English Language Reference Desk/Archives/2008

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Is this sentence right?

I just wrote: "I would be willing to scrutinize my entire history of edits along with the community, and consider the impact that they all had on Wikipedia, should Dmcdevit have exerted his right to argue before us that it would be best for the project that I stopped editing." [1] Is this standard English, to say "should he have" to mean "if he had"? Artur 02:42, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

In some cases it can mean the same thing, but in this sentence it looks like you are asking a question: "should Dmcdevit have exerted his right to argue before us ?". Also, there was a missing comma before "along with the community" which makes it sound like you are also scrutinizing the community. Finally, it's a run-on sentence. Here's my version:

"I would have been willing to scrutinize my entire history of edits, along with the community, and consider the impact that they all had on Wikipedia, if Dmcdevit had argued that it would be best for the project if I stopped editing." StuRat 05:33, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

usage of might

when and where we use the word " might " ?

Can you clarify this question a bit ? The word has many uses and meanings, here are a few uses:
"Might we come over this evening ?"
"I might go."
"The might of the US military is matched only by the political incompetence which controls its usage." StuRat 17:15, 13 March 2008 (UTC)
The word mite (as in "dust mites") is also a homonym. StuRat 17:15, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Need online help regarding learning business english language

Can you give me some good online refrence books for learning business english language. thanx to Sturut (user) for reply and help me. thanx a lot (The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 08:06, 14 March 2008)

I don't have any books to recommend, but do want to make you aware of one change in business communications. They traditionally were quite formal, but have recently become more informal, particularly when e-mails are used. This will depend on the company culture, however. First, let me give a traditional correspondence and then the modern informal equivalent:

Formal version

Mr. Jacobs,

We have received your payment and shipped the desired product to the mailing address we have on file for your account, accordingly. Please contact me if you are in need of any further asistance.


(Hand-written signature here)

Thomas A. White, Customer Relations

Informal version

Hi Bill,

We got your check and mailed out the product. Let me know if you need any more help.



Tom White, Customer Relations (this is part of the automated signature for e-mails)

  • Whether using formal or informal versions, certain rules still apply, like avoiding obscenities and regional dialects (no "y'all", for example).
  • Perhaps the most common mistake people make is using the same language they do in oral communications. For example, you might say "gonna", but don't put that in writing, say "going to", instead.
  • Spell checking is critical, as well, since poor spelling makes you look very unprofessional. Beware that computer spell-checkers don't always find all mistakes, such as using "to" instead of "too", and can actually introduce errors if not used cautiously. Automated grammar checkers don't yet seem to work very well, in my opinion. On critical business communications, it's a good idea to have somebody else proofread them, as a new set of eyes will see problems the author will miss.
  • A new problem creeping in is that some people incorrectly use IM-speak in business communications ("You asked 'Y R U going with another supplier ?'. That would be because we don't understand you.").
  • Unnecessarily complex wording should also be avoided, as it can cause confusion and make the author appear pretentious.
  • Another hint: I've learned not to pose a two sided question. If you ask "do you intend to keep the product or return it ?", the inevitable answer is "yes", which could mean either. If you simply ask "do you intend to keep the product ?", then any "yes" or "no" response is unambiguous.
  • Business communications need to be concise. The title of an e-mail should list the main point ("The Silverman proposal has been rejected.") with the most important info listed right at the start. Many people won't read an entire e-mail, so you need the summary up front and details in the body or as an attachment.
  • Above all else, business communications need to be clear. In particular I've had difficult with people using double (or even triple or quadruple) negatives: "If we don't fail to get an error, I don't want to fail to list that fact in the error log." StuRat 18:06, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
In the above response I assumed you were asking about written communications. If you meant oral communications, there is a much wider range used there. A supervisor talking to assembly line workers may even want to use obscenities and regional dialects to "fit in" ("Bob came in wasted and hacked his damn thumb off on the lathe ?"), while the same person talking with management would use different language ("Bob Anderson was drunk and cut his thumb off at the lathe.") and even more formal if talking with the press ("Mr. Anderson was inebriated at the time when he severed his digit using the lathe."). StuRat 18:22, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Do's and Dont's in Table manners

Can u give me some Do's and Dont's about table manner, and telephone manners plz?

This seems like an odd place to ask such a question, although what language to use in both places somewhat qualifies as an English question. The "golden rule" is to avoid offending anyone. So, don't use obscenities, don't fart, don't burp (in most cultures), don't discuss unpleasant topics, don't talk while chewing, etc. Some would say to avoid any controversial topics, too. I personally enjoy a good debate with a controversial topic like "who should be the next US President ?", provided that everyone can debate politely rather than resorting to name-calling. I think rules about where to place the fork relative to the plate are silly and personally don't care if there are elbows on the table. If you can't easily reach some food item at the table, ask for someone to pass it. I've encountered a frequent problem that nonstop talking prevents me from asking for food to be passed. In such cases I will either get up and get the item or tap on someone's shoulder and use hand signals to show them what I need. The host(s) have special responsibilities, such as noticing if someone isn't eating and asking if they need anything. StuRat 16:52, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
As for phone manners, be sure to identify yourself when calling. Telemarketers will often use your manners against you, however, by refusing to let you go until you agree to buy something. In this case, feel free to hang up on them. StuRat 16:58, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Introducing Personal Opinion in a Formal Paper

1. Im writing a book review for class (econ), Since this is a formal writing assignment, I was wondering if its okay to use terms such as "I was impressed by", "i agree/disagree with ____'s argument on", or how should I say the same without using "I" or "one would disagree with", something more creative

Depending on the assignment, some may call for personal opinion ("Evaluate the effectiveness of Keynesian economics") while others do not ("Describe the arguments presented in 'The Wealth of Nations', by Adam Smith"). You can almost always present "arguments in favor" and "arguments against", as long as you attempt to keep them balanced, even in assignments that don't explicitly ask for opinion. Instead of saying "I disagree with..." say "One argument against this approach is...". If you want to give us a particular opinion statement, we can offer more specific suggestions. StuRat 17:43, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

2. example: "What is still unclear to me is Odum’s discussion on energy from the sun, whether he prefers it, or believes in the efficiency of subsidizing energy output with fossil fuels, especially when considering modern agriculture production"

Just leave out the "to me". StuRat 18:58, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

or: "I liked that the book brought the discussion on energetics beyond the realm of the physical sciences and into a far reaching analysis of many disciplines; including economics, to argue economics would do best to standardize valuation based on energetics, the energy put into making a product. "

"One advantage of his approach is that he brought the discussion on energetics..." StuRat 18:58, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

or: "I did not like his analogies, they are too electronics based, when using words such as circuits, reactors, etc.. which was a little difficult to understand given my background."(how I generalize this?)

"His analogies, which were heavily drawn from the world of electronics, may be difficult to understand for those lacking a scientific background." StuRat 18:58, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

English as a 2nd language

hi, my name is fred, i need help on writing my english as a second language on english 101

Do you have a specific question we can help you with ? StuRat 23:09, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

That versus Which, or So that

I notice that I use the word "that" every time a subject performs some sort of action, I started using which, but sometimes that seems more proper so instead of: this results in "that" I write: this which does ____. Then I get confused and want to write "that" "which" results in___. Is there some grammatical error in doing any of this, and how do I state the same in a more sophisticated manner?

An example of this problem:

"The book builds a case for modeling economics and all human activities after natural systems, activites in natural systems operate in cycles based on energy flows *that provide limits to growth; contrary to economics where growth is infinite."

