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throwing something back

Dear experts, Would you agree that the following expressions are interchangeable in one meaning only: throw something back at someone throw something back to someone throw something back at someone – 1. return smth. by throwing it: When I once threw a radio at him, instead of throwing it back at me he picked it up and started replacing the tubes. 2. remind a person unkindly of the wrong things he has said or done: After my suggestions on the first preview were thrown back at me, I quit...Read More...
"Throw something back AT someone" has one meaning in which the connotation is hostile. The thrower is hoping to hit the person with an object, or with words, figuratively. Examples from Google: "¢ Florida, DOC, prison, Frank Valdes, trial The couple stop on the road in front of us, the man driving asks for a flyer,only to throw it rudely back at us. He drove off squealing tires and screaming ... http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/prison/wewerethere.html "¢ The Overland Expedition of The Messrs.Read More...

Infinitive versus Gerund: Option To Do or Option Of Doing

We have an SAT writing question here that's a little unclear to me. The correct answer is given as: The gift certificate for a hot-air balloon ride gives the recipient the option of exchanging the certificate for cash. However, one of the answer choice options is: The gift certificate for a hot-air balloon ride gives the recipient the option to exchange the certificate for cash. This is a classic SAT-style infinitive versus gerund question that I can't find a clear answer to. I always...Read More...
Jessicah, just in case you wish to read more on this topic: "Constructions with to-infinitive or of-phrase": see Section 17.36 in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Lanuage (Quirk et al, 1985, pp 1272-1274).Read More...

a scientist who, the scientist who

Of the following three sentences, I think (2) is wrong, because the sentence sounds like there are other scientists who wrote "Silent Spring". Is that right? 1. Carson is the scientist who wrote "Silent Spring". 2. Carson is a scientist who wrote "Silent Spring". 3. Carson is the scientist, who wrote "Silent Spring". AppleRead More...
I'd like to add a different response to Rachel's answer about Sentence 2, "Carson was a scientist who wrote "Silent Spring." Rachel wrote: "Yes, (2) is wrong for the reason you state: "a scientist" would mean that she was one scientist among others who wrote "Silent Spring."" I see Sentence 2 as correct"” in the appropriate context . Its acceptability depends on the amount of background knowledge of the intended reader. Sentence 1, with "Carson was the scientist who...," tells us that, out...Read More...

indirect questions

Which of the following is correct? I asked them where John was. I asked them where was John. It seems that some people accept the second sentence as correct too. Is it right?Read More...
It is not actually "incorrect" to use normal question order in embedded questions, but it is noteworthy. In general, normal question word order is not used, but may be if the embedded question is long. Normal question word order is sometimes used regionally too. R.W. Burchfield says this, in Fowler's Modern English Usage*: '" A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985) distinguishes two main types of indirect questions: (a) wh-questions, e.g. I asked him when he would be 65...Read More...

"Last" or "Past"

Please tell me the difference between "Last" and "Past" in the following two sentences: 1- I know him for the last two years. 2- I know him for the past two years. What is the real difference between the two. Thanks a lot. CyrusRead More...
"For the last two years" and "for the past two years" have the same meaning: these expressions measure the time of something that has happened or has been happening during the most recent two years, and is still happening. The tense is not correct in your sentences. "For" + a time expression goes with the present perfect or present perfect progressive. The correct sentences are: I have known him for the last two years. I have known him for the past two years. RachelRead More...

taking account

Dear experts, Would you discriminate between: take account of something take an account of something Thank you, YuriRead More...
"Take account of something" means to consider something when you make a decision or assessment.* Experiment finds schizophrenics do not take account of visual contexts. Print this article · Link to this article. Highlight: ... http://www.newstarget.com/012783.html - 23k Irriguide: An irrigation scheduling system to take account of ... Irriguide: An irrigation scheduling system to take account of variable rainfall, soil texture and cropping pattern. RJ Bailey, ADAS, Gleadthorpe Land ...Read More...

Present perfect/Present perfect continuous

Hello All, Please, could I get an explanation between the following two sentences ? 1) It has snowed. 2) It has been snowing. As I understand in both the instances it is not snoing any more..so whne can we use the simple perfect and when the continuous perfect? Thanks a lot.Read More...
The Grammar Exchange has a great many posts on this topic. You'll find two informative posts in the Grammar Exchange Archive that deal with these differences. More than that, you can access many relevant posts if you click on "Find" in the Menu on the Questions and Answers page, and type in "present perfect progressive." This search term will bring up postings on the present perfect simple as well as the present perfect progressive. If, after reading these posts, you have any further...Read More...

