English Language Reference Desk/Archives/2009–2017

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In all the confusion

In all the confusion, we lost sight of each other.

What does "in all the confusion" mean? Crux 20:10, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

That means there was some type of distraction, such as a thick crowd of people, which caused them to become separated. StuRat 06:57, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

to marry them

There’s a world of difference between liking someone and wanting to marry them.

I didn't understand why there's "them" but not "he" or "she". There should be "someones" instead of "someone" if the sentence told about polygamy, right? Crux 15:29, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

No polygamy here. The problem is that the gender of the person they're talking about is unknown, so they don't know whether to use "him" or "her". It's common to use "them" in such cases. Another approach would be to say "...to marry him or her". However, most people think "them" sounds better. StuRat 00:04, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

"look to" or "look for"

We're looking to buy rather than rent.

I suspect there should be "looking for buying" rather then "looking to buy", right? Crux 21:02, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

No, it's correct as is:
"Looking for" = "searching for"
"Looking to" = "have set a goal to"
So, "I'm looking for my socks" is correct, as is "I'm looking to replace all my various types of socks with black tube socks, so they are easier to put on in the morning". (BTW, I've actually done that last one.) StuRat 23:43, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

to bring to bear

It was in the area of marketing that Alan’s business experience was brought to bear.

I've understood that sentence as a certain thing in the area of marketing exerted influence on Alan’s business experience, right? Crux 21:11, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

No, just the reverse. Alan was able to apply his business experience to marketing:
"Bring to bear" = "apply". StuRat 23:46, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

to lease, to rent, to hire

  1. A man leases a car.
  2. A man rents a car.
  3. A man hires a car.

I can't sort out in which case the man gets money, and in which case he pays moneney to use a car. Crux 12:47, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

In all cases, the man pays money for the use of a car. You might ask what the distinction is between the three, then. Here's what they mean in US English:
"Lease" = long term agreement (years) to pay money for the use of something. An apartment is typically leased.
"Rent" = short term agreement (hours-months) to pay money for the use of something. A carpet shampooer is typically rented.
"Hire" = accept someone into employment at your company. Doesn't apply to inanimate objects, like cars, in US English, although it does in British English.

You might also ask how you would change the sentences to say the man is allowing someone else to use his car in return for money:

  1. A man provides a car for leasing.
  2. A man provides a car for rental.
  3. A man provides a car for hire. (British English only.)
StuRat 15:36, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

What "bug someone" means

After a short discussion about something, someone ends the conversation with "I will not bug you further". What does he mean? Does he imply something? Thanks

It means they won't annoy, disturb, or bother you further. So, all that it implies is that they are currently doing so. In other words, they probably feel that they interrupted you from doing something more important. StuRat 14:10, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

alight, settle

  • Birds alight on a tree.
  • A fly setted on the bread.

Are the two words "alight" and "settle" interchangeable in the sentences like those? I mean, can I say "birds settle on a tree" and "a fly alighted on the bread"? Crux 12:19, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

They are approximately the same, yes. Also, "landed" would work, and is perhaps more common. StuRat 14:33, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Sequence of tenses

The kids will settle down after they've had a nap.

I've found that sentence in MacMillan English Dictionary. Is it correct? I can't understand why the first clause is used in the future tense and the second one is in the present perfect. I suppose it should be either like "The kids will settle down after they will have had a nap" or like "The kids will settle down after they will have a nap" or, at least, in the present simple, which can also mean future (it's true, isn't it?), like this: "The kids will settle down after they have a nap". Am I right? Crux 19:01, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Yes, this sentence is correct. It would also be correct with simple present in the time clause, as you suggested: "The kids will settle down after they have a nap."

Both of these are incorrect: "The kids will settle down after they will have had a nap." Or, "The kids will settle down after they will have a nap."

These are examples of future time clauses. Overall, the sentences are talking about events to happen in the future. However, with future time clauses, the main verb uses future tense, and the verb in the time clause uses a present tense--in the two correct examples, the time clause verbs are in present perfect and simple present tenses. You cannot put the verbs from both clauses in future tense, as in the incorrect examples. This structure is similar to what is called a "first conditional." Try these practice exercises on first conditionals: [1].

