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"In the laboratory" or "at the laboratory"

I've had this preposition dilemma on mind for quite a long time. Situation: Some students leave the classrrom on order to go to the Multimedia Laboratory, so the teacher decides to leave a note on the door for latecomers. Question: Which one is correct? What are the differences? We're in the Laboratory or We're at the Laboratory Thank you very much. AlexRead More...
We're "in the laboratory" describes your position: you are inside of something, surrounded by four walls, enclosed by it, surrounded by it. The Collins COBUILD Dictionary of the English Language has this entry under "in": "1. Someone or something that is IN something else is enclosed by it or surrounded by it...2. If something happens IN a place, it happens there... spending a few days in a hotel... ." The dictionary's definition for AT includes: "1. You use AT to indicate the place or event...Read More...

Grammatical principle

Hello, The following is from an English newspaper : 'Ever since I was small, I have hoped that they would be proud of me, happy that they HAD a clever, beautiful daughter rather than feeling inferior to others because they did not have a son.' What is the grammatical explanation for using 'HAD' please ? Thank you. Regards, RickyRead More...
Traditional grammar alone does not have a satisfactory explanation for the verb tense usage in this kind of sentence. We need a semantic dimension as well. First, the past tense form had is perfectly natural in this context. There is no rule against using the past tense form in a dependent clause after a main verb in the present perfect. For example, one can say either 1) Jane has always known that she speaks French better than her brother OR 2) Jane has always known that she spoke French...Read More...

'Had had'

Hello, What are the rules for using 'had had' ? Thank you. Regards, RickyRead More...
Benjilo is perfectly right in the simple presentation of "had had.". Let me add that this past perfect form has another use: after if and wish to refer to events that did not happen, (sometimes called past unreal or contrary-to-fact sentences, or third conditional): We didn't have enough money, but if we had had the money, we would have gone on the trip with you. I wish we had had the money. RachelRead More...

You got...?

How can I explain to a student why the following two sentences are incorrect in standard English but commonly used in spoken English? You got any cash on you? You gonna buy me a present? Thanks!Read More...
You've explained it already – your two sentences would not fit the definition of "standard English," but very definitely are informal or spoken English. The sentence "You got any cash on you?" is a shortened form of "Have you got any cash on you?" "Have ...got", according to the Collins COBUILD English Dictionary*: "In spoken English, you use have got when you are saying that someone owns, possesses, or is holding a particular thing, or when you are mentioning a quality or characteristic...Read More...

Verb tense and 'would' in subordinate clauses with conditional meaning

Hello, Is the following example correct ? A.I think the best way would be for me to pick you up after your plane HAD LANDED. If the above is correct, do we change ALL the verbs in the subordinate clause into past verbs ? Also, what is the difference between the following 2 sentences : 1. Would you follow me wherever I went ? 2. Would you follow me wherever I go ? Many thanks. RickyRead More...
None of my reference sources has anything on this topic. Here is how I see the question. Let's take the first example: 1) I think the best way would be for me to pick you up after your plane HAD LANDED There is no need to use a past tense verb in the adverbial clause introduced by after . The use of would here is not about past time; it's a downtoned (softened, more tentative) version of is or will be . It does not have the same force as a past tense main clause verb of speaking or of mental...Read More...

Passive Voice

Hello, Why can't you write a sentence with certain verbs in the passive voice? For example: He had the ball. The ball was had by him. I know that it doesn't sound right; but, is there a rule?Read More...
Here's an answer to the first question. The passive is not used with certain verbs that express the ideas of having or being, or a relationship between two noun phrases. Here's a list of the most common of these*: 1) She has a bad cold (Exception: the saying "A good time was had by all") 2) Do you possess enough life insurance for your family? 3) She lacks a sense of humor 4) That color suits you beautifully 5) It doesn't become a lady like you to make such a fuss 6) My clothes don't fit me...Read More...

'One of' and 'none'... singular or plural ?

Which is correct please ? A. One of you/us/them HAS/HAVE (?) to drive. B. None of you/us/them UNDERSTAND/UNDERSTANDS(?) Thank you for all your help. RickyRead More...
From The New York Times online, June 18, 2002: ....Bob Woodward, The Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, and co-author Scott Armstrong have said that five justices actively participated in the book. None of those sources are identified by name in the book... (Bolding supplied by me.) RachelRead More...

"Different to" or "different from" ?

Hello, Please take a look at the following sentences : A. The experience will expose her to different people and environment TO that at school. B. My taste in food is different TO his. Is 'to' correct in both the sentences ? I sometimes hear 'from' being used instead. Thanks. RickyRead More...
Using a Google search I found thousands of instances of different to (+noun), almost all seemingly from either the UK or from countries closely associated with Britain, such as Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, etc. Others were from European countries such as France, Russia, and Spain. I didn't find any instances on websites clearly identifiable as from the U.S. but of course there's no good way to tell. Mark Israel has an interesting discussion of the three forms different from,...Read More...

