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'Travellers' or 'travelers'

This question has been sent in by Susan McKenzie: "Travellers" - in American English - is this "travelers"?Read More...
Yes. The American Heritage Dictionary* has this under its entry for "traveler": trav"¢el"¢er or trav"¢el"¢ler (trăv'É™l-É™r, trăv'lÉ™r) n. 1. One who travels or has traveled, as to distant places. 2. often traveller Chiefly British. ... Rachel _______ *The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Houghton Mifflin Company 2003Read More...

"Museum" or "museum"?

This question was sent in by Susan McKenzie: Can Museum be in caps when just referring to the Museum as follows: The plane was an almost total wreck, but the pieces were gathered up and returned to Japan, where it was restored and put on display at the Kamikaze Memorial Museum in Osaka. The Museum and plane were destroyed during World War II.Read More...
Janet Johnston, copy editor extraordinaire at Longman, states: "Chicago Manual* says not to use the capital for a single word replacing the full title (institution, organization, association, conference, etc.). It doesn't make any difference that it is the same specific museum that is probably going to recur regularly in the paragraph." So, "the museum," lower case, would be correct. She also notes that Words Into Type** says: "If the common noun is used alone, it should not be capped, even...Read More...

The tag question

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me if both forms are acceptable as its tag question? 1-1. I don't think it is right, is it? 1-2. I don't think it is right, do you? Thank you very much. Enjoy the evening glow! Best Regards.Read More...
Yes, both forms are correct. In 1-1, the speaker is asking for confirmation of a fact, that something isn't right. (In English, it is common to make a main verb like "think" negative when actually the noun clause as its object has the negative idea.) In 1-2, the speaker is asking for confirmation of his/her thought by asking whether or not the listener agrees. RachelRead More...

'A good chance' 'little chance,' 'few chances'

The sentences 1 and 2 mean the opposite. "chance" in 1 is a count noun, but "chance" in 2 is not If "chance" is a count noun, then the sentence 3 should be possible, but it doesn't seem right. Or is the sentence 3 possible at all? At least it can't mean the same as the sentence 2, can it? I'm puzzled. 1. She has a good chance of winning. 2. She has little chance of winning. 3. She has few chances of winning. Apple.Read More...
Sentence 3 has two possible meanings, one of which is the same as Sentence 2. When you say "She has few chances of winning" you can mean either 1) she has few opportunities (appropriate occasions) to win or 2) that she has little possibility of winning; that it's unlikely that she will win. It is this second meaning that is the same as Sentences 1 and 2. Here is an example from Google: Gordon Fraser does not play the guitar right handed (or at all). And finally, Jimi Hendrix was once told...Read More...

Can I say 'Yes, it couldn't be better'?

Hello! A: It's a lovely day, isn't it? B: Yes, it couldn't be better! I know 'couldn't be better' has positive meaning, but I doubt if I can use 'yes' and 'couldn't' in the same sentence? Thanks in advance!Read More...
It's true that in agreeing with the same verb phrase the other person has used, you can't make that same verb phrase negative. For example, if the other person says It's a lovely day, isn't it? ...you can't say --*Yes, it isn't [a lovely day]. You have to say --Yes it is [a lovely day]. If the idea in the response is different, however, you are free to use a negative verb phrase as long as the overall meaning does not deny or contradict what has been said. In the example dialogue, the...Read More...

Wanted: examples of putative should

I need an authentic example or two like the following dialogue: A: I'm surprised that Jack should have felt lonely when he was in California. B: Well, he wasn't really lonely. He was only at bit nostalgic. The presumed fact in the eyes of Speaker A that Jack felt lonely when he was in California is not true in the eyes of Speaker B. I wonder if any participant of this newsgroup could post a similar dialogue extracted from an authentic English news story, novel, etc. Thank you. Chuncan Feng ChinaRead More...
The putative "should" is hard to characterize. It doesn't add meaning to an idea; it "distances" the idea from the speaker. The speaker in Feng's dialogue recognizes that Jack felt lonely but at the same time resists that idea. The putative "should" is used with adjectives such as "surprising, unfortunate, curious, funny, odd," and "strange"--any adjective that describes an idea that the speaker finds hard to accept. Here area few examples from Google: It is surprising that a scholar as...Read More...

