Category: Verbs

Don’t Blur Fine Distinctions

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013, at 7:01 pm

If Helen offers André food, but André has just eaten, he will say, “Thank you, but I’m not really hungry.” If Helen persists, André might say the same words in a different order: “Thank you, but I’m really not hungry,” which lets her know in a civil way that she’s not going to change his …

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Leonard’s Ten Commandments

Posted on Monday, August 26, 2013, at 2:22 pm

The writer Elmore Leonard, who died in 2013 at the age of 87, was the master of hard-bitten prose. He started out as a pulp novelist, and went on to transcend the genre. Since the mid-1950s, more than forty of his works have been adapted for movies and TV, many of them featuring such A-listers …

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Nuggets from Ol’ Diz

Posted on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 4:24 pm

Let’s welcome baseball season with this item by 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 game” for …

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Pronouncing the Word Blessed

Posted on Saturday, August 11, 2012, at 2:28 pm

We sometimes receive inquiries from readers regarding the proper way to pronounce blessed. The word blessed can be pronounced in two different ways according to its part of speech in the sentence. Rule 1. When blessed is used as a verb, it is pronounced with one syllable (blest). Example: Before we ate, our uncle Tony blessed [blest] the …

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If I Would Have vs. If I Had

Posted on Saturday, April 4, 2009, at 7:25 pm

When talking about something that didn't happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done). For example, you find out that your brother saw a movie yesterday. You would have liked to see it too, but …

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Nouns Can Become Verbs

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, at 10:11 am

E-Newsletter reader Clifford A. recently wrote: My wife says she texted our daughter. I say, I sent her a text message. Is texted an accepted usage? English allows many nouns to become verbs. We can table a motion, salt our food, and water our plants. Particularly in the realm of developing technology, new usages are …

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Are You Among the Many Who Do This?

Posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 9:08 pm

Can you guess which word I see misspelled most often? Did you guess misspelled? You’re getting warm. Actually, it’s grammar. From my experience, I think it’s safe to estimate that 20 percent of the English-speaking world spells it with an -er ending. Before anyone points an accusing finger at anyone else, we might want to …

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Irregular Verbs

Posted on Friday, July 18, 2008, at 6:25 pm

A verb is called a regular verb if its past tense and past participle are formed by adding -ed (waited, insisted) or sometimes just -d (breathed, replaced). Verbs in English are irregular if they don't have a conventional -ed ending in the past tense. Example: Go (present tense), went (past tense), gone (past participle) Note: …

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When to Add s to a Verb

Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2007, at 8:44 pm

Our review of English verbs has included discussion of when to add es to a verb. You might also wonder when to add s to the end of a verb. With verbs, only those with a third-person singular noun or pronoun (he, she, boat, courage) as a subject add an s to the end. Verbs with plural nouns and …

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You Could Look It Up

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2007, at 2:06 pm

I hope you enjoy this. Thanks to Peter H. for sending it. There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is up. It's easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, …

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What Does vs. What Do

Posted on Friday, March 2, 2007, at 3:10 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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Can vs. May

Posted on Saturday, February 24, 2007, at 12:07 am

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 in respect to permission. Example: He can hold his breath for 30 seconds. Meaning: He is able to hold his breath for 30 seconds. Example: He may hold …

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What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007, at 6:00 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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Effect vs. Affect

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007, at 3:57 pm

Knowing whether to use effect or affect may not qualify you as a genius, but you will be demonstrating an understanding about a grammar issue most people find perplexing. We trust that the strategies offered here will clear up any confusion you have had. Rule: Use the verb effect when you mean bring about or brought …

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