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Noun clauses/phrases as subject

Would you please tell me if these are both natural? 1-1. What kind of suit you wear for an interview is important. 1-2. It is important what kind of suit you wear for an interview. 2-1. What to wear for an interview is important. 2-2. It is important what to wear for an interview. Best Regards.Read More...
Sentence 1-1 is OK in casual usage. Standard and more idiomatic is this version: -- The kind of suit [that] you wear for an interview is important Sentence 1-2 is correct (but would not be correct with "the kind of suit"). Other examples: --It doesn't matter what kind of tea I drink, as long as it's decaffeinated --It's irrelevant what kind of browser you use; they all have security risks Sentence 2-1 is OK. Sentence 2-2 is not correct. The it- cleft construction works only with a full...Read More...

Adjectives again

Some grammar books say that it is not correct to say 'very delicious'. Is it correct? What other adjectives are like 'delicious' and we cannot use 'very' in front of them? Is there a comprhensive list? HenryRead More...
Sentences 1, 2, and 3 are perfectly correct. Furthermore, my investigations indicate that it's very common for English speakers to use "very" to modify "delicious." Therefore, my answer to "Adjectives again" should have been that "very delicious" is OK. "Awful" is different. Google shows about 19,000 examples of "very awful," but these seem to represent extremely casual or colloquial usage. In standard usage, English speakers don't use "very" to modify "awful." One usually reads or hears...Read More...

Word order; adjectives

- What is the Great Wall? / It's a [_____] wall. Q1. Are these notations all acceptable? 1. very big and long 2. very big, long 3. very big long Q2. Are these word orders both acceptable? 1. very big long 2. very long big Q3. What about these? Are there any other possibilities? [Please suggest possible word orders, too!] 1. very old big and long 2. very old big long 3. very old, big, long Q4. What about these? Are there any other possibilities? [Please suggest possible word orders, too!] 1.Read More...
Thank you very much, Rachel! Marilyn's comments and yours are always clear and make me love English! Best Regards.Read More...

Parallel Structure

Would you consider the following sentence a parallel structure? I personally think that it needs a revision. The PM said the Thai Government is promoting a plan to develop bio-diesel as an alternative energy source, as it is cost-effective, environment-friendly, causes no damage vehicle engines and most importantly, helps the government manage the impact of oil price hikes.Read More...
No. A better construction would be, as you suspect: The PM said the Thai Government is promoting a plan to develop bio-diesel as an alternative energy source, as it is cost-effective and environment-friendly. Furthermore, bio-diesel causes no damage to vehicle engines and most importantly, helps the government manage the impact of oil price hikes. RachelRead More...

odds and ENDS

Dear experts, many thanks. Would you agree that the idiomatic expressions below all point to different ENDS: that's the end of the road that's the end of the ball game this is the end of the line that's the end of it Gratefully, YuriRead More...
All these "ends" refer to a terminal point. "The end of the road" is often used metaphorically to mean that a person or people can not advance further and will decline or wilt away. "The end of the ball game" may also be used to mean the same thing. "The end of the line" is the same. "That's the end of it" is a little different. It means the end of a situation, or a conversation, or it refers to a regulation which stands. It does not cover the entire future of a person or a project, as the...Read More...

Reference

What does the pronoun "it" in the following passage refer to "Handwriting or letter"? I think that a pronoun usually refers to the nearest suitable noun, is this correct or not? If this idea is right, the answer should be "handwriting." { One day Danny came to see Sam. He said that he wanted to send a letter to his brother in London. He said that he could not write. He asked Sam to write the letter for him. Sam did not want to do so. He knew that Danny was rich. He could afford to pay a...Read More...
Yes, "it" in "No one could read it does refer to "my handwriting." It means that no one could read Sam's handwriting. The second "it," in "I shall take it ," refers to the letter, which Sam says he will have to take to his brother in London. These last sentences are clear and correct. RachelRead More...

