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"A/the sister of the man"

Hello, teachers! - I know [a, the] sister/son of the man who you are looking for. In this sentence, if we know how many sisters/sons the man has, it's not a problem which article we use, I think. However, if we don't know, generally which article do we tend to choose/prefer, a or the? Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
As you suggest, if we know the man has only one sister or son, we say THE sister/son. If we know that the man has more than one sister or son, we use A sister/son. If we don't know how many sisters or sons he has we still have to use the indefinite article A, since using THE would imply that we are sure that he has only one sister/son. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"Concern" as a reflexive verb

Dear experts, Will you agree that the expressions below mean different things and can be differentiated as: concern oneself about something concern oneself with something concern oneself about something – care or worry about smth. concern oneself with something – preoccupy oneself with smth.; be involved with smth. Thank you, YuriRead More...
"To be concerned ABOUT or FOR something means "to worry about something*." In this case, as you see, "concerned" is the past participle of "concern" and is used as an adjective. However, Google lists 487 examples of "concern" as a transitive verb with "about" in just the phrase "don't concern yourself about." "If you concern yourself WITH (caps by author) something, you give it attention because it is important: I didn't concern myself with politics. He would concern himself solely with the...Read More...

"Trouble" as a verb

Dear experts, I. Would you agree that the expressions below are not equivalent in meaning and can be differentiated as follows: trouble about something trouble with something trouble about something – worry about smth.; be concerned about smth.: If you trouble about every little thing that goes wrong, you will never have any peace of mind. trouble with something – be involved with smth.; preoccupy oneself with smth.: I have a good breakfast and good meal in the evening, and never trouble...Read More...
Here's the American Heritage Dictionary*'s definition of "trouble" as an intransitive verb: To take pains: They trouble over every detail. As you see, this example uses "trouble" as you do in your first sentence; however, the preposition that goes with "trouble" is "over," according to this dictionary. Interestingly, a Google search for "don't trouble over" yields only 6 instances, whereas "don't trouble about" yields 587. "Don't trouble yourself about" yields 655; "don't trouble yourself...Read More...

The definite article and a proper noun

Hello, teachers! Should we use the definite article in front of a train station name, or not? I think we don't use the definite article with a train station name as a proper noun, but we use "the" if we don't capitalize "station," i.e. "Boston Station" or "the Boston station." I guess "the Boston station" is a common noun, not a proper noun. Am I right? [1] If I'm right, does the same rule apply to the name of a airport and so on? Boston Airport & the Boston airport Port Vancouver &...Read More...
Hogel is right; if there is more than one airport for Tokyo, you could say " a Tokyo airport." In fact, one who knows Tokyo well would probably not say " the Tokyo airport" for that very reason. However, it would not be usual to refer to any of the airports as "a xxx airport." Instead, only the name of the airport – a proper noun – would be used: "¢ There's a lot of traffic going to the downtown area from Narita / Hartsfield /Gatwick / Heathrow / Orly / Midway. Don't fight the traffic; take...Read More...

Carrying A/THE torch for

Dear experts, Is the expression CARRY A TORCH FOR SOMEONE used with both the definite and the indefinite article or is the use of article semantically relevant and introduces some shade of meaning: Graeme's been carrying a torch for Linda for years. This group aims to carry the torch for the millions of people who demonstrated and the thousands who died. Thank you, YuriRead More...
"Carry A torch" for someone is to be in love with them, often secretly. "Carry THE torch" means to be in the forefront of support for a group or for a cause. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"Health" with which tense: simple past or present perfect)

Are both sentences correct? 1.He has not had health since he was a child. 2.He did not have health since he was a child.Read More...
First, you need an adjective. You have to say what kind of health a person has. Since the sentence is in the negative, the correct adjective here would be "good health." If the person is still alive and the sentence is about that person's state of health up to the present, the sentence would be --He has not had good health since he was a child (but he's still very productive) If the sentence is about a person's state of health IN THE PAST, even if the person is still alive, the sentence...Read More...

On being sharp

Dear experts, Is the expression SHARP AS A WET NOODLE only used ironically: sharp as a wet noodle – very dull, stupid: You can tell from the things he says that he's about as sharp as a wet noodle. Thank you, YuriRead More...
It's a (fairly outdated) expression dating, I think, from the 'sixties. Marilyn MartinRead More...

