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"How/why do you know?"

These below are from a Japanese textbook of English. A: Did you visit the folk village there? B1: yes, but how do you know that place? B2: Yes, but why do you know that place? They are both correct. Could anyone tell me if they are different in any way? B1 sounds like the person is interested in the way or the process in which the first person got to know that place. But B2 also is asking the reason. One more question: In case of B1, wouldn't a past tense make it sound more natural? B1: Yes,...Read More...
You are correct in believing that "How do you know the place" asks about the process by which the person has become acquainted with the place. The present tense "know" is OK, since the other person still knows that village. The answer could be "Oh, It's described in my travel books." OR "I was there several years ago on a college trip." "Why do you know that place?" sounds a bit odd. It's not usual to ask someone the reason for being acquainted with something or someone, unless the speaker...Read More...

"Classes" or "hours" at school?

Hello Would you help me with the question about a class? The situation is this: Some schools have five classes in a day. Others have six classes in a day. The number of classes depends on school. One class hour is usually 50 minutes. When I ask about the number of classes Can I use the word" hour" instead of "class"? If so, would you tell me if #1~4 are correct or not? #1 How many hours a day are there in your school? #2 How many hours in a day are there in your school? #3 How many hours...Read More...
Thank you for your kind reply,Marilyn. It helped a lot! LinaRead More...

In the windows?

I came across the following sentence recently: "I sat in the windows on the world restaurant on the 45th floor." I don't understand two points. 1. Why use 'in the windows'? Why not 'by'? Doesn't 'in' mean something like being enclosed by something? 2. Why use 'on the world restaurant'? Why not 'in' here? I'm very puzzled. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance. HenryRead More...
I think it would be possible to be sitting IN the windows of the caf̩. The caf̩ would have bay windows Рthat is, windows in this configuration \__/ , with glass on three sides and inside of which could fit a table and chairs. In this case, people might be sitting in the windows. RachelRead More...

Plural or singular?

Dear All, The following sentences sound natural to me but the grammatical principles appear contradictory. Are the sentences correct? 1) There WERE/ARE John and Mary in the room. 2) There WAS/IS a boy and a girl in the room. 3) There GO John and Mary. 4) There GOES the boy and his sister. 5) Where (Wh-questions) ARE John and Mary now ? 6) Where IS the boy and his sister now ? 7) HAVE John and Mary arrived ? 8) HAS the boy and his sister arrived ? Finally, 9) ARE football and tennis on TV...Read More...
All nine sentences should have plural verbs. All nine sentences have compound subjects. It is true that we often see, these days, sentences like: "There's fifteen people coming." "There's" to refer to a plural subject has become borderline acceptable in informal language. You might also find a singular verb for a subject in which the two items are linked so closely as to be thought of as one unit. The Grammar Exchange addressed this topic in a previous posting: Q: Should a singular or plural...Read More...

"Soybean feed grains"

I hope someone will tell me what "soybean feed grains" in the following sentence. It's a part of an article by Reuters on genetically engineering technology. The company already has successfully commercialized Roundup Ready corn and soybean feed grains and had hoped to spread its herbicide-resistant technology in the vast wheat-growing industry. Is "soybean feed grains" a compound noun? Is "feed" an adjective or a noun? AppleRead More...
A feed grain is a grain used as feed (noun) for animals. Corn and soybeans are feed grains. The passage mentions these two kinds of feed grains--"corn and soybean feed grains"--which are manufactured under the brand name "Roundup Ready." Roundup is an herbicide that kills everything, and these new strains of corn and soybeans are resistant to it. "Corn," "soybean," and "feed" are all nouns used as adjectival modifiers before the noun "grains." The brand name "Roundup Ready" precedes them...Read More...

Compound noun

Which of the following compound nouns is the best word choice? 1. plastic producing factory 2. plastic production factory 3. plastic factoryRead More...
Of your three choices, "plastic producing factory" appears 3 times on Google, "plastic production factory" appears 16 times, and "plastic factory" appears 6,070 times. "PlasticS factory, however, makes the strongest showing; it appears in 8,560 entries. As you know, compound noun phrases are often made with one noun acting as an adjective. Since it is an adjective, it is singular. Examples of this kind of structure are "shoe store," "automobile parts," and "student loan." There are...Read More...

Needless to say...