To say "after they have had a nap" puts more of an emphasis on the nap being completed, as compared to just "after they have a nap." --Dlb 01:54, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree that the sentence was correct to begin with. It might help you to understand it to modify the sentence as follows:
"(At some point in the future) the kids will settle down. (This will occur) after they've had a nap (at some time in the past)."
So, the original sentence is really just a shortened form of those two sentences, one dealing with the future and another with the past. StuRat 05:32, 29 January 2009 (UTC)


  1. They had penetrated deeply into enemy territory.
  2. A piece of glass had penetrated the skin.
  3. One of them managed to penetrate airport security.

I've found some sentences where the word "penetrate" is used. There is the preposition "into" following "penetrate" in the first sentence but it absent in the second and third. Which sentences are correct? Crux 15:56, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

There's a slight difference in meaning:

"Penetrate" = go through something, to what lies beyond it.

"Penetrate into" = go inside something and stay there.

So, those sentences are correct, and mean to go inside enemy territory, go past the skin into the flesh, and go past security into the airport terminal. You could also say "penetrate into" the skin, say if a virus that causes warts gets inside the skin, or "penetrate into" airport security, meaning you have an undercover agent working as part of the security team. To "penetrate enemy territory" could make sense, too, as in "the POWs were able to penetrate enemy territory and find their way back to their own lines". StuRat 21:48, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

melt into

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

Can I express the same thought by using the words "blend" or "coalesce", for instance: "The reds and golds blended with each other as the sun sank.", "The reds and golds coalesced into one as the sun sank."? Crux 17:19, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

They are similar, but not quite the same. "Melt into", to me, means there are flecks of gold within the red and vice-versa, with a bit of blending, too. "Blend" alone would mean you'd get a color in between red and gold. "Coalesce" means they combine to form one, but says nothing about the resultant color. StuRat 01:11, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

have + to-infinitive

What difference, if any, between these: "I have something to do" and "I have to do something"? Crux 15:59, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

The 1st one implies an optional task:
"Are you bored ?"
"No, I have something to do."
The 2nd one implies a required task:
"Can you come right over ?"
"No, I have to do something first."
StuRat 14:56, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

not if

  • Not if I know it.
  • Not if I can help it.

Could you explain what these sentences mean? Crux 20:17, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

The 2nd sentence means "I will prevent it if I can". The first sentence may depend on the context, but it could mean something like "I will prevent it if I'm aware of it". StuRat 04:36, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

a preposition at the end of a sentence

Once I encountered a recommendation in accordance with it is allegedly a good style to avoid finishing a sentence with a preposition. However, I see that the sentenses like "The function returns the Document the mutation is occuring on" are always used instead of "The function returns the Document on which the mutation is occuring". Does the second sentence sound awkward to native English speakers? Crux 21:32, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

For formal writing, you should still stick with the later. However, in informal situations, that can sound excessively formal and awkward, yes. Another option is to avoid the situation entirely by rewording it into two sentences:

"The function first determines where the mutation occurs. It then returns that document."

Also, I have to ask, is "mutation" the right word ? A "mutation" is an odd word to describe a change in a document. That word normally is used to mean a genetic mutation. StuRat 00:27, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
The former sentence was taken from Java SE6 Documentation as is, so I am in perplexity why they always use sentences like the former when they should stick with sentences like the leter. Moreover, the sentences like the later are common in my language, not even in formal speech, but also in informal situations, so they would be easy to read to/for(Which one is correct?) me.Crux 11:51, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
"...easy to read, for me." or "...easy for me to read.". StuRat 15:12, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
The rule to avoid a preposition at the end of a sentence is not only formal, but seen by many (especially the young) as excessively formal. This is a bit of a generational change, though, as older people would still follow the rule and younger people would not. A similar example is the use of "one" to describe a person: "When one goes to the store, one should remember to bring one's list". To many this sounds so formal it's silly. Hence my advice to avoid the issue entirely by rewriting as two sentences. StuRat 15:10, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
By the way, how would you discribe a person, in the sentence like that, to avoid the use of "one"? Would you use "you" instead? Crux 15:48, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
"You" could be used in many cases, but technically "one" means anyone, which could be "you" or "I" or someone else. So, to mean exactly the same thing, you'd say "When someone goes to the store, they should remember to bring their list". StuRat 19:59, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Chiming in a bit late: The pretension that English should not end sentences with prepositions comes from the intelligentsia of English antiquity which knew Romance languages where this was correct. Assuming it was somehow a higher form of language, they arbitrarily imposed such a rule on English. Except when dealing with the most linguistically reactionary audiences, you can safely ignore this rule. English has, at all times during its history, allowed ending sentences with prepositions. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 22:36, 22 April 2009 (UTC)
Yes, the recent historic rules of English dictated that ending a sentence with a preposition was bad grammar however there was no basis for this rule - historical literature and other writings show sentences ending with prepositions. Nowadays only the most formal people (or those wanting to seem very formal) follow this rule. Cambridge and Trinity exams which are popular with learners of English DO NOT penalise people for ending (or not ending) a sentence with a preposition. --Xania 18:51, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

