Category: Verbs

Declining or Just Changing?

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 11:00 pm

If you think you know your English, Ammon Shea’s Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation might make you question your most cherished notions. The book has a lot to offer grammar sticklers with open minds, but it will challenge—and enrage—most traditionalists. People who care about language tend to deplore the slovenly habits of their …

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Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part Two

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Understanding sentence structures helps us shape the art of good writing. In Part One of our discussion, we identified the four foundational sentence constructions and reviewed the first two, simple and compound sentences. We’ll next look at complex and compound-complex sentences. Complex Sentence A complex sentence has one independent main clause and at least one dependent clause, …

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What Does vs. What Do

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Should we say, "What does Gloria and I have in common?" or "What do Gloria and I have in common?" If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, "Gloria and I does/do have what in common." Gloria and I are the subjects so we need a plural verb. Which …

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Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part One

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 11:00 pm

The art of writing resembles any trade that begins with the basics and evolves into skillful applications of them. A key component of precise and eloquent composition is understanding sentence structures. English comprises four foundational sentence constructions: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. In part one of our discussion, we’ll review simple and compound sentences. Simple …

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Nuggets from Ol’ Diz

Posted on Monday, March 25, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Let’s welcome baseball season with this item by our late veteran copy editor and word nerd Tom Stern. Baseball’s back. I realize a lot of people don’t care. To them, sports fans are knuckle draggers who probably also read comic books while chewing gum with their mouths open. But baseball isn’t called “the grand old …

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I’ll Be Hanged! Or, Have I Just Gone Missing?

Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at 11:00 pm

GONE MISSING Several readers responded to our recent article The Media Made Me Do It, which asked for alternatives to gone missing. Interestingly, the overwhelming choice was to simply replace the phrase with is missing or has been missing. This is fine in many, perhaps most, cases, e.g., The man was missing instead of The man went missing. But it’s no help at all …

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Can vs. May

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Although, traditionally, can has meant "to be able" and may has meant "to be permitted" or to express possibility, both can and may are commonly used interchangeably (especially in spoken, informal language) in respect to permission. Even the Oxford English dictionary informs us that the permission use of can is not incorrect, but it's better and more polite to use may in formal …

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Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at 11:00 pm

"Nature abhors a vacuum," Aristotle once said, and the same holds true for language. If we detect an empty lexical space because we feel existing words no longer occupy it well, we will look to fill it, often with something that seems or sounds fresh within our current culture and era. For a time, we …

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Notwithstanding, Can We Withstand Confusion of Meaning?

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Developing a rich vocabulary through the reading and writing of English adds color to our thoughts, our speech, and our lives. Through a growing lexicon, we convey and connect to others with clearer intention and meaning using greater precision and eloquence. We also sharpen our ability to see relationships among words by understanding their roots, …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, at 11:00 pm

What is a gerund and why do you need to know? Maybe it would be better to answer the second part of the question first so that you have some motivation to identify gerunds. If you are able to pick the gerund(s) out in your sentence, you will avoid a grammar gaffe that often goes …

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Exploring Some English Miscellany

Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, at 11:00 pm

American English offers us plenty to consider, discuss, and define. Some items warrant their own full and separate treatment; others gather as grammatical bits to be captured and held up like fireflies in a jar. We’ve collected another group of these linguistic lightning bugs to arrive at more direction for concise and careful writing. Let’s …

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Clarifying the Conditional Tense

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The conditional tense—also sometimes referred to as the conditional mood—communicates what happens, will happen, might have happened, or would have happened if we do, will do, or did do something. The situation described can be real or imaginary; in either case, an action relies on something else (a condition). For that reason, most English sentences …

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Pronouncing the Word Blessed

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We received a number of inquiries from readers asking about the proper pronunciation of the word blessed when used in a way that we were not aware of when our original e-newsletter on this subject was issued on August 11, 2012. In order to provide what we hope is now complete coverage of the topic, today we …

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Shall I or Will I Use the Right Auxiliary Verb?

Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Few will ever forget the words spoken by Winston Churchill in June 1940 under the thickening shadow of Nazi aggression: “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and strength in …

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