I've recently had a discussion with my co-worker about the popular phrase "Needless to say..." . He believes that the phrase is not necessary in most, if not all, situations. However, I don't totally agree with him. I think that there must be situations that this phrase is called for. Unfortunately, I cannot come up with the one I am sure of. Could anyone here suggest sentences properly using this phrase?Read More...
"Needless to say" is sometimes used to mean that something should be obvious. Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms*: needless to say Very likely or obvious, self-evident, as in Needless to say, the availability of assault weapons is closely connected with crime. Although nonsensical at first glance (if unnecessary to say, why say it?), this phrase is generally used for emphasis. It originated as needless to speak in the early 1500s. Also see go without...Read More...

"Prepare" or "prepare for"

Are these sentences correct? 1.The lawyers asked for 2 more days to prepare for the case. 2.The lawyers asked for 2 more days to prepare the case. 3.Mother is preparing for the birthday cake. 4.Mother is preparing the birthday cake. 5.Mother is preparing dinner. 6.Mother is preparing for dinner What is the difference between prepare and prepare for?Read More...
Are these sentences correct? 1.The lawyers asked for 2 more days to prepare for the case. 2.The lawyers asked for 2 more days to prepare the case. "¢ The first sentence is not correct. You might say "The lawyers asked for 2 more days to prepare for the TRIAL." "Prepare" here means to get ready, to prepare themselves. "For" introduces another thing: the goal. "¢ The second sentence is correct. The lawyers need two more days to prepare the case for the trial. 3.Mother is preparing for the...Read More...

The position of particles in the two-word verb and two objects

Hello, teachers! [1] Would you please tell me if these sentences are grammatically acceptable? I think they are all ok, but I doubt about #5. Is it also acceptable? 1. After grading them, the teacher handed back the students their exam papers. 2. After grading them, the teacher handed the students back their exam papers. 3. After grading them, the teacher handed back their exam papers to the students. 4. After grading them, the teacher handed their exam papers back to the students. 5. After...Read More...
I will begin by saying that the sentences are not grammatically wrong with the pronoun "them" in the first phrase and the noun to which it refers ("exam papers") in the main clause, but usually we mention the noun first, then use the pronoun. (Of course if the sentences were to be rearranged in that manner, the question would not apply.) For purposes of this answer, I will consider only the main clause, except for one of the sentences. 1. After grading them, the teacher handed back the...Read More...

Indirect Object or emphatic 'oneself'

Hi, I have a question about the status of "myself" in the following examples: (1) I found myself a perfectly smooth stone. (2) I'm going to have myself some fun. Are these instances of "myself" to be considered to be indirect objects which happen to be reflexive pronouns or instances of emphatic "myself" as in the following sentences, which happen to sit between the verb and the object? (3) a. I myself found a perfectly smooth stone. b. I found a perfectly smooth stone myself. (4) a. I...Read More...
I see. Now everything is clear to me. Thank you very much. TaroimoRead More...

Prepositions of time.

In the following sentences is the "at" obligatory or optional? 1. Call me at any time after 9:00. I have often heard/seen this sentence with "at". Is the "at" obligatory or optional? 2. He usually comes home at around 6:00. AppleRead More...
Omitting "at" in these sentences shows a less formal style than including "at." Both are correct. RachelRead More...

the reflexive pronoun as a subject

Hello, teachers! - Jack and myself are going to Paris on business next week. Here, I know that the use of myself - reflexive pronoun - is incorrect. However someone says that the use of myself is correct in the following sentence, because it is for emphasis, especially in contrast with another person. - Jack and Jill are going to Paris, but Peter and myself are staying here. IMHO, even though it can be used colloquially, it is still no standard English. Am I right? Today I'd like to express...Read More...
Thank you, Hogel, for your very kind wishes. It was surprising (the second grammatical surprise of the week) to learn from my grammar sources* that using "myself" as subject when it is coordinated with another noun is perfectly correct. It's supposedly correct in all cases, not just when emphasized. You will find thousands of examples of such usage on Google, indicating that it's standard, not just colloquial. Here are a few examples: --We are a small, independent organisation and we see...Read More...