  • I want to say:

"natural systems are cyclical and this places constraints on growth, whereas economics knows no limits to growth"

  • Other ways I'm considering rephrasing:

"that which provide"

"which provide"


"and they provide"

I've reformatted your question, but the opening paragraph is still a bit unclear. As for "that" and "which", there are some formal rules for which one to use, but I tend to ignore the rules and just go with what sounds best. I especially try to avoid using one word too often in a sentence or paragraph. That example sentence is quite a run-on, so let's whittle it down to the basics:
"Natural systems operate in cycles that provide limits to growth."
The word "provide" doesn't seem quite right, though. Perhaps "impose" would be a better choice. And "limits on" sounds better than "limits to":
"Natural systems operate in cycles that impose limits on growth."
I think that's OK, but you could also substitute in ", which impose", ", imposing", or ", and they impose". (Note the added commas.) However, "that which impose" isn't right in that sentence. You might use that phrasing in the following sentence:
"Of all the forces which cap economic growth, the cyclical property of natural systems is that which imposes the severest limitation."
As for you sentence, "Natural systems are cyclical and this places constraints on growth, whereas economics knows no limits to growth", I quite like it. I'd just make a few changes:
"Natural systems are cyclical, and this places constraints on growth, whereas theoretical economics imposes no limits on growth." StuRat 01:40, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


Answering the question: How do you spell your last name? My last name is spelled...... Why is spelled written in past tense. Please explain because is is in the present tense. I hope this makes sense. Thanks. User:Leigh, 00:16, 3 June 2008

I'd say there is some flexibility there, with "spelled", "spell", and "spelling" all being used informally for past, present, and future tense. This is because, presumably, the spelling of a word or name won't change. Thus, you can say "my name was spelled" ... "is spelled" ... "will be spelled", or "you did spell my name" ... "can spell" ... "will spell", or "you were spelling my name" ... "are spelling" ... "will be spelling". This is versus something expected to change over time: "it has rained" is correct, but "it is rained" or "it will be rained" are clearly wrong, since distinguishing whether the event is past, present, or future is of critical importance. Perhaps a grammar expert can clarify this issue further. StuRat 09:08, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
It is NOT the past tense.... It is a passive tense... My last name is spelled WILSON (by me)... I spell my last name WILSON... Another example... The car is washed (by me).... I wash the car... (The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) )
User is correct. It is passive. You could alternatively say "I spell my name...", which is active voice. The reason you can't do this with "it has rained" is because "it has rained" is not in the passive, but is in the past tense. The present tense would be "it is raining" or "it rains"; as there is no object to this sentence, it can not be turned into a passive sentence. "It rains on the plain", however, can be turned into a passive sentence: "The plain is rained on." The Jade Knight 07:59, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Saying: You had better go home.

I know the meaning of this expression which means the same as: It would be better for you to go home. For me, the use of had is hard to understand. I would like to know what native English speakers think of this expression? For me it is non-grammatical. I have an idea for the explanation of this expression. I think originally it was: You did better go home. (did as subjective form). In German corresponding to: Du tätest besser... As the expression was obviously widely used, it was shortened to: You'd better go home. As 'd can be the shortened form of had or would and not of did You'd better + infinitive was understood in the course of time as You had better ... though it is not very logic. This is a hypothetc theory, and I would like to know what others, especially native speakers of English think of this hypothesis. Roger

At no time (to my knowledge) has English used "did" to represent obligation or need, though it is an interesting hypothesis, and would make sense if English paralleled the German in this regard. What I expect is the origin of this statement is linked more closely to the English expression "have to"; "you have to go home" = "you had better go home". My hunch is that "had" was used here in the conditional sense, much like "if I were you"; "if you had been there". I don't know the specific etymology of this term, however.
…ah, a search (and doing some etymological look up) reveals the roots! Originally the phrase would have been "Him were better go home"; this is actually the dative at work combined with the conditional ("to him it would be better to go home"); this form of structure was fairly common in Old and Middle English, and remained in some forms all the way through to Early Modern English (such as in the phrase "methinks"). However, at some point "had" replaced "were" and the nominative replaced the dative. Consider the following example:
"Him had been lever to be syke." (To him it had been better to be sick; ie, "it would have been better for him to be sick")
Many examples of this construction actually omit the "to" (Such as "For him was lever have at his bed's head Twenty bookes…") This example demonstrates what probably happened; the phrase had likely been at some point "Him had been better go home", and at some point the "been" (apparently) got dropped and "him" got replaced by "he". You can find a little more out here (which is where I found much of this, apart from my speculation). The Jade Knight 12:23, 17 September 2008 (UTC)
To the previous excellent response let me just add that expressions like this tend to retain old forms of grammar (and obsolete words) after the rest of the language has moved on. I suppose the reason is that people feel the need to use to older forms of English, as that makes the saying seem like ancient wisdom, which is given more weight than modern wisdom. Another example of this is how Christians often use obsolete words, like "thou", since it makes their religion seem somehow more established, even though the original writings of the Bible weren't in English at all. StuRat 15:44, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Thank you, Jade Knight.Your reference to Webster's dictionary was very helpful and your explanation convinced me. Thanks to StuRat as well.--Roger 20:22, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Online etymology Dictionary

I found this dictionary on wikipedia, but can't find it anymore. Who can help?--Roger 13:05, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

It's not part of Wikiversity, but here it is: [2]. StuRat 13:42, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

What distinction?

What distinction between these verbs

  • to struggle
  • to contend
  • to vie
  • to compete


Have you tried using a dictionary? Wiktionary has entries on struggle, contend, vie, and compete. All of these verbs are similar, but nuanced differently. "Struggle" strikes me as the broadest of the four: struggling can simply be acting with difficulty, or it could be fighting against something. "Contend" carries only the connotation of fighting against something (whether literally or figuretively), though, in certain circumstances it can also depict a vying. Vie and compete are near-synonymous words referring to an act of rivalry or competition. "Vying" is more archaic, and as such has a different flavour than "competing". There are also more subtle distinctions between the two based on centuries of idiomatic usage, but these are issues of nuance or accent, and not so much definition differences. Vying generally strikes me as more intense than competing, however. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 09:07, 4 November 2008 (UTC)
Also, "struggle", to me, has a meaning of being unsuccessful, or at least less successful, than desired, or having to work harder to succeed. For example, the phrases "your child is struggling to keep up in school" and "he struggled to keep from drowning". StuRat 18:07, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Which sentences are correct and do they mean the same?

  1. The house requires painting.
  2. The house requires to be painted.
  3. The house is required painting.
  4. The house is required to be painted.