Same meaning?

Dear experts, Thanks for the previous. Will a sheet of paper look the same whether we CRUMPLE or RUMPLE IT? Best regards, YuriRead More...
You probably wouldn't "rumple" the paper, but you would "crumple" it. "Crumple" includes these meanings: " 1) crush something so that it becomes smaller and bent, or to be crushed in this way. Dan tore the page and crumpled it, and threw it in the wastepaper basket. ..2.) If your face crumples, you suddenly look sad or disappointed, as if you might cry. 3) If you body crumples, you fall down in an uncontrolled way... The blow hit him in the head and he crumpled to the ground. " "Rumple" has...Read More...

Confusing adverbs

Confusing adverbs What adverb would be appropriate and natural, thereat, whereto, whereat, whereinto? For example: The irate general shouted: We are going to drive the enemy threreinto came from! as he charged headlong into the battle. Thank you for your guidance hereto... or is hereof?Read More...
Thanks very much, Andala, for this information. I should have looked the words up in an unabridged dictionary (which I didn't have available at the time of writing). Rachel tells me that these "elegant" words are classified as "archaic." I've never heard of them, but obviously they have been used at a remote time in the past. MarilynRead More...

ON SUFFERING

Dear experts, How would you differentiate between SUFFER PAIN and SUFFER FROM PAIN? Thank you, YuriRead More...
"To suffer pain" would mean to feel the pain. "To suffer from pain" would be to suffer from pain as a condition, as a disease. Scene 1, in a hospital: Nurse: Are you in pain (suffering pain) now? Patient: Yes. Nurse: Do you want something for it? Patient: Yes. Nurse: OK, I'll get something. It will help right away. _______ Scene 2, in a doctor's office Doctor: Do you suffer from acid reflux, bloating or pain? Patient: Yes. Doctor: Do you want something for it? Patient: Yes. Doctor: OK. Take...Read More...

Collocation: "Countries that speak English"

Can one collocate the word "countries" with the verb "speak ?" Is the following sentence both grammatically correct and natural? How does English affect the cultures of the countries that do not speak English? Google lists 165 instances of "countries that don't speak English," while there are 378 results for "countries that speak English." Many thanks. Best regards, BrianRead More...
You are correct in your suspicions that "countries" do not "speak" a language. The example you present is one of careless English. Alternative, and correct, sentences would be: How does ? How does English affect the cultures of the non-English speaking countries? How does English affect the cultures where people don't speak English? How does English affect the cultures where English is not spoken? RachelRead More...

Adjectives as nouns?

A TV commercial has a piece of language that puzzles me. It says: Impossible is nothing. Can 'impossible' be used as a subject? It is more like a noun than an adjective? HenryRead More...
"Impossible," as you suspect, is an adjective. Advertising copy writers are paid to use language that is arresting to the eye and therefore likely to be remembered by readers. In doing so, they often violate the traditional rules of grammar. In order to use the adjective "impossible" as a noun, you would have to precede it with the definite article "the." Many adjectives are used as nouns when they have the definite article: --Politics is the art of the possible --He is an amazing organizer;...Read More...

Spelling Variants?

Dear experts, Is SLIGHT OF HAND a misprint as in: http://www.google.com/search?as_q=&num=100&hl=en&btnG=G...esearch=&safe=images or a valid orthographical variant of SLEIGHT OF HAND? Thank you, YuriRead More...
It's not a misprint, but it is a misspelling. The website you show is one of 80,300 with the spelling "slight" in "slight of hand," so it is a common error. There are 446,000 examples of "sleight of hand." "Sleight" with this spelling appears only in the expression "sleight of hand." "Slight" in "slight of hand" does not appear in any of my dictionaries or references. I am concluding that "sleight of hand" is the only correct spelling. _______ RachelRead More...