"Cannot have" or "must not have" + past participle

Of the two sentences below, (1) sounds more natural and acceptable than (2), but I can't explain why. Is (2) as good as (1)? Any semantic difference? It's only 5 in the morning. (1) They cannot have arrived yet. (2) They must not have arrived yet. AppleRead More...
Actually, both are natural and acceptable. The two sentences are almost identical in meaning, but not quite. According to some grammarians, (1) shows a slightly greater degree of improbability. Here's what Betty Azar* says: "PAST TIME: NEGATIVE - Why didn't Sam eat? (d) 100% : Sam wasn't hungry. (e) 99% : Sam couldn't have been hungry. Sam can't have been hungry. (f) 95% : Sam must not have been hungry. ...... In (d): The speaker is sure. In (e): The speaker believes that it is impossible...Read More...

"Be confident to infinitive"

Hello, teachers! I think S2 is very natural and common, and that S3 is also acceptable, but I'm doubtful if I can use S1. I think it's strange, but someone says it's Ok even though it's uncommon, and Google shows me some sentences with this pattern. Is it acceptable? S1. He is very confident to win the game. S2. He is very confident of winning the game. S3. He is very confident he will/can win the game. Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
Sentences 2 and 3 are, as you say, correct. Sentence 3 has an optionally omitted relative word, "that." In addition, one can say "He is very confident about winning the game." I had never heard or read the construction "confident to + verb," and was prepared to say that it's not English. It isn't in any of my grammar sources. When I looked on Google, however, I found, as you did, a considerable number of occurrences. Some of the postings look like the writing of non-native speakers, but most...Read More...

Is /Has

Hello All, Which of the following two sentences is correct? 1) The morning is finished. 2) The morning has finished. Thanks very much..an explanation as to why would be welcome.Read More...
Both of the sentences are correct. "The morning is finished" is correct. It means "the morning is over." "Finished" and "over" mean "at an end." The past participle "finished" can be used here as an adjective. It's also possible to say, "The morning has finished." "Finish" means "end," and is often used interchangeably with "end." In fact, your second sentence might be also be stated, "The morning has ended." _______ Both "finish" and "end" can be transitive or intransitive verbs. A search...Read More...

Content vs. contented

Hello, teachers! I'd like to know the difference in usage between content and contented. Please help me with this. [1] Can both be used as the attributive? 1. He put on a content/contented look. [2] Can both be used as the predicative? 2. He is content/contented with his marks at the finals. [3] In this case, which is correct or natural? 3. He is quite easily content/contented by a small thing. Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
Thanks, Baozhong Lee, for your posting. Surprisingly, the adjective "content" may in fact be used attributively, i.e. before a noun. It's not as common as "contented," but it is used. Here are some examples from Google: --I live a rather content life with my wife and our cat, and still find time for social activities and other hobbies that I enjoy. --It has been a long time since I had this content feeling about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. --Noah is so sweet and happy. She isn't always...Read More...

"Come to his aid" or "come to her aid"...or...?

The following sentences are taken from Some Widely-used Dictionaries: 1. One of the station staff saw he was in difficulty and came to his aid (= helped him). (OALD 6th edition) 2. I didn't speak any French, but a nice man came to my aid and told me where to go. (LDOCE 4th edition) 3. A woman in the street saw that he was in trouble and came to his aid. (CALD) 4.Horrified neighbours rushed to his aid as he fell. (Collins-Cobuild English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, 2001) I don't...Read More...
The possessive adjectives ("his" and "my" in your examples) are determined by the context of the sentence. They are not fixed in an expression "come to xxx aid"; they vary according to the noun or pronoun they refer to, and are indeed "come to SOMEONE'S aid." In your first sentence, "his" refers to the same person that "he" is. In the second sentence, "my" refers to "I." In the third sentence, "his" refers to "he." In the fourth sentence, "his" refers to "he." Yes, it's the same as "come/go...Read More...

Multiple conjunctions

Is the following sentence with multiple conjunctions *correct*? As the housing affordability gap widens, middle-income families are especially hard-hit, for these families can no longer qualify to buy homes, yet rising rental rates force them to use far more than the standard 25 percent of their incomes for housing, leaving them with no equity or tax write-offs to offset the expenditures.Read More...
The sentence, as written, is grammatically correct but logically weak and stylistically awkward. In order to improve it, we have to look at the relations between the ideas--to "unpack" the sentence. Here is a breakdown of the relations: a. The housing affordability gap is widening. [BECAUSE OF THIS,] middle-income families are especially hard-hit. b. [THIS IS BECAUSE] they no longer qualify to buy homes [and AS A RESULT must continue to pay rent.] c. [BECAUSE they are paying rent instead of...Read More...

The superlative with two things

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me if we can use the superlative even though there are two choices? 1. Which do you think the correct answer is, 'a' or 'b'? / I think both are correct, but that 'a' is better/best. 2. Although both of them have tried, she has the highest grade. 3. The book is the most interesting of the two. 4. This book is most interesting than that. Thank you very much. Best regards.Read More...
The correct way to refer to one of two items that you are comparing is to use a comparative, not a superlative. So, the appropriate comparative for each of your example sentences is: 1) better 2) the higher 3) the more interesting 4) more interesting RachelRead More...

is or are ?

Dear All, Which is the right saying please ? 1) There IS no two ways about it. OR 2) There ARE no two ways about it. Thank you. RickyRead More...
They're both correct, but "there is" is more informal. A Google search shows that in written Internet English, both are common, with "there's" and "there is" slightly more frequent than "there are/there're." In spoken language I would say (without hard data, of course) that the form with "there's" or "there is" is more common. Marilyn MartinRead More...

First Decade of the Twentieth Century.

Hi, my name is Grisel, 25, and I am from Argentina. I have two questions related to YEARS and I think I can find the answers here in this forum. These are my questions: A)We know that an expression such us "the 1910's" makes reference to the second decade of the Twentieth Century. But the expression "the 1900's" refers to which one of the following concepts: 1)The first ten years of the Twentieth Century? 2)The complete Twentieth Century? (I found expressions like "the early 1900's", "the...Read More...
Dear Marilyn Martin: I would like to thank you very much for the clear explanation you provided me with. Best regards, Grisel.Read More...

dim sum vs dim sums

Which sentence is correct? 1. I would like to have dim sum for lunch. 2. I would like to have dim sums for lunch. According to some dictionaries,dim sum is an uncountable noun. But I can find so many dim sums on the Internet that I begin to doubt that dim sum can now be used as a countable noun.Read More...
The Cantonese term "dim sum", meaning "dot hearts," or "small snacks," is plural. Some speakers of English, used to hearing and seeing the "s" plural ending on nouns, are now perceiving "dim sum" as a singular noun, as you have noticed, and saying "dim sums" for the new plural. This practice is not established, however, and "dim sum" is the standard form--for now, anyway. If you want to use the term for the individual dishes that make up dim sum, you can say either ha gau or siu mai This...Read More...

"In search of" or "for"

There are many more hits for the phrase "in search of" than "in search for". Is "in search for" acceptable? Any differences? Apple.Read More...
The idiom is "in search of." Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms" "in search of ....Also, in quest of. Looking for, seeking, as in They went to California in search of gold, or I went to the library in quest of a quiet place to read. The first term dates from the mid-1400s, the second from the second half of the 1500s." * There is no definition for "in search for." "In search of" has over four million hits on Google. _______ There is also a phrase "in THE (or...Read More...

Omitting "to be" before the object complement

Hello, teachers! Would you please help me about omitting 'to be'? Please check out my thoughts! - I divided the cases by the criterion; 1) whether the object is a person or a thing, 2) the complement is a noun or others. 1. I want you [to be] finished within ten minutes. [Both are OK. Using 'to be' is much more common, right?] 2. I want this [to be] finished within ten minutes. [Both are OK. Omitting 'to be' is much more common, right?] 3. I want you [to be] proud of yourself. [Both are OK.Read More...
It doesn't make any difference whether the direct object is a person or not, except in Sentences 1 and 2. Sentences 3 and 6 both have adjective complements and obey the same rule. 1. I want you [to be] finished within ten minutes. The infinitive "to be" cannot be omitted. The same idea can be expressed with the perfect infinitive: "I want you to have finished within ten minutes" There is no understood passive in these sentences. The meaning of "finished" in this sentence is "through, done...Read More...

Tenses in "as if" clause

I read the "as if" section in the Key Word Index and would like to ask one more question regarding tenses in "as if" clause. I know that we should use "were" or a past verb in a present unreal situation. But I would like to know what verb we should use in a past unreal situation and when we should use "had pp." Thanks for your kind reply in advance.Read More...
As you say, unreal ideas after "as if" require backshifting. Backshifting means that present tenses are changed to past, and present perfect is changed to past perfect. What happens when the main verb is already past? When the main verb is past, and the idea is "unreal," you can't backshift any further than the past tense or the past perfect. This is true for the verb BE, the auxiliaries, and the modals. Here are some examples of "as if" sentences with an "unreal" idea in both present and...Read More...
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