Crux 22:29, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

This sounds a bit like a homework question. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:34, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
:) Not exactly. I graduated from school many years ago. Now I study english on my own initiative.
By the way, what would be the problem if it was homework?
Crux 11:57, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
We're not supposed to do students' homework for them. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 12:38, 9 November 2008 (UTC)
That is not a homework. I found some of that sentenses in Lingvo Grammar Dictionary, some of them in MacMillan English Dictionary. The sentenses from MacMillan Dictionary don't correspond to rules given in Lingvo therefore I decided to ask your opinion. It seems likely that Lingvo Dictionary dosn't embrace all cases of speech or went out of date. Crux 21:12, 9 November 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't pay much attention to Lingvo, as machine translation software does a notoriously poor job of translating grammar. One simple test it to translate from language A to language B, then back to language A. If it's difficult to understand after this "round trip", it's probably at least half as bad after a one-way translation. StuRat 18:57, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
I don't like any of the sentences, since they suggest that the house is able to decide when it should be painted. I would prefer that a human (like "the landlord"), or rule (like "the housing association bylaws"), decide when painting is required. Of the sentences listed, I like the first and last best. However, "The landlord requires painting" gives me images of a landlord with two coats of latex paint on his body, so perhaps "The landlord requires that the house be painted" would be the best choice. :-) StuRat 16:10, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
The only sentence which makes grammatical sense to me is the first, which I have no problem with. "The dishes need doing", "the house requires painting", "the lawn needs mowing", etc. This sort of construction is not uncommon. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:10, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

What about this?

  • His poems are now required reading on most literature courses.
It seems to me that this sentence resembles "The house is required painting". Don't you like this as well?
Crux 17:09, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
"The house is required painting" has a different meaning, to me. It might be OK to say "Painting the fence is optional, while the house is required painting", but it could still be said more clearly as "Painting the fence is optional, but painting the house is mandatory". Also, the sentence "His poems are now required reading on most literature courses" should use "for" instead of "on". StuRat 17:18, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
"in" would also be acceptable. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:09, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Which sentence is correct for my previous post?

  1. What would be the problem if it was homework?
  2. What would be the problem if it had been homework?
My sister offered the first option, but I believe that the second one is more appropriate.
Crux 13:15, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
Both are "correct" in some sense, but are in different tenses. "Was" is the preterite past, whereas "had been" is in the perfect past. Now, frequently in modern English, the subjunctive is dropped entirely, and the present tense is used instead ("What would be the problem if it's homework?"). Assuming you intended to use the past subjunctive in your first sentence, you would say "What would be the problem if it were homework", except then your first clause ("what would be the problem" - present conditional) doesn't agree with your second clause ("if it were homework" - past subjunctive). You therefore would need to adapt your first clause to the past tense ("What would have been the problem if it were homework") or adapt your second clause to the present ("What would be the problem if it be homework?") Anyway, it's all rather complicated, especially as the subjunctive is going out of fashion today. Please see Wikipedia for the details. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 12:38, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

Subjunctive mood

Could you explain how you perceive the distinction between these sentences:

  1. What would be the problem if it be homework?
  2. What would have been the problem if it were homework?
  3. What would have been the problem if it had been homework?

How can I avoid the subjunctive mood, but to express the same thought?

P.S. Y'all, please, point out mistakes which I've made or I'll make in any phrases of mine.
Crux 23:09, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

My only qualification to answer is that I'm a native US English speaker. With that in mind, 2 and 3 seem fine, but 1 seems old-fashioned or possibly poetic, not something I'd normally say, unless I was trying to sound like a pirate. Argggggh ! StuRat 15:43, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
What about distinction between 2 and 3? Does it exist at all? How would you say in that case? Crux 17:23, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
They sound equivalent to me (although I'd substitute "was" for "were" in the 2nd sentence). By the way, please just use "edit" at the top of the question to add a comment, don't add a new subsection each time, unless you are adding a new, but related, question. StuRat 17:30, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
Technically, the second is subjunctive (and would be indicative past if changed to "was"), and the third is perfect past. This is really a matter of usage, as both are used in English today, I'd say. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:13, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
One other comment: You used "Y'all" in your original post. I had assumed you were doing this to be funny, but, since English isn't your native language, maybe I'm wrong. So, just in case you don't know, "y'all" is slang from the Southern US (roughly the Confederate States in the US Civil War), and not generally accepted as proper English. StuRat 20:52, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Is this sentence correct?

Such entry shall in the register be denoted by an asterisk. Crux 17:43, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

First, it should be either of these:
"Such an entry shall, in the register, be denoted by an asterisk."
"Such entries shall, in the register, be denoted by asterisks."
Also note the added commas. Now, that's still a bit awkward, so I'd prefer this:
"Such an entry shall be denoted, in the register, by an asterisk."
Or, better still, this:
"Such an entry shall be denoted by an asterisk in the register." StuRat 17:59, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
I would actually prefer "Such an entry shall be denoted in the register by an asterisk." (no commas) The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:14, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Question regarding use of the word "only"

I am creating an automobile website, and one page is about the w:Mercedes-Benz C-Class. What I am trying to say is that it is sold in certain markets with a saloon bodystyle, and no other.

This is the current sentence:

  • The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is sold as a sedan only in this country, with 2.3-litre 4-cylinder, 3.0 and 3.5-litre V6 engines. The wagon version is not sold here.

but should it be:

  • The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is sold only as a sedan in this country, with 2.3-litre 4-cylinder, 3.0 and 3.5-litre V6 petrol engines. The wagon version is not sold here.

If anyone could help me that would be much appreciated. AC --Sunstar NW XP 19:42, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Here's my interpretation (leaving out the irrelevent bits, like the engine sizes):
"Sold as a sedan only in this country" means "the sedan is not sold in any other country".
"Sold only as a sedan in this country" is ambiguous.
"Only the sedan is sold in this country" means "no other model besides the sedan is sold in this country".
So, I'd go with the third form, and avoid the other two. But, to make it even clearer, why not use the bolded versions, which are absolutely clear ? Also, I assume you will explain which country is "this country" at some point. Remember, any web site will get hits from around the world, so it's best to list the names of nations explicitly. StuRat 20:58, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
  • What I am trying to imply is that in New Zealand, the C-Class is available in just a sedan bodystyle. In the other paragraph of my article, I want to say it has a V6 engine, and no other, whilst using the word "only".

Thanks for your help so far, StuRat. AC --Sunstar NW XP 17:59, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

It's fairly easy to avoid ambiguous uses of the word "only". I'd just say "In Kiwiland, the C-Class is only available as a sedan and only with a V6 engine." StuRat 08:55, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
  • Thanks for that help, StuRat. AC. --Sunstar NW XP 17:16, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
  • You're quite welcome. StuRat 06:22, 13 November 2008 (UTC)


The new government faces the daunting challenge of completing the building on time.

What does 'daunting' mean? Could you find some synonyms for it. Crux 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

wikt:daunting. There you are. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 07:49, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

to challenge someone on something

They’re not likely to challenge us on any of the details.

I suppose 'challenge' in this context is something like 'ask'. Thus this sentence could be restated as "They're not likely to ask us to explain some details (to them)". If I am not right, please explain to me a sence of 'to challenge someone on something' phrase. Crux 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Challenge rarely means "to ask". In this case, it carries the connotation of "disagree with". The Jade Knight (d'viser) 07:51, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Present Perfect Progressive

For ten years he has been fighting to prove his innocence.

Does this sentence mean that he has eventually proved his innocence? Crux 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Not necessarily. "he has been" is the perfect past continuous. It does not imply completion (for better or for worse). The Jade Knight (d'viser) 08:02, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

critics or criticism

Recent excellent results proved their critics wrong.

Is this sentence correct? I suppose 'critics' must be replaced with 'criticism'. Crux 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Grammatically, yes. Stylistically, no. The subject of "their" should be featured in the sentence for it to be stylistically correct—right now, we have "excellent results" where we're expecting to see whoever "they" are. This might be okay depending on the structure of the paragraph around it, but will come across as awkward if not. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 08:05, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

I dare you.

Go on, phone the police. I dare you.