"Practice" and "practise"

I need to do more practice. (I assume in this case "practice" is a noun, and therefore the sentence "I need to do more practise" is incorrect). (NB UK spelling) Help with this would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks JonRead More...
Jon 100 asks: ...is this correct? I need to do more practice. (I assume in this case "practice" is a noun, and therefore the sentence "I need to do more practise" is incorrect). (NB UK spelling) Jon is correct. In the construction "I need to do more practice ," the word practice is a noun, not a verb form. (A Google search turns up no occurrences of the UK verb spelling practise in such a construction.) I was surprised to find that in this construction with do , the noun practice is actually...Read More...

Type of Sentence with Transitions/Conjunctive Adverbs

What kind of sentence would you say that a transition/conjunctive adverb starts? Example: However, the picnic was called off due to the rain. Would it start a simple sentence because it has only one subject and verb? This seems logical, yet bizarre, to me. What are your thoughts?Read More...
Your example sentence is indeed a simple sentence, as you stated. The Simon & Schuster Handbook For Writers* defines a simple sentence in this way: "A simple sentence is composed of a single independent clause with no dependent clauses. It has one subject and one predicate (either or both may be compound). It can contain modifying words or phrases." Your sentence fits with this definition. The addition of "however" and the addition of the prepositional phrase "due to the rain" have no...Read More...

"-ing" ending: noun or verb?

My first query relates to these sentences: I am doing the ironing. I am doing some jumping. Are the words "ironing" and "jumping" in the above sentences nouns or verbs? I think nouns but I'm not completely sure. JonRead More...
They act as nouns. They might be verbals, as Benjamin states. But they are also gerunds. The definition of "gerund" in The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary* is: "A gerund is a noun formed from a verb which refers to an action, process or state. In English, gerunds end in ˜-ing," for example, ˜running' and ˜thinking.'" Rachel _______ *HarperCollins 1995Read More...

" Good walls make good neighbours"

Hello, Could someone please explain the meaing of " Good Walls Make Good Neighbours"Read More...
A well-known American poem illustrates a slightly different meaning of the saying. Here is a partial version of the poem. Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mending Wall SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.... No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to...Read More...

About article usage

I have a question about the use of article in front of a proper noun. Consider the following sentence: An angry Bush condemned the Jerusalem bombing and called for all countries "to fight off terror, to cut off money to organizations such as Hamas... Is it grammatical to use article "an" in front of a famous name like "Bush"? In this sentence, can "the" be replaced "an"? If yes, does the meaning change?Read More...
The names of persons, when used in their regular sense do not have articles. Names of persons may, however, be treated as common nouns under special circumstances, e.g. "I used to know a Jennifer Lopez in high school but she wasn't the Jennifer Lopez ." This particular usage of the indefinite article a(n) with the name of a person is a special way of saying that someone is/was in a certain temporary state. It could be paraphrased using a nonrestrictive relative clause, as "Bush, who...Read More...

"Many" vs "much"

Do you say: "many bubbles" or "much bubbles"?Read More...
You could say "There are many bubbles in the bathtub," as well as "there are lots of/ a lot of bubbles in the bathtub." Both are perfectly correct. Probably, conversationally, you would use "a lot of" more comfortably than "many."Read More...

Sequence of tense

One of the rules for sequence of tense states that if the verb in the independent clause is in the past or past perfect, the past or past perfect must be used in the dependent clause (except in the case of general truths). With this in mind, please consider the following : A.I realised that she HAD committed the crime. B.I realised that there ARE more good people than bad. C.I got the impression yesterday that she WANTS to end her life. My question is this : does the rule apply in the...Read More...
RS asks about whether the nature of the verb in the dependent clause has anything to do with the choice of verb tense. The answer is no. It makes no difference whether the verb in the dependent clause is one expressing a state, an activity, a single completed action, or repeated actions in the past or present. Here are some examples of the choices available: A. Past perfect in dependent clause: 1) I realized that she had committed the crime (completed action prior to the realization) 2) I...Read More...

"That" as relative pronoun after quantifiers

And one more question :-) Most grammar books say that after quantifiers like all, every, some, any, only and so on, we usually use the relative pronoun 'that'. What I'd like to know is: She is the only girl in the class that can play the violin. When I use who instead of that in this sentence, is it unacceptable in standard English? According to the books I've read, I thought we do not necessarily need to use 'that' in this case. I just want to make sure. I'd appreciate your kind reply :-)Read More...
Not true. Look at these sentences: And now, ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the man who is going to be the next president of the United States. Those are the people whom we need to ask. One problem which may be overwhelming is the lack of air conditioning. "That" is also possible in these sentences, but "who," "whom," and "which" are certainly correct. RachelRead More...