Possessive for singular noun ending in s

Which one of the followings is correct? Hughes's novel or Hughes' novel? John Adams's car or John Adams' car? I am somewhat confused because I see both ways in the answer keys of writing workbook. When it is written as Hughes's, how do you pronounce it? /siz/ or /ss/?Read More...
Hughes's novel and John Adams's car are correct according to reliable references.* The pronunciation of Hughes's would end in /siz/. The alternate style, Hughes', is acceptable in some places, but if you write with this style in a document, be sure to be consistent and use it every time. _______ There are numerous exceptions to the –s's form. If you would like to address them, please do write back in another posting. Rachel _______ * "¢ Modern English Usage, Third Edition, by R.W.Read More...

Differences in usage for "outside" and "outside of"

When I first learned English, I was told "outside of + something" is incorrect. However, in "English Prepositions Listed" published by EnglishClub.com, I found "outside of" as one of the complex prepositions. I am very confused as to when to use with and without "of". Please help! Thanks!Read More...
Marilyn, thank you very much for your different view point. That was helpful also.Read More...

Passive

What is the passive of the following sentences: 1) Let's go shopping. / Why don't we go shopping? (Suggestion) 2) Open the door. { if the answer is : Let the door be opened do all order passives work in this way or there are other ways? 3) Could you please help me? (Request) Many thanks for your help and I wish you could help me with a comprehensive rule for sentences of this kind.Read More...
In the first sentence, there is no transformation to the passive because "go" in an intransitive verb. Intransitive verbs (for example, go, come, arrive, happen, appear ) don't have objects and can't become passive in the sentence. _______ In the second sentence, it would be possible to say, "Let the door be opened," but it changes the meaning of the sentence entirely. "Open the door" is an imperative, and it is expected that the person to whom those words are spoken will open the door. By...Read More...

Formal & informal

When we say: If I was/were a bird, I'd fly high in the sky. Which way is formal and which is informal ( was or were )? If one is formal and the other is informal, does this mean that the formal is right and the informal is wrong? Or it's a matter of context? Thanks a lot.Read More...
The use of the subjunctive form "were" in "if I were" is correct if you are referring to a hypothetical situation, as in "If I were to go, would you come with me?" or, "If I were you, I wouldn't do that." It is true that informally (so described in various references) these days, one might hear and even say "If I was to go." As you note, it does not sound good to the ear. There are times, however, when "If I was....," using the indicative form of the verb, not the subjunctive "were," is...Read More...

Together with

In the following sentences should we use plural or singular pronoun to refer to the expression "together with" and also the verb that agrees with it: The school has a great influence on the child. Together with the home, it / they provide / provide s the basic learning experience for him.Read More...
"Together with" begins a phrase inside the sentence that does not affect the agreement of the subject and verb of the sentence. Your sentence is correct as: "¢ Together with the home, it provides the basic learning experience for him. "It" in your sentence refers to "the school" in the previous sentence. _______ Here is the rule from the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers*: (The verb agrees with the subject, so..) "to locate the subject of a sentence, eliminate any phrases that start...Read More...

past/simple gerunds and infinitives

I would like to know whether simple forms are possible in (1)-(4). (1) By the time her son arrives, Mary hopes to have finished cleaning his room and making his favorite dishes. --> Mary hopes to finish cleaning...: Is it ok? (2) Studying in England has been a good experience for me. I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to learn about another culture. ---> I am very pleased to be given...: It is not good, right? (3) I thought John was sick. But he seems to have...Read More...
Sentence (1) is not possible with the simple infinitive. The sentence has to be: "¢ By the time her son arrives, Mary hopes to have finished cleaning his room and making his favorite dishes. The past infinitive is necessary when the event is to have happened before the main verb in the clause (hopes). The hoped-for event is the arrival of Mary's son, before which the cleaning and cooking will have been done. In contrast, if you use "Mary hopes to finish. cleaning...making," you'd have to...Read More...