to make a sentence

Which word sounds better to you in the sence of "to select words to make a sentence"?

  • to state a sentence
  • to set forth a sentence
  • to formulate a sentence
  • to pose a sentence

Crux 13:52, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Welcome back, Crux !
"Formulate" sounds best. "Craft" would also fit nicely, and implies that more time and effort is spent to perfect the sentence. You would "state" a fact and "pose" a question. "Set forth" just sounds weird. By the way, it's spelled "sense", not "sence". StuRat 16:26, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

humanly readable discriptions

I'm making database and I need to make informative humanly readable discriptions for its fields.

  • "Medical examination fare" - money which a family paid to a doctor for him to examine their child.
  • "The dossier submission date to the Ukranian Adoption Department" or "The date of submission/submitting dossier to the Ukranian Adoption Department"
  • "Initial meeting date" - the date when adopvive mother/father meet their adoptive child first time.
  • "Ministry of Interior record date" - the date when Ministry of Interior makes a record about the child.

Could you help me to make that discriptions less awkward to English speakers? Crux 14:13, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

It's spelled "descriptions" and you would say "making a database" in US English (they might skip the "a" in British English, though). Here are my recommendations, with changes in bold:
  • "Medical examination fee"
  • "File submission date to the Ukrainian Adoption Department"
  • "Parent/child initial meeting date"
  • "Ministry of Interior file inception date" - This means the date when the file is first opened, is that what you meant ? StuRat 16:43, 2 June 2009 (UTC)


Is "dossier" correct name for a package of mutually complementary documents? Crux 14:56, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Yes, see dossier. That's not a very common word in US English, though. "Portfolio" would be slightly more common and "file" would be universally understood by all. StuRat 16:25, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Thank you very much, StuRat. Crux 11:32, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

You're quite welcome. StuRat 15:18, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

humanly readable discriptions 2

  • date of the judgement / adjudication day / the day of doom :)- The day when the judge makes his decision whether the prospective parents can become actual parents.
  • date of the departure / departure date - The day when the child leaves Ukraine.
  • Total amount of money which agency receives for its service from one family.

Crux 11:53, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

My suggestions:
  • Decision day. - Sounds simpler and less menacing.
  • Date of departure. - Sounds fine.
  • Service fee total.
So, where is this adoption web site ? I'd like to check it out when you're done making changes. StuRat 12:36, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
I'm making a desktop application. However, if they approve me to make a web interface I'll definitely show you it. Crux 15:40, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks ! StuRat 17:31, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

I wish we ...

Which one is correct?

- Did you see Florence before you left Italy?

- No, but I wish we ...

  1. saw it
  2. had

Crux 17:12, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

The 2nd one sounds better, to me. You could also say "...had seen it" or "...did". StuRat 17:34, 9 June 2009 (UTC)

Not established connection

When a user or a program tries to establish connection to/withwhich one is correct? a server and supplies incorrect login/password pair the server doesn't allow to do it. How would you call that result: refused, rejected, dismissed, discarded connection? Crux 14:05, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

Either "connect to" or "connect with" a server would work, but "to" is more common.
The usual error message is "connection refused", but "rejected" would also work. "Dismissed" would imply that a connection had been established for some time and was later broken by the server, similar to "close". For example, you can "dismiss" a window when you are done with it. "Discarded" means "thrown away as useless". Old cache data might be discarded, for example. StuRat 12:44, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

humanly readable discriptions 3

I need to entile two sections which contain information on adoptive mother and adoptive father such as name, tel. number, date of birth etc. I'd name them as "information on mother" and "information on father", but one person has an opinion that "data on mother" and "data on father" sound better. Settle our dispute please. Crux 18:32, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