Does this mean "Hurry up, phone the police. I would like to see how you do it, because I believe you will not do it." ? Crux 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, except for the "hurry up" part. "Go on" in this context is simply emphatic. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 08:06, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
Also, instead of "I would like to see how you do it", it should be "I would like to see if you do it". Asking to see how someone does something implies that you don't know how and would like to learn. StuRat 14:29, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
What about "I would like to see whether you do it"? Is it used in informal speech? "If" in this case is intuitively hardly comprehensible for me, though I understood (thanks to you) it is a matter of course for English. Crux 19:39, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
Yes, "whether" would also work. You could also rewrite the sentence more informally and avoid the use of either word: "I don't believe you'll really call". A couple other points:
1) In US English, we more often say we will "call" someone, instead of saying we will "phone" them. This is not true in British English, however, where "call" means to visit in person.
2) The "dare" in the original sentence carries with it an implied threat that something bad will happen to the person if they do call the police. This could be physical violence from the person issuing the "dare", or there might be other consequences, like the caller getting in trouble with the police. Note that a "dare" doesn't always carry an implied threat, though, as in "I dare you to kiss me". StuRat 20:35, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

List of English copulae

Why the verb "to act" is considered as a copula in the article List of English copulae? There is an example "Tom acted suspicious" which seems to mean that Tom's actions were suspicious because he acted suspiciously. Therefore "to act" expresses an action but not an association/equality of the subject with its predicate. I suppose "to act suspiciously" is a predicate itself, where "suspiciously" is an adverbial adjunct. Crux 13:53, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

"Tom acted suspicious" means that Tom suspects something.
"Tom acted suspiciously" means that Tom's actions make us suspect him of something. StuRat 15:40, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
"Tom acted suspicious" strikes me as ungrammatical, but that might just be me, and I do understand StuRat's parsing of it. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 11:43, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Tom sounded obnoxious

Tom sounded obnoxious

I've found it in the List of English copulae article. What does this mean?

  • Did Tom say obnoxious remark?
  • Was his voice obnoxious?
  • Did he break wind?
  • Did his name sound obnoxious(ly)?
It's rather ambiguous and could mean just about any of those (except perhaps breaking wind). For the last meaning, however, it would be '"Tom" sounded obnoxious', with the quotation marks added around "Tom". I'd think the first is most likely, though. There might also be a slight difference between this sentence and "Tom was obnoxious", as "Tom sounded obnoxious" implies that he isn't really that way, but only sounds so. Also, the first meaning should be written as "Did Tom make an obnoxious remark ?" and the "ly" should be left off the last meaning. StuRat 15:09, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
I'd say that "Tom sounded obnoxious" implies that Tom has said several obnoxious things, otherwise it would be more natural to say "Tom's remark sounded obnoxious". I also think that "Tom sounded obnoxious" implies simply that Tom is coming across as obnoxious, with no statement as to whether or not Tom is normally obnoxious—I don't think there's a specific implication that he isn't obnoxious, but at the same time, neither is there an implication that he is obnoxious. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 11:47, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

"with" modification

Tom acted suspicious.
Tom acted with suspicious.

Bill's smile shines bright.
Bill's smile shines with bright.

Which of these sentences are incorrect or does they mean the same? The sentences comprising "with" are very comprehensible to/for me in contrast to another ones. Crux 19:20, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

The "with" sentences are wrong in their current form. They could be corrected as follows:

Tom acted with suspicion.
Tom acted with suspicious thoughts.

Bill's smile shines with brightness.
Bill's smile shines with bright ideas.

Also, "Bill's smile shines bright" would be better with "brightly".
Finally, let me correct the wording of your question:

Which of these sentences are incorrect or do they mean the same thing ? The sentences containing "with" are very comprehensible to me, in contrast with the others. StuRat 20:20, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

What about "If it were possible to turn back the clock, he would do the same (thing)"? Is "thing" in this case strictly required? Crux 21:06, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
Not always, no. "I'm going to leave and suggest you do the same" is an example where "thing" could be omitted. In your example, though, I'm not sure what "the same" means. Do you mean "If it were possible to turn back the clock, he would" ? StuRat 00:21, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
This sentence is out of context, given as an example of the use of the word "same" in Lingvo. I consider that he would perform the same acts if he got one more chance. Crux 09:24, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
If he hadn't ever turned back the clock before, I'd go with either "...he would" or "...he would do so". If he had turned it back before, I'd go with "...he would, again" or "...he would do so, again". I'd avoid using Lingvo to learn English grammar, since it doesn't seem very accurate. StuRat 15:57, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

By the way, if I posed a question with one of these ways which would be correct?

  • Is "thing" word in this case strictly required?
  • Is word of "thing" in this case strictly required?
  • Is word "thing" in this case strictly required?

Crux 21:06, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

The 3rd is almost correct, but it needs a "the" after "Is" and commas around "in this case". I also assume you meant to ask "which one of these would be correct", not "with one of these ways which would be correct". StuRat 00:21, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
What about this "if I posed a question with one of these options, which (option) would be correct?" ? Crux 10:16, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
The part in quotes sounds good, except that you can leave the "(option)" part out. Also, the "What about this" part should either omit "this" of be followed by a colon (":"), with "if" capitalized. StuRat 15:51, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
Which one of these sounds better to you?
  • Is the word "thing", in this case, strictly required?
  • Is the word "thing" strictly required in this case?
Crux 09:37, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
Both sound "correct", but I prefer the second. I'd even probably prefer "In this case, is the word "thing" strictly required?" But that might depend on context. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 11:50, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

It turned out to be where I had told you

Ann: Do you know where the umbrella is?
Sasha: It's on the shelf.
Ann: I've already looked for there and haven't found.
Sasha: Ok, I'll do it by myself.
Sasha: Here you are. Take it.
Ann: Where have you found it?
Sasha: It turned out to be where I had told you.

Is it correct "It turned out to be where I had told you" ? Crux 14:13, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it's correct, although I'd use the contraction "I'd", in place of "I had", and perhaps shorten it to "It was where I'd told you". Also, this statement could mean it was where Sasha was when he/she said where to look, so "It was where I'd told you it was" would be better.
Also note that "I've already looked for there and haven't found" is wrong in US English, but might be OK in British English. In the US it should be "I've already looked for it there and haven't found it". Let me rewrite the entire conversation the way I'd say it:

Ann: Do you know where the umbrella is ?
Sasha: It's on the shelf.
Ann: I've already looked there and didn't find it.
Sasha: Ok, I'll do it myself !
Sasha: Here it is, take it !
Ann: Where did you find it ?
Sasha: It was right where I told you it was.

One final comment, your question should be rewritten as :
Is "It turned out to be where I had told you" correct ? StuRat 15:24, 15 November 2008 (UTC)
To my knowledge, "for there" in this context isn't correct in British English, either. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 11:44, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
This dialogue is just my improvisation, but I've found the sentence "What are you looking for here?" in Lingvo. Is it also incorrect in both British English and US English? Crux 12:51, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
That sentence looks fine to me. StuRat 16:04, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
I think I understand—"to look for" always requires an object. In your example above "What" is actually the object of "look for": "You are looking for what here?" would be a (less natural) rephrase. You can say "I was looking for it here", but not "I was looking for here". You can also say "This is what I was looking for here"—note that "this" (or maybe "what") is the object in this case. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 07:29, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

never + past simple

How do you perceive the distinction between these sentences?

