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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...

Singular or plural verb?

This question has been sent in by Susan McKenzie: I wonder if you could help me. 1. I don't know whether it should be "stem" or "stems." "¢ and his vibrant depictions of everyday life stem from his own recollections. Thanks.Read More...
In your sentence: " ....and his vibrant depictions of everyday life stem from his own recollections," the verb is STEM to go with "depictions." The prepositional hrase "of everyday life," which modifies "depictions," does not affect the agreement of the subject (depictions) and its verb (stem). RachelRead More...

"Do good," "do well" and "make good"

Dear Experts, So we never DO GOOD ON SOMETHING though we DO WELL on tests, exams, etc. Granted. What about DO GOOD, DO WELL and MAKE GOOD used absolutely. Will you confirm the following distinctions: do good do well make good do good – 1. be of help; be beneficial: I wonder if it will do good. I wonder if it will help the children. 2. help through charitable work, etc.: Sometimes I doubt if she will be as ready to begin doing good again. 3. (followed by Infinitive) is used to suggest acting...Read More...
Here are the major meanings of these three phrases. A few of the meanings and examples are very similar to Yuri's, but they are not always the identical ones. DO GOOD : 1. Perform acts of kindness or charity. --He vowed to abandon his evil ways and dedicate his life to doing good --Some parents think they're doing good when they give their children unlimited freedom, but they may actually be doing harm 2. (Usually with a quantifier) Be beneficial; have the desired effect --You could try...Read More...

Construction of "when" clause

Which one of the following correct? 1. A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when comes into contact with air 2. A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when it comes into contact with air Thanks.Read More...
Only the second sentence is correct: A silkworm has glands that secrete a liquid that hardens into silk when IT comes into contact with air. The first sentence is not correct. The adverb clause needs a subject – IT – which is missing. RachelRead More...

Article before a singular count noun? Before a proper noun?

Dear teachers, I found in my English textbook and workbook an idea expressed with two different sentences. For example, A: What is that sound? B: It sounds like a violin / violin. A: Who does he look like? B: He looks like a Santa Clause / Santa Clause. My question is whether we need the article "a" or not in the second sentence of each pair? Thanks a lot for your reply!Read More...
The first example has a singular count noun, "violin." Because it's a singular count noun, it needs an article. Because it's not "shared" information, it needs the indefinite article "a." Therefore, the correct version is It sounds like A violin The second example is different. It has a proper noun, "Santa Claus" (not *Clause). You can think of this proper noun in two different ways. If you are thinking of the personage named "Santa Claus" in Western tradition, you will not use an article,...Read More...

"Than ever" & etc.

Hello, teachers! Could you please tell me if these expressions are acceptable and natural? 1. He is studying harder than ever. 2. He is studying harder than he [was, did, studied]. 3. He is studying harder than he [has, has been, has done, has studied]. Thank you very much. Enjoy the sunlight slanting through the trees! Best Regards.Read More...
Sentence 1 is entirely natural. The word "ever" stands for the phrase "than he has ever studied." Sentences 2 and 3 have more than one option, depending on the time period with which the present activity is being contrasted. There needs to be a time expression, either explicit or understood in the previous context of the utterance. For example: 2a. He is studying harder than he was [when you last saw him two years ago] 2b. He is studying harder than he did [in high school] It's possible, but...Read More...

"Calm down" & "calm oneself down"

Hello, teachers! Is there any difference in meaning or nuance? If there is, would you let me know, please? 1. She tried to calm down. 2. She tried to calm herself down. Thank you very much. Best Regards.Read More...
"Calm down" has an implied reflexive pronoun ("oneself") so it doesn't need the pronoun. One usually says either "calm down." or "calm (oneself)." The two natural possibilities are therefore She tried to calm down She tried to calm herself It's also possible to say "calm (oneself) down," but that is somewhat redundant. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"It's time (that)" + which form of the verb?

Hello, A student of mine asked me about the answer to the following question: He is already on the wrong side of forty. It's about time he _____ himself a wife and settled down. My instinct tells me that the answer to this question should be "found" and not "find." However, I can't give any good explanation why the past tense would be needed here. Is "find" possible? I keep saying it over and over to myself and now I can't decide if it sounds correct or incorrect, and I'm a native speaker!Read More...
"It's time (that)" and "it's about time (that)" introduce a kind of conditional clause, a present contrary-to-fact situation. It's similar to saying "I wish (that)" + the conditional. Past verb forms are used to express a present time, although they may also refer to the future: "¢ It's time you cleaned this carpet, don't you think? "¢ It's time that we had a talk. I have something important to say. "¢ It's about time he found a wife and settled down. These examples appear on Google: "¢ It's...Read More...

"Pull out"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Would you say that the use of PULL OUT in such contexts as 'pull out an idea', 'pull out an answer' is colloquial rather than neutral in style?Read More...
Several dictionaries that the Grammar Exchange has consulted do not list this particular meaning of "pull out." However, the Longman Phrasal Verbs Dictionary does give this meaning as one of seven: " especially AmE: To separate particular facts of ideas from others that you do not need, so that you can think about them or use them on their own: I'd like you to read through the report before our next meeting and pull out any points that you want us to look at. Similar to "extract." Perhaps an...Read More...

Order of phrases

This question was sent in to the Grammar Exchange by Lina : Dear teachers: Would you help me with the order of the phrases? Which is the right order? 1) That park is twenty minutes by bus from my house. 2) That park is twenty minutes from my house by bus. Is there any rule or just a custom? Yours truly, LinaRead More...
Yes, exactly. The information about who did the kidnapping is the more important information. Marilyn MartinRead More...

"Do good" and "Do well"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Is it OK to use DO GOOD ON SOMETHING to mean DO WELL ON SOMETHING in the following contexts: I'll be sure to work hard and do good on this. I hope that I do good on all of my tests and paper...Read More...
The standard adverb is "do well." You do well on your exams, you do well in your studies, you do well at school or at work. The use of "do good" to mean the same thing is not even colloquial, it's nonstandard. There is an expression, "do good," which means "perform actions that benefit others." In this expression, the word "good" is a noun, not an adverb. You sometimes hear the rather cynical expression "to do well by doing good," meaning "to profit economically as a result of engaging in...Read More...

"Cut loose"

This question has been sent in by Yuri : Would you agree with the following differentiation in meaning of the expressions: cut loose from something cut loose with something cut loose from something - get away from smth.; break ties with smth.: When these farm boys get to town, they really cut loose from convention. cut loose with something - (sl.) speak or act without restraint: cut loose with a string of curses; cut loose with a loud cheer.Read More...
The distinctions between these two colloquial expressions are somewhat more complex. The phrasal-prepositional verb "cut loose FROM" means "cut or sever ties with." Although I can't find a source that says so, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "cut loose WITH" is a phrasal-prepositional verb meaning "to emit or produce (sound or movement) without restraint." (I'm also going to say that there's a different verb, "cut loose," which will be described below.) Here are a few examples...Read More...

Using "and" and "to"

I would like to find out the difference between the following sentences: 1- To go to see. 2- To go and see. Thank you for helping me. CyrusRead More...
"Go and" + verb is an informal alternative to the standard "go to" + verb. It's very similar to "try and" instead of "try to." There is a difference in usage between the two verbs, however. "Try and" can be used only with the base form of the following verb (" Please try AND MAKE a little less noise" but not *He tried AND MADE me believe he was serious about dating me"). The correct form is "He tried TO MAKE me believe he was serious...." "Go and" can be used with a following verb in the...Read More...
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