'Wonder if' + simple past or present perfect

Hello I really thank you for your kind help everytime. Now I'd like to ask about the the following sentences. #1 I wonder if she has come home. #2 I wonder if she came home. Is #2 correct? If so, do #1 and #2 express the same meaning? Yours truly, LinaRead More...
The question is about the difference between the present perfect and the simple past. Sentence 1 asks about a present situation. The present perfect of an action verb denoting a single event expresses the present result of that past action. That is, maybe she has come home, in which case she is now here. Maybe she has not yet come home, in which case she is not here. The action is relevant to the moment of speaking. For example --I wonder if she has come home. I think I'll give her a call...Read More...

"What kind of [a] house"

Hello, teachers! Would you please tell me whether we should use an indefinite article in this kind of expression? 1. What kind of [a] house is like this? It looks like a pig-pen. 2. He would have had to be able to read minds to see that one coming. What kind of [an] idiot would let him know in advance? Thank you very much. Enjoy the evening quiet! Best regards.Read More...
The standard form is "what kind of (noun phrase)"? "What kind of a" is also used, but it's colloquial. A Google search for various combinations such as "what kind of friend/what kind of a friend" and "what kind of doctor/what kind of a doctor" turns up seven or eight times as many instances without the article as with the article. There's no word "like" in the construction. It's "What kind of (noun phrase) + BE + (noun phrase)"? Sentence 1 should be What kind of house (colloquial: a house)...Read More...

infinitives and clause

Hello I'd like to ask about rewriting of the sentence uning infinitives to one using clause. Some sentences like #1 should be changed the sentences using that-clause like #2. How about #3? Can I change #3 to #4? Do you use #4? #1 It is necessary for us to learn English. #2 It is necessary that we learn English. #3 It is difficult to explain what happened. #4 It is difficult that we explain what happened. Would you help me understand this? Yours truly, LinaRead More...
The two pairs of sentences illustrate two different grammatical constructions. Sentences 1, 2, and 3 are grammatical, but Sentence 4 is not. Sentences 1 and 2 illustrate what happens with complements of "urgency" adjectives such as --it is important/essential/urgent/advisable/critical that... With these adjectives we may use either an infinitive complement, as in 1. It is necessary for us to learn English or a that- noun clause with the base form of the verb (mostly in American English): 2.Read More...

the definite article

Hello everybody, Do I have to use ˜the' in the following sentences? The boy and THE girl are playing. The king and THE queen are dancing. She is not willing to be appointed on THE Indian Airlines. She is not willing to be appointed on THE airlines. I am working on THE Southern Division of airlines. He got 75% marks in THE maths exam. Which of the animals is THE taller? Which of the animals is THE tallest? She expressed her happiness at being elected as THE president of the Coconut...Read More...
Sorry, covering so many of the uses of the definite article is beyond the capabilities of the Grammar Exchange. The list presented here represents a wide variety of cases, which would be impossible to discuss in the limited space available. In addition, the Grammar Exchange does not provide answers for lists of questions that resemble test items. The Grammar Exchange is, however, able to respond to focused questions. A suitable question, for example would be "Do we use the definite article...Read More...

two times or twice

The sentences below are confusing. Which is correct and which is not? a) A is two times larger than B. b) A is twice larger than B. c) A is two times as large as B. d) A is twice as large as B. thanks!Read More...
You'll find an extended discussion on this topic, started by Chuncan Feng, posted on May 12, 2004. For a quick answer, however, here is a fragment of my second response: I wrote "Twice more than," as an alternative to "twice as much as" is still not deemed acceptable by the two grammar sources I know of that mention it: The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language * says: "Note that while the multipliers half and twice are restricted to the equality type (i.e. as...as ), a third and three...Read More...

"A tiger" or "tigers"?

Hi! Can you check this out ? "I like a tiger best." It sounds strange to me.I think "tigers " is Thanks.Read More...
Yes. A conversation could go like this: A: Which animal is your favorite? B: Oh, tigers. (OR the tiger.) I like tigers (OR the tiger) best. "Tigers" refers to tigers in general. Sometimes, in fairly formal language, "the" + a singular count noun refers to one of the general class. _______ "A tiger" would refer to any tiger at all. You might use "a tiger" to make a generalization, in a sentence such as "A tiger is a beautiful animal." You could also say "the tiger is a beautiful animal" as...Read More...