  • He was never able to win her love.
  • He has never been able to win her love.

In my opinion "He was never able to win her love" means that he attempted to do that many times but always failed and probably he will attempt to do that again, while "He has never been able to win her love" means that he hasn't eventually achieved his aim and will never repeat it. Crux 21:31, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

  • To me, the first sentence seems to be a set-up for an "until".
  • He was never able to win her love. Then he won the lottery. Now he is has her love, but is never able to find his wallet. StuRat 02:27, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
I interpret it somewhat along your lines, Crux: the first implies that he is done trying. The second implies that he has not yet succeeded, but is not necessarily done trying. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 21:11, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

I remember(ed) doing smth

(Sasha is man hereinafter.)

Ann: Where are you going?
Sasha: I'm going to shop.
Ann: Ok. Just remember to buy apples.
. . .
Sasha: Here I am.
Ann: Have you bought apples?
Sasha: Yes, I have. They are in the bag.
Ann: I don't see no apples here.
Sasha: Really! You're right! But I remeber(ed) buying them.

Which option will be the most appropriate in this case?

  1. I remebered buying them.
  2. I remeber buying them.

Crux 18:15, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

Definitely not #1, as Sasha is currently remembering. However, "I remember having bought them" would be preferable IMO to "I remember buying them", though both are "correct" to my ears. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 09:26, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

acquire a taste

I’ve never really acquired a taste for wine.

What does this mean: he has never drunk wine enough to fill its taste, never overdrunk wine or he doesn't like how wine tastes? Crux 19:39, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Of those choices, I'd say the last one is the closest. However, saying "he hasn't acquired a taste" implies that he could grow accustomed to it's taste and even like it, if he drank it more often.
Also, "drank" is the usual past tense for "drink". The word "drunk" is sometimes used for a present tense, but "drunken" is more correct. The word "drunk" does have a meaning, though, it means to be inebriated from excess alcohol consumption (or something similar):
"I'd I drank too much, yesterday."
"I've drunken too much, today."
"I'm drunk."
"He's drunk with power."
Finally, "overdrunk" isn't a word at all. The phrase "overly drunk", however, might be used to mean "inebriated beyond the acceptable limit". StuRat 22:29, 23 November 2008 (UTC)
I think your first example meant to read "I drank", not "I'd drank". The Jade Knight (d'viser) 04:49, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
Yep. I fixed it. Thanks. StuRat 07:34, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
I've found this difinition in Macmillan English Dictionary
drunk noun [count]
  • someone who has drunk too much alcohol or who regularly drinks too much alcohol
They've made use of "have drunk" in spite of your "have drunken". Is it due to the distinction of language dialects?
Here it is: 'overdrink'
Crux 11:03, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
Technically, "have drunk" is Standard American and British English. However, you'll find that many Americans still use the archaic -en perfect ending, as in "have drunken", "have gotten", etc. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 16:24, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

to fly someone

They offered to fly him to Brussels, but he declined.

What does "to fly someone" mean? I suppose there is a mistake in the sentence. It should to have been: "They offered him to fly to Brussels, but he declined". Am I right? Crux 15:43, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

I'm afraid not. "To fly someone" is to provide a flight for someone (usually to somewhere). I.e., they paid for his flight, and possibly purchased it themselves. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 16:27, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

difficult issues

Anne didn't shrink from the difficult issues facing parents.

What conclusion is more appropriate for this sentece?

  • To face parents with some matters was diffucult to do for her, though she did it.
  • She faced parents with the difficult problems.
  • She overcame her fear of consequences of facing parents with something.

Probably, I don't understand the meaning of the phrase "difficult issues". Is it difficult tasks, problems or difficult consequences which are caused by some acts (facing her parents)? Probably, I don't understand "facing parents". Does this phrase mean that she have just to meet parents or to face parents with something? Crux 12:49, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

Depending on the context, it could mean that she is herself a parent and directly confronts the problems which are difficult for other parents to confront. It could also have the middle meaning you listed, say if she's a teacher who has to deal with parents. "Difficult issues" means "problems". "Facing parents" means confronting parents (which might include herself). StuRat 20:16, 24 November 2008 (UTC)
Which one of these statements describes the phrase "didn't shrink from" in the context of the sentence above more precisely?
  • Sooner or later, all parents encounter problems, and Anne didn't escape the common lot, though she wished she escaped that.
  • All parents tend to disregard problems until they can afford it, but Anne inqure into any problem because she consider that as her parental duty.
Crux 17:16, 25 November 2008 (UTC)
Those both sound weird in US English. The phrases "didn't escape the common lot" and "she wished she escaped that" sounds like British English, to me. The word "inqure" is misspelled, and the word "afford" isn't quite right, unless the problem has a financial solution. Either sentence could be fixed, however, as follows:
  • Sooner or later, all parents encounter problems, and Anne didn't avoid them.
  • All parents tend to disregard problems until they become serious, but Anne faced them immediately, because she considers that her parental duty. StuRat 17:39, 25 November 2008 (UTC)
Thank you very much. But which one is implied by the topic sentence? Crux 18:17, 25 November 2008 (UTC)
The 2nd, I suppose, but it's so messed up that it's difficult to say. StuRat 14:14, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

job losses

It is evident that there will be some job losses.

"Job losses" means dismissions, doesn't it? Crux 16:20, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

Generally, though it could simply imply hiring freezes. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 00:15, 27 November 2008 (UTC)
1) The word is dismissals, not "dismissions".
2) Job losses at a certain company could be the result of firings/lay-offs, retirements, or simply by not replacing workers who leave, for whatever reason. Numerical job losses in a city, or wider area, are the result of more jobs lost than gained. It's also possible for a lower percentage of people to be employed in a geographic region because many people move into an area who can't find jobs. StuRat 00:49, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

an attitude problem

What we don't need is sombody with an attitude problem.

What is this: "an attitude problem"? Crux 13:12, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

That means a bad attitude, meaning they are unpleasant. There's also the slang usage "he has an attitude", which means a bad attitude, as well. StuRat 13:33, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

to credit with more sense

Surely you credit me with more sense than that!

Does this mean "you believe that I'm endowed with more sense than it really is"? I didn't understand the word "credit" in this context and "than that" (Than what?). Crux 16:11, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

What "that" means would depend on the context, as follows:
"You think I ate the whole turkey myself ? Surely you credit me with more sense than that !" StuRat 04:09, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

finish up

  1. She eventually finished up in London.
  2. I alway finished up doing most of the work.

What do these sentenses sentences mean? I understood them as

  1. She eventually came to be in London.
  2. It always appeared that I accomplished the major portion of the work.

Am I right? Crux 21:05, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, except that you "finish" work and "accomplish" a goal; the two words aren't quite interchangeable. You also misspelled "sentences" (at least in US English). StuRat 03:57, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
I've finally found out it, but that was not so easy to me :-). Thanks. Crux 13:17, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

it appearing

We determined on the latter route, it appearing to be the shortest.