Having a laugh

Dear experts, Would you agree that the expressions below are not equivalent in meaning and can be differentiated as follows: have a laugh at someone have the laugh of someone have a laugh at someone – find smb. amusing; ridicule a person: You let them in to have a laugh at them or you let them in because you want to listen to what they're saying. have the laugh of someone – (also: have the laugh on someone) have smb. at a disadvantage; raise the laugh against a person: ˜Why, he always used...Read More...
"Have a laugh at someone" means to simply laugh at them, most likely because they have done or said something that made them look ridiculous. 'Have the laugh of someone" must be British English. It seems to mean "to laugh from a (new) position of superiority at someone because they have been proved wrong, or been deposed from a position of power." It may be dialectal. I don't know what "have the laugh AT someone" means, unless it is a variant of "have the laugh of someone." Maybe other...Read More...

Phraseological variants?

Dear experts, It looks like the US slang expression YELLOW BLACK (used to refer to a light-skinned Black American) is also used in the variant form HIGH YELLOW BLACK as in: If you look at American blacks themselves, they range from ˜high yellow' blacks like Farrakan, to ˜black as the ace of spade' like the Williams sisters. Which one of the variants enjoys greater currency? Thank you, YuriRead More...

Phrasal verb or a compound

Dear experts, Will it be right to assume that the collocations below have only ONE meaning in common in which they are interchangeable: overthrow something throw something over overthrow something – 1. turn smth. upside down; overturn smth.: The submarine attempted a re-surface maneuvre, failing to notice that there was a boat right above the submarine. The boat was overthrown and nine fishermen drowned. 2. (of a regime, government, etc.) remove by force: Communism to-day signifies an...Read More...
Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995, at http://www.bartleby.com/62/32/T1533200.html has this definitions for "overthrow": overthrow 1. To bring about the downfall of: bring down ,overturn ,subvert ,topple ,tumble ,unhorse .See HELP You can overthrow a regime, a government, a ruler, or other kinds of authority, as in --All our attempts to overthrow the tyrant had failed so far, but we were resolute Roget's II has this definition as well: .2. To turn or cause to turn from a...Read More...

Participles

1.Cursed by narcolepsy, Anita failed at her job as a TV newscaster 2.Anita failed at her job as a TV newscaster, cursed by narcolepsy Is 'cursed by narcolepsy' in 2 a dangling modifier? If 'cursed by narcolepsy' in 2 is treated as adverbial, does it refer to 'Anita'?Read More...
The phrase "cursed by narcolepsy" is not a dangling modifier in either sentence. It refers to "Anita." It's important to remember that participial phrases play a variety of roles in sentences. The role played by the participial phrase in the sentences--"cursed by narcolepsy"--is that of providing the cause or reason for something. It's equivalent to "Because she was cursed by narcolepsy, Anita failed at her job...." Or "Anita failed at her job...because she was cursed by narcolepsy."...Read More...

"Have no quarrel with" and "not quarrel with"

This question has been sent in by Yuri: It looks (according to dictionaries) like the expressions HAVE NO QUARREL WITH and NOT QUARREL WITH are not identical in meaning and can be represented as: Have no quarrel with someone: have no cause for a dispute or an argument with a person: They looked on the Germans as half-brothers and they had no quarrel with them. Not quarrel with someone: have no argument or disagreement with a person: He was a good student, but did not make friends with his...Read More...
Yes, there is a difference, as you have noted. "Have no quarrel with someone" means just what you've stated: that there is no reason, no basis, for any disagreement. "Not quarrel with someone" is just the negative expression of "quarrel," as you've illustrated. Here are more examples, with "quarrel" meaning "fight or argue": They didn't quarrel; they discussed their differences reasonably. They didn't fight or argue; they discussed their differences reasonably. I won't quarrel with you, but...Read More...

On the game?

Dear experts, Is it OK to use ON THE GAME of a sportsman participating in a game: He has become professional football's equivalent to Michael Jordan. As long as he is on the game, it's difficult to put limitations on the Falcons. Or should we only use IN THE GAME? Thank you, YuriRead More...
It's "in the game," as far as I know. I have not been able to find any references to be "on the game" in a context like this. There is another expression, though – to be ON HIS game (or HER game if the athlete is female). This means that someone is playing very, very well – at the top of his game. This sentence could also read: "As long as he is on his game, it's difficult to put limitations on the Falcons." It would have, however, a somewhat different meaning. It would mean that if the...Read More...

