The perfect tense in English reports past events that continue to have an effect in the present. This leads to some interesting effects that are sometimes called lifetime ‘effects’. This name is used because whether a sentence is acceptable (felicitous) depends on whether it relates to a person or subject that still exists. For example,…… Continue reading Perfect tense: lifetime effects
Editors (both professional and amateur) have often warned me against using brackets. They are averse to brackets because they view brackets as a sign of indecisiveness and of an addiction to parenthetical digressions. They often suggest commas instead of brackets. Up to a point, their aversion is justified. Yet commas are sometimes less clear than…… Continue reading In defence of brackets
In English, auxiliary verbs (have and be) and modal verbs behave differently from all other verbs. For example, they combine differently with negatives, as shown in the following table for auxiliaries (have and be), a modal verb (can) and another verb (go). TypePositiveNegativeAux (have)You have goneYou have not goneAux (be)You are goingYou are not goingModalYou…… Continue reading You need not understand
The purpose of this post is to: discuss two ways of presenting infinitives in lists; explore the nature of infinitives preceded by to; andconclude on how to present infinitives preceded by to. Infinitives in lists My ex-colleague Michael Butcher, who was Editorial Director of the IFRS Foundation from around 2001 to around 2011, would have…… Continue reading Infinitives in lists
A nearly monosyllabic (in Italian) statement about the state of the world in 1529. Language Log » Filosofia monosillabica (upenn.edu) My attempt at a translation: Those who can, don’t want toThose who want to, can’tThose who know how, don’tThose who do, don’t know howAnd thus the world goes badly Pedants’ corner My translation commits an…… Continue reading The world in 1529
Academics often use long words. Must they always do so? To make a point, the economist Paul Samuelson once wrote a tour de force of a paper, ending with the following remarkable punchline: No need to say more. I’ve made my point. And, save for the last word, have done so in prose of but…… Continue reading Must profs always use long words?
Talking a few days ago about reopening society after the lockdown, Boris Johnson said he was cautiously optimistic. Coming back to that topic last week, he said that he was now ‘even more cautiously optimistic’. He probably meant to say that he was now even more optimistic, but his careless phrasing was ambiguous. His words…… Continue reading Even more cautiously optimistic
Many of us use the passive too much in our writing. As a result, writing manuals and editors often advise us not to use it. But the passive does have legitimate uses, so we need to cut back on our use of the passive, not drop it totally. A few weeks ago, I was reviewing…… Continue reading Fear and loathing of the passive