Is this construction "it appearing to be the shortest" correct? I suppose it should have been one of these:

  • it is appearing to be the shortest
  • it appears to be the shortest
  • it appeared to be the shortest

Am I right? Crux 22:39, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

It might be technically correct as is, but it's a strange sentence I'd never use. I would say it more like this:
"We decided on the latter route, since it appeared to be the shortest." StuRat 04:04, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
This is a perfect opportunity to use a semicolon: "We decided on the latter route; it appeared to be the shortest." To my ears, "We decided on the latter route, it appearing to be the shortest" does not sound wrong, however. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 12:55, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
I disagree on the use of the semicolon here, as Jade's sentence could also mean "We decided on the latter route, and it consequently appeared to be the shortest". StuRat 13:28, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
"it appearing to be the shortest" seems not a sentence because there is no a predicate, doesn't it? Crux 13:07, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
I'll let The Jade Knight answer that, but I'll just say that "is no a predicate" should be "is not a predicate", or, better yet, "isn't a predicate". Also, instead of ending with "doesn't it ?", I'd end with either "correct ?" or "right ?" (casual). Finally, "seems not a sentence" sounds backwards in English; "doesn't seem like a sentence" would be normal. StuRat 13:35, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
It is not a sentence, but is a dependent clause. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 14:01, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

dependent clause

We decided on the latter route, it appearing to be the shortest.

I believe this sentence doesn't sound wrong for native english speakers, but still haven't understood why. This sentence seems to consist of the two independent clauses.

  • We decided on the latter route.
  • The latter route is appearing to be the shortest.

Each of these sentence can exist on its own, and still makes the same sense. But it's probably because I don't understand the meaning of the phrase "it appearing to". Is it appearing to him at the moment when he is pronouncing this sentence but neither before nor arter that? Crux 16:35, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

As sentence on it's own, the 2nd would have to be written as "The latter route appears to be the shortest". And, the original sentence you have in block quotes does appear wrong to me, or at least clumsy. I'd have said "We decided on the latter route, since it appears to be the shortest". The "it appearing to" phrase, in this context, means it always has appeared shorter, currently does, and always will, as far as I can tell. StuRat 20:10, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
StuRat and I disagree on usage on this matter. However, "appearing to be" is unnecessarily long: you could equally say "it being the shortest" or "it appearing the shortest". The Jade Knight (d'viser) 09:33, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
Can I say "We decided on the latter route which appearing the shortest"? And if so, is it necessary to use the comma before "which"? Crux 11:38, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
You would have to change "appearing" to "appears", and yes, the comma is needed. StuRat 14:13, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

One more question. How would you ask this: "And if so, is it necessary to use the comma before 'which'?" as a native speaker? Crux 11:38, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

That looks good. I'd add a comma after "And", but it also works without one. StuRat 14:13, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
One other comment: In the initial question you didn't capitalize "english". It should be capitalized when talking about the language or people from England. When not capitalized, it means spin intentionally put on a ball to alter it's trajectory. StuRat 14:13, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, I haven't understood what "spin intentionally put on a ball to alter it's trajectory" means. Is it an euphemism? What is "spin"? Crux 16:08, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
No, I literally mean that the ball in various sports is given a rotational velocity in order to change the path it follows, and this is called english. This is used in billiards and baseball, for example. StuRat 19:19, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

to comply with

You are legally obliged to comply fully with any investigation.

I understand phrases like "to comply with regulations" or "to comply with one's wishes", but I don't uderstand what "to comply with investigation" means. Does it mean "to conduct investigation"? What is "investigation" in this context? Is it criminal investigation conducted by police or scientific research? Crux 20:47, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

To "comply with an investigation" means to cooperate fully, answer all questions asked, and provide whatever is asked for by the person or people conducting the investigation. The investigation "wants" facts, so complying with the investigation means giving it the facts it "wants". --SB_Johnny talk 22:45, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
Can this sentence be restated in "... to contribute fully to any investigation"? Would it mean the same thing? Crux 23:12, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
It's almost the same, but, to me, "comply" implies more of a reluctant participation, while "contribute" means willing participation. StuRat 23:44, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
I would draw a slightly different distinction—for me, "comply with" implies passive cooperation, while "contribute to" implies active participation. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 23:49, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

to conform

Part of her charm was her refusal to conform.

What does this sentence imply: "her refusal to comply with any regulations" or "her refusal to adapt to new setting"? Crux 22:45, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

This is meant more in the sense of "refusing to conform to social standards". An example might be a cattle-rancher's daughter who decides to be a vegetarian. --SB_Johnny talk 22:51, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

to be alleged for

The greatest names can sometimes be alleged for opinions which are incredible.

This sentence was translated into my language as "incredible opinions are sometimes attributed to greatest names", but I suppose the translation doesn't reveal/expose the essence of the source sentence. I'm not sure that I understand the meaning of "be alleged for", nevertheless I suppose "the greatest names can sometimes be used for justifying false opinions" is more appropriate by implication. Am I right? Crux 11:49, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd say the first translation was better. I'd go with "incredible opinions are sometimes attributed, correctly or not, to the most famous people". Note that the original sentence is really awkward in English. StuRat 14:48, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
"Alleged" should never really have "for" after it. Alleged can either the past tense of "to allege" for example "He alleged that another person comitted the crime", or the past perfect such as "The police report discussed the alleged crime." Allege is usually used when discussing crimes, the most common form is the adverb "allegedly". It is usually used in news reports where they cannot state that a suspect was involved with a criminal act before they have been tried for the crime. --Kraftlos 06:26, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

do little

Her resignation will do little to inspire confidence in a company that is already struggling.

How do you think this sentence hints that her resingnation is senseless or just not enough under that circumstances? Crux 12:22, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

That could mean either "Her resignation will reduce confidence..." or "Her resignation will increase confidence, but by an insufficient amount, ...". StuRat 12:50, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

How do you think?

It's just occured to me. Is it acceptable to ask "How do you think?" in sense of "What is your opinion?" in colloquial English? Crux 14:07, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

No, it would be "What do you think ?". If you asked "How", that would either mean "How are you capable of thought with that tiny brain of yours ?" or "In what manner does your brain operate ?". StuRat 16:20, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Or, alternatively, "How do you think...?" could mean "In what manner do you think...?" (i.e., "How do you think he got out?") In a few select cases, such as "How do you think this looks?", "How do you think" does mean "what is your opinion of how": "What is your opinion of how this looks?" The Jade Knight (d'viser) 00:58, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but not when it's used as a sentence by itself. StuRat
Indeed. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 06:10, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

to walk out on court

Hingis is looking quietly confident as she walks out on court.

What does "to walk out on court" mean? Crux 19:45, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

The normal way to say someone departed would be "they walked out of court", so perhaps it's a typo. If read literally, it means something like "left court without permission". StuRat 05:22, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
Alas, there is "on" but not "of". I've found that sentence in Macmillan English Dictionary as an example of the use of the word "confident". I cann't still understand the meaning of the original sentence. Could you explain to me what "quietly confident" is? Crux 10:00, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
"Walk out onto the court" would work, too. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 10:56, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
Is this in the context of tennis or another sport? --SB_Johnny talk 12:18, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
This sentence is out of context. You could well be right, though. This sentence could be about Martina Hingis. Crux 14:24, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
Ah, ok. That phrase is commonly used for sports such as tennis, raquetball, volleyball, basketball, etc. (any sport that's played on a "court", as opposed to a "on the field", "in the ring", or "in the rink"). "Onto the" and "into the" are more grammatically correct, but "on" is commonly used. --SB_Johnny talk 14:36, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

local confidence

We must work to restore local confidence in the school.

What is local confidence? Crux 20:29, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

That's the confidence of the local community, such as the school district, versus the state or nation. StuRat 05:17, 7 December 2008 (UTC)


As has already been suggested, their record does not inspire confidence.