"Data" sounds more technical, which could be either good or bad. If it's just for internal use, then "data" sounds good. However, if the prospective parents will see it, "information" is more friendly-sounding, especially if shortened to "info". Also, I don't like "...on mother" and "...on father". I'd prefer "Mother's info" and "Father's info". But this could be confused with info on the birth parents, so perhaps "Adoptive mother's info" and "Adoptive father's info" would clarify that. StuRat 12:49, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for your exhaustive explanations. Crux 18:50, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
You're welcome. StuRat 12:44, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

Present perfect vs Past simple

I need a confimation message which appears after some action has been done. For instance: "Database 'somename' has been initialized successfully.", is it correct? It seems to me that the form like "Database 'somename' was initialized successfully." is used more often (not to say always). Which one is more correct? Crux 19:53, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Either one's OK, although "has been" sounds more like it just happened while "was" sounds like it happened some time ago. StuRat 20:18, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

To name a class

I've written a class for a button to close tabs. I'd like to name it with the most appropriate name. That name must be not very long and less awkward as possible and carry the meaning: "button which closes tab", something like:




(The names of classes which are derived form the class "Button" usually end with ending "-Button", this is a naming convention, for instance: ToggleButton, RadioButton)

Could you help me? Which name would be less awkward for the native English speakers?

Various widgets.

Crux 11:18, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

The first one, "TabCloseButton", sounds best to me. StuRat 13:16, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

to wrap someone around one's finger

I encountered the/a phrase "You got me wrapped around your finger", it sounds almost one-to-one for Russian proverb which means sort of to fool, to deceive. When I checked against dictionary I found the/a phrase "wrap around one's little finger" which means "to have easy and complete control or influence over". Could you help me with the interpretation of the original phrase and with articles, please? Crux 12:54, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

First, "wrapped/twisted around his/her/my/their/your finger" and "wrapped/twisted around his/her/my/their/your little finger" both mean the same thing. It doesn't necessarily mean to fool or deceive someone, but just to be able to get them to do what you want, usually because of love. Thus, a wife or child may be able to get the husband/father to do what they want, just by asking (and maybe with a little crying and/or pouting thrown in), with no need for lying. The source you found sounds good, as "to have easy and complete control or influence over" is essentially correct. If you want another source, see definition 24 here: [2]. Also note the popular song by the UK band The Police, named "Wrapped Around Your Finger": w:Wrapped_Around_Your_Finger StuRat 15:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Crux 19:17, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Abbreviation with punctuation within a parenthetical expression placed at the end of a sentence

Hello...I'm hoping this is a regularly watched page. I'm writing a scientific paper and ran into a curious problem. When a plant name is first mentioned in a paper, it's customary to include the species authority in parentheses following the name of the plant. Also, the name Linnaeus is always abbreviated as L. In a sentence like the following, I have no difficulties doing such:

Ten Raphanus sativus (L.) seeds were distributed evenly in each of three petri dishes.

However, what should be done about the following sentence? I feel awkward using two periods, and I also feel awkward removing either of them:

Two extracts were prepared of Solidago altissima (L.).

Thanks in advance for any help that can be offered! Bob the Wikipedian 02:38, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

That looks fine to me, because there's a parenthesis between them. The only time I see a problem is when you end a sentence with two periods, three periods, etc.. In those cases I would drop one. :-) StuRat 12:17, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. Personally, it bothers me that way, so I managed to reorder the words a bit like so:
Two extracts of Solidago altissima (L.) were prepared.
Bob the Wikipedian 00:29, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
Technically, using two periods in succession like that is "nonstandard" usage in American English (technically, the last period should be dropped). However, many Americans do such, and I actually prefer it. That said, reordering (as you have done) is generally the better option. The Jade Knight (d'viser) 17:58, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Correct use of "Anywhere" vs. "Everywhere" in a specific Context

August 27, 2010


I got to your post through a GOOGLE Search for the correct use of "Anywhere vs. Everywhere" in the following context.

