Navigating Negative Constructions

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

The negative construction in English: We need it to state something is incorrect or not true. For example, if we look into a clear sky, we have the verbal component to express It is not raining. At the same time, English teachers and communication coaches will advise us to use negative constructions with care and restraint …

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The Media Made Me Do It

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 11:00 pm

I heard from a correspondent who hates the phrase gone missing. His e-mail called it an "ear-abrading" and "vulgar" usage. "Sends me right round the bend, mate!" he said. I did a little digging and found that he's far from alone. "Gone missing," according to a word nerd at the Boston Globe, is "the least …

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Adjectives and Adverbs: Another Look at -ly

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Those who study English grammar will eventually review the adverbial ending -ly. GrammarBook last wrote about Adjectives and Adverbs: When to use -ly in October 2007; the post has remained on our website since then to offer guidance on using the suffix. More than eleven years later, however, we—and you too, perhaps—still often encounter misuse of the ending. For …

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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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