What is "record" in this context? Is it the best achievement in sport? Crux 20:48, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

There isn't enough info included to tell. It could be an athlete's sports record, a politician's voting record, a worker's employment record, etc. StuRat 04:39, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

mandatory sentence of life imprisonment

The trial judge imposed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Why is "sentence" modified with "mandatory"? Does the voluntary sentence of life imprisonment exist? Crux 21:32, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

In a sense, yes, at least in the US. However, "discretionary" would be a better word than voluntary, meaning it's up to the parole board and future judges to decide if time should be taken off for "good behavior" in jail, if the criminal should be given early parole, work release, "weekend passes", etc. In a "mandatory life" sentence there's no such discretion, although the governor of the state (or the President, for federal crimes) can still grant pardons or reduce the sentence. StuRat 22:01, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

voluntary code

The advertising of alcoholic drinks is regulated by a voluntary code.

What is voluntary code? Crux 21:58, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

It means the sellers are left to "police themselves". If they fail to meet certain standards, such as if they use alcohol advertisements aimed at children, then, presumably, they would be regulated directly by the government. StuRat 22:05, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

voluntary redundancy

Some 30,000 workers took voluntary redundancy.

What does "workers took voluntary redundancy" mean? They accepted extra unpaid work? They voluntarily left their jobs? Crux 22:14, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

The last one. This is British English, as the word "redundancy" only has that meaning there. In US English we would say "voluntary separation". This means they left their jobs in exchange for some incentive, like a one-time payment. You might wonder why they call leaving a job "redundancy". The management claims, often falsely, that they have more people than they need and that some are doing the same work, and are therefore redundant, and can be let go with no damage to the company. This often isn't the case, though, and they just don't want to admit to the public that they are forced to lay off critical workers. StuRat 22:47, 7 December 2008 (UTC)


Jets burn less fuel the higher they go.

Does this sentece mean that jet engines burn less fuel when they are used at high-altitude? "jets" means "jet planes"?Crux 16:23, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 21:01, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
While that's grammatically what the sentence means, it's not the whole story about jets. They obviously don't get better mileage no matter how high they go, there is a limit. Also, while they get better mileage while at a high altitude, they do burn quite a bit of fuel getting that high. This means that it's not worth it for short trips to go all the way up to the maximum cruising altitude. StuRat 03:08, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
I tried to paraphrase your story for training purposes the way I understood it. Is it right: "Wasting a fuel for getting high altitude, jet engines get better mileage (if the covered distance quite long) until they reach a certain limit which is called the maximum cruising altitude"? Crux 10:38, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
No, that needs several changes:
1) It needs "Since" at the start.
2) "Wasting" isn't right, as that means doing something in a poor and inefficient way. Since there's no alternative to burning fuel when gaining altitude, it isn't wasting, but rather "using" fuel.
3) "Getting high altitude" should be "getting to high altitude", or, better yet, "attaining cruise altitude".
4) "Jet engines" should be "jet planes", or simply "jets".
5) "Get better" could be changed to "maximize".
6) "Mileage" could be changed to "fuel efficiency".
7) It isn't "a fuel", but simply "fuel". In this context, "a" means "one", and "one fuel" doesn't make sense, although "one gallon of fuel" or "a kilogram of fuel" would.
8) "Distance quite long" should be "distance is quite long".
9) "Limit which" could use a comma: "limit, which".
So, here's a corrected version:

"Since fuel is used to attain cruise altitude, jets maximize fuel efficiency (only if the total distance is quite long) by reaching a certain limit, which is called the maximum cruising altitude."

However, it's still a bit awkward, so we need to reorder things a bit and split it into two sentences:

"Fuel is used to attain cruise altitude. Therefore, jets will maximize fuel efficiency by reaching the maximum cruising altitude only if the total distance is quite long." StuRat 15:45, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Very detailed explanation; I like it. Thanks. Crux 17:03, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
You're welcome. StuRat 22:14, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

in or within?

Which sentence is more correct or do they mean the same things?

  • The entire house burnt down in 20 minutes.
  • The entire house burnt down within 20 minutes.

Crux 11:27, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd say they mean slightly different things. The first means it took 20 minutes, while the second means 20 minutes or less. StuRat 13:06, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

to be bound to fail

Her efforts were ultimately bound to fail.

What does "to be bound to fail" mean? Crux 22:00, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

This is an idiom that can be generally understood easily via metaphor: "to be bound" is to be tied or connected. So, to be bound to fail, means to be tied to failure, so to speak. In other words, something which is "bound to fail" is something which will almost certainly fail. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 22:26, 13 December 2008 (UTC)
Once she had experienced failure and all her following efforts were directed towards making amends, right? Crux 11:19, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
No. You can be likely to fail without ever having failed before. If I tried to build a rocket and go to Mars, I'd be bound to fail. The statement also doesn't say anything about making amends. StuRat 16:01, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
I guess it means "to be doomed to failure", right? Crux 16:21, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes. StuRat 18:40, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

to handle something

The task is to be handled entirely by federal employees.

I can't understand if federal empoyees must cope with this task or the task is simply under federal employees' jurisdiction. Crux 12:49, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

It means that they will do it, whether it's under federal employees' jurisdiction, or not. StuRat 16:10, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

be being

He could help but he is being awkward.

Why not "but he is awkward"? Crux 13:07, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

Those have slightly different meanings. While "is awkward" means that's an inherent attribute of this individual, "is being awkward" only means he is acting that way in this particular instance. Also note that the whole sentence is, ironically, awkward in US English. Perhaps it sounds better to Brits. StuRat 16:15, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

What's problem for you?

What's problem for you?

Is it correct question? Does it mean "What problem do you have?" Crux 16:16, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

No, it's not correct (it should be "What problem's for you ?"). If it means anything, it would be "Which problem would you like to handle ?". StuRat 16:21, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
OK, now you've changed it from "What problem for you?" to "What's problem for you?". That's still not right, but adding "the" to get "What's the problem for you ?" would make it work. In this case, it would mean "What aspect of the item we are discussing presents a difficulty for you ?". StuRat 18:34, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Initially, there was a typo; I wanted it to be "What's the problem for you?", and I didn't assume that "What problem's for you ?" can exist at all. Nevertheless, you have guessed my difficulty. I have heard a sentence like that, and I haven't seen it in writing, so I don't know its original form. Crux 20:37, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
OK, so you're all set on the original question, right ? One comment on your last sentence, it should be "I have heard a sentence like that, but haven't seen it in writing...". StuRat 03:07, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Primarily, I was, but now I understand that there could be either of that sentences. Crux 09:48, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
That's "...either of those sentences". StuRat 12:50, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Might help if I mention that it would be "What [which] problems for you?", not *"What problem's for you". The Jade Knight (d'viser) 23:07, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
You'd still need the apostrophe in "problem's", as it's a contraction for "problem is". StuRat 23:51, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Oh, I see. "Which ... for you" is also a common expression, too, however. "And which ice cream flavor for you?", etc. I misinterpreted your "problem is" as the plural. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 05:38, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
So what about "What [which] problems for you?" What does it mean? Do "What problems for you?" and "Which problems for you?" mean different things? Why there are no verbs? Crux 17:43, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Jade and I disagree on that one. It doesn't look right to me, either, so I agree with you. StuRat 15:18, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

to scratch smth. on/against smth.

