The phrase ‘all and only’ is concise and expresses a precise logical meaning, but it is too compressed for most people to understood it. I first came across the set phrase ‘all and only’ at the age of 25 when I began working in continental Europe. One of my new colleagues often drafted letters containing…… Continue reading All and only
Which conjunction do English speakers use with the comparative form of adjectives to describe a test applied to 2 nouns in order to select one of those nouns? I have the impression that American English uses, for example, ‘the lower of A or B’ where British English uses ‘the lower of A and B’. I…… Continue reading The lower of one thing or the lower of 2 things?
I recently saw a statement about ‘feedback on Jane and my visit to London’. The phrase ‘Jane and my visit’ seems ungrammatical to me. This post considers why. It looks at how to form genitives of nouns, co-ordinated noun phrases and personal pronouns. It then goes on to consider whether it is possible to form…… Continue reading Odd gap in the English genitive
In early September this year, the new UK Prime Mister, Liz Truss (remember her?) appointed Conservative MP Thérèse Coffey as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Soon after, the press reported that Thérèse Coffey had sent staff in her new departmental fiefdom a strict manual on writing. I haven’t seen the writing manual…… Continue reading Flushing out the Oxford comma to clear the NHS backlog
The conjunction while can have 2 meanings: a temporal meaning, introducing a subordinate clause that refers to an action occurring at the same time as an action described by the main clause: They whistled while they worked.a concessive meaning, as a synonym for although: While they aren’t perfect, they are good enough. Avoid while for…… Continue reading Time to stop talking about the time
In this post, I look at a construction that I often saw in drafts of documents I was reviewing. Although the construction is grammatical and concise, readers find it difficult to process. I explain what this construction is and why it is difficult. I also summarise a published review of some of the vast linguistics…… Continue reading Addicted to ‘right node raising’
Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun). However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?
Does the verb be have the same function in the two phrases was born and was killed? I don’t thing so. I just tried writing the following sentence: He was born in 1898 and killed in action in 1918. To my ear, that sounds very odd. I think it needs to be He was born…… Continue reading Was born and was killed
I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language. General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers
Today I worked through the last chapter (chapter 12) of Swedish in three months, covering: ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and”all and ‘whole’ the impersonal pronoun ‘man’ adjectives without a nounhow to translate some common English verbsspellingother words ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and’ Antingen … eller = either ……… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 38