'I know you could'

peteryoung
(Thank Rachel for helping me avoid violate copyright laws, and Marilyn for offering a very helpful reply. Thanks) Following is an letter wrote by a nine-year-old boy to President Clinton in 1995: Dear Mr. Clinton, I want you to stop the killing in the city. People is dead and I think somebody might kill me. Would you please stop the people from deading. I'm asking you nicely to stop it. I know you can do it. Do it now. I know you can . Your friend, James I've seen various verisions of this...Read More...
"Can" is the appropriate modal in this sentence. "Could" is more tentative than "can." "Could" is the conditional of "can," and makes the verb more tentative. If the sentence contained "could" instead of "can," the sentences would be: I know you could do it if you wanted to... I know you could do it if you wanted to. James is expressing confidence in Mr. Clinton. By using "could" instead of "can," he would be expressing the idea that Clinton might do what he's asking if something else were...Read More...

stepping off the carpet

Dear experts, Many thanks for the most thorough treatment of my queries. Are you familiar with the phrase STEP OFF THE CARPET as in: http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~bd8e-kmt/vespapa.html Papa won Ves' hand and they will step off the carpet next spring. Papa proposed to her on their second date. http://66.249.93.104/search?q=cache:zhaDQRQ9QBkJ:www.un...+the+carpet%22&hl=en You cannot picture the verb "to die", but you can with the phrases "to take an earth-bath", or "to step off the carpet".Read More...
I've never heard or heard of the phrase "step off the carpet." A bit of searching on Google has turned up a meager amount of information, some of it supporting the meaning "get married," but only the single citation from Yuri's query illustrating "die." The Online English Turkish Dictionary at http://www.seslisozluk.com/?word=evlenmek ...has this series of glosses for the Turkish word "evlenmek": 1. marry. get married. wed. make a match. espouse. lead to the altar. change one's condition.Read More...

'back' or 'ago'?

Am I right to assume that the following sentence is correct? He stole some important documents two years back. If yes, then why is 'back' used here rather than 'ago'? HenryRead More...
Thanks to Chuncan Feng for bringing up the frequency – or lack of frequency – with which "years back" is used. Indeed, "years back" appears much less frequently than "years ago." Google shows 6,860,000 example of "years back," but 199,000,000 of "years ago." Similarly, the New York Times Archives (from 1981 to the present) shows 2,377 examples of "years back" and 216,309 of "years ago." "(Time) back" is less frequent, and to some, less formal, but it is useful and not incorrect. RachelRead More...

starting off/up

Dear experts, How would you differentiate between START OFF ON SOMETHING: start off on househunting and START UP IN SOMETHING: start up in the insurance business Thank you, YuriRead More...
"Start off on" means "begin to work on something." "Start up in" means "begin a career, a working life." These are intransitive verbs. Each of the verbs can also be transitive: you can start someone off on an activity and you can start someone up in a job or career. These definitions are from the Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English (1975).Read More...

settle (up) with

Dear experts, I am not quite sure in which meanings the following expressions differ or coincide: settle up with someone settle with someone settle up with someone – pay a debt such as a bill to a person: As it's payday today... I can settle up with my surprisingly patient and reasonable landlords. settle with someone – punish a person for harm one has suffered: When you insulted me this morning I promised to settle with you; I did not expect to have the chance so soon. We will settle with...Read More...
"Settle" and "settle up" are used for the action of arriving at a fair accounting of a monetary or other transaction. Sometimes it involves paying a debt, and sometimes it involves just calculating who should pay what. Sentence 4 illustrates a slightly different meaning: "arrive at an agreement." Sentence 2, which has a non-literal implication, is special and will be addressed below. "Settle" and "settle up" both mean "pay a debt." "Settle" alone also means "reach an agreement." Here are...Read More...