BE SURPRISED BY

I know you usually say "she was surprised at the news". How about the sentence " she was surprised by the news" Is it wrong? THANKS!Read More...
They're both correct. Usually, when the participial adjective is psychological in nature, the preposition "at" is used: I was appalled at his rudeness to his mother (His rudeness to his mother was appalling) Were you as shocked as I was at the condition of their house? (Was the condition of their house as shocking to you as it was to me?) But if the idea is seen as an action rather than as a state, it may be expressed with a true passive: I was appalled by his rudeness to his mother (His...Read More...

'where' or 'in which'?

How should I complete the following sentence? It's a forum _____ (where, in which) experts will answer questions sent in by listeners. Are 'where' and 'in which' freely interchangeable? Or are there differences between them?Read More...
"In which" is more formal in style than "where," but they mean the same thing. You will find a discussion of relative clauses using adverbial relative expressions such as "in which, "with whom, "where" and "when" in Quirk et al*, Sections 17.17 through 17.20. Marilyn Martin *A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Longman, 1985)Read More...

Find or finds

Hello, teachers! Long time no see! How have you been? Please tell me which is the correct choice. Some say only 'find' is correct, and some say both are correct. Would you be the judge? - My hope is that he [find, finds] something cheaper. [meaning; I hope that he finds something cheaper.] One more question, please! We can omit the ' that 's, right? Thank you very much. Enjoy the unseasonable hot weather. Best Regards.Read More...
With the noun "hope" you don't use the base form of the verb in a that-clause complement. The correct form is --My hope is that he FINDS something cheaper You have to be guided by the properties of the verb from which the noun is formed. With the verb "to hope" you would say "I hope that he FINDS something cheaper." "To hope" takes the indicative. The same is true of the deverbal noun (a noun formed from a verb) "hope" when it takes a noun clause complement. It takes the indicative. It's...Read More...

Prepositions

Dear all, Would you please help me to fill in the blanks in the following sentences? In chess, a knight can jump from a white square ..... a black square and vice-versa. (onto, into) The white Queen should always be .... a white square at the beginning of the game. (in, on) She drew a circle on the floor and asked me to jump ...... it. (into, onto) There I was standing ..... the circle on the floor. (in, on) Thanking you, Aneeth PrabhakarRead More...
The difference here between "in" and "on" is whether the circles and squares are solid, like rugs, or just outlines, like hop-scotch markings on the sidewalk. In chess, a knight can jump from a white square ONTO a black square, and the Queen should always be ON a white square at the beginning of the game. You would jump INTO a circle that was drawn on the floor, but you would jump ONTO it if the circle was completely filled with color, not just an outline. Whether you'd be standing IN the...Read More...

More on capital letters

This question has been sent in by Susan. The moon landing - should this be in caps -- i.e. the Moon Landing -- or the moon landing? When can the moon landing be in caps e.g. - So it was more than a decade from the first moon landing to the first flight of the Space Shuttle. And we are long overdue for its replacement. Thanks.Read More...
Unless it is part of a title, "moon landing" would not be capitalized. RachelRead More...

in the tennis court

Instead of saying on the tennis court, is there any situation that we may use in the tennis court?Read More...
The usual preposition, as you say, is "on." This is because the tennis court is considered a surface on which the game of tennis is played. A tennis court may, however, also be considered as a space enclosed by a fence or walls. If the space within the fence or wall is the focus of the idea, the preposition 'in" may be used. Here is part of a historical essay by David L. Miller that begins by discussing this difference. (The entire essay is at http://web.utk.edu/~unistudy/ethics96/dlm1.html...Read More...

"Master's degree," "masters' degree," or "masters degree"?

This question has been sent in from "Anonymous" : The university offers 34 master's degree programs. OR The university offers 34 masters degree programs. OR The university offers 34 masters' degree programs. AND I got my master's in political science. OR I got my masters in political science. OR I got my masters' in political science. Thank you.Read More...
It's master's degree , according to the New York Times Manual* and the American Heritage Dictionary**. Rachel _______ *The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Random House. 1999 **The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Houghton Mifflin Company. 2003.Read More...