I am trying to make an argument, as to why the Inter-Faith Center cum Mosque should not be built at the current chosen location - 9-11 Ground Zero. In doing so I have gone back and forth as to the proper placement of the terms "everywhere" and "anywhere".

(1) Originally, I wrote, thusly:

While the first amendment allows any religion to flourish in the USA, without interference from Congress, it is thereby taken to mean one can build a "temple" everywhere, but should not and does not mean one can build a place of worship anywhere, i.e. they cannot build a Mosque at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House), or Capitol Hill, or 8 Cherry Hill Rd. (Example: John Doe's home), for that matter.

Furthermore, this venue was where part of the engine of one of the planes that hit WTC N & S towers landed, it is accepted by many people including NYC Firefighters, who lost 90 plus of their own on 9/11, as part of "ground zero" and hence "sacred ground".

So, while our Constitution (Religious freedom clause of first amendment) allows the Muslims (any religious order) to build a Mosque (house of worship) "everywhere" without interference from Congress, i.e. they can build one in Manhattan, NY, or any of the 50 States, what it does not say is that they can build the mosque in any specific location (i.e. not anywhere)

(2) Then, I interchanged the positioning of the two words:

While the first amendment allows any religion to flourish in the USA, without interference from Congress, it is thereby taken to mean one can build a "temple" anywhere, but should not and does not mean one can build a place of worship everywhere, i.e. they cannot build a Mosque at1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House), or Capitol Hill, or 8 Cherry Hill Rd. (Example: John Doe's home), for that matter.

Furthermore, this venue was where part of the engine of one of the planes that hit WTC N & S towers landed, it is accepted by many people including NYC Firefighters, who lost 90 plus of their own on 9/11 as part of ground zero and hence "sacred ground".

So, while our Constitution (Religious freedom clause of first amendment) allows the Muslims (any religious order) to build a Mosque (house of worship) "anywhere" without interference from Congress, i.e. they can build one in Manhattan, NY, or any of the 50 States, what it does not say is that they can build the mosque in any specific location (i.e. not everywhere)

Now I am totally confused, as to whether (1) or (2) is more accurate. I would appreciate some scholarly help. Thank You

ANSWER - from SG, December 4, 2010..

Anywhere and everywhere mean different things. Anywhere refers to a singular location that one might select arbitrarily. Anybody might select anyplace to depict it as anywhere. Particularizing an anywhere leads to bizarre thoughts. For instance, although a church could be erected anywhere, you certainly may NOT build another Mormon Tabernacle on my porch. I've gone and over-particularized an elaoration of anywhere.

On the other hand, "Everywhere" literally means each and every location. Many things are everywhere. Particularly air, land, and water. But not everything is everywhere. One might find anything anywhere but not everything everywhere. Everytime anyone looks anywhere someone finds something.

Improving My English Language

Hi Irealy like Wikiversity new,I would like to improve my english langauage as send language,May I know how Can I start?

Thanksou Dear it is appreciable to know thaat you are interested to improve your english language. I shall suggest some steps to improve your english. 1. you find out the english words of nouns - things used in your house, your working place, your usual place of get together, public places like railway station, market, banks, bus station, important offices and so on. 2. After learning the names of these things used in the above cited places, you try to find out where and when and how they are used in daily activities. for example : Play ground is the naming word, what are the activities taking place there? play, run, jump, kick, throw etc. 3. After learning this, you try to make sentence in speech first, who plays? what do they play? why do they run? what do they kick? when do they play? How do they play? 4. you may know the anwwer for the questions. now you may be able to speak 'My friend plays' They play football. They kick the ball. They play in the evening and morning. They play football well. This is not to memorise but to do it in every day life and try to speak with your friends who can encourage you. There are many steps to improve your english. yu may freely ask for help. Thank you. by stephen jeyaraj k

Question tag:

Usually we have been taught as - if negative is used in a sentence the question tag should be in positive. If so what is the tag for 'Shall we go?' and 'Let us go' will you please make it clear? Is it correct - Shall we? for both the questions?

I do not under stand what they want me to do. Pleas provide a sample

The adjective "evolve" is describing the verb "has". Consider changing the adjective to an adverb.Why they wanting me to chang the verb as the title makes complete sense.

The following is the opening title: Understanding the advancements and history of law enforcement, explain how our Criminal Justice system has evolve to handle crime!