"for" used to give a reason

1-He didn't die for lack of water. Can this sentence have all the following meanings: a-He did die, but not because he lacked water. b-He didn't die, neither for lack of water nor for any other reason. Maybe he did lack water but that didn't kill him or maybe he even didn't lack water. In any case, 'It is not true that he died for lack of water'. c-He didn't die, because he lacked water. (Unlikely as far as semantics is concerned, but I want to see if it is grammatically possible. Lack of...Read More...
Actually, neither works. The first sentences are ambiguous. They might not be understood outside of this discussion. The second sentences might possibly be uttered in a conversation like this: A: I'm really sorry about Jack, Kate. I understand he died because he couldn't find any drinking water. B: Oh, Harry – he didn't die for lack of drinking water! He had some horrible moments, but he is alive and well today, I'm happy to say. But, even Sentence B is not all that natural. It would be more...Read More...

that will/won't do

Dear experts, Will you agree that the expressions THAT WILL DO and THAT WON'T DO are actually not antonymous in meaning: that will do – 1. that is sufficient. 2. used to tell smb. (usually a child) to stop behaving in the way that he is. Thank you, YuriRead More...
The distinctions between the two utterances are not simple. "That will do!" is different from "That will do." "That won't do" means something different still. "That will do" has two meanings, depending on the context and the way it's uttered. Envision two different scenarios. In the first, positive, scenario the speaker is expressing approval of something, saying that it meets requirements (Google examples): "”Danson returned carrying a large blanket. "Oh, good. That will do until we find...Read More...

paladin

hamadryad
Just read Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter in which he likens himself to "acting as a paladin ". Any further information other than: 1. any of the 12 legendary peers, or douzepers of Charlemagne's court 2. a knight or a(n)(?) heroic champion?Read More...
The sentence is contained in a letter from someone named Castelli, reporting on a debate in which he was obliged to participate: "There, after having made suitable disclaimers, I commenced to play the theologian with such assurance and dignity that it would have done you good to hear me. Don Antonio assisted me, giving me such heart that instead of being dismayed by the majesty of their Highnesses I carried things off like a paladin ." The incident involved argumentation about a theological...Read More...

whether A or B, either A or B

Are the following two sentences both correct? Any difference between the two? 1. Whether you win or lose, you must play fair. 2. Either you win or lose, you must play fair. AppleRead More...
"Whether" is, as you note, a subordinating conjunction. It introduces an adverb clause. "Either" is a coordinating conjunction. When used as a conjunction, it introduces the first of two coordinates; "or" introduces the second coordinate. _______ This is the entry for "either" as a conjunction in the American Heritage Dictionary*" " either conj. ... Used before the first of two or more coordinates or clauses linked by or: Either we go now or we remain here forever ." ______ So, "either" as a...Read More...

'they seem to have loved'

peteryoung
Here is the URL of a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine. It illustrates the grammar point that PeterYoung discusses : http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=KXAV08BVXEJ98K35QVMMX7WL6LHW6CE1&sitetype=1&did=4&sid=36601&whichpage=1&sortBy=popular&keyword=%22they+seem+to+have+loved+it%22&section=cartoons The cartoon is from The New Yorker magazine. The sentence at the bottom reads, "Uh-Oh! They seem to have loved it!". The use of present participle...Read More...
The perfect infinitive "to have loved" is correct. If you are in a theater watching a film and you see someone obviously enjoying it, you can say "They seem to love it." From your point of view, there in the theater, that's "right now." The cartoon, on the other hand, shows an older couple waiting in line to see a film, and a young, flamboyantly dressed couple leaving the theater, having seen the movie. The older couple are taken aback by the obvious pleasure on the faces of the young...Read More...

'one'

peteryoung
This finding is a robust finding. This finding is a robust one. This finding is robust. There seems little difference to tell between the three. I guess perhaps they represent a formality scale, from the most formal to the lest? Besides, if there was no difference in meaning, why not simply use the simplest? Would appreciate a reply. Thank you.Read More...
The first version is not good style, since it repeats the noun "finding" for no good reason. The second version is very natural, although I've found only one example of "this finding is a robust one." From Google: We have argued that this finding is a robust one , largely independent of the precise set of hosts measured, and applying to datasets taken across a ... http://www.cs.ucsd.edu/~savage/papers/Sigcomm99.ps Examples abound of the construction with other predicate adjectives. I've...Read More...

'more explicitly violent'

peteryoung
They confirmed the hypothesis that non-U.S. violent agents are represented as more explicitly violent than U.S. agents. (in the front-page photographs from The New York Times My question is: what word or phrase does the word 'more' govern? Is it 'explicitly' alone, or 'violent', or both? Does the proximity principle work here? Would appreciate a reply. Thank youRead More...
"More" governs "explicitly." The sentence could be paraphrased as "They confirmed the hypothesis that non-U.S. violent agents are represented as unambiguously violent, whereas U.S. agents are represented as possibly somewhat ambiguously violent." If "more" were to modify "violent," the sentence might read: "They confirmed the hypothesis that non-U.S. violent agents are represented explicitly as more violent (as opposed to less violent) than U.S. agents are." Yes, the rule of proximity...Read More...

