In 2), the sentence is correct both with the definite article and without it. _______ Goggle displays 1,410,000 examples of "in winter," and 1,220,000 examples of "in the winter." Some of the...Read More...

"For" & "during"

Hello, teachers! In both sentences, can we use both 'for' and 'during'? 1. I went to the Philippines last year. / How long were you there? / [For, During] the whole summer. 2. He lived in the Philippines [for, during] his whole boyhood. Thank you very much. Enjoy the getting-warmer weather. Best Regards.Read More...
My responses to Hogel's questions in italics: Hello, teachers! Let me confirm my thought, please! [1] We had a good time together [for, during] the five days in Paris. According to the context or meaning, both are possible, but the following are more natural and preferred. Am I right? a. We had a good time together for five days in Paris. Yes, this sentence is fine without the article as you've put it to measure the duration of time in Paris – five days. However, there could also be the...Read More...

"Since[time] ago"

Hello, teachers! I think I was taught that the expression 'since [time] ago' is incorrect and it should be 'for [time]'. However, I often hear that 'since [time] ago' is also correct and common, and on the Internet through Google, I have found so many sentences with the expression. Is it really correct? - Please check my thoughts. I haven't heard of anything about him [_____]. a. since many years ago. [I think this is common, but it is very informal or incorrect.] b. for/in years. [I think...Read More...
A Google search shows what I meant by saying "it's not so common to use "since"; it's more common to use "in" or "for" [with an imprecise time period] (the * indicates "any word"): 1) Haven't * SINCE many years AGO = 0 Haven't * FOR many years = 22,000 Haven't * IN many years = 1,580 2) Hasn't * SINCE many years ago = 0 Hasn't * FOR many years = 663 Hasn't * IN many years = 598 Hogel's example sentences have a negative verb, but here are some figures for the affirmative version ("in" doesn't...Read More...

"Layabout"?

This is a "lie" vs. "lay" question: Why is it that a person who lies around a lot, doing nothing, is a "layabout," not a "lie about"? HowardRead More...
According to The Random House Unabridged Dictionary of English (1977) the noun "layabout" dates from the period 1930-35. It's "[a noun] derived from the use of the verb phrase lay about , [which is a] nonstandard variant of lie about ." For many years speakers of English have used the verb form "lay" ("put, place") when they mean "lie" ("be in or assume a recumbent position"). This usage is very common in spoken English but is still considered incorrect. The noun "layabout" was formed from...Read More...

Past verbs in conditionals

Dear All, Swan in his Practical English Usage writes the following : "Instead of would + infinitive, past verbs are generally used with conditional meanings in subordinate clauses." My question is this : do we change ALL the verbs into past verbs ? For example, take a look at the following sentence ( which does not follow the principle in Swan's): "We do like visiting your websites but we would appreciate it if you slow down and think about what you're doing and where you're submitting to."...Read More...
The example is grammatically correct, with all the verbs backshifted. This includes the two main verbs in the if-clause and the two verbs WERE DOING and WERE SUBMITTING in the embedded what- (noun) clause. The total effect of this ultra-backshift is a high degree of tentativeness, which makes the request ultra-polite. It would also be correct, however, to use the present tense in all the verbs in the if-clause, a usage which would be contrary to prescribed rules. That would be less...Read More...

Past forms for verbs referring to future

I have these future in the past questions that I hope you could help me with: 1) I was wondering if you could tell me where he is now. 2) She promised we would talk about it when I come to your party tonight. 3) She promised me she would come to your party tonight/tomorrow. 4) At first we didn't know if we should approach you. But finally we thought we should let you know that there are other people out there who are agaist the act too. _______ For the first question, I don't know if I...Read More...
I finally got the idea. Thank you.Read More...

"Or" + "be"

When a subject is connected by "or," does the verb always agree with the nearer one? "He and his parents are here" is correct. But what about "You or I am here" or "I or you are here"? What is the verb? RobertaRead More...
Your understanding of the rule is correct. When two nouns, pronouns or noun phrases are joined by or or either...or , the number of the verb is generally determined by the number of the last noun or noun phrase. This is another example of attraction rule (= the verb tends to agree with a noun or pronoun or noun phrase that closely precedes it.) Either the workers or the director is to blame for the disruption. Either the director or the workers are to blame for the disruption. Quite often,...Read More...
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