Which one is correct: "I scratched my arm on a wall." or "I scratched my arm against a wall." ? Crux 19:32, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

The first case sounds like a minor injury, while the second sounds like a way to relieve an itch (the context would be needed to tell for sure). They are somewhat interchangeable, although "against" would only be appropriate for a fixed, large object, like a wall, while "on" could work for any object. StuRat 20:13, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

He felt the knife blade scrape against the back of his neck.

I've found another sentence where "scrape against" is used in relation to not a fixed, large object (knife), and it seems to mean someone was injuried. Does this sentence look awkward to you? Crux 20:58, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

No, it's not awkward because the order is reversed. So, he is the large object. If you said "He scraped his neck against the blade", then that would seem awkward, unless we were talking about some large blade, like the one in a guillotine. A razor blade, however, is normally scraped against one's neck. StuRat 02:24, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

to scrape by on

She just manages to scrape by on her teacher’s salary.

I've understood it as she has a teacher and she can find little money, but enough to pay her teacher. Is it right? Crux 20:42, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

No, there's only one teacher, and she barely gets paid enough to live on. She is a teacher, so her salary is a "teacher's salary". It might help to think of "teacher" in parens: "She just manages to scrape by on her (teacher’s) salary." StuRat 20:49, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

to rinse

Larry rinsed the lather from his skin.
Ella rinsed her hair thoroughly.

There are two sentences where the word "rinse" seems to be used in different patterns. Is it possible to turn the latter one into somthing like "Ella rinsed her hair out of the lather thoroughly." or I must use "Ella rinsed the lather from her hair thoroughly." only? Crux 16:19, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Only the last one is right, but the first sentence could be fixed as follows: "Ella rinsed her hair thoroughly to remove the lather". StuRat 18:24, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
"Larry rinsed the lather from his skin" looks just fine for me. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 01:58, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Doesn't it look awkward: "Larry rinsed the lather off his skin."? Crux 10:50, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

No, that looks good. (Also, you should say "Doesn't this look awkward:", when followed by an example). StuRat 15:14, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

to squeeze (oneself) through

I've found two sentences:

  • We had to squeezed ourself through narrow fissures.
  • He had squeezed through a hole in the fence.

There is a reflexive pronoun in the first, but it's absent in the second. Which sentence is correct? Crux 19:13, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

The 2nd is correct, and the 1st could be fixed, as follows: "We had to squeeze ourselves through narrow fissures". StuRat 01:58, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
The original first sentence was like that after your fixing, the mistakes are mine. The question is whether the sentence "We had to squeeze through narrow fissures." is also correct, and if so, whether it has the original sense? Crux 10:25, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
There's a slight difference in that the corrected first sentence says that it was necessary to squeeze through, while the 2nd sentence only said that he did squeeze through, whether it was necessary to do so or not. StuRat 14:26, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
To give you further explanation, the reflexive pronoun is required in the first sentence because one is talking about oneself. In the second example, you're talking about someone else ("he", instead of "we"), and so it is unnecessary. A reflexive pronoun would also be necessary for "I". The Jade Knight (d'viser) 02:01, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

to scrape at

What's the difference between these two:

  • Twings scraped at my legs.
  • Twings scraped my legs.

Crux 13:17, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure what that first word is supposed to be (twins, twigs, wings, twinges ?), but, in any case, "scraped at" means an attempt was made to scrape, whether successful or not, while "scraped" means it was successful. StuRat 14:31, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
Also: "scraped at" shows intent, and is generally not used for inanimate objects like twigs. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 05:44, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

to smell from someone

If I want to say that there was a smell of perfume coming from her direction, can I do it in such a way: "It smelt of perfume from her." or somehow like that? Crux 20:50, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

That's a bit awkward. I'd normally use "smelled", since a "smelt" is also a stinky fish. So, I'd say "She smelled of perfume.", "The room smelled of her perfume.", or "Her perfume filled the room.". Also note that "smell" is a rather neutral term, and can even be taken to mean "stink", in some cases, like the simple "You smell." So, whenever using it, you may want to add a word or two to make it obvious you mean a good smell:
"You smell wonderful."
"She smelled of a delightful perfume."
"The room smelled pleasantly of her perfume." StuRat 12:16, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

to come along

Do you mind if I come along too?

Is there an omission of "with you" in that sentence? Should I understand it as "Do you mind if I come along with you too?" Crux 19:33, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Correct. Note that I'd add a comma after "along" or omit the word "too". I've also heard "Do you mind if I come with ?", which sounds a bit funny, but is understood to mean the same thing. StuRat 21:21, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

(a) trouble

I could just smell trouble in that club.

Why there's no article there before "trouble"? Does "trouble" mean "potential problem" in that context? Crux 10:31, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, that's one meaning, although it could also mean current or past problems. Sometimes "trouble" does have an article in front:
"She was without a trouble in the world."
"The trouble with explosives is that they tend to explode."
Your sentence could have "the" in front of "trouble", but it isn't needed. Maybe Jade can explain why. StuRat 14:03, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
The reason why is that "trouble" is being used here as a mass noun (I think): The place was filled with water, the place was filled with chocolate, the place was filled with trouble. I could taste chocolate in that cake. I could see water from that town. I could smell trouble in that club. Make sense? The Jade Knight (d'viser) 05:49, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Sequence of tenses.

They told us as soon as they had found out what happened.

Is this sentence correct? Crux 21:59, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd leave out the "had", otherwise it looks good. StuRat 22:05, 23 December 2008 (UTC)


The reds and golds melted into each other as the sun sank.

Which sentence is more similar to the one given above?

  1. The reds and golds melted into each other because the sun sank.
  2. The reds and golds melted into each other when the sun sank.
  3. The reds and golds melted into each other at that very moment when the sun sank.

Crux 19:07, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

The last one. StuRat 04:16, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
I cannot personally tell how it could be more closely related to either of the last 2. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 05:57, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

to melt at

Is "Her anger melted at his kind words." correct?
Would "the ice cream melted at high temperature" be also correct? Crux 19:41, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

They're both correct, although room temperature is enough to melt ice cream; high temperatures aren't required. StuRat 04:17, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

over a low heat

Dissolve the sugar in one tablespoon of water over a low heat.

I don't understand "over a low heat", does this mean to add sugar to water and to simmer that medley? Crux 20:55, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, although "medley" is the wrong word; "mixture" would be better, as water and sugar mix thoroughly. Also, one tablespoon of water is a tiny amount for any recipe. I'd think a tablespoon of sugar in maybe a cup of water would make more sense. StuRat 04:21, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
Often, a tiny amount of water is called for simply to dissolve a substance—not to increase the water content of a recipe. This is certainly true when starches are used as thickening agents. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 06:10, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
But how much sugar could you dissolve in a tablespoon of water ? Maybe 1/8th of a teaspoon ? That's a tiny amount. StuRat 13:03, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Oh, you could easily dissolve a teaspoon in a tablespoon of water, depending on the sort of sugar and the level of dissolution needed. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 22:12, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

until just now

What she said didn’t penetrate until just now.

Does "penetrate" mean "come across"?
Does that sentence imply that what she said has finally penetrated? Crux 22:28, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the speaker didn't understand until this moment, but now does.
By the way, tomorrow is Christmas Day for us here, so we may not answer any Q's. You probably observe the Eastern Orthodox Christmas in January, but let me wish you Happy Holidays early. StuRat 04:24, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
Merry Christmas! And thank you very much. Crux 13:15, 25 December 2008 (UTC)