"Both...and"

Glad to meet you. I hope I can learn lots of good English and have fun, too. I'd like to know if 'not...both' structure can be used to mean 'one of them is not...' I read in some books that we can't use 'both...not' and that we instead use 'neither'. The sentence 'Both of them are not here.' is incorrect, isn't it? Then, can I say "Not both of them are here." to mean "One of them is here, and the other is not."?Read More...
"Both of them are not here" is not exactly incorrect. It is logical and understandable and means that both of them are elsewhere, or that both of them are absent. However, "both" usually joins two parallel elements in an affirmative way (or in a question). The entry for both...and in the Collins Cobuild English Dictionary is: "You use the structure both...and when you are giving two facts or alternatives and emphasizing that each of them is true or possible. Now women work both before and...Read More...

Reported speech

Hello everyone. Here in England, I've been told that if the meaning is unclear, we do not backshift in reported speech. For example, ' I enquired at the medical centre if they did blood tests.' - this could mean that I wanted to know if they did blood tests in the past rather than in the present. So, to avoid misunderstanding, I should say instead ' I enquired at the medical centre if they DO blood tests.' Another example : 'I was told when I joined that I had to teach first year students...Read More...
The general "sequence of tenses" rule--if the reporting verb is in the past, the verb in the clause telling what was reported is also past--is always acceptable. If, on the other hand, speakers want to make it clear that they are talking about a present (or future) situation or action, and not about a past one, the verb(s) in the dependent clause may be in the present or future. RS's analysis is intuitively correct but needs some further explanation. The simplest way to explain the use of...Read More...

Usage of "another"

Is the use of "another" in the following sentence grammatical? The campaign will cost the airline 400 million dollars, in addition to another 600 million to be spent promoting the country and the airline as Sars-free. In my understanding, another in this sentence would be correct if it reads another 400 million. Can "another" be used with unequal referent?Read More...
Ananja's question is very logical. According to a Google search, the number or amount of something that is modified by another is usually a number or amount that is identical to a previously (or sometimes subsequently) stated number or amount, as in 1) One drought in 1769-1770 claimed the lives of 10 million people , while another drought in the same region in 1865-1866 claimed another ten- million lives . 2) Middle and elementary schools in Beijing will remain closed for another two weeks...Read More...

"Responsible" -- can it be used as a noun?

Dear Grammar Exchange, Could you tell me if "responsible" can be used as a noun? If not, which generic term could be used for a person responsible/responsible party or entity Ex. somebody (a person/a company) is responsible for a damage. Can I say: the responsible will be charged with the costs incurred? Many thanks in advance for your help. HenriRead More...
The word "responsible" is not listed in dictionaries and references as a noun, but as an adjective, as you realize. Neither is it used as a noun in legal language. The term you need is "the responsible party," according to two respected lawyers in Florida. RachelRead More...

"Been" and "Gone"

One last question: Is "been" ever considered the past participle of the verb "go"? I know that "go-went-gone" is usually considered correct, but though "been" is the past participle of the verb "be", can it be considered as the past participle of the verb "go"? I have been (gone) to Disneyland many times. Thank you in advance. Any answers or explanations you can offer will be very much appreciated. (This question was the second part of a query posted by "Confused Canadian." The Grammar...Read More...
Been is not the past participle of go , even though in the case of this idiomatic use of been one might be tempted to think of it that way. Been is still the past participle of be . Have been to (location) does not mean the same thing as have gone to (location). The difference is one of aspect. Whereas have gone to indicates travel toward a location, have been to indicates a going to the target location and coming back--a round trip, if you will. Furthermore, have gone to focuses on the...Read More...

Present perfect or Present perfect Continuous

Hi, Please could you tell me which of these two sentences is correct: 1) My family gave us quite a lot of helpful advice when we bought the house. 2) My family were giving us quite a lot of helpful advice when we bought the house. Which one is correct and why? Thanks in advance.Read More...
The first sentence is correct: My family gave us quite a lot of helpful advice when we bought the house With both verbs in the simple past, the sentence means that first we bought the house, and then, immediately afterwards and probably because of buying the house, they gave you advice. Perhaps what you mean to say is: My family gave us quite a lot of helpful advice when we WERE BUYING the house. In this sentence, the past progressive verb – WERE BUYING – describes a longer, unfinished...Read More...

"Only but"

Can you explain the meaning and usage of the phrase "only but" in this sentence? The Government can only but reiterate its absolute condemnation of Israel's policy of extra-judicial killings.Read More...
You have good reason to wonder about the combination ? can only but in this sentence, because it's not correct. The writer used both adverbs together, when s/he should have used either "can only" or "can but," but not both. A Google search, which found no instances of the combination ? can only but , confirms the fact that they are not used together. Here are some examples of correct use from a Google search. Can only is the usual form: 1) It's gone. And I can only wonder who took it. 2) But...Read More...

in/on the bed

Which is correct : I sleep in my bed or I sleep on my bed ? Some native speakers told me that both sentences are correct. If both are correct, what's the difference ?Read More...
The usual expressions in English are "be in bed" or "stay in bed." These expressions appear without an article – such as "the" – or other determiner, such as the possessive "my." This omission of the article or determiner with certain common nouns is also seen in expressions like "in/ at school," "in/at college," "in/at church," and "at home." The expressions describe a general situation at a general place. To describe something happening at a particular school or in a particular building,...Read More...
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