with full mouth

Dear experts, Could you provide a definition for both literal and figurative meaning of the phrase SPEAK WITH FULL MOUTH: 1. You should not put yours elbows on the table during the meal. You should not speak with full mouth. 2. Belgrade's politicians cannot hold us hostages as we are already hostaged by Albanian majority. Let them speak with full mouth of Kosovo Metohija Serbs.... Thank you, YuriRead More...
Sentence 1 is not English. The expression in English is either "” Don't talk with your mouth full OR "”You shouldn't talk/speak with your mouth full ...both of which concern proper table manners. Such admonitions sare usually uttered to a child by an exasperated parent. Sentence 2 is not native English, either. My searches on Google have turned up quite a few examples of "speak with full mouth," but they seem to have been written by speakers of languages other than English. The expression in...Read More...

'A lot' or 'a lot of'?

This question has been sent in by Guillermo: How much does she run? She runs a lot OF. OR She runs lots OF. OR She run a lot OF hours. OR She runs lots OF hours. Which one(s)? Why? Thanks in advance.Read More...
These are correct: a) She runs a lot. (NOT She runs a lot of / She runs lots of) b) She runs a lot of hours. c) She runs lots of hours. In a), "a lot" describes how often she runs. It is correct, even though it is not specific about the number of hours she runs. In b), "a lot of hours" also describes how often she runs. It is more specific. Sentence c) is like Sentence b). _______ You use "of" with a lot when there is an object for the preposition "of," in this case "hours." If there is no...Read More...

difficult problem

peteryoung
There has been little effort and even less success in documenting or explaining such consequences. My question is: Could it be that the author intends the reader to interpret the sentence as 'There has been little effort in documenting and even less sucess in explaining such consequences.'? Is such construction grammatically feasible? Thank you very muchRead More...
The phrase "little effort and even less success in..." covers both "documenting" and "explaining." If the writer had meant to link "effort" to "documenting" and "success" to "explaining," the sentence would have read the way you wrote it. That would be correct but was not the intention of the writer The coordinator "or," incidentally, is used instead of "and" (which would also be possible) because the quantifiers "little" and "less," being negative in content, allow "or." MarilynRead More...

'and' vs. 'or'

peteryoung
Sometimes I don't know what to choose between 'and' and 'or', as in the following example: Greater efforts need to be focused on the media's potential for preventive programming or reporting. ...Phillips, whose research consistently found a strong relationship between reports of suicide in newspapers or on television and subsequent increases in the suicide rate I think I'd probably use 'and' instead if I wrote the same sentence. Will doing that cause confusion for the reader? Or maybe using...Read More...
1. Greater efforts need to be focused on the media's potential for preventive programming or reporting. The writer could have used "and," thereby lumping both activities together as a unit. Apparently the writer saw enough qualitative difference between "programming" and "reporting" to separate them with "or." 2. ...Phillips, whose research consistently found a strong relationship between reports of suicide in newspapers or on television and subsequent increases in the suicide rate The...Read More...

'This sweepstakes'?

I see this message on an airline website. Is this correct: You have been entered to win a trip! Think your friend may be interested in this sweepstakes ? Use the form below to send your friend info on this sweepstakes. Thank you. HowardRead More...
The American Heritage Dictionary* states that "sweepstakes" is used with a singular or a plural verb.: sweep"¢stakes pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) 1. A lottery in which the participants' contributions form a fund that is awarded as a prize to one or several winners. 2. An event or contest, especially a horserace, the result of which determines the winner of such a lottery. 3. The prize won in such a lottery. So, one concludes that "sweepstakes" can be singular – thus, "this...Read More...

Tenses with "since" and "after"

Are these sentences correct: 1-Since they started living together in 1995, their life as a couple was interrupted from 1999 to 2001 because of John's illness. 2-Since they have started living together in 1995, their life as a couple was interrupted from 1999 to 2001 because of John's illness. 3-After they started living together in 1995, their life as a couple has been interrupted from 1999 to 2000 because of John's illness. 4-After they have started living together in 1995, their life as a...Read More...
None of the sentences is grammatically correct. Sentence 1, with altered punctuation, would, however, be correct: "”Since they started living together in 1995, their life as a couple has been interrupted "”from 1999 to 2001"” because of John's illness. Putting the dates of the interruption between dashes makes that information parenthetical and thus not an integral part of the main clause. Sentence 2: when the point of time is specified, as it is here ("in 1995") the verb must be in the...Read More...
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