"Another three years"

Look at the sentence, please. I will be here for another three years. Does it mean 'I have been here for three years now and I will be here for additional three years' or 'I have been here for some time now and will be here for additional three years'? thanksRead More...
Of course not! "An another" is a typographical error. The sentence should contain "another three years." All those sentences on Google, which I just looked at, contain the same typographical error. Imagine! Mea culpa. I'm very sorry. Thank you for being so sharp. RachelRead More...

"there"

Instead of "If it hadn't been for your help, I couldn't have come this far.", can you say "If there hadn't been your help, I couldn't have cme this far."?Read More...
Yes, it would be grammatically possible to say, "If there hadn't been your help, I couldn't have come this far." This is a past unreal conditional. The if -clause is in the past perfect form, and would have (or could have , in this case) + the past participle in the result clause. In fact, there is a song with this construction, "If there hadn't been you,"( instead of "If there hadn't been your help"), plus the "would have" + the past participle: IF THERE HADN'T BEEN YOU By: Billy Dean A man...Read More...

Two successive possessives

Is it correct to say: They went in Mary's father's car. If no, what's the right way. If yes, is there a better way, e.g. "of" Thanks.Read More...
It's perfectly correct to say "Mary's father's car." In fact, using the two possessives in this sentence is the best way to say that they went in the car of the father of Mary. "Of" would be possible, but awkward. You could also say, "They went in the/ a car that belonged to Mary's father," but it would put more emphasis on the car than there is in your sentence. RachelRead More...

'Person'

I would like to know how the following can be classified in terms of 'person'? Are they first person, second person, or third person? you and I My brother and I you and John Mr Brown and Mr White Many thanks. HenryRead More...
"You and I" is a form of "we." It's the first person plural. "My brother and I" is a form of "we." It's the first person plural. "You and John" is the plural of you. It's the second person plural. In English, the singular and plural forms of the second person are the same. "Mr. Brown and Mr. White" is a form of "they." It's the third person plural. RachelRead More...

Lest

When using "lest" in the following sentence, which one is correct: I wear heavy clothes for fear of cold. 1) I wear heavy clothes lest I catch cold. 2) I wear heavy clothes lest I should catch cold.Read More...
Here's the previous posting on lest : Here's what Michael Swan* says about "lest" Lest has a similar meaning to in case or so that....not ....It is very rare in modern British English, and is found mostly in older literature and in ceremonial language. It is a little more common in formal American English. They kept watch all night lest robbers should come. We must take care lest evil thoughts enter our hearts. Lest can be followed by a subjunctive verb.... The government must take immediate...Read More...

apple/pineapple

According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary ,apple and pineapple can be countable or uncountabe.Then are these sentences correct? Any differences in meaning? 1a. I want six slices of (the/an) apple. 1b. I want six slices of apple. 2a.I like eating apple/pineapple. 2b.I like eating apples/pineapples.Read More...
Not all dictionaries list these fruits as being both count and noncount. The Collins COBUILD*, for example, is one that doesn't. However, you can use the names of almost any fruit in a noncount sense. It differs from the count noun in that the concept of a noncount noun is quite abstract. So in the first sentence, 1b, if a person is thinking of six slices of apple, s/he is thinking of six slices of any apple at all, not any particular apple, as s/he would be in 1a. In the second sentence,...Read More...

Like + gerund?

Hi, Here is something which is a bit unclear. 1) She likes dressing in colourful clothes. 2) She likes to be dressed in colourful clothes. Which is the correct way of expressing when I want to tell about the way some one likes to dress? Thanks a lot.Read More...
Both sentences are correct. In the first sentence, she likes the act of dressing in colourful clothes. It's the action that she likes, but it also includes the result of being dressed. You could also say, for the first sentence: She likes to dress in colourful clothes. _______ In the second sentence, she likes the result that comes from putting on colourful clothes. She may or may not like the action of putting on the clothes. You could also say, with the same meaning: She likes being...Read More...
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