Agreement with correlative conjunctions.

Hello to all. Would you please give me any advice about "either" and "neither"? Either the libraly or book stores have current magazines. Neither book stores nor the library has the novel. Do either horror stories or a suspenseful story appeal to you? Has neither Tom nor the other students read the book yet? I hear the verb should agree with the noun after "or" or "nor" in affirmative sentences, but, in interrogative sentences, the verb agree with the nearer noun. Is it true? I've seen some...Read More...
The verb used with either...or and neither...nor correctly agrees with the noun that is closest to it. This is true for statements and questions. Your sentences are correct in this way: Either the library or the book stores HAVE current magazines. Neither the book stores nor the library HAS the novel. DO either horror stories or a suspenseful story appeal to you? HAS neither Tom nor the other students read the book yet? DO either comic books or the novel, "The Western Lands" interest you?Read More...

since 3 months ago

Is "Since 3 months ago"... acceptable if I would want to express that the patient has been e.g. doing a certain thing for the past 3 months?Read More...
You'll find a thread on this very topic, started by Hogel, posted April 8, 2004. It contains two questions and two answers, all about "since [time period] ago." Here are my two answers. The expression "since (X) years ago" occurs quite frequently with the present perfect in English. Here are some examples from Google: --Since 12,500 years ago, Glacier Peak has produced only a few ash eruptions, all of small volume. --In small companies (those with 100 or fewer employees), almost half say...Read More...

'Think' and 'not'

I have a question about the following sentences: 1. I don't think he is coming. 2. I think he is not coming. As far as I know, the first sentence is correct (where 'not' is used in the subordinate clause). But is the second sentence correct or wrong? Any rules here?Read More...
Both sentences are correct. In the first sentence, "not" is in the main clause; in the second, "not" is in the subordinate clause. Here's a passage from Michael Swan's Practical English Usage: "When we introduce negative ideas with think, believe, suppose, imagine and words with similar meanings, we usually make the first verb ( think , etc.) negative, not the second. I don't think you've met my wife . (More natural than I think you haven't met my wife.) I don't believe she's at home. (More...Read More...

"I've known I had" or "I've known I have"

Dear All, Please take a look at the following sentences : 1)I've always known I had bad skin. 2)I've always known I have bad skin. Q: Are both sentences grammatically correct ? Q: If yes, is the differecence being that in (1) I no longer have bad skin whereas in (2) the bad skin remains ? Thank you. RickyRead More...
It's hard to tell what motivates tense choice after the present perfect. If the speaker wishes to make it clear that the material in the that-clause is especially relevant at the present moment, the speaker may choose the present tense. Here is an example from Google: --He is a very talented horse and we have always known that he IS capable of winning a race like this if he is in the right mood . (The idea of being capable is especially relevant to the present.) If the idea is not especially...Read More...

Repeat preposition after "than"?

This questions was part of an earlier question, asked by Kis . This sentence : The sun rises earlier in summer than winter. Is it okay? Or does it need 'in' in front of 'winter'?Read More...
The preposition has to be repeated in order to make the comparison equal. Without the second preposition, you would be comparing things that are unequal, i.e. "in summer" vs. "winter." In informal speech situations, speakers sometimes omit the second of two prepositions, but it's not considered logically correct. Marilyn MartinRead More...

if there ever was (X)

Dear All, A while back I asked about a sentence with the phrase "If ever there was ..." in it and Marilyn Martin explained that the phrase "is an idiomatic expression ...". My question now is to ask if the following sentence falls in the same category "If John was ever smart, I'm Albert Einstein." Thank you. RickyRead More...
No, this is a case of an if-sentence being used to negate a previous assertion and to do so in an ironic way. It is a response to a previous assertion or suggestion--in this case, that John is or was "smart." This kind of if-sentence means If it is (or ever was) the case that X is/was true, then Y (which we know is impossible) is also true. The corollary of this is Because Y is clearly untrue. X is also untrue. So the speaker says If it was ever the case that John was smart, then I'm Albert...Read More...
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