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All the English You Will Ever Need

 

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The English language is constantly evolving, both the words we use and the rules that control the usage of those words.  Therefore, it is impossible to ever have a definitive grammar guide, or, if you will, a Complete Guide of American English.  And that’s our excuse.

 

 

Word of the Every So Often

July 15, 2019

cicerone:  (noun)  (pronounced:  sis-er-roni)  a guide who gives information to sightseers.  Our cicerone was only interested in macaroni, so we didn't see much of the city, but we were well fed.

 

 

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Wanna Hear a Joke?

Has anybody ever started a joke by saying, "I'm a racist, but..."? 

8:04 am pdt 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

More Fun with Commonly Confused Words:  of and 've

OK, so "'ve" is not technically a word, but the contraction of a word – have.  The problem with these two words is that when you hear a phrase like "could've," it sounds like "could of," so that's the way you spell it, which means you now no longer have an actual verb in your verb phrase, but a preposition.  And, grammatically speaking, that's not going to work at all. 

Luckily, there are very few times in the English language where "have" is used in a contraction.  For all practical purposes, there are only four and a half words that are commonly contracted with "have"–  should, would, could, might, and n't – the contracted form of "not."

When we speak, and when some of us write, we say things like, "You shouldn't've done that."  And, of course, what we're saying you shouldn't've done is following the "n't" with "of," such as "wouldn't of."  Once again, what you should be saying is "would not have."  Or, if you don't mind writing a bit informally, go ahead and use the double contraction.

There's a pretty simple rule here:  Anytime you use one of those words (should, could, would, might, not) and you follow it with "of," it's wrong.  If this is a problem for you, put those words on a Post-it and stick it on your computer monitor. 

And, sure, there are other words you can contract with "have," such as "will've" and "shall've," but, seriously!  When was the last time you said "will've"?  And you have to be legally British to say "shall've."

10:05 am pdt 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Lay and Lie

"Lay" and "lie" are two of the most confused words in the English language, and that's because they're... well... confusing. 

"To lay" means "to put, or to place."  As such, it requires a direct object.  For instance:  Please lay the gun on the table.  "To lie" means "to recline."  As such, it does not require a direct object.  For instance:  I want you to lie down.  ("down" in that sentence is not a direct object because it is not a noun; it is an adverb that tells "where.") 

By itself, that's not too confusing.  But then, because you can be your own direct object, you can always place yourself in bed, as in:  Lay yourself down.

Never mind that "lie" can also mean "to be untruthful," and that "lay" can also mean "aspect" (such as "the lay of the land").

But that's just the present tense.  If you really want to be confused, the past tense for "lie" is the present tense for "lay."  And it just gets sillier from there on out, what with "laid" and "lain," especially because you can get laid, but in that sense you don't necessarily need to be lying anywhere, but you may have to be lying to get laid... but I digress.  In short, the best way to know which is which is to use a chart.  But then, anytime you have to use a chart to understand which form of a word to use... yeah.  It's easy to see why these words are so often confused.


Infinitive

Present

Past

(simple)

Past

Participle

Present

Participle

to lay

lay (s)

laid

laid

laying

to lie

lie (s)

lay

lain

lying

 

As a quick review, participial forms of any verb, be they past or present, require helping verbs.  ("participial" = adjective; "participle" = noun)  For instance:  The gun had been laid on the table, and the body was lying on the floor.  The past participial form of any verb should not be used – ever – without a helping verb.  You can say:  I had seen it.  But you really shouldn't say:  I seen it... well, not if you don't want to sound uneducated.  On the other hand, you can use the present participial form of a verb without a helping verb, but when you do, it's no longer a verb.  For instance:  Lying on the bed is my favourite pastime.  In that sentence, what you are saying is:  This, here, is my favourite pastime.  And that makes the "This" – lying – the subject of the sentence, which means it's a noun.  And that's why a sentence like:  Moving to Hollywood... isn't a sentence at all.  It's a fragment, because it has no subject or main verb:  I will be moving to Hollywood... on the other hand, does.

9:14 am pdt 

Quote of the Morning:

Just because you can't smell it doesn't mean it don't stink.  (The Reverend Bob Bidwell)

8:25 am pdt 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Quote of the Afternoon:

"Technology is not hurting children.  It's parents' inability or unwillingness to control their children's use of technology that is hurting children.  But then, that's probably ture for anything."  Earl Eldridge

  

1:07 pm pdt 

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