Without color

Dear experts, Do you use the expression without color to mean 'a white person'? "Of course, all this is predicated on my assumption that Alex is a "person without color." His reaction seems classically "White Guilt," not "Black Rage." Thank you, YuriRead More...
Sometimes, but by no means always, "a person without color" does mean a white person as opposed to a person with darker skin, sometimes called "a person of color." It is not a frequently appearing phrase of the language, and seems to be used often in political and racial interchanges. In your quote, not only does the writer think that Alex is a white person, but the writer is disparaging of the way Alex thinks, with typically "White Guilt." _______ "A person without color" is not always...Read More...

"Let somone stew"

Dear experts, Would you say that the expressions below are mere variants or do they have a subtle difference in meaning and can be represented as: leave someone stew leave someone stew in one's own juice leave someone stew – (also: let someone stew) keep a person in a state of uneasy anticipation or suspense: I knew that the group would be wondering what was going to happen next to them but I decided to leave them stew on it for a while. leave someone stew in one's own juice – (also: let...Read More...
A definition of "Let (NOT "leave") someone stew in one's own juice is found here, in a definition from a dictionary-type site on Google: "¢ LET HIM STEW IN HIS OWN JUICE is a frequently used American idiom that reminds us that the person who creates a problem is responsible for accepting the consequences and cleaning up the mess. Even if this cure requires heartache or suffering, the offender will learn much in the process. This saying can be found in books in the United States written in...Read More...

The definite article & "top of ..."

Hello, teachers! Please help me with this. In these sentences, do we need the definite article or not? 1. Some birds are sitting on [the] top of the house. [The case birds aren't part of the house] 2. My paper is on [the] top of the papers. [The case my paper is part of the papers.] Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
"Top" as a noun, preceded by "the," refers to "the uppermost part, point, surface, or end." * The house could be considered to have a top part, and it could be that the birds are sitting on the top part of the house – that means that they are sitting on a part of the house that is its uppermost point. In this case, you'd say: "Some birds are sitting on the top of the house." Other examples of on THE top: "¢ Oh, look. There's a ring on the top of that table. Someone must have put a wet glass...Read More...

The past perfect continuous tense

Hello, teachers! Can we use the past perfect continuous tense here though the subject didn't continue the actions after the bus came or we married? 1. [I had waited, I'd been waiting] for 30 minutes before the bus came. 2. [We had dated, We'd been dating] for ten years before we married. Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
The sentences are grammatically correct with either the past perfect or the past perfect continuous. For the past perfect continuous there's no requirement that the action be expected to continue. The progressive can be used with definite periods of time to emphasize the often unusual duration of the time span. For example, it would be normal to say The baby had been screaming for thirty minutes before his mother went to pick him up It would be less common, though not incorrect, to say ?The...Read More...

'In a fever" vs. "in fever"

This query has been sent to the Grammar Exchange by Yuri: 2. Would you agree that IN A FEVER and IN FEVER have only one meaning in which they are interchangeable or are they fully equivalent: in a fever - 1. when a body temperature is higher than normal: There was no danger of her feeling the cold; she was in a fever. 2. (fig.) in the state of extreme excitement or agitation: Terror hung over the West, the frontier was in a fever, forts and blockhouses were hastily constructed. in fever - 1.Read More...
"To be in A fever" usually means "to be in a state of high excitement or agitation." It's not commonly used for medical conditions. "To be in fever" means "to be suffering from an elevated temperature." These two constructions are similar grammatically, except for the presence of the article. The sentence Fever grass is a fragrant smelling lemony grass; it is excellent in fever just boiled and sweetened. ...is of a different kind, since it does not involve the verb BE plus a prepositional...Read More...

"For a minute" or "for the minute"

This question has been sent in by Yuri: Would you say that the article is not semantically relevant in differentiating the expressions FOR A MINUTE / FOR THE MINUTE when used in the sense of 'during one brief moment' as in: For a minute it looked like he would ski right into my brother and cause him a really serious injury. The car suddenly swerved, and for the minute it looked as if it was going to hit the tree.Read More...
The first sentence, which has "for a minute," is correct and idiomatic (although a minute is a long time for a person to look as if he is going to ski into someone). The second sentence, with "for the minute" does not sound like English. There's a different pair in which the article does make a difference: 1. For A moment it looked like he would ski right into my brother and cause him a really serious injury 2. Sorry, Mr. Rathbone, I'm tied up for THE moment, but I can see you later today if...Read More...

"Iron horse; iron pony"

This question was sent to the Grammar Exchange by Yuri: Would you say that the expression IRON HORSE is only used of a locomotive and bicycle whereas IRON PONY is used with refeence to a motorcycle: iron horse - 1. a locomotive steam-engine: The engineer returned to his iron horse and the train started. 2. a bicycle: It"šs not the longest holiday trip on a bicycle, but it could look like it when Andersen saddles his iron horse. iron pony - a motorcycle: I get off, anticipating a cold drink,...Read More...
The original "iron horse" was the steam engine--the locomotive. As for modern usage, all I've been able to find on the Web without doing extensive searching is that "Iron Horse" is a brand of bicycle. I've also found a Web page that shows a picture of a man with his "iron horse," which in the picture is a small sport utility vehicle--an SUV. So that name might possibly be used more loosely to characterize other types of vehicle. Another Web search reveals that an "iron pony" is a small...Read More...

"In a great way"

This query was sent to the Grammar Exchange by Yuri: 1. The expression IN A GREAT WAY listed in OED should apparently be treated as UK and dated? in a great way - living on a great scale of income and expenditure: The elder sister was very well married, to a gentleman in a great way, near Bristol, who kept two carriages! How would you define its contemporary (Colloquial?) usage as in: The book starts out in a great way and definitely encourages plenty of thought. The games are wonderful and...Read More...
The OED definition, "living on a great scale of income and expenditure," is outdated. In modern usage it would be "on a grand scale." It may or may not be only UK, I don't know. In modern usage, the adjective "great," as in "Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great man" or "We have seen the last of the great ocean liners" is still used with that meaning, but it has also metamorphosed into an all-purpose adjective meaning "extremely good." It is used nowadays for everything from popular songs to...Read More...

"Do you good" and "do you well"

Dear Experts, Can both IT WILL DO YOU GOOD TO and IT WILL DO YOU WELL TO be used interchangeably as in: You have a great responsibility towards the nation. It will do you well to remember this always. It will do you good to remember that this is merely an idea that works only under very specific circumstances. Thank you, YuriRead More...
To begin with, I will refer you to my post of April 14, 2004 on "Do well, do good, and make good," which contains some explanations related to this topic. The first sentence is not correct. There is no such expression as *"IT would/will do (someone) well to." It's always "(Someone) would/will do well to (verb)." The correct version would be --You have a great responsibility to the nation. You would/will do well to remember this always "It will/would do you GOOD to" (verb) is used when the...Read More...

The possessive form vs. the adjective form as the time expression

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me if these phrases are all acceptable with the same meaning? Otherwise, is there any difference in usage? 1-1. thirty hours' walk 1-2. a thirty-hour walk 2-1. thirty years' marriage 2-2. a thirty-year marriage 2-3. a thirty-year-old marriage Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
Sentence 1-1 is not correct. Sentence 1-2 is correct: A thirty-hour walk. Other similar expressions: A ten-minute drive; a two-day conference; five 20-minute sessions; a four-day visit Sentence 2-1 is not correct. The possessive can't be used with a singular count noun like "walk." You need a mass noun: --We reached the village after thirty hours' travel through arid lands --The certificate is awarded after twelve hours' instruction --I had only three days' training before I started the job...Read More...

"Put one's hand to the plough" and "put one's shoulder to the wheel"

Dear experts, Would you say that the expressions below differ in the intensity of meaning or are they perfectly equivalent: PUT ONE'S HAND TO THE PLOUGH PUT ONE'S SHOULDER TO THE WHEEL put one's hand to the plough – (also: turn one's hand to the plough) - ˜As for me,' she went on excitedly, ˜I am beginning to advertise the summer resort. I must put my hand to the plough.' put one's shoulder to the wheel – I want to put my shoulder to the wheel, together with others, to help make Atlanta an...Read More...
Both expressions mean start to work towards a goal. "Put one's hand to the plough" often refers to an individual effort, whereas "put one's shoulder to the wheel" refers more to a collective effort. _______ "Put one's hand to the plough" means that one must work from this time forward to work and to do good, and not look back. It is sometimes used in religious sermons or references, and it has a Biblical origin: "¢ "Niels Bohr," he wrote, "liked to illustrate the subtle nature of truth with...Read More...

Capitals in "Kingdom of Crocodiles"?

This question has been sent in by Susan McKenzie: Do you ever say - The Kingdom of Crocodiles -- or should the "k" be lower case?Read More...
In "kingdom of crocodiles," this phrase would not be capitalized in a zoology text. It would be capitalized, however, if the Kingdom of Crocodiles were an actual place, as it might be in a children